A Las Vegas Doorman’s Story

What do you do if you have an advanced degree in Psychology? Well, if your name is Jay Rankin you move to Las Vegas and become a doorman for the MGM Grand. Jay was one of the graveyard shift ‘Guest Ambassadors’, he was there from the day it first opened and stayed 6 very long and often trying years.

I have to admit that this book appealed to me from the moment I read the press release, and excitment built following a phone conversation with Jay. When the book arrived in the mail, I could not resist diving straight in, and I can honestly say I was not disappointed.

I have been to Vegas several times, during most of the 90’s I made a yearly pilgrimage to attend the large Comdex Computer convention. I worked for the owner of a family run business in San Diego, and each year I would tell him that I would be gone for the entire week, and every year I would be back in the office first thing on Thursday. I would leave San Diego Sunday morning and make the trek in my company truck, and by Tuesday afternoon I was pig sick of Vegas.  Wednesday morning I’d check out of my hotel, and drive home.

Las Vegas is the strangest city I have ever visited, and I am well traveled. On the surface is glitz and glamor, but there is a nasty undercurrent that runs through the city if you start to look around. I have often wondered how anyone could actually call Las Vegas home and survive?

Under The Neon Sky is such an apt name for this book. Las Vegas does indeed live under a neon sky, regardless of the time of day, a flashlight is about the last thing in the world you could ever need on The Strip, or Downtown.

Jay Rankin rips away the veneer and takes us behind the scenes. It is not a pretty sight. In fact it is a horrible sight. As Guest Ambassador he watched the wide eyed tourists arrive on Friday, full of confidence, and attitude. He also watched them depart on Sunday, deflated, defeated, sleep deprived, broke, and sometimes still wearing the same clothes they arrived in.

It is not just just the tourists that Jay Rankin focuses on, rather, much of his book concerns the toll that Las Vegas takes on those that call it home. The casino, hotel, and entertainment aspects of the city are a 24 hour a day operation that continues every day of the year. While most of us look forward to relaxing with friends and family at Christmas, Thanksgiving, or the Fourth of July, these are not just ‘another day in paradise’ for the employees, but incredibly busy days for these workers. Husbands and wifes often find themselves on schedules where they literally have no time together. The strain on relationships is enourmous.

Jay Rankin had high hopes when he and his wife moved to the city. Their plan was to build a million dollar house, and sell it. Money in the city seemed plentiful. Both he and his wife Cassy were positive that this was the key to some financial independence. Jay was not unknown in Las Vegas as he had a TV show on one of the local channels, but thought that he could make some extra money by applying for a job with the about to open MGM Grand. Of the 1500 applicants for the position, he was one of a handful that made it to employment.

I think it is fair to say that it was both the best and worst day of his life.

Six years later he piled the small remnants of his life into a car, and bid Las Vegas adiue.

Under The Neon Sky is a shockingly stark look at the city that never sleeps. Maybe the most moving page of the book actually can be found at the back. Most authors put a dedication at the beginning, Jay Rankin leaves it until the end. We have already got to know the characters, and then you are faced with:

In Memory of T-Bone and Sam

I think the saddest part of this whole story is that Jay did not lose his wife or life through his overindulgence, rather he stands in witness of what can happen when the rules of regular life change. Las Vegas may well be a garden of eden, but there are so many forbidden fruit, that temptation lays around every corner.

Under The Neon Sky is skillfully penned, 2010 is still in its early moments, but I suspect that Jay might just have a best seller on his hands. I know that he talked to several publishers prior to deciding to take his own route. Publishers were interested, but also cautious, who would buy this book?

Actually this book has some very wide appeal. If you are planning to visit Las Vegas you should read it. If you live there, you should read it. If you are just a seeker of information, you should read it.

Even the cover art of this book has a story. The picture was taken by Jay on his exodus from the city.

You can order your copy by clicking on the Amazon link above.

Simon Barrett

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