In this episode, we talk about Sin City. Our guest is Megan Edwards who is the author of “Getting Off on Frank Sinatra.” Megan is also a Las Vegas expert who tells us about the ins and outs and dirty secrets of her fabulous city.
Coming to you this time from the Liberace Museum
The book’s title is not as solicitous as it sounds. One day, Megan got off the I-15 at Frank Sinatra Dr. It was the first time she ever got off on Frank Sinatra but now she does it all the time. Frank Sinatra Dr. is a great way to drive on the backside of the strip when the freeway is full of traffic.
You can’t get off on Dean Martin. He’s on the other side of the freeway and there’s no exit or entrance. You can zip down Dean Martin, but can’t get off on him.
Megan is originally from the LA area (Pasadena) but moved to Las Vegas in 1999 never dreaming she would come to love it. She came to research a book and the city got under her skin. Plus, the cost of living in Las Vegas is about 1/3 of how much it is to live in LA.
What she loves about Las Vegas
Megan is impressed with the city’s diversity. For example, there’s a large Hawaiian population in Las Vegas. They call it the 9th Island. Many Hawaiians came because of the hospitality industry and they brought their fabulous food and entertainment. There is also a large enrollment of Hawaiians at the University of Nevada – Las Vegas.
The Golden Years – 1997 – 2007
When Megan arrived in Las Vegas, it was already undergoing its Renaissance. The Bellagio was relatively new. It was one of the first “new style” Mega resorts and had better architecture than the older resorts. The term for the old buildings is “decorated sheds.” The buildings weren’t significant and not necessarily built to last but their neon signs were fabulous. Many of the old hotels have been imploded.
Both Rebecca and Sharone stayed at The Sahara when they were young and that’s one old hotel that was renovated rather than destroyed. It’s now the SLS. They did an amazing job of renovating it and kept some of the décors from Rat Pack days.
The Sin Part of Vegas
Las Vegas still makes tons of money on sin and it’s important to maintain their economy. On the other hand, it’s probably the most conservative place Megan has ever lived in. For one thing, it’s a Mormon town. The Mormons were some of the first founders of that area and you can visit the Old Mormon Fort. It’s where people stopped to water their animals on the way to the gold fields in California.
Many of the early casinos were owned by Mormons and still are. They’ve also been instrumental in the growth of the University. UNLV.
Prostitution isn’t legal in Clark, County, and that includes Las Vegas. It’s legal 50 miles away in Nye, County. To get there, you have to cross a set of mountains so people call it, “Going over the hump to Pahrump.” Most Nevada brothels are in small towns or rural areas. However, prostitution still exists big time in Vegas because of cell phones and online sites.
If you see guys snapping cards on the street corner, they have phone numbers of girls you can have sent to your room to “dance.”
Off the Strip
Many people who live there, avoid the strip. One attraction Megan loves is the Mob Museum. The previous mayor, Oscar Goodman, was a mob lawyer. His wife is the current mayor. He was wonderful for downtown and instrumental in its rebuilding. One of the things he always wanted was a mob museum because he knew so many colorful characters so he had it built.
Megan was skeptical at first because she was worried it would glorify murderers but it turned out to be great. It’s connected to the Smithsonian and was recently accredited. The museum covers organized crime all over the world and law enforcement. Its official name is Museum of Organized Crime and Law Enforcement. The building it’s housed in was an old post office, but before that, it was a courthouse. It was the same courthouse where hearings were held for skimming money at the Stardust and other infamous trials. The museum is located downtown near the old city hall, which is now a Zappos shoe store.
The mob is no longer allowed to own the casinos but are still in the area. They run cash businesses and Gentlemen’s clubs that include prostitution and other illicit activities.
The current mayor, Caroline Goodman has been terrific in promoting Las Vegas and helped acquire the Raiders football team who will be playing there in 2020. 35-years-ago she founded a non-sectarian private prep school called The Meadows School for pre-K to 12th grade and it’s now one of the top-rated prep schools in the country. She’s Megan’s heroine.
Megan has drawn from her experiences for her books, even though the characters are fictional. Getting off on Frank Sinatra is the first in a series, with the second one, Full-Service Blond about a Las Vegas prostitute. Her main character is Copper Black who is from the East Coast and wants to be a journalist. She gets sucked into solving murders. Copper discovers the city, much in the way Megan did in a way that will bring it alive for people.
Favorite things about Las Vegas
Gambling has been dropping way off in recent years partly because there are so many places available to gamble all over the country. Revenue from gambling has dropped to less than half. In fact, some of the casinos have now started charging for parking to make up for the loss, which annoys the residents. In addition to football, there are ice hockey and baseball teams, shopping, and dining has become world class.
Las Vegas Recovery from the Financial Crisis
The recession hit Vegas very hard because a lot of houses were owned by speculators who simply dumped them. Golf courses turned brown. Now they are doing much better. It’s still a good place to buy a house and the job situation has improved. There is also more diversity in businesses.
One of those businesses is the Lou Ruvo Center for Brain Health. A Nevada State liquor distributor initially funded it. They’ve raised a lot of money giving great parties. The center is connected to The Cleveland Clinic. Frank Gehry designed the building and it has a giant room that’s perfect for parties with celebrities and luminaries. Andre Agassi recently donated a million dollars to the center and Maria Shriver was an original donor.
Red Rock Canyon State Park is one of her favorite places to go because it has gorgeous scenery. Developers are threatening to build there so Megan has become an activist to prevent them from ruining it.
Another book, “STRINGS: A Love Story” can be purchased here
Please visit Megan’s website at www.meganedwards.com