Road Trips with Jason Crane: Vegas!

Earlier this week I was in Las Vegas. I have to be honest — I don’t like Las Vegas. The things that Vegas offers these days are not things I’m especially interested in. If you love it there, that’s fabulous. It’s just not my bag.

That said, I think my main issue is that I was born too late to go to Vegas during the time period when I would have loved it, namely the classic Rat Pack era. If I could have rolled into town to catch the latest Sinatra gig? Sign me up!

For many years in several different home studios I had a large framed copy of this image of the Rat Pack. Around the edges of the photo, mounted into the matting of the frame, were tokens from all the classic Las Vegas casinos. The Sands. The Desert Inn. The Flamingo. Names that are synonymous with the golden era.

Las Vegas has served as the backdrop for so many great movies. In many ways, now that I think about it, it’s almost a character itself. The first Vegas I movie I ever saw was the original Ocean’s 11, starring the guys in the photo and made in 1960. The next was probably Swingers with Vince Vaughan and Jon Favreau (who went on to make Iron Man). I’m not usually a fan of remakes, but I also really love the 2001 version of Ocean’s Eleven, which managed to capture the star power and romance of the original while, if we’re being honest, telling a more effectively paced story. And then of course there’s the sad and beautiful Leaving Las Vegas with Nicholas Cage and Elizabeth Shue. Both were nominated for Oscars for their roles and Cage won. I know I’m leaving out a big one here: Elvis’s 1964 movie Viva Las Vegas. I’m leaving it out because I’ve never seen it. Let me know if I should change that at jason@thedrivetucson.com.

I might not have seen the movie, but of course I’ve heard the song “Viva Las Vegas.” Elvis sold half a million copies of that one, and it’s been covered by many other artists. Vegas has inspired a lot of songs, by everyone from the B-52s and Faith Hill to Graham Parsons, AC/DC and the Cocteau Twins. It’s hard not to write about a city as full of stories of heartbreak and elation as Las Vegas.

So while modern-day Vegas might not be my kinda town, if I ever get a time machine I’ll definitely go back and see it in its heyday. You’ll be invited, of course.