Friday, October 8, 2010

Well, That's Vegas, Baby!

Originally printed in the BG News on Friday, October 8, 2010

Photo by Jessica Dennis, October 2010

“Whack.  Whack.  Whack.”  That’s the sound of temptation as it follows you down the Vegas Strip, littered with business cards advertising a variety of services in the flesh industry.  Men and women, mostly minorities, line the street wearing t-shits that offer tourists “Girls!  Direct to your room,” while snapping pornographic brochures at passersby.  And in public, few accept. 

But don’t be fooled.  Vegas is an equal opportunity exploiter.  I came across an average-looking gentleman for the low, low price of 32 dollars—for the whole night!  Call me old fashioned, but I didn’t take the man-whore up on his pimp’s proposal.  I mean really; that’s the same amount as one of the nicer buffets.

Yes, I am writing from Las Vegas while staying at the Planet Hollywood hotel, which is hosting this year’s Society of Professional Journalists' national conference.  And so far I’ve resisted the temptation to stumble through the lobby declaring myself a doctor of journalism.
Don’t get me wrong—I’m networking like Mark Zuckerberg, while shaking the glitter off my clothes like Katy Perry.  So this week, I thought I’d take this totally random opportunity to let readers view the sights of the city of vice through my always critical eyes.
What’s this feminist columnist’s first impression?  For starters, everything is over-priced.  Nothing here occurs in moderation.  Nevada has more senior citizens than Florida.  Gambling is for suckers.  And this has got to be the highest concentration of sex work in the country.
Inside Planet Hollywood’s casino, you’ll find “The Pleasure Pit” where strippers crawl atop the bar as soon as the sun goes down.  But the cocktail waitresses and game hostesses are so scantily clad, they give the dancers a run for their money.  
If you follow the flashing lights to the Miracle Mile mall attached to the hotel, there is a plethora of restaurants that serve alcoholic beverages by the yard.  Yes, the yard.  And the obvious favorite, demanding the attention of passer-bys with a 60 foot stripper in 30 foot go-go boots, is cleverly named “The Stripper Bar.”  Go figure.
The Planet is also home to Girl-Next-Door Holly Madison’s Peep Show.  It’s “ultra-hot” and “all the rage,” claiming that it “modernizes the classic Vegas topless show.”  But I wanted to see classic Vegas, un-modernized, so I went to Bally’s premier hotel and casino. 
While their main attraction, “Jubilee,” presents a variety of performers adorned with an abundance of rhinestones, the showgirls definitely steal the revue.  Like something out of a Bob Mackie hallucination, these women could be confused for human peacocks.  And with more on their heads than their hineys, it’s no wonder why. 
Several of the numbers are topless, but if you can get past the boobies, you might realize these are some truly talented dancers.  I wondered how many headed west after being inspired by Elizabeth Berkley’s notorious portrayal of Nomi Malone- the showgirl with a heart of gold.  And then I wondered something else. 

Years ago, I learned that Las Vegas shouldn’t even exist.  And if it wasn’t for the Hoover Dam, it wouldn’t.  Was anyone else aware?  This oasis in the desert is literally a mirage.  But no one’s talking about water shortages or resource wars while musical fountains dance in a neon paradise.  Distraction ensures that reality is out of sight and out of mind. 

Vegas will infiltrate your pores and overload your senses with more than secondhand smoke—because it’s supposed to.  Escorts fill magazines that fill boxes that fulfill our expectations.  We are promised debauchery and shenanigans.  The precedent has been set and visitors would be disappointed if their experience did not include at least four of the seven vices humanity usually tries to avoid.

A wise man once said, “I eat too much.  I drink too much.  I want too much.  Too much.”  One can’t be sure, but Dave Matthews might have been talking about Las Vegas and its inability to appease an artificial appetite that fuels capitalist over-consumption.  Had I said I was going to the desert to pay three times the market value for goods and services that would sound crazy.  But when I say “I’m going to Vegas,” the reaction is encouraging, if not envious. 
See how hype can make something less than ordinary strangely extraordinary?  Well, that’s Vegas, Baby.  


  1. I remember seeing a mother with her baby asleep in a stroller next to a slot machine at 1 a.m. That told me all I needed to know about the plight of women in Vegas.

  2. "The Plight of Women in Vegas" would also make an excellent title for this post.