Strip Mining: How Las Vegas Became the New Nightclub Capital of the World —Radar

It’s 98 degrees outside, and we’re waiting for Kanye. More accurately, we’re poolside at the Venetian Hotel in Las Vegas, sitting in Jason Strauss’s tricked-out cabana at Tao Beach (think plasma TV, Xbox, the works), counting down the minutes until the Grammy-winning rapper shows up and kicks us out. Fortunately, he’s late.

So for the moment we are surrounded by topless women. Armies of them. And ripped dudes with neatly trimmed goatees and product-laden hair and bleary eyes. Many of them have been up all night, ren-dered zombie-like and edgy by the party-mad New Vegas. And now, when they should by all rights be sleeping in—if not checking out the casinos—they’re at it again, taking advantage of Vegas’s latest decadent innovation: high-end pool clubs where the partying continues in the brilliant desert sun.

Over on the deck, a sun-bronzed blonde in a bright blue bikini does a slow writhe to a DJ house set courtesy of the Cosmic Space Monkeys. It’s hard to tell which she’s grinding harder, her hips or her teeth. The expression on her face—a crazy grimace that occasionally morphs into a cartoonish pursed-lip pout—might best be described as Meth Mouth for Strippers. Sexy.

A passel of celebrities is rumored to be on its way—Wilmer Valderrama, Arizona Cardinals quarterback Matt Leinart, Kanye West. For the moment, Evan Metropoulos, an heir to the Bumblebee tuna fortune, holds court in the cabana. Known affectionately to his friends as Bumblebee, he’s a pudgy, gregarious man who looks like a Greek Jack Black. Metropoulos, who was once featured on MTV in a show called True Life: I’m the Youngest Tycoon in the World, eyes the strung-out girl. “I just wanna shoot her in the ass with a paintball gun!” he says.
Bored with the blonde, Bumblebee entertains himself by fondling the breasts of various women in the tent, including a recent Florida émigré named Christina. “They’re so nice and round,” he says admiringly. And real, also a rarity around these parts.

Amazingly, Christina lets him squeeze. “He’s just so honest about it,” she remarks with a sheepish grin.

Bumblebee turns his attentions to another set of hooters, about 100 yards across the deck, belonging to another bikini-clad woman who is bouncing on one of the club’s abundant daybeds. For some reason, every time she bounces, he shouts, “Noah Tepperberg!”—the name of Jason Strauss’s partner, the club’s co-owner. (The pair also owns New York’s celebrity-packed Marquee, a club one-tenth the size of Tao.)

Bounce. “Noah Tepperberg!”

Bounce. “Noah Tepperberg!”

Bounce. “Noah Tepperberg!”

Unfortunately, Tepperberg, who’s just flown in from the Hamptons after reopening his club there, has already left for a wedding and is missing this glorious moment.

Not everyone in the cabana is as ecstatic as Bumblebee. There’s a girl from New York sitting silently in a beach chair, taking in the scene. You can tell she’s not a local because her skin is not an unnatural shade of orange; she has dark brown, unteased hair; and she’s wearing less makeup than a drag queen. Her company, which she declines to name, relocated her a week ago, and Strauss is the only person in Vegas she knows. “It could be worse,” she murmurs, as Bumblebee ogles her chest.

Christina, the girl with the nice, round, natural tatas, has only been here three months. A cocktail waitress and personal assistant, she likes Tao, but notes that “if a celebrity couple wants to come out, they go to Rehab”—the trashier, rowdier party at the Hard Rock. As the sun beats down and the girl in the blue bikini writhes away, Christina contemplates her future. Red-haired and freckle-faced, she doesn’t want to wind up blonde and crispy, like every other woman on the Strip—she doesn’t want to end up like the girl in the blue bikini. She hopes to someday go to school for psychology and become a sex advice columnist. But in Vegas, it seems like it’s just a matter of time before a woman morphs into a stripper with fake hair, fake breasts, and overtanned, possibly cancerous skin, her life’s aspirations whittled down to two: landing a gig in Pure’s Pussycat Dolls lounge or nabbing a sugar daddy. “It’s really popular here,” she muses, “marrying old.” Grandmaster Flash shows up, dressed in an orange-and-white plaid golf outfit. When Strauss goes off to deal with some business, Bumblebee produces a joint the size of a luxury sedan and offers it to the hip-hop legend, who politely declines. Undeterred, Bumblebee stinks up the tent with sweet-smelling smoke. Minutes later, Kanye rolls up and flashes a peace sign. Time to clear out.