New York-New York Hotel and Casino on the Strip in Las Vegas. Locals were… (MGM Resorts International )
LAS VEGAS — The British monarchy and many of its subjects might be aghast over published photos of playboy Prince Harry’s randy and quite naked romp with at least one nude woman in a VIP hotel suite here, but the reaction in Sin City is considerably more subdued.
Vegas is yawning.
New York might be the city that never sleeps, but this neon town is the desert mecca that never blinks. And that bunk about things happening here and staying here? Fahgettaboudit!
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Over the years, many celebrities have run into trouble on the Strip and its seamy side streets, been busted in print and sometimes sent to jail for their “well, duh!” indiscretions.
Veteran TV entertainment reporter Robin Leach, now a gossip columnist for the Las Vegas Sun, says naughty high jinks are nothing new here. “That’s why people come to Vegas,” said the British-born Leach. “To let their hair down and behave badly.”
And like Prince Harry, Britain’s most eligible bachelor who was on a break from his military duties, some of them have gotten caught with their pants down. The prince’s round-the-clock romp included challenging Olympic gold medalist Ryan Lochte to a swimming pool race as several women looked on.
The celebrity gossip website TMZ, which published the Harry photos, said the images were taken after the prince and several buddies invited a “bevy of beauties” up to his suite at the MGM Grand Hotel and Casino on Friday. Harry and an unidentified woman reportedly shed their clothes in a game of strip billiards.
Buckingham Palace has announced that the photos of its redheaded prince are real, saying only that “Prince Harry is on a private holiday and is returning shortly.”
He now joins the growing list of notables who had encountered some bad press here. They’re people like Britney Spears, skewered in 2004 for her 55-hour marriage to childhood friend Jason Alexander. Supposedly on a dare, the couple were married in a 5:30 a.m. service at the Little White Wedding Chapel with, as one newspaper put it, “Jim Beam as best man.” The marriage was annulled less than three days later.
In August 2010, Paris Hilton got busted for cocaine possession after a traffic stop on the Strip. The following month, pop singer and songwriter Bruno Mars was arrested for the same offense after a run-in with police at the Las Vegas Hard Rock Hotel.
In 2008, football star O.J. Simpson was thrown for a personal loss, sent to prison after being collared on a slew of charges including kidnapping and assault with a deadly weapon in the theft of $80,000 in sports memorabilia from a Las Vegas hotel room.
Even Jerry Lewis has stepped in it here in Vegas. The comedy legend was cited in 2008 when an unloaded weapon was discovered in his carry-on luggage at McCarran International Airport. Charges were dropped, but Lewis had to give up the .22-caliber gun.
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Harry is among the generation of Vegas “Gotcha!” victims.
“Prince Harry is the target market for the new Vegas club scene,” said Michael Green, a history professor at the College of Southern Nevada. “He’s a rich, young twentysomething male who likes to hang out with gorgeous women and has a lot of discretionary income. He’s got a posse.”
Green said locals have seen so many embarrassed celebrities that they’ve become inured to the shock, because they know that another so-called scandal is just around the corner. The tradition goes back decades.
“Back in the 1970s when Vegas was more famous for its boxing matches, there was a photo of actor Jack Nicholson caught sitting there with a veritable bucket of booze,” Green said. Nicholson could handle the storm; others couldn’t.
“In the 1940s and '50s, the Las Vegas News Bureau took pictures of celebrities doing silly things as a way to promote the town. Most posed willingly, but one of the photographers tried to get a picture with Frank Sinatra together with Ava Gardner. Well, Frank wasn’t going for it. The shot has Sinatra running away to avoid being photographed,” he said.
But for the most part, celebrities enjoyed an aura of privacy — a privacy made possible by the gangsters who often ran the casinos. It was a crowd that knew the value of the hush-hush, Green said.
“Sex hasn’t changed but Vegas used to be a place where a celebrity could go and misbehave on the QT,” he said. “The place was run by people who cherished privacy themselves, so they understood the celebrity’s desire to do that.”
But times have changed in Las Vegas. Now publicity-seeking casino owners like Steve Wynn do their own commercials. And the discreet gambling scene has given way to an era of cellphone cameras and no rules.