Friday, May 15, 2009

On The TV, Radio, Podosphere

In what's becoming a regular gig, I appeared on KNPR yesterday alongside foil Doug Elfman of the Review-Journal to rap about all things entertainment and I'm going on Nevada Week in Review tonight on Vegas PBS (7:30 p.m. PT on Channel 10, rerun a zillion times over the weekend) to rap about, I'm assuming, all things Carson City politics and Strip economics. You can subscribe to Nevada Week in Review via iTunes to get the show sometime early next week. Plus, there's a new Petcast posted today featuring an interview with library-cat documentarian Gary Roma. Subscribe to the Petcast via iTunes, too.

Something for everyone, huh?

A Fortnight On: Danny Gans' Death

I've been traveling and superbusy with new assignments and loathe to get back into the Danny Gans story because some gay-obsessed lunatics -- well, he refers to himself in the plural, anyhow -- believes anything said about the matter at this stage is thanks to his "vigilance." I've since realized that Internet nutjobs will say and do what they wish regardless of accuracy, propriety or basic common sense and never back down even in the face of contrary evidence or reasoning. Thus, the best answer is to ignore them, remove their attempts at gaining traffic from this blog and do my own thing.

So, two weeks since Danny Gans' death, where are we? Pretty much where we expected to be. The autopsy was inconclusive, as reported right here within 12 hours of his death and yet strangely retread as a breathless "exclusive" 10 days later by RadarOnline, a site that shares corporate parentage with the National Enquirer. It is telling that when the vermin Perez Hilton reposted this phony "exclusive," he garnered just 14 comments -- typically a PH post gets many dozens if not hundreds -- and five of them wondered who Gans was. Gives you some idea what the actual public appetite for this topic is.

(P.S. The best part of this "exclusive" was the claim that the intel came from a "family member." This is an obvious lie. Why would a reporter need to get to a family member -- which nobody has been able to do thus far anyway -- for information that an on-the-record call to the coroner or a simple read of first-day stories would provide? And if they did get to a family member, wouldn't there be some comment about how they're coping, some expression of anguish, something? The only logical conclusion is that the stringer made the sourcing up to excite editors who don't care about accuracy or they wouldn't be in the jobs they're in.)

Anyhow, toxicology reports should be done within the next couple of weeks. As I wrote the day Gans died, the fact that the coroner couldn't crack him open and see a heart attack or aneurysm would imply there's some important information to come in the bloodwork.

Short of those tests being completed, there's not a lot for legit reporters to do. Since none of us in the news biz are likely to break into the morgue to grab a sample and do the tests ourselves, the best thing to do is to wait. Tox results for Heath Ledger took 15 days, for Anna Nicole Smith took more than 7 weeks. That's a wide window.

There's been rumor, of course. Gans' suspected steriod use has been out there for years, so that's come up again. And the R-J's Mike Weatherford chatted up a golfing buddy who said Danny was a bit down recently. That's curious, but don't we all feel low sometimes? Maybe the market was down that day? Or his kid got bad grades? The car got a flat?

The oddest bit has been the question of what was known about Gans' possible health troubles before his death. His longtime manager Chip Lightman first told me for AFP that Gans was healthy as an ox and later told Norm Clarke that he had a history of high blood pressure. All the more reason to sit tight for the coroner's results, right? I do think Lightman has said some things since Danny's death designed to frame the entertainer's image and legacy; that's understandable given that's been his job for 18 years. It's a hard habit to break, but some inconsistencies are more jarring than others.

Dave McKee from the Stiffs & Georges blog ruminated about a "cone of silence" surrounding Gans' death within the media. Because I respect McKee, I wrote him a note expressing my view:

There is no cone of silence surrounding Danny Gans' death. What there is is responsible and sensitive journalism which, evidently, you can't even recognize because it hardly exists anywhere anymore. Danny Gans died in his bed. The coroner said the autopsy was inconclusive. They're doing the testing to figure out what's what. What would you like the media to do in the meantime? Make shit up? Take third- and fourth-hand rumors and draw conclusions about how he died? Harass his widow and grieving kids? Why? Because that's how the LA or NY or London media would do it?

There is a reason why Danny's death is not the feeding frenzy of a Anna Nicole Smith or Elvis Presley or Heath Ledger and it is this: Danny Gans did not self-destruct in public and use that self-destruction as a form of self-promotion. He also didn't have a wide circle of confidants because he spent little time away from his family. If he died from some sort of drug overdose, the toxicology reports will surely say so. And if something else happened related to steroid use, that, too, should emerge in the results. If, after those tests, there's still no clear answer, then anyone's guess is as good as yours or mine. But it's not waiting for spoonfed scoops to let the official investigators do their work. Well, unless you believe that the coroner's office is corrupt, too, and there's no reason to think that.

Of course, there are some who wish to believe that, too, but it's been proven they'll believe anything. Just look at some of the bizarro notions that have been tossed out there: Danny Gans was (a) actually killed in a DUI hit-and-run; (b) was having an affair with a local news personality who has tried to get Mayor Oscar Goodman and Wayne Newton and Las Vegas Chamber of Commerce (!?!) to help cover up Gans' actual cause of death or (c) committed suicide because Steve Wynn booked Whoopi and Beyonce.

Hmmm. Let's see. For the first two to be true, we would need to have a conspiracy that drew in the highest reaches of Metro police, the entire Wynn organization, a list of entertainers and politicians and journalists who don't even like one another. And the motivation would be what? Danny Gans was a successful and popular Vegas act, but he wasn't a popular figure in either the local press or, for certain, within his former employer MGM Mirage. Are we all being paid? By whom?

As for the idea that Gans was suicidally upset that Wynn booked other acts? That would be pretty weird considering how Wynn repeatedly said even before he signed Gans that he would need to fill the room with other acts. And many other acts performed in his room at the Mirage, too, on a regular basis.

I do hope that the tox results give us something concrete, although I predict that certain crazies out there won't believe it if it turns out to be something relatively benign or innocent. That's just how they roll, y'know.

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Peepshow Tussle: What Counts As Topless?

Mike Weatherford beat me to the punch today in reporting that "Peepshow" at Planet Hollywood has dispensed of the pasties for full-breasted toplessness. He just didn't have the story behind the story.

This comes from several sources involved with the show: The deal between the "Peepshow" folks and Planet Hollywood is that P-Ho buys 10 percent of every show's seats. After the opening, though, despite impressive reviews, P-Ho management felt they hadn't received a true topless show. No matter that the dancing and singing are great, that the set pieces are fun, that the show hardly slows down, that it's a refreshing take on a stale concept. None of that mattered in the face of covered nipples, dammit.

Negotiations ensued. Some of the dancers went into the deal expecting to be covered by the pasties, so the producers agreed to pay them a little more. At least one woman quit. But when a show costs $400,000 a week -- yes, that's an accurate and never-before-published figure -- to produce and you're relying on the hotel to guarantee a certain piece of that, you tend to comply.

I've tried to get an official response to this version of events. A P-Ho publicist responded once, to indicate she was ill and would get back to me soon. That was six days ago. In this case, silence speaks volumes; if this were flatly untrue, the response would've been a faster and easier, "Are you nuts?"

The real question, of course, is what defines topless. Is a thingie on the nip so intrusive? Really? I mean, look at the male stripper shows. When those guys are done shaking it, you've seen nothing you couldn't have observed at a Michael Phelps swim meet. They still call them strippers and they show nary an inch of genitalia skin. But gosh, the guys gotta see their titties or it's a fraud!

Weatherford referred to the use of pasties as "false modesty." Maybe it's because I'm gay, as is creator/director Jerry Mitchell, but I found them a minor and classy instance of restraint that helped keep the show from feeling sleazy. "Peepshow" still has plenty to elevate it from sleaze and I still think it can succeed, but I'm just baffled as to how this could be an issue. I'd be surprised if P-Ho got loads of complaints from straight guys who sat through a fun and entertaining 90 minutes and felt cheated because they didn't get to see nipples. Could they really be so juvenile?

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Roger Thomas: The Advocate Profile

I'm on a layover in Atlanta -- God, how often have I written those six words on this blog in recent months?!? -- so to avoid other work, I figured I'd post the newly minted link to my lengthy profile in the June issue of The Advocate of Roger Thomas, whom Dave McKee of Stiffs & Georges referred to today as "inarguably the most influential designer in Vegas history." Or, as I write in the first line, "Steve Wynn’s gay alter ego." This was a piece that was assigned at 1,200 words. I filed 2,500 -- coulda gone on, he's so fascinating and important -- and they ran it all. That never happens.

Annoyingly, the piece went to press before Thomas called off his Wynn retirement. We're able to indicate that online but not in print. Them's the breaks.

A Sad Morning Chat

A 36-year-old man and his 68-year-old father sit quietly on a bench waiting for the man’s train to take him off to the airport. After six days together, they’ve largely run out of things to talk about. Yet as the man’s mind starts thinking ahead to returning home to work, he’s revisited by the panic and fears that he tried to forget about during his break.

“I may have to find something else to do with my life,” the man said sadly. "This is all I've ever wanted to do, and I may have to find some other way to do it."

“What do you mean?” the father replied.

“My business is dying.”

“It’s that bad? You seem so busy.”

“Well, not my business exactly. My business is down, but my industry. My industry is dying.”

“Oh, yeah.”

“I listen to you talk about the old days when there were all these different newspapers in New York and all that and I wish I was around then. My colleagues that are your age, at least they got a whole career in the way it was. Everybody's terrified. Nobody has any idea what the media will look like in five years. I mean, it must’ve been a pain in the ass to write before computers, but…”

“Computers have killed a lot of jobs,” the retired printing company owner said. “They were supposed to create all these jobs, but now everything’s so efficient, they don't need all these people.”

“It’s true. I was watching some movie the other night on TV and they showed this office in the 1940s and there were these teams of people doing jobs that now take one person a couple of minutes to do.”

“We used to have typesetters, used to bang bang bang,” the father recalled. “That’s all gone now. There's no noise anymore. Just clickety clickety.”

“I know. And now, look around. They shut down the paper in Denver, that Seattle paper is online only now, Detroit is delivering a few days a week now…”

“I know,” the father interrupted. “I read all about it. I see it. So, what are you going to do?”

“I don’t know. Nobody knows what to do. A lot of reporters I know became publicists, but even the publicists in Vegas are having a hard time. They’ve got a big event to promote or something, who do they promote it to? The New York Times isn’t taking any freelance in their arts section. The L.A. Times is pretty much bankrupt, people I know can’t get paid. Newsweek isn’t even covering the news anymore. The travel sections around the country are mostly using wire.”

“Time to write the Big Book, huh?”

“Hah, yeah. But then who’s going to read it, how are you going to promote it? That’s the next shoe to fall, the book industry. I’ve never understood how they pay these writers these huge amounts to do their books. They have to sell so many books to make it make any sense and so few of them do. That model’s the next to collapse. It makes no sense.”


“Besides, I’ve got lots of ideas,” the man says, “but how do I find the time to do them when I’ve got to work twice as hard to make two-thirds of the money to pay the mortgage on a house that is worth half what we paid for it?”

“You speak to a lot of very powerful people all the time. What does Steve Wynn think is going to happen?”

“Oh, I don’t know, it’s never occurred to me to ask Steve Wynn what he thinks is going to happen to the media.”

“Well, you know what I hate? I hate those ads on the Internet.”

“Somebody’s gotta pay for that stuff somehow, Dad.”

“I know, but you think shoving an ad for a picture of a Honda over my email is going to make me buy a Honda?”

“I don’t know.”

“Can’t you write for some Web sites?”

“I do, but they pay less so I have to do more. People like Arianna Huffington don't pay anything, you're supposed to be satisfied with the exposure. Nobody pays much. You know, because you won’t buy the Honda off that Honda ad and all.”

“If I need to buy a car, I know how to find it.”

“I did get an interesting offer the other day."

"Oh yeah?"

"Yeah. Someone wants to pay me to Tweet something for them.”


“Tweet. Like write messages for them on Twitter.”

Long silence.

“I have a question,” the father finally said.

“Sure, what?”

"I don't want you to think I'm stupid or behind the times or anything."

"I promise, I won't."

"OK," he said. "What’s Twitter?”

Sent from my iPod

No Live Show Tonight, Rerunning Whoopi

I'll be traveling back from Florida most of the day, so no live show tonight. We'll post a fresh interview later this week as this week's episode, not sure which one. And we'll play an archive edition of the show in the place of a new one at LVRocks.Com between 7-8 pm PT. This time it'll be the Nov. 9, 2006 show in which I ticked off Whoopi Goldberg, in honor of her upcoming Encore shows. Listen and chat at LVRocks.Com.

Monday, May 11, 2009

Finally, Something Twitterific

I don't give a damn about Ashton Kutcher and Demi Moore's plans for tonight. I thought I'd find Tweets from the local newspapers useful but I rarely read them even when they are texted to my phone. And I've found little value myself in Tweeting other than to have new blog posts and shows in the podcast feed broadcasted or when I forget to bring a notebook to an assignment and need to keep track of something.

But this. Oh my. This is just too great.

I'd never heard of Dan Baum before. He's been a writer for the New Yorker and now has a book about post-Katrina New Orleans out that's getting raves. And he is making Twitter into something I can actually, finally enjoy.

Beginning on May 8 at 10:46 a.m., Baum has been Tweeting the story of how he lost his gig at The New Yorker. It is riveting. Not just how he lost it -- he hasn't totally gone through that yet -- but what it's like to be a New Yorker writer. Among the best stuff to me:

* His uncredited, unpaid wife did half his work. Yo, Miles...

* He made a paltry $90,000 a year, no benefits, for 30,000 words. (Paltry, that is, considering the enormous prestige, the fact that he was supporting a family, the fact that he was barred from writing for a list of other major magazines including Playboy and Rolling Stone, and that most mid-career hires at The New York Times make more.) He also admitted he tried for 17 years to get a New Yorker assignment, which suddenly filled me with a great deal of hope.

* His Tweets have pointed to fascinating parts of his site including successful and unsuccessful story pitches and even full stories he wrote that were killed by the New Yorker. (Of Vegas interest, by the by, is his failed pitch to do a New Yorker piece on the Binion slaying. I'm not sure if the NYer ever did anything about Binion.)

So, OK, Hunter Hillegas, Melissa Arsenuik and the rest of you who have told me I'm wrong about Twitter being over. This very narrowly focused use of the tool is working for me. But guess what? It works in this instance because it's behaving like...a storyteller. It's not what Dan had for breakfast or what he thinks of the Mets game. He's hooked me by telling a compelling yarn with actual suspense. Which is something that less than half of a percent of the folks who use Twitter, including me, do.

When Baum is done with this peculiar confessional exercise, though, and goes back to reporting the minutae of his book tour, something tells me I'll tune out. And then I'll be back to my original thesis: Twitter is over.

Obama: The Las Vegas Spectacular

Back when Celine Dion was (temporarily) vacating the Colosseum, many of us did partook in this really fun parlor game about what acts could handle to fill the 4,000-room prestige venue night after night. Bette and Cher are the current residents and they do just groovy. Oprah did some shows there with Cher and Tina Turner, giving rise to speculation about Tina but nothing's come of that.

Turns out, we were thinking of the wrong Big O.

As in, Obama.

No, really. See what Jon Ralston of the Las Vegas Sun just posted. That's one of the invites for the Harry Reid fundraiser headlined by the President. Ralston's blog has links to two other versions.

Bette Midler and Sheryl Crow. Sounds like a great show. Maybe they'll sell a soundtrack for those of us whose jobs disallow us to give money to political candidates! I wonder if Rep. Shelley Berkley will hang out by the stage door in hopes of putting her sis on the line with POTUS!