Chicago native P Moss lived in Minneapolis, New York and Los Angeles before moving to Las Vegas in 1991. The following year he opened the Double Down Saloon on Paradise Road, which quickly gained a cult following for its welcoming atmosphere, free live music and quirkiness, which extends to its slogan, “Shut up and drink,” and signature cocktail, Ass Juice.
The Double Down also is known to draw celebrities, whom Moss won’t identify. Rumor has it that one famous patron was Prince Harry, whose consumption of Ass Juice one afternoon in 2012 contributed to that evening’s foray into strip billiards and a naked shot seen around the world.
Moss opened a Double Down in New York City’s East Village in 2006 and Frankie’s Tiki Room on West Charleston Boulevard in 2008. While he still owns all three properties, he said, “I’ve got a great business partner now, I’ve got a great management team and I just want to concentrate on writing.” He’s the author of three novels, “Blue Vegas,” “Vegas Knockout” and “Vegas Tabloid,” which was released last fall, and “Liquid Vacation,” a Frankie’s companion book with recipes for original and classic drinks.
Moss started writing on a family car trip at age 8 and later studied journalism, “but I didn’t have a passion for that.” We recently talked to him about writing and his dive bar empire.
Review-Journal: What did you do before you opened the Double Down?
Moss: I was a gambler. I was writing all of that time as well. When I was in L.A., I was writing screenplays — but then again, who isn’t? I had a little bit of success, but none of the movies were ever made. When I moved here, I was working on something with a producer I’d worked with before. It was going to happen; it was kind of a big deal. And then the next big thing came along and it got pushed to the back burner. I knew it would never get made. That’s when I decided I’d never write anything I didn’t own.
What brought you to Las Vegas?
Gambling, for one. The casinos. I’ve always been a gambler, still am. But it was different then. Back then I used to play blackjack, and I still am a sports bettor. There were a lot of sports books, and there were a lot of guys who were characters. I’d sit in the sports book a row behind them and listen. And it’s a nice town; you can really get a nice house five minutes away from the action. It’s a place I always wanted to end up.
Why did you want to open a dive bar?
I spent most of my life sitting in bars, so why not own one and enjoy that? I wanted to open a bar that would be a place where I would like to go. I just did something the opposite of what a lot of people were doing. I tried to fashion it in my own image, and then you let it take on a life of its own.
Why did you choose the location on Paradise Road?
Nobody wanted it because it was a piece of crap. There was a dead bird in the beer cooler. It was filthy. We had to scrub this place for a month to get it clean enough to get a cleaner to come in. Nobody liked the location because it was in “the fruit loop”; that’s ridiculous. I open the door and I’m looking right at the MGM. How could it not be an amazing location? How could nobody see this? I did.
What is it about the Double Down that has brought it fame around the world?
The vibe in this place is really unique, it’s cool as hell and people love it for their own reason. What I tried to do from the beginning was treat everybody equally. We have a very wide demographic. You’ve got these people sitting next to each other at the bar. There’s a plumber who just got off a hard day’s work. Next to him is a kid, next to him is a guy in a suit, next to him is a movie star, next to him is a bum. The guys are thrilled because they’re being treated the same as the movie star; the movie star is thrilled because he’s being treated like everybody else.
What prompted you to write novels?
When you’re writing fiction, you’re writing for yourself. You get to create situations. You get to become part of situations you couldn’t in real life, because there are consequences.
Where do you get your inspiration?
Any good writer is observant. Sometimes you’ll see something and you write about what you see. I don’t do that. I see something that interests me and I’ll take the basic idea and I’ll just embellish it and take off in another direction. Becoming good at writing came from reading — reading the kinds of things you like to write, and learning from what you’re reading. My perfect day would be if I could write something over the top like (James) Ellroy and phrase it beautifully like (Truman) Capote would. I’m not saying I’m as good as either of those guys, but if I can do that, it’s been a good day.
Who is your main audience?
Pretty much everybody. I was doing a book signing at a Borders. I went back to my car to get some props and this old lady — she had to be 85 — she’s running, like an old lady can run, and yelling at me and waving a book (“Blue Vegas”). She wanted me to sign it. She told me how much she loved the book and how much I got old Las Vegas correct and nobody ever does. I looked at her and said, “Even the part where the hooker cuts the guy’s (body part) off?” She looked at me and said, “Every page.” I just did an event at the Henderson library; it’s these older ladies. And the stuff I write isn’t for old ladies. I write about nasty things. I’m not stuck in one demographic. But the old lady thing, that makes me really happy.”