Thursday, April 3, 2008

The Troubles With Christina

Here's this week's Las Vegas Weekly column, the first of two about Christina Binkley's "Winner Takes All." Next week, I'll report reaction to the book from the likes of Steve Wynn, Sheldon Adelson and Terry Lanni. Read my USA Today review here.

April 2, 2008
The Strip Sense: Gaffe Factory
Noted WSJ writer nearly sinks book on Las Vegas through factual errors

by Steve Friess

A few days ago, USA Today published my review of the new book by Wall Street Journal columnist Christina Binkley on Vegas moguls. In it, I explained why I enjoyed reading Winner Takes All despite its enormous flaws, that Binkley almost despite her own sloppiness managed to render an intriguing and entertaining inside look at the past two decades of Vegas development.

In the context of a book review, though, it isn’t possible to delve into the really important factual problems presented in this effort. Longtime Las Vegans might be interested in the laundry list of mistakes I’ve been accumulating ever since I obtained a preview copy back in December.

But first, why be so intense about analyzing one of a zillion books due to appear about Las Vegas this year? Because Christina Binkley isn’t any ol’ author. She is arguably the most important national journalist ever to pay serious attention to Las Vegas. Before she took on the gaming beat in the late 1990s, the topic was—and still is at most national publications—viewed as an adjunct to the hospitality beat. That’s progress; for a long, long time it was just part of the Mafia beat.

So this book is her doctoral dissertation now that she’s moved on to become a columnist. And yet it’s rife with factual mistakes.

The accuracy problems begin with her clichéd title. One of the things we all know about Vegas is that there is never one winner who takes all. There’s always more, or else there would be no Elad, Station, Maloof, Landry’s, Tamares, Marnell.

But that may be seen as a subjective complaint. The following aren’t. Binkley ...


Tuesday, April 1, 2008

The Strip is LIVE... Wednesday @ 7 pm PT

Sorry. Miles isn't well. He never really gave himself a chance to recover from all the travel and the jetlag and now he's been home sick for the second day with a cold and overall misery.

We'll plan to do the LIVE show Wednesday at 7 pm PT. But it's worth the wait. Look who we've got...

Join us for the live chat at LVRocks.Com or wait till Thursday for the podcast.

Monday, March 31, 2008


I couldn't help myself. Yes, we were going on vacation to Europe. But a week before, I stumbled by accident across a piece in the Telegraph in London about a movement to get the Swiss government to outlaw the import, export and trade of cat fur and garments.

It seemed like a perfect piece for the New York Times. And it is! My piece on this odd matter runs in the April 1 editions of both the Times and the International Herald Tribune. And yes, this does make my vacation largely tax deductible. Yay.

In addition to that, I put together a 12-minute video interview as a special edition of The Petcast from our trip to SOS Chats, a 260-cat refuge in the far western mountains of Switzerland where we met Tomi Tomek. She operates the refuge, which is also her home, and has led the movement to get cat fur banned in Switzerland. On the video, Tomi shows us her place, explains the stories behind some of the cats and shows the cat furs she has purchased to prove to the media and politicians that such a trade actually exists.

You can view the video here:

(Sorry, it's too long, evidently, for YouTube. Boo.)

Here are some photos that Miles took while we were up there at the refuge. This is Tomi of SOS Chats...

They have a huge spread for the cats to frolick in...

And the cats have free reign over the outside and the inside...

This is probably my favorite shot. Yes, there's a dog. One dog. And 260 cats. Can you count how many cats are in this photo?

Tomi says she knows the names of each of them and their stories. Here she's being kissed by one as she sits in front of the well-organized medical records for the refuge.

Surprisingly, the place was NOT a stinking mess. It was very sanitary and orderly, probably because they use a LOT of this...

And to give you some idea of where this place was, look at the charming little train depot...

And this is the artsy shot of the village that I took...

In the process of this piece, I also got a tour of the Swiss Parliament in Bern from a prominent lawmaker. Still, there were limits and unauthorized persons, including journalists, can't enter the actual floor of the House chambers. But you can shoot a nice photo through the glass...

Or you can be escorted by a prominent lawmaker into the gallery where you can shoot a photo like this one...

As many readers know, I have a thing for capitals. Mostly state capitals, but I'm starting a national capital collection, too. Bern was the 14th capital I've been to so far. (Others are Sydney, Washington DC, Beijing, Taipei, Bangkok, Singapore, Hanoi, Phnom Penh, London, Paris, Amsterdam, Copenhagen and Seoul.)

So, without further ado, here's the obligatory mug of me outside the capital building...

Peace out. And give a little something while you're at it to SOS Chats. They're performing miracles up there in the Swiss mountainside.

Name That Carpet!

The Review-Journal did something fun in Sunday's paper! No, really!

Sonya Padgett of the Features section offered this entertaining quiz and piece on the Vegas casino carpeting. Go here and try to guess which rugs belongs to which resort. Don't scroll down too far or you'll hit the answers before you're ready.

Also worth your time from Sunday's paper was a column by John L. Smith about a 65-year-old known as the "first lady of fingerprints" for the Vegas cops. She's got some terrific tales about the hands she's printed, from Elvis to Liberace to Johnny Cash. I love these sorts of stories.

And, finally, the Las Vegas Sun's Alexandra Berzon is turning the spotlight for two days on the rash of deaths on Vegas construction projects and the lame actions of governing authorities in these tragedies. The package is complete was a terrific set of online features that include and interactive maps and moving video interviews with survivors. It's a powerhouse effort. The most powerful piece, though, is this bit of information: Nine deaths in 16 months on is more, Berzon writes, than "were reported during the entire 1990s building boom on the Strip."