Opening the Door

Jay Rankin’s Under the Neon Sky is a telling tell-all of the secret life of a casino doorman

Jay Rankin moved to Las Vegas in the 1990s for the same reason most people do: to start over.

But his new life wasn’t what he’d expected. He arrived married and left divorced; lost his best friend to murder; and watched another friend self-destruct. Along the way, he witnessed failure and corruption, learned the secrets of the high-roller lifestyle and nearly had a nervous breakdown—all of which caused him to flee the city after six years. He writes about it all.

This book is Rankin’s account of working as a 40-something doorman at the MGM Grand, making money and becoming intoxicated with the pleasures it could buy. The reader follows Rankin from bright neon ecstasy to the darkest side of Vegas, that mental state where everything seems lost.

In 1994, a friend suggested he take notes about his life for a possible book. Sixteen years and hundreds of rejection slips later, Rankin has a 264-page tale of loss and redemption, finished a few months ago and available at and The book defies the stereotype of the poorly written self-published story; it draws the reader in quickly and won’t let go. The writing, in spots, sizzles.

“It took such a long time to get published because my story always made it to the final meeting,” Rankin says. “The publishers weren’t sure who the target market was. I kept telling them it was everybody! I finally decided to self-publish.”

Rankin, who has returned to his hometown Los Angeles, said the most valuable thing he learned from living in Las Vegas was that, when placed into an environment with few boundaries, people will indulge in extremes to forget who they are in real life. He shows this happening to friends and acquaintances in his book—even to his wife, who took up with a bartender and joined the free-flowing alcohol and party lifestyle, ending their marriage.

Despite the memories, he still visits as often as he can:

“I may be one of those people who needs to blow off some steam,” he says. “There is a part of me that really misses the adrenaline.”

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