Tuesday, April 17, 2007

Planet Aladdin's Odd Preview

Pete Sampras looked like hell. Sugar Ray Leonard doesn't go by "Sugar" anymore. Pepsi commercials were shown. Carmen Electra was somewhere on the Planet Mars, not Planet Hollywood.

And that wasn't the half of it. In one of the most truly odd press events I've ever attended, a man who looks like a cross between Dudley Moore and that short guy from L.A. Law stood on a stage in a mammoth theater once where Elvis was adored and Linda Ronstadt was booed (I was there!) and read from a script about all of the new restaurants, bars and amenities his "new" Vegas resort is going to have. (His image was also projected on two large, somewhat creepy oval screens floating in ginormous metal hands such as you see here.)

This was the much-hyped "preview" of the new Planet Hollywood, although the most significant thing to occur today is that we in the media are heretofore permitted to refer to it simply as Planet Hollywood and not the Aladdin or, even more awkwardly, the Aladdin/Planet Hollywood. Most of us are still enjoying referring to it as Planet Ho, as the marquee read for a day last week.

So they held a press conference today where nobody got to ask any questions -- not even Robin Leach! Instead, we were treated to an overly produced speech by Planet Hollywood CEO Robert Earl, who is hoping his Vegas property returns him to prominence after he admittedly overbuilt the Planet Hollywood brand into bankruptcy earlier this decade. He talked about things that Vegas CEOs don't normally discuss -- can you imagine Steve Wynn getting all hot about his deal to, say, exclusively serve Pepsi? (Apparently the soft-drink maker is putting promotional info about the hotel-casino on 12 million cans this summer. Oh, and a Coke cup was used in "Stomp Out Loud," by the way.)

There is certainly a lot of interesting stuff happening here, most notably a restaurant lineup that will include Strip House (which in Las Vegas joins Social House and StripSteak to add new confusion), Alfredos (by the folks who invented Fettucini Alfredo) and Earl of Sandwich (by an 8th-generation member of the guy who thought to put meat between bread).

Late in the proceedings, Earl announced he's having three "sports ambassadors" to the property, though what their jobs are is anyone's guess, and out pops Pete Sampras, Roger Clemens and (not-Sugar) Ray Leonard. Clemens looks bigger than I ever imagined him to be but oddly like Nick Lachey on steroids, Leonard looked about right and Sampras looked...barely ambulatory. His thinning hair was in disarray and he gripped the back of his hips the way Grandpa Joe Simpson would. The three of them actually bumped into one another as they were about to leave and Earl bellowed at them to stay where they were on stage!

Next we got a preview of the Faster Than Magic show by German illusionist Hans Klok and co-starring Carmen Electra. She did not participate in the preview, which had to do with making a woman in a box disappear and reconstituting an apparently torn up newspaper. You know, original stuff. I noted to a friend next to me that the flowing-blond German magician seemed like the second coming of Siegfried and some ass sitting ahead of me turned to crack: "Oh, I'm sure Siegfried's come twice many times." Ew.

The finale was Bruce Willis, a partner in the Planet Hollywood, appearing to announce the Grand Opening date of Sept. 28-29 and promising the best party Vegas has ever seen. Which is doubtful since that would have to be the premiere of "Zumanity," when they carpeted the top floor of the New York-New York parking lot and had a human mobile dangle from a mammoth crane for entertainment.

The hotel, by the way, looks sensational, vastly improved from the monstrosity that was Aladdin Deux. Here are shots of the lobby, an overview of the casino and a shot of a room, each of which is themed with a different movie's memorabilia. This one is the Pulp Fiction room, though you can't really see that from this.