By Kitty Bean Yancey, USA TODAY
LAS VEGAS — Tourist couples entwine on front-row sofas at the climax of Cirque du Soleil's adults-only Zumanity show, watching two dozen cast members simulate an orgy on a revolving stage called "the Lazy Susan of Sex."
Among them is a middle-aged female audience member who has been pulled onstage into a horizontal clinch with a bare-chested hunk.
"This is Sin City…anything is OK," Zumanity drag diva Joey Arias, who plays the "Mistress of Seduction," says later. Audience high jinks he has witnessed include overly amorous duos and a woman who gleefully whipped off her top and slapped her chest against the hunk's during her spin onstage.
PHOTO GALLERY: Naughty Vegas
"What happens here, stays here," the famed Vegas tourist slogan says. And as Las Vegas ratchets up the raunch factor to an unprecedented level — $8 billion was dropped last year on adult entertainment such as strip clubs, the Sin City Chamber of Commerce estimates — does it ever!
Anyone who interacts with visitors in this adult fantasyland can offer eyewitness reports of tawdry behavior. Vegas racked up its best year ever in 2006 with 38.9 million visitors and 93.2% hotel occupancy, the Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority says.
More than ever, visitors engage in activities they'd never consider at home, from getting lap dances at strip joints, to picking up a stranger or calling up an escort, to visiting swingers' clubs.
"People come here to do the nasty. The sexy, the naughty — this is the most potent incarnation of Vegas so far," says former professional gambler Anthony Curtis, publisher of LasVegasAdvisor.com, citing an explosion of escort services, topless shows, massage parlors and "gentlemen's clubs" in a place that made its name on gambling and then tried a brief, not-so-successful stint as a family destination that ended about 2001.
In a place where alcohol is poured 24 hours a day and you can stroll the Strip with booze in hand, even celebrities let loose publicly. Think pop star Britney Spears having to be helped out of PURE nightclub at Caesars Palace after a party last New Year's Eve, Tennessee Titans star Adam "Pac-Man" Jones being suspended from the NFL in the wake of a February strip club brawl, HBO chairman Chris Albrecht getting arrested (and relinquishing his job) after an alcohol-fueled public altercation with his girlfriend last weekend.
Big names "come here and have three shots of tequila and think they're invisible for three days," says Las Vegas Review-Journal columnist Norm Clarke, who is on the town most nights and is updating his tell-all book, Vegas Confidential.
The vice squad's busy
Despite the fact that prostitution is illegal here, the phone book's Yellow Pages boasts 126 pages of "entertainers" who'll visit hotel rooms. Entries include "Secret Room Service Satisfaction Guaranteed," "Campus Sorority Sisters Cutting Class To Be With You" and "Fetish World: What's Your Pleasure?" There's something for every predilection, from "Wild Teen Tami" to "Affordable Older Women" to "Girly Man Gary."
Touts on the Strip hand out cards with racy photos and phone numbers of escorts. Hookers hang out at casinos and proposition solo males.
"Our vice squad is busy," says officer Martin Wright, a spokesman for the Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department.
Strip clubs, where the $20 lap dance is lapped up by conventioneers and bachelor partiers, are requisite stops for men on their own, says Michael Tomes, vice president of VegasVIP.com. "Gambling is secondary now," he says.
Wayne Bridge, CEO of the Sin City Chamber of Commerce — which encompasses adult entertainment businesses not affiliated with the more staid Las Vegas Chamber of Commerce — says an estimated third of convention-goers visit nearly three dozen strip clubs.
A growing number of companies organize customized tours of nightspots for people who — influenced by TV shows such as Entourage and Las Vegas— "want to party like rock stars," says Tomes, a 29-year-old Texan. He's sipping water at a bar in the Palms Casino Resort between text messages to get clients on the guest lists at velvet-rope clubs such as Tao, Tryst and Jet.
His company hires what he calls "arm charms" — attractive young women who accompany men on the town. "They're not prostitutes. They just make the client feel like the center of attention," he says.
"Guys do get obnoxiously drunk and say stupid things, because they think they're paying for these girls," Tomes says. But mostly they're content to be part of the carousing his company organizes, such as choice tables in a club's VIP area or a bachelor party in a hotel suite with a midget dressed as a cowboy riding on the backs of two strippers.
Hollywood lets its hair down
Girls just want to have Vegas-style fun, too.
When Jennifer Aniston and actor Vince Vaughn were an item, she hopped onstage at the popular Forty Deuce burlesque cabaret to do an impromptu dance for him, Clarke says. (The nice-girl actress didn't disrobe.) Other stars, including Eva Longoria and Denise Richards, have donned lacy lingerie and strutted their stuff with the Pussycat Dolls Vegas troupe, which does campy burlesque in a lounge at Caesars Palace. Jessica Simpson emceed a Dolls show last weekend.
At Olympic Garden, one of the clubs that offer male dancers, stripper Ramon Cortez says he can take home $1,000 in tips on a good night. Women come upstairs to watch the "Men of Olympus" dancers while their husbands huddle with topless cuties downstairs.
"I've had guys try to hit me" because they have second thoughts about their mates stuffing dollar bills into a man's G-string, says the buff, tattooed Cortez. "And some (customers), they try to grab everything."
On this night, there are no jealous males or pawing women. Just a married woman on a girls' weekend who had one too many and told Cortez she "had never been to a strip club before and it felt like cheating," he says. She threw up before making it to the restroom.
Other tourists aim to take sexy moves home. The 10-month-old Stripper 101 class, held in a theater at the Planet Hollywood Resort & Casino, started twice a week and now is offered daily. On a recent evening, 14 cocktail-sipping women from their 20s to 50s whoop enthusiastically as veteran dancer Trixie Lovett, in hot pants and bra top, tells them any woman can be sexy with a confident attitude and teaches her fully clothed pupils how to give a lap dance and spin seductively on a stripper pole.
"Heinie up, arch your back, point your toes. I want to give you something to take back to your husbands," the 36-year-old blonde says.
Guests at the Palms needn't wait to show off stripper moves. It has a half-dozen suites with stripper poles.
Giving a tour of the $3,000- to $5,000-a-night "Erotic Suite" — outfitted with a revolving bed — Palms owner George Maloof shows off the trademarked "Show Shower." It's outfitted with a pole and glass wall that changes from opaque to clear at the touch of a button.
Guests also party in the Hugh Hefner Sky Villa with an infinity pool decorated with the Bunny logo. Hef was here in March with his three young girlfriends to celebrate his 81st birthday and visit the new Playboy Club atop the Palms. There, Bunny waitresses and dealers sometimes secure their snap-on puffball tails with safety pins to prevent souvenir-hunting stag partiers from snatching them.
Maloof frowns while showing off the Palm's Pink Suite, where the door to the bedroom is temporarily missing. Someone kicked it in, he speculates. Vegas visitors get rowdy, the soft-spoken 42-year-old allows, as some raucous guests hoot and holler in the hall.
"They'll come in on Friday, go all night, take a nap Saturday afternoon and do it again." The hotel's complimentary toiletries include drops to soothe bloodshot eyes.
The Palms is where Britney Spears stayed when she impulsively wed (and later shed) Jason Alexander in a Vegas chapel, and where Maloof pals such as Pamela Anderson, Jim Carrey and Leonardo DiCaprio unwind. Maloof will tell no tales, but does allow that Paris Hilton was his date at the Palms' 2001 opening.
"Las Vegas is all about adults having fun," Maloof says. Visitors "have their Vegas mind-set once they step off the plane."
Law enforcement personnel understand that mind-set, says officer Wright. But public drunkenness and other bad behavior are cause for arrest. More than 200 out-of-towners were arrested when rowdiness got out of hand during February's NBA All-Star Weekend.
"If we allowed people to run amok, then people would not want to come here," Wright says.
Some do nothing more sinful than overindulge at the famed buffets and expanding menu of upscale shops. But the glittery desert oasis built on the concept of lightening visitors' wallets and making them happy about it is embracing the lucrative "we're all adults here" concept more each year.
Pussycat dolls, topless tanning
Separate topless sunbathing pools are making a splash at Vegas resorts. The Mirage is trumpeting the new Bare pool and party lounge, where hotel guests and others pay a fee (typically $10 for women, $30 for men). Caesars Palace, Mandalay Bay and Wynn Las Vegas also offer what's discreetly billed as "European-style" sunbathing.
Skin is very much in, says columnist Clarke, offering a nighttime tour of some favorite haunts.
At Caesars Palace, he and girlfriend Cara Roberts point out the new Pussycat Dolls mini-casino and lead the way into the packed Pussycat Dolls Lounge, where a Doll lolls in a giant replica of a Champagne glass while others squeal and do the cancan. At the adjacent PURE, where VIPs recline on white daybeds, a tour highlight is a narrow ledge for drinks where party girl Hilton likes to prance. The last stop is Forty Deuce, an intimate New-York-style club where the restrooms are labeled "Penis" and "Vagina."
It's 12:30 a.m., and the dimly lit circular room backed by a narrow stage is jammed with a young crowd dancing and smoking cigars.
The 64-year-old Clarke, jaunty in a gray pin-striped suit, electric-blue shirt and eye patch, checks e-mails that keep popping into his BlackBerry. Adam Sandler has just been sighted at Mandalay Bay. Warren Beatty and Annette Bening and family went backstage at Cirque du Soleil's O. All were well behaved.
The lights dim, as a dancer slinks onstage in vintage-burlesque gown and long gloves, which she teasingly removes to a jazz trio's sultry, insinuating beat. The crowd whoops as she ends up topless in a G-string, turning her back and doing what Clarke calls "the butt flutter."
A patron in her 20s with thong riding above the back of her pants waves a Champagne bottle, turns to a female friend and tipsily mimes giving a lap dance.
"She's going to outlast everyone," Clarke says, before preparing to call it a night. "She's hard-core."
The following morning, other hard-core visitors make their bleary-eyed way to the airport. There's a guy tipsily bragging about his exploits with a $1,200 escort, then calling his wife to say he loves her; giggling twentysomethings yakking about a bachelorette party gone extremely wild.
"The notion is that it's all men coming here and hiding stuff from their wives," says Howard Lefkowitz, president of the Vegas.com website. "Women come here and do stuff, too, because they think, 'They're not going to find out about it in my hometown.' "
'Cause, you know. What happens in Vegas …
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