Friday, October 15, 2010

The Strip is LIVE at 12:30 pm on Sat w/ DON RICKLES

Another Saturday, another live show at LVRocks.Com! And, man, what a busy week this was, news-wise, so there's much to discuss. Don't worry, though; The Strip is a Reid/Angle-free Zone.

Our guest for this Friessmas episode of the program is the inimitable Don Rickles, who appears Saturday and Sunday nights at The Orleans.

We'll do no Petcasts this week because I've got to get to the Blogworld convention for a panel and Miles has to -- uggh -- get to work. But don't worry, friends; he's arranged to leave early enough for some sort of Friessmas celebration.

As always, you can listen live at via LVRocks.Com and join the chat with fellow listeners. Or wait and grab the podcast version via iTunes or Zune or listen via that nifty "Listen Now" player on TheStripPodcast.Com.

Meanwhile, at Hoover Dam...

That, to your right, is fun, right?

My Reid-Angle piece for Politics Daily sits immediately above the Hoover Dam bridge piece I penned for AOL News on AOL News' main news splash page. I wrote the dam-bridge piece right after getting home from the debate. In fact, I filed five different stories yesterday for four different media outlets. Then Miles and I caught up on Project Runway.

I have three more pieces to write today, too. Just a ridiculous week. Then we do the podcast and a Blogworld panel tomorrow before Miles and I celebrate Friessmas on Saturday night alone and Sunday with The Olds. Jeepers!

Sadly, I did not get to go back to the bridge for yesterday's christening. Still, there is this pictorial I posted the other day.

One More Thing: Reid and his Yellow Papers

As I mentioned in my Politics Daily piece, Senator Harry Reid began scribbling on yellow legal paper the moment he got to the podium, and the pages kept multiplying throughout the hour until he couldn't figure out where he'd put a tepid closing remark he would have been better served to wing. Is it really possible that he doesn't know what to say for himself if it's not written out for him?

Actually, yeah. On the secret tape I obtained of Angle talking to a business group in July and wrote about for AOL News at the time, she was asked about the plans for debates. And among other things, she said this:

[Reid] said he would like to have his talking points available to him, we said, no, we want a microphone, no podium and no notes. Let’s just talk.

Reid spokesman Jon Summers denied that to VegasHappensHere.Com at the time:

Her take on the debates is wrong and over-the-top. NPR never came up. Neither did this whole thing about talking points and podiums.

But seeing Reid get to work writing up a novel on stage and being so dependent on it in at the end of the hour, I've got to think it must have really been something they wanted.

Post-Debate: Odd smiles, goofy web poll & more

The general consensus for last night's Harry Reid-Sharron Angle debate was that she "won" it by seeming sane. A few thoughts:

* Here's my coverage for Politics Daily.

* The press and public clearly got that Harry Reid was underwhelming, but if you weren't in the studio you may not realize just how badly he performed. He looked half asleep and highly annoyed to even be there. He walked up to Angle for a couple of pre-debate moments, said a few nothings and then condescendingly patted her hand as he ambled rather unsteadily to his podium.

* And That Smile. Not hers, which was weird, too, and buried under makeup quite possibly applied by RuPaul. But Reid's smile. That creepy, odd, bad-toothy smile that came out at all the wrong moments. After Angle accused him of voting to give Social Security to undocumented immigrants, for example, he shot back: "These ideas of my opponent are really extreme. Her facts are absolutely wrong." And then, suddenly after a beat, out came That Smile. Shivers.

* By the way, the nonscientific web polls on the R-J and Sun's sites both assert that Harry Reid won the debate.

This probably is the result of, I'm guessing, someone from the Reid campaign being assigned to do nothing but vote for him all night long on the R-J's site. The Sun's site, which would naturally attract more Reid supporters, also prevents people at an IP address from casting multiple votes, but the R-J's crack technology staff led by their Online Guy hasn't yet figured out how to prevent such newfangled shenanigans. (Disclosure: I just voted six times just for shiggles.)

* My favorite wrap-ups came from Slate's John Dickerson ("In the casinos in Nevada when this happens, they pump in oxygen. This debate did not do that for this race") and some dude named @delrayser who Tweeted: "Man, Harry Reid is the WORST. Except for that crazy lady running against him." -every Democrat on Twitter last night." For an interesting and different view, my Politics Daily editor-in-chief Melinda Henneberger, formerly of The New York Times, wondered why the media is being so nice to Angle today.

* Bravo to the Las Vegas Sun for having David McGrath Schwartz on hand to fact-check what was said. Yes, Laura Myers of the R-J did a little of that in her piece, but there needed to be a LOT more and the main newspaper let down the readers by failing to do so. Maybe they could have skipped the dullsville feature on supporters waving signs outside the VegasPBS mothership.

* The only publication that really gave Reid much credit was, intriguingly, the allegedly diabolically pro-Angle Review-Journal, which intoned, "Reid gave as good as he got" even though he really, truly didn't. Nonetheless, Jon Ralston mocked their coverage as slanted towards Angle -- for saying essentially the same things he has said about the same event -- because he just can't help himself. Whatever.

* Reid's somnolent, dour performance makes my Daily Beast piece from yesterday even more relevant. The nation has to be wondering how this man got to his height of power. I explained.

* It's hard not to admire the quick work Reid's folks did in turning around a TV ad within hours of the debate. See it:

Thursday, October 14, 2010

One More Reid-Angle Thing This Morning

This... disgraceful. Regardless of your politics. Also, it's a reflection of the intense enmity here over this election. I shot this yesterday in Boulder City.

Very sad.

On Debate Day: Daily Beast, PBS & Ralston

Tonight's the big debate between Sharron Angle and Harry Reid, so the national media is descending and CSPAN will broadcast it. I'll be covering it for Politics Daily, so keep watch for that.

A few random thoughts before I plunge into a marathon writing day:

* My in-depth look at Harry Reid and the race is up on The Daily Beast, the product of interviews with more than a dozen former Reid staffers as well as a long list of Nevada politicos and even a current John Ensign staffer. There are plenty of interesting bits in here including Steve Wynn talking about being torn over Reid's support of the Obama agenda and U.S. Rep. Shelley Berkley recalling how Reid predicted more than a year ago that Sharron Angle would be his opponent.

* I know Vegas PBS' Mitch Fox will do an able job, but it is interesting that last night's Senate debate between Christine O'Donnell and Chris Coons in Delaware was on CNN and co-moderated by Wolf Blitzer and Mitch Fox's Delaware counterpart in public TV. Which race, really, is nationally more important and closer?

* I got quite a giggle out of Jon Ralston this morning delusionally believing he was pointing out to the descending national media some sort of proof that the Review-Journal's news coverage of the Angle-Reid race is hopelessly tainted. I agree there have been some very sad low points, but what he showed everyone was an adequate, standard-issue story on a new poll showing Angle up by two points and up 4 from her last showing. He wrote:

"You have to read the piece to see how tendentious the paper is: Release poll earlier than usual (usually on Fridays or Saturdays), have it written as if reflective of surge and play HUGE."

The trouble is, the R-J played this, ran this and wrote this precisely as pretty much any major newspaper would. Following the horse-race of polling as if it is actual news is bullshit, but it's how everyone does it nowadays, and a four-point increase in Angle's support in a race this tight absolutely would qualify by any poll-obsessed journalist's measure as a surge or a bump. Also, while Ralston claims the R-J article he is showing the world is clearly slanted towards Angle, the quote from the R-J's own pollster is: "I wouldn't call it momentum...". So they're NOT suggesting that she's got some huge wind on her back.

The other problem with Ralston's R-J tantrum today is that, as usual, he has no interest in taking note of the blatant conflicts of his own newspaper and TV station. His bosses have combined for nearly $600,000 in donations to Democrats since 2006 while the R-J's publisher has given nothing to anyone.

And today's Las Vegas Sun is a terrific example of how much more open and obvious Ralston's publishing home is about its support for Harry Reid: Their top news story? "Train project a priority for Reid." Yup, a news story that could be run any day of the week -- the Sun's content does not need to be dictated by when Reid chooses to have a press conference -- but is nonetheless atop the fold today of all days. Why, Jon? Oh, that's right. To remind everyone of Reid's juice, the potential for pork and, probably, the notion that Sharron Angle wouldn't be able to or want to do that.

What Ralston actually did today with his email attack on the R-J was ensure that the national media who pay attention to his political expertise will ignore his droning about his competing paper from now on. There's nobody who matters who actually believes Jon Ralston is an objective or fair arbiter of the attributes of either newspaper anymore than anyone believes that Harry Reid is an objective or fair arbiter of the attributes of Sharron Angle.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Another Day, Another Nifty Harrah's Idea

Harrah's is really having a banner week in my book, and I like to think I'm a tough one to impress. On Monday, they started taking guests with dogs at Caesars Palace, the Rio and the Imperial Palace. On Tuesday, the Paris announced they would be hosting a taping of "Wait Wait Don't Tell Me" on Nov. 18.

And today, they may have revolutionized show-ticket buying. That's all.

Basically, they're applying the Buffet of Buffets concept to shows. If you buy one of their ALL STAGE passes for $99 (or $119 for non-Total Rewards members), you can go to as many of 17 Harrah's shows you want within the next 48-hour period. Here's the list:

  • Jubilee! (7:30 p.m. & 10:30 p.m.)
  • Human Nature (7:30 p.m.)
  • Rita Rudner (8:30 p.m.)
  • Matt Goss (10:00 p.m.)
  • Mac King (1:00 & 3:00 p.m.)
  • The Improv (8:30 p.m. & 10:30 p.m.)
  • Legends in Concert (7:30 & 10:00 p.m.)
  • Chippendales (8:00 p.m.)
  • Divas Las Vegas (10:00 p.m.)
  • Nathan Burton (4:00 p.m.)
  • Matsuri (4:00 p.m.)
  • Anthony Cools (9:00 p.m.)
  • George Wallace (10:00 p.m.)
  • X Burlesque (10:00 p.m.)
  • Vinnie Favorito (8:00 p.m.)
  • The Price is Right (2:30 & 7:30 p.m.)
  • Dirk Arthur (7:00 p.m. & 9:00 p.m.)
Also, for $40 more per ticket, you can also see Cher, Donny & Marie, Barry Manilow and Penn & Teller.

One serious downside: You have to buy the thing at the Planet Hollywood box office. Then you go to the box office of the show you want to see and present your pass. You can't pick up your tickets more than two hours before the show.

The Planet Hollywood connection is a little confusing. Peepshow is not on this list owing, I suspect, to the fact that BASE Entertainment owns it and must not have been keen on this. But then why force everyone to go there? I mean, other than the obvious decision to route foot traffic there.

There's also a serious potential here for scalping, it would seem. For $99, you can get all these tickets and pop from one place to another reselling them to people on line or to pre-arranged customers and, potentially, make a lot more money. Also, if the passes don't have specific names on them, theoretically I could buy some and deliver them to customers who pay a premium for me to do so for them so they don't have to go to the P-Ho. I suspect there will be tweaks made to this program to work around that.

That said, if this works it presents the potential for terrific value for tourists.

I can only imagine what they'll be announcing on Thursday and Friday.

Hoover Dam Bypass Bridge Pictorial

This election isn't the only big story happening right now in the region. This weekend, the $240 million Hoover Dam Bypass Bridge -- to be known as the Mike O'Callaghan-Pat Tillman Memorial Bridge -- opens. It's a fairly impressive feat of modern technology, this being the longest bridge arch in the Western Hemisphere and the second tallest in the U.S. The point is to take most of the car traffic off the two-lane Dam and to prevent truckers from having to drive down to Laughlin and up to go from Arizona to Vegas. Since 9/11, they've had to do so as an anti-terrorism move.

I'll be writing some stories on all this in the days to come and will link to them when I do. But for now, I spent this morning out there doing interviews and such. The shot above and some below were taken at a privileged vantage point, a helipad landing off a dirt road not accessible to the general public. We were brought there so we could get the best, unobstructed view of both the bridge and the Dam.

This, you see, is what most people will get to see from the Hoover Dam Visitors Center Observation Deck:

They were setting up for Thursday morning's muck-a-muck ceremony. Sen. Harry Reid, Rep. Dina Titus, Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer and U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood will be on hand and speechify from down on this landing. Nevada Gov. Jim Gibbons will send Lt. Gov. Brian Krolicki because Gibbons is recovering from a major horse mishap that led to an X-ray of his steel-fortified pelvis to morbidly be splashed on the pages of today's Review-Journal.

The O'Callaghan and Tillman families, the workers on the bridge, some media and some members of surrounding Indian tribes will be on the bridge itself. The speeches will be broadcast up there somehow. I'm torn at the moment about whether to go.

There's no question the bridge is impressive, dignified and stately. That said, I admit that it actually looked cooler while it was being built. Above to your right is a strip of photos that ended up on my phone somehow (no, really, I can't figure out where this came from) that shows the progression.

Anyhow, here's one shot of the river below the Dam from that landing...

...and another mug of the bridge-and-dam...

...and finally one with my mug in it, too:

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

"Wait Wait" Coming To Vegas!

It's been a while. A few years, I'm pretty sure, and I seem to recall they taped somewhere off the Strip back then. But Miles and my favorite NPR program, "Wait Wait Don't Tell Me," is slated to tape the Nov. 18 episode here in Vegas at the Paris resort.

Tickets are a little pricey, though. When they record the shows in Chicago, all seats are $25. In Vegas, they're charging $50, $75, $100 and $150 plus fees/taxes. And so far as I can tell, all the money goes to Chicago Public Radio and NPR, not to our Vegas affiliate, KNPR.

That said, this is a really big treat and, while high for public radio prices, it's about right for a decent Vegas show these days. Buy them at Ticketmaster, in person at the Paris box office or at 800-745-3000.

No word yet who the guest panelists are, but Paula Poundstone would seem a natural seeing how she plays Vegas every so often and she is the big favorite for show listeners. And if they're smart, they'll invite Barry Manilow on for "Not My Job" and quiz him with questions about, I dunno, Barry Bonds or something. No offense to Mayor Oscar Goodman, but I really hope they resist the itch to haul him in there.

I'm eager to interview Peter Sagal if only to tell him about the times they'd turned my stories into jokes, the transplanting-scalps-of-cadavers thing and the Fremont Street hula hoop drama. You know I'll be on the prowl for something spectacularly weird the week before this show.

Reid's Two Answers On Angle's $14m

This morning, Elizabeth Crum broke on National Review that Sharron Angle is reporting a record-busting $14 million raised in the third quarter of the year for her campaign against Harry Reid. It's a stunning number even in this age of megabucks politics.

But the fun part, really, is the way Reid responded. That is, the ways. See, within four minutes of one another, I received two emails from Reid.

The first one, to the media, went like this:

"Sharron Angle's fundraising number is meaningless without disclosing how much they spent to raise it. In fact, Angle's shady fundraisers are reputed for cooking the books and fleecing their clients, so any number Angle may assert to generate media buzz is highly suspect."

And the second one, to potential Reid donors, went like this:

"A major development here in Nevada: My Tea Party opponent just announced that she received $14 million in donations in the last quarter. That could be enough to dominate Nevada airwaves in the critical final days and prevent us from exposing her wild rhetoric and dangerous extremism. I need you to send a contribution as soon as you can."

OK. So it's not a real $14 million but, also, it is, so send us a check RIGHT NOW!!!

Or something.

The Show is UP: Corey Feldman & Expose

The latest show has been in the feed for several days, as iTunes or Zune subscribers knew. But here it is anyhow, so go click on the date below to get it to play or right-click on it to download it to listen at your leisure. Enjoy. -sf

Oct. 9: TOTALLY 80s...with Corey Feldman & Expose

It’s TOTALLY ‘80s Week! Former child star Corey Feldman is coming to Vegas this month to promote another sequel to “Lost Boys” with a screening of the original at House of Blues and an appearance by Feldman’s band. So Steve gets his thoughts on being a Strip headliner for the first time and his memories of his underage clubhopping in Vegas back in the day. Plus, the wildly successful girl and now reunited pop band Expose plays in Henderson this weekend, which seemed like as good a time as any to chat up lead singer Jeanette Jurado, a Las Vegas resident who also opened the short-lived but critically beloved New York-New York show, Madhattan.

In Banter: Our MGM Signature staycation, gaming numbers are up, Toni Braxton's chips are way down, the Plaza buys its furnishings, the Trop has a massive billboard planned and Jersey Boys is going Hollywood.

Links to stuff discussed:

Expose’s website
Corey Feldman’s Lost Boys Ball at House of Blues at Mandalay Bay
Feldman’s site and the site of the Truth Movement
Buy the Lost Boys films on DVD and Blue-Ray
A link to the MGM Signature
Yelp on Craftsteak
The LVCVA’s latest gaming and hotel data and Howard Stutz’s report of same
Resorts in Atlantic City will retheme in a Boardwalk Empire motif
Norm Clarke on Toni Braxton’s economic disaster and its Vegas relevance
VegasHappensHere.Com on the FBI saying we’re No. 3
The New York Times does a front page piece on Vegas’ economic woes
Geoff Schumacher and Doug Elfman cry a river over the NYT’s front page piece on Vegas’ economic woes
The Las Vegas Sun on the Plaza buying all the F-blew castoff inventory
VegasHappensHere.Com on the Tropicana’s ginormous billboard
Bali Hai might close
Corey Feldman’s site and the site of the Truth Movement
New York Comic-Con
Norm Clarke discusses the quandary of Tweeting at Tony Curtis’ funeral

Breaking Exclusive: Fremont St Zipline Opens Friday

A couple hours ago on Gadling.Com, I broke a pretty fun one: By this Friday, the folks behind the Bootleg Canyon Flightlines attraction in Boulder City are slated to open a zipline that launches into the Fremont Street Experience from the plaza to the east of it with all that cool restored neon.

The Fremont Street Flightline is expected to go about 800 feet to the center of the Fremont Street Experience outside of the Four Queens and right by the main performance stage. See where Greenheart LLC owner Ian Green is standing by the pink X above to your right? That's where the landing platform is planned to stand.

If you look carefully at the top photo, you'll see the folks in the foreground with a tape measure, mapping out the location of the tower from which riders will leap from 60 feet and swing down to 14 feet up. Folks will buy their tickets ($15 from 2-6 pm, $20 from 6 pm to midnight) at an office on the ground level (the former office for condos at Streamline, in fact) and then ascend to the top floor of the FSE parking garage to get to the launch pad.

Greenheart LLC is spending $150,000 on a temporary four-line system that will hurtle folks a relatively genteel 20-25 mph over the FSE crowds and under the canopy. Yes, you'll be able to fly during the light show itself, although they're planning to time rider launches so that you go over Fourth Street when traffic is stopped at that light as a safety precaution.

If it goes well, Greenheart and FSE will go before the Las Vegas City Council for approval for a permanent attraction that they hope will span the entire length of FSE and land roughly in front of the Plaza Hotel. They got a 90-day temporary permit on Monday, just in time to get the thing up and running for Green's big Halloween idea -- a broom-racing championship. After that, he's looking at outfitting the lines with reindeers and such depending on the time of year.

Could be a lot of fun and definitely could bring a new crowd to downtown. My biggest concern is that the price is way too low and will result in very, very long lines. That will discourage people on the Strip from coming down. I wonder if some sort of a number or reservation or appointment system might not bring people down there and then set them loose in the casinos and such until it's their time.

I reminded Fremont president Jeff Victor that his folks contend that hula-hooping on the plaza is hazardous and distracting to tourists and could cripple old people and want that dastardly deed outlawed. I'll play his prickly response to that on Saturday's episode of "The Strip."

Unlike the Boulder City attraction, where the attendants are willing to shoot your photos and such for free, Cashman Photo will be shooting pictures of riders on the line and selling them at their kiosks. Green hopes the visibility will spur more interest in the Boulder City attraction which is, by the by, awesome. Here was my YouTube video from my day out there with my friend Trevor:

Next up, they hope: the long-discussed zipline at Excalibur. Hear on this coming weekend's episode of "The Strip" where Green might go, too.

[h/t to Sparky of LV.]

Monday, October 11, 2010

Vegas FINALLY Becomes Dog-Friendly

[UPDATE: I should note the Westin Casuarina and Trump Las Vegas also allow dogs, although neither have info on their policies easily found on their sites. Here's a link regarding the Trump chain's pet policies, though. Also, Loews Lake LV also does, but I don't count that as part of the Strip or "Vegas" per se. Also, nobody seems to like cats.]

As much as I hate economic downturns, I also love them for what they force Las Vegas to do. It was the recession of 2001-02 that kicked marketing towards gays, Latinos and women into high gear, and this desperate go-around they'll take absolutely, positively anyone.

Except, as Miles and I learned recently as we scouted out places for staycations, your dogs. The only place to go with Black and Jack would have been the Four Seasons, so we had someone watch our little guys and tested out the MGM Signature. (Our review and experience is at the top of this week's episode of The Strip.) It was very nice, but it would have been even nicer and more relaxing if I didn't have to worry that the animals were going to be freaked out by the strange lady who came by to walk and feed them. (Not even the Mandarin Oriental in Vegas permits pets despite the fact that, nationally, the chain is known for doing so. Surprising.)

Finally, though, Harrah's is changing all that. Starting today, Caesars Palace, Rio and the Imperial Palace have some pet-friendly accommodations. For $25 a night at Caesars and $20 a night at the Rio and IP -- extraordinarily good deals for anyone who has ever boarded an animal -- you can bring dogs under 50 pounds. They allow two per guest and you can walk your dogs through "designated common areas" on a leash.

What a terrific idea at a sensible price. And, according to the site, they even provide a mat, food and water dishes, disposable waste bags and dog treats as well as information about where the outdoor "relief areas" are and information on nearby vets and groomers.

Had Caesars had this two weeks ago, we almost certainly would have stayed there. As you can see, we are very attached.