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William Saroyan, from Places Where I've Done Time
The El Rancho Vegas story

Noted American fiction writer William Saroyan recounted his stay at the El Rancho Vegas in his 1972 collection of autobiographical sketches, Places Where I've Done Time.  It is doubtful that Las Vegas boosters ever quoted his summation of their city.

William Saroyan
William Saroyan, 1908-1981

56.  The El Rancho Vegas Hotel, Las Vegas, Nevada, 1949

      I had a large room in a detached cottage in which there were four such rooms.  I got to bed very late every morning and slept the drunken sleep of the losing gambler.

     It was November and I had been sick since April, when the little woman had met the terms of a standing agreement between us that if either of us had ever lied to the other in any important way, and had confessed it, the marriage must end.

     And the little bride had confessed it--she had taken six years to do so, and had chosen the moment that suited her best.  She was twenty-eight, and I was forty.  She hoped I would continue in the marriage anyway, really she did, she said.  Really.  I understood how a father might suddenly destroy his entire family and himself.  I couldn't look at the woman.

     I took an airplane to Europe and wandered around in a daze for three months.  When I got back to New York I saw her when I went to see the kids, and she was having a grand time.  But again she said she hoped I would come back--and then she said, "Really I do."  I took an airplane to San Francisco, and then I went to Las Vegas, to establish residence in Nevada, and to live there the necessary six weeks in order to obtain a divorce.

     In the meantime I was drinking and gambling every day and all night.  I made a deal for three books with a big publishing house.  They sent me an advance of thirty-six thousand dollars, and the first thing I knew half that money was gambled away.  I insisted that I would win back my losses and a reasonable profit for my time and trouble, and then I would quit--drinking and gambling both.  The divorce would come through, and I would go about my business.  I would go back to where I had been before the War, the Army, the Marriage, the Kids, and the Little Bride.

     Well, now, how can any man who is not a fool throw away life and money that way, first in a hopeless marriage, then at hopeless gambling?

     Well, from the earliest years of my life I have known that, "A fool and his money are soon parted."  Who is it, though, that takes the money from the fool?  Well, it is other people.  And with the money, these people take other things, not excepting frequently life itself.  The people who take the fool's money do not appear to be fools, but they are fools, only of another order, and the order does something interesting to their faces, especially to their eyes, which frequently appear to be eyes of weasels and other sleazy animals.

     Every hour I spent in Las Vegas was part of a killing nightmare.  It is a wonder that all I lost was $50,000.

Back to the El Rancho Vegas story

More literary artifacts:

"The Hotel El Rancho Vegas," George Stamos
A full retelling of the hotel's history.

"Playtown USA ," Katherine Best and Katherine Hillyer
The famous author's account of his stay at the property.

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Last modified Thursday, 12-Feb-2009 15:49:50 PST