How ‘Tangerine’ at the Treasure Island hotel ruined my Vegas vacation

Every year at Halloween, a friend of mine and I go a little overboard.  We’ve been doing it for 4 years now (well, 3, we skipped one) and each year, the costumes get more elaborate.

 For us, ‘costume’ means Kevin sculpting a prosthetic and making fake teeth, all perfectly fitted to the wearers head, Hollywood style.  These things can take months to make, and hours to put on, but it’s fun, and we get a lot of attention.

This was the first year: Halloween 2003

And here’s the 2nd: Halloween 2004

This year, we decided to go all out.  Kevin and I had been thinking of entering a costume contest, but needed something that would be easily recognized and popular, and would have enough character to have fun with it.  We decided to do characters from ‘The Mask’, aka The Mask and the masked Dorian Tyrell.  When I told my wife, she thought it was a great idea, and even volunteered to make the Zoot Suit.  (Finding bright yellow suiting wool was fun all by itself)

Kevin got sculpting, Amy got sewing, and I started watching the movie over & over to perfect the shtick.  We looked around online for a club that was having a good costume contest on a Saturday (we wanted Friday for a dry run).  We picked the Tangerine club in Treasure Island.  They were having a $10,000 contest hosted by Dennis Rodman, with Gene Simmons as a special guest.  We were stoked.  We booked time off, made travel arrangements, booked a hotel, and finished off the costumes.

Friday, we started.  The teeth needed a bit of Dremel work to get them to fit.  The masks needed painting, and several coats to get the color solid.  Then they have to be applied - they’re glued to your face so they move like you.  This takes about an hour all by itself.

We finally finished, and left the room.  While strolling through our hotel casino looking for the exit, we were stopped by security.  Apparently they get funny about people walking the casino floor wearing masks, even if it is halloween, and we were asked to remove them.  We couldn’t, so they were nice enough to escort us (gently) to the exit and suggested an alternate route for next time.  They were very nice about it, and I understand their issue.  This was also the first sign of trouble in three years, but it made an impression.

We headed out onto the strip.  It was immediately obvious that we had gotten the costumes right - People kept stopping us to ask for pictures.  You can see some here: Halloween 2006.  It was a blast, and really made it seem worth all the effort that went into getting there.  People kept saying things like, “I dunno where you’re going, but you’re gonna win when you get there.”

On the way back to our hotel, we passed by the Tangerine club.  We talked to one of the doormen to see if there was anyone we could talk to about the following night - We thought perhaps if the casinos were worried about IDing us, it would be prudent to check with the club, too.  He said our best bet was to come back during the day (they were a little busy just then) and talk to someone beforehand.

We did exactly that - Around 2pm, we headed to Treasure Island.  We figured since we were stopped in our own hotel casino, and that the club’s entrance was off Treasure Island’s casino, we should probably clear our entry with the hotel security, or make the necessary arrangements.  The head of security at the time, a tall, older man with the unfortunate nickname of “Lurch”, told us that as long as we went straight from the nearest casino entrance to the entrance of the club, and stayed in line for the club without wandering around, we wouldn’t have a problem.  We headed for the club.

We talked to a girl at the front taking table reservations for that evening, and explained what we were planning.  We showed her the prosthetics from the night before.  She said as long as we had our ID it would be ok.  I replied, “but you won’t be able to tell it’s us - We can’t take them off.  Is there someone here we can talk to that can make sure we get in tonight?  We have our ID’s here…”  She thought it over and called into the club (wireless phone) to a manager she said was there at the time.  After explaining the situation to him, she hung up and said, “He says as long as you have your IDs with you, he can’t see why there’d be a problem.”  Since everyone seemed so dismissive about the whole thing, we headed back to our hotel to get ready.

You can see where this is headed, right?

At around 9:30pm, Saturday, October 28th, 2006, we headed off, in full costume.  We arrived at Tangerine about 30 minutes later (it took a while with all the people stopping us for pictures).  We waited in line for 25 minutes or so, then got to the doorman (a.k.a. Mr. Smith).


We showed him.

“Lift up the masks, I gotta see your faces.”

“They don’t come off.  We talked to someone about this today - They said as long as we had ID we’d be ok.”

“Well, you didn’t talk to me.  If I can’t ID you I can’t let you in, sorry.”

We argued with him for a bit (politely - he was a pretty strong looking guy, and he was just doing his job), and while he came close once or twice, he wouldn’t budge.  This went on for a while.  Then I had an idea - “Hold on a sec - I have both my phone and my digital camera here, showing us applying the makeup - see?  It’s us.”  I showed him pictures.

“Sorry - I understand your frustration, I really do, but, if I can’t see your face, I can’t let you in.”

“But the girl today talked to a manager, and he said it was ok - call her!”

“Even if that’s true, that doesn’t supercede me.  I’m the door manager, so everyone who goes in is my responsibility.  If I can’t ID you, I can’t let you in.  If you can peel the mask back a bit so I can see even part of your face, we can work something out…”  (It surprised me to hear a bouncer say, ’supercede’, but he did)

“You don’t understand - Removing it destroys it.  How do I enter the contest if I can’t put it back on?”  (As as side note, my eyes, nose, and mouth were all completely exposed but painted green.  The facial recognition software in wide use by casinos uses the relative position, orientation, and size of these features to identify people.  Their computers could tell who I was, but not their bouncer)

This continued for a while longer, and then he said, “Look, we’re busy, so you have to go.”

We stepped off to the side to figure out what the hell to do now.  We haggled off and on with him for a while longer, and eventually he called up someone else, who came out, listened, went over and spoke with him for a bit, and came back to tell us exactly what we’d heard before.

Over an hour had gone by at this point, so it wasn’t likely we were going to get in anywhere else.  We went to a bar called “Centrifuge” in the MGM Grand, had a drink (oh, the irony), milled around for a bit, and walked home.

I just called the club to get the name of the door manager (Jason ‘Smith’, if that is indeed his real name) and spoke to a helpful guy named Kieth.  He listened to me gripe for a while (he even knew who I was when I started - “You were ‘The Mask’, right?”).  He gave me some numbers, and told me to talk to the Manager of Managers.  She won’t be able to give me what I really want though, which is the opportunity to compete for the $10,000 in cash last Saturday.  (we’d only get part of that, and that’s assuming we’d win at all, but even losing is fun - we didn’t get in the door, which is a lot less fun)  Kieth also asked what he could do now to make it up to us.  “Halloween is another 364 days away, what can I do now to make this right?  How often do you come to Vegas?  Call me; I’ll get you in and buy you a bottle.”

Since we spent pretty much the whole time we were there either getting into make-up, or getting back out of it, what I’d like instead is all my money back.  Not for the costume, which I can use again, but between the two of us, we spent a couple grand on airfare & accomodation.

I’m not sure VIP entry and a bottle of Crystal really covers that, but since that’s what he can do, I may just take him up on it.