Suddenly I’m not as unnerved by the billboard of the country singer giving her best bedroom eyes while caressing a stallion that matches her evening gown. “Shania Twain gets sexy with a horse in Vegas show poster!” gossip maven Perez Hilton crowed about the image back in October. But he had no idea how sexy (very!) and with how many horses (40!) Twain would hit the Strip last week, arriving for her Caesars Palace residency on horseback with a “stampede” in tow.
Ol’ Blue Eyes would be proud. Frank Sinatra famously rode a camel for the opening of the Dunes in 1955. And who could forget Evel Knievel’s self-promoting Harley jump (and subsequent 29-day coma) across the Caesars fountain in 1967? Mike Metzger back-flipped his bike over the same fountain in 2006 to promote Mission: Impossible III, though he was outdone by Robbie Maddison’s Red Bull twofer—jumping his motorcycle the length of a football field in the Rio parking lot in 2007, then up and down the 96-foot replica Arc de Triomphe at the Paris in 2008. Billionaire daredevil Sir Richard Branson’s bungee/ricochet off the Palms in ’07 pimped the Virgin Atlantic flight from San Francisco to Vegas in tuxedo-shredding style. And in October, the Riviera celebrated 25 years of Crazy Girls with the “Longest Butt Lineup.” (Google it.)
The point is, publicity stunts are so common here that it takes a lot to raise our eyebrows. As an admittedly shallow and shamelessly perpetuated concept, the city itself is a publicity stunt. We have to expect major road closures (and manure) along with the world’s attention, right?
Gauging public reaction to Twain’s ride, I scanned comments on coverage by the Sun and R-J, New York Daily News and San Francisco Chronicle, Examiner and SoundSpike. Reader perspective was scarce until I tried Yahoo, where Ross D said: “Why not just ride the horses in from the main street up the driveway to the casino? Oh no, you have to stop traffic and keep people and emergency services from getting where they needed to go because you had to show people you could ride a horse and were going to sing. Celebrities are almost as bad as the media ... almost.” Fair enough, Ross, but if it weren’t disruptive it wouldn’t be an effective stunt, at least not in this “ours is bigger than yours” attention-whoring town. As commenter Boo said: “I came here to see the 40 horses in Vegas, I’ve seen her.” Boo came for the outsize spectacle, because the deference other places give space shuttles and presidents, we give to a stampeding pop star. Like it or not, it makes us special.