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Shopping Las Vegas

List?What list?She looks a little fishy, then lowers her voice and says: "Some of these Bellagio stores are on the 'hotel list.' They comp the high rollers." I leave Fred Leighton, mulling over this list business, and drift down Bellagio's corridor of dreams, a strange landscape featuring a pale green Prada shop full of those rosebud-printed satchels, and a burnt-orange Hermès boutique, its old-money aura holding firm despite the clinking and beeping that's never far away.

The next morning I get up early to visit the Fashion Show mall. When it's finished (next spring), the mall will hold a staggering 1.9 million square feet of shops; it already features seven department stores, 11 restaurants and food shops, 39 women's clothing boutiques, and three art galleries. It's everything a mall should be, but, frankly, I didn't come to Vegas for tasteful shopping, even if it takes place at Neiman's, Bloomie's, and Saks Fifth Avenue. I decide instead to go to Caesars Palace.

I love Caesars, though it reeks of chlorine from the gushing plumes at the Atlantis Festival Fountain, a water world that incorporates a vast tropical fish tank. I'm ready to begin a leisurely perusal of all that Caesars offers—you know, little places with names like Armani, Bulgari, Fendi, Gucci—when the lights dim and the security guard murmurs, "Stick around." Two seconds later a gigantic animatronic Neptune and his two chatty children emerge from the water. And what is his daughter wearing?A saucy costume worthy of Christina Aguilera, and not at all dissimilar to those displayed at Shauna Stein a few yards away, where the racks hold beaded bustiers and a wealth of heavily embellished jeans.

With new, strange ideas invading my head (maybe it's the chlorine, but I seem to be contemplating embroidered denim), I traverse the 100 or so miles of casino that separate me from the exit and go back to the Venetian. After Caesars, the Venetian is the soul of subtlety, even if there are jugglers and guys in Harlequin suits playing mandolins and the occasional gondolier bellowing "O Sole Mio." I determine that the time is right for Jimmy Choo, a store that is to feet what Fred Leighton is to wrists and necks. I fall into conversation with the guy behind the counter, who isn't at all surprised that I'm smitten with a pair of lime-yellow wedgies. He really opens up when I ask him about the list. "We see the same people at least two or three times a year," he tells me. "The husband will gamble away a couple million; the hotel will give the wife a hundred thousand in vouchers to spend at the stores. They don't care if they win or lose—they're here to have fun."

But even people not on the list are frequently seized with the desire to spend their winnings on, say, a pair of strappy satin heels with a crystal fasten. "They'll see a pair of our thousand-dollar boots and tell me they're going to take a turn at the tables and they'll be back," he says.

Since I am not on any list, and it's unlikely I'll make a killing at the tables (so far I've lost a grand total of eight bucks on the slots), I decide to take a look at the souvenirs at the Paris hotel before I open my wallet. After all, for pure frivolity, nobody can beat the City of Light, where the entire Rue de Rivoli is given over to miniature Limoges Arc de Triomphes, Eiffel Tower egg timers, and other dubious tchotchkes that I'm ashamed to admit I love.

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