Friday, April 2, 2010

For Real: Wynn on Strip Tomorrow

A few months ago we promised a Wynnterview on the program only to have to pull it at the last minute when The Steve said he preferred that that conversation not be aired. At that time, he said he would do an interview specificially for the show, so that's what we were doing last week at the Country Club Restaurant.

That conversation airs Saturday on a special edition of "The Strip" that kicks off at 4:30 p.m. PT. Join us live at LVRocks.Com for that. Wynnterviews tend to bring out larger chat crowds than usual, so that's always fun. Of course, the podcast edition will be available later this weekend.

Emily and I will be doing one episode of "The Petcast" at 4 p.m. for those of you who like animals. The interview will regard an ASCPA program that resulted in the spay/neuter of more than 71,000 animals in the Gulf Coast region since Katrina.

Since there's already a drinking game for The Strip -- take a slug every time Miles curses -- maybe we could come up with one for The Petcast? Chug every time Emily says, "Archie"?

Thursday, April 1, 2010

LVW Col: Inside The Wynn Divorce

We've all wondered for a while what the deal has been with the Wynn divorce. Finally, I asked. And here's the answer. Or about as much of the answer as anyone's ever really going to hear on the record. You'll be able to hear all about it, too, on this week's podcast with Steve Wynn. More on that tomorrow. First, the column. -sf

The loving dissolution
of Mr. and Mrs. Wynn

Inside perhaps the most expensive,
possibly the most civil,
divorce ever



Up to now, I had never asked. Sure, I’m as curious as anyone, but there are so many more important topics to discuss with both Steve and Elaine Wynn that, in my past interviews with them, it seemed ridiculous to waste precious time. But last week, for some reason, Steve was in a very giving mood. Early in our interview, he’d said two very kind things about the woman he officially divorced late last year, so I couldn’t help it.

“I have to ask, and if you don’t want to answer, I understand, but you clearly still have a very good relationship with Mrs. Wynn,” I said.

"She’s my buddy, she’s my best friend,” he intoned. “I love her.”

For many people—especially those of us who have endured ugly breakups that did not involve billions of dollars—this may seem baffling. Steve Wynn became involved with British divorcee Andrea Hissom while he was still wed to his wife of 46 years. He hardly even kept the relationship a secret, and within a year he and Elaine were divorced. Yet she remained on the board of Wynn Resorts, she took up residence in a different villa at their Wynn-Encore property—both paying rent to the publicly traded company, in fact—and life seemed to carry on.

In fact, a few months ago I found them eating together at the Sinatra restaurant at Encore during the week their divorce would be finalized. They seemed to be in intense conversation, so I didn’t say hello until I thought Elaine had departed. But then she returned, and I found they had precisely the same comfortable chemistry I’d observed in the past. When they left Sinatra, the visionary with the degenerative eye disease gripped her elbow for guidance as I’m sure he’s done thousands of times before.

In the intervening months, America baffled over the affectionate relationship of another prominent ex-couple, James Cameron and Kathryn Bigelow. As desperately as Us Weekly and that ilk wanted to gin up a feud between the Oscar-nominated directors, it fell flat, because they just kept being so darned caring toward one another in the press.

Yet Cameron and Bigelow have been divorced for many more years than they’d been married. And while they explained that they had just realized they weren’t suited for one another, Elaine and Steve Wynn were, in fact, perfectly suited for one another for nearly a half-century. They met as teens, built a family and more than one empire together. They’d even divorced once before, in 1986, only to remarry in 1991. At their second reception, Mr. Wynn quipped, “We regret to inform you, the divorce did not work out.”

So far this time, it did work out, and the Wynn dissolution offered up all the ingredients for a really dishy drama.

Read the rest HERE

Abandoned Kitty, Anyone?

Remember this? That cat needs you, whoever you are.

Four months ago, my "Petcast" co-host Emily Richmond noticed this cat hanging out around her house. She and her neighbor have now determined that this cat is homeless, that someone moved away and let her behind. They've been feeding her but they can't take her in. In Emily's case, she's allergic to cats. In the neighbor's case, she's got 3 territorial cats that wouldn't put up with it.

The NSPCA shelter is full. The Lied shelter will euthanize the cat. She's apparently very friendly and affectionate but is getting thinner and needs someplace to go. Miles and I are considering it but we have two very weird, moody dogs and we're really unsure whether they'd put up with it.

So, it could be up to you. Anyone?

Does Jennifer Lin Regret The Error?

UPDATE #2: The paper ran this correction today, but the online version remains incorrect and the correction is not even appended to it.

This is Jennifer Lin, reporter for the Philadelphia Inquirer, with Steve Wynn. We'll get back to them in a second. But first, a little story.

Years ago, I taught one semester of journalism at UNLV. For the final, I took my students to meet wine expert Andrew Bradbury at Mandalay Bay and had my students, few of whom were legitimately literate, interview him. He was the owner of a cool wine shop called 55 Degrees and wine director at the Charlie Palmer restaurant Aureole. I gave my students a cheat sheet of information and warned them that anyone who misspelled Aureole would automatically flunk.

None of them did, but I got seven different spellings for "Andrew Bradbury." I gave up teaching.

I tell this tale because today I learned that it's not just nearly illiterate Nevada college students who are careless even when information is handed to them on a silver platter. A piece today by Lin in the Philadelphia Inquirer about Steve Wynn's plans for Philadelphia includes this passage:

During an interview last week, Steve Wynn, the company's chairman, showed sketches of his vision for the Philadelphia casino to a Las Vegas blogger, Steve Freiss. Freiss took a photograph of one of the drawings and posted it on his Web site,

Freiss wrote that Wynn "watched me shoot the photo," but later told him to remove the image from his blog because of a "gross misunderstanding."

See a few errors in there?

I am utterly astonished. No, really. I didn't think you could get to be a staffer for a paper with that sort of fine reputation and make such a show of being so sloppy. I get that sometimes my name gets misspelled; it's even happened to my in bylines in The New York Times. But she didn't just screw that up, she invented a whole new website. I mean, you're here at this site. So was she. Look up. It's right there in big letters. With my name. She couldn't have emailed me in the first place, in fact, if she had misspelled it.

What's also interesting is that Lin chased me for two days to get a contextual remark about what happened with that casino photo. As I am also a working journalist endeavoring to gather information for my own stories, I was a little hard to reach, and ultimately early yesterday afternoon I provided her with this e-mailed statement:

Mr. Wynn laid out several renderings for me to see and pointed out certain design features but specified the one I ended up shooting as the most accurate. He stood by me as I shot the image with my iPhone. The image was posted for five days before his office raised concerns and Mr. Wynn himself then called me to ask me to take it down. We did not speak -- I missed his call as I was on an assignment -- but his assistant said he was apologetic and that there had been a 'gross misunderstanding.' I acceded to his request because I recognized the possibility that Mr. Wynn, who suffers from a degenerative eye disease, did not realize I was using the phone to take a photo. Either way, though, he showed me the rendering, knew we were on the record and never suggested I could not describe what I was seeing or that there was a timetable that was sensitive.

All she ended up doing was quoting what I wrote in an update to the original Philadelphia post on this blog. Now, I'm no nationally published journalist -- oh, wait, I am! -- but I usually prefer to use actual comments I obtain from the actual source if that's at all possible. It makes me seem, oh I dunno, like I've done some new reporting. Which she did!

There is another way to do this. Don't take my word for it, though. Read all about it. Journalist Kellie Patrick Gates, with whom I worked a decade ago at the South Florida Sun-Sentinel, talked to me on Monday and wrote a piece for PlanPhilly.Com on essentially the same thing. Here's my part of that one:

Friess said in a phone interview Monday evening that Wynn brought a group of renderings to lunch. "When I asked if I could keep them, he said no," Friess said. "But he pulled out one of them, and he stood by while I took a photograph of it. It was my understanding that image was for my use as a journalist. Mr. Wynn now says it was a misunderstanding."

Monday evening, Friess removed the image at Wynn's request and updated his post with an explanation of why he did so.

The image shows a white building with many columns. A large glass bubble on the top suggests an atrium. "During our interview, he laid out photographs of the podium of the Encore property in Macau next to renderings of the Philadelphia property and made note of very specific design similarities between the two," Friess said. Wynn told the gaming control board in early March that he planned to draw on his new Macau property for the Foxwoods design.

This whole thing is a pain in my ass and I really didn't want to discuss it very much. Evidently, even showing me the renderings caused Wynn a great deal of headache with the Pennsylvania gaming authorities. Had he instructed me that there was an embargo on the material, I would have agreed to adhere to it.

It may seem strange journalistically that I'd allow myself to be bullied by Wynn, but I acceded to Wynn's request to remove the image for a number of reasons. First, I felt that it was vaguely possible he didn't realize that my iPhone was a camera. Second, Philadelphia is a big story back East but Steve Wynn is a far more important source to me on many other topics. Third, it had been up long enough for my core readership to see it and for many others to copy it for their own sites. And fourth, to refuse to do so could've invited litigation and God knows I can't afford that over something this insignificant to me.

I have answered journalists' questions on this and explained my decision on this site because I believe in transparency and because I would want other journalists to respond to me if I had such reasonable questions.

Look, I'm far from perfect. I make careless errors in stories, too. Everyone does. Usually, though, I get names right because that's just so fundamental. And the thing about Lin is that the entirety of the messy passage suggests a broader problem. These actually were difficult errors to make.

What's more, Lin is front and center of a YouTube video called "Steve Wynn Reveals Shocking Ignorance" -- she called it "infamous" despite the fact that my nephew's Dum Dum The Lollipop video has about as many views -- in which she catches Steve Wynn seemingly not in command of the historic facts surrounding the region of Philadelphia he is developing. Watch:

The fact is, the drama of the Philly casino is really an internecine dispute between the state, which decided that's a good place for one, and the city, which feels its authority has been usurped. That's a good one and it may become Wynn's problem, but it's not Wynn's fault. If he's a little fuzzy over the development history there, so what? He knows he's in the process of getting a license. I suspect he would happily have had the thing somewhere other than along a row with a Wal-Mart and an IKEA. But he decided to go for this opportunity; it's not like he ever lobbied anyone to put it there.

I digress, but only because I just find the Philly media's overall efforts quite weird and misfocused. And now I know that the lead print reporter covering this for the largest paper in the market isn't terribly interested in being accurate about little things.

I shot Lin an email a little while ago. The subject line was "disturbing" and the contents of it were: "You not only misspelled my last name but fabricated my website. It's VegasHappensHere.Com. What the hell?"

Let's see how/if she responds.

UPDATE: Lin left a voice message acknowledging the name misspelling but baffling over the website mistake. She seemed unaware that she wrote "WhatHappensHere.Com" instead of "VegasHappensHere.Com," repeatedly saying she didn't understand what she'd done incorrectly on that front. Congrats, LVCVA, your slogan has actually brainwashed Americans into subliminally replacing the word "Vegas" for "What." Lin also indicated she'd run a correction tomorrow on my name. Apparently fixing it on the Web immediately didn't occur to her. That's the first and fastest thing I do to make amends when I screw up. Oh well.

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

UNVEILED: Cosmo's Restaurant Line-Up

Well, I guess it's going to open after all.

For the first time in its tortured history, the $4 billion Cosmopolitan of Las Vegas has some actual news of the kind that suggests there will, at long last, someday be tourists to be served in the place. It's that sinuous grey-black building wedged between CityCenter and Bellagio, in case you didn't know, and it's presently slated to open later this year. It's got 3,000 lodging units but it's unclear whether there will be a condo component anymore, as originally planned. (The resort's website refers to "hotel and condo-style accommodations.")

All that may be unclear, but I've got for y'all this morning a list of restaurants expected to take up residence at Cosmo:

* Scarpetta, an Italian place from chef Scott Conant, which was supposed to go into the bankrupt and stalled-out Fontainebleau up the street. This is clearly Cosmo's crown jewel as the New York version of Scarpetta got three stars from the New York Times and New York magazine, was named by Esquire as one of the best new restaurants in America in 2008. There's also one in Miami at the Fontainebleau there. Conant also is doing an as-yet unnamed wine bar at Cosmo.

* Blue Ribbon from Bruce & Eric Bromberg. It's hard to tell what the menu will be because the Brombergs own eight locations in Manhattan and Brooklyn, including two sushi places and two brasseries.

* Comme Ca, a French brasserie (so Blue Ribbon will be sushi?) from chef David Myers, left, who has one in Los Angeles, too.

* Estiatorio Milos, a fish place with Greek influences from Costas Spiliadis, who has a place of the same name in New York, Montreal and Athens.

* STK, the requisite steakhouse, from the hospitality firm The One Group, which has STKs in New York, LA and Miami as well. [Note, The One Group's site also lists a restaurant called Yi for Vegas and something undefined called SHH!!. It's unclear if "SHH!!" is just a placeholder or an actual name of something. Those venues, whatever they are, are not to occupy Cosmo, I'm told.]

I'm impressed for one simple reason: They're all new to market. CityCenter has presented a terrific array of restaurants, but only a couple were from chefs who weren't already at Bellagio or aren't called Wolfgang Puck. That said, it also does not sound like the Wynn model of getting great chefs to move to Vegas and work full-time is being followed, but with sparse exceptions Wynn's the only one who's ever really been able to pull that off so I guess that's not fair.

So there you have it. There will be more and there will be a buffet as well. A good start.