By Night Known as Mr. Clay
In the autumn of 1990, while I was working at a Sam Goody store in Las Vegas’ Fashion Show Mall, I met comedian Andrew Dice Clay. He was playing Bally’s that week, and in only two short days he had developed a toxic reputation amongst Vegas’ service industry workers. Apparently, he was a lousy tipper and — surprise! — an obnoxious jerk.
I found him to be a nice enough guy. A bit neurotic, maybe, but a nice guy nonetheless. He made me think of Barry Manilow for some reason — a mild-mannered, unassuming New Yorker with an outsized stage presence. It was the lead man of Clay’s entourage that needed to meet, as the Firesign Theater once put it, “the hot kiss at the end of a wet fist.”
We met cute about a half-hour after the mall closed for the night.
“Hey, guy!” he yelled through the closed gate. “You there, kid! Open this f—in’ store back up. I gotta buy some s–t for the Diceman.”
“Sorry, we’re closed,” I said. “The registers are shut down. Mall reopens at 10 a.m. tomorrow.”
“C’mon, goddammit, open up! We just gotta buy one tape. One f—in’ tape. What kind of an a-hole are ya that can’t open the store for one lousy f—in’ tape?”
I was about to tell him precisely what kind when a short, anonymous-looking man in a gray wool suit stepped forward and pulled the man away from the gate. They conferred quietly, and the peon nodded his head and turned to walk downstairs without looking at me.
“I’ll come back tomorrow,” said the gray-suited man. “No problem at all. Very sorry about all the noise.”
“No problem,” I said. That was Andrew Clay, out of character. I didn’t even realize who he was until after I’d gone home.
The following day, the “Diceman” came to buy his tape. I don’t remember what it was, but I do remember that he had six people huddled around him to hide his platform-heeled and leather-jacketed visage from adoring fans. He could have made this purchase without entourage, in his quiet and anonymous guise, but this trip to the mall wasn’t about buying music. It was about selling Dice.
“Sorry ’bout last night,” he said.
“No problem,” I said. “Don’t mind serving you when we’re open.”
“Blame it on the bossa nova, you know what I’m sayin’?” he said over his shoulder as he was led away.
“Nice to see you again,” I called after him. He flipped me off as he took the escalator down to the food court. He held the finger aloft as he sank slowly into the horizon, and I watched as his torso, then his head, and finally the tip of his middle finger disappeared from view. It was like watching a man plunge into quicksand.
“Such a nice man,” I said to the awestruck kid at the other register, and returned to work.
Incredibly, not one hour later, Barry Manilow came into the store. He went straight for the Madonna CDs, bought every one we had, and left without speaking to me at all.