This is a city where someone actually thought, "Hey, let's have people jump off the top of our hotel on a vertical zip line." Where someone said, "Forget about strip shows! Let's have day clubs with topless pools where we charge male tourists a lot of money to stare at female tourists." Cha-ching! It worked.
Las Vegas is building a pro hockey arena on the Strip. Ice skating in the desert? No problem.
This city shows what money can do. Enough money, and anything is possible: bizarre dreams and odd quests and strange sights. Even a peaceful hotel room in a city where music constantly pulses and showgirls on break hang out on the sidewalk, their feather headdresses resting on the grass like sleeping birds.
I am staying at Hotel 32, a little-known boutique lodging high atop the Monte Carlo Hotel. It has just 51 rooms, separate check-in, a view of the shimmering Strip and little chocolates served on small white trays. I have a personal concierge who called me two days before I arrived to ask if I needed anything. Book a suite, and they will pick you up in a limo from the airport. My studio room cost $258 a night, including resort fees and taxes, about $200 more than a regular room at the Monte Carlo, which can start as low as $49 a night.
And guess what? Las Vegas is actually full of these secret hotels. Caesars Palace has the tiny Nobu Hotel inside its vast white edifice. MGM has the Skylofts, a separate small hotel within the blocky blue exterior of its massive resort. Mandalay Bay has the Four Seasons.
Why do they do it? Snob appeal.
The Monte Carlo is a huge resort wedged next to the kitschy New York New York Hotel. It caters to the budget-minded. So why pay for Hotel 32? Well, you get your own elevator, and that's cool. I also sweep past the long check-in lines into the hushed VIP room, where check-in takes two minutes and they call me "Mrs. Creager." Upstairs, they have a lounge with snacks and breakfast so you don't have to mingle with the riffraff below.
In Las Vegas, though, it turns out to be sort of boring to sit in your expensive hotel room staring out the window on the 32nd floor instead of wandering amid the riffraff below, who seem to be having a whole lot more fun than you are.
So was staying at the exclusive boutique hotel worth it? Yes and no. Hotel 32 is a bargain compared with MGM's Skylofts (about $900 a night), so it was a reasonable choice. It was quiet. It had beautiful teal drapes and furniture. Service was excellent. But glamorous? Not enough to make the extra expense worthwhile.
At any rate, experiencing a true snob moment in Vegas sometimes is more a matter of chance than money.
One night, taxis were few, but I heard that a group getting into a limousine was looking for one more person headed to the Mirage Hotel — and that was me. I jumped in. And guess what? It turns out one couple knew singer Michael Jackson and had worked for him at Neverland Ranch, and now I was in a long black limo with them speeding down the Strip, brushing arms with the late king of pop's close personal former employees and feeling almost, sort of, like a star.