This gambler’s haven infamous for its cheap thrills, looky-loos and gawking tourists was at a fevered pitch Thursday with the kind of frenzy that makes people either love or hate this town.
The place was spellbound with morbid fascination over former basketball star Lamar Odom’s collapse on Tuesday at a desert brothel.
Tourists flocked to Love Ranch Vegas in desolate Crystal, where the 35-year-old ex-Laker and reality television star was found unconscious following a four-day escapade that reportedly involved drugs, hookers and sexual enhancement aids.
Media from as far away as Britain were in Crystal as well. Journalists stood in the establishment’s dirt parking lot in a light morning rain. Many had missed out on a tour Wednesday by brothel managers and clamored for new leads outside the roadside sex site.
One reporter for a U.S. paper said his editors authorized him to offer $2,000 for photographs of the two legal prostitutes who found Odom unconscious in a bed at the site. The brothel declined the offer.
Call it a new Vegas low point, but the curiosity over Odom’s much-publicized dalliance hit full tilt.
On Thursday, the Nye County Sheriff’s Office, which is investigating the case, did not return telephone calls. Nor did the Las Vegas hospital where Odom is being treated.
There was also no access to Odom’s home in suburban Henderson. The 5,476-square-foot, single-family residence, built in 2007, sits inside a gated community.
But the media outlet TMZ reported that Odom’s condition had deteriorated overnight and that doctors have told his family that the longer he remains unconscious the less likely his recovery will be.
Khloe Kardashian, whose divorce from Odom is not final, has been making medical decisions about his treatment, a person with knowledge of the situation told The Times.
At the Sunrise Hospital and Medical Center, about two dozen reporters and photographers staked out the grounds, looking to interview celebrities who came to visit Odom. On Wednesday, the Rev. Jesse Jackson emerged from the hospital and briefly spoke to reporters about the Odom’s health.
None of that was happening Thursday. But that didn’t stop the prying eyes.
A phalanx of security guards moved the press off the hospital property. Many journalists stood just a few feet off the grounds, while others huddled in a Denny’s parking lot across the street.
People in passing cars leaned out the windows to take cellphone snapshots of the hospital. Others called out to reporters.
“How’s the big man? How’s he doing?” one asked. “What’s the update?”
Meanwhile, reporters grimly sized up the chances of Odom’s survival.
Out at the Love Ranch, the circus continued.
Most days, tourists desiring a break from the Strip might wander over to the nearby Hoover Dam or stop by the site of the popular cable-TV show “Pawn Stars,” looking for autographs. But on Thursday, people sought two brothel workers whose trade is largely shunned.
Out in Crystal, they looked for snapshots, keepsakes or memorabilia of any kind.
Tina Bennet, a 49-year-old divorce attorney from Phoenix, N.Y., had driven out to the desert from Las Vegas with her fingers crossed. “I want a T-shirt,” she said.
That didn’t appear likely. Love Ranch shift manager Lawanna Olberding said the establishment would be shut down for walk-in customers for the foreseeable future. Clients with reservations — sometimes made weeks or months in advance — would still be given access, she said.
But Bennet’s husband, Richard Foley, got lucky.
He had talked his way inside the brothel, and soon emerged carrying a black plastic bag.
“I got some prophylactics,” Foley said, laughing. Then he added: “Nah, just a T-shirt.”
He held it proudly against his chest.
“I told them I was with my wife and mother-in-law, and they let me in,” he said. “They took pity on me.”
Nearby, Wanda Rice’s minivan lurched to a stop at the ranch. She and two girlfriends took a break from a trip across the state.
Normally, all the action is on the Strip.
“This would be great to get pictures of,” said the 57-year-old from New Richmond, Wis.
Then she asked a news photographer to take a snapshot of the group.
Times staff writer Amy Kaufman and special correspondent Kailyn Brown contributed to this report.