domingo, 3 de maio de 2009


«About thirty minutes after our brush with the Okies we pulled into an all-night diner on the Tonopah highway, on the kirts of a mean/scag ghetto called "North Las Vegas." Which is actually outside the city limits of Vegas proper. North Vegas is where you go when you've fucked up once too often on the Strip, and when you're not even welcome in the cut-rate downtown places around Casino Center.

This is Nevada's answer to East St. Louis — a slum and a graveyard, last stop before permanent exile to Ely or Winnemuca. North Vegas is where you go if you're a hooker turning thirty and the syndicate men on the Strip decide you're no longer much good for business out there with the high rollers... or if you're a pimp with bad credit at the Sands... or what they still call, in Vegas, "a hophead." This can mean almost anything from a mean drunk to a junkie, but in terms of commercial acceptability, it means you're finished all the right places.

The big hotels and casinos pay a lot of muscle to make sure high rollers don't have even momentary hassles with "undesirables." Security in a place like Caesar's Palace is super tense and strict. Probably a third of the people on the floor at given time are either shills or watchdogs. Public drunks known pickpockets are dealt with instantly — hustled out parking lot by Secret Service type thugs and given an impersonal lecture about the cost of dental work and of trying to make a living with two broken arms.

The "high side" of Vegas is probably the most closed society west of Sicily — and it makes no difference, in terms of the lay life-style of the place, whether the Man at the Top is Lucky Luciano or Howard Hughes. In an economy where Tom Jones can make $75,000 a week for two shows a night at Caesar’s, the palace guard is indispensable, and they don't care who signs their paychecks. A gold mine like Vegas breeds it’s own army, like any other gold mine. Hired muscle tends to accumulate in fast layers around money/power poles... and big money, in Vegas, is synonymous with the Power to protect it.

So once you get blacklisted on the Strip, for any reason at all, you either get out of town or retire to nurse your act along, on the cheap, in the shoddy limbo of North Vegas... out there with the gunsels, the hustlers, the drug cripples and all the other losers. North Vegas, for instance, is where you go if you need to score smack before midnight with no references. But if you're looking for cocaine, and you're ready up front with some bills and the proper code words, you want to stay on the Strip and get next to a well-connected hooker, which will take at least one bill for starters.

And so much for all that. We didn't fit the mold. There is no formula for finding yourself in 69 Vegas with a white Cadillac full of drugs and nothing to mix with properly. The Fillmore style never quite caught on here. People like Sinatra and Dean Martin are still considered "far out" in Vegas. The "underground newspaper" here — the Las Vegas Free Press — is a cautious echo of The People's World, or maybe the National Guardian.

A week in Vegas is like stumbling into a Time Warp, a regression to the late fifties. Which is wholly understandable when you see the people who come here, the Big Spenders from places like Denver and Dallas. Along with National Elks Club conventions (no niggers allowed) and the All-West Volunteer Sheepherders' Rally. These are people who go absolutely crazy at the sight of an old hooker stripping down to her pasties and prancing out on the runway to the big-beat sound of a dozen 50-year-old junkies kicking out the jams on "September Song."»

Hunter S. Thompson — Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas (1971)