The big wedding of 2018 — unless Larry King goes for No. 9 — will be Prince Harry and Meghan Markle swapping vows at Windsor Castle in May. They're expecting about 800 guests, only "friends and family." The plan is, no celebrities.
I've got to figure a way in.
Still, Harry and Meghan may as well be a shotgun wedding at a drive-through chapel in Pigeon Forge, Tennessee, compared to the over-the-top nuptials of Robert Goulet and his business manager Vera Chochorovska Novak, back in the '80s. It was a spectacular event, with glitz, glamour, megastar power — and me — that stopped Las Vegas in its tracks.
At the time, I was just making a little headway in my newspaper career, my long hard climb to the middle. But when I heard that Wayne Newton would be the best man, veteran actor Glenn Ford was giving the bride away, and Lola Falana was going to sing "If Ever I Should Leave You" — I had to be there. I got Goulet's agent on the phone. Looking back, it's possible that I overstated my position as a "society columnist" (I was covering comedy clubs at the time) and begged an invitation to the wedding reception.
Hurry, got to get a (cheap) suit. And, a present for the happy couple...
Greatest. Celeb wedding gift. Ever.
I went to Walgreen's and bought a two-slice toaster.
My color choices were Harvest Gold and Avocado, the hot kitchen motifs of the day — at least in pharmacies. I went with Harvest Gold. I stuffed the receipt in the box in case they wanted to exchange it for Avocado. The bonus of buying a wedding gift at Walgreen's, you can buy a card two aisles over. I made a reservation for a cheap hotel, $19 or something a night, in downtown Vegas.
The wedding ceremony was held at the Little Church of the West in Las Vegas. Mickey Rooney got married there, Zsa Zsa Gabor, and Redd Foxx, too. The church should have a sign, "Your fifth one's on us!"
With crowds cheering on the sidewalk, the newly minted Goulets rode a horse and buggy down the Vegas Strip to their reception at the Dunes Hotel and Casion, where Goulet was headlining the main room. The opening act was ventriloquist Willie Tyler and Lester. According the famous Dunes sign, the buffet was $2.95, and you could get a "NY Steak Dinner" with potato and salad for $3.25.
See if you can spot Ken at the Goulet wedding:
The Dunes Hotel, where Sin City legends like Frank Sinatra, Dean Martin, Liberace, and Phyllis Diller once sparkled, was imploded in 1993. The Bellagio now stands in its place. You know what the headline act at the Bellagio is now? It's one of the 200 Cirque du Soliel shows (hard to tell them apart) currently playing the strip. The dinner buffet is $42.99. There is no "4 for $4" value menu at the Bellagio.
"And you are...?"
I put the toaster on a table outside the reception hall and walked in to find my table, you know, like I wasn't an impostor. The place was packed. Vegas columnists and TV reporters put the attendance at 1,400 guests. Some of the comments were snarky. One columnist noted that "some of the guests could even pronounce the bride's middle name." Very disrespectful.
Really, 1,400 guests? I think these columnists now work as parade crowd estimators for the City of Houston.
(Time out for an off-topic compliment: Saturday night I was watching Channel 13's coverage of the Mardi Gras parade in Galveston, and anchor Tom Koch admitted that the crowd was "sparse, probably due to the weather." It was the first time I've heard a Houston TV personality give an honest assessment of a parade crowd.)
The Goulets' wedding reception was star-studded, with Wayne Newton, Norm Crosby, Richard Dawson, and many others. I think I saw Dodgers manager Tommy Lasorda, but it was hard to tell from Siberia. My table was near the kitchen, sitting with low-level Dunes executives. A couple of them asked me, "And you are ...?"
After dinner (I had the beef), Goulet took the center of the dance floor and sang "What Are You Doing the Rest of Your Life?" to his bride. It was very sweet. And they did stay married until Goulet's death in 2007.
The reception ended early. Many of the guests had tickets for shows, others had shows to perform. I grabbed a few desserts and scooted for the exit. I had a early plane in the morning.
CultureMap does not officially endorse drugstore toasters as wedding gifts.