The Curmudgeon's mood improves immediately upon checking into the Bellagio, a Strip hotel set on a "lake" meant to evoke the Italian countryside. Funny thing, it sort of does. Inside, it's everything the Luxor isn't -- bright, classy, with a stunning Dale Chihuly glass sculpture dominating the lobby ceiling. A conservatory featuring elegant topiaries is dotted with little pools and cypress trees. Her room is one of the nicest she's ever stayed in, anywhere. It's tasteful as hell, the bed sumptuous and the bathroom a marble temple of luxe.
The others move as well. The Sophisticate decamps to the Venetian, another high-end patch of preciously realized European excess. Its Grand Canal is an indoor re-creation of a Venice waterway, complete with gondola rides, fancy shops and "outdoor" cafes. Joe Vegas bags a Strip-facing room at the Mirage, so he'll be able to watch the hotel's signature volcano erupt constantly that evening.
Sights of Las Vegas include the Eiffel Tower at the Paris casino, one of many themed resorts.
(Las Vegas News Bureau/lvcva)
Turbogirl, meanwhile, will join the bellybutton-baring brigade that "sleeps" at the Palms hotel (if they ever stop partying long enough to pull back the puffy duvets). But not before she and Turboboy detox with a drive out to the desert and some time in Red Rock Canyon. It's just 17 miles from the Strip, but it might as well be another planet. The only bright colors here come from nature. The Turbos stop at every scenic vista along the canyon's 13-mile drive to hike among the cactus and boulders.
The Sophisticate's recovery program, meanwhile, starts with a one-hour massage at the Venetian's Canyon Ranch Spa. Sure, it would have been more Rat Packy to get worked over by a beefy back-pounder with a cigar in his mouth. Instead, it's aromatherapy oils and tinkly New Age "music." The therapist explains that frankincense is a pure essential oil that opens up and balances your crown chakra. "It's also the lucky oil," she whispers. "We use it a lot in Vegas."
Joe Vegas believes you never need recovery if you never stop partying. Soon after he checks into the Mirage, he's playing video poker at its sports bar, intent on accumulating full houses and gratis gin and tonics. At least he gets the free G&Ts.
The Curmudgeon has found her niche: Vegas has art! At the Bellagio Gallery of Fine Art (which is classy and -- surprise -- crowded), she lingers over paintings and artifacts from England's Chatsworth Estate, owned by the Duke and Duchess of Devonshire. Down the Strip, at the Venetian's Guggenheim Hermitage Museum, she finds another worthy exhibit, "A Century of Painting: From Renoir to Rothko." Three dozen works by such luminaries as Cezanne, van Gogh, Gauguin, Picasso and Pollock, handsomely presented in an intimate setting, make her muse, "I can't believe I'm seeing all this in Vegas."
She doesn't have that thought a little later at the Elvis-A-Rama museum in a shopping center off the Strip. But after hours of varnished masterpieces, she has a darn good time in front of the King's black 1955 Cadillac limo, Sun Records jacket, and blue suede shoes (size 101/2). Sadly, the resident Elvis impersonator is sick.
Joe Vegas jumps into a cab and heads downtown -- the older, dingier and, in his opinion, liveliest part of Vegas. Fremont Street, which runs through the district center, is now a pedestrian mall topped by a giant canopy. At night, light shows play every hour. Dinner is at the Paradise Buffet in the Fremont Hotel. Joe is an aficionado of the groaning, gluttonous Vegas buffet, and he's been to this one before -- but never alone. A genial server shows him to a table and says, "What, you couldn't get anyone to eat with you?"
How to follow up shooting an M16 on Saturday? Why, visit a brothel on Sunday! On the drive back from the canyon, a detour to Pahrump brings Turbogirl and -guy to the Chicken Ranch. The Turbos have come only for the gift shop -- "Where the West Is More Wild" T-shirts and coffee mugs. They never see what's behind Door No. 1, but Turbogirl chats with a bubbly Texas, um, technician about Nine Inch Nails and the weather in D.C.