THE INVITATIONS—WITH POKER chips bearing the image of rock legend Jimi Hendrix—were the tip-off: Las Vegas was about to get a hit of hip. The blue and purple disks came from Peter Morton, founder of the Hard Rock Cafe, who was hosting a weekend-long mix of song and slots to mark the March 10 opening of his first hostelry, the Hard Rock Hotel and Casino.
A full house of celeb guests—including Kevin Costner, Kelsey Grammer, Ellen DeGeneres, Tim Allen, and Jason Patric squiring model Christy Turlington—gamboled in an entirely different breed of fantasy universe. Not far from the spouting fountains of Caesar's Palace and the life-size pirate ship of Treasure Island, the Hard Rock lives up to its name, with elevators that spew Billy Idol and Salt-n-Pepa instead of Muzak and slot machines with handles shaped like Fender guitars.
Keeping with the theme of his international chain of 39 eateries, Morton put more emphasis on the rock than on the roll of the dice for his debut. At the first of two evenings of all-star concerts, TV Superman Dean Cain, Sandra Bernhard, Nicolas Cage and Melrose Place's Daphne Zuniga joined a packed house in the hotel's 1,200-seat club, the Joint, jumping to the sounds of Duran Duran, B.B. King, Iggy Pop, and Melissa Etheridge duet-ting with Al Green. The biggest crowd pleaser was singer-songwriter Sheryl Crow
, fresh from her Grammy enshrinement as Best New Artist. "I saw her picture on the cover of her CD and decided she's cute, so I'll buy it," said comedian Jon Lovitz. "I didn't know who she was. Next thing you know, she's huge."
By the time the reunited supergroup the Eagles held forth the following night (old friend Jack Nicholson winged in for the 100-minute set), the festivities at the 340-room hotel had gotten decidedly casual. Costner hobnobbed with actress Halle Berry
and her husband, baseball star David Justice, while actresses Laura San Giacomo and Lara Flynn Boyle shared a giggle. "This doesn't really happen in Hollywood," Boyle said. "Everyone acts so snotty there. Here everyone's sort of cut loose." Was the atmosphere too loose for Pamela Anderson
? Smooching furiously with new hubby, Motley Crue drummer Tommy Lee, the Baywatch bride nearly caused bystanders to blush. Then again, maybe it was just the reflection from her pink leather bra.