Las Vegas the Place for Raucous Bash
LAS VEGAS (AP) _ The Strip rose to the occasion: hosting a decadent, end-of-millennium bash fueled by cheer, booze, big-name entertainers and monetary risk.
``This is insane,″ said Justin Burns of Los Angeles, one drop in a screaming sea of 300,000 people that washed onto the Strip, Vegas’ main drag. ``You’ve got to love this city.″
Thousands cheered as a replica of the Times Square ball dropped at the New York-New York resort. Down the street, crowds hugged and kissed beside the Eiffel Tower, the pyramid-shaped Luxor and the medieval Excalibur.
``I couldn’t think of a better place to be on New Year’s Eve because you can do anything you want in Las Vegas. It’s hard to get arrested here,″ Burns said.
The New Year arrived with a sparkling shower of Mylar confetti pouring from the top of the Eiffel Tower. The 50-story, half-sized replica looked like a giant bottle of champagne exploding.
``The biggest party in the world is always in the city of Las Vegas,″ said Shawn Bruckler, 29, from Basel, Switzerland. ``We’ve been here many times and it’s always unbelievable.″
Barbra Streisand, Elton John and Bette Midler were among the Strip’s headliners. Martin Sheen, meanwhile, was among 90 antinuclear demonstrators arrested for trespassing at the Nevada Test Site about 65 miles northwest of Las Vegas.
Some 800 police officers, many in riot helmets with plastic visors, closed the six-lane Strip to vehicles. Overall, police arrested 263 people.
Near the Bellagio and Paris Las Vegas resorts, a reveler who climbed a light pole just before midnight fell to his death after being jolted by electricity, police said.
High prices for Las Vegas rooms and shows _ plus Y2K fears _ kept crowds smaller than expected this year, but some didn’t care what a good time cost.
``The parties are expensive, but we figured if you’re ever going to spend money, tonight’s the night to spend it,″ said Tom Hessler, a Phoenix native who was headed into a $200-a-person party at the Monte Carlo.
Hotels that had advertised rooms starting at $2,000 a night were forced to slash prices. The Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority projected 85 percent of the city’s 121,665 hotel rooms would be filled, compared with 91.4 percent a year ago.
``I know a few of my friends and relatives were nervous about this,″ said Tim Beatin, a baker from Phoenix who was videotaping the millennium clock countdown atop the MGM Grand.
``Most of them stayed home and filled up their 55-gallon tanks with gasoline and water. I think they’re nuts, but they probably thought I was nuts for coming here.″