Stiffed on the Strip
An edited version of this column appeared in Las Vegas CityLife on Oct. 27, 2006

The biggest giggle among the semi-retired society prostitutes of Reno back in the early 1970s concerned a major Las Vegas casino owner who decided that his showgirls should not be the only beneficiaries of silicone enhancement.

To make a long story longer, this guy had done to his manhood what women were doing to their mammalia. The old boy used to offer to show it off at cocktail parties.

The formerly painted ladies of the Strip, now rich and respectable in Gomorrah North, speculated about whether their onetime client could have a closed coffin at his memorial service.

Sheldon Adelson and Steve Wynn are the latter day descendants of that long-gone lumberjack and make him look picayune by comparison. Modern gambling moguls can't keep their egos in their pants, either. They want to show you how big theirs have become by not only putting up multi-billion dollar concrete and steel metaphors, but also by getting them topped off by international bankers eager to finance the enhancement and publicize the coming together of the fiscal and physical packages.

After erection, an endless cacophony of compliant politicians bow down and worship these neolympian obelisks so capable of copulative quantities of quick campaign cash.

Anyone who dares question the propriety of such dangerous public/private liaisons is quickly condemned as nuts or, worse, not a team player.

How often has the gambling-industrial complex told us that the bedrooms of yesteryear have been replaced by today's boardrooms in the bistro bordellos of Las Vegas Blvd. South? Such PR may play in Peoria, but oldtimers know that nothing's changed but the packaging.
Anyone looking for evidence that old-fashioned gambling hall paternalism remains alive and well in the long, tall corporate towers need look no further than the recent machinations of Mssrs. Wynn and Adelson.

The latter stiffed his contractors in the construction of the Venetian, spawning lengthy litigation. The former just stuck it to his casino dealers by ordering that they share their tips with their bosses. Feeling frisky after screwing his staff, Mr. Wynn followed up by reportedly poking a hole in a Picasso.

Oldtime gambling hall proprietors liked to tell stories about showing up for work armed with six-guns because both their customers and their workers were equally as likely to steal from them – what's mine is mine and don't you dare try to touch it.

Which explains why Mr. Adelson doesn't want filthy union demonstrators touching his pristine sidewalks and is willing to take the issue all the way to the Supreme Court and, failing that, perhaps the Pope or Dubya, hisself.

Reno's retired working girls used to chuckle about the futility of silicone silliness. No matter which body part got shot up, the proprietor traded sensitivity for size – all show and no go. What a blow.

That lesson has been lost in antiquity. Today's bully boys want everything their way or no way, workers be damned.

Like that long-dead casino overlord with the cocktail conversation codpiece, Mssrs. Wynn and Adelson can't feel a thing.


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Copyright © 2006 Andrew Barbano

Andrew Barbano is a 38-year Nevadan and editor of As always, his opinions are strictly his own. Barbwire by Barbano has originated in the Daily Sparks (Nev.) Tribune since 1988.

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