You Look Like a Million Bucks

Attention old timers - those who remember when one of the favorite tourist attractions was a million dollars cash on display in Binion's on Fremont Street:

It might not be worth what it was when it was removed in 1998 but it's nice to see that money returned to its position of glory.

You do remember Texas gambler Benny Binion, don't you? If not, check him out in the search box on this page. A true Vegas legend. "The only bad luck for a good gambler is bad health. Any other setbacks are temporary aggravation." -- Benny Binion

Distinctly Vegas - Marshall Retail Group

OK - eyes up from the gambling, if only briefly.

During my recent visit to Caesars Palace, a friendly lady named Margo at the Total Rewards desk recommended Carina's, a clothing store inside Caesars, and (she promised), "Much cheaper than anything in the Forum Shops." Hey, I don't go to Vegas to shop, but why not?

I stopped in about 10 p.m. Intending to walk in and out, I stayed almost an hour delighting in the wide assortment of fun, very moderately priced clothes. I picked out a dress to give a friend who is going away for a spa weekend, I tried on some strappy gold sandals, and I picked out some lightweight, colorful blouses that were great in the heavily air conditioned casino. The top-notch staff really knew their inventory, which (as a kid of a retailing family) I truly admired. Turns out Carina is part of the Marshall Retail Group, and the sales staff (Debra and Cindy) had such great things to say about the company I came home and did a little research.

I'd seen Marshall-Russo stores for decades - most recently at Bally’s, Excalibur, Harrah’s, & McCarran International Airport. Cute clothes, cute shoes, and a pretty good place to pop into for moderate-priced presents to take home. It's not Vegas-themed t-shirts and tchochkes (for that go to Casino Royale or Imperial Palace). Still, the stores were mostly background scenery.

Maybe the stores were background to me, but this privately-held Vegas based company is a highly successful chain of retailers with stores in 70 casinos and resorts. The Marshall Retail Group owns dozens of brands - Carino, Shoooz, Along Came a Spider, among them. They also operate Harley-Davidson stores chock full of biker regalia, leather goods, and logo items (found at Bally's, MGM Grand, New York New York, Fremont Street and the Rio).

I'm emailing the company, asking for more info about the founders and philosophy - and will post what I get. In the meantime, the next time you're in Vegas, remember that not everything interesting in Vegas comes with neon. Here's a very nice, boutique-type company with eclectic inventory and friendly staff. It's a Vegas success story that you can enjoy away from the casino.

Mystery with a Gimmick - How Vegas!

We love a good gimmick, so walking through Las Vegas' McCarran Airport and spotting an author signing books, with a tag, "Search for the hidden dagger worth $25,000" caught the eye of one of our contributors.

Author Stephen Grogan was cheerfully explaining to a customer (who, yes, did buy the book) how his "interactive" novel worked. Basically, the novel "Vegas Die" is a whodunit in which someone is killing the old mobsters of Vegas and the mayor becomes the No. 1 suspect.

But Grogan has added a treasure hunt for a dagger hidden somewhere in metropolitan Las Vegas. Clues to the dagger's whereabouts are buried within the pages of the mystery. The first alert reader to solve the puzzle can keep the dagger or redeem it for $25,000 cash.
["sorry honey, can't do the cub scounts. I'm going to Vegas to search for $25,000"]

Those who go in search of the $25,000 dagger have been dubbed "Questors," and need to first register at to understand the basic ground rules of the game.

Grogan has experience in playing games. He has spent fifteen years in the casino gaming industry – the last seven with a well-known game design company.

We haven't yet read the book - so no review attached - but you gotta love a guy who adds tours of sites mentioned in his book, and a treasure hunt, to his marketing plan. How Vegas is that!

Ripped Off by a Taxi - Complain!

If you've been to Vegas a lot, you know - the Las Vegas taxi drivers are great, and overwhelmingly honest. But some will rip you off...a $25 trip from McCarran to Harrahs or a $30 trip from Mirage to MGM.

If it happens to you, there is a link below to a video from the Las Vegas Taxicab Authority that tells you how to make a complaint. It's only 34 seconds, so it should be part of your "Vegas insiders" toolkit. (The complaint line, fyi, is 702-486-6532)

BTW - in June, 2008 the Taxicab Authority raised rates by 45 cents a mile, so expect your trips to be more expensive - about an extra $1.50 from the airport to Caesars Palace.

Taxicab authority video

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Flair Bartending at Harrah's Carnaval Court

How have I completely missed stopping by to see the flair bartenders at Harrahs! I've stayed there a dozen times, and still, never taken the time. It's a must -- my next trip, I stop by Carnaval Court.

UPDATE; YEA - Finally made it over to the Court to see them. Pretty much like I'd seen it on TV and YouTube, though the loud base-heavy music and screaming loud conversation made it more authentic :=) I stopped by at 7 p.m. and the security guard told me it was the end of a shift so I'd see a more lively exhibition if I came back after 8. I did and he was right.

I also stopped by Shadows, the Caesars Palace bar with flair bartenders. Friday night, late-ish, but the team there seemed less into the joy of it all.

The Vegas Showgirl

The Vegas showgirl is as iconic as - uh - just about anything. Vegas Vic, one-armed bandits, craps tables, and the topless Vegas showgirl complete with feathered headdress. It's all Vegas, baby! (Photo from Destination360)

It's a little sad little fact that these revues are slowly disappearing. Only three productions featuring traditional showgirls remain on the Strip: the Tropicana's "Folies Bergere," Riviera's "Splash" and Bally's "Jubilee!"

They are being replaced by Broadway-style production shows. I guess that's what you'd call all the Cirque shows, plays, high-tech shows, musicals etc. It's a revenue thing as much as an image thing, I'm sure.

5 or 6 years back, E! ran a series titled, "Vegas Showgirls: Nearly Famous." It was fascinating - watching the incredible work and pressure, and the slow demise, inching rather than racing into quaintness, soon to be oblivion. Back in 2006, the NYT had an article, "The Twilight of the Ostrich-Plumed, Rhinestone-Brassiered Las Vegas Showgirl."

It got me to thinking maybe I should take the backstage tour of Jubilee! before the show, like so much of Vegas, disappears into a balance sheet of modern corporate decision making. [ed note: Bally's owner, Harrah's, has been especially non-sentimental in its razor-sharp cuts under the new ownership of two private equity groups, so anything is a very real possibility]

Anyway, here's a snippet from author Mike Gerrard, in his article Las Vegas Nude Showgirls Revisited that gives you the flavor of what you learn on the tour:

The cramped dressing rooms are two stories below the stage. Paula has 11 costume changes, which makes each show like an hour on a Stairmaster. 'The stairs on stage are 12 inches high, twice normal height,' she says. 'Walking down those in high heels, wearing a 20 pound costume, a headdress that sticks out three feet on each side, hitting your mark to avoid bumping into the other 85 dancers…and doing it topless…is quite a challenge.'

If you have any experiences with Vegas showgirls - shows, people, tours, send them in.

Las Vegas Sun - The History of Sin City

The Las Vegas Sun launched a WOW-ser of an online special section on August 10. Titled "A Gamble in the Sun" it features fun, deep and interesting information about Las Vegas history - including videos, photos, facts, profiles, interactive maps (see the Strip decade-by-decade), etc. [ed note: the link is not working consistently today - Monday 8-11 - not my fault, something with the Sun's site]

The Sun recently brought in a new crew to its interactive division, headed by Rob Curley, a long-time interactive newspaper maven whose last gig was the Washington Post online. We think Rob's style matches the spirit of Vegas perfectly. Can't wait to see what else is on the way.

Las Vegas Special Collections - History in Images

Escape the neon lights for a moment and enjoy the rich history of Las Vegas.

If you are the type of person who likes museums, and likes to think about Vegas beyond gambling, here is a site for you: The UNLV Special Collections website.

It is a wonderful, rich resource.

A Wise Word about Good Luck

"If you wish to count on luck, contemplate “good luck,” at all times. Learn from mistakes and move on. The images you create, within your mind, will determine your path in life. Envision good luck, take calculated steps toward it, and do not quit. "

Paul Jerard - author, Yoga master

Getting In Shape for Vegas with Blackjack

Yet another way to test your luck - get in gear - and to be thinking of Vegas. To play, just click Deal. Also check out our Slot Machine.

Steve Wynn is Always News to Those Who Think of Vegas

For those who follow such - here's an NYT article from Sunday, August 3, "The Chips are Down in Vegas. But Steve Wynn is Betting Big"

Here's a taste of how the writer captures Mr. Wynn, and Vegas itself:

"The give and the take. The grand gesture. The over-the-top glitz. The invocation of magic in a brew of 24/7 gambling, resort excess, ultrahigh-end shopping, fine dining and routine pampering. These are all part and parcel of a toolkit toted around for decades by the man credited with changing the landscape of the Strip and bringing a semblance of class to Sin City.

Later this year, Mr. Wynn, 66, will open his latest project: the $2.3 billion Encore casino resort, a fantasy land featuring 2,034 luxury suites, a glass-encased casino overlooking several pools, and penthouse baccarat tables for high rollers.

The Encore is also an outsize gamble by a man who has made a lucrative, freewheeling career out of such moves..."
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Review of Mirage's BLT Burger

The often witty PSLove Blog has a dandy review of the new hamburger joint at the Mirage, BLT Burger, including a niggling little side thought that will haunt many Vegas regulars -- since the restaurant replaced the white tigers, the lingering thought (though totally not present) of tiger pee seems to haunt her as she eats.

The bill, a hefty $50 for two burgers, one order of onion rings, a soda and a milk shake is an OUCH.

She also has some updated promotional offers on her blog, so if you're in a Vegas mood, check it out.

Good Luck Slot

Test your Vegas luck on this before you go to the real thing. Also check out our Blackjack game.

We had a much faster, niftier slot, but suddenly it refused to load - sigh. This one is a little lunky - but hey - it works and it's been vetted by Google. Yes, you can play right here on Thinking Of Vegas - or if you insist, leave our site and go to the full screen version. Anyway, it's a way for you to start thinking about good luck. Just click Bet 1 or Bet 5, then press the spin button. See how long it takes to double (or lose) your money.

A Rockin Jingle

Intuit Quickbooks makes this slick jingle generator available - featuring Tommy Silk. So if you're up for a rockin' (but silly) good time, check out our Thinking of Vegas Jingle. Nice tie-in, don'tcha think? Quickbooks? Accounting? Money? Vegas? Yeh, we're hopeless, everything sets us to thinking of vegas.

Thinking of Historic Vegas

Ahh, yes. Las Vegas - the city of opportunity and destiny.

The SanPedro, Los Angeles and Salt Lake Railroad, (later sold to and absorbed by the Union Pacific) auctioned off 1,200 lots adjoining the "railroad townsite of Las Vegas," on a single day leading to the official founding of Las Vegas on May 15, 1905. The area is in today's downtown Las Vegas, or what is called "Glitter Gulch". (For more about the location, size, etc of these lots visit History of Las Vegas' Block 16).

I believe the Glitter Gulch phrase - and correct me if I'm wrong - was the winning phrase in a contest run by local business interests. The winner was a high school girl who got $50 and a miniature model of a slot machine. But accounts vary - some sources say the area was being promoted as Glitter Gulch in the 1940's - another account dates the naming to 1953.

Essortment has a nice brief overview of Las Vegas, including the fact it was the last western state to OUTLAW gambling in the 1900's, then the first to legalize casino gambling in 1931.

Win a Trip to Las Vegas

Some win-a-Vegas-trip contests are so mundane you think, heck, I can have a better time using my comps than winning this.

But the official Las Vegas tourism web site has some "ultimate" Las Vegas trips, including one that includes walking the red carpet at Paul Oakenfold's Perfecto opening (Palms), backstage pass to the Blue Man Group (Venetian) and a makeover and shopping spree.

Another trip includes a tattoo from Vince Neil Ink and getting to hang out with Criss Angel.

Enter the Ultimate Vegas Escapes Sweepstakes at Visit Las Vegas.