The Watering Hole Blog

What Happens in Vegas…


Sometimes What Happens in Vegas Need Not Stay in Vegas


MA & Alison caught in rain under palm tree
MA & Alison trying to get out of rain under palm tree, Vegas, Oct 2015

“The emotional bond between Las Vegas and its customers was freedom…to do things, see things, eat things, wear things, feel things. In short, the freedom to be someone we couldn’t be at home. And freedom from whatever we wanted to leave behind in our daily lives.”

– R&R Partners, the ad agency responsible for Las Vegas’s advertising campaign, “What Happens Here, Stays Here”

Okay, I hope I’m not going to get in trouble with my Vegas travel buddy for revealing TMI about our recent trip to Vegas – but we had an awful lot of good clean fun, so I think I’m safe 🙂

Vegas is a funny place: I think you either love it or hate it. Some people visit time and time again, whereas others go once just to see what all the fuss is about and then never return.

My friend, Alison, and I love it – which comes as a bit of a surprise to both of us because it is loud, expensive, over-the-top man-made/synthetic and neither of us gamble or party (well, okay, I do still party on the odd occasion but strangely enough, I never have in Vegas).

But we do both like to shop (Alison far more than I), walk, eat and get all dressed up and go to a show, so that’s exactly what we did (again) on our recent trip.

love sign on Mirage hotel

We stayed at the Mirage Hotel, partly because it was fairly reasonably priced, partly because it’s close to the Fashion Show Mall, partly because it has the theatre where Cirque du Soleil’s Love is staged (so not far to walk in high heels) and partly because…well, I’ll get to the fourth reason in a moment.

MA & Alison outside Love theatre
Alison & MA at Love show

If you haven’t seen the Cirque show, Love, I highly recommend it. It’s set to Beatle’s music and is brilliant. I could watch that damn show five nights in a row and probably not get sick of it.

Shopping-wise, the deal of the trip for me was a pair of uber-cool Steve Madden shoes…for $35! The shopping itself, however, wore me right out.

MA exhausted after shopping in Vegas

By our third night in Vegas, we were both so flippin’ exhausted that we actually stayed the entire evening in our hotel room, chatting, watching TV, drinking wine and scarfing down popcorn and chips for dinner. Since I’m obviously in full-disclosure mode, I may as well confess that it was, in fact, the fish tank channel we were watching.

Yes, that’s right: the fish channel. It’s rather like the log-burning channel (they had that, too) but the fish channel (ONLY at the Mirage) is live video footage (we think) of the fish and coral in the giant tank that’s behind the reception desk. Let’s just say that nothing overly fast or exciting happens on the fish tank channel – but the accompanying classical music is rather soothing.

Then, on our last night, we went for dinner at the Italian restaurant, Rao’s, in Caesar’s Palace. Their mammoth meatballs are an absolute must, as is the Caesar salad and ravioli purses. Add in a basket-full of bread, a couple of salt-rimmed Caesar’s and a slice of cheesecake and after that, we pretty much waddled over to the Bellagio to watch the fountain show.

MA at Bellagio fountains Vegas Oct 2015

Watching the waters dance in front of the Bellagio Hotel is another favourite tradition of ours. We arrived just in time to catch the show set to Celine Dion’s My Heart Will Go On. But we forgot to do our Ocean’s Eleven thing, so stayed for a second song which was Time to Say Goodbye by Andre Bocelli – after which, Alison and I re-enacted the end of the Ocean’s Eleven movie where she slips off in one direction and I go off in the other. This cracks us up every time.

At any rate, we had a fun few days. My one ear is still plugged and Alison’s leg is still sore (possibly a shopping-related injury but who am I to say) but hey, a trip to Vegas wouldn’t be complete without a few unexplainable ailments.

No, our Vegas experience wasn’t quite the same as The Hangover movie but perhaps that’s a good thing.

Which brings me back to the What Happens Here, Stays Here ad campaign. For there is far more to my love of Vegas than merely what I do there – or who I am there.

In 2003, the Las Vegas Tourism Department and the ad agency, R&R Partners, came up with the idea for their highly successful ad campaign, What Happens Here, Stays Here. Here is a bit of background about the campaign:

“The emotional bond between Las Vegas and its customers was freedom. Freedom on two levels. Freedom to do things, see things, eat things, wear things, feel things. In short, the freedom to be someone we couldn’t be at home. And freedom from whatever we wanted to leave behind in our daily lives. Just thinking about Vegas made the bad stuff go away.

At that point the strategy became clear. Speak to that need. Make an indelible connection between Las Vegas and the freedom we all crave. The result was a decade of ads that create situations around missing information. This allows viewers to fill in the blanks and begin imagining their own Vegas adventures.”

So although what happens in Vegas is supposed to stay in Vegas, since I have already broken this rule with the fish channel confession, I may as well share with you a story from a previous trip to Vegas…and you can take from this what you choose.

Just over fifteen years ago, my husband, John, and I went to check-in at the Mirage Hotel – in front of the huge fish tank – but our credit card got declined because the rental car agency had put a hold on additional funds. A quick call to the credit card company sorted that out and away we went.

And let’s just say we had an awesome time at the old Mirage 🙂

Ten days later, he was gone. If you’ve read my book, A Widow’s Awakening, you may recall the passage where I went to see him at the funeral home.

He was lying on a stainless steel gurney, covered in a white sheet, and at the top of his chest I could see part of the incision from his heart removal surgery. I debated about pulling the sheet down to take one last look at the chest of the man I loved so much.

But then I thought back to our special time in Vegas – for the Mirage would end up being the last place we made love – and decided no. I wanted to remember John’s chest as it was when he was alive and happy…not as the exit point for his beautiful heart.

So for me, I don’t go to Vegas to escape my life. I love my life now – I have no need to escape it. And because of John’s on-duty death, I have the financial freedom to do the work I wish to do and live where I want to live…and for that, I am eternally grateful.

Nor does thinking about Vegas make all the bad stuff go away. In fact, Vegas brings back what were once some pretty painful memories. But perhaps that’s partly why I love to go there so much? Having loved and lost and learned how to be happy again on my own, it has become the perfect place for me to check in with myself on the big question: am I happy?

Funny…as artificial as Vegas is, it has become my reality check.

MA with cool Vegas skyline behind and dark clouds

Perhaps it won’t come as a surprise that Alison, too, is a widow – and she and her husband also had some wonderful times together in Vegas. Her husband passed away six months after John did – and over the years our friendship has grown from sharing our journey through grief to having fun and doing some traveling.

But who’s kidding who? Vegas isn’t called Sin City for no reason. So the next time I’m there, I sure as heck hope I’m snuggled up with a sexy guy watching the old fish channel 🙂

If you are a fan (or foe) of Vegas, I’d love to hear about your experience…I think!

Maryanne Pope is the author of A Widow’s Awakening, the playwright of Saviour and the screenwriter of God’s Country. Maryanne is the CEO of Pink Gazelle Productions and the Chair of the John Petropoulos Memorial Fund. If you would like to receive Maryanne’s weekly blog, please sign up here.


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6 thoughts on “What Happens in Vegas…”

  1. I’m with you MA, I love Vegas! It sounds like you had the perfect getaway. That sexy guy cannot be too far away!

  2. This CRAZY Vegas story just came in via text:

    Read your blog today on Vegas and your asking for Vegas stories. I went there in my 20’s for a school trip. I was 5 years older than most. My 2 Vegas hotel roommates were about 19.

    The 3 of us retired to bed that night in our room after hearing from one of my roommates that she tried to pick up a robust male gladiator employee that afternoon at Caesar’s Palace.

    At 3 in the morning we were awoken by a soft knock on the door from someone saying they were security and, he wanted us to open the door. One of the roommates went to approach the door to actually open it. I told her not to open the door. I then looked through the peephole. It was a man in street clothing.

    I told the girls he didn’t look like a hotel employee and still not to open the door. He knocked again and said he was security. We still didn’t open the door.

    Soon, he did it again and again, getting more angry by the moment. He eventually got really angry and took out his lovely shiny aluminum baseball bat which he had planned to take within our hotel room and in a rage, started to hit our hotel door violently with the baseball bat.

    I called the real hotel security and told them there was a crazy person in a rage trying to kill our hotel door with a baseball bat.

    They got rid of the crazy man trying to assault either us or the hotel door. At this point there is also some attention focused on us and the crazy man, with the other hotel guests as well because he made so much noise.

    The real security guards took him away, and he was also arrested by Las Vegas police. We were very quickly moved to a new room.

    Here’s the conclusion: The crazy man who almost tried to kill us with his lovely silver aluminum bat was the robust gladiator employee from Caesar’s Palace that my hotel roommate tried to pick up that afternoon. She apparently decided to give him OUR room number and hotel. Not very smart. Can you imagine if…
    SB, Calgary, AB

  3. This comment came in via FB:

    I loved the lights and glitter. The shows we went to were great too. We walked miles and miles while we were there. We would go to a different buffet every night. Don’t know if I’d go back but it was a great experience for a dazzling fake place.
    DM, Vernon, BC

  4. Another great comment just came in via e-mail:

    I really enjoyed this blog, though my heart broke for you at the part where you discuss John’s heart surgery scar. Talk about an indelible image. My God but that is so tough to visualize and understand someone going through with their husband…sigh. (If my husband also reads this at work, he’ll be a mess of tears in his office when he gets to that part.)

    But on the happier side – and the blog does this so well – it shows us how we CAN eventually recover from such traumatic grief and pain and enjoy Vegas on so many different levels.

    Which is interesting…because my husband and I have never been to Vegas! And I’ve never had a desire to go there. I hear people talk of it all the time and I’ve seen the photos and just thought: Hmmm…not my cup of tea, really. (Noise, gambling, expensive, HOT, busy, etc.!)

    However, after reading your blog today, I really do have a new appreciation for experiencing it and now think, yes, put that on our to do list for down the road!!

    I like how you touched on things one can do there that don’t mean gambling and walking on the wild side. (Though when I go I will be sure to have a wild night or two!)

    Loved it!
    SH, Calgary, AB

  5. This heartfelt comment just came in via e-mail:

    I enjoyed reading your blog about Las Vegas and your recent adventure there. As I continue to work at the funeral home I become keenly aware of experiences that remind me that I am indeed human and have a heart.

    I have noticed that I often live in a self-protecting opaque shell in order to do the work I am called to here. I call it my professional boundary but it could very well be a form of dysfunction. Either way, I
    am thankful to notice when the shell breaks apart.
    A recent painting and ceramic art show stopped me in my step and I was able to feel; I watched a movie in which a son had been reunited with his mother and I wanted to cry; I read this blog today and I felt joyous to hear (and see in the pics) how genuinely happy you are while I also felt sad as you recalled your time in Vegas with John.

    Life is mysterious and even though we have not met I feel connected to you. Thank you for writing and capturing my heart in the process…sometimes I keep it in the opaque bubble out of habit and reading your work draws it out. So thank you and keep smiling that beautiful smile.
    CB, Yorkton, SK
    P.S. I went to Vegas for the first time a couple of years ago — I loved all the things to do but felt very saddened by the fact that this huge city is raping earth’s resources. Kind of stark I know. But I still had much fun there — the best things were Cirque at the Aria and playing Sex in the City slots with my friend.

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