by Max Brantley
It's a travel day for me, Las Vegas back to Little Rock, so unless one of my colleagues weighs in, it will be a light day for updates, depending on when I can get computer access.
Re Las Vegas: On Friday night, you could convince yourself that all is normal here. Busy casinos and Strip sidewalks thronged with people.
But there's $12 billion in foreclosed loans on a huge project next door to my hotel. You could have fired a shotgun in the ritzy new Encore yesterday afternoon and hit hardly anyone but idle croupiers and dealers. Hotel employees are moaning about the downturn in business. Vast stretches of new subdivisions here are being sold at pittances, if sold at all.
The big strip hotels (room deals are ubiquitous) make up for cheap rooms by gouging essentially captive customers with crazy prices for everything from a cup of coffee to steaks. (My overcooked strip at the fancy Craftsteak fell well short of Sonny Williams, at a significant markup.) My other important anecdotal experience, limited admittedly, is that the slot machines never pay off.
I did see my first Cirque Du Soleil -- the Beatles-themed "Love" production at the Mirage (pictured above in a publicity shot). Production values are off the chart.
Las Vegas, outsized and surreal, remains a must-see piece of Americana. But I don't feel like I must see it again for a good many years.