When I was putting together yesterday’s post about crooks who had either been smart enough to get away with it or police who had been too dumb to catch them, the name Danny Ocean cropped up in relation to a heist in Belgium.
That put me in mind of the very popular movie remake of Ocean’s Eleven starring George Clooney, Brad Pitt, et al.
The Clooney version of Ocean’s Eleven was a good piece of work. (We’ll not talk so much about the sequels!) Without spoiling the whole thing for those who haven’t yet seen the movie, basically the plot is to simultaneously steal $150 million from the Bellagio, Mirage and MGM Grand casinos in Las Vegas, all belonging to ruthless entrepreneur Terry Benedict (Andy Garcia). The money is being held in a state-of-the-art safe seventy yards underneath the Las Vegas Strip, with loads of hi-tech surveillance, laser beams, motion detectors and alarm systems to protect it.
Clooney/Ocean puts together a team of experienced professionals, proficient in skills from magic, pickpocteting, pyrotechnics, a card sharp, an electronics and surveillance expert and even a Chinese acrobat!
The movie is full of special effects and great looking sets with hosts of electronic gadgets that are there to prevent people stealing the casino’s money, and loads of other gadgets that Ocean and his crew have assembled to defeat the former.
Even getting into the surveillance and restricted areas of the casinos is a huge problem that takes sophisticated planning and equipment and well worked plot lines.
But that’s Hollywood.
This blog is about reality.
I have spent quite a bit of time in Vegas, mostly on business but I enjoy playing in the casinos too.I even ended up in Federal Court there on one occasion, but that’s a story for another day. Suffice to say here that I like the place and the buzz that it has. Perhaps living there all the time would get to you, but for a visit I highly recommend it (take some money with you though!).
It just so happened that I was in Las Vegas about the time the Ocean’s Eleven movie was doing the rounds, probably 2002. One evening I found myself standing outside the Bellagio watching the fountain show (a great spectacle, see video) and of course my thoughts turned to the movie and all that had transpired. In my mind’s eye I could see Danny Ocean and the others in this very same place. It was a pleasant evening.
Within a couple of days of that, however, I discovered that my cell phone was missing. Had I mislaid it, had I dropped it, had it fallen out of my pocket in a restaurant or taxi, or had I had my pocket picked by one of Danny Ocean’s men? I thought the possibility of the latter was highly unlikely so I put it down to my own carelessness.
I was staying in one of the casino hotels, I won’t say which one, because I am sure things have changed a lot in the intervening ten years. But after checking my room for the phone I decided the next best thing to do was to ask the security guys in the hotel in the unlikely event that someone had found it and handed it in. It wasn’t an expensive phone, so I wasn’t too bothered, but one feels obliged to go through the motions when something like that happens.
So I made my way down to the casino on the ground floor and found one of the security guys. He pointed me in the direction of what I presumed was his superior and he in turn pointed me towards a rather non-descript single door on the other side of the casino floor.
After a long walk, circumnavigating numerous roulette and blackjack tables, I got to the door and pressed a buzzer on the intercom affair. To my surprise no one answered, but the door simply clicked open. I wasn’t sure what I should do, but always ready for an adventure I opened the door and went inside.
Man, talk about a disappointment. My crest was fallen on several levels!
Rather than being pleased with myself at the ease with which I had been able to dismantle the multi-million dollar security, I was actually disappointed that it hadn’t been a lot more difficult. I can talk my way (or blag, some people have said) into most places if I choose to do so, and I had been rehearsing various things that I was going to say when questioned. But here I was right in the heart of the casino surveillance system and no one had even spoken to me let alone challenge why I was there.
I was disappointed also by what I saw. Sure there were loads of cctv screens all showing different parts of the casino, different gambling tables and all that sort of thing. And a few obligatory computers. But it wasn’t like the movies. The equipment was clearly not new and the décor left a lot to be desired too, not quite tatty but showing a few years of wear and tear.
I wandered around for a minute or so taking it all in. If Ocean had picked me for his crew I would have had everyone tied up and the place taken over by now, I thought. But then the movie would have been about fifteen minutes long and very little tension and excitement (and box office takings) would have been generated.
Then one of the security guys detected my presence. He didn’t speak, just gave me one of those “Where the f*** did you come from?” looks.
I too was silent, I knew what he wasn’t saying, so I put my right hand inside my jacket and went for my silenced 9mm Walther PPK in its concealed shoulder holster. Well, no, not quite. I just retrieved my room keycard and ID which I thought might be required when everyone came to their senses.
It was. And I explained why I was there and who had sent me. After their initial surprise the guys in the security room were very friendly, but no phone had been handed in and they didn’t hold out much hope of me ever seeing it again, so after a bit of conversation I bid them farewell. I think it took longer to get me buzzed out than buzzed in, but hey that’s life.
Later that evening I again found myself leaning up against the front wall at the Bellagio watching the fountains. But this time Danny and the crew weren’t there, not even in my head. After what had happened earlier, it just wasn’t the same. It hasn’t been ever since!
Ocean’s eleven trailer
Video taken from Paris Casino’s Eiffel Tower Observation Point, on March 11,2007