Thursday, June 09, 2005

Steve Wynn has left the building

Twenty-four ninety-nine.

It was, by my observations, an ordinary ceramic coffee mug. Similar to the kind you find in hotel rooms stuffed with single serving coffee packets and that you hoped were actually washed instead of "wiped down" by a hurried maid.

But the price said $24.99.

Could it be because the cup had the word "Ferrari" emblazoned on the bottom? Not likely, I thought. I've purchased coffee mugs containing the phrase "Disney World" which retails for slightly more than a Ferrari and those mugs only cost about eight bucks.

Could it be the sleek red color? No chance. My kitchen pantry contains mugs of every conceivable color, pattern and hue. None cost that much.

Could it be because the mug sat on a shelf in the new Wynn Hotel on the Las Vegas Strip? BINGO! Now things were starting to make sense.

The Wynn is the latest creation from Steve Wynn, a guy who, depending on which Vegas cab driver you believe, is in the mob, out of the mob, fighting with the unions, saving the whales or is really Elvis. All I know is that he keeps building hotels, each one more ostentatious and ego-centric than te last one. And like any Vegas tourist, I feel compelled to visit each Wynn behemoth upon completion, which seems to be about once a week.

Wynn's latest "hotel" is called simply, "Wynn." The title implies that A) he has run out of ideas or B) his ego finally got the best of him. It's a skinny structure, flesh in color. When seen from a distance, it appears Wynn is giving the finger to the entire city of Las Vegas. Who knows? Maybe that was his intention.

I've stayed at, or visited all of this guy's hotels. The first was the Mirage. Actually, the first was the Golden Nugget but that's in downtown Las Vegas and the only people who go down there carry their life savings in plastic cups. When your life savings makes noise, it's time to get a new broker. So the Nugget sat there, looking lonely, while Wynn built The Mirage. The hotel was aptly named because it contained things that you would never find in the desert such as a tropical rainforest, colorful ocean fish and a bunch of white tigers whose favorite meal was a gay magician. They all kept that a secret for years until one day one of the tigers was really hungry and helped himself. The Mirage was the first Vegas hotel where directions from employees made absolutely no sense. Need to find your room? Okay, go past the shark tank, through the jungle and turn left at the penguins. You can't miss it.

I stayed at the Mirage and vowed never to spend another night at a Wynn property. I don't think hotels should be tourist attractions. You check into a hotel to sleep and let somebody pick up your towels. I relish both activities When I'm ready to sleep, I don't think the path to the elevator should be blocked by clueless tourists wondering if the tigers are going to escape. Plus, it's a little big. When the staff is picking up towels from 4,000 other guests, you don't feel so special. Also, I was disappointed with my view. The front desk clerk giddily told me that I had a "volcano view," like this was a primo room and I should show my gratitude by offering her many thanks or a ten dollar bill. Unfortuntely, I don't spend a lot of time in hotels staring out the window, except when my slumber is interrupted every 15 minutes by a hollow sounding explosion, causing me to part the curtains and mumble, "what the hell is going on outside?" Then I see the volcano. Speaking of the volcano, it lacks real lava which is definitely needed in Las Vegas. A thinning of the tourist population four times an hour would be a welcome relief.

Once everybody had figured out that the volcano wasn't actually real, Wynn went and built the Bellagio, which is Italian for "small penis." Wynn continued to stick with his "things that you would never find in the desert" theme including smart water fountains that appear only when Celine Dion sings. It also features a myriad of unpronounceable flowers in the lobby, all in expensive vases so smokers have choices when extinguishing their butts. That's my biggest problem with Wynn's hotels. No matter how spectacular they are, they're still populated with the typical Vegas tourist, complete with NASCAR hat, cutoffs and a 97 ounce margarita.

Wynn tried to correct that with the Wynn Hotel. Upon entering, I noticed a sign that said, "No Strollers." What's this? A RULE in Las Vegas? Bravo sir! Now hopefully the hotel will stick with the policy. I've noticed that rules tend to be relaxed if the alleged "rule breaker" has a large bankroll. Trust me, if any kid in a stroller flashes a wad of hundreds, I'll bet even money he'll be sitting at a Texas Hold 'em table in the Wynn within minutes, ordering free formula.

Basically the Wynn is just like the Bellagio, but with more shops containing products that nobody can afford except Steve Wynn. The ultimate is the Ferrari showroom/museum. Ten bucks gets you inside where you can gawk at the cars and, if the mood strikes you, purchase one. That's right, you have to pay to enter a car showroom. I don't remember Saturn doing that when I bought my last car. I assume the ten bucks gets credited if you purchase a Ferrari.

I did not have ten bucks to enter the showroom because I'd spent it on an extra small Wynn diet Coke in the lobby. But browsing the Ferrari gift store is free and lets you see a small portion of the showroom. I immediately noticed a Ferrari employee, scurrying quickly between rooms of the dealership. Who was this guy kidding? Was he trying to make people believe that he was actually busy? Were there really five people inside haggling over the same Ferrari? Of course not. It's Steve Wynn's policy to make all his employees look busy. So this poor guy spends all day long running between rooms, getting in great shape and selling nothing.

Except maybe a coffee mug.