Vegas Mermaid

vegas mermaid tail (2)Vegas Mermaid at Silverton Casino. Photo by M.C.


One of Renaissance Man’s cousins died so off we went to Las Vegas for the funeral. If you want a lot of people to show at your funeral have it in Vegas. It was a chance to see family I hadn’t seen in a while and family I had only heard about. His cousin, KDawg, (I’ll call him by his nickname.) was my age and was a funny Samoan guy. Many people spoke about how he gave them courage to do things they wouldn’t normally do or to face something scary. Sometimes he was the bodyguard for the little guy at school. Sometimes he encouraged his friend to cut someone off on the road. “Be that person,” he’d say to her. Then his friend said she was going to end her speech by singing Whitney Houston’s “Greatest Love of All.” She paused then said, “Nah, just kidding.” I don’t think I’ve laughed so much at a funeral. There were a lot of stories that had to be censored. Of course, KDawg loved to eat. And once a friend asked if he’d share some fries with him. “Heck no!” he said.

Some family said they read my book. My niece read Superfreak three times! So I came home and returned to editing book two titled Superflop. It’s in the editor’s hands. I’ll publish in June 2017. Sign up for my author newsletter where I’ll publish a free story once in a while .

After, we swung by one of the houses I grew up in. The neighborhood has gotten dumpy. So strange to see. Vegas has changed, but then it kinda hasn’t. The Strip didn’t seem that big to me even though it’s grown. It did seem strange to force large buildings so close when there is so much desert. It’s an easy small city to drive and has so much to love about it. But it was great crossing the state line back into California. (That was a jab at my friend R, who always takes digs at CA and says he does a “Yahoo!” when he crosses the state line back into Nevada.)

My old friend R suggested we meet at Silverton Casino. I’m not sure if he chose it for me because of the mermaid. I’m pretty sure he just wanted to shop at the Bass Pro Shops connected to the casino. Only in Vegas.

The mermaid slipped in from the top of the tank in her white and red tail with a bikini top. She engaged the audience and made a water heart for me then posed. She did twists and somersaults. I want her job! At least for a day. They should charge people to do a ten minute mermaid performance. There is also mermaid art by It was tempting to buy The Proposal. A pirate pulls out gold from his tooth with his hook, giving it to a mermaid on his lap. Cute.

Then I saw R and didn’t recognize him. He had to wave at me. It’s been years and we’ve gotten older, but he sounded like the same immature guy. He has a sweet, patient wife now. So since we were only making a pit stop we walked around Bass Pro where they had tons of taxidermy. I wanted to touch the giraffe, but the sign said not to feed or touch the animals. R said, “Touch it.” R and KDawg would have liked each other. Actually, I should have touched the lion because I wrote a Cecil the Lion story. Oh well. R said people take their dogs into Bass Pro to get used to wild animals.

Yes R hunts. We are complete opposites. He kills coyotes because he can. I lecture him not to kill what he’s not going to eat. Don’t we all have friends like that?

I see KDawg and R in my future books. ‘Cause I’m gonna be that person.

And now an update on my blog. For the summer, I am headed to my usual places in Laguna Beach and San Diego. Pageant of the Masters theme is The Grand Tour, inspired by pilgrimages to Europe’s cultural centers. And the Shakespeare Festival at the Old Globe is producing Hamlet and King Richard II. I am itching to see Gustavo Dudamel conduct the LA Philharmonic and an opera. I’m keeping my eye on the little theatres too.

Turn off your TV and head to the theatre. The arts are suffering because of budget cuts. Live theatre is a great way to create a special memory.


Ordinary Vegas


Guest blogging Kathy Esqueda

Nearly every year my husband and I take a trip to Las Vegas, Nevada. We don’t gamble, eat from the giant buffets, or see a spectacular show. We’ve “been there, done that” many times during the ten years we lived in Vegas. There is natural beauty only a few miles from the bright lights of the “Strip.” But more important are the beautiful people we call “friends.”

Some of our California friends don’t understand how we can see any good in the Vegas life. That’s because they don’t know the people who live there—the families who go to church together, play sports, and organize carpools to the many selections of schools offered. How could Vegas be a good place to raise a family? And who would want to retire there?

Mark and Joan Massagli
Mark and Joan Massagli

Our Vegas friends originate from all around the U.S. One couple, Joan and Mark Massagli, wouldn’t think of living anywhere else, though neither were born in Nevada. They met while working as musicians. Joan was part of The Sawyer Sisters, a trio that included her cousins, not sisters. They were a well-known act in Reno Nevada as vocalists and instrumentalists when the trio recorded with Dynasty Records, singing a song Joan wrote called “Here I Am.”

“Here I Am” is sold online along with other tunes of the 1950’s era. Joan receives no gratuities from the sales. The song was a hit, but their agent was not honest, and while the trio was performing at the Holiday Hotel and Casino, the profits were being spent by the agent. This was not an uncommon situation during the 1950’s (not only in Nevada). The girls were still being chaperoned by family, and the agent was replaced. In 1956 the Sawyer Sisters worked the Nevada circuit, which included Lake Tahoe, Reno and Las Vegas. They were booked into Casinos in Las Vegas, such as the Flamingo, Tropicana, Riviera, Dunes, and the Frontier. Las Vegas became home to the Sawyer Sisters, and their family. The Sawyer Sisters story was recently written in a book by Claytee D. White who interviewed Joan for The Boyer Early Las Vegas Oral History Project.

The band leader handed Mark Massagli an electric bass and told him, "Just play it like a stand-up, only sideways."
The band leader handed Mark Massagli an electric bass and told him, “Just play it like a stand-up, only sideways.”

There are few people who leave such a lasting, positive impression as Mark. He is the perfect match for a beauty like Joan. They met when Mark was playing bass for a well-known headlining act at the Golden Nugget in Las Vegas where the Sawyer Sisters were also booked. Through the years they would “bump” into one another while on the Nevada circuit. Joan was smitten with the Italian, and he certainly had an eye for her. In 1963 they were married, and eventually had two sons. Joan retired from show-business, and took up painting. (I met her when we were art students at Clark County Community College. Joan has a Bachelor Degree in Fine Art from U.N.L.V.) Mark went on to become president of the local musician’s union, and later president of the American Federation of Musicians. He is a modest man, and his story has not been formally written. However, anyone who knows him finds it easy to understand why he was elected to represent his fellow musicians. He truly cares about people, and is honest in his dealings. He was born in New Jersey, moved to California as a child, and through his travels as a musician he chose Las Vegas as his home. He and Joan now live in Blue Diamond, which is on the way to Vegas. Joan designed the home, and most of the place was built by family. Few of her paintings hang on the walls. Modesty runs in this family.

In order to discover the “real” Las Vegas, a person has to meet the people that love Nevada. The town has provided work for thousands, maybe millions of people through the years—musicians, chefs, waitresses, hospitality professionals, hotel management, school teachers, professors, hairdressers, seamstresses, lighting specialists, dancers, and the list could fill this page. They are all ordinary people—or maybe not. I would not call my friends, Mark and Joan, ordinary. Talented, yes, but most of all “down to earth”. Isn’t that crazy? People who work and live in and around a place built for entertainment, fantasy and glitz can be just like you and me.

I was once one of those Las Vegas people. And even though I prefer to live in my native California, I will always love the people I met in Nevada.

Next time you visit, take a drive out to the new Red Rock Visitors Center, Calico Basin, and Bonnie Springs, an animal rescue. Wild donkeys roam this area. You will see God’s creation in every form. Visit Blue Diamond at the south/west end of the strip. The once remote town is now surrounded by new housing and shopping. Visit the new museums near a newly renovated “Old Strip”. Drive around Henderson, a family oriented town with tracks of houses. Boulder City is also a small community to enjoy, home to Boulder (Hoover) Dam. Most of all, take note of the people who live in these places.