Thursday, October 1, 2009

LVW Col: Of Zowie, Erich, Aubrey, Bob, Cinevegas + The Wayner

It was rough being away last week and watching all that news flying by with little time to blog. Then I was asked to try to make some sense of it all in my weekly LVW piece, and what resulted was this piece examining the scorecard for Vegas culture, such as it is, by the end of it all. Enjoy. -sf

A death, an end of an era...and Aubrey O'Day

I’ve never been much of a Las Vegas nostalgic. I yawn as I listen to all the old-timers grouse about how great things were back then when murderers and thieves “ran” the town and when gambling was the extent of the city’s raison d’être.

So it was somehow fitting that I was away, in New York visiting editors and playing uncle to my niece, for this past week. Fitting, that is, because in the seven days that I was gone, throwback concepts attempted to reign, and “progress” as I define it for the city took a few serious blows.

I missed, for instance, what must have been a pretty disastrous opening night at the Monte Carlo for Zowie Bowie and its Vintage Vegas act. The preternaturally tanned singing duo are expert self-promoters, terrific singers and as media-savvy as anyone around, and yet even our most obsequious of entertainment scribes trashed them by saying they belong in a cabaret and not a major showroom. But it doesn’t really matter to me how they’re received; the idea here is that a major theater on the Strip is now given over to the alleged romance of Old Vegas. When it fails, I wonder, will anyone (else) suggest that maybe it wasn’t the execution that flopped, but the fact that people are bored with the effort to relive a bygone era?

There were three other news items that, to me, also represented steps backward in the cultural evolution of Las Vegas.

Read the rest at LasVegasWeekly.Com

Wednesday, September 30, 2009

ACK! It's actually STILL on!

It was too easy, too logical, for it to be true. And it wasn't.

QVegas associate publisher Earl Shelton canceled his public nuptials at the Erotic Heritage Museum, but evidently some other couples are still moving forward with this horrible idea of marking the commencement of the new domestic partnership law with ceremonies at a sex museum officiated by an Elvis and, maybe, featuring drag-queen nuns.

Laura Henkel, the museum's curator, wrote this comment on the prior post:

Steve,I'm really glad you raised valid points. The event is still happening tonight. There were other couples who were going to participate in the celebrations. Earl backed out due to public pressure. I don't know if the Sisters are participating are not. People from various communities are showing up at 3pm at EHM to discuss what is indeed happening tonight. Jesse Garon does not own the Erotic Wedding Chapel exhibit as it is one of the exhibits at the Museum. Jessie Garon is going to overseeing commitment ceremonies at the Museum. He currently runs The Knot at the Plaza Hotel. I look forward to meeting you in person soon. Best, Laura

That's just swell, Laura. You've now officially proven yourself more concerned with your own bottom line and publicity than for what is obviously right for the community you claim to support. The best answer, if you must follow through, is to not allow media to cover it, period. But then what good would that do you, huh? And how will you repair the damage when this footage ends up being used against us to scare the bejesus out of straight people? You seem to believe you know something about marriage equality politics that those who study these things for a living don't.

It's shameful. The museum people may have started out trying to mix good business with good intentions, but when it has been clearly explained to them and they still persist to follow through, there's only one explanation: Greed.

P.S. I'm quite certain Garon told me this was his idea because he was the owner of the chapel at the museum. So now I'm confused but I'll take Laura's word for that.

The Worst Idea Of The Week Has Been Canceled!

Common sense has somehow, against all odds, prevailed!

This statement just arrived from QVegas's Earl Shelton, who was to hold a public wedding to his partner at the Erotic Heritage Museum officiated by an Elvis impersonator and surrounded by drag-queen nuns known as the Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence. The press was invited to cover this historic first, the first couple to hold a ceremony tied to their domestic partnership, which becomes legal for same-sex couples tomorrow:

“After further consideration, the ceremony that I had planned in celebration of the passing of the Domestic Partnership Bill (SB283) for this evening will no longer be celebrated in a public manner. While I do continue to believe that Las Vegas is the wedding capital of the world and feel that same sex couples should celebrate their unions in our city’s chapels and affirming places of worship, I no longer feel that the ceremony scheduled for tonight will help to move Nevada forward in full marriage equality. Therefore, the ceremony originally scheduled for 12:01 a.m. tonight, Oct. 1, 2009, will not occur. This decision in no way affects my support for any of the establishments or the parties involved with the ceremony.”

Well, that's a relief. What's interesting is that I don't think anyone's told the Erotic Heritage Museum people yet since I just got off the phone moments ago with Jesse Garon, the Elvis impersonator and owner of the wedding chapel at the museum. It was all his idea in the first place and I have to say he sounded like quite a nice fellow. He had called earlier and asked me how this thing could be "made right" and indicated the Sisters had already backed out. I kept telling him it didn't matter how credible the museum was, the media would reduce it to a sex museum. He asked for some say and I promised I'd post whatever he wanted to write.

So this blog post was SUPPOSED to be Garon's remarks, but instead they're posted as comments in the prior post because his pleas for help making this thing happen "the right way" are now moot. It was never, ever going to be able to be done "the right way."

I do wish Earl and his partner all the best, even if their tastes and mine aren't the same. Q Vegas does tons of good for the community. This thing could have undone a lot of it, though.

FOLO: Of Sex Museums, Sisters and Cocktoberfest

With the rather swift reaction to the prior post about the horrifying "first nuptial" stunt occurring tonight as the Nevada domestic partnership law takes effect, I felt it was necessary to clarify a few things.

  1. I was not slamming the Erotic Heritage Museum, whose artistic director wrote this impassioned response in the comments of the prior post that's worth reading.
  2. I was not slamming the Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence, whose outrageous get-ups and good deeds I have personally often enjoyed and whose humor I totally get in the right context.
  3. I was not suggesting that anyone should have anything other than the wedding or ceremony of their choosing.

However. Per No.3, the ridiculous event slated to take place tonight is primarily a publicity stunt; the media is being beckoned to come watch as "history is made," per the release. And that makes the private choices of the couple involved a matter worthy and appropriate for broader debate especially among other gay couples who are supposedly being represented by these self-appointed models. And combining No. 1 and No. 2, both fine and dandy in their own rights, with a media event for No. 3 is so obviously a bad idea that even Q Vegas editor Cory Burgess admitted as much in a comment on my Facebook page defending it:

"Yes, we're quite aware of how the public may perceive our community, but considering no other organization in town is (to our knowledge) doing anything special to celebrate the occasion, this is better than the big day passing and nobody doing a thing."

Cory had written to clarify that Q Vegas hadn't "orchestrated" this event as I wrote but was approached to promote it. Yet they're not just promoting it, they're sort of the stars, too! As I now understand it, half of the couple at the center of this embarrassment is the magazine's associate publisher, Earl Shelton. Shelton appeared in this Review-Journal story, too, when pre-registrations for domestic partnerships were first being accepted. So this isn't a heartfelt ceremony planned out and contemplated the way normal weddings are; it's a spur-of-the-moment exercise in wish fulfillment for an advertiser at the expense of the entire community.

It's also a potential derailment of the political future of the only openly gay elected official in the state's history, State Sen. David Parks, at a time when he is considering a 2010 run for Clark County Commission. Sen. Parks has spent decades fending off the worst kind of homophobia from his opponents and he is the most significant figure responsible for the passage of any and all pro-gay legislation in Carson City over the past 12 years. That includes SB283, the domestic partnership law.

It doesn't take a political mastermind to imagine what the TV commercials and fliers in future campaigns will look like after tonight's event. It's open to the press, so anyone can come in, shoot some video of the painted-faced nuns and the sexual apparatuses on display and bank that footage to air against Parks or, say, supportive and straight Secretary of State Ross Miller or whenever Nevadans try to repeal the state's constitutional ban on gay marriage. "They wanted gay marriage," the demonic voice will intone, "but look what they did when they got domestic partnerships. Protect our children." Eeek! Don't believe they'd do that? This is running in Maine, where same-sex marriage is legal but about to be put to a vote:

See? That's how they play. Imagine that ad with some of this:

Cory defended the Erotic Heritage Museum event by saying that (a) a horrible event is better than none at all and (b) "I don't think it's much worse than any other public gay event." Which is funny because Q Vegas sponsors and in some cases orchestrates several public gay events, including this weekend's National Coming Out Day street fair, and this doesn't sound like a ringing endorsement of that effort.

But more to the point, veteran gay activist and fundraiser Lee Plotkin agreed with me entirely. He responded to Cory in the Facebook thread:

"We all know there are fun and edgy events within the gay community. But if anyone believes local non-gay media is going to focus on Earl and Richard, they're fooling themselves. If non-gay media covers the Erotic Museum event, it will minimize all the intensely hard fought battles in Carson City to attain this civil right. It will fuel the argument the gays see domestic partnership as a joke. And we may as well kiss away any legislative progress in the near future as the planned caricature will most certainly be used to paint us all with the same brush of this perhaps well intentioned, but misguided event."

Oh, and hey! I just noticed this. Guess what else begins on Oct. 1 at the Erotic Heritage Museum? Cock-tober Fest! This just keeps getting better and better!

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Vegas Gays Prove They're As Tacky As Straights!

OK, folks. I'm embarrassed by the Vegas gays at this very moment.

Here's an image of the first couple who married in Massachusetts in 2004:

Here's what one of the first gay couples to wed in Iowa earlier this year looked like on their wedding day:

And, most touchingly, here's what the first couple in California, ages 84 and 87, looked like on their wedding day last year:

And here's an example of what the news media is going to circulate two days from now when Nevada gays begin to legally unite under the new domestic partnership law:

No, really. Let me explain.

The push for marriage equality is about showing that, as couples, gays are essentially the same as any hetero couple in ways that matter. The same relationship issues, same motivations for wanting to be devoted to one another, same variation of "lifestyles" including being parents or childless, urban or rural, conservative or liberal, etc. To persuade straight people that gay couples deserve the rights they have, gays must show that they're more similar than different.

That's part of why the first couples to join in other states have enjoyed elegant, tasteful ceremonies that are palatable to a still-uncertain Middle America.

But not in Vegas! Check it out:

History to be Made when Nevada’s First Same-Sex Couple Walks Down the Aisle Under New SB 283 Legislation

LAS VEGAS – At precisely midnight Thursday, Oct. 1, the first same-sex couple to be legally united under SB 283 Domestic Partnership legislation will walk down the aisle at the Erotic Heritage Museum Wedding Chapel. The ceremony will represent the first domestic partnership recognized under the newly-passed legislation effective Oct. 1.

Elvis-impersonator Jesse Garon, named the ‘official Elvis impersonator of Las Vegas’ by Mayor Oscar Goodman, will officiate the ceremony. The first couple to be united under the new legislation will also release seven doves to commemorate the number of years it took to pass Act 283.


Celebration of the new legislation will officially kick off at 10 p.m. on Wednesday, Sept. 30 at the Erotic Heritage Museum. Courtesy of the Cupcakery, a giant wedding cake with seven symbolic candles will be unveiled to guests with a surprise guest popping out of the cake. DJ Chris Adams will get guests in the groove with hot beats and a performance is scheduled by the Sin Sity Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence. Various Las Vegas artists and entertainers will be on hand to mark the occasion, including famed Frank Marino of An Evening at La Cage.

Yep, you read that right. The first same-sex couple(s) to hold a ceremony tied to their Nevada domestic partnerships will do it at a SEX MUSEUM and be officiated by an ELVIS IMPERSONATOR. It takes place after a party with RELIGION-MOCKING DRAG QUEENS.

You've gotta be kidding me. Is there nobody involved who can't see the obvious and humiliating PR disaster in the making for those who hate the gays and seek proof we're all just a bunch of sex-crazed, debauching, godless cross-dressers?

I've got nothing against sex, nothing against drag queens, nothing about religious spoofery. (Lots against Elvis impersonators, but that's besides the point.) Yet if the gays were bound to make a symbolic show out of this landmark, this is how they choose to do it? What's worse, this is apparently orchestrated by the fine folks at Q Vegas, the local gay monthly, who ought to know a thing or two about how the media works.

It would be one thing if the Erotic Heritage Museum did this on their own -- and it's clearly a publicity stunt to them to promote a wedding chapel there that also opens on Thursday -- but for Q Vegas to assist in building this whole freakfest around the moment? Why do I have the feeling that, had someone asked, queer-adoring Harrah's would've been more happy to throw a thing atop the Eiffel Tower or something? But instead it's this?

Thursday should've been a proud day for Vegas gays and their supporters. Instead, what'll be beamed out across the valley and around the world is that the gays around here have no class, no sense of propriety, no sense of occasion. Lame.

No show tonight

I just came back from this trip and need to catch up on sleep and work, so we'll be putting out an interview-only episode this week. We're now looking at doing the live shows on Saturday evenings at 6 p.m. PT. Not sure how the chat-room audience would feel about that, but there's presently no engineers at LVRocks.Com to do it on Sunday nights. Feedback?