A Former Subject of the King

When The Lion King closed at Mandalay Bay in December, about 50 actors lost their jobs. That’s showbiz, and performers accept employment instability as part of the gig. They’ll move on to other productions, here or elsewhere, on other stages.

But there are others in supporting roles who are also now out of work—longtime Las Vegas residents for whom the end of a run means changing jobs if they’re lucky or the unemployment line if they’re not.

Lisa Jacobson, 50, worked at Mandalay Bay for almost eight years. When she first applied she’d hoped to land a job at the hotel’s front desk. Instead they put her in the Reading Room, the small, independent bookstore in Mandalay Place. At first she wasn’t sure she’d like it there. After six years she never wanted to leave. “I wound up loving working at the bookstore,” she says. “I thought it was going to be a forever thing.”

Forever ended in July 2009, when the Reading Room was replaced with a yogurt shop, a victim of the cold calculus of retail optimization. Jacobson considered getting out of retail, but stayed when she was offered a job at the Lion King Store. “I wasn’t really all that happy about it, but everything else [within the company] was on-call, part time or something I had no experience in.”

In mid 2011, she found out The Lion King was closing, meaning another job switch and more uncertainty. This time, management wasn’t as eager to move workers to other stores, she says. “Now they wanted you to go apply and go through the application and interview process all over.” She jumped through the hoops, but never heard back about her applications. On Dec. 30 she got her walking papers.

Unlike a lot of Las Vegas job stories, this one has a happy ending. On Jan. 11, she landed a job offer at the front desk of a Courtyard by Marriott hotel. It’s full time with regular hours, and its what she wanted to do anyway. It’s also more money. She starts at $12.27 an hour, up from $11.88 at the Lion King Store. That figure, by the way, was only $1.88 an hour more than her starting wage at the bookstore eight years ago.

Her new job will “let me work in the morning, get out in the afternoon and get a part-time job if I want one,” she says. “Or just go and have a life.”