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Context is Everything

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The past weekend in Vegas was spent at the Hard Rock, which isn’t actually that great on the casino front, but was pretty much appropriate for the stated purpose of the weekend (namely, a bachelor party for a friend from college). They aim for a younger crowd than most of the Strip casinos (this particular weekend, they were aiming a lot younger– there was a skateboard competition and a Linkin Park concert, both attended by people with a mean age of about fifteen…), and have a rather extensive pool complex, which has the reputation of being a good place to see scantily dressed attractive women. The actual crowd is, of course, the sort of mix that you get at a place that has a reputation for being a good location to ogle half-naked women– one part scantily clad attractive women to three parts meatheads who came hoping to see scantily clad attractive women– but it’s a nice pool, at least.

It definitely partakes of the surreality of the whole Vegas scene, though. This is, after all, a city where a gigantic hotel built a shopping mall as a mock-up of a street in Venice, complete with a fake canal (gondola rides available for a fee), fake sky, and fake sunsets. The whole city is about slapping various pseudo-real elements together in a haphazard manner to create a bizarre spectacle that strains toward the level of authenticity achieved by Disney World.

In the case of the Hard Rock you get, well, fake rock. They pipe music into the casino, they’ve decorated the place with various bits of rock memorabilia (mostly tending toward the sequined-jumpsuit, big spectacle side of things), and everything is decorated with “rock”-themed sayings. The “Do Not Disturb” signs, for example, all say “I Hear You Knockin’ But You Can’t Come In.” A little of this would go a long way, but this is Las Vegas, possibly the most irony-deficient city outside of Branson, MO, so they beat it into the ground.

The most disturbing thing, though, was the use of out-of-context song lyrics to decorate the place. For example, they had a line from the Prince song “Kiss” (complete with affected spelling) blazoned on the wall over one of the exits:


U don’t have 2 be rich 2 be my girl U don’t have 2 be cool 2 rule my world


That was probably the most appropriate of any of the lines I saw quoted on various walls– after all, you’re unlikely to be rich on your way out of a casino, so the quote might provide some comfort.

The lyrics posted in the elevator were a little stranger. One of the elevators featured an Aerosmith quote:


Love in an elevator, livin’ it up as we’re goin’ down


which is at least vaguely relevant, though hardly the sort of behavior you’d expect them to encourage. The other, though, went back to Prince (specifically, “Let’s Go Crazy”), and managed to be completely ridiculous:


Don’t let the elevator bring you down


So… this is an admonition that I should save energy by taking the stairs? A fire safety warning? The line never really made any sense in the actual song, but it’s certainly not something I’d be happy to see when the doors slide open on the thirteenth floor…

The kicker, though, had to be the quote behind the registration desk, from Kurt Cobain:


Here we are now, entertain us.


This just tells me that the people running the place are, at heart, about as rock-and-roll as The Sinatra Group. Could anyone who had actually listened to that song put that line on the wall of a casino? I’m no huge fan of Nirvana, but this is not a shiny, happy, “Woo! Vegas, Baby!” high-five-your-buddy sort of song.

Then again, I guess it could count as a “truth in advertising” sort of thing– a shiny, wall-mounted notice that you should not expect any understanding of context, or the slightest hint of self-awareness during your stay. Which is fairly accurate.

It is a nice pool, though.

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About Chad Orzel

  • http://flaskaland.blogspot.com/ bflaska

    Hard Rock Cafe nee The Great American Disaster?

    Chad, your thoughtful and insightful account of your recent visit to the Hard Rock Casino brought a world of memories back to life — and prompted me to revisit the first, the honest absolute first ever of the Hard Rocks —

    Yes, a rambling historic narrative which I posted at flaskaland on 7-6-03, thanks to your inspiration.