The Real Las Vegas: Life beyond the Strip

The Real Las Vegas: Life beyond the Strip

The Real Las Vegas: Life beyond the Strip

The Real Las Vegas: Life beyond the Strip


What images come to mind when you think of Las Vegas? Mobsters and showgirls, magicians and tigers, multimillion-dollar poker games and prizefights; towering signboards that light up the night in front of ever more spectacular casino hotels. But real people live here, too--over a million today, two million tomorrow. Greater Las Vegas has long been the fastest growing metropolitan area in America. And almost every aspect of its citizens' lives is influenced by the almighty power of the gambling industry. A team of fifteen reporters led by David Littlejohn, together with prize winning photo-journalist Eric Gran, studied the "real" Las Vegas--the city beyond the Strip and Downtown--for the better part of a year. They talked to teenagers (whose suicide and dropout rates frighten parents), senior citizens (many of whom spend their days playing bingo and the slots), Mexican immigrants (who build the new houses and clean the hotels), homeless people and angry blacks, as well as local police, active Christians, city officials, and prostitutes. They looked into the local churches, the powerful labor unions, pawn shops, the real estate boom, defiant ranchers to the north, and dire predictions that the city is about to run out of water. Proud Las Vegans claim that theirs is just a friendly southwestern boomtown--"the finest community I have ever lived in," says Bishop Daniel Walsh, who comes from San Francisco. But their picture of Las Vegas as a vibrant, civic-minded metropolis conflicts with evidence of transiency, rootlessness, political impotence, and social dysfunction. In this close-up investigation of the real lives being led in America's most tourist-jammed, gambling-driven city, readers will discover a Las Vegas very different from the one they may have seen or imagined.


David Littlejohn

Peeling off the strip

Las Vegas Valley is a flat--a very flat--stretch of about 500 square miles of dry desert land surrounded by smooth, treeless brown mountains. in 1999 it was home to well over a million people. Projecting into the future the valley's current rate of growth (there were about 400,000 people here in 1980, 700,000 in 1990), the Nevada State demographer envisions two million people living in Las Vegas Valley by 2010. This prospect horrifies some residents, who insist that they will be long gone before the two-millionth citizen arrives, at the same time that it tantalizes real estate developers. These million or two million people are or will be here--whether or not they realize or admit it--because of the Industry, as insiders tend to call it, the way people in Los Angeles refer to the companies that make movies and television films.

The Industry in Las Vegas is casino gambling, which its representatives would like you to call the Gaming Industry. For most people this denotes a four-mile stretch of Las Vegas Boulevard South called the Strip, which occasionally spills over onto side and parallel streets, from Sahara Avenue at the north end to just past Hacienda Avenue at the south, where it bumps into McCarran Airport. the Industry also implies Downtown, a couple of miles north of the Strip, which was once a genuine downtown . . .

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