The Real World’ started a Vegas party that just won’t stop

Kids those days.
Photo: Jane Kalinowsky/AP

It seemed like Season 12 of MTV’s The Real World set records for drunken debauchery and hookups … or maybe that was just because the roommates lived in a 28th-floor suite at the Palms casino-resort in Las Vegas, partying and “working” at nightclubs and the pool. Sin City lived up to its name for Arissa, Frank, Trishelle, Alton, Brynn, Steven and Irulan, so much so that Season 12 stands as the point where the once-groundbreaking series moved away from its almost anthropological origins exploring young adulthood into a showcase for immaturity and irresponsibility.

But the true impact of that season wasn’t on reality TV, it was on Vegas. It debuted in September 2002, when George Maloof’s off-Strip resort wasn’t even a year old. The show put the Palms on the map, and the property became successfully bipolar—locals’ casino by day, wild party spot by night. The Hard Rock Hotel’s opening seven years earlier had already started the cool new Vegas ball rolling, but post 9/11, the city was kinda dead. When college kids and 20-somethings saw The Real World crew getting crazy, it brought the classic Anything Goes ideal of Las Vegas to a brand-new market segment.

Funny how that has become the dominant market on the Strip today—the endless Spring Breaker. If not for The Real World, we might not have tens of thousands of young visitors packing the dayclubs and nightclubs every weekend, spending their money, making their own Las Vegas.

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An award-winning writer who has been living and working in Las Vegas for more than 20 years, Brock Radke covers ...

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