Saturday, November 10, 2007

Inside the FRONTIER Implosion, Part I

Today I got to walk around the New Frontier site and interview the owners of Controlled Demolition Inc., the Loizeauxes. This is the Baltimore family behind every implosion on the Strip since the Dunes. I'm working on a feature on them for a major national paper to run Monday in advance of the implosion early Tuesday. The sun was setting fast when I was done with my interviews, so I'm going back Sunday to shoot some inside pix. And yes, I grabbed some trinkets for keepsakes -- some pieces of glass, some old ticket-in tickets and the Associate Handbook pictured below from the floor of the vacant space.

I'm obviously very proud of the above image and its cool Wynn reflection. Below are more shots, including one of the Loizeaux family threading dynamite to stuff into pillars in the building. One surprise is how intact so much of the building is -- why didn't they take down the Frontier lettering and auction it off or give it to the Neon Museum? And the pool area still has all its grown palm trees; I would think there would be a market for those, too.

Loizeaux explained that the contractor on this job is not the same as the Stardust's and does not have the same eco-friendly approach. There are tax breaks and other perks to stripping buildings of their wood and carpet and such and recycling most of the building materials. Not this crowd. Oh well. Enjoy the pix and, if other sites or bloggers want to use them, go for it but give us credit.

Friday, November 9, 2007

Product Placement in the OJ World

Here's the top of a fun entry I've penned today for The New York Times' blog, The Lede:

Product Placement at the O.J. Simpson Trial

LAS VEGAS — Move over, Bruno Magli — the preliminary hearing of O.J. Simpson is just a day old and already there’s been more product placement references than an episode of “Mad Men.”

Of course, the setting itself, Las Vegas, is nothing less than the pop culture zeitgeist, and references to the trendy Palms, where Mr. Simpson is staying, and the Palace Station, where the football star and his group confronted a pair of memorabilia dealers, have been rife since the Sept. 13 incident.

But now that Mr. Simpson and two co-defendants are in court to determine whether they will be tried on armed robbery and kidnapping charges for bursting into the room and leaving with a trove of memorabilia, memories of how Bruno Magli shot to fame when the treads of the expensive Italian shoes owned by Simpson were pondered at his 1995 trial for the murders of his ex-wife and her friend. Mr. Simpson was acquitted.

This round’s Bruno Magli may turn out to be the Sprint Katana cell phone. Memorabilia dealer Bruce L. Fromong, who said Mr. Simpson stole $100,000 in merchandise in the raid, complained loudly on Thursday that Mr. Simpson also snatched away the $280 phone that Mr. Fromong had just bought earlier that evening.

Read the rest here.

Since that piece went up, a few more products have come up, including the Essex House in NYC and Radio Shack. Fun!

In addition to that offbeat little thing, we've also posted this more formal Day Two report.

This thing is supposed to resume Tuesday and could last to Wednesday, too. All the other journalists are moaning. I'm happy for the paydays.

OJ v Goulet

I'm sitting here in the courtroom wading through the second day of the OJ probable cause extravaganza, as you can see. That's me with my hearing assistive headphones on. Not very stylish, but they really work. They also make my earlobes ache after a few hours. My butt, too, is miserable thanks to these hard-as-boulders benches. I just asked OJ Simpson's sister how this courtroom rates versus the other courtrooms her brother's antics have made her sit in and she said this is the most uncomfortable. Nice job, Vegas.

That said, the Wi-Fi and extra power strips are very hospitable to my ilk. And so I'm checking my email constantly and I get this press release from the Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority:

Dear Las Vegas Media Partners:

I have just learned, as you may also have already heard, that there is scheduled to be a Metro-led motorcade with Mr. Goulet's hearse traveling south-to-north on the Strip following the 1 p.m. funeral service at Shrine of the Most Holy Redeemer. This motorcade is ESTIMATED to begin sometime between 2:30 and 3 p.m., although it is impossible to know this for a fact as there are a number of eulogies slated to take place during the service.
This is merely an FYI...

And at first, I thought to myself, "How trivial!" Then I realized, I'm spending as many as four days of my life on this OJ hearing and untold thousands of dollars are being spent by the international media. So I guess Goulet's motorcade down the Strip isn't so silly, huh?

Thursday, November 8, 2007

NYT on OJ, Day One

OK - here's my day one report for the New York Times. There might be an updated one later as testimony continues right now, but I've gotta go to UNLV now. See some of you there!

here we go...

Alrighty... we're seated in the third row, a space away from Marcia Clark, Thomas Roberts and the AP's legendary Linda Deutsch. It's quite a bench. OJ is here, looking cocky. And I've got the hearing-assistive headset on, which is enabling me to hear every bit of chatter of the lawyers and such up front. Sadly, they're not saying anything of interest, but one can only hope...


Off to court now to see what becomes of the charges against OJ Simpson. Try to glimpse me on the TV! Also, there's wi-fi in the courtroom, so perhaps I'll live-blog. Will see.

Also, don't forget my appearance tonight at UNLV at 5:30 pm. Read the info on that here.

Finally, the newest episode of "The Strip" is up, with Chuck Woolery revealing for the first time his 25-year feud with the late Merv Griffin. Hear it here or right-click here and save it to listen to whenever you wish.

Tuesday, November 6, 2007

Vegas' New $100K Man

We on "The Strip" never did manage to ascertain what act was first to earn $100K a week in Vegas, but thanks to the exclusive dinner I attended this evening at the Hilton, I can tell you who the new $100K-per-show performer is: Terry Fator.

Uhh, who? Fator is the 42-y/o ventriloquist who won NBC's "America's Got Talent" contest and $1 million this summer. He was promptly pegged to do a show at the Hilton in October that sold out instantly, as did the second show they added. Now he's doing a third gig in December, then New Year's Eve and then 15 dates through May.

In a rather unusual move, the Hilton released his salary, which is $1.5 million for the 15-show package. That's a nice chunk of change. Fator seemed like a very affable guy, extremely awestruck that after all these years of toiling in obscurity he's a Vegas headliner now. He gave a brief performance for a group of about seven journalists tonight and, yes, he's quite good, but I'm a sucker for this stuff. Also, he seems savvy enough to duck the answer to this question I asked: "So, just how drunk was Hasselhoff during the show?"

Did any of you watch "America's Got Talent?" Would you pay $49-$149 a seat to see him? Is he the next Danny Gans now that Gordie Brown seems to have turned out not to be?

Monday, November 5, 2007

The Strip is LIVE on WEDNESDAY This Week

Sorry, folks. I've gotta go to a reception at the Palms prior to a preview screening of Love in the Time of Cholera that I'm not getting to stay for because I've got to race to the Las Vegas Hilton for a dinner with one of their soon-to-be-announced new headliners.

Anyhow, our show will be live on Wednesday at 7:05 p.m. with game show hosts Chuck Woolery and Bob Eubanks. Expect some breaking news from the Woolery chat. Plus, tons of Vegas news.

What I Did In Boise

The piece I went to Boise for, a profile of a deaf man whose life has been made into a biopic starring Ron Livingston and Michael Sheen, appears in USA Today tomorrow. It's already online.

Disabled war veteran's activism forges onto film

BOISE — His story was about to be told up on the big screen, but as Richard Pimentel stood to thank his friends and fellow activists for coming to this preview screening in his hometown, he realized his legacy was all around him.

There were people in wheelchairs who, a scant 15 years ago, wouldn't have had ramps to enter the theater. There were also people with hearing disabilities who wouldn't have had devices providing special amplification, and blind people wouldn't have been able to listen to an audio description of the Pimentel biopic Music Within.

Here's the rest.

The film also stars Michael Sheen, who played Tony Blair in "The Queen," as a man with cerebral palsy. It is an amazing performance. I may put out the audio of that chat and the one with Ron Livingston (Sex and the City's Berger), none of which made it into the USAT story, on the podcast feed.

Breaking: The de-S&R-ing of The Mirage

Here we go. This is the first step in the Mirage's moving on from its Siegfried & Roy era. Well, creating "Love" was clearly the first step. But now the free attraction, the Royal White Tiger Habitat, has been closed - effective immediately.

I have heard rumors that sooner or later the Mirage is going to shut down the Secret Garden as well, given that it takes up so much precious, pricey acreage. So far, though, that suggestion has been categorically denied.

Still, I suspect within 10 years, all that will be left of the Siegfried & Roy era will be the statue along the Strip sidewalk. I don't react much to hotel closures and the like, but this seems sad. I especially loved going to the Habitat and watching that cheesy video of a young, pre-injury Roy frolicking with the tiger cubs.

What goes into the space that was this free attraction? BLT Burger, a new joint from NYC chef Laurent Tourondel. It opens in the spring.

Sunday, November 4, 2007

OJ's Got No Place To Go

Newsweek has now posted my piece on O.J. Simpson's challenge finding a place to stay this week when he returns for his pretrial hearing. It's a fun little piece that quotes MGM Mirage and Harrah's both rejecting the idea of having him on their properties.

Read it here.

Thank you, WSJ!

I'm sure by the time you read this, the moment will have passed. But right now, "Gay Vegas" is ranked #1 on Amazon.Com in the category of gay/lesbian travel, #2 in Las Vegas travel guides and #11 in all gay and lesbian nonfiction. Also, the book is at #24,593 overall. To understand the tremendous impact of Tammy Audi's Wall Street Journal piece that referenced the book, I was at #600,000ish on Friday morning. Wild. Keep it going. Buy yours now.

Now, how do we get WSJ to write about "The Strip" and "The Petcast"?