The King of Pop might've done the moonwalk. Tony the Ant might have cracked a smile. You could even envision would-be president Al Gore shaking off his stiff-backed wonkiness and letting out a woo-hoo. And it's all due to a trio of events that serve as reminders why Vegas, despite the economy's relentless battering (12.3% unemployment, nation-high foreclosure rates, sagging gaming revenue), is still a place of wonderment.
On Saturday, at the Pearl at the Palms, Vegas' top performers celebrated the music of Michael Jackson in a show titled, you guessed it, "Las Vegas Celebrates the Music of Michael Jackson," the proceeds of which will help the nonprofit Clark County Public Education Foundation fund music and arts programs. Jackson, who died June 25, would've been 51.
The lineup included cast members from "Jersey Boys," "Peepshow," "Phantom," "Sirens of T.I.," "The Lion King" and "Zumanity," along with Holly Madison (Hugh Hefner's ex), Terry Fator (winner of "America's Got Talent"), longtime Strip performer Clint Holmes, Monte Carlo headliners Zowie Bowie, L.V. Hilton Shimmer Cabaret headliners Earl Turner and Lani Misalucha, the Smokey Robinson-backed Human Nature, popular a cappella group Mosaic, the Green Valley High School String Quartet and the Las Vegas Mass Choir.
Tony the Ant, better known as Chicago mob enforcer Anthony Spilotro, might have gotten a chuckle out of the approval by a City Council subcommittee two weeks ago to create a tourism improvement district to generate funds to refurbish the area around the Las Vegas Museum of Organized Crime, to be housed in a converted federal courthouse. City officials insist the museum will not glorify the Mafia. They have said the museum could generate tens of millions of dollars each year.
Say one thing for this city: It's got moxie. New York and New Jersey, Chicago and Philadelphia have much longer and deeper ties to organized crime, but it's hard to imagine politicians in those places greenlighting a project that enshrines the dubious "work" of the Mafia in perpetuity for all to see. (To be fair, organizers and backers plan to give equal play to the law enforcers who brought the Mafia down, including current U.S. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid).
And finally, last week, community leaders gathered for a discussion on what the Las Vegas of the future might/should look like. The answer will likely include hotel-casinos that generate their own electricity via solar power; eco-conscious rooms that allow guests to save water, energy and paper; and electric, Segway-like "police mobility vehicles" like the Xtreme Green Sentinel, which are safe for the environment and safer for police officers pursuing fleeing suspects. The Strip, the epicenter of a green revolution? Go figure.