The Grit beneath the Glitter: Tales from the Real Las Vegas

By Hal K. Rothman; Mike Davis | Go to book overview

Lighting Las Vegas
Electricity and the City of Glitz
JAY BRIGHAM

From that moment I associated the “Glory of Light” with Las Vegas. I could see far in the future a city glowing with the glory of light. But such a city as we see today one could not imagine.

Charles P. Squires, one of the founders of
Nevada Power, recollecting the sunrise
on the day he arrived in Las Vegas
in February 1905

Every night the Las Vegas Strip is ablaze in a kaleidoscope of surreal electrical imagery, volcanic eruptions, and pirate battles. In an attempt to revitalize and draw tourist dollars back into the city's downtown area, the multimillion dollar Fremont Street Experience opened in 1995, complete with an illuminated awning capable of producing a multitude of images for weary gamblers. Advertisements for the Experience boast that more than two million lights make up the awning. The beam of the Luxor Casino, projecting upward into space, is so bright that pilots report seeing it soon after takeoff from southern California airports. Pilots have also complained that the laser lights from Strip hotels and casinos occasionally cause disorientation on the final approach to McCarran International Airport. Las Vegas is, in a sense, out of this world. Astronauts tell of seeing the city from their orbiting space craft. In an area otherwise devoid of many natural resources, electricity makes these and many other images in Las Vegas—and even the city itself—possible.

Since World War II, Las Vegas has emerged as a Sun Belt city dependent on energy-consuming tourism and gaming, and during the Cold War, on the federal government, for its economic livelihood. 1 At the

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