On Strip, inauguration tinged with Vegas distractions

Dana Parpart, bless her heart, stopped playing her slot machine at Planet Hollywood Resort when the Rev. Rick Warren delivered the invocation at the inauguration of President Barack Obama.

The Wisconsin native, watching the event on a nearby flat-screen TV, also refused to take a drag on her cigarette as Warren talked about Him.

“Wow, that was moving,” the vacationer said, a tear sliding down her cheek before she once again began to try and beat the odds at video poker.

It was just about 9 a.m., and though the 57-year-old Parpart said she had great respect for Obama, it seemed rather obvious that her respect for him wasn’t quite as great as her respect for Him.

For there she was, playing nickels and blowing smoke during the new president’s inaugural address. And yet, when he finished talking about the domestic and foreign challenges ahead, her respect for Obama was delivered with all the enthusiasm of the born again.

“He just got sworn in and the economy has already turned around,” she cried. “I’ve got four of a kind!”

And so another “only in Las Vegas” moment came to the fore on the Strip.

Outside Planet Hollywood, about 200 people also watched the inauguration on huge video screens. One of them, 24-year-old Kellen Jones of Salt Lake City, gave this analysis of how the election might end stereotypes:

“The truth is, white boys can jump and black boys can grow up to be president of the United States,” Jones said as he watched the live video feed from CNN. “It’s way past time that people knew that.”

Public relations experts rounded up some of the Miss America contestants on hand for the Saturday beauty pageant at Planet Hollywood and had them walk outside and stare with broad smiles at the video screens. Many photographers dutifully snapped photos of the lovely ones engaged in this patriotic moment.

Don Wheeler, whose daughter Tara is Miss Virginia, said both he and his daughter hope Obama can bring peace on earth and good will to men.

But one man, who refused to give his name, was unhappy with the way the Miss America contestants were used for PR purposes.

“At least they could have made them wear their bathing suits,” he said.


Contact reporter Paul Harasim at pharasim@reviewjournal.com or 702-387-2908.