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mascots -- unmasked!
Story by Andrew Kiraly
The Duke, Wranglers mascot
• Gardner will never forget the first time he donned the suit for The Duke. In particular, he’ll never forget the scent of condiments — courtesy of a couple drunken ladies heckling Gardner his first day on the job. “Next thing I know, this crazy lady throws a freaking cheeseburger that seemed to open in the air just perfectly to coat me in ketchup and mustard. That was two seasons ago, yet still, I climb into that giant green suit every home game. I admit, I fell in love with it.”
• Climbing into the Wranglers rig requires elaborate choreography. Each piece of the costume has to be put in a specific order — and it can’t be done alone. Says Gardner, “With zippers, clips, and buttons almost everywhere, only a contortionist would be able to do it by themselves.”
• There’s a kinky part to Gardner’s job — neckwise, anyway. The Duke’s head piece weighs 20 pounds, and every bit of that heft sits on Gardner’s shoulders. “It’s a guarantee that the morning after a game I’m gonna have a stiff neck.” Fortunately, Gardner gets four 10-minute breaks to work it out.
• Between the food fights, the rigmarole of getting dressed, the pressure to perform and the toll on the body after the last puck is passed, why would Gardner want to be a mascot? “The explosive cheers and chants from over 7,000 spectators is really an adrenaline rush,” he says. — Elisabeth Daniels
Cosmo, Las Vegas 51s mascot
• Six-foot-three Dustin Erickson became the googly-eyed face of the 51s thanks to his height — and a bit of happenstance. “I was there one day, just doing the normal stuff around the stadium,” he recalls. “The guy who usually played Cosmo wasn’t there, and I happened to walk in the office at the right time. They go, ‘He looks tall enough — we’ll stick him in!’ They hooked me up with the suit, told me to dance around and act goofy.” Six years later, Erickson is still goofing off for fans.
• First rule of mascothood: Never break the illusion. That almost happened to Erickson during a kid vs. Cosmo novelty race between innings. “They had just watered the field, and right when I went around second base, I slipped in the mud.” Faceplant. Worse: Erickson’s chinstrap came undone, and Cosmo’s head began to separate from his body. Fortunately, Erickson’s forward momentum kept his alien alter ego in one piece. “I was like, ‘Aw, man, that was close.’ That kid would’ve been traumatized if he saw that. Dreams would have been crushed. Needless to say, the kid destroyed me in the race.”
• Erickson’s advice for aspiring mascots: If you can’t stand the heat, stay out of the costume. “I probably have the longest streak of being Cosmo,” he says. “Other people who work inside all day have tried to be Cosmo and gotten heat exhaustion — they can’t handle it.” Erickson’s home-team advantage: He’s a full-time exterminator, a job that keeps him acclimated to the hot Vegas summers.
• “Cosmo is a prankster, a goofball. He likes to have a good time,” says Erickson. “One thing we have in common is that we’re both pretty terrible dancers. People must look at him dance and go, ‘There’s definitely a white boy in there.’”
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