My strongest memory of 1989 is from my Las Vegas High School graduation ceremony. There’s actually a photo of the very moment: A mortarboard-topped me accepting my diploma from some Important Education Personage with a standard grip ’n’ grin.
But I’m not grinning. I’ve got this worried, gulpy, close-mouthed crimp of a smile on my face. Because it was at that very moment the paralyzing thought struck: What the hellz am I gonna do with the rest of my life? I hadn’t exactly prepared for The Future. I’d spent most of high school skateboarding in drainage ditches and printing ratty skate and punk ’zines on the down-low at whatever copy shop would hire me. (Pour one out for graveyard shift at Kinko’s.) 1989 was the pivotal year I answered that big life question with a provisional but principled resolve to avoid real work for as long as possible — in other words, to become a writer. (Now, in this sentence, imagine an epic, quantum music montage that bridges 30 years and tells the story of how I fell in love with telling stories about Las Vegas and how being editor of Desert Companion reflects the dizzying and improbable zenith of that lifelong romance.)
Thirty years later feels like a good time to look back at this seminal year in Las Vegas history. 1989 ushered in the megaresort era; it saw the chapter-ending deaths of several Vegas titans who’d built gaming dynasties and community institutions. And while The Killers were still in middle school, Vegas would birth a platinum-selling breakout hard rock band named Slaughter. If you’re a longtime local, enjoy the trip down memory lane. If you’re a relative newcomer, you’re sure to learn something new about the recent past that’s shaped our restless city in so many ways — except, thankfully, for our hair.