Friday, March 13, 2009

Friday Foto Fun: Inside the M With The Olds

As promised, here are some of the more interesting photos shot during my walk-about of the M Resort with the Olds, as documented in my Las Vegas Weekly column this week. That's them in that overly sunny shot at breakfast at the Red Cup Cafe.

First off, let's officially kick off a Blue Tape Watch on the M. Just as Palazzo left that piece of tape on a dome window for many months much to the delight of we bloggers, there's still lots of it all over the M. See?

I have to believe that will be gone soon enough since those were doors to the pool area and are fairly obvious. But we shall see!

Evidently, a week on there were still some problems with various fixtures...

...and I can't even begin to imagine how the room number was torn off here but wow.

I won't bother you with interior shots of the main areas because both Dave McKee at Stiffs & Georges and Hunter Hillegas at RateVegas.Com provided lots of that.

However, as documented in the column, Terry and I went to the 15th floor and managed to talk our way into checking out one of the end-unit "flat" suites, of which this is the floor plan (click on image to enlarge to readable size):

So here's the bed...

...and living room space...

...and my personal favorite, the tub-with-a-view...

That speck you see in the offing is the Strip, which is really sort of hard to see and not nearly as impressive in terms of vistas as the M has advertised. It reminds me of the time I took my mom to see Bette Midler at the MGM Grand Garden and we sat in the nosebleed seats. We knew we could see little Bette, but barely and it was quite unsatisfying. Here's a zoomed-in-view of the Strip or, perhaps, what you'd see if you brought binoculars:

The housekeeping lady who let us in to look at the flat suite insisted to me that the pool, too, is in an M shape. Do you see it? Because I don't, unless we're talking in cursive writing.

The southerly view is even more bleak than the Strip view...

...but I was fascinated by this pyramid tent thing across the street from M that Terry says is somebody's home. Paging the Sun's Brendan Buhler. Find out who this guy is! Stat! (And apologies if someone already has in the media; I've not seen it but would love to read about it.)

Speaking of media, it was nice to see SOMEONE still offers the local newspaper to hotel guests in this town.

Terry insightfully wondered to me why the M didn't tile the top of its southerly-facing porte-cochere with solar panels, and it's a good question, right?

And, finally, someone's bill was sticking out from under their door so I couldn't help myself. That (below) says $50 plus tax for a stay on the first Friday night the place was open. That's a pretty good deal.

Oh, don't look at me like that. You know you would've, too. Or that you're glad I did.

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Cuz lawmakers don't have real problems to address?

My colleague Steve Sebelius, editor of Las Vegas CityLife, is really excited today over something the Legislature is working on. I want to believe he's kidding, but he seems to be sincerely elated over Assembly Bill 257.

What, you ask, does AB257 do? Does it resolve the state's massive budget crisis? No! Does it address such rampant social challenges as teen pregnancy, mental illness, unemployment, workplace safety, school overcrowding, homeless children or gambling addiction? No, no, no, no, no, no and no! Does it make it so that Miles and I can be legally obligated to nag at one another for the rest of our earthly days? No again!

AB257 -- and I'm not making this up much as I wish I were -- makes it a misdemeanor to take more than 10 copies of a free publication if the intent is "(1) profit by recycling the newspaper; (2) sell or barter the newspaper; (3) deprive others of the opportunity to read the newspaper; or (4) harm a business competitor." It's a thought crime based on a California law! The punishment could be a $250 fine.

We at the crack staff of VegasHappensHere.Com have yet to investigate how much revenue the Golden State is pulling down from such stupidity, but I'll bet Mr. Sebelius a steak dinner it's somewhere in the neighborhood of $0.00.

This is a joke, you think. Me, too, but no, there are 13 got-nothing-better-to-do Assembly members co-sponsoring this bill, which is probably called the Pussy Legislators Sucking Up To The Alternative Press Act. (I have to make an airport run in a few minutes or I'd come up with a clever acronym.) One who isn't co-sponsoring it, I'm proud to say, is my own rep, Mark Manendo. No, Manendo is too busy trying to pass a law requiring grass, not desert landscaping, at veterans' cemeteries. We're all so proud.

So tell me, geniuses and Mr. Sebelius, are cops going to be on hand to count out the number of copies someone has taken and write tickets? And does it apply to the porn stuff pictured here?

Because, really, I want my police busy doing something so idiotic. Or will someone fixed on take lots of something allegedly "free" stop themselves by thinking, "Aww, shit, some moron in Carson City actually passed a law against this and I could be out 250 clams if I do this. Maybe I'll go take fistfuls of straws from Jack in the Crack instead."

Oh! Oh! Oh! Also, this proposed law NOW only applies to "free" publications, but it's a slippery slope! You know, like letting Miles and me marry will lead to men trying to marry their beloved flat-screen TVs and women wedding Manolos and 10-year-olds of both gender marrying Jonas Brothers posters and there goes the culture! After they ban taking 10+ copies of the Jewish Reporter or Q Vegas, will they start legislating how many of those candies I can have at my dry cleaner? Or how about napkins at Arby's? Or how long I can sit on that sofa at RC Willey?

OMG. This IS brilliant! There are whole new revenue streams just waiting to be tapped! Woo hoo! Budget deficit solved!

Or maybe we can put a sign on the boxes that says, "Please only take one." Then maybe our esteemed lawmakers can get back to dealing with actual problems.

Obama: Go To Vegas, For God's &%&#@ Sake

A month or so after the fact, someone in the White House press corps felt the need to ask Obama press secretary Robert Gibbs about the president's Feb. 9 remarks in Indiana admonishing bailout-taking companies not to take leisure trips like junkets and "corporate appreciation" activities to Vegas and elsewhere.

Those remarks -- utterly misconstrued to mean Obama doesn't think anyone should go to Vegas for any reason ever again for the rest of human history and tough shit to starving bellhops, waiters and cabbies -- sent Las Vegas Mayor Oscar Goodman into orbit and birthed international attention to whether serious business could be done here. He demanded an apology and then said he was satisfied that Sen. Harry Reid wasted Chief of Staff Rahm Emmanuel's time discussing it. Emmanuel assured Reid that Obama meant what he clearly said, that using tax money for non-work fun is inadvisable.

How this came up today, I have no clue. I could probably find out, but I also don't care. Here's the exchange that took place today at the White House between a journalist and Gibbs:

Question: An op-ed in the Washington Post -- a part of it is about business travel and seems to be referring to what the president said, don't go to Las Vegas or The Super Bowl.

Gibbs: Let's be clear about what the president said. I don't think the president said don't go to Las Vegas. Or don't go to Hawaii or don't go to the Super Bowl, I forget where the super bowl was. Don't go to Tampa. If you have -- it's getting warm. If you have the desire and the where with all to travel to those places, to quote a famous southerner, Delta is ready when you are. What the president expressed some concern about was companies that are getting large amounts of public funding, taxpayer funding through a financial stabilization plan, that the president does have great concern with public money being used for that. But, the president believes in its important to have a strong tourism industry and it's important that as the president said earlier, that or late last week, we shouldn't pull back from. He would encourage people to travel. His concern, the concern he specifically expressed had to do with the use of taxpayer or use of money by institutions that received a lot of assistance from the taxpayers. Obviously, that's not something he would incorporate.

Question: He's concerned comments may have been misconstrued. Any regrets about what he said?

Gibbs: I think the president, despite what some people heard, was very clear about the delineations between families and businesses traveling versus to need to ensure that appropriate protections are in place for taxpayer assistance used to help financial institutions stabilize themselves. They were -- that money was -- is being spent and we assume it will be spent will great care.

Case closed, right? Can the Gods of Vegas finally go invent something else to feel slighted about now?

Popping Up Everywhere Today

The oddest thing about my work is that as often as my name is printed in bylines and as frequently as my stories are referenced on blogs and other online forums, it's still something of a thrill when someone else writes it down in print. I've become accustomed to seeing Norm Clarke pick up items from this blog or our show, but this morning I stumbled across myself twice in the morning papers in other places.

First, Jon Ralston quoted a VegasHappensHere.Com post in his daily Flashpoint item in the Sun. Then the Review-Journal's Steve Bornfeld, who writes a weekly column on TV news, suggested me along with a few others as pundits who could spice up one of the local newscasts. What an idea! If only I knew someone in a high-up place at one of the local stations...

LVW Col: M is for Minutiae

Those of you who follow me on Twitter caught a steady stream of tweets on Saturday that were my notes for this column. Enjoy. There'll be more photos -- including interior shots of the fancy suite we invaded in this column -- and comments from this visit posted here later today. -sf

M is for Minutiae

'The Olds' review the Valley's newest casino-resort


To introduce Walt and Terry, I must tell the ending first.

“So, what’d you think?” I asked as we drove away from M Resort.

“Oh, I think it’s quite lovely,” crowed an upbeat Terry, at the wheel and returning us to our east-side homes not via Interstate 15 north but rather by swinging east by Seven Hills and then north on roads where you hit every light. “I’d really like to see the inside of that bar that overlooks the pool. That looks very interesting.”


“Oh, it was all right, but I didn’t leave anything there I feel the need to go back for,” he harrumphed, poodles Cocoa and Cognac on his lap. Then, to Terry he asked, “Where the hell are you taking us, and do I need a fucking passport?"

Ah, marital bliss. No, really. They snark at each other to no end, but it’s been that way for at least the 12 years I’ve known them, and I’m strangely endeared by it. Somehow, this couple has become my Las Vegas family, always present for holidays and birthdays, available to lend us tools or drive us to the airport, holding a dinner-table setting at their place for me at least once a week. I call them my fairy godparents and sometimes when I’m texting Miles, “The Olds.”

No, I did not drag them to M just to manufacture column fodder. For the nearly 30 years Walt, an 83-year-old retired doctor, and Terry, a 65-year-old travel agent, have lived in Vegas, they’ve had a charming tradition: They eat breakfast at every new hotel-casino on the first Saturday it’s open.

Read the rest at LasVegasWeekly.Com

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

The show is UP: Trump and Witch Mountain

Alrighty...So we didn't manage to get set up for a live chat this week at LVRocks.Com, but otherwise things are in good shape around here. I think -- although I could be wrong -- that the audio quality from home is a bit better than last time we tried it. And we're providing a supersized episode this time out to tide y'all over. Click on the date below to listen or right-click and save to your computer. Or subscribe via iTunes here or via Zune here. Enjoy.

SUPERSIZED EP!! March 10: Race To Trump Mountain

This week, on the Strip: He’s bold, he’s brash, he’s arrogant. And he’s on this show tonight. Donald Trump spoke to Steve last month for a New York Times piece on the Vegas real estate crash that appears in the Friday, March 6, issue. You get to hear that conversation in full this hour, including Mr. Trump’s conclusion that the American economy is in a depression and his mockery of the stalled condo development at the Venetian. Also, we hear from the director of the new Disney adventure “Race To Witch Mountain” as he explains how a Vegas cab can get from Planet Hollywood to Fremont Street in 10 seconds flat.

In banter:
Siegfried & Roy's return, Vegas economic ups and downs, Elaine Wynn's In N Out fetish and M Resort has opened.


Steve’s New York Times piece on the second-home market crash
The Race To Witch Mountain website
Film director Andy Fickman’s IMDB page
The VegasHappensHere.Com posts on the Siegfried & Roy’s return, 20/20 appearance and aborted third trick
Cleveland Clinic Ruvo Center for Brain Health’s site
The VegasHappensHere.Com post touting Hawaiian Air’s additional Vegas service
An Associated Press report on Allegiant Air’s good numbers
A Reuters piece on Terrible’s possible bankruptcy
An Associated Press piece on the Adelson-v- Weidner tussle
A Dow Jones piece on the Boyd-v-Station tussle
The Wikipedia history on the Moulin Rouge
The site for Jersey Boys Las Vegas
All you want to know about Frank Marino’s Vegas exit
The VegasHappensHere.Com post on Elaine Wynn
The site for RuPaul’s Drag Race
A Las Vegas Business Press report on the Trump class action suit

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

The Wynns make it official

It's official. The Wynns filed their divorce petition in Clark County District Court today. KLAS-TV says Steve Wynn filed it, but it's unclear how they could know if the case is sealed. Which it is, per Nevada law allowing either party in a divorce to seal the case. So there'll be no juicy details to share, much to the tabloid media's great disappointment. No matter, they'll probably just make it up anyway!

The Wynns were married in 1963, divorced in 1986 and remarried in 1991. Last month, Elaine Wynn told me she was "doing just great."

From The NOT-Only-In-Vegas Files

[UPDATE: I changed the headline on this item because evidently it's not unique to here after all. Sorry I don't watch local TV in Knoxville! -sf]

We're running a poll right now asking you for what nonexistent Vegas attraction you'd pay to do. And along comes something that easily could've been on the list had I imagined it. Dave McKee at LasVegasAdvisor.Com reports in his news column today that, for a few hundred bucks, you can get in the operator's seat of a Caterpillar excavator!

The front of the website PlayWithOurCats.Com says you can do a half-day for $249 but the booking section indicates a 90-minute experience costs $350 and a full day is $700. Either way, what a great idea!

Here's part of their sales pitch:

At the Big Dig! Adventure, you can operate an excavator or a bulldozer by yourself on our 10-acre playground. No experience or prior training is necessary, we’ll teach you everything you need to know, and we’ll be right there with radios to help you be a safe and successful operator on your first day. If you are bored with golf, sunburned from the pool, and tired of paying the one-armed bandits, get away for a few hours and make a childhood dream come true in our enormous, climate controlled Earth-moving Machines.

I love it. Brilliant. If only Boyd had thought of this! They could have had tourists PAYING to help them complete Echelon. The only thing I don't get is the air-conditioned cabs. That hardly seems like a realistic adventure.

Anyone ever heard of such an attraction elsewhere?

OMG! Great Economic News From Vegas!

Hahahaha....just funnin' ya. What, you think it's 2007 or something?

The January year-over-year data is out from the LVCVA and I'm not going to bother you with the depressing details. That, after all, is the Review-Journal's job. All I'll say is that I searched for a silver lining and the best I could come up with is that convention attendance in Laughlin was up a whopping 14.6 percent. God knows -- or cares -- why. If spending time with crappy economic stats is your idea of a thrill, then go read the LVCVA's report for yourself.

If you're delusional, you might take comfort in February real estate data, which showed a 108 percent rise in single-home sales in Las Vegas versus February 2008. Sounds great until you realize that the median value of those homes fell almost 37 percent in the same period.

All that said, the stock market was kind to Vegas today. Heck, MGM Mirage even hit $3 a share for a moment and closed up 23.18 percent at $2.87. Wynn Resorts did better, though, rising 25.4 percent, to $19.50. Woo hoo. Happy days are here again!

[Photo credit: Make Things Interesting]

Exclusive: Siegfried & Roy's Canceled Third Trick

The part of the Siegfried & Roy TV special on ABC on Friday that nagged at me most was anchor Elizabeth Vargas' repeated reference to multiple animals backstage at the Bellagio on Feb. 28. Both in person and on the televised version of the brief farewell performance, audiences saw just one tiger. We were later told that tiger was Montecore, the animal that attacked Roy Horn on stage and ended his career on Oct. 3, 2003.

I mentioned this in my late Friday post about the "20/20" show and the Review-Journal's Norm Clarke also baffled over this in his Sunday column when he wrote: "Vargas and Siegfried both mentioned that the rehearsals involved "tigers," not a tiger. I had mentioned on my Web site a few hours after the event that a spy said two tigers were involved in rehearsals. Did somebody decide a two-cat act was too risky? Why?"

Now it can be told. And the truth may be far less interesting than what we imagined.

There was, indeed, a planned thir
d act, very reputable sources -- including a former S&R cast member who helped out -- tell me. And there were not just other tigers but also white lions backstage at the Bellagio. But the trick was called off on Saturday because of a mechanical problem that had nothing to do with Roy or his condition.

The original plan included three tricks. The first was the part where Siegfried emerges from the fiery cauldron, the second was when Siegfried and the white tiger switched places in glass boxes. After that part, Siegfried and Roy let out Montecore, took off their masks and soaked up the adulation of the audience.

Had all gone as planned, though, the duo was to have come down from the platform (where they stand in the photo above) and done a third trick involving the other animals. Then, at center stage closer to the audience, they would have revealed themselves and waved to the audience.

Unfortunately, the mechanical lift built into the platform where they stood after the second trick did not work during two auditions on Saturday. Rather than risk it failing during the show itself, they aborted it altogether.

See? That wasn't so bad. But, of course, S&R's folks won't talk about about it. I received a terse statement in response to an inquiry about this that reads: "There's nothing to add or comment on regarding their performance. They got to say goodbye on their terms and were overwhelmed by the response from those in the audience and the millions who watched the 20/20 Special on ABC."

Just another example, I suppose, of the mistrust bred by S&R's folks by the stonewalling and misinformation over the past five years. Is there some shame to having to cancel part of a performance? Does it sully what they actually did or their legacy? Of course not. Then why the bunker mentality? Like so much else involved in this , I guess we'll never know.

By the by, S&R proved ratings gold for ABC. The network tied for first on the 9 p.m. hour. I've asked whether the "20/20" special resulted in a surge in traffic and donations to, the web home of Cleveland Clinic Ruvo Center for Brain Health that was the beneficiary of the Bellagio fundraiser where S&R appeared. If I find out, I shall onpass.

New episode of "The Strip" coming... tomorrow morning. And perhaps we'll play it on LVRocks.Com tomorrow night and have a live chat. But no live chat tonight. I do know, however, that the LVRocks.Com studio is coming together and phone lines are being put in, so we should be back in our normal routine very very very soon!!!

Monday, March 9, 2009

Exclusive: "A Bronx Tale" May Come To Vegas

In what would be a completely unprecedented -- and likely very risky -- move, the producers of the Broadway one-man play "A Bronx Tale" say they're in talks with a Strip hotel-casino for a run of the show starting this fall.

If it comes to pass, this would be the first time that I can think of that a non-musical production from the Great White Way (or anywhere else for that matter) migrated to Las Vegas.

We are currently working out a deal with a major Strip property to come in for a limited run as the idea would be to return a number of times during the year for special engagements," wrote producer Trent Othick in an email to me. "We also are closing a deal with another major casino corporation to play in Atlantic City during the summer."

The Vegas-based Othick, whose Playbill bio is online, did not disclose which properties in either city because the deals aren't done yet but he did say they
're looking at a showroom of fewer than 1,000 seats. I've got a hunch, then, that they're looking at the Las Vegas Hilton. Just a gut instinct based on the fact that the Hilton has been a friendly environs to such unlikely imports as "Menopause: The Musical" and they're always looking for something to fill in the gaps when Manilow's off.

"A Bronx Tale," a stage version of the 1993 film starring and directed by Robert DeNiro, has been on a national tour since it ended a four-month run at the Walter Kerr Theater in New York where it got largely rave reviews. The piece was originally a play written and performed in 1989 by Academy Award nominee Chazz Palminteri, who is again enacting his show. It revolves around a tug-of-war for a New York boy's soul between his honest parents and the Mafia in the 1960s. Palminteri was nominated for a best supporting actor Oscar for Woody Allen's "Bullets Over Broadway" and also appeared in "The Usual Suspects" and "Mulholland Falls." Also, he looks a lot like Richard Nixon.

As grim as that storyline sounds and as serious a drama as the film (which grossed only $17.3 million) was, Othick insisted that the
stage production "moves fast, has a star, has a star title with a history and is very funny."

On its face, I find it hard to imagine this sort of business having much of a life in Vegas, where show-goers aren't known for taking an interest in intimate -- or even comedic -- theater. Othick insists that the show, which is able to sell out 1,000 seats a night in Tucson, can do at least as well in Vegas because of the gambling and mob themes. Plus, they're only going to commit to a limited run here, so "we are not going to bite off more than we can chew."

"You have to see the show first to see what I am talking about, which is what happened with the casino companies we are talking to," Othick wrote. "They said the same thing about Vegas and then saw the show and said 'This is different.' "

It will be interesting to see.

Sunday, March 8, 2009

Some Sunday Media Musings

(UPDATE: It was brought to my attention that Jon Ralston actually broke the payments-to-witnesses story on the Feb. 13 episode of his LV1 program, Face To Face.)

There wasn't a whole lot of interest to out-of-towners in the Sunday newspapers, although the piece by the Review-Journal's Carri Geer Thevenot on prosecutors paying crack-addled defendants for their questionable testimony was so surprising that I may be able to build upon it for a piece of my own.

That is, after all, how my piece in today's New York Times on the national debate over shifting from a gas tax to a road-usage tax came about, because I'd caught a small piece in the Las Vegas Sun in January about a study planned for Reno. A little scratching into the matter made me realize that this was actually a massive potential story and, as luck would have it, President Obama even weighed in while I worked on it.

I really enjoyed Jennifer Robison's Nevadan At Work Q-and-A with the chief pilot of the M Resort blimp. Often these Q-and-As are dry, but this fellow, Terry Dillard, played along and provided some really fun insight into what it's like to fly one of these things. A good read. (Also a good read is Norm Clarke's excerpting of this blog regarding Montecore and the 20/20 special. Thanks!)

More puzzling from the same business page as Robison's piece was Howard Stutz's summary of what's happening at MGM Mirage. I don't pretend to be an expert on this, but this is the second or third time where I've wondered if he -- or I -- misunderstand the term "a going concern."

Stutz wrote today: "Last week, MGM Mirage told investors it might be labeled a 'going concern' by auditors and could default on $13.5 billion in debt."

My understanding of a "going concern" was that it was a phrase that is meant to say that a company is still perfectly functional. In fact, Stutz's boss, Sherm Frederick, used the phrase recently in an interview with the media trade publication Editor & Publisher. To wit, the passage went:
Frederick, meanwhile, says that the R-J is doing fine financially even though he wouldn't put a number to it, citing that the company is private. "Let me put it this way, we are still a going concern," he laughs.

From what I can see from other clips in the financial press, MGM Mirage said it may have its auditors indicate that it might cease to be a going concern. That is, if it IS a going concern, it continues to operate normally. If not, the whole house of cards collapses. That's what's freaking out investors.

The website InvestorWords.Com seems to back that up with this definition for the term: "The idea that a company will continue to operate indefinitely, and will not go out of business and liquidate its assets. For this to happen, the company must be able to generate and/or raise enough resources to stay operational." Now, I'd love nothing more than to discover Frederick didn't know what the term meant and was actually admitting he'd run the business into the ground. But I doubt that.

One last thing I just noticed. Someone named Hunter (Hillegas from RateVegas.Com, perhaps?) tried to correct Stutz on this point in the comments section of a March 6th piece. Hunter wrote on 3/6 at about 9 a.m.:

The term 'going concern' means that they believe they will remain functioning as a normal business entity. The filing indicated there was a possibility they may *NOT* be a 'going concern', which means the auditors made them put in language indicating they might have to go bankrupt. The article gets it backwards above.

Anyone out there who knows more about these things care to weigh in?