Michael James battles a straight razor at The Barber Shop at El Cortez.
I love “The Vegas Experience” and I also love experiencing Vegas. There was one particular experience that I had secretly wanted to try, but I always seemed that it would sound goofy if I had told anyone, and I also wasn’t sure that I wanted to spend my precious bankroll on this experience. That experience being my first straight razor shave.
“They’re so old fashioned.”
“Make sure your Packard isn’t double-parked”
“Mafia guys get hit while getting shaved.”
I could only imagine the other humiliating things that my wife and friends would say. I figured that this experience would forever be a private yearn.
During my April trip, after dropping my wife off for some separate fun while I changed hotels, I found myself without a hotel room (as one wasn’t yet ready) and with extra time on my hands. I decided to stroll up the Fremont Street Experience when it occurred to me.
My history of Vegas Internetting (where I first discovered my interest in a straight razor shave) had first pointed me to Art of Shaving (three locations between Mandalay Bay and the Venetian), but then also to other options, including the Barber Shop at the El Cortez. Knowing that to be a more affordable option, I decided that that day would be the day.
I entered the El Cortez through the porte-cochere and started looking for the signs. I remember reading that it was upstairs and saw a sign that said “Beauty Salon”, so I logically assumed… (Yeah, I know the saying). I was directed up a different staircase (near the craps table) to the hotel hallway. Still not sure I was in the right spot, I did find the Barber Shop at the end of the hall.
When I arrived around 11:30 AM, there was nobody else there and I was seated right away. Then the following happened in this exact order…
- I was told to lay back and relax
- Ernesto turned the water on
- He got some lather and patted it on my face
- He got his razor and started shaving… while the water was still running.
If you noticed something, that would be that the hot towel that is customarily offered prior to the lather was omitted. I figured that Ernesto knew what he was doing, so I didn’t say a word as he Ernesto started the shave.
And I felt every single hair tugged as the razor passed over.
It may have been about two minutes, but it felt like he was hacking my face with a rusty sickle for about an hour. And when he got to my neck… (shuddering at the memory).
Once he was finished, only then did he get a towel wet and place it over my face; and the damn thing was lukewarm at best. Oh, but that wasn’t all!
After the warm towel, he repeated the entire process. My poor, raw face was not impressed. And when he got to my neck… (I’m tellin’ ya; night terrors).
When he finally finished, he went to a drawer to get the stingy stuff that Grandma used to put on your skinned knees and started dabbing all over my neck. I could almost feel the pain shooting through my body and out through my toes. At the point that Ernesto finally told me that he was done, I leapt out of that chair before he could change his mind.
The cost of the shave was $15 and I gave him a $2 tip. I am not sure why I offered a tip to the owner and only employee when he sets the price in the first place, but maybe it was because I was thrilled to make it out alive.
(I do feel the need for a disclaimer; I will occasionally take some artistic license in my articles. But I promise, Dear Reader, that I take none with this experience. It was truly a miserable 15 minutes.)
I made my walk down the hotel hallway back into the casino, and as I did I rubbed my face and neck for a first assessment of the damage. There was no blood on my hands, which was actually quite a surprise. But I did feel one thing… whiskers. My word, as I was in the chair, I kept focusing on my face being as smooth as a baby’s bottom. Ernesto had taken a three-day growth and hacked it down to a one-day growth!
As I often think to myself when reading a bad review, I wonder if it was just a bad day and not really as bad as it sounds. I also wonder if a second visit on a different day might render a different verdict. However, I just can’t put myself through it again.
But I certainly did have a Vegas Experience, didn’t I?
Author’s Note – A seven day Las Vegas vacation offers many opportunities for reviews of restaurants, shows, touristy stuff and other experiences. I will be covering many – but not all – of these in the coming weeks and months. To read about the whole magilla, please read my full trip report on the Vegas Message Board.
[Photos – Dane “D-Dub” Wojciehowski]