Blush. Surrender. Presumably, in a Haze. The roll call of Vegas nightclubs slips from the tongue like figs from the tree—heavy with innuendo, oozing with the promise of pleasure. In the primeval Paradise, God caused a knowing Adam to name all the things in our world. Here, too, in Sin City, extreme insider knowledge is at work.
Take, Rain, for example, at The Palms Hotel and Casino. Before a single platform toe steps into a puddle of light, Rain has delivered the life-saving rejuvenation that only a desert shower can provide. Various bodily fluids flow, gush, drip and spurt from the brand—most neutrally in the form of sweat. The humidity rises on the dance floor and rivulets form, as couples consider coupling and Rain’s allusions to procreation spring forth. Didn’t Zeus’ semen rain down on a parched Mother Earth? Could it be that the Niagara of Viagra is only a flashflood away?
Cooling down is important, since clubs have to be hot, of course, particularly in a city known for triple-digit temps. Hence Lavo, with its steamy, molten associations with lava, although explicit references to scorching heat can be a hard sell in the Mojave. Perhaps club owners, committed to Euro-Asian brands, were alluding to the sultry jungles of Thailand where ancient Lavo once stood, or maybe they were cashing in on the sensual intimacies of bathing?
Lavo translates literally into “I wash” in three languages, and a verb for bathing sloshes at the word’s root, giving us the “lav-ish” of the club’s location in The Palazzo (palace) hotel. The sink basins at Lavo’s entrance apparently don’t come with soap, which risks taking the bathhouse theme a little too far.
In terms of desert marketing, moisture—decorative, corporeal, drinkable—is key to Vegas nightlife. The liquid dripping in many club names trickles from salacious to sacred. From fountains to pools to fingerbowls, salvation is at hand. Pure, located in Caesar’s Palace, literally whitewashes any naughty behavior with heavenly white decor, bestowing a state of grace in which all will be forgiven. Club-goers are good people, after all—so good they’re bad…. Or is it so bad they’re good?
Pure is not the only club to capitalize on the pervasive flipflop mechanism in American slang and, going deeper, virtue/vice dualism. Vanity, at the Hard Rock Hotel and Casino, with its mirror-themed decor, brightly reflects Sin City’s hit list of overindulgence: lust, envy, pride, greed and gluttony. The MGM Grand’s Tabu trends even further in the delicious no-no direction, while The Rio’s Voodoo alludes to the power of bad magic that can be oh-so-good. If you visit all four clubs on one night, presumably you can admire yourself using voodoo to break tabu while remaining pure.
Family vacations aside, a city whose identity issues from Wild West saloons can hardly be a byword for restraint. Enter XS—yes, “excess”–located in the motherload of semantic felicity, the Encore At Wynn Las Vegas. Consider what that club has going for it from a bookish perspective: Excess means going too far, “encore” literally means “more,” and Wynn is a “win” in a city that thrives on scoring. The club’s message—that desire will be rewarded with every visit—offsets the counterproductive association of XS with extra-small. Nothing is diminutive about a $10,000.00 cocktail festooned with his-and-her signature XS bijoux in sterling silver and 18-karat gold.
But the lexical reverberations in Club XS don’t (of course!) stop there—the X in English can never be completely divorced from X-rated. Flip XS around, and brand-makers know you’ve got a word so powerful that the missing middle letter is a vital enhancement—s_x. The set-up recalls religious devotees who leave the “o” out of “g_d.”
Enter Tao, the club whose name designates a sacred philosophy characterized by harmonious flow. Water pours into the bathtubs, where bathing beauties lounge, their transparent bikinis studded with flower petals. It’s worth repeating that Tao literally means “way” or “path” in Chinese—if you’re on the path, your energy aligns with the Chi energy of creation, which perhaps flows abundantly on a dance floor with a temple theme or in bathtubs with bosom blossoms.
Located in The Venetian, Tao takes advantage of various spiritual practices, stocking up on Buddhist icons, Hindu mandalas and Confucian statuary, varnishing the decor in a sensuous lacquer red. The club manages to market the high-energy of heart-pumping music with the contemplative stillness at the heart of Taoism without missing a beat. Nor is it troubled by religious distinctions that mean so much in other parts of the world.
What’s in a name, after all?