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Apologize to Vegas? Never'

by Eric Lucas

Pigs thrive on slops. No need to apologize for saying so.

Still, Las Vegas would like President Obama to back down on his recent remark disparaging millionaire bankers and such who party in Vegas using taxpayer money. This should stop, said Obama.

Vegas squealed like, well, a stuck pig.

“I expect him to address it and to correct it,” growled Sin City mayor Oscar Goodman. (‘Good-man’? It’s a joke, right?)

“Mr. President, we need your support more than ever,” whined Vegas Congresswoman Shelley Berkley. “Tourism means jobs.”

My wife and I met the owners of some of those jobs on our first-ever trip to Vegas last fall. They were lined up on the sidewalks in phalanxes, thrusting into the hands of passersby small call cards for escorts who can be in your room in 20 minutes. Beer-bellied trucker-dudes, polyester-clad turistas from Kansas, camera-toting Japanese visitors, Euro-trash scenesters blinking in the daylight, 10-year-old Susies toting stuffed bunnies, and, yes, Wall Street bankers with convention ID tags--all got handfuls of these cards.

I asked one of the card-barkers what the girls do when they get to your room.

“Oh, play checkers,” she explained. “Make tea.”

OK, she didn’t actually say that.

Yo no se--use su telefono, she urged me. Well, I didn’t. I know that real, pedal-to-the-medal journalism demands one research these things up close and personal. But let’s assume, for the sake of argument, that the escort girls perform more intimate services than neck rubs.

I’m certain investment bankers and arbitragers would never, ever dream of using bailout funds for that. In fact, business in Vegas has been so puny lately (gambling revenues down more than 25 percent; airport arrivals have declined for more than a year) that Mayor Goodman is urging Vegas to abandon the escort sham and openly legitimize prostitution.

You might say this would increase competition in the profession, but things already look, well, saturated. Megan and Morgan offer a $99 special. Barbie is $150, but she has two gargantuan attributes that resemble a banking bailout. Lilly’s totally nude “full service” special is $35. Mona is “very discreet” for $35, but Avena is the same for $25. Just like Wall Street--pay less, get more.

For business to suffer in Vegas is a stark indication of how bad things are for decadence. Nowhere on earth is the art of kyping money from hapless “customers” more advanced. Signs directing pedestrians to the Vegas monorail lead you a quarter-mile past, surprise, casinos. Once you’re on the Strip, good luck finding a road sign leading you out to the highway. When you check into a Vegas hotel, you must navigate a smoke-choked maze through the casino just to reach your room. There’s no coffee maker in your room, so you have to trek downstairs for morning java, which can be had if you--surprise again--navigate the casino. Sad-faced retirees are dumping their Social Security payments into slot machines. And there’s Mona, at 7 am, beckoning to me.

I call the front desk to ask for an in-room coffee maker. “Sorry, sir, we cannot supply those.”

Why not?

“Fire codes prohibit them,” he claims.

Vegas wants its guests to be safe? That’s why people smoke cigarettes everywhere. Oh, and that’s why you’ll find sidewalk booze kiosks selling 64-ounce plastic air guitars filled with a dingy yellow liquid. These are popular with frat boys staggering around.

Nearby, a billboard advertises a special incentive at a local fashion designer: “Free BJ with every purchase.”
A few minutes stroll brings me to another brigade of call-girl touts. These are interspersed among Salvation Army bell-ringers. Although it’s the most stunningly ecumenical sight I’ve ever seen, neither side seems to be doing very well.

“Have sympathy for Vegas when the devil’s on vacation,” say the T-shirts that kiosk operators are required to wear in front of a famous casino. Well, I don’t.

Please understand: I am neither prudish nor religious. I am just dumbfounded that no-one tells the truth about this world capital of degradation. Guidebook writers, politicians, tour operators, newspaper reporters, travel agents, hotel companies--all pretend this is a gem of modern glamour, then they wink and promise the truth will stay right there. Drink up!

When we first arrived, on the inbound rental car shuttle, we’d noticed a stern mom, rigid with ambition, primping her 12-year-old daughter, a lithe, apple-cheeked lass with full makeup, sheer dress, frightened eyes. She watched the floor. Her mom glanced at me, saw I already had a companion and didn’t need a “niece,” went back to touching up her daughter’s lipstick.

Don’t apologize, Mr. President. Tell these people to grow up and get real jobs.


Eric Lucas’s travel, business and natural history journalism concentrates on the meaning and purpose of travel and enterprise. His work appears in the Los Angeles Times,, Boston Globe, Westways Magazine, Alaska Airlines Magazine, Western Journey, Michelin Maps & Guides, among others. He lives in Seattle’s Ballard neighborhood, where he grows and sells organic garlic.. He is an expert gardener, wilderness fisherman and downhill skier. To learn more, visit his website at:


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Reader Comments (12)

Hi Eric,

I love the raw honesty of this post.

Thanks for sharing!


March 10, 2009 | Registered CommenterEditors

Wow, Eric!

March 15, 2009 | Unregistered Commenterkimberly schmitz

Yowza. You've described the Vegas I see and I always wonder how people can see anything other than the seamy underbelly.

Great post.


April 5, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterRachel Dickinson

Wow! No bias, huh? I agree with some of your points. Who likes a loud-mouthed mayor ? Who likes illegal aliens passing out obscene cards? (By the way, you can thank the ACLU for that.)
But then again, the mayor does have a point. Companies bypassing Vegas actually spent more money going to SF, just to avoid certain "appearances". And who does this hurt? Sure, it hurts the corp's who own the casinos; but it also hurts the valet who takes your car, the waitress who serves you, and the housekeeper who cleans your room. It also hurts the small business man who sells food to the strip property, as well as his son who wants to go to UNLV to get an education so he won't have to work at a casino.

Yes, the casinos are set to make one walk through the machines to get to anywhere. You are suprised by that? That is business my friend, no different than your local grocery store forcing you to walk through the produce section first, or your local department store making you walk through the higher priced clothes to get to the discount rack.

Yes, believe it or not, Vegas wants its visitors to be safe. Take a look around you. See those overhead walkways outside? Those were built to keep moronic visitors from getting hit when they were too lazy to use crosswalks. Did you see the security on the strip? No? Good. I am sure they were watching over you.

Next time, get off the strip and get a biggger view. Lake Mead, Red Rock, and Mt Charleston await.

April 19, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterLong time resident

In response to "long time resident", I agree that there is a trickle effect so everything effects everything. Marketing and advertising is the fuel that sets everything off.

July 25, 2009 | Unregistered Commentermlgreen8753

With all due respect, there's much more to Vegas than The Strip. Have you taken the time to visit Red Rock Canyon? Have you stayed in off-strip hotels sans casinos or eaten at the restaurants that the locals frequent? If all you do when you go to Vegas is join the rest of the sheep on The Strip, then I don't believe your opinion of the city has much validity.

August 9, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterJosh

Myth buster: Many Kansans don't fit the description of "polyester-clad turistas."

August 21, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterKansas Country Girl

lets face it a t shirt that said I lost my ass in vegas may be true but once lost u still can regain it from the neighbors daughter for a small fee

December 21, 2009 | Unregistered Commenterfingers so cal

Where did you stay - our hotel had an in-room coffee maker...

The Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority provided figures saying, since the president's remarks, Las Vegas had lost $166 million in nongaming economic impact, because 402 conventions were canceled in the first quarter.

I like your post and stuff that you have share with us. good post..

September 16, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterAccounting Jobs in Atlanta

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