Las Vegas: mutatis mutandis
Saturday, 9 July 2011
Have a look at this advert for the Luxor hotel-casino, which greets you as you walk out into the arrivals hall at McCarran Airport, Las Vegas.
Is it me, or is there something strange about that? “Get to the point”? What does it mean? I stared at it for some time, looking for a dice pun. “The point” is a dice term. But the people in the picture aren’t playing dice. They’re drinking and flirting, rubbing up against each other. Is the advert saying: don’t waste time, hurry straight to the Luxor bar for drinking and getting off with strangers, because that’s the point of Las Vegas? How weird that it isn’t a pun. It so looks like it should be a pun.
It confused me a great deal. I’ll leave you to think about it.
Speaking of the point of Las Vegas - or of travelling at all - here’s something that makes me sad. The following people have taken the “Eiffel Tower ride” at the Paris hotel: a lift that takes you up to the top of the Paris’s fake Eiffel Tower (a lot shorter than the real Eiffel Tower, but still pretty tall) to have a look at the magnificent view. Quite an experience, that. You can see the whole of Las Vegas, from all angles, including a birds-eye perspective on the famous Bellagio fountains.
Here’s one lady enjoying that view:
Here’s an old chap really making the most of the experience:
This woman wants to milk every drop out of the opportunity:
And this guy’s truly living in the now:
Come on, people! Put the camera down and look! What kind of film do you think you’ll have when you get home anyway? What kind of photograph? You’ll have a small, square frame of an astonishing view that your eyes could just take in whole! But you’re not actually seeing it, because you’re too busy creating a bad, blurry version of an aerial picture of Las Vegas that’s been taken a million times before, much better than you’re going to manage, and is all over the internet anyway. Here, look. Have this one.
You don’t need that photo you’re taking! Just have the experience! Just stand there and look at the thing, and then remember it! The vision in front of you is real! Why do you think it will only become real when you look at it on screen later? Stop being so bloody 21st Century!
Sorry. I got cross for a moment there. Let’s all calm down with a nice cheering image of a man relaxing and enjoying the spectacular night-time lake show at the Parasol bar. There he is with his wife, having a romantic time; they’re fully together as a couple, sharing an experience, nothing but the here and now - themselves, the night, the show - absolutely in the moment.
Another thing that made me sad, this trip, was going to visit my old haunts from the Once More, With Feeling days: Excalibur and The Luxor. My friend Charlie and I stayed at Excalibur because we loved its “Olde English” ethos, so reminiscent of our homeland. Plastic castles, village greens, King Arthur, Robin Hood and Harry Potter, all jumbled up together in a joyful explosion of themed restaurants, gaming tables and live shows.
But, this time, it was all gone. No more jesters in the foyer. No ladies in Medieval hats playing Greensleeves on the double bass. Just another boring old casino with brown carpet.
I was relieved to see a signpost to the old Sherwood Forest Café, where we wrote our terrible porn script, but it seemed to lead only to some shabby-looking blackjack tables.
“Sherwood’s gone”, said an elderly croupier, sadly. “Ain’t nothing left now but the sign.”
Next door at the Luxor, it was even worse. The Luxor was the home of our favourite ancient Egyptian motion sensor ride (“Strap yourselves in and shake, rattle and roll back to ancient days!”). We were fascinated by one of the characters on that ride, most especially his name: Reginald Osiris. To the creators of the ride, the 1920s English name “Reginald” was of roughly the same antiquity as the 4000-year-old god Osiris, ie. the past. We loved that concept so much, we named a character in our own film after him.
But the ride is gone. The Nile is gone. The display of ancient Egyptian artefacts is gone. The lobby now looks like this:
Our favourite drinking hole, Cleopatra’s Barge, is now this.
“New management”, said an elderly receptionist, sadly. “They sold off all the artefacts to a museum. They was some genuine artefacts.”
But WHY? Why are the new management so ashamed of the lovely old themed days of Vegas? The Venetian (one of the snazzier new hotel-casinos at the other end of the Strip - a perfect recreation of Venice, with less decay and more slot machines) is a sign of how the joy of theme can be reinvented with a loving touch. What’s wrong with that?
If The Luxor wants to erase all memory of its thematic past, I think it has a bit of a design problem.
Yeah. That’s the outside. Ain’t nothing they can do about that, short of knocking it down and starting all over again. Of course, they could knock it down and start all over again - happens here all the time. But they didn’t. They decided to leave the core structure as it was, just rip out everything “Egyptian” from the inside. What does that leave? A pyramid with some slots and a Starbucks inside. What is that? It’s not anything.
Think back to the advert at the top, the advert for The Luxor that new arrivals see at the airport. Did you get it? Maybe you got it immediately and you’re smarter than I am. But I only got it earlier tonight, planning this blog. And I saw the advert three weeks ago.
“Get to the point”... of course it’s a pun! It’s a pun on the fact that the Luxor has a pointy top! That’s all the “new management” are left with. Their building is not exciting to them because it’s a pyramid, or because it’s Egyptian, or because it’s in any way themed. It’s just…. pointy.
Gah, I’ve got annoyed again, thinking about the bad management decisions of the Luxor’s new owners. So here’s a last cheering image - properly cheering this time.
I was having another walk down Fremont Street, and… why, who’s this cool character? He’s been in Vegas since years before I got here. He loves it even more than I do. He loves poker even more than I do. His autobiographical novel, one of my favourite books of all time, describes how the hero (“Mickey Dane”) wears quirky holiday clothes and crazy sunglasses to get action at the tables.
I’ll leave you to work this one out on your own.
It’s just to know that some things never change.