Emptying a Magnum into Saddam - no problem. But drinking in an Elvis suit...

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The Independent Online

I think it was the moment that the policeman slammed me up against the wall of a Las Vegas shopping centre, dressed as Elvis, that I started to think it might be time to head for home. Apparently, it was illegal - even for Elvis - to wander around Vegas with an open container. Weirdly, no one seemed to have a problem with the fact that, less than an hour earlier, I had unloaded a series of automatic weapons into Saddam Hussein.

We had been cruising around Vegas looking for a suitable place to film our drunk Elvis scene when the magic words "guns, guns, guns" loomed high over our convertibles and lured us in like trigger-happy moths to a muzzle flash. I assumed that it would take ages to go through the safety procedures and endless forms before we even saw a gun. After all, hadn't the fact that I was born in Lebanon made me almost ineligible for entry to the country? Surely handing me over a battery of guns wasn't an option? Welcome to Nevada. I walked in and a man behind the counter asked me what it was that he could do for me. I said I wanted to shoot guns, loads of guns. He simply pointed to the arsenal behind him and asked me to take my pick. Having chosen an Uzi, an M16 and a Magnum 44 for Clint's sake, I was faced with the only real problem: which target to choose. They had apparently run out of Bin Ladens, were down to three Saddam Husseins and had a special deal on a mugshot of President Chirac. The problem, he said, was that most Americans didn't know who he was, so they had plenty left.

I opted for Saddam, as I felt it might endear me to my new, heavily armed friends. Four minutes later I was in a tiny, long room, a bit like the gimp room in Pulp Fiction, watching a man firing a belt-chain-driven anti-tank gun at a picture of John Kerry. The noise was unbelievable. I was given no instruction but, thanks to my upbringing in Beirut, I coped OK. I emptied the two clips of the M16 in about four adrenalin-fuelled bursts and moved on to the Uzi for a couple of strafes from the hip. The room was packed. Everyone was keen to try everyone else's weapons. An AK47 was passed over my head to the redneck in the next booth as I loaded my Magnum with dum-dum bullets. In the corner someone with hate tattooed on his knuckles was shouting "die motherfucker, die" as he fired a Sten gun at Michael Jackson. I could have taken out the whole room in under a minute. I would have been spraying the freeway in two.

Less than an hour later, I was wandering around old Vegas, now desolate, ignored by tourists in favour of the new, glitzy strip. I was wearing a fetching Elvis costume from the deep-fried banana sandwich period and had an open bottle of beer in my hand. I was letting anyone who cared to know that I could have been a contender. I was the winner, three years running, of Bolton's prestigious Elvis Impersonator of the Year contest. Admittedly, I had been the only entrant. But, my confidence high, I had sold up everything to go find my fortune in Vegas - only to be booed off stage on my first night. Most people got the joke, but not the Vegas police. They might look harmless, riding mountain bikes in yellow Airtex polo shirts, but they kick ass. They came out of nowhere. I was in mid-flow of a rather moving rendition of "Are You Lonesome Tonight?" when they grabbed me, shoved me into an arm-lock and smashed me against the wall. Luckily, one of them spotted the cameras and warned the rather violent one to cool it. He put handcuffs on me and started to search me. Here we go again, I thought, as I readied my bruised bottom. Fortunately, our very forceful American co-ordinator intervened in a very un-English manner and I was released after 20 minutes of tense negotiations - made even more surreal by the arrival of a police dog team, whose animal continually tried to pee on my suit.

Tomorrow we drive across the Mojave desert dressed as Red Indians. The average temperature will be hovering at around 50C. I'm sure everything will be just fine.