The Naked City

Retrobetty in front of her vintage clothes shop, Naked City

The Naked City is by far my favorite part of Las Vegas. In the past, before the entertainment landscape of the city was changed by magic shows and blockbuster comedians, showgirl revues were the order of the day. Hundreds, if not thousands of some of the most gorgeous women in the world lived right here, in the part of the city between Downtown (what’s currently known as “Fremont Street” to the outsiders) and The Strip (what’s currently known as “Downtown” by the transients, the confusion it causes is intentional on the part of the locals).

The Naked City is where these showgirls would reside, spending their days outside tanning themselves in the sun. Naturally, I’m sure this worked out to be a fantastic tourist destination. Alas if only I were around in the halcyon days before Siegfried and Roy ruined this city forever.

A lonely, abandoned alleyway ringed by borded-up windows, vacant lots and overseen by the upraised middle finger that is the Stratosphere.

Now known as the Arts District, the Naked City is mostly abandoned. The streets are home to run-down one-room shacks and abandoned, boarded-up attached one-floor townhomes. All of which were at one time occupied by the beautiful girls who worked every night on the dance lines.

The streets are bare and dirty, dust creeping into every crack and the old leaden white paint chipping around the windowsills.  The place reeks of sweat and dirt and broken dreams. People once lived here, had families here, ate and sang and fucked and loved and now… now it’s just abandoned and alone, a ghost town in the dead-center of the Entertainment Capitol of the World.

Dirt alley and abandoned cars in the Art District.

I’m a fella that’s seen a lot of ghost towns. I lived in one once (Virginia City) and they all stank of tourist trap. A tacky, kitschy throwback to the days of televised westerns and TV dinners, a whimsical return to nostalgia for a time in which nobody alive ever lived. This place though, The Naked City is not that sort of ghost town. No, the Naked City is the rotten core of the apple that every city tends to use as metaphor. From around this barren hub springs the commerce and light and life that is this city. Nobody comes here anymore. There are few residents and aside from the small handful of sandwich shops, bars and tattoo shops that ring the edges of Las Vegas Boulevard, there’s no life left.

Seriously, I love this little house.

And that’s sad, as this is without a doubt my favorite part of this godawful city. I honestly shouldn’t have started this blog with a minor travelogue of its most lovely and decadent part. I feel like Anthony Bourdain starting with the 17th Arrondissement in Paris then shrugging “aw man now what?” What I will say though is that this little house here: Aw man I don’t fucking care what it takes, I’ll own this little piece of shit some day.

The Naked City at night, on a weekend though is a different beast altogether. It is a place unto which the hipsters descend like pop-culture vultures upon the decaying corpse of modern society, high on Starbucks and clove cigarettes, they don their too-small ironic t-shirts, squeezing them over their dress shirts and ties, making a statement that says… je ne sais quois… I don’t know. I honestly don’t know what the hell that look says, other than “I’m a dipshit with a trust fund, look at how hard I try to exclude myself from society by doing my damnedest to blend in with all my peers.”

But that’s an entry for another time.

-vs

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6 Responses to “The Naked City”

  1. Ron Sims Says:

    Finally!! This is your forte!

  2. Roni Anthony Says:

    That is some damned amazing writing. Powerful. “Reeks of sweat and dirt and broken dreams.” You have a gift, keep writing what you feel.

  3. Katy Says:

    This is rad Steve. First I love stories about the underbelly of places, those parts beyond the brochures. Second this is really well written and interesting so far! Totally dittoing Roni.

  4. RusSEAL Says:

    Outstanding, Young Jedi!

    Prosaic wistful nostalgia both beautiful and yet profane.

    I’m under the impression your writing serves “The Forgotten Man/Woman”- those of us that remember a time and place of history, fame and maybe even fortune but are privy to that seamier side and even that “forgotten” [most often ignored] flip of the coin.

    This entry is some of your most powerful.

    If you can find a way to blend wisps of nostalgia with a “Future Now” from entry to entry- you’ve captured something that even HST hadn’t managed to figure out before eating that .380…

  5. Vegas Sucks Says:

    Shucks fellas, I don’t think I’m all that good. Thanks I guess. I don’t take praise well, it’s an empathic state from others to which I’m unaccustomed.

  6. Dean Keen Says:

    Just stumbled upon your site as I was looking up info on “Naked City”. My tour goes by there dropping off people at the Stratosphere, and the place around it is the dumps. Reading your blog has given me valuable insight. Rather than dance around the despair, I’m going to celebrate it. Weave a story behind the glitz and glamour of the Strip, where once naked showgirls lazed about, to remove tan lines which would have kept them from the line up. You find yourself in “Naked City”, scoring crack or getting jacked – this is one place you don’t want to be.
    or something along those lines – lol

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