Over the Rainbow; Under the Influence


It might be difficult to believe, but the MGM Grand—now home to Hakkasan, Wet Republic and a number of other adults-only venues—was once a large-scale representation of a beloved family film. The MGM’s ocean-size casino was once themed to 1939’s The Wizard of Oz, and as such, it had all the accoutrements you’d expect: a Yellow Brick Road, an Emerald City skyline and dead-eyed robotic figures of Dorothy, the Tin Man, et al.

This video, shot around the property at some unidentified point in 1995, heavily features the Oz room (which was located, roughly, in the place where Hakkasan now stands). It also includes some good footage of an attraction that I—despite having seen it with my own eyes some 20 years ago—still can’t believe existed: a robotic version of comedian Foster Brooks, whose entire, wildly inappropriate act was based on his battles with alcoholism. Basically, the robot sat at a casino bar and told jokes in a barely decipherable slur. (Bizarrely, the recordings of Brooks that MGM used also included an audience laugh track, which was more audible than the jokes themselves.)

Eventually, the MGM de-Oz’d itself and morphed into a higher-class establishment. But that doesn’t change the fact that all this weird, flying monkey crap was there on Day One. If only we knew what became of robotic Foster …