My third trip to Las Vegas had to be sometime around 1989 — probably in the summer just before I entered university. I went with my sister Karen and my friend Darci. We stayed at a hotel called Maxim. It’s still there, right behind the Flamingo and the Cromwell, only now it’s called the Westin Casuarina. Maxim was a nice place back then and it was also very affordable. It was close to the Four Corners (the intersection of Las Vegas Boulevard and Flamingo Road) where most of the action was in those days. The Flamingo and Barbary Coast sat on one corner, Caesars Palace was across the street, the Dunes sat on the corner now occupied by Bellagio, with Bally’s on the other corner.
What I remember most about Maxim was a power failure that occurred during a summertime thunderstorm. We get big storms up here where I live, but this was something else. The rain doesn’t sink into the ground in Las Vegas: it flows along the sun-baked surface until it finds somewhere to pool. Our room faced Flamingo Road and the parking lot behind Bally’s, which obviously was a low-point. When the rain came there was water running down the road and the cars were half-submerged. Right before that, a lightning strike drove us out of the casino when a power failure shut everything down. I was playing blackjack when the lights went out and I remember that a few seconds later when they came back on, the dealer was bent over with his chest over the chips so that no one could grab a stack in the dark.
It was something I’ll never forget! Other highlights of that trip included a visit to Caesars where my friend Darci got excited about going down this escalator to use the washroom and realizing that it was the same escalator that Dustin Hoffman and Tom Cruise used in “Rain Man.” How glamorous! It was used again in one of “The Hangover” movies:
I also remember what a dump the Dunes was back then. I think we walked in and walked right back out because we were scared.
This is where things start to get blurry for me. I remember being in Caesars with Darci and getting comped at the buffet. I know that Karen wasn’t with us. I also believe that I stayed at the Maxim twice: once with both of them and once with Darci alone. I just can’t pinpoint exactly which trip happened when. I also stayed at the Hacienda sometime in the early 90s. What I really can’t figure out is how I could afford to go twice while I was in university, but I suppose I did. I was working full-time and I probably didn’t have a four-figure budget just for casino play. Things were simpler back then. Food was cheap, too. In fact, we would always eat at the buffets because we could pig out for next-to-nothing and save our money for more important things.
On an unrelated note, I just read that the spot on Flamingo Road where I watched the cars getting caught in the flash flood was the same spot where Tupac Shakur was shot. Creepy!
Now I’ve got to figure out the order of my next couple of trips. Hmm . . .