July 13, 2014

"Las Vegas (What?) Las Vegas (Can't hear you! Too noisy) Las Vegas!!!!"

"We were somewhere around Barstow, on the edge of the desert when the drugs began to take hold. I remember saying something like: I feel a bit lightheaded. Maybe you should drive.... We had two bags of grass... 75 pellets of mescaline... five sheets of high-powered blotter acid... a salt shaker half-full of cocaine... a whole galaxy of multicolored uppers, downers, screamers, laughers. Also a quart of tequila, a quart of rum, a case of beer... a pint of raw ether... two dozen amyls. Not that we needed all that for the trip... but once you get locked into a serious drug collection... the tendency is to push it as far as you can."


Last month, for my sins, I was sent to Las Vegas with my attorney. Strictly business. It was, for the most part, as uneventful as the first time I went to Las Vegas which, if I remember it at all, went something like this:

The important discovery I made this time is that there are now actually two cities of the same name in different universes. One is Las Vegas by Day:


The other is Las Vegas by Night:



The Night Vegas is when all the myths live and breathe:



But the Day Vegas is where reality checks in:


One of the indelible images of Las Vegas is that of the old babes at the row upon row of slot machines.

There they are at six o'clock Sunday morning no less than at three o'clock Tuesday afternoon. Some of them pack their old hummocky shanks into Capri pants, but many of them just put on the old print dress, the same one day after day, and the old hob-heeled shoes, looking like they might be going out to buy eggs in Tupelo, Mississippi. They have a Dixie Cup full of nickles or dimes in the left hand and an Iron Boy work glove on the right hand to keep the calluses from getting sore.


"Every time they pull the handle, the machine makes a sound much like the sound a cash register makes before the bell rings,

then the slot pictures start clattering up from left to right, the oranges, lemons, plums, cherries, bells, bars, buckaroos--the figure of a cowboy riding a bucking bronco. The whole sound keeps churning up over and over again in eccentric series all over the place, like one of those random-sound radio symphonies by John Cage. You can hear it at any hour of the day or night all over Las Vegas. You can walk down Fremont Street at dawn and hear it without even walking in a door, that and the spins of the wheels of fortune, a boring and not very popular sort of simplified roulette, as the tabs flap to a stop. As an overtone, or at times simply as a loud sound, comes the babble of the casino crowds, with an occasional shriek from the craps tables, or, anywhere from 4 p.m. to 6 a.m., the sound of brass instruments or electrified string instruments from the cocktail-lounge shows. -- The Kandy-Kolored Tangerine-Flake Streamline Baby By Tom Wolfe

Dr. Gonzo: Sounds like big trouble. You're going to need plenty of legal advice before this thing is over. As your attorney, I advise you to rent a very fast car with no top. And you'll need the cocaine. Tape recorder for special music. Acapulco shirts. Get the hell out of L.A. for at least 48 hours. Blows my weekend.

Raoul Duke: Why?

Dr. Gonzo: Because naturally I'm going to have to go with you. And we're going to have to arm ourselves... to the teeth!

Raoul Duke: Well why not? Shit if it's worth doing, it's worth doing right!

This is the American Dream in action. We'd be fools not to ride this strange torpedo all the way to the end!

Raoul Duke: What Leary took down with him was the central illusion of a whole lifestyle that he helped create.

A generation of permanent cripples, failed seekers, who never understood the essential old mystic fallacy of the acid culture: the desperate assumption that somebody, or at least some force, was tending the light at the end of the tunnel. There was only one road back to L.A. - U.S. Interstate 15. Just a flat-out high speed burn through Baker and Barstow and Berdoo. Then onto the Hollywood Freeway, and straight on into frantic oblivion. Safety. Obscurity. Just another freak, in the freak kingdom. Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas (1998)

Long after Las Vegas’ influence as a gambling heaven has gone, Las Vegas’ forms and symbols will be influencing American life.

That fantastic skyline! Las Vegas’ neon sculpture, its fantastic fifteen-story-high display signs, parabolas, boomerangs, rhomboids, trapezoids, and all the rest of it, are already the staple design of the American landscape outside the oldest parts of the oldest cities, They are all over every suburb, every subdivision, every highway . . . they are the new landmarks of America, the new guide posts, the new way Americans get their bearings.
- Tom Wolfe, “Las Vegas (What?) Las Vegas (Can’t Hear you! Too Noisy) Las Vegas!!!” Esquire Magazine 1964, reprinted in The Kandy-Kolored Tangerine-Flake Streamline Baby 1965

And then there's the unfortunate intrusion on Day Vegas into Night Vegas: Man suffers heart attack at Heart Attack Grill


Tourists were disheartened, but not entirely surprised to hear about the incident.

"I don't think I would walk into a place, even if it's called the Heart Attack Grill, and order food, and expect that I was going to have a heart attack," said Las Vegas resident Debbie Kaye.

Customers, however, continued eating the burgers, fries, and shakes Tuesday night. And then went out to take a look at the town in the Day/Night Vegas of 2014:

Posted by gerardvanderleun at July 13, 2014 2:11 AM
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"It is impossible to speak in such a way that you cannot be misunderstood." -- Karl Popper N.B.: Comments are moderated and may not appear immediately. Comments that exceed the obscenity or stupidity limits will be either edited or expunged.

Son lived there for years. Managed numerous ̶c̶a̶s̶i̶n̶o̶ resort construction projects. Went to visit often. Worthwhile: Mt. Charleston, Red Rock Canyon, Hoover Dam, Imperial Palace Auto Collection (Duesenbergs). Waste of time: Everything else. Recommended times to visit: one (1). Recommended length of stay: two (2) days.

Posted by: BillH at July 13, 2014 7:17 AM

That's pretty much correct.

Posted by: Van der Leun at July 13, 2014 7:46 AM

How about some gratitude? When the place drys up in twenty years two million people are going back where they came from.

Posted by: james wilson at July 13, 2014 9:50 AM

I couldn't stand Vegas when I was there, it was ugly and noisy and gaudy. All the casinos, no matter how they look or what their scheme is, look exactly the same on the floor, and its hideous. Miserable looking people in clouds of cigarette smoke, crouched over machines with a mix of desperation and shame in their eyes, floor girls who would be cute if it wasn't for the godawfully ugly outfits and look of misery in their eyes, and carpet that looks like something Herb Tarlek would reject as too much for one of his jackets.

Its just a pit of despair, a toilet where money, dreams, and self worth are flushed away into the hands of horrible men in ugly suits. The cars move so slowly you could walk across the top of them faster to your destination, hotel rooms that seep with sorrow and failure, and these days even the lodging and food is too expensive.

Posted by: Christopher Taylor at July 13, 2014 11:33 AM

I was in Vegas last April. I used to enjoy trinkling twenty bucks worth of quarters into an old style one-armed bandit, but slot machines are no more. What they have now are incomprehensible, undecipherable video games. They flash, blip, and play a sort of cartoon with a lot of music, but you're never sure what the objective is or why you won or lost. They don't even take or pay cash. It's all aimed at people used to living life through Iphone apps. No fun.


Posted by: jwm at July 13, 2014 11:40 AM

I am not much of a gambler. I was in Vegas for a professional meeting a while ago. I find the modern electronic slot machines to be charmless and uninviting. When they were mechanical, you had some connection to the action. You might be able to influence it by the way you pulled the lever or your body english. Now its like logging into a web site. It has nothing to do with you.

Posted by: Fat Man at July 13, 2014 11:54 AM

Wow!! They seem to use up a LOT of that Lake Mead water and power.
If ONLY there was somewhere nearby to put "spent" nuclear power/medicine/research "waste"....

Posted by: CaptDMO at July 13, 2014 1:51 PM

I always thought James Carville would have made a better HST than either Depp or Murray. I suppose Malkovich as well. Never been to Vegas. Back in the day I knew a professional drinker who lived there in the sixties and seventies. He did not care for gambling but had all the other vices. He loved the place and regaled us with stories.

Posted by: Will at July 14, 2014 10:22 AM

If I was twenty years younger I'd go to Vegas and establish myself as The King of Light Bulbs.
My membership in the AOEW (Ancient Order of Electrical Wizards) would assure my success.

Fact #6: There's a mile of wire in a screen door.

Posted by: chasmatic at July 15, 2014 8:53 AM

“What in heaven’s name brought you to Las Vegas?” “…My health, I came to Las Vegas for the waters.” “The waters? What waters? We’re in the desert.” “...I was misinformed.”

Posted by: MOTUS at July 16, 2014 7:53 PM