Alice had to fall down a rabbit hole to find Wonderland. I had to stand by a velvet rope. Way less traumatic—unless you factor in the long, awkward minutes of waiting while the door crew politely avoided eye contact. Despite dusting off my pink heels and pushup bra, I made several critical mistakes (in addition to not being naturally tall and gorgeous). This was Hyde Bellagio’s Candy Carnival, the latest themed extravaganza in its monthly XIV Vegas Sessions series. I was dressed more for prom than naughty nightclub. My simple blue dress and ponytail were a total snooze next to grown-up Rainbow Brite’s blonde bouffant, tutu skirt, knee-high glitter boots and top encrusted with actual jellybeans. I might as well have worn Alice’s apron.
Mercifully, a doorman believed me when I said I was on the list. He smiled, stamped my hand with a tiny thumbs-up and ushered me into the corridor’s pulsing dark. In the eye of a hurricane of sound and color was Rainbow Brite, on a platform swinging her glorious butt cleavage to Swedish House Mafia. The guys dancing worshipfully around her wore clown wigs, plastic geek glasses and DayGlo T-shirts emblazoned with “Save Water: Spray Champagne.” In place of Wonderland’s riddling Cheshire Cat, there was an adorable man wearing a plush tiger on his head and a neon fanny pack over snug, tiger-striped pants. A server in velvet tails and a silk top hat strolled by with a bowl full of cotton candy shots. Curiouser and curiouser, indeed.
- XIV Vegas Sessions
Following a girl in glowing bunny ears to the looking-glass-laden bar, I wound up with a $14 spontaneous cocktail (i.e. not on the menu, thanks to Hyde’s creative and obliging bartenders) based on a shot called the White Gummy Bear. On the rocks with swizzled cherries, the concoction of Stoli Razberi vodka, peach schnapps, sours and a splash of Sprite soothed my shame over not wearing a dress fashioned out of marshmallows and plastic wrap. It didn’t actually shrink me like Alice’s “Drink Me” potion, but the more I sipped, the more I appreciated the enormous cartoon candy spinning from the ceiling.
I was not so amused when a girl overcome by Fragma’s “I Need a Miracle” used my head like a railing as she leapt off the patio (just as the Queen of Hearts might have made me her croquet wicket). The music swelled, confetti exploded, and the go-gos brandished goggles and umbrellas. I could feel the Champagne flood coming on and figured it was time to wake up.
I never thought a casino floor could feel so normal. Inspired by my fractured fairy-tale evening, I asked a slot supervisor named William if there was a game based on Wonderland. He led me to Alice & The Mad Tea Party, asking where I was so dressed up to go. I told him I’d been at the club, feeling old and out of place in my prom dress. “Your dress looks fine,” he said, his sweet smile hanging in the air after he left. I’d found the Cheshire Cat.
I played $7 into $35.77 and walked. I stopped to smell the tulips in the Bellagio gardens, where colossal bumblebees hovered over daffodils as tall as buildings. Outside on the Strip, I saw with new eyes all the glittering monuments to humanity’s outrageous dreams. Alice’s words rang in my ears: If I had a world of my own, everything would be nonsense. Had she been to Vegas, she wouldn’t have bothered with that rabbit hole.