Ugly Beauty: Temptation in a Desert

Las Vegas, like everything , has morphed – not changed, but morphed.  The days just before my 1st visit, when the Rat Pack and Wayne Newton plastered the marquis rather than Celine Dion and a septuagenarian Cher, were the golden era of people who were adventurous. Hoping for adventure, they came for a few days to live their lives the way they saw people live it in the movies they watched.

Gambling was probably the pretext, and the mob saw it and instinctively set out to disconnect people from their humdrum “real life” and provided them with the proper setting. CLASS, STYLE and ELEGANCE were packaged together with $3.95 prime rib dinners and poker, roulette and blackjack gave average people a taste of the good life as if they were the jetsetters on the Riviera. Slot machines would let the less adventurous play for hours on little cash. (I played $20 from 12:30 p.m. to 4 a.m. on my 1st visit; today, $20 could be gone in less than 5 minutes.

Steve Wynn took care of this wonderful set up when he realized, and acted on the age old notions of P.T. Barnum and W.C. Fields, “nobody ever lost a dollar by underestimating the taste of the American public” and “never give a sucker an even break!”  Why give $3.95 prime rib dinners when people will flock to pay $75 for 2 people to eat a cheesy buffet without blinking an eye. 

No longer a place of style and class where people came to play at being part of the high life, now people bring their kids, even though only place they can roam freely and have fun is in the pool. What happens after the pool closes? Parents drag them to dinner and into the casinos or keep them in boring rooms in a hotel hi rise to watch teevee and play with their cell phones — it seems the post WWII generations have the selfish gene encoded in their DNA. Las Vegas is a destination with no resolution now; enjoying a movie star lifestyle vicariously has been replaced by a narcissistic “Hey, look at ME!” pretense.

In the nighttime Neon World, the bright lights scream out in an electro voice, all high tension, that you can have what you want, you WILL have what you want, you must have ALL that you want! The devil offered similar temptations to Jesus in the desert and people have been tempted in deserts ever since.