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September 1, 2014

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Tom Gorman logs on to the Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority Web site in search of a new identity, and in the process finds himself

Las Vegas tourism promoters are fine-tuning the campaign "What happens here, stays here." Now they're telling the world that we embrace phoniness.

They call it the "Be Anyone" campaign and they say this is our most sophisticated tourism campaign yet.

Here's the idea: Visit the Las Vegas tourism Web site and let its computer tell you how to pass yourself off when you're in town. It assumes that whoever you are, you can do better than that.

That's just great. I've been telling my daughter for years to watch out for the guys she meets in Las Vegas, and now our tourism board is telling the guys to be as phony as they want if they're looking for a good time.

On the tourism board's interactive Web page, you can create a fake personality, fake name, fake hometown. It sounds like we've gone into the witness-protection program.

A computer then assigns you an occupation, complete with back story. For instance, when I asked the computer to create my personality with equal parts smoothness, style, bravery, attitude and creativity, it turned me into a double agent.

You can then print up business cards, be given a toll-free phone number, and get a cheat sheet that advises you on how to walk that talk while in Las Vegas.

The double agent, for instance, always has a tux at the ready, a beguiling smile, easily kicked-off shoes and a ski mask "when in stealth mode."

It coaches you to act with confidence, speak in low tones and look over your shoulder a lot. Then, it lures you to Vegas to "unwind after some really nasty business across the equator."

In other words, we're inviting tourists to come to Las Vegas and be a fraud.

Some cities promote their museums, opera or sports teams. Kansas City has great barbecue, New Orleans has jazz, San Diego has the zoo, Las Vegas has phonies.

And why not? We already promote faux art and faux buildings. The campaign is being conducted by the Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority. (Or, at least that's who they say they are, but I'm not so sure any more.)

In the old days, we used to say "Come to Vegas and let your hair down." Now we're saying, "Come to Vegas, put on a wig, shave your beard and we'll take care of the rest of your fake identity."

That's going to bring a lot of confidence to the poor sales clerk at Tiffany's or Prada. "Sir, I'll need 50 forms of identification, and I'm going to have to put your item on hold for a week until the funds clear."

I wonder if someone who already is a fraud could come here and become real, like a double-negative?

I'll admit I was curious enough about the campaign to give that false-identity thing a try. I wondered if I was in the wrong profession and better suited for something besides writing a column.

At every point in the computerized questionnaire, I answered as truthfully as possible. Maybe I'm destined to be an underwear model!

I said I was Tommy from Kansas (where I lived my boyhood years). Of the five personality traits, I assigned myself equal parts smoothness, attitude and creativity.

I assigned myself just a smidgen of style (Rockports define me), and just a tiny dose of bravery (for walking a white poodle every morning in my red-neck neighborhood.).

Then I hit "enter" and the computer flashed and belched, and announced my phony cover.

It said - really - I should be a writer.

Great. I'm a fraud.

Tommy Gorman's column runs Sunday, Wednesday and Friday. He can be reached at 259-2310 or at [email protected]

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