Finding Good Taste in Vegas Where You Least Expect It

You’re not going to believe this, but someone in Las Vegas actually has some good sense and taste. And, even more shocking than that, it turns out to be the good folks at, uh, Palace Station Hotel-Casino.

You know the place. Long past its glory days as the Bingo Palace, the decidedly “value”-market digs – and that’s being kind – has decided not to overtly cash in on its newfound fame as the site of O.J. Simpson’s would-be “sting operation.”

As one might expect in a culture so obsessed with celebrity that even the macabre becomes alluring, the Palace Station is getting quite a few requests for Room 1203 since the number was revealed in the Simpson police report.

Amazingly, though, the hotel is turning them all away. The room is out of commission for the time being.

Oh, the cops are done with the otherwise uninteresting hotel room where police say Simpson and a gunned-up group of pals tried to strong-arm two sports memorabilia dealers into handing over a litany of material that the ex-football star and double-murder suspect believed to be his.

Station Casinos spokeswoman Lori Nelson says they don’t want it to become “a thing.” This is remarkable restraint in a city where everything is for sale regardless of how crass, the latest example being the liquor ads defacing the sides of the Luxor and Rio.

Contrary to published rumors, though, Room 1203 won’t be re-christened the O.J. Suite, Nelson insisted.

Nelson says its parent company, Station Casinos Inc., decided it would be in poor taste to try to capitalize on the room’s sudden flush of publicity. Mr. Simpson, 60, is now charged with 10 felonies and one gross misdemeanor including armed robbery and kidnapping and could face a life sentence if convicted.

If the hotel had exploited it, they wouldn’t be the first. Consider:

  • The Highland Gardens Hotel, nee the Hollywood Landmark Hotel, charges $150 when callers ask specifically for Room 105, where Janis Joplin overdosed on heroin in 1970.
  • The estate of the late Gianni Versace charges $4,000 a night to those wishing to sleep in his old bedroom inside the Miami Beach, Fla., mansion where he was shot.
  • Room 702 at the Hilton Hotel Amsterdam, where Yoko Ono and John Lennon held their 1969 pro-peace “bed-in,” was redecorated in 1990 to look as it did in 1969. And it has a Plastic Ono Band album cover replica on the ceiling.

It is doubtful that the Palace Station will have to go as far as the Seminole Hard Rock Hotel and Casino in Hollywood, Fla., did after model Anna Nicole Smith died earlier this year in Room 607. That property gutted the room, replaced all the furnishings and renumbered an entire section of the floor to throw off those hoping to find it, spokesman Gary Bitner said.

“The hotel got worldwide publicity beyond what anyone could have imagined from her death and that certainly helped awareness, but that’s the extent of the impact,” Bitner said. “It isn’t rented on request. We’re not interested in creating a shrine.”

Nelson and Station Casinos seem to subscribe to the same view. They’re pleased with all the attention and Nelson says the heretofore little-known hotel (is “resort” too strong?) enjoyed more than 4,000 media “hits” in the week following Simpson’s Sept. 13 midadventure. But that’s enough for them.

Meanwhile, the suite at the celeb-magnet Palms Resort-Casino where Simpson stayed when he was questioned and then arrested was put back into circulation as soon as the police were done with it, Palms owner George Maloof said. Maloof said that there’s no point in glorifying Room 23102 and his reservationists have not indicated that people have called to request it.

Maloof says he would have preferred to do without the attention, a remark that earned skepticism from other columnists. But I believe him. As much as the property’s success has relied upon its ability to capitalize on publicity from its “Real World” season to “Inked” to the MTV Video Music Awards, Maloof doesn’t let just any TV show pop in. In fact, I suspect they turn down almost all such requests. While the Palace Station had everything to gain from this publicity, however unsavory, the Palms didn’t.

The O.J. thing “took a lot of my time,” Maloof said. “A lot of media were calling me and wanting reaction and interviews. The whole process, I didn’t see any benefit from it. It’s just hard on the employees and on customers.”

If you need more proof, just consider that Simpson’s no longer welcome.

“Under the circumstances, it’s better that he probably not stay here moving forward,” Maloof said.

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