Margaritaville Las Vegas - Grand Opening

When it was announced that Jimmy Buffett would be playing a concert for the grand opening of his new Las Vegas Margaritaville, Mike Billings and I tossed around the idea of going. The Flamingo offered a great deal of 3 nights stay and two concert tickets for $180. But after a few emails, we decided that since we were already going to the Anaheim show right after, we would skip the Vegas show and visit Margaritaville another time soon.

A couple days later, Mike let us know that was running a contest to win tickets. I signed up and Mike signed up himself, his wife, and his mother. A couple days later, I see a post from Mike on the West Coast Leader list that Peg, his wife had won the tickets. I immediately fired back a response, congratulating him. Next time I check my email, there was a response from Mike telling me to check my voicemail. The first message was from Peg telling me that they’d won and that she wasn’t able to use her ticket for work and asking if I’d like to put the ticket to good use. There was a second similar message from Mike. I called Mike and got all the details, thanked him, worked out a few logistics, and got Peg’s number to thank her. I called and left her a message to let her know that I was sorry she couldn’t make it, but promising to put her ticket to good use. I went back inside and shared the good news with my friends in the office.

This week was just getting better by the minute. First, we got to meet Jimmy at the airport on Monday, now we’re going to the grand opening concert at Margaritaville in Las Vegas. Not to mention, that my week was shortened into a nice two-day work week.

Wednesday was a long day at work, but not too bad with so much fun to look forward to. I went straight home from work and did laundry, prepared cds for the road trip, and packed up the truck. Shortly after midnight, I was ready for my journey.

I had planned on getting up at 4:30am to be on the road by 5am and to Mike’s in Ventura by 6am to get to Vegas by noon. Well, my eyes first opened for the day at 5:01am. I took a quick shower, fired off an email to let Mike know I was a running a bit behind, but I was on my way. I made it to his place by 6:15, so we weren’t too far off schedule and I figured it’d probably only be about 5 hours from Ventura to Las Vegas. The road trip was easy and fun, in anticipation of what we had in store for us. We told stories and listened to good Buffett and Buffettesque musicians.

We rolled into Vegas at 11:00am. Mike let me know, in his best Forrest Gump impersonation that, “I gotta pee”. The Flamingo was right off the freeway and we got parked pretty quick. Knowing it would be easy to forget where we parked, we made mental and verbal notes that we were on the lower end of the 5th level and looking out at Bourbon Street.

When we got to the lobby to check in, the line was very long so we jumped in line immediately. We were next to a nice female parrothead from Minnesota and we passed the time talking to folks in line. I told Mike he could go find a restroom, but he was prepared to tough it out so we could things taken care of first. When we were about half way through the line, after about a half hour wait, my view became unobstructed by the pillar that was in between my line of sight and the express check in machine. I told Mike and he went to check it out and successfully checked in. We were thankful to not have to wait any more, as was the lady from Minnesota who headed over next, but I think most thankful was Mike’s bladder.

We went up to our room to drop off our bags. We didn’t take anything with us, figuring we could come back if we needed anything, It was also this time, we opted to leave our cameras in the room, figuring that they wouldn’t be allowed in the concert. Then we went to the Margaritaville store to pick up our tickets. By this time we were pretty hungry and went to Lindy’s in the hotel for some lunch. Mike ordered first, though it wasn’t easy. First thing he asked for was a Margarita and the waitress told him we’d have to go to the bar around the corner. Okay, not too bad. Then he attempts to order the rib-eye. She refuses him multiple times, telling him that it’s not very good there and he should get the New York, which eventually he did. I was waiting to see what would happened when I ordered. Knowing drinks were out, I simply ordered the Fish & Chips which she didn’t object to at all. Once the ordering ordeal was over, we headed to the nearby bar to get our drinks. The first bar didn’t have any acceptable tequila, but he referred us to a bar a little further down. After a short wait, we were able to get our drinks ordered. While we were waiting, Mike stuck a twenty in the video poker machine. Meanwhile, we were talking to a couple of parrotheads at the bar. By the time we got our drinks, Mike was up to $41 and cashed out. This was the only gambling either of us did this trip, so Mike can honestly say he doubled his money in Vegas.

On our walk back to Lindy’s, we ran into Pam, one of our long distance club members from Visalia, and her husband. We hadn’t been in contact because she had changed internet service providers. We talked a bit, and then hurried back to get our food. They didn’t skip on the portions. I had more fries than could fit in a human stomach, and Mike had enough green beans to feed a small army. Though it took a bit of effort, we agreed that the food was pretty good and the margaritas were excellent.

When we came in, we had notice a fair line had already started for the concert near the lobby. But while we were eating, there was a very short line just outside our restaurant. Both doors going to the same place, we opted for the shorter line. It may have been a little bit further to the stage from the other door, but we thought our chance would be better if we could get into the pool area faster and then just book it to the stage. As I got into line, the guy right in front of me (Todd) immediately recognized my Santa Barbara Parrothead Club and asked if we were the ones that met Jimmy at the airport. He had read the story on the BuffettList. He and his buddy (Christiaan) were from Indiana. We didn’t have too long to wait and had a good time talking to folks in line. At one point Mike made another drink run and I saw George Wallace, the comedian, walk by. Shortly before the doors were to open at 2pm, we heard that you actually could take cameras into the concert. We were really torn at that point, but decided it wasn’t worth the risk to go back and get them with it being close to concert time. Right before they opened the doors, they started ripping off the ticket stubs and stamped our hands with a purple flamingo. Once we got through the door we started jogging at a pretty good pace. We hit a bottle neck on a narrow sidewalk where people were all walking. Mike yelled out, “Walkers on the right, runners on the left”. This had absolutely no affect on the crowd, but it amused me quite a bit and we got a chuckle about later after the concert. Soon as we got through the bottleneck, Mike spotted a path running parallel to the crowd that was empty and I followed. We got up to a good sprint for the stage and ended up second row, center stage. When I say rows, I mean one row of bodies were in front of us and they happened to be shorter. We were as good as could be, just didn’t have the advantage of being able to lean on the fence that the first row had. The concert was in the pool area and the pool was filled completely with sand. So if you didn’t know that it was the pool area, you would have had no idea you were standing above a pool.

So now it’s 2:05pm and the show doesn’t start til 5pm. So we start talking to folks around us and Mike sent off several text messages and calls to the parrotheads back home letting them know we were looking good for the concert. There was some good entertainment of two sexy girls in bikini tops throwing Corona beads from the stage into the crowd. Mike and I got our first set pretty quickly. After that, we’d catch them and give them to our neighbors…though I think we both eventually ended up with two sets of beads. Most of the folks immediate around us were pretty decent. There was a group of 4 or 5 guys that were together that were pretty cool and there was a nice quiet couple from Tennessee in front of me. Though it was three hours and we didn’t move more than a couple feet, it didn’t seem too bad. They had burgers and beers for sale, but we weren’t willing to risk our awesome seats, so we stayed put. The group of guys kept sending one guy out at a time for beers and gave us each one. A gesture that was much appreciated and will not go unforgotten.

We had predicted that he’d start the show with 5 O’clock Somewhere, because like Mike said, how often does he get to start a show actually at 5 O’clock. What can I say, the concert was awesome. Everyone was having fun, both the performers and the audience. Being that close, you can see their interactions with each other and pick up on things that would otherwise be missed. We might not have known what Jimmy meant when he commented on the cowboy campfire, had we not smelled the same reefer that he did. At one point Jimmy commented that the folks in the hotel room are probably wondering what was going on, as we had a few onlookers for the rooms that overlooked the pool. The entire crowd waved to them. When the song FINS came on, Mike had me look back at the crowd of 6,000 parrotheads that were finning behind us…it’s definitely a cool sight and made me appreciate just how good our spot was. The band played great, the dancers were beautiful and a good time was had by all as Jimmy and the band played a short set list of 13 songs and one video:

1. It's Five O’clock Somewhere
2. The Weather Is Here, Wish You Were Beautiful
3. Tampico Trauma
4. In The Shelter
5. Boat Drinks
6. Son Of A Son Of A Sailor
7. Coconut Telegraph
8. Come Monday
9. Fins
10. Why Don't We Get Drunk
11. One Particular Harbor
12. Cheeseburger In Paradise
13. License To Chill (video)
14. Margaritaville

The songs all sounded great. It’s probably the best rendition of Tampico Trauma I’ve heard. I still haven’t gotten used to an upbeat reggae beat on In The Shelter, but it was still quite enjoyable. I absolutely love the addition of Nadirah’s vocals on Son Of A Sailor. As usual, Jimmy had some good in between song banter and some appropriate lyric changes for the setting. I think we all agree that one of the highlights was being treated to the video of License To Chill, a new song he does with Kenny Chesney on his upcoming album. Besides being a very good song, the video features this year’s Sports Illustrated swimsuit models. And the rumor on the street that a DVD of the video will be included in the upcoming swimsuit edition of SI…I will definitely be buying a copy this year! And though we weren’t able to take any pictures during the show, one of the guys behind us, John, offered to email us his pictures, including a couple shots of Mike and I with the band playing behind us and many shots of Jimmy and the Reefers. We gave him our cards and Mike offered him a club shirt as an incentive. He seemed like a really nice guy and he said he’s good about following up on stuff like this. He was scheduled to leave Vegas at 7am this morning, so I’m hoping for some picture soon.

The reason for the short set list is because Jimmy was also performing afterwards at a VIP party in Margaritaville. Unfortunately we didn’t know about this party when we met Jimmy on Monday or we would have asked to added to the list! Okay, maybe a long shot, but I know a few parrothead members got to go.

Before the show had ended, we noticed there was a Margaritaville Tequila banner attached to fence in front of us with wire ties. Figuring most people wouldn’t have a way to remove it, and I with my Swiss Army Knife always in pocket, we devised our scheme for quick and easy removal after the show. And there was another banner in a tree behind us. After immediate confiscation of the first banner, we turned around and the other was already gone. This was the beginning of the pirate coming out in us and the SBPHC now has our first banner. Mike saw Jim Hill who he knows from the LAPHC and said hi and talked a bit about the upcoming PHINS TO THE WEST in Laughlin. Mike signed our club up for the security committee and I volunteered to help. So at this point, he and I are the security for the event. On our walk back into the casino, we walked by one of the burger stands which amazingly still had one of the nice signs for the grand opening. Mike and I were trying to ask the workers if we could have the sign for a souvenir. They weren’t getting it, so Mike popped the sign off and held it up to them and they said we could take it.

We went up to our room to drop off our contraband, rest our legs, and Mike called some of the parrotheads back home. I broke out my bottle of Family Reserve Cuervo and we each had a shot of some mighty fine tequila that I had been saving for a special occasion and I can’t think of a better time to break open the bottle. Being as it was a short show and it started early, it was still only about 7:30. We weren’t sure what we should do next. Mike called Rick Cantrell of the LVPHC and left a message to see if there were any other post-concert happenings. We found out the next morning that Rick was at the VIP concert.

We decided to venture out and see what we could see. Pretty quickly we bumped into Todd and Christiaan who we’d been standing in line with for the concert and they were pretty much in the same boat as we were, trying to find something to do. We wandered a bit…quite a bit. Went through most of Caesar’s and decided we should get some dinner. Who ever knew it would take us so long to make a decision. We walked quite a bit and as it turns out, Christiaan is pretty much known for just walking miles and miles. We finally decided on P.F. Chang’s. We found out it was about a half hour wait and by that point that didn’t seem like anything after roaming around the strip for so long. We did joke with the receptionist quite a bit about being one of the names already on the reservation list. Not that we were actually trying to get away with anything, but basically just passing the time ‘til we were seated. According to Mike’s watch, it was only an 18 minute wait, so we were in there. I don’t know if it was the build up, but the kung pao chicken seemed pretty darn tasty. We talked quite a lot about everything from sports to Buffett to jobs.

After satisfying our carnivorous habit, we walked back to the Flamingo. Mike and I were ready to crash after our few hours of sleep the night before. Went back to the room, watched about 3 minute of news, and got a good night’s sleep. What a great day!

Mike got up first at about 7:45 and announced that he was going for coffee. I got up shortly after and took a shower. When he got back to the room, he said that I could have the Cheeseburger in Paradise sign and held up one of the Grand Opening Entrance signs that are a little bigger and were next to the doors leading out to the concert. He had found it in a stand, turned around, tucked back in a corner near the deli. He told me he nonchalantly removed it and walked away back to the room…Score another souvenir for an SBPHC pirate.

While Mike showered, I went for a little walk to stretch my legs and found out the Margaritaville gift shop opened at 9am. We already knew that the restaurant/bars weren’t opening until 11am which was a little late for us since we had to get back home for the Anaheim concert. We had about an hour and went down to get some breakfast. We weren’t sure where to eat, but within about a minute of getting off the elevator that we needed to be more decisive about our meals and we both agreed to eat and Lindy’s right there.

After breakfast, we walked over to Margaritaville, dropping off a letter for Mike’s friend at the reception desk. The store hadn’t opened yet. Outside of the store were a couple chairs with many used drink glasses and containers scattered around and a white binder. I opened up the binder and it’s the VIP Guest list Binder, which became my final souvenir from the event. Even Mike won’t know this until he reads this, but I was looking more carefully through the list this evening after I got home and there’s a JAMES HOFFA with the International Brotherhood of Teamsters on the invite list…I got a kick out of that. Other than Rick from the LVPHC, I didn’t know anyone else. Mike recognized a couple names from the New Orleans Margaritaville.

We went outside and took a few pictures of the exterior of the store while carefully dodging traffic. By then the gift store was open. They have a lot of cool stuff, but I wasn’t in the shopping mood. I did enjoying looking at it all and will definitely be making some purchases on future trips (or when they get their website added). Mike needed to get some souvenirs and his shopping for Peg got easier when he got her on the phone. While we were shopping we got a couple photos in front of the not yet open Restaurant/Bar. I found myself feeling much like Clark Griswold’s in his quest for Wally World. I’ve wanted to visit a Margaritaville for a long time, and here I am standing next to one finally and it’s closed. It had been closed before the concert in preparation for the VIP show, so no chance to make it on this trip. No worries though, I know Mike is up for making another run in the near future and hopefully we can get some of the Santa Barbara parrotheads talked into a road trip.

We had an easy checkout with the express machine and we on the road back home for our next adventure. The trip home isn’t ever as exciting as the trip out, but we had good tunes and good memories to keep us going. We did have one slight unplanned detour on our way home. As we were approaching Victorville, which is the junction between I14 and Hwy 18, it was time for a cd change. Mike asked me if the Migration Sailing cd was any good and as I was looking over, I see the Hwy18 exit out of the corner of my eye and quickly exited. As we’re driving a couple miles, it seems like we’re going more East than West and I mention this to Mike and he replied that the surroundings didn’t look familiar to him. So I made a u-turn, figuring if it’s not this way, then obviously it’s the opposite way. We pass the freeway and I figure we’re safe now. After a few miles, I noticed that we are going strangely to the North and it didn’t seem like the road was really planning on bending in the direction we needed to go. I pulled over at the next place to ask directions as I’m driving into the parking lot I see the sign…we’re on Route 66. Which turns out was not bad as detours go, because Mike had never been on Route 66 in California…so it wasn’t a complete waste of time. At that point, the only thing I could guess was that in my quick exodus I had gotten off on 18 East and 18 West must be just down the freeway a little further. We hopped back on I15 and sure enough that was it. So I learned a valuable lesson…no cd changes at critical junctions. The rest of the trip home was smooth sailing. I dropped Mike off at home. I said a quick hello to Peg and thanked her again. As we were starting to tell stories, I needed to move my truck so the neighbor could get out and Mike was on his way to get his haircut, so I headed back to Santa Barbara.

I had a ton of emails waiting, including an email from a club member than left her ticket that she won’t be able to use on my desk at work. So I ran out to the office to pick it up in case I can sell it for her tomorrow. And I really wasn’t planning on writing our story tonight, but then I just started doing it and well, here it is for your perusal. If I missed any good tidbits, I hope Mike will fill in the gaps or share his take on any of it. He’ll probably be up reading it about the time I close my eyes.

Now I’d better get to bed before that alarm clock starts ringing again. I’m looking forward to the next Adventure. First a concert on a pool, tomorrow it’s a pond….

There are a ton of picures on our club site:
Margaritaville - Las Vegas: Grand Opening Concert
Margaritaville, Las Vegas - January 22, 2004


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