“I’ve been to this city several times before, but I never discovered where fantasy town collided with reality, and I never looked too closely at the people who live here and what Vegas does to them.” Sir Trevor McDonald
Las Vegas with Trevor McDonald, which airs on Monday 7th December, uncovers the secret life of Sin City, the ultimate sunny place for shady people, a city that grew from nothing by offering the forbidden.
This two-part series focuses not on the tourists who flock to the bright lights of Vegas, but on those who call the gambling mecca home: those who live in the shadows, those who have won big and lost big, and those who might fare better living somewhere far, far away from the pull of the neon lights.
“I’ve been to this city several times before,” says Trevor, “But I never discovered where fantasy town collided with reality, and I never looked too closely at the people who live here and what Vegas does to them.”
Across the series, Trevor meets several of Vegas’ most intriguing characters, including former World Heavyweight Champion, Mike Tyson, Antonio Esfandiari, winner of the largest cash prize in poker history ($18.3million), and 1950’s showgirl Lisa Medford, who bears first-hand witness to the good, the bad and the ugly of the Nevadan city.
One resident Trevor meets in this first episode is Annie Lobert, a former high-class prostitute, who at the height of her career was making $2million a year. Annie now runs a secret location safe house for prostitutes trying to make a break away from their violent pimps.
Las Vegas is the prostitution capital of America, despite it being illegal, and on its appeal Annie says: “The money, the clothes, the cars, the jewellery, the nice houses, the trips, the parties, the famous people. Come on, I mean who doesn’t want that? Who doesn’t want to feel important?”
However, Annie discovered a far from glamorous side to prostitution.
Trevor also meets veteran bail bondsman Jon Foster, a man who knows pretty much everything about the wild side of Vegas life and often fears for his own safety: “Nevada’s an open carry state, which means you can carry a pistol walking right down Las Vegas boulevard, on your hip, fully loaded, fully legal.”
Things get tense when Jon and his men track down a client who’s skipped bail.
Jon also reveals that he himself has succumbed to the bright city lights and has lost a million dollars through gambling: “When you hit the big jackpot, and you win $10,000…that euphoria, that rush that you feel, it’s short-lived, but it’s fun. It’s exciting. It’s the most excitement I get in my life.”
Another Vegas resident who knows all about losing money, in his case millions of dollars, is former World Heavyweight Champion Mike Tyson.
Trevor visits Mike at his mansion, hidden away in a wealthy gated community up in the Vegas hills. The former boxer talks about how he is trying to build a life as a father and a husband after a turbulent past that saw him bankrupt after once being worth $300 million.
On shunning the glitz and glamour of the Vegas lifestyle, despite living there, Mike says: “It’s just not my desire to be in that particular world anymore…I don’t believe there’s anything else I could do on the Strip that would be new.”
Tyson’s story epitomises what can happen to people in Vegas: They win big and they lose it all.
Trevor also comes face to face with one of the biggest pimps in Vegas.
“I’m in the entertainment business,’ says the pimp, “How others describe it is prostitution and pimping. I don’t look at it that way.”
Asked if he feels any remorse for what he does, the pimp answers: “I don’t feel remorseful at all. I think that question implies that it’s my decision that they do it and not their own.”
Though as one police officer tells Trevor: “To me it’s one of the most vile criminals that exist, but they are very, very difficult to arrest…a lot of them are smart, they’re smart enough to avoid the police.”
Nothing is more 21st century than Las Vegas…and nothing is older than the way some of its residents earn their living.