The Forum Shops at Caesars — the highest-grossing shopping center per square foot in America — turns 20 this year, according to a press release I received today. It seems like it’s been there longer, because for my entire life in Las Vegas (going on 21 years continuous this year), it has, for all intents and purposes, been there. This Roman-themed, faux-skyscaped, hybrid blend of high-end and mass-market retailers that bills itself as the “shopping wonder of the world” doesn’t see much of me these days, but my connection to the Forum goes way back and runs deep.
In high school — or at least, toward the end of it — the Forum was among the various Las Vegas Strip locales that were popular with the under-21 set, especially during that heyday of the “family destination” movement (about which my good friend Geoff Carter writes in this week’s Vegas Seven), along with the Luxor, Excalibur and Circus Circus. But why the Forum? Look, strip away the faux-classical facade and the fancy-ass stores, and you still have A MALL. Teenagers hang out at malls. Especially girls. And the boys who like to find them. Plus, back in the day, the Forum had a pretty cool arcade, which was located beneath the mall where now the valet can be found (I think).
After high school, it still came in handy to kill time (I seem to recall vague memories of being high there at least once). Or to pontificate the meaning of life. Proof:
More importantly, it provided me quasi-gainful employment, in two ways. First, when I was barely making ends meet working as a part-time sales associate at Chess King inside the Meadows Mall (if you have to ask, you won’t get it), I took on a second job at the Sweet Factory inside the Forum. It was located approximately where that giant Tourneau store is now (well, one tiny corner), which means it was right outside the animated statue show that used to be there. Yes, once every hour, I had to be subjected to the same animatronic Roman gods nonsense.
Thankfully, I only worked there a few nights a week, and only for two months. That was when my friend Stacy, who worked as a stock girl at Ann Taylor inside the Forum, let me know about an opportunity with her employer at the new Ann Taylor set to open inside the Fashion Show mall down the street. She got me an interview, I got the job, and literally the same day, I quit both of my other jobs (the Ann Taylor gig was full-time, paid better than either, and I was an 18-year-old punk, what did I care about burning bridges?).
Since then, I haven’t spent too much time either at, or thinking about, the Forum Shops, aside from the occasional Cheesecake Factory trips back when it was the only location in Vegas, or when I’ve had to kill time between other things at Caesars Palace. But I’ll always have a soft spot for this testament to capitalism, for all the girls I macked on at the arcade, for the candy I ate on the job, for enabling me to pay rent and eat more than ramen noodles. Happy anniversary, Forum Shops. Keep selling the dream.