He plays the president on TV, but in Vegas, he's the king of the slots. Spend a weekend in Las Vegas with Martin Sheen


While he's certainly been more victorious in his role as the president on The West Wing, for which he was nominated for this year's Outstanding Lead Actor in a Drama Series Emmy (the show itself was nominated for 18 Emmys), Martin Sheen still loves the slots of Las Vegas, where, he says, he finds a mesmerizing sense of calm. Vegas has been a longtime stopover for the veteran actor, who first got off a bus in downtown Glitter Gulch in 1966 and promptly lost every cent of his traveling money.

The seventh child of a Spanish immigrant father and Irish mother, Sheen was born Ramon Estevez in Dayton, Ohio, in 1940. After a stint on Broadway, he went on to star in the critically acclaimed Badlands opposite Sissy Spacek, then blasted to stardom opposite Marlon Brando in Apocalypse Now. The role took such a physical toll on Sheen, then 38, that he suffered a heart attack during filming. Since then, he's become a familiar face in dozens of movies on both the small and big screen, including Oliver Stone's Wall Street, in which he played opposite his son Charlie Sheen. Sheen and his wife Janet's three other children - Emilio Estevez, Ramon Estevez, and Renee Estevez - are actors as well. Herewith, Sheen forgoes the couple's L.A. home and his character's White House digs for a weekend in Las Vegas, Nevada.

FRIDAY

Lodging
"The Riviera Hotel is one of the early hotels on the Strip. It started out very old-fashioned, but they've remodeled it considerably since I have been going there. They've always had reasonable rates. It's my favorite hotel because it has kept the image of the way Las Vegas used to be. Great, friendly staff. Plus, Andy Pohl, the gift shops' manager, has been a childhood friend since the mid-1940s, when we made our first communion together. Andy's one of the main reasons I go to Vegas. We grew up together in Dayton. Every casino on the Strip is unto itself: You can eat, sleep, entertain, gamble, just about anything. The Venetian is very well done, as is Paris."

Dinner
"I've become very fond of Picasso in the Bellagio. The water show from its fountains is quite spectacular. You want to get a ringside seat. At night, it's a wonderful supper club with exquisite food. I'm not a gourmet, mind you, but everything I've ever had there is delicious. I'm not recommending it for price, because this is one of the more expensive joints in town. There are real Picasso paintings on the wall, and you're gonna help pay for them with your supper. But it's wonderful, the best restaurant I have been to in Las Vegas."

Nightlife
"I love the Cirque du Soleil O show at the Bellagio. It's one of the best shows in the world, let alone Vegas. I see it every time I go back, and I love taking people who have never seen it. The first time I saw it, I just started to weep when the curtain went up. It was like going inside a Salvador Dali painting. The suspended figures, the medieval-type processions. And, then, the performers! They are all just so skilled. And the timing! When you go, throw out any image you've ever had of a Vegas or a Broadway show and start with your childhood imagination. Just be ruled by your imagination."