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Charlie Condou samples the neon-lit madness of Las Vegas

Charlie Condou Las Vegas

I’ve always felt like I’m a bit rubbish at being gay. Not the man-on-man hot porn style sex part; I like to think I’m fairly good at that (obviously). No, I’m talking about the clichéd stuff, the things that everyone assumes we love.

I’ve never seen Beaches, have zero interest in when Kylie’s next album drops and, to my knowledge, have never worn lycra. I have absolutely no idea what song Judy opened with at Carnegie Hall and hanky codes are completely lost on me (is that even still a thing?). So when I was offered the chance of a gay trip to Las Vegas, I’ll be honest, my heart sank a tiny bit. On the other hand I’d just finished on Corrie, was more than ready for a child-free holiday and so thought maybe I could just duck out of the scheduled Chippendales show to play poker in a nice air-conditioned hotel casino. So my husband Cam and I packed our flip flops and headed for the original Sin City.

We really did hit the ground running, setting the tone for the whole trip.  The moment we stepped off the plane we headed straight to a cocktail tasting and dinner at Jean Georges, with possibly the best steak I’ve ever had (and steaks, I’ve had a few, but then again… ok, maybe not). The next few days went by in a blur of spa treatments, boozy lunches, pool parties and shows.  And when I found myself giggling like a schoolgirl while sitting on a Chippendale’s lap, it began to occur to me that I maybe was better at this gay stuff than I thought.  All those years of thinking of myself as decidedly un-camp and 3 days in Vegas had well and truly released my inner sparkle.  Give me a fortnight there and I’d probably be a showgirl by the end.

Vegas couldn’t be more LGBT friendly if it tried; every hotel in town is welcoming, though a special shout out goes to the Wynn and its sister hotel Encore for providing a dedicated “Pride concierge” who can offer tips to help plan your holiday. Xposed at the New Tropicana is a weekly pool party for gay boys and girls (though the lesbians were few and far between), with lots of preening beautiful people posing poolside. For a slightly more relaxed vibe, check out Temptation at the Luxor, the longest running gay poolside party in Vegas. The gay scene in Vegas may not be huge, but it’s certainly diverse. You want Leather? Head to the Funhog Ranch for 24 hour action. Chic and sexy? Try Share, a nightclub over two floors with private VIP tables upstairs. There’s even a gay Sports bar called the Garage where the friendly bar staff dress as mechanics. There are a few gay bars and clubs in Vegas but our favourite by far was Piranha, situated in the affectionately named “Fruit Loop” area downtown, hosted by the inimitable drag queen and Tina Turner impersonator extraordinaire, Hot Chocolate.

We couldn’t come to Vegas without taking in a show or two. “Rose. Rabbit. Lie.” at the Cosmopolitan delivered an unexpected mash-up of experiences; hailed by the LA Times as “Nightlife with a (plot) twist” it had to be seen to be believed. Book in for dinner and let the night take the lead…. . Chelsea Handler made me laugh until I wanted to pee. The acid-tongued talk show host takes no prisoners, with savage jokes at the expense of everyone from lawyers to lesbians. Miss her at your peril. But the icing on our pink cupcake had to be Celine Dion at the Coliseum in Caesar’s Palace. Lets face it, you don’t get camper than Celine in Vegas. And she did not disappoint. Personally I’ve never really got Celine Dion, but on stage at Caesar’s Palace, she was truly in her element and blew us all away.

Vegas is big and brash and exhausting.  By the time we flew out, heading for Miami and the next part of our holiday, we really were ready to turn the volume down a bit, but we’d had an absolute blast (and not enough sleep) along the way.  I enjoyed the city so much more than I ever imagined I would, and I defy anyone not to embrace their inner camp in what was always the home of Liberace.

The thing about Vegas is not to fight it.  Let yourself dive in and enjoy the multi-coloured, neon-lit madness.  Forget your troubles, c’mon get happy, because after all, as Judy once said, “we’re not in Kansas anymore”.

Las-Vegas

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