Movies can be a city’s most potent form of advertising. Las Vegas’ image has been shaped by hundreds of films, from Viva Las Vegas (1964) to Honeymoon in Vegas (1992), The Amazing Colossal Man (1957) to Rain Man (1988), Ocean’s 11 (1960) to… well, Ocean’s Eleven (2001). People come here seeking the experience they’ve seen on the screen, to spend a weekend living like Frank or Elvis or Jill St. John.
Our biggest piece of cinematic PR since 2009 has been The Hangover series, which celebrates a quartet of buddies who basically get fucked up and make stupid decisions that result in gunshots or tiger attacks or facial tattoos—and getting blackout-intoxicated is always crucial to the plot. The three movies may have given Las Vegas millions in free advertising, but what message were they sending?
It seems like recently we have hosted an increasing number of tourists who come here specifically to see how fucked up and out of control they can get. Behavior too crude for Alabama? Bring it here! Attitude too obnoxious for Brooklyn? Bring it here! Outfit too tacky and revealing for Hollywood Boulevard? On the Las Vegas Strip, it’s plumb tasteful! The heck with “What happens here stays here.” Sometimes it feels like our slogan is more like “Come to Vegas and be the asshole you can’t be back home!”
For those of us who thought child-friendly, fanny-packing Las Vegas was the absolute antithesis of our elegant, diamonds-and-tuxedos Summit-at-the-Sands glory days… well, I postulate that these herds of adult toddlers are even worse. James Bond did not yell at waitresses or vomit in parking garages. Marlene Dietrich did not wander around casinos drunk, barefoot and falling out of her tube dress. No member of the Rat Pack would drink a footlong margarita and have his picture taken with a 65-year-old man wearing a diaper and cupid wings. Not even Peter Lawford.
It’s not just about inconveniencing the locals and the majority of visitors—the ones who don’t come here to act like apes on acid. Humans aren’t cartoon characters, and when anvils fall on our heads or we drink a fifth of Jack Daniel’s in 45 minutes, damage is done. In August, two men jumped into a canal at the Venetian during the wee small hours. Neither could swim and their excellent adventure ended in the hospital. People come to Vegas to push their luck, and often it might be less dangerous for them to do it at the craps table.
Especially unfortunate is that their version of “wild and crazy” is about as spontaneous as a paint-by-numbers and as amusing as watching reruns of The View in a podiatrist’s waiting room: No one does something truly mad and unique, like ordering 200 bars of Neutrogena soap from room service or riding a horse through Caesars’ casino floor. Nope, as long as they can tell their friends back home how crazy it was, it doesn’t really matter whether they enjoyed it or not. Las Vegas is just another backdrop on Instagram, a new check-in on Facebook, a fresh hashtag on Twitter, and a different ZIP code for bottle service and bullshit until they move on to the next one.
In the meantime, we have The Hangover Wedding Chapel at Madame Tussaud’s, where folks can celebrate their lifelong love and commitment by doing Jäger shots while standing next to a lifesize wax figure of Zach Galifianakis beneath a “TOPLESS GIRLS!” sign. They can play The Hangover video slots, take The Hangover Tour, where they’ll cruise around on a party bus getting shit-faced with guys who look like the guys in the movie. There’s even a Hangover-inspired photo app, Flashgap, that’ll collect everyone’s photos of last night and upload them in time for brunch the next day. And, when it’s all over, they can call Hangover Bail Bonds.