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By KATHLEEN HENNESSEY
September 02, 2006
LAS VEGAS (AP) - Your pool: Five feet of lukewarm water, floating dead
bugs, a blowup mattress, you and a can of beer. Their pool: A two-acre
oasis of chilled liquid, floating women, toned muscle and something
fruity in a glass.
Really, who needs a room key?
For years, Las Vegas locals, college kids and fearless sun worshippers
have been jumping fences, crafting lies and overtipping pool boys in
an attempt to enjoy an afternoon at the casino pool without paying for
a night at the casino hotel.
Pool crashing is for some a fine art, and a time-honored perk of
living in a world famous resort city. For others, namely the hotel
staff and pool-party promoters, it's a persistent nuisance. As the
pool-side scene heats up in Las Vegas, bouncers are learning to hone
their crasher-radar and crashers are getting craftier.
"They slip in through any crack that's available," said Jack Lafleur,
promoter and creator of the Sunday afternoon bacchanalia known as
Rehab at the waters of the Hard Rock Hotel & Casino. Lafleur, also a
night club promoter, has in the three years since Rehab's inception
lured nocturnal clubgoers out into the daylight, drawing an average of
3,000 people per party.
It draws some unwanted guests, too - the kind not inclined to wait in
line, sometimes for as along as three hours, or to pay the cover, $30
for men, $20 for women, $3,000 for a cabana.
Like all things in Las Vegas, hotel-casinos have out-pooled each
other. Top-of-the-line cabanas now include flat screen TVs, misters,
mini-fridges and private wading areas. The Palms hotel-casino spent
$40 million remodeling its pool and cabana spot, adding a sand beach,
a DJ booth, a stage, a 12-foot waterfall and a glass bottom bar.
Pool parties like Rehab and the Palms' Ditch Fridays are open to the
public, for a cover. Most others are available to hotel guests only,
and require a hotel key card to prove it.
But the trend to extreme luxury can cause crashers to go to extremes.
They've created fake wrist bands, posed as hotel employees and laid in
wait in a nearby ballroom for up to seven hours with the hopes of
emerging unnoticed, Lafleur and Rehab security said. A favorite point
of entry is a 6-foot fence at the back of the property, fortified by
sharp, pointed spears.
"It's like a game," said Manu Pluton, a bodybuilder-turned-bouncer now
posted near the fence. "But they play every Sunday."
It wasn't a game for veteran pool crasher Cindy Cesare, a 35-year-old
television producer and former reporter. It was a sort of locals
"I'm single, I live a block off the Strip. Really, this is my
playground," said Cesare. "I don't feel guilty 'cause I've paid my
share. I've spent a ton of money in this town - going out to dinner,
shopping, getting my hair cut. I patronize. I tip."
Cesare, who passes on the Hard Rock for a more relaxed setting, said
she started pool crashing shortly after moving to Las Vegas. She'd
join visiting friends staying in the hotels. She starting collecting
old room key cards and then heading to pools without hotel guests. Her
stash grew to the dozens.
The key to crashing, the native New Yorker said, is owning it.
"The art of getting into any of these pools is an act of confidence.
You belong. You deserve to be there," she said.
Without that gumption, the experience can backfire.
Brittany Prager, 29, said her pool-crashing days as a college student
at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas were short-lived. She and
friend packed their bags and bikini, and walked into a casino-hotel
"acting like we had spa appointments. No one questioned us, we were
two blond college girls, minding our own business, we just sat in our
But Prager, an assistant manager at a nonprofit, said she couldn't get
over the feeling that she was going to be busted.
"It wasn't illegal, we just wanted to sit by the pool," she said. "But
the entire time we thought someone was going to come over and ask us
for a room key. I couldn't enjoy myself."
The stakes in pool crashing can be low, usually, involving an escort
to the door. Hard Rock security guards say they remove about a half
dozen crashers each Sunday and give them the opportunity to pay to get
The holy grail for Strip pool crashers is Mandalay Bay. The casino's
11-acre lagoon includes a wave pool, a river and a topless section.
The casino has taken measures to protect its investment. The area is
walled off and entrances are monitored by attendants who run key cards
under a scanner to make sure they're valid.
That didn't faze Cesare.
Her plan, on recent steamy Sunday afternoon, was to enter behind a
large group, hoping a flustered attendant wouldn't scan each card but
only give it a glance.
She looked the part of out-of-towner: sunglasses, bikini underneath
her shirt, a New York magazine tucked in her bag.
She lingered outside the entrance, watching as hotel guests pulled
blue key cards from their pockets and beach bags. That was a problem.
Her card, leftover from her crashing heyday a couple of years ago, was
She retreated to the restroom to devise a Plan B, when she stumbled
upon two young women on the tail end of a weekend trip. They'd just
checked out. Cesare chatted them up.
"Perfect," she said, walking out toward the fake surf with a pair of
blue keys in hand and a reporter in tow. "Sometimes you just get
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