Saturday, April 14, 2007

More Baffling WHHSH Crapola!

Loyal reader/listener Lin in New Joisey spotted this shameful -- and completely inexplicable -- T-shirt from Key West. What the heck does that mean?!? Anybody?

Meanwhile, Gregory in San Francisco thought he found a violation while watching E! but it turns out, he found something much, much sinister. The ad he saw went: "What happens here, stays here? Not for the Vegas Visionary!" It turned out, it was for VegasVisionary.Com, a silly site where a guy who occasionally flashes a serious bald spot "answers" questions. But, Gregory, look closer -- it is actually a front for VisitLasVegas.Com, which is one of the Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority's own website. So it's the LVCVA, which "owns" WHHSH.

Still, it's worth checking out just for the sheer weirdness factor. Ask him if he's gay and suddenly a woman with a boa lands in his lap. I asked "Who killed Ted Binion?" and he donned sunglasses, muttered something then claimed he was channeling Elton John. I asked, "Where's the volcano?" and he said, "The rollercoaster at New York-New York, the roulette wheel at Caesars, the poker room at Wynn. Trust me, it's more action than you can handle." Nice to see he's not playing favorites among the big boys, but huh?!?

Thursday, April 12, 2007

WHHSH Vindication!

Jeff Candido, co-author of the "What Happens Here Stays Here" campaign, was on "The Strip" tonight. He since left R&R Partners in Vegas for Arnold International, a large Boston-based ad firm. Asked about Mayor Oscar Goodman's comment that the LVCVA ought to stop trying to legally fight the misuse of WHHSH, which it has spent more than $720,000 battling over, Candido answered:

"I sort of have to agree (with Goodman). Why stop people from saying something that you were dying to get them to say five years ago. Why sue them to stop? As much as it sort of irks me to know there are plenty of people out there making money as evidenced by my eBay search this afternoon off the phrase, it's hard to defend spending people's tax money to attack it. I'd say let it go. Let it do what it's doing because it's working."

He also agreed it makes his skin crawl how incorrectly so many comics, hacks and other entrepreneurs apply the catch-phrase.

Also on the show, Las Vegas Hilton headliner Joe Piscopo who was surprisingly funny, energetic and honest. Hear it by clicking here or right-clicking here or subscribe to it in iTunes or in Yahoo.

WHHSH Violator No. 1 on "The Strip" LIVE tonight!

OK, he's not a violator. In fact, Jeff Candido and his co-writer Jason Hoff are probably the only ones who can legitimately claim to have used the "What Happens Here Stays Here" thing the "right" way since back in 2002, when they were young pups at R&R Partners in Vegas. (See my Boston Globe piece about them at the time.) Candido went on to a job with Arnold Worldwide, a very large East Coast ad agency.

Candido will join us at about 7:45 pm PT to discuss how WHHSH has affected him and why he supports our efforts to use it, uh, correctly.

Join us in the live chat at LVRocks.Com by clicking "CAM & CHAT" starting at 7 pm. We'll also have comic Joe Piscopo live at about 7:15 pm. Plus, the trivia question, a new poll and, as always, the Top Secret Tourist Tip of the Week. If you miss it, of course, the podcast will be up later tonight as always. Subscribe to it in iTunes or in Yahoo.

CityCenter Silliness

The folks who make these models for CityCenter surely have a sense of humor! I'm sure there are loads of inside jokes all over the place, and I think I caught at least two of them when I was at the CityCenter sales office the other day.

Above, you can see the base of one of the two leaning yellow Veer condo towers that will be at the center of the project. Look very, very carefully -- click on the photo if you must enlarge it -- and you'll see what I saw: Two vagrants leaning against the wall! Don't believe me? Look at this other shot of it up closer to your right. There's poverty at CityCenter! Finally there may be some place on the Strip to give away leftovers to the needy the way I always do in New York!

And, if they're NOT vagrants, what do YOU think they're doing?

Finally, take a look at the pool shot to your left. Who lays like that? What do you think she's up to?

Is "Meet The Robinsons" Offensive?

My USA Today piece on the fact that adoption-advocate groups are upset by certain parts of Disney's "Meet The Robinsons" is online now. I'm interested in your reaction to the controversy.

R.I.P. Kurt Vonnegut. Long Live His Chalk.

Kurt Vonnegut died last night. The image to your left is all that's posted on his website right now. Clever.

It's been many years since I picked up a Vonnegut novel but he was, back in high school, the first author I got really obsessed with. I realize now I probably didn't really understand many of the allegories he was trying to put forth and maybe I should go back and read them again, although I've now got four more Philip Roth books in the queue ever since I very, very belatedly discovered him last year through "Everyman." While many will cite "Slaughterhouse-Five" and "Cat's Cradle" as the Vonnegut classics, for some reason the apocalyptic evolutionary novel "Galapagos" has stuck with me most.

When I saw the Vonnegut news, I instantly remembered a time when the author came to my school, Northwestern University. A reporter for the Daily Northwestern, where I spent most of my college life, wrote a story about the appearance in which he quoted a student who claimed he had grabbed the chalk Vonnegut had used in his presentation. That set off a ping-pong battle on our letters page from other students claiming that, no, they had gotten the chalk. It was a humorous and strangely appropriate "controversy."

I Googled "Kurt Vonnegut chalk Northwestern" and, lo and behold, I'm not the only one who remembers the chalk incident. The writer of the story, Kevin F. Sherry, blogged about it last night. It's a terrific, quite personal remembrance of an amazing writer and you can go check it out here.

Wednesday, April 11, 2007

Defending WHHSH - and wondering why

The Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority is in a bind over whether to defend its trademark on "What Happens Here Stays Here," according to a Benjamin Spillman piece in today's Review-Journal. Apparently they've spent $732,123 doing so already and Mayor Oscar Goodman, chairman of the LVCVA board, thinks it's probably a better idea if they just give it up already. And he's right. Very right.

Look, the phrase is already now married in the world's consciousness to Vegas which is, in and of itself, an amazing feat since it existed long before it was applied to the city. What, is Rockford, Ill., going to start using it? They'll look stupid. (OK, it's Rockford, so they'll look MORE stupid.) No other tourism destination or attraction is going to bother just as Ford's not going to use "Heartbeat of America" even if they could. The LVCVA ought to count themselves lucky that the WHHSH phrase wasn't yet being abused by someone else when they happened upon it and just enjoy all the echo-chamber usages as furtherance of the campaign. It might be different if someone had had some foresight to market official LVCVA merchandise with the logo, but nobody did and that's that.

While we're at it, though, something funny from my mail today. I got some info from San Diego wanting me to come write a travel story about the city. And I was reminded of how challenging it is to come up with a tourism slogan when I saw the god-awful clunker that they use:

"San Diego: 365 Days of Ahhhhhhh."

Here's an article on how they came up with that.

Makes it sound like a daily visit to the dentist. And yes, I counted. Seven "h"s. Oh, and they trademarked it. Which is a waste when your slogan is so ridiculous.

Exclusive: CityCenter Pix

Yesterday, after I visited the uber-posh $30 million Project CityCenter sales office to get a better understanding of just what MGM Mirage is doing with its 76 acres between the Monte Carlo and Bellagio, I went to the top of the Bellagio's employee parking lot because I'd been told it's the best perch to shoot some pix of the project in progress. As you can see to your here, I'd heard right.

What you see at top left (may need to click to expand for detail) is that the building sprouting to the left is Vdara Condo Hotel, a 50-story curved building with 1,543 units ranging from 500 to 1850 square feet, and to the right in that shot is the 4,000-room CityCenter Casino-Resort, although they keep toying with the name of the place. The other pix here show each project separately, Vdara on the right and the hotel on the left.

In addition to those buildings, CityCenter also will include a pair of yellow twin condo towers called Veer, the aqua oval-shaped The Harmon Hotel & Residences and a Mandarin Oriental with a couple hundred condo units built in as well. A shot of the entire model is to the right, as it will be seen from the Strip, with the Vdara in the back to the right and the construction photos taken from behind that. All of this is to be completed by 2009.

While at the sales center, I happened to observe a salesman giving a pitch to what I think was a group of real estate agents. He made a really interesting point I'd never thought of, namely that the project costs $7 billion and one reason why they have all this condo inventory is because they can raise about $3 billion that way. What's so interesting about that is the sea change it represents; Vegas casino interests became public companies in the 1980s and 1990s in part to get financing for these mega-resorts. Now even that capital isn't enough; everyone's got to have condos, too, to offset the price, from Trump to Echelon to CityCenter to the Palms.

The sales guy also revealed some interesting tidbits about what Wet Design, creators of the Bellagio Fountains, are planning for "water features" at CityCenter Wassitcallt. Apparently, and he was vague mainly because he found it difficult to describe, there will be some sort of eye-popping show in the 500,000-square-foot mall of the hotel that involves mammoth ice sculptures rising from the ground, doing some sort of performance and then receding to re-freeze. Or something like that.

The sales center, which anyone can visit, has a little bar where soft drinks and snacks are free. And there are large models of each of the condo buildings (except The Harmon, which isn't done apparently) as well as models of what the rooms will look like. So to your right you'll see what the mock-up living room (complete with a fake Strip view) of the Vdara studio apartments (starting at $500,000) would look like. And to your left is what the bathrooms of the Mandarin Oriental units (which are sold out despite costing $1.5 million to $10 million) will look like. I liked the faucet spouts the most.

So today I'm sharing the serious pix. Tomorrow, I have some pretty funny ones, so come on back.

Tuesday, April 10, 2007

Skywalk in the Christian Science Monitor

Finally my piece is out on the Grand Canyon Skywalk in the Christian Science Monitor. They did a good job editing it, but I thought you'd enjoy seeing the original ending:

Yet the glass floor is not sealed -- there are one-inch gaps between the large tiles -- and the glass walls along the Skywalk are only about 5 feet high. It wouldn't be difficult for a suicidal person to scale it, something several tourists observed. Quipped Holabird: "They really may want to rethink that or very soon, they'll be getting the wrong sort of publicity."

My editor actually planned to go with a variation on that. But then someone else over there decided ending with suicide was too morbid. Oh well.

WHHSH Violations: Let's Circle Back

An astute reader and podcast listener, Brian in Ventura, Calif., caught a WHHSH Violation during this week's episode of NPR's "Wait, Wait, Don't Tell Me," a news-comedy quiz show that we love especially when Paula Poundstone is on.

One of the folks on the show, responding to a set up about why Mitt Romney wouldn't comment on what he did recently with Orrin Hatch, answered: "What Happens in Disneyland, Stays in Disneyland." What Brian didn't know was that someone on the show the week before also made a WHHSH punchline, but I can't remember anymore what it was.

Meanwhile, another listener/reader, Gregory Zephyr of San Francisco, deliberately tweaked me this week on his weekly podcast, "AnythingSF." He titled the show "What Happens in Frisco Stays in Frisco," gently mocked my "tear" against the use of this phrase, and then deliberately sprinkled bad usages of the WHHSH motif throughout his show, which centers on news and tourist activities in the Bay Area. If I didn't know better, I'd think he did this on purpose to get me to write the preceding paragraph.

On a different front, twice this morning I received email from PR people who suggested we "circle back" in a few days on something. Ick. I know what it means, but it's such a stupid phrase. Like "outside the box," which might have been, uh, outside the box of cliches once upon a time, but no longer.

Any others that stick in your craw? You know, like "stick in your craw"?

Monday, April 9, 2007

A long day

A very busy Monday that started at 7 am with an editor from the Christian Science Monitor needing me at said ungodly hour to look over the final version of my piece on the Grand Canyon Skywalk. Then I caught wind that national adoption advocates are protesting the animated flick "Meet The Robinsons" and I convinced one of my editors at a major newspaper to let me do a piece on that that's now due by noon Tuesday.

So...that meant making an unscheduled battery of phone calls on that before updating my Las Vegas entries on USA Today's Vegas travel microsite, a once-a-month gig I have, and then running all over town taking a few more pictures for my forthcoming gay guidebook of Vegas. Then it was off to my publisher's office by 3:30 pm to go over the 100+ images I've collected or shot in the past week for the book before catching the 4:40 pm showing of "Meet The Robinsons" at Neonopolis and then racing to Applebee's (Las Vegas' Best Meal For Under $10, according to the LVRJ Readers Poll even though there's nothing on the menu so cheap) for dinner with Miles and "The Strip" podcast engineer Mark. Mark, the ass, is deserting us for a couple months to Bloomington, Ill., for a new job that requires him to move there for a little while.

Got home, edited and posted the latest ep of "The Petcast" in which we explain the pet food recall saga and watched the brilliant new FX show "The Riches." Oh! And I read the paper, though the only thing worth noting there is that the Las Vegas Sun had a piece on a program that puts homing devices on alcoholics and reporter Abigail Goldman wrote this brilliant sentence you'll never read in the news columns of a conventional daily newspaper: "Fry practically pickled himself last summer."

All in a day's work. Will have more time tomorrow to blog. All I have to do is write that "Robinsons" story and then start on a project that requires me to write profiles of all eight architects involved with Project City Center.

Sunday, April 8, 2007

Breaking: Trump adding second Vegas tower

Just got word that on tonight's episode of NBC's "The Apprentice," The Donald announces he's building a second, twin tower, northeast of the existing 64-story golden glass tower that is almost completed and is sold out. The first tower of the Trump International Hotel & Tower Las Vegas sold out in three weeks.

It's already on the TrumpLV.Com website, complete with a rendering of the two towers together. Units will start in the mid-$600,000s.

Too bad about the gold-glass thing. It looks so garish.

Oh yeah, and we're in the newspaper, too!

Norm! of the Review-Journal today found it of interest that Nicholas Pileggi, author of "Casino," told us on "The Strip" podcast that his next book will be about former Vegas sheriff Ralph Lamb. The entire chat was really terrific, and you can hear that by clicking here. You can also right-click here to download the show and hear it whenever you want or you can subscribe to get all the shows on iTunes.

Good readin's

It's a quiet Easter Sunday around here -- chewing on matzah for breakfast until this infernal Passover thing ends tomorrow night and my bowels can forgive me -- and I've just torn through the paper and some magazines. Of interest:

* In time for Easter, Sonya Padgett of the Review-Journal wrote a really terrific piece about the origins of my favorite candy, the vaunted jelly bean. There is no Vegas angle here despite this being the lead story in the Living section of the local newspaper, but she did offer up a number of details I didn't know, including that Turkish delight is NOT just something C.S. Lewis invented for Narnia, that Jelly Belly invented the blueberry bean so Ronald Reagan could eat red, white and blue jelly beans and that it takes a week to make a jelly bean. Missing fun fact: At the Jelly Belly factory in California, they sell the mistakes. They call them -- and I've always loved this -- Belly Flops.

* Great piece by Liz Bentson of the Las Vegas Sun on Sam Nazarian, the young Hollywood mogul who bought and now wants to sex up the decrepit Sahara.

* Space tourist Charles Simonyi has lifted off from Kazakhstan with Martha Stewart waving buh-bye. She designed his space menu, which includes roast quail, duck breast with capers and rice pudding. No word whether she's tried to make those space diapers any more fashionable. Simonyi, of course, is doing a blog and so far his burnt-almond-cookie moment has been revealing that cosmonauts urinate on the tire of the bus transporting them to the launch pad before lift-off. Maybe Borat wasn't entirely wrong about the Kazakhs.

* There's a questionable claim in the lead of a piece by Arnold M. Knightly of the R-J on the prospects of smokefree casinos in Las Vegas. He claims gaming companies would rather not discuss the prospect of Nevada casinos being forced to go nonsmoking. And yet MGM Mirage spokesman Alan Feldman and Harrah's spokesman Alberto Lopez have both told me bluntly that they expect Vegas casinos to be smoke-free within a decade, if not sooner, given the popular and electoral pressure. Otherwise, a pretty solid piece that reveals much that I didn't know, including that Harrah's has a smokefree casino now, Bill's Lake Tahoe, and that a poll shows that it's a lie that most gamblers smoke. It's more like about 20 percent.

* Newsweek this past week has a heartbreaking chat with Elizabeth Edwards in which she says she doesn't expect to live to see her son graduate from high school. It's written by Jonathan Alter, who also does an excellent job relating his own cancer experience in the cover story.