Once Upon a Time in Las Vegas

Photo by Magic Madzik

I first went to Las Vegas in 1978.  My brother was in L.A. on business, and I was on a trip to Phoenix, so Sin City seemed like a great place to meet.   Although the days of Frank Sinatra and the Rat Pack were long gone, Ocean’s Eleven memorialized them for me, and  the sounds of Louis Prima and Keely Smith rang in my head.

We stayed at the Holiday Casino on the Strip, which became Harrah’s Las Vegas.  I don’t remember anything distinctive about it, but we partook in its cheap buffet and played a hand or two of blackjack at its tables.  I was much more taken with The Aladdin down the street.  Someone had let Jeannie out of her bottle, and all the dealers looked like Barbara Eden.

Elvis Presley married Priscilla Beaulieu in a private 8-minute ceremony at The Aladdin in 1967.  Decades later the hotel’s wedding chapel commemorated the nuptials with a “Love Me Tender” special.  For $999 an Elvis impersonator walked the bride down the aisle and sang two songs.  Now the casino is the Planet Hollywood Resort.  I’m not sure Elvis is given his due anywhere on the premises, although one of his jumpsuits in enshrined under glass at the Hard Rock Hotel.  If you come across an Elvis-themed slot machine, bet a quarter as tribute to the King.

A smiling, neon clown still greets guests and gamblers at Circus Circus, and its “big top” is the biggest in the world.  On my first Vegas adventure, I could have watched the juggling acrobats and flying trapeze artists overhead indefinitely.  It was a trip.

Crowds continue to enjoy the high-wire walkers and winning a teddy bear, if they’re good, at games like dime toss and milk can on the Midway.  The kids today, and there are plenty of them underfoot, certainly have fun.  The casino’s Adventuredome, an indoor theme park added in 1993, offers plenty of thrilling, chilling rides for those who like loosing their stomachs after eating hot dogs and cotton candy.  But it’s not the way I get my kicks.

No matter how much Vegas has changed, my excitement comes with a turn of the cards or a roll of the dice at quieter venues further south on the Strip.  As Dean Martin said in Ocean’s Eleven, “The odds are always with the house, with the house!”  Then as now that’s certainly something to remember before betting the house, but what’s the fun in that?


© 2011 Susan Marg – All Rights Reserved

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