Monday, July 21, 2008

Forgetting Las Vegas

I have been to Las Vegas three times. The first two were in 1994-95 and I loved it. Couldn't wait to go back. So, Kell, Al, Jay and I went back a few years later and it didn't look the same and didn't even feel the same.

The first two trips were so much fun! Jay and I wandered the Strip and watched all the free shows in front of the hotels. We saw the wizard slay the dragon in front of the Ex Caliber, watched the pirates sink the British ship outside Treasure Island and stood in the cooling spray from the volcano in front of the Mirage. We browsed through the toney shops in Caesar's Palace, and watched the statues come to life and the ceiling change from night to day. If you don't have a clue as to what I'm talking about, it is all pretty hard to explain.

Back then, when you went to Las Vegas you entered a kind of alternate universe. It was a place where everyone was treated the same, no matter what his income level. Or, at least it felt that way. Of course, I realized that the high rollers were catered to, but it everyone was so friendly and helpful, you couldn't help but feel special yourself. And, they added to that feeling when, upon checking in, they usually informed you that you had been "upgraded" to the tower rooms, instead of the cheaper rooms you asked for, and you weren't going to have to pay more for the privilege.

There were no clocks or windows in the casinos. Women in skimpy costumes came around every few minutes, offering you free drinks. I decided that when I grew up, I wanted to be one of the little old ladies who pushed carts up and down the casine aisles, making change, so the gamblers didn't have to leave the slots except for potty breaks.

Rooms were relatively cheap and the buffets were cheap, too. When you drove from one hotel casino to another, there was a valet there to whisk your car away to a parking lot so you wouldn't have to do it yourself. It cost you about a $2.00 tip to get the car returned to you, and the valet gave you a big smile when you handed it to him - the same smile he gave the guy with the snazzy sports car who undoubtedly tipped him ten times that amount.

The third time we went, we felt a subtle change. There were a lot more hotels, and they were bigger. The rooms cost more and so did the buffets. They were beginning to tear down all the older casinos, such as the Riviera and the Stardust, which was my favorite. People were still friendly, but it just FELT different. This time, we stayed downtown, Glitter Gulch, the call it, at the Golden Nugget, which was certainly a beautiful hotel/casino.

We spent some time on the Strip, checking out the new hotels - I discovered that New York New York HUMS and there is a vibration that caused me to have something like sea sickness. I spent most of my time playing slots at the Nugget. It felt more familiar down there.

But, no matter how we tried to capture that original feeling of fun, it just wasn't the same. After we got home and started talking about it, I realized what was wrong. It was the Corporate Culture that had taken over the town. The first time we were there, it wasn't as noticeable, except that the owners and the town fathers were trying to convince people that Las Vegas had become "family friendly". Ridiculous, of course. There were kids everywhere, except in the casinos. But, I guess there must have been an uproar, because, suddenly, they were advertising the place as "adult entertainment" again. "What happens in Vegas, stays in Vegas."

The Corporations have raised all the prices, built huge new hotels aimed at the rich and the "common man" is finding that he doesn't really have a place there. Now, they're wondering why people aren't coming to Vegas in the numbers they used to, even during hard times. I can tell them why. They've lost their "base", all those "little people" who could go to Vegas, without the kids, and feel important and have the most inexpensive vacation they could find, anywhere.

I won't be going back.


Karen said...

I will have to pay more attention to see if I can feel a different vibe. I have been to Vegas more than 2 dozen times, but it has been over a year since the last time. I am going in October.

I did see the transformation from the older casinos to the new mega-casinos, but I was in awe of the new places. Each one was more gaudy than the next. Pure Vegas.

patsy said...

I had a sister-inlaw who lived in sactromento. she was the mother of 9 children and weighed 500 pounds.
one time her husband took her to vegas. una took right to the slot machines. they were passing orange juice in glasses and una like to eat and she was thristy.
she keep drinking the free orange juice which was vodka. una passed out and had to be carried out of the place.
she had never drank any thing stronger than coffee.

kenju said...

I've never been there, although my husband has. I still want to see it at least once before I die, while fully knowing that it is a mere shadow of what it used to be.

Betty said...

karen: If you were there as recently as a year ago, and you go a lot, you may not notice the change the way I did. And, of course, the last time I was there was 15 years ago, so a lot more changes have been made.

patsy: Oh, my. I'm laughing so hard, I can barely type! I know I shouldn't laugh, but, oh, the mental image!! lol

kenju: I hope you get to go some day. Everyone should go at least once. I have only one bit of advice for when you go. On the slots, try to become one with the machine.

Peggy said...

It just goes to illustrate how corporations are worse than the mob.

Doesn't the mob run Vegas anymore? Pity!

I was thinking it might be a fun place to go sometime, but I may not bother now. It's a bit far anyway.

Anonymous said...

Damn those evil,terrable,filthy rich people. How dare they work so hard to prepare for their future. It's not fair.

Sister--Three said...

Other Betty, I have never been to Vegas and now I never want to go.

Nancy said...

I agree with you, Betty.

In the "Old" days (The 80's) my sister in law and I loved the Riviera and twice a year we would book one of those Sunday to Thursday trips to Vegas.

I was told the "mob" ran the place then and if that was true, I have to congratulate them because everything went smooth as glass for the two ladies from Pennsylvania. We would land at the airport and never see our luggage until we got to our room ,hours later, and there it was at our door ,untouched. Nobody would dare do anything to make our stay anything but fabulous.

We were the life's blood of the casinos. Millions of naive people poured into town every day with a couple hundred bucks in their pocket and the orders to the workers were " See that they and their stuff are safe; and make them want to come back as soon as possible."

Every night we would see a different dinner show and we saw almost all of the big stars. After the show we would walk back to the Riviera and could not have been more safe if we had a bodyguard.

I have been back since with my husband and it really is not the same. The mob has been replaced by the bean counters of the Wharton School and everything is about how much money can we pull in this quarter?

Unfortunately, the last time I was there was during the "Family" period and the place was loaded with little kids. The Tropicana looked like the Bob White Day Camp.

Bring back Bugsy Segal. He knew how to treat the gals. He would have known what to do with a 500lb.woman who accidently drank a little too much. He would have comped her a room and had his henchmen carry her to it in style. She'd have been back the next chance she got....We all were...

Betty said...

peggy: It's probably still a fun place to go, just more expensive. I love those slots!

sister-three: The last time I was there, it felt claustrophobic.

nancy: The Mob. Those were the days, my friend. It WAS safer, then, because in front of each casino they stationed Bruno, Vito, Fredo, Sal, etc. seeing to it that the paying customers were happy.

anonymous: Huh?

Maria said...

Las Vegas has gotten too big and too impersonal. A lot of us now go to Laughlin which is what Las Vegas was in the 60's. Even there, the prices have risen considerably.

Bear Naked said...

I would have loved to have gone to Las Vegas when the *Rat Pack* were there.
To me that is what Las Vegas should be.
It sounds like I really wouldn't enjoy the modern Vegas.

Bear((( )))

Richard said...

Betty, my wife and I lived in Phoenix for over 20 years. Back then you could catch a flight to Vegas and back (on the same day) for about $60.

I went over several times for work and one year we went there for a few days for our anniverary in December. We stayed at the Tropicana and walked the strip a couple of times. The most interesting night was when we rode the bus that goes up and down the strip. What a group of folks we saw there.

I know exactly what you're talking about with the Corporatizing of Vegas though. The mega hotels and casinos just don't have the right feel.

Vegas is good for once every few years or so, but really it can get old after a while. And of course you're bleeding money every day you're there.

I am not surprised people aren't going there. Sooner or later they had to run out of suckers.

Love you girl,


Arkansas Songbird said...

I had fun in Vegas the one time I was there, but never had the desire to return.

Anonymous said...

we visited Vegas this year, it was fun but it is not a place I would go to again, but having said that I am glad we went

Minnesotablue said...

I've been to Vegas several times and have noticed the change also. Increased prices, tighter slot machines, hardly and free entertainment. I went the last two years and stay in downtown Las Vegas. It has more of a earlier Vegas feel.

Betty said...

maria: I'd like to go to Laughlin sometime.

richard: I like Reno, too, and I've been to Tunica once. Tunica is much closer, of course, so I'll probably just go there the next time I get an urge to gamble.

arkansas songbird: Last time I was there, I suffered a lot of anxiety. That has probably colored my opinion a bit.

little wanderer: I would still recommend it to people because it is still a unique experience.

Betty said...

minnesota blue: I agree with you about downtown. And, the main street is blocked , so no traffic to deal with when you're on foot.

Anonymous said...

I visited Las Vegas about 20 years ago and had a great time. Everything was so cheap, or even free. I remember one 'buffet' which had a fountain which on one side 'squirted' Bloody Marys and on the other 'Champagne'. I would like to return but can't face the journey.

susan said...

I've never understood the whole Vegas thing...maybe because I expect the glamour that used to be?

I won't be going anytime soon either.

Golden To Silver Val said...

Sigh...nothing stays the same. Think the changes in Vegas are bad...there are mob guys spinning in their graves over what's happened to Miami...their old stompin' grounds.

Dianne said...

I've only been there once, a few years ago during the 'Disneyfication' of Vegas. There were kids everywhere, a roller coaster going thru the middle of NY, NY and a giant amusement park.

I was thrilled with all the lights and I'd go back once or twice but I have so many other places I'd rather go

My favorite moment from the trip was when we were in the older part of town - this older seedy looking gentleman kept calling me "girlie" and asking me if I wanted a tattoo

Chancy said...

Never been to Vegas and not much urge to go now.
My sister in law used to go to Vegas once a year. She and a friend. Her husband, my brother, did not want to go. She would take a certain amount of money and never spend any more than that. The slots were her favorite. That and the shows.

Tink said...

As someone who has never been to Vegas, that kinda sucks. I guess I'll have to wait until I'm filthy rich... which, at this point, looks like never. ;)