Saturday, March 11, 1995 | midnight
An ocean of hard bodies, scrubbed skin, black leather and faded denim converged on the Hard Rock Hotel on opening day.
They strolled along laminated wooden floors, marveling at the rock memorabilia, stopping occasionally to play slot machines, at least some of which raise money to save the world's rain forests.
To those who haven't quite gotten the message yet that Las Vegas has done a 180-degree flip since the days when big guys in tailored dark suits ran everything, and the only music one heard in the gaming area was the echo from the lounge, come to the Hard Rock hotel-casino and behold the future of gaming.
It's a future filled with rock videos and glass cases filled with clothing worn by rock stars.
Look around the Hard Rock or other local casinos and you'll see fewer people sitting around the bar and more working out at the hotel health club.
There are still plenty of empty drink glasses and beer bottles, but there are also empty Evian and Poland Spring watter bottles.
One wonders what Stevie Ray Vaughan - whose quotes and memorabilia are displayed throughout the hotel - would have thought about the whole thing.
"I met him," said Juanita Stevens, a grandmother who looked much younger than her years, and who was strolling through the casino with her husband, Paul.
Stevens had met Vaughan at a truck stop in Beckley, W.Va., in the mid 1960s when she was a young woman and he was an up-and-coming blues guitarist.
Vaughan, who was playing his guitar at the truck stop, was very nice, Stevens said, and didn't complain when she grabbed her acoustic guitar and started jamming with him.
Vaughan is gone today, killed in a helicopter crash in August 1990.
Others who are playing the night shift include John Lennon, Duane Allman, Jimi Hendrix, Brian Jones, Otis Redding, Janis Joplin, Buddy Holly, Marvin Gaye and Sam Cooke.
And those are just a few of the rock legends who are with us today in spirit.
We know them through their biographies, through those who worked with them, and through their music.
Goodness knows what some of them would have thought of the Hard Rock hotel-casino.
The new casino is certainly smart and high-tech and offers so many amenities and luxuries that it's sure to be a model for things to come in the new Las Vegas.
Can you imagine Jim Morrison, Keith Moon and Harry Nilsson at the Hard Rock?
All three pop pioneers probably would have ended up getting trashed and escorted out the door by several of the Hard Rock's well-buffed security guards, who wore dark charcoal T-shirts, slacks and jackets.
And along the way to the exit, Lennon probably would have howled at the idea of little old ladies playing slots to the sound of "Imagine."
A song like that one takes on new meaning in a casino - even one that tries to help the environment and donates leftover food and clothing to the homeless.
"Imagine there's no busted 21 hands,
"See it if you try.
"Nothing to make us run to cash machines,
"In front of us only pie."
We can frequent the Hard Rock hotel-casino.
We can purchase $245 leather and cloth jackets, and we can marvel at the classic Corvettes, Harleys and Stratocasters.
And we can admire President Morton for bringing a new level of gaming entertainment to Las Vegas and for doing his part to help the environment by recycling paper and contributing proceeds to conservation groups.
But don't think for a minute that visiting the Hard Rock can bring you any closer to the spirit of Jim Croce or Ronnie Van Zant.
So, if you visit the Hard Rock this weekend, enjoy the music of Weezer, Billy Idol and the Eagles.
Savor the hearth-baked pizza at Mr. Lucky's 24-7 restaurant.
Feel good about yourself because you've chosen to play a casino that tries a little harder to be environmentally conscious.
But when you walk by the glass display of outfits worn by members of the Supremes and Temptations remember that of the eight original members of both groups, only three survive today.
That's why they're legends.
It's easy to have a good time at the Hard Rock.
But it's very tough to be a rock star in America.
Keep that in mind when you walk along the wooden floors or the leopard-skin rugs of the hotel-casino.
Maybe you'll be lucky and you'll hear Roy Orbison's "Only the Lonely," as I did on opening day.
Remember the words?
"There goes my baby. There goes my heart. all gone forever. So far apart."