VIVA LAS VEGAS: After Hours Architecture
By Alan Hess

This town can be quite particular about its history; it will boast about the
mob, Sinatra and Elvis connections as long as it generates a profit.
Everything else, like architectural history…well, if it gets in the way of the
tourist dollar, guess who easily loses that tug-o-war. Sure, the Dunes and
the Stardust are historical, but not enough to protect them from the skin
sheading that town frequently goes through….and if you think about it, The
Landmark got the worse of it by being replaced by a parking lot! OUCH!

To my very limited knowledge, Learning From Las Vegas (1972) was the
book that came close to cover this subject for a very long time and I’m not so
sure if it’s still in print anymore.
Luckily, architectural writer and historian Alan Hess stepped
up and filled that void well with this book. He expertly
weaves many lines of history, examination and evolution of
this towns shape and identity, plus adding some names that
have rarely been publicly connected to many of these
buildings and business. Pictures? Obviously, there are
many!

Though this book came out in 1993, you’ll be able to trace
all the timelines that Hess has laid out to figure out where
this town is going, recession hick-ups and other
unpredictable social speed dumps notwithstanding.

BTW: If this book wets your appetite for more mid-century
history and fun, hunt down ‘
Palm Springs Weekend’ as
soon as you can! It’s a much bigger tome on that other mid-
century town of the desert from California. Oh, lest we
forget Hess’ 1985 book that, IMHO, started this whole
revival in the first place, ‘Googie: Fifties Coffee Shop
Architecture’ and the 2003 updated version ‘
Googie
Redux
’ (cover right).
LITERARY LAS VEGAS
Edited by Mike Tronnes

In this futile attempt to review Las Vegas books and yet doing
a fair job of caving under the pressure to cover as much of its
diversity as possible, I am relieved that someone, more or
less, did this job for me 20 years ago, especially the later
part. ‘Literary Las Vegas’ is a 1995 compilation featuring book
excerpts and rare articles over the decades that covered
many aspects of this place; true stories, autobiographies,
musings, humor, fiction, etc,.

There are some familiar pieces like Tom Wolfe’s ‘Las Vegas
(What?) Las Vegas (Can’t Hear You! Too Noisy) Las
Vegas!!’, ‘Night On The Town’ from Fear & Loathing, Albert
Goldman’s Vegas chapter from his Elvis book and Noel
Coward diary entries during his engagement at the Desert
Inn. In fact, this was the place where I first encountered John
Gregory Dunne’s ‘Vegas’ book as the Brother JayJay chapter
was used here!

The late Susan Berman’s description of her father, gangster
Davie Berman, and the role Las Vegas played in her family,
Phyllis Barber chronicling the delicate balance between her
strict religious parents and The Las Vegas Rhythmettes in
‘How I Got Cultured’,  A Alvarez lengthy ‘The Biggest Game In
Town’ that looks into ‘World Series Of Poker’ and the man
who oversaw it, the legendary character Benny Binion, ‘Jim
Crow for Black Performers’ is an oral history on the racism
black entertainers faced during the early days are smaller but
no less great pieces of the Vegas pie.
Whenever there’s a Vegas trip coming up, I usually read this and ‘Fear & Loathing’ to get me in the mood and to this
day, I’m surprised that my battered copy hasn’t turned to dust from over reading. This title is a great place to start
carving through the pages of this town. Needless to say, it’s more essential than a tour book, even AAA ones for that
matter!
INSIDE LAS VEGAS
By Mario Puzo

“Should I go to heaven, give me no haloed angles riding snow-white
clouds, no, not even the sultry hours of the Moslems. Give me rather a
vaulting red-walled casino with bright lights, bring on horned devils as
dealers. Let there be a Pit Boss in the Sky who will give me unlimited
credit. And if there is a merciful God in our Universe he will decree that
the player have for all eternity, an Edge against the House.”

Gambling was serious business to Mario Puzo and this book of essays
explores the depth of this pastime and the town he loved.

Mario traces gambling through the ages and how it affected human
history, politics and religion, then extends this timeline into his own life
and how it largely kept him out of trouble and on his toes, how it helped
his family and also how it molded his view of human nature. His honesty
makes no excuses, just enough reasons without the moralizing.

Finally, almost halfway through the book, Mario turns his attention to
detail upon the town and the many type of people who populate and
make it work; state government and IRS unique working relationship,
the psychology of poker players and stories of women surviving this
town are many many subject cases that passes under for his
microscope.
On a personal level this is also my first Vegas book. I was 14 and I just started my obsession over this town when I
saw the neon lit paperback version of this title at a drug store in the San Fernando Valley. I was too young and WAY
too immature to understand any of Puzo’s adult writing but the B&W raw no-nonsense photos Vegas humanity
sparked my imagination.

As side note, I finally was non-smarkalic enough to fully read and understand this book when I found the hardcover
edition of this title with color photos
LAS VEGAS IS MY BEAT
Ralph Pearl

This was my second Vegas book and even to my young and immature
eyes, it was a hoot. Ralph Pearl was the daily entertainment columnist for
the Las Vegas Review-Journal whom also had a regular local TV show and
with that workload, he had more than enough to fill up these pages.

First off, stories and there are a ton of them; full range of celebrities (from
the well-knowns to the forgotten), local boosters, people who make a living
“gambling and sweating”, gamblers and “losers, boozers and lovers” who
troll the casinos and the streets. Ralph also goes into his many
connections with these people, including a huge feud with Jerry Lewis.
There are tall tales and mythologies explored, exploited and exposed.

You can complain how much of this is outdated these days and no one will
deny that as, for example, Peal uses the body measurements of Rachel
Welch and Twiggy for comparisons and shock value, which was a popular
references in those days, especially in the ‘good old Playboys’ network.
Still, this “timelessness” (or however you want to call it) also makes this
book important; names and their deeds digs deep into the town’s history
and Pearl weaves them all in a no-holds-barred campfire chat on a bar
stool….of sorts.
I got a little sad while I was doing research for this as I hardly saw Peal’s name on the internet. For the amount of
work he put into this town and to see it all disappear decades later…well, it makes you wonder about this town’s
attitude about its own history…..…and need I going into
THAT again!?!?
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