Is Harrah’s “Pool After Dark” The Most Ingenious Nightclub Concept Ever or the End of Civilization As We Know It?
At quarter to two in the morning, I watch as five girls dressed head-to-toe in expensive fashion—one is wearing the new Versace graphic chrome-yellow dress—kick off their shoes and beatifically wade into the pool, like nuns at Lourdes. PAD is not a place for the practical. It is the place for statement. For being noticed.
Manecha, whose twin sister Tanecha (I’m not making that up) is one of the girls now splashing in her couture in the pool, watches from the side.
“Are you having a good time?” I scream above the blaring music, which is Travie McCoy begging to be a billionaire.
“Oh yes!” she answers brightly. She glances around, taking in the swirling lights and the palm trees and the splashing and the drinking and the thump-thump-thumping of the bass beat. “I was worried about the humidity in here, about the sanitary-ness. But everybody’s having a great time,” she says. She smiles. “I guess that’s all that counts.”
It’s approaching three in the morning when I drag myself out of the Pool, metaphorically speaking. Then I do what all people leaving a boozy nightclub in the middle of the night do—I stop for a slice of pizza.
I sit at a counter at the food court directly across from the Pool. Forty feet in front of me is a backdrop, like the ones they use at movie premieres, stenciled with the logos for PAD and a vodka label. This is what’s known in show business as a “step and repeat,” a mini red carpet where the celebs who host Harrah’s parties pause to pose for the paparazzi, their images the backbone of next week’s Us Weekly. It’s kept lit when PAD is open, allowing aspiring Khloes and Kourtneys to practice their close-ups. It was Howard Weiss’s idea, and like almost everything else at the Pool, it’s both deeply disturbing and fucking brilliant.
During my nights at Harrah’s, I’ve spent hours watching girls flock over to the backdrop like so many sequined pelicans, squealing as friends click-click-click their teapot poses and come-hither lip-pursing, their ample bootys jutting out like the Liberty Bell. It is these photos that are Harrah’s stealth marketing tool, Instagramming the Pool’s empty glamour for all the world to see. Or at least your friends on Facebook. That is, after all, the point: to create a permanent record of your fabulousness, to preserve your celebrity even if you never come close to ever actually being one.
In the car on the way over tonight, I heard a song by Ke$ha, the poster girl for the insolence that defines the new Generation Shameless. Some of the lyrics stuck in my head:
We’re dancing like we’re dumb
Our bodies go numb
We’ll be forever young
You know we’re superstars
We are who we are.
I down the last of my pizza. Three bony glamazons in strappy high-heeled sandals are clomping by me toward the hotel exit when one catches a glimpse of the backdrop.
“Oh wait, you guys,” she says, tugging at a friend’s wrist and pulling her toward the lights. “Let’s be famous.”