Goodbye Hard Rock Hotel

…from a former employee

In the late 1990s when I was planning to make my move from Indiana to somewhere in the southwest desert, I learned that a Hard Rock Hotel had just opened in Las Vegas. After doing research on cost of living and crime rate in the area, at that time, I learned it was similar to my hometown. One synchronicity after another occured and it seemed like all roads pointed to Las Vegas. I called the Rock Spa at the Hard Rock Hotel and innocently told them about myself and my skills and wanted to know what I needed to do to get a job there. They told me, “Just get here first.” So I did, in September 1999, one week before my birthday, I arrived in fabulous Las Vegas where an apartment I rented long distance and my first self-employment booth rental gig were waiting for me. I had saved a ton of money from being an OPI product educator and knew I needed time to heal from a lifetime of verbal abuse, control freaks and people who took advantage of my innocence. I ran away knowing I was better off completely alone, starting with a clean slate, no reputation, able to be my most authentic self and I was here to let my light shine! I was free at last!! It was so cathartic. I took 3 weeks off and spent a lot of days crying out of regret and relief. There are a million reasons I chose to move to the desert but what few people have ever known about my journey is that I mostly chose Las Vegas because the Hard Rock Hotel was the carrot on the end of the stick. It was my target, my bullseye.

One of the first things I did the week I arrived was go to the Rock Spa and introduce myself. They knew exactly who I was and rememered talking to me the several times I had called. I shook all the hands, got all the names and made a point to stop by and say hello everytime I was there. In less than 5 months, I was finally hired for the exact job I had hoped for, part-time spa manicurist! This allowed me to continue building a local clientele at my booth rental salon while making great money and being part of the Hard Rock family. For the first time in my life I really felt like I fit in and belonged and was truly appreciated for everything I had to offer. I took friends and family and clients on tours of the property with such pride as if I owned the place. I was home.

Must have been hungover!

The vice president of hotel operations took an instant liking to me during my interview. She loved my “story” and told me she was taking me under her wing and looking out for me. I got so much special treatment! She would come in monthly for pedicures, read off a list of concerts that were up and coming and ask how many tickets I wanted for any/all of them. The manager at Rocks-the Jewelers would call me anytime they received star-shaped jewelry in their stock. For a while, a hostess at Mr. Luckys café became a best friend. I made so many new friends and met incredible, amazing people in such a short amount of time. I only lived in Las Vegas for a year or two and it seemed like everybody knew me and accepted me. I suddenly had friends and aquaintances from all over the country. I was on top of the world.

At the Center Bar, far right
At my first employee Christmas party, 2000

Every night, at the end of my shift, I would clean up, bag the dirty towels, turn out the lights and stand there in the doorway of that 2nd floor balcony looking out through the palm trees at the lights of Las Vegas, breathing deeply the coconutty pool aromas. I stood there in awe with such gratitude and yet such lonliness. I was just like the girls in all those Tom Petty and Eagles songs that I grew up listening to. It always felt like there should be a movie or tv crew behind me. After a few moments, I’d lock up and either go meet people at the famous circle bar or go home exhausted. This was such a good life I created for myself. I was finally where I wanted to be and it was delicious.

Rock Spa pedicure station

And then one day, it all came to a heartbreaking end. Peter Morton sold the hotel. The VP who always looked out for me was fired. There was an entire regime change and I suddenly didn’t know anyone there anymore. I hung in there for a long time but they eventually sold out the salon part of the Rock Spa to a cokehead croney of Harry Morton’s and this insecure name-dropper had a big problem with me right out of the gate. I was the star of the salon and he couldn’t compete with my big personality and endless rock n roll stories. When I was originally hired, it was made very clear to me that I was accepting a 2 day per week part-time position that would never develop into full time. I was instructed to not ask for extra work days. Yet when the cokehead took over, he created an arbitrary rule that no one was allowed to work for any other salon while working for him, citing “conflict of interest.” For me this couldn’t be further from the truth as I never brought clients from the Rock Spa to my other salon but frequently brought clients from my other salon to get services at the Rock Spa. Nonetheless, after 4 years and 6 months, I was let go, intimidated and physically assaulted in the process of being forced to sign a resignation letter that I did not write. I had no witness, I didn’t know my rights and human resources would do nothing about it. I sat there on the 4th floor of the old parking garage (coincidently facing the apartment complex that my future partner would be living in many years later) sobbing uncontrollably, unable to drive myself home. I felt like I had lost everything, not only my paycheck but my entire identity. No one even knew my last name…I was just “Cari from the Hard Rock.” Three days later, I was in a car accident while driving down a road I would have never been on had I still been working. Thanks to that, my “normal” is living every day of my life with some degree of neck pain. I still can’t understand or reconcile why my time at the Hard Rock came to such an unjust ending. To this day I still feel as though God has yet to restore to me the exponential financial loss and no justice or karma was ever served. (Or was it? Anyone know whatever happened to that A-hole?) I feel like sharing this will help me in the process of letting it go. This is where I am putting an end to the “poor old me” story!📌

Although my life had been reduced to a humble, modest existence by a blow I was never able to completely recover from, my love for the Hard Rock Hotel remained and I continued to spend the majority of my social time there, attending hundreds of concerts at the Joint, Wasted Space, Vinyl, and even some special events at the pool. I ate hundreds of meals and had countless overnight stays. The remodel was really cool but I’ll admit, things were never really the same after that. It was just a shell that held thousands of memories and ghosts of good times past that we all were trying to keep alive.

The Hard Rock Hotel has been sold to Richard Branson and on February 3, the doors will close forever, I’ve been visiting a lot, eating at all the restaurants, bursting into tears as memories pummel me from every direction. I’m sure Virgin will be first class and that’s great, but rock ‘n’ roll fans have nowhere to go now and that sucks.

My lesson here is that there is a time and purpose to all things. The Hard Rock Hotel & Rock Spa served a very cosmic, magical purpose in my life at a very important time. That time is done. I believe the Universe is telling me there’s a brand new chapter that can’t come into full bloom until I fully release this one. I have to let it go. As I do, I will pray to be released from the bitterness of this small injustice and focus instead on the depth of my gratitude. It is my intention to embrace the next chapter of my life with the same innocence and passion that I began this one with.

To EVERYONE that I ever met, worked with or spent time with at the Hard Rock Hotel, every single one of you, I remember you all and I am grateful for the gift of your time, your memories, your friendships. I hope I will always be able to remember all of the good times. This means so much more to me than words can express or than any of you could ever really know or understand. Thank you for the memories and may God bless you all.

Every ending is just a new beginning.

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