Arts and Culture

Wild and wet in Vegas

Joshua Surtees

Prince Harry has put the city's riotous pool parties on the map --- and, unusually, the best take place in daylight hours.

Anything goes: Bodies, bikinis and booze at the Hard Rock Hotel’s Rehab pool party in Las Vegas. (Isaac Brekken)

In case you live in a cave and missed the story, Prince Harry was spotted recently getting wet and wild with dozens of bosom buddies at the alcohol-fuelled pool parties in Las Vegas. It’s been hard to ignore all the paparazzi shots of him getting on down at the Wynn Hotel’s XS nightclub, challenging American Olympic champion swimmer Ryan Lochte to a race in his jeans and wearing a “let’s get wild” vest from someone called Lauren’s bachelorette party.

Well, if it is good enough for British royalty, it is good enough for me. In fact, I was one step ahead of the party prince, having visited the city’s pool party scene earlier this summer.

The Vegas pool party concept launched in 2004 with the original day club, Rehab at the Hard Rock Hotel, and it is now the focal point of wild weekends for the United States’s youth. The craze has taken off in recent years and all the major hotels along the strip boast party pools.

I had a few concerns. It wasn’t just the possibility of booze-sozzled drowning and getting wrinkly fingers. “Where do these party people go when they need a wee?” my mother had asked. A valid point, but not one that lingered in my mind as I reclined in the 40°C heat on my sunbed at Encore (another club where Harry partied), mojito in hand, nodding my head to the skittering ­electronic beats cascading from the 2m-high speaker stacks across a scene that brought to mind the saying “only in America”.

Cocktail waitresses with six-inch stilettos, pearly-white smiles and tiny bikinis walked by carrying trays laden with pitchers of frozen margarita. A six-foot, six-packed beefcake bellowed into my face that his wife would like to take a picture with me. Well, fine, you don’t have to shout.

Sun-kissed girls gyrated to the music, arms raised, saluting the blue skies. Resident DJ Morgan Page scrutinised his Mac notebook and blended one heavily remixed chart hit into another. My natural instinct was to find a quiet spot away from the din to tune in to a cricket match on the radio. But this was Vegas. They’ve never heard of cricket here.

Before I knew it, somebody had tossed me a rubber ring, handed me a rubber duck filled with Bacardi and pinched my bottom. Then I was floating away into a writhing mass of oiled bodies.

Las Vegas weekends usually revolve around night-time forays into a hedonistic world. Casinos don’t have windows or clocks on the walls, so weary punters don’t know it’s time to hit the hay and so keep pumping money into the slot machines. Lately, however, they’ve discovered a new way of partying — one that doesn’t lead to vitamin D deficiency. It’s called day clubbing.

Crowd-surfing
My pool odyssey began at the Marquee day club at the Cosmopolitan hotel, on a terrace packed with sunbeds, jacuzzis, liposuctioned bodies and a moderately sized pool overlooked by palm trees and glitzy 60-storey hotels, iridescent in the sun. After walking there through the hot desert winds from my suite at the stylish Vdara hotel (with views of the Strip and the hills of the Mojave Desert), I was glad to jump straight into the pool. At its edge, as well as $500-a-day sun loungers, Grand Cabanas are available for $3 500-$5 000 a day. These soft-seated chill-out zones can accommodate up to 15 people. They are open-sided with sun shades, flat-screen TVs, minibars loaded with beer, water and soft drinks and private infinity pools. A pitcher of margarita or mojito costs $48, a beer or bottle of water $8.

In the DJ booth, Kaskade bangs out standard Vegas fare — US chart meets Balearic-style beats and soaring synths — but the music was really just a background soundtrack to the people-watching. And unlike in, say, Paris or St Tropez, at Vegas pool parties people look around to check whether other people are looking back at them. And it was the men, rather than the women, who were the real attention seekers. The dress code for the guys is long Bermuda shorts and taut, rippled torsos. For women it’s micro bikinis, wedges and tattoos. Shades obligatory.

I asked the manager whether he saw wild stuff happening here. “Oh yeah, we positively encourage it.” Drugs? I ask. “Oh, no, drugs aren’t allowed.” Sex? “No sex either.” I’m pretty sure that boy and girl over by the palm trees aren’t just shaking hands ...

In contrast to the Marquee’s laid-back but expensive vibes, the mayhem at Encore Beach Club was mind-blowing. With 1 000 people in attendance on any given Sunday (swelling to its 3 000-capacity on a big holiday weekend) this sprawling mass was something to behold.

In the booth next to us, six scantily clad fortysomething all-American gals told me they visited every year to have some time away from their husbands and show off their tummy tucks, boob jobs and belly-button piercings.

Around us, a huge crowd fell about, drinks in hand, posing, flirting, laughing and grinding like extras on a Yo! MTV Raps video shoot. Around the DJ booth, stick-on tattoos of the DJ, Morgan Page, were in evidence.

Where did Page rank among the international DJs that come to Vegas, I asked Shaun, a seasoned day-clubber from Ohio. He fired off a list of big names: Tiesto, Deadmau5, SkyBlu from LMFAO, Benny Benassi — they all play here on the big weekends and clubbers need to book ahead for these. Memorial Day at the end of May is the biggest weekend, but Labour Day in September and Spring Break are traditionally frantic.

On a normal day, Encore entry costs $50 for men and $40 for women, but those doing it in style will get a big group together and hire an upper-tier bungalow for $15 000 to $30 000 a day. This includes a private pool party and a vista from on high of an ocean of writhing bodies.

Sundays are the big day for pool parties and Wet Republic at the MGM Grand — where Prince Harry was spotted — is one of the biggest. When I arrived, the army of bouncers at the door appeared to be in the midst of an almighty power trip. One was complaining that all the “hoes” in the “line-up” (queue) were “pissing him off”. His colleague suggested he took a break.

Although door policies are no more restrictive than at most nightclubs and you’re unlikely to be turned away, Mark Kmetz, a promoter at Liquid day club at the Aria hotel, told me the best bet for a guaranteed good weekend was to ring your hotel before arriving and book a senior host or promoter for your stay to guarantee smooth entry to all the clubs and reserved sun loungers. Vegas is many things, but it is not restrictive: if you go there to party you’ll be welcomed.

Inside, there were plenty of washboard stomachs on display, and flab too. However, the cabanas overlooking the pool and main stage were populated with what can only be described as supermodels and sports stars. A contestant from US TV show The Bachelor was partying hard in the pool, surrounded by a harem of girls.

What to do amid such a scene? Float in the pool, dance to DJ Bad Boy Bill’s set of hip-hop classics, have a water-pistol fight? Or simply hire a daybed (which accommodates three to four people), sip my Corona and take it all in. — © Guardian News & Media 2012

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