Destination: Las Vegas

Gawker Goes on a Vegas Press Trip

And lays the snark on thick in a dispatch, Among the Junketeers. Here’s a taste:

Though the Hilton was not objectively dirty, it was permeated by a certain sort of gloom that is the result of mixing dim lighting and snack bar food and huge television screens and losing betting slips together in close proximity and marinating for 20 years or so. “I think I’m a smart sports bettor, but I always lose,” said the TSN reporter to Kornegay at one point, obviating the need for a longer discussion here of how sports books in Las Vegas make their money.

Off to lunch at The Barrymore, a newly renovated spot with stylish wallpaper and mirrored walls and a ceiling made entirely of movie reels. On the way over we drove by Occupy Las Vegas, a grim collection of tents huddled on a cracked asphalt lot, like an obstinate little Hooverville. We did not stop. The manager at The Barrymore, shirt opened to the third button, came over to greet us. We had an entire room to ourselves. They filled the table with calamari and thinly sliced pork and every other appetizer on the menu, something which would be repeated in nearly every restaurant where we ate. The journalists had a bunch of cocktails, something which would also be repeated in nearly every restaurant. I neither drink nor eat meat, so I sat there eating my French onion soup and drinking coffee like a human sign reading “PARTY POOPER.” This would also be repeated in nearly every restaurant. The French onion soup was very good.

The press trip issue has been chewed over plenty (see: this, this, or, say, this), but I enjoyed this first-person, on-the-ground addition to the genre.

(Via @mikebarish)

Fear and Loathing in a Chevy Aveo

On the 40th anniversary of “Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas,” The Daily’s Zach Baron climbs into a modest rental car and hits the Hunter S. Thompson trail. Here’s the introduction to his sharp and funny story:

Writers only go to Las Vegas for one reason, really. It is our World Series of Poker, except more pretentious. But the process is not dissimilar. You train, get your weight up. A semi-competent feature here, a not-totally-botched essay there, and then, one day, when your editor is particularly distracted, downtrodden or simply in need of something to believe in, you push your meager pile of chips to the center of the table. You look your mark in the eye and bluff. “It is the 40th anniversary of Hunter S. Thompson’s ‘Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas,’” you say, your face calm, confident, “and I want to go there, to write a piece on the book, and the American Dream.”

You don’t expect him to say yes. Pitching stories on the American Dream is what writers do when their hearts are empty, their minds blank. It is the equivalent of stalling for more time, throwing a Hail Mary down eight with time expiring, a way to mark your commitment and plucky optimism before admitting defeat and moving on to something with an actual chance of success.

This is part one of a series. I’ll be following along. (Via @alexanderbasek)

Stilettos in Paris

Eva Holland did the Bohemian backpacker thing in Paris. Paris Las Vegas gave her the chance to act out a different role.

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Dig This: ‘Man, Americans Love Big Stuff’

Apparently there are people whose bucket lists include the phrase “operate heavy equipment.” Dig This is them. For a few hundred dollars, the Las Vegas “heavy equipment playground” allows people to operate Caterpillar bulldozers and other oversized construction equipment.

Owner Ed Mumm says the “good majority” of the customers are guys. However, he told NPR’s Ted Robbins, “he has been surprised at how many women are also interested, which is the reason Dig This offers a package called ‘Excavate and Exfoliate,’ a half-day at the park followed by a spa treatment at the Trump Las Vegas Hotel.”

Video You Must See: ‘Locked in a Vegas Hotel Room with a Phantom Flex’

What goofing around in a Sin City hotel room looks like at 2,564 frames per second

Watch the Video »

Las Vegas Cowers at ‘Death Ray’

It singes hair! It melts plastic cups! It inspires funny leads on blogs!

The “Vdara Death Ray,” as it’s known to some pool employees at the Vdara Hotel & Spa at the Las Vegas CityCenter, is apparently a result of the design of the building. The sun reflects off one of the hotel’s towers in a way that targets a section of the hotel’s pool area with extreme temperatures for short periods of time. From the Las Vegas Review-Journal:

Viewed from above, the Vdara tower resembles a crescent. The crescent’s southern-facing side is concave. There is no tall building farther south to block the sun’s hot afternoon rays, so Vdara receives the full brunt. Its pool lies at the center of this southern-facing wall, on top of a low-rise building that is three stories tall.

How hot is the “Death Ray”? If it can melt plastic cups, as reported, it’s pretty hot. According to the Review-Journal, plastic cups melt at around 160 degrees.

Las Vegas Bets on ‘Real’ Architecture

Las Vegas, Paul Goldberger notes in the New Yorker, “has started to feel a little uncomfortable about its reputation as a place where developers spend billions of dollars on funny buildings.” That feeling helped inspire the latest over-the-top Vegas production. Goldberger writes:

The complex is called CityCenter, and it is the biggest construction project in the history of Las Vegas. It has three hotels, two condominium towers, a shopping mall, a convention center, a couple of dozen restaurants, a private monorail, and a casino. There was to have been a fourth hotel, whose opening has been delayed indefinitely. But even without it the project contains nearly eighteen million square feet of space, the equivalent of roughly six Empire State Buildings. “We wanted to create an urban space that would expand our center of gravity,” Jim Murren, the chairman of the company, told me. Murren, an art and architecture buff who studied urban planning in college and wrote his undergraduate thesis on the design of small urban parks, oversaw the selection of architects, and the result is a kind of gated community of glittering starchitect ambition. There are major buildings by Daniel Libeskind, Rafael Viñoly, Helmut Jahn, Pelli Clarke Pelli, Kohn Pedersen Fox, and Norman Foster; and interiors by Peter Marino, Lewis Tsurumaki Lewis, Bentel and Bentel, and AvroKO. There are also prominent sculptures by Maya Lin, Nancy Rubins, and Claes Oldenburg and Coosje van Bruggen. “The idea I wanted to convey was to bring smarter planning to the development process in Las Vegas, to expand our boundaries of knowledge,” Murren told me. “Las Vegas is always looked down upon. CityCenter is a counterpoint to the kitschiness.”

Goldberger doesn’t believe the project succeeds.

R.I.P. Liberace Museum

R.I.P. Liberace Museum Photo by Ethan Prater via Flickr (Creative Commons)
Photo by Ethan Prater via Flickr (Creative Commons)

The Vegas classic is closing its doors after more than 30 years—apparently, due to shrinking revenue, from both the museum itself and the Liberace music royalties that help support it. Over at Flyover America, Sophia Dembling laments:

What is the world coming to?

I’ve been to the Liberace Museum more times than I should probably admit. Three? Four? I’m not sure, but I’ve been dazzled every time. What’s more, even though I lived through the Liberace era, I didn’t know until I visited the museum how really huge Liberace was—he sold out the Hollywood Bowl, for Pete’s sake! (Or George’s sake. And if you don’t know what I mean, then you don’t know Liberace.)

The Liberace Foundation is hoping to reopen the museum someday. In the meantime, some traveling exhibits are in the works.

The Casino Carpets of Las Vegas

This slideshow will wake you up on a Monday morning. Chris Maluszynski’s photos are the subject of a New Yorker Talk of the Town piece, which probes why Las Vegas casino carpets are so gaudy.

Theories abound about why casino carpets look the way they do. The camouflaging argument makes sense—the more curlicues, the less noticeable the dirt and Coke and vomit. But Christine B. Whittemore, who runs a blog called Carpetology, believes that the carpets’ primary function is psychological. “A lot of the busyness of the patterns may be about keeping people active, as too much relaxing may not inspire gambling,” she said. “You also have to be careful not to use the same pattern on stairs as you do on flat surfaces, because of how the brain processes depth.” Recently, Whittemore took a tour of Steve Wynn’s new Encore hotel. She recalled, “There’s some carpet in this delightful little café-bar area, and what comes to mind is Marc Chagall—the idea was the butterfly, the metamorphosis, the dream.” The butterflies flutter over a scarlet grid. Whittemore went on, “The head designer explained that red is a good-luck color in many Asian cultures.”

David G. Schwartz has more on the subject, and more photos.

Slideshow: A Quest for Bukowski in Las Vegas

Alec Soth got a trip to Vegas and $500 for his 40th birthday. He came home with something he’d like to sell you.

Thanks for the tip, Pam.

King of the Road: Five Great Elvis Travel Movies

Eva Holland and Eli Ellison go traveling with The King on his 75th birthday.

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R.I.P. Binion’s Hotel

R.I.P. Binion’s Hotel Photo by Eva Holland
Photo by Eva Holland

The “gambling hall” portion of Binion’s Gambling Hall and Hotel will remain open, at least for now, but KVBC is reporting that the venerable downtown Vegas casino is closing down its nearly 400 hotel rooms. Roughly 100 staff are being laid off, too. Sad news for those who prefer Fremont St.‘s vintage charms to the super-sized fun of the Strip. (Via @jenleo)

Interview with Bonnie Tsui: ‘American Chinatown’

Bonnie Tsui, American Chinatowns Photo by Matthew Elliott

Jenna Schnuer talks to the author of a new book about American Chinatowns and why "broken Chinese is the mark of being Chinese American"

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‘CSI: The Experience’ Comes to Vegas

‘CSI: The Experience’ Comes to Vegas Photo by via Flickr (Creative Commons)
Photo by via Flickr (Creative Commons)

Well, finally. I’ve been waiting for Las Vegas to really tap into the “CSI” theme—no, the mugs and t-shirts in the cheapo gift shops on Fremont aren’t enough for me—and now the MGM Grand has obliged with a new exhibit, CSI: The Experience. Writes Jen Leo over at the Daily Deal blog: “You will act as an investigator and go through one of three crime scenes. Take notes, analyze clues and watch videos with characters from the TV show while you learn about DNA identification, firearm and toolmark identification, blood-spatter analysis, forensic entomology and more.”

Next time I make it to Vegas, I am so there. Who says learning can’t be fun?

Joel Stein in Las Vegas: ‘I Have Come for Revenge’

He went to Las Vegas to take advantage of the city when it’s down. “For the first time ever,” he writes in Time, “it is possible to complete a monetary exchange in Las Vegas and feel bad for the other person.” But you know what? He doesn’t feel bad about it. Good story, but, as someone who loves Vegas, I found it a bit painful to read.