I’m sitting here this afternoon in my hometown of Las Vegas, Nevada. I’m visiting from my new home of Oregon for the holidays.
I’m at the Beat Coffeehouse on Fremont Street. It’s a great coffeehouse and record store inside the Emergency Arts building, formerly a medical clinic that was reclaimed and transformed into a building housing offices, art galleries, a hair studio, a yoga studio, the Burlesque Hall of Fame and of course, the Beat. I just had a fancy lunch with Jennifer Cornthwaite, who with her husband Michael is opening the Inspire Theater just across the street. I just took a tour and it is deluxe.
It’s a two story coffeeshop/community center and intimate but very fancy theater designed to host speakers and literary events. It’s got a bar, a newstand and will also have a rooftop bar overlooking downtown Las Vegas. It also has the hugest couch I have ever seen in my life. It’s like something out of 1970s Vegas, right before the mob bosses all left. I can see a dozen showgirls spread out on it with one mob boss in the middle of them, eating steak and talking on a rotary phone. It’s – it’s just it. Did I mention the green room? Queen Bey herself would be at home in that green room.
It’s just amazing. I plan to interview Jennifer later on, in depth. She’s an amazing person and a sweet friend who I am proud of beyond words. She’s helped bring a lot to the city I love with all my heart.
The reason I am telling you this is because on Dec. 27 I will be the opening act for the Three Wise Guys, a sometimes yearly literary event here in Vegas. The Three Wise Guys are Gregory Crosby, a poet and professor now living in New York; Geoff Carter, a journalist, writer and publisher; and Dayvid Figler, writer, storyteller and the funniest defense attorney you will ever meet.
They started giving holiday season performances right around the like, third time I moved away from Las Vegas, so I have only attended one, but it was a blast.
Vegas is a vortex. You can check out anytime you like, but you can never leave, and so I leave and return and leave and return, as have all three of the Three Wise Guys at some point or another.
What we all have in common is writing and reading our writing out to audiences. We met in a grungy coffee shop poetry scene in 1990s in Las Vegas, and as the years slinked by, we’ve never completely lost touch.
I consider each of these men a very close friend, and so I wanted to celebrate their inviting me to join them in opening this theater by interviewing them about the Three Wise Guys. I asked them the standard My Monomania questions of who, what, why, when, where and how and Crosby spoke for all three.
Here is what he said. I love Las Vegas. I love it. Everything can thrive here, including literature.
In 1995, Geoff Carter, Gregory Crosby & Dayvid Figler decided to do what was then commonly referred to as a “spoken word event” at the Enigma Garden Cafe in downtown Las Vegas. Since it was December, they thought it would be amusing to refer to themselves as the Three Wise Guys. Carter was a journalist and monologist; he read prose. Crosby was an art critic and freelance writer and, god help him, a poet; he read poetry. Figler was a lawyer/performance poet/comedian/band frontman; he read/recited something that was usually extemely funny. They were all friends, three points on a triangulation of talent & need that foisted its writing upon an unsuspecting world that neither knew nor cared what gifts they brung, pa rump a bum bum. So naturally they decided to do it again the following year.
Today, Carter writes fiction and remains a top-notch journalist, writing for Vegas Seven and DTLV.com; Crosby became a “professional poet” (you can tell because he now teaches creative writing for a “living”) with numerous poems in numerous literary journals and, improbably, on a bronze tablet in park in downtown Vegas; Figler remains a lawyer (having passed through a stint as a municipal court judge) and gave up performance poetry for essays, NPR commentaries, a Moth-inspired storytelling event called The Tell, and the Great Las Vegas Novel (currently a work in progress).
Figler is Comedy with a Side of Melancholy; Crosby is Tragedy with a Cheerful Wink; Carter is Tragicomedy with an Annual Pass to Disneyland.
Poems, essays, stories, excerpts from novels, excerpts from novellas, memorized and unmemorized routines, anecdotes, monologues, the occasional dramatic interpretation and, at least once, two-dozen thirteen word horror stories. The Wise Guys have endless arguments about the running order of each performance, each jockeying for the coveted “I don’t want to follow Figler because he’s too damn funny” slot.
Just to piss off Old Man Potter, really. Also, in recent years, the 3WG have asked for donations to charitable causes (that’s something that often happens around the holidays, apparently—who knew?).
Calendar years in which a Three Wise Guys performance took place in the month of December: 1995, 1996, 1997, 1998, 1999, 2002 (the rare summer performance, available only as a bootleg), 2009 (the reunion tour), 2011 (the hey-the-reunion-went-well-why-not tour), and now again on December 27, 2013 (the what-this-again? tour).
The Enigma Garden Cafe (deceased), Jazzed Cafe & Vinoteca (deceased), The Arts Factory, The Double Down Saloon, The Clark County Library Jewel Box Theater, Cafe Espresso Roma (deceased), The Griffin, The Cosmopolitan, Inspire. 3WG wisely never peforms in the same venue twise, thus sparing themselves the awkwardness of having to answer discomfiting questions about the previous year’s performance.
Friendship, really. Being such distinct personalites and such different kinds of writers, the only connecting thread of the 3WG is the star that Carter, Crosby and Figler insist on following, no matter how it might receed in the mundane grind of the day to day, or how painful their asses might be from sitting on these damnably slow camels called Art. Each has a deep connection to Las Vegas, which they all claim as their hometown (even though none of them were born there); each has struggled and occasionally succeeded in contributing to the cultural life of a city often perceived (and sometimes in practice) to be hostile to notions of art and culture. In a way, the 3WG reading is a sort of a Christmas Letter to the city—a semi-annual report, in poetry and prose, on the state of things as they understand it, humbly proffered to the audiences who have faithfully come out to see them perform over the years. There could be worse gifts, after all. Like myrrh. What does anybody even do with myrrh, except re-gift it?