Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Las Vegas Journal II: Leaving Las Vegas

Back in 1972 Robert Venturi, Denise Scott Brown and Steven Izenour wrote a watershed work, which became the bible of postmodernism, A Significance for A&P Parking Lots, or Learning from Las Vegas. Classics like Caesar’s Palace, The Golden Nugget and The Flamingo (the first real Las Vegas casino hotel, built by Bugsy Siegel)—became the centerpiece of the glorification of vernacularism, as manifested in architecture. If you’ve ever felt any love for the McDonald’s arch or how it might function as a secular form of the crucifix, then you understand Las Vegas’ heretical rebellion against the sleek perfectionism of Mies van der Rohe and other modernists who dominated the post-war landscape. But Las Vegas has not learned anything from Las Vegas. It’s the only city where you can buy a tee shirt on the strip that reads “Fuck You You Fucking Fuck,” and where you can experience a series of faux environments that are a black hole sucking in the big chains and the chain smokers and the cult followers of the movie Leaving Las Vegas, who, drink in hand (apparently there are no municipal ordinances against public drinking), attempt to outdo the depravity of the original script. Monumental glamour bathrooms that resemble mausoleums are Las Vegas’ contribution to modern architectural style. The musical Cats has a famous song called “Memory.” The theme song of Las Vegas could be titled “Mammary,” seeing as the ersatz Brooklyn Bridge, Eiffel Tower, King Tut’s tomb and Lake Como are littered with a plenitude of ersatz mammary. Silicone is everywhere, and it’s hard to tell the hookers from the wannabees just showing up for the weekend to audition. Venturi, Brown and Izenour had a cool idea, but the original site has abused their revelation. It’s an excuse for a proliferation of despair that’s infected the once pristine desert like a virus. After a day walking along the strip, one longs for the real Palladio.


  1. hilton kramer, when asked for some thoughts about leroy neiman and his art, replied, "that might be tough, i never think about him."

    in my opinion, vegas, hollywood and all these surface places and goodies are best viewed from the boat if at all.

    that said, john casavettes told a great story in his film "love streams" and made the low vegas characters seem kind of noble and kind. "atlantic city" wasn't bad either.

    thanks for writing, i read it every other day!

  2. Fun column, but I have one correction. The t-shirt store around the corner from me on Bleecker street has been displaying the Fuck You You Fucking t-shirt on the street for as long as I can remember. -Lisa

  3. I like the quote from Kramer about Leroy Neiman which makes me think about the things I'm not thinking about.

    About Lisa's comment on tee shirts, it is comforting to know that there is somewhere in Manhattan where you can be buy a tee shirt which tells you to fuck yourself. Francis


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