I love asking my fellow Las Vegans what brought them here initially — more often than not, the answer is a variation of “I got stuck here because [X],” or “I ended up here because [X],” and ends with “but I’m moving as soon as I can get the fuck out of here.” It seems like few people actually choose to move to Vegas — and even the ones who do, only plan to stay long enough to make a crapload of money, then get the fuck out. In my experience, not many people move here planning to stay and make a life, or build a real community. (This has begun to change over the past few years, thankfully.)
Well, I actually chose to move here…because I thought it seemed like an interesting place. People tried to talk me out of it, telling me I’d regret it because Vegas is a “second-chance town” full of losers who couldn’t hack it anywhere else: single moms with multiple baby-daddies, divorcees, convicted felons, addicts…basically a city full of people with sordid pasts. In addition, uneducated assholes flock here because even a dimwit lacking the most basic education can make a decent living in the service industry: strippers, valet attendants, doormen…you know what I mean!
But I moved here anyway, and have been here for 13 years. And I love it!!! In retrospect, I think I was drawn to Vegas because it was dumb — less intimidating than New York or L.A., with fewer intellectual or creative expectations. But rather than sit here and psychoanalyze my lame-ass motivations, let me tell you about the magnificent journey that brought me here.
I had recently graduated college and found myself mired in a miserable desk job in the bowels of a gray concrete building on the IBM campus in San Jose, CA. I had to get up at 6am and spend my days drinking coffee from a Cathy mug and kissing executive ass — not really what I had in mind for life. I wanted adventure!!! And I especially wanted to never have to get up at 6am EVER. AGAIN.
As mentioned, Vegas had always seemed like a super interesting place to me. But keep in mind, this was back in 2000, during one of those in-between periods when Vegas wasn’t really a hot spot — the “family-friendly destination” phase was just ending, and the “upscale nightlife douchery” phase hadn’t yet begun. Vegas was kinda down-and-out…just the sort of aesthetic I dig! I had seen the movie Swingers, where the guys pick up that cocktail waitress and go back to her trailer-park home, and I just thought that seemed so funky and weird and awesome that I had to move here and try it for myself. So I did.
As with everything, I did it in pimp-ass cinematic style: the first thing I did was ditch my practical, boring wheels in favor of something much more Vegas-worthy…which in my mind meant an obscenely huge, vintage All-American gas-guzzler. I didn’t want to be too stereotypical, so I bypassed the usual 60s and 70s suspects and went straight for the biggest, squarest American-made beast I could find, which turned out to be a 1986 Lincoln Town Car. I specifically chose this make and model because it had zero curves on it anywhere — I hated those aerodynamic, fuel-efficient pudding blobs that were popular back then, and I wanted angles.
With the help of a friendly used car dealer in San Jose, I found an ’86 Town Car at a police auction, but it was a totally pedestrian, un-Vegas shade of blue…which simply would not do for my fabulous new life in the desert! So with the same dealer’s help, I had it painted bright, pukey Pepto-Bismol pink (ever the contrarian, I refused to go the standard pale-pink Cadillac route. I’m different, by gum). Then I had the interior redone in virginal white
(I actually was still a virgin when I moved here, shockingly).
While I was waiting for the car to be pimped out, my sister and I drove down to Vegas one weekend to look at apartments. In those days they had these bizarre free apartment-finding services — I think they’re still around, but not sure if it’s still free. Anyway, you went in, told them how much you wanted to spend and what part of town you
wanted to live in, then they would give you a map with a few complexes marked on it and have you go pick one. I told them I wanted to live right on the Strip and pay less than $500 a month — which was possible back then, but you would have been in a really shitty part of the north Strip, and the lady steered me away from that. So I ended up picking the first place she sent me, right off Sahara Ave. across from the Palace Station (the north side, behind In-N-Out Burger…not the shitty-ass south side). It wasn’t right on the Strip, but it was pretty close, and it was a nice, quiet complex with lots of trees and shit.
So after I signed the lease, I drove back to San Jose, packed up my meager belongings, and loaded them all into my freshly repainted Lincoln, which I christened “The Chairwoman of the Board,” in honor of Frank Sinatra. And then I hauled ass for Vegas, never to look back! (Well….rarely, anyway.)
Now when I first moved here, I didn’t really know anyone in town — except I had sort of been chatting with a guy on some seedy sugar daddy Yahoo! group (this was back in the day, remember), so that was my only connection here. In those days, I was under the misguided impression that it would be super-glamorous and fun to have an older sugar daddy, so that’s what I was angling for. It didn’t really work out, but he was nice enough and did help me out here and there, though not so much financially…he mostly just showed me around town and took me to dinner, stuff like that, until I got a job.
Now speaking of that, my goal upon moving to Vegas was to become a cocktail waitress at Caesars Palace, the most fabulous of all the Vegas hotels. I was obsessed with those little mini-toga dresses they wear, and I could think of no more glamorous job in the entire world. I figured I’d waltz in, get hired, and be rich in no time. How wrong I was!
Back then, Vegas was a big union town (even moreso than now), and you couldn’t just get a job because you were hot — you had to work your way up the ranks. So I went down and signed up at the Culinary Union…but when I discovered I’d have to schlep drinks at some shitty pisshole for years before they’d even let me set foot in Caesars, I bailed. Fuck that noise! I didn’t move here to serve drinks at the El Cortez, motherfuckers!!!
Meanwhile, my “sugar daddy” had a friend whose crackhead daughter worked as a camera girl, taking souvenir photos at the Wayne Newton show. He told me I should look into that, since back then the camera girls made pretty good money (this was before digital cameras really became popular, let alone iPhones). It sounded cool to me, since I had an art degree, so I went down to the Cashman Photo office and applied. They hired me on the spot, and put me at the MGM, taking photos at this godawful family-friendly spectacular called EFX.
At this point I had lived in Vegas for about three weeks, and I was pretty much set. My job paid enough to cover my bills (my rent at the time was only $560/month, and I had bought my car outright, with ca$h money saved from my IBM job). I was able to ditch my poor “sugar daddy,” who went on to marry a Filipino woman who I’m sure made him very happy….and so I went about living the fabulous Vegas life I’d always dreamed about.
The “fabulous Vegas life I’d always dreamed about” basically consisted of sleeping til noon, then going out boozing after work and eating chicken-fried steak at a different coffee shop every night, with forays here and there to places like Area 51, the Liberace Museum, Siegfried & Roy’s show, the Caesars Palace pool and the Bellagio, where I eventually finally lost my virginity. Occasionally I would go out to the clubs of the day, which were pretty much just Studio 54 at the MGM and raver-paradise Utopia…but for the most part I preferred to booze at casino bars, where the music wasn’t so fucking loud and I could actually carry on a conversation with all the interesting weirdos and down-n-out freaks of Vegas.
Anyway, I had many interesting adventures and met many wacky weirdos, which I wrote about in a blog I had back then…but after a year or so it got old, and I started thinking about leaving Vegas. And then the whole September 11, 2001 thing happened, which killed tourism dead for the better part of a year…so I did bail on Vegas, and moved back to California.
But I had a similar experience to many who try leaving Vegas: I missed it! You get used to the 24-hour weird energy and all the freaks and kooks and hustlers and whores…so after only about 5 months, I came back. This time, I took a weekly rental at the Holiday Royale next door to the Hard Rock Hotel, then went back to the apartment finding service to look for a permanent place, ending up pretty much in the same part of town as before.
It took a while, but Vegas eventually recovered from the September 11 slump…and came back with a vengeance. This is when all these douchey megaclubs started opening — and when the concept of bottle service came up. Nightlife became a big thing, and I remember it was such a scandal when Tabu at the MGM opened, and they were only hiring “models” to work there. WTF!! Models?!
It took me another 4 or 5 years before I worked up the balls to try being a model myself — I just assumed you had to be 5’10” with blonde hair and big tits, so I had never been so presumptuous as to think I could do it myself. But eventually I started doing conventions and promotions and that kind of shit, and before you know it I was running around naked and eating donuts and shit for money. Progress!
But between the time I moved back here in 2002, and the time I started modeling, in 2006…it was a long, lonely stretch of meaninglessness. I hated living here, and in fact I was one of those people who couldn’t wait to leave Vegas. I just didn’t know where else to go/what else to do, so I stayed….and I’m glad I did, because now I really dig it here.
Because what’s great about Vegas is the fact that it IS a “second-chance town” — and I got my second chance! I eventually found a niche that worked for me — after dicking around with conventions and shit for a couple years, I started doing the nude and fetish stuff around ’08, and now I’m having a blast. I have a ton of weird-ass freaky friends, I go to a ton of bizarre-o events, and I basically take advantage of everything this city has to offer. The weather is great, the cost of living is still pretty low, the tax climate is favorable (thanks to “gaming,” we have no state income tax)….and I NEVER HAVE TO GET UP AT 6AM!!! (Unless it’s for a bad-ass reason like I want to go watch the sun rise over Hoover Dam or something like that. Or, occasionally, for a gig.)
The only real regrets I have are: 1.) I wish I hadn’t pissed away time and money at college, 2.) I wish I would have started fetish modeling earlier, and 3.) I wish I still had my pink Lincoln!!
Unfortunately, an ex-boyfriend talked me into selling the Lincoln back in ’07, because as he put it, it was time for me to get a “real” car. BOOOO!!!
But mark my words: one day, as dog is my witness….I will get another pink car!
I enjoy reading about all the adventures you encounter. Nothing much surprises me anymore as I have seen and experienced many outrageous moments in my 50+ years of life. But after meeting you, again (first time being, mostly just knowing of you because you were one of my many cousins child) I actually visited Las Vegas, but for only one day and one night, and realized that I most definitely must return for an extended stay when I can afford to. So don’t be surprised if one day you get a call from me or Sandy saying we’re coming to Vegas and looking for you. Keep up the good work and without seeming weird (Okay I admit it I’m weird) Lil Cousin I think You and your Lifestyle are Totally Hott !
P.S. When you coming back to Pismo ? LOL
What a great blog.
I moved here because I’m a shallow girl and proud of it. Don’t understand people who live here, but hate it – oh, please, who doesn’t want to be in a Fellini movie 24/7?
Yes, a pink car…
I just stumbled upon your blog as I was searching for Saline Springs on the googly. Just wanted to say you are a one bad ass lady and I’m glad I found this site!
thanks sista! You seem like a total kindred spirit…maybe our paths will cross one of these days! Also, love your blog….both content AND layout/design. That theme is kickass!
Thanks Ms. Sarah, you finally answered a curious question I asked years ago about that Town Car. Thought it was a Mary Kay Cosmetics thing going…didn’t know it was your own artistry!
Many people assumed it was a Mary Kay car! But they give out Caddies, not Lincolns.
What an awesome read! Really admire your quest for making the most out of our short time on this planet and having the stones to go for it. I really think you should consider motivational speaking to your list of offerings. Ok, so you never lived in a ‘van by the river’, but your life experiences and personality are mesmerizing. Thank you for your blog and making my day.
Thanks!! I may end up in a van in the desert soon…stay tuned!!! “How to be a Wonder Hussy,” coming soon to a high school auditorium near you!
Your life is amazing. I really appreciate your site
Thank you SO MUCH! 🙂
Just wanted to let you know that I’m a fan and look forward to each new post. I happened to stumble on here from MM (I’m a photographer in PA) and I’m really glad I did. I love the aura of Vegas, the desert, and the American Southwest, and you really capture it perfectly (or, at least, you confirm my impressions of what it’s like).
I’ve got to necropost here because this entry really epitomizes why I read this blog. I’m curious, did you ever visit Vegas before you moved there and, if not, was it how you thought it would be?
Necroposting is awesome!! I did visit Vegas once, about a year before I moved here. And it pretty much turned out as I expected…definitely not for everyone, but it suits me! Most of the time!
I remember when you went by the handle Brandy Bottoms. And you had that job at MGM as a photographer back in 2009. We did a shoot at Valley of Fire and we were lucky not to get caught and booted out. (Thanks by the way for including one of the photos we did in your Valley of Fire Pages).
You have come a long way since and I just recently discovered your Blog. You can write and I enjoy your posts. I would love to do another shoot with you.
Awwwwww, thank you Don!!! I remember our shoot well…it was fun! 🙂