Under the Neon Sky: A Las Vegas Doorman’s Story

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"Wait until dark, when the mood is right. The night is about possibilities. Invite a hooker to the blackjack table. Drop an extra hundred bucks on your bet. Order more drinks than you can handle. The forbidden makes Vegas unforgettable."

Vegas is carefully constructed to propel visitors toward disaster. Most guests are in freefall. Naïve, unsuspecting, they have no defense. I witness the assisted suicide every night; I’ve seen it a million times.

Las Vegas. The name conjures up images of casinos, gambling, drinking, and sex. It’s a city without boundaries. There are no clocks, no last calls, no one to stop you getting rich or going broke, destroying your marriage, or finding true love. For a brief moment in time you’re free to be whomever or whatever you want to be. What could be more alluring?

If you think you know Vegas, you’ve heard only half the story, says Jay Rankin, author of the new non-fiction book Under the Neon Sky: A Las Vegas Doorman’s Story (Jay Rankin Publishing, 2009, ISBN: 978-0-9842109-1-6, $14.99). Rankin worked the graveyard shift as a doorman at the 5,000-room MGM Grand hotel for six years. His book tells the true story of this turbulent period in his life.

“Vegas is carefully constructed to propel visitors toward disaster,” writes Rankin. “Most guests are in freefall. Naïve, unsuspecting, they have no defense. I witness the assisted suicide every night; I’ve seen it a million times. I’m almost guaranteed to be there when the thrill ends.”

Read on for a sampling of what it’s like to live and work in Sin City, as told by a true insider:
The survival strategies. One whiff of their breath exposes just about everything. Garlic reveals one set of facts; scotch relates something else entirely. Same with a cigarette or big Havana. I construct the guests piecemeal, every detail adding to the portrait, purpose, and propensities. Is he wearing snug custom clothes or loose, casual duds? Are his hands dirty from coins or chips? Are his fingernails manicured? What about shoes, hairstyle, age, cologne, gait, jewelry, tone, body language, teeth, expression?

Once I put the bits together, I know exactly who these people are. It’s not a game; it’s survival. In a city without boundaries, I have a chance to defend myself by knowing instantly, accurately, who’s coming and going.

The home life. In a twenty-four-hour town where work schedules split into ten different shifts and different days off, relationships literally disintegrated. Month after month, year after year, couples rarely saw each other, let alone spent time together. Of course vows of loyalty and true love went out the window when your “until death do we part” mate became some stranger who shared your kitchen and garage. When the partnership lost its meaning, Vegas offered countless pleasures, all with impunity…

(But) I believed that once someone crossed a line—any line—that person was changed forever. The brain chemistry was altered. The party animal had permanently set a course down a different road, and no one could predict where the hell it might end or how. That was now a dark secret…The best anyone could do was battle the current and hope he didn’t drift out too far to return to safety. That meant knowing which lines were harmless and which weren’t.

The style. I observed the other doormen carefully and noticed the nuances of opening doors for people. This job was more complex than I had thought…From Day One T-bone had used fancy dance steps to dazzle the guests…Now I understood it was about putting on a show. So, what would fit my style and training? I had taken years of classes in the martial arts and boxing. My movements were swift, sharp, and strong, and I felt in balance and grounded while performing. This would be my shtick. I created unique arm movements and hand gestures based on karate and slowly attracted the crowd’s attention. I kicked, I crouched, I leapt. It paid off…I was beginning to make more money. I mean, a lot more money. Was it just beginner’s luck? No. Each day it just kept coming and coming and coming.

Earning a living in Las Vegas is a nonstop thrill ride with an unknown destination. Look over Jay Rankin’s shoulder as he navigates pitfalls and temptations, and gets off the tracks just in time.

About the Author:

Jay Rankin didn’t research Las Vegas; he lived it. His six years as an MGM Grand doorman gave him the insider’s view of real Vegas life, the grit behind the glitz. Jay hosted a weekly television show, Las Vegas Business Week. That media experience and his connections won him the ambassador’s job out of 1,500 applicants.  
Jay holds an advanced degree in psychology. He began writing in 1993 and is currently working on his second book, about his life after escaping Vegas. He resides in Los Angeles, California.

For more information or to read Chapter 1 of Under the Neon Sky, visit http://www.jayslasvegas.com.

About the Book:
Under the Neon Sky: A Las Vegas Doorman’s Story (Jay Rankin Publishing, 2009, ISBN: 978-0-9842109-1-6, $14.99) is available at bookstores nationwide and from major online booksellers.


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