Warning: Rant ahead. If you have no interest in reading this rant, feel free to check back next week when I’ll go back my regularly scheduled non-ranty content. This week’s topic is something that’s been bugging me for awhile now, and while I’ve touched on it briefly in my post titled 10 Things I Don’t Like About Las Vegas, my annoyance continues to grow, so I thought it was time to go ahead and dedicate an entire post to it, just to get it off my chest.
Some people look down on Las Vegas because of the fakeness of its tourist facade. The Strip, after all, is made up of a fake Rome, a fake volcano, a fake Venice, a fake Paris, a fake pyramid, and a fake New York City (not to mention all the fake boobs and fake tans and. . .you get the picture). Sure, it’s fake, but to me, that was part of its charm. I mean, where else in the world can you see Rome, New York, and Paris all on one street? But something has changed since I first started visiting, and I don’t find it so charming. And that’s the proliferation of fake people in the form of costumed panhandlers on the Strip and Downtown.
When I first started going to Las Vegas, practically the only costumed characters available for photo opportunities were fake Elvises (Elvi?). There was one who would pose with tourists for photos in front of the Imperial Palace on the Strip. There were also showgirls, of course; I was never quite sure if they were real showgirls posing for photos or if they, too, were impersonators. Seeing a fake Elvis or a showgirl always brought a smile to my face, though, because they are both part of the Vegas culture. Throw in ratpack impersonators and fake mobsters, and you’ve got yourself the core of Las Vegas’s history and that would be fun and kitschy and cool.
Today, costumed panhandlers are crawling all over the Strip and Downtown like roaches. Most of them have absolutely nothing to do with what Vegas is about and display zero talent. I mean, really: What the hell does Batman have to do with Las Vegas? Or Captain America, Hello Kitty, the Transformers, or Jack Sparrow? You cannot walk more than 100 feet without passing another one of them. If they’re going to line up on the sidewalks like porn slappers, I wish they would at least make their costume something Las Vegas-related.
I understand why this has happened. The recession. There aren’t a lot of jobs out there. People are desperate. I get that, I do. I just wish that the people who took to the streets to make a living contributed something positive in the process.
I love buskers, for instance. There’s nothing I love more than encountering a talented singer or guitarist or violinist making music for tips on the street. I’ve seen some outstanding buskers in my day in cities all over the world. Even Burlington sees it’s fair share of musicians, comedians, jugglers and magicians. You want to get me to part company with a buck or five? Show me you’ve got some talent. Put on a show. For a city so filled with talented individuals trying to make a living in show business, and so few actual jobs available, it seems odd to me that I rarely see that talent on the streets of Las Vegas.
Instead, I get to see an overweight, middle-aged man squeezed like a sausage into a Captain America costume. Ugh. I suppose it does require some stamina to stand around in 100-degree temperatures in a hot costume without keeling over from heat stroke. Still, I’m not paying for that.
To me, these costumed characters cheapen the experience of Las Vegas. The whole “streetmosphere” of the Strip has gotten completely bizarre. Apparently, I’m in the minority in hating this, because if they weren’t making money off tourists, they’d stop doing it. So all I can do is keep walking past them and vote with my wallet by not giving them my hard-earned money and hope that someday, either other people do the same or they “achieve their dreams of stardom” and get the hell off the streets.
So that’s my Ms. Cranky Pants rant. But because I like to keep an open mind about things, I’m willing to listen to the opposite point of view. Because right now, I just don’t get it. Help me understand the appeal of these people. As a Las Vegas tourist (or potential tourist), have you paid or would you pay one of these costumed characters for a photo opp? And if so, why, for the love of God, WHY?