“Leaving Las Vegas” and happy to go!
Ric Polansky ©
It was the opening line of rock star and balladeer Sheryl Crow’s most popular songs: “leaving Las Vegas”. A bereaved mourn acclaiming she’d been done wrong in LV. In truth, it was the name sake of another songster, Virginia Hill that built the town. Never heard of the famed song writer Virginia Hill? I assure you, you know the words to her most famous song; everyone that speaks or sings the English language knows her songs.
Who then was the Virginia Hill that built Las Vegas? She was none other than the love of Benjamin Siegel, murderer, conman extraordinaire and brilliant visionary for the New York Mafia who convinced them to move to Nevada and do legally what they could not do in the rest of the United States. Siegel and Hill erected the world’s most glittering joint ever built in the desert of America, miles and miles from anywhere else. They turned sand into crystal and then diamonds. Siegel called the first casino “Flamingo” after his beloved Virginia’s nickname. Hollywood made a sensational movie about it too simply called “Bugsy” the nickname of Siegel, founder of Murder Inc. and other corporations that have given Italian Americans a bad name.
Las Vegas, Nevada, truly is the First Wonder of the synthetic world: fantasy awash in a glitzy atmosphere entwined with money which buys you anything you want; any time of the day. The city never sleeps. The locals that live there have guarded it’s mystical longevity by the familiar understanding recognized world wide: “what goes on in Las Vegas ….. stays in Las Vegas”!
You can see your favorite stars perform, lose your money at gambling, see shows that have become legendary, flirt with the scantily clad girls, drink yourself into oblivion, get married and divorced all in one day. There is no other place like it and the Arabs in Dubai are most certainly trying to copy the blueprint of LV’s success.
But business isn’t all that good in Tinsel town. Neon offers throughout the countryside, internet and papers plead to travelers to come and enjoy Vegas’ famed hospitality: stay for 75% off the normal price. I too had been told that food and drink were inexpensive as they were almost given out for free as gambling paid all the overheads. So, we went.
After all it was just 145 miles down a well paved road through a very steep canyon and across a flat nothing before you finally caught the glimpse of the dark smog shrouded town whose pollution laden clouds hover above LV to probably ward off angels ever appearing.
The town sprawls for miles and is as big as London with all its different suburbs. Construction is everywhere, much of it stopped while other jobs continue day and night. The only true sanity (Vegas style) is along the renowned strip where you can attempt to view skyscrapers higher than the polluted fog …. ending presumably in heaven.
You can stay in a pyramid (Luxor) for just 65$ a night or a castle for fifty dollars. And when you get tired of reviewing all the wonders of your surroundings you can gawk at the passersby whose dress is even worse than your most vane attempt at dressing like a hobo. The streets are packed and bargains abound: Rolex watches for 56,000$ or a perfect fake for 56$. Renta-cars are Ferrari’s, Porches’ or Lamborghini’s if you can’t afford a limo to run you about.
My preconceived thoughts envisioned fat older mid-western women with hair dyed brilliant blue and farmers cashing in their pension checks for a spin at the roulette wheel, but by far the largest grouping was youthful Mexican’s most not twenty-one yet and reputedly bankrupting the economy with all their false credit cards. Five totally new and unique.
Cirque Soleil shows exist at any one time or visit an entire city built in and around tents: aptly called Circus Circus. I failed to spot any architectural difference between the real square of San Marco in Venice and the one built on the strip in Vegas.
One could/should write on endlessly about the glamour and glitter but in the end … a weekend is totally enough.
It’s costly, 22$ for the typical American breakfast of eggs, hashbrowns, juice, cereal, flapjacks, toast and coffee. The same stodge one gets at any roadside diner for 5.50$.
I chatted with David Copperfield as he was bouncing about the entrance to his show and no one recognized him. I asked him to make my brother disappear and he agreed! We also did LOVE by the Beetles and Cirque de Soleil at 196$ per grinning face.
The glamorous hookers all have their knickers in a twist because youthful valley girls are arriving in droves for weekend romps and back-seat love twists that undercut the pro’s by half. Two hundred and fifty “kisses” for the silicone queens who have been at it so long their faces are now masks and their eyes see nothing.
Las Vegas opened on Christmas day 1946 and was a washout. Constant rain and teething problems wrecked it. The mob was furious. Furthermore, apparent scrutiny of the accounts showed over expenses. Yet, ironically Bugsy’s beloved had $2 Million in a secret Swiss bank account that was easily infiltrated by the Mafia. Benjamin Siegel was invited to the city of Angeles for a meeting and sent yonder. Breaking all mob rules of assassination he was shot repeatedly in the face so that his pretty boy looks and suave demeanor couldn’t confuse the angels. Las Vegas’s Virginia Hill got the message and returned all the money. Las Vegas thrived.
As for the unknown artist that wrote the most popular song ever? She was the English Virginia Hill. “Happy Birthday” has become a classic to the times… just like her namesake bequeathed a timeless place of entertainment and notoriety to the state of Nevada.