Visible from the freeway is the famous Las Vegas Strip, the new Las Vegas, across town from the old glitz and roar of main street type, side-by-side casinos where you walked out the door of one and into the next. The doors never closed on Fremont St., and you went there to pay your dues. The booze flowed, food was practically free and you played the slots, craps, roulette, keeno, cards, or dice. It was exciting and memorable. You were there for one thing and one thing only, to gamble in the only state in the U.S. that allowed you to do so legally.
The new strip is ponderous, huge, magnificent, with many themed casinos that take your breath away. And, they accommodate a lot more people. MGM Grand, Luxor and Excalabur were once the first of these giants.A real chariot race with live horses was one of the shows, the main attraction, at Luxor.
Now, they are surrounded by thirty story, and forty and higher, luxury hotels and casinos with twenty-five story high flashing billboards. They offer so many things to do, why gamble? You can’t walk from one to the other easily, so you tram, or drive, or mono-rail, or get a room and stay.
The Luxor Pyramid had just opened for business when my husband and I stayed there. The rooms are reached by a funicular since elevators only rise straight up and down. The huge Sphinx, the marvelous accoutrements of historic Egypt gave it magic and mystery. By our second visit, several years later, the river Nile ran through the lobby with small boats moving through the living reeds. It was beautiful and realistic. I kept looking for the baby Moses.
The Excalabur, too, with its charm of historic England with King Arthur’s knights so bold. The famous show at Excalabur actually had knights on horseback galloping at each other with their lances, a full blown jousting match for the benefit of us all, and, a ladies silk scarf. The rabble, (us, the audience) were served a dinner on a board where you had to ask for salt. You ate with your hands and chewed your meat off the bone. Crude and fun.
There isn’t much left of the Excalabur’s exiting past but a few stained glass windows, a phony aluminum piece of armor and some heraldic flags.
The Luxor was built to last, so the remnants of its former glory remain, the huge cement statuary, hieroglyphics, and Egyptian tiles in the walls remain, but the once lovely river is gone. The inside no longer resembles anything related to Egypt.
I confess I was saddened and disappointed by the changes, but grateful that I got to see it in its hey-dey. The new casinos are all about sophisticated luxury. The themes are being phased out. But, the Luxor would take a lot of dynamite to remove, so hopefully it will be around for a long time to come.
If they demolish the building, I’m going to rescue the tiles and bring them home with me.