Time feature sidesteps underbelly of ‘new Vegas,’ delights city boosters
In his fabulous feature on the Strip in this week’s issue of Time, writer Joel Stein complains of a stomachache from Vegas overload. There’s a lighthearted hint of Woody Allen-style hypochondria in his recurring medical updates, and by the end of the positively gushing article, you might wonder whether Stein ingested too much sugar during his recent sojourn to Las Vegas.
He is obviously sweet on Vegas, and I want to be the first to thank him for the glowing review of the Strip, the local nightclub scene and our all-pervasive skin racket.
Not because it’s been 10 years since Time proclaimed Las Vegas as the “All-American City,” and it’s taken me the whole decade to figure out what the magazine’s editors were smoking the day they dreamed up that malarkey.
Not because if he’d actually peeled back a few layers of makeup, Stein might have found a less sexy Las Vegas about which to enthuse. We go to great depths to be superficial here. We’re very upfront about sex, even if most of our “upfronts” have been surgically augmented.
Stein deserves our thanks because he didn’t lay a glove on us. If he’d actually hit us a few good shots, we would have had to endure another round of hand-wringing from the protectors of the Vegas flame, who are quick to whine about the smallest perceived sleight.
Some of the Strip’s image bodyguards are paid directly through the Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority. Others, like Mayor Oscar Goodman, take it upon themselves to get pugnacious with anyone they sense has taken a swipe at their city.
But they can’t possibly have anything negative to say about the Time tribute with its sexy cover and sidebar stories on the poker craze and Vegas guy casino expansion in Macau. It’s the sort of advertisement package that’s impossible to buy.
Goodman was nothing short of giddy.
“As far as I’m concerned, this is the greatest article in the history of the world about Las Vegas,” he said, adding that his breakfast with the magazine’s editor didn’t hurt his sales job. “It gives us a multijillion-dollars worth of publicity about how exciting it is to be here.
“If somebody doesn’t like Las Vegas, they’re not going to read it. It is a plus-plus, great-great article.
And in addition, I’m being asked by every major network to comment on it, and that will bring more publicity to Las Vegas.”
Stein managed to sidestep the dicey and embarrassing issue of political corruption and prostitution tied to the local topless trade by not focusing on the scandal-riddled Galardi and Rizzolo operations and instead strolling through Sapphire and the Spearmint Rhino.
It was an inspired move on his part. Had he looked, it might have been ugly. And we hate ugly.
Whew, that was close. For a moment, I thought the “new Vegas” was going to be outed as a bastion of chauvinism, a 24-hour hookup hot spot and unofficial whorehouse where by long-standing tradition it’s acceptable and even encouraged to exploit women.
But that angle would have been so, so, negative.
And focusing on the issue of workers rights on a Strip about to be owned by two companies would have been negative, too. The worries of the working class are such a downer.
So is conspicuous water use on the Strip, the ongoing battle of egos, and the creepy presence of international mob figures at some of those nightclubs.
But never mind all that.
Did I mention he talked to a dancing girl?
He talked to a dancing girl!
And she talked back!
He even touched her booby, for research purposes only.
For all that he didn’t do, we should put him on our Chamber of Commerce sweatshirts and thank him.
Joel Stein understands us. He’s not like those negative reporters from The New York Times. He understands that Sin City is sexy again, that “What happens in Vegas, stays in Vegas” is a hoot and a wink.
He understands that around here there is no morality.
There is only marketing.
Somewhere on the Boulevard, a casino executive is ordering a lackey to send Mr. Stein a dozen cases of Alka-Seltzer for his tummy with an invitation to return to fabulous Las Vegas real soon.
John L. Smith’s column appears Fridays in the Nevada Appeal. E-mail him at Smith@reviewjournal.com or call (702) 383-0295.