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Tuesday, April 30, 2024

A Vest Pocket Full of Traveler's Cheques

Welcome to the Vintage 1997 Royal Flusher and Quad Queen Trip Report.

This goes back to a time when we were just starting to figure Las Vegas out. Over the last thirty years or so, things have changed. Boy have they changed.
This was written before Royal Flusher was a fully-developed idiot, the ne'er-do-well with a heart of cash that you've gotten to know and hopefully love. The writing style is very basic and to-the-point.
As we go, I'll include some additional content with the 1997 narrative - observations, and more importantly, things I remember from that time. You'll note that the roots of my cheap bastard room camping style are in their infancy, but are there nonetheless.
There aren't that many photos for this trip report. We had some kind of crappy point and shoot plastic camera with a flash that took 35mm film. It's not like today when you take 19 photos of a piece of toast with your phone just to get the right shot to post on Facebook.
The good news is, I was able to find the negatives for what I do have. I bought a pricy scanner to scan them in, and I'm also hoping I can find other slides and negatives from the early days (maybe our first trip ever in 1995?) and share them.
In 1997, Vegas was in transition. The roots of modern casinos go back into the 50s and 60s when things were done a certain way. Las Vegas was a value destination and the competition for gamblers was fierce, with incentives, giveaways, funbooks full of gambling coupons and 2-4-1s, food deals,  cheap rooms the likes of which we'll never see again.
Starting with the building of Caesars Palace, places started to get bigger and become true resorts. A flurry of building in the late 80s and early 90s, kicked off with the Mirage, brought all kinds of new  themed mega-hotels. New York New York. Excalibur. Luxor. MGM Grand in it's current form. Treasure Island.
But the traditions and trappings of 50s and 60s Vegas were still there. Almost every place had a buffet, and every place did have a coffee shop - 24 hour catch-all restaurant with a broad menu of good, cheap food. Live Keno featuring Keno runners was everywhere and the coffee shop often had it's own Keno game. The runner would circulate between each game, selling tickets, making payoffs and so on. Machines took coins, and beautiful women with Olympic-grade calves pushed carts of rolls of coins around the casino.
Parking everywhere was free. Hell, valet parking was free! These places wanted you! Shows leaned more towards headliners. Cirque du Soleil would change that. Slot clubs were fairly new but had taken hold and would change how room offers and comps were handled.

So in Luxor, in 1997, we found full pay video poker, cheap rooms, and value everywhere. Little did we know what the consolidation of the strip into mainly two giant conglomerates would do to take the heart out of the Strip. But for now, it was still pretty magical.

Trip Report - Las Vegas - Luxor Dec. 2 1997 to Dec. 10 1997

Executive Summary:

  • Don't fly American Airlines
  • Luxor's Slot Club SUCKS
  • Treasure Island's Slot Club RULES
  • Keep your Eyes Peeled and Find Free Cash!
  • Check for conventions before you book Vegas.
  • We Lost Money
  • We Won Some Money 

Day 1 Tuesday Dec. 2, 1997

This was our fifth and so far, our best trip to Las Vegas. We left in the afternoon for a 2 hour drive to the nearest large airport and had an uneventful trip to Vegas, with a brief stop in O'Hare to change planes.
After a long day of anticipation we arrived landed at McCarran. The cab driver took the south route through the tunnel to get to Luxor. This is the long route according to other cab drivers we later encountered.

Instead of going north and then west on Tropicana, they take you way south, along the tunnel, and then over to the strip. There wasn't much traffic so the bill was reasonable, but if you are going to the four
corners (MGM / NYNY / Excalibur / Tropicana) you might want to specify the Tropicana route.

We checked in, got our safety deposit box. The clerk told stories of gamblers checking in with briefcases full of cash, which they stash in the safety deposit boxes. We had a vest pocket full of traveler's cheques instead of suitcases full of money. We trucked our suitcases up to the west tower, found our room and dropped them off.

We prefer the tower rooms to the pyramid rooms. They are larger, and have nicer
bathrooms with tub and shower. And, there's something unsettling about knowing there's nothing underneath you if you are 10 or 20 floors up in the pyramid...

The Quad Queen in the room at Luxor with a stash of coin cups. Open your eyes, you're in Vegas!

Finally we were ready to hit the Casino. We started out on nickel Video Poker and Karen played 6 or 7 hands on her first 5 nickels. On the second 5 nickels in, she hit four Jacks for 400 nickels. A really nice
way to start the trip. We played for a while, and tried some quarter VP as well, without too much luck.

The inside of a Luxor tower elevator. Theming was everywhere. These panels lasted for decades.

Luxor has an unadvertised special in the Pyramid Cafe (where we have enjoyed many nice meals). The steak and eggs is a deal at $2.99 after 11:00 pm. There is also a Prime Rib special for $4.99.

Played some dollar slots and didn't win a thing. Then tried to parlay bets on a BJ machine - start with one, and keep betting all the winnings. I turned 8 quarters into 20, and then 1 quarter into 16. It
was fun, but won't make me rich.

It looks like we drove from Flusherville to Ottawa, catching a flight to Chicago, and connecting to Vegas.
Yes, we got tunneled from the airport. It took a couple of decades and the disruptive growth of Uber and Lyft, but fixed fares to the strip finally ended that nonsense.
Luxor in those days was Egyptian themed from top to bottom, and a set of I think three different shows you could go to tied into the features on the Attractions level.
One time we saw some folks repairing Egyptian hieroglyphs - they had molds into which they poured fiberglass or resin, making panels that looked like stone but were light and thin. Presumably that's what was in the elevators.
Cocktail waitresses and other casino workers were in costumes that reflected the theming. It was great.
There was a sort of unwritten rule back in those days that on Saturday night, you dressed up a little bit. There was a noticeable difference in how people looked, going out for a fancy dinner, or maybe drinks or something.
Coin cups were everywhere as all the machines ran on coins. Bill acceptors had started to become commonplace, but they still dumped out the greasy little metal disks when you cashed out. Your hands would get filthy, but there was always bins of wipes available at the cage where you cashed in your goods.
We had a habit, if we happened to win at the end of the night, to just take our coins to the room. There was something wonderful about the heft of them in your hands. You could run your fingers through them, dump them out, play with them, knowing the next day they'd be your starting stake.
In those days, we brought our funds with Traveler's cheques, which are pretty much extinct now. You paid for them up front, signed each one, and if you were smart, kept track of the serial numbers. To cash them, you had to show ID and replicate your signature on the front. The best advantage was that if you lost them or they were stolen, Karl Malden would show up at your hotel with a big nose and a fresh set of cheques.
Hotels had safety deposit boxes available at the front desk. Maybe they still do, but I think everyone relies on in-room safes now. I don't recall if the rooms had a safe back then.
Luxor's safety deposit boxes were (are?) at the north end of the desk, by the walkway to the East Tower and the washrooms. You presented your key, and went in behind the counter into a little room, they brought your box, and just like the bank, you put a half a dead salmon in there and returned it to the clerk.
Steak and Eggs $2.99. Not too shabby for a strip hotel.
I want to time travel back to 1997 so badly right now!


    1. Flusher Time Machine activated!! This series is gonna be a phenomenal 💜💜

    2. Those were the days - jpfromla

    3. Ah, the Pyramid Cafe... I had many an inexpensive but quality meal there back in the mid/late 90s... the Buffet downstairs in the basement was the first Vegas Buffet I ever had... it was OK but not terribly impressive for Lunch/Dinner. Breakfast was pretty solid, though.


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