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Las Vegas Still Shining in Hard Times

These days in Las Vegas, the casinos may not always be packed, but Bette Midler is playing to sell-out crowds.

And she's not the only one.

The so-called "Divine Miss M" is brightening "Sin City" with other "A"-list stars.

As "Early Show" national correspondent Hattie Kauffman reported Friday, Beyonce's at center stage at the Las Vegas Wynn. Santana plays at the Hard Rock Hotel and Casino, and Cher and Bette Midler split dates at Caesar's Palace.

Midler told CBS News, "Vegas offers the opportunity for people to see something they would never see at home -- never, ever, ever!"

And when the curtain goes up, Kauffman remarked, you would never know that the economy has dealt the town a bad hand. Tourism may be down, foreclosures up, but Vegas is betting big on "A"-list stars and mega-million-dollar productions.

Midler said, "The whole tenor of the town and the whole focus of the town is this: It's to dazzle."

The continued flashy productions are a gamble, Kauffman said, but it's paid off in the past. "Sin City" marquees have long promoted Hollywood's biggest names. Of course, in the "Rat Pack" days, five dollars bought dinner and a show.

"It was banquets with tables and people would have a whole dinner, and they were very beautifully dressed," Midler said. "And they were very polite."

Midler, who was a little late for the Rat Pack, once opened a show for Johnny Carson. She also played at Caesar's Palace 30 years ago. But now, the 63-year-old star is back, drawing 20,000 fans a week with "The Showgirl Must Go On."

"Everything changed," she said, referring to Vegas' entertainment over the years. "They started building these gigantic show rooms and theaters, and they welcomed people from Broadway, and they welcomed pop people, and you know, it just became a different experience. Instead of having dinner and drinks, you would sit as though you were at a concert."

It's possible to see a new show every night for two months, Kauffman said. There are six Cirque du Soleil spectaculars.

Midler said audiences want an over-the-top escape.

"If you didn't dial it up, they would be not only upset, they would be offended, insulted and outraged because that's what they come for," she said.

However, Midler said the fantasy of Vegas is actually a "pipe dream."

"My Vegas is a pipe dream," she said. "But I think it's the Vegas everybody has in their imagination, too."