LAS VEGAS—As many as 40,000 deadbeat dads descended on Las Vegas Friday for a massive, weekend-long show of non-support for their children.
"All right, let's get this party started!" said Tom "Turk" Turkelsen, an air-conditioner factory laborer. "I was sick of Cathy nagging me for diaper money all the time. Now she don't know where to find me—at least for the weekend."
Mike Hicks, who arrived in Las Vegas on a $20 bus ride from Los Angeles, began demonstrating his non-support the moment he set foot in the lobby of the Rio.
"Point me toward the loosest slots in town," Hicks said, waving a sign that read "Rum & Coke over here, NOW." "Can't drop no brats off at my place if I ain't there to open the door!"
Although he was not appointed to speak for the non-centralized delegation of terrible fathers, Hicks succinctly conveyed the group's sentiment. Angry shouts of "Screw the baby—I needs a new pair of shoes" echoed up and down the strip, from the Luxor to the Stratosphere, all weekend long.
"Quarter'a my check, my ass!" Dearborn, MI resident and part-time PA-system installer Derek Hindle shouted.
Some 2,500 of the deadbeat dads arrived en masse on Freedom Buses, chartered through the Freedom Tour Bus Company of Taos, NM. The common bonds of shoddy parenting and alcoholism quickly integrated the negligent fathers, both those who arrived alone and those who belonged to larger groups.
"Turns out this here guy and me had the exact same judge tell us not to leave the state of Illinois," said Rockford's Jeff McMartin, playfully punching neglectful father of four Greg Milner in the arm. "My kids' bitch mother had me hauled into court to get at my money, and Greg here's in the same boat. Naturally, going to Vegas was a no-brainer. No bitch judge gonna tell us who to feed and clothe."
"Bitch," Milner added.
The deadbeat dads shared a laissez-faire attitude toward many of the health, education, and welfare issues facing parents today. Among the topics ignored by the group were fiscal responsibility, employment, and, of course, getting tough on deadbeat dads.
"Red 27! Red 27!" Milner said. "Goddamn it!"
Many of the men assembled did, however, voice concerns about their own financial well-being and nutrition.
"I paid $7.95 for my goddamn all-you-can-eat surf-and-turf," said Troy Heffler, a father of three or four from Miami, FL. "Hurry up, you stupid cow, I'm fuckin' starving here!"
Similar heartfelt cries—which were even taken up in unison, on occasion—could be heard throughout Las Vegas' established institutions.
"Garnish my three-dollar prime-rib platter, not my wages," a group of seven deadbeat dads chanted together, until one father slipped, upset a row of drinks, and fell backward off his barstool.
"How's that cunt know the kid's mine when she was fuckin' Gordon alla time?" the father said from the floor.
Most Vegas businesses openly welcomed the dads' arrival.
"We've been fairly successful in meeting the many demands of this rather vocal group," Harrah's casino floor manager Anthony DeMatteo said. "To be honest, it's pretty much business as usual. In fact, it feels like I've seen a lot of these faces before."
Continued DeMatteo: "It's been a little hectic around here, but if I know one thing for sure, it's that they'll run out of money soon enough."
Almost to the last man, the deadbeat dads who were awake and not in detox agreed Monday afternoon that the march had been successful.
"They say what happens in Vegas stays in Vegas," Turkelsen said Monday, waiting in line to make a collect call to his court-appointed attorney. "Well, I got news for you, Cathy—so is your goddamn child support."