Saturday, January 23, 2010

The Strip + Petcast are LIVE 4-6p PT TODAY

Yes, we are live today from 4-6 pm PT at LVRocks.Com recording all-new episodes of The Strip and The Petcast. Thing is, I'm still debating at this point which interview we're using this week for The Strip. Tune in, find out and hang out with the regular chat-room gang!

BUT... I can tell you that on "The Strip" we'll be discussing my visit to the Cirque du Soleil headquarters in Montreal and providing a preview of some of the news I learned there, I'll give some thoughts on "O", "Criss Angel Believe" and "Viva Elvis" from my on-going effort to revisit all Vegas Cirque and much more. Plus, there'll be a new trivia question, a new poll, listener feedback and, as always, the Top Secret Tourist Tip of the Week.

Join us at LVRocks.Com from 4-5 p.m. for two new episodes of "The Petcast" with Emily and me including a live interview with with the Animal Planet dude in the box with all those snakes. Then from 5-6 p.m. it's Miles and me.

See ya later?

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

The Wayner on Norm, Cirque & eBay

I've been so busy traveling that I'm afraid some critical nuggets from my Wayne Newton interview earlier this month may have gotten overlooked. Sure, I podcasted the conversation and did a point-of-view column for the Weekly, but these bits are just too savory not to blog about as well.

1. The Wayner Buys His Own Stuff Back On eBay

I asked whether there's anything special about his cufflinks and studs, given that his stage uniform for 50 years has been tuxedos. He said his wife has the studs monogrammed, which led to this exchange:

Wayner: At the Stardust, one of them got knocked off and it went on stage, bounced into the audience. I realized when it happened. I said, "You know I just lost one of my studs in the audience." I said, 'Don’t bother looking for it now, but at the end of the show I sure would like to have it found.' And needless to say it was never found.

Friess: And it was found in eBay a few years later.

Wayner: Listen, I have found on eBay that I bought back that have been stolen form the ranch here.

Friess: No! Like what?

Wayner: Like signed pictures of Lucy, on and on and on. Signed pictures to me end up on eBay.

Friess: You’re telling me people come to your home, take things, and then try to sell them and you are the one who buys them back?

Wayner: Yes.

Friess: Why don’t you just call the guy who owns it and say, "Hey that’s mine"?

Wayner: We can’t find them. They’re protected.

Friess: Wow. How much have you paid to get things back?

Wayner: None of them have been very, very expensive because they would be afraid ot steal those kinds of things that you would immediately miss. I would bet you I have bought back 10-15 different items on eBay.

Friess: That’s amazing. That’s just shocking.

Wayner: And it’s just easier to buy them back than to go through all this.

* * *

2. The Wayner Expresses Regret About the Norm Clarke Plagiarism Flap

Back in the summer of 2002, R-J gossip columnist Norm Clarke turned over his space to guest writers during a medical leave. The piece run under Wayne Newton's byline, however, was actually largely lifted from something written from an Anna Quindlen book.
Anna Quindlen had a great deal of fun with it in a Newsweek column on Aug. 12, 2002 but on a recent episode of "The Strip," Norm said Mr. Las Vegas never acknowledged or apologized for the situation. Read on.

Friess: You substituted for Norm Clarke a number of years ago, you remember this?

Wayner: Yes, I do.

Friess: And apparently the piece that you wrote came from an Anna Quindlen column of some sort. Did you actually write that piece or did someone on your staff pick that out?

Wayner: Actually, someone on my staff write it. I didn't realize that part of it had been plaigarized. And the person that wrote it, to a great extent, believed they had not done anything wrong. And, in fact, I called the original author. Now, certain aspects of it had been changed a little bit but there were no questions that it had been plaigarized. I called the person, it was a lady, who could not have been nicer, and I explained the conditions and I said, "It's the last thing in the world I'd ever do and I just want you to know that I was so impressed with the article that I wish the person who had written it for me had truly written it for me." She couldn't have been nicer.

Friess: This was Anna Quindlen of Newsweek.

Wayner: Yes, and she was very understanding and that ended that.

* * *

3. Wayner Will NOT Be Seeing "Viva Elvis"

He was describing the historic Vegas entertainment trends -- magicians with white tigers, Danny Gans-esque impressionists and now "the Cirque syndrome," which he says is waning.

Friess: Is that because they've made bad choices like working with Criss Angel or because things go in cycles?

Wayner: I think it's both, actually. Both.

Friess: You were a friend of Elvis Presley's. They have an Elvis show they're about to open. Are you excited to see it?

Wayner: Uhh, no.

Friess: How come?

Wayner:I’m not a big fan of Elvis impersonators. I’m not a big fan of Wayne Newton impersonators.

Friess: Are there? Are there Wayne Newton impersonators? Are there many?

Wayner: There are about three that I can think of and I’m not a big fan of Frank impersonators. And the reason for it, frankly, Steve, is that having known those people and been friends with to those people and have them be friends to me, these people are simply touching on the aspect of what the tabloids write. They really don’t do an honest impression of Frank or Dean or Sammy. They do what they think the audience expects. Frankly, they're making a living and careers that people spend their whole life creating.

Friess: I just can't think of the last time I saw somebody doing a Wayne Newton impersonation and I was wondering why there aren't more of those.

Wayner: Well, it's probably because I'm still alive.

Secrets of The Strip Snake Stunt

I don't know why this image probably freaks out so many of you, Miles included. It's just a cute little Florida grey ratsnake, the first of two slitherers that Animal Planet herpetologist Donald Schultz handed me while I visited him inside the glass box he's living in until Jan. 26 for a Feb. 9 TV special called Venom in Vegas.

I went inside the box yesterday, when there were about 60 of the eventual 100 venomous and in some cases quite exotic snakes, for a very cheeky Sphere.Com piece that explains the point and some of the intricacies of the effort. Then I created two videos -- a short and a long version -- of the adventure. The shorter one (5 minutes) is on YouTube:

And the longer one, 16 minutes that include a snake sneaking into my pants and a look at Schultz's snake-bitten backhand, can be viewed by clicking below or can be downloaded and watched at your leisure by right-clicking here.

Folks can watch via Animal Planet's live -- albeit slightly intermittent, partly due to inclement weather -- webcam or come by to stare in person across the street from Caesars Palace. The box stands in the alley between O'Sheas and the Flamingo where Harrah's plans to build a bar street someday. They might consider asking this guy to come back as a permanent attraction for that.

Here's what I looked like on the webcam yesterday:

I've probably lost half of you by now because of everyone's fear of snakes. It's so odd because I've never minded them. They don't especially interest me, but they also don't gross me out. Then again, I have phobias of my own, too; I turn down assignments every year from travel editors wanting me to evaluate Vegas' thrill rides. I hate roller coasters, so I don't think I'm the guy to grade them.

Anyhow, I had no second-thoughts about signing the legal release that included this terrifying passage, bold-face and capital letters intact from the form itself:

I hereby acknowledge that my involvement with the Program includes my presence around, and possibly at close distances to, multiple snakes that have the capability to bite, envenomate, harm and even kill me and that snakes can and will attack for no reason. I acknowledge that my presence around these animals and my participation in the Program INVOLVES INHERENTLY EXTREMELY DANGEROUS, HIGH- RISK ACTIVITIES WHICH MAY RESULT IN MY DISFIGUREMENT, DISMEMBERMENT, ILLNESS, SERIOUS INJURY, EMOTIONAL TRAUMA, PROPERTY LOSS AND/OR POSSIBLE DEATH and no amount of planning and preparation can eliminate the risks inherent or otherwise in these activities. I understand that EVERY DECISION I MAKE WILL BE MY OWN DECISION and I hereby acknowledge and agree that my participation in the Program and undertaking of these dangerous activities is in my sole and absolute discretion and neither Producer nor O'Sheas is requiring me to do so and that I VOLUNTARILY AND FREELY ACCEPT AND ASSUME ALL RISKS, HAZARDS AND DANGERS THAT I MAY ENCOUNTER OR BE EXPOSED TO ASSOCIATED WITH MY PARTICIPATION IN THE PROGRAM AND UNDERTAKING OF THESE DANGEROUS ACTIVITIES and that I do so with full knowledge, appreciation and understanding of the dangers and personal risks involved and I understand and acknowledge that the waivers, releases and indemnities in this Release expressly apply to these risks, hazards and dangers.

Yeah, whatever. Here's what the box looks like from the outside...

...and an exclusive (ooh, how exciting!) look at Schultz's opaque bathroom:

Here's what his bed looks like...

...and, as noted in the Sphere.Com piece, he's using some of his time to get into "Lost" and to, eerily, read the memoir about the late Animal Planet adventurer Steve Irwin written by his widow.

One thing that's interesting is that the room -- 320 square feet with a killer Strip view -- has all these snakes but you don't see them as much as you'd think. They hide in the (silk) plants or under the Ikea-like furnishings. See?

But Schultz, who is milking the venom and answering the public's questions via a speaker set up at appointed times, lures them out from time to time.

Oh, and I've included this last image...

...for a reason. Internet rumors have it that the box is being kept cold to subdue the snakes and keep Schultz safer. Not so. The room was really warm and has spaceheaters all over the place to keep the temperatures up. This is a stunt, to be sure and as Schultz readily admits, but he's doing it for real.

P.S. Thanks to Thee Merry Widows for "Snakebite Kind of Love" for the videos. It was used free from the Podsafe Music Network but now I can't get it out of my head. Check out their site and other music at MerryWidowsMusic.Com.

Monday, January 18, 2010

Sssnakes + Sssteve On The Strip!

I've been having a little trouble getting my head back in the game after a lovely break with Miles in Montreal, but that all stops abruptly on Tuesday morning at 8:45 a.m. PT when I pop into a 16-by-20-foot glass box with herpetologist Donald Schultz and a few dozen deadly snakes in the alley between O'Sheas and the Flamingo for Sphere.Com. Schultz is living in the box for 10 days doing snake experiments for an Animal Planet show, "Wild Recon," which airs next month.

Oh! And guess what? You can watch me! There's a 24/7 webcam here:

Also, until Jan. 27 (I think) you can just stop by and watch the guy in the box.

The disclaimer form is pretty intense and I've been instructed to dress protectively. So I could get bit and die. But I'm betting not. Anywho, gotta get some rest. Will be back on the regular blogging beat tomorrow with some fun Vegasy stuff from Montreal and, of course, some snakey stuff.