Saturday, April 25, 2009
Friday, April 24, 2009
The sixth season of Bravo's Top Chef begins filming on Monday, April 27, in a city that has not been disclosed. I had a really fun 50-minute interview with chief judge Tom Colicchio -- and Craftsteak and 'wichcraft owner at MGM Grand -- today for an upcoming episode of "The Strip" and he would not disclose the location, the jerk. He said they avoid announcing the city because if they do, fans start hanging around the house where the contestants live trying to figure out who's been eliminated and so on. I even asked him to tell me if it was NOT in Las Vegas and he wouldn't answer that, either. (Of course, it's really hard for anyone to "hang around" the SkyLofts at MGM Grand to see who's coming and going, hmmm?)
BUT! Rumors abound -- Eater.Com says it'll be filmed at the M, YumSugar.Com has a poll showing most readers want it to take place here -- and I just stumbled over a sliver of a clue. Y'see, the show is filmed in about a month straight through. And yet one of the other judges, Toby Young, is auctioning off dinner with himself at Craftsteak on May 2 on eBay to benefit the Starlight Children's Foundation. The deal also includes two nights at the Las Vegas Hilton.
Now, it's not unreasonable for Jones to fly in and out that night. But isn't it odd that they wouldn't just offer the dinner to the winner for after the end of filming, just to make sure Jones could make it?
One way or the other, if Top Chef's coming to Las Vegas, we'll know pretty soon regardless of Colicchio's best effort otherwise since they'll have to do challenges on the Strip and around famous landmarks, right?
[UPDATE #2: Perez apparently also says he wishes he had called Ms. Prejean a cunt, too. That'll surely win the gays some friends, huh?]
I've avoided commenting on the flap over Miss California, Carrie Prejean, who answered the vermin Perez Hilton's question at the Miss USA contest in Las Vegas last weekend about gay marriage with an inarticulate response that rambled about alleged free choice -- no gay Americans can choose fully recognized marriage -- before revealing her personal view that marriage is between a man and a woman. (There she is to the right, looking awfully wholesome.)
The whole thing was disconcerting because while I obviously don't agree with Prejean, I'm not sure that political opinions are how we ought to choose beauty queens. And the vermin Perez Hilton, who heretofore has done nothing whatsoever for gay rights and didn't donate a dime to fight against Proposition 8 last year, decided this was a great time to exploit the issue by recording a video blog in which he cackles about all the attention he's gettin over this and then calls Prejean a "dumb bitch." Next thing you know, he's on Larry King Live as though he's been in the thick of this issue all along when he actually represents the worst, the grossest, the least productive and most unpleasant side of what gay America has to offer.
Worse, though, is that using that kind of nasty language is the surest way to shut down any serious debate or discourse. It's not the verbage of a thinking person, one who cares about something greater than his own fame. Once the vermin Perez Hilton attacked this young woman, she became a right-wing hero and handed the Hannitys and Limbaughs of the world a clear-cut case of politically correct aggression with which to paint all gays who argue for marriage equality. She may be wrong on marriage equality, but that doesn't (necessarily) make her dumb or a bitch. Conversely, the vermin Perez Hilton may be right but that doesn't (even remotely) make him smart or honorable.
It really, really bothered me that Prejean may actually have lost her crown on this answer. (She came in second to Miss North Carolina, whose name nobody knows or cares thanks to the vermin Perez Hilton.) That's why I'm delighted that my friend and Miles' colleague Alicia Jacobs, an entertainment reporter for KVBC and one of the vermin Perez Hilton's co-judges, explained to Advocate.Com better why the way Prejean answered cost her in the competition.
I don't know if I totally buy what she says there, but it's a better-reasoned answer than what the vermin Perez Hilton has had to say. See? You can be smart and pretty. Or you can be hideous and stupid. (And, yes, I have a bit of a chip on my shoulder over this creep. Click here to see why.)
Alicia, who talks in that video about attending gay weddings, was also at ours, as you can see:
Mostly, I wish this thing would go away. The vermin Perez Hilton did more to firm up the resolve of straight-only-marriage proponents and provide them with a widely sympathetic figure around which to rally than anything in recent memory. Nicely done!
J.J. died within hours of the Nevada Senate voting to pass a domestic partner law by a 12-9 vote, two short of enough to override a threatened veto by Gov. Jim Gibbons. It's on to the Assembly now, where State Sen. David Parks believes he has a veto-proof majority. Whether he can persuade Gibbons not to veto or pull two more votes over in the Senate to override remains unclear, but this debate so often takes place in the sanitized environs of media debate.
This, then, is the practical reality. This is a real couple. And, as a side note, I'll be on Nevada Week in Review tonight on VegasPBS discussing this issue as well.
Here's Jack's blog post after J.J. died. Jack blogs at VeryVintageVegas.Com. Grab a hankie.
My husband passed away on Tuesday. Actually, he was my Fiance. We’d been engaged for 33 years. He tried to hang on long enough for us to get married. That goal helped keep him alive for the last several years. He’d have been perfectly content with “domestic partnership”.
JJ was a very private person. Few of you ever met him, nor even knew of his existence. Those who did were indeed, very privileged.
JJ was the counter balance force in my life. We were polar opposites in so many ways. He was a meticulous stickler for details, a deep thinker, a slow responder. He prided himself on his rationality, and his memory. JJ was the best “phone a friend” walking encyclopedia that anyone could have ever hoped to have known. And though he didn’t think so, he was the cutest little puppy in the world.
JJ was the first fan of Vintage Vegas. He’s the one who made me believe 20 years ago that we could create a vibrant, energetic, fun urban core. When we first moved to Las Vegas 1985, he’s the one who only wanted to live downtown. He’s the one who pointed out the first “mid mod” homes that I soon fell in love with. We didn’t know the words for mid mod, but JJ’s the one who showed me why they were important. JJ was my biggest supporter, my most ardent fan. And he was my most vocal critic. I’m so going to miss him.
JJ liked his privacy and his anonymity. I was most shocked on Sunday when he told me that I could tell some of our story in public….as long as it was to make a point.
We met in 1975. We were both 21 year olds. He was hitchhiking to Florida. I was driving the semi-truck. I stopped to pick him up in Louisville, and was in love before we got to Nashville. He wanted to be a Gypsy. I wanted to be rich. He wanted to see the great cities and buildings and mountains and rivers and I wanted to meet a couple of million interesting people. We both got what we wanted.
It’s been a long, exciting, and fun journey since then. We’ve been rich and poor and rich and poor again. We’ve been healthy and sick. We’ve been fun loving and furious. We were a couple thru lots of thick and thin. We were PARTNERS. That’s the word we used to describe ourselves. And in our minds and in the reality of space and time we were married. We were married because we said we were. We could have cared less what any church might have thought. That our government considered us second class citizens… mattered a lot.
It was crushing to me yesterday when the coroner’s office didn’t have a category that described us for the death certificate. They wrote that he was SINGLE. They said I WASN’T THE NEXT OF KIN!
Back in January, the hospital recognized the legal power of attorney and other forms that had cost us thousands of dollars in legal fees. Most “not married” couples don’t have those papers ready when they need them. Many couldn’t afford them in the first place. We were fortunate in that regard. Without them, they would wouldn’t have even had to let me into the room.
There’s a thousand things, both big and small that require “the stamp of recognition” from our various governments. Social Security Survivor benefits, taxes, inheritance rules, property rights, parental rights, and on and on and on. This is no small matter to the lives of many millions of Americans.
And that brings us to the irony of the timing of JJ’s passing. Within a few minutes one way or the other of JJ’s death….The Nevada Senate passed “Domestic Partnership” legislation. JJ would be very proud of them. Many of our best friends are in Carson City this week to tell our stories, and to lobby for passage of the bill. JJ wanted me to go, but I couldn’t leave him alone for 3 days. I’ve asked them to deliver a copy of this obituary for me.
Our governor has said that he’ll veto it if it passes. Why? Because “he doesn’t believe in it” is the only answer he has. JJ believed in it and so do I. I hope you do, as well.
One of JJ’s final requests was that I tell you our story and that I ask all of you, in his memory, to PLEASE call or write the Nevada Legislature, AND THE GOVERNOR and tell them that you support domestic partnership legislation. For that matter, tell the Congress and the President as well.
All JJ wanted was that I be recognized, at the barest of minimums, as his LEGAL “next of kin.”
Thursday, April 23, 2009
So far, this is what I've gleaned:
* November Nine, Again, With a Twist. The bifurcated $10,000 Buy-In No-Limit Texas Hold 'Em Main Event continues for a second year with some tweaks. Last time, they played it down to two finalists on Nov. 9 and then brought them back on Nov. 10 to finish up. This year, they'll play down from the Final Table of nine in July, have that bunch play down to the final two on Sat., Nov. 7, and then give them some days off before resuming play on Tues., Nov. 10. I'm not sure what the point of all that is, exactly, except that it gives the folks at ESPN more time to edit down the Nov. 7 play. They'll show all the final table action -- meaning Nov. 7 and Nov. 10 -- in a two-hour finale on ESPN on Nov. 10 from 9-11 p.m. ET. So I assume play starts pretty early on Nov. 10. No word if they're using the Penn & Teller Theater again for the Final Table. Probably, though.
* 40th Anniversary No-Limit. They've added a four-day $40,000 buy-in No-Limit Texas Hold 'Em tournament to the roster to honor the 40th anniversary of the event from May 28-31, the first event open to whomever wants to buy in.
* Champions' Tourney. They've also added a Champions Invitational. They're hoping to round up the 27 living champions of the Main Event. There's no money or bracelet at stake, just something they invented called the Binion Cup and a car. Jack Binion will be there to award the winner.
* One-Billionth Dollar Served! They don't tout this in the press material, but it does seem like this will be the year the WSOP hits the billion-dollar mark for amount given away in prize money. The fact sheet says $867 million has already been awarded and last year they gave away $180 million. They only need $133 million to hit that figure. Something tells me they've got some sort of award for being the one who hits that for them. If not, call it the Friess Cup!
Finally, I noticed something kinda funny. The WSOP pays out the 9th-place winning amounts to all of the nine members of the Final Table; last year that was about $900,000. So it's funny that they feel compelled to promise -- as they do, according to this document -- an all-expense-paid trip for two for their return to Las Vegas in November for the end of the tournament. Surely these guys can afford to come back -- and bring their significant others!
The tournament, which includes 57 different events, begins May 28 at the Rio.
Eek! One of our listeners, Mark from Chicago, shot this from his 34th floor room and sent it along with this note: "I checked into the Palazzo today and while I was impressed with the room, the view was surprising. While my wife was playing with the remote shutters we noticed the molding coming off of the window."
Nicely done, Sheldon. Mark has more to tell about this in a voice mail we'll play on next week's show.
Shecky Greene's site
Tickets for Shecky's show at the Suncoast
Here's this week's installment of "The Strip Sense" in Las Vegas Weekly. Enjoy. -sf
A Rock and a Chinese Place
The Woo family’s move to the Palazzo might not have been the best thing for all
By STEVE FRIESS
Sometime back in the 1990s, an eccentric fellow wanted to eat at a restaurant. He sent his advance team to scope out the place and its various exits, baffling the owners of the fine establishment.
“Is the president coming?” Theresa Woo remembered thinking.
No, no. It was just Sheldon Adelson, then the owner of the Sands Expo Center and the construction site that would become the Venetian. Even then, he was a peculiar presence, running with his bodyguards and concerned about perceived enemies lying in wait to kill him.
To Woo, Adelson and wife Miriam became just another well-known pair of clients at the Mayflower Cuisinier, the go-to spot for upscale Chinese food tucked away in a strip mall at Sahara and Decatur.
Yet as the years went on, the Adelsons and other Las Vegas Sands executives started dreaming of bringing the family-run operation to the Strip. And Rob Goldstein, the president of the Venetian, finally made the Woos an offer they couldn’t refuse: Las Vegas Sands would build them a $6 million space on the second floor of the under-construction Palazzo’s shopping area.
There was a catch, though. A tragic, weird, totally unnecessary catch. According to Woo, Goldstein required the family to close the Mayflower. And so, in January 2008, they did.
Woo Restaurant opened shortly thereafter. It’s beautiful and spacious, all dramatic high ceilings and bamboo and worm-eaten butternut. Oh, and, for most of the year that it has been open, hardly the jammed house the always-busy Mayflower was.
We’ll get back to that in a moment, but first you ought to know that there are few classic Vegas stories more charming than that of the Woo family. Ming See, Theresa’s mom, was 6 when her family fled the Chinese mainland for Hong Kong amid the Communist takeover. She met Henry Woo, had two of their three children and then moved to Vegas to become American citizens. Henry dealt cards; Ming See worked as a dishwasher at the Dunes.
Read the rest HERE
Tuesday, April 21, 2009
Oh, you're saying, of course they wouldn't want to put much effort into exalting their competition!
Except that that's the standard. The Detroit Free Press also won a Pulitzer yesterday and its bitter rival, the Detroit News, had staffer Francis X. Donnelly do a piece on it. The St. Petersburg Times won two and their chief competitor, the Tampa Tribune, had staffer Walt Belcher write it up. And every newspaper in New York City wrote their own stories about The New York Times' feat of five Pulitzers.
I have a theory. If the R-J had to actually cover the Sun's Pulitzer, it probably would've meant calling on the Classiest Publisher in America to make a comment. And he was very, very busy yesterday using his uberclassy blog to foment the view that teabagging is a gay sex act. It's called the Urban Dictionary. Look it up.
Monday, April 20, 2009
R-J City Editor Mary Hynes sent a congratulatory note to lead reporter Alexandra Berzon and columnist John L. Smith heralded the news with a blog post in which he took a minor swipe at his own paper by beginning, "I always wanted to work for a newspaper that delivered a Pulitzer Prize-winning story to its readers, but I never imagined it would happen this way." And over at Poynter.Org, the industry's digital watercooler, some are conjecturing that the Pulitzer folks are making a direct statement in favor of the kind of exploratory reporting the Sun does over the work-a-day stuff the R-J does.
Even U.S. Sen. Harry Reid gets in the act with a call to Berzon and this on the front of his website:
So, any good wishes publicly for Berzon from the Classiest Publisher in America? Uh, no. It's not that he didn't have the time; he managed a blog post today about the impact of week-old anti-tax demonstrations. Sure, he could have done what Smith and Hynes did, appreciate the significance of the moment for our community. But, no. He's too busy dwelling in the pettiness that explains why his own paper's never come close to such an accomplishment.
Awarded to the Las Vegas Sun, and notably the courageous reporting by Alexandra Berzon, for the exposure of the high death rate among construction workers on the Las Vegas Strip amid lax enforcement of regulations, leading to changes in policy and improved safety conditions.
Head to the Las Vegas Sun to see the award-winning work and some terrific online presentations, too. While Berzon deserves most of the glory here, the category honors the overall effort of the news organization and content that includes "editorials, cartoons, photographs, graphics and online material."
And since the Sun folks probably won't do this, allow me the honor of rubbing it in the face of the Classiest Publisher in America. Having to do this...
...must just KILL him. I just can't wait to see how they cover it in tomorrow's Las Vegas Sun wrap-around. I'd love to think that this might motivate the R-J chiefs to kick it up a notch and give some of their terrific reporters the time, money and opportunity to do the sort of work, but that's just crazy talk!
That's Lolita. She's a Portuguese Water Dog owned by a Vegas dentist. And she, along with Dr. Jim Brannan, were our guests on the most recently posted episode of "The Petcast." I don't usually post about new Petcast episodes here, but this was a particularly interesting and timely discussion, what with the Obamas now the proud owners of Bo.
Here's a shot of co-host Emily and Dr. Brennan with Lolita in the new LVRocks.Com studio.
Pick up that episode by subscribing to The Petcast via iTunes or by right-clicking here to play or save the file.
The tipping point was Friday night's show, when celeb blogger Perez Hilton live-Tweeted about how bad "Criss Angel Believe" was during the performance. Angel's people evidently noticed and told Angel, which means they enabled what came next. At the end, according to Norm's Sunday column, Angel asked Perez to stand. "I have to recognize someone special here in the house," Norm quoted Angel as saying. "Perez Hilton, please stand up. We have the world's biggest douchebag asshole in the house!"
This is really a toughie. Angel's words about Perez were true. He's a terrible, unethical, vainglorious human being. But this was a G-rated show with children in the audience and a really outrageous and unprofessional thing for Angel to say in public. (Similarly, by the by, I'm baffled that the Review-Journal, also read by people of all ages, would print the word "asshole.")
But the incident is notable because Angel has now lost the support of Hilton's enormous web following as well as of Clarke. Also, there's no love lost between Perez and Clarke either, so it's not like Norm was sticking up for a buddy. How Angel ever expects to get anything approaching good PR anymore is a mystery; he's shut himself down to all media and even killed a profile of him that I was set to do for The New York Times. A strange strategy.
It's worth recalling what I wrote almost exactly a year ago in my 4/23/08 Las Vegas Weekly column about the Cirque-Angel alliance:
Yet if the MGM Mirage folks think they're in the clear, they're not paying enough attention to the burgeoning disaster that is Criss Angel Believe at the Luxor. Cirque du Soleil, usually synonymous with the safest bet in Las Vegas, is certainly going in a new direction this time.
Indeed, with Angel, Cirque is now laying in a bed of nails with one of the most controversial and egotistical figures on the American pop landscape. Last week, he physically threatened Review-Journal gossip columnist Norm Clarke, virtually ensuring his show will never be one that "Norm Recommends" on the outside flap of the R-J. It also promises to sour much of the Vegas press on him, creating a tabloid PR challenge the likes of which the Cirque folks have never had to confront.
The Cirque suits in Montreal must be sweating, but they also failed to either make a public statement condemning Angel's threats or force him to apologize. They're powerless, it seems, and thus it's only a matter of time before they helplessly watch their enormous investment be hijacked by a man not given to respecting much of anyone.
Prescient words, no?
Sunday, April 19, 2009
I don't even need to go far sometimes. This...
...was on my block this week. Do cement-mixing trucks in other cities sport paintings of those cities' skylines?
A few weeks ago, I took occasional guest-host Amy of GritstoGlitz.Com with me to a swanky soiree benefitting Families for Effective Autism Treatment of Southern Nevada at the Stirling Club at Turnberry Place. The event honored Tony and Jill Curtis, and Amy seemed nervous that Tony might be hostile toward me on account of my airing that interview in which he talked about semen on his leg and so on. He didn't even remember me. But this image...
...was creepily priceless, huh? Amy, that celebrity-stalking whore, also got this shot with Louis Anderson, who happened to sit at our table.
Meanwhile, I was at Palazzo a week ago for an interview for an upcoming Strip Sense column and saw this:
I might find all these umbrellas pretty is if wasn't so deritative of the Palazzo's neighbor to the north, Wynn Las Vegas, and the parasols hanging from the ceiling that were Roger Thomas' vision as seen here:
...is a bit of a shame. The reflecting pool in the foreground is now completely crowded by potted plants used to be a lovely place to sit and eat an ice cream or sip a coffee. It's like they decided to copy all the best ideas at Wynn -- parasols, lots of live plants -- but in the lamest possible way.
Also, I thought this sign in the casino was strange:
It says "The Palazzo Offers A Smoke-Free Corridor." But what it doesn't say? WHERE. Didn't someone making this sign think, "We should probably give someone directions." Yeesh.
Last week, I was at the Hard Rock Hotel to take a glimpse at the new Joint. It's a much bigger venue than the old one and it looks like it'll be a great place to see a concert. It was neat that they preserved a piece of the old place with this...
...a plank of the old floor. Fun!
I am a little baffled, however, by something. This is the view from most of the balcony...
...but then here below is the view from the top four rows of the balcony:
You can see the stage but not really the video screens which, it would seem, would be MOST useful to patrons seated the farthest away. The overhang is the exposed ventilation and piping in the ceiling, part of the look of the place. But they couldn't make the ceiling of this new $60 million space a few feet higher so that the folks in the cheap seats -- otherwise known, often, as the biggest fans -- could see?
After leaving the Hard Rock, I drove west on Harmon toward the Strip to get where else I was going. And I must say that for as much as I ponder whether CityCenter was a good idea from a financial point of view, I am always awed by what they have grown on that plot of land:
I know some think it's kind of cold-looking, but there's something about standing in front of it that makes me gasp in wonderment. The piece of the equation nobody can foresee is whether, like real big cities, there will be lots of people creating the vibe and energy to make these skyscrapers hum.
While I have the floor, can anyone identify for me what kind of birds these are? I saw 'em in Hemenway Park in Boulder City while working on a travel piece for the Times earlier this month:
And, finally, I wasn't going to bother with this except that right now the Classiest Publisher in America is picking on me and Jon Ralston on his "blog" (it's still not indexed in Google's Blogsearch) for some banter we had on VegasPBS's "Nevada Week in Review" over the weekend. Conservatives have taken to use the term "teabagging" to refer to their recent protests against taxes and, in fact, that's also a term for a certain sex act. So Ralston and I had a little humor about that and the Classiest Publisher in America attacked us for it.
I'm not going to defend our banter because it was admittedly childish and probably a little baffling to the audience because part of the off-camera context was that we were running out of time and weren't going to get to discuss Gov. Gibbons' threatened veto of domestic partnership legislation pending in Carson City.
But being called out on it by a man who has essentially been called "really dumb" by Steve Wynn and "not sophisticated" by Elaine Wynn was odd. I don't know if he's either. But dishonest comes to mind.
Y'see, the Classiest Publisher in America has been claiming his abysmal disaster of a website to be this towering local success using data from a company called Hitwise that is the joke of the Web.
Of course, the Review-Journal's Web traffic is proprietary, so it's impossible to know what's really happening. Except that they just finally got themselves a YouTube channel for their ridiculous daily RJTV program. That means that there's some public information about interest in their content.
And guess what?
NOBODY'S WATCHING. OK, they've had a total of 10 views on nine episodes. And, full disclosure, I account for four of them. Sad. What's even sadder? Something tells me the Classiest Publisher in America -- or his employees -- account for the rest.
[P.S. to the Classiest Publisher in America: It's Friess, not Freiss. Check your archives. You've published that name hundreds of times.]