Thursday, May 7, 2009

Plastic Surgery Confab Outtakes

My piece ran today in the New York Times about the four-day convention of the American Society for Aesthetic Plastic Surgeons. It was a fun story and freelance shooter Isaac Brekken had a really cool slideshow pictorial on the website showing some of the visuals of the event.

As usual, some stuff got left out due to the space or because of its appropriateness in the publication. For instance, I'm not sure that readers fully "got" what was being said in this passage:

"Stem cell treatments were on the minds of many as well, although the potential applications are vague. The thinking seems to be that doctors may some day be able to extract stem cells from a patient’s own fat and use them in lieu of breast implants to produce self-regenerative tissue that would provide a more natural feel than silicon-gel or saline, now the standard. No one is sure yet if it will work and several doctors voiced concern as to whether it is safe and how they would be able to regulate the tissue growth."

You see, the doctors fear that the stem cells...COULD NEVER STOP GROWING. In other words, ever-expanding boobs. EEK!

I also interviewed a Dr. Julius Few, a Chicago-based plastic surgeon who has made a bit of a specialty out of nose jobs and other procedures for ethnic minorities, namely blacks, Hispanics and Asians. He's pioneered this field because people of color have different needs in terms of what they want out of their surgeries; they're not just trying to look white. And most plastic surgeons have experience in only operating on white people with white features. As Michael Jackson shows us, you put a Caucasian nose on a non-Caucasian person at everyone's peril.

That is discussed in the story. But one part that didn't fit was when I was quizzing Dr. Few about features other than noses and eyes/eyelids that are ethnically specific. He indicated there were some lower body parts that black women prefer a certain way. To wit:

Few: "If the proportions of the hip and buttock area are not in a certain proportion, that in some way doesn’t match the cultural expectation."

Friess: You mean you have black female patients who come in for butt enlargements?

Few: Yes.

Friess: Wow. How often?

Few: I do about 10 of those a year.

I've been attacked by an earworm of a a certain Sir Mix-a-Lot ditty since this exchange.

And, finally, I thought this was really interesting but I didn't have space to use it. I was asking various surgeons what the Holy Grail of the field is. Most mentioned erasing cellulite, but Dr. Brian Kinney of Los Angeles had an intriguing response:

Kinney: To me, it's increased elasticity.

Friess: What do you mean?

Kinney: Elasticity in the skin. People get facelifts so they can look younger. We have two choices right now. Either we tighten the face by pulling and cutting or we fill it up. Well, the filler people say fill all the wrinkles and then you look like a chimpmunk. The surgical people say pull all the wrinkles and then you look like you’re in a wind tunnel. And young people don't look like that. We know that young people's faces are neither pulled nor overfilled. So how do we smooth out the wrinkles and get elasticity to the skin?

Kinney also provided me with a few examples of how the economy has impacted the plastic-surgery set. One is in the Times story, but this one didn't make it in:

"Another example is a late-30s mom who was going to have a tummy tuck and her breasts done, a mommy-tummy. She said, 'I’m only going to do my breasts, not my tummy.' So I’ve seen people downsizing what they’re doing."

I wonder if anyone's had just one boob done. You know, cuz these are hard economic times.

The Show is UP: Danny Gans' Muse

I've got a few interviews in the can right now for upcoming shows, including Carlos Santana, but with Danny Gans' passing it seemed most appropriate to run our conversation with Jeff Foxworthy, whose comedy clearly inspired a substantial portion of Gans' act. Foxworthy is at the Orleans Arena on May 16. This chat took place before Danny's death, so it's bittersweet. Anyhow, you know the drill: click on the date below to listen or right-click and save to your computer. Or subscribe (it's free!) via this iTunes link or via this Zune link. -sf

May 7: Danny Gans' Muse

Las Vegas is in stunned mourning this week following the shocking death Friday of impressionist Danny Gans. We’ll talk about that at the top of the show, but it’s also fitting that our guest this week is comic Jeff Foxworthy because Gans spent at least 10 minutes in every show doing Foxworthy and his trademark redneck jokes. Foxworthy talks about Gans, about performing for presidents Clinton and Bush and about hosting dimwit adults on the hit TV game show "Are You Smarter Than a Fifth Grader?"

In banter: Danny Gans’ death, Jim Murren’s defense, China’s wacky swine flu response, Peepshow’s surprisingly great, Peppermill’s surprisingly classy and Vegas stocks are inexplicably way up.

Links to topics discussed:

Jeff Foxworthy’s website
Tickets to Jeff Foxworthy’s May 16 tickets at The Orleans
LasVegasSun.Com’s piece following Dave Navarro in Vegas via Twitter
VegasHappensHere.Com coverage of the death of Danny Gans
The press release for Beyonce ticket prices at Encore
MGM’s earnings as covered by Howard Stutz of the Review-Journal
VegasHappensHere.Com on swine flu in Macau
The YouTube clip of Carrie Prejean and Pat Robertson
The YouTube clip of Kelly Pickler and Jeff Foxworthy
The Peppermill Coffee Shop’s website
Ex-Milwaukeean chef Paul Bartolotta’s hometown blog on his 2nd James Beard Award
Carol Cling’s “Shooting Stars” column on Top Chef gossip
The Twitter feed for Miles’ station, KVBC
The Reno News & Review on gay-rights legislation pending in Nevada

The Happy Side of Crap

Month after month, the gaming and hotel stats have been crappy. Which is why, of course, I prefer to look for that one itsy bitsy piece of happiness every month to make it all OK.

This month's best stat? Hotel occupancy in Mesquite, Nev., for 2009 so far is UP 3.8 percent! Woo hoo! Celebrati... oh, wait. They closed a hotel in Mesquite because of the downturn, didn't they? The number of hotel rooms is DOWN 27.4 percent. So they lost a quarter of their rooms but they only increased their occupancy rate by that? Oops. I'm a hopemonger. Sorry.

I guess we'll have to be contented with this stat: The number of people who boarded and deplaned at the airport in Laughlin-Bullhead City is up 0.3 percent. Uh, yay.

Hey. Take the ray of sunshine where you can get it. And here's one for consumers: The average room rate is now $92.46 so far in 2009. Enjoy it while it lasts!

From the Files of ICK!

[UPDATES: HBO says they'll cancel CatHouse before they let Drew Peterson be a character on one of their shows, but the matter may be moot now because Peterson has been arrested for murder. Also, that Gans-hating blogger's still a douche and proving it more and more all the time.]

Two gross things popped up today worth being shamed:

1. Moonlite Bunny Ranch's Disgusting Publicity Stunt: Dennis Hof's a smart fellow, a marketing genius, really. He's managed to turn his northern Nevada brothel into a destination thanks to the HBO series "CatHouse" and more power to him on that front. But tomorrow, he's hosting Drew Peterson, the Illinois cop accused but never charges in the deaths of two of his many wives, at the whorehouse. To promote this, a Bunny Ranch PR chickadee, Tonya, sent an email to a NY-based reporter I know urging coverage. When he politely told her that he didn't report from Nevada, she wrote him back: "This story is going to get huge fast ... so it's still good information to have even in NYC." So you can see where these people's minds are at.

I wrote Tonya and asked, "May I ask why Dennis Hof would invite Drew Peterson, a man accused of killing two women, to the Bunny Ranch?"

Her response: "Dennis was introduced to Drew on Mancow via Glenn Selig, who is the same PR guy for Rod Blagojevich. Dennis’ rationale is this is a famous guy coming to a famous place….the BunnyRanch. He hasn’t been convicted of any murders and is innocent until proven guilty; therefore, Dennis is inviting him out to meet the ladies and have a great time as well as explore potential employment opportunities."

Ew. This PR guy gets all the best clients, huh? If you're scum of the earth in Chicago, give this Selig dude a call!

2. DANNY GANS HATE BLOSSOMS ANEW. A man is dead. A family and community is in mourning. Toxicology reports will be finished soon enough to reveal the cause. And what does this asshole want to know? He wants to know why the Pulitzer-winning media in Las Vegas isn't badgering the shit out of Gans' confidants and paramedics to get to the bottom of what killed the man. And in the absence of this pressing use of precious journalistic resources, the same asshole is implying inappropriate relationships Danny did not have and taking words by Robin Leach out of context to imply there's some news on Gans' demise.

I wouldn't have known except that I think this Perez Hilton wanna be (and I can't imagine why anyone would wanna be one of those vermin) thought I might be a kindred spirit and emailed me to ask me why the Vegas media hasn't dug into this most pressing issue of our time. To which I responded thusly:

"Uh, because until the toxicology reports come back it would be irresponsible and inappropriate for legitimate reporters to write baseless speculation? Because a man is dead and a family is in mourning and the state of the nation is not dependent upon exacerbating their grief? Because Pulitzer Prize winning newspapers have better uses of their resources than to "investigate" something that public documents will reveal soon enough anyway?

I looked over what you've been "reporting." It's all beneath contempt. Ginning up Robin Leach's "rumors" when the rumors he's referring to have nothing to do with Gans' death, implying an inappropriate relationship with KVBC's Alicia Jacobs, attacking the local press for showing a modicum of dignity and restraint on a story that will come out anyway ... I need to go take a shower now. Blech."

To which he gleefully responded, "Thanks for the honest response, Steve. Can we quote you?"

And around and around and around it goes. At least the jolly purveyors of DannyGansSucks.Com have posted condolences. Might be time to take the whole thing down, no?

This week's LVW Col: Danny Gans Understood

Here's this week's Weekly column. Off to lunch with my mom in Florida. -sf

Danny Gans: 1956-2009
Apart from Vegas, most of the country had no idea who Gans was -- and odds are he ws just fine with that

Miles shook me awake last Friday at about 7:30 a.m.

“I need you to wake up,” he said. “You need to get up. Now.”

I was confused. I’d told him I didn’t need to be up until 8. But he looked grave.

“Danny Gans died in his sleep this morning,” he said.

My bleary look gave way to a puzzled one. It was the only reaction to such strange and awful news. How does a 52-year-old health nut die in his sleep?

Here are my first and second comments, in this order: “Oh, that’s so sad.” Then, after a long pause: “But I wonder who’s going to care.”

Yes, that sounds cold. But I meant—and Miles got it immediately—who in the national media will recognize this passing as a significant story? That’s my job and to some extent my function in this community, to determine what of the local news rises to the level of broader significance and interest, and which publication is going to want me to document it.

And so it was that I was brought immediately back around to the central conundrum that was always the most baffling part of the Danny Gans story: How does someone become such a mammoth, wealthy star, entertain untold millions and grin for years from the largest billboard along the most-traveled American tourist thoroughfare and still remain largely anonymous in the broader popular culture? Just seven years ago, a Los Angeles Times profile of the impressionist was topped by a headline that summed it up perfectly: “Las Vegas Loves Who?” Heck, the Wall Street Journal scribe Christina Binkley, writing an exhaustive book on recent Vegas history last year, misspelled Gans’ name!

Indeed, none of the East Coast-based papers or magazines I regularly write for took an interest in this startling passing as a news event. The New York Times, which furnishes a large part of my meal ticket, shunted the matter to a staff obit writer who aptly referred to Gans as “a show business anomaly, virtually unknown outside Las Vegas but a superstar on the Strip.” The Agence France-Presse, a Paris-based wire service read largely in Europe and Asia, let me write just 200 words because, “I’m afraid if he’s not that well-known outside Las Vegas, it’s not going to make waves,” my LA-based editor wrote me. And a CNN anchor actually said—on the air—something to the effect of, “You ever hear of Danny Gans, the Vegas headliner? He died today.”

I wasn’t surprised, per my mental calculation, upon hearing the news. The coastal media don’t take much interest in Vegas entertainment unless Hollywood somehow infiltrates it—see Hilton, Paris or Lohan, Lindsay—or unless there’s something that fits a wacky Vegas stereotype. The onstage tiger attack on illusionist Roy Horn was sensational news because there was blood and animals and traumatized fans and bizarre costumes. Even then, though, I had to remind photo editors repeatedly which one was Siegfried and which one was Roy.

Danny Gans wasn’t Vegas in that sense. When I saw Gov. Jim Gibbons on the news referring to Gans as another “Mr. Las Vegas” it sounded really odd. He wasn’t ostentatious or outlandish like Liberace, dramatic and tragic and campy like Elvis, schlocky like Wayne Newton. Gans just got on stage night after night, did a bunch of impressions that Middle America loved to see and went home.

Read the rest at LasVegasWeekly.Com.

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Yet another fire at the Moulin Rouge

Wow. I haven't even taken off yet -- I'm at McCarran heading to Florida to see my folks for Mother's Day weekend -- and already disaster has struck in Vegas in my absence, as is tradition. (I was also away when Monte Carlo burned, when a bomb exploded at Luxor, when a gunman opened fire at New York-New York, when CityCenter nearly went bankrupt and God knows what else.)

Today, the Moulin Rouge, the legendary and legendarily troubled landmark that was the first integrated casino in Las Vegas, is up in smoke -- again. Read all about it at LasVegasSun.Com. I'm posting that link because I suspect the Sun will continuously update their coverage at the same URL and I have no confidence the Review-Journal's Web folks would ever do anything that intuitive. Just in case they do and the Sun doesn't, go here, too.

Just a few months ago, I was being regaled by the Moulin Rouge owners about their lofty plans for a multibillion-dollar construction project. It seemed unrealistic so I merely discussed it on the March 10 episode of "The Strip" but didn't move on a piece for any of my clients. I figured if they had the money for it, I'd write about it when they actually started building. Good thing, though, they moved the iconic sign to the Neon Boneyard just the other day. Suspiciously just before that fire, huh?

Gotta fly now. Keep the city safe for me so I can enjoy my visit, will y'all?

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Beyonce To Play Gans Theater


It's hard to tell if this was pulled together quickly because of Danny Gans' death or if the announcement was delayed because of Danny Gans' death, but Wynn Resorts announced today that Beyonce will do four dates, July 30-Aug 2, in the Encore Theater at Wynn that was just tragically vacated. Could this be the beginning of Wynn's newest entertainment approach which is also the oldest entertainment approach in Vegas histoire, the headliner?

Interestingly, this will be the smallest -- at 1,500 seats -- venue Beyonce will perform in her 2009 tour and tickets start at $250 for the nosebleeds. Also interesting is this passage from the press release:

The "I AM...YOURS" show will be staged exclusively for the intimate venue at Encore and promises to showcase the artist like never before. Beyonce's extraordinary, all-female band will join her to perform musical hits, classics and surprises. As part of this occasion, Beyonce's "I AM...YOURS" performances will be recorded and produced as an exclusive DVD compilation.

Hmmm. Special Vegas staging. Could that mean, in actuality, a 90-minute version? Is "Vegas staging" code for "shorter with no opening act"?

Also, is it at all awkward to announce this when Gans hasn't even been buried yet?

The Strip is LIVE tonight w/Jeff Foxworthy

In the wake of the death of Danny Gans last week, it seemed appropriate to play this week our conversation with comic Jeff Foxworthy, whose material Gans riffed with for about 10 minutes of every show. It's a bittersweet discussion because it took place a couple weeks ago and Foxworthy and I chat at length about Gans' Foxworthy stuff. Foxworthy, host of "Are You Smarter Than A Fifth Grader?," even suggests about dropping in on Gans' show unannounced to surprise him while he's in Vegas to appear on May 16 at the Orleans Arena.

Plus, in the news this week: Danny Gans, Jim Murren, Pink, swine flu in China and more.

Join us at 6:45 p.m. PT at LVRocks.Com to hear the live show or grab the podcast edition when it's posted on Thursday morning. Subscribe (it's free!) in iTunes.

Monday, May 4, 2009

Murren: Bellagio or C-C sale "unlikely"

MGM Mirage reported less-lousy-than-expected earnings numbers today and CEO Jim Murren has begun an aggressive defense of the concept and cost of CityCenter. But I'm more intrigued by an exchange between "Face To Face" host Jon Ralston and CEO Jim Murren to air tonight on Las Vegas One and will be available for viewing at this Las Vegas Sun page.

Ralston teased the outcome of that discussion in his daily e-mail Flash by relating this nugget:

RALSTON: Do you think it's likely you'll sell something else on the Strip?

Murren: I think it's unlikely.

RALSTON: You think it's unlikely?

Murren: I think it's unlikely.

RALSTON: Worse than 50-50?

Murren: Yes.

RALSTON: Really?

Murren: I do.

See! I TOLDJA! If Murren has little expectation of a sale then there's never been any actual negotiations with Wynn or anyone else. Wynn -- as I said from the beginning -- was just playing with the media and his dear ol' pal the Kirkster. It's beyond me why any smart person would take it seriously when Steve Wynn claims he might buy effin' Circus Circus as well as Bellagio or why any credible business journalist would fail realize that if Wynn were in serious talks he wouldn't blab about it to the press. For Wynn to want to own Bellagio again would be like him wanting to remarry his ex-wife. Oh, wait. He did that. But look how that turned out!

On another front, though, how many weeks do ya think it'll be before the Review-Journal re-reports as "breaking news" roughly the same remark when Murren tells it to a news source they don't hate?

Sunday, May 3, 2009

How China Deals With Swine Flu

Since I've been helping The New York Times cover the swine flu scare over the past week, a friend in Hong Kong sent me an email describing how China is reacting to its first confirmed case. I spent two months in China in 2003 for USA Today covering SARS -- an actual killer bug that got out of hand solely because the Chinese government spent weeks lying about whether it existed at all -- so it's interesting to see how fast they are to go cuckoo on this one. (And, yes, that photo is of Chinese scientists dealing with swine flu, not SARS.)

Here's the note received yesterday, bold emphasis mine:

"You may have heard that HK identified its first confirmed swine flu case last night, also first confirmed case in Asia, from a tourist visiting from Mexico (flying from Mexico to HK via Shanghai, arriving yesterday in HK, undetected by health measures in both Shanghai and Hong Kong airports). The HK Govt was quick to react and quarantined 354 guests and staff of the hotel where he was staying. Some refused to be quarantined, of course, some ran away and are still missing, some requested to stay off-site, some are already in hospital under treatment, but most are now confined in that hotel for seven days. They're still chasing the passengers who shared his two flights. It's like SARS all over again, but I am more optimistic this time, as HK people are more prepared. So far the fatality rate is also lower than SARS."

Can you imagine? They're quarantining entire hotels, chasing down passengers of flights, force-feeding Tamiflu to people who aren't sick! There are actual SWINE FLU FUGITIVES in Hong Kong! And the citizenry is grateful for these absurd measures! There's no vague relationship there between the reality of the risk and the response of public health officials.

Of course, this has relevance for Las Vegas interests because just imagine if a guest or gambler at Wynn Macau, the Venetian Macau or the MGM Grand Macau comes down with swine flu? That crazy government will shut them down for a week! That, not Vegas, is where MGM Mirage, Wynn Resorts and Las Vegas Sands must be quaking in their boots over this panic.