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What happens here: two days, three shows, many, many strippers. Vegas is my kind of town.

Forget showgirls, how to play craps and that cute-the-first-time-but-tiresome-the-bazillionth-time-you-hear-it slogan about what stays in Vegas. Here's what you will really need to know about Las Vegas, the extravagance capital of Nevada. Nobody here can give directions. I'm not even sure they know themselves how to get around since they offer directions, much like my grandmother in rural Idaho used to, such as, "It's right around the block by that new building behind the old Aladdin." (Uh, hello? Not from around here.) A few notes are important. If someone in Vegas says that something is just next door, it's a mile long walk. If they say it's around the block, they mean it's practically another county, often down an impossibly convoluted pathway with u-turns and fountains, described by esoteric, seemingly made-to-confuse euphemisms that will make sense to your concierge (like "turn right at the bird of paradise and under the rainforest, but when the sky has lightening, take a left and it's right there"), but not to you. Especially when you're drunk. And it's Vegas, so unless you're in AA you'll be drunk. Often. (Oh, and unless you're from Vegas or say Miami Beach, your clothes will seem wholly impractical here.)

Tonight I'm sitting in GirlBar Las Vegas surrounded by incredibly beautiful lesbians while a petite, tanned, 60-year-old broad next to me is grinning wickedly and stuffing dollars in G-strings of the queer go-go girls. This is not Kansas, to be sure.

GirlBar is a weekly lesbian night (from those LA gals who've turned the lesbian dance party into a global brand) held at Krave, Las Vegas' only queer nightclub on the strip. Nestled alongside Lucky Cheng's (the only drag five-star dinner cabaret in Vegas), Krave is where folks around here get the party started and on any given night it's crawling with tourists and local queers ready to put their thing down. Hence, the go-go girls and the big tipper.

That tipping cougar is the venerable Babs Daitch of Thanks Babs The Day Tripper, and it would turn out that on this trip to Vegas I'd be spending a whole lot of time with her. Daitch, an out dyke and former San Francisco resident, is a lot like a personal tour guide for the LGBT community. Daitch and John Forseth, the cute, gay vice president of Las Vegas and More, a full-service, destination management company that'll get you anywhere or anything you want, orchestrate all-inclusive personal and group "beyond the neon" tours, like whitewater rafting expeditions on the Colorado River, ATV or mountain bike adventures through the Valley of Fire and Red Rock Canyon Pink Jeep Tours. I'm, well, not as adventurous as some gals, especially in 100-degree heat (yes, it's a dry heat), so I opted for a drive through historic Boulder City, a steamboat cruise on Lake Mead and the all-American tour of Hoover Dam.

Armed with a giant cooler of drinks (including water) we hit the desert for an afternoon of fun, exploring the Hoover's cavernous turbines, sitting on the Desert Princess paddle wheeler taking snapshots, eating ice cream cones to cool off on the hot summer day. Though we were a car full of queers, the expedition felt delightfully kitschy and retro, like a summer family vacation minus the wood-paneled station wagon. By the end of the day we weren't ready to part but I had to finally enjoy my hotel and hit a show.

Walking into the Paris Hotel is a lot like walking in to Fantasyland at Disneyland. In fact, while outdoor Vegas is hot, dusky, and neon, much of indoor Vegas feels like an adult Disneyland--in a good way. Climate controlled, crafted like a wonderland of French landmarks and street signs, and teaming with people thrilled to be there, Paris was no different. I wandered around for a couple of hours along the cobblestone walkways and took the 350-feet per minute glass elevator ride to the top of the Eiffel Tower, a real replica that's 460 feet high, about half the size of the original in France. Lesbian couples go to Vegas to get married on the Tower's observation deck, and no wonder; at 40 stories high, it towers above Vegas with an extraordinary view of Southern Nevada. And you don't have to bring a wedding photographer either, because like Disneyland there was a photographer ready to snap every place we went (even the shows!).

I met a new friend at Le Burger Brassiere, a gourmet French bistro that makes burgers from hundreds of different ingredients like lamb and salmon. I had a chicken burger with goat cheese and a giant espresso shake, all served to me by, you guessed it, a sexy girl in white vinyl go-go pants and boots. The high rollers even have a lucky burger at Le Brassiere: a Kobe beef and lobster hamburger that costs a whopping $777 (it does come with a bottle of Dom Perignon).

After indulging, I'm headed to Paris' Spa by Mandara for a signature hot stone massage that was so luscious I forgot what planet I was on for a moment, much less which city. While not quite as impressive as the Spa at Mandalay Bay, Mandara was sumptuous, with soaking tubs and steam rooms and luxe separate women's areas. I'm weak in the knees by the time I hit my suite for a lounge but by then I only have time for a quick bite because I'm off to the theater. It took me, oh, maybe five minutes to get to the theater to see the Vegas production of The Producers, which explains why dinner and a show in Vegas is so popular. The next night I managed to fit two shows in: Jubilee!, Bally's classic, 25-year-old showgirl hit (and yes, I saw more boobies than I have at the last three dyke marches combined) and the Cirque du Soliel naughty cabaret Zumanity, a super queer-friendly and erotically diverse combo of burlesque, cabaret, comedy and Cirque du Soliel-style acrobatics, at the New York New York Hotel and Casino..

The next day I made it to brunch at the Bellagio where I stared in wonderment at the whimsical gardens so long I forgot all about the lengthy lines. If you want to see the other hotels in town, an easy way to do so is to hit a Cirque show each night of the week. Cirque du Soleil offers Beatles Love at the Mirage, Zumanity at New York, New York, Mystere at Treasure Island, O at Bellagio and Ka at the MGM Grand, which means you can tour almost all of the city's top hotels without booking a room.

But, these ventures outside Paris did nothing to dissuade me from feeling like I was right at home inside the luxurious resort hotel and casino that has one of the most aggressively gay-friendly policies in the city. Paris Las Vegas was already popular with queers, but instead of resting on their laurels they decided to market directly to us with dyke-centric ad campaigns, offerng a LGBT-specific site (the only hotel on the strip to do so), sponsorships of gay events like Gay Days and Nights and participation in gay Pride. While the uninhibited nature of Vegas might draw the men, it's the romance of Paris that brings the women. If a European destination is out of the budget, Paris Las Vegas offers up quant French bistros (Mon Ami Gabi), Impressionist art and European opulence that make Paris seem more romantic, safer and, yes, a bit sexier for lesbians than the other hotel resorts in town. But, don't think they'll be able to tell you how to get there either.

RELATED ARTICLE: LOG ON BEFORE YOU GO

Paris Las Vegas

GayParisLasVegas.com

Cirque du Soleil

Cirquedusoleil.com

Gay Days and Nights

gaydaysandnights.com

GirlBar

GirlBar.com

Harrahs

Harrahs.com

Las Vegas Vistor Info

VisitLasVegas.com

Lucky Cheng's

702-836-0836

QVegas Magazine

QVEGAS.com

Thanks Babs Tours

Thanksbabs.com
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Title Annotation:NEW ADVENTURES; Las Vegas, Nevada
Author:Anderson-Minshall, Diane
Publication:Curve
Article Type:Travel narrative
Geographic Code:1U8NV
Date:Oct 1, 2007
Words:1322
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