Las Vegas: An Unconventional History Hardcover – Oct 20 2005
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Coffee-table format proves advantageous to this colorful, far-ranging tome on America's capital of civilized sin. Ferrari and Ives start at the beginning of modern Las Vegas, describing the city's hardscrabble origins and the huge local tourism market that changes in American leisure, the proximity of spectacular Hoover Dam, and the legal status of gambling fostered in the early twentieth century. The many illustrations include plenty of vintage poolside shots and examples of letterhead stationery and other accoutrements of the Flamingo, the big casino built by mobster Benjamin "Bugsy" Siegel that sparked the building boom of plush gambling houses. Speaking of Bugsy, one whole chapter deals with the mobster involvement for which Vegas is nearly as famous as for gambling. Among tangential phenomena addressed are marriage mills, neon-infused architecture, the Rat Pack, and the civic-value triumvirate of "sin, gin, and din." A chapter on Vegas' commonalities with the nuclear industry provides little-known perspective on the Vegas mind-set, and the epilogue addresses the city's future. Ferrari and Ives nicely capture the uniqueness of a unique place. Mike Tribby
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved
About the Author
Michelle Ferrari is an award-winning writer for documentaries, including the critically acclaimed Seabiscuit, Reporting America at War, and Out of the Past, the winner of the 1998 Sundance Film Festival Award.
Stephen Ives is one of the nation's leading documentary filmmakers, listing Baseball and The Civil War among the pieces he has co-produced. His landmark series The West was one of the most praised documentaries in recent history.
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Ives also provides several interesting statistical tidbits - Las Vegas slot machines have paid out as much as $40 million to a single winner, and by '04 provided about 2/3 of Las Vegas casino revenue; in '76 nearly half the gross revenue of the 163-hotel Hilton chain came from its 2 L.V. properties; L.V. has 20 of the world's largest 23 hotels; and during the '90s non-gambling revenues began exceeding gambling revenues in Las Vegas.
The book covers the founding of Vegas as a town, the construction of Hoover Dam, the flourishing of the Mob, the testing of the atom bomb (120 detonations around 65 miles of Vegas throughout the 1950s!), the Rat Pack, the Howard Hughes period and the Disney-fication of Sin City.
The obligatory PBS Politically Correct chapter on African Americans in Vegas was actually very fascinating. I knew that Sammy Davis Jr. wasn't allowed to stay in the hotels where he performed in the '50s--which was shameful enough--but to read that the Flamingo drained the pool after the gorgeous Dorothy Dandridge swam in it and Lena Horne's sheets were burned rather than put in the laundry ("We don't want to offend the Texans," was the hotel's lame excuse) is shocking and disgraceful.
Definitely a coffe table book with great photos and thick pages. I wish there had been more photos though. As a regular Vegas visitor, I know that town could provide many, many more.
I was recently married, and my then fiance (now husband) and I wanted a non-traditional guest book for the reception. Since our wedding was in Las Vegas (although on a private lake off-strip), we thought that a coffee table book about Las Vegas would be an awesome idea. So I looked at the books that Amazon had to offer, comparing reviews, content, and size, and decided on this one -- and it was a perfect choice!
The book is full of fascinating facts about the history of Las Vegas. The pages are thick, the book itself a wonderful 'coffee table book' size, and overall well constructed. Thanks to these things, combined with the notes and signatures of our wedding guests, we now have a priceless guest book that we can proudly display on our coffee table for years to come.
A note on Amazon's Customer Service:
We ordered this book only about a week prior to our departure for Las Vegas. The first book arrived in minimal packaging that did not protect the book completely - there were some dings and a tear on the slip cover - something that I normally would not complain about. However, in this situation, I did send a message to Amazon about the damaged book and requested that a new one be sent to us in more substantial packaging. Two days later, there it was, a perfect copy, in a larger box with more 'padding', just in time to pack and and bring with us to Las Vegas!
*This* is why I shop at Amazon.com. Thank you, Amazon!