I like to do on-site research, whenever possible, for my stories. While writing my current book The Next Right Thing (release date March 2013), which is set in Las Vegas, I wanted an "old Vegas" type of Italian restaurant for the story. Trolling the Internet, I found Piero's.
What a find! The restaurant, off the Las Vegas strip, just celebrated its 30-year-anniversary. Here's an excerpt from its website, with details that make a writer's creativity drool:
The list of notables who have visited Piero's is long and impressive. Former Presidents George Bush and Bill Clinton are customers, along with Keith Richards, Mick Jagger, Justin Timberlake, Michael Jordan and Larry Bird. Las Vegas regulars include Jerry Lewis, Mike Tyson, Phyllis McGuire, Steve Lawrence and Eydie Gorme.
"No one gets bothered in our restaurant," he said. "I don't care who the celebrity is or what they have done, they come here to enjoy the food, and I see to it they are allowed to dine in peace... No exceptions!"
A portion of the movie "Casino," starring Robert DeNiro, Joe Pesci, and Sharon Stone, was shot in Piero's.
My husband, who had a Las Vegas business trip coming up, said, "Let's eat there." We made reservations.
I'd already researched the restaurant, read its stories, from Sinatra ordering all pictures of the Kennedy brothers (John and Bobby) being taken down when he ate there, to Sylvester Stallone refusing to leave his table and his wonderful dinner despite the "little" problem of water seeping onto the floor and his shoes during a plumbing crisis.
This kind of stuff is a writer's wet dream.
During my husband's business trip, we visited the restaurant three times. I'd like to say it was pure research, but the truth is, the food is amazing. I ate what the characters ate in the book. I drank what the characters drank. I took photos of the dining room, the bar, even the guy who parked the cars.
I interviewed waiters, learned their histories, why they're working there, what they think of the place. One waiter, who shall remain nameless, said, "A lot of people think this restaurant is a Mafia hangout, but it's not. Really."
I hadn't asked about the Mafia, but he felt compelled to offer that tid-bit on his own.
On-site research. Nothing like it.