In 1976 Scott Jacobs and Valjean McLenighan decided to do a video documentary of life in Las Vegas, and the resultant 29-minute movie was made with the title The Las Vegas Tapes. To accomplish their goal they chose the simplest strategy imaginable—they simply went around with a video camera and asked people questions.
And what a fruitful idea that would prove to be! The resultant slice-of-life footage is pretty darn engrossing. A guy with a huge cigar wins at a slot machine, and as he scoops up his quarters predictably credits the video crew with bringing him good luck. But the secret lies elsewhere: “I believe that I’m going to win, so I’m going to do it! ... Thought creates reality. Let’s do it again!” Exactly! Because Vegas is all about mind over matter. He invented “The Secret” you might say.
Says one woman, in what might serve as a permanent slogan for Las Vegas, “I came in a Cadillac, and now I’m going back on the Greyhound Bus.” You get a glimpse of some Hare Krishnas (where have they all gone?) and a young magician purveying his trade for anyone who’ll watch—he calls magic “a con game.” A paramedic talks about a woman he just picked up, saying that she was suffering from “casino syndrome”—people forget to sleep, eat, take their meds and so they collapse.
A middle-aged woman on the street talks of working with Ann-Margret at The Dunes before she was famous, and sending her to George Burns to boost her career, as he had previously done with Bobby Darin.
There are no great revelations herein, merely a pungent documentation of Fremont Street before it became the “other” strip in Las Vegas, which today is dominated by Caesar’s Palace and the Luxor and that huge neon Paris balloon.
Via Media Burn
Previously on Dangerous Minds:
Under the Neon: Mole People of Las Vegas