(the books)
As you might guess, I have a branch of my library
dedicated to this town; it started off with your
standard tourist picture souvenir booklets and it
went on from there as my reading habits and
patients improved.
However, before I go off babbling about the more literate titles
in my stash, I better give a shout out to a paperback guide book
called ‘
Las Vegas 1979’. I remember getting this at The
Stardust for three bucks. It was published by Oracle Publishers
and written by Eddie Anderson. According to the liner notes,
Mr. Anderson made his living as a manager of Nevada Mining
Co., “destined to become the finest and friendliest lounge and
super club in Las Vegas” at the Village Square on Sahara Ave.
The book even lists the phone number to the place, but I
currently don’t have the nerve to call up and see if destiny
served this place well.

This 155-page has your standard Vegas information, circa
1978/79, and I couldn’t put it down when I first got it. It was
some sort of bible I carried around, especially around school
and I think I tried to write a book report on it, but my teacher put
a stop to it and almost got me suspended keeping this “adult”
title in school.
NOTE: yup, I know there are MANY more Vegas books out there, including ones on people like Benny
Binion and Steve Wynn (‘Running Scared’) I would love to read, but time, physical space and manly
money seems to dictate this matter for now. Stay tuned should I get lucky here.
VEGAS: A Memoir Of A Dark Season
By John Gregory Dunne

As the book starts, writer Dunne is having a tough time with depression in
his home of Los Angeles and ends up getting carried away with a sudden
case of the wondering bug; i. e. going out for bread and ending up in San
Francisco and spontaneously flying to New York City just to watch the World
Series on TV. The bug stops wondering briefly enough to see a billboard
proclaiming ‘Visit Las Vegas Before Your Numbers Up!’ Seeing this as a
sign in more ways than one, he takes off to spend six months wondering
around Las Vegas (circa 1974), shaking down humanity either in person or
through the old phone book.

…and this is where the book really takes off. It’s, more or less, a collection
of characters Dunne encounters during his stay, or composites of such
people he has melted together. He lets you know about this level of artistic
licenses right off the bat and is a good enough writer to make it flow and
work well.

Practically on the first day of his Vegas stay, a man is questioning Dunne’s
receding hair line and ends up offering his ‘Piece Work’ in the lobby of The
Mint.  Soon after, Dunne is looking for an apartment with a working air
conditioning (a small piece of sub-plot on the importance of good A/C) and
gets a lesson on Vegas’ legendary Sheriff Ralph Lamb from a one-legged
loose-lipped landlord. Then there another sub-plot of everybody knowing
Bugs Siegel before and after he got murdered.
Then there are bigger pieces of the Vegas character: local P. I. Bruno Mano shows up twice, first on trailing
wondering lost conventioneers and shooting the breeze on many hangers-on trying to get job references. Maisty
Morgan (real name: Maureen Moran) (?), a former showgirl who plans to be a graphologist who also has one boob.
Comic Jackie Kasey selling himself off as Brother JayJay to take the rut out of his lounge act, who proclaims that
“there is nothing like a good piss.”

….and so on….

There are also stories of bad and/or questionable sex habits (not terribly explicit, but it’s there to add to the
cacophony) and people in general trying to survive like lizards in the middle of the hot desert and keeping their
heads together with the barrage on the psyche this town is know for.

There are parts of this book that gets so moody that you might think ‘Vegas Noir’ just might be a fitting genre for this
title; Dunne’s spends a chapter about his former Catholic faith that felt out of place for me. Regardless, it is an
entertaining book.
Hunter S. Thompson

Thanks largely to the movie, and more precisely, Johnny Depp’s
exaggerated portrait of Raoul Duke, this book and Thompson himself
has ascended even higher in the ranks of Las Vegas Urban
Legends, alongside The Rat Pack, Elvis and Howard Hughes with all
the pop culture shenanigans attached to the whole package. An
example of this can be seen on Halloween night, freakish Dukes
stumble up and down the Strip and Downtown alongside the Elvis
and parts of The Big Lebowski for your drunken attention.

Underneath this brand of “glamour” and the camp, Fear & Loathing’s
importance and brilliance still bolts through like lightening. Though
Universal Studios used that old clique of “a book that defined a
generation” in the movie trailer, this commercial claim is not without a
large block of truth; a crazed yet serious snap shot of a transitional
period between the failures of the Summer Of Love and Vietnam and
the aura that was Richard Nixon. And in the middle of this mess,
there lies The American Dream….whatever it was during that time.
Being that Vegas is one of the most American towns to grace this planet and considering the turbulence of the time,
it seems an obvious that “the whims of the great magnet” would collide and fall on top of Thompson while he and his
fake lawyer were looking for that Dream for some answers and maybe a dash of salvation on the side in the middle
of this muck.

It’s worth noting that Thompson considered this tome a failure in his planned experimental technique called “gonzo
journalism”; instant reporting as it happened, write it all down in a large notebook and mail it in to the publisher with
no edits. As Is! It is an interesting idea, but I suspect if this tactic had worked for this book, Thompson would have
gone totally gonzo, ride down the strip running down as many people as he can and THEN killed himself….or gotten
help to end it all by those cops. Read ‘Jacket Copy For Fear & Loathing In Las Vegas’ for further details.

Parts of this book is dated and I’m sure younger readers will go on about the drug rampage and the ‘bad boy’
behavior than anything else, but this book still reminds us all that, no matter what era and generation comes along
to replace the previous ones, desperately humping The Dream is still alive and well in Vegas and THAT part of
human nature will never change.
P. S.: for further Fear & Loathing reading, hunt down ‘The Great
Shark Hunt: Gonzo Paper, Vol. 1’ where Hunter goes on in detail
about that fake lawyer in ‘The Banshee Screams For Buffalo
Meat’, his return visit (‘Last Tango In Vegas’) well as the ‘Jack
Copy’ piece.

P. P. S.: You might also want to find the audio play version that
was put out in 1996 (
cover to the left). Film director Jim Jamusch
as Duke, Maury Chaykin as Gonzo and Harry Dean Stanton as
the narrator leads in a fine cast and production! Oddly enough,
this was released on Jimmy Buffett’s Margaritaville Records, but
let that scare you. This is quite the UN-Buffett release.
Edited by Jim Heimann

There’s not much to go on about this 192-
page, 6 x 8 softcover book, and that’s part of
its charm. There’s not much text and the ones
that are used are quite small as it makes room
for almost endless pictures of the town
through the many rare brochures and
postcards mainly during the 50’s and 60’s.

This is published by Taschen, maker of
wonderful and expensive art books. ‘Icon’ is a
series of stylishly designed and, for Taschen,
inexpensive books simply highlighting many of
the publisher’s favorite topics. This time, Las
Vegas gets the ‘Icon’ treatment.

I hope this publisher gets around to making a
full blown Vegas book in the future. If you’ve
seen many of their larger books (I’m still
surviving the mammoth ‘Book Of Tiki’ from
over ten years ago!), you might want to stand
in line to bug them for one. In the meantime,
this simple yet elegant little sucker will have to
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