Out over the air it goes, like a mating call sponsored by Absolut, this primal scream of adoration for a woman whose celebrity was garnered by having her trip through the turnstile to Hugh Hefner’s bedroom recorded for posterity. She has spent the previous 15 minutes doing what she has been now so thoroughly trained to do, Grasshopper to the paparazzi’s Master Po: She has thrust out her hip, tilted her head, and flashed her tight smile for the cameras, professional and iPhone. She babbled to rumpled old men who still believe they’re reporters. And then she sashayed here, inside the tinsel bacchanalia that is the Pool at Harrah’s, where now, a half-hour past midnight, she works her way down a rope line like Sarah Palin at a country barbecue.
The official name of the Harrah’s swim club’s nighttime identity is the Pool After Dark, Batman to the daylight iteration’s Bruce Wayne. Its most noticeable quality is that it’s loud. Ear-crushingly, teeth-rattlingly loud. A DJ unleashes techno music in giant rolling thumps that almost ripple across the pool. Weekends, the doors open at 10; things get lively at one, crazy at 2:30, and downright loony at four, closing time. The cover charges range from $10 on a random Wednesday to $75 if Diddy is hosting. Some people dance—no small feat in a club with a slate floor slicked with spilled beer and leading directly into a body of water. But nobody really comes to the Pool for that. They come for the Kendras, both real and imitation varieties.
“Kendra! Over here! I want a kiss!” shouts a beefy guy bobbing in the throng, raising a can of Coors Light in toast. “We love you!!!” screams a gaggle of girls two rows in front of him, their spaghetti straps already forlornly sliding off their shoulders. There is additional whoofing (from the boys) and whooping (from the girls) and woo-hooing all around. The Pool is big on woo-hooing.
Kendra Wilkinson, if you don’t know her, is one of the newish breed of reality-TV stars who have successfully parlayed their notoriety into appearance fees at everything from conventions to the opening of the new Kerbeck dealership. Aside from her apprenticeship as one of Hef’s courtesans, she is best known as the wife of Hank Baskett, the thoroughly unremarkable ex-Eagles wide receiver now pumping life into his own feckless fame through the couple’s current TV show, appropriately titled Kendra on Top. Kendra is probably most famous for her boobs, two perfect orbs that jut out like matching bowling balls, which she used to great effect during her season on Dancing With the Stars, where she once sniped at a judge who criticized her for not being ladylike: “I just don’t care about it.”
As if to prove this point, Kendra shimmies across the stage to earn the five-figure appearance fee she’s being paid to “host” this Saturday-night party.
“What’s up, muthafuckas?!!!” she screams into the mic. More woo-hooing. “Who’s ready to party with the most awesome motherfuckers in the world?!!” The crowd screams, jumps, thrashes, a frenzy of Kendra. “Let’s fucking parrrrrrr-ty!!!”
Then she’s gone, whisked off to her private blue-and-white-striped cabana with her posse of similar Barbies, one that includes Julie Dorenbos, wife of Eagles long-snapper Jon, and Susie Celek, ex-wife of Eagles tight end Brent. They sit, their unlined faces taut, their long legs smooth and tanned and shiny, like roped-off figures at Madame Tussauds.
“It’s been four years now that I have been coming here, and I cannot tell you how much fun I have every single time,” Kendra tells me. She’s in spiky snakeskin heels and an off-white lace dress with, as far as I can tell, nothing on underneath, her nipples poking through like tiny erasers. Her lustrous blond hair is half-pulled back into a tight pony; both of her eyes are bloodshot. I ask her if she’s tired, and she stares at me like I’m crazy. “No. Never,” she replies with emphasis. “Because I love meeting them. Other celebrities, they don’t do this kind of thing; they don’t want to meet people, their fans. But I do. I owe them. Do you understand?” she says, looking at me intently. “I owe them.”
An hour later, Kendra climbs back onstage, now wearing a pair of dark cat-eye sunglasses with white plastic frames, which gives her the look of a very sexy blind person. She prowls back and forth, throwing her hands up in gangsta poses and screaming “What’s up?” and “Woooooo!,” which I soon discover are the only two pieces of verbal currency one needs to successfully engage in conversation at the Pool After Dark.
Jamie, a sinewy 22-year-old from Melville, New York, who is here with two girlfriends, stands next to me, her eyes gazing adoringly at the stage. “Oh my God, I love her,” she says. “I want a career like hers.”