We're getting down to the wire, folks. One or two more chapters after this and The Spin comes to its tumultuous climax. This one was perhaps the most fun to write yet, despite the fact that I'm on vacation in Vail. But in between the snowboarding, the dining and drinking, there's a storythat has to be advanced. This week, we pump up the volume.
Now With Turbo-Charged,
In more ways than one, it was a good thing that Joey had accompanied Curtis on this trip. Despite the somewhat hallucinatory numbers being bandied about in the palatial penthouse boardroom of the Wynn Hotel during the finalization of his contract for The Spin, Curtis's head was adrift miles away.
Luckily, the hit-and-run driver did not kill Rockwell, but left the dog with a broken leg, a nasty head gash and some pretty harsh internal injuries. Although currently stable in the canine version of a coma, prognosis for Rockwell's recovery was fair-to-good, which kept Curtis in Nevada instead of back home in Denver...well, at least physically.
"He'd better sharpen up," Lisa whispered to Joey during one of their many off-the-record conversations in the hours after the accident. Lisa had little use for animals, except if they were the focal point of a charity fundraiser somewhere. "There are so many interviews he has to do in L.A. He's being treated like an A-lister. And then we're off to New York, where they're traditionally a little more cynical..."
Respecting what he was going through, the collected Wynn heavyweights cut Curtis some slack. He left the room frequently to call the Baker Animal Hospital, to deal with the increasingly hysterical dog-walker Andrea (and her incessantly apologetic parents, who agreed to help supervise the walking of Shaynie and to keep a vigil over Rockwell at the hospital), and to deal with Sid Tusk, who was peppering him with urgent questions about Miranda. Joey was left alone to handle last-minutes questions and concerns. Ever the shrewd operator, he took advantage of the situation and Curtis's shaky constitution by negotiating a 2.2% cut of the casino's gross take on The Spin to benefit the ASPCA...as well as a matching bonus bump for Team Curtis as well.
"If life hands you lemons, make lemonade," Joey summarized the situation as he sat down with Curtis for a relatively sombre celebratory drink at Wynn's aptly-named "Surrender" nightspot. "And if life hands you lemonade..." he said while reaching over the bar for a bottle, "...pour some vodka into it!"
Curtis managed a smile, his first real one since landing. True, he felt guilty hitting the road and leaving his dogs alone, but it wasn't the first time, and definitely won't be the last given all that was going on. He knew that this type of accident could happen anytime, anywhere, to anyone. Yeah, even to him. Meanwhile, Joey had parlayed the incident into another win-win; based on the estimate of a $10 million betting line at the two Wynn properties alone, Curtis and downtrodden animals all over the country would each enjoy a windfall of over $200,000.
"A perfect metaphor for my life," Curtis said in response to Joey's toast. "A little sour, mostly sweet, and now new and improved with turbo-charged, intoxicating additive!"
Although he spoke the words ironically, with the sing-song overemphasis of a late-night infomercial pitchman, Curtis had no idea how prophetic his off-the-cuff remark would become. Or how far turbo-charging can push the limits of mass intoxication.
Lisa had nothing to worry about. The interviews in L.A. went well. In retrospect, perhaps even too well, given what one of them inspired. Curtis was glib, charismatic and punched way above his weight while facing the lights and pressure of network TV. His major score was how he diffused a potentially embarrassing (and one can argue politically incorrect) situation when, after a commercial break on Jimmy Kimmel Live!, he was ambushed by two stunning models, one native-American, the other African-American, flanking his seat.
"So tell me Curtis," Kimmel gleamed, much to the delight of his uproarious audience, "The nation is buzzing about your upcoming spin, but I'm giving you the chance to choose right now--the Red or the Black?"
"Tell you what," Curtis replied confidently and instantly, as if his response was scripted and rehearsed. "I haven't made up my mind yet, but I'll take both with the promise to be unduly influenced by at least one of them!"
The audience roared even louder as he got up, took each by the arm, and made an early exit through the center curtains. Kimmel was left speechless, and could do nothing except shrug his shoulders as he cut to commercial. The next day, the clip was viewed by over 1,000,000 people on YouTube...including Mike Darnell at Fox.
To paraphrase Neil Armstrong, that was one small answer for a man, one giant leap for The Spin.
Turbo-charged? With that memorable moment, what was once merely viral went coast-to-coast/up-and-down mainstream, which in turn, ratcheted its contagion level to quantum viral.
Intoxicating? What was once giddy drunk was now LSD hallucinogenic.
The Spin had now become part of the international vernacular, driving up interview requests, sponsor bids and world-wide betting interest. Cognoscenti in the gaming industry believed that the amount of money to be wagered on The Spin would no doubt set an American record (it was already on pace to easily surpass the aggregate wager spent on the Super Bowl), and many went as far as predicting that it could rival the billions bet globally on the last World Cup. Forget the mere "Red or Black?"; there were hundreds of side bets being offered at casinos, on websites and through bookies all over the world, ranging from what number the roulette ball would actually stop on, to the weather on Spin Day (as it was now officially labelled in an international copyright), to the race, age and height of the croupier who would actually spin the wheel.
The nation wasn't merely "buzzing," as Kimmel put it, they were obsessing; obsessing on Spinmania to the point of needing professional therapy.
The flow of jokes from the late-night talk show hosts was incessant but mere child's play; Sunday mornings saw serious panel show pundits put aside usual subject matters like the unravelling of Europe or the increasing Iranian nuclear threat to debate the far-reaching socio-economic ramifications of The Spin instead. President Barack Obama himself made a brief appearance on Meet The Press, and while he praised Curtis for "resurrecting the traditional American risk-taking entrepreneurial spirit," he cautioned against "the lack of middle ground of such decision-making," before adding "Where would we be if Kennedy and Kruschev were this all-or-nothing impulsive?" And what started tongue-in-cheekly on ABC News This Week, when George Stephanopoulos divided the electoral map into "Red or Black" states instead of the traditional "Red or Blue," quickly festered into a national compulsion, changing every day depending on a country-wide poll asking a statistically-significant sample which color they believed Curtis would lay his life saving's down upon.
The Spin even had its own, unofficial theme song, as Hip-hop superstars Kanye West and Jay-Z teamed up to pen a jackhammer back-and-forth rap tune, with Kanye singing the pugnacious "red" lines and Jay-Z handling the more mellifluous "black" parts.
Then there were the copycats. Losing out to Wynn didn't sit well with the demanding executive suites of other massive gaming corporations, so the call went out to find other people willing to lay their lives on the line at the turn of a card (MGM Grand's "The Flip"), the roll of a pair of dice (Mandalay Resorts' "The Toss"), the outcome of a slot machine (Las Vegas Sands Group's "The Pull") or a hand of online poker (Caesars Interactive Entertainment's "The Click"). Lottery corporations in 32 states also jumped into the "me-too" pool, each launching some variation of a "one or the other"-themed instant-win scratch-off card. The whole notion of "double or nothing" trickled down to the smallest of retail outlets, where restaurants, supermarkets, clothing shops, pharmacists and even strippers offered the more daring of their customer base a version of The Spin, albeit in reverse, where the flip of a coin would result in a freebie win or a twice-the-price loss.
It was Curtis in Wonderland, with Joey as the Mad Hatter and Lisa as the Queen. But not everything spinning down the rabbit hole was rainbow bright and peachy-keen.
The hashtag #RedorBlack was still trending daily on Twitter, but so was #RedBlackwhocares, #stopthespin and #gamblingkills. While Curtis's personal Twitter account had over 1 million followers, nearly as popular was "The Spun," a fake-Curtis stream of commentary that included gems like "Great news! Satan and Kraft Foods have agreed to be the co-sponsors of my soul." The Spin's official Facebook page had over 1.5 million likes, but also lurking in cyberspace were dozens on anti-Spin pages, some by goofy kids but most by anti-gambling and anti-capitalism activists (who had taken to this almost as vehemently as they did to the Occupy movement of 2011).
Darker still was a spew of menacing blackmail, complaints and stalkers. Some claimed that they had originally conceived the concept of The Spin and that Curtis had brazenly ripped them off ("You'll be hearing from my lawyer!"). There were marriage proposals ("Spin into my arms, my darling, and we can be together forever!") and paternity suits ("She looks just like you."). There were mafia-esque demands to know what color Curtis would choose ("...or else!") and even some nasty threats on his life ("Remember, you've been warned!"). The FBI--yes, it got to that level--classified most of these of the "irritant" variety, but agreed with Lisa's earlier suggestion that Curtis be followed by an around-the-clock security detail.
There was such an continuous deluge of email, text messages, couriered envelopes and phone calls pouring into Team Curtis that Lisa and Joey (and the three-person help staff they had to hire) had a hard time dealing with it all, never mind separating the wheat from the chaff. Which is why they almost missed the four word email from Fox Alternative Entertainment which said in most minimalist terms:
"The Spin? We're in."
To be continued next week...