FLINT - I was in a casino recently for the first time in a long time, and here is what I want to know: Where are all the people from the commercials?
You know, the ones wearing suits and ties and sequined gowns and diamond jewelry. The ones sharing sophisticated laughs over sophisticated jokes while clinking sophisticated tumblers of brandy. The ones like "The Most Interesting Man in the World" from that beer commercial.
He looks like he belongs in a casino. I know this because the commercials are all stuffed with people just like him, in that they're suave, well-dressed and non-belching.
But he was not at the casino I was at. These people were:
- A young guy wearing a stained tank top who had an unfortunate tendency to fold his hands behind his head, thereby affording everyone the best possible view of his Guinness Book of World Records thicket of armpit hair. (All together now: Eyew!)
- An old guy with man boobs who fell asleep in a chair with his arms folded and his mouth open. He didn't move for an hour. He could have been comatose. He could have been dead. No one seemed sure if they should check.
- A woman who was so obese that the word "Juicy," which was printed on the backside of her sweatpants, ended up as "JUUUICCCY." It's the first time in my life I've felt sorry for cotton.
I don't want to shock you or anything, but I think the casino industry may be lying to us with its commercials, all of which suggest that James Bond will be sitting at the slot machine next to you trading tuxedo starching tips with Frank, Dino and the rest of the Rat Pack while Marilyn Monroe and Pussy Galore nibble his ears.
The truth is casinos these days make Wal-Mart look like a fashion runway in Milan, and I do not say that to be snooty.
I, myself, am no fashion plate. In fact, my fashion sense has been described as "blind, slob caveman chic," but then what does my wife know.
I can't tell you how many times I have been headed out the door when she says, "You're not going out like that, are you?" And I mean that literally - I can't count how often she says it because she says it nearly every time I get up to leave, often without even looking at what I have on. She just assumes I'll be train wreck.
I don't blame her. My sense of color is so bad that she's threatened to start a line of Garanimals for men just so I'll match occasionally. ("Honey, how many times do I have to tell you that giraffes go with giraffes, not with tigers."?) I have been known to wear brown socks with black shoes and vice versa. And I don't see anything particularly wrong with wearing a plaid shirt with striped pants.
My point is that if someone who is as big an appearance clod as I am notices that we've become a nation of slobs when it comes to how we dress and act in public, then things have reached a crisis stage.
I mean, c'mon, even I know you shouldn't wear a shirt with the sleeves cut off to a casino. Casinos are supposed to be classy.
And yet many people stroll the floor looking like they just survived a flood. It kinda kills the experience, y'know?
Casinos are a fragile illusion. Without patina of class, they're just rip-off parlors for the math-challenged. As the saying goes, there's a reason they can pay for all those lights.
And it's not just casinos. Have you flown lately? I'm old enough to remember when people dressed up to fly. These days I'm lucky if I don't end up in the middle seat between one guy wearing a wife-beater undershirt and another guy who chews his toenails.
The grocery store is that way, too. People dress like they're in the "Thriller" video. The last time I was there I saw a woman in her pajama bottoms, a guy with his pants below his butt cheeks and a little kid wearing a "You say tomatoes, I say (blank) you" T-shirt. It probably wasn't his mom's fault, though. His "Kiss my Sweet (blank)!" T-shirt was probably in the wash.
Look, I'm not saying that I want a return to the '50s when men apparently slept in neckties and women only wore dresses, but a little decorum in public would be nice.
Maybe we can start small. Not seeing your armpit hair would be a great start.
EDITOR'S NOTE - Andy Heller, an award-winning columnist for The Flint Journal, appears weekly in the Daily Press. He graduated from Escanaba Area High School in 1979. For more of his work, visit his blog at blog.mlive.com/flintjournal/aheller. You can e-mail him at email@example.com.