meet corinna harney, the biggest surprise in town
Strolling the Strip in her glitzed-out home town, Corinna Harney looks positively tame. A jaunty chapeau atop her gold tresses, a low-cut black blouse under a fish-net sweater that matches her candy-pink lipstick -- well, the look is practically prosaic next to the checkered polyesters and wild midnight styles of other Las Vegas Strip walkers. The same can't be said for Corinna herself. She is as surprising as the cactus flowers that sprang from the Nevada desert the week we met her. She's a poet in a town full of dice players, a Vegas lover who has never gambled, a blonde whose hair should have been either black or red (her heritage is Cherokee-Irish, on both sides of the family). In a desert of neon, Corinna is a placid oasis. "I was never quite in sync with society," she says. Growing up in Nevada teaches a girl to make her own way. One way was poetry. When words failed her, she just goofed off: Too young to hang out in the casinos, Corinna and her school pals used to hit the Strip and act silly. "It was great. Everything was open late. We'd watch the people, pretending we were tourists." Sometimes, they were tourist terrorists, using squirt guns or waters balloons to startle out-of-towners. The cops put a stop to that; Vegas caters to visitors and expects young locals to find their own fun until they turn 21. On weekends, the kids trucked to the desert. Garage bands plugged in portable generators and bounced thrash rock off the night sky; Corinna and friends danced. They also watched shooting stars. "In the desert, you'll see four or five in a few hours," she says. "I'd make a wish on every one." One of her wishes, way back then, was to be a Playmate of the Month. "And now I am," says Miss August. "Maybe shooting stars do work."
Don't think Corinna misses out on physical pleasures. Like many a Nevadan, she has jet-skied nude on Lake Mead. And on of her love poems reads as follows: "Flowing through your arms, drinking from your streams/Fantasizing you as a mountain of pleasure/Seeing your skin, I feel the need to find your treasures./ If you can't tell, the fairy tale is true./Lying side by side, this adventureland for me and you."
Photography by Richard Fegley