Wednesday, July 9, 2008

Travel Mag Ed Who Hates Vegas Quits

I'm pleased to report that Erik Torkells, editor-in-chief of Budget Travel for the past several years, is quitting. The New York Post says he was essentially being pushed out by a "corporate restructuring." Jossip has some interesting recent history.

Why should you care? Torkells was the genius who, as editor of perhaps the nation's most important bargain travel publication, went on the mag's blog three months ago to bravely declare of his own readers' favorite city: "I hate Las Vegas. There -- I said it."

It seems Torkells had seen ads for the Wynn in Bon Appetit and thought the "newish" -- 3 years old is new? -- resort looked tacky. Had he ever set foot in the place? Eaten at its Michelin-rated restaurants operated by James Beard-winning chefs? Why, no, of course not.

But, nevertheless, he wrote: At this point, it’s old hat to complain about Vegas being fake, but I looked at the photos in the ad, and I just thought, They look like they’re from a computer game—maybe Grand Theft Auto: Country Club. I don’t want to be anywhere near these places. And I realized that if I never went to Vegas again, I’d be just fine.

Well, that's really an intelligent way for a major magazine editor to draw conclusions, based entirely on photos in an advertisement -- maybe Wynn doesn't advertise in BT? -- and some stereotypes that he admits are "old hat." (Who says "old hat" anymore?)

And, no, as most readers of this blog know, I'm no Vegas or Wynn apologist. In fact, early in Torkells' management, in Nov. 2004, I was not permitted to include anything negative about Las Vegas in my BT piece on the search for Old Las Vegas. I had included a couple of passages about things that folks should NOT do and was told that if it's that bad, just leave it out. That stifling was precisely what gave rise to my piece for the Los Angeles Times on Vegas' Seven Deadliest Sins, my sense that telling people what not to do is at least as valuable in a place of infinite choices like Las Vegas. And I took the Wynn to task for several deficiencies in my punishing Chicago Tribune assessment of the joint when the "newish" resort opened in 2005.

Maybe next Torkells will turn up at The New Yorker and bravely declare, "I'm bored with Iraq. There -- I said it." Or he can find himself at US Weekly and bravely declare, "I don't care about Angelina Jolie. There -- I said it."

Either way, hopefully this demarcates a new era for Budget Travel, which was once piloted by the venerable Arthur Frommer. Frommer, by the way, loved Las Vegas. Too bad he was a bit daft by the end of his tenure. But that's not Vegas' fault. Or is it?


Ray said...

Hear, hear! I am so sick of people whose first reaction to a mention of Las Vegas is "ugh, I hate Vegas". When you probe, you always find that they've, a) never been there; b) went there once 15 years ago; or c) are total cheapskates and think the steak house at Circus Circus is an indefensible splurge. I love it when you call these folks out!

Fiona Manning said...

Hi Steve, I am a boxing writer and I cover Vegas fights almost every weekend. There are things I love about the place (I am a fan of the laidback California Hotel for accomodation, a total sucker for the Mandalay Bay weekend brunch and I love the Aladdin) and a few small things I hate (traffic on LVB when I am late for ringside curfew) but's one heck of a fun town! Kudos to you!


Fiona: Do tell more about the MB brunch. I'm not familiar. Where, at the buffet? -Steve. P.S. I'm well aware of your fight coverage. We should do the MB? :-)