The Last Honest Place in America: In Search of Paradise and Perdition in the New Las Vegas

Overview

Las Vegas America begins with the dynamiting of the Desert Inn in October 2001, the moment when old Vegas "cool" died and the new corporate model claimed definitive victory. From this moment, Cooper takes us on a journey from the top of the Luxor Hotel's glass pyramid, down "the Strip," past the golden glow of the Mirage into the town's black ghetto. Along the way, the best-selling author introduces us to a cast of characters including casino king Steve Wynn and Tim Thuller, leader of the Vagabound Motorcycle ...

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Overview

Las Vegas America begins with the dynamiting of the Desert Inn in October 2001, the moment when old Vegas "cool" died and the new corporate model claimed definitive victory. From this moment, Cooper takes us on a journey from the top of the Luxor Hotel's glass pyramid, down "the Strip," past the golden glow of the Mirage into the town's black ghetto. Along the way, the best-selling author introduces us to a cast of characters including casino king Steve Wynn and Tim Thuller, leader of the Vagabound Motorcycle Club. He explores life among Vegas's 75,000 union families and considers how outlaws and iconoclasts are adapting to life in the new corporate city. Finally Cooper strays beyond the Strip into a desolate landscape characterized by pawnshops, destitution, crime, and impending environmental crisis. "For me," writes Cooper, "Las Vegas is the last, most honest place in America. Vegas is often described as a city of dreams and fantasy, of tinselish make-believe. But this is getting backwards. Vegas is the American market ethic stripped completely bare, a mini-world totally free of the pretenses and protocols of modern consumer capitalism. Watching it operate with barely any mediation generates nothing short of an intellectual frisson."

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
As Britney Spears recently discovered, Las Vegas has a curiously powerful hold on people. And it has taken hold of Cooper, too; his book practically teems with his own fascination with Sin City. It started when he was a kid, when his parents took him along on their gambling jaunts, and it's that enthrallment that Cooper seeks to explore and explain here. And he does it immediately post-September 11, which is on one hand crass, but on the other appropriate: is there a place for such unabashed superficiality in a more fearful and serious world? The answer, Cooper finds, is yes. Vegas has become a fixture of the American landscape, its "symbolic capital" in many ways. Indeed, Vegas presents a special allure to cultural theorists like Neil Postman, to whom this volume is dedicated. The city embraces its kitschy supremacy with its drive-thru chapels and casinos. But it's also undergoing an evolution, about which Cooper is somewhat wistful, away from its early, campy seediness and toward a more fully realized, corporate-run money machine. The book's pace has the feel of travelling along the Vegas strip, with dazzling, glorious details whizzing past that readers don't have much time to ponder. Cooper, a Nation contributing editor, writes well and has an eye for bizarre situations. But by book's end, much like after a Vegas weekend, readers may feel somewhat empty. They've seen a lot of bright, shiny things that don't have much substance, and while overwhelmed by the imagery they may not be quite sure what the point was. (Apr.) Copyright 2004 Reed Business Information.
Kirkus Reviews
Venturesome and intrepid Cooper (Pinochet and Me, 2001, etc.) becomes an embedded correspondent in a modern Xanadu designed to entice Kubla Khan, Hunter Thompson, and anyone with a spare buck. In 1947, as the mob was taking charge of the place, legendary reporter John Gunther characterized Las Vegas as "very show-offish." Maybe the town isn't as mobbed-up as it was, but Vegas is still show-offish, as Cooper nicely demonstrates. Mind you, there have been changes. The Desert Inn has been demolished, gambling is called "gaming," the Rat Pack is gone, and-who was Howard Hughes, again? Mega-corporations, bigger than Steve Wynn, control the Strip's mega-hotels, where the comps for meals and shows are fully computerized. The New Vegas is a place where big gamblers (the whales) are courted scientifically, where gaming profit (the drop) is precisely analyzed for greater yield, where clunky one-armed bandits are supplanted by TV and computer screens, where there are professors of gambling, where the blackjack shoes hold more and more cards. Yet you can still find full-service lap dancers and made guys alongside the inevitable tourists. Positioning Vegas as a destination for jolly family fun is a loser, though: kids don't gamble . . . yet. Maybe blatant jingoism will play better. To complete his winning guide to the New Vegas biosphere, Cooper leaves the Strip and the Fremont mall and turns a dark corner to find abject homelessness. The city's blemished history, arcane politics and artful politicos, owners, and workers are all considered in his testimony about a sleazy, campy, and transfixing place where people make a good living from the leavings of the suckers. Incidentally, Cooper is partial toblackjack. True Americana from an in-your-face town that is growing faster than any other in the US.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781560254904
  • Publisher: Avalon Publishing Group
  • Publication date: 6/9/2004
  • Series: Nation Books
  • Pages: 248
  • Product dimensions: 5.80 (w) x 8.30 (h) x 1.10 (d)

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