Someone said, “What happens in Vegas, stays in Vegas” to me the other day - no, I’m not going to share the details! - and I realized that this phrase has become so ingrained to our American culture that it seems almost like some ancient proverb, some advice your dad may have passed onto you with “the talk” when you came of age. So, as often happens with me when my interest gets piqued, I started doing some research and what I found is surprising.
When I hear it, it sounds like a saying one of the Rat Pack members would have coined, after all, Frank Sinatra and his pals built this city, but I couldn’t locate a reference to any of them using it. In fact, “What happens in Vegas” is actually a twenty-first century thing, but its origins go way back.
The slogan “What happens here, stays here” materialized from a 2003 Las Vegas tourism concept to be used as a tourism tagline and it made people nervous right from the start. An early proposal for commercial space during the Super Bowl using this line was turned down as being too risqué.
Then it took off. The slogan’s success spawned no less than four movies directly, “What Happens in Vegas,” starring Cameron Diaz and Ashton Kutcher, plus the “Hangover” movies, which have been such box office hits they made three. There’s also an Usher song with the title, “What Happens Here, Stays Here.” Billy Crystal closed the 2004 Academy Awards with the line. And if you want to check any phrase’s measure of popularity, go to Twitter - the hashtag #WhatHappensInVegas is used many times every day.
Variations of the slogan aren’t new though: travelling salesmen would say, “What happens on the road, stays on the road;” performers would say, “What happens on tour, stays on tour;” and “What happens TDY, stays TDY,” would be uttered by soldiers on temporary duty assignment. It seems Las Vegas just brought the phrase into the limelight.
So, I’m not going to ask you to share your Vegas stories, because that would be asking you to break this unofficial code of honor. And if you want to know mine, just ask Leslie!