I’M SITTING BEHIND Justin Bieber as we’re heading north on this remote highway into the Mojave Desert. He claims to have found a faster route to Las Vegas. I’m wondering why he won’t just take the 15. He is driving a group of performers to a luncheon sponsored by the Grammy Awards. The Grammys are showcasing potential talent to the billionaire owners of hotels on the strip. The hoteliers are trying to get these artists to sign contracts in conjunction with the Grammys to perform exclusive shows on the Vegas strip. They’re hoping they’ll eventually court them as a regular act once they’ve “retired.” This is the uber-rich being showcased for the ultra-rich.
I can tell that Bieber is a little pissed, because he was barely nominated for a Grammy (“Thought of You” got Diplo a producer nod). Bieber insisted on driving this stretch Hummer and carrying with him a cavalcade of celebrities that for some reason are traveling without their assistants and handlers. Rihanna, having just returned from a seven-city worldwide tour with the press corps, says “no journalists, no assistants, just us and the open road, that’s the only real way to travel.”
I’m on my way to Las Vegas because I’m heading to a friend’s 30th birthday party. I am completely poor, so I planned on taking the bus. From LA you can choose between the $25 bus line targeting Chinese communities in the San Gabriel Valley, and the $27 bus line that targets Latino communities in East LA, Ontario, and Cucamonga. I chose the $27 one so I could return from Las Vegas tomorrow night at 10pm, which means I can get drunk with friends without having to pay for a second night in a hotel. I’m currently worried that I should have booked the 3pm bus, because I’m slowly remembering that I totally hate Vegas.
I’m telling this story to Carly Rae Jepsen, who agrees that Las Vegas is horrible. She says, “It sucks because there is no culture there, it’s just fat people getting fatter drinking 25¢ beers and eating complimentary hot dogs.” She asks me how I even got picked up to the ride with them. I tell Carly Rae Jepsen that I sold Bieber my grandma’s old chaise lounge on craigslist a few months ago, and that he saw my tweet about needing a ride to Vegas, so he texted me this morning and invited me along.
Everyone’s attention is now turned towards Psy who, despite no Grammy nominations, is explaining how he was able to crack several international charts via the 800,000,000 views on his YouTube video, which is the single most viewed piece of art in the history of the world.
Frank Ocean is explaining how to play backgammon to three members of One Direction. Carly Rae Jepsen tells me she heard a rumor that there are actually eight members of One Direction, even though the media makes it seem like there are five members. She earlier admitted that she Googles conspiracy theories when she is meeting with record executives.
“Those meetings are sooo boring. I’d rather be catching up on the Masonic origins of the Federal Reserve.”
Rihanna and Bieber are now in the front seat arguing about the best place they’ve ever eaten on a tour. Rihanna mentions a chili dog she had somewhere between Rapid City and Minneapolis. Bieber says he once ate a deep-fried pickled cow eyeball at a country fair outside of Corpus Christi.
Rihanna asks, “What did it taste like?” Bieber says it was “kinda slimy, but the flavor was inescapable. After I retire from showbiz, imma def opening a franchise that sells deep-fried pickled eyeballs.” “What will you call it,” asks Rihanna. “Bieber’s Famous Optical Illusions.” Psy looks up and just shakes his head.
Frank Ocean is getting frustrated trying to teach the backgammon — everybody wants to flip the board over to play checkers. Frank Ocean won’t have it. He needs to bring some education to this #YOLO generation of youngsters. Everyone on this car ride is starting to annoy me. By the time we get to Barstow, I decide to jump ship. These celebrities are all so obnoxious. At the Rail Depot-themed McDonald’s, I see the USAsia bus and surreptitiously hop aboard.
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Josh is a writer from Los Angeles. He has lived in Mexico City, New York, and Berlin with extensive jaunts to Latin America and Europe.