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November 24, 2014

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The academics of party planning

The young man in this picture is in class. Really. A UNLV class on nightclub management. This was his final exam.

Image

Tiffany Brown

Matt Fox, 22, talks to party-goers about drink discounts during his Nightclub Management class’ semester-end project, a pool party at MGM Grand’s Wet Republic.

Party school

UNLV students Sean Baker, 22, left, and Blake Koll, 23, lounge in the pool during the pool party at MGM Grand's new Wet Republic thrown by the UNLV Nightclub Management class as their semester-end project. Launch slideshow »

Some final exams are different. Here’s one for a UNLV class. Throw a giant, adults-only pool party behind the MGM Grand featuring $5 mojitos, topless dancers from Scores-Las Vegas, a volleyball tournament and more.

Note: This is why it’s better to enroll in class called “Nightclub Management,” than, say, “History of Early Modern Britain.” (Granted, Eleanor of Aquitaine was rumored to have gone on crusade in the fashion of the Amazons, i.e. topless, but that doesn’t generally show up on the final. As it were.)

But behind the scenes at the MGM bash, held Thursday, the nine students of part-time faculty member Bryan Bass’ nightclub management class were learning and working. They were calling friends, telling them to come down to the Wet Republic ultra pool and, more important, they were schmoozing, selling $500 cabana rentals and talking up drinks and food. Kobe-beef sliders anyone?

Whatever you think an ultra pool is — a bikini party, a daytime nightclub, adding sunburn to a hangover — it is a business. Bass trains students to turn parties into careers.

He doesn’t list the class number in the course catalog. They have to find him, and he teaches no more than 15 students at a time to become the next, professionalized generation of nightclubs workers. He said he’s beginning to see the students from his first class, five semesters ago, start to make it.

“The people who have succeeded in this business, they’ll do anything and more importantly, they’ve done anything to make it work,” Bass said.

Today, making it work means gathering a lot of semi-naked people around a pool and getting them drunk.

It started at 10 in the morning, which is not a great time. The first people to show up at this ultra pool party were eight middle-aged tourists, four couples from the East Coast who can’t believe that a cabana costs $500 in food and drinks. They haggle, they despair, they leave. They come back with the money.

The ultra pool is actually one large pool, one medium pool, five small pools and one tiny pool. None is deeper than four feet. The pools are surrounded with wooden chaise longues and above those are cabanas with big screen TVs. There was a bar serving alcoholic slushies. A DJ ensured that no song is played to its end.

(Just over the wall at the regular MGM pool, the masses huddled on plastic chaise longues, suffering through entire songs and being served very similar drinks by many fewer waitresses wearing more clothes.)

Conrad Miller worked the line, the pool and his cell phone. He’s a junior out of Kansas who hopes taking the class and working at clubs will mean he can do whatever he wants at a nightclub elsewhere, where they’ll need a pro from Vegas.

“The speed and the intensity of it prepare you for anything,” Miller said.

By 3 p.m., the head count stood at 230 and it was time for water volleyball. Four of the players on team Scores, despite what you might think, were men, and the two women had their tops on. There were, however, two support strippers standing outside the pool and one of them was topless and bouncing up and down without bouncing.

Miller looked around the party and said, “Any time of the day I’m not having fun, I just think, ‘Well, I could be in Poli Sci right now.’ ”

By 5:30, half of the party of middle-aged Easterners had left. The guys were still there. Two of the guys danced, danced with each other, danced like circus bears. A topless woman from the next cabana wandered over. One of the guys started dancing with her. His friend took a picture of them.

By 5:40, Bass had gathered his students into a cabana to assess their performance. They had great bar sales but not enough cabanas were sold. They learned that, “obviously, no one’s is ever going to [technical term] come to the pool before noon or one.”

Bass finished critiquing just as the cabana’s check arrived. (Yes, they had to buy their own food and libations.)

“You got your bill?” Miller asked. “I can’t believe you didn’t buy me a drink.”

Bass sighed.

“I can’t buy you a drink when you’re in my class.”

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