Tuesday, July 7, 2015

Won't Forget the 70's. J.P. Bowie

The 70's was quite the decade for me. For one thing I left the UK and set up residence in the US, glittering Las Vegas to be exact. My then partner was a dancer in Hallelujah Hollywood, the biggest show at the brand new MGM Hotel and Resort, corner of LV Blvd and Flamingo. It has now been bastardized by Bally's and is a travesty of it's former self.

I have to say I was in awe of Vegas when I first saw it. Then, of course, the Strip was home to The Dunes, The Sands, The Flamingo, The Hacienda, The Stardust and more legendary resorts that I'd only seen in films or TV. To actually walk along the Strip and venture into these, what then seemed like exotic palaces, was an amazing experience. Today I look at Vegas through a somewhat jaundiced eye, but back then in my youth it all was fresh and exciting.

Working at the MGM under the sparkling crystal chandeliers, watching millionaires lose some of their millions - sometimes a lot of their millions, rubbing shoulders with the likes of Natalie Wood, Robert Wagner, Shirley Maclaine, Warren Beatty, Sean Connery, Robert Redford etc., was fodder for many a dinner conversation. Quite a change from the stuffy offices I'd left behind in London. Although I was in showbiz in those days, sometimes in between engagements one had to swallow one's pride and take on menial chores like typing and accounting. Oh, the horror!

But back to Vegas... I was fortunate enough to land a cushy job at the MGM in the casino. It paid well, great insurance plan, bonuses and free meals. I bought a house with a pool, had a circle of great looking friends, most of them singers and dancers. Looked like I was all set for the long term. When I worked the day shift at the hotel I was home at nights watching shows I'd never heard of in the UK. Carol Burnett, Maude, Mary Tyler Moore, Rhoda - Saturday night on American TV was ladies night!

Movie night was big in the 70's. Jaws, The Rocky Horror Show, Star Wars, Godfather 2, Blazing Saddles just to mention a few that I can still watch today without yawning. And the music - OMG - Blondie, The Bee Gees, Captain and Tenille, Don McLean, Elton John, America, and of course the Jackson Five. Parties weren't complete without them. So many memories of partying until dawn, driving home as the sun came up - that's how I remember Vegas in the seventies.

Towards the end of the decade I got the urge to move and headed for California, just in time to join the rallies against Anita Bryant and her anti-gay crusade. California was a whole new way of life for me. For one thing you couldn't fry an egg on the sidewalk like in Vegas. The weather was so much more conducive to actually being able to breathe during the day without scorching your lungs - at least on the coast - inland it could be a different story.

Okay this has been all about me - but one of the greatest things about looking back at a different time is that I'm so fortunate to still have so many friends from then. Even if we've moved far apart we're still in touch, still available for long phone calls. And boy, I've got a lot to talk to them about this post! I'm picking up the phone right now.


  1. It's great to have such memories of the glitz and action of a 'happening' city. During the seventies, I worked at three jobs in downtown SF. Four years at a bar right across from Francis Coppolla's American Zoetrope building. Got to know (and pick up after they passed out) many celebrities from Apocalypse Now and other neighborhood characters. Several times I escorted Brautigan home when he was too inebriated to take care of himself. Martin Sheen was a regular as was Laurence Fishburn and many of Coppolla's staff also bent elbows there. One year, I attended two of Francis' birthday parties. A weekend-long family affair at his estate in Napa and one at his girlfriend's (who worked as a stripper on Broadway) little flat in North Beach. Those were the days.

  2. Talking about picking up passed out celebrties - a famous Italian crooner and a BIG western star were only two I helped off the floor at the MGM casino bar. Memories...

  3. Sometimes I think that old friends, those we knew years ago, when we were all younger, different versions of who we are now, are the best. It's nice to have someone else who shares the same memories you do, who can respond when you ask, "Do you remember when?" And yes, they do. Have fun reconnecting with your besties.

    1. Not to negate what you've said here, but those same memories can be recalled quite differently among people who witnessed the same situation, depending on how it affected them. My take is not always the same take as others' take. But to go a step further, often when we see friends we had back in the day, that our paths have crossed so long ago we don't have anything but the past. We've moved on. Of course, nostalgia is usually on our side, so as long as we didn't embarrass ourselves too badly.... :>)

  4. Wow, what memories, JP!

    Blondie. Yeah. I wrote my dissertation to the sound of "Heart of Glass".

    And I first visited LV in the seventies too, on the way from LA to Missoula, Montana, on the ill-fated trip to visit my boyfriend that was responsible for my poem when we were talking about the Eighties. What struck me was how magical it seemed at night--and how drab and sordid in the daylight.

  5. Talking about Montana - years ago I was on a road trip with a friend and said "We have to go to Billings!" So many Western movies I loved were either set there or the stars ended up there. What a disappointment - depressed, with most stores closed down. We did find what looked like an old saloon though, but we were the only two people there. My visions of hunky cowboys and petticoated ladies of loose reputation went out the window!

  6. I know I missed out on something major in our culture when my two experiences of Las Vegas were just in transit to or from the Grand Canyon. Rocky walls along the highway from the east radiating heat from the daytime sun far into the night; dingy motels on the outskirts; marveling at the slot machines in grubby laundromats; but still the occasional glimpse of the neon paradise pulsating in the distance. Of course somehow I had managed, even ten years apart, to be trundling along with a two-year-old kid, so my options were limited.

  7. Thanks for this post, JP! Obviously, we didn't all have the same experiences in the same decade!

  8. You make it sound so fun and evocative! My experiences of Vegas have tended toward the jaundiced. It's very cool to read about some of the glamour. :)


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