Spectacle Vegas

spec·ta·cle  (spkt-kl)n.1.b. A public performance or display, especially one on a large or lavish scale.

Vegas is not Vegas without that sense of spectacle. If nothing, to remain with your mouth, as my  father used to say. Two hotels hit that for me, three were runners up and will be mentioned on another blog. One, the Bellagio, is a class by itself and deserves its own blog.

The Venetian

Matt was impressed with the Venetian. I did make it inside, but not to the mall and the rainstorm. There is a lot of beautiful research,

and under the cooler morning sun, I spent time walking around. The bridge, a replica of the one over the Grand Canal, the Tower and the Doge’s Palace are remarkable. The rolling walkways which take you through the bridge are unexpected. But the clear light of the West, does not remind me of the more yellow light of Venice, nor it’s shadows. Venice really has a way with color in its buildings and the naturalness of its water. One understands how Bellini, Giorgione, Titian and Tintoretto are its products. The other thing is car traffic running parallel. In Venice, there are no cars as I remember!

The other thing that threw me was the Visconti type of atmosphere in some of the areas of the hotel. This ceiling (above) rivals the type of thing you see in the Garnier. And the dwarfing thing that goes on, as if to say, “Oh, you puny mortals.” To the great vulgarity of capitalizing on the like of Giovanni Bellini’s eerie Portrait of Doge Leonardo Loredan in the taxi area (below).

We heard a big hubbub in the lobby, and later realized this shouting and singing was the gondoliers going to work. The water reminded me of my swimming pool at home, and I wondered if the couple who may have paid up to $64 for a private gondolier, could smell the chlorine!

Singing Gondoliers (right), the outside ride (left).

You won’t find a chair or a bench checking in here (directly above) or at Caesars (directly below).

No expense is spared, except for chairs or benches in the lobbies. But I wonder if all that glitters is golden. I was in several hotels (Caesar’s, Venetia, Imperial Palace, and there are NO places to sit when checking in). Dr Zuk is almost right about that one. The Bellagio does have chairs!

It reminds me of NYC in the 80s when Koch’s solution to homelessness was to take out all the benches. Orlando, just as awful, created bus stop seating that looked like a wave sideways, so no homeless person would supposedly sleep on it. Ridiculous, if you are that tired, you will sleep on nails!

Caesars Palace

Vegas changed, and so did Caesars. I don’t know if it got better, but it did get bigger. Parts of Caesars are like a caricature of itself. Almost vulgar, and in bad taste, and then you hit some sections which are pretty classy.

The convention center (above) is nicely done, different light fixtures indicate section divisions.

The original Bernini fountain in Rome (left) is copied perfectly in front of the mall (right).

The shopping mall (two color shots above) is a trip. It is about 4 stories high. It took me a while to relate the large statues, then it struck me that opening shot of Babylonia (black and white, above right) in D.W. Griffin’s Intolerance. It has this wonderful escalator, but nothing I would want or afford to buy.

Unlike other places in Vegas, Caesars allows the guys to hang out, even in the shopping malls.

This is purely speculative on my part, but these places are like a Miss America pageant. All the girls are beautiful, so how can you say which one girl is that little bit more beautiful? It is as if they lined up all these pretty girls and you had to make a choice. Impossible!

Dr. Sharon Zukin, sort of a CSI Hetty visiting the ASA Convention, had nothing but bad things to say about Vegas. Not that some might blame her, while three warfronts go on like something out of Fahrenheit 451. But even so, she knocks style gazers as if this was Rodeo Drive. Dr. Zukin has got to be kidding! I was born and bred in NYC, no one is trendier and watches “style”–even crap style–more than New Yorkers! Not one European, even the French, gets on that list. How did she perceive the “style” of Vegas? T-shirts and jeans you can get anywhere. Has she been to Sante Fe? Maybe she forgot to go to Manhattan once in a while! And if there is any city that is a bullshit city, it would have to be DC, which really isn’t a city at all, but a couple of towns shoved between monuments and suburbs!

Dr. Zukin also knocks Vegas for being totally capitalist. No shit. If you are smart enough, you can spend very little. And the things they want bucks for, weren’t exactly worth it to begin with. By the way, in Caesars shopping mall upstairs, there are benches! Dr Zukin, might have also been staying there and picked up on it, had she gone upstairs!

Dr. Zukin ends her serious observation equating Vegas to “the big version of American suburbia.” It has taken me many decades to put suburbia together, but it remains another ghetto fortress. Orlando, for example, is an American suburbia of sorts (except it is a doughnut, there is no city center). She equates suburbia to shopping malls and restaurants. This has become a misconception of suburbia, instead of an even broader landscape of not only America–I have seen the same thing in Ankara, Lima and Paris (which I was floored by) (below).

Julia peers out a window for Lancome in Ankara (left). Banal buying along the magnificent Pacific at Larcomar in Lima (right).

After all, what was the Colosseum, or the baths? And the Romans allowed them to be free. A sort of mindless consumption, an escape from the bigger disconnect. That great line in Dawn of the Dead, when they are trapped with the zombies in a shopping mall, someone asks, why do they come here? They go to the places that made them happy. Suburbia is a sort of “safeness”, the epitome of a very classicist mentality, not unlike the safeness academia might be for Dr. Zukin.

I hope she may have rented a car, or taken a bus and gone outside the Strip area. I cannot believe she is disingenuous in her assumptions or that closed minded as if someone that flies into a city, and tells us how awful it is based upon the airport. The Strip is not what Vegas is all about, but might be its aura. Vegas is as perfect a place for a sociology convention, as the moon would be perfect for astronomers!

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