Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Robert Earl Hates Me: The Column

Here's my take on the Robert Earl flap for LasVegasWeekly.Com.

More tales of the thin-skinned city

by Steve Friess

It took a few days for the phone to ring. I had expected it. I just didn’t expect quite what I heard from the other end of the line.

Robert Earl, the impresario who just relaunched the Planet Hollywood brand as well as his own career after ruining both in the 1990s, was hopping mad. I can’t say I was surprised.

Over the weekend, I penned a piece for the Sunday Telegraph in London about the Planet Hollywood grand “opening” and all the celebrities who were to attend the bash of all bashes. I even quoted Robin Leach, who gushed on his blog that “this may well go down as the biggest showbiz weekend in Vegas history.” In a scant 500 words, I provided Earl himself 20 percent of my space to speak and elsewhere gave great detail about what Earl’s been up to with the former Aladdin.

But I knew trouble was coming when I saw the headline to my piece on the Internet before leaving for Saturday night’s party: “Planet Hollywood's Vegas casino rolls out. Robert Earl's celebrity friends will be at the party -- again -- but it feels phony.” Yes, “phony.” It’s British.

That headline was, indeed, weird. I hadn’t made any such pronouncements about whether the sensibility of the event seemed false, but that was the impression most people would take away from the headline. It was problematic, yes.

It came about, though, because I opted to turn to one of the Vegas-watchers I respect, Hunter Hillegas from, for balance. As a journalist, I’ve developed a list of observers whose expertise and independence is unimpeachable while still being eminently quotable. Hunter has become one of mine and he happened to be available on short notice in the four hours I had to write the piece.

Here’s what Hunter had to say about Earl’s reworking of the property and the self-conscious flooding of celebrities into the hotel: “It feels very fake. He's got a lot of celebrity friends, but it still feels totally phony to me. The kind of people he's getting are on the way out, they're not up-and-comers. I have serious doubts of the prospects of Planet Hollywood on a long-term scale.”

When Earl called me, I figured he would be angry about the headline. He had every right to be. But as someone who has been in the public eye and in business for so many years, I also assumed he would know that I don’t write headlines and that my piece itself was a balanced look at the story. The vast majority of it was what he ought to have viewed as “positive,” and he should’ve been able to tolerate some criticism.

Still, the entire piece was tainted by the headline, and I conceded that point to Earl. But that’s not where he stopped. He ranted on about who the hell this guy was, why he ought to have credibility and how I could possibly defend this “piece of sh-t.”

Read the rest here.


Tim said...

I too have made it my life's work to find out everything I can about Hunter. It's good to have hobbies.