I am partying with the ultimate party people on The Strip in Las Vegas. Cami from Utah is gyrating for me on the dance floor while the lead singer from the Whip Its playfully wields a paddle stick.
The bell rings and the whistles blow at the outdoor bar for Duke who has lined up shots for all of us although one reveller has already started her own party game.
At the front croupiers have the blackjack tables out although the two blondes parading for pictures on The Strip have the best cards… aces high, protecting their modesty.
Welcome to Fabulous Las Vegas where the world comes to play. Forty-three million of us last year.
They come to play cards, craps, the slots. To play on the Slotzilla biplane through Fremont Street (two Elvises give you a video demonstration, they won’t be the last).
To play golf, in the sand around town and at Top Golf driving range at MGM Grand where you can drive for the Vegas skyline, though some of us struggled to hit the green 150 yards in front of us. I’m blaming the pitchers of beer.
And to play with guns at Machine Gun Vegas.
A target picture of Osama Bin Laden with holes in him adorns a wall in reception. But the middle-aged woman at the next table only has eyes on her knitting, clicking away at her needles to make a scarf for a grandkid.
Her husband waits to get his hands on his AK-47, or at least I assume the gun will be for him.
The Mafia weren’t playing though when they sent their man Bugsy Segal to build up the town. His is just one of the stories you’ll hear at the Mafia Museum.
You’ll see the usual suspects there: Lucky Luciano, ‘Pretty Boy’ Floyd, Al ‘Scarface’ Capone, ‘Machine Gun’ Kelly and us… you can get a stunted police line-up shot as a cool memento.
The Mob, of course, had their trigger fingers in many pies around town, not least in showbiz and the burgeoning career of Frank Sinatra who with the Rat Pack did so much to make Vegas the epicentre of the entertainment world in the Fifties.
You can walk in their footsteps, a photo of the plaque and step in their footprints at a stop on the Strip outside the Venetian.
They have all come to Vegas to play here since… Elton, J-Lo, Rod, Brittany, Celine, Donny and Marie, No. 1 attraction for the last three years, and most of all Elvis.
We see him on our first day a we (and David Cameron) head off our British Airways flight and out of McCarran Airport and the traffic stops for him. Well he is the King (Elvis, that is). We see him throughout the four days we are here, as guests of the LVCVA and British Airways, staying at the plush Palazzo on the Strip, the sister resort fo the Venetian.
He bestrides South Las Vegas Boulevard with a stellar supporting cast including Jacko, Marilyn, Chewbacca, Mickey and Minnie and Savvy Shields, Miss America, who poses for pictures at Walgreens, the ubiquitous pharmacy.
And all this before breakfast.
I pick up mine at the Palazzo resort, past the early morning – or late night – gamblers.
It is lighter than you usually find around American resorts, a lunchbox of croissants, fruit salads and coffee, but them again breakfasts should be taken o the go, your days shouldn’t be wasted, there’s too much to do.
And I’m stuffed from lunch and dinner, lunch and dinner… the All-American Freedom Beat, Ferraro’s and OTTO at The Venetian, and you know how Italians eat, bruschetta starters washed down with Prosecco and the best Chianti. And all under Venetian skies. No, really, they’re there as a fresco in the restaurant.
This is as close to Italy as you’ll get outside Il Bel Paese. Outside you’ll find gondoliers, gondolas, the Rialto Bridge and Il Campanile. Further up the Strip is ancient Rome, Caesars Palace and other civilisations, Paris, an Eiffel Tower and L’Arc de Triumphe.
New York New York with its Statue of Liberty and rollercoaster an Luxor with its glass pyramid. There’s even a nod to our own little island, you can learn to pour the perfect pint through the Perfect Pint Experience at the Guinness store inside The Shoppes at Mandalay Bay while you can get great Irish fare at Ri Ra at the back in a recreated Irish back room.
For cocktails, and yes, you must, this is Vegas, then the place to be seen is The Ghostbar on the 55th floor of Palms Casino resort’s Ivory Tower with terrific views of the city and the chance to see an actor down shots at the bar (I couldn’t possibly say who).
Vegas may only be a little over 100 years old but it has framed itself in the psst and the present. Grown out of a railroad stop, bolstered by its access to water in the desert, the local leaders then lit up the city in neon, the neon we know from the 50s and 60s.
In a boneyard near a highway, Beverley, Nevada’s Senior Citizen of the year shows us the neon and the huge billboards at the Neon Museum. She wears her heart on her sleeve. She had worked on the estate of another Vegas’s glittering stars, Liberace, an she was given a replica piano watch, ring and sneakers… and his sassiness.
Vegas is all about showmanship and we spend our last night at the LOVE Cirque du Soleil show at The Mirage.
It is a paean to The Beatles with killer choreography, a super storyline, hook, holograms of the Fab Four, awesome acrobatics, pyrotechnics and an explosion of colour and sound.
I defy anyone to come out not humming or singing All You Need Is Love. It is how Lennon would have done it.
There are though some spectacles man cannot stage, some skylines man cannot build… some are on just too grand a scale to comprehend or construct. The Grand Canyon, a 45-minute helicopter ride south in the Mojave desert with Maverick Helicopters is such.
It should not be asked to share space with anything else which is why it has its home elsewhere here https://jimmurtytraveltraveltravel.com/the-grandest-canyon/(opens in a new tab).
Here in Vegas, it is Elvis who stands alone and above everyone and everything, they are all take second billing… and they know it.
Jon Bon Jovi is just one of those superstars who has ben his knee at the altar of Elvis at the Graceland Wedding Chapel, he got married there 30 years ago and has stuck to his pledge since to ‘love me tender’, not to have ‘a suspicious mind’ and to be ‘a hunk-a-hunk of burning love’.
I’m not making this up. Elvis, or Irish-American Brendan Duffy as he sometimes calls himself, will serenade you in the chapel and even marry you.
Two blokes in our party walked down the aisle and did just that.
Elvis reassured them that on this occasion it was just for show, but who knows? The King is wonderfully playful.
I’ve been a player myself this week but admit that I’m not very good at it. I am just like the other 43 million then who have discovered that the house will always win.
But as the croupier picks up my two chip $10 minimum craps bet I still feel like a winner.
He calls me Hercules because I had been shooting my dice off the table rendering half my goes null and void.
Still as I leave the table I get a hearty blessing from the proper gamblers.
It is time to say Au Revoir Las Vegas and to all the other high rollers. I’ll be back though and next time I’ll win and buy a round of shot for Duke, Cami and the Whip Its and the gang at Harrah’s Carnaval Court Bar with my winnings.
Get there/Where to Stay:
British Airways has eight flights a day from Dublin to Heathrow, arriving at Heathrow Terminal 5, so no need to change terminal for long-haul. BA has three non-stop daily services from Heathrow to Vegas. The Boeing 747 has a choice of four cabins including World Traveller, World Traveller Plus, Club World and First See. Visit www.britishairways.com. I found a sample flight and stay from London from August 7-14 with room at the Palazzo At The Venetian for two from £2,989 (3,396 euro).
What to do:
Vegas is the Neon City www.neonmuseum.org. It’s chapel central www.gracelandchapel.com. Other sites: www.themobmuseum.org www.vegas-experience.com, www.topgolf.com/us/las-vegas.com, www.palms.com for Ghostbar, www.rira.com and www.mirage.com/en/entertainment.
Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority. Visit www.lvcva.com