EXHIBITING A NICE BODY
BODIES… THE EXHIBITION AT TROPICANA RESORT & CASINO, LAS VEGAS
Showgirls and Blackjack and Bodies, Oh, My! In that aforementioned odd city that continuously reinvents itself, from 7,700-room hotels constantly getting larger in order for one-uping each other, to enormous atriums with fresh vegetation changed as often as The Amazing Johnathan’s underwear, to Liberace’s jewel-encrusted gowns standing heavy sentry in the middle of a desolate suburban strip mall, to Picasso masterpieces with holes poked in ‘em from a famous hotelier’s elbow, nothing ever stays status quo. Still, maybe the strangest of all attractions right now, plopped down directly next to a display of artifacts from the Titanic, is Bodies… The Exhibition at the Tropicana. Yes, Virginia, that Tropicana: home to the Folies Bergere.
Before heading off to visit Cirque du Soleil’s inimitable magicland called KÀ at the MGM Grand, I heartily suggest a detour over the connecting footbridge to the Tropicana, where — after strong positive public response since opening last June — Bodies has been extended indefinitely. Bodies, of course, showcases 21 whole-body specimens and more than 260 organs and partial specimens — real human bodies meticulously dissected and preserved through an innovative process.
Specimens are first treated according to standard mortuary science, then dissected to show whatever handlers want to display. Once dissected, they’re immersed in acetone to eliminate all body water and placed in a large bath of silicone, or polymer, then sealed in a vacuum process. Though presented with the utmost respect—and surprisingly without guardrails or omnipresent surveillance, so that visitors have the unique opportunity to view the beauty and complexity of their own organs and bodily systems unobstructed—the show is still a tad creepy. Soon, however, initial discomfort melts into clinical fascination.
Perhaps the most disconcerting thing about Bodies is the positions in which the freeze-dried cadavers have been permanently placed: playing tennis, throwing darts, sprinting (all muscles cut and springing in outward arches to show their placement), conducting an orchestra or, for one poor fellow who surely didn’t count on this when he donated his body to science, cut in half and high-fiving himself. Then there’s the complete skin from head to toe displayed intact as though waiting to be drycleaned (the only three-dimensional aspect being his, er, package), the room showing fetus development and fetal sideshow-like anomalies, and a slotted glass container where smokers may toss their ciggies right next to an enshrined and blackened diseased lung.
Yes, Bodies… The Exhibition could be seen either as creepy, as incongruous in Sin City, as sufficiently life altering—or simply as a beguiling reminder of how intricate and tenuous is all life on earth. As suitably grateful and awestruck as I was by this magnificent display, I just promise one thing: I won’t be eating roast beef again until about 2010.
The Tropicana Resort & Casino is located at 3801 Las Vegas Blvd. South, Las Vegas; for tickets, call (702) 739-2411.