Headliners and Headdresses Return to Las Vegas. Will Tourists Follow? - The New York Times
Jun 10, 2021 1 min, 51 secs

LAS VEGAS — Penn Jillette, one half of the Penn & Teller magic and comedy act that has helped define nightlife in Las Vegas for decades, bounded onto the stage the other night and looked across a maskless but socially distanced audience scattered across the theater at the Rio All-Suite Hotel & Casino.

While just 106,900 tourists visited Las Vegas in April 2020, according to the Convention and Visitors Authority, some 2.6 million people visited this April — a big rebound, but still almost a million shy of what the city was attracting before the pandemic.

“You’re in a town that was very irresponsible before,” Jillette said in an interview, remarking on the exuberance of the reopening.

“Not the residents, but the people who come to visit Vegas.

People who don’t smoke cigars, smoke cigars.

People who don’t drink martinis, drink martinis.

People who don’t have irresponsible sex, have irresponsible sex.

Las Vegas began filling its theaters ahead of New York, where most Broadway shows will not reopen until September, and other cities, though many are now rushing to catch up.

“I don’t know if culturally that’s a good thing,” Jillette said.

Penn & Teller started slowly, as they reunited an act whose first Las Vegas show began in 1993, in deference to the wishes of its performers as well as to state and local health regulations.

Show business has always been big business in Las Vegas, but it has become even more vital in the decades since the region lost its near-monopoly on legal casino gambling.

About half of the 42 million people who come to Las Vegas in a typical year attend a show, said Steve D.

“Honestly, we just want to get out of the house,” Olivier said as they waited to enter Penn & Teller.

And now, when they seek volunteers from the audience to come onstage, they relegate them to a chair at the end of the stage, well away from Jillette or Teller.

“You won’t find me strolling around in a supermarket without a mask for a while,” Teller said in an interview.

Tourists make up the overwhelming majority of people who come to the Strip, but some Las Vegas area residents venture out as well

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