Viva Las Vegas (November 1990/2015)

Long before you arrive in Las Vegas, either by automobile or airplane, its neon lights are clearly visible. The undisputed convention centre capital of the world, Las Vegas is a city of unbelievable lights, kitsch, and glitz, that is filled with massive hotels, each with rooms in the thousands, and modeled on tourist attractions from other countries. Setting new standards for operations management, they check tourists in and out by the planeload, their casinos are buzzing with gamblers and cocktail waitresses, complicated floor shows are being staged every night, the kitchens are constantly preparing enormous amounts of food, and there are children's arcades, swimming pools and shopping malls to run as well.

In the 1950's the Mob controlled casinos gave way to institutional financed resorts such as the Sahara, Sands, Fremont, Tropicana, Riviera, and the Dunes. With film and music stars like the Rat Pack performing in intimate settings, gambling was no longer the only reason for visiting. By 1954 there were over 8 million tourists a year visiting Las Vegas to see a show, gamble, and feast at the buffets.

In the 1960's the Aladdin, Caesar's Palace, and Circus Circus opened and in 1969 Elvis became the star performer at the International (later named the Hilton) where he performed for over 7 years for a total of 837 sold out concerts in front of 2.5 million fans. He also married Priscilla at the chapel in the Aladdin in 1967 after famously marrying Anne Margaret in a scene for the Viva Las Vegas movie. And while Las Vegas has always been a popular place for the famous, and not so famous, to tie the knot, thanks to its ease of getting a marriage licence in the 24 hour county clerk's office, the popularity of getting married there has exploded with over 2 million people a year exchanging vows in the Wedding Capital of the World.

In 1989 the megaresort era began with the construction of the Mirage, Excalibur, MGM Grand, Luxor, Monte Carlo, Bellagio, Mandalay Bay, and the Wynn with the annual number of visiting tourists climbing to over 42 million. In 1990 we flew to Las Vegas to get married at the Little White Chapel and then capped off the evening with the Folies Bergere show at the Tropicana. It was an exciting, fun filled getaway that left us with eyes wide open in amazement but it would be 25 years before we returned.

By 2015 Las Vegas had been utterly transformed starting with our luxurious high rise room at the MGM Grand, the high quality of the food, all the amazing shows, and of course the shopping.

We walked up and down the Strip, checking out the new hotels that had been built on the grounds of the older ones long since torn down. For Americans who are too fearful to venture anywhere else in the world this is the perfect place. The hotel operators have imported small scale, sanitized versions of what they imagine it's like elsewhere, and there is nothing more dangerous to worry about than losing their money in some slot machine. The Eiffel tower of Paris, the canals of Venice and even New York's statue of Liberty are all on the same street along with King Arthur's castle.

But nestled in and amongst all these wonderfully fake monuments are all sorts of great eating establishments featuring well prepared food that bears no resemblance to the all you can eat buffets of times past.

Caesar's Palace and its Forum shopping mall was as glorious as ever, and the neighbouring Bellagio, put on a continuous display of waterworks for all the passersby.

There were lots of other photo opportunities amongst the street vendors, public art displays and, weighing in at 50 tons, the iconic Leo the MGM lion, the largest bronze sculpture in America.

But it's the shows that create the best memories and they range from classic illusionists, to classic pop singers to the new style Cirque inspired aquatic ballet and acrobatics with death defying stunts.

"What goes on in Vegas stays in Vegas" is the saying for those on booze fuelled stags and conventions, and of course gambling is still the mainstay of the Strip, but Las Vegas has become a destination in its own right with just the right amount of decadence and entertainment for anyone still wanting to search for Elvis.

1 comment:

  1. I love this Vegas story. For every reason in the world. I simply love it...