LAS VEGAS (USATODAY.com) - Swim with a stripper. Party heartily with an A-list DJ. Crane your neck to see celebrity hijinks in a cabana roped off from crowds, where string bikini-clad servers pour $450 bottles of Grey Goose vodka.
Vegas adults-only pool parties, which started a trend a decade ago with the giant Sunday "Rehab" bash at the Hard Rock Hotel & Casino, still are making waves. Not to mention big bucks for casino resorts via what's dubbed "daylife." Some pools offer topless sunbathing, a rarity at U.S. resorts.
As this year's Vegas season for party pools launches, the count is climbing to nearly two dozen, as more venues take the plunge.
EXPERIENCE LAS VEGAS: For the fun-loving partier
Rehab and other pool bashes have "grown into something completely beyond everyone's expectations," says Michael Goodwin, vice president of nightlife and daylife at the Vegas Hard Rock. It now hosts adult swim events Fridays, Saturdays and Mondays, too. "Nightclubs and the party-pool business have become a main source of revenue" in Vegas, he says, and draw visitors who come just for the chance to drink and dance like there's no tomorrow, day and night.
Among new entries: The Sapphire Pool & Dayclub, due to open April 18 adjoining the Sapphire Gentlemen's Club. Club dancers wearing pasties and bikini bottoms will provide "atmosphere," says Sapphire Managing Partner Peter Feinstein. Female visitors get free pasties to wear, too.
Also making its debut: DAYLIGHT Beach Club at the Mandalay Bay resort, with a planned Memorial Day Weekend grand opening. Aiming for what The Light Group CEO Andy Masi calls the look of a "five-star resort in Cabo," Mexico, with "Ibiza music and vibe," it's the first Vegas pool designed with the current DJ craze in mind, he says - including a state-of-the art sound system, 1,500-square-foot stage and 6 LED screens behind the spinners' booth.
Pounding music, bikini-clad servers draw crowds
Established pools such as WET REPUBLIC Ultra Lounge at the MGM Grand draw lines of wannabe revelers who may wait for more than an hour on weekends to get past the door staff and into the water or to watch antics such as Champagne-spraying and impromptu conga lines.
On a recent Saturday, those gaining entry into the 53,000-square-foot complex empty purses and bags for security staffers, surrender gum (a sticky nuisance when discarded in the sun) and any kind of pill (pools and nightclubs are under scrutiny for illicit activities). Then they belly up to the 95-foot bar, boogie to blaring electronic music in the shallow aprons around the main pool, or enjoy the attention of model-gorgeous servers, many with surgically enhanced chests. The young women flock from around the USA to audition for the right to be servers, parade in sky-high wedge heels and lavish attention on big spenders in the bungalows.
Six-year-old WET REPUBLIC, billed as the first Vegas pool built specifically for adult partying, got a PR boost last summer when singer/actress Jennifer Lopez made an appearance in its Bungalow 6 before a concert at MGM Grand. At the same time Britain's Prince Harry tried - but ultimately failed - to keep a low profile with pals in Bungalow 1, decked out with cushy seating and flat-screen TV, with access to VIP-only plunge pools.
"He had a good time, and it was definitely a good thing (for WET) from a press standpoint," says Neil Moffitt, CEO of Angel Management Group, which operates the pool. Harry also hit the hot Sunday night swim at XS Nightclub at Encore Las Vegas, where he engaged in a "race" with Olympic swimmer Ryan Lochte.
DJs reign on the pool scene
However, celebs such as Kim Kardashian and Jessica Simpson - brought in to host swim parties for a fee - are becoming lesser players in the pool game. Yes, the topless-sunbathing Bare Pool Lounge at The Mirage resort draws ordinary folk hoping to glimpse Desperate Housewives and others baring flesh and sipping margaritas poolside. (Other tops-optional pools include TAO Beach at The Venetian Mondays through Thursdays, Moorea Beach Club at Mandalay Bay and The Venus Pool Club at Caesars Place.)
In the last few years, A-list DJs have become the stars.
If you don't know the names Calvin Harris, David Guetta, Skrillex, deadmau5, Steve Aoki or Kaskade, your 20- or 30something friend or relative probably does.
Aoki is known for antics such as riding an inflatable raft borne by a sea of exuberant fans. Kaskade is a resident DJ at hip, 2-year-old The Cosmopolitan of Las Vegasresort, where Marquee Dayclub (sister of a super-successful nightspot of the same name) lures lines of visitors and locals hoping to get the nod to enter. Tip: It helps if you're a "smokin' hot fox," in Vegas parlance. Pretty girls often get in free to shower a pool with eye candy, while average-looking gals and most guys may pay $20 and up for the privilege.
"The DJs have managed to outshine the majority of generic artists" in bringing out the fans, say Moffitt and other daylife execs. DJ Harris, for instance, gained mainstream fame after collaborating with Rihanna on the 2011 hit We Found Love. "We seem to be getting more value entertainment" from DJs than celebs, Moffitt says. Depends on your definition of value: If you expect a chaise or daybed, reserve in advance and be prepared to shell out hundreds. For a weekend cabana, including drinks and tips, the tab can be thousands.
Stars even turn out to see the DJs spin. Guetta shared the booth at Encore Beach Club with swimmer fan Michael Phelps; rapper Jay-Z and Kardashians have been in the one at WET REPUBLIC.
The new Sapphire Pool plans to offer both during a grand opening celebration in May. Baywatch bombshell Pamela Anderson and Entourage star Adrian Grenier are due May 4. Basketball great Dennis Rodman is to play DJ May 5, Sapphire exec Feinstein says.
Sapphire did dip its toe into the pool business once before, in a partnership with the Rio All-Suite Hotel & Casino that ended in 2009 with the arrest of women by undercover police officers on charges of soliciting for sex acts and attempting to sell cocaine. The pool closed voluntarily.
All that is "water under the bridge," Feinstein says. The new Sapphire pool - where prices are due to start at $30 weekdays, $50 weekends - will not allow any exposed nipples, lap dances or stripper poles. "I don't want anything controversial," Feinstein says.
In other words, no plans to muddy the waters of the splashy and sizzling Vegas pool scene.