Saturday, April 24, 2010

Petcast On, Strip OFF Today

Sorry, Strip Podcast fans, but Miles just got called into work, we do not have a guest host and I'm not subjecting you to an hour of me talking to myself. So Emily and I will do The Petcast from 4-5 p.m. PT today and that's it.

For The Petcast this week, we'll be speaking with Tamara Fox, coordinator of the American Animal Hospital Association's Helping Pets Fund, which provides financial help to cash-strapped pet-owners facing big emergency vet bills and Bill Cochran, a children's book author whose latest title "The Forever Dog" helps kids cope with the death of a pet.

Join us 4-5 p.m. PT at LVRocks.Com to hear the show live, see us on the webcam and chat with us and fellow listeners.

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Chickens For Checkups? Well, Maybe

In a bizarre reversal today, I'm pretty much the only one in the media willing to NOT fall for the predictable snark that has emerged from Republican Senate candidate Sue Lowden's suggestion that people try bartering for health care. She, of course, wants to unseat Harry Reid this year.

It's just much too easy to make fun in this case. Y'know what's harder? Actually looking at whether bartering for health care is even possible.

Turns out, it is. Maybe not by arriving at a doctor's office with a chicken under your arm, but there are certainly serious ways to do it. Read all about it in my just-up AOL News piece. If you can provide any service -- dog-walking, house-painting, copy editing, lawn-mowing -- then there is, in fact, a way for you to build up credits through a barter exchange and use them for certain sorts of health care services. It's not an actual, broad-based solution to the rising cost of health care, to be sure, but it's also not as ridiculous a notion as it seems on first blush. And yes, I thought it was nuts when I first heard it, too.

If my piece doesn't convince you, here are pieces from years past from MSNBC, CNN Money and Kaiser News Network. The Vegas and DC punditocracy finds these stories inconvenient because to them the actual substance of her remarks don't matter. Is it not the media's JOB to tell the public that (a) Lowden didn't say it was a total fix but (b) it is actually something that is practiced and could be viable for some people in some situations?

MSNBC's Countdown and Rachel Maddow shows, of course, have mocked Lowden. But guess what? Countdown host Keith Olbermann presented this report below in 2005 with a remark by the reporter, "An old-fashioned idea working for modern medicine" and Olbermann saying, "It sounds like it does fulfill needs on both sides of the equation."

Visit for breaking news, world news, and news about the economy

Mediaite slammed fill-in Countdown host Lawrence O'Donnell for somewhat mischaracterizing Lowden's proposal but still agreed she's loony tunes. Can't wait until there's video of Olbermann saying in 2005 that bartering sounds like an interesting innovation and in 2010 finding it hilarious.

And, to borrow from Maddow, one more thing. Look at the screen behind Rachel during this report last night:

Yes, the WHHSH cliche is irksome, obvious and cheap. But in Lowden's case, it's also inaccurate. Her two major public remarks about bartering occurred in Mesquite and Reno.

Elaine Wynn on MGM Change, China & Sarah Palin

As you saw in my Portfolio piece on Tuesday, many people took umbrage to MGM Mirage's announcement that they'll be asking shareholders to change their name to MGM Resorts International. Some were defensive on the Wynns' behalf, noting that expunging "Mirage" from the corporate title is a way of distancing themselves from the portion of the part of the company that Steve Wynn built. MGM Mirage, of course, came into being after MGM Grand Inc bought Mirage Resorts in 2000.

MGM brass insisted the sole purpose for the switch was to refocus the company as a worldwide hospitality brand with properties that both do and don't offer gaming. Commenters at RateVegas.Com's blog, among others, weren't buying it, but you know who could care less?

The Wynns. At least not publicly.

Steve Wynn is in Macau opening the new 414-room Encore and stirring up trouble with a suggestion he might move the company's HQ to China. We'll get back to that in a moment. But I happened to have Elaine, his ex-wife and a board member and equal shareholder for Wynn Resorts to him, on the line for two unrelated stories I'm working on.

So I asked and she answered.

"I accept [MGM's] explanation [of the name change]. They don’t need to have their name be a mouthful. They’re entitled to call it the XYZ Co., if they want to."

Doesn't she still have an emotional attachment to the Mirage hotel and name as the entity that sent the Wynn reputation into orbit?

"I will always and forever have an emotional attachment to Mirage and Mirage Resorts. Whoever owns it or sells it doesn’t change that. ... I think most people recognize who built that brand. The brand served a very real purpose in establishing Wynn credibility. That’s what allowed us to use the name Wynn. It allowed us to show that it meant something."

I tried to get Mrs. Wynn to discuss Mr. Wynn's statements to CNBC that the company could become more of a Chinese company than American one. She avoided that bit except that she noted that with Wynn now trading on the Hong Kong Stock Exchange, it is, indeed, factual to say that it's Chinese company.

Finally, we wandered onto the topic of Sarah Palin. I can't provide the full context without disclosing what the stories are I'm working on, but on the same day as Mr. Wynn is all over the news claiming that Obama's policies could run him out of the country, Elaine said this of the former Alaska governor and potential 2012 opponent to Obama:

"If anybody thinks that Sarah Palin is a paragon of virtue and a moral compass for this country, they’re not speaking for me."

Mrs. Wynn was a huge and early supporter of Obama and had tempestuous public rows with her McCain-supporting now-ex-husband in 2008. Mr. Wynn said last month that had nothing to do with the divorce but that the two have "agreed not to discuss" politics because "it never ends well."

Still, on the merit of Sarah Palin, they seem to be of similar minds. Steve Wynn was more cautious in response his view of her, perhaps because he'll end up supporting her if she's the GOP nominee in 2012. But he said he was more a Mitt Romney fan and said of Palin:

"It is very difficult to ascertain who she was. ... The problems that face America are not given well to sound bite treatment."

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Cirque and MJ: The YouTube Video

From Cirque's official YouTube Channel:

Hat tip to Erich Bergen on this one.

Punk'd by Cirque du Soleil, re: #MJ?

Back in January, I had this conversation with Cirque du Soleil CEO Daniel Lamarre in Montreal for the Las Vegas Weekly:

Lamarre: “A lot of artists [ask us], but there are not that many iconic stars, you know? What do you do? Elvis and the Beatles are alone in their own game.”

Me: “What about Michael Jackson?”

Lamarre: “Yeah, he’s probably the only other icon I can imagine that would be of interest. Maybe Madonna, perhaps. We’re talking about people that will turn our creators on.”

Me: “Is there any movement right now towards a Michael Jackson show?”

Lamarre: “No.”

Me: “No discussions, no talks?”

Lamarre: “No.”

Me: “Is it too soon? Do you think there’s a certain cooling-off period right after the most recent round of Michael Jackson frenzy?”

Lamarre: “Yeah.”

Me: “You do.”

Lamarre: “Yeah, that’s what I think. I’m not saying no, not saying no to anything at this point in time. But we are focused right now on delivering Elvis.”

That was about four months ago and a lot can happen in four months, but somehow I find it hard to imagine there really were no talks going on back then because today, Lamarre made this announcement:

"We are honored and thrilled to be in partnership with the ultimate and most important record selling artist of all time. This association between two international entertainment brands promises to deliver to fans of both Michael and Cirque du Soleil unique artistic experiences."

He told Entertainment Tonight that Cirque will produce an arena-touring concert starting in fall of 2011 and then a permanent Las Vegas show at, of course, an MGM Mirage property, in late 2012.

The Wall Street Journal offers some skimpy details:

The Las Vegas show will be more akin to a theme-park attraction, possibly featuring elements like motion simulators and 3-D visuals. It's also likely to include a nightclub and restaurant that include a Michael Jackson theme. The casino was not named in the announcement.

So it's already in the works. Leave it to a dead MJ to steal Madonna's Glee-ful day in the sun.

But, of course, the real question is: Luxor, Mandalay Bay or Monte Carlo? I'm throwing in my lot in for the Monte Carlo. That way they can reposition the MC even more as part of CityCenter which, by 2012, will be desperate for some new loving. Let's just hope they don't go slapping ads on the Mandarin Oriental for the occasion.

[Image credit: BestWeekEver.TV]

Monday, April 19, 2010

Show is UP: Robert Earl

Here's the show, which has been in the feed since Sunday. In fact, most weeks the show is in the feed a day or more before it get it on the site or blog! Another reason to subscribe (it's free!) in iTunes or in Zune. Click on the date below to make it play or right-click to save it and listen at your leisure. Enjoy!

April 19: Robert Earl's Exit Interview

Back when he was unveiling the former Aladdin as the new Planet Hollywood casino, owner Robert Earl made some pretty lofty claims about what his resort would mean for Vegas. That was then. Earlier this year, Earl turned over control of the property to Harrah’s Entertainment, unable to keep his head above water amid these unprecedented, perilous economic times. Earl, naturally, has no regrets as he explains in this episode what his role will be going forward and why the old one-property entrepreneur model of Strip ownership is, for the most part, dead. Other topics on the agenda: CityCenter, Prive, the Palms and his memorabilia stash.

David McKee of the Las Vegas Advisor fills in for Vegas, bantering about Macau perils, CityCenter data, Matt Goss branding, surprising Strip charges and much more.


David McKee’s blog, Stiffs & Georges
Matt Goss’ website
Caesars Palace’s Cleopatra’s Barge
RateVegas.Com on CityCenter’s damaging data
The NWiR episode with Steve debating Rich Velotta on whether it’s too soon to judge CityCenter
Bobby Baldwin admits to David Schwartz in Vegas Seven that the Aria casino is dark
MGM Mirage’s food seminars at Whole Foods courtesy (via SaveLV.Com)
Steve’s profile of Stephen Siegel and VegasHappensHere.Com post on Rumor
News of Prive’s closing, the big travel convention that’s coming and Philly Inq’s casino

Sunday, April 18, 2010

As The Turnberrys Turn

Lately the fine folks at Turnberry Towers have been taking out quarter-page ads in the Review-Journal aiming at jumpstarting sales in the second high-rise condo building off Paradise Road just south of Sahara Avenue. They're doing tours from Wednesdays to Saturdays from 7:30-10:30 p.m. so people can fall in love with the night views. Yet I wondered if the ad in particular above could have some serious truth-in-advertising problems with it.

Go on, take a good look. You see what's missing? When I showed this to Miles, his first response was, "Encore." And I hadn't noticed that, but he's right. Which puts this photo of the fabulous views available at TT at about four years old.

But much more importantly, the never-to-be-finished behemoth known as the stalled Fontainebleau isn't there yet. That's important because with the F'bleau in the, uh, picture, whatever little remaining ability to see the Strip. In fact, here's the actual view that TT is now selling:

It's a minor issue, really, but it caught my eye. They're advertising "million-dollar views" when the views have changed since they were going for a million dollars and the imagery doesn't account for that.

That said, I did go off to check it out last night after a lovely dinner with fill-in co-host David McKee of the Stiffs & Georges blog and his girlfriend, Jennifer, the yummy, underrated Cafe Heidelberg. And while the advertisement might be a little off, even the blocked view is pretty and the prices are, undeniably ridiculous.

Turnberry Towers was the second act of Turnberry Associates, who built the successful Turnberry Place set of towers that sparked the ill-fated Strip high-rise building boom. The first tower was finished in 2007 and nearly sold out, but the second tower was done by late 2008 and the developer went bust the next year and the whole project ended up controlled by Prudential Financial.

Now they're having a fire sale. The fellow last night showed me the units and they're impressive, especially at these ridiculous prices.

This is the 6th floor 1-bedroom, which has 814 square feet. The same unit in the first tower sold for $575,000. This one can be yours for...

...$225,000. Likewise, a 32nd floor 1,405-square-foot 2-bedroom that sold in the first tower for $740,000 is now on the market in the second tower for $300,000.

Of course, I'm so over-leveraged with my own worthless investment properties that all I could do was marvel and privately sulk. Well, that and...

have some chicken on a stick. Sigh.