Friday, August 1, 2008

Stood Up By Alan Thicke!?!!?

(UPDATE, 11:44 a.m. PT, 8/2: Norm in today's Review-Journal lead off with this incident here. He didn't clarify much, but I suspect we'll be hearing more. ALSO, a nightclub-scene website reports of Blush, the ultra-lounge at Wynn: "Celebrities like Alan Thicke was seen here last night having a good time." Wowzer. He snubs the media he's paid by BMW to cater to and then pops up at Blush to rock it. And Blush, which is referred to on that site as "one of the hottest club scenes in Vegas" has his presence to show for proof of its place in the zeitgeist. Can't make this shit up.)

I've had a long career in the media. A lot has happened to me in a lot of places. And I've never been so bizarrely mistreated as I was today by, of all people, Alan Thicke. You know, the kindly dad from "Growing Pains."

He just became our new what-a-jerk-off punchline. Earlier in the week, a PR rep approached me with an offer for an interview with Thicke, who was in Las Vegas to shill for BMW's new electric Mini Cooper. I figured I'd go ahead and take the interview for "The Strip" -- Thicke has some sort of game show event coming up in Vegas in October -- and check out the electric car. I had just earlier in the week had an interview for The New York Times with an Arizona developer who insisted that electric cars were the big new thing, so I happened to have coincidentally begun taking an interest in doing a piece on the topic.

I agreed to meet Thicke at the Las Vegas Ice Center, a hockey and skating rink far across town from me. I was to interview him while we rode together to the Hard Rock. This would be a significant time investment, having to drive literally from one end of the valley to the other, then ride with Thicke almost all the way back, then have someone take me way out west again to get my car. Here's what the drive from near our house to the place I was to meet Thicke looks like:

It's far. And it's 110F out. And my car A/C, valiant though it is, wasn't really capable of keeping me cool given all the lights and traffic. Woe is me.

By Thursday, I was starting to realize I was pretty overbooked for Friday. But I had promised to meet Thicke and he was only in town for a day, so I moved interviews and appointments I had set up for pieces I've got going for the L.A. Times, New York Times and the Las Vegas Weekly. I also, as I always do, spent hours online prepping by reading a zillion old stories and drawing up questions. I wanted to read Thicke's new book in advance, but nobody on his team could manage to get a copy to me. I'm kinda glad now.

About five minutes before I arrived, the rep, John Passuth of Avalanche PR, even called from his East Coast offices to make sure I knew precisely where in the parking lot I needed to be. So imagine my surprise when I show up on time, get out of my car, walk up to the lady who is supposed to lead me to my interview and discover that the interview is off.

She said: "Alan's already on the bus. He's gone. I'm sorry. This interview is off."

Huh? Five minutes ago this was a go. Now it's off. Period. Not "we'll reschedule" or "do you want to check out the electric car anyway" or "can we get you a cold drink before you risk heat stroke on the ride home." It's just off. Buh-bye.

I started back home and checked my voicemail. There was this from Mr. Passuth: "Alan Thicke had an emerency and has left the premises and we will have to cancel the interview. I am terribly, terribly sorry. We just got word from Alan's people. I've never dealt with anyone who dropped the ball within a minute or two of the interview so I'm embarrassed to even make this call."

As well he should be. When I got back to my computer, I wrote demanding an explanation. This was Passuth's response: "His publicist told us that he has canceled his entire afternoon of media. There was a situation with an earlier event at the ice center, nothing to do with my client or the car, that is the catalyst for all of this. Sorry I don't have a more detailed explanation for you."

What might have happened? Maybe some deranged "Family Ties" fan thought he was Alex P. Keaton's dad and that just drives Alan Thicke NUTS. Who knows. All I know is that Alan Thicke blew a massive hole in my busy day and all I got was this shitty blog post.

A sign of things to come...

On the live version of "The Strip" this week, Miles and I were chattering about the wrap at Flamingo. We cut that bit out of the edited podcast because neither of us had a clue what was going on down there and someone in the chat said the Toni Braxton hoo-hoo wrap had been replaced by Nathan Burton. There was some other reason that we cut it out, but I can't remember it right now.

Well, as you can see above, Donny and Marie are, in fact, being unfurled across the face of the building. Burton has a wrap on a smaller building a bit farther north obstructed in this image by a utility pole. I shot this photo this afternoon.

Speaking of D&M, I got an email earlier this week from an uber-queer friend who had seen them at the MGM Grand this week and who reported, uh, exuberantly: "THEY CRUSHED IT! I felt like a teenage girl all over again...they were so good!!! And Marie still looks great!!!"

My friend wanted to know why I'm so down on them coming back to the Strip, so I wanted to clarify that. I'm not down on this. What I am is confused by how this fits into the Flamingo Las Vegas' plans under ex-Hard Rock president Don Marrandino to sex-up and modernize the resort and its clientele. Everything else they had done, from the Go Rooms to Toni Braxton to Margaritaville to kicking out Gladys Knight seemed on track to make this place the mid-Strip, mid-market 40-and-under place to stay.

Donny & Marie just don't fit into that program. It doesn't mean I don't think they'll do a good show or draw people in. I just don't get the big idea here. It would seem they would fit the demo of Harrah's Las Vegas better. That's all.

Boyd Halts Echelon Construction

In more depressing signs that this economic downturn is hitting Vegas harder than pretty much any other in more devastating and tangible ways that will take ever longer to recover from, Boyd Gaming today halted construction on its planned $4.8 billion resort on the old Stardust property because of, of course, financing problems. In the process, they seem to have lost their joint-venture partner, Morgan Hotel Group.

Here's the company's statement: "We have decided to delay construction of our Echelon project on the Las Vegas Strip due to the difficult environment surrounding today's capital markets and the challenging economic conditions that currently exist. We expect to resume construction when credit market conditions and the overall outlook for the economy improve."

That, they said, could take nine months to a year. It was originally due to open summer of 2010.

These photos below come from an email sent out by Deutsche Bank gaming stock analyst Bill Lerner. They were taken early this morning to show how far the project had come so far. The company had already invested $500 million, but Wall Street greeted the news that Boyd had realized its limits by running up the stock by more than 20 percent, its largest gain in eight years.

Unlike the shadenfraude of taking note of the struggles of the arrogant and misleading Trump folks, this really makes me sad. The Boyd folks are from top to bottom nice, helpful and humble people and I've been excited to see what they come up with over there.

Thursday, July 31, 2008

Is There A 9/11 Room Rate Discount?

Here's this week's LVW column...

The price is … strange

Room rates take a curious plunge right around the anniversary of 9-11


I am not one of those 9-11 conspiracy nuts. I have an eccentric British pal who does believe that George W. Bush, despite his incompetence at ordering in lunch, was behind the most horrific events of our time. This friend is constantly forwarding e-mails asserting that the Baltimore family behind Vegas casino implosions actually imploded the World Trade Center and made it look to the stupid people of the world as if some “hijacked” airplanes caused their fall.

I reject all this, so I’m sane, right?

Well, maybe. But I won’t hold it against you if you wonder about me after I tell you this:

I am a 9-11 Vegas-hotel-discount conspiracy nut.

Stay with me for a moment. Something weird is going on around here.

About a week ago, for reasons I can’t even recall, I took a look at room rates in September at the MGM Grand. I was surprised to notice that in the week of September 7, the resort’s rates fell to their lowest level of the entire month—$100 a night—on that Thursday. That Thursday is the seventh anniversary of the terror attacks. Every other Thursday that month, the rates were the highest of the Monday to Thursday rates. During that particular, auspicious week, the rates fall dramatically.

Odd, thought I. Could it really be that, lo these many years later, there’s still some residual impact on occupancy because people prefer not to travel or recreate on that date?

My brain said no, but my heart said yes, so the next thing I knew, I was obsessively scanning to see if other resorts on the Strip saw similar dips on 9/11/08. Here is the list of resorts that see unusual room-rate drops on that Thursday: Luxor, Bally’s, Harrah’s, Bellagio, New York-New York, Treasure Island, Paris, The Mirage, Mandalay Bay, Las Vegas Hilton, Golden Nugget, the Rio, Hard Rock, Wynn and Trump. There may be more.

The Mandalay Bay and Hard Rock were particularly startling. At Mandalay Bay, the room rate is $210 Sunday through Wednesday, then $120 on Thursday, a $90 drop. At the Hard Rock, the rates are $299 Monday through Wednesday and $109 on Thursday. That’s a $190 decrease! The Wynn is also kind of odd: The rate all that week and the week after is $499 per night except on September 11, when it’s $399.

Read the rest HERE

Show is UP: Steve 'N Stevie

Here we do, y'all! Click on the date below to hear it or right-click or download the show and listen whenever you want. or subscribe via iTunes here or via Zune here:

July 31: Steve Lawrence

They’ve become known as the casino closers. Four times in the past decade, Steve Lawrence and Eydie Gorme have been called upon to be the final performers at the closing of a resort or a famous showroom. But the act itself keeps on trucking. Well, sort of. Steve Lawrence is performing solo in August at the Orleans while his wife deals with a variety of health problems, as you’ll hear this hour. Lawrence spoke to Steve last week about Frank Sinatra, the original Tonight Show, about fighting with Eydie on stage and about why they haven’t seen a resurgence like Tony Bennett and Frankie Valli. Plus, he talks about their son, David, who composed the scores for the “High School Musical” movies. That’s all coming up.

In Banter: Trump IS having layoffs, Jerry Lewis is packing heat, Ping Pang Pong is wonderful, Miles is hung up over a gross Secret commercial and the prospect of the Las Vegas TV show as a movie.


Buy tickets to see Steve Lawrence at the Orleans Aug 15-17 here
See that Steve and Eydie is on What’s My Line here
See a spoof of the Secret Flawless ad Miles is so irked by here
Others hate that Secret ad, too, and they chatter about it here
Find the Global Gaming Business podcast with Vegas biz exec interviews here
Read all about Jerry Lewis packing heat at McCarran here
Find out more about the terrific Ping Pang Pong at the Gold Coast here
See the KVBC report on the Trump layoffs and Trump’s denial of same here
See the drive-thru article about the Fiesta Rancho sportsbook here
The Burger King drive-thru ad Miles whines about is here
Chris Lawrence’s blog post about the potential “Las Vegas” film here
Weatherford breaks news about a new poker show at the Venetian here

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Lake Las Vegas Could Be Drained!!!

It's not funny. I know it's not funny. In fact, it's terrific journalism. John G. Edwards and Alan Maimon have a front-page piece in the Review-Journal today based on a passage in the bankruptcy filings for Lake Las Vegas that indicates that the 320-acre lake could disappear, drained into the wash and sent back to its rightful home in the Colorado River, should emergency repairs on a 7-foot pipe not occur forthwith.

And here, friends, is the greatest understatement in Vegas history, per that filing urging the fix:

Drainage "would be disastrous for the project, because it would be virtually impossible to obtain the amount of water necessary to re-fill the lake, and the project would lose a considerable amount of its appeal were it built around a dry lake bed."

Bravo to the cheeky lawyer who clearly had a swell time writing that! But it gets even better when Henderson's public works chief tries some fruitless spin: "I don't see a ghost town at Lake Las Vegas. It's too nice." Yeah, because millionaires like Celine Dion want to live around a big, smelly pit full of stuff that reckless boaters have been pitching overboard for years.

Oh dear. Read all about it here.

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

The Strip is LIVE tonight w/ Steve Lawrence!

The Strip is LIVE tonight at 7:05 p.m. PT with Vegas legend Steve Lawrence, who performs without wife Eydie Gorme in August at the Orleans. We'll also be chatting about Trump's cussing out a journalist, the potential "Las Vegas" movie and other Vegas news.

Come into the chatroom at LVRocks.Com at 7 p.m. or wait until later in the week for the podcast version.

Let's Do A Gay Nevada Tourism Story Without Any Gay American Tourists!

I've got a lot to do today to prep for tonight's show and to finish up a long-overdue NYT piece, but I needed to address this.

There's a woefully incomplete piece by Richard Lake in the Review-Journal today that addresses the loss of income to the state caused by the ban on gay marriage. Gee, I wonder where they got THAT idea from? Except that a lot is missing from this story, including comments from, say, anybody in the resort industry or the local gay community, any acknowledgment that almost every major hotel-casino performs non-legal same-sex weddings these days and aggressively advertises same (he made it sound like a gay-friendly chapel is rare) or any discussion of how that industry is making a play for the gay California honeymoon market.

Oh, and Lake errs in saying that American gay couples can go to Massachusetts to wed; the Bay State has a 1913 law on its books that for four years has been used to ban out-of-state gay couples from doing so. That may change, actually, this week, as the state's Senate already reversed it and the House is debating it today.

That's what you get for writing a piece about gay rights in Nevada without speaking to any gay Nevadans. Hell, Lake didn't quote any gay Americans or gay activists at all! The entire backbone of this story was a pair of lesbians who were entirely, completely irrelevant to the discussion of what Nevada is missing out on by having chosen to "protect the sanctity of marriage" that Nevada has been so adept at protecting for all these years. Why irrelevant? They're from Canada. They had absolutely no intention of coming to Vegas for a wedding. They can get married anywhere in their own country. They decided to do it here because one caught Tina's bouquet. Those aren't the people that would bring big money to the tourism market here were same-sex marriages legal.

No, the big money that Vegas is losing is from couples in U.S. states where they cannot legally wed. Those folks are flocking to California to do it but might have flocked to Vegas if Vegas were ahead of the curve. I doubt highly that Canadians, capable of having weddings in their own cities with their families and friends and nobody having to travel much are heading to California. It's not logical.

Bad piece. Missed opportunity. End of screed.

One more important R-J note, though: This was the second day this week without a stand-alone Living section. The entertainment news took up two pages that are normally devoted to Nevada and western U.S. news, the advice columns and puzzles are in the Business section. And the comics have always been a moving target, so they don't matter so much. Before this week, Saturday was the only day that had no separate Living Section. I suspect the Wednesday Living section on food will endure, but clearly the newspaper is shrinking before our very eyes. No word on layoffs, though. Yet.

Monday, July 28, 2008

Kinda funny

Mike from Randolph, N.J., passed along this photo in response, sort of, to the post earlier today with my LVW column about alleged gender discrimination at Moorea Beach Club...

Unclear where that's from, but seems like it could be at home at many places on the Strip...

Sunday Readings...

I finally caught up on the week's worth of newspapers, plus some from earlier in July that just sat there forever, last night. A few thoughts:

* Two Studies in One, Or Something. Read these two pieces side by side, Howard Stutz's from the Review-Journal and Liz Benston's from the Las Vegas Sun, both from the July 23 papers. You're forgiven if you thought for a moment they were writing about different studies on Internet gambling coming out of UNLV. I truly did for a minute. Benston focuses entirely on findings that people in online poker rooms are ruder and meaner than gamblers at live casinos and this makes some people feel bad though not bad enough to stop playing and get a life. The "potential to be more addictive than gambling in a casino" is one that this study "largely side-steps," she writes. Stutz, on the other hand, writes that "the results of the study show that online gamblers wager more frequently and more aggressively." The author is quoted as telling Stutz that "online gamblers are much more prone to suffer from all the negative aspects. The activity lacks social interaction, which can increase the risk of addiction." Very strange.

* Trump Is A Silly Dilly. Or A Fabulist. Speaking of Stutz, he had a follow-up to the KVBC report on the Trump layoffs that started with the, uh, company line: "Don't call them layoffs." Trump is totally unconvincing, as he is when he called KVBC's Steve Crupi to cuss him out over the piece. Crupi and KVBC stood their ground. When you relieve a fifth of your workforce of their jobs, it's not really a reassurance that they'll get them back whenever you're ready to have them. Those people are out of work. They had jobs, then they didn't. Those are layoffs. It's also not credible, when that happens, to pretend you've got an "incredible success" on your hands.

* Mike Weatherford's Good Week. First, he broke an interesting piece about a live poker show at the Venetian featuring amateurs going up against well-known pros. And then he offered some terrific insight I hadn't thought about as to why the soon-to-close Second City didn't do as well as it should/could've at the Flamingo. The bottom line seems to be that the SC folks failed to deliver on the promise of guest appearances by its famous alums.

* I Didn't Know This. Did You? F. Andrew Taylor of the View, the weekly freebie section of the R-J, had a really fun, revealing piece in honor of National Drive-Thru Day, which was last Thursday. (Aside: Isn't it always drive-thru day?!?) All the basics were in there -- the drive-thru chapel, pawn and smoke shops, sexy cafe -- but did you know that they have a drive-thru sportsbook at the Fiesta Rancho casino? I sure did not. God forbid you find yourself behind ditherers like those folks who stand in front of the $1 movie rental machines at the supermarket forever, though.

* Monday Sadness. Remember how gangbusters great the R-J was doing, per its publisher Sherm Frederick, who claimed a circulation gain that didn't exist? Then why, as of today, does the paper no longer have a Living section on Mondays? Mondays were one of that department's best, most original days with Carol Cling's Shooting Stars column and Corey Levitan's sometimes-funny, sometimes-grating stooge-in-odd-jobs "Fear and Loafing" columns. Levitan sent an email out last week that a friend forwarded my way indicating that he'll be doing one of those a month from now on instead. So, Mr. Modesty noted, "the silver lining is that, with only 12 columns a year, all of them will be astonishingly great." Uh, OK. Levitan was mysterious about the switch -- "I am not permitted to tell you any more" -- but it's clear what's going on here. I just got through praising Cling's long-running weekly Shooting Stars column, in which she took note of various TV, movie, commercial and other crews filming around the city, as her "very best, most Vegas-relevant material." So, of course, they had to dismantle the entire page. Sorry, Carol.

Carol's final print SS column indicated that she'd be blogging her Shooting Stars material on the R-J's website here. So far, though, she has not done so, but here's hoping.

This week's LVW col...

Here's this week's Las Vegas Weekly column...

Fee for all

Should cover charges in Vegas be equitable for both sexes


Before you roll your eyes and groan, hear Adam Russin out. He’s not trying to get any money, he’s not trying to draw any attention to himself, and he’s absolutely, positively not trying to ruin your good time.

He just has a simple question that seems to have only one logical answer. And very soon, odds are good the state will agree with him, and a lot of melon carts will be upset.

Russin’s question: How can anyone seriously believe it is not discriminatory to charge a man more than a woman for the same access or service?

This spring, the 25-year-old New Yorker was staying at the Mandalay Bay for a bachelor party and wanted to go with his chums to the Moorea Beach Club, the resort’s topless pool. He was startled to find out that the pool charges men $50 for admission and $10 to women, so he filed a complaint with the Nevada Equal Rights Commission (NERC) demanding the practice stop.

Oh, boo hoo, you say. Everybody knows that these pools and clubs charge men more and that bouncers admit fewer of them in order to maintain a balance that makes the place a favorable flirting circumstance for members of both sexes. If they don’t have established prices like Moorea, then they run promotional ladies’ nights where women get in free or at reduced prices. It’s a marketing tactic as old as rum and Coke. But it might also be against the law. And a cursory reading of the text would seem to support that view. In 2005, the Nevada Legislature amended its nondiscrimination clause for public accommodations to include “sex” along with the race, religion, sexual orientation and all the rest. Weird that it wasn’t already in there, but that’s beside the point.

By public accommodations, NRS 651.050 is so expansive that Moorea could be included under subset (j) as “any park, zoo, amusement park or other place of recreation,” subset (b) as “any restaurant, bar, cafeteria, lunchroom, lunch counter, soda fountain, casino or any other facility where food or spirituous or malt liquors are sold, including any such facility located on the premises of any retail establishment,” subset (m) as “any gymnasium, health spa, bowling alley, golf course or other place of exercise or recreation” or even, depending on the quality of the racks on display, subset (i) as “any museum, library, gallery or other place of public display or collection.”

Any way you slice it, Moorea is one, right? And if so, no matter how badly you want more exposed knockers at the pool, the law doesn’t allow you to engineer it through your prices, does it?

Read the rest HERE