Once upon a sad time in Las Vegas

The whole city is heaving, like a tired beast. Las Vegas is already hot.

Its 115-degree temperature promised long sultry weekend. Bikini-clad ladies were oiled and gleaming in various stages of undress, tormenting men about in swimming pools.

Cosmopolitan gamblers cruising the casinos, seniors in babyhood, short shorts waddles beside Armani cotton shirts casually unbuttoned to limits — a display of clothes that distinguished the well-heeled, just like the contrast worn by women of leisure and the glitzy glamorous matrons, dripping with pearls, with their diamonds of such size and brilliance one could be forgiven for  thinking it was not real. But they were.

Cultural audity, nouveau rich, poor tailoring and wrong forks are unknown – melting in flamboyance, extravaganza and vigor, with irreverence condoned.

Every show was vibrantly decadent, inflaming tourists beyond art, dance and spectacle.

Costumes alone in colossal productions cost more than what is indecent. Everything about the city is admittedly preposterous: the heat, the smell and the hustle give you a heady feeling of being on stage or in the middle of a prison riot.

The dancers, singers, casino people and general show business are creations of fantasy — it is perhaps the most fun, albeit sinful place on Earth, since God torched Sodom and Gomorrah.

In skyliners, a mélange of the Statue of Liberty, a giant lion sprawled like an aging nymphomaniac, a pyramid and a sphinx.

They are all there, in fiery weather — with dreams glittering of New York, the grandeur of Rome and the exotic mystics of ancient Egypt.

While other cities build hotels near major attractions, in Las Vegas, the hotels are the major attractions.

A very sad part of Vegas during the 50’s was the presumed racism of the city’s clientele, which required intense segregation. Black stars couldn’t associate with their White counterparts.

Sammy Davis Jr. might have been  big at the Sands, but he was not allowed to take a room nor eat a meal, nor even have a drink after the show.

Headliners performing at the Strip who were Black (like Lena Horne, Nat King Cole, Harry Belafonte and Louis Armstrong) headed back across the West side at the end of the night.

Yet, even there, no hotel existed to accommodate them.

Esther Williams had to be away from her small children, who were taken cared of by an African-American nanny.

In the heat of summer, these artists returned to rooms in some forsaken homes.

While they headlined shows, they were not welcomed as patrons in any of the Strip’s hotels.

At the end of a night’s performance, these artists were forced to board a bus and leave the hotels before dinner, to take their meals and rest on the West side.

It was only in March of 1960 that city hotel owners agreed to break the color barricade and open the doors to all casinos to men and women of color, thus putting an end to the soul-wounding and machinations of global entertainment dominion.

But Vegas, being Vegas, with its saints and blast conductor, will continue to shine on bad or good taste, depending on which track you’re in — whether in the bleak of winds or in the full bore swelter of July summer, where you can fry an egg on the pavement.

By the way, a wedding here is like a wedding anywhere else.

It brims with comedy and sentimentality. It is open to humor and is a huge magnet for mishaps — quietly subsidized by the mother of the bride (MOTB).

The most popular thing to do here is to get married. Why? Grab a stranger, head down to the Clark County Marriage License Bureau (which is open Monday to Sunday 8am to midnight — 24 hours even on legal holidays).

Get your license,  find the chapel, close your eyes and tie the knot. Just like that!

No blood tests, no waiting period. There are no questions asked, none answered. There  are  no raised eyebrows, wrong ancestries, improper wardrobe or deficient accent.

I sales talked my fourth daughter, whom I’ve been trying to marry of.

She gave me a lookthat almost made ginger bread out of Hansel and Gretel. Then she screeched: No DICE, Mother!

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