Saturday, November 22, 2008

Remains of the Day

OK. I know this sounds creepy. I know it. I've never done anything like this before.

But. This morning I was heading to the LVRocks.Com studio for our Petcast taping and I was uncharacteristically early. I drove by the road that leads to the home of the late Robert Maheu, Howard Hughes' right-hand man for a good while. Last Saturday, I attended the estate sale at his home, a post you can read here.

As I passed the turnoff, I wondered if they were going to have another day of the estate sale this weekend because I had been there at its end and there was quite a lot of stuff left. So I drove over and found that, this being trash day, there were these boxes and bags out front. See the picture at the top.

Yes. I admit it. I got out and looked around. Just wanted to see if there was anything interesting laying around in plain sight. I wasn't going to go digging around in the bags and all. No, no. I'm too good for that. Or something.

Well, the left box was a bit of a find. It had atop it a Sears catalogue from the 1970s, some old Christmas cards and condolence cards for somebody who died several years ago. There was this 87th birthday greeting from President Carter...

...and this laminated copy of an old Norm Clarke column when Norm interviewed him on the occasion of the Desert Inn implosion in 2004. (Hughes lived there in his peeing-in-the-jar era when Maheu was his outside rep.)

Maheu seemed to be a bit of a packrat about his media appearances. I also found copies of articles from 2004 about Hughes, including this R-J excerpt of Geoff Schumacher's "Sun, Sin & Suburbia" book in 2004 and Ed Koch's meditation in the Sun about Hughes' legacy from the same year around the time the film "The Aviator" came out. Maheu also had a Liz Smith column from, I think, the NY Daily News, reporting in 1991 on Maheu's forthcoming book, "Next To Hughes." He also had a bound booklet assembled for interested parties to commemorate Wayne Newton's earning a star on the bogus Las Vegas Walk of Fame in 2004.

This item was particularly intriguing...

...because it's a clipping sent to Maheu of an article by Joe Hyams about Ava Gardner by Lawrence P. Ashmead with a note pointing him to the section about Ava and Howard. Each of those figures has some prominence. Ashmead has had a legendary career in publishing and retired recently as executive editor of HarperCollins. Hyams was one of the key celebrity profilers years ago, meriting an obit in the L.A. Times when he died earlier THIS WEEK.

Yet what's odder still is that Ashmead sent this to Maheu in December 1990 but the article, according to this link, was published in Look Magazine in November 1956. I'm theorizing here, but since HarperCollins published Maheu's book in 1992, it would seem likely that this was actually work product from "Next To Hughes." Ashmead wasn't sending a friendly clipping of interest. He was passing along raw material for the book!

That's all pretty cool, but I love the stack of 1973 issues of Newsweek that I grabbed. You see, according to the Las Vegas Sun obit on Maheu, he and Hughes intersected in various ways with the Watergate scandal and the oil crisis of that era. So while I haven't had time to really read these issues, I do wonder if Maheu saved these particular issues of Newsweek for another 35+ years for some personal reasons.

As my Petcast co-host Emily Richmond mentioned when I showed her my booty upon arriving at the studio (late, of course...), that last cover is especially un-PC, huh? I mean, how outrageous of them to complain about 40-cent-a-gallon gas! Oh, wait. That's not what her issue with that image was...

When I get a chance, I'll try to read through these issues and see if there's some Maheu/Hughes reason why they were saved. And I have every intention of passing along that laminate to Norm. How awesome is that. I wonder if decades from now someone will be rooting around the late Elaine Wynn's trash and find a framed copy of this week's column!

Friday, November 21, 2008


I know posting this is precisely what these weirdos wanted, but Sparky of Las Vegas pointed me to this 22-second YouTube thing titled "Steve Friess - YOU ARE INVITED TO JOIN REV. HOLLYWOOD" and I must admire their creativity. That's about all, but still, that's something.

This week's LVW col: Elaine Wynn, Embracing Change

Here's this week's Las Vegas Weekly "Strip Sense" piece. Lookit everyone - I wrote a Jane Ann Morrison column! Tee hee. Love ya, Jane! My chat with Elaine will be featured on this week's "The Strip" as well, so stay tuned!

Elaine Wynn, Embracing Change

Barack's wife, Michelle, was the key

For the First Lady of Las Vegas, it wasn’t the soaring rhetoric. It wasn’t the dazzling oratory skills. It wasn’t the cheering crowds or the position papers or the list of campaign promises that the nation probably can’t afford to fulfill.

Then what was the secret weapon that won over Elaine Wynn, that so impressed her that she found herself bucking her entire industry and her irate husband and actively working on behalf of a Democratic presidential candidate after a lifetime of voting only for Republicans?

Michelle. The wife. The woman seen by so many pundits as an albatross, as the more radical, more racial half of the soon-to-be First Couple. There came a moment for Elaine after the two women spent some time together way, way back in June 2007 when Wynn recalls saying to her husband, “Any guy who could get this woman to marry him has to be a helluva guy.” Good enough, even, to be president of the United States.

But first, Mrs. Wynn’s evolution began as many did over the past two years, when she took note of how enamored her own children and other young people around her were with Illinois’ freshman senator. She was delighted to see them engaged, so she bought Barack Obama’s two memoirs and “the more I read, the more impressed I got.” By the time she and the city’s ultimate Democratic political operative, Billy Vassiliadis, had their first chat about it, she leapt onto the Obama campaign’s Nevada steering committee.

Still, the deal was hardly sealed until Michelle Obama came a-calling for their first lunch at the Wynn.

Read the rest HERE

Thursday, November 20, 2008

The Petcast is LIVE on Saturday...

We're back in the studio on Saturday to record three new episodes of The Petcast. Join us in the chat room and/or listen live at LVRocks.Com from 10-11:30 a.m. PT. Or subscribe in iTunes and get new shows when they're released by clicking here. You can also find and download any single episode at ThePetcast.Com. The photo above is apropos of nothing and 100% intended solely to draw your attention.

Here's our planned lineup, all times Pacific:

10 a.m.: Dr. Nicholas Dodman, author of several pet books including, most recently, "If Only They Could Speak." Focus will be on the overmedication of pets.

10:30 a.m.: Dr. Nina Marano of the Centers For Disease Control, co-author of a recent study on health dangers of exotic, small household pets.

11 a.m.: Author Jon Katz, an occasional Slate.Com columnist and author most recently of the memoir "Izzy & Lenore: Two Dogs, An Unexpected Journey and Me."

The Show is UP: Cirque's Top Guy

So we lied. Sort of. We're holding back the Cheech Marin interview for two weeks. Sorry! But, anyhow, Guy Laliberte should be entertaining enough and, if not, listening to Miles describe the weird Fitzgerald robbery caper sure is. Check it all out by clicking 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.

Nov. 18: Cirque's Top Guy

Cirque du Soleil founder Guy Laliberte, the former street performer who redefined the human circus into a worldwide entertainment phenomenon, just helped open the company’s sixth show on the Las Vegas Strip, Criss Angel Believe. He gave Steve 10 minutes the day of the show’s opening which, of course, meant Steve took 15. In this conversation, Laliberte defends the show and his alliance with the controversial Mindfreak illusionist, discusses the recent purchase of a large chunk of his company by Dubai and tells why there won’t be a Cirque show at Mandalay Bay … YET. Just a note, this interview was conducted outside so Laliberte could smoke, so there is some background noise.

In banter: Terry Lanni goes bye-bye, LVS lays off 11,000, MGM Mirage's CityCenter condo sales suck, Vegas may be shrinking, Wynn joins the S&P 500, Bob Maheu's awesome house and Jubilee! goes, uh, topful.


Cirque du Soleil’s website, where they sell tickets for all their shows, is here
The R-J’s Arnold Knightly’s report about the changing of the guard at MGM Mirage is here
MGM Mirage’s press release on its deal to build in Vietnam is here
The WSJ blog on Sheldon Adelson’s vanishing fortunes is here
A piece on Primm’s woes is here and a piece about Mesquite’s closure is here
The R-J’s coverage of Sheryl Crow and the Aliante opening is here
See a piece on Wynn’s joining the S&P 500 here
Read Steve’s blog commentary about Vegas shrinking here
Norm’s coverage of Jubilee! going topful is here
A piece on Vegas’ brief flirtation with lowering the gambling age to 18 is here
Take a virtual tour of Bob Maheu’s home on Steve’s blog here

Wynn v Adelson, Round 888 or So

The other day, Sheldon Adelson-(barely)-controlled Las Vegas Sands bemoaned Beijing's constricting of visas to Macau.

LVS President William Weidner, discussing the construction stoppage that has put 11,000 Macanese workers out of jobs, told the South China Morning Post:

"There have been some changes in the (Chinese) central government's attitude towards Macau. We don't think it's necessarily all that prudent to put more money in [the project] until we see how that attitude works its way out. ... Macau, because of what has happened, has kind of created for itself unfinished or semi-finished projects. I don't think we're alone in not completing developments."

Well, maybe not. But that didn't stop our good pal Steve Wynn, riding out the miserable world economic conditions with amazing resilience all things considered, from referring to the Chinese as having handled "practically everything beautifully" and having been "more than accommodating, more than understanding." He also told the Associated Press:

"The fact that the economy and the development and expansion of Macau occurred at such a rapid rate has created a great deal of stress on the community. The central government and the Macau government putting ... a slowdown in visitation was an attempt to give the community a chance to absorb the stuff that had been built. ... I think the market is wonderful in China. Macau has always been a tourist kind of place and it's broadened ... its appeal. And I think that's going to continue."

So I guess all of Adelson's sucking up to Beijing, insisting the Chinese mainlander's way of life is just peachy and that there's no such thing as gambling addiction in Asia didn't work out so well, eh?

Four Fun Images For Ya

1. Oops. Spotted this on the way home from my eye exam yesterday. (Results, btw: Left eye 20/70, right eye 20/20, no pressing need for glasses though some looked stylish and does not explain (a) my headaches or (b) the fact that I'm a terrible driver. Oh well.)

2. Eye Candy. The clever kids at the Cordon Bleu Culinary Arts School in Vegas created this below out of sugar for a display at the Global Gaming Expo, which is on this week at the LVCC. I've been hunting around for stories, haven't seen anything that really gets me going yet. Everyone's just so depressed. (To find out how to have a relatively inexpensive, delicious gourmet meal at Cordon Bleu, check out the Oct. 26, 2006 Top Secret Tourist Tip of the Week from The Strip podcast.)

3. Who Knew... that Obama's daughter Malia was, uh, white? Sasha looks slightly closer to accurate, but add freckles and bad teeth to the child to the right and it could be a young Chelsea Clinton. Odd, no?

4. I Don't Get It. Maybe it's that I got up too early, but I love the Argyle Sweater comic strip so much and I need someone to explain to me why this is funny. Please?

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Funny sentence

I'm still recovering from yesterday's headache -- going to an eye doc later today to see if maybe all these headaches are coming from eye strain or just bad karma -- and the time I lost on that, but I did want to send a hearty kudos out to Mike Weatherford of the R-J because this sentence made me LOL:

Little Bo Peep will be working the Strip with Little Red Riding Hood and Goldilocks next spring. Don't confuse them with "The Lion King."

C'mon. That's clever. And there's so little clever in the R-J.

Weatherford was referring to the announcement yesterday of a new $12 million topless show called "Peepshow" to open at the increasingly appropriately nicknamed Planet Ho. You can read Mike's report here and then check in on Norm's speculation about who might go topless in the production here.

But here's a question: Does Mel "Scary Spice" B (left) count as a "pop superstar" anymore? The press release hyping the announcement last week said it would be a “lavish multi-million dollar adult show starring a pop superstar and a siren of the small screen." Mel B is that "pop superstar" and the "siren of the small screen" is Kelly Monaco, a "General Hospital" actress who won the first season of "Dancing With The Stars." That's her above. I figured I owed my straight male readers a little something yummy. If she poses like that, odds are pretty high the former Playboy model will show the rest in Vegas come spring, right?

Oh, and this was also pretty humorous, albeit unintentionally. Monaco, when asked whether she might move to Vegas, told Weatherford it's possible and that raising kids here received high marks from her pal Toni Braxton. Braxton told Monaco: "Trust me, the schools out here are great for kids." HAHAHAHAHA.

To be fair, Braxton's oldest kid is only 6, which means he was 3 or 4 when Braxton moved here. But the Clark County School District is nothing short of a disaster. There are some good schools and many excellent teachers, but it's underfunded, overcrowded and about to get worse. There are many good reasons to live in Vegas. The public schools? Not one of them.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

The Strip is LIVE tonight w/ Guy Laliberte, Cheech Marin

It's a two-fer tonight because both interviews were relatively (for us) short. The unlikely pairing of Cirque du Soleil CEO Guy Laliberte and comic/actor/stoner Cheech Marin should be fun.

Join us at at from 6:45-8pm tonight for the live show and chat with other listeners. Or wait for the podcast. Your call. I've gotta run now and get rid of a nagging sinus headache or I'll be very grouchy on the air. Bye.

Monday, November 17, 2008

Finally, a statistic that makes sense

The Las Vegas Sun's Brian Wargo reported over the weekend that the population of Clark County fell by 10,000 souls from July 07 to July 08. This, after decades of constant, nation-leading growth. Oddly, the Las Vegas Review-Journal chose not to cover this rather significant change of demographic pace.

More important to me, though, is that this proves I'm not (that) crazy after all. For the past year I've asked this very simple question: If thousands of new people are still moving here every month, then why would the housing market ever decline? Where would all those people be living? As the landlord of two properties in very different economic strata, I can tell you that rents aren't rising, either. And student enrollment has flattened, too, to 0.8 percent, fellow Petcaster Emily Richmond reported in September. Assuming that current residents are procreating at a rate that would lead to more than a 1 percent population increase a year on their own -- the CIA puts the U.S. live birth rate at 1.4 percent, in fact -- this had to mean people are not only not moving here but they're leaving, too.

Alas, some continue to spread the lie that 4-, 5- or even 6,000 people a month are moving here. Who are these evil-doers? Mostly, they're real estate agents. North American Realty of Nevada, for instances, said so in an Oct. 13 post here. (In fact, they say all 6,000 are moving to Henderson.) Realtor Brent Jenkins of Re/Max Central (left) on Oct. 23 also promulgated this lie, although he's more vague by claiming it's "3-5k people per month." But they're not alone. The City of Las Vegas' own official 2008 Community Profile uses the 5,000-a-month lie on page 49. Granted, they were using old data.

Get used to it, folks. It's not quite as promotional, but here's the truth: 833.33 people are leaving every month. And still, I can't find a parking space anywhere.

Last Week's LVW Col: Bad Beat

I got a little busy with Wanda Sykes and Bob Maheu and all, but here's last week's Las Vegas Weekly column. Enjoy.

Bad Beat
Try as it might, the poker world just can't make its sport respectable

By now, I thought I’d care. And yet, even given where I’m sitting and whom I’ve spoken to in recent weeks, I just don’t. And if I don’t, I suspect few of you do. Which is the problem.

I’m talking about poker, and I’m writing this from one of just a handful of primo ringside seats allotted to journalists covering the head-to-head match-up that, a few minutes ago, led to the crowning of 22-year-old Peter Eastgate, from Denmark, as the 2008 World Series of Poker Main Event champ.

It was an entertaining moment, to be sure. Eastgate’s cheering section broke out into jubilant Danish song—it sounded a bit like the Oompa-Loompa song in a different melody—when he laid out an ace of diamonds for a straight that beat opponent Ivan Demidov’s two pair. Eastgate got $9.15 million, Demidov got $5.8 million, and I got a few hundred bucks for chronicling it for the French wire service AFP.

But beyond my bitterness over the idea that these kids are wealthier than I’ll ever be simply because they play cards well, I just didn’t care. I do care when multimillionaires become richer and more glorious for playing baseball, football and tennis well, so that’s not it.

I just found the entire spectacle to be of absolutely no consequence to me.

And the thing is, I really, really wanted to give a damn. I wanted to care. Because if it’s of no consequence to me, someone who actually enjoys playing poker and has gotten the chance in recent weeks to interview the likes of Doyle Brunson, Chris Moneymaker and Phil Hellmuth for a New York Times piece on the precarious condition of the game, then I can’t quite imagine what they can do to get me—or you—there.

Why does this even matter? Only because the stated intentions of those who rule the World Series of Poker are to turn the game into a full-fledged mainstream sport on par with the leagues that draw tens of millions of TV-viewing fans and earn billions of dollars each year.

That is why they did this fairly weird thing where, after thinning the 6,844 entrants to a final nine, they halted play for four months. As opposed to playing the tournament out all at once as they used to, and having the ESPN audience know well in advance who had won, this gave ESPN a chance to show the bulk of the tournament in weekly installments through the fall leading up to a two-hour finale on Tuesday that was produced in less than 15 hours after Eastgate dispatched Demidov.

“The goal is to make the World Series of Poker more popular than ever and more relevant,” said WSOP Commissioner Jeffrey Pollack a week earlier as he gave me a tour of the trailers backstage, where 90 ESPN technicians must process the final feeds. The new schedule “was developing a level of awareness in the pop culture that was very significant. But we stopped to ask, ‘If this were taking place on a basketball court or football field, how would we grow it?’”

And yet, it’s not clear that they’ve succeeded even with this scheduling stunt.

Read the rest HERE

Sunday, November 16, 2008

The Bob Maheu Estate Sale

Very quietly this weekend, the belongings of Howard Hughes' recently deceased right-hand man, Bob Maheu, were sold off in what otherwise would seem like a run-of-the-mill estate sale. I wouldn't have known about it -- and evidently nobody in the local media saw it coming -- except that I was out to brunch with some friends crazy about Vegas memorabilia and they mentioned it.

They had seen it in the R-J's classifieds, where the ad read: "ESTATE SALE of R. Maheu. Furn., Doultons, Silver, China, Beds, Antiques. All Goes! Fri & Sat 8:30a-2p. 3523 Cochise Ln. Call 702-379-7364."

Maheu, of course, lived one of those epic Vegas lives, earning himself an obit in The New York Times. So I ran over to the estate sale before I went to cover the gay-rights protest, also on the east side of town.

The house itself, built in 1964 and bought by Maheu for $125,000 in 1972, was fascinating. It's in the Paradise Palms development (so famous there's a Wikipedia page for it) and backs up to the storied Las Vegas National Golf Course. One of the homes in the Conchise Lane cul-de-sac was used as Frank Rosenthal's in "Casino" even though Lefty didn't live there. Aside from Maheu, such notables as Debbie Reynolds, Dean Martin and Tony Spilotro lived in this hood. Here's what it looks like from the aerial located on the Clark County Assessor's website:

There were some really fun features to this place. The lady running the estate sale made me stop taking photos just when I saw the raised, kidney-shaped bathtub, so you don't get to see that. But there's plenty more, from the sunken front living room... the swimming pool... the closets... the once-state-of-the-art sound system... the spiral staircase in the second living room...

...that led to this bar and den.

I really wasn't quite sure what these (click on the image to more clearly read the song titles) were in the chest to the left of the TV above...

...until I saw this and realized they were scrolls for the player piano!

Maheu and his late wife, Yvette, were clearly a very musical folks with, uh, eclectic tastes...

I loved spotting these old decanters and that fascinating cash register behind the upstairs bar...

A lot of what was to be found -- especially since I arrived in the last hour of the two-day sale -- were typical estate sale tchochkes. Those figurines below are priced at $4,500 for the pair...

...but I didn't check to see what the monogrammed napkins or the Dinah Shore cookbook were selling for.

They were hoping for $8K for this, though:

I wondered, spotting this, if Maheu was an early Sarah Palin fan!

I know, I know...what about Howard Hughes stuff? Well, I did get there near the end, as I said, so collectors probably picked the place clean but I did spot this photo montage that included a Hughes-related newspaper clipping.

My greatest moment was searching the pockets of an old golf bag and coming up with these golf balls, one from a Hughes Invitational tournament and another from the Desert Inn Golf Course:

Paid $1 for them. And in the utility closet over the washer and dryer, I spotted a box that contained 40 matchbooks from the Savoy Motel.

I can't find much online about this place and it appears that it stood at 496 W. Keno Lane, which no longer exists. But it was, according to the matchbooks, "opposite Circus Circus" with "gracious accommodations surrounded by five major casinos." I'd love to know more if anyone can assist. No idea what they're worth, but for $5 they were fun to have. (I probably could've bargained down, but I was already in trouble for all my picture-taking and didn't want to anger anyone any further.)

I also picked up something called The Nevada Cook Book, a 1973 reprint of an 1887 book that includes instructions on everything from making cake icing to washing "doubtful calico," whatever that is.

Oh! Oh! Oh! And, finally, I picked up this record:

I have no idea why. I just found it to be pretty and very vintage Las Vegas. I think maybe I'll frame it. Right now, it's standing up behind this Stardust snow globe I bought at the Chip Collector's Convention in 2007 for $5.