Tuesday, July 5, 2011


This time I’m prepared for Vegas. A few days at Stateline is a good warm-up for the casinos, and I’ve driven in enough cities not to be overwhelmed by the manic traffic and nonsensical intersections. But I’m not prepared for the hotel.
As usual I pull up to register and am directed to a couple of 15 minute parking spots. Fine, except it takes 5 minutes to reach the reception desk and 5 minutes to queue. I’ve booked a pyramid room so I jump in the inclinator and head all the way up to the 19th floor to drop my bags off, wondering if I’ll make it back in time, then I’m stumped. My room number isn’t on the signs.
“What the deuce?”
The bloomin’ woman has put me in a tower room and not told me! Now I’m not too annoyed , because the tower rooms are more pricey, but it’s a long trek out there. Then it’s another long trek back to rescue the car, park, and then another long trek back to the room. …and it’s still 100 degrees outside! At least the room’s nice and I’m getting some exercise after the long drive!
I spend the evening exploring the Luxor and cross the connecting mall to the Mandalay Bay. I stop for Shepherd’s Pie in an Oirish pub, then in the Bay I’m given a VIP card to “Mix” so I wander up to a dark counter in a hallway and ask what it gets me. The guy takes the card and says:
 “Get in the elevator and hit the button”
This is all a bit James Bond, so I brace myself for the piranhas, but get a different shock. The glass walled elevator takes me up to a bar on the 64th floor with a fantastic view right down the Strip. I stand on the balcony and talk to an English couple about what’s good in Vegas and how it has changed. There’s several fancy new casinos, but they’ve moved away from the themes of the old ones and are attempting to be less tacky. That’s not very Vegas!
I don’t fancy the Titanic exhibit (Why does that film seem to be following me? I’ve found it on TV 3 times!) so I hit the bars and clubs of the two casinos. I have a late night, but it’s not as wild as Stateline was, perhaps because it’s Wednesday.
In the morning I don’t feel like dashing to the Grand Canyon and back. But I’ve only booked one night. I quite fancy a different hotel but which one? I find a message from Ben Ackland (a previous colleague of mine) that he’s staying at The Mirage with his girlfriend Alex for a few days so I think “What the Heck, I’ll stay there”.
This gives me time to look round the South end of the strip. I visit The Excalibur, The Tropicana and the Hooters casino where I stop for lunch. Then back through the MGM grand, across to NY NY and back around. It’s odd how the casinos are so different yet so similar.
Then I realise the downside of Hotel swapping in Vegas. While Ben and Alex are sunning themselves by the pool I’m carting my stuff around in 100 degree heat! At least this time I know to park the car first, then map out my route without heavy bags or a time limit!
The Mirage is really nice. The receptionist is also nice and gives me a superb room on the 17th floor with a view of the mountains, pool, and the strip! I meet Ben in the bar downstairs and it’s great to finally hang out with someone familiar. Ben and Alex are travelling around the world in 3 weeks and are on the last leg before heading back to New Zealand so they’re understandably jet lagged. But the energy of Vegas must be helping as they’re excited at the prospect of a trip to Hooters. Unfortunately I’d had lunch there so didn’t want to go back, but I’m always willing to put myself out for friends.
In Vegas Hooters seems quite tame. The Hooters girls are wearing more than most bar staff. Alex and Ben enjoy the place, and I enjoy watching Ben order enough food for the Roman Empire, then struggle to eat it.
We taxi back to Treasure Island as it’s next door to the Mirage and we want to watch the pirate ship battle. This is no longer kids’ entertainment as the pirates now battle the sultry sirens, but it’s extremely tacky, and not in the slightest bit sexy.
Ben and Alex prove quite adept at gambling on the slots, whereas I lose my 5 bucks with incredible speed and lack of fulfilment. However they soon succumb to jetlag, and I succumb to the lure of Gilley’s. A Wild West pub with a mechanical bull and an expert bull operator, who really knows how to make people look silly. The waitress outfits can only be described as “Chaps with Baps”, there are drunk girls happy to be thrown around and jiggled on the bull and the “Toughest Cowboy” competition is won by a guy called Woody who has a cowboy hat, boots and his own rodeo glove!
Friday I take a wander around the North end of the strip. Ceasars, the Bellagio, the Cosmopolitan, Planet Hollywood, Paris, the Imperial, Harrah’s and the Venetian. It’s 110 degrees and I’m knackered. B and A are watching the Beatles Cirque de Soleil show so I find somewhere to eat. I end up in another country bar, where there’s a live band, go-go dancers and some fun people to hang out with.
Saturday and time for another hotel swap. I’d previously booked the Hard Rock Hotel so I would be there for the Tiesto gig on Saturday night. By an amazing fluke I run into Ben on my way out of the Mirage so we have a beer before wishing each other Bon Voyage.
The HRH is a lot less tacky than most hotels in Vegas, though that’s reflected in the price. The big attraction is the stunning collection of pools, and the stunning people who hang out there. I try to forget I’m a pastey old bloke and relax by the pool. It’s a toss-up what the most important thing to have here is – sunscreen or earplugs. The sound system is phenomenal for outdoors, and I’m regretting my choice of room with a pool view as the bass pounds through the window. Still, I wasn’t planning on sleeping much!
Tiesto won’t hit the stage until midnight so I look for somewhere to go first. The HRH is a mile from the strip so no wandering out. There’s no good sports bar and grill so I eat at Mr Lucky’s cafe, then wander into a bar with live music. There’s two blokes on “duelling pianos” which actually entails two synthesisers, so one can play percussion while the other plays piano and sings requests. The guys swap over each song and it’s a great show. It almost seems a shame to leave to watch a guy play records!
The Joint nightclub is more like an arena. A big dance floor, VIP sections with seats and waitresses, and two floors of balconies. The support guy is pretty good at ramping up the excitement, then there’s only a short wait before the man himself hits the stage.
Tiesto used to be God. In the early 2000s he was the greatest DJ on the planet, and just watching the DVD of his concert in Arnhem sends shivers down my spine. Over the years he’s come to America and adopted a more commercial style. So it was never going to be the greatest night of banging tunes…
But as Tiesto takes the stage, the synthesisers rise to a deafening crescendo, matched only by the screams of the crowd. The lights flash wildly before reaching a single blinding image and then…
The bass kicks in.
It’s anarchy, it’s madness, it’s beautiful.
A few thousand people go completely mental, and in that moment it’s better than anything, ever.
It’s a great couple of hours. Tiesto slips in a few classics, and most people are happy to dance to the new stuff, but I just don’t find House as energising as Trance, and the crowd is slipping away by 4am so I call it a night.
Sunday at the HRH means only one thing: Rehab.
It sounds like a relaxing party around the pool but it ain’t. They can fit a few thousand people in the Hard Rock pools and it feels like they’re all in the main Rehab pool. There’s so many gorgeous, young, tanned, skinny girls here that most normal girls stay away. There’s lots of muscle-bound blokes here as well so it’s hard not to feel self-conscious but what the hell!
The DJ drops another deafening wall of synthesiser insanity, water’s flying everywhere, everyone’s going crazy. Then just for a moment, because it’s July 4th weekend, the DJ stops for a tribute to the troops, and plays God Bless the USA.
…and for once, I can’t argue.

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