Las Vegas... The City That Never Sleeps
Some call it 'Sin City'. The PR people call it 'the entertainment capital of the world'. The first description is due to its tolerance for all kinds of adult entertainment, the second because it's probably true. There may well be more fun activities going on in Las Vegas than in any other city on the planet.
However, I went to Las Vegas last week neither to sin nor to be entertained. (It was for a church conference, Your Honour. And my wife came along.)
Still, as a lover of the performing arts, I couldn't help but take note of the performances in the small area of Las Vegas in which I circulated for two days and three nights - and the nights are important, for that's when the city comes alive.
The performances were many and varied, but before getting to them, I must comment on the other big reason - maybe the chief one - that people flock to Las Vegas: to gamble. The aptly named one-armed bandits are everywhere.
You first encounter them at the airport, and as one hotel worker told me, "They're in every hotel, bar and corner store, and they operate 24/7."
The slot machines and gambling tables certainly were in all of the five hotels we visited on Las Vegas Boulevard, the hotel strip, and dozens of people were playing on each occasion. It really was the saddest thing I'd ever seen: so many gambling addicts - young, middle-aged and old - literally throwing away their money. (I mentally classified as addicts the players, and they were in the vast majority, who didn't seem to be having fun.)
Around the hotels were all sorts of street performers. They included Elvis Presley impersonators in all shapes and sizes. Only one of about six that I saw actually had 'The King's' shape or size, but all wore his distinctive hairstyle and his high collar and flared pants.
Further down the street from our hotel, there was, at night, a male or female levitator, who appeared to be floating, motionless, in the air beside an iron pole. I could see no connection between the floater and the pole, but I suspect there was, and I thought it significant that the levitation was never undertaken in daylight.
Also coming out in the nights and congregating at the foot of a bridge, which pedestrians used to cross the busy street, was a group of street preachers. Their message contained the fiercest fire, the hottest brimstone. Accept Jesus Christ, they shouted into a mic, or you'll go straight to Hell. Though pedestrians stopped and watched or listened to the other street performers, I saw no one listening to the angry preachers; and I saw no passer-by give them money.
Las Vegas is an extremely rich city, but we did occasionally see beggars. One, ensconced on a mat between the preachers and the levitator, had a cardboard sign around his neck asking for help.
Outside Planet Hollywood, the hotel where the church conference was held, I'd occasionally see bikini-clad beauties. They did nothing except stand and wave at passers-by, and my understanding was that they made money when a tourist posed for a photograph beside them. Amazingly, they seemed unfazed by the cold I felt, even with my windbreaker and a scarf.
Three of the hotels we visited - The Linq, Hotel Flamingo and Planet Hollywood - had slot machines and card or dice tables near their entrances, but two other hotels that we passed through - the gigantic Bellagio Hotel and Caesars Palace - were different. In their lobbies were works of art - sculptures, statues, paintings and elaborate flower arrangements, for example.
All the sights mentioned so far cost us nothing. However, we did have to spend money (US$38 at the half-price-off kiosk) to see an excellent variety show at the V Theatre in the Miracle Mile mall.
The show has four acts, with the wisecracking emcee doubling as a juggler of balls, hats and rolling pins. He was followed by two drummers from South America, who, while they drummed, gave jokes, often at each other's expense.
Next on stage were what I call 'body puppeteers', four people with puppets looking like dwarfs around their necks. Stretched out close to the floor as if they were doing push-ups, they made the puppets jump and dance around the stage. The performers were silent, but recorded music played during the act.
A team of four or five persons, led by a lovely female magician, then performed for about 20 minutes. People and objects disappeared and reappeared, sometimes in front of us or after a curtain was drawn briefly; a woman went into a box into which seven or eight swords were thrust, and a man wearing different clothes exited the box in a puff of smoke moments later. And so on.
The final act featured a duo who skated and spun and jumped around on a circular platform less than two metres across. It might not have been death-defying, but the woman certainly would have been hurt if she had slipped from her partner's grasp as he spun her around at top speed.
The show left me wondering why Jamaica doesn't have a long-running variety show. It should be simple to organise, given the abundance of talent we have.
So, want to visit Las Vegas for the attractions mentioned? Consider being there on May 2 for yet another form of entertainment the city frequently offers - boxing.
On that day, superstars Floyd Mayweather and Manny Pacquiao will fight each other at the MGM Grand hotel in boxing's biggest match ever. Reports are that Mayweather could earn US$120 million and Pacquiao around US$80 million.