Saturday, June 9, 2007

The. Best. Newspaper. Correction. Ever.

Wow. How often does a newspaper have to apologize for misspelling its own longtime editor's name? Especially when that same deceased editor was one of the state's most beloved war heroes and governors?

Here's the best correction I've ever seen in a daily newspaper, from the Las Vegas Sun today, June 2. It sits prominently in the top left corner of page 2. See how they grovel:


The Sun on Friday managed to misspell the name of Mike O'Callaghan, leaving out the "g." Mike served two terms as governor of Nevada and then was executive editor of this newspaper from 1979 until his death in 2004. Since his name has appeared in print, correctly spelled, many thousands of times and appears every day on the masthead of the Sun (next to the name of the Sun's founder, Hank Greenspun), it is hard to fathom how this typo got through. Yet, astoundingly, get through it did, proving once again our human fallibility, a fact the Sun is definitely not setting out to prove. We certainly regret having made this particular error.


I have just confirmed by what TMZ.Com would call "unimpeachable sources" (see their first Paris-gets-out-of-jail report) that the New Frontier Hotel-Casino will cease operations on July 15 and be imploded sometime in September.

I'm sure Steve Wynn -- who told me on this "The Strip" podcast that the Frontier is "the single biggest toilet in Las Vegas" and being across the street from it is "like being punished" -- will be delighted. The property was recently sold to the Elah Investment Group, for $1.2 billion. It is expected to become the future sight of a $5 billion Vegas version of NY's famed Plaza Hotel by 2011.

The New Frontier is the longest-operating Strip property, having opened in 1942 as the Pair O Dice nightclub.

Let the eulogies begin. Not sure how I'm going to persuade my editors in the national media who just got through with all the Stardust stuff. And there was a lot more love for the Stardust than the Frontier, known largely these days for that interminable labor strike.

Friday, June 8, 2007

So. Very. Queer.

As I've mentioned before, I get a lot of oddball email from publicists. Today's just really hit my funnybone. They're hoping, I guess, that I'll try this product and want to write about it. It doesn't quite work that way, but anyhow...

The email read:

Joey Lawrence proves makeup is not just for women. While on Broadway starring in the musical Chicago, and for his upcoming 30 city Dancing With The Stars tour, Joey specifically requests Mary Kay products. His favorites are Mary Kay's TimeWise skin care line, Acne Treatment Gel, and Sunless Tanner for his self-declared "sensitive skin."

"Just because I am a guy doesn't mean that my skin isn't important! My wife got me hooked on Mary Kay's TimeWise line of skin care and I noticed a difference in about 3 to 4 weeks. My skin looked tighter, and my complexion more even. Also, with all of the traveling that I have been doing recently my skin has been experiencing minor breakouts. I tried the Mary Kay Acne Treatment Gel and it is great. It is really hard to find a skin regimen that is quick, easy to use and that actually works... and I have finally found one that works for me. Mary Kay provides a skin care line that gives you results and is not harsh to sensitive skin types."

That shot above is him from rehearsals for "Dancing With The Stars" with, I guess, said "glow." To your left is him in his "Blossom" glory days.

Poor Joey.

HouseseatsLV.Com FLIPS OUT!

This is just bizarre.

Yesterday I posted a blog entry about the fact that "The Beauty of Magic" is showing very early signs of trouble: They're giving away free seats through a group called Houseseatslv.Com. This is a subscription service where people pay a flat annual fee and then when free seats become available, usually on short notice, they must answer an email or log onto the site and sign up. I'd plugged this thing on my podcast in the past and it seems like a neat deal.

And apparently it has the Houseseatslv.Com folks FLIPPING OUT. They sent their members this "IMPORTANT" email:

"We are committed to bringing you fantastic entertainment, and know you are committed to enjoying it. However, we need to talk to you for a moment about a very serious issue, indiscretion. As stated in the house rules, you are not to disclose how you receive tickets or what we have available to anyone outside of the house seats family. Doing so is a strict violation of membership rules and could result in a suspension or revocation of your membership. We urge all of you to log on to the site and review the rules of membership. Not adhering to these rules could cost everyone the wonderful entertainment opportunities we have been able to offer thus far. Your cooperation is appreciated."

Of course, I was curious: WTF? What's with all the secrets? And how practical is it, anyway, to believe that people aren't going to pass along the information to their friends or talk about it at the water cooler? How suspect is this if a member's talking about what they did the night before could foil the whole enterprise?

So I went to read the "House Rules." Take a look for yourself. The whole operation suddenly started feeling really weird to me. Basically, it's two well-connected public relations folks who profit off of the fact that many shows need people for their audiences so that other audience members don't feel lonely. They get their tickets free and distribute them, using the money in part to host the site and organize the activities, and they donate 10 percent of the proceeds to various charities. It's a pretty good deal and people's connections are earned, so I'm not sure I quarrel that much with this arrangement.

There's something vaguely referred to as "special shopping services," too, but God knows what that means. Most of the rules are sensible, but some are impractical, odd or contradictory. Here are some, in their original syntax:

* you must be discreet when picking up tickets at the box office; we do not want to hinder their ability to sell full price tickets.
* house seats reserves the right to refuse service to anyone who is unpleasant, discourteous, or creates a problem of any kind at the theater or directly with house seats.
* listings are confidential information for members only. anyone found disclosing information in a public setting or chat room will have their membership instantly revoked.
* house seats reserves the right to review applicants before processing them for membership.

So don't contact the box office when you pick up your tickets at the box office? Oh dear, I am so not going to be approved for membership!

My source was confused as to what's up with all these rules. I think I know. These shows are trying to pretend for the public and the media that they're in demand. But they're not. So they give away seats and it looks like they can draw a crowd. If you tell everyone about it, however, you end up with &#@&$ journalists and bloggers like yours truly pointing to the deception as a sign of weakness. It's another reason why the tickets available at the discount ticket counters on the Strip aren't listed online; that would make it too easy for reporters to know what's doing badly. How many journalists would actually go down and see for themselves on a busy Saturday afternoon that "Spamalot" tix are available on the cheap? Oh, wait. I did that. OK, one.

Unlike in New York City, touring companies, concert venues or the movies, Las Vegas properties don't report their box office grosses to anyone. There's no way to know how they're doing. It is argued that they're private businesses, so they don't have to. But the same could be said for the aforementioned entities that do report, so I don't know why we don't get that sort of information. Perhaps it's so that the casinos and show producers can drum up illegitimate "Best Of Las Vegas" claims (by, say, putting out their own little circular with some phony writer crowning their show such) and slap them on their advertising.

That brings us back to why any of this matters. There's no official way for Vegas journalists to have any reliable gauge on the success or failure of any show, so we're reduced to relying on rumors, show-time changes or, say, the discovery that a heavily hyped train wreck of a magic show with Pamela Anderson that has only four shows a week to sell must give tickets away to fill the room.

And make no mistake, this show is a mess. It's receiving the worst word-of-mouth since "Le Reve," panned so far on our podcast this week -- it's in the first 10 mins of the show if you want to hear -- and by Mike Weatherford in the Review-Journal today. I'm grateful I didn't include it in my guidebook, which is being printed as I type, since I doubt it'll be around by the end of the year. It's that awful.

Oh, and by the way. There's another free-ticket outlet out there that's actually free and doesn't play all these cloak-and-dagger games. It's called VegasSeatFillers.Com. The shows aren't as high-profile, I gather, but I imagine that would change if more people used the service.

Thursday, June 7, 2007

NY Post: LV Copies of NYC Eateries Suck. Sorta.

New York Post columnist Steve Cuozzo concludes that many of the Vegas versions of vaunted NYC eateries are pale facsimilies. His central conclusion:

"For the past few years, puff pieces about the Vegas dining revolution have clogged the pages of food and travel magazines that are, coincidentally, even more clogged with Vegas advertising. ... But unless the name is McDonald's, restaurants aren't portable. Even if the food is the same at distant locations - a dubious proposition - the atmosphere isn't close, and neither is the dining experience."

Along the way he mocks the decor of the Vegas version of 111-year-old Rao's (at Caesars Palace to your left, NYC to your right), as I have gotten great heat for as well, questions whether Fiamma (MGM Grand), Tao (Venetian), Il Mulino (Caesars) and Le Cirque (Bellagio) measure up to their Manhattan forebears, both culinarily (is that a word?) and experientially. He praises Daniel Boulud Bistro at Wynn, Restaurant RM and Mandalay Bay, both worthy exceptions to his thesis.

So here's the thing: He's sort of right. And not exactly right. If you've been to the original in New York, you have a preconceived notion of what you'll find and you can put not just the food on trial but also NY versus Vegas sensibilities. That cuts both ways.

I'm a big fan of Charlie Palmer's Aureole at Mandalay Bay, for instance. It's a terrific dining experience and brilliantly Las Vegas. We ate at the New York version last time we were in town and found it to be, well, stodgy. The food was good, but the "experience" was Old School. NYC devotees may never have seen a Vegas wine angel ascend a glass tower (right) on a winch and pulley to fetch a patron's vino -- and never wish to. Rao's was the same way. The only people who will even know how cheesy and false the decor is there are those of us who have had the privilege of experiencing the utterly charming original. The food's lovely at both, but that's not the only criterion for judgment.

Cuozzo kind of acknowledges just this at the end of the piece when he notes that one of the reasons Daniel Boulud Bistro triumphs is because of the Lake of Dreams show at Wynn that goes off every so often.

"I was halfway through a plate of pungent artisanal cheese when a giant, full-voiced frog popped out of a rainbow-lit waterfall and channeled Louis Armstrong's "Wonderful World." Try ordering that on East 65th Street!"

Well put.

Signs of Woe for "The Beauty of Magic"

The summer's most hyped new Vegas show, the Hans Klok-Pam Anderson production "The Beauty of Magic" at Planet Ho, is showing signs of struggle -- already.

Yesterday, subscribers to a service called HouseseatsLV.Com were offered free tickets. Subscribers pay a flat $169 a year and can have up to four tickets to any shows they come into passes for. It's actually a terrific deal and has been featured on "The Strip" as a Top Secret Tourist Tip of the Week.

Now, we thought it was startling when "Spamalot" was available at discount brokers on Fight Weekend and for free to folks at First Friday in May. But "The Beauty of Magic" has been only been open for ONE weekend. And, unlike any major show in recent memory, its schedule is just a measly four performances - one Thurs, two Fri and one Sat -- a week.

I inquired and was told this is not unusual for a show just getting up and running without previews. Not buying that. This show has, for a split-second anyway, Pamela Anderson.

Word of mouth isn't kind thus far. Mike Weatherford in the R-J hasn't put out his full review, but he did write in his column today:

"Say what you will about the Hans Klok magic show at Planet Hollywood, but it was a classy gesture to invite most of the other lcoal magicians to the big opening-night bash last weekend. Since Klok wheeled out illusions already seen up and down the Strip, it was only fair to invite his predecessors to the party."


Tuesday, June 5, 2007

"The Strip" is LIVE tonight 7-8 pm PT with...

...Margaret Cho and Chaka Khan! Yes! A two-fer. Join us at LVROCKS.COM at 7 pm PT! Click on "CAM & CHAT" and join the conversation! Or wait until Thursday to hear the podcast. See ya one way or the other!

A Very Vegas Bar Mitzvah

Norm had a fantastic piece today about something really, really terrifying that is fated to become the next reality series, "My Super Bar Mitzvah."

Get this: Some Vegas JAP's parents rented out the entire Fashion Show Mall last Saturday night. They hired actors to pretend that they're paparazzi as the 100 tween guests entered on a purple (?) carpet. The guest of honor, Erica Jill Fieldman (that's her above), got to direct a fashion show with professional models, family and friends walking the mall runway. There were confetti cannons, more than 300 guests total and "prominent designers." The child got to direct the fashion show, playing "the bitch fashion designer."

Read all about it here and note the most pathetic part of all: It was Erica Jill's mommy, Amy Fieldman, who apparently told all to Norm, including being proud of her "bitch" daughter. She brags about this outlandish indulgence! Her daughter now knows that over-the-top conspicuous consumption to the tune of $500,000 is A-OK in a world of such poverty and loss, surely a lesson her rabbi would be proud of. Heck, throw a nice party for $50,000 and take the kid to Kansas to have her see what $450,000 can do to put back together the shattered lives of those folks flattened by thoe tornadoes this spring.

Full disclosure: My own Bar Mitzvah back in 1985 was a black-tie, lavish affair at a Long Island country club that featured a crew of actors dressed in bizarre costumes to dance with the 200 guests (only about 15 of whom were my friends) and lead me through a weird dance number for the crowd. that's me to your right. Like the Fieldmans, my folks were caught up in this uniquely Jewish race to throw the best BM party among their peers.

That doesn't make it right. What it does is raise spoiled brats with an outsized sense of entitlement and no concept of charity. It took me years to discover that there were poor and disadvantaged people in the world and that I can help if I live less extravagantly.

I'm off this weekend to my niece's Bat Mitzvah in the Philly suburbs. I can assure you it will be a pleasant but unspectacular affair, except that it will be spectacular because we'll all be proud of my niece.

Monday, June 4, 2007

Paula Poundstone's Pet Parade!

Comic Paula Poundstone has "11 cats, a big stupid dog, two tadpoles, a bearded dragon lizard, and a bunny." The "Wait Wait Don't Tell Me" regular panelist joined "The Petcast" to talk about her brood and to explain the difference between being a cat enthusiast and being "the cat lady."

She's really sweet and we had a terrific pet-oriented chat. Listen by clicking here or right-click here to download the show and hear it whenever you want.

Also, subscribe to the show at iTunes by going here.

More WHHSH Shame

The Las Vegas Review-Journal isn't supposed to do this. They're supposed to know better.

Headline on the front of the June 2 newspaper:


So here's the thing. Not only is it a lousy, cliched headline that could probably apply to anything that's on the Internet about Las Vegas (or any other place, frankly), but it's hardly even germane to the story, which once you read it you'll agree was taken in a very weird direction anyway. The writer, the normally excellent transportation columnist Omar Sofradzija, did a piece on the fact that Google now offers a street-level photo tour of much of the Las Vegas Strip, one of five cities they've used to roll out their Street View thing.

Omar's sin here was approaching the story as though it had anything at all to do with privacy. The Google folks took snapshots of public places at some point in time. Omar aptly notes some of these shots must be at least eight months old because they show the still-standing Stardust marquee. Even though it's not like they've got cameras trained on the public spaces of Vegas on an ongoing basis, the story's premise is largely (hence the ill-advised headline) an examination of whether with the site is a violation of people's expectations of privacy to put these pictures online. Further down, it's noted as well that license plates and must faces are largely blurry and unreadable anyhow. One way you know you don't have such a story is when you can't even get the ACLU excited about it. Their lawyer is quoted saying it's fine by them.

So we have a technology story that the always paranoid R-J opted to approach as an Oh-my-God-Big-Brother-is-watching-and-here's-more-proof! screed. And we have a ridiculous, hack-written headline that, I suppose, plays up that notion.

And while I'm at it, I love Norm. I really really do. You all know that. But I'd be remiss if I didn't point out the gossip scribe's WHHSH violation as well. He always uses an amusing quote he calls "The Punch Line" at the end of his columns, but on Sunday this is what he put:

"Whatever happens in Vegas stays in Vegas." -- Chicago Cubs pitcher Carlos Zambrano, after his scuffles with teammate Michael Barrett on Friday at Wrigley Field.

As with the Google headline, I have no idea what this has to do with anything!

Sunday, June 3, 2007

Here. We. Go. Again.

Last night at "The Beauty of Magic" premiere at Planet Ho, I once again inquired about a hearing-assistive device. As usual, the ticket-taker had no idea what I was talking about. Some sort of supervisor was brought over who, of course, informed me that it's "really very loud" in there.

You'll recall I've vented about this before. Usually, the predictability of that response makes me laugh. This time, I snapped.

"You're really going to stand there and tell a hearing-impaired person what's loud?" I snarled.

He apologized and then went somewhere mysterious to get a headset for me. He took my driver's license as collateral, which is customary. When I asked him how someone would know these things were available, he told me that you would normally ask for it at the box office. (At such special events, they hand out tickets at tables set up near the theater entrance, so we bypass the box office.) I went to look later and there's no signage at the box office informing people of the availability of these devices.

Not surprisingly, the headset didn't work. I really didn't need it because there wasn't much talking save for some painfully unwitty repartee between Hans Klok and momentary co-star Pamela Anderson that I kind of wish I couldn't hear.

Really, I asked to test the system. And to see if they worked.

But it gets better! When the show was over, I went as instructed to the mysterious door in the theater lobby where I was told to knock and turn in the worthless device in order to get my license back. Nobody answered. So I asked a worker in the lobby, who radioed someone. About 10 minutes later, I was approached by a man who told me that my license was in the Planet Ho Lost-and-Found at the security desk across the casino.

I went. And I had to sign a book to pick up my license. And, just for kicks since I knew he'd have no idea what I was talking about, I asked the guard at the L&F desk what I ought to do with the hearing device. He shrugged.

I walked back to the theater and handed it to the first employee I could find. She was puzzled, of course. I couldn't care less.

This is absurd. Every theater in New York and most every cinema in America has these devices. The law requires there be clear signs noting their availability. And common sense ought to tell these Vegas theaters that they ought to explain the devices and the clients who use them to their employees (sensitivity training?) and arrange a system for lending them out and taking them back after the show.

My license somehow ended up in the Lost and Found. I'm sort of impressed, frankly, that someone involved with the theater even knew that that's where it was. Imagine the nightmare if that wasn't the case.


Annie Duke Backs Me Up!

Annie Duke is the most successful female poker player ever and, it turns out, a fascinating interview. I spoke to her for more than an hour yesterday a variety of venues including Vegas Magazine, the Boston Globe and "The Strip" podcast. The chat will go up on the show near the end of June.

But given the grief I got for the post in which I wondered why people watch live poker (they're known as "railbirds"), I wanted to blog this.

FRIESS: I have to ask. I understand why people poker on TV because you can see the hole cards and all of that. But the railbirds, the people who watch live poker…

DUKE: That confuses me. It baffles me. I can’t do it. Erik Seidel a couple of years ago won a bracelet at the World Series and I was in the audience to support him. And it was excruciating. You can’t see any of the hole cards! What makes poker really fascinating is that you know what your hole cards are and you’re trying to figure out what the other people’s hole cards are. So you have some of the information. It’s decision-making under relatively extreme circumstances of uncertainty. When you’re watching, you have zero information. You can’t figure out anything out.

For the record, I've now asked this question of Chris Moneymaker, Joe Hachem, Jamie Gold and Duke. And they all professed similar curiosity. (Hear "The Strip" episodes with each of those WSOP champs by clicking on their names or right-click to save the file to your computer.)

Anyone out there who does this want to explain it to me? Really. What are you watching?!?