Lady luck please let the dice stay hot
Let me shout a seven with every shot
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Yeah, sure, everybody's been to Las Vegas. So what's to tell?
If you took the typical three-day weekend tourist route, you rode a bus across miles of featureless desert in scorching heat, checked into a third-rate hotel (the hotel rates here run all the way to 123rd-rate), hit the floor and got cleaned out by the Double-Diamond slot machine (98% payout my foot!), pulled cash out of the ATM, headed for the nearest five-dollar buffet (all steam-table food), left the hotel to walk the strip (no matter what you do, someone will force a flyer with a number for an escort service and a picture of a nude woman into your hand), saw the free shows (the erupting volcano or the pirate fight), got sloppy off the free drinks ("Cocktails!" the drink ladies call out day and night), and crashed from the burnout soon after.
Oh, wait, this isn't the glamorous place in the city's signature song? Yes, there's things that a song can't convey: The smells, from the permanent water-stains of the lobby carpets to a whiff from the gratings of the city's overworked sewer system. The feeling, both of the synthetic plastic seats of the diner booths sticking to your thighs and the smog that makes every breath feel like you're smoking a cigarette. The sense that you'd better either go big or go home, because for every glitzy casino with blinking lights and showgirls cavorting out front, there's three slot houses that have folded up and are scheduled for a date with dynamite. No matter what shows headline a casino in its glory days, the Loizeaux family (of Controlled Demolition, Inc.) always provides the closing act.
Viva Las Vegas movie poster
Elvis Presley's 1964 "Viva Las Vegas" and the movie of the same name aren't written about this
Vegas. This is the post-recession Vegas we have now, but the song is about the post-war 1960s Vegas, when the American dream was going full steam, the Mafia and the Rat Pack were in control but ran things right, and Hunter S. Thompson would soon speed his way there with a trunk full of acid, amphetamines, and ether. This is the city where all of your carnal desires are delivered like a pizza, existing for no other reason than that the consumers demanded it.
The song has been covered more times than Michael Jackson's face. By the Dead Kennedys, ZZ Top, Ann-Margaret, The Grascals, Fiskales Ad-Hok, Shawn Colvin, Bruce Springsteen, The Thrills, Wayne Newton, The Residents, The Misfits, Nine Inch Nails, Billy Swan, Dolly Parton, Dread Zeppelin, Engelbert Humperdinck, Lee Rocker, Phil Cody, The Gipsy Vagabonds, The Stray Cats, Cornell Hurd, King Junior, The Blues Brothers, The Royal Crown Revue, The Southern Boys, and Plastilina Mosh. To name a few. Odds are good that you'll hear it on any given karaoke night, as well.
Elvis didn't write it, by the way. It was written by Doc Pomus and Mort Shuman, and furthermore borrows its opening riff from the song "Brazil" by Xavier Cugat, which is most famously used as the theme for the movie "Brazil" by Terry Gilliam. Gilliam went on to direct the filmed version of Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas
, thus completing the circle.
The movie for which this song is written, and the fact that it is hailed as Presley's signature film, no doubt plays a role in the continued popularity of Elvis in Las Vegas. To this day, he is the most impersonated performer on the strip, and if you catch a limousine full of Elvis impersonators in their sequined white jumpsuits - perhaps on Las Vegas Boulevard crossing Sahara Boulevard while the roller coaster erupts from the side of the Sahara casino like an enraged tiger - you'll feel the middle ground that connects old Vegas to new Vegas, if only for a flash that's gone as fast as a $2-dollar pass-line bet.Pete Trbovich
May 29, 2012
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