Saturday, Aug. 28, 2010 | 3:13 p.m.
It doesn't stay here. Not always, anyway.
What happens here gets out.
Especially if you are famous, and especially when it happens on a Friday night in the middle of the Strip. Seven years after our tourism officials unleashed an advertising campaign promising, "What Happens Here, Stays Here," it has been proven — sometimes comically — that claim can't apply to everyone.
In a dizzying overnight development, socialite, red-carpet denizen and media magnet Paris Hilton was arrested on drug charges in Las Vegas. This didn't happen at a private party, or in the deep, cordoned-off recesses of one of our giant nightclubs. This event can't "stay here," as it unfolded in the heart of Las Vegas Boulevard, near one of the city's more recognizable landmarks — the Wynn Las Vegas resort casino.
The time was 11:30 p.m., when the Strip is thick with vehicle and pedestrian traffic.
According to reports, a black Cadillac Escalade driven by the increasingly famous nightclub impresario Cy Waits was pulled over by a motorcycle-mounted Metro officer. In a scene seemingly pulled from a lost Cheech & Chong movie, the officer noticed the pungent smell of pot seeping from the SUV and searched the couple accordingly.
At this point, it seemed apparent what was happening would not stay here.
The officer uncovered a small amount of what turned out to be cocaine in powder form in Hilton's handbag, enough for "personal use" of a drug that can prompt some acutely impersonal behavior. The tireless gossip website TMZ has reported she claimed the handbag wasn't hers.
As noted in the first Associated Press report of the arrest, Waits was arrested on misdemeanor suspicion of driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs. Hilton was arrested on suspicion of felony cocaine possession. Both were taken into custody and booked into Clark County Jail. Hilton was released before sunrise, less than four hours after the incident (which is a remarkably swift booking-and-release process more befitting a celebrity than a common citizen). Waits was to be released today, too, after posting $2,000 bail.
It's not easy for the dynamic Waits to keep what happens here, here. Even before he took up romantically with Hilton, the 34-year-old Waits long has been well-known in Las Vegas as one of the city's top nightclub officials. He and his twin brother, Jesse, are managing partners in Tryst at Wynn Las Vegas and XS at adjoining Encore. They also run the long-established nightspot Drai's After Hours at Bill's Gamblin' Hall (formerly Barbary Coast), which is owned by Harrah's Entertainment.
This week, the Waits brothers were thrust further into the public forum when it as announced Steve Wynn was formally splitting with nightclub operator Victor Drai — who opened all of the above-mentioned clubs and had a long partnership with Wynn — leaving the brothers to run Drai's Vegas nightlife empire.
Thus, the Waits are vital to two of the city's more prominent resort entities — Wynn and Harrah's — and neither corporation is particularly eager to address Cy Waits' arrest. Calls today to a Wynn Las Vegas spokeswoman have not been returned; Harrah's public relations executive Debbie Munch today said, "We have no comment" about the incident.
This was not supposed to be an incident, of course. It was supposed to be a party. On the Vegas Deluxe Web site, my colleague Robin Leach, who has been doggedly tracking the minutia of the Wynn/Drai split and the Waits' rise to prominence, reported that the couple had been celebrating at XS earlier in the night and were tooling off to Waits' home in Henderson when they were stopped.
Up to that point, nothing seemed amiss. Just another night in VegasVille for Hilton, who earlier sat for an interview with KSNV Channel 3's Alicia Jacobs, and had posed for photos with Jacobs, Emily Jillette and salon maven Michael Boychuck at Boychuck's Color — A Salon at Caesars.
Jacobs and Hilton had both been making sure that what happens here was known by Twitter followers everywhere, tweeting about Hilton's upcoming interview: "Hey Las Vegas! Turn on Channel 3 News Now xox," was a Hilton tweet sent at about 11 p.m., 30 minutes before the arrest (see Jacobs' interview, in which Hilton describes how Waits' fended off the knife-wielding attacker who invaded her home last week, here). Jacobs said Hilton appeared perfectly fine. "She was very agreeable, friendly, sharp," Jacobs said in a phone conversation today. "I kept remarking about how impressive she was. She was open and easy to interview."
The Strip arrest is sure to keep Hilton and Waits — and the city — in the international spotlight for a while. Hilton has hired powerhouse Las Vegas attorney David Chesnoff, the former partner of Oscar Goodman whose client list includes Britney Spears (he filed for her annulment of her infamous 55-hour marriage) and the Michael Jackson family, among countless other high-profile figures.
Chesnoff today told the Associated Press, "This matter will be dealt with in the courts not in the media and I encourage people not to rush to judgment until all of the facts have been dealt with in a court of law." The attorney later said, in a statement, "There will be no interviews and no more comments at this time."
But there will be no lid kept on this case. That's what happens when we buy into, and partner with, the often-seductive celebrity party culture. We're reminded of that calculated risk repeatedly, whether it's Tiger Woods' array of Vegas-connected mistresses, or the $60,000 Aria party spree celebrated by the sons of Michael Jordan that reportedly has drawn scrutiny from the Nevada Gaming Control Board and MGM Resort International officials because one of his sons is inconveniently underage.
What happens here often is highly entertaining, wildly unpredictable and often ill-advised. But don't expect it to stay here, not when the players are a hotshot nightclub operator and a photogenic heiress whose every step — and misstep — is followed by millions.
Follow John Katsilometes on Twitter at twitter.com/JohnnyKats.