Thursday, August 20, 2009

The Show is UP: Daniel Negreanu

Here we go ... the newest show. Listen to the first two minutes to hear how to win a pair of MJ tickets and afterparty passes! To download, right-click on the date below (or the AAC link) and save it to your computer. Or you can subscribe (it's free!) via this iTunes link or via this Zune link.

Aug. 20: Daniel The Kid

This is an abbreviated episode because we couldn’t get into the studio this week because of our work schedules. Thus, an interview-only episode featuring Daniel Negreanu, nicknamed Kid Poker. But the kid, presently No. 3 on the list of all-time earnings in poker tournament play at $11.6 million, has a bit of a wicked side, too. His Tweets during this year’s World Series of Poker were rife with snark about other players, Asian drivers and weird encounters with fans on the rail, and in this week’s conversation, Negreanu has some harsh words for fellow star Annie Duke’s representation of the game on the recent season of Celebrity Apprentice. Plus, is it true that most poker players are atheists? Negreanu answers that, too.

Links to stuff discussed:

Negreanu’s blog site
Steve’s column about poker and Twitter
Daniel Negreanu’s Twitter feed
The McClatchy wire feature on Nick Maimone, Catholic poker player
The YouTube clip of Joan Rivers attacking

Wednesday, August 19, 2009


ARRGH! Miles was unable to get out of work early enough, so after all this, we're not doing a normal live show this week. Instead, I'll do an intro and we'll play my news-making interview with Daniel Negreanu. Then Miles will record a proper intro at home and we'll post an interview-only episode by tomorrow morning.

I'll plan on being in the chat for part of the hour, too.

The Strip is LIVE Tonight (Yes, Tonight!)

Drew Carey canceled all his press interviews today, so instead this week's guest is poker star Daniel Negreanu, currently third on the all-time list of all-time tournament earnings at $11.6 million. He's known for his mild-mannered style, but Negreanu had some not-so-mild words for Annie Duke and how she represented poker on "The Celebrity Apprentice." Good stuff. Also, he's really smart and Canadian and we had a really deep conversation about health care reform. And he Tweets a lot, and not all of it is PC.

Join us at 7-8 p.m. PT for live chat, video and audio at LVRocks.Com. Also, Miles is back! Or wait till tomorrow and it'll be a podcast! Woo hoo!

ABCNews' Baffling MJ Stakeout

See this?

For the past 28 days and counting, ABC News has had a journalist parked outside the home of Dr. Conrad Murray, the personal physician to Michael Jackson who was with Jackson's home when he died and is now the center of a probe into whether the death was a manslaughter. Dr. Murray, through his lawyer, has acknowledged he administered the powerful anesthetic propofol, a troubling and baffling notion.

Murray lives in the posh Red Rock Country Club in a $1.6 million home on which he hasn't paid the mortgage since December. The complex has two Arnold Palmer-signature golf courses, and Dr. Murray's home sits along the 18th hole of one. The homes are within a gated area, although there's even gated-with-in-gated for the even more exclusive folks. Murray's only in that first tier of exclusivity.

To give those of you outside Vegas some context of where this all is, here's a Google Map that shows the country club and its distance from the Bellagio:

Anyhow, back to the point. The media is in tough straits these days. You can hear about it on, well, the news. And yet the brain trust of ABC News has decided that it's a good investment -- that it's that important -- to have a 24-hour watch over this house, occupied by Dr. Murray, his wife and his four kids.

It's not just that ABC News could use the money it costs -- I'm estimating we're talking at least $15,000 a month -- to stake out Dr. Murray's home nonstop indefinitely to do meaningful journalism about the economy, health care, foreign affairs, whatever.

ABC is the only legit news agency doing this. (It appears there is one paparazzo stationed up a hill in a public area of the complex.) John Getter, the ABC producer who I visited with, befriended someone who lives in the gated community and is now on a resident's "list," which means he or his people can enter the complex and then sit there staring for hours at a time. He says he's gotten a sense of the rhythm of the Murray household but he won't shoot Murray's wife or children and Murray himself almost never comes out. Getter is Tweeting his stakeout at @Getjohn, where he's repeatedly referred to Murray as under "self-imposed house arrest." One recent Tweet: "A couple friends have mooned, sped at us in cars, taunted to attempt 2 intimidate."

Here's Getter in his car:

Getter is committed to the gig, although he did need to swap cars with his wife because hers was more comfortable and he does a lot of sitting around in the car. And he was first on the scene, obviously, when the DEA and LAPD raided Murray's house last month. But Getter told me he doesn't actually expect Murray to be arrested here; if it happens, he figures, the cops will call his lawyer and arrange a less humiliating private surrender.

So what's the point? ABC wants to video of Murray, which they haven't really gotten in all this time. They hope maybe he'll talk to them, say something, but yesterday instead Murray put out a public statement via YouTube.

The neighborhood is interesting, though. As has been reported, Elvis' doctor Elias Ghanem once lived here. What's more, Murray's home faces an empty lot and up the slope a bit is the late Ghanem's house. I don't recall which it was, but here's a pic:

Also, Harrah's veep Jan Jones lives up the block from Murray and one of the Tibertis, the family whose elders built several famous casinos back in the day, is a next-door neighbor. Oh, and not far away is Dr. Dipak Desai, who is under investigation as well because his endoscopy clinic's reuse of needles was at the center of a major Hepatitis C outbreak and panic last year.

I toured the complex just to get a feel for it. Some fabulous homes. Check it out:

The whole stakeout thing is so strange to me. Las Vegas is not a city, generally, where the media camp out on people's lawns for extended periods of time. That's New York and L.A., where it's generally a lot easier to do and where the intensity of competition among tabloid media is at its heights. I do hope ABC News decides it's worth it, but I can't imagine how they can justify that kind of cost over something that is, in the grand scheme of things, so insignificant.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

So getting fake-married in NV...

...will cost almost as much as -- or more! -- than getting real-married.

Odd, no?

I'm very pleased that SB283 passed and that Miles and I will be able to register as domestic partners in Nevada. According to the new law, the term "domestic partner" equals "spouse" wherever in Nevada law "spouse" is written. So it's virtual marriage except we can't call it that and it means nothing to the federal government or most other states. Oh, and nobody's employers are required to provide health benefits to same-sex partners or, presumably, any children you have together.

Today, Secretary of State Ross Miller issued the instructions on how same-sex and unmarried heterosexual couples can sign up. The new law goes into effect on Oct. 1, and Miller says he wants to give folks a chance to have their registrations in hand the day it becomes legal. "October 1st is shaping up to be a very important and festive day for many Nevadans," Miller said in a press release. That's great, and Oct. 1 actually has special resonance for Miles and me as it will be the 5th anniversary of our first date.


I'm baffled by the cost. We have to pay $50 to register, plus the cost of a notary public to certify it. This being Vegas, there's also a deluxe model, too; for a $15 upgrade, you can have a "ceremonial certificate" as opposed to merely a "black and white certificate." Here's what the fancy version looks like:

Meanwhile, it costs $55 for a hetero-marriage license. With that comes the whole enchilada -- pension and Social Security benefits and the other gazillion federal benefits being legally married provides. Dunno if it's as pretty as all that, but most people stick it in a drawer anyhow, right?

Seems to me that the cash-strapped Silver State has realized this darn thing could be revenue-positive. Let's make a few bucks off the grateful gays, why don't we? There's no other explanation as to why getting fake-married could cost $65 but getting real-married costs $55, is there? It certainly isn't much of a deal, really.

I know, I know. We should just shut up and be happy we got anything at all and not get all uppity in demanding a price befitting the product we're receiving. But these costs are totally arbitrary in the first place. They're symbolic, not related to any specific or actual costs. You tell me: Under what other circumstances would anyone pay the same or more for about 75 percent less of something?

And one more thing. I'm thinking the fine folks in the Secretary of State's office had a fun time coming up with those gender-neutral surnames with those oh-so-QUEER middle initials, huh? How much you wanna bet someone made references to the classic SNL skits around the office while conjuring this up?


You're building this beautiful and stately structure with perhaps the best international reputation for elegance, service and grace, and then you...

Put a wrap on it?!?!?

Please, please, please, please, please, Mandarin Oriental Las Vegas peeps. Tell me that's just there right now to gin up some interest in advance of the opening at CityCenter in December. Tell me that when you open, you're not going to make your building look like...

...this. Just sayin'.

And while I was stuck in traffic looking at that terrible scaffolding, I turned the other way and noticed that...

...the Paris balloon needs a paint job, stat. Has it had one in the 10 years the place has been open?

I did think that the sign for the Louis Vuitton at The Crystals was kinda cool and refined:

Well, at least until those neat severe angles of this Daniel Libeskind design get cluttered with all the other logos. This one works because the LV also has similar severe angles and, also, there's a double-entendre in there. But think they'll leave well enough alone? Really?

Finally, I've been eager to see what the Mandarin Oriental interiors will look like. The website still has what appear to be renderings of the rooms. I mean, it's hard to tell since they're tiny thumbnail images that can't be enlarged. The executive suite one, in fact, is a photo of a flower on a table with the base of a lamp.

BUT! This splash-page image, presumably of a lounge or restaurant, is insightful:

Look out the window! It turns out that the Mandarin Oriental Las Vegas is going to some other city! With lots of glittery high-rises! How grand! I wonder if there'll be a shuttle of some sort!


I'm not interviewing Drew Carey until tomorrow, so we're doing the live show at LVRocks.Com on Wednesday at 7 p.m. this week. Join us then! And, yes, from everything I can tell, Miles will be there with me.

Monday, August 17, 2009

One Bizarre Lunch with Joe Jackson

I've had many odd days in my career. Yesterday belongs in the Top Five.

I've just come from lunch with Joe Jackson, father of Michael Jackson, at Simon at Palms Place. Erich Bergen and I were there to meet with him about "Las Vegas Celebrates The Music of Michael Jackson," the massive Aug. 29 charity benefit tribute featuring the stars of the Strip we're doing to raise $100,000 for public school music programs. Joe Jackson will be at the Palms that day as well to accept a celebrity star in Michael's honor to be bestowed by Brenden Theatres, the cinema that MJ and his children once frequented.

At first, it seemed I had missed what was to be a very brief encounter. Erich got there first and told him our plans as the two took a ride up an elevator to the famed and elaborate Brenden Celebrity Suite (BCS) above the Brenden Theatre box office that Johnny Brenden uses to entertain celebrities and VIPs who visit for Cinevegas and other events. Brenden's folks had wanted us to walk him there to show Joe Jackson a massive Swarovski-framed mirror (see it to your left) because Brenden plans to get a smaller but similar one to frame a photo of Michael that shall forever hang in said fancy suite.

Erich told me that when they were in the elevator to that suite, Joe Jackson took a photo of Michael out of his pocket, looked at it sadly, said, "I can't believe he's gone," and then just as suddenly snapped out of that.

By the time I arrived, the encounter was all of 5 minutes old and Erich assumed it was over. Joe nodded sagely about our plans, said he thought it was great, took a phone call and wandered off without saying goodbye.

A little while later, I found him sitting alone staring into space in the food court at the Palms. We sat down with him and he told us he hopes to be at the concert but that the family had decided to (finally) bury MJ at the Forest Lawn Cemetery in L.A. at 10 a.m. that morning. (This was actually pretty big news, and I am breaking it via the New York Daily News tonight. I have timed this post to appear after that story goes up on NYDailyNews.Com.)

I asked how his wife, Katherine Jackson, was faring and he said she bursts into tears regularly. He also said that he tried to see his son in the months before his death but “the security guards wouldn’t let me get to him.”

He was then joined by Crystal Marven, a Vegas-based singer he has signed to his record label, and her mother. He wanted to show the women that ornate frame, so we went back up to the BCS and I got to snap this image of Erich (above) with his idol's dad. I got loads of other photos of the special Brenden suite that I'll share in a separate post.

By now, Joe was hungry, so we led him over to Simon at Palms Place for brunch where the namesake, Kerry Simon, greeted us. Joe chowed down on ribs and jalapeno cornbread and enjoyed the view of the all the hot women in bikinis cavorting at the pool right outside.

I quizzed him about a few other outstanding MJ issues. On the subject of the LAPD's investigation, he said he has now asked U.S. Rep. Diane Watson, D-Los Angeles, to open a Congressional investigation, too. He thinks Dr. Conrad Murray, the Vegas-based doctor whose home and business have been searched in raids aimed at linking him and his possible administering of propofol to MJ's death, is a fall guy "for a whole lot of people." And he dismissed LaToya's claim that Neverland would be moved to Las Vegas. "How would they do that?" Jackson asked.

By the end, Joe Jackson promised to get to the Palms for at least the end of our show, the after-party and to be on hand to receive a celebrity star from Brenden Theatres around 7 p.m. There's also a charity showing of "Moonwalker" at the theater at 8 p.m., with proceeds of that, too, going to the Clark County Public Education Foundation.

One final post-script. Erich and I handled the lunch check and tip, of course. But Joe pulled out his money and seemed genuinely surprised by the gesture. I was, in turn, surprised by his surprise. I would think after all these years he would be accustomed to people falling all over themselves to treat him. Joe Jackson was a very odd fellow, to be sure, and there's a lot about him that makes one scratch their heads. But I found it interesting that he evidently was not expecting to get a free pass.