Metropolitan Los Angeles

The post-war rise of the desert resort was in a sense a tale of two futuristic cities— for the development of the Las Vegas Strip amounted to little more than another subdivision of metropolitan Los Angeles.

Gambling: Southern Nevada on the Rise

Increasingly during the middle decades of the century, observers recognized the close bond between the two urban areas.

In the middle of Hollywood in 1960 appeared an advertisement that attested Southern Californians’ fondness for the desert playground.

On the Sunset Strip, atop a sign for the Sahara Hotel in Las Vegas, stood a thirty-foot figure, ‘an immense twirling plater statue of an almost naked lady in a green bikini, holding a sombrero in her upraised hand’ and beckoning people to visit the resort.

Many answered her invitation, gratifying the southern Nevadans who had striven to attract Angelenos to the gambling center since the 1930s.

In fact, throughout the postwar years, Southern Californians amounted to between the three-fifths and three-fourths of all visitors to Las Vegas.

The resort catered successfully to the preferences of Angelenos and consolidated their novel values and styles of living.

In the production of movies and television shows, and in the utilization of such theme amusement parks as Disneyland which had spun off from the entertainment industry, Southern Californians developed particularly commercial types of leisure that revolved in part around fantasy, that is, around the participant’s willing suspension of disbelief.

Recreation in Las Vegas not only borrowed the very personalities, economies, and architecture of leisure from Los Angeles; in gambling, it also relied on the same element of fantasy among players.

In both places, the suspension of disbelief in play activities made all things seem possible. Disbelief in play activities made all things seem possible.

Movie making and Las Vegas gambling were closely linked as industries devoted to mass-producing leisure that incorporated fantasy. Strip hotels ceaselessly identified themselves with film stars in their promotion.

The prevalence of famous entertainers in southern Nevada contributed to tourists’ willingness to suspend disbelief by making vacations less an aspect of everyday life and more an excerpt from the movies.

Moreover, a risk-taking outlook bound Hollywood to Las Vegas visitors even more tightly, for movie making exemplified the speculation that pervaded life in Southern California.

Denizens of Hollywood seemed to be bettors by second nature; they thrived in an atmosphere of tension and anxiety, expected easy money, and regarded each picture as an enormous gamble.

Actors, directors, and writers accepted casino gaming as just another opportunity for taking chances in a life that they viewed as predominantly one of hazard and luck.

Movie-makers’ presence in southern Nevada reiterated the similarities between casino gambling and the fantastic amusements of Hollywood.

Disneyland, an offshoot of the movie industry that opened for business in the same year as the New Frontier, also resembled Strip hotels as a provider of amusements.

Disneyland served American families as Las Vegas served American adults. Both constituted fantasy worlds set apart from daily life, and both marketed on a wide scale recreation experiences designed to appeal to transitory customers.

Both Las Vegas and Disneyland conveyed to visitors from across the country a streamlined and exaggerated version of Southern California culture.

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