View blog reactions Waiting for Speedway Fowler: I'm Living for Giving the Devil His Due (More Thoughts on Las Vegas)

Sunday, April 23, 2006


I'm Living for Giving the Devil His Due (More Thoughts on Las Vegas)

I don't understand Vegas. The city is an American icon and it certainly deserves that status - how can the fastest-growing city in the country arise from the empty desert in just 75 years and NOT become a thing of wonder? But what I don't understand is Vegas' status as a pop culture Holy Land. Other than its history, what is interesting about Las Vegas? What is exotic? What is compelling? The casinos are all essentially the same, with only the window dressing of vague themes differentiating them. Hey. Pirates. Yeah. Inside, you see the same endless rows of slot machines and gaming tables, the same ancient people waiting to die, the same bored and sweaty pit bosses standing there marking the hours till payday, making mental notes to later regret not having gone to electrician school.

The most interesting thing I saw inside any of the casinos was a bank of slot machines modelled on the 60's sit-com "That Girl", twenty identical slots with Marlo Thomas winking and waving at you, and that was interesting only because of the sheer WTF Factor.

The hands-down biggest star in this city is a guy you've never heard of: Danny Gans, who headlines at the Mirage and who apparently combines what the kindest reviews call "more or less accurate" celebrity impressions with old-fashioned proselytizing. Here's George Burns! Now Jimmy Stewart! Jesus Loves You! Don't forget to tip your stripper! You'd think such a bizarre dichotomy would be fascinating, but actually it's just comes off as bland. If there is any flavor in Las Vegas, I couldn't find it. Maybe it died with Dan Tanna.

Vegas has become middlebrow America and middlebrow America has become Vegas. The pneumatics of the strip shows pale in the face of the everyday boob jobs of suburbia. The flashy cars don't elicit much notice because we see wilder creations on cable TV, coming out of custom shops in places like Poughkeepsie. The stars who play here no longer even have kitsch value going for them... Louie Anderson? Wayne Brady? And thanks to Britney Spears innate genius at making vague whorishness trendy, it's now almost impossible to play Spot The Hooker at casino bars.

Vegas is like the mall... only with more ashtrays.

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