While Robin Leach takes his traditional summer vacation in sunny San Diego and La Jolla, many of our Strip and Las Vegas personalities have stepped forward in his absence to pen their own words of wisdom. Our thanks to them all. We begin to wind down our guest columnists today with one famous Las Vegas name that really shaped our Entertainment Capital of the World’s reputation: Louis Prima.
“What hotel do you live in?” If I had a nickel for every time I heard those words growing up. People never thought there were homes in Las Vegas, and anybody who lived here had to stay on the Strip. I don’t imagine this is asked too many times nowadays. But when I was growing up in the 1960s and ’70s, it was always the first question out of anyone’s mouth.
Yes, I am a Las Vegas native and proud of it. But unlike most kids growing up when I did, I got to see more than just the school playground or Mount Charleston. See, my father was Louis Prima, and, because of him, I got to see the real Las Vegas: the Las Vegas you see in movies and TV commercials. I got to see the best of Las Vegas before the mega-resorts took over and we became the destination “end all” that we are today.
Don’t get me wrong: I love this town! And all it has to offer. I just miss the days when we were essentially a small town, when everywhere you went, someone knew you. When people dressed up to go out on the town. When everywhere you looked, there was great entertainment.
But, in a way, we still are a small town. You just have to look a little harder, past the awe-inspiring towers and glimmering neon, past the mega-shows and thumping nightclubs. For someone like me, you can still find a friendly face and outstanding entertainment, like the kind you found back when my father helped put Las Vegas on the map. Yes, it is still out there.
For me, you can’t beat a show like Human Nature or Sin City Comedy. There is nothing better than stumbling upon Jerry Lopez’s Santa Fe & the Fat City Horns or watching Frankie Moreno put it out there like an entertainer should.
I guess that I am a little jaded, though. I mean, after all, Louis Prima was the “King” of entertainment. I got to watch and learn from the best. And I got to see Las Vegas through his eyes. When I was a kid, walking through hotels with him, I witnessed kindness and respect at its best, and I am not just talking about his fans or the employees who greeted him.
I’m talking about my father. He was never too busy to engage someone and share a smile. That is the Vegas that I look for, and that is the Vegas that I enjoy.
It also is the happiness and attitude that I try to spread around the world when I perform. Yes, in case you didn’t know, I am an entertainer, as well. My blistering band the Witnesses Featuring Sarah Spiegel and I tour the country and beyond, bringing a piece of Las Vegas with us everywhere we go. See, for me, Las Vegas is excitement, laughter and kindness. We bring that with us to stages and towns everywhere, and we throw it out there on our debut CD “Return of the Wildest!” released July 10 via Warrior Records/Universal Music Distribution (LouisPrimaJr.com).
What about Vegas, you ask? We will have a place to call home here very soon. But, in the meantime, when I am in town, as I pull out of PT’s Pub and head to the Strip for whatever occasion, I will smile as I drive toward the lights. I will look at Las Vegas and say to myself, “Las Vegas, my hometown, there’s no place I’d rather be.”
Our thanks to Louis Prima Jr. for reminding us of just why Las Vegas is so fabulous. Be sure to check out our other guest column today from Richard “Tex” Coe of Sky Combat Ace. Join us Sunday as Robin prepares to resume his beat on and off the Strip when our guest columnists are his friends from RhumBar, where he’ll touch down long enough for a fine cigar to get over jet lag, mentalist Marc Savard and the man who is changing the face of the Luxor and Excalibur’s restaurants.
Robin Leach has been a journalist for more than 50 years and has spent the past decade giving readers the inside scoop on Las Vegas, the world’s premier platinum playground.
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