Best of RAH:
Oasis of Greed
by Dave Bealer and Greg Borek
This commentary first appeared in the January 1994 issue of Random
Copyright © 1994 Dave Bealer, All Rights Reserved.
In November 1993 two members of RAH's intrepid editorial staff journeyed
to the high desert of southern Nevada. We were there to engage in
statistical research. The statistical theories we were there to test
mainly involved cards, dice, and roulette wheels.
The Best Laid Plans
The trip had been planned several months in advance. Our primary
concern had been to avoid being in Las Vegas while COMDEX was in
session. After all, what possible interest could the world's largest
computer trade show hold for a pair of programmer/journalists?
Truthfully, being misanthropes, our main desire was to avoid crowds
(read: people) as much as possible. We knew that a couple of new
hotels would be opening just a week before our arrival, but this
didn't appear to be a big problem. Most of the resulting crowds
would be focused on the newcomers themselves. All we had to do was
avoid them like the plague and we would be OK.
Imagine our chagrin when we found out that there was going to be a
Heavyweight Championship fight in Vegas on the last day of our three
day trip? This little bombshell was dropped on us at the airport as
we waited for our flight to Vegas. Of course it was far too late to
cancel or reschedule the trip.
Getting There Is Half The Fun
Our Cattle Car Airways flight was non-stop and, surprisingly, not
full. Five hours in an upholstered aluminum can hurtling through
space is never a picnic, especially given the usually lousy food.
Greg managed to sleep part of the way (despite having the twit in
the seat in front of him reclined into his lap), Dave did not.
We landed at McCarran International just after midnight on Thursday
morning. Despite the time, the airport was mobbed. Despite the
crowds, guards insisted on inspecting the claim tickets for every
piece of checked baggage. Then we had the pleasure of waiting in
line at the rental car counter.
Finally we collected our assigned hunk of cheesy Detroit craftsmanship
and headed for the hotel. We stayed at the Rio Suites Hotel and Casino,
a very nice place off the Strip. Although called suites, the Rio
features what are really just large rooms. The living room and bedroom
are combined into a large common area. It turns out that there is a
small window in the shower at head level that looks out into the
bedroom/living room area. This is a unique architectural feature that
neither of us had seen before, in a hotel or any other kind of room.
Maybe we've just lead sheltered lives.
A Restful Vacation
Since we would be in Las Vegas for less than 72 hours, we decided to
make the most of our time by sleeping as little as possible. This
wasn't too difficult the first night since we were all wound up from
the flight. It became increasingly difficult to stay awake as the
days wore on, so we did lose some time that could have been spent
We split up during most of the first two days, since (although not
superstitious) we each feel the other has an adverse effect on our
luck while gambling. At night we would get together for dinner and
discuss our triumphs of the day.
On Thursday night we saw Lance Burton's magic show at the Hacienda.
Lance's six-pack of beautiful assistants were the highlight of the
show for us. We attended the late show since we had it on good
authority that during that show his assistants perform topless. It's
truly amazing what you can learn by lurking in the FidoNet LV_GAMBLER
The Stealth Hotel
Between the Hacienda and the Excalibur is the new Luxor Hotel and
Casino. The Luxor is a huge pyramid which has been painted flat
black. In the daylight it looks fascinating, especially sitting next
to the medieval castle shaped Excalibur. At night the effect is
remarkable. Rather than throw lights directly at the side of the
building, as with all the other hotels on the Strip, the Luxor
supports a single powerful beacon of light at the pinnacle of the
The effect is that the pyramid itself vanishes. Only the beacon can
be seen. The side facing the Strip is illuminated by all the lights
hitting the Sphinx which forms the lobby. Seen from the other three
sides at night, the Luxor is like a stealth hotel. The only way you
can tell there is a building there is the fact that you can't see
anything behind the Luxor. There's also the matter of this powerful
beacon which can be seen for miles, and appears to be hanging in
Even more fascinating is the interior of the Luxor. In a design that
had to be inspired by Rube Goldberg, the entire outer surface is
taken up by windows to the 2500+ hotel rooms. Each room therefore
has one diagonal wall which contains a window. Each level of hotel
rooms has it's own corridor. The levels are connected by elevators
which move diagonally. (No, we didn't actually see these elevators
ourselves. But it's the only reasonable way the hotel room levels
could be connected in a building of this shape. Besides, someone
told us that's how they work.) The center of the building holds
offices, restaurants, machinery, and the casino. Suffice it to say
we're seriously considering staying at the Luxor next time we travel
to Las Vegas. We may even take some dead batteries along and leave
them in the room to recharge.
The Real Las Vegas
One refreshing thing about Las Vegas is that it doesn't pretend to be
anything other than what it is. Many of the casinos, especially ones
off the Strip, advertise special deals for those who cash their
paychecks at the casino cage. These free drinks, free lunches (or
whatever) are good deals for those who don't gamble. Of course, how
many die hard non-gamblers are going to venture into a casino to cash
their paycheck just to get a free drink?
Since Dave is asthmatic, he looks for a no-smoking gambling
environment whenever possible. His favorite place is therefore
Silver City, a small casino just south of the Riviera on the Strip.
The entire Silver City building is no smoking all the time. (Author's
note: As of December 1995 Silver City was no longer a no smoking casino.
So much for that noble experiment.) The antithesis of this is Arizona
Charlie's, where they actually have a tray of free cigarettes at each
The Fight Card
In addition to the new hotels and the Hollyfield-Bowe fight, there
was also a massive convention going on during the first two days of
our stay. The Strip was therefore gridlocked the whole time we were
there. The location of the Rio, behind Caesars at I-15 and Flamingo
Ave., turned into a major asset. We were able to use the interstate
to avoid travelling on the Strip except when our destination was on
the Strip. Even then we could get close to our destination before
descending into the gridlock.
As with most major American sporting events these days, there was a
blimp in attendance for the Heavyweight fight. Almost everyone has
a blimp these days. We had never seen the Trojan blimp before, but
it does have a certain logic to it, given the product - and the town.
A chance to watch the Trojan blimp enter the hangar always draws a
big crowd, usually of envious Democratic legislators.
On Saturday, the actual day of the fight, we left town and trekked
out across the high desert to the Arizona border. Neither of us had
seen Hoover Dam before, and it's quite impressive. Even more
impressive is the utter desolation of the area around the dam. Only
the small town of Boulder City and the vacation castles of the
wealthy overlooking Lake Meade break up the starkly beautiful
terrain. After a while you find yourself expecting the "Man With No
Name" to come riding over the horizon. Of course he's hanging out in
Carmel these days.
On the way back to Vegas we stopped off at the world famous Ethel M
chocolate factory in Henderson. Our legendary tracking skills had
failed us and we couldn't locate any of the dozens of Ethel M
locations in hotel lobbies on the Strip. Furthermore we're both
extremely cheap, and figured to get better prices at the factory
The Final Insult
Finally it was time to get cleaned up, check out of the hotel, and
head back to the airport. The rental car company managed to rip Dave
off to the tune of $25 for a half-tank of gasoline with their
misleading refueling policy. We won't mention the name of the
company, but suffice it to say that no matter how much "harder they
try," they'll never get Dave's business again.
The final insult was the fact that the prices at the Ethel M store in
the airport are exactly the same as at the factory outlet store. In
fact, by making our purchase at the factory, we were cheated out of
the free four-pack of Almond Krisps that the airport store was giving
out with each purchase of $15 or more. We each spent more than that.
We actually made it home with our bodies intact, if not our minds.
No parachutist landed on top of either of us during the trip. Of
course, if the parachutist had been one of Lance Burton's assistants,
we wouldn't really have minded.
Dave Bealer is a fifty-something mainframe systems programmer who
works with CICS, z/OS and all manner of nasty acronyms at one of the
largest heavy metal shops on the East Coast. He shares a waterfront
townhome in Pasadena, MD. with a cat who annoys him endlessly as he
assiduously avoids writing for and publishing Random Access Humor.
Dave can be reached via e-mail at:
A stitch in time would have confused Einstein.