Friday, January 1, 2010

NYE '10: The Great, Godly & Claire Nolastname

What a classic Vegas night! Happy New Year, everyone!

My 18-year-old niece, Courtney, is in from ASU for a few days, so she tagged along with me as I covered my perennial Vegas New Year's Eve feature, the street-preachers-on-the-Strip piece. In years past, I've done versions of this for Las Vegas Weekly, The New York Times, the podcast and this blog, so it stood to reason I'd do it once more for my favorite new client, the AOL news site Sphere.Com. I also was supposed to contribute to AFP's coverage but that was ruined by Claire Nolastname, but we'll get to that shortly.

This go-around, Miles was at the KVBC Mother Ship directing the coverage, so Courtney and I were left to our own devices. We saw Mystere earlier in the day (4:30 p.m. show) in preparation for a big Cirque du Soleil piece I've got planned for later this month, and I was glad I saw it again because I was reminded just how wonderfully the Hershey Bar of Cirque shows holds up. It's classic and beautiful and has one of Cirque's two best scores ever -- Alegria has great music, too -- and was created at a time before the comedy aspects of Cirque shows started to feel forced and contrived.

We made some goodies for Miles and his peeps...

Niece & I made brownies & cheesecake to bring to a certain pr... on Twitpic

...and brought it by the KVBC ranch after "Mystere" and after dinner at the critically raved Chinese restaurant China Mama. It was a good ride because I hadn't yet seen the restored neon signs on the islands on Las Vegas Boulevard north of downtown and U.S. 95. Check that out:

Then we headed to Panorama Towers, where my father and I have an investment condo, and parked there to walk the Harmon overpass to Vdara, then Bellagio and then out to the Strip. Vdara seemed like an utter ghost town at 10 pm on New Year's Eve. Here's Silk Road's bar:

Our destination was the KVBC set in front of Caesars Palace where Jim Snyder and Sophia Choi were anchoring the sprawling coverage that included folks at Town Square and on Fremont Street. It was nice to have a sane retreat. Here they are on the couch with reporter Dan Ball and doing stand-ups.

Alas, I was on assignment, so Courtney and I made our way north to the lineup of itinerant preachers for whom New Year's is prime time. Between Vegas on New Year's Eve and Pasadena's Rose Bowl Parade on New Year's Day, these are the two largest scheduled public gatherings within a few hours of one another and within a 12-hour period in America.

Some people tried to reason and debate the fire-and-brimstone set, which in this image includes Petar Keseljevic (black jacket, from Oslo, Norway) and Ruben Israel (sandwich board, is proprietor of

But it is hard to reason with folks carrying signs like these... most mocked them and took posed like this:

In years past, the preachers have spread out around the Strip but this time they stuck together near the barricades where the cops were. For my Sphere piece, Israel said: "We've been told tonight that if it were not for the police, they would punch us, beat us and stab us. We've been beat up more times than I can remember." Regardless of your beliefs, it's simply shameful they should deal with such abuse.

I turned the camera over to Courtney while I did interviews and she shot something that I rarely see, pictures of me doing my work:

When the clock came close to striking midnight, we raced back to the KVBC pen, shooting some colorful photos along the way:

And finally, Vegas made up for the pathetic fireworks show that ushered in 2009 -- fitting, really, given what a crappy year it was -- with a fantastic display off the top of the Stratosphere, TI, Venetian, Aria, MGM Grand, Planet Hollywood and...

Caesars Palace! Here's some YouTube video of the fireworks I just found:

The amount of fireworks smoke was something I did not recall from years past but it reminded me of the Strip after an implosion, less the hazardous flying gunk:

I also was unfamiliar with the utterly failed people-moving efforts of the Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department after the fireworks ended. When Miles worked on the Strip in years past, we had a special media parking spot at Caesars that made the getaway easy. This time, I was in a rush to file my Sphere piece as well as some "color" for an Agence France-Presse piece but cell service on the Strip was completely nonexistent. So I tried to get back to my car at Panorama.

We tried walking up the Strip to CityCenter so we could take the Harmon overpass but the cops had barricades up in all sorts of inexplicable places, leading to stampede conditions because nobody could move and folks became increasingly angry and upset. I saw many people fall down, get knocked around and desperately try to climb over barricades to get out. It was actually impossible to walk south from Caesars Palace past Flamingo Road, let alone to Bellagio. Not because there wasn't any room but because there were barricades that penned people in for no apparent reason.

So we leaped a barricade along with everyone else -- I actually didn't have a choice because we were shoved by the crowd until we were pressed up against it -- and went west on Flamingo Road. My hope was to go through Bellagio from the North Entrance, then to Vdara, out to the Harmon overpass and back to Panorama.

Yet the hotel was not allowing non-guests in. I begged the self-proclaimed "head of security" Claire Nolastname -- that's what she said! -- to let me get through, explaining I was not a partier but a working reporter on a tight deadline trying to get to my vehicle to file a story I could not file there because of the cell signal failure. She could not have been more dismissive. I showed her my press badge, even the CityCenter notebook I was using. Rules were rules. Screw me.

Instead, Courtney and I had to walk over I-15 on Flamingo then south on Hotel Rio Drive to Dean Martin to Panorama Towers. It was a circuitous and rather dangerous extra three miles of walking that cost me more than an hour and my AFP gig. My AFP editor, you see, ultimately decided to move the national story on the wire without any Vegas input because he couldn't reach me. Shame, too, because I had a ton of stuff in my notebook from my walk-through the Bellagio earlier, in fact. But beyond the loss of income for me, I also could not have been more furious or dumbfounded. In all my years in Vegas, folks like valet car-parkers and security officers have always had great respect for other people who were trying to do their jobs. But not Claire Nolastname!

It was an ugly ending to an otherwise wonderful, very fun night. And I'd rather not conclude this post on this kind of note or else the terrorists, or at least Claire Nolastname, will have won!

So here's my favorite image from the night gussied up by Courtney on some photo editing site called Picnik.


Charles in Richmond, VA said...

Steve, I'm surprised "our man in Vegas" didn't know the rules of the game for New Years on the Strip. Didn't come this year, but was there last year and did my homework and found you could get into a hotel after 10 PM ONLY IF you had either a room key or players card. We weren't staying at Harrah's, but the guard let us through to get to the monorail when I showed a Harrah's Reward Players Card. You probably don't gamble much, but on New Year's Eve, you better have a pocket full of player cards or you're gonna be stuck in the mob.

Jeff in OKC said...

Sad. I figure The Powers That Be will either blame it on the Crotch Bomber; or the local media for outing Jom Murren's embellished baseball resume.
I'd think with the economy being the worst in memory in Las Vegas, they'd make it easier to get around. Guess not.

Bennett said...

Sounds like we were caught in the same cluster post-fireworks. Couldn't agree more with you regarding the overall prick attitudes by CityCenter and Bellagio when it came to letting people through after the fireworks. Combined with the barriers and the huge crowd it's a wonder no one was seriously hurt. I saw one genius in a hurry plowing against the flow of the crowd as he ran right over a girl who couldn't be more than 9 years old. But I guess the question of why people would bring small children to New Year's on the strip is a whole other topic.

Anonymous said...

I hope you learned something from those brothers preaching to you in Las Vegas I was another preacher but was in front of the Mirage. Jesus died for your sins and rose from the dead believe on Him and you will be saved.


Charles - since i'd never had to park at a hotel and always was able to leave with Miles from the special parking Caesars provides for KVBC, it's not a piece of info I'd ever encountered. But, again, people on the job -- including reporters -- usually get some understanding and flexibility from other people on the job on the Strip. This lady was impossible and it cost me. I also did not expect the cell service to be jammed as it seemed to work OK two years ago when I was out and not getting into Bellagio wasn't why I was unable to walk down the Strip to CityCenter. THAT was because the cops have a nonsensical crowd-control approach.

ucsb1990 said...

After reading about your encounter with security at the Bellagio, I'm surprised that hotels don't have a mechanism in place to prevent snafus like that from happening. It would be so simple. Each hotel should just keep a list of reputable, influential locals (you and Mitch Fox come to mind). When a situation comes up like what you described, you could simply ask the security person to call a pit boss/casino host/assistant manager; that person would verify that your name is on the list, and inform security that it's okay to make reasonable accommodations. After all, if Jim Murren had been standing there next to Planet Claire at the Bellagio entrance, he wouldn’t have said, "Sorry, Steve, you’re S.O.L."; he would have let you in without thinking twice about it. There should be a system in place to ensure that the right people get reasonable treatment without a top exec having to be there.

I tried reasoning with a religious sign-waver on the Strip once (though it wasn’t on New Year’s Eve). I can sympathize with them, actually; I was raised Assemblies of God (the same denomination that produced Jimmy Swaggart and Jim Bakker), and went through a short overzealous phase of my own many years ago.

The fact is, all sane Christians, no matter how fervent, choose to disregard certain parts of the Bible. No reasonable person today believes that a non-virgin should be killed in front of her parents' house (Deuteronomy 22:21), or that a girl should have to marry a rapist (Deut. 22: 28-9), or that it's disgraceful for a woman to speak in church (1 Corinthians 14:34-5). Fundamentalists will tell you that those passages don't really mean what they sound like, or that they were only intended for a certain place and time. But if that's true, then what's to stop me from saying the same thing about anything else in the Bible?

Obviously, this argument can go on and on. Suffice it to say that I think extreme fundamentalist Christianity contains inherent incompatibilities that would plant seeds of doubt in any thinking person's soul. And as Eric Hoffer wrote, "Our impulse to persuade others is strongest when we have to persuade ourselves." "The uncompromising attitude is more indicative of an inner uncertainty than of deep conviction. The implacable stand is directed more against the doubt within than the assailant without."

As long as I'm quoting Hoffer, here's one for Claire: "Rudeness is the weak man's imitation of strength." And one for John Ensign: "Sometimes when we accuse others we are actually excusing ourselves. The more we need to justify ourselves, the greater will be our self-righteousness." And here's a good general observation: "The remarkable thing is that we really love our neighbor as ourselves: we do unto others as we do unto ourselves. We hate others when we hate ourselves. We are tolerant toward others when we tolerate ourselves. We forgive others when we forgive ourselves." It's too bad we don't see people carrying signs with words like those.

Anonymous said...


Deuteronomy is in the Old
Testament. It wouldn't apply if you're a Christian. BTW: For Christians, the New Testament books supercedes the Old Testament. Although Christians do not ignore it (which would be pointless to ignore or disregard since all scripture is valid), Jesus is the new way.

I think it's unreasonable to reason with a sign waver in that context. I recommend you ask for a meeting in a quiet setting to figure what he believes. I don't understand why you can't ignore them. I do and I'm a Christian. And not to take away from their beliefs, we can all worship the God we choose in America.

On another note, Thanks for the report on the Fireworks.

ucsb1990 said...

For the record, it was a sign-waver who got in my face, not the other way around. Nowadays, I know well enough to give them a wide berth, and I do in fact ignore them.

I sure am glad that the Old Testament doesn't apply to Christians, because those Ten Commandments really cramp my style.

Jesus did, in fact, spare an adulteress, so it's reasonable to say that Deuteronomy 22:21 no longer applies. But the question remains: should it ever have applied? The passage in Deuteronomy says that if the sheets of a newly-married couple's bed do not offer proof of a new bride's virginity, then she should be stoned to death. Now, anyone who's taken high-school sex ed knows that a virgin does not always bleed when she has sex for the first time. The so-called "proof" of virginity referenced in that Biblical passage is a fraud. Undoubtedly, many innocent women died a painful, shameful death in the centuries before Jesus. I find it very hard to believe that that was God's will. Likewise, the passage about a virgin marrying a man who rapes her is simply outrageous, regardless of the time period during which it was in effect. In my opinion, these two passages offer compelling evidence that the words of man were, at times, intermingled with the words of God in the Bible.

I think common sense tells us that some themes in the Bible are much more important and relevant than others. (For example, I would say that it's much more important to believe that Christ died for our sins and rose from the dead than it is to believe that the animals filed into the ark two by two.) Saying that every word in the Bible is divinely inspired and true (as many fundamentalists do) leads to ridiculous spectacles like creationists building museums with displays of humans walking side-by-side with dinosaurs.

The Bible makes it very clear that different situations call for different actions; you can't always take a Biblical injunction (from the Old or New Testament) and say that it applies to every time and circumstance. Rational adults are responsible for their own moral choices. For better or worse, we often must let our consciences be our guide.

Tracy said...

ucsb1990 , you have done what many sinners will try to do. You take the Bible out of context, and hope that nobody notices your own sinful condition. The book of Deuteronomy took place when God was directly governing the nation of Israel. God detests sin, and the sinners that commit it. Deuteronomy 22:21 is talking about a whore. If you had read verses 13-21, you would see that if she was being falsely accused by her husband, then he would have to pay. But, if she had lost her virginity before marraige, making her a whore, then she would be stoned. Also, you skipped a lot of verses to get to verse 28. That isn't describing rape. It is describing two people having sex, and being found out. Then they must be married. In the earlier verses you find the context of this passage. If she cries out, then because they are in the city someone would have heard and reacted to it. Then the rapist would be stoned. If she doesn't cry out, it is because she is consenting, and if they are found out, then both of them are stoned. God does not tolerate sin. That's why Hell was created. It's where the sinners go. The difference between then and now is that God is not directly governing us. He is holding people accountable for their sin.

Your growing up in a Christian home means nothing. If you were actually born again, then you are now a back slider. Meaning unless you repent, and return to the narrow road, then you will burn in Hell. If you were never born again, then you need to surrender to the Lord, and be born again. either way you need to repent.
Also, you are a hypocrite. You are a sinner that condemns the bible one minute, then uses it the next. You accuse Christians of picking and choosing, and you do the very same thing in your comments.
Tolerance is not love, it is hate. Intolerance is love. You have it backwards. If you tolerate a heroin addict by giving him money for drugs, are you showing love? No! You show love to that heroin addict by telling him he needs to go to a detox clinic, and stop using heroin! That's showing real love. A sinner is no different than a heroin addict. If you tell them everything is OK, that is hate. If you tell them to seek Jesus, and stop sinning, that's love! There overall good is to have eternal life, not be happy on their way to Hell! Think about it.

marosia said...

It will be great to watch Cirque du Soleil - Alegria, i have bought tickets from looking forward to it.