LAS VEGAS -- As Democratic presidential hopefuls and their supporters gathered for the first primary debate this week, a Republican candidate literally loomed over them.
Well, not the candidate himself. But his name.
Just under half a mile from the site of the debate, down dusty Fashion Show Drive, was the Trump International Hotel Las Vegas: a large gold tower with the businessman-turned-reality-TV-host-turned-presidential-candidate's name in triumphant print on top.
Sixty-four floors high but slightly removed from the strip and lacking a casino, it is a fairly modest attraction -- which is surprising considering its glitzy owner and its location in a city overflowing with gaudiness. And though it was only a block from the Wynn Las Vegas Resort, where the debate was held, few if any campaign officials or reporters appeared to stay or spend time there, save to witness a labor protest held outside the day before. The workers at the Trump Hotel aren't unionized, which is a sticking point for many Democrats when searching for lodging.
But because Trump remains at the top of the GOP field and because he's built much of his appeal on the concept of bringing classiness -- a winning attitude, if you will -- to the White House, The Huffington Post felt it was our journalistic responsibility to experience his hotel. Perhaps, we figured, we could glean some clues as to how he would operate as president from the way he runs his establishments.
Below is a mini diary.
Tuesday, Oct. 13
11:35 a.m.: Nice hotel. Less tacky than expected. The lobby is open, clean and well-lit, with multiple chandeliers and sparkly floor-to-ceiling curtains. Mostly white (marble?) decor. The lines at the front desk are a touch long. But nothing crazy. Onward to the rooms.
11:38 a.m.: Decent-sized rooms. Not exactly yuuuuuuuuge but solid for the price (about $150 a night). Amanda's view is unimpressive: Roads, a few buildings. On Sam's side, looking toward the Strip, it's better.
11:39 a.m.: We turn on the TV and the first two channel options are "Trump Marketing." We turn off the TV.
11:40 a.m.: Holy shit, the bathroom. The bathtub is MASSIVE. Amanda could definitely sleep in there. But she refuses to, for some reason.
There is a TV built into the mirror behind the sink. We're not quite sure why, but hell, why not?
The telephone placed right next to the toilet seems, well, odd. But it's probably a safety precaution -- right?
The toiletries are not bad -- they're just what you'd expect from a man who pays so much attention to his hair.
11:49 a.m.: En route to the Wynn, we encounter a father and son pair shuffling between casinos. We ask them if they were going to the debate.
“Is Trump going to be there?”
“No. It’s Democrats.”
“Then hell no!”
2:15 p.m.: Back at the Trump for lunch. Pedestrian menu. The cherry tomato soup and Tahoe cheddar cheese brioche sandwich for a cool $16 is…. blah. Not entirely sure where the brioche went. It's toast with barely melted cheese and soup with a lazy piece of basil in it. Sam thinks he could make this at home but wouldn't bother because it's so boring.
We hope that the DJT Signature Black Angus Burger with fries, priced at $18, will be better, since it was downright delicious when we tried it yesterday. But today it is disturbingly burnt, and nearly inedible around the edges. NOT classy.
3:03 p.m.: On the way back to the elevator, we hit up the gift shop: a shrine to the Donald. You can get a jean jacket with the words "TRUMP LAS VEGAS" bedazzled on the breast pocket or a pink hat with the same. There's also a shot glass that says "YOU'RE FIRED" on it; Trump-branded scent sticks, including a green bamboo one for $25; a Trump bathrobe and a variety of Trump books. He's also selling his daughter Ivanka's shoe line.
3:25 p.m.: We hit up the pool. OK, we look at the pool. We have precious few minutes before the debate starts. It's quite nice: good lounge chairs, healthy-looking palm trees, nice clean water. We encounter problems inside at the bar though. The menu claims to offer "poolside dining as it was meant to be," including Jell-O shots for $2 a pop. We want to down a few "Red Alerts" before checking out Bernie and Hillary. But the waiter says the shots are "made for the weekend" and they "usually run out."
We remain sober.
3:30 p.m.: On to the spa, past the gym and just down the hall from the pool. We don't have time for massages, sadly. But we take a look and, oh my goodness, there's a "Trump Kids" spa menu.
"We have a large number of people who want to treat their kids," a staffer explains.
Prices aren't listed for the "little miss manicure" or "little miss ice cream pedicure" or "little miss blowout & style." But under the "Trump Teens" section (ages 13-17), an hour-long massage and an hour-long facial go for $125 each.
3:40 p.m.: We leave the hotel for the debate. Goodbye hotel.
Wednesday Oct. 14
Undisclosed time: Back at the hotel.
8:30 a.m.: A couple comes bursting into Sam's hotel room as he lies in bed. They definitely have a key, but it's totally unclear how they got it.
"Excuse me?" Sam screams out.
"Oh, I'm sorry," they reply, closing the door quickly and leaving.
If this is the type of homeland security that Trump would bring to the presidency, we're nervous.
9:15 a.m.: Breakfast is underwhelming. We order the Traditional Cast Iron Waffle with wild berry spoon jam, whipped citrus cream and powdered sugar, and bagels with lox. While Trump says he loves big things, the bagels are the smallest we've ever seen -- smaller than a room key. The waffles, however, are delicious.
On the whole, we were ready to give our experience at the Trump International Hotel in Las Vegas 3.5 stars out of 5. But after our stay was over, we discovered that the Donald allows small dogs to stay at the establishment, and even gives them little doggy bathrobes. So we rounded up to 4 stars.
As for what the hotel says about the type of president Trump would be? Honestly, it says nothing. Maybe he'll adorn the White House with those crystal floor-to-ceiling curtains, serve Trump wine during state dinners, and put a giant "TRUMP" sign above the front door. And that'll be America: Two cars in every garage, and a telephone next to every toilet.