Death Ray Becomes Us

Hottest story of the year goes viral

It’s the story that the world can’t stop talking about. No, not Harry Reid versus Sharron Angle, or the latest terrorist threat in Europe. We mean the Vdara “Death Ray,” which has consumed the media since the Las Vegas Review-Journal broke the story about the “solar convergence phenomenon” on Sept. 25.

Gordon Absher, vice president of public affairs for MGM Resorts International, which owns the CityCenter-based Vdara, has dealt with a lot of hot topics over the past 20 years, but he has never seen anything that equals the obsession with the Death Ray.

“Half the time it’s our goal to make publications on four different continents. This was not necessarily what we intended,” he says. “I knew that this thing had hit critical mass the day that I was juggling Good Morning America, Today and among probably a dozen others.”

There have been recommendations to market the Death Ray as a tourist attraction, with catchy slogans proposed such as “the hottest spot in Vegas.” The Weekly World News ran a story on its website about how the Death Ray is actually an alien weapon targeting our city, Taiwan-based Next Media Animation created a humorous video re-creation of how the Death Ray works, and Jay Leno spoofed on it on The Tonight Show.

There are about 111,000 results that come up by Googling the words “Vdara death ray.”

While Absher found the Death Ray hype humorous for the first few days after the R-J’s initial story appeared, his attitude changed when he found himself defending wild claims about hotel guests running for cover to escape the searing heat.

“Certainly the moniker gave this one a life of its own,” he says. “‘Hot spot’ would not have gone nearly this far. At this point it’s almost like [former President] Gerald Ford’s clumsiness, where the legend far exceeds the facts or the reality of the situation.”

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