Rio embraces Vegas' risque roots with pool club, updated show

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Talk about foreplay. In a series of moves that further cement Las Vegas' reputation as an adults-only playground, the Rio All-Suite Hotel & Casino recently overhauled two pillars of its foundation, the massive lagoon pool and the Masquerade Show in the Sky, giving them a new, sexy allure.

Since its inception in 1990, the off-Strip Rio's Brazilian Carnaval theme has been principally realized via a relatively mild mixture of color-splashed decor, geographically themed names for public rooms and a negligible party atmosphere.

Conspicuously missing until now, however, was a key component of the actual Rio de Janeiro experience: sexiness.

As other Vegas properties developed topless pool clubs and adult-oriented venues, the Rio never seemed to have the chops to back up its image.

That condition was remedied in the space of one week in June with the debuts of the Sapphire Pool and the Show in the Sky.

Diving into adult pools

In most recent Vegas pool club makeovers, resorts have typically partnered with existing on-site nightclub operators such as Light Group, Pure Management Group or Tao to operate their so-called day clubs.

In a groundbreaking pact for generally conservative parent Harrah's Entertainment, however, the Rio partnered with local gentlemen's club operator Sapphire to blur the line between strip club and adult pool complex with the creation of Sapphire Pool.

The private pool area, screened off by bamboo fencing, boasts a large, freeform pool; two Jacuzzi-style spas; and two waterfalls.

Seven fully outfitted cabanas come with a personal host, TV and refrigerator, while circular daybeds promote relaxation under oversize umbrellas.

On a recent weekend visit, a bikini-clad disc jockey provided a hip-hop sound track for the topless Sapphire dancers.

Under the business arrangement, Sapphire retains revenue from entry fees and cabana/daybed rentals, while the Rio garners food and beverage sales.

Club dancers are incentivized to lounge at the pool -- topless, of course -- with free entry, free food and beverages and other perks.

The dancers' presence is designed to create demand from males, who pay a cover charge ranging from $30 to $50, depending on the day of the week.

Other females, be they hotel guests or outsiders, are charged a flat $10 cover at all times.

The pool, which operates every day from 10 a.m. until 6 p.m., closed last month and will reopen in late May.

Sapphire Gentlemen's Club, two miles from the Rio, boasts 6,000 entertainers and bills itself as the world's largest gentlemen's club.

Strip show in the sky

The venerable, once family-friendly Masquerade Show in the Sky, long considered Las Vegas' best free indoor show, has been renamed the Show in the Sky and spiced up with a new theme (you guessed it: sex) and new sets for its six nightly performances.

The Mardi Gras theme has been replaced by an edgy production both onstage and onboard suspended floats.

Featuring skin-baring costumes by Victoria's Secret and DKNY, erotic choreography more typically seen in late-night adult reviews and pulsating live music, the three shows might push the envelope a bit too far for some more conservative midweek visitors.

Thus, the Show in the Sky plays only Thursday through Sunday evenings, starting at 7 p.m., for the obviously debauched Southern Californians who make up a disproportionate share of Las Vegas' weekend traffic.

For more on the Rio, visit www.harrahs.com.

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