Las Vegas is more complicated than it appears on the surface. A city of glitz, glamor and excess, it also is the home of real talent and dedication. During the few days I spent there, I met and got to know a number of people with class, skill, personality and yes, "soul" – people like John Curtas, Paul Bartolotta, Rick Moonen, Frederic Robert, Boris Villatte and Lionel Clement to name a few who combine their skills and passions to create products that are second to none. The Wynn Hotel, where I stayed, has class. Even the casino has class and I am generally not a huge fan of casinos. Steve Wynn has continually upped the bar for hotels in Las Vegas. I expect nothing less from Encore, his newest hotel that is set to open on December 22nd.
I did, however, experience some disappointments and other less attractive sides of Las Vegas, even at the Wynn. The food was great at the places I chose to eat and clearly show that Las Vegas is a worthy destination for those interested in good food despite a rampant infestation of clones, copies and just plain crap. Other elements of my visit were less wonderful and more in tune with the Las Vegas that is over the top. I was disappointed in the show La Reve despite the intricate set and grand athleticism of its performers. I found it overwrought,repetitive and simply boring. As an ardent fan of Le Cirque du Soleil, I was surprised by that, but so it was. Another discovery was that I am simply not into the overpriced, overhyped and oversiliconed nightclub scene such as I experienced at Tryst. $450 for a bottle of Veuve Clicquot Yellow Label and that the cheapest on the menu with at least a 1 bottle minimum at a table? Come on. The show was a minor disappointment, but the nightclub is a scene I can do without.
After my dinner at RM Seafood at Mandalay Bay, I walked the length of the strip back to the Wynn, tucking into a number of hotels along the way just to see what they were like. Most, like many of the restaurants along the way, seem to revel in mediocrity and separating money from those who seem to be least able to afford it. One grand exception is the Bellaggio and its dancing fountains. I never tire of that grand spectacle set to music. While it may be a symbol of the unnatural excess of Las Vegas (a large decorative body of water within a dessert), it is undeniably a marvel. I actually like the lights of Las Vegas and the spectacle and the people watching may be second only to NYC in the US.
Las Vegas is such an enigma. It is sleazy and it is grand. It attracts the rich and those who would like to be. It has poor food and it has wonderful food. It has schmaltzy shows and it has incredible shows. It has elements that titillate and elements that disgust. It has people who are simply out to make a buck and it has people with soul who do what they do in Las Vegas, because the city has given them the opportunity to do their best there. While I certainly do not like everything about Las Vegas, there is clearly enough there that I do like that does attract me and makes me want to return. The best part of Las Vegas is that one can be selective and filter the elements that appeal, leaving most of the schlock and sleaze behind.