As you drive into Las Vegas from the airport or the edges of town, it's hard to miss the army of billboards that confronts you along every major road. Giant, garish images and verbal invitations promise free slots and cheap buffets, while larger-than-life lines of dancers grin from static poses above the freeways. Casino showrooms offer beautiful, near-naked showgirls in "Splash II" at the Riviera, "Enter the Night" at the Stardust, and "Folies Bergère" at the Tropicana. Showing a surplus of cleavage fore and aft, these dancers perform to sold-out houses where customers have paid up to fifty dollars a ticket. On a slightly smaller scale, the advertisement for another popular show called "Crazy Girls" is displayed on the sides and backs of taxis and shuttle buses (in addition to numerous billboards); it sports a row of bare female bottoms with the caption "No ifs, ands, or BUTTS."
But the more serious skin shows lie off the Strip, out of view of most family tourists. Once you arrive in the city itself, a new array of smaller signs touts the town's nude and topless clubs. Along with its fame as the country's gambling capital, Las Vegas's reputation as a sex bazaar has long been a key part of the city's identity, however much local residents and city officials deny or ignore it. You can even purchase a guide to commercial sex in Las Vegas--where to find it, what to expect, and how much to pay. The University of Nevada at Las Vegas offers a course on "The Sociologyof the Sex Industry."