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My husband and I watched Rex chill the martini glasses perfectly in liquid ice and cascading cylindrical ice cubes until they achieved the perfect luster and icy coolness. He worked quickly, but carefully, and our Hendricks martinis were served with pure and subtle perfection. It’s what you would expect from Rex and then again it wasn’t either. Rex, with his overly smooth, tanned skin, silvery fox, perfectly coiffed hair, snappy Vegas style accessories, and crisp, perfectly pressed uniformed stood for bartending magic. Yet, Rex had a working man, regular guy appeal, too. Built like a former high school wrestler and subtle conversational grammatical errors and casual stance, he was great and easy to talk to. He’s been a bartender at the Bally’s Hotel (formerly the MGM Grand Hotel and Casino) on the strip for 32 years. As a teen he drifted aimlessly and took work that just “happened” along. Due to an error processing his application to be an electrician’s apprentice, he took the gamble and found the bartending opening and thought “why not?” Ah, the essence of Vegas: Why not?
I asked Rex about the horrible 1980 fire that broke out in the casino and 87 people perished when Bally’s was the MGM. He remembered the time well. He wasn’t working that day, but golfing with buddies, because his bartending shift got changed at the last minute that day. The fire changed the face and mood of Vegas—the city of pleasure was in pain. Didn’t last long though—the facility was rebuilt in under a year and Vegas forged on. The hotel also set the benchmark for the rest of the world for fire safety and preparation according to Rex during the aftermath of the tragedy. It also was a turning point for him. He mentioned a “first” wife and a son back then, but you got the sense things changed for him too. I got the vibe that he survived anyway and returned to the job and the city that nurtured him. The people, the sounds, the sights—he embraced them with a sense of adventure. I guess Rex is the kind of guy that would laugh at the city’s foibles and plain goofiness, but would never leave her.
Rex: Vegas Icon.
Who are your local icons? Who is the quintessential person that defines your ‘hood? Your city? Why?