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John William Tuohy lives in Washington DC

Las Vegas: A Photographic Essay by John William Tuohy


There’s just no quiet in Vegas. - Barry Manilow


I love Las Vegas because it's the one city less classy than Los Angeles.  J. Richard Singleton



Las Vegas is like huge fake breasts. Nothing is real, just plastic. It is all provided with a clean veneer over the grime of its purpose, to swindle. And I don’t gamble Komrade Komura, Forced Entry



America is the greatest, freest and most decent society in existence. It is an oasis of goodness in a desert of cynicism and barbarism. This country, once an experiment unique in the world, is now the last best hope for the world. Dinesh D'Souza



Las Vegas is a resort whose two chief sorces of income are seven and eleven. Evan Esar

Las Vegas – my favorite desert mirage. Val Saintsbury






He walked around the Las Vegas casino incredulous at the spectacle before him: seven thousand people, all of whom seemed delighted with the world as they found it. A society with deep, troubling economic problems had rigged itself to disguise those problems, and the chief beneficiaries of the deceit were its financial middlemen.  Michael Lewis, The Big Short: Inside the Doomsday Machine



























Contemporary Las Vegas is astonishing. At night, it is a brilliant cluster of jewels of all shapes, sizes, and colors, glowing in the middle of a vast, black velvet canopy. By day, it is also an amazing sight, almost like a mirage. There is nothing but desert and rugged mountains all around, and then--in the middle of it all--one of the largest and fastest growing cities in the United States ... truly an enigma. THOMAS TAJ AINLAY, Las Vegas: The Fabulous First Century



There is always a sneer in Las Vegas.  The mountains around it sneer.  The desert sneers.  And arrogant in the middle of its wide valley, dominating those diligent sprawling suburbs, the downtown city sneers like anything.  Jan Morris











 In Vegas, I got into a long argument with the man at the roulette wheel over what I considered to be an odd number.  Steven Wright








Gatsby believed in the green light, the orgiastic future that year by year recedes before. It eluded us then, but that’s no matter - tomorrow we will run faster, stretch our arms further….The Great Gatsby

The casino played a song of its own—slot machines dinging, chips clacking as the dealer passed them out to the players at the tables, and the chatter of people throwing down money with the hope of hitting it big. It was like a carnival for adults. A person could get lost for days in a place like this.  Michelle Madow, The Secret Diamond Sisters 
I go to Las Vegas--or at least I went to Las Vegas--because even though I knew everything that was sinister, calculating, and evil about it, I loved Las Vegas. Only in Vegas could I dare to fantasize that I was a Friend of Frank. Or that I was throwing the dice at Dino's favorite table. Or that I might luck out and sip bourgon with Rickles after his last lounge show. The D.I. oozed that kind of heady fantasy. Marc Cooper, The Last Honest Place in America





The scent of Las Vegas—desperation, sweat and excitement. It’s all built on hopes and dreams, most of them dashed by the time you leave, but it doesn’t matter. Karen Erickson, Wicked Weekend

Las Vegas turns women into men, and men into asses. Alan King, quoted in Neon Metropolis



The secret affinity between gambling and the desert: the intensity of gambling reinforced by the presence of the desert all around the town.  The air-conditioned freshness of the gaming rooms, as against the radiant heat outside.  The challenge of all the artificial lights to the violence of the sun's rays.  Night of gambling sunlit on all sides; the glittering darkness of these rooms in the middle of the desert.  Gambling itself is a desert form, inhuman, uncultured, initiatory, a challenge to the natural economy of value, a crazed activity on the fringes of exchange.  But it too has a strict limit and stops abruptly; its boundaries are exact, its passion knows no confusion.  Neither the desert nor gambling are open areas; their spaces are finite and concentric, increasing in intensity toward the interior, toward a central point, be it the spirit of gambling or the heart of the desert - a privileged, immemorial space, where things lose their shadow, where money loses its value, and where the extreme rarity of traces of what signals to us there leads men to seek the instantaneity of wealth.  Jean Baudrillard



By the spring of 1963, Las Vegas was made up of an odd convergence of gamblers, gangsters, and government. All three forces, intentionally or unintentionally, catered to every kind of human weakness. Although the aboveground nuclear blasts were gone, the town was still full of glitzy, beckoning casinos; flamboyant, roguish celebrities; down-and-out and entrepreneurial prostitutes; and notorious, brutal criminals. By now it had gained its much deserved reputation as Sin City—universally considered a town where just about anything goes. And surrounding it were the infamous holes in the desert. Many of Las Vegas’s problems were known to be buried in those same holes. So, naturally, as a woman who relished audacity, this would be the place to which my mother would move my sister and me. As it turned out, that was the other part of her telephone call’s exciting news.  Gary Spetz, Easy Hearts



The last time I appeared in Las Vegas, they were wearing hoop skirts and Davy Crockett hats. But they say 'What happens in Vegas, stays in Vegas.' And as far as fashion is concerned, that's a good thing.  Joan Rivers

Nevada’s one of the most conservative states in the Union, but you can do what you want in Vegas and nobody judges you.  Drew Carey




 The Strip was still lit by a million neon lights, though the crowds on the sidewalk had greatly decreased by this hour. Still, Bosch was awed by the spectacle of light. In every imaginable color and configuration, it was a megawatt funnel of enticement to greed that burned twenty-four hours a day. Bosch felt the same attraction that all the other grinders felt tug at them. Las Vegas was like one of the hookers on Sunset Boulevard in Hollywood. Even happily married men at least glanced their way, if only for a second, just to get an idea what was out there, maybe give them something to think about. Las Vegas was like that. There was a visceral attraction here. The bold promise of money and sex. But the first was a broken promise, a mirage, and the second was fraught with danger, expense, physical and mental risk. It was where the real gambling took place in this town.  Michael Connelly 


The best thing about Las Vegas is that no one pretends to be responsible for your behavior like they do in the rest of the country. There's no meddling self-righteous liberals or right-wing Christian demagogues telling you that you can't do something fun with your own time and money. If you can afford it, it's yours Drew Carey, Dirty Jokes and Beer


The entire city of Las Vegas—plastic opulence, treasure for the taking, vulgar towers, and cocktail waitresses with improbable breasts—is built on the self-delusion of the Beta Male.  Christopher Moore, A Dirty Job




Las Vegas has become a child's picture-book dream of a city-here a storybook castle, there a sphinx-flanked black pyramid beaming white light into the darkness as a landing beam for UFOs, and everywhere neon oracles and twisting screens predict happiness and good fortune, announce singers and comedians and magicians in residence or on their way, and the lights always flash and beckon and call. Once every hour a volcano erupts in light and flame. Once every hour a pirate ship sinks a man o'war. Neil Gaiman



It's a corny old gag about Las Vegas, the temporal city if there ever was one, trying to camouflage the hours and retard the dawn, when everybody knows that if you're feeling lucky you're really feeling time in its rawest form, and if you're not feeling lucky, they've got a clock at the bus station.  Michael Herr



I love Las Vegas. I like that Las Vegas has everything. Everything and anything you want to do, you can do in Las Vegas. Drew Carey 



It's hard to imagine a bigger desert oasis than Las Vegas.  Cinnamon Stomberger







By the spring of 1963, Las Vegas was made up of an odd convergence of gamblers, gangsters, and government. All three forces, intentionally or unintentionally, catered to every kind of human weakness. Although the aboveground nuclear blasts were gone, the town was still full of glitzy, beckoning casinos; flamboyant, roguish celebrities; down-and-out and entrepreneurial prostitutes; and notorious, brutal criminals. By now it had gained its much deserved reputation as Sin City—universally considered a town where just about anything goes. And surrounding it were the infamous holes in the desert. Many of Las Vegas’s problems were known to be buried in those same holes. So, naturally, as a woman who relished audacity, this would be the place to which my mother would move my sister and me. As it turned out, that was the other part of her telephone call’s exciting news.  Gary Spetz, Easy Hearts


There is a very easy way to return from a casino with a small fortune:  go there with a large one.  Jack Yelton


The entire city of Las Vegas—plastic opulence, treasure for the taking, vulgar towers, and cocktail waitresses with improbable breasts—is built on the self-delusion of the Beta Male.  Christopher Moore, A Dirty Job



Vegas means comedy, tragedy, happiness and sadness all at the same time.  Artie Lange




Las Vegas is the only town in the world whose skyline is made up neither of buildings, like New York, nor of trees, like Wilbraham, Massachusetts, but signs.  Tom Wolfe

Vegas is everything that’s right with America. You can do whatever you want, 24 hours a day. They’ve effectively legalized everything there. - Drew Carey

Vegas is purposefully constructed as a self-enclosed and isolated biosphere, sort of what a recreational colony built on the moon might be like. Marc Cooper, The Last Honest Place in America





I hate Disneyland. It primes our kids for Las Vegas. Tom Waits





Many a man who goes to Las Vegas to get away from it all soon finds that Las Vegas gets it all away from him. Evan Esar



Las Vegas has become a child's picture-book dream of a city-here a storybook castle, there a sphinx-flanked black pyramid beaming white light into the darkness as a landing beam for UFOs, and everywhere neon oracles and twisting screens predict happiness and good fortune, announce singers and comedians and magicians in residence or on their way, and the lights always flash and beckon and call. Once every hour a volcano erupts in light and flame. Once every hour a pirate ship sinks a man o'war.  Neil Gaiman




….the land of fadeless day lies the city foursquare; it shall never pass away and there is no night there.  Richard J. Mouw Calvinism in the Las Vegas Airport: Making Connections in Today's World
The reason you should go to Las Vegas is because, for only the second time, the second time, ever, they have rebuilt Sodom and Gomorrah. It's back!! And you have the opportunity to see it before it turns to salt. Lewis Black, The White Album
Demon's Roost is a paean to pleasure, a twenty-four-hour-a-day bacchanalia that makes Las Vegas look like a kindergarten playground. It's an adults-only amusement park which contains such a dazzling scope and variety of decadence and perversity that it might give Caligula himself pause.  Tim Waggoner, The Nekropolis Archives 




Las Vegas history, the real Las Vegas history, makes fops and fools of even the most sincere explorers. The city's story is riddled with blind alleys, dead ends, crazy twists, and outright fabrication.  John L. Smith, Nevada Yesterdays



I have this theory, that this will be the only city that future archaeologists find, Las Vegas. The dry climate will preserve it all and teams of scientists in the year 5000 will carefully sweep and scrape away the sand to find pyramids and castles and replicas of the Eiffel Tower and the New York skyline and stripper poles and snapper cards and these future archaeologists will re-create our entire culture based solely on this one shallow and cynical little shithole. We can complain all we want that this city doesn’t represent us. We can say, Yes, but I hated Las Vegas. Or I only went there once. Well, I’m sure not all Romans reveled in the torture-fests at the Colosseum either, but there it is.  Jess Walter

Las Vegas is Everyman's cut-rate Babylon.  Not far away there is, or was, a roadside lunch counter and over it a sign proclaiming in three words that a Roman emperor's orgy is now a democratic institution.  Topless Pizza Lunch.  Alistair Cooke
















 The night before I left Las Vegas I walked out in the desert to look at the moon.  There was a jeweled city on the horizon, spires rising in the night, but the jewels were diadems of electric and the spires were the neon of signs ten stories high.  Norman Mailer






 Las Vegas is sort of like how God would do it if he had money. - Steve Wynn

The people who say New York never sleeps must have never visited Las Vegas. Michelle Madow 


This is one of the hallmarks of Vegas hospitality. The only bedrock rule is Don’t Burn the Locals. Beyond that, nobody cares. They would rather not know. If Charlie Manson checked into the Sahara tomorrow morning, nobody would hassle him as long as he tipped big.  Hunter S. Thompson, Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas.








See, every hotel in Las Vegas has a gimmick, and the biggest gimmick of all is the Stratosphere Tower, which claims to have 113 floors, although I think they’re measuring floors in Las-Vegas-inches, which stretch and contract to fit whatever lie you’re trying to sell.  Neal Shusterman, Challenger Deep




Today, we must look to the city of Las Vegas, Nevada as a metaphor of our national character and aspiration, its symbol a thirty-foot high cardboard picture of a slot machine and a chorus girl. For Las Vegas is a city entirely devoted to the idea of entertainment, and as such proclaims the spirit of a culture in which all public discourse increasingly takes the form of entertainment. Our politics, our religion, news, athletics, education and commerce have been transformed into congenial adjuncts of show business, largely without protest or even much popular notice. Neil Postman, Amusing Ourselves to Death



Las Vegas is like huge fake breasts. Nothing is real, just plastic. It is all provided with a clean veneer over the grime of its purpose, to swindle. And I don’t gamble Komrade Komura, Forced Entry



Today, we must look to the city of Las Vegas, Nevada, as a metaphor of our national character and aspiration, its symbol a thirty-foot-high cardboard picture of a slot machine and a chorus girl. For Las Vegas is a city entirely devoted to the idea of entertainment, and as such proclaims the spirit of a culture in which all public discourse increasingly takes the form of entertainment. Our politics, religion, news, athletics, education and commerce have been transformed into congenial adjuncts of show business, largely without protest or even much popular notice. The result is that we are a people on the verge of amusing ourselves to death.  Neil Postman. Amusing Ourselves to Death: Public Discourse in the Age of Show Business







 Las Vegas suggests that the thirst for places, for cities and gardens and wilderness, is unslaked, that people will still seek out the experience of wandering about in the open air to examine the architecture, the spectacles, and the stuff for sale, will still hanker after surprises and strangers. That the city as a whole is one of the most pedestrian-unfriendly places in the world suggests something of the problems to be faced, but that its attraction is a pedestrian oasis suggests the possibility of recovering the spaces in which walking is viable.  Rebecca Solnit, Wanderlust: A History of Walking



 A man must dream a long time in order to act with grandeur, and dreaming is nursed in darkness. Jean Genet


Las Vegas is a major family destination. Nevada casinos have become American family values now. It's considered just fine to go into one of these windowless scary gambling-malls, drink yourself silly, lose your ass at roulette, and then go ogle showgirls with breast implants. Republicans do this now. Working-class folks do it in polyester stretch pants. It's normal. Bruce Sterling, WIRED Magazine, Nov. 1996


 Las Vegas is a 24-hour city. It never stops. Eli Roth



Las Vegas looks the way you'd imagine heaven must look at night.Chuck Palahniuk, Invisible Monsters

In the case of an earthquake hitting Las Vegas, be sure to go straight to the Keno Lounge.  Nothing ever gets hit there.  Author Unknown




Bangkok, like Las Vegas, sounds like a place where you make bad decisions. Todd Phillips 









Chance favors only those who court her. Charles Nicolle

Illusions of grandeur are not the same as visions of greatness. Edwin Louis Cole


What happens in Vegas stays in Vegas.  Advertising slogan written for the Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority.





Las Vegas weddings are a phenomenon not quite like any other. The industry attracts cheers and jeers, but it touches a couple of hundred thousand people annually on the most important day of their lives. Susan Marg, Las Vegas Weddings

Las Vegas is perhaps the most color-blind, class-free place in America. As long as your cash or credit line holds out, no one gives a damn about your race, gender, national origin, sexual orientation, address, family lineage, voter registration or even your criminal arrest record. Money is the great leveler. Marc Cooper, The Last Honest Place in America

Las Vegas is a city of kickbacks. A desert city of greased palms. A place where a $20 bill can buy approval, a $100 bill adulation and $1,000 canonization. Nicholas Pileggi, Casino
All things may be bought in Rome with money. Juvenal


Delusions of grandeur make me feel a lot better about myself. Jane Wagner
Las Vegas is the only town in the world whose skyline is made up neither of buildings, like New York, nor of trees, like Wilbraham, Massachusetts, but signs. - Tom Wolfe

Las Vegas marks itself out by nothingness. All the negative descriptions that can generally be used in labelling a city apply to it, for its absence of consistency actually makes its existence doubtful: no man's land, waste ground, non-place, ghost town, urban simulacrum, nowhere city, etc. For us it is Zeropolis, the non-city which is the very first city, just as zero is the very first number. The nothing that counts, the nothingness of neon. Bruce Begout, Zeropolis
America's greatest strength, and its greatest weakness, is our belief in second chances, our belief that we can always start over, that things can be made better. Anthony Walton
Everything that happens in Las Vegas is a zero-sum game. If the house wins a hand of blackjack, you lose. And the odds are stacked heavily in favor of the house. If you play blackjack long enough—at least without counting cards—it is a mathematical certainty that you will go broke.  Anonymous


Las Vegas exists chiefly to satisfy the needs and desires of its visitors, and this it does in spectacular fashion. Sin City has taken or re-created the best that other great cities have to offer and then upped the ante -- making it bigger, grander, flashier. Scott Doggett, Lonely Planet Las Vegas




Continuous eloquence wearies. Grandeur must be abandoned to be appreciated. Continuity in everything is unpleasant. Cold is agreeable, that we may get warm Blaise Pascal




To most people, Las Vegas is synonymous with gambling and glitter; a slightly, pleasingly sinful fairyland for adults where they can watch the most entertaining performers and biggest names in show business in between bouts of indulging in games of chance that everyone knows favor the house. Clifford Linedecker, Blood in the Sand





In a city of illusion, where change is what the city does, it's no wonder Las Vegas is the court of last resort, the last place to start over, to reinvent yourself in the same way that the city does, time after time. For some it works; for some it doesn't, but they keep coming and trying. Hal Rothman, Neon Metropolis




















Las Vegas:  all the amenities of modern society in a habitat unfit to grow a tomato.  Jason Love




You don't look fake when you unconsciously pretend.  Toba Beta, My Ancestor Was an Ancient Astronaut
Las Vegas has changed a lot over the years. It's no longer a mob-controlled adult play-land. Now it's a corporate, family-friendly place where no one bats an eyelid when some schmuck pushes his kid's stroller through the craps tables at 1 a.m. I'm not sure what they call Family Services folks here, but they're probably busy playing Keno anyway. Brian Sack. Banterist 


What is sacred among one people may be ridiculous in another; and what is despised or rejected by one cultural group, may in a different environment become the cornerstone for a great edifice of strange grandeur and beauty. Hu Shih


















Las Vegas has become, just as Bugsy Siegel dreamed, the American Monte Carlo—without any of the inevitable upper-class baggage of the Riviera casinos. At Monte Carlo there is still the plush mustiness of the nineteenth century noble lions.... There are still Wrong Forks, Deficient Accents, Poor Tailoring, Gauche Displays, Nouveau Richness, Cultural Aridity—concepts unknown in Las Vegas. For the grand debut of Monte Carlo as a resort in 1879 the architect Charles Garnier designed an opera house for the Place du Casino; and Sarah Bernhardt read a symbolic poem. For the debut of Las Vegas as a resort in 1946 Bugsy Siegel hired Abbot and Costello, and there, in a way, you have it all. Tom Wolfe, The Kandy-Kolored Tangerine-Flake Streamline Baby



Hatred is not what Las Vegas is about. We will have zero tolerance for anyone who is intolerant. Oscar Goodman












 In the fledgling days of the town, the notorious Block 16 was set aside for card games and prostitution. Sin and commerce have marched hand-in-hand ever since, but this alliance made Las Vegas no more atypical than any other American city of the time. The difference is that Las Vegas extolled with pride what other places sought to hide. To the commonplace culture of heavily populated cities and industrial towns that made up the urban fabric of the country, Las Vegas alone stood as the behavioral Other, a land where the victimless crimes of sex, drink, and gambling were not only condoned, but celebrated. Mark Gottdiener, Las Vegas



Las Vegas was and is a hard town that will make you pay for your inability to restrain your desires.... If you have a weakness, Las Vegas will punish you. Hal Rothman, Neon Metropolis












The casino played a song of its own—slot machines dinging, chips clacking as the dealer passed them out to the players at the tables, and the chatter of people throwing down money with the hope of hitting it big. It was like a carnival for adults. A person could get lost for days in a place like this.  Michelle Madow The Secret Diamond Sisters 





















In Las Vegas, everything takes place as if the absence of any sense of belonging to the environment entailed a hypertrophied sensitivity to details. There is no possibility of visual escape into perceptual horizons of indeterminateness (left-right, forward-back, near-far), but, instead, only the pregnancy of enlarged, exaggerated and highlighted forms. Behind each lit-up sign no space is hollowed out, no incipient world. Everything is there, everything is flat. As thick as the giant advertising billboards that ubiquitously package it, loading it with naïve and comic symbols, crude, schematic messages, Las Vegas is a city of literal superficiality. Bruce Begout, Zeropolis













 I believe in Las Vegas. I think its best days are ahead of it. Steve Wynn 

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