IT IS 42 deg in the shade and Las Vegas is sizzling both inside and out.
In the streets, perspiring punters traipsing from one casino to the next, pause to chill down at strategically placed cool zone machines pumping out swirling, vaporous clouds of cold air.
They stand with arms outstretched in blissful relief like drenched Cormorants drying out on a riverbank.
At the air-conditioned 1200-seat theatre in the venerable New York New York Hotel and Casino, the temperature is a comfortable 22 degrees - but it’s hotter in here than any Las Vegas summer.
The real heat is rising from the stage as the famed Cirque du Soleil company presents the steamy Zumanity, a creation like no other in the company’s international programs of dance, music and acrobatics.
While retaining all the characteristics of its classic format, Cirque du Soleil’s Zumanity delves deep into the world of theatrical eroticism, sexuality, sensuality, love, and emotion.
At times humorous, always provocative, it puts a new twist on the risque intimacy of the European cabaret tradition.
But while the show may be raising a few eyebrows, it would take more than Zumanity to upstage the hypnotic spectacle of Las Vegas itself, gambling capital of the world.
Las Vegas was founded on May 15 1905 but stagnated for almost 40 years. As World War 11 ended, the mafia began casting a hungry eye over the grubby little desert town with a few gas stations, greasy-spoon diners and slot machine establishments.
One of the earliest ‘developers’ was the gangster Bugsy Siegel who built the Flamingo with about US$6million of mob funds. Eventually, Bugsy was caught with his fingers in the cookie jar and summarily executed on the orders of his boss, Meyer Lansky. The good times rolled on with the mob solidly in control until the early 1990’s when, after a long campaign, the FBI finally declared the city virtually free of organised mafia crime.
These days, despite the explosive cocktail of big money and big crowds, Las Vegas is way down (around No 12) on the list of North American crime cities.
Las Vegas 2010 is a brassy, pulsating mix of architectural fantasy, giant shopping malls, spotless streets, and frenzied round-the-clock fun that knows no bounds, epitomised by the city’s official slogan: ‘What happens here stays here’.
This year, Las Vegas will tantalise and titillate nearly 37 million visitors as they splurge more than $9billion on gaming alone. Each will devote nearly four hours a day chasing the kind of jackpot ($40 million) that went to a 20-something bachelor from Southern California in 2003.
For the 11 percent of visitors who don’t gamble, there are plenty of diversions, including more top-rating shows and super stars of the entertainment industry than any place on earth Add to this a score of other major shows from the topless ladies at Bottoms Up to the Folies Bergere at the Tropicana , hundreds of restaurants and bars, and a nightlife than rocks 24 hours a day in the city that never sleeps.
There’s also a choice of 30 spas, 60 golf courses and a Convention Centre that attracts more than five million trade show delegates a year.
In the event of a spontaneously serious romance, join the 120,000 who marry in Las Vegas every year including, in the past, Elvis and Priscilla Presley, Frank Sinatra and Mia Farrow, Jane Fonda and Roger Vadim, Bruce Willis and Demi Moore, Cindy Crawford and Richard Gere, Paul Newman and Joanne Woodward. Others: Brigitte Bardot, Joan Collins, Mickey Rooney (several times), Tony Curtis, Sammy Davis Jr., Bing Crosby and Joan Crawford.
And while you may prefer not to know, the uncrowned King of Las Vegas, singer Wayne Newton is still performing at the age of 67. His latest show, "Once Before I Go" at Tiffany Theatre at the Tropicana, celebrates 50 years of wailing to 40 million fans on the strip.
Members of the anti Wayne Newton fan club will be heartened to note that the show is strictly a "limited engagement production".
- Getting there: V Australia, to Los Angeles with connections to Las Vegas.
- Climate Las Vegas averages almost 320 days of sunshine a year with the hottest months in June, July and August, and coldest December, January, February, March.
- Dress code: Virtually none. T-shirts and shorts in most places in the warmer months. Legal drinking and gambling age is 21.
- Accommodation rates are among the lowest in the U.S.A. Check many sites on the web or ask your local travel agent.
Best source of information: The Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority in Sydney. (02) 9356 2266 www.visitlasvegas.com.au.
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