How exactly does one gussy up the rather drab Roone Arledge Auditorium into a semblance of the gaudy, vaudevillian madness that is the Moulin Rouge? Apparently you just have to put out that red light. Or rather several red lights to give the entire space that good ol’ dim brothel glow. And then fill the whole thing up with tables for Blackjack, Texas Hold ‘Em, Roulette, Craps, and, of course, food and a healthy supply of booze. And all the while, play the film of the same name on a silent loop in the background. A valiant attempt at bringing Vegas to Columbia (well, as fine as can be expected with 2,500 miles of dilution from the concept of Vegas), although bits of the stodgy old Roone still shone through now and then to ruin the illusion. Hardly anyone seemed to care for the continuity and sensory immersion into another time and space as all in the room constantly fixed their gazes on the gambling tables.
Your correspondent was on the receiving end of these blank stares last night, or at least his hands were, as he dealt several dozen hands of Blackjack over the night. And he wishes to apologize sincerely to the magnificent (although thematically terribly incongruent) performers at the event – Jake Snider and the Morningside Heights Collective, Uptown Grease, Dhoom, and Chowdah. All of these performers are terrific mainstays of Columbian entertainment, yet during each performance those at the tables rarely batted an eye or crooked their heads by one degree away from their cards.
In the end, it was an evening of controlled debauchery, of addictive enabling. A night to dress up in our fin de siècle best, bob our heads to some jazzy tunes, and test our hands at beating lady luck. A bit eclectic and surreal, but on the whole a smashing success for all involved, even if it was a nerve-wracking experience of self-doubt and inferiority for at least one dealer.
–MEH, photos by Mailing Wu