A few quick stories from another weekend in Las Vegas…
My friend Nolan Dalla invited me to join him and several of his friends to watch the NFL conference championship games at the Fan Cave inside the sports book at The Linq casino. Fan Caves are special sections, each with seating for a dozen people on long couches and comfy chairs, with a 96” screen and two smaller ones above. It’s like sitting around in the basement of a friend’s house, except that waitresses come by to take your orders for overpriced food and beverages.
Unfortunately, the food is terrible and menu so limited — almost entirely deep-fried or otherwise dripping in fat — that a few of us went out and snuck in some grub from other venues. My other complaint was that after 7 hours (and two great football games), my throat was raw from having to inhale second-hand smoke and talk loud enough to be heard over the blaring sound system. I enjoyed the games and the group I was with, but I doubt I’ll go back.
Having walked the length of The Strip many times, I thought I knew all the outlets that lined it, but I didn’t know there is an entire promenade of retailers and restaurants next to the Linq, between its zipline and ferris wheel. Everything from $5 hot dogs to a concert venue to a cupcake store to an upscale sock retailer (yes, you read that right). There are more and more of these non-gambling options in Vegas as the casinos try to cater to the tourists who never go inside and place a bet but are willing to spend their vacation dollars on experiences and food.
Thanks to deeply discounted prices, I stayed at Planet Hollywood for the first time, my 21st different hotel in 30 years of visiting Vegas. I was pleasantly surprised at the quality of the room, but no matter how many times I got off the elevator and walked through the casino, I could not get my bearings and remember where the exit doors to The Strip were. I’m sure that’s by design — if you can’t get out, maybe you’ll lose some more money at the tables — but it’s kinda annoying to have to ask an employee to point out the correct way every time.
I only had a couple of meals at PH — one breakfast at Cafe Hollywood and one dinner at Yolo’s, which is in the running for worst Mexican restaurant I’ve ever eaten in, from the blandest rice in the world to a serving of cold refried beans to a burrito I regretted ordering from the first bite. I also have a bias against all Mexican restaurants that don’t give you tortilla chips and salsa as soon as you sit down and, even worse, charge you for them ($4 at Yolo’s).
There is now an overabundance of faux showgirls on The Strip sidewalks. They’ve always worked in teams of two (probably for safety reasons), a couple of whom I usually encounter somewhere in the course of my weekend visits. This time, I spotted six distinct pairs of women in big feathery headresses and skimpy attire trying to get tourists to take photos with them and then hand over some cash for the privilege.
None of these women are actual performers from shows inside the casinos (I don’t even think there still are showgirls on stage anywhere in Vegas, as those kind of revues are a thing of the past). Rather, they’re from the same inventory of desperation that brings you a guy in an Elmo costume, another in a Spiderman costume, another in an Elvis outfit, and the woman who thinks she’s dressed up as Marilyn Monroe but looks nothing like her. Meanwhile, there is now also a team of two shirtless guys in cowboy hats and camouflage pants in front of PH, who draw more attention than all the faux showgirls combined.
Walking through the Bellagio late Sunday night, I passed a group of young women who had obviously been partying pretty hard, including one who was standing there with her dress pulled up to her navel while not wearing panties — or anything else below the waist. I did a big double take to make sure my eyes weren’t deceiving me, but no, she was truly butt-naked. Oddly, none of her friends were doing anything about it because they were all too busy looking at their phones — probably posting a picture of their pantsless friend on Instagram, who undoubtedly woke up Monday morning hung over and embarrassed to discover that what happened in Vegas did not stay in Vegas.