LAS VEGAS — Hordes of luck seekers descend hourly on the Las Vegas Strip only to be greeted by thousands of people who want to separate them from their hard-earned bucks.
The strip is billed as the city that never sleeps. Except for the occasional party animal sleeping it off on the sidewalk, it's true. The casinos are just as crowded at mid-morning as they were at 3:30 a.m.
Everyone has an angle or a story, but first names only, please.Sex sells at any hour. Even the hookers have business cards. Juan shoves a hooker's card in the face of a willing tourist.
Another card distributed by Paul says Amber is is from Discreet Entertainers followed by a dot-com. The pitch is a $100 off coupon for private dances. The card has a her name, a phone number and nothing more. She takes plastic credit cards. Her outfit leaves little to the imagination. A business card gathered as research is as close as I care to get.
It's almost as if Hunter S. Thompson's oft mis-quoted statement was written just for Las Vegas.
"The TV business is uglier than most things. It is normally perceived as some kind of cruel and shallow money trench through the heart of the [insert your industry's name], a long plastic hallway where thieves and pimps run free and good men die like dogs, for no good reason," Thompson said.
Thompson's quote appeared in San Francisco Examiner on November 4, 1985. It was not about gambling, show business or any part of the strip. Thompson might well have agreed that the characterization fits equally well in every case.
The quote may fit better than anything Thompson wrote in his drug-induced stream of consciousness tale in Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas: A Savage Journey to the Heart of the American Dream.
The American Dream in Las Vegas is really a hazy counter-culture of its own that defies description. Those walking the length of Las Vegas Boulevard seem dazed by wave after wave of glitter.
Las Vegas IS a shallow money trench with ATMs spaced strategically around the casino floors. The ubiquitous clay casino chip is seldom seen anywhere but the game tables.
The one-armed bandits now accept cash and pay off with paper cash-out coupons.
Farther down Las Vegas Boulevard, a street beggar with a beard holds a sign seeking a buck or two. He happily holds up a sign for a photographer, "Why Lie, Need Beer." He's been a fixture on that spot for years, according to veteran visitors.
The huckster / promoters are pushing cards towards strangers for some service ranging from helicopter rides over nearby Hoover Dam to a discount show or meal.
Shows for entertainers like David Copperfield or Celine Dion are expensive. A vending stand halfway down Las Vegas Boulevard near Planet Hollywood hawks half-off tickets. Read the fine print. There may be a catch.
You can find nearly any kind of activity on the strip.
Thrill seekers can ride a roller coaster, bungee jump or fire an AK-47 or Uzi at an indoor firing range.
Perhaps the best thrill is to walk down the wide boulevard, examine it and then ignore it all.