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They’re unbuckling
the swashbucklers!

May 6, 2003 6:36 AM

The pirates never had a chance.

They were fine as long as they were fighting one another, blocking traffic on the sidewalks of Las Vegas Boulevard in front of Treasure Island as the moms and their wide-eyed kids squeezed in to smell the smoke and see the battles.

But peg legs and eye patches are no match for big bosoms and bare bottoms, so it came as no surprise when MGM Mirage executives announced that they are abandoning the swashbuckling pirate mayhem that has been a family attraction for years in Glitter Gulch, and going back to a tried and true formula that sells: sex.

What was surprising was this newspaper’s headline last week that read, "Sin City rediscovers its libido!"

When did it lose it?

The last time we looked, there were 100 pages of ads for "adult entertainers" in the Las Vegas yellow pages. Any city with that kind of drive hasn’t lost its libido. Libido is the beating heart of this place. The message is, "Leave the kids at home or take them to see Mickey Mouse. If you want the other stuff, come here."

Treasure Island president Scott Sibella tried to make the change at Treasure Island sound like a mere remodeling, saying, "We’ve evolved from a yo-ho-ho feel to a more sophisticated feel. We want to change the exterior to introduce the outside to what we’ve already done inside." Instead of "a show you’d see at Disneyland," Treasure Island now will transform its image to "sexy and beautiful, an adult Broadway-caliber show."

The comparison is phony. Broadway, for all its gaudiness, is outmatched by this town. Vegas has more "models" than New York, Paris and Rome combined, and without the fashion houses.

So the fake façade of family entertainment gets blown away, and the preening pirates will be replaced by "spectacular, sexy dancing with a pirate, Caribbean feel." Treasure Island is trading buccaneers for bikinis.

While that message was being proclaimed in Las Vegas, libido was showing up in more mundane places around the country, in the sweaty football locker rooms of colleges and universities that value pigskin more than the vellum of diplomas.

Two head coaches get busted in one week for dalliance, one with coeds and the other with exotic dancers.

Having covered the sweat beat for years, I knew that college football players are a different breed, or at least consider themselves one. They bully and brawl, which is what they get paid for.

Coaches were a slightly different cut, or at least conveyed that image in an earlier day.

So there is an element of change in the air, or perhaps just a realization and recognition of reality, that guys hired for millions to whip young musclemen into shape are raucous merrymakers themselves in some cases. Not only do they fraternize with the boys, but in a spirit of fraternity, or perhaps sorority, they frolic with the coeds as well. Not only that, but they’re not above a little hooliganism, if reports are correct that one assistant coach, calling friends to rally support for his boss who was in danger of being fired, added, "We need to rally around the coach, and then we need to go after the people who got us."

And then there was the case of Mike Price, the Alabama football coach who lost a seven-year, $10 million contract because of his brief escapade with an a club dancer named Destiny. The young lady said "no touching, no sex, no lap dancing" was involved, but the New York Times reported that Price also acknowledged the presence of a woman, presumably not his wife, in his hotel room next morning.

All of this would not be funny, except for who came to Price’s defense, and how. Mac Bledsoe, the father of Buffalo Bills quarterback Drew Bledsoe and a close friend of Price, called him "a very accountable man." Bledsoe runs a program for a foundation sponsored by his son Drew. It is called Parenting with Dignity.

Pardon me while I go watch the pirates while I still have the chance.