Well-heeled mobsters, glamorous showgirls, fantastical mega-casinos, dazzling neon displays- it’s the world’s most famous monument to reckless abandon and unbridled excess. From a dusty railroad town in the middle of nowhere, Las Vegas has grown into one of the world’s premier tourist destinations. Once shunned as Sin City and considered beyond the pale of respectable society, it is now the epicenter of mainstream leisure, attracting more visitors than the holy city of Mecca. Las Vegas: An Unconventional History steps into the world of bright lights and back-room deals to illuminate what makes it perhaps the most American city in the country. The film has been named the official documentary of the city’s year-long 2005 centennial celebration and a companion book of the same title has been published by Bulfinch Press.
Although glitz and glamour define the Las Vegas that more than 37 million tourists flock to each year, the city sprawls well beyond the Strip and draws new residents at a head-spinning pace. Las Vegas: An Unconventional History explores how this once remote and exotic desert outpost transformed itself into the fastest-growing city in the United States – a place where tens of thousands of jobs are created each year, sixty new streets are named each month, and an average of more than a thousand prospective residents arrive each week. Among its many monikers, Las Vegas can add City of Opportunity for its unmatched job prospects and booming real estate market.
While there is life beyond the Strip, Las Vegas will always be best known as a place of escape. From its incarnation as the favorite nightspot for the men who built the Hoover Dam, to its most recent re-invention as a post-modern desert fantasyland, the city has made its living by anticipating the desires of its visitors and then catering to them.
Peopled with unlikely heroes and villains, Las Vegas: An Unconventional History looks at the figures who shaped the Las Vegas we know today, from icons like Bugsy Siegel and The Rat Pack to less well-known characters drawn to this desert fantasyland in search of the American dream. The film also explores the forces that have always kept the city a few paces ahead of mainstream America: Las Vegas was the first city to legalize gambling; one of the first cities to dissolve the color line; the first and only city to make atomic testing a tourist attraction; and perhaps the only city whose dazzling main street can be seen from outer space.
The documentary features interviews with resort entrepreneurs Steve and Elaine Wynn, media mogul Brian Greenspun, local columnist John L. Smith, and writers Marc Cooper and Nick Pileggi. It also includes profiles of ten modern-day Las Vegans, who together provide a complex look at life in the nation’s fastest-growing city.
Las Vegas: An Unconventional History documents the often surprising, endlessly entertaining history of America’s most outrageous playground.