Michael D. Amitin

Viva Las Vegas

John Charles Frémont (January 21, 1813 – July 13, 1890), was an American military officer, explorer, the first candidate of the Republican Party for the office of President of the United States, and the first candidate to run on a platform in opposition to slavery. During the 1840s, that era’s penny press accorded Frémont the sobriquet “The Great Pathfinder.”

It was June of 1843, Frémont’s second topographical expedition mapped the Oregon Trail, traveled to Fort Vancouver, then turned south through Oregon and Western Nevada. By January 1844, the expedition was comprised of twenty-seven men, including Kit Carson and Thomas “Broken Hand” Fitzpatrick, sixty-seven horses and mules, and a bronze mountain howitzer.

Low on provisions, Frémont decided to cross the 10,000 ft. Sierra Nevadas to Sutter’s Fort in California. It was midwinter, and the mountains were covered in deep snow. The Washoe Indians he met told him that he’d never be able to cross.

Fremont’s expedition eventually lead him southeast where on May 13, 1844, he set up camp in Las Vegas Springs, a destination that would later come to bear a landmark Hotel bearing his name.

Built in the Vegas building boom of the 1950’s, the Fremont Hotel and Casino in Downtown Vegas opened on May 18, 1956 as the tallest building in the state of Nevada. Fremont Street became the main thoroughfare through the heart of casino-lined Glitter Gulch.

Today, the Fremont remains one of the stalwarts of old Vegas… and the stuff of great legend – the house that gave rise to the likes of the inimitable Newton Brothers, Wayne and Jimmy, and gave a start to many others.

Local lore says this about the venerated establishment: “The Fremont will probably be around until Vegas gets sucked into the pits of hell.” Danka Schoen, and we love you Jersey.

A cool autumn night in 1983, the Fremont in the spirit of exploration befitting its namesake, played host to another groundbreaking act – an expedition of another variety – one likely to have made the wheels of the Great Pathfinder’s covered wagon spin into dead man’s ditch.

The American Urological Association was holding its annual meeting at the Fremont. Word of a major breakthrough in urological research had those gathered in attendance chattering. Dr. Giles Brindley, a British physiologist was slated to present his ‘significant’ findings to the association.

Brindley, a pencil-necked graying man of fifty-seven, was an old hand at such meetings, having presented numerous papers at scientific conferences. He had a reputation in Europe for original research, especially in bioengineering. In 1964, for example, Brindley had devised the world’s first visual prosthesis and had implanted three pairs of electronic eyes in humans before terminating the work when the costs did not justify the results. Once, to explore the effects of centrifugal force on a rabbit’s ability to land on its feet, Brindley dropped a rabbit from the roof to the floor of a car while making a sharp turn while the car was going eighty miles an hour.

After incurring the wrath of hell from PETA, Brindley sequestered himself for years taking solace with a “Logical Bassoon” he’d invented, an electronically controlled version of the bassoon.

Anchors Away

Prior to the 1980’s, it was thought that erectile dysfunction – the inability to achieve an erection – was primarily mental. That concept was about to be doused with saltpeter at the conference in Vegas.

A buzz filled the small theater inside the Fremont, as a veritable who’s-who of urologists took their seats and the lights dimmed. A short squatty, balding man with bushy sideburns pluming out beneath a circus purple velvet hat made his way on stage. With the voice of a eunuch, he chimed through the theater: “Ladies and gentlemen, distinguised colleagues, guests.”

Backstage, the bespectacled Brindley hurriedly injected his penis with the drug phentolamine. Following the injection, Dr. Brindley gracefully appeared on stage and quickly dropped his pants to display one of the first drug-induced erections to the incredulous audience. It was a whopper.

The audience – consisting primarily of physicians who spent much of their professional lives performing examinations of the sort that tend to jade ones response to male genitalia, – audibly gasped.

“[Brindley] dropped his pants before the audience…

…a very respectable erection”

Prof. Alvaro Morales, Queen’s University, Kingston, Ontario.

“I had been wondering why Brindley came out wearing sweatpants,” said Dr. Arnold Melman, Chief of Urology at New York’s Albert Einstein College of Medicine. “Suddenly I knew. It was a big penis, and he just walked around the stage, showing it off.”

Brindley, a former athlete, proving he was not using a silicone prosthesis, descended from the stage to the audience, inviting them to inspect his erect penis.

Brindley waddled from the stage down the stairs making his way through a stunned audience, his trousers at his knees, and his experiment at eye level, to “confirm the degree of tumescence.” Four or five of the women in attendance screamed, Professor Brindley pulled up his pants, and, returning to the stage, concluded his lecture.

Dr. Irwin Goldstein, a Boston University urologist who had a cherry seat for Dr. Brindley’s presentation described it as such, “He walked down the aisle and let us touch it. People couldn’t believe it wasn’t an implant.”

Ms. Irene Schlepsky of Buffalo, NY who apparently had a previous intimate encounter with Brindley, later said this: “It was the frankenstein of genetalia… inanimate tissue returning to life. Ms. Schlepsky a college philosophy profesor who had come to Vegas on a Knights of Columbus junket, accepted the invite from Brindley once it was apparent her junket would coincide with his revelatory unveiling. Unfortunately, the spry brunette looker never recovered from the events of that night. After prolonged therapy she gave up her calling as an educator and entered the Cloister of Passionist Nuns at Whitesville, Kentucky.

Another of the women in attendance, Mrs. Lovie Pumps, reported the epiphany to her husband – venture capitalist Hector Pumps, a gentle man of sixty-five who by now had long since said kaddish for his shriveling schemekle – could hardly believe it. “A miracle, Lovey!” He could hardly count the hours until a recesitation of the finest order might restore he and his wife’s mordant bump and grind.

Later when Brindley’s revelation was put in a capsule dubbed the “little blue pill” and unleashed to the world at large, Hector Pumps used his international connections to market the drug in such disparate loin-aching places as Instanbul and Moscow. A statue was erected in Pump’s honor in the hub of Istanbul’s red light district.

The Lobby

As the meeting was breaking up, Urologists filed across the lobby in a stony silent wake, before taking tables at “Pat’s On Your Back Lounge.” Jiggling their martini tumblers and listening to graying rockers who look ridiclous, the group was left to ponder what they’d just witnessed.

The reason why an injection of phentolamine gave Brindley an erection was especially interesting in 1983 because no one had really thought about it before.

Howard Hughes not withstanding (who decades earlier had sported a hearty and frequent habit of shooting narcotics into his wealthy johnson), the mid-1980’s ushered in a new era where it became commonplace for men with erectile dysfunction to inject smooth-muscle-relaxing drugs as a treatment for the problem. Phentolamine was soon at the fingertips of untold scores of measly lovers, as within a decade, it morphed into the “little blue pill” we’ve come to know as Viagra.

Timeline 1983

# Cabbage Patch Dolls hit the market.

# “Just Say No” is the new tool to combat growing drug use in the US.

# Camcorders are introduced.

(Everything in life is timing)

Popular Music of 1983

1. “Down Under” Men at Work

2. “Baby, Come to Me” Patti Austin & James Ingram

3. “Come on Eileen” Dexys Midnight Runners

4. “Beat It” Michael Jackson

5. “Let’s Dance” David Bowie

Wayne, Jimmy… eat your heart out. You may have had countless adoring sea hags trekking from Atlantic City to Vegas, but you never caused a commotion like this.

As the bartenders hollered last call, the martini tumblers dry as a desert well, the urologists exited the Fremont, passing hookers, pimps, winos, crack hawkers, tank top rockers scavenging the boulevard. The great pathfinder, John C. Fremont looked down from his luxury suite in the great reward flashing a hearty Vegas smile.

In the wake of the presentation, the Fremont became a destination for film directors. Scenes from the movie Swingers were filmed inside the hotel. The casino also appeared in Honey, I Blew Up the Kid.

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