Friday, April 6, 2007

EXCLUSIVE: Steve Wynn and the Bohemian Club

For those you who are unaware -- as I was before this leak came my way -- the Bohemian Club is a secretive 135-year-old society of very powerful businessmen, politicians and artists who share a common passion for fine arts.

My sources are telling me that Steve Wynn is an aspiring member and next weekend will host rather elaborate Bohemian Club event honoring Henry Kissinger that involves bringing in technicians and other staff to set up. Word is that it's sort of a spoof or roast of the Nixon's secretary of state. (Nixon, according to Wikipedia, was an honorary member of the BC.)

I have confirmed with Wynn publicists that there is definitely a Bohemian Club event next weekend and that Kissinger is expected. Beyond that, they couldn't comment. I suspect Wynn is already a member, given his stature and his art collection, but it's a secretive society so I gather nobody's allowed to say.

So, gentle readers: What rituals do you fancy the Bohemians conduct to haze their new plebes?

[See also, from "The Strip" podcast, Wynn on Spamalot, Wynn in Macau, Wynn on AveQ and Wynn gives me a tour of his then-new hotel.]

Get Married With Goofy?

Miles and I managed to avoid the tacky Vegas wedding by holding ours last month in a sensationally gorgeous suite in the Palms Fantasy Tower. But, of course, the cliched Vegas wedding is a hetero affliction to begin with.

Now comes word that Disney will officially host same-sex wedding ceremonies in its theme parks as well. So get ready for the advent of the cliched gay wedding. For some reason, the gays love Disneyland and Disney World, as seen by those huge Gay Day events each year. It'll start at $8,000 with upgrades for Cinderella's coach and Mickey and Minnie in formal attire. (What, can't get two Mickeys?)

Naturally, the right-wingers will have conniption fits similar to this bizarro fax that the "Rev." Fred Phelps of Topeka of GodHatesFags.Com sent in 2001 when something else Disney offended him. I was once the target of similar faxes and pickets during a summer internship in 1993 at the Topeka Capital-Journal when I wrote an award-winning piece on gay youth in the Kansas capital. It's fun!

Too bad Miles and I didn't know about this before. Maybe the very grumpy improv comic Wayne Brady, who was awful prickly with me on "The Strip" podcast last night, would've reprised his role as Tigger from way back when. Hear him explain how he, uh, got in character.

Congrats, by the way, to AfterElton.Com for pointing out Disney's discrimination and shaming them into changing their policy.

Thursday, April 5, 2007

Mine eyes deceive me

This canNOT be the tacky old Flamingo Las Vegas with the horrid bedspreads and smelly carpets. These pix from the R-J today are impressive partly because they were taken by a staff photog, K.M. Cannon and not their PR staff, but also because these are really amazingly beautiful rooms. The article by Arnold M. Knightly says they're refurbing or remodeling (there's a significant difference but the article says both) 500 of their 3,530 rooms this year, 636 next year. Kudos to Don Marrandino, who appears on track to accomplish the impossible, making this place hip again.

WHHSH Violation No. 4321325

We are going to attempt to document the overuse -- and misuse -- of the What Happens Here Stays Here (WHHSH) slogan starting now. Any and all of you, join the party. Every time you see a lame use of it wherever the offenders may lurk, email us or post a response on this blog.

Today's is especially shameful because it's in the Las Vegas Review-Journal, which should know better and by and large is not responsible for the irksome abuse of a very smart advertising slogan.

To wit, atop a piece by Corey Levitan about how the Internet is being used to embarrass, entrap and otherwise observe Las Vegans, the headline: "What happens in Vegas ... goes on the Web"

Nails. On. A. Blackboard. Especially since this is a story that could be written pretty much anywhere. Oh, and as Miles likes to point out, the slogan is WHHSH, not WHiVSiV.

Jennifer Aniston: Gay Icon?!?

I like Jennifer Aniston. A lot. She was terrific in "Friends," she's made a list of lousy rom-coms more palatable and she's proceeded mostly with class and dignity in the face of her crumbled marriage.


A gay icon? Worthy of being in the same breath with Liza Minnelli or Liz Taylor? Really?

She's getting the Vanguard Award next week from the Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation (GLAAD) or, as friends of mine used to refer to them, Gays and Lesbians Addicted to Accuracy in Diversions. It's something they give to important straight allies of the GLBT cause.

Huh? The press releases sayeth:

"Jennifer Aniston is, without a doubt, one of the most charismatic, talented, and celebrated actresses in the world today. It is all the more refreshing then, that she hasn't shied away from roles that playfully or dramatically explore the boundaries of human sexuality and relationships. For ten seasons, Jennifer Aniston played Rachel Green on Friends, a show that included, from its very first season, a portrayal of a lesbian family. In addition to her role on Friends, Aniston starred in The Object of My Affection with Paul Rudd, again telling a story of an alternative family. With her gay-friendly roles in other projects, such as the film Rockstar, the FX drama Dirt, and a music video for Melissa Etheridge, Jennifer Aniston has proven herself a strong ally of the LGBT community."

Wow. Doesn't take much anymore, does it? Get cast as a no-name in a well-written TV show, appear in a Melissa Etheridge video and stunt-cast on your BFF's uneven dramedy and you too can be Queen For A Day of Queerville. Oh, and be available to come to our awards ceremony.
What's odder still about all this is that it's her ex-husband, Brad Pitt, who has done something truly revolutionary as straight celebs go:
He refuses to get married until gays can. A superstar male actor in the prime of his career forsaking locking in Angelina for life, or however long the straights think marriage ought to last these days. Now, given, Angelina is forcing his hand. So, then, give the Vanguard thingie to her. That is, if she's not too busy trick-or-treating for orphans.

That would be an interesting stance, Angie: Don't adopt from countries who refuse to allow gays and lesbians to adopt from there. But, seeing how that would eliminate Africa, most of Asia and Central America, that might unduly handicap you in your quest to outdo Mia Farrow, hmm?

Wednesday, April 4, 2007

Drunk Cats, Sugar Sculptures and Taxes

So sorry to have been off blog duty the past day or so, but it's rough getting back to normal after all that hullabaloo. Plus, I haven't done my taxes yet and that's fast approaching, so right now as I type I am psyching myself up to look at my records and figure out what I need to give my accountant.

Which is as good a time as any to share this, a precious 12-second video of "Petcast" guest host Molly Ball's cat tasting Scotch. (And speaking of "The Petcast," the latest episode, in which Molly and Emily debate the ethics of using sea animals in counterterrorism efforts, is online.)

Besides, that, I thought this was pretty cool -- a mammoth sugar sculpture display recently unveiled in the lobby of the Ritz-Carlton at Lake Las Vegas. What's more, it's just the first of what is to become a seasonal display. Finally, a reason to go all the way out to Lake Las Vegas!

To crib from the press release: "Executive Pastry Chef Chris Hanmer designed and created two identical displays entitled, “An Unexpected Oasis” that are showcased in two separate wood and glass cases located in the hotel’s front lobby. Each showcases 45 orange and blue pieces created from 150 pounds of sugar. The entire project took Chef Hanmer more than 100 hours to craft by hand, using food coloring for the orange and blue hues. Hanmer began planning this project in October 2006, completing the sugar display creations in February. “When I lived in Washington, D.C., I often visited the Smithsonian Institute. There I discovered a true appreciation of modern art which became my inspiration for developing these pieces. Because I am a chef, it was the ideal way to combine my two passions – cooking and modern art,” says Hanmer.

Sounds like someone ELSE procrastinates instead of doing his taxes...

Monday, April 2, 2007

TheStripPodcast's Video Debut

Please, please be kind. Mark and I took some fancy equipment out to the Stardust on March 13 for the demolition and finally, we're ready to show you the "show" we did. It includes implosion footage we already put on YouTube as well as an interview with Bob Boughner, CEO of Echelon, the $4 billion project that will replace the hotel.

Please remember I'm not a TV person. The TV person in the family was at home in bed because it was the middle of the night. But he did dress me, awfully sportily in fact, and we produced this 12-minute show. You can click here to see it or subscribe to our show through iTunes by clicking here.

Whatever you do, definitely stick around for the ending when Mark and I are in his car. Very, very Blair Witch Project.

Don't know how many of these videos we're going to do, but this was fun to make even if it's full-on amateur stuff.

Sunday, April 1, 2007

Winding Down in San Francisco

Much to our surprise, Miles' sister Sarah has discovered this blog and checks it daily. She's not much of a technology buff and still hasn't really figured out how to access our podcast, so this is impressive. But Sarah has a particular group of interests -- food/wine, San Francisco and her brother. And she specifically requested that we shoot a picture or two of the inside of the Hilton San Francisco Financial District room that we have been raving about here for the past couple of days. As you can see behind Miles above, it's a sleek, modernist room with a wall of large windows and an LED TV in the corner. Our sole complaint is illustrated by the photo to the right: The shower's for midgets. I knew this because I got here a day before Miles, so it was extremely entertaining this morning to hear him bellow from in there as he stepped in, "Oh, come ON. You've GOT to be kidding me."

My new sister-in-law's expertise more than came in handy this evening as we met up with my cousin Matt and his girlfriend, Madora, for dinner. Miles was hot to go back to the much-ballyhoo'd Vietnamese joint Slanted Door, which is over at the Ferry Building, but it is expensive and M&M are of 20somethings-trying-to-live-in-one-of- the-Earth's-most-expensive-places means. We had a Slanted Door reservation and M&M were happy to go along, but then Sarah revealed to Miles via phone today that there's a new place from the same folks but at half the price called Out The Door that's in the new mall where Bloomies is. We just got in from dinner and it was outstanding, especially the Imperial crispy rolls. Miles' beef with vermicelli was so tasty he didn't even steal any of my claypot chicken with caramel, which he commanded me to order presumably because he wanted some.
So, thanks, Sarah! And Matt and Madora for great company and one of our podcast fans, Gregory, for meeting for coffee. And now I have to get back to writing a story that I wish I could finish so I can just enjoy our last day here without hesitation. Sigh. A blogger's work is never done.

Huì shuō Zhōngwén ma? Zai Vegas, Bu Yao

I'm in these meetings today and yesterday and, while utterly fascinating almost every single minute, the mind wanders from time to time. And directly out the window I'm facing right now is this billboard for the Thunder Valley Casino-Resort outside Sacramento. You may have to click-thru to expand it because the thing that you need to see is the Web site on it.

It's this: A Chinese language site for the casino. And if you go to the normal site, there's a prominent link to the Chinese version of the site. Thunder Valley is a tribal casino co-owned by Station Casinos that grosses alone half the total gambling take of all the Reno casinos combined. It's also 45 minutes from Reno. I get that I am at a hotel in Chinatown and Thunder Valley is a day-trip market for Chinese-Americans, but I'm still confused by something.

I looked all over the MGM Mirage, Harrahs, Venetian Las Vegas and Wynn Las Vegas websites. I was unable to find a single one of the Vegas interests -- not even Station Casinos, which partly owns Thunder Valley -- that have a hotel site in any other language. Not Chinese, not Spanish, not Japanese or German. And while Thunder Valley isn't competition to Vegas, it still made me realize what a big thing the Strip properties are missing.

Given the international outreach going on by Las Vegas, the fact that Nevada is the only U.S. state with a tourist office in Beijing, and all the activity in Macau for Las Vegas Sands Inc, Wynn and MGM Mirage in particular, it's baffling that neither the Vegas properties nor the Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority itself seems to have any microsites in foreign languages. I know they have huge armies of phone operators to take reservations in a zillion other languages. But what about the Internet?

Ultimately, by not having this, they're forcing non-English-reading guests to use travel agents and tour operators who mark up the costs of Vegas trips. That can't be a good thing.

The REAL Daylight Saving Time bug

A few weeks ago when Daylight Saving Time moved to earlier, there was a lot of hype over whether it would cause computer and social problems. Nothing really happened and a lot of folks claimed it was a non-event.

Today, though, it turns out it's not a non-event. Today WOULD have been the correct DST changeover day. And last night in our rooms at the Hilton San Francisco Financial District, the clocks automatically sprang forward and, oddly, guests are not able to change the time on those clocks. Automated wake-up calls also came early, too.

Did you have any similar experiences? If I weren't here in meetings and planning to spend the rest of the day with Miles enjoying SF, I'd pitch a story to someone today on this. I bet we'll be hearing a lot more about it.