By Elijah Meeker and William Bergquist
Several months ago, one of us [WB] was watching a DVD recording of the inaugural concert given at the Smith Center for the Performing Arts in Las Vegas. It was a lovely concert, with performances ranging from Classical music to Broadway and Country-Western. The Smith Center appears to be a lovely center and it is dedicated to the people “who actually live in Las Vegas.” This statement by the Master of Ceremonies was followed by the statement: “People actually live here!” The audience responded with what seemed like nervous laughter—a chord of reality mixed with fantasy seemed to be struck.
So people really inhabit the city of Las Vegas. They work in Las Vegas. Their children attend school and the families play in parks, attend church services, and shop for food at local supermarkets. Yet, they often make their living working in the fantasy world of Las Vegas and recognize that other people come to Las Vegas to escape their own family obligations (or bring their family along with them to meet shared fantasies). These visitors don’t want to play in parks or attend church services or shop in the supermarkets of Las Vegas. These men and women want to live for brief periods of time in faux communities—Paris (with a replica of the Eiffel Tower) or Rome (with a major collection of art and a fountain to boot).
The Simulacra of Las Vegas
Several decades ago, Robert Bellah and his colleagues (1985) wrote about lifestyle enclaves in America. This enclave might be a short term but frequently reoccurring gathering of the weekend car club (for Porsche owners or Model T owners). It might instead be an enduring community of like-minded people (often from a single demographic group) such as a Mobile Home park for retired middle-class folks or a condominium complex exclusively for the 20 something singles.Download Article 500 Club