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Suite Success

Las Vegas Hotels
Bruce Schoenfeld
From the Print Edition:
Kevin Costner, Nov/Dec 00

(continued from page 2)

The suites on the top two floors of Paris Las Vegas are all the more impressive when compared to the mass-market chaos below. When I stayed in the 4,800-square-foot Napoleon suite recently, I waited 25 minutes to drop off my car for valet parking. (Not to retrieve it, mind you. Just to drop it off.) But the average whale, who pulls up in his limo, doesn't have to worry about such indolence, nor about the buffet lines that snake their way into the mock Parisian street that serves as a hallway.  

It doesn't matter to our high roller that newspapers, instead of being distributed outside hotel room doors in the morning, are available for purchase at the gift shop with stickers saying "Compliments of Paris Las Vegas" magic-markered out. He'll never even know. The high roller will simply dispatch a butler, courtesy of the hotel, to fulfill such needs.  

At the same time, if he--or she, though high rollers are overwhelmingly male--is ensconced in the Napoleon suite, he can play his favorite Mozart sonata on the jet-black Kawai piano in the drawing room, or request that someone come play it for him. He can host a dinner party in the formal dining room and pad over hardwood oak floors made in the Versailles style through rooms adorned by handmade wool rugs of French design. He can admire the historically accurate resin molding, and lather up with Faberge shampoo in bathrooms fitted with gold-leaf brass fixtures. It's a Disney World version of France, with high-stakes blackjack and baccarat just an elevator ride away.  

"It's very impressive, and people really enjoy looking out of the windows and seeing the Eiffel Tower," says Ronan O'Gorman, the vice president of hotel operations. "This is a unique experience."  

The night I stayed there, I ensconced myself in the entertainment room, opened the bottle of wine that had been waiting for me upon my arrival (curiously, Robert Mondavi Cabernet Sauvignon), fired up the 48-inch, rectangular-shaped television, and ordered an omelet and a salad.  

The salad's vinaigrette dressing failed to materialize, and I clicked through the hotel's cable system in vain for ESPN2, which was telecasting a baseball game I'd bet on. Still, I did have my choice of three bedrooms, all with custom-made Strauss crystal chandeliers, and that fetching Eiffel Tower just outside my window.  

I had arranged to stay at the Sky Villas at the Las Vegas Hilton as a climax to my recent visit. These suites have been renowned as the most extravagant rooms on the Strip since their construction in 1996. Before that, the Hilton had other legendary high-roller rooms on the 29th and 30th floors, including a four-bedroom suite that Elvis Presley lived in during the early 1970s.  

One of the Sky Villas, the Villa Verona, meanders through 15,400 square feet, which is the equivalent of four nice-sized houses. You may have glimpsed it during last season's finale of the television show "Nash Bridges," which was taped there. The Tuscany, 13,200 square feet, has a contemplation hallway made entirely of Italian marble. The Conrad suite is 12,600 square feet and includes a rooftop view of the Strip. Hustler magazine's Larry Flynt has been a customer.  

But the week before my visit, Park Place Entertainment--which also owns Bally's and Paris Las Vegas--sold the Hilton to Los Angeles businessman Ed Roski Jr., pending approval by the Nevada Gaming Commission. Roski immediately announced plans to replace the Sky Villas with a revenue-generating restaurant open to the public, while reserving a portion of the villas for a private club.  

To lovers of unfettered extravagance, however, it's a tragedy. For a brief time, the Sky Villas have represented the state of a certain kind of garish art, a snapshot of the soul of Las Vegas, as well as a tangible link to the hotel's wild past. "What they had in the Hilton was always outlandish," says Don Payne, the former head of the Las Vegas News Bureau and an unofficial historian of the Strip. "I remember the Elvis suite, and it was weird and ostentatious. Not dissimilar to Elvis himself, I must say."  

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