GMG - Las Vegas Weekly

September 4, 2014

Las Vegas Weekly

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10 LASVEGASWEEKLY.COM SEPTEMBER 410, 2014 COMMENTS? QUESTIONS? BEEFS? RANTS? LET'S HEAR IT! SHOOT AN EMAIL TO LVWEEKLY GMGVEGAS.COM Email your random photo and full name to AS WE SEE IT… A Vegas with no gambling. Sounds crazy, right? Almost offensive? Boring, too. Yet it happens in the brilliant AMC drama Halt and Catch Fire, and it not only makes perfect sense, it feels authentic and, as a choice by writers of a TV show, is a risky way to pay respect. What the HACF folks did in the penultimate episode of its fi rst sea- son is groundbreaking. The show doesn't leave out gambling because it dislikes it but because, it turns out, the casino fl oor is not always where the action is on the Strip. "It didn't feel that essential for the business these guys were in," co-creator and co-executive pro- ducer Chris Rogers says. HACF, which was wisely renewed last month despite unde- servedly low ratings, is a drama set in the early 1980s just before the per- sonal computer went mainstream. The 10-episode arc follows a fi ction- al foursome of geeks and opportun- ists developing a "portable" PC with hopes of making a big splash in the industry. They end up in Vegas for the entire ninth episode not as a lark or to give writers a chance to show bawdiness or tackiness, but to unveil their machine at COMDEX. To my knowledge, COMDEX— the late, great computer hardware megashow co-invented by Sheldon Adelson—has never fi gured into a piece of fi lm or TV fi ction before. And so when it needed to exist for HACF's plot, Rogers and his team opted not to use Vegas (solely) for its stereotypes. Part of that was fi nancial neces- sity; new cable dramas must watch their pennies, and building a casino set can be expensive. But Rogers said HACF also rejected the use of ambient casino noises and opted to make drama out of the actual events of the era. Folks like these charac- ters, he notes, did come to Vegas to gamble, but it was computers, not slot machines, that could and would make them rich. HACF does, like all fi ction, bend some truth. Scantily clad "booth babes" abound on the show fl oor, a character explains, because "Vegas" decided booking a porn convention next door might keep the casinos busy, given that geeks don't gamble. Rogers says they knew the AVN Adult Entertainment Expo wouldn't launch for years but that a former tech journalist who consulted on HACF gave them historical cover by claiming a less organized porn gath- ering existed in COMDEX's orbit long before the big one took hold. "I think any time you're talking about servers and computer code and you can say something like 'porn convention,' we're like, 'let's try to get that in,'" Rogers says. He's forgiven, because the main thrust of this portrayal—making the happenings of that least thrilling of Vegas events, the trade show, excit- ing—is such a challenging trick to pull off. This is a show that already has a tough job fi nding intrigue and drama in a recent past when every- one knows the future is won by Apple, Dell and Microsoft. Other histori- cal dramas of this sort—Showtime's Masters of Sex, about the Masters and Johnson study of human sexual- ity or WGN America's Manhattan, about the race to build the nuclear bomb during World War II—are dis- tant enough to be just outside most viewers' personal memories. Also, they're about sex and war, far tastier meals for most TV watchers. If there is one peculiarity in HACF's Vegas, it's that conven- tioneers stay at a fi ctional Vegas resort, the Norwick. It's a surpris- ing departure for a show with fi c- tional characters who work for real companies (such as IBM and Texas Instruments), which approximates what the COMDEX ID badges looked like at the time and shows glimpses of 1983-era Vegas hotels like Caesars Palace and the Dunes out the Norwick's windows. Evidently, Rogers says, the legal folks got permission to use or include all of those brands but couldn't secure clearance regard- ing the Las Vegas Hilton, where the who's who stayed for COMDEX back then. It's a modest, forgivable omission, and perhaps by the next COMDEX episode—Rogers says it's entirely possible the show will fi gure as the HACF equivalent of the state fi nals in each season of Friday Night Lights—they'll sort that out. Either way, here's hoping HACF can, in fact, catch fi re. It could be an important vehicle for Vegas to fi nally get credit for having been a place where countless minor and major leaps in technology were fi rst beheld. HACF gives Vegas a more noble, highbrow place in history, a city that gave us more than Liberace or much more than the ability to tour Europe on one block with a frozen margarita dangling from your neck. The events in those showrooms marked the starting line for bring- ing so much of what we use today to market. I had forgotten that until I watched this show. I'm happy somebody else remembered. Random Photo of the Week By Kristen Wilson BRIEFS FIELD OF DREAMS Here we go again. Las Vegas is hosting its third Arena Football League, the Outlaws, beginning in February 2015. The real question: Why? After all, our irst attempt as the Sting from 1994-'95 drew only 5,700 fans a night, and the Gladiators from 2003-'07 drew 9,000 fans a night. Here's hoping the third time's a charm, and awarding the franchise to rocker Vince Neil could help bring in tourists—although with a venue still to be announced, things are already o to a shaky (third) start. LOSS LEADER Talk about dreaming big. Entrepreneurs Amy Lee and Maurice Ashley are bringing a tournament called Millionaire Chess to Planet Hollywood in October, with the goal of raising the proile of the game. And here's the thing you gotta admire: It's a labor of love, not one intended as a money- making venture, despite the $1,000 entry fee. "If we lose only $200,000, we'll be dancing in the streets," says Ashley, a chess grandmaster. Here's hoping Las Vegas embraces this against-the-grain concept. It can't all be poker. GLASS HOUS E S What's next, sippy cups? This week, the Clark County Commission introduced a measure to ban carrying glass bottles or containers along the Las Vegas Strip from Russell Road to Sahara Avenue. It's all about safety and reducing litter, commissioners say, but this bothers us on multiple fronts. Such a ban might hurt small businesses that sell much of their product in glass bottles, and it's starting to seem like we're "wimpifying" the Strip to the point where it might feel like Disneyland. No one wants that. –Ken Miller V E G A S I N M Y M I N D TV GETS VEGAS ... RIGHT! AMC's Halt and Catch Fire pays tribute to Vegas' role in the '80s tech boom B Y S T E V E F R I E S S > CONVENTIONAL BEHAVIOR Cameron (Mackenzie Davis) gets creative on the COMDEX loor in AMC's Halt and Catch Fire.

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