Like most would, I was feeling introspective after filming a segment in Las Vegas where an Elvis impersonator married me to the fictional character Tristan Ludlow from Legend of the Fall.
Our crew had a small break between that shoot and the next, where I would tour the The Palms with a Sin City VIP insider to see suites with basketball courts, pools that jut out 30 storeys over the strip and cost upwards of $40,000 a night.
With two hours to spare, and seeking solace in a city with few places to hide, I changed out of my wedding ware in my room at Planet Hollywood and took myself out for lunch. Quite accidentally, I stumbled on Spago, Wolfgang Puck’s place in the Forum Shops at Caesar’s Palace. Puck was the first celebrity chef to open up in Las Vegas in the ’90s. Other chefs—Bobby Flay, Emeril Lagasse, Thomas Keller, Mario Batali, Gordon Ramsay and Nobu Matsuhisa—followed. Even the French, Alain Ducasse, Guy Savoy and Joel Robuchon, who came out of retirement to open up his only fine dining restaurant in the U.S., were lured by Vegas.
I figured that the pizza at Spago, the first restaurant in North America to popularize now ubiquitous thin crust pizza, would be something to remember: no easy feat in a place where the senses are assaulted with so many sounds and sights that each new sensory explosion renders the preceding one obsolete.
I ordered a glass of Sancerre, a Caesar salad with Spanish white anchovies and a Margherita pizza. As I sipped on my wine and unsuccessfully tried to read the New Yorker I brought from home (too self-conscious), I watched a young couple, maybe in the their early 30s, walk into the Fendi shop across from my table overlooking the fake forum. The shop, with its circular base and fluted columns, appeared to be modelled after the Temple of the Vesta. But unlike that temple, where a sacred fire was maintained by the virgins who dedicated their lives to the goddess of the hearth, this temple was dedicated to women’s footwear. Shoes were displayed like works of art: some had feathers pluming from their sides, others had heels of clear resin.
The man sat on a plush couch in the centre of the rotunda as the woman tried on shoe after shoe. Occasionally, he checked his phone. The woman’s nose had been chiseled down at its bridge so that it was as thin as the ridgepole of a roof. Her cheeks were smooth and swollen. She wore a patterned Hermes silk dress and carried a large Louis Vuitton logo bag.
I’d finished my salad (good—the anchovies were not as pungent as your typical tinned varieties) and had started on my pizza, a sad facsimile of the Margheritas I’ve come to know. There was no tomato sauce, just slices of tomatoes baked on top. And others might have been pleasantly surprised by the addition of three or four other types of cheese. Not me. If I wanted a pizza burdened by cheese I would have ordered the Quattro Formaggi.
Two employees brought out a total of five pairs of shoes for the woman to try on. Two security guards stood watch. The six of them made the Fendi shop seem crowded. The woman would try on a pair and parade in front of the couch where the man sat.
I picked up my phone and texted the Beast: ” If I die in a helicopter crash in the Grand Canyon tomorrow I want you to know that I hope to grow old with you and die with you. And I can’t imagine going through life without you. Okay?”
I finished my wine. The woman couldn’t decide which pair of shoes to get. The man motioned to take three pairs that were set apart from the others. Widely girthed tourists wearing t-shirts that bulged with flesh underneath passed between the Fendi shop and my table. They’d pause to take photos of the tromp l’oeil ceiling painted sky blue with white clouds while trying to hang onto their long, brightly coloured plastic glasses filled with fluorescent cocktails.
I looked down at my phone. The Beast replied, “Okay”.
I paid my bill and walked back to Planet Hollywood.