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Vol. 5, No. 5
October/November 2002

 

Big in Vegas  

 

story by Stu Dawrs
photos by Dana Edmunds

 

Once upon a time, I had a crush on a girl who was into records—not the vinyl relics from musical days gone by, but records: The biggest, the tallest, the fastest, the weirdest things in the world. Especially the weirdest things. She was the kind of girl who could tell you in a flash the name of the known universe’s Most Volcanic Body (not wrestling’s favorite son, The Rock, but Jupiter’s innermost moon, Io); the highest altitude a person has reached using only party balloons (11,000 feet); or the name of the world’s largest igloo (Jukkasjärvi, Sweden’s Ice Hotel, at 43,055 square feet). She was, it goes without saying, addicted to Guinness—not the viscous malt beverage, but the thick book of records.

Anyway, the relationship turned out to be the World’s Largest No Go, but it left me with a soft spot for things Over The Top ... which is why, I think, that I now have a crush on the city of Las Vegas. Because you just can’t go more than a block in Vegas without coming across something that’s the world’s grandest this or that—and if it’s not, then it’s really not worth talking about.

Given that Vegas is a city that trades on an assortment of American dreams, it’s fitting that some of these record-holders are pure Americana. The world’s largest Coca-Cola bottle, for instance, is housed at the World of Coca Cola, on the corner of Tropicana and Las Vegas boulevards. Meanwhile, farther downtown, the Golden Nugget casino holds the world’s largest gold nugget on public display (sixty-one pounds). And then there’s the world’s largest rhinestone—a 115,000-carat, fifty-plus pound Austrian number, given to Liberace (and now displayed at his namesake museum) by Swarovski & Co., in honor of the multifaceted pianist’s unflagging devotion to all that glitters ... a devotion which, no doubt, put more than one Swarovski through college.

 

The 1990s building boom that brought a series of mega-resorts to The Strip brought with it a host of Really Big Things—including twenty of the twenty-three largest hotels in the world. Though it’s only the second largest hotel/ casino in existence (and the third largest pyramid), the Egypt-themed Luxor is still on top in two fields: Not only is it home to the largest atrium on the planet (if you so desired, you could park thirteen 747s in the lobby), but the beam that shoots up from the hotel’s pinnacle is the brightest light in the world ... 315,000 watts bright, and one of only two man-made objects visible from space. (The other is not the Liberace rhinestone, but the Great Wall of China.)

Just up the road from the Luxor sits the world’s largest hotel/ casino, the 5,000-plus-room MGM Grand—which is also home to what might be the world’s largest boo-boo. According to Vegas lore, when the hotel finished remodeling a few years back, one of its most distinctive features was an entrance shaped like a lion’s head, the mouth serving as the casino’s front door. Unfortunately, walking through a lion’s mouth was subsequently found to be in bad taste—or, at least, to be bad luck—for visitors from Asia, and so the head came down and was replaced by the bronze lion that now stands guard at the Grand’s front entrance—which, at forty-five feet tall and 100,000 pounds, surpasses Washington, D.C.’s Iwo Jima monument as the largest bronze sculpture in the United States.

The world’s largest permanent circus and carnival is here (Circus Circus, not The Strip); there are more hotel rooms than anywhere else; and, somewhere, you can bet that the latest version of the world’s youngest Elvis impersonator is working on his chops (and discovering the joys of solid food). So what’s not to love about this Mecca of Mega? It’s the mostest, baby.

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