Friday, September 19, 2008


[Note: deadline for estimates is now 10 a.m. PT on 12/5/08]

Here in Vegas, we famously have reproductions of an Egyptian pyramid, an Eiffel Tower and a Statue of Liberty. So it's somehow fitting that Clark County District Attorney David Roger ordered up a replica of Palace Station hotel room #1203, where the incident occurred that led to the current armed robbery and kidnapping charges against O.J. Simpson.

What you'll find in this post are the only photographs permitted of the structure by any media as of the end of the first week of Simpson's trial.

Here's the external view of it:

The 335-square-foot room, complete with wooden versions of the various furnishings of the room, was built in a basement conference room at the Clark County Regional Justice Center and was intended to be State's Exhibit #80 to be shown to the jury hearing the case against Simpson and co-defendant C.J. Stewart, one of the five cohorts to joined Simpson on this adventure. (I'm so sick of repeating the convoluted details of this case in each story I've done this week for The New York Times, so go here if you want the 411.)

As it happened, presiding Judge Jackie Glass, a.k.a. Judge Anti-Ito, took one look at the plywood structure and decided that this would not give the jury an accurate understanding of the alleged crime scene. So on Friday, in a controversial and infuriating move I'll probably deal with here later this weekend, the jury was spirited off in secret to the Palace Station to see the actual room 1203 in a move that turned a piece of a public trial into an invite-only private event.

Below are views of the structure. How did I get these shots? Well, I asked and had particularly good timing. The court spokesman had shown it to other journalists earlier Friday, but it so happened that just before my request, he'd gotten permission from the DA to allow it to be photographed. I did so just as the courthouse was closing for the weekend.

Here are my pictures. Wherever possible, I've also inserted a shot of the actual room in a similar angle, either from images shown to jurors during the trial of the night of the incident or from Friday morning's visit to Palace Station. Those photos come from Issac Brekken and John Locher, both the pool photographers during this trial whose images are to be shared with the newsmedia at large.

Here's the entry way, the "bed" and the "room" from a variety of angles:

This would be the bathroom entry below. The bathroom itself :

This below is the top of the armoire. Tom Riccio, who set up the confrontation between Simpson and the collectibles dealers who Simpson believed improperly possessed personal belongings he wanted back, placed his audio recorder on top of the armoire. That recorder captured several hours of chatter, including the dialogue during the six-minute incident and private conversations among police personnel processing the scene. The real armoire has a dip such that nobody could see what was on top of it except for from above.

And, of course, here I am, contemplating ways to make the place more homey. Or something.

So here's the deal. The folks from Clark County couldn't find out for my by end of the day Friday how much it cost them to build this thing that never got used. (I suggest, a la Sarah Palin, they put it on eBay to make back some dough. Would it be inappropriate for the state to ask O.J. to pose in there?)

You all have until I find out to e-mail me at TheStripPodcast[at] with your guess of what this thing cost. Whoever is closest can choose anything off the prize list in the left rail at TheStripPodcast.Com. If there's a tie, I'll draw a name. Do not post a guess in the comments or you're disqualified.

The Petcast is LIVE @ 10 a.m. PT Saturday!

Emily and I are recording three new Petcasts on Saturday, so listen live and join us in the chat at LVRocks.Com. Here's the guest line-up:

* 10 a.m.: Victoria Stilwell, host of "It's Me Or The Dog" and "Greatest American Dog" judge.
* 10:30 a.m.: Kyenan Kum, KoreanAnimals.Org
* 11 a.m.: Jeanie Vaughan, founder of Turtle Dreams

See you there! Or wait for the shows to appear in the RSS feed!

Thursday, September 18, 2008

This Week's LVW Column: Star Blight

Star Blight

Despite Dion’s run, Vegas is still basically where passé stars come to roost


I was pushing my editor at a major newspaper hard last week to let me do a piece on Donny and Marie Osmond’s surprising resurgence as a resident act on the Las Vegas Strip. She wasn’t buying it.

“This is typical Vegas,” she IM’d back. “They’re passé.”

But wait! No! Donny’s been on stage lo these many years, and Marie’s big again thanks to Dancing With The Stars.

“Passé,” she repeated. “It’s what Vegas does.”

That rankled me. I’ve always taken it on as one of my missions as a journalist to promulgate a more accurate picture of what Vegas is and does out there into a world transfixed by clichés and shorthand.

To some extent, Vegas has won the battle on several fronts, becoming well-known and respected for its impressive food scene, its beautiful hotel accommodations, its top-shelf shopping. You don’t hear much anymore about the $2.99 steak dinners, squalid rooms designed to propel guests back onto the casino floor or seedy T-shirt stands.

So here I was, taking up the battle. Vegas has changed, I insisted.

“Look at Bette, Cher, Manilow, Elton John!” I shouted back in all-caps.

But she then pointed out the obvious, the truth I hadn’t wanted to acknowledge but which has been there in front of me all along. “Passé, passé, passé, passé,” she wrote.

And all I could think of as those words appeared was: OMG! She’s right!

Ladies and gentlemen, at some point when we weren’t looking, the Céline Revolution was canceled. In fact, I think many of us forgot what the Céline Revolution was supposed to be.

Read the rest HERE

Show is UP: Mickey Hart

As Miles noted at the end of this week's show Mickey Hart from Grateful Dead wouldn't seem like my sort of subject. But he's got lots to say about the volcano, certainly, but also about the science of music and other efforts to preserve endangered musical forms around the world. but Click on the date to hear it or right-click to download the show and listen whenever you want. Or subscribe via iTunes here or via Zune here.

Sept. 18: Mickey's $25m Vegas Gig

The Beatles were reincarnated in Las Vegas as a Cirque show. The Four Seasons and Abba came back as hit musicals. And Donny & Marie are returning as, well, Donny & Marie. But only the Grateful Dead could resurface on the Las Vegas Strip as, well, a volcano. Sort of. Dead drummer Mickey Hart has teamed up with an Indian musical maestro to score the classic street side attraction at the Mirage with a score that Hart says will blow you away. We'll talk to Hart this hour about that and more this hour.

In Banter: Notes from OJville, IGT layoffs, we’re a-Twitter, a too-catchy ditty, Gordie Brown goes back downtown and Andre Agassi’s benefit goes upscale.

Links of topics discussed:

Follow us on Twitter here
See a video documentary on the Mirage’s new volcano here
Mickey Hart’s website is here
Dominick Dunne’s Wikipedia page is here
Some of Steve’s coverage of the O.J. can be found here
The Gambler’s Book Shop podcast, with that fun little theme Steve can't stop humming, is here
Norm covers Gordie Brown’s move back to the Golden Nugget here
A press release about the new version of the Andre Agassi benefit is here
The Las Vegas Sun’s piece on more about Criss Angel’s delay here and catch the iTricks Criss Angel podcast here
Dare To Gamble Blog comments about Harrah’s cutting back on Wheel of Fortune slots here
The R-J’s breaking news alert on IGT’s layoffs is here

Aria sings "Food, Glorious Food!"

It is not a surprise that MGM Mirage would populate the various CityCenter properties with a new lineup of great chefs. What's interesting is that a lot of those in the lineup being announced later today include many who already have restaurants within the MGM Mirage universe.

To wit, here are the name chefs expanding their Vegas offerings:

* Michael Mina (Michael Mina, Seablue, StripSteak, Nobhill) will open American Fish. At five, Mina is closing in on Puck territory for Vegas.

* Julian Serrano (Picasso) gets a place called...Julian Serrano. Which is great because that way even people unaware of the chef's name at Picasso will be able to say it wrong all the time! (It's Hoolian, not Julie-an.) From what it sounds like, this is Serrano's answer to Joel Robuchon's L'Atelier, a spot that offers more casual, "less expensive" (I put it in quotes because I suspect nothing will be truly inexpensive at Aria) fare. Serrano is apparently going to offer a seafood bar and a lounge offering Spanish tapas, which may be the first example of gourmet tapas on the Strip.

* Jean-Georges Vongerichten (Prime) gets the...Jean Georges Steakhouse. The release says "Vongerichten will challenge the definition of the traditional American Steakhouse by adding a strong dose of energy and sex appeal" which means absolutely nothing until we actually get to see it. In fact, I pity the poor soul who had to come up with a dozen different ways to say "this restaurant is great, unique, delicious, etc" for this. Not an easy task when you're dealing with so many great chefs.

* Sirio Maccioni (Le Cirque, Circo) gets .. holy cow!... Sirio. It's Italian, which means "pasta dishes like grandmother used to make." No telling whose grandmother, but more than likely Sirio's. Also, there'll be lots of wine. And design by Adam Tihany, who is one of those guys who designs everything these days ever since conjuring up Charlie Palmer's Aureole.

* The Light Group (Diablo's Cantina, Fix, Yellowtail, Stack, Brand) brings us a "American dim sum" which, again, I am clueless as a veteran of China. But I will say that while I'm usually dubious of restaurants opened by chains, so far Light hasn't had a misstep.

* Jean-Phillippe Maury, fresh off earning a Guiness record for the largest chocolate fountain at his shop in Bellagio, gets ... JP Pâtisserie. Can't ANYONE come up with a creative name over there, or are they all so exhausted from conjuring up -- and then securing -- "Aria"?!? This place sounds much like his original in Bellagio, actually -- yummy desserts, light food, etc.

Holy cow, though, they're letting a couple of newbies into big time. They include:

* Shawn McClain, opening his first restaurant outside Chicago, to be called Sage. He won "Chef of the Year” from Esquire in 2001 and has seafood, steak and "vegetable-focused" restaurants in Chicago and the release makes it sound like Sage will be a greatest-hits medley similar, perhaps, to what Alain Ducasse does at Mix.

* Masayoshi Takayama, who has the acclaimed Japanese restaurant Masa in New York, will have Bar Masa (surprise!), a restaurant "divided into two unique spaces offering different styles of service and cuisine." There'll be a dining rom called Shaboo.

Oh yeah, there'll also be Blossom, a Chinese place, Lemongrass, a "modern Thai" restaurant (are there any other Thai places of note on the Strip?), and, of course, The Buffet and the coffeeshop Café Centro.

It's unclear whether any of the name chefs involved will actually lay down their knifes elsewhere and come oversee and cook at their CityCenter space full time as Wynn generally requires of them. But it sounds like a busy late 2009 for my gut.

More later, maybe. I gotta get over to Wynn now. See Twitter to see why.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

TSTToTW: The LA Times Story

Amid these bleak economic times, it dawned on me that we here at "The Strip" podcast are sitting on a treasure trove of three years' worth of Top Secret Tourist Tips of the Week. That, for those of you who don't listen to the program, is the feature that closes the show.

So, given that these are tough times, I thought it timely to offer the L.A. Times travel section a piece based on this venerable segment, choosing some of the best of them. And so it is that 21 tips under $21 (get it? 21? Blackjack? Vegas?) appear this Sunday when the TSTTotW gets its unbilled close-up.

That piece is already online. Check it out here. It's fun. And send me new ones, as it's always a challenge to come up with one every week.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

The Strip is LIVE tonight @ 7 p.m.

Join us live in the chat at LVRocks.Com from 7-8 p.m. PT for this week's show which will most likely feature Grateful Dead drummer/Mirage volcano scorer Mickey Hart and ex-Beach Boy Brian Wilson. But we may just use the Bobby Slayton interview. It depends a little on some factors, including what happens with me and the OJ Simpson trial. Here's my NYT dispatch on the case from today's paper.

I know we spoke last week on the live show and in the chat about starting earlier, but we can't do that right now because of my workload with O.J. So join us at 7 p.m. PT. We'll start promptly with news, letters, a new trivia question and, as always, the Top Secret Tourist Tip of the Week.

So join us tonight or wait for the podcast when it's available Thursday morning!

Monday, September 15, 2008

81 Times A Minute?

That's how often O.J. Simpson's lawyer just told the jury that people in Las Vegas can expect to be photographed in some form or fashion: 81 times a minute.

Is that number related in any way, shape or form to reality? This is one reason the lawyer says OJ didn't commit a crime; he knew he was being watched and recorded.