Seedy Las Vegas

I miss it. Back in the 70’s & early '80’s, going to Las Vegas was fun, because it was sort of dark, seedy, run-down and disreputable. It was that in-between time when the Rat Pack days were over and it had not yet been disneyfied (excuse me, I mean revitalized). It was scary, decadent fun, full of dark, smelly alleys, 30 years of ground-in dirt, and definitely not a place to bring the kiddies. It as a place to sin. It had, you know, character.

Now look at it. It looks like a giant miniature golf course, all shiny, and family friendly. Cabaret shows only late at night. The Star Trek Experience. Feh.

Am I the only one who feel this way? I just don’t see much point in going to a city built on vice, then finding yourself surrounded by Ma & Pa Kettle and their two dozen children. It just feels wrong.

Not really a rant, just a wistful bit of nostalgia and a cry to any others out there in the wilderness. So, which Vegas would you prefer? Rat Pack era with it’s Hollywood excess, post RP with it’s faded, dirty veneer, vice & violence, or Gee Whiz, Aren’t We Fun (and a little naughty)?

Well, I love the new Vegas. Never been to the old Vegas. Though there’s plenty of sin and seediness if you leave the strip. That’s funny that you have to leave the strip to see women strip. I’m going back again this July. Can’t wait!


I don’t mean to whiz in your coffee but it’s really hard to wax nostalgic about Lost Wages, er… I mean Las Vegas.

The few times I’ve ever been there was to photograph the neon sign work. That was one of the few things they raised to an art form besides relieving any pressure from an overstuffed wallet or purse.

To this day I am always astounded to see the main strip’s extravagant and ostentation displays and facades, when all you need do is to wander 1,000 yards down any sidestreet to be surrounded by paste board apartment blocks and cheezy hotels. This squalor belies the true intentions of the town. Namely to make a very few extremely rich and many, many others quite poor.

That they have made the area “family friendly” is merely a nod to the baby boomers with children in tow. Since their older clientel is dying off faster than they can hock their false teeth they need fresh fish to fry.

Las Vegas always struck me as a gangster’s vision of paradise. Lotsa action, lotsa cheap booze and all the dames you want, pure bliss for a thug.


You want seedy? On the Strip about every ten yards, you’ve got really greasy, scummy looking guys handing out advertising pamphlets for companies that will send an “exotic dancer” to your hotel room. The pamphlets, many of which are magazine-sized (more like catalogs) are pornographic in and of themselves. Also, all throughout the city, there are boxes of these pamphlets/catalogs right at the eye level of your average six year old.

Yeah, leave the Strip, and you’re in trouble. The gangs are moving in from L.A., and downtown, once you get out from under the Space Frame at the Fremont Street Experience, is just plain gross. The number of homeless people in this town is incredible. The hookers you see on the streets downtown look diseased.

I don’t think the problem is so much that the casinos are making people poor as it is this town has a reputation as a job mecca. A lot of people think that if you can’t find a job in Vegas, there’s something wrong with you. It isn’t true. With all the people moving into town, competition for jobs is pretty stiff, and a lot of employers don’t really feel the need to train people, when they can wait a couple of days, and if someone isn’t performing to standards, they can unload them and hire somebody else. Getting fired from a job in less than a week for not performing like you have five years experience is not uncommon in this town.

Most of the jobs in this town are in the casinos, fast food joints and convenience stores, and the convenience stores are notorious for unloading employees after a day or two.

Medical offices are terrible- they seem to go out of their way to hire the most incompentent people they can find to staff their front desks. Of course, they only pay about $7.00 per hour, so they can’t keep anybody decent.

The general wage scale in this town is quite a bit lower than in a lot of other areas of the country. Secretarial jobs that would have paid $8-10 per hour in South Bend, IN, pay $5-6 out here. A lot of construction companies hire illegal immigrant workers at minimum wage. And there are a lot of people, and I mean a LOT, who don’t speak English, or speak very little English, which makes it difficult to find good paying jobs.

Yeah, leave the Strip, trust me, Vegas is still pretty seedy.

One of my sisters moved to Las Vegas this past summer, and my other sister and I spent the week between Christmas and New Year’s visiting. I’d never been to Vegas before, and wouldn’t have chosen it as a vacation spot, but we did have a good time. Granted, our excursions were mostly to the Strip. (In fact, our vacation was straight out of a guide book, almost).

What I don’t understand about the “new” Vegas is the supposed family-friendliness. Yeah, there are a few kid friendly things to do, but we saw tons of parents dragging very small, horribly cranky kids through the casinos. WHY??? My sisters and I certainly found that the way to enjoy Vegas is to go out every night - shows, clubbing, restaurants, gambling. That’s the fun stuff, and kids need not apply.

(By the way, the Star Trek Experience was better than I expected.)

I guess you don’t frequent the Gold Spike, now do you? Sheesh. That place is seedy enough for 3 casinos.

I’ve only actually been back once since the early '80’s, and didn’t stay long. Guess it’s really just a fresh coat of make-up on a skanky old whore, huh?

Okay, the point is, I can see wanting to go to Vegas to have a dark, corrupt, lost weekend, I just don’t get why anyone would got to get married or have a family vacation. I guess the problem is the tourism board pushing it as this bright, shiny new vacation paradise. But hey, all the easier to part the senior tours from Sun City with their life savings if you promote it as something wholesome.

I’ve been there on vacation a couple times. Not sure where exactly, but our hotel room was never on the Strip (too expensive and too hard to get around, IIRC). Surprisingly, I noticed nothing at all “seedy” or criminal. It wasn’t hard at all to walk around, either. Security was tight everywhere and I never felt in any kind of danger. Of course, that may be because we stayed in the designated tourist area, which, as anyone else who lives in Hawaii knows, is a lot different from the rest of the place, but hey, I wasn’t complaining.

The thing I did notice was that there were a lot of old storefronts that looked straight out of the 50’s or 60’s. Very plain, unmistakably retro artwork. I knew that the wealth of downtown didn’t spread everywhere, but this was a surprise.

One one trip, on the way to the airport, we got lost for a while in a residential area…and it looked like almost every residential area back home. Pretty nice, too.

Anyway, I’m convinced that the filthy, seedy parts of Las Vegas are no different than the filthy, seedy parts of Honolulu or nearly any other city you could name. It’s just because there’s that incredibly glamorous tourist trap (funded by uncountable gambling losses, of course) that the bad side stands out in stark contrast.

Oh yeah, we’re having something of an unemployment problem in Honolulu too…

I think you’re confusing kitzch with glamor, son.