Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Leaving Paradise (Road)

I moved out of the Diplomat, on Paradise Road just south of DI, at the end of December and am now living in an apartment in downtown Las Vegas overlooking the boulevard. It was bittersweet, as I’d lived at the Diplomat since mid-2005 and have a lot of fond memories of the place. But it was time to move on.

As detailed in My Week at the Blue Angel, the Diplomat was originally owned by Wilbur Clark, frontman of the Desert Inn hotel-casino, and opened in 1960. It featured a porte-cochere, football field-sized courtyard and bow tie-shaped pool (the building and lobby are also shaped like a bow tie) and was home to actors, showgirls, mobsters, magicians, casino executives, comedians and showroom stars. Judy Garland lived in apartment 125, according to property managers Jan and O.J. Hasner. Betty Grable lived in 132, said fan and friend Bob Isoz. Dean Martin in 139. Ann-Margret and Louis Prima also lived at the complex.

When I moved in, the Diplomat—like many Las Vegas headliners—was past its prime. The stucco and wood-frame building was dingy, its trim faded. There were no showgirls by the pool. It was home to cabbies, construction workers, card dealers, bartenders, front-desk clerks, punk rockers and retirees.

I found a crack pipe (not a headdress or sequined jacket) in the closet.

Jan Hasner said former tenants often visit the Diplomat to walk the courtyard and reminisce. What do they think about, I wondered in the story (titled “Another Day on Paradise”)? An addiction? A lost love? Visits from the grandchildren? If I visit, what will I think about? My ex-girlfriend? The books I wrote? The women in maid uniforms and nametags, shuffling toward the mailbox, too tired to smile?

I don’t know. But I do know I’ll miss the place, in many ways. The unique floor plans. The green and shaded courtyard. And the friendly and eccentric neighbors, many of whom I consider close friends.

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