Of course now I will be singing this Dean Martin song for the rest of the day to myself, and “aint that a kick in the head?” By the time this is published I will be back to the more normal grind of life back at home, but for now I am back in Las Vegas visiting our children and grandchildren that live over here. Our other son chides us for staying the week in Summerlin and off The Strip, but since the children have houses in Summerlin, it makes sense, and after all we can always drive down to The Strip. I have been coming to Vegas since the Seventies, and I have seen the changes over the decades, and for me the old days were better.
In the old days Vegas was glamorous and one dressed up to the nines for a night out on the town. There were not as many hotels on The Strip as there are now, but it was exciting. The shows were wonderful, but you went to see a celebrity, not a canned show that can run for years, and the cast can be changed and no one would realize it. I mean if they changed Frank Sinatra, you would know immediately. The casinos had magnificent orchestras backing the headliners, and even the opening acts were stars. Years ago I remember being sung to at my table by Bernadette Peters in a wonderful evening gown and she was opening up for Rich Little. I remember waiting for my car, and I was standing next to Sammy Davis Jr., who was doing the same thing, and I had just seen him the night before. There was even the time that I got a bottle of bubbly, because I ended up on stage with Don Ho, the “Dean Martin” of Hawaii.
The only thing that I think has improved over the years is that now Vegas is an epicenter of cuisine. In the old days dinner was usually included with a show. One would have “surf and turf” and watch some great entertainment. The whole concept for the casinos was to keep the patrons in the complex, so the rooms and dinners were underwrote by the profits of the casino; nowadays the hotel, the bars and the restaurants all are on their own to make their own profit. This has brought some of the greatest chefs and great restaurants all to open up somewhere on The Strip. Imagine dining on the creations that were originally from Yountville, Manhattan and New Orleans just to name a few. Not only that, but you can have dinner in the Eiffel Tower one night, and then dine alongside the canals of Venice the next; Disney in the desert.
I think that my biggest gripe is that since corporations have taken over the city, the city now appears dirty. If you walk along The Strip you are accosted by individuals trying to entice you for all sorts of entertainment, but the worst part of it, is that the street is littered with all the paper advertisements that they hand out. In the old days there was none of this, and the walkways were much cleaner. I recently discovered what I consider the demise of the old guard, when I read about the film Casino on the film site imdb.com; “Dick Smothers’ character, Senator, is partly based on Nevada Senator Harry Reid, who was chairman of the Nevada Gaming Commission. The scene in which Sam Rothstein is denied a license by the Nevada Gaming Commission is based on a December 1978 hearing when Harry Reid was the commission’s chairman; some of Reid’s statements are used in Smothers’ dialogue. The scene was shot in an actual courtroom in the Clark County Courthouse, which was later closed in 2005.” This was the end of one era, and the start of another era.
On the bright side, there is much more wine and quality wine available now out in the desert, but it can be very dear in price. There are those that win at the tables that would rather spend the winnings on a spectacular meal and bottle of wine, and of course sometimes those winners are “comped” by the casino, of course I don’t have to worry about that, since I don’t gamble. Since we now go out to dinner en masse with the families, the days of fine dining aren’t as plentiful, but there is still time to discover some wines to write about during our stay.