The twilight and bright colors of the Las Vegas Strip are installed as the fountains of the Bellagio rise again.
Like Danny Ocean's gang in “Ocean's Eleven”, an expectant crowd is dazzled by the graceful movements of the water.
The soundtrack, “Time to say Goodbye” (“With te depart”) by Andréa Bocelli and Sara Brightman, gives the show an extra touch of solemnity and dramatizes a moment of refinement and splendor that, despite being repeated until exhaustion, is always attended.
The lighting and flashes, fired over and over again, generate an interactive flash that surrounds the hotel and, for a few minutes, relegates the rest of the city to the background.
Once the show is over, the audience slowly breaks down and returns to the unpredictable reality of Vegas.
On the opposite side of the avenue, an army of Mexicans arranged along the sidewalk defies the surrounding glamor with tattered clothes and looks of unresolved misery: “… girls, girls, girls…” they suggest to passersby as they hand out small flyers of naked dream women, which the promotion offers starting at 50 dollars.
Os flyers rejects pile up on the floor. They form a carpet of lust that the locals are used to treading on. It's not a reason for big scandals, after all "What Happens in Vegas, Stays in Vegas".
Ben “Bugsy” Siegel's Dream That Borns the Surreal City of Sin
Las Vegas's libertine fame dates back to its foundation in 1905, when the concentration of adult entertainment venues earned it the title of sin city and attracted people from all corners of the country and abroad.
The money, so often dirty but easy, the spirit of adventure that was inherent to it made this oasis lost in the arid vastness of the Mojave Desert – what the first Spanish explorers called Vegas (meadows) – the largest North American city founded in the century XX.
Today, despite being only 28th in terms of population (about 560.000 inhabitants), Las Vegas continues to occupy a place apart in the imagination of the Yankee nation and the world.
It all started with one of the wild dreams of Ben “Bugsy” Siegel who risked his reputation and big money there by opening a gorgeous tropically inspired casino he called Flamingo. It went through a development phase around the Fremont Street, today a mini-sample of what the Strip has become.
Shortly thereafter, Las Vegas was introduced to a modernity heralded by the passage of the railroad linking Los Angeles to Salt Lake City.
It developed wildly thanks to federally supported construction projects and the legalization of gambling that allowed the state of Nevada and Las Vegas to cross the Great Depression smoothly, home to an Air Force base and one of the major highways originating from the region. Southern California.
With the onset of the Cold War, Nevada also received one of the most active nuclear test sites in the United States. At one point, explosions shattered the windows of Downtown casinos every month. The animation quickly was incorporated into the spirit “the show must go on".
Several official Miss Mushroom Clouds promoted the atomic facets of the state in radioactive tourist campaigns.
Every Friday, or even sooner if a holiday grants it, the long access roads to the game's capital fill with cars rushed by anxious drivers. There are many millions of gambling addicts in the United States.
Play for the Game, Fortune, Ruin, and the Lights of Fame
As soon as lives allow, a considerable part of it pours into your favorite roulettes, slot machines and card tables. There, possessed by greed, imprisoned in the cavernous and smoky rooms of the casinos, they lose track of time and reason.
From the most insignificant to the sumptuous – like the Wynn, the Bellagio, the Caesar Palace and the MGM – casinos decorate their walls with images suggestive of the winners. The newspapers advertise them, with pomp, day after day.
The bankrupts, these, only appear on the debtor lists of banks and credit companies, wanted by the police and, in extreme cases of despair, morgues.
There are still those who play “dollar for dollar” to fill an existential void. And those who can lose for pure fun because they are so rich that they are almost immune to damage.
Hollywood, Beverly Hills and Mulholand Drive lurk right next door behind the coastal slopes of neighboring California. The private jet trip from LAX is so short it's not enough to sip a bottle of champagne.
The stars enjoy proximity. Disembark to occupy reserved places ad eternum in the casinos' UltraLounges VIP.
Some of these stars – actors/comedians/singers – extend their orbit of fame to the city. As soon as they step onto the most prestigious stages of Vegas or film there, they become part of it.
That's what happened with Elvis, Frank Sinatra, Cher, Bette Middler, Celine Dion, Seinfeld or the Briton Elton John, all of them protagonists of competing shows that are always sold out.
Even the famous Canadian neighbor Cirque du Soleil, both family and alternative beginnings, moved worlds and funds to respond to the recruitment of various corporations present in Vegas.
His local productions – Mystere, O, Zumanity, Ka, The Beatles-Love, Believe and Viva Elvis – are shown in six of the most important hotels in the city. They became, in a way, corporate themselves.
Las Vegas: A Crazy Recreation of World Famous Places
To make up for the lack of international references from Nevada, Las Vegas and, above all, the Strip, they were generated based on cloning and internal and external cultural franchises.
The Strip name itself was borrowed from the Los Angeles Sunset Strip. Over time, it replaced the original Arrowhead Highway.
Rather than annoying, these architectural and conceptual plagiarisms aroused enormous interest in an audience in which the little traveled Americans predominated.
They continued to be produced, always depending on the entertainment and billing capacity of this american playground.
The Strip is currently 6.1 km long, mostly filled with buildings and dramatic visual complexes such as Mandalay Bay, which marks its north end, and the futuristic Stratosphere that borders the south.
Between them, several of the largest casinos and resorts on the planet and 19 of the 25 largest hotels in the world, by number of rooms, stand out.
In the best years, almost 40 million people pass through the city.
The Shine of Sin City, Especially the Long and Luminous Strip
To impress them, the lighting of buildings and streets in general is so powerful that, seen from space, the Las Vegas metropolitan area turns out to be the brightest on Earth.
The Strip is also home to the two largest gaming companies in the world at the time of this writing: Harrah's Entertainment and MGM Mirage.
As a tribute to the brand's image, the latter has the luxury of showing lions, white tigers and other felines to the public in its megalomaniac installations.
We are almost 14.000 kilometers from France. Even more from Italy and Egypt. Even so, in Las Vegas, there is a reconstruction of Paris that includes the indispensable Arc de Triomphe, Champs Elysees and the Eiffel Tower.
A pyramid of Luxor protected by a sphinx stands out from the Strip.
And the mini-Venice of the Venetian in which subtly motor-powered gondolas circulate, to compensate, driven by formally dressed gondoliers, some opera singers.
As we cross the avenue, the fantasy continues, this time among Treasure Island's pirates and corsairs. It extends through the Greco-Roman imagery of the imperial Caesar.
Whatever the space, the installations are refined and welcoming, cooled or heated by powerful air conditioning systems that protect visitors from the sweltering summer temperatures, when maximum temperatures easily reach forty degrees.
And the icy ones of winter, which brush against the zeros.
To everyone's amazement, in recent years, unbridled competition and the declining state of the economy of the USA (which at the time of creation of this text) melted the purchasing power of North Americans) generated hotel rates and prices, in a generic way, very accessible.
Mainly from Sunday to Thursday, real institutions like the Bellagio and the Stratosphere offer divine rooms and meals at values that are hard to believe. It is the Japanese, always wealthy, and the Europeans who benefit most and are surprised.
Elvis Presley, Celine Dion, Elton John, Seinfeld and All Others
Strip tours are no exception to the sphere of the cheap show. They serve as a room for countless imitators, promoters and artists who are often self-employed.
Elvis Presley is alive in Las Vegas. In addition to being present in certain downtown chapels, appears multiplied along the Strip.
It is rare for visitors to leave the city without a photo of themselves hugging a King in formal dress.
Look-alikes almost never charge like that on heads but are quick to suggest: “The would be just fine contribution … one of ten or even … twenty if you don't mind …"
For much higher fees, from 1969 to 1976, Elvis Presley performed in Las Vegas at an average of two concerts per day (one in the afternoon and one at midnight).
Depending on your mood, certain shows were shorter or longer, more or less lively and contagious. Among so many performances, there were, of course, some of his unforgettable moments.
Vegas was eternally grateful to him.
Two decades earlier, during the construction fever started by the Flamingo, there were other entertainers, only slightly less famous.
As mob-backed magnates raised the city's splendor to the level of the top floors of their hotel-casinos, new groups of topless dancers arrived, from France, included.
In order to give credibility to the too bare stages, famous names from the showbiz North American. Frank Sinatra, Liberace and Sammy Davis Jr were among the pioneers.
These days, the shows have diversified. Some boil down to successful Stand Up Comedy experiences, transposed from other parts of the country, such as the exotic Carrot Top, Terry Fator, David Spade or the occasional Seinfeld.
Others turn out to be multi-disciplinary and technological mega-productions. And if Cirque du Soleil was monopolizing this type of shows, the recent opening of the elegant hotel-casino Wynn, implied the entry into the scene of a worthy competitor, Le Revê.
The access to the room itself, through the Wynn's reddish, velvety and shiny corridors and atriums, reveals something special. Inside, the only aqua theater from Las Vegas.
Once the action begins, dive, swim, dance, jump and represent a cast of 85 agile artists capable of combining strength, sensuality and drama in an amphibian and aerial fantasy world that delights the most skeptical of viewers.
Back in real Las Vegas, it's not all that elegant. Outside the Wynn, a red traffic light stops a small group of pedestrians and a lorry adapted to act as outdoor mobile.
The screen displays an alluring advertisement.
An irresistible blonde appears lying on a sofa, her head reclined and her eyes closed in a posture of pure provocation and voluptuousness.
The text, in gold, refers to the supposedly sophisticated origin of such preciousness. And it's straightforward: ”treasures. Gentlemen's Club & Steakhouse".
We are in Las Vegas. In Sin City, everything is forgiven.