Monday, August 3, 2009

From The Files of: BLOW ME

It's not that Vegas is beyond reproach. God knows I've got my share of complaints. Informed complaints. Hell, I'm responsible for a cover headline in this week's Las Vegas Weekly explaining why it's not so much fun to live here anymore.


Nothing gets my goat quite like the Asshole Parachuting Columnist. And today's Asshole Parachuting Columnist is...Neil Steinberg of the Chicago Sun-Times. It seems poor Neil was forced (at gunpoint?) by his sons to include a Vegas stop as part of a summer family road trip. The kids wanted to see the Hoover Dam, so they passed through for a night.

What follows in a piece forebodingly -- and predictably -- titled "What Happens in Vegas: Little Good" is the standard-issue litany of indictments against Vegas. He opens with an allegory between Vegas and Hell which, gosh, I'd never thought of before. Then we learn he chose to stay at the low-rent Excalibur not because he's a cheap bastard but, he claims, because those evidently gunned-up children of his were enamored of the medeival castle motif. (These are the same smart kids who rerouted the trip because they wanted to see the Hoover Dam but they can't be entertained by Paris or Venice? Or would that just not make a very good column for the stingy old man?)

Steinberg drones on about the timeshare hawkers and then burnishes his metro-liberal bona fides by expressing his bafflement over the pleasure people derive from gambling. Is this really that hard to fathom, or is Steinberg just playing smug elitist for effect? People like to play games and they like them even more when they can win something, which some people do. Either way, how is the thrill of it any different than, say, paying to spend a day on amusement park rides? Your money's (probably) gone either way. But nobody ever sneers at the poor souls who choose that as their entertainment even though I can't personally fathom why flying down a precarious metal track at top speed would appeal to anyone.

The Asshole Parachuting Columnist, incidentally, always ignores facts that screw up the narrative. In this case, Steinberg cites lots of statistics that suit his purposes but either willfully or out of ignorance fails to note the part where 60 percent of revenue for the resorts these days is not from gambling but all the other neat stuff that people used to go to Chicago for, too. You know, the fine dining, the shopping, the shows, the rides, the spas, the animal attractions.

How does anyone judge Vegas without standing in front of the Bellagio Fountains for a performance or three? Could Steinberg be bothered to spring for admission to Shark Reef? Listen to gondoliers while lapping up a gelato from Illy? Watch former Olympians from around the globe perform death-defying acts in custom-built theaters replete with technology that makes the Hoover Dam seem like Lincoln Logs? Observe the awe-inspiring cluster of towers soon to open at CityCenter which, however economically unwise it was to build, were designed by the world's greatest architects?

Fuck, no. He stayed at a bottom-of-the-market resort, lost some money at a blackjack table, got offended by commercialism and cigarette smoke, and got the hell out of, well, Hell with the snarky conclusion that, yup, the place is as pathetic and disgusting as he remembered from 15 years ago.

Now, I love Chicago. Got my journalism degree there, fell in love for the first time there, saw some amazing theater and art and ate countless wonderful meals there. But Mr. Steinberg, can you imagine if I judged Chicago by the one night I spent a few years back at the bullet-riddled crackhouse-in-training Skylark Motel on Archer? What if I declared all of Chicago worthless and disgusting without ever checking out Grant Park, the Lincoln Park Zoo, Navy Pier, Gino's East, the Lakefront, the Palmer House, Wrigleyville, Greektown, Watertower, Ann Sather by the Belmont el and whatever they're calling the Sears Tower these days?

As a columnist, nobody expects you to be fair, Mr. Steinberg. But, columnist to columnist, I generally find people take my views more seriously when I at least pretend to be informed. Those timeshare folks? Totally obnoxious. No argument there. But not quite as obnoxious as rendering a verdict on an entire destination or city based on as little information as you collected and presented in this essay. What's worse, I wonder why you bothered to even stop in. You knew exactly what you were going to write at least as far back as Jean.


mike_ch said...

It wasn't nearly as bad as I thought.

The "why gamble?" thing is pretty stupid, and any gambling Chicagoan would agree, but it's nice to see the timeshare garbage make big headlines. This stuff has infected the Mandalay properties and I find it kind of strange since they weren't doing this years ago when I first came to town. Maybe the Excalibur was, but not Luxor and certainly not Mandalay Bay.

Anonymous said...

Northbrook? and stayed at Excalibur? Serves him right.

Jesse said...

Dude, you're brilliant. Thanks for standing up not for Vegas but for some common sense. What an ass.

Anonymous said...

I'm from Chicago and he's likely counter programming because the vast majority of Chicago folks love Las Vegas. Maybe he figures this sort of article will earn himself a bit more water cooler buzz.

Oh well, he's not the first columnist to take the path of least resistance when it comes to Las Vegas.

As a Chicago area resident who clocked a trip to Vegas a year from 1996 - 2006, before we had our kids, I love Las Vegas, the site and the podcast. Keep up the great work.

Michael said...

Nice rebuttal to his column, although unfortunately it probably does little to change the view or damage it's done. It's that type of irresponsibility with Column's that turn people off to print and it's a shame. Opinion is one thing and should be written on and expanded, when the lines are blurred between opinion and fact based on ignorance it's extremely dangerous.

H.Peter said...


Love it and can't wait for the response from Chicago.

Roberta said...

Well said Steve. Sightseer, party goer, gambler, shopper, show goer, pampered or plebian -- Vegas is FUN!!

Rice said...

Give him hell Steve!

Anonymous said...

Mr. Steinbergs article is a terrible example of "journalism". Thank you for your response. I hope he reads it and sees his ignorance. I am sure he won't.

Anonymous said...

You GO Steve!!!

EC Gladstone said...

At the risk of being shamelessly self-promoting, if Mr. Steinberg had read my blog (published by Chicago-based Orbitz!) he would've known to request the upgraded rooms at Excalibur, found a zillion free things to do with the kids in town, who's got the meal deals, and maybe even the closest free wi-fi for him to post his cranky diatribe (that would be at NYNY's ESPN Zone)

Anonymous said...

I love to see a WRITER that really writes. Way to go Steve! And let's hope he reads this and corrects his way "calling it in". I doubt it, but I have to remain an optimist just for my mental state. :)
Love ya!