The plot of the movie The Hangover is total bullshit. There is no way someone could remain undetected on the roof of a Las Vegas hotel for three days. I know this from personal experience. In 2009, I was nearly arrested and thrown out of a hotel along with two dozen other people for climbing a ladder through the roof of a penthouse hotel suite onto the roof of the Riviera and taking in the awesome views. The roofs are monitored closely by hotel security, who found us within fifteen minutes. Thankfully no one had to wear handcuffs. Most everyone was escorted off of the premises, forbidden to ever return; a few of us got off easy with the help of the conference security team and I will forever be indebted to those who kept me from having to call my parents to ask for bail.
That was not the first time I got in trouble on a roof in Las Vegas. Several years earlier, I was caught making out with a nerdy boy on the roof of the Alexis Park convention center (on ladders to access this one; we just went up the staircase that said Employees Only). And hotel security didn’t have time to find us because conference security found us first.
Las Vegas has been home to several strange (and maybe inappropriate) experiences in my teens and early 20s. It was the place I saw my first female stripper and received my first lap dance. It was where I first tasted a white russian, went indoor skydiving, and where I premiered my documentary Hackers Are People Too. It was the place I first experienced heat stroke and passed out in a hotel restroom. It was also where I witnessed my dad host a yearly event of debauchery and controlled chaos called Hacker Jeopardy featuring Beer Betty, Vinyl Vannah, whips and Cat-5-of-Nine-Tails, and pale crazy-smart nerds letting loose and acting like total idiots.
I went to my first DefCon at 16 (DC9, bitches!), so Las Vegas is the only place where I get to hang out with some people who I’ve known for half of my life yet never see. Yet while it’s great to reconnect and catch up with these old friends, try to learn to pick locks at the Lockpicking Village, and have conversations with some of the smartest people I’ve ever met about technical things way over my head, I absolutely hate Las Vegas.
I’ve visited 12 times – once to visit a friend, once as a teenager on a family vacation, and 10 times at the peak of the summer for Hacker Summer Camp (or more commonly known as DefCon). This July marked my 13th trip to Sin City, and while the dates overlapped with BlackHat and DefCon, this visit was specifically to attend my dad’s 65th birthday party with my co-workers.
It’s hot. It’s concrete. It’s ugly. It’s bright lights and half-naked women and overpriced margaritas and smoke-filled casinos and asphalt and commercialism and miles of beer-and-puke stained carpet and hundreds of places catering to exactly one thing: taking your money.
Sin City doesn’t have to work hard to earn its nickname. You can find just about any form of depravity that you crave. What’s your vice of choice? Las Vegas will let you indulge. Especially now that weed is legal and dispensaries have popped up on every corner. (Though they’re totally going through a shortage right now. Major bummer.)
When my dad announced that he would cover the cost of everyone in our family business to go to Vegas for a few days to attend his 65th birthday bash at the Alexis Park hotel (the site of DefCon for several years in a row), I was not as enthused as I wanted to be.
Add in the fact that we had to fly out only days after returning from our three-week trip to South Dakota, had just taken off a few days for vacation and didn’t want to miss anymore, and I was coming down with a cold, I was less than thrilled to get on a place and head to Vegas at the end of July.
But Vegas surprised me. Having not been there since 2012 helped. So did going with a bunch of first-timers who were wide-eyed and excited to visit America’s 24-hour Party City. Even though I spent a good chunk of the trip sleeping off a cold in our hotel room, I had a good time in Las Vegas going to places I’d never been and feeling nostalgic with old friends.
My Dad’s 65th Birthday
My dad wanted to hold his party at the Alexis Park for sentimental reasons: some of the best years of DefCon were held at this off-strip casino-free hotel. I definitely experienced a lot of nostalgia walking from the lobby, past Pool 2, to our hotel room each day. Lots of good memories 🙂
The party was a blast! He hired the Lucky Devils Band, who were AMAZING!, and all of my coworkers and I danced the night away. (The hackers? Not so much. Guess they aren’t a dancing crowd!)
Men of the Strip
None of the Cirque du Soleil shows were playing on Thursday night, the one night we had free, so some of my co-workers and I went to a male strip revue instead. 🙂 I didn’t know what to expect but it was fantastic. So much fun! My face hurt from smiling when it was all over. It was hilarious and sexy without ever being dirty. And since this one was hosted by Jeff Timmons (from 98 Degrees), it had a boy band flair with lots of musical moments and choreographed dancing. Highly recommend!!!
Hackers Gone Wild
My dad retired from hosting Hacker Jeopardy at DefCon 20, in 2012, but this year was the 25th year of Hacker Jeopardy so we of course had to attend at least one night. It’s definitely a tamer show than it was 10 or 15 years ago (no more strippers; more rules about alcohol consumption) but it’s still fun to watch the contestants get punished for wrong answers and try to make up their points in consumed beers.
Food and Drink and Fun
I’ve never enjoyed particularly amazing food in this city, but Culinary Dropout (located at the Hard Rock Hotel) impressed all of us so much that we ate there twice. By the end of it, I think we’d sampled most of the menu.
Justin also wanted to visit both 24-hour Tiki Bars: Frankie’s Tiki Room and Golden Tiki. I only got to go to the first but everyone agreed the second was the best.
Everyone wanted to gamble a little bit; you can’t leave Las Vegas without trying a few slots! Justin doubled his money at the blackjack tables. And we won about $20 over the course of four hours playing the Sigma Derby machine at MGM, one of only two left in the city. If you ever make it to Vegas, be sure to visit the MGM or the D Hotel to play!
Despite the heat and my cold, I had fun in Las Vegas. I’m not itching to return anytime soon we’re already working on a list of places to check out the next time we go. What are your Las Vegas suggestions???