The Vegas Diaries: Romance, Rolling the Dice, and the Road to Reinvention
First and foremost, thank you so much for deciding to come along on this journey with me. With The Vegas Diaries, my goal is to share with you a period of time that was very important to me and one that turned into the best time in my life up to that point. Chapter one begins in the spring of 2009. I was at my own personal rock bottom: I had just checked out of the Playboy mansion (which I talk about at length in my first book, Down the Rabbit Hole) and back into the real world and had gone through two back-to-back, and very public, breakups.
I chose to start over. I had no job, no leads, very few real friends, a mountain of mistakes behind me and a reputation as a reality show bimbo that was going to prove very hard to shake. I picked myself up off the ground, got out of town, and reinvented myself on my own terms.
It’s this story of learning to find my confidence and self-sufficiency, set in the wild and crazy world of Las Vegas, that I want to share. Of course, no woman is an island and there are many people I interacted with over the three-year period I cover in this book. Some of them have chosen to live their lives in public view, others have not. It’s not my intention to embarrass anyone and I have taken great care to disguise the identities of many of the players who shared this time with me. To that extent, some of the names you will see in the book are real. Others are pseudonyms, in which case identifying details have also been changed. To ease the flow of the narrative and to protect people’s privacy, a few of the characters are composites. However, all of the events in the story are based on actual events. All of the stories you will read, how they affected me, and how they made me feel are true. This book is about me and the lessons I learned. People come in and out of our lives. We learn about them and we learn from them. I was fortunate to have all these characters come into my world when they did, because each and every one of them taught me something and contributed to my personal growth.
There comes a time in all of our lives where we have to roll the dice, take a chance, and start over. This was mine. Thank you again for joining me on this wild ride.
“The country here is rich and pleasant, but you must pass through rough and dangerous places before you reach the end of your journey.”
—L. Frank Baum, The Wonderful Wizard of Oz
The velvet curtain raised slowly, teasing the expectant audience, as a collective intake of air seemed to still the room. Inch by inch, a decadent pair of jaw-dropping red six-inch stilettos were revealed, illuminated by a soft spotlight. Attached to these glittering heels were two perfectly toned legs that, as the curtain continued to rise, seemed to go on for miles. Seductively wrapped in silky, sheer stockings, these glamorous, glistening gams existed in a world of their own.
It was my first introduction to the world of burlesque, and I was hooked.
WRAPPED IN A BLACK vinyl dress that appeared to be painted on, a bouncing blond ball of energy had burst into a Playboy mansion buffet dinner and smacked a flyer in the middle of the table advertising a burlesque show. It was 2002 and a petite beauty named Stacy Burke began frequenting the infamous estate, where I was then living. Stacy was a popular fetish model, and in Los Angeles during that period of time, the fetish scene and the world of burlesque tended to overlap.
“It’ll be fun, you really should come!” she repeated after meeting a bit of reluctance from Mr. Hugh Hefner. To say he was a creature of habit would be a wild understatement: He did the exact same things in the exact same order each week—and a Saturday-night cabaret show was not part of the usual agenda. Needless to say, I was surprised when Stacy’s charming enthusiasm did the trick: Hef announced that we’d be diverting from our previously scheduled programming in order to attend this adult revue the following weekend.
The show, called Swank, was held at the El Rey Theatre—an art deco movie house built on Wilshire Boulevard in the 1930s, which had since been transformed into a live venue.
I wasn’t sure what to expect from the show itself. I didn’t know much about burlesque at the time and was just grateful that we were doing something that was a departure from our rigid routine.
Our group arrived a few minutes before showtime, and we were led to a VIP table near the stage. Moments after we took our seats, sensuous music started pouring through the speakers, filling the room with a tantalizing, sexy beat. A spotlight hit the center of the velvet curtains, signaling the start of the show.
Each enthralling act, one after the other, topped the last. I was spellbound, my eyes fixated on the seductive performers who seemed to keep the attention of everyone in the room with such graceful ease. There was a woman called Mistress Persephone, with her skin painted blue, performing as a Shiva-style goddess; a blond tassel twirler; and the headliner, an on-the-cusp-of-fame Dita Von Teese. The raven-haired beauty spun around the stage, dancing en pointe—a ruby-red-clad, jewel-box ballerina come to life.
Besides the obvious—the glamour and the sex appeal—there was something else that made this show utterly intoxicating: it felt like art. The skill and craft each entertainer brought to the table was undeniable. The costumes were just homespun enough to say: I made this. This is my creation. Every routine was so well-tailored to the individual performer that I had to believe each one was an original number. Every act showcased the artist’s individuality. These performers weren’t carbon copies of one another, far from it, and they were celebrated for their differences. Sitting around our VIP table was one bottle-blond fembot after the next, clad in some version of the same outlandish bustier, and all slightly dead behind the eyes. In burlesque, a woman could be both sexy and unique. In the world I was in, you were compared and judged on your ability to assimilate to a set standard of what made a woman attractive, all the while feeling ever so lucky if you were thrown a token compliment once in a while.
From that night on, burlesque became my obsession. I was desperate to see every show I heard about and read virtually everything I could find on the topic. Not having had any professional dance or stage experience, I didn’t imagine taking up the art form myself, but as I learned a long time ago, sometimes fate has a funny way of putting things in your path.
During the second season of the E! reality series The Girls Next Door, Hef, the other two girlfriends, and I jetted off on a European press tour. This included a stopover in Paris and a visit to the iconic Crazy Horse, or “Le Crazy,” as locals call it.
Located in one of Paris’s most fashionable arrondissements, the venue was lit with a simple neon sign that read “Crazy Horse de Paris” above white canopy overhangs. After entering the red-carpeted lobby, we descended the darkened stairway into the self-proclaimed “sanctuary of glamour,” an intimate cabaret filled with plush velvet chairs and banquettes swathed in the venue’s signature “crazy red” color. As an usher escorted us to our seats, I asked her about the women who performed in the show. I was surprised to learn that every Crazy Horse dancer had to be classically trained in the art, and before even stepping onto the legendary stage, each woman was required to complete another round of rigorous training. This show was not for amateurs.
The lights dimmed and a video lit up across the curtain, showing a scene of the dancers preparing backstage in choreographed chaos. Suddenly the film went dark and the words “God Save Our Bare Skin” splashed across the sparkling curtain, which then lifted to reveal nine of the most flawless women I’d ever seen, wearing bearskins (the tall fur hats made famous by the Buckingham Palace guards) and bondage-inspired costumes that left little to the imagination. To the sound of a military beat, the dancers began stomping, kicking, and saluting their way through Crazy Horse’s most iconic routine, showcasing their perfect figures and glowing skin......