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A Montana Girl's Guide to Living in Las Vegas

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Rule 1: Never rent from showgirl of the year ... or any showgirl for that matter.

One year I rented from Lili, who was voted Showgirl of the Year. Those are impressive credentials when you live in Las Vegas.

Lili was never easy to find except backstage at the Tropicana. One night, after having no hot water for three days I went to see my landlady. I took my four-year-old with me. The ladies loved him. He loved them. I found it disconcerting but I knew he still associated breasts with food. It was like a smorgasbord.

Rule 2: Never date a valet parker, a celebrity or a professional football player

This is a cardinal rule but only insiders know it. I dated Larry for four months when one of the hotel hookers told me how he could afford the big house with the swimming pool. It didn't all pertain to parking cars, although that also is lucrative in Las Vegas.

Many of the valets run their own string of "girls" and make arrangements with the front desk to call out to the kiosk when they get a request.

I also learned never to stiff the valet parker or your CD player may mysteriously disappear the next time you park at the same hotel. 

Whatever is loose in your car is up for grabs - and it's all loose.

It's better not to date the billboard stars playing at the hotels. The halo effect of dating celebrities soon pales. These people are different from us. Most play fast and hard with their bodies, the law and whomever comes in contact with them.

Once, I dated a Kansas City Chief's linebacker who told me a man should not consider professional football unless he is willing to kill someone.  Living with a killer was not in my plans for the future, so that relationship was over.

Rule 3: Never call the cops to your house twice in a week and expect sympathy

The first call to the police didn't come from me. My sister was visiting, and when someone tried to break in, she called them, then me. I got home the same time as the cops got there. I'd told my sister to be sure to leave lights on so people would think there was someone in the house. The cops told her the same thing. She heard them.

The second call didn't come from me either. It was from my roommate who was fighting the bartender's union to become the first female bartender in a big name hotel. She called them, then me. We'd had some phone calls we didn't want to listen to. We'd had notes left on our cars. That night, the note was left inside the car. The cops were there because the car had been locked and the windows unbroken before the note came.

This time, the cops asked if we had a gun. My roommate told them that we did. Did we know how to use it?  Yes. Could we hit what we wanted to? Yes. Would we make sure the body was inside the house before we placed the third call? 

I had to re-evaluate my previous position on living with a killer. There are more reasons to commit murder that I'd ever imagined before I left Montana.

Rule 4: If someone asks you to go to the lake, don't ask which one. There is only one: Lake Mead.

Rule 5: Yes, Virginia, there is a Mafia.

Before moving to Las Vegas I didn't believe there was a Mafia.  I thought it was part of the folklore of America.  Meeting Jonsey changed my belief. Jonsey lived at the Desert Inn. He'd been a bodyguard to the rich and infamous.  He spent time in the lounge at the hotel I worked in and liked talking to "that girl from Montana."  He had lots of stories for a good listener. Some of the stories involved the people who had first inhabited Las Vegas.

It's best to just listen to these people and not ask a lot of questions.

Rule: 6 Having you bike stolen in Las Vegas does not constitute a major crime

Legend has it that if you can survive the first six months in Las Vegas you'll be able to live there for a long time. I was robbed twice in my first two months living there, once of my bike and once of my $750.00 savings. To the Las Vegas police, this is not a crime spree. 

I took my child and left town. I got offered a high paying job and moved back two months later. This time, I survived the six-month initiation and stayed for four years.

Rule 7: Never look up

One night some of the boys from the UNLV basketball program were in the hotel. Given my 5'3" stature, I was overpowered by an urge to compare foot size. I sidled up to one guy and put my foot next to his. My foot was minuscule in comparison. I often wondered later what the casino's "Eye in the sky" thought of that maneuver.

Rule 8: Never turn your back on a four year-old around a fountain

Not long after moving to Las Vegas I visited the MGM Grand Hotel. It had a wonderful fountain. I had a four year old. He was barely out of my eyesight when the crowd roared. 

He could swim. He was swimming. He was swimming under water after the change. We did not leave winners that day.

Rule 9: Never work the graveyard shift.

If I were designing the casino, I would never put the lounge act next to the gambling area. Shift workers can only listen to "Thank God I'm A Country Boy" so many times. 

Rule 10: Never move to Mt. Charleston.

I moved thirty-five miles out of Las Vegas to the only mountain in the desert. We had a yard in a small neighborhood and snow. We lived in a ski resort. Trying to reconcile living in the mountains and working in a Las Vegas strip hotel proved to be the end of my Las Vegas adventure.  

I left Las Vegas with a better knowledge of self, knowing that I am a Levis-clad girl, not fit for a life of Italian-cut suits and push-up bras. I looked forward with a view of Montana that was filled with possibilities, including living on the lake ... but which one? 


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Thorne Johnson

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Las Vegas, lifestyles

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