Leave us alone

This term can be attributed to many things, people and phenomena. It has made a fantastic career and is ubiquitous. Although historically the phrase has usually been associated with and evoked negative feelings it seems as though these days people are a little less ashamed of it.

The terms ‘junk’, ‘crap’, ‘trash’ can be attached to many things today. Every day we brush against various forms of ‘rubbish’: culture, entertainment, beauty, behavior, religion, business activity, the list is endless. The term ‘trash’ can be applied to celebrities, politicians, political agendas, public figures or even entire countries. All this is linked with similarly sounding definitions: ‘a thing without special values’, “a man without dignity and moral principles”, “embarrassing behavior”, etc. Junk is like a simple contradiction of what is logical, meaningful, good, authentic and valuable. If someone wants a more vivid explanation of what phenomenon I am talking about, I suggest several options: Spend a moment on Instagram or TikTok, or one evening in front of the TV in the company of channels like TLC, take a look at the bizarre “meme” trading in shares and cryptocurrencies on the NYSE , or dig into what is called “breaking news” from CNN.

Strange, sad and laughable

The situation is serious, but not hopeless. The history of one of the most visited places in the world today, the history of the goal and dreams of millions of people around the world – the desert Las Vegas tells about the fact that you can recover from the junk. I know some will be perturbed if not a little outraged by this statement, but let me explain.

The beginnings of Las Vegas weren’t easy, tt was a genuine heap of strange ideas and embarrassing behaviour. All you need to do is close your eyes and recall the images, thoughts and opinions that are still associated with this city. They are neither clear nor flattering. Most producers and directors who wanted to add some negative, cheesy character to their movie characters – almost obligatory in the ‘early’ days – had them sent to Las Vegas. It was there that they would rub against kitsch, vulgarity and mindlessness. Almost all American soap operas include episodes with a trip to this embarrassing place. Cinema productions in which Vegas plays the main role regularly break records of popularity. Such films were one big advertisement for Las Vegas, and their main characters were sex, alcohol, promiscuity and gambling. Is it a false image of the city? Certainly not, but not entirely true either.

A dream to become someone else

The meaning of one’s stay in Las Vegas was to dream of becoming someone else. Once there, you almost automatically recognize yourself as someone else. For someone a little better who deserves a little more. After all, you are treated as someone more important, someone better than in real life. As long as you play, have fun and are willing to pay for your new royal incarnation, Las Vegas will prove to be the purest form of the American Dream. The American Dream is to get rich quickly and have fun. Even if you fail miserably one evening, you hope that tomorrow will be a better day and you will win back with a vengeance.

The sociologist Henry Lesieur said that if gamblers are addicted to something, it is from the excitement and pleasure of participating in something exciting. Casino operators are less complicated in their diagnosis of what is going on in the head and heart of a player who decides to play for a larger stake:

“You bring us some money, we on our part give you (win) some money, then you give (lose) the money you win with us, then you lose your own money and maybe something more (money borrowed from us).”

Gambling in the US beginning of the 20th century
At the beginning of the 20th century, the myth of gambling was born as a specific form of capitalism. Like the stock market, it was believed that you had a certain chance of making more money without having to work hard, if you just took the risk. Pictured are miners in West Virginia on a Saturday evening in 1938. © Farm Security Administration - Office of War Information Photograph Collection (Library of Congress)

Gambling has always been with you. In order not to go back to too distant eras, it suffices to recall that the US War of Independence of the English colonies in North America was financed by a large lottery organized by the Continental Congress in 1777. Protestantism, which for many generations was the religion of most American citizens, fought against gambling as a crime against both faith and the healthy morale of society. It was supposed to distract people from work and be the source of many crimes.

From time to time people tried to give gambling an alibi to justify its existence. The myth of gambling as a specific form of capitalism was born. It has been explained that with a little bit of capital you take personal risk and bet on increasing it. Just like on the stock market, you have a certain chance of earning more money without having to work hard. Gambling was supposed to be a chance for a quick promotion.

Viva pensioners!

However, it is not the big rich and fraudsters that constitute the foundation of gambling today but millions of ordinary citizens that come to Las Vegas for a few days’ vacation. They don’t see themselves as gamblers. They see themselves more like people on vacation, and yet when they’re here, they say, “Hello, let’s put some money in the vending machine.”

Pensioners are a significant group of clients. They are not as respected players as “whales” betting hundreds of thousands of dollars, but they prove to be much more profitable in the end. This group, about 30% of all gamers, spend little on gambling on a single trip to Vegas. However, retirees have become so attractive to casinos because they come very often and in the end they bring 80% of the company’s income. Through a system of discount coupons and cards for slot machines, usually reminiscent of payment cards, all kinds of information are collected that help attract this group of people to casinos. The loyalty card system, in turn, gives a lot of discounts and incentives. Older Americans love Vegas for it, and it is hardly surprising. Who would not be impressed by the fact that the moment you insert the “diamond holder” card into the ten dollar slot machine, it comes to life, greets you by name, asks for health and encourages you to play your favorite game.

I hate Disneyland. It primes our kids for Las Vegas.

No consequences

The Mojave Desert has always been the birthplace of phenomena that arouse disgust and disapproval. This criticism has never been given much concern because, as Liberace, an eccentric pianist and showman, the undisputed king of bad taste, a symbol of kitsch and lack of moderation, once said, “too much of a good thing is simply wonderful!”.

For most Americans, and most importantly for critical Europeans, class was the last thing on mind when it came to Las Vegas. One went to Las Vegas in dire need of unrestrained entertainment, doing something unconventional, manifesting a dissent about taste, and rejecting what was considered high quality.

The city has become a legendary place where anyone can turn into a “bad boy” or “bad girl” for a moment without having to suffer any consequences. The saying – “What happened in Vegas stays in Vegas” – sounds like an alibi for tasteless and unconventional things.

Both very wealthy people and normal tourists spend entire weekends in hotels whose focal points are numerous entertainment clubs. In private club lounges, countless but clearly overpriced drinks are served 24 hours a day, seven days a week, private dance performances and entertainment, but not necessarily of the highest quality. After a hard night, you have a guarantee that the next morning you will be able to fight a hangover, relying on the fantastic swimming pools, where the hostesses are both professional dancers and tourists willing to exhibit their body for free. Extremes, both at night and in the light of the day, give the guests a feeling of being a star.

„Eurotrash”

People who see partying as their only notable activity come to Vegas not only from neighboring California. Every day, huge transatlantic jets pour out of crowds of amusers from more distant places: Great Britain, Germany, Italy, Russia, China and Korea. Both locals and overseas visitors have created a unique category of visitors. Despite the fantastic, luxurious hotels that are the scenery of their games or the thousands of dollars from their payment cards, they are called “Eurotrash”. No matter where you came from, you are seen as someone who lives in the imaginary reality of exaggerated abundance, excess, alleged global glamor and the latest fashion craze.

“Eurotrash” sends clear signals to the world around them, who they want to be considered as, they create their own signs, symbols and rituals. Excessive tan and excessive makeup in women are complemented by the obligatory unshaven faces and greasy hair of men – young men or men of advanced age who pretend to be still young Mustangs. Both men and women tend to boast about their bodies – anorexia or inflated muscles, the results of plastic surgery and flashy jewelry. After the greeting – a traditional ciao and after the “air kiss” – the customs of “Eurotrash” include exchanging reports from recent exotic journeys to the most snobbish places on the globe, which are a must to be recognized as a celebrity or at least someone who knows celebrities up close.

Naked breasts will sell anything

Every day in a city that is advertised as a wonderful destination for all families, thousands of women undress in nightclubs and bars. Promiscuity, sex, and prostitution have always been part of these “special services” in places away from snobbish metropolises and prudish and morally restrictive American towns in the East or South. Sex has always been at the highest price here.

There was a natural bond between the Wild West and erotic services, whether it was simple prostitution in the early 1900s, fun in saloons for ten cents, full striptease in the 1970s, or today’s escort services. The woman has always been the greatest object of desire. Men paid almost any price for her company. Brothels have been allowed almost forever, that is – translated into American terms – for over two centuries.

The first restrictions and prohibitions appeared only in 1937. It was then that the women employed in tabernacles of pleasure were required to undergo weekly health checks. During World War II, an order from President Roosevelt ended the operation of such facilities and closed them near American military bases, also around Las Vegas. Despite the lifting of this ban in 1948, the “red light” districts never officially returned to Las Vegas and were condemned to a marginal existence in sparsely populated areas, located away from larger cities. Districts of debauchery have not returned, which does not mean that sex for money is history.

The last resort

When one of the largest resort complexes – Dunes, was opened in the mid-1950s – it was not anticipated that the impending economic crisis would lead the project to the brink of financial ruin. The press and film commercials of Frank Sinatra did not help, who – referring to the name of the hotel – posed as a sultan with his own harem of beautiful revue dancers. The contacts with the criminal world and legal investors who were ready to pump new capital into the casino to ensure that the business did not collapse did not help. Nothing helped and Dunes lived on their financial drip. The business was unable to stay afloat, so after a few minor crises and temporary closures, it was on its way to the bottom. And it would have sank completely had it not been for the last resort: sex.

In January 1957, Dunes presented their new show called “Minsky’s Follies”, in which the biggest attraction was the naked breasts of the dancers. The first topless show in Vegas at one of the city’s main hotels was a fantastic success. A few hours after the premiere, queues began to form at the box office. During the week, 16,000 viewers wanted to visit the casino, and of course – just by the way – catch a show that the whole country started talking about. Instead of the planned four weeks, naked breasts drew large audiences for over four years. After four years, the Dunes bosses not only did not abandon the naked experiment, but, on the contrary, took it to new heights. They built an impressive concert hall and brought from Paris what was best in this narrow but extremely popular category of entertainment. Impresario Henri Varna agreed, for a fair reward, to move his almost completely naked show from the French capital to the Mojave Desert. Casino de Paris has become even more successful than Minsky’s Follies.

How to stimulate ... the development of the economy?

Dunes were followed by other casinos in the city, even if their financial resources did not allow them to bring beautiful dancers from Europe. Even such a small casino as Castaways, which in the mid-1960s tempted customers with the theme and cuisine of the Pacific islands, allowed almost naked girls to swim in a huge, glass aquarium located just behind the reception without any special resistance. No wonder that disassembled swimming sessions, presented regularly three times a day, gathered crowds of customers who wanted to check in at the hotel during their duration.

Prostitution is allowed in Nevada (the only such state in the US), but only in eight of the seventeen counties, with a population of less than 700,000. Bob Fisher, who represents one of Las Vegas’ neighborhoods of fun, sees nothing immoral in this type of activity. Like any other economic activity, it is supposed to stimulate … the development of the economy and should be treated as an important part of the world’s entertainment capital, which is considered Las Vegas. He proudly emphasized this in an interview with Newsweek in 2008:

The first 100 customers who show up with their tax rebate checks receive twice the “services” for the price of one. “We always give our customers the most bang for the buck,” he says. “You bring your $600 check in, and we give you the $1,200 George Bush party–three girls and a bottle of champagne.”

Love Cloud airline

Even though prostitution is banned in Las Vegas, that doesn’t mean spontaneous or bought sex over Las Vegas is illegal. One of the entrepreneurs decided to change even the well-known slogan of the city to a more exciting one: “what happened over Vegas stays in Vegas.” His offer was aimed at people who wanted to become a Mile High Club membership, which comes with proven airplane sex at least one mile altitude. Love Cloud airline offered a flight where you could “do whatever you can think of.” To encourage lovers of the skies, there were only two rooms in a specially rebuilt Cessna. In the front part was a “professional and discreet pilot”, separated from the other part of the plane by a perfectly soundproof wall. There were no seats in the rear of the plane, but one big bed where you could do exactly what the advertisement promised and for what you could end up in airport custody if you did “this” on a regular passenger plane. Such a legal adventure, a heavenly experience, was kept in the memory for life.

Strategic source of energy

Is alcohol a problem in Las Vegas? Of course not, and for a very simple reason. It is considered almost a gift of God, without which the city would never exist, develop and become what it is today. Alcohol is a strategic energy source here. Gambling and entertainment do not feel very comfortable in a world without drinks that block people’s sense of common sense. A classic study of what a booze does is in the story of one of Downtown Grand’s guests, Mark Johnston. Johnston accused the casino in the spring of 2014 of gotten so drunk by the kind staff that he remembered nothing of his visit to the gambling cave. And there was something to remember, because the next morning Johnston had in his hand a bill for the drunken night. Price? $ 500,000. Before returning to his native California, a distraught gambler demanded a debt annulment because he was intoxicated at the time he was losing half a million dollars. His request might seem like the height of naiveté were it not for the fact that it made some sense. According to Nevada law, drunk people are not allowed to play in casinos. However, it is not specified in detail what is considered to be intoxicated. According to the casino, their client was as sober as possible, even though he couldn’t see the cards he was playing with and didn’t remember taking a loan to keep playing after spending his own money.

one of the last evenings with a glass in hand before the introduction of Prohibition.
Alcohol was a strategic commodity in every Wild West city, but only until 1920. In the photo, one of the last evenings with a glass in hand before the introduction of Prohibition. The noble intentions to stop mass alcoholism have become not only the cause of mass social discontent, but also the foundation of the massive organized crime that has taken hold of the country. According to critics, alcohol prohibition was the worst idea of American legislation in the 20th century. © New York World-Telegram and the Sun Newspaper Photograph Collection (Library of Congress)

Alcohol flows through the city in a wide and deep stream. The 80th anniversary of the official end of Prohibition, the anniversary of December 2013, was celebrated in Vegas with true dedication and anointing. It was emphasized that during the period of this insane ban, Nevada was a special place in the US and that in practice it was never implemented here. As in the past, and today, alcohol is as necessary as fresh air from air conditioning aggregates. Without him, the city falls into a state of apathy.

Every day, millions of bottles of alcohol are carefully packed in brown paper bags in all stores that can sell it 24 hours a day, seven days a week. The terms of its sale (practically carried out by any company that considers such trade to be lucrative) are liberal, and the amount of alcohol traded – impressive.

"I play classical music with the boring parts left out"

Las Vegas is known not only for its liberal attitude towards gambling, sex and alcohol. The city is associated with unrefined taste, which is treated with pity in other parts of the USA. This is in part due to the city’s own entertainment style.

In the 1950s, vaudeville, an extinct entertainment genre with characteristics similar to operetta, cabaret and burlesque, was experiencing its renaissance. It became the foundation of what is today considered “Las Vegas style”. The impressive and vulgar Rococo entertainment has taken over most of the Vegas scenes. Their boards show a fundamentalist commitment to the principle that the excess of everything is the best. It was best embodied by the main priest of this movement – Liberace and the king of rock – Elvis, who was relentless in his splendor. Thanks to the high-profile performances across the country, the slow but systematic “lasvegazation” of American entertainment was taking place.

The leading figure of this phenomenon – Liberace –considered himself a “one-man Disneyland” and a man who made ordinary people familiar with the great music of Beethoven, Brahms and Chopin. As he said himself: “I play classical music with the boring parts left out”. His musical declaration was not bought by many critics and – as the reviewer of the English Daily Mirror bluntly stated – he was ” biggest sentimental vomit of all time”. Liberace did not care much about such assessments, at best “he cried all the way to the bank.”

In retrospect, the most impressive thing is that Liberace was a precursor and a true master of creating his own image. It was he who taught others – both their contemporaries and future generations (read: Elvis, Lady Ga-ga, Elton John, Freddie Mercury, David Bowie, Little Richard, James Brown, Michael Jackson, or Boy George) – how to get attention.

This taste is worth dying for

“Las Vegas-style” affects other institutions and companies that are not necessarily related to show business, for example regular burger bars. Instead of the standard McDonald’s, Vegas invites you to bars whose name itself inspires respect. One of them is The Heart Attack Grill, where you can order a triple By-pass Hamburger, worthy the ideals of this place summarized in the slogan: “this taste is worth dying for”. The fact that the owners – quite seriously – believe that you can eat to death in their premises is evidenced by an ambulance standing in front of the entrance and waitresses in nurse uniforms who treat guests as potential patients. Customers / patients weighing more than 158 kilograms receive a free prescription for gluttony. There is hope for the slim that they will also reach the right weight someday, because The Heart Attack Grill offers the most caloric burger in the world. Order it and 9,982 calories are yours.

"The Heart Attack Grill" Las Vegas
"In the fight against anorexia since 2005!" In "The Heart Attack Grill", you can order a triple Bypass Hamburger, worthy of the ideals of this place, which has the slogan "this taste is worth dying for". The Heart Attack Grill offers the most caloric burger in the world. © Stalmar Publication

The capital of crazy ideas

For decades, Vegas has cemented its position as a place to play life truancy and do stupid things from time to time, such as express weddings. The singer Britney Spears, who married her friend from school, Jason Alexander, was one of those who could not withstand the pressure of their feelings and were forced to express the famous I do in an express manner. However, it only took Britney 55 hours to conclude that, unfortunately, she was wrong. After two years, the beautiful Angelina Jolie stated that she must have overdone a bit, dying earlier of boundless love for Billy Thornton, and she discovered rapidly a great and irreconcilable difference of characters. Brave Angelina asked the Nevada authorities to quickly dissolve her marriage and give her the freedom she needed like clean water and air. Other celebrities who jumped to Vegas and got married in their free time had similar problems: Bruce Willis and Demi Moore, Don Johnson and Melanie Griffith, Richard Gere and Cindy Crawford, Nicky Hilton and Todd Meister. Of course, not all celebrities are completely devoid of a sense of reality and discernment of the state of their own feelings. Elvis Presley married the young Priscilla Beaulieu in May 1967 at the Aladin Hotel and persevered in his love until 1973, which could be considered an almost eternal love for a man besieged by thousands of crazed young men and women every day, ready to do anything to get close to the king of rock.

Everyone knows that in Vegas it is done quickly, easily and cheaply – both at the initial stage of great love and at a time when concerned couples unexpectedly no longer find the opportunity to live together and understand each other. While we are waiting for a divorce – express, of course – Vegas comes back with invaluable support. It is not necessary to drown in despair right away. You can always find a cozy place in one of the nightclubs in the company of new, often younger friends, with an age difference described not in years, but in generations.

Las Vegas Boulevard
For decades, Vegas has cemented its position as a place to play life truancy and do stupid things from time to time. © Bob Dass, Wikipedia Commons

The freedom to make wrong decisions

Las Vegas has exploited the most fundamental needs, weaknesses and passions of man for over 100 years. However, it does not stop at finding new products that would provide fertile ground for the city’s growth in the decades to come. As always, attention has been focused on what is the most elementary and up-to-date.

Every year, Las Vegas is visited by those who are able to provide the current inhabitants of our global village with what they most need and desire – electronic gadgets. These toys are addictive substances for man today. They work much like the rest of human weakness: alcohol, sex, greed. Contemporary consumer electronics has become the object of human dreams. Having the latest models of smartphones, computers, tablets, cameras, consoles and games is considered an elementary need by most people. The newest, most extravagant in this field is revealed to the world for the first time right here. The CES (Consumer Electronics Show) home electronics trade fair needs as much as 300,000 square meters, or an area of 40 football fields, to present the latest novelties. This gigantic display of electronic wonders aims to showcase future trends that are being analyzed by approximately 150,000 highly committed people. However, these are not ordinary visitors, but representatives of the electronics industry from around the world. Through them, goods that are today a symbol of status, necessity or the usual, unrestrained instinct to have a new product, come to our stores.

The Food

Vegas also showed great interest in another addiction of the 21st century. The city began to profile itself as the world center of what is a shameful sin of modern society – fascination with food. Today it is no longer enough to impress guests with cheap but sumptuous buffets, which for some have become a real magnet and often the only reason to visit the city. Vegas bets on food with a capital “F”. It brings the best chefs from every corner of the world. Hotels and casinos wage a regular war to prove that their chefs are the true stars of the world culinary arts. Along the Strip there are numerous restaurants with sets of famous Michelin stars and ranked among the best places in the world, regardless of the type of cuisine.

The fascination with food is so great that it is no longer a normal part of our normal life. Food has become part of the prestige of individuals and institutions. Displaying and eating dishes has become a means of social ennoblement and is showing who we are or who we want to be. Therefore, no one should be surprised that the World Food Championships (WFC) are taking place in Las Vegas. The annual event is attended by over a hundred chefs who are fighting for fame, the title of world champion. You fight in such disciplines as: BBQ, chilli, hamburgers, sandwiches, recipes, desserts, bacon, pasta and seafood. The competition is accompanied by an inherent army of tireless bloggers who, in turn, fight on social media for the title of the best reviewer. Several TV stations broadcast all of this. The course of the competition also became the background for the TV reality show. The new passions of a young global society are harmoniously combined with old sins known for hundreds of years.

The city of American fantasy

Caesar's Palace Las Vegas
Size plays a big role in Las Vegas. Everything has to be the biggest and the most beautiful, according to the principle that people come here to see and experience what is unique, unheard of in everyday life. The impressive interior visible in the photo is only part of the hotel reception area of Caesar's Palace. © Kobby Dagan / Shutterstock

The Las Vegas Strip has become one big, exaggerated Main Street for the whole of America, a mythical street that has disappeared along with the unrestrained expansion of large shopping centers. In the past, people would come to Main Street to walk along it, meet others, witness something exciting. This American fantasy about Main Street was best sensed by Walt Disney, who stubbornly explored people’s tastes and wanted to know what people liked. He needed this knowledge to create an American reality, but even more beautiful. In fact, the protagonist is a small, often closed community with its Main Street. Everything on this street is more beautiful, kinder, friendlier than in ordinary life. Little is left of the thousands of Main Streets in small-town America. Most often, the main street moved to Wal-Mart, Target, or some other big supermarket.

The Strip is not a street in real America. This is the old Main Street, the street of American fantasy, a meeting place and a place to make dreams come true. Coming here is tantamount to carefree fun or an attempt to achieve success in life. This success can be a big win, but also the simple fact of finding a place on earth to live or get a simple job. The catalog of small freedoms and great opportunities to organize your life in this city is very similar to what previously attracted people to another great city in America – Detroit, which became a power and a legend thanks to the hard, arduous work of thousands of factory workers. Las Vegas became the same legend, which instead of factories and dirty production at the assembly line offered equally strenuous work in bars, hotels and clubs. And here and there the American dream came true – I will manage in my life and nothing can stop me from achieving success.

The city was and is an authentic, brutally honest city that has tempted people for generations with a simple message: Come here! Everything is simpler here. In Las Vegas, no one really cares about who you are or where you come from. Your skin color, beliefs, sexual orientation or criminal record are not that important. As long as you have money or a job, you can do almost anything. Another, just as simple, signal, albeit with slightly deeper tones, is sent to the federal government: “We Nevada people are people of” empty places. ” We are able to take care of ourselves, we do not need anyone who helps us and controls us at the same time ”.

Las Vegas Strip by night
The Las Vegas Strip, which is a six-kilometer stretch of Las Vegas Boulevard, is basically not in the city. Many tourists who come to "Las Vegas" have in fact never set foot in the real Las Vegas area. © Clément Bardot, Wikipedia Common

Leave us alone

Grover Norquist, one of the ideologues of the American right, vividly portrayed the “leave us alone” ideology. “I don’t want to abolish government. I simply want to reduce it to the size where I can drag it into the bathroom and drown it in the bathtub.”

As in Texas or Alaska, people obsessively point out that they themselves decide their fate in this desert. It is a kind of noble, old, European libertinism, referring to the broadly understood freedom of the individual and the rejection of moral norms dictated by the social majority. This libertinism, coupled with optimism, makes the people of Nevada a fascinating element of the American West. Their motto is as simple as it was centuries ago: even if it is hard now and we are losers, there is always a chance to get back. And this is not the motto of the ordinary loser. This is the loser’s motto for an America that tolerates individual failure and encourages a new attempt. There is nothing more American than to win back than to come back to the top after falling.

Brazilian festival Las Vegas
The city was and is an authentic, brutally honest city that has tempted people for generations with a simple message: Come here! Everything is simpler here. In Las Vegas, no one really cares about who you are or where you come from. The photo shows the Brazilian Festival in 2014. © Kobby Dagan / Shutterstock

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