Thursday, December 18, 7:15 p.m.
"It would really be faster if you two just talked to one another.”
Wha—? I look up to see that just two feet away, another girl, similarly party-dressed and coiffed, is pecking away on her phone almost as rapidly as I. The entire elevator shares a polite chuckle as we disembark on the Palms casino floor, all bound for the Las Vegas Jewish Federation’s sixth annual Vodka Latka. I’m only 15 minutes tardy—which for me is nothing—but I learned my lesson last year, shelling out $55 only to have arrived far too late for the vodka, and narrowly missing the latkes—or as Martha Stewart calls them, “latt-keys.”
I dutifully hand over $55 in return for two drink vouchers and a raffle ticket. I share the elevator up to Moon with a pack of older Jewish women having a kvetch about the “shocking” lack of valet attendants. Over 300 attendees are expected tonight, and you can bet they aren’t going to bother winding their way to the roof as I did.
“Canapé?” The tray-wielding server puts a platter of hors d’oeuvres under my nose as I arrive at the Moon landing. “So, what have you got there?” I inquire innocently of his platter of lox, crème fraiche and chives on a bagel chip. He cocks his head: “Seriously?” I shut up and meekly pop one in my mouth. I settle into the fact this event, like many big Jewish functions, will be ... complicated, with lots of rules to follow.
I present one of my drink vouchers for a vodka soda. “I can give you the vodka in one glass,” says the bartender, “and the soda in the other.” Come again? “The sponsor doesn’t want us to mix anything other than the specialty cocktails.” I accept my glass of vodka and my glass of soda water, which I combine into something akin to a drink, and then drop a few bills on the bar; happily, the next round comes perfectly pre-mixed!
“Keep an eye out for the matzo-ball shooter!” says Aaron. “Stay away from the matzo-ball shooters …” warns Stacy. Oy, everybody’s a critic. The club begins to swell with the bounty of Vegas’ Jewish population, ages 21 to 81. Hanukkah being a holiday everyone can appreciate (hey, who doesn’t love a good miracle now and again?!), the elegantly dressed crowd gathers on the dance floor for a good, old-fashioned horah, which then goes right into Rod Stewart’s “Da Ya Think I’m Sexy?” On a prominent VIP table, a massive menorah blazes, a first in VIP-table history, I’d imagine.
The elevators continue to issue forth old friends and new, many of whom open with, “Sorry I’m late … Valet was awful!” We jump on line for the one latka-making station in the place, plenty of time for Stacy and me to be promised husbands by a spunky Jewish mother. “You won’t be alone for long!” she teases between dainty bites (already back in line for another round), and before launching into the many virtues of her single son in Florida. Nonplussed, we whine and dine.
Stacy hits the white horseradish hard and has no choice but to down her white wine in one gulp like a Jew wandering the desert for 40 years to the tune of “I Will Survive.” And the more she drinks, the more she talks about her “big Jewish boobs.” This—and those—attracts a swarm of followers. In the end we decide that intimate conversation is the key to thwarting unwanted affection, so I spend a lot of time whispering absolutely nothing in her ear. We also decide that sticking to the free cocktails is not “cheap,” it’s “economically cognizant,” and we become surer of this fact the more we drink.
At 9:30 p.m. the matrons swarm around the gift bags, and we are shuffled down to the Playboy Club while Moon is readied to reopen at 10. Some grumble about this inconvenience, while others welcome the excuse to see anything Playboy-related. There at the bar, they catch their first eyeful of the rare satin-corseted, flop-eared Bunny; the stubborn ones still find ways to complain about the mess valet will soon become or the latka they never got to have. “Oh, relax!” I nod toward the cocktail servers: “There’s plenty of rabbit!”