Vegas – Bright Lights, Big Elvis

For many of us, if over a certain age, Las Vegas conjures up images of The Rat Pack tuxedoed up at The Sands, others immediately see Elvis straining the seams of a rhinestone studded jumpsuit. Personally, we can’t help but love them both. However Las Vegas today bears little resemblance to either of those eras. Other than a few impersonators there is not much left that The King or The Chairman of the Board would recognize.  Is it better? We’re here to find out.

Since our first foray into Sin City, back in the late… CONTINUE READING >>

For
many of us, if over a certain age, Las Vegas conjures up images
of The Rat Pack tuxedoed up at The Sands, others immediately
see Elvis straining the seams of a rhinestone studded jumpsuit.
Personally, we can’t help but love them both. However Las
Vegas today bears little resemblance to either of those eras.
Other than a few impersonators there is not much left that
The King or The Chairman of the Board
would recognize. Is it better? We’re here to find out.

Since
our first foray into Sin City, back in the late seventies,
most all of the famous names of The Strip have been demolished. The Sands, The
Desert Inn, The Dunes, The Stardust and The Silver Slipper have
all given way to way-high-rises and parking lots. The Landmark was

demolished in a blaze of glory and all the drama was captured in
the movie “Mars Attacks” — now there’s something for
posterity!

The
new Strip goes for flashy/classy over the old splashy/trashy,
but like most everything here, it is all an illusion. Gone
are the innumerable flashing neon signs, replaced instead
by false skylines and Eiffel Towers. No more $2.99 buffets and cheap
rooms to lure in the gamblers, now it’s

fine dining and five star
hotels.

Not
quite sure what to make of all the changes, we decided embrace
the new Vegas with gusto. Why not go out for a fine french
dinner our first night out? After all, Paris is right down
the street.

Mon Ami Gabi offers al fresco dining under The Eiffel Tower
and right across Las Vegas Boulevard from the famous fountains
at The Bellagio. Gallic cuisine
and top-notch people watching…dinner and a show.

Mon
Ami Gabi prides itself on its wines and with a fanciful twist
the by-the-glass selections are served from a rolling cart
that circulates the restaurant. The food was French, Vegas
French. Pâté, escargots, beef Bourguignon, crêpes
and quiche share the menu with an All-American cheeseburger.
Even offering a choice of brie, blue or gruyere on the burger
didn’t help to convince us we were on the left bank of the
Seine, still, the food
was très bon and the service fantastique.

Veronica’s
soup du jour, chestnut bisque, was deemed fabulous, the bread
was surprisingly authentic and David’s pork tenderloin in port-wine

cherry sauce with pommes puree certainly met or exceeded our expectations.

One
of the evening’s highlights was a discovery made in the bathrooms.
Piped in over speakers were the most useful French lessons
we’ve ever come across.

Won’t it be helpful to know how to parlez-vous:

“Is that an eclair in your pocket or are you just happy
to see me?”

“Oooh La La, Are those real?”

“Can I buy you a drink or should I just give you the
money?”

or the pee-in-our-pants funny:

“If you were a McDonald’s hamburger you’d be McSexy with Cheese.”

These lessons prove indubitably that everything sounds better in
French. Next time we really are on the Champs-Élysées,
we’re bringing some of these gems out. Sure hope we can remember
them all.

After
dinner we went for a real show… wait, The Strip IS the real
show, what with any number of feeble Elvis wannabes sharing
the road with an array of freaks, drunks, fish-out-of-water
tourists and a never-ending supply of lowlifes snapping hooker’s
calling cards (complete
with full-color naked photos of the entrepreneurs) at the unsuspecting
fanny-packers who pass by. Enough of the

street theater — Penn
& Teller were at The Rio so we made the short trip over from
central Europe to South America. Only in Vegas, baby!

Amusing AND
amazing properly describes these guys. It’s not the typical Vegas
show. Very little glitz, no T & A, but a whole lot of laughs
and some very interesting insights into how many magic tricks
are accomplished. Plus a dash of Libertarian politics tossed in
for good measure ( a metal credit-card-sized “Bill of Rights”
to trigger metal detectors at airport security was available for
purchase after the show). Even when Penn explains a trick (Teller
can’t, he never speaks) it’s still astonishing to watch them pull
it off. The boys have style.

The next morning…
(Yes, we said morning. The age of staying up all night at the
craps tables and counting the olives in the bottom of dirty martini
glasses is sadly behind us.) …we checked out the monorail that
runs behind the hotels along The Strip. Très modern, almost
like Disneyland. Seriously, it’s quite convenient and saves wear
and tear on the old dogs, since the new casinos are HUGE and spaced
pretty far apart.

Getting
off from time to time to stroll through several of the swanky
spots, we noticed another change. Back in the day, the only
way to get to
from Point A to Point B in Vegas was through a casino. The powers-that-be
fiqured your money would leap out of your pockets and

land in a
machine or on a table. Not anymore. These days we were instead forced
to walk through never ending mazes of cleverly disguised stores
filled with every sort of over-priced product known to man.

Under
fake indoor skies that maintain a permanent dusk, we strolled
the streets of Venice, ancient Rome, Rio, Paris and New York…
anywhere BUT Las Vegas.

To some degree, we found it working on us. Not the marketing
of costly crap but the disconnect from reality. We really
HAD forgotten the outside world and embraced the fantasy.

That
happens here. Once the brain accepts things like Marilyn Monroe
and Alice Cooper dealing blackjack as reasonable, anything
seems normal. Constant noise, flashing lights, free drinks,
never ending sunsets, no clocks, dead celebrities everywhere,
continuous sex on display… it’s all part of the plan. Surreal
replacing real — until money becomes nothing but a colorful cache
of chips — who really

cares if those get taken away by the nice
dealer?

We needed
a big dose of realism and nothing says real in Vegas like Elvis.
We needed a good Elvis, the best Elvis, the biggest Elvis… that
could only be Pete “Big Elvis” Vallee at Bill’s Gamblin’
Hall & Saloon. Four hundred pounds of Elvis, three shows a
day… now THAT’S real. The scuttlebutt around Bill’s was that
Pete used to be an even bigger Elvis, twice as big they say. Girth
aside, the boy could whomp down a pretty mean My Way.

Properly
Hound-Dogged-up and with our feet back on the ground, we were
ready for an immersion into the old school Las Vegas. The
one that harkens back to the days when Bugsy Siegel and his
merry mob of mobsters still ran the joints. Back to the time
and place that earned this place the name Sin City. It was
time for a trip downtown to Fremont Street.

The old Vegas is alive and well down here, neon rules the
night. The classic cowboy “Vegas Vic” lives on among
the bright lights of The Fitz, The Fremont, The Four Queens
and The Golden Nugget. The Neon Museum Las Vegas restored
many of the classic bygone signs from The Strip and showcases them
in an outdoor ”gallery” along Fremont Street. Many others
are stored for posterity in The Neon “Boneyard.” No trip
to Glitter Gulch is complete

without an evening under these lights.

Revisiting
our own good old days, we allowed The Fitz to buy us drinks
while we studied the intricacies of Switch, a two handed version
of blackjack that we’d never seen before.

We didn’t quite greet the sunrise like the old days but it’s
a good thing The Deuce
double-decker shuttle buses run all night.

As for those
colorful little

chips — by the time we turned them all back into
legal tender, we found that we had almost as much as we started
with. Not bad, but we weren’t out of the woods just yet.

The airport
is also a casino.

Ah, Lost Wages,
Nevada.

David & Veronica,
GypsyNester.com


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2 thoughts on “Vegas – Bright Lights, Big Elvis”

  1. >were you guys just here and didn't call!!! We haven't been to the strip yet. Have found places near home like P.T's, Village Pub, Wildfire and an array of wondeful little places with gambeling and cheap food that is great. Music that no one has heard of with no cover and cheap drinks. It really is here, just have to look a little.

  2. >Did we just miss each other by days in Vegas? I was there just a week ago, and like yourselves, it was my first time there since the late '70s. I am LMAO–you described it perfectly, especially the French lessons in the Paris toilettes! And with the preponderance of Italian-themed hotels, I forgot I wasn't back in Italia for the moment.

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