Was there life before Rehab? I'm really not convinced. It's hard to remember what Vegas' beautiful night-life elite did on scorching Sunday afternoons before the Hard Rock Hotel & Casino dropped this bit of genius on us in 2004. I certainly don't think they were going to church.
Still, prayers have been answered, and Rehab is counting down to the opening of its fourth season on April 29, ushering in the summer as well as the Vegas pool-party scene, which, like the nightclub scene, is all Vegas, all the time.
For the uninitiated, the pool parties are the Vegas version of spring break — but they last much longer. It's as though someone peeled the roof off a nightclub, retired the disco ball in favor of the sun and moon and added billowing canopies, cool water, cocktails and chucked the dress code.
As the crme de la crme, Rehab, hidden behind the Hard Rock's mid-rise, is a tropical isle complete with lagoon, sandy beach, swaying palms, grotto bar, swim-up gaming, hot tub and even a short water slide. From the island in the middle of the lagoon, one can soak up rays, tunes, conversation and rum-y drinks without moving so much as a tanned toe.
Forty thatch-roofed cabanas dot the landscape, offering chaise longues, a personal refrigerator and respite from the punishing desert sun.
It's the fever dream of Chad Pallas, the Hard Rock's director of special events, who four years ago had an idea to throw a daytime party in this tropical adult playground. Pallas put the staff in crisp white bikinis and polos and started hawking poolside massages and frozen-fruit platters. And he kept all the nightclub trappings in place: acclaimed musical entertainment, bouncers, velvet ropes, wristbands, big bar tabs, overpriced bottle service.
While the sun beats down, a cool breeze plays off the misting system. Partygoers wade thigh-deep in the lagoon, white plastic racing bottles in hand. There are bars and beer stands in every cardinal direction. Frozen margaritas and daiquiris are the poisons of pleasure, and for those who want to escape the riffraff, cabanas offer a more isolated experience. Cabana tabs regularly come in around $5,000.
In an elevated pagoda — one of many — a DJ with a fierce-looking mohawk and tattoos up to his chin spins house music. Not the lounge-y, ambient Miami kind, these are hard-hitting, grinding house beats with tracks that last longer than you care to pay attention to. All around, club photographers for various websites snap shots of the well-heeled and the well-ab'd Rehab patrons mugging for the cameras.
Rehab's not the only game in town. In an effort to offer an alternative to this party's trademarked mayhem, anti-Rehab parties instantly sprang up during Rehab's second season. (The most famous was the dearly departed Nirvana at the Pond at Green Valley Ranch Station Casino — small, exclusive and decidedly risqu.)
Last summer, a new crop of pool parties blossomed, parties such as Bare at the Mirage, Ditch Fridays at the Palms and Venus at Caesars. The Palms complex has enough room — three pools — to spread out la Rehab, Bare and Venus are intimate and encourage European-style (meaning topless) sunbathing.
Right now, as the countdown to Rehab IV continues, the Hard Rock's official Tastemaker and the face of Rehab, Jack Lafleur, is hard at work programming the guest DJs and performers who will grace the decks this summer.
Lafleur said improvements to the sound system would have each cabana controlling its own musical climate.
One newcomer to the upscale pool-party market this year is Tao, the beloved nightclub, lounge and restaurant that has partyers from Paris to Janet gracing its booths. The hot spot will venture into open water May 4 with Tao Beach, an 18,000-square-foot addendum to the 42,000-square-foot entertainment complex.
As night falls on Tao Beach, guests will find themselves in an open-air nightclub featuring a floating dance floor, four 14-foot fire columns and high-energy music.
"Our current clientele loves the fact that in one evening at Tao they can experience many different atmospheres, from the restaurant to the lounge and the nightclub, so we thought, 'Why not add one more?' " says Rich Wolf, one of Tao's four owners.
How very Vegas of him to say so.
Nothing succeeds in this town like excess, and one can never over-deliver or over-entertain in this market that not only nods at the seven deadly sins but also puts them on a pedestal — or in this case, a fake beach.