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November 23, 2017

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Conceived in ‘Foolish Pleasure,’ ‘Priscilla’s’ Wade McCollum is still on the road

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A young Wade McCollum with his father.

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A young Wade McCollum with his mother.

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Tracer.

Editor’s Note: While Robin Leach heads to the East Coast and London before his traditional summer vacation under the Tuscan sun in Italy — plus, the Amalfi Coast this year — many of our Strip personalities have stepped forward in his absence to pen their own words of wisdom. We continue with Wade McCollum, one of the principal actor-singers in the new musical hit “Priscilla, Queen of the Desert” at The Venetian through mid-July. Wade portrays the main drag star, Tick.

By Wade McCollum

What is home? A perennial question that is apropos for one of Robin Leach’s guest essayists to write about. When I was little, I watched Mr. Leach explore the homes of people rich beyond my comprehension on “Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous” from a little town in Southern Oregon called Ashland.

But, for the first five years of my life, I had no geographic identity. My father is a drummer, and I was born while he was touring North America. When I tell people this, they often ask, “What band?” No joke: I was conceived in “Foolish Pleasure,” born into “Reflections,” and shortly thereafter he joined a band named Tracer.

When I was about 2 1/2 years old, my dad was playing somewhere in Nebraska, and my parents and I went to visit their friends in a little yellow house out by a cornfield. They had a small kid named T.C. who was roughly the same age as me. I was so happy to see another small person like myself, and we became quick pals. He took me behind the yellow house, and, while our parents passed the “peace pipe” around the kitchen table, we ate cat food in the backyard.

It was salty and metallic and quite unpleasant, but I remember pretending not to mind as he seemed to enjoy it, and I didn’t want to offend him. There may have been some running through a sprinkler before we took off to the next rock and roll-deprived hamlet that evening.

For a whole year, we bounced from town to town staying in hotels, motels and sometimes sleeping in the van. We had a 1978 sparkly green Dodge van (yes, like Scooby-Doo). While still tiny, I slept in the bass drum case, but when I outgrew it, I slept on the speakers turned on their sides with a little mattress on top.

With dad drumming on the steering wheel to The Talking Heads and mom singing soft hymn-like harmony, I felt as though I was flying above the road watching our green Pac-Man van eat the infinite row of yellow lines dividing the lanes, my imagination running wild, dreaming about the adventures we would have in the next city, new experiences, people, weather, smells and topography.

When the ladies in the grocery store asked where I lived, much to my mother's dismay, I said enthusiastically, “In the van!” The ladies'’ reactions were condescending and pitying, which I never understood until that fateful day we returned to the little yellow house in Nebraska.

As we drove up, I saw T.C. and was blown away by the incredible synchronicity of us being back at the same little yellow house at the same time as his family. What were the chances?! I ran up to T.C. expressing my amazement, but he had no idea why I was so excited. Confused, he explained that he “lived” there. When I asked what he meant, he explained that he had never left.

For me, this was a worldview shift of cosmological proportions. Once I understood that he had not left that little yellow house for the entire year, or his tiny little town for his entire life, I felt a sadness so deep, I burst into tears.

Until then, my worldview had been that everyone joyously drove from town to town playing music and dancing every night. I thought that life was an endless adventure of new places, people and experiences. To find out that most people stayed in one place like T.C. was the most depressing thing I had ever heard in my three short years on this planet.

That evening had marked a transition not only from day to night, but from one understanding of the world to an entirely new way of seeing things. My place in the universe had changed. Suddenly, and without warning, I became the weird one, the outsider, the intrepid, adventuring, toddling wanderer who came with music and mayhem into this rambling band of Gypsies tearing from town to town in that sparkly green van.

Home.

Check our other guest columns today from Wade’s “Priscilla” co-star Scott Willis, plus, Ian Ziering of Chippendales, and on Thursday look for our guest column from Nate Morris of Boyz II Men, who have just added new dates next month at The Mirage where they perform through year’s end.

Robin Leach has been a journalist for more than 50 years and has spent the past decade giving readers the inside scoop on Las Vegas, the world’s premier platinum playground.

Follow Robin Leach on Twitter at Twitter.com/Robin_Leach.

Follow Vegas DeLuxe on Twitter at Twitter.com/vegasdeluxe.

Follow VDLX Editor Don Chareunsy on Twitter at Twitter.com/VDLXEditorDon.

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