Harrah's Las Vegas

WRITING - The Vegas Guy

Harrah's Las Vegas opened in 1973 as the Holiday Casino and was bought by Harrah's, fourth largest casino company in the world, in 1992.There's just something about a blonde in spiked high heels, Spandex body stocking and open-front fur coat, beckoning to me with a free coupon, that says, "Hey, let's all live one more day."

You know what I mean if you've walked past Harrah's on the Strip around 9 at night. The Mirage volcano might be erupting directly across Las Vegas Boulevard, but nobody is noticing. The showgirls are out in force and it's ten bucks off on the late-night slink show in the Main Showroom.

And that's a very good sign. I was appalled and aghast and agog last summer when the Tropicana announced that, for the first time in its 987-year history, the Folies Bergere show would not be topless. They eventually backed off their position, and now do a "covered" show at 8 and a topless show at 10:30, but still, what overeducated marketing executive from the Wharton School of Finance came up with that idea? It certainly wasn't Frank Costello, the New York mobster who was calling the shots at the Tropicana when the French showgirls first arrived there 41 years ago. "Hey, Frank, the broads from Paris just showed up--want me to put bras on em?" There would have been another body in the desert the next day, right? And no one would have said Frank was wrong.

That's why I'm glad to report that Harrah's is upholding the finest Las Vegas tradition of high heels, high hair and high hooters. The show is called "Skintight" and on the night I wandered in it was mostly couples and Asian guys that had gathered to gander. The "Skintight" set looks like a Venetian palazzo remodeled by drunk rednecks--a lot of gilded balustrades, Corinthian columns, and lava-lamp lighting, with a funky "Shaft"-type theme song in the background, stressing somebody's wah-wah pedal. The festivities begin when ultra-skinny dancer Shannon O'Keefe--well known to us as the star of Playboy's "Wet and Wild" video--boogies out while a girl named Tracy makes a speech about "Sex, sweat and rock and roll" and three Beefcake Billys do a sort of tribal vein-popping bouncy-bouncy dance and then they wrap up Shannon in some satin curtains and twirl her around.

With an opening like that, can "La Vida Loca" be far behind?

IThe girls of Skintight show off their pom-poms and epaulets. think not. In fact, Tracy all but screams the anthem of drive-time radio while wearing a white bra-and-thong set, flouncy white thingies on her arms and a rhinestone necklace. But they're still saving something out comes Cynthia Brimhall and her two enormous talents! Yes, it's the former Playboy Playmate who starred in several of the Andy Sidaris guns-and-garbonzas B movies most famous for running on Showtime at 2:30 in the morning. Here she is in a baby-doll pajama-party special, complaining about not being able to find a husband--yeah, right, Cynthia--while luring a guy up onstage and singing "Fever" to him with a pink feather boa fluttering across his torso.

From there we move on through 187 Top Forty songs in 90 minutes, everything from "I Need to Know" to "Bad Bad Thing,"with lots of climbing up and down the golden platform, followed by the three guys (why are there guys in this show?) donning Chicago gangster garb for "Hidy Hidy Hidy Ho," followed by Cynthia (or was it Tracy? why put two gorgeous redheads in the same cast?) doing "We're Jamming" in an orange sequined skirt and fedora, and what late-night Vegas Strip topless show would be complete without--yes, you know what I'm going to say, don't you? Without "Mambo No. 5"!--a major production number with the entire chorus line fanning out into the audience and grabbing men to dance with.

The show uses such a hit-quick-and-get-out format that the numbers all start to blend together--Tracy doing "Never Gonna Get It," a girl in a fright wig working out on parallel bars for "Get Off," three girls in black fishnet dancing to a Prince medley, a lot of whips, headbands, masks in a sort of Marquis de Sade Lite segment, Cynthia's big number ("I'm the Only One"), Shannon's big pas de deux ("When You Love a Woman"), a parade of increasingly outlandish headdresses, and Tracy singing "True Love" on a giant padded bed, slithering around while stripping down to absolute zilch, covered only by a strategically placed cowgirl hat.

Now that is what a showgirl does. It wasn't the greatest revue ever put together, but it was Pure Dee Vegas. I think there may be hope.


HARRAH'S  The Strip
Theme: Mardi Gras
Marketing niche: Average Joes from the Midwest
Gambler's Intensity: High (medium rollers)
Cocktail speed: Rapido
Dealers: Somber and professional
Bosses: Somber and professional
Tables: 70
Slots: 1860
Rooms: 2613
Surrounding area:  Much trendier casinos in the heart of the Strip (Venetian, Mirage, Caesars, Treasure Island, Bellagio)
Overall rating: 80
Joe Bob's bankroll: Up $55 after two hours of ten-dollar blackjack; total to date -$1