September 23, 2008
The Casino Host
Mike Myers parties even harder than you do. And he gets paid for it.
Let’s say a big shot rolls into town looking to blow $100K on all the indulgences for which Vegas is infamous, but the poor schmuck doesn’t know where to start. Chances are he’ll soon be shaking hands with Mike Myers, the Hard Rock Hotel & Casino’s 31-year-old “managing partner of nightlife and director of customer development”—a fancy way of saying he’s a casino host, the guy paid to keep celebrities and free-spending whales very happy.
“I have contacts at clubs and restaurants all over town,” says Myers. “I’m married, but I need to know every stripper in Vegas to do my job.”
That job often begins with a referral from an ultra-high-end connection such as American Express’ black card. From there Myers uses contacts and gut instincts to get the party moving. “When somebody is willing to drop $50,000 in a club, I want to keep him coming back,” he says. “I know your preferred table, your favorite liquor, if you like petite brunettes with big tits. With me you don’t have to learn the hard way that you don’t control your own destiny in Vegas.”
Myers’ own destiny began in 2001, when he and his wife moved on a whim from St. Cloud, Minnesota to Vegas and got bar jobs. His natural rapport with customers soon landed him a hosting gig at a Bellagio club, and a bulging roster of well-heeled contacts bounced him up the Vegas food chain to his current lofty position, though he admits “the past six years are a bit of a blur.”
Keeping whales happy can take its toll. After a recent epic night of slurping a celebrity’s Dom Pérignon, Myers blacked out and had to be hauled home by an assistant at 10 a.m. And then there’s the high roller who insists that a 10-piece marching band announce his entrance at Hard Rock’s signature club, Body English. Classy! But the most common requests involve women—lots of women. Though Myers swears he doesn’t offer anything illegal, he’s not above steering the hottest off-duty waitresses toward his clients’ VIP booths. “There’s a fine line between a girl who will have sex for $1,000 and a girl who will have sex for free Cristal,” Myers says. “This town is built around those girls.”
Before you race to Vegas gunning for Myers’ gig, consider whether you possess his stamina: “I ride private jets and spray Cristal. I live the life of a billionaire,” Myers says. “On the other hand, I have to go out every night making sure everyone in Vegas knows who I am. I’m never off work.”
SAPPHIRE "EURO" POOL
When an SPF 30–defying Vegas sun beats down, two distinct choices present themselves: bask in the heat poolside or retreat into a strip club. Now, with the new Sapphire Pool at the Rio casino, there’s no need to choose. Although the sexy Euro trend (female sun worshipers can leave those cumbersome bikini tops in their suitcases) hit casino pools a couple of years ago, this is the first adults-only swim area to forge an alliance with a local lap dance emporium, namely Sapphire, which bills itself as “the world’s largest gentlemen’s club.” The inspired partnership delivers 20 to 35 of the club’s dancers to the roped-off pool on a daily basis, where they eat, booze, and erase tan lines for free. “We stock the pond,” brags pool director Mike Kleen. “Then regular girls feel comfortable going topless, too. It’s contagious.” On a typical day, the ringers (easily identified by pink wristbands, among other things) splash Nerf toys and gamely break the ice with paying patrons. A $30 cover charge ($50 weekends) lets male guests enjoy the view. Or invite a Sapphire girl inside your $500 private cabana, but don’t get any naughty “champagne room” notions: When the tops are doffed, the flaps stay open.
RENT A MACHINE GUN
If you’re not ready to gamble, drink, and objectify showgirls, it’s time to fire deadly assault weapons. Located three miles from the Strip, the Gun Store offers a for-rent arsenal that would break Gandhi’s heart. “People are overwhelmed,” owner Chris Irwin says. “They stare in awe, like kids at Disneyland.” That is, assuming Walt ever let Goofy play with Uzis. Got a photo ID and $50? Grab an M-16. On the indoor range, instructors guide you through the finer points of not perforating your neighbor. Then brace for recoil and take aim at a bin Laden–emblazoned target. “You got two in the turban!” instructor Tommy McLee shouts. “Now hold the trigger down longer!” Spent cartridges fall like rain, your shoulder takes a pounding, and Osama turns to confetti.
Your last good shot to call home. Tell her Vegas is tacky and dull, but the other guys seem to be having fun. Then block her number and forget you even have a home.
Location, location, location. That real estate mantra also applies to high-roller rooms—and the Palms’ bungalows are the equivalent of Malibu beachfront. Perched on the edge of a sprawling pool complex, this trio of sleek playpens is within spritzing distance of several bars, frequent outdoor concerts, and vistas of oiled, exposed flesh. Inside is the 1,000-square-foot lair of a high-tech sheik: plasma TVs, fireplaces, a Jacuzzi, and a private upstairs bedroom with a balcony. Spending the night costs $3,000, and it may well be worth it. “A guy staying in a bungalow is the king of Vegas,” boasts Palms president George Maloof Jr. “He has a good view of the whole scene—and everybody else has a good view of him.” Indeed, even big shots in poolside cabanas shoot jealous glances at bungalow-ers. When the pool winds down in the evening, invite 40 of your favorite new friends inside for the ultimate Vegas after-party. Of course, they may refuse to leave when you head out for the night, but that’s no problem: A party this good will likely still be raging when you return.
A man has to eat. So if the restaurant he randomly picks just happens to fuse decadent cuisine with a lingerie show, then it must be credited to Vegas luck. That’s the promise of Cathouse, a bordello-inspired bistro and lounge in the hip-again Luxor casino. Start by sharing oysters or tuna tartare, then graduate to sweet braised beef short ribs, all whipped up by Iron Chef alum Kerry Simon. Be careful not to slice off a finger when a one-way glass panel reveals a model powdering her assets in a makeshift dressing room. Indeed, the whole room—chandeliers, velvet wallpaper, 400 framed vintage erotic photos—oozes seduction. Bread pudding? OK, but don’t stuff yourself. The adjacent “loungerie” is cranking up, with hipsters splayed across winding banquettes and dancers cavorting on stages. Their lingerie is for sale, providing the perfect pretext for discussing the finer points of fishnets. But, then, you just came for the food, right?
The Hilton Sports SuperBook is the largest on the planet, so go ahead and put a bet on the favorite college squad back home. And Dale Jr. to win Talladega. And, hey, it’s post time for the fifth race at Abu Dhabi racetrack! And…do you suddenly have a problem? You bet.
To swill vodka properly, you have to dress like a Cold War Commie and risk frostbite. At the Russian-themed Red Square restaurant and bar in Mandalay Bay, choose a bottle from a selection of 200-plus vodkas, like the $500 Jewel of Russia. Then don cold-weather gear—Soviet-era army jacket for guys, fur coat for gals—and step into the vodka vault, which is kept at a hypothermia-friendly 0°F. “Most people last 15 minutes,” general manager Kari Olsen says. “They come in wearing sandals, and their feet start turning blue.” Huddle around the huge block of ice that serves as a table and toast (drinkers, unite!) to the bust of Vladimir Lenin frozen inside. Members can even store unfinished bottles in the lockers that line the walls. But, then again, real Russians wouldn’t leave a drop of the mother booze unsavored.
The Last Showgirl
Can even a tall, topless blonde withstand the Cirque juggernaut?
Kristina Freedlund was destined to be a showgirl. An impressive percentage of her six-foot stature is devoted to perfect legs, and the day the dance-crazy Bloomington, Indiana native turned 18, she joined Bally’s venerable song-and-dance revue, “Jubilee!”
“The other showgirls brought a cake to my dressing room,” she recalls of that momentous 1998 birthday. “I was so excited because I was finally able to dance onstage in Las Vegas.”
Ironically, Freedlund’s dream came true the same year Cirque du Soleil unveiled its second circus-on-acid Vegas show at the Bellagio. Soon there will be six. Indeed, Cirque’s acrobats have eclipsed showgirls as the dominant icon of Vegas entertainment. “It is kind of scary to see how Cirque has taken over,” Freedlund admits, “but I think showgirls will survive.” The pre-curtain backstage bustle, with dozens of half-naked dancers powdering themselves, certainly makes an observer hopeful. Still, an audience’s tepid response to cheesy routines that haven’t changed for 27 years can make a gal pine for the glory days when Rat Packers dipped into the showgirl dating pool. “Now it’s more corporate,” Freedlund says. “We can’t drink and mingle, but at least we get health benefits.”
There are other benefits, too. “When I’m out on the town with some of the other showgirls, we never wait to get into clubs. It’s a strange feeling of power,” she says. “What’s funny is when we hang out at a topless pool. Guys chat us up, but since they’re usually shorter, they can’t figure out where to aim their eyes.”
Freedlund credits that seminaked confidence to strutting her stuff up and down three flights of stairs, wearing a 30-pound headdress, two shows a night, six nights a week. “When I was 18, it was embarrassing. Now that I’m more cultured in the dance world, I feel like nudity is a natural part of the show. We’ve been given gorgeous bodies—why not show them off onstage?”
After dancing professionally for 10 years, Freedlund is by no means ready to retire. But she has considered the eventual post-stage chapter. “I’m thinking of going to UNLV for a master’s in public relations,” she says. “This town runs on PR.”
The Hard Rock Hotel & Casino must think we aren’t losing enough money on blackjack already. How else to explain hiring model-hot female dealers and outfitting them in “uniforms” that expose plenty more than their cards? Sheesh, we just forgot to split a pair of eights—rookie mistake. Just deal us a new hand, missy. Whoa, now three of these “Hell’s Belles” (blonde, brunette, redhead—nice touch) are enthusiastically pole-dancing on an elevated stage so close we can identify their perfumes! And, Lord, now we just asked for a hit while holding a hard 19. Would somebody please alert the Nevada Gaming Commission?
Granted, the crappy economy has hit Vegas pretty hard, which means you can score a lot of bargains at hotels and even poker tables around town. However, it does not mean that cute lady cop will blow you for $20. Fifty bucks, maybe.
KAYAK THE COLORADO
Thirty miles from the Strip, as your kayak first slides into the Colorado River under the shadow of Hoover Dam and the watchful eyes of terrorist-hunting patrol boats, you’re reminded again of Vegas’ artificial imprint on the desert landscape. But follow your Red Rock Adventure Spa guide around the bend and you’re smack-dab in the middle of some major nature, complete with towering canyon walls, soaring eagles, and—huff—a bit of a headwind. The tranquil current is 51 degrees and feels damn good after you’ve stopped to climb into the 120-degree Sauna Cave. Paddle another leg of the 11-mile journey and you’ll begin to take the scenery for granted—until you catch a herd of 30 bighorn sheep drinking their fill. When you finish, one thing is for certain: You’ve earned whatever giant slab of red meat you eat tonight. ($150, redrock lasvegas.com/adventure_spa)
You haven’t gambled in hours. Fortunately, your cab driver is willing to go double or nothing that he can get you back to the Strip in 15 minutes.
The Stratosphere offers a glorified bungee ride, but this is Vegas, where there’s a high-roller version of everything. True weightlessness is the only way to fly, and for $4,147, the Zero Gravity Corporation will shoot you into space—or as close as you can get and still be back at the craps table a few hours later. Dressed in NASA-style jumpsuits, thrill-seekers board G-Force One, a hollowed-out Boeing 727. The jet climbs to 34,000 feet and, before you can say “astronaut diaper,” executes a parabolic climb-and-dive that pins you to the floor, then levitates you with the sensation of swimming without water. After a minute of clumsy floating, gravity sets you down. Luckily, the arc is repeated 15 times, and soon you’re flipping and gulping water globs out of the air like Tom Hanks in Apollo 13. You wish it would never end. It does, but again, this is Vegas—everyone comes back down to Earth at some point.
Your skinny jeans won’t appreciate Bellagio Buffets’ gourmet venison, king crab legs, sushi, and 400 pounds of Kobe beef. Your skinny jeans can suck it.
“Everything in Vegas is either a megaclub or an ultralounge,” says motocross superstar and Vegas native Carey Hart. “It’s too much of the silver-shirt crowd.” His solution? Build a hangout safe for Motörhead tats and denim. Welcome to Wasted Space, a new bar/club created inside the Hard Rock. Sure, Wasted Space offers pricey bottle service, but it also slings $4 PBRs. “I wanted to do something that’s high-end but still has a dark, dirty, comfortable feel,” Hart says. The venue, dominated by a punk-concert-poster mural, boasts DJs spinning actual rock music and a stage for live performances—Good Charlotte’s Benji and Joel Madden have already wowed the crowd. “I love places where I don’t have to worry about photographers taking some wack picture of me drunk off my ass,” Hart says, settling into a distressed-leather booth. “And this is that place.”
A stroll through seedy downtown Vegas uncovers not only a few entrepreneurs openly peddling hard narcotics and even harder sex, but also a budding local bar scene. Welcome to the freshly coined Fremont East district, a patch of almost-safe streets next to the neon-canopied, casino-laden blocks that have long been downtown’s hub. “It’s pretty much a secret among locals,” says townie Tori Johnson, cradling a PBR draft in the district’s premier suds slinger, the Griffin. Want to meet local lovelies who can be impressed by a drink purchase other than Cristal? Here’s your pub crawl: (1) the Griffin, a bohemian-feeling speakeasy with a killer jukebox; (2) Beauty Bar, an N.Y.C. transplant themed to look like an old-fashioned beauty salon; (3) Sidebar, a shining shrine to mixology; and (4) Downtown Cocktail Room, a pulsing, dimly lit hipster lounge. The city recently spent $5.5 million cleaning up the surrounding streets and adding retro neon, so the time to enjoy the scene is now, before damn tourists like us ruin it.
OK, better at least make an appearance at the convention so the boss doesn’t realize you’re MIA. Hey, those ventriloquist dummies won’t sell themselves.
The Plastic Surgeon
Dr. Frank Stile is building a better Las Vegas—one breast at a time
A recent Sunday afternoon at Scores, Dr. Frank Stile launched into his routine before an audience of 250 young female dancers. However, he wasn’t selling his body—he was selling the opportunity to make certain things bigger, certain things smaller, and everything more profitable.
Stile, 41, is one of the busiest plastic surgeons in Vegas, where surgical enhancement is considered more of a job requirement than a personal whim. The native New Yorker arrived five years ago with billboards that pictured him surrounded by patients in thongs. “It raised the ire of more traditional plastic surgeons,” says Stile. “But it got people in the door.”
That door leads to Stile’s $5 million, 10,000-square-foot plastic surgery mecca, which cribs ceiling sky scenes from Caesars Palace and chandeliers from the Bellagio. Office manager Tiffany Gunn is a former Playboy model who also happens to be Stile’s fiancée.
Stile estimates that 20 percent of his patients are “entertainers,” a catchall term he uses to describe porn stars, strippers, and call girls. He cultivates this client base with presentations like the one at Scores, and while the response is generally positive, he has a secret weapon that helps him close the deal. “When I was in college and med school, I was an entertainer myself,” he says.
Stile often steers clients away from the oversize implants that characterized Vegas “entertainment” in the ’80s and ’90s in favor of a more natural look. “It doesn’t mean National Geographic natural,” he says. “It means an un-operated-on look.” In fact, a thriving part of his practice is correcting old surgeries for former entertainers who “want to downsize so they can go to PTA meetings.”
However, most of his patients are looking for more, not less, and Stile thinks the economy is partly to blame—more ample dimensions mean more ample tips. But he’s optimistic about his patients’ prospects. “If you look the best and feel the best you can, you’ll do better in this town. Trust me.”
CHRISTIAN AUDIGIER THE NIGHTCLUB
The trendiest new club on the Strip was created by the fashion designer responsible for the trucker-hat craze. But don’t hold that against him. Inside the midsize Treasure Island casino venue, Audigier’s trademark crystals, tattoo-art roses, and giant metal skulls decorate the walls, hinting at the decadence that awaits. Fashionably slutty girls crowd the dance floor. Two 1,000-gallon tanks swarm with jellyfish. “There’s a whole room in back full of equipment just to keep these things alive,” a waitress notes. The sea life glows under a blacklight, but eyes wander to a pair of blondes working stripper poles by the VIP area. Apparently, there is a second DJ on a terrace that looks directly onto TI’s live pirate show and the Strip, but we never make it that far. The night proceeds, sans trucker hat.
BEEP! Guys, where the fuck are you? Lost you after the club cleared out, and now I’m in the Luxor—somewhere. I came in through this hidden side door. Reservations only—I hooked up with some girls who were on the list. We stumbled through a long red corridor before busting into a very cool new bar. Called Noir Bar, if you can find it. It’s like a little speakeasy. They’re saying it’s open till 6 a.m. It’s weird. There isn’t even a drink menu. You just tell the bartender what you like—vodka, chocolate, steak, um…Metallica, whatever—and he spends 10 minutes mixing up something bizarre. Everybody is drunk. I just knocked back a carrot-cake martini. Yeah, a carrot-cake martini. I hope that doesn’t make me gay. Wait a second, is that Dave Navarro? Anyway, you guys are morons for not being here. I’ll find you in the morning.
Take the biker dude you’re handcuffed to’s word for it: Do not call your girlfriend and ask for bail money.
WESTERN HOTEL & CASINO
“Don’t take your eyeballs off them chips,” wheezes the nicotine-stained codger teetering on the blackjack stool next to you. “This place is full of assholes who’ll snatch ’em and run.” Yep, finding yourself inside this dingy cave of a casino five sketchy downtown blocks from the Fremont Street Experience is a prime clue that your high-roller night has taken a bizarre turn. The smoke is thick, the floors are bare wood, and you’re more likely to witness an arrest than a bachelorette party. Blackjack tables have $3 minimums 24 hours a day, a roulette wager is a measly 25¢, and the slots are looser than the hookers trolling the parking lot. Tip your hard-times waitress generously and she’ll bring tallboy beers till she looks like a Brazilian bikini model. (They pair well with the snack bar’s fanciest dining option, a chili dog.) Just don’t get too comfy, friend. Stay alert enough to ward off the locals begging for chips. Or, what the hell—toss somebody a fiver. Suddenly, here, you’re a high-roller after all.
MAKE AN IMPRESSION (ON YOURSELF)
You have no intention of getting a tattoo. Then again, you had no intention of drinking your weight in tequila and visiting a wedding chapel with a pre-op transsexual, either. But here you are, staring into the window of Vince Neil’s tattoo parlour in the Flamingo—yep, the chubby Mötley Crüe singer/reality star. Look, some chick is getting a tat of…a butterfly. How original! Inside there’s Crüe crap everywhere: Crüe stage outfits, Crüe motorcycle, Crüe videos playing on flat-screens. You know what would be hilarious? Demanding a big Poison tattoo on your ass. Hell, your buddies think it’d be rad! And the tequila is saying there’s no way you’ll regret this in the morning.
TRUEFITT & HILL
Last night was epic—a depraved blur of sweaty clubs, controlled substances, and anatomically explicit lap dances. Now you’ve gulped a fistful of Aleve and ritually burned your “lucky” boxer shorts. And yet you still feel…funky. Truefitt & Hill, the traditional British barbershop tucked into a corner of the Caesars Forum Shops, can complete your decontamination with style—and make you presentable for the skeptical girlfriend picking you up at the airport tonight. The hot-lather shave alone, complete with straight razor and warm towels ($65), is enough to soothe a guilty conscience. “But we advise guys not to return home looking more clean-cut than when they arrived in Vegas,” says master barber and all-around wise man Uziel Munoz. “It’s too suspicious.” Still, throw in a neck massage and a shoeshine and at least you’ll walk out feeling like a proper English gentlemen. Definitely not the sort of rogue who’d talk a pair of retired schoolteachers into a three-way in the elevator.
Who knew an airport bench could be so comfy after two nights with no sleep? In fact, you just dozed right through your boarding call. Oh, well, another 48 hours in Vegas won’t kill you.