Saturday, November 17, 2007

Planet Ho's Big Night

I'm resting up before I head out this evening to partake in the grand opening of Planet Hollywood, which Robin Leach predicts on his blog -- a bit excessively I posit -- "may well go down as the biggest showbiz weekend in Vegas history." They do have a lengthy list of stars showing up for the thing and the big crowner of the night will be a concert from Barbra Streisand.

Proving he's not really gay, Miles has opted not to come with me to see Streisand. Thus, my companion for the evening will be our friend Amy, co-host of the sisterly podcast Grits to Glitz. Proving she MIGHT have been gay in another life, she ran out and bought a new dress!

Meanwhile, the Planet Ho revival gave me a chance to sell my first piece to the British media, what with Robert Earl a famous Londoner and all. So read my account for the Sunday Telegraph of London here. And, if you're a British reader, any chance you can snag me a copy tomorrow and mail it my way?

Friday, November 16, 2007

Wynn Offers Elad "Suggestions" On Plaza Design

OK... here's the first fun bit from my Wynn chat Wednesday night. Apparently, Wynn's not too fond of the horrible mock-up of the future Plaza Hotel and is trying to be "helpful." (The rendering is pictured here, courtesy of VegasTodayandTomorrow.Com.)

Friess: Have you seen the renderings of what the Elad Group wants to put there?

Wynn: Yes, but they're in the earliest stages of it. They were all over here today with their drasings reviewing traffic lights and driveways. ... Drawings will change, concepts will change, we're not near done with the Frontier yet.

Friess: Did you make any suggestions about how it will look because it doesn't look very interesting.

Wynn: Mmhmm. I did, yes. To show the drawings was a little bit too soon. The fact of the matter is the demolition was enough. You don't have to show everybody your drawings. Besides, you can't get paid for it. They're not a public company, there's no reason to show people an unfinished product in my opinion. But they're smart guys, these fellows.

How neighborly! I wonder how Adelson feels that the most prominent Israeli business interest in Vegas is cozying up to Steve Wynn!

Thursday, November 15, 2007

Wynn LV Halts Free Drinks...Sort of

There was a rumor going around that Wynn Las Vegas was planning to alter a sacred Vegas custom by halting the free cocktails for gamblers in the casino. Turns out, that's incorrect.

However, Wynn PR queen Jennifer Dunne says, there is a change afoot worth noting: Gamblers who play the video poker machines built into the bartops at the B Bar, the lounge just off the casino floor, are no longer given free drinks. Dunne says it's always been a bit of a problem, folks sitting at the bar, tossing a $20 in the machine and then loading up on free drinks while playing very slowly or barely at all. Apparently, this is something that Bellagio has tried, too, at the Fontana Lounge, although it's unclear whether they've stuck to it.

When I heard this rumor -- which I did after my chat with Steve Wynn last night -- I thought it might be true and that this was yet another way Wynn was trying to set apart his place from the riffraff. I could just hear him say, "If someone doesn't want to gamble in my casino because they don't get free drinks, we don't want 'em." But Dunne says she doubts it'll ever come to pass, given that it's a miniascule and important loss leader.

Above photo courtesy RateVegas.Com

Serious "Zumanity" accident

As much as I admire Cirque du Soleil, it was only a matter of time before there was some horrific accident before a crowd of people, although it is surprising that it would happen in "Zumanity," which is the most dance-driven and least aerial-stunt-intensive of all their shows.

The R-J reports the woman who flies in the air on a long piece of white silk fabric fell at Tuesday night's show and is in critical condition. Also harmed was the midget who swings around with her. (Sorry, as P.C. as I am, I just can't get my head around the term "little person." Children are "little people," not adults.)

Read David Kihara's account here.

Audience members told Kihara they were traumatized. Which means, of course, some lawyer is cooking up a class-action lawsuit to force Cirque to "compensate" for the pain and suffering they've felt from what they saw.

That said, it was in poor taste that Cirque didn't stop the show. About half the audience left, horrified. Which isn't so bad because then they didn't have to sit through the sophomoric faux orgasm scene near the end.

This Week's Column

I've got a busy day ahead, catching up on so much that was placed on hold by the Frontier implosion, O.J. hearings and my niece's fabulous visit. But I did want to note that our chats with Michelin director Jean-Luc Naret and Joy Behar are online now. Click here to download the show or right-click here to save it and listen to the show whenever you wish.

And here's the top of my Las Vegas Weekly column, "The Strip Sense":

Vegas isn’t San Francisco: The foodie stars shine brighter on us

It’s a bit hard to believe now, but a scant two years ago I got into a bit more than a tussle with my editors at Conde Nast Traveler over the Vegas food world. Simply put, I knew it was becoming something extraordinary, and they didn’t quite get it.

As their man on the cuisine scene for the annual Hot Issue, the edition that names the best in new restaurants, hotels and nightclubs from the year that was, I was in a quandary. We were looking at 2005, the year the Wynn Las Vegas opened, and the new joint had at least four restaurants—Alex, Bartolotta di Mare, Wing Lei and Tableau—that deserved recognition. In any other year and in any other city, all would make CNT’s Hot Issue.

But beyond that, it was also the year that Joel Robuchon at the MGM Grand opened, as did Sensi at Bellagio and a few others the names of which I can’t recall at the moment. But my editors insisted that I select just two.

“Two?” I cried. “Are you crazy? This is Las Vegas! How many is San Francisco getting?”

Four, I was told. But San Francisco is San Francisco. Las Vegas isn’t San Francisco.

In the end, since I had to count Robuchon in, I ended up throwing my bouquets at Alex at Wynn.

I tell the story because this week, as if I needed any more backup to my view, the vaunted Michelin Guide’s much-awaited assessment of Las Vegas came out and, lo and behold, it seems that Las Vegas is San Francisco after all.

The Vegas results in the food world’s most respected critical publication were astounding. For this first-ever examination, they awarded 16 of the 127 restaurants they wrote about with their sought-after stars. In Michelin world, just one star denotes an exceptional experience; the three-star honorees are out of this world. Not getting a star does not mean they don’t like it; it just doesn’t hit the exacting threshold.

Read the rest here

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

OJ, Ellen and Wynn

OK. So I'm sure by now you know OJ Part Duh is coming to a courtroom near us late next year. Well, if you care, here's my New York Times coverage of today's events in court. V.S. will be delighted to know I refrained from using the word "disgraced" as it pertains to Pete Rose today and, yes, I did so in part because of her post.

More important, though, is my USA Today piece on Ellen DeGeneres, which appears in Thursday's paper. She's performing at Caesars Palace Thursday night as part of The Comedy Festival in a variety show that will air Monday night on TBS. But Ellen is controversial these days, what with her weepy Iggy caper and her continuing to shoot her talk show during the writers strike. So see what she has to say about all that in my piece. But, also, grab next week's podcast to hear our conversation in its entirety.

Finally, I had an hourlong chat with Steve Wynn today for a piece I'm filing Friday about Wynn's Michelin triumphs and some other topics. There was, as always, loads of news out of that conversation and I'll start piecing it out over the next week. I haven't listened to the discussion again since it ended at 7 p.m. and I'm thoroughly exhausted at the moment from all the week's events.

BREAKING: Joey Arias To Leave Zumanity

The legendary drag performer Joey Arias, who has starred as the emcee of the Cirque du Soleil production of "Zumanity" at New York-New York, is departing the show at the end of the year, if a suitably off-beat YouTube appearance is any indication. Arias is probably the only name star of any sort in any Cirque du Soleil production anywhere, so this is a significant development.

It's hard to make out what he's saying, but here's a transcript provided to me by the YouTube video's poster, who is Joey's personal masseur:

"Oh, I'm standing here thinking about my last here days in Las Vegas, I've been waiting for this dream to come true, time is clicking. I'll be leaving here soon. I know I am the Creature, the seed of this show. Oh yes, the show of life. People will always wonder, where is she? She will be wrapped in your arms. Oh, yes, your arms, Yes. Jared, even though the potato chips and the dip didn't go well, I think our love surpasses that on this moon, this martian landscape. Yes! Ill be leaving. If you want to see me before you've got a short time. I'll be leaving you now, leaving, come......come!"

The masseur in the comments section clarifies for us that Joey is gone after New Year's Eve.

The surprise to me is, frankly, that Arias stayed as long as he did. He's a New York legend and Andy Warhol pal with a brilliant and saucy spontaneous wit who was unable in "Zumanity" to show off the fullest extent of his talent because he had to follow a script that wasn't really all that funny. Here's hoping maybe he'll do some local cabaret performances before he vacates Sin City!

The amusing thing about Joey is that he's been in the show for 4.5 years and I believe he still lives in the hotel that Cirque puts up all their talent in for their first month or so in town.

Stupid Pic Of The Day

This was distributed by Frank Marino's folks, probably from the Global Gaming Expo where James Gandolfini is appearing to promote the new Sopranos-themed slot machine. What a riot! See, it's funny because James Gandolfini is holding the fake stuffed breast of a female impersonator! Oh, the hilarity!

Ironically, while it's presumably Gandolfini who's the attraction at this thing, it's Marino's still got a career.

Back in OJ Land

Back in court. Should have some sort of outcome today as we're on the final witness, I think. Whew.

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

The Strip is LIVE at 7:15 pm PT!

We're doing things a little out of order because Miles has to stay at work till 7 but our interview with Michelin director Jean-Luc Naret cannot be moved from 7:15 pm. SO... I'll do that interview, then we'll start the show properly at 7:30.

Come on down to LVROCKS.Com and join the chat! Or listen to the podcast in its proper order when it's posted on Thursday. The celebrity guest is a somewhat crabby Joy Behar of "The View."

Next week: Ellen DeGeneres and Wolf Blitzer.


We have a bunch of other footage including me chatting with RateVegas.Com's Hunter Hillegas before and after, but the files don't come from my Sony camcorder to my Macbook Pro intact, so I set this 3-minute set to a thumping remix of "Time To Say Goodbye." Enjoy and check back for more soon.

Monday, November 12, 2007

Inside the FRONTIER Implosion, Part III

OK! Here's my Sunday photo trove from the New Frontier. I love the one above most, obviously, but there are lots of fun ones below including a drawer of the casino cage, some casino and room shots and the fireworks stuff out by what was the pool. Enjoy!

Venetian SHUT OUT on Michelin Stars


As I predicted, Michelin completely snubbed the Venetian in terms of handing out stars in its first-ever Las Vegas dining guide. The guide was supposed to hit today at noon, but the evidently leaked it on their website by accident and then went all the way with a press release.

The guide includes 127 restaurants in Vegas and just 16 of which received any stars. Still, that's a lot more than I thought they'd give out.

The big winner was not a surprise: Joel Robuchon (MGM Grand) got three stars, the highest rating. Alex (Wynn), Guy Savoy (Caesars) and Picasso (Bellagio) landed two stars, all excellent choices. You can go back and hear "The Strip" podcast's interview with Robuchon from earlier this year by clicking here or right-clicking here.

One-starrers were: Alize (Palms), Andre's (downtown), Aureole (Mandalay Bay), Bradley Ogden (Caesars), DB Brasserie (Wynn), L'Atelier de Joel Robuchon (MGM), Le Cirque (Bellagio), Mesa Grill (Caesars), Michael Mina (Bellagio), Mix (Mandalay Bay), Nobu (Hard Rock) and Wing Lei (Wynn.)

Steve Wynn, 4. Adelson, 0. (I'm giving Wynn credit for Picasso, too, since he created the place. Not giving Wynn credit for Le Cirque as it was an established NYC institution.)

Anyhow, Adelson's gotta feel the pain there. Adelson gets Thomas Keller, Wolfgang Puck and Mario Batali and can't buy a star. Painful. But equally painful for Wynn might be that Bartalotta di Mare got shut out. That's interesting because it was Paul Bartalotta and not Alessandra Stratta who was nominated for a James Beard Award the year the hotel opened.

A few thoughts:

* They were awful generous with the one-stars and yet left off some really amazing places including Craftsteak and Nob Hill (both MGM Grand), Charlie Palmer Steak (Four Seasons), Tableau (Wynn) and Hugo's Cellar (Four Queens).
* We've eaten at Alize at least three times and always found it below average for the price.
* Bradley Ogden and L'Atelier are in the "don't go" section of "Gay Vegas." Miles has famously referred to the decor of L'Atelier as having "the look of an upscale Chilis" and we were so disappointed we left it out of Conde Nast Traveler's Hot List that year.
* We're fans of Mix and Mesa Grill, but I can't say it meets the level of technical excellence I believed the Michelin stars required.

A couple of other interesting details: They only checked out 13 restaurants that would cost $25 or less per person. That gives quite a bit of insight. By contrast, for their first-ever Los Angeles guide, which also is out this week, they reviewed 263 restaurants and gave out just 18 star-ratings -- and not a single three-starrer.

Wow. Vegas food has really, really arrived.

Sunday, November 11, 2007

Inside the FRONTIER Implosion, Part II

OK - I crawled all over the Frontier today and will post more pix probably Monday morning. In the meantime, though, I also just posted a special BONUS edition of "The Strip" in which implosion dude Mark Loizeaux explains in depth the details of how this implosion will work, what's next in Vegas -- the Island Tower at the Trop, in January or February! -- and what sort of $$$ is in the implosion biz. He also notes that the Elad Group, owners of the site and future Plaza Hotel, are having the implosion piped via closed circuit TV to their investors in Israel. At least they get to watch at a less ungodly hour, huh?

Hear that chat here or right-click here to download the conversation and hear it whenever you wish.

I've got a piece on the Loizeaux family running in the New York Times on Monday that you can read here. Plus, we'll be on site early Tues to do some video.