Jim Colyer in Las Vegas 1993

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January 5th 2008
Published: January 5th 2008
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I returned to Las Vegas for 3 months, March 7 to June 8, 1993, with the intention of adding to the experience I had in 1979. I dug in at the Tropicana Club at the south end of Las Vegas Boulevard. I relied on the strip trolley for transportation. I wanted to hang out. Bill Clinton was America's new president, and we were going through a 70s revival. It was an opportune moment for escaping my parents' basement, where I had held up for more than 7 years, and a chance to fend for myself, to procure my own food and to handle my own clothes. The basics. I flew into McCarran Airport from Minnesota, my first flight in 15 years. Las Vegas was the same in many ways, and in some ways it had changed. The Ali Baba Apartments were torn down to make room for the MGM park. The Treasury was now the San Remo. The Dunes was coming down, and the old MGM Grand was now Ballys. Las Vegas, or the Meadows, is still the entertainment capital of the world. The Strip itself is a work of art . Unfortunately, the wind, heat, crowds, traffic and noise ensure that it is partially heaven, partially hell. You pump up the things you like, economize and get the best deals. I finally saw rain.

The castle Excalibur was the big attraction. It exploits medieval motifs, King Arthur and Robin Hood. I patronized restaurants in the Medieval Village on the second level. A belly dancer did her thing. The Excalibur, Luxor, Tropicana and the MGM Grand are forming a new hot corner. Circus Circus owns Excalibur and Luxor. The trend is toward family orientation.

Downtown, the Golden Goose Casino is now a topless joint but the sign is still there, an historic fixture on the Glitter Gulch landscape. The sign faces both directions. Above it, revolves the goose on its nest of golden eggs. Cowboy Vegas Vic and cowgirl Sassy Sally patrol adjacent sides of the street.

Caesar's Palace is still hard to top. The Forum Shops at Caesar's price themselves into the luxury class. The 18 foot replica of Michelangelo's David (of David and Goliath) presides over Appian Way as the Italian Renaissance imposes itself on the Roman Empire. I ventured into the pool area behind Caesar's, romantic under a moonlit sky. Next door, the Mirage shows off its erupting volcano. The casinos are awful, men at the tables, women on the machines, expressionless zombies. One must refrain from drinking and gambling if he or she is to enjoy Las Vegas. I did. The Fashion Show Mall offers the best shopping on the Strip.

It was the production shows which interested me, most specifically the leggy, statuesque dancers and showgirls. Ballys' Jubilee! was the hot ticket. It was the biggest show on the Strip and had the best showgirls. I took Jubilee's backstage tour but was disappointed to have a male dancer as a guide instead of a sexy showgirl. Still, I gained insight. One thing which impressed me was the size of the stage. From the stage, the seating area appears small. Jubilee! is a dinosaur, a glamorous throwback to musicals of yesterday. It is a composite of Vaudeville, Broadway and classic Hollywood. It boasts of its nightly sinking of the Titanic, but the thrill is seeing all those long, shapely legs assembled in one place. 100 people make up the cast. The show is so lavish, it leaves you dazed. I got revenge for the backstage tour when that same male dancer took a picture of me with one of the girls. Photo sessions are between shows. Some of the girls are 6'2" and 6'3"

I saw Folies Bergere (Ber-share) at the Tropicana. Karen and I saw this show in 1979. This time, I took the backstage tour which was led by a former showgirl of 20 years. She may have been part of the show we saw 14 years before. It was interesting to get behind the scenes, especially into the dressing rooms to see and handle the costumes. Some of them are heavy, so the girls have to be pretty sturdy. I lingered briefly to talk to the showgirl. I asked if there were a pension plan for those who stayed 20 years. She said no, but they were nice and had given her a job. Folies Bergere was the oldest show in Vegas, going back to 1959.

Bare Essence at the Sands was unencumbered by European tradition and lived up to its billing as a "sexy, sizzling revue."

The Stardust had Enter the Night. It was emblematic of the darkness which pervaded my trip.

Melinda, First Lady of Magic, was a native Las Vegan. Using animals, she performed feats of illusion between spicy dance numbers. Her show was at the Lady Luck, downtown. All the shows create a sense of euphoria.

For Crazy Girls, the showroom at the Riviera provided some intimacy. I suppose my feeling of being hustled in and out derived from wanting to take some of those splendid calves and thighs home with me.

I made it to Arizona Charlie's for the Naughty Ladies review. It was good, old timey fun, high button shoes. For the finale, we paraded to "When The Saints Go Marching In."

Seduction and Viva Las Vegas were afternoon shows. Seduction was in Sahara's Casbar Lounge. It was back to the Sands for Viva Las Vegas.

The Elvis impersonator at Vegas World put on a complimentary show. He called himself E.P. King. I looked down on the city from the top of the building.

Beatle tribute bands were at the Rio and the Four Queens. A promo ticket gave me access to Imperial Palace's antique cars.

I was scared of Death Valley in 1979. This time, I took the Silver Star Line tour. I rode shotgun in the van as we made stops at Dante's View and the Devil's Golf Course. The "golf course" is a dried lake where salt is from 3 to 5 feet deep. I tasted it. Death Valley sits on the Nevada-California line but is mostly in California.

Borax mined from Death Valley is a mineral used in soap. The 105 elements of chemistry make up the 3000 minerals of geology. Minerals form 3 kinds of rocks: igneous, metamorphic and sedimentary.

Fossils are found in sedimentary rocks, laid down by water.

I took a taxi ride on the Colorado River in Laughlin, 90 miles southeast of Vegas.

Returning to Louisville in order to rendezvous with Michael, I came east on I-40, old Route 66: Kingman, Flagstaff, Albuquerque, Amarillo, Oklahoma City, Little Rock, Memphis and Nashville.

The strip is a short-lived thing, like the Mall in D.C. Next time I see it, I will show it to Michael as part of a western trip.
Contact: jim@jimcolyer.com


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