Friday, August 12, 2011

My Stuff, Lately

Nobody will ever accuse me of slacking off at the end of my Vegas run. In the past week alone, several significant pieces have appeared, but two in particular are worthy of highlighting:

* JOCKEY CLUB 4EVA: The cover of the Las Vegas Weekly is an assessment of this little eyesore of a timeshare complex run by understandably grumpy people and it's weird relationship with all the massive towers, most specifically the Cosmo, that surround it. As I am writing this from charming Ely, Nev., I can assure you I appreciate history and revere what's come before, but as a business model the Jockey Club portends the future of Vegas in a not-so-good-way. Check it out.

* HYDEIA BROADBENT, FORMER CHILD STAR: Fifteen years ago, North Las Vegas resident Hydeia Broadbent addressed the Republican National Convention as a 12-year-old with AIDS who stopped the show and forced the religious right to hit pause on the culture war for a split second. She became the most famous youth HIV/AIDS activist in the world, filling a niche vacated by the deaths of Ryan White and Pedro Zamora. I profiled her for an award-winning cover story in Poz Magazine back then, but what's become her since? Well, she's 27 now, barely speaks to her mother and is trying her best to recover from a childhood in the spotlight during which nobody really thought that she'd ever live to be an adult. It's messy and fascinating, and I'm pleased Desert Companion gave me the space to tell the story.

In addition to all that, there's also my column in the Weekly assessing the changes at the Plaza and a feature in Desert Companion on the largely unnoticed 100th birthday of the late William F. Harrah. And other stuff, too, but I can't think of it at the moment as I've gotta get in the car and head to Eureka. But there's some stuff to chew on for your Friday.

Next Show is Sunday at 6p

I'm in Ely, Nev., about to head to Eureka for a piece on how the high price of gold is impacting one rural community that lives off of mining. Then I have to drive back to Vegas and we have the farewell party on Saturday from 2-5 pm PT at Piero's. I've also got a massive pile of writing to do to finish up about four assignments by the end of the weekend.

On account of all of that and the fact that sorting out all the outtakes and assembling our final bloopers episode of "The Strip" will take some serious editing time, we're going to be live on SUNDAY at 6 p.m. PT instead of Saturday, as aforementioned. We'll have a special guest or two, and a good time will be had by most. Join us here for that on Sunday.

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

The Farewell Tour Hits Stride On Wednesday

All the appreciation we've been feeling from listeners, readers, friends, sources and colleagues as the days tick down before we leave Vegas has been overwhelming and gratifying. Still, it's hard for me to stop working when there's so many stories left to finish, so it's a weird time.

For efficiency's sake, I've consolidated some key moments tomorrow. Podcast fans ought to know we will NOT be doing a live show on Wednesday but, instead, will do a live one on Saturday night with some surprise appearances. More on that to come.

Here's what happens tomorrow:

* At about 10 a.m. PT, I'm scheduled to be on KNPR to talk about these years of coverage and whatever else they throw my way. Listen live at or on 88.9 FM if you're here. It'll replay at about 9 p.m. PT.

* At 11:30 a.m., I address the monthly luncheon of the Lambda Business and Professional Association. This is the gay business networking group where I interviewed Carolyn Goodman and Chris Giunchigliani in May in the only serious news-making debate/forum/event of the otherwise dull 2011 mayor's race. This time, I'll be discussing what I've seen change in news coverage and the lives of GLBT people in Las Vegas since I first arrived in 1996. It's at Las Palmas Mexican Restaurant in Commercial Center and costs $15 at the door. All are welcome, gay or not.

* At 4 p.m., I'm due at the Coffee Bean at 10834 W Charleston in Summerlin to discuss my two pieces for Desert Companion, the lifestyles magazine produced by Nevada Public Radio. More on those pieces in this separate post, but they include the one on would-have-been-centenarian William F. Harrah and a lengthy, important piece on the troubled transition to adulthood for Las Vegan Hydeia Broadbent, once America's most significant child advocate for people with HIV/AIDS.

So that's tomorrow. And don't forget YOU are welcome and invited to our farewell party at Piero's on Saturday from 2-5p. We don't actually check out of Vegas for another couple weeks and my Las Vegas Weekly presence doesn't end until Sept. 1, but these will be very, very busy and stressful times indeed and it's nice to do all of this before it gets completely out of control in our home.

Monday, August 8, 2011

Why I'm On A Diet

After this week's LVW column on the local Weight Watchers cover model appeared, I received a lot of email similar to this blog comment from Josh of VegasMavens.Com:

How much of your success with WW would you attribute to wanting to enter your Fellowship "leaner and meaner" or, perhaps, just leaner? Would you consider posting a more detailed posting on your experience with WW on your blog or perhaps on the podcast?

As Miles will tell you, there's nothing I enjoy talking about more these days than my diet because, well, it's going so well and has been relatively easy for me.

But first, an important disclaimer: I have been gifted with my mother's efficient metabolism. I am not Frank Bruni. I merely abused that gift and am now in course-correction mode. Recall these photos from prior blog posts:

That's a lot of snacking with impunity. I was always reasonably thin regardless. Here are some shots of me from age 21 to 34, when I covered the OJ Simpson trial alongside Dominick Dunne:

And then something happened. All that glorious junk food decided it liked hanging onto me. Here, in order, are shots that show the story. The first one, from a 2008 political memorabilia convention, was less than a year after the one above with Dunne. After that, I'm in San Antonio for my Little Brother's Air Force boot camp graduation (March 2009), covering a deadly courthouse shooting in Vegas (January 2010), at Casa Wayner (January 2011) and at Barry Manilow's piano (March 2011), plus the shot atop this post covering the Tea Party rally in Searchlight in March 2010:

I could see where this was going and I had to buy bigger clothes, which simply offended my thrifty Jewish sensibilities too much. Trouble is, as you can see, I'm not someone who had to worry about this before. And, also, I'm not someone particularly inclined towards exercise. But then I developed an inflammation in my left heel that my podiatrist believed had to do with recalibrating my gait to accommodate my weight gain, and that freaked me out even though it was merely a theory for the foot pain I've been experiencing.

So, yeah, with all these other massive life changes coming, I decided to do something about before it went too far, I got too old and I just became contented being a larger and larger person who can't bear to look at myself in photos.

I opted for Weight Watchers mainly because Miles and I had discussed it for a while and it seemed like a plan that provided the best structure without forcing people to eat their food, as Jenny Craig and Nutrisystem do. Miles has opted not to work on his weight until we get to Michigan, which I respect, but I didn't want to hold off any longer.

Here's the part where I'm going to sound like a WW evangelist. I like how it works. They weigh you and take your height, and from that they give you a certain number of points that you can eat per day. In my case, I got 46 points each day and I started at 219 pounds, a figure that completely shocked me.

The points are calculated by some WW formula in which carbs, protein, fiber and fat are tabulated via a special WW calculator. To keep you from being discouraged or feeling deprived you also get 49 extra "bonus" points a week, although I don't believe I've ever use any of them.

I'm not sure I could have bothered with WW a year ago for two reasons. First, the old program counted various fruits and vegetables against your points, and that's a lot of what I eat to avoid being hungry. The new "Points Plus" system allows as much of most fruits and vegetables as you want without counting them in your daily total. But, secondly, in the old days people had to carry a WW calculator and book to figure out or look up the point values of various foods and then you'd have to hand-write what you ate.

That's much too much work and baggage. But the WW smartphone application handles all of that for you. It has the calculator, the entire database of food and a means for you to track what you've eaten and how many points you have left.

Because I've lost the weight I have, my points total has been reduced to 43 a day. I generally only input things that are worth points, so what you don't see are the grapes, bananas, carrots and diet drinks I consume. I also don't pay much mind to inputting what part of the day I've eaten something, so I can assure you I did not eat a bowl of cereal and a tuna melt before noon on Saturday.

What I'm impressed by with WW is that there really isn't anything I like that I can't have. I just have to alter how much I have. My weakness is Crunch N Munch, and we still had a box when I started WW in June. Rather than throw it away, I read the box and then broke it down into servings in individual plastic baggies. Then, when I wanted some, I had a feeling of completion and I'd only cost myself six points.

The weight loss has been slow but very steady. I'm down 17.6 pounds through 10 weeks as of last Friday, when I went for my weekly weigh-in. Other people don't go to the WW meetings, they just do the thing online and keep their weights for themselves on an honor system. Odds are good when I get to Michigan I may transition to that approach, but for these past few months I've found it very useful to listen to the discussion of how to eat better and suggestions for tasty low-point recipes or store-bought products. Also, I like being accountable to someone else, in this case the lady who does the weigh-ins at the WW place.

It's been relatively easy for me, but that's partly because it turns out I'm not naturally an intensely hungry person and, also, I've always loved a wide variety of fruits and vegetables. Also, I love cooking for myself and have been reading Vegetarian Times for a while because my 85-year-old friend, Walt, doesn't eat meat and I try to feed him sometimes. Thus, finding foods on the "good" side of the ledger that I'll enjoy and will be satisfied will be pretty easy. By doing the calculations and reading food labels more carefully and just paying more attention, I've got a much clearer sense of how to eat well and what reasonable portions are.

I had decided to see how far I could get down without having to start a serious exercise routine. I'm not looking to be an adonis, I just want to be healthier. I already walk the dogs, sometimes two miles a day, and I know I'll be walking and biking plenty in Michigan anyway until the snow arrives.

A few years ago, I read a column by the R-J's Jane Ann Morrison, who was discussing how some candy resulted in some expensive dental bills. The passage that always stuck in my head was this:

When it turns fall and the temperatures cool down, even ever so slightly, I enjoy the occasional caramel. At 170 calories each, they're not something I eat regularly. But Halloween isn't far away and it's one of those candies that bring soulful satisfaction.

I didn't understand this. Really. If she loved the candy so much, eat it! Eat the whole bag! What's the big deal? How could a piece of candy provide a "soulful satisfaction?"

Now I get it. Healthy people pace themselves. They allow themselves an occasional treat and, thus, they enjoy and savor it that much more. The serving-size baggie of Crunch N Munch was far more delicious and satisfying than back in the day when I inhaled the entire box during a sitcom and could barely stand up afterwards. I mean, I can eat it, finish it and remain conscious! What a deal!

I'm down to 201.4 pounds now. My official WW goal was 200, which was about a 10 percent loss from 219. But for my height, I really shouldn't be more than 185-190, so I'm aiming for that range. I'll let y'all know if I get there.

The big challenge right now is that, in leaving Vegas, loads of people want to take me out for meals. And there's a ton of great food around here that I'll sorely miss. I'm definitely going to have to suspend the diet when I scratch Pamplemousse off my bucket list, I can tell you that!

The show is UP: Settling Old Scores With George Wallace

We broke some "news" in our George Wallace interview this time. The comic says he's thinking he may vacate the Flamingo showroom where he's appeared for eight years. He also indicates that his friend, Gladys Knight, is having throat trouble and plans to quit her Tropicana gig. And he and Wayne Newton actually have gotten into it over Wallace's ads calling himself "the new Mr. Las Vegas." Fun stuff. Click on the date below to play or right-click to save the show. Or you subscribe -- for free -- in iTunes or Zune. -sf

Aug. 7: The Real George Wallace?

George Wallace threw us for a loop back in the fall of 2005 when he claimed to be two different places and then unceremoniously dumped us. And he’s paid for it, at least in these parts, with us mocking him as the symbol of a bad guest and many listeners saying they’d avoid his show because of the shoddy treatment. But Steve can’t really leave well enough alone. As we conclude our run as Vegas podcasters, he wanted another whack at Wallace, and so he was over at the Flamingo today for a face-to-face conversation. It turned out to be very fun discussion in which Wallace spoke possibly vacating his berth at the resort when his contract ends this year and much more.

In Banter: Oscar Goodman Steak, Steve Wyrick woes, outdoor (?) summer theater in Vegas, obsessing over fake Spongebobs and more.

Episode Guide:
Open & Banter: Start to 18ish

George Wallace Part I: 24ish--51ish
Trivia/Poll/Letters: 51ish-59ish
George Wallace Part II: 1:00-1:26ish
TSTToTW: 1:26-end

Links to Stuff Discussed:

George Wallace’s website
Our original George Wallace interview episode from 2005
VegasHappensHere.Com on Wolfgang Puck leaving the Springs Preserve
A report on developments related to Oscar Goodman Steak
This blog asks whether Steve Wyrick will ever open
The Strip Sense column in 2010 on the Plaza’s gaybashing theater operator, John Beane
The cutting-edge Riv brings bingo back
The County Commission obsesses over fake Spongebobs
Spring Mountain Ranch State Park’s Super Summer Theatre
Railroad Pass casino is 80
The Sahara’s NASCAR auction is on
Cee-Lo may have a Vegas residency gig
Lance Rich’s proof there was no water in My Heart Will Go On in …A New Day

Sunday, August 7, 2011

MINI-EXCLUSIVE: Oscar Will Have A Glass Office At Oscar's

It's a small detail, but it's one that makes me mildly more optimistic that any steakhouse, even one "licensing" the name of our wildly popular former mob attorney/mayor, can work at the Plaza.

A Plaza source told me today they're building a glass-walled office for Oscar Goodman off from the bar area in the famed glass-dome space that is soon to open as Oscar's. In it will sit his famous mayoral furnishings, including this:

I'm told it'll be sort of like the Oscar Goodman Zoo where visitors will be able to witness the famed leviathan himself in his natural habitat. Interesting. You can see my pictorial of Oscar's City Hall office from 2009 here.

I'm still fairly dubious of how well this concept will work. As I'm hearing it, this steak place is going to be sort of a Vegas-themed Hard Rock/Planet Hollywood kinda thing, decorated with Oscar's likeness and artifacts of his illustrious careers. There's even talk of opening Oscar'ses in other cities after this one establishes itself.

Ultimately, though, gimmick-driven restaurants usually don't succeed, not even in the case of Switch at Encore where the kitchen is run by exceptional chefs. So Oscar's will have to serve up great food that is, because this is still Downtown, inexpensive. And cheap steaks usually are not terribly good steaks. So there's the conundrum.

Still, if Carolyn's husband is actually there hamming it up a lot -- and I mean A LOT -- then maybe it could work. I question, though, how often Oscar Goodman might toil in his office doing whatever "work" he has to do after, say, 6 p.m. when the dinner rush takes place.