Truth and illusion in Vegas
Friday, May 18, 2007
I don't know why, but the Venetian Hotel in Las Vegas makes me sad. It's a tribute, in its way, to the most beautiful city in the world but something about it is troubling. Imagine the chutzpah of building a "Grand Canal" on the first floor. Very Vegas. It would have been way too easy to build it on the ground, right?
They came close to pulling off something truly magnificent here. I don't "get" gambling, but I can accept the slot machines in all the lobbies. Bugsy Seigel's ghost would haunt the owner otherwise (if he doesn't already). The Venetian is after all built on the site of the Sands, where Frank and the Rat Pack played. Did they really need a "food court" in their "Grand Canal Shoppes" (sic) though? It makes their Venice" reek not of - well, Venice - but of congealed fat.
Even in the "fine dining" establishment overlooking the canal, classic Italian food is spoiled by extra fat. it's hard to enjoy the food while watching obese people go by who need motorised wheelchairs to get to their next burger. They look like Jabba the Hut on a skateboard.
I don't golf, gamble or frequent night clubs. So, I can only think of two reasons I would ever want to live in Las Vegas. Firstly, although I am built on a fairly lavish scale, I would never feel fat again. Secondly, I would never be tempted to be unfaithful to my wife. I don't understand why the famously powerful cosmetic effects of wealth don't work in the flyover states of the USA.
As a real estate guy born and bred, I admire Steve Wynn immensely. This isn't his hotel, but he is Bugsy Siegel's successor as the genus loci of Las Vegas. He is the business genius who, with his Mirage and Bellagio hotels, single-handedly saved a seedy mob gaming town from decline. He invented the "destination hotel," a concept which has since been adapted to make culture, art and history-free Dubai another unlikely tourist destination. The Arabs do it with more style though.
I am glad to have seen Mr Wynn's town, but I don't think I will be back. I am looking forward to returning on Sunday night to the dirt and reality of Moscow.
I drove from Salt Lake City to California in the early 90s when I was on assignment in Utah. Although the view as you come into Las Vegas was impressive, Las Vegas itself was grimy tacky and unsettling. I hate gambling and the blatent commercialism made me quezy. I was glad to leave. There is fantastic wild country, with Death Valley to the north and the Grand Canyon to the south and the Hoover Dam nearby. Trips to those places were the highlight of my trip, not Las Vegas itself.
Posted by: Colin Campbell | Tuesday, May 29, 2007 at 07:33 PM
It's a while since my one and only trip to Las Vegas, but not being interested in gambling, I found it a hard city to take to. Yes, these hotels are fabulous examples of opulence, yes there is an imcredible amount of relatively cheap food, yes the entertainment, although unbelievably expensive, is sensational.
An interesting place to see and note as a "cultural" phenomenon, but I found it rather boring. I discovered a wonderful bookstore off the strip and spent an enjoyable afternoon there, then left a day early.
Posted by: jmb | Monday, May 21, 2007 at 05:35 PM