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BASILE: Visiting Vegas (while steering clear of the tempting slots)

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Frank Basile

In Las Vegas, you can visit the Eiffel Tower in Paris, ride a roller coaster in New York City, experience an Egyptian Pyramid, ride a gondola in Venice, take part in the Freemont Street Experience downtown and shop and dine world class—all in one day. That’s no surprise.

But on a recent trip to Sin City, Katrina and I experienced another side of Vegas, which is little known but fits in with its over-the-top image.

Where else in the world would you find an automobile dealership with a complete service department and parts department, as well as a 30-car showroom, located inside a five-star hotel? The Penske Wynn Ferrari Maserati dealership is housed in the spectacular Wynn Resort Hotel on the Strip. And it’s not just for show. They actually sell and service cars and are open until 9 p.m. six days a week (6 p.m. on Sundays).

I paid the $30 entrance fee (yes, there’s an entrance fee) and toured the place, including the eight-bay service department, and quickly discovered this is not your father’s car dealership. Did the place you bought your first car have a gift shop? This one does, of course, with items for sale including jewelry with the signature Ferrari horse emblem, driving gloves and, naturally, men’s and women’s fashion clothing.

Oh, and the cars. You can get a spiffy red 2010 Ferrari 458 Italia for $249,900 or, if your luck wasn’t as good at the tables, you could opt for a modest 2008 Ferrari F430 for only $150,000. The showroom is a two-story affair with the first featuring floor-to-ceiling windows. Many of the shiny cars are on rotating platforms. I did not ask, but I suppose if you bought one of these cars, they would refund your $30 entrance price. I avoided purchasing new wheels.

For another unusual attraction, we visited the venerable Tropicana Hotel, which was one of the first on the Strip. Since this hotel was reputedly built and operated by the mob, it is appropriate that it now houses the new Mob Attraction exhibit. We spent an amazing two hours in this interesting, interactive museum of organized crime, which began with a room built to resemble a boat arriving from Sicily at Ellis Island. There, I was photographed and received my immigration papers, which felt both realistic and chilling.

In each of the first few rooms, characters appeared in an alley, the back room of a casino, a police station, and talked in sinister tones. I found myself talking with “Big Tony” at an Italian restaurant, where he gave me a bunch of “money” to bribe a cop I’d soon encounter.

Next there appeared movie icons in 3D hologram form, including actor James Caan. There were exhibits about prohibition, about how the mafia skimmed money off the casinos, and the history of certain events and people, including the infamous Bugsy Siegel, Meyer Lansky and Tony Spilotro. There was even an exhibit about the woman who allegedly slept with a top gangster and John Kennedy during the same timeframe.

Perhaps the biggest surprise of the trip was the structure we thought was a giant sculpture in the middle of the desert. Upon closer inspection, we discovered a bizarre two-building complex designed by the renowned architect, Frank Gehry.

Not a casino, it’s the Cleveland Clinic for Brain Health, a medical center dedicated to research on, and treatment of, Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, Huntington’s and other neurological diseases. It consists of a four-story structure, which holds medical offices, patient rooms and research space. The other structure, located across an open-air courtyard, is a soaring, single-room event space beneath a wildly undulating stainless-steel roof. It would be easy to conclude that the two buildings represent the classic left-brain, right-brain dichotomy: the office wing is rational and contained and the other free-flowing and fantastical.

Equally out of place, but on the opposite end of the spectrum, is The Little Church of the West, the only structure in Las Vegas to be listed on the United States National Register of Historic Places. A free-standing wedding chapel, it’s the oldest building on the Strip. Built in 1942 out of California redwood, it was meant to be a replica of a typical pioneer-town church. The scenic little church on a tree shaded, quiet couple of acres is where Elvis Presley and Ann-Margret recited their vows in the movie “Viva Las Vegas.”

Actual marriages in the church included Betty Grable and Harry James in 1943, Redd Foxx and Ka Ha Cho in 1991, Richard Gere and Cindy Crawford also in 1991, and Billy Bob Thornton and Angelina Jolie in 2000.

Oh, and Frank and Katrina Basile in 2004.

Yes, we were married there before taking off for our honeymoon in Antarctica. Back in 2004 when I asked Katrina if she would like to be married by Elvis, she said, without hesitation, “If Elvis shows up, I’m going to marry Elvis!”•

__________

Basile is an author, professional speaker, philanthropist, community volunteer and retired executive of the Gene B. Glick Co. His column appears whenever there’s a fifth Monday in the month. Basile can be reached at Frank_Basile@sbcglobal.net.
 

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  1. If what you stated is true, then this article is entirely inaccurate. "State sells bonds" is same as "State borrows money". Supposedly the company will "pay for them". But since we are paying the company, we are still paying for this road with borrowed money, even though the state has $2 billion in the bank.

  2. Andrew hit the nail on the head. AMTRAK provides terrible service and that is why the state has found a contractor to improve the service. More trips, on-time performance, better times, cleanliness and adequate or better restrooms. WI-FI and food service will also be provided. Transit from outlying areas will also be provided. I wouldn't take it the way it is but with the above services and marketing of the service,ridership will improve and more folks will explore Indy and may even want to move here.

  3. They could take the property using eminent domain and save money by not paying the church or building a soccer field and a new driveway. Ctrwd has monthly meetings open to all customers of the district. The meetings are listed and if the customers really cared that much they would show. Ctrwd works hard in every way they can to make sure the customer is put first. Overflows damage the surrounding environment and cost a lot of money every year. There have been many upgrades done through the years to help not send flow to Carmel. Even with the upgrades ctrwd cannot always keep up. I understand how a storage tank could be an eye sore, but has anyone thought to look at other lift stations or storage tanks. Most lift stations are right in the middle of neighborhoods. Some close to schools and soccer fields, and some right in back yards, or at least next to a back yard. We all have to work together to come up with a proper solution. The proposed solution by ctrwd is the best one offered so far.

  4. Fox has comments from several people that seem to have some inside information. I would refer to their website. Changed my whole opionion of this story.

  5. This place is great! I'm piggy backing and saying the Cobb salad is great. But the ribs are awesome. $6.49 for ribs and 2 sides?! They're delicious. If you work downtown, head over there.

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