Saturday, May 23, 2009

Danny Gans: Still Dead, Right?

Last week, I noticed this Google Ad appearing atop this blog...

...and took a screen shot but got busy and forgot to blog about it. Then, just now, it happened again... it seemed worth noting. I mean, unless you're Terry Fator and believe you can commune with Gans, I'm thinking this ship has sailed.

Then again, Google Ads behave notoriously strangely. Take this one, also on this site today that links to TravelZoo.Com:

The Sands Hotel was imploded in Las Vegas was imploded on June 30, 1996. Oops.

Friday, May 22, 2009

Sands Bethlehem Pictorial 1: The Inside

It was a long, fascinating day in Bethlehem, Pa., where Las Vegas Sands opened its 137,000-square-foot, 3,000-slot steel-themed casino atop a former ore pit on the grounds of the late great Bethlehem Steel Co. You can read my New York Times piece and for more on the significance to Bethlehem and to LVS as well.

You can also watch this special 10-minute video edition of The Strip. The interview with two very colorful women anchor the episode and, also, I scared a baby. It's in the podcast feed so you can subscribe via iTunes or, also, as you can see, I posted it on YouTube.

You can also hear me describe the joint live from the scene on KNPR on Friday. As I said in that appearance, Sands Bethlehem is surprisingly coherent and classy, having adapted a lot of architectural cues from the historic steel business that built and then vacated the city. LVS owns about 150 acres and has halted, for now, construction of a 300-room hotel and a large retail area because of the credit crunch.

The place has four restaurants right now including Emeril's Chophouse. Chef Lagasse was on site today to open it and plans two more restaurants here. This is his first restaurant in the northeastern U.S. Below, folks are trying to see him in the kitchen...

...and here's the wine racks...

...and the menu. (Click to make it big enough to read.)

Here's a cocktail waitress in one of her color-appropriate, demure-for-Vegas outfits:

I liked how the bars were named for steel-related things, like Coil and Molten. And As you can see, there's a Sands Lager on tap.

You're never far away here from Vegas...

...but oddly the MySands players club is not linked to the Grazie Club that LVS uses for Macau and Las Vegas. That is, you can't earn comps in Vegas here. That's a strange decision. LVS has never had another domestic U.S. location before other than Las Vegas, but it would seem like they'd want to use such incentives to lure people to Vegas, no? That's how Harrah's, Boyd and MGM Mirage do it, right?

Nonetheless, the rush was on to get one of those cards:

Here's the map of the casino as it is now:

Later this year, LVS is supposed to add 2,000 more slot machines here:

No table games, per Pennsylvania law. Instead, you get this stupid game which I've always hated and been creeped out by:

I did find this water feature right at the lobby entrance to be very pretty:

There'll be two more posts, one with images of the outside and around Bethlehem and, of course, one with all the weird and quirky stuff I noticed. Stick around!

Sands Bethlehem Pictorial 2: The Outside

I managed to get away from the casino for a while thanks to a little walking and bus tour that Mayor John Callahan took me on. Unfortunately, my camera battery died halfway through or I'd have many more photos of the incredibly charming old buildings and the nifty cafe, Wired, where I wrote my NYT piece.

Still, this is the view of the Bethlehem Steel plant, where the casino now stands beyond those blast furnaces, from the next bridge up the Lehigh River. Here's a closer look at the blast furnaces, which are to be the basis for a national museum focused on industrial American history:

On June 9, when LVS officially holds its formal grand opening, the company will start lighting up the old furnaces at night similar to how this is done in Germany.

This image, in fact, is taken from Callahan's latest State of the City report.

This iconic crane in front of the casino is the original crane, one of two, that moved ore in the pit upon which the Sands Bethlehem has been built. LVS owns the entire piece of property all the way to the blast furnaces.

Here's the outside of the casino which, truth be told, is the least interesting part of it. That white structure to the right is the parking garage.

LVS is obligated to build a 300-room hotel and a large retail space. That shell of a building sticking up behind that silo-looking thing is the hotel. Construction was halted last summer when LVS suffered a major credit crunch that also stopped construction in Macau and in Vegas.

Finally, remember Georgine from the special video edition of "The Strip"? Well, when she said she lived across the street, she meant it. This is the view from the third level of the parking garage:

On Sunday, I'll get into the quirky stuff, so come on back!

First Look: Sands Bethlehem

I can't write much right now because I've got to do a few more interviews for my NYT piece and then take a ride with the mayor to get an orientation of Bethlehem, but I did want to post a couple of shots and a promise of much more later. There'll also be a special video episode of The Strip coming and you can hear me in a taped segment on KNPR at around 9:40 a.m. PT at or 88.9 FM.

My initial impressions is that they've done a really lovely job with this place. In sum, they've built a steel-themed casino, see:

More on this later. Gotta run in a sec.

For those of you unaware, Las Vegas Sands (owner of Venetian and Palazzo) is opening today the casino portion of a $713 million project. They had to postpone the 300-room hotel, the convention space and retail because of the financial crunch. They are building all of this on the former ore pit that served Bethlehem Steel, the company that produced the steel that built skyscrapers like the Empire State Building as well as the the railroads and much of the military armaments. The company went kaput in 2003 and left Bethlehem, about 75 miles north of Philly, somewhat desolate.

Sort of. There's more to it than that, but that's all I have time for at the moment. But this is the very definition of a "soft" opening. The 3,000 slot machines are working great, but the bar has no matchbooks? There are so many cars, I'm told, that the company's top lawyer is working valet. Yikes!

Up and out early...

...heading to Bethlehem, Pa., to cover the opening this morning of the new $600 million Sands casino built in an iconic former steel mill there for the Times. Got really lucky and caught a good story nearby, relatively speaking, while visiting my sister in the Philly burbs. Will Tweet about it and post photos later. Oh, and I'm scheduled to be on KNPR's State of Nevada this morning, too, live from the scene. Then back here for Shabbas with the family. Should be a nice day if I don't get lost en route, which is likely!

Thursday, May 21, 2009

LVW Col: My 10 Favorite Shows

Here's this week's "Strip Sense" column in the Las Vegas Weekly. Agree or disagree in the comments section or e-mail me your lists! -sf

Ten Shows You Absolutely Have To See...
...or send visitors to see


"All right, very quickly, before we go, Steve Friess,” KNPR’s Dave Berns intoned in his dulcet voice, “one entertainment tip you have right now. Something you’ve seen recently on the Strip or off the Strip that you think people should go to?”

On that particular day last week, I blurted out Jersey Boys, because at the moment, I’m a little obsessed with the show. But that was a quick-fire answer to a question that seems simple and is, in fact, quite complex.

I get this question a lot. I get it from Facebook friends when they’re about to visit, you readers ask about once a week by e-mail, and it comes up often among colleagues over drinks at media events.

Well, the next time someone asks, I can just forward them the link to this here article. Granted, the list below will change; three shows that would’ve been on the list a year ago—The Red Piano, Mamma Mia! and Stomp Out Loud—are gone. If Peepshow jells well and Terry Fator forsakes the unnecessary political snark that was present when the show opened, both are serious candidates down the line.

Every selection here has one thing in common: If a friend called asking me to go with them to see any of these, I’d go, assuming (a) I wasn’t busy or (b) no new episode of Lost or Mad Men was on.

See the rest at LasVegasWeekly.Com

Show is UP: Dennis Miller

Sometimes the interviews don't go so well and that's what's interesting about them. Such was this week's experience. 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 21: It's Cranky Miller Time

Comic and political commentator Dennis Miller has a reputation for being cantankerous and on this week’s show, he lives up to that image to the fullest. More than three years after he came on this show and complimented us as erudite and astute, he’s back in a tense conversation that he ends abruptly because it was, uh, “too deep.”

In Banter: No news on Danny Gans yet, Lion King gets high marks, British Airways opens daily nonstops, the pasties are gone from and Holly Madison is coming to Peepshow and Menopause finds a new home at the recently hipped-up Luxor.

Thanks to Amy of GritsToGlitz.Com for subbing for Steve.

Links to stuff discussed on the show:

Dennis Miller's site
Our March 2006 Dennis Miller episode, which went better
Mike Weatherford's Lion King A-minus from the Review-Journal
Joe Brown's Lion King love from the Las Vegas Sun
Ben Spillman's British Airways-to-Vegas piece from the R-J
An Havana Journal piece on the possible Vegas-Havana route for Allegiant
VegasHappensHere.Com on the Peepshow pasties thing
Doug Elfman on the Monaco-Madison Peepshow switch from the R-J
Weatherford on Menopause moving to Luxor from the R-J
VegasHappensHere.Com on plans for Danny Gans' memorial

Odd LV Sun, Great Penn Jillette On Gays

The Las Vegas Sun offers up a strange editorial today urging Republican Gov. Jim Gibbons to sign a bill that's already passed the Nevada Legislature creating a domestic partnership registry for unwed straight and unable-to-wed gay couples along with a suite of legal protections that have cost Miles and me thousands of dollars in legal fees to merely approximate. It's great that they feel that way -- I don't pretend to be impartial in this topic since it is all about my own personal legal status -- but the Sun's editorial is awkward on a few accounts:

1. The best that can be realistically hoped for is that Gibbons doesn't veto it and/or that two lawmakers in each house of the Legislature reverse their votes to sustain an override. The divorcing governor has already said he would defend the sanctity of the institution of marriage that he has personally repeatedly defaced with a veto. So urging him to sign it is like the Wall Street Journal urging Obama to appoint Sam Alito's ideological twin to the Supreme Court. It's a waste of ink and a waste of an opportunity to frame the debate in any new way.

2. The piece claims that the bill would make gay partners "eligible for health care benefits if employers provide them." Somebody over there didn't read the papers; they scrapped that provision before it even passed the state Senate about two weeks ago.

3. The paper also claims that "w
hat the bill does is to treat domestic partners as first-class citizens." Well, no. It treats these couples as, roughly, third-class citizens. First class would be marriage equality. Second class would be marriage equality under another name to satisfy those linguistic zealots who believe semantics are more important than the lives of real human beings. But this is the best gays can hope for at the moment around here. Does the Sun actually think that separate and clearly unequal is "first class?"

Despite these flaws, several gay leaders are circulating this inaccurate and uninteresting editorial this morning, which surprises nobody by appearing in the town's left-of-center newspaper. Yet so far as I can tell, not a single activist passed around R-J Publisher Sherm Frederick's far more compelling and convincing Sunday piece in which he actually argued for full marriage equality for gays.
When support comes from unexpected quarters and is argued in unexpected ways that actually provides a chance to persuade people who need persuading, that would seem like something to tout.

While we're on a gay kick this morning, I'm not a fan of Penn Jillette for a myriad of reasons. But he took on Glenn Beck earlier this week on Fox News and the results were quite entertaining:

Hat tip to John Katsilometes at the Sun for his very entertaining summary of the Jillette-Beck exchange.

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Memo to Vegas Scouts: Sign Adam Lambert. Now.

America did Adam Lambert and Las Vegas a ginormous favor by crowning milquetoast, inoffensive, adorable but unmemorable Kris Allen tonight as this year's American Idol. Now, if Las Vegas talent scouts are smart, they'll Terry Fatorize the liberated, beholden-to-none runner-up. Lambert defines the next-gen Vegas megastar: He's got the costumes, the pizzazz and, although this is hardly necessary in these parts, that brilliant voice.

Millions of fans -- and especially the gays and the cougars -- would flock here to see the new superstar. No need to build up the name cred; the biggest TV show of our time just took care in a few months of what would otherwise take years of touring to accomplish. Bring in Thierry Mugler for costumes, Dave LaChapelle to direct. Start Adam off singing big-voice rock standards, let him work his new material in. Give audiences a sense of discovery.

Paris and Wynn have empty showrooms. The Joint is now in the resident-act market. The Hilton has turned toward this demo with Monster Circus.

Show Lambert the money. Do it as quickly as possible. He's a one-man multiplier effect. AI's given us Oscar winners, Tony nominees, country music superstars. Why not a new Strip headliner? a memorial?

[UPDATE: Jeff Gillan from LV1 wrote in to say the Gans family nixed his request to carry the memorial live. LV1 (and other TV stations I assume) will have camera access inside the showroom with conditions as to what can and can't be shown. Gillan also said Steve Wynn is planning to do some local interviews as well. -sf]

I find this a bit strange.

ShowTickets4Locals.Com just sent out a freebie offer to Danny Gans' memorial?!?!? See below:
A gift for XXX from
Danny Gans Memorial
DATE: May 21, 2009 (Thursday)
TIME: 3:00PM
LOCATION: Encore Theater (Located inside Wynn Hotel & Casino)
Celebrate and Embrace the life of adored Las Vegas entertainer Danny Gans.

You must pick up your tickets today between 2pm - 5pm today only at the Wynn hotel and casino box office.

Call 671-0049 now to reserve your free ticket for Thursdays show.

Please do not print this email and bring it to the box office. Once your ticket is confirmed with our operators, your name will be given to the box office directly. Valid ID required to receive your tickets.

Isn't that a little odd and awkward? I mean, is someone concerned about the room not looking quite full enough? It's a memorial -- in fact, it's been referred to in various media accounts as a "private" memorial -- not a show or a popularity contest. They sent out all these invitations to friends, family, media folk, etc. It's nice that they're opening it up to the public, I suppose, but then they're not really. You have to have tickets. (Side note: It's kind of interesting that ShowTickets4Locals.Com would be the dispenser. Recall how they were forced to coddle Gans way back when.)

I had planned to attend and cover this, but I'm in Philly dealing with this family thing so I can't. But Alicia Jacobs of KVBC has reported on his Twitter feed that Oscar Goodman, Andre Agassi and Marie Osmond are scheduled to speak. (Fox 5, in a bit of competitive pique it seems, credited this to Norm Clarke's Twitter feed, but Norm clearly credits Jacobs.) It hasn't been reported yet, but I'd be shocked if Steve and/or Elaine Wynn don't offer a tribute as well.

The memorial may also be broadcast live on Las Vegas One. Anchor Jeff Gillan has been approaching Gans' manager Chip Lightman about providing that access. I'm not sure what became of that, but Lightman had told me a few days ago he was considering it. Unfortunately for you out-of-towners, I don't believe Las Vegas One streams online. But, hey, maybe some of those free memorial tickets will be available on Craigslist later today! I know a few memorabilia collectors who might find them valuable...

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

The Strip is LIVE tonight w/Dennis Miller

The last time we had Dennis Miller on back in March 2006, he called us astute and erudite. This time, not so much. A strangely contentious interview with the comic and political commentator is on the agenda for this week, plus we'll mull lots of news from Vegas, discuss the results of the old poll and provide, as always, the Top Secret Tourist Tip of the Week.

Guest host Amy is filling in for Steve, so 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 by Thursday morning. Subscribe (it's free!) in iTunes.

Off to Philly... contend with a family emergency. Can't really say more than that except that nobody's health is at stake but my sister is having a bit of a crisis and asked me to come and I had a free Southwest ticket so I hopped the last flight out on Monday. Miles and guest host Amy will do "The Strip" on Tuesday night and more info on later. Gotta get some rest now.

Monday, May 18, 2009

Cool Plates!

I stopped in at the Las Vegas Chip Collectors monthly meeting last week for an upcoming story. On the way out, I noticed these brilliant plates:

Fun, huh?

Sunday, May 17, 2009

The Nicest Thing To Happen In A While

On my flight to Florida last week, I was seated on the aisle across from a mom and her young son and daughter. The boy was about 2, the girl was maybe 6. He sat on the aisle, the little girl was on the window and the mom was in the middle. As I made a return to my seat from the toilet, the little boy dropped his little toy, a miniature of Sully from Monsters Inc. I picked it up and gave it back to him.

About five minutes later, the little boy tapped me on the shoulder and handed me a folded piece of notebook paper. I opened it and found this:

I was confused, so I looked over at the mother.

"This morning, my daughter was drawing pictures at the kitchen table and she took this one and folded it up and gave it to me," the mother explained. "I asked her what she wanted me to do with it, and she said, 'Put it in your purse and we'll give it to someone when they do something nice for us.' "

All together now: Awwwww! I now carry this picture in my bag. Whenever I look at it, I smile.

Warm Fuzzies On A Hot Sunday

A trio of happy things to start the week...

* Frenemies Unite! The Nevada Legislature may have come up short of a veto-proof majority to extend domestic partnership rights to same-sex couples on Friday and the divorcing governor seems likely to defend the sanctity of an institution he himself has repeatedly demeaned, but something even more important happened this weekend. The Review-Journal's publisher, Sherm Frederick, leader of one of the most conservative editorial pages in America and someone whose journalistic decisions I frequently baffle over, endorsed -- I'm not making this up -- full-on gay marriage. What's more, he told his fellow conservatives that support of legal protections for families like mine is a conservative ideal that strengthens communities! I don't know if Sherm's commentary is enough to reverse the two votes in each house needed to override a veto, but it certainly is yet another significant landmark in the obvious and irreversible march toward marriage equality in America. And, as a side note, he also attacked the vermin Perez Hilton for his disastrous efforts to slime Miss California for stating her opinion. I can't believe I'm saying this, but I couldn't agree with Sherm more from beginning to end.

* While I'm At It... I have my problems with the Vegas media, to be sure, and I say so often enough. But my six days in South Florida made me realize we have it better here than I thought. The Sunday edition of the South Florida Sun-Sentinel was shameful and flimsy, with an awful design and precious little locally produced copy. What was there was incredibly dull and mostly puffery anyhow. I'm an alum of both newspapers (R-J 96-99, S-S 99-00) and I'm here to say that the Sunday R-J is a better, more substantive, more sophisticated, better-looking newspaper than the Sunday S-S. It's not even close. And I'm not even including the Pulitzer-winning Las Vegas Sun in the equation! The S-S' latest resdesign makes it resemble a high school newspaper, and that's sad because this was once one of the nation's most respected dailies. Also on a related front, there are three NPR stations operating in South Florida and each one of them goes to all-music at nights and on weekends? Wow. Congrats to Flo Rogers and the rest of the gang at KNPR and good luck on that fund drive.

* Happy economic news, too! Ben Spillman writes today that the classy British Airways will begin daily non-stop service from Heathrow to McCarran starting in October. Fares will start at $461 r/t. So somebody's crunching numbers and thinks that Vegas isn't completely dead yet.