Photo Credit: BILL HUGHES
Patrick “Pirate” Watson owns a 1955 Cadillac and a 1929 Hudson rat rod he built at Cactus Flyer, his friend Mike Kelley’s shop.
If you could distill Vegas down to its very essence, you’d end up with the foul brew sloshing around the drunk tank at the Clark County Jail — and, one sweltering August night, I was part of it myself.
Nabbed for DUI, I was unceremoniously dumped into the jail’s holding tank to stew in my regret while sobering up. Never having been arrested before, I was unsure what to expect — my only concept of jail was from TV, so I expected to be beaten up and raped by a gang of burly lesbians in short order.
But, gee, either our miscreants are friendlier than those in other cities, or TV lied. I found myself in the company of a ragtag band of mostly agreeable, down-on-their-luck chippies — strippers picked up for drug possession, prostitutes hauled in for solicitation, fellow barefooted boozers busted for DUI or vagrancy. Aside from a sunburned homeless woman who sat in the corner, muttering curses and picking at her blackened toenails, my fellow inmates were a surprisingly genial bunch. We felt a bizarre camaraderie — it was like summer camp for the damned.
There was the voluptuous Panamanian stripper who’d gotten drunk to ease the pain of spending her son’s ninth birthday a thousand miles away from him; the unfortunate young hooker who’d been hired by a couple with no hotel room, and had been going at it in the backseat of their car in an Albertson’s parking lot until getting busted for public nudity; and the friendly, middle-aged Asian stripper who took a personal interest in me as I sat weeping like a bitch in the corner.
“You dancer, honey?”
“No,” I sniffed.
“Why you no dancer?! You so pretty!”
“I know, I know, it’s really good money … but I’m the world’s worst dancer. I could never do it!”
“No, honey; it easy! I show you!”
And so it was that I was the bemused recipient of a lap dance from a middle-aged Vietnamese stripper in the holding tank of the Clark County Jail. Halfway through her demo, I noticed that she was missing several fingers on each hand.
“Where did you say you danced?” I asked, sure I wasn’t remembering correctly. I thought she had said one of the top clubs in town, a club known for featuring the best-looking women in Vegas.
But she confirmed it, adding that they only let her dance until 9 p.m., allowing her to return at 3 a.m. During this window she would sometimes leave to go dance at less discerning establishments. Like the one at the Clark County Jail.
Curious, I asked the woman on my lap what she was in jail for. “Domestic violence,” she answered — she had beaten up her husband for some unnamed infraction, and he’d called the cops.
By then, I had stopped crying; despite my wretched state of filth and fatigue, I was actually smiling. I had steeped myself in the very essence of Vegas — and it wasn’t that bad, after all.