Boys’ weekend in Vegas

Party like a rock star in the city of sin

Las Vegas is not for pussies. It’s the kind of town where you can get married on your first date, sign your name with dollar signs and strip down with random floozies in a plush hotel room — right, Prince Harry?

Everything is big, Sweetie, huge. Lacroix, Chanel, Wynn! Wolfgang, Darling, Wolfgang! When Celine builds a dressing room in Vegas, she creates a replica of her real home, which is only minutes away from the Caesars Palace theatre that was also constructed for La Dion on the famed Vegas “strip.” When they make burgers in Vegas, they fly in the beef from Japan and top it with French truffles and foie gras; when they run out of water, they steal it from Arizona; and when they create ice sculptures, they carve them from cubes previously used to freeze Walt Disney (okay, that last one might not be true).

If you want to make it in Vegas you’d better have big tits, big tigers or big talent. The saying goes “Don’t mess with Texas,” but it’s Las Vegas that’s really something to be reckoned with. “Lost wages,” as the city is so tenderly known by locals (and there are so many ways to lose yours), is also gayer than Steel Magnolias. It’s the city of Liberace, Siegfried & Roy, Elton, Barry Manilow, David Copperfield and Frank Marino. And those are just the divas.

It’s also a city flush with the best and worst of everything American — which means it’s a perfect place for a dynamite quick-and-dirty weekend getaway that you won’t soon forget (depending on how much you drink). This intrepid journalist took one for the team and got wasted like Britney for the sake of the story — and, of course, in order to suss out the best Vegas has on offer. Here are some suggestions for an excess-ful gay weekend in Nevada’s finest oasis.

Grab a quick beer while you acclimatize at the McCarran International Airport — named after Pat McCarran, a Las Vegas senator from 1933 to 1954. McCarran was a Communist-hating politician who spent many years trying to restrict immigration to the United States and Nevada. It didn’t work, and the senator is surely rolling in his grave: one fifth of those who live in Nevada today were born in another country, making it one of the most diverse states. The airport has several bars and slot machines where you can drink to McCarran’s failed policies and whet your appetite for the weekend ahead. Better to enjoy the airport’s booze and blackjack at the beginning of your trip because you’ll likely retch at the sight of both on the way out.


Regroup and explore your mini bar
Now is not the time to stop and rest. Check into your hotel (the city has dozens to choose from, including six of the world’s 10 largest), have a quick whore’s bath and pack the necessities for a night out: gum, cologne, condom, deodorant, p-p-p-poker face, check! Don’t forget a cheeky shot from the mini bar and you’re on your way.

Dinner on the strip
The infamous Vegas “strip” is like a Monopoly board, with as many pitfalls as opportunities. Please don’t end up in jail. Depending on where you start, the strip can seem either daunting or mesmerizing. If you’re planning a big Friday night out, better to save your energy and head straight for one of its glitzy restaurants. Try a light dinner at Andrea’s at Wynn, where chef Joseph Elevado’s sharing plates are just right for a group. Elevado spent almost a decade working under celebrity chef Nobu Matsuhisa (whose Las Vegas spot, Nobu, is also a must-visit for dinner), and his modern Asian dishes show off what he learned. Our group especially loved Andrea’s wagyu beef tataki with ginger and green onion and the scallop sashimi with salsa verde.

Round one
Las Vegas has dozens of nightclubs, including several gay spots. The safe bet for a Friday night is Share, a two-storey nightclub, bar and lounge that offers VIP cabanas for groups that want to party like rock stars. For those looking for something more traditional, Share provides private rooms, and its website suggests customers “ask shot boys how you can receive special treatment and make your experience a little more Sharable.” Nothing says slutty vacation like an anonymous backroom hookup with a hot cocktail waiter.

Sweat it out
If you completed day one following the above instructions, you’ll be feeling a little worse for wear Saturday morning. That’s what you get for waking up in Vegas! Best to follow Katy Perry’s lead, shake the glitter off your clothes and sweat out your hangover at one of Vegas’s many luxury spas. The Bathhouse (not that kind!) at Mandalay Bay’s THEhotel offers spa packages that include everything from hot stone treatments to “soufflé” scrubs. My throbbing head thanked me for the spa’s gorgeous deep-conditioning scalp treatment. The Bathhouse’s dark and cavernous clothing-optional hot tub and sauna area also allows for a full recharge before heading back into the bright lights of Vegas. And its cute pool boys will help you get other systems back up and running.

Before leaving Mandalay Bay, grab lunch at Border Grill, where famous lezzie chef Susan Feniger — of cooking show Too Hot Tamales — and business partner Mary Sue Milliken have created a hot and spicy Mexican menu that’ll guarantee the previous evening’s booze continues to evacuate your pores. We couldn’t get enough of their Peruvian ceviche and Yucatan slow-roasted pork in banana leaves. If you’re ready to start drinking again, Border Grill’s flavoured margaritas are a very good place to start.

Glut, guzzle and gamble
Spend Saturday afternoon like any self-respecting Las Vegas tourist: walk the strip, gamble, spend money you don’t have, eat lots of bad food and drink slushy piña coladas from guitar-shaped plastic glasses. Remember that casinos offer free drinks to customers who gamble, so it’s a great way to get soused without the fuss of reaching for your wallet. I recommend the MGM Grand, where wait staff always made sure I had a bevvy so long as I was shifting cash from my bank account into the hotel’s flashing appliances. Once you’re bored from not winning, jump on the handy Vegas Monorail and head back to your hotel to freshen up for an evening show.

It’s all coming back to me now
It’s not a trip to Las Vegas without a show. And boy, did my group of boys put on a show as we walked drunkenly down the street on the way to see Celine. “There were nights when your cock was so hard,” we sang (well, shouted and squealed), so excited were we to see Canada’s most popular export. Celine didn’t disappoint, but of course, if you’re not into Ms Dion (don’t admit to that in Vegas), there are plenty of other options. Cirque du Soleil usually has a handful of shows on the go (give Zarkana a miss, see O if you can) or check out magicians Penn & Teller or one of the many celebrities always on hand.

Pre-clubbing drinks
If Vegas were a zoo, The Cosmopolitan hotel would be the panda enclosure. Take yourself there Saturday night when you’re still somewhat fresh and classy and a few drinks away from “Work Bitch.” (Britney’s video, by the way, was filmed in Vegas.) Head for The Chandelier bar, a three-storey affair surrounded by two million crystals that feels a bit like Studio 54 meets The Ritz. The Cosmopolitan — living up to its name — is known for its mixology program that includes more than 150 cocktails. Your mouth will hopefully be filled with all kinds of wonderful things during a weekend in Vegas but likely none more unique than The Verbena cocktail, also known as the Szechuan Button. The tequila-based potion is garnished with the bud of an Acmella oleracea plant, native to Brazil, which, when chewed, releases chemicals that numb your mouth. It intensifies everything you taste for the next few minutes, including the tasty citrus cocktail it garnishes. Adventurous types may want to grab a few extra Acmella buttons for later in the night.

Round two
Krave Massive, Las Vegas’s newest gay club, should be somewhere on your agenda. Not to be outdone by the other superlatives floating around Vegas, Krave also bills itself as the country’s largest gay club. While it doesn’t yet have the energy and “if these walls could talk” vibe of an established party space like Share, Krave is worth a visit. If you get there early, stop in for a drink where there’s plenty of vibe at Drink & Drag, a drag-queen bowling-alley bar in the same complex as Krave. Warning: the Las Vegas City Council recently denied both bars liquor licences, so be sure to check online to see if they’re up and running again before you go.

Lather, rinse, repeat
You’ll be all fear and loathing when you look at yourself in the mirror Sunday morning. But you still have plenty of Vegas to discover, so swig back a quick hair of the dog from the mini bar — or down a coffee if your stomach’s not there just yet — and get back out there. Start with a buffet brunch at Simon Restaurant at The Palms hotel. There’s something deliciously trashy about a Vegas buffet — but that said, it’s best to get your buffet fetish out of the way at brunch so you can reserve your evenings for the city’s best dining spots. The team at Simon knows their clientele, and their all-you-can-eat Sunday brunch includes sushi, paninis, peel-and-eat shrimp and an all-you-can-drink Bloody Mary bar complete with every possible garnish, from spicy beans to Mexican hot sauce. I drank my way through several of my group’s drink combinations because I’m a journalist who likes to get to the bottom of things, including Simon’s tasty cocktails.

Sunbathe like an Egyptian
The Luxor hotel’s Temptation Sunday is the Don Juan of Vegas’s gay party scene — a poolside event that’ll have the pants off any innocent lad still wearing them. This party is where all the cute boys come to play, and it’s a refreshing homo vibe compared to many of the strip’s family-friendly or ultra-macho pool areas. Rent a cabana, order a bucket of beer or a pitcher of margarita, get into a tiny little swimsuit and kick back and enjoy the desert sunshine.

Leaving Las Vegas
It’s always hard to wrap up a vacation, but something about the debauchery that is Vegas makes it a particularly easy city to leave. It could be the sunburn or the scabies, or possibly that big hole in your bank account. It’s not that you didn’t have fun — of course you had fun — but gosh, there’s only so much fun you can have before you collapse into an airplane seat and think, “I can’t wait to get home.” But beyond the slot machines, there’s something rather addictive about the city. And just like Celine before you, a new day will come and you’ll likely head back there again. For now, settle back into your seat, order a cocktail from the flight attendant and, whatever you do, don’t post any of your photos until you’ve had a chance to sober up. There’s a certain saying about allowing some things to stay in Vegas.

For the most up-to-date travel information on gay Las Vegas, see our City Guide, Listings Guide, Events Guide and Activities Guide.

Danny Glenwright was formerly Xtra’s managing editor. He has a background in human rights journalism and media training and a masters in international cooperation and development from Italy’s University of Pavia. Before coming to Xtra, Danny was the editor of the Gender Links Opinion and Commentary news service in South Africa and a regular contributor to South Africa’s Mail and Guardian news. He has also worked in Sierra Leone, Palestine, Namibia, the United Kingdom and Rwanda.

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