Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Robert Earl Hates Me

I just got off the phone with Planet Hollywood founder Robert Earl, who tells me he will never speak to me again because of my piece in the Sunday Telegraph of London about the Planet Hollywood opening. He's not just pissed about the misleading headline, which I didn't write but which I agree is problematic, but in general that I dared quote someone like Hunter Hillegas from RateVegas.Com as an independent observer.

More to come on this - and we'll discuss tonight on the live show.


Hunter said...

Ha! Well, if Mr. Earl has nothing to worry about then he'll be laughing all the way to the bank and I'll be happy to admit I was wrong.

Mr. Earl might be wise to realize that the power of the independent reviewer and the people in general is rising as a result of the Internet. You can't hide anymore.

Dave Schwartz in a LVBP piece agrees:

mike_ch said...

This is... Entertaining. I guess the Planet doesn't consider internet sites as "press" the way some other companies supposedly do?

They never seem to mind outside attention when it's saying how great their buffet is, or the whole Ronstadt fiasco which they capitalized on.

Hunter Hillegas said...

I'm 100% sure that he doesn't consider my opinion to be of 'expert' level (certainly that the fact I don't love his place doesn't help either).

Honestly, I've spent a ton of time in that place, all during the construction and change over and recently, plus I bet I read more Vegas media than he does every day.

People like me, Chuck at VegasTripping, Steve and Miles, Tim and Michele and all the loyal readers and listeners that contribute have a huge future role to play in influencing where people spend their tourist dollars in Las Vegas and the companies that realize that first will have an easier time controlling their message than folks like Earl who sputter and whine about the 'unfair' coverage.

Jeff Leatherock said...

I think Mr. Earl has a point. I think Hunter's comments may have been tainted by the grand opening more than the substance of the casino. I find the casino attractive and different. It may not be Bellagio, but they ALL get very fake very quickly when you think about it. What's less fake? Mandalay? MGM Grand? Paris? Venetian? These are people who employ thousands of people and guarantee billions of dollars in loans. They sweat the details and sell their souls to the devil to try to succeed. I own a small business. I'll never walk a mile in Earl's shoes except in my dreams. But I would be crushed if the biggest business commitment I had made in my life was panned in my hometown newspaper by a kid from California. This is not an insult, Hunter, just an observation.

Jacob said...

Jeff - The point isn't whether Hunter is right or wrong - that's the thing about opinions, you can agree or disagree with them. The point is that the man is angry that anyone would attack him. How someone gets as far as Earl has without getting used to that is beyond me.

mike_ch said...

I've seen the same thing happen in another part of the tourism industry (theme parks.) Those who are more willing to "spin" for the industry are favoured over those who won't. In that industry, bloggers have been parodied as entertainment at corporate parties, sent to the back of the press box at openings, etc.

I like the PH resort, well, what I've seen of it first-hand. The mall is improving, the casino includes some decent slots that are slowly disappearing from the rest of the Strip, the restaurant lineup is mostly great and includes a sandwich shop and an Italian joint I'm familiar with at Orlando's Mousetrap. But I'll totally agree that this opening is kind of silly. I mean, the place has been wearing it's Planet marquee for ages now. Having a party the other day feels like the new year on January 12th.

On the other hand, I can sort of see where Earl and those like him are coming from. People who have invested into a product do not care much for the opinions of those who aren't invested.

Hunter said...

Couple of things:

My point, similar to Jacob's, is that if this guy expects to be able to run a $600+ million property, he can't let little things like 'some kid from California' giving an honest answer worry him. If I was an investor, this kind of response from the chief exec would scare me.

My *opinion*, as expressed in the quote was in reference to how this property is using a 'Hollywood vibe' to try to up their hipness quotient and how I *think* that seems very fake. I personally can't stand inauthenticity and their positioning smacks of that to me. That's what the quote was about.

If this guy is crushed by what I said, he needs to toughen up.

David F. said...

Forgive me I am writing this without having listened to the Podcast, which is going on as I type

First off, if Robert Earl is Offended/Worried/Call it what you will by Hunters Remarks then I would be extremely flattered if I was Hunter that I as one person can apparently wreak that much havoc to a Multi-Million Dollar Company.

Secondly and forgive me if I am sounding stupid, but how is Hunter/Rate Vegas not independent? I have been a regular visitor/contributor for almost 2 years and unless Hunter is keeping a very big secret from all of us, apart from some affiliate advertising, he is not on the books of anyone on the Strip and Beyond (Chance would be a fine thing if it was I am sure!!!).

In Fact this is one of the things I like about Rate Vegas, although there is clearly favorites, and places that may not be as well liked, Hunter is not afraid to call the former on the carpet and Praise the latter as needed.

Sorry Robert, but P.Ho isn’t just going to get the gushing tabloid celeb coverage A La Inside Extra People Tonight Weekly etc. As my Wife would say… “Deal with it!!!”

mike_ch said...

Hunter, I'm not arguing with you. :) In fact, I'm not sure if Earl has a problem insofar as your opinion of the property so much as Steve putting your opinion in what they see as "legitimiate" (aka mainstream) press. You've directed far more disappointed statements at, oh, Venetian. And behind that place is a bajillionaire who is so touchy about his public perception that he's suing the pants off an R-J columnist. If Earl is troubled because some guy with a web site has an opinion, he's not going to make it in this business. It seems more that he thinks your opinion is unfit for inclusion in the paper.

Again, I've seen this happen before in following the Mouse House. There's a guy named Al Lutz who runs a site called MiceAge who is critical of Mickey & friends. The suits at the resorts don't mind him and write him off as a gossip column until he gets quoted in the LA Times or something, and then they go on the offensive and travel the extra mile to discredit his story because the source is "just some blogger." Right now they're insisting a story in his column is false, despite tips from employees on the inside to the contrary. Nobody cared, until the regional SoCal newspapers jumped on it.

I'd say a large part of the resort industry as a whole is having trouble accepting blogs and independent sites. They don't see blogs as "real" and they'll tolerate them until the "real" press quotes them, references them, or otherwise acknowledges them and then they get indignant and yell at journalists to check their facts and stop considering some kid with a computer as a reliable source. And that's what happened here. At least, that's what I gather from what Steve wrote.

Or maybe that's just his cover for a fragile ego. But if that's the case, wait until AAA/Mobil/Zagat hit his joint.

Hunter said...

They worry because they think we can say anything and influence people without it being based on any fact.

That might work for a post or two but trust my, my readers would be history quickly if I was just making stuff up all the time. Trust applies no matter the medium.

Robert Earl, if you want to seriously talk about your project, I'd very much enjoy hearing your take on your facility, Strip competition and your future plans. I'm easily reachable via the Web site.

Jeff Leatherock said...

I sense arrogance and elitism here. RateVegas posters are taking over here dealing with their agendas. Pho is one of the few independent operators on the strip. Do we want more of MGM or Harrah's and their great values? Who else has committed to the strip? Trop? Casino Royale? Riveria? Sahara? Wynn gets a pass for his star value and Venetian because we are scared of Adelson. In a city where 100,000 different people enter and leave every day, why are the "Same Six Guys" (RateVegas posters) thinking they are the judge? Aren't you tired of Roger Thomas designs and signage? Do you really think you are an agent of change? And if so, what kind? I read 3 blogs (RateVegas, Five Hundy and The Strip) and 3 websites (LVRJ, Sun,and Las Vegas Advisor) every day. I am part of the group. Hunter, you haven't said what is not fake compared to Pho. What do you want? Where is your commitment to quality? How will you support it?
I dream of being a Whale, but I'm afraid I'm Plankton.

jacob said...

One of the coolest parts of this is the strange space Steve occupies and how interesting it is when his two worlds collide. He's a bona fide journalist AND a creature of the Internet and has equal respect for both. And because he has equal respect for both, there are some (Earl) who would believe it reduces his credibility as a journalist. Will be interesting to see how this plays itself out.

mike_ch said...

Jeff, almost anybody can post on any of the blogs. There was a few months earlier this year when a noisy group of people with their own agendas came into Hunter's blog and made every mention or story about Wynn into an agonizing affair. Though unless I don't know something, nobody was actually "kicked out," they all left on their own accord, which was shortly after the dealers voted to organize.

In fact, your slam on Roger Thomas designs makes me reminisce about a special certain someone who was posting during that period, but I doubt that he'd show up here.


Well, all are welcome here and nothing in this discussion thus far has been off-topic.

Jeff: This reminds me of the thing I wrote about a while back when Clint Holmes attacked a theater critic for panning his show. I understand that it is emotional for people who make great investments of time and money when they don't receive universal acclaim. But if they can't handle it, it's not elitist to think it's immature.

Hunter said...


First off, you said you're a regular reader of my site amongst others - thanks!

Let me answer a few of your questions directly.

First off, my quote in the story was related to the way Planet Ho is being marketed and their 'phony' vibe - it's not a comment on the quality of the facility itself, the restaurants, etc... Actually, if you read the Q&A section on my Web site, I OFTEN recommend Planet Hollywood (and the Aladdin before that) as a good value property in a nice location.

I make jokes about Adelson suing people and that is indeed scary but again, I'm constantly berating the property for its failings.

I don't have *anything* personal against Earl - I know very little about him as a person. I'm not rooting for him to fail - actually, you could argue that in a general sense its better for me if his hotel is a smashing success.

And who knows, P-Ho may be one... What I was saying in the original quote is that the Hollywood vibe feels fake to me - and it still does. You can but that stuff and gloss the place up but that won't last so if that's the only strategy, they will have problems. If they back it up with a solid offering, they could do very well.

I very much appreciate having more independent operators on the Strip and having it all be locked up by MGM Mirage/Harrah's is not a great thing IMO.

By agent of change, I don't mean myself specifically. I mean the idea that transparency is almost forced on companies these days - they can't get away with the old tricks and those that realize that will ultimately prevail. Also, there is something to be said for the idea of the power of 'early adopters' - such as espoused in the book 'The Tipping Point'.

Anyway, I very much appreciate the discussion. Very interesting. Thanks. I hope I've explained my position a bit better.

Gregory_Zephyr said...

You know what I find most interesting is that it's the power of the internet that enables this behind-the-scenes peek at journalism in action. 20 years ago if Steve had written the same piece, Mr. Earl may have gotten upset and yelled at Steve. But, none of the rest of us would know that. It's fascinating but not big enough news to make it into print. Blogs are not just "common folk" becoming journalists so much as they are bridging the gap from us common viewers and readers and the media elite. (And while Steve is one of those media elites, he's a nice elite.)

Maxine Weiss said...

Al Lutz !!! We all know Al Lutz, but he has a much wider network, and probably doesn't consider himself a journalist.

I, personally like theme. I think there's too little "theme" right now, so much so that Vegas is losing it's whimsy and charm.

So anytime a casino operator is willing to invest in 'Theme'---no matter how fake, I think that's a good thing!

After all, the place is called "Planet Hollywood"....and so even a fake "Hollywood" theme makes sense at this juncture.

That being said, I won't stay there. There's not enough info on their website about room quality and room styles/pics---of the remodel.

But, you could say that about Wynn too.....which has a horrendous website and poor functionality.

Wynn isn't going for as young a crowd as PH---I don't think, so I'd think PH would really want to shore up their online presence!

Joey said...

So whose name did they open a porn site under?

This shit is getting crazier and crazier.

From The Moveable Buffet Blog-
Web defense in Vegas
"For a big city, Las Vegas can be a small town.

There are only a few of us who cover entertainment full time in Vegas. One local writer recently got on the wrong side of a Vegas headliner with a derogatory review. Suddenly, that writer's name is now hosting a website filled with pornography.

So yesterday, just to be on the safe side, I bought the many variations of RichardAbowitz.com/ net/org/news. Covering Vegas is like no other city."