Most of us view Las Vegas as the great place to get-away-to, a city, or more importantly an environment where the standard rules of living are not in force. The saying ‘What happens in Vegas, stays in Vegas’ has to be one of the most used phrases of the past 50 or 60 years.

Jay Rankin was a Doorman at the MGM Grand for six years, he was there when the hotel opened. His new book Under The Neon Sky is not the salacious, reveal all, book that it could be. Rather, it is a very well thought out work that takes the reader behind the glitz and glamor.

I think that is fair to say that once you pierce though the glitz and glamor that is the facade of Vegas there lays a rather ugly underbelly. I have visited Vegas on numerous occasions, and I for one am not starry eyed, nor confident of leaving a rich man. In fact in Vegas speak I am a ‘tight wad’, when I do gamble, it is with $20, and my favorite way to lose my money is roulette. It’s a silly game of chance, but I have discovered that $20 can buy me an hour or more of fun. When I lose my last chip, I head off. I am not angry, I have had fun. There is a silly camaraderie about roulette. Some one gets lucky, and you follow them. Once, and only once, I turned my $20 into $100. I finally had had enough fun! Feeling like a king, I headed for the cash out. The bored young lady took my hard earned chips, and with barely a word gave me money. I was deflated, here I was, I was walking away a big winner, at least in my mind, and this lady could not have cared less!

In my brief visits to Las Vegas I did get the sense that it is a somewhat fractured city. Tourism is everything, yet there is very much an invisible barrier between the locals and the visitors. Few locals frequent the Strip, preferring instead to head to the local ‘Pubs’ to be found on the outskirts.

As Jay Rankin pointed out in our interview the Vegas of today is a far cry to the mob run Vegas of yesterday, yet in many ways little has changed. In some ways the Corporate Run Vegas is just as brutal as the mob run version. Guns and physical threats have given way to more subtle forms of intimidation. Corporate politics are rife, and the ‘customer is always right’ mantra feeds fuel to the smoldering fire.

I asked Jay if he considered Vegas to be any worse than any other large city when it came to sex, drugs, and booze. His answer was an interesting one. All three are easily available in any city, it is the consumer that is different in Vegas. Vegas has a reputation, and a portion of the visitors are bound and determined to make that reputation a reality. It is funny really, I look back at my visits to the city and my analytical eye saw something that maybe many people would not. I saw a very regulated and orchestrated chaos.

I read somewhere recently that London, England was the most surveilled city in the world, the number of CCTV devices made it impossible to move around without being taped. Well, I think Vegas has London beat hands down.

Jay Rankin most definitely has a best seller on his hands with Under The Neon Sky. It has a very wide appeal, Vegas residents, Vegas visitors, and those that just want to visit the city vicariously.

One aspect that I found interesting with talking to Jay, was that he now resides in Los Angeles, and much of the bitterness that comes out in Under The Neon Sky has dissipated. Time is a great healing tool.

You can listen to the entire interview here. Jay also has a web site that is worth visiting. In fact you can read chapter one for free. Oh, and chapter one is a masterful piece of writing that really demonstrates the insanity of being an insider.

Simon Barrett

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