I would be remiss if I did not write about Las Vegas this week, the city I called my home for over twenty cumulative years and which I still consider home. Las Vegas was the city I first used a telephone to call home to my mother because it was in the bathroom (no one had phones in their bathrooms in those days) and then I took a bath with mirrors everywhere (how I miss the Desert Inn). It was there with my father where I gambled for the first time and saw my first drag show at the Silver Slipper. It was the city where I first saw Joan Rivers live and sat in the King’s Row. I remember today how incredibly funny and crude she could be. It was the city I went to at the age of 18 and received a bachelor’s degree. It was where my drama filled 20’s took place with all the heart breaks of young love. I had my first management position at a tour company in Vegas. I launched a new career in my late thirties in Las Vegas (thank you Steve Wynn for opening the Bellagio), and where Peter and I bought our first home. It is where I rescued my first dog and most of all, it is the place I worked in, lived in, traveled from, and keep returning to.
It is the city that has filled me with both pain and joy over the years, but nothing in my past has saddened me as much as the devastation I have seen, read and heard about regarding my beloved city.
I am always angered by the way Las Vegas and its people have been portrayed over the years. The typical comments ranged from “sin city, a good place to hide, a bunch of transients, lots of drugs, alcohol, prostitution everywhere you look, people don’t know their neighbors, nothing to do if you don’t go to the strip, to not a safe city.”
I take issue with those types of comments. Whatever one’s definition of “sin” is, they can be realized in cities across this country. Currently, with all the cameras and Las Vegas’ proactive stance on keeping their guests and citizens safe, you will not be able to hide for long. There are many residents who have lived in Las Vegas for years and their children had children, and those children are having children — get it. Drugs and alcohol are easily available in the other forty-nine states. Prostitution is not legal in Clark County, which is where Las Vegas is located. We knew our neighbors and are still in contact with them on a regular basis — even living twenty-two hundred miles away. Red Rock Canyon, Hoover Dam, Mount Charleston, The Mob Museum, Pinball Hall of Fame, The Neon Museum, walking, biking and horse trails are just a few things to see and do in and around Las Vegas. I have never felt as safe as I did when living in Las Vegas.
Many people have seen the outpouring of support from the citizens of Las Vegas and seem surprised. You should not be. That is the Vegas I know. I remember when Katrina hit New Orleans and Chet Buchanan from Las Vegas’ radio station 98.5 KLUC and his Morning Zoo cohosts loaded up a truck with socks and underwear and drove there. He also does an annual toy drive and collects thousands of toys, dollars, and bikes for the children of Las Vegas. One-year Rosemary, my eighty-nine-year-old friend, and I went to the toy drive — walker and all to donate. She loved it. The people of Las Vegas are some of the most generous people I have ever met, whether it is time or money they give it. All the hotels I worked for had volunteer programs for employees. It was and I am sure it still is their culture, not because it looks good on the news, but because helping others is fundamental to a city which prides itself on hospitality and creating unique and amazing guest experiences. From Fremont Street all the way down Las Vegas Boulevard, there is something for everyone young or old.
Over the years I was fortunate to be employed on the Strip in a variety of hotels and restaurants. I had the opportunity to work with people from all over the world and form relationships I never would have had if I had stayed in Minnesota. When one works on the Strip one does not often go to the Strip unless visitors are in town. It is not that we do not enjoy what the Strip has to offer, we just all have families and lives away from it. In fact, the locals know all the back routes to work and rarely go down the Strip unless forced. When I would drive visitors down the Strip at night, I would realize what the fuss was about. It was so cool to see it all lit up and I would be reminded why it is one of the premier destinations for visitors from around the world. I wish I had taken advantage of all the entertainers and shows when I lived there.
Las Vegas will survive this attack, as all the other cities which have been targeted by persons who have no regard for the life of others. The strength of a city is not its wealth or its latitude and longitude, the strength of a city is measured by the citizens who fight back when faced with challenges beyond comprehension. The citizens of Las Vegas fought back on Sunday, October 1, 2017, and they will continue to fight back every day. They are a diverse, hardworking, kind, caring, vibrant, generous, loving, and creative group of people who make it a unique place to live and work in.