Friday, May 18, 2007

The Petcast Is LIVE Saturday 9-11 am PT with Paula Poundstone!

Emily and I are recording four new episodes of "The Petcast" Saturday 9-11 am PT. Join us in the chat and listen live at LVRocks.Com.

Here's the line-up:

9 am: Comic and cat enthusiast Paula Poundstone
9:30 am: A woman from the World Canine Freestyle Org (a group that dances with their dogs.)
10 am: Bird fan Amy of Grits to Glitz on the dead birds in Emily's neighborhood
10:30 am: A guinea pig expert

Plus, the latest in pet news and personal chit-chat.

These shows won't be posted as podcasts until early June, so hear them now or catch them later at

That Diaper Thing Was Real...Sort Of

A few days ago I pointed out the story from the Canadian Press wire service about the advent of adult diapers intended for use by gamblers who can't be bothered to leave the craps table to, uh, take a crap. I pitched it to one of my editors at the New York Times with an appetite for frivolous story ideas but who was skeptical. So, too, was my own journalist partner, Miles, who opted not to include it in his Vegas newscast when he could not find anywhere in the piece the name of the company nor, in a Google search, any evidence of any company selling or advertising such a thing. All he came up with was a zillion versions of the wire story from Dirk Meissner of the CP.

I emailed the Mr. Meissner's editors to ask if the story might have been fabricated. I received a response from the CP's British Columbia Bureau Chief Katherine Bell pointing me directly to the online advertisement that indicated the diapers were for "all-night gamblers."

But here's the thing: The advertisement was deep within a Craigslist-style site. See it for yourself. Anyone could have posted it for free and, anyhow, the gambling angle is just one of several SUGGESTED uses. The reporter did not name the company nor quote the proprietor, so there's no evidence that anyone has actually bought one of these things to enable their gambling habit. The proprietor turns out to have a Web-based company called Natural Health Depot. She's just a tiny little vendor.

So what, you ask? Well, Mr. Meissner used this as the bouncing off point for a lengthy meditation on the evils of gambling addiction, quoting experts who view this "development" as more proof of the deleterious impact of casinos and lotteries, etc. That's a fine topic for exploration, but not on the back of a bullet point of an Internet advertisement. Mr. Meissner paraphrases one source as saying: "People who wear diapers to casinos are not increasing their chances of winning ... and it indicates their level of delusion about playing the machines." See? We have a situation for which we have no evidence or testimony and then we have psychoanalysis of the imaginary crazy people too!

Interesting also that the same ad suggested it might be useful for all-night truckers. Where's the big story about overworked truck drivers and the hazards they pose to the highway? I bet lots of older people at casinos happen to be wearing diapers because they're old and incontinent and also wear them to their granddaughters' ballet recitals, but a trucker needing diapers because he/she feels so much pressure to get there that he/she can't stop for a wee when facilities are every few miles?

I'm not going to judge Mr. Meissner on one story alone. He did just recently receive an honorable mention for breaking news coverage on a boat disaster from the National Newspaper Awards in Canada. But on this one, he goofed. And, worse yet, the editor who green-lit this piece goofed. And, given the utter obscurity of this advertisement, I'm curious how Mr. Meissner, who is surely too busy to be browsing online for diapers, came across it. I suspect one of the anti-gambling sources he quoted pointed him to it. Or maybe the owner of the company, but then why no quotes from her?

I do love this sentence from Ms. Bell in the email: "While it is understandable that the New York Times would be concerned about reporters fabricating stories..." Yowza. A not-so-veiled reference to Jayson Blair? When was that, three years ago?

Just thank me for not putting up the close-up of the red diapers. Even I'm not that cruel.

Thursday, May 17, 2007

NEWS: Cinevegas Awards Star Line-up!

I've had this info for weeks and was only told to keep it to myself through the first week of May, so I'm ready to put it out there since I haven't seen it reported anywhere else...

This year's Cinevegas Film Festival is going to be HUGE. They've had a few solid stars in the past, but this time the wattage is off the charts, befitting its host city. It's already well-known that the Vegas premiere of "Oceans 13" will kick off the 10-day event on June 6 with Brad Pitt, George Clooney, Matt Damon, Andy Garcia, Don Cheadle and Ellen Barkin all in tow. The producer of the film, Jerry Weintraub, will received the festival's Vanguard Producers Award and the opener will benefit Weintraub's Darfur charity. it can be told. Here are three other awards:

Vanguard Director: Mike Newell (Harry Potter IV, Donnie Brasco, Four Weddings and a Funeral). Also, they'll show a preview of his latest, "Love in the Time of Cholera."

Half-Life Award (bestowed on a successful actor at mid-career): Oscar winner Charlize Theron, who stars in the Oscar-bait Paul Haggis flick "In the Valley of Elah" due out this fall.

Marquee Award: Oscar winner Sir Anthony Hopkins.

Closing night is June 16, when they'll show the world premiere of "You Kill Me" starring Luke Wilson, Tea Leoni and Ben Kingsley. No telling which stars will attend, but odds are high it could be all of them.

Congrats to everyone involved. Cinevegas has come a long, long way from the days when they were reduced to play old films to round out the schedule. This year they've got 91 films on the lineup from indy foreign stuff to shorts from UNLV students.

Here's hoping they dispense with the sort of pretentious, anemic live interviews that Elvis Mitchell committed with Julian Schnabel a few years back after a screening of "Before Night Falls." God, that was awful. And I actually enjoy some of the podcasts of Mitchell's KCRW show "The Treatment." That sort of pretention just plays better on the radio when you can't SEE how full of the conversers are.

Speaking of podcasts, we had Dennis Hopper, chairman of Cinevegas, on "The Strip" last year. Hear that show here now or right-click here and listen to it whenever you want.

Wednesday, May 16, 2007

Revisiting WHHSH

I thought you all got sick of my ranting over misuses and overuses of WHHSH (that's What Happens Here Stays Here for new readers), so I laid off it for a while. Now I'm back with a vengeance because people keep sending me stuff and I keep meaning to post it.

To wit, here are the three worst offenders:

WHHSH: The Movie. No, really. Amy of the Grits To Glitz Podcast pointed this one out today. Ashton Kutcher and Cameron Diaz will star in "What Happens in Vegas," described by the Hollywood Reporter thus: "Following a night of debauchery in Vegas, two strangers (Diaz and Kutcher) discover they have gotten married and one of them wins a huge jackpot with the other's quarter. In trying to determine the rightful beneficiary of the winnings, the duo embarks on a series of plots to undermine the other, falling in love along the way." Isn't Diaz a little young for Ashton?

WHHSH: The Lawsuit. Miles caught this one. A girl and her grandparents are suing the Chicago Board of Ed because a substitute teacher showed "Brokeback Mountain" in an 8th grade class and knew she shouldn't and now the little girl is afraid of camping with Jake Gyllenhaal, I think. How do we know the teacher knew better? According to the lawsuit, she told a student to shut the door and said, "What happens in Ms. Buford's class stays in Ms. Buford's class." Ms. Buford should be sued just for saying such a thing. Oh, wait. She kinda was. Justice!

WHHSH, The Hack's Crutch. Gregory of the Anything SF podcast pointed out this one. The sheriff and undersheriff in San Mateo, Calif., were arrested in a prostitution sting in Las Vegas in late April. It's a sensationally tawdry tale and the cops' denials are painful and silly, but San Francisco Chronicle scribe John Cote deserves to be jailed, too, for beginning his juicy story with: "What happens in Vegas doesn't necessarily stay in Vegas after all."

Any others out there?

Live From Israel!

OK, not me.

I woke up quite early today to watch via Webcam as my niece, Siona, graduated from 8th grade from her Jewish private school, Abrams Academy in Bucks County, Pa., at the Wailing Wall in Israel.

If you have any interest in seeing the video, you can click here to watch it or right-click here to download it to your computer and watch it whenever. The video file is huge - 200 MB - and about one hour and may take some time to download (dial-uppers need not try), but Siona appears for her diploma at about 52:40. The rest is largely a tribute to a fallen Israeli soldier, Michael Levin.

Here are two screen shots that you can click on to make bigger. In the top one, that's my niece with her diploma. In the bottom one, that's my sister, Sheryl, who chaperoned the trip, standing behind the lady in the sunglasses.

Mazel tov to all, and how cool that modern technology makes it possible to be there even when we're, uh, here. Hey, I'm in the desert, too. Does that count?

The Gays, The Jews and Vegas

There is a pathetic creature out there who reads this blog religiously and never seems to miss the podcast but who is nonetheless livid that Miles and I are gay and that we talk about our lives as if -- get this! -- they were normal. He even spends his time posting homophobic messages on this blog under old posts that nobody is reading anymore (I get email alerts to all new posts or I'd miss it, too) and has debates with himself, pretending to be more than one poster. It's very odd. And always loaded with bad grammar and spelling because kooky fundamentalists are uniformly averse to the English language.

Still, even wacky, virulent homophobes have their days, and this may just be his. Thinking he was hurting my feelings, he passed along this very useful link from a Swedish newspaper reporting that Swedish magician Joe Labero (pictured above) bitched to an in-flight magazine about why he can't get work in Las Vegas:

"I don't mean to sound prejudiced of course, I'm just cynical. A blond Swedish Viking will have a hard time breaking through the hierarchies that control Vegas, where power rests in the hands of Jewish business syndicates, American dollar millionaires and homosexual booking agents."

Fascinating. Did you know this? Planet Ho is installing a Dutch magician, Hans Klok, who is reportedly not gay, American or Jewish, and he's been hired by P.Ho CEO Robert Earl, who again is none of those things. There's Steve Wyrick, Nathan Burton, Lance Burton, David Copperfield and Criss Angel -- none are gay (not openly anyhow) and none are Jews. True, Siegfried & Roy are gay but would never admit it, but they sure weren't Jewish or American. We're not entirely sure they were even Earthlings.

Could it be that Mr. Labero is just not very good? Look at this clip below -- he's cutting a woman into pieces in a box. Gosh, Vegas really needs its 18th version of THAT trick. And the close-ups of him -- what's with the 1980s-hair-band look? -- I wonder about his protestations of heterosexuality anyhow.

Interestingly, He did go on to apologize for the remarks yesterday. You know, because he didn't mean to sound prejudiced. Of course.

Anyhow, being gay and Jewish myself -- and left-handed and hearing impaired, what a list! -- I'd like to speak on behalf of this city when I answer this other comment made by Mr. Labero:

"But I will get there, sooner of later."

I'm thinking not.

The R-J Slams Falwell

It's worth pointing out that the Las Vegas Review-Journal -- routinely lambasted by liberals as being prehistoric in their editorial page bent when, in fact, they are consistently, if occasionally maddeningly, libertarian -- published this utterly devastating summary of the life of Hater-in-Chief Jerry Falwell.

Falwell died yesterday and immediately discovered just how wrong he was his entire life and that's awful sad but not really. But what's better is knowing that for all his sound and fury and silly attacks on purple fictional characters, he signified little in the real world.

The R-J points out in this brilliant editorial that the most important thing to remember about Falwell is that...he failed. His movement didn't reduce abortions in any meaningful way, he didn't cut down on illegitimacy, societal violence or divorce (the core social problems in this country and -- think about this -- all caused primarily by HETEROSEXUAL men) and under his watch homosexuality earned perhaps its greatest widespread acceptance in world history.

So his life was a waste. That's nice to know.

Tuesday, May 15, 2007

The Strip is LIVE at 7 pm PT

Come join us for the live chat during the show at Guest tonight is Joel Robuchon, talking about why his restaurant is so expensive and what he thinks of Rachael Ray. Also, we'll have an audio essay from the Rock, Paper, Scissors tournament.

See you there!

Stay in the Boob!

I've got a very busy day of guidebook writing and prepping for tonight's episode of "The Strip" (join us live in the chatroom at 7 pm PT at LVROCKS.COM with Joel Robuchon and an audio essay from the Rock, Paper, Scissors tourney last weekend) and interviewing Margaret Cho for a future episode of the program.

Still, I wanted to give credit where it's due.

Sonya Padgett has a terrific story in the Living section of the Review-Journal today that I had been hoping somebody would do, examining the massive murals and wraps on Vegas casinos. She has this classic quote from Don Marrandino of the Flamingo regarding the Toni Braxton wrap:

"People have actually asked to be placed in rooms (corresponding) to strategically located body parts."

She also has a sidebar explaining how they apply the wrap. Great work. The only thing I think she overlooked was whether you can tell once you're in the room that there's anything on the window. I'd have liked to see a picture from inside just to show. Also, it doesn't say whether you actually CAN get the thigh or the boob should you request it.

Monday, May 14, 2007

Two Interesting Pieces of Vegas Show News

Since I'm so quick to point out when something looks like it's not doing well, it seemed only fair to report that "Phantom: The Las Vegas Spectacular" does seem to be holding its own. Not setting the world on fire, but the cast was called into a meeting recently and told not to worry about some of the lighter crowds. Apparently, according to a source, the show has made money every week it's been here. They're at nine shows a week now but it's likely it'll go down one or two, with the two Sunday shows consolidating because the early one sees the weakest attendance. The cast principles have all been signed to another year, I believe, so they're in it for the long haul. And heck, a Broadway show staying in Vegas for more than a year is now the definition of success unless you're that anomalous phenom known as "Mamma Mia!"

While we're on the topic, an interesting development over at "Lance Burton: Master Magician." For the first time that I know of, a hotel is offering a discount on tickets if you buy them online at their website. At Monte-Carlo.Com, they give you $10 off. I don't know whether this is just a logical innovation nobody had thought of or that Lance is showing signs of wear and tear after so many years of headlining. He sounded good when we spoke to him a couple months ago for "The Strip" Podcast.

You know, I say it's an innovative idea and I mean it. At the same time, though, don't most people buy their show tickets through the show's website? Hmmm... sounds like the making of a new poll!

Diapers for Gamblers!

Can't wait to see THIS showing up with dice or playing-card designs on them at the World's Greatest Gift Shop!!!

Yes, they've now got adult diapers for those who just can't rip themselves away from the tables. Sort of amazing that they don't have special female servers stalking the floor with bottles or bedpans or something to help remove waste.

Read all about it here. And thanks to Lin in NJ for pointing us to this.

Suddenly, a Rock, Paper, Scissors tourney seems almost normal. Read my dispatch for today's New York Times on the festivities over the weekend. This is a different piece than my localized previews for the Boston Globe and Chicago Trib that ran on Saturday.

Sunday, May 13, 2007

Special Podcast: Wynn Apologizes to Dealers

(UPDATE: Hunter at RateVegas.Com reports dealers did vote to unionize and he has the tally. Read it here.)

We came into possession of a 20-minute bootleg audio of Steve Wynn apologizing to dealers at the Wynn Las Vegas as they prepare to vote for whether to unionize in the wake of his decision to alter their tip-pooling set-up at the hotel. It's in the podcast feed now. You can hear it -- with my intro -- by clicking here or you can download it to your computer to hear whenever you wish by right-clicking here.

This audio is difficult to hear but compelling enough to post. In it, he discusses how he is sorry, but it's unclear whether he regrets the tip-pooling changes or how he unveiled them. He talks about his exhaustion at that time from going back and forth Macau.

Interestingly, I interviewed him in Macau at that time for Newsweek Magazine. I used a piece of it on the tip-pooling issue -- in which Wynn says the decision was a non-event -- on our Sept. 14 episode.

Vegas pundit Jon Ralston also posted this audio today and this is his summary from an email blast he sent out of what was said. Ralston also wrote his sources say they will unionize by a 3-to-1 margin. From Ralston:

He refers several times to a "mistake" he made on the tip pooling that "lost the family feeling." He says he did "not understand there was a sense of betrayal....I did not realize the extent of the mistake I had made until yesterday....There's nothing to be said except that I got it wrong.....I'm sorry for the aggravation."

More: "I would never do it on purpose....People with good intentions make mistakes....My job today is to reinstill trust from you by admitting I made a mistake."

Wynn says this union has lost 8 of 11 elections. Says successful election at Frontier has contract that he has distributed to employees that shows distribution of tips to be determined by management.

Says "most rabid anti-Steve guy or gal is not going to get fired."

"The thing I want to do is keep your job as your representative.....If the union gets a yes vote.....I have to sit lose all your flexibility....we have to revisit everything about our relationship....I need for us to be together to take us where we want to go...I'm your guy. I gotta be your guy."

More: "There will be people who will vote for the union to say, 'Screw you, Steve'". That will be a much bigger mistake than I made."

"Please vote no on the union....Give me a chance....."

Applause is heard on the tape as he concludes.