The Fool at the Top of the Needle

Writing that last entry about VAM music has brought the issue back to the front-burner over the past few days and now it is percolating big-time.  I’ve had several minor epiphanies and maybe one or two that I’d call major epiphanies about how music can play a role in the setting – not the mechanics per se, but the ambiance and flavor. The first thing I realized after sharing the first part of my VAM playlist is that if I were actually going to recommend a slate of songs as a true “Vegas After Midnight soundtrack album”, then I’d need to go in and switch things around a bit, adding a few songs and reshuffling a few of the current ones into different spots so that the mix flows better (this makes me think of the mix-tape philosophy espoused by John Cusack’s character in High Fidelity, which I think is pretty spot-on). So I’ll go in when I get a chance and adjust the list I shared to fit the new scheme. Hopefully the fifteen of you who already read that post won’t mind much. But there’s a bigger epiphany flowing out of all this music stuff. While I was mowing the lawn over the weekend I was, as usual, listening to my iRiver, which had a test version of the new VAM playlist on it. For some reason as the songs were playing I started talking between songs – out loud, mind you, as though I were a DJ spinning these songs on some hip Vegas radio station. And I was talking in my Tim Curry voice. I don’t claim it’s a good impression, but the point is, it was clear to me who I was channeling. And I started to wonder WHY that particular persona came to mind. Then, a door got unlocked in my mind. You know how sometimes you can experience something when you’re young that is pretty profound but it becomes so ingrained that you sort of forget about it consciously, but it continues to work its profundity in your subconscious until something triggers the memory and -boom- it comes back to your conscious mind with clarity, and you remember how deeply it affected you, and then looking back you can see how it influenced you in many ways even though you essentially forgot about it? Well, that happens to me, I’m betting it happens to most people. I bet there’s probably even a clinical term for it. Sorta like a repressed memory, except not repressed, just set aside. Aaaaanyway, that happened to me with the Tim Curry-as-DJ thing. See, there was this movie that I watched on The Movie Channel probably 8-10 times over a two-month period back in 1980 when I was about 13. It was called Times Square, and it was this odd little film about a rich girl and a poor misfit girl who escape from a mental hospital and go off chasing their rebellious punk-rock screw-the-establishment dreams by forming a band, sort of, that becomes this iconoclastic movement among the youth of New York. Now aside from the fact that I completely and almost obsessively fell in crush with the punk girl, Nikki, played by Robin Johnson, this movie tugged on me. It was not a particularly good movie, but it hit me right in the soul and grabbed at my little straight-laced good-little-boy guts and if I can indulge a bit, I think it deserves some credit for planting some of the misfit seeds in me. But that’s another post. The important point here is that the two girls are aided in their rebellious pursuit by a disc jockey named Johnny Laguardia who broadcasts from a studio high up above Times Square.  And Johnny Laguardia is played by … Tim Curry. Cutting to the chase, finally. All this came together to blow a big hole into my VAM planning by making me realize that the whole in-world artifact guidebook thing that used to be Dylan’s Guide to Vegas After Midnight needs to be expressed through a sort of observational narrative provided by a nighttime-DJ-guy who is not a part of the fray, but who sits up high above the fray on the Strip and broadcasts music, interesting musings, and other semi-subtle thematic stuff from his studio at the top of The Needle (the Stratosphere). This can be a part of the textual conceit of the game text, where this DJ-guy shares information about the setting, and it can also be a conceit used in play, where I encourage the GM to impart at least some of the in-play story through the medium of this DJ-guy. And maybe play music, too, I dunno. Anyhow, that’s all still percolating but if you’ll trust that it fits together much better in my head than it probably reads in the paragraph above, we’ll be fine. In the mean time, I found the old movie trailer from Times Square on YouTube, and so I’ve embedded it below. The important part relative to VAM is the very beginning where Tim Curry is doing pretty much exactly the kind of thing I’m talking about. Feel free to watch it all if you like, but your mileage may vary as to the nostalgia factor. Enjoy.

Creative Commons License Vegas After Midnight by Mick Bradley is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License.

Bookmark the permalink.


  1. A view from the top of the spire could be pretty cool for a DJ in Vegas. Are there any Vegas radio stations with Internet feeds that you can tap for further inspiration? I think you have a very iconic character in the works and should not sell short the in-game possibilities.
    Follow your bliss,

  2. Interesting. I’ve never seen this movie nor had I read this post when I recorded what I recorded for you, but I find it funny that I was somewhat emulating this kind of Tim Curry speech pattern (I think that’s just part of who he is, it also informs Frankenfurter, though that one is far more over the top). This makes your Jack idea make a lot more sense (I was missing the context, though I liked it even without it, which means that yes, you have something iconic there for sure).

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *