Saturday, September 1, 2007

Vegas Hearts The Gays!

I am in San Diego for the annual convention of the National Lesbian and Gay Journalists Association. I hadn't planned to come this year but on Thursday afternoon I was informed I was receiving a very important honor from the organization to which I have devoted 15 years of volunteerism. So I popped in my car and drove down on Thurs night and this photo is me getting the Distinguished Service Award at lunch on Friday at which, in my brief remarks, I invoked a little Larry Craig humor and told the audience, "I am gay, I always have been gay..." Har Har.

Anyhow, if there were ever a question of how much Las Vegas casinos lust after the queer dollar, allow me to show you. Harrah's, MGM Mirage, the Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority and newcomer to the party Boyd Gaming all had booths in a row at the center of the expo hall. Harrah's hosted a reception Friday evening at which they announced they recently became the first gaming company to receive a 100 percent score from the gay-rights lobby Human Rights Campaign. It's hard to imagine old Bugsy, the original owner of the Flamingo, wishing to brag about such a thing.

I particularly liked the LVCVA's booth, with was staffed by a Vegas showboy and showgirl with whom folks could take pictures on a Polaroid camera that printed the pictures on Polaroid sheets framed by the Only-Vegas logos. I'll scan in mine to show when I get home. But I also thought the very idea that "Zumanity" has condoms printed up was intriguing. Somehow I doubt that the Vegas memorabilia collectors had that in mind when they started hoarding swizzle sticks and place mats. I wonder where else they distribute them!

Finally, this is my favorite -- and believe it or not unposed -- photo: The Vegas "couple" reading a very interesting new book that every one of you ought to buy!

Friday, August 31, 2007

This week's LasVegasWeekly.Com column

Reprinted from LasVegasWeekly.Com

In Vegas, let the N-word fly

When it first happened, we were sure the remarks would prompt angry protests, demands for discipline, outrage and shock and righteous indignation. Instead, bafflingly, they prompted nothing of the sort.

The Amazing Johnathan is an edgy comic magician over at the Sahara who will be moving shortly to the Riviera. He’s been around Las Vegas forever, packs a good, consistent crowd and makes regular appearances on Comedy Central. And on Aug. 9, he came on our weekly celebrity-interview podcast “The Strip” and let loose the n-word five times and the c-word twice.

Our listeners around the world were certainly stunned. They wrote in droves debating whether what was stated was offensive, what he meant, whether his use of the word “honky” was equally alarming, whether we should have bleeped out the words or not.

African-American activists, however, took a startling pass. Las Vegas Review-Journal’s Norm Clarke said he didn’t even get the courtesy of returned calls or emails from leaders of the National Association of Black Journalists, which led the charge to have Don Imus fired earlier this year and who were coincidentally meeting in Vegas the day he lead his column with Johnathan’s remarks. Some of our black listeners told us they wrote to the NAACP, the NABJ and other civil rights groups but similarly heard no answers.

What did Johnathan say? You can see a longer transcript of this sequence by clicking here or listen to a clip of the remarks here. But to summarize, in a rant over the ill effects of political correctness in comedy, Johnathan responded to my question of what should’ve happened in the Michael Richards case thusly:

“What I think should've happened is, well, the manager should've thrown the black people out. That's what I think should've happened. If they were heckling him during the show, they were wrong. And anything you do, if you're heckling a comic and interrupting a show, you're a n***** at that point, you know what I mean, in my eyes. You're not an audience member, you're not a friend, you are the worst possible scenario. You're disrupting my job, so you're a n*****. I wouldn't yell that word out and tell them that, I would have handled it a little bit more differently. If I did use that word, it would've been funny. I mean, I've called women in the audience c***s and I've gotten away with it because they were c***s but I did it right. There is a way to do it right.”

Since that prompted no reaction from African-American forces, we’ve been pondering why. Is it that Johnathan's not a big enough star for their bother? That would be an odd way to decide what to be offended by -- and give an awful lot of license to an awful lot of people to use the word willy-nilly. And it’s also not true: Johnathan is arguable a bigger star than Richards, who had one claim to fame and wasn’t even selling out the Laugh Factory when he was heckled into insanity.

Perhaps the NAACP, having "buried" the n-word recently, is over it? (I posit that facetiously, actually.) Or maybe it’s that there's no video, a la the Richards or Imus things? That could be, but the odd thing here is that Richards used the words in anger in a momentary loss of control and Imus was attempting, however badly, to be funny. Johnathan essentially defined what he believes a "n*****" to be in a way that offers real insight into his thought process.

No, I don’t buy any of that. What this silence reflects is how the liberal elite view Las Vegas. They’d rather react to things that emerge in the coastal media -- Hollywood, D.C. or New York -- even though Vegas is where real Americans come for an awful lot of their entertainment.

In Vegas, we can only conclude, performers are free to say or do whatever they wish because the city and its entertainment offerings are already believed to be crass, low-brow and inconsequential. I can’t decide if that’s a victory for free speech or a defeat for good taste.

Thursday, August 30, 2007

Really Cool Picture!

It's a slowish day around here -- no chlorine tankers running amok through the streets of Sin city to speak of like yesterday -- so I thought I'd share this really fun photo. I'm not going to let on where it is because that will be a question I'll ask on "The Strip" podcast in a couple of weeks, but I shot it and I loved it and wanted to share.

So that you folks don't spoil it, I'm not allowing comments for this post.

The current trivia question is: What groundbreaking actress was once married to the owner of the classic Vegas mob hangout Italian restaurant Piero's?

The Gospel According to Jerry Lewis

OK - JERRY LEWIS show is online and will hit the RSS feed later today. You can hear it now by clicking here or right-click here to download it and listen to it at your leisure. Also, enjoy the YouTube clip of Lewis in "At War With The Army," the audio of which was used on this week's program.

Among the tidbits of news out the interview:

* Jerry thinks Vegas is going to hell.
* Jerry asserts that Princess Diana might have been a guest on his Labor Day Telethon the weekend she died had she not, uh, died.
* Jerry has another book coming out in December tentatively titled, "All The Things I Didn't Get To Say In The Other Book." No telling the publisher. He says he's writing it himself.
* Jerry hearts Jim Carrey, Celine Dion and Robin "The Big Mammu" Williams

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Major WHHSH Shame for the AP's Larry McShane

I've been off this soapbox for a while because it was getting redundant and a bit too easy to point out terrible abuses of the already-overused What Happens Here Stays Here -- known here as WHHSH -- tourism slogan.

But my friend Shaun in Phoenix pointed this one out and it simply cannot be left unnoticed. It's too terrible.

Larry McShane is a TV writer for the Associated Press. He clearly was desperate for a way to end his glowing review of a new Sundance Channel series starting Sept. 10 called "Sin City Law," which goes over a four particularly gruesome crimes that happened in Clark County in recent years in two hour-long dissections each. McShane's dazzled by the storytelling, the camera work, the interviews. Fine. I'm not convinced we're going to be as enchanted, but it bears giving a chance if only because the filmmakers have won Peabodys and Oscars.

It's McShane's pathetic ending that just killed Shaun and then, of course, me.

"And it's compelling television, here only through Oct. 1. Be glad that, thanks to "Sin City Law," what happens in Clark County no longer stays in Clark County."


Tuesday, August 28, 2007

The Strip is LIVE tonight with Jerry Lewis!

Join us live from 7-8 pm PT at LVROCKS.COM as we celebrate our 2nd anniversary by airing the much-ballyhooed chat with legend Jerry Lewis. We'll also be joined live by the Review-Journal's Norm Clarke to answer last week's Trivia Question, discuss the news of the day and much more. And, if you're lucky, I'll have finished a montage of bloopers and other outtakes!

Of course, if you miss the live show, the episode will post on Tuesday, Aug. 30.

See ya!

Monday, August 27, 2007

Is there a worse idea?

Harrah's and AEG want to put a major sports stadium behind Bally's and Paris. I'll expound on this more on "The Strip" this week and in my Las Vegas Weekly column, but just curious if I'm alone on this one. Notwithstanding the question of whether Vegas wants/needs/should have a major league sports franchise or two, what sort of crack are they on that they think putting a massive center like that in that location is a good idea? And what sort of acquiescent fool legislators would allow it? What, the traffic's not bad enough already?

Am I crazy? Am I missing something?

Congrats to Jeff Leatherock!

Loyal listener Jeff Leatherock of Oklahoma City married his longtime girlfriend Lisa on Thursday. Since they knew nobody else in Vegas, Jeff asked me if I wanted to attend in the garden at the Flamingo Las Vegas. I was honored, it was lovely and here are a couple of pictures.

Sunday, August 26, 2007

Friday At The Tank With Jamie

I'm working on a travel piece on animal attractions in Vegas and so I had to go to the Golden Nugget to try out The Tank, the $35 million pool with a 200,000-gallon shark-filled saltwater aquarium plopped in the middle of it (see the tube above Jamie's head to the right). This being Vegas, there's also a slide that hurtles you through the center of the aquarium. As usual, I dragged along Jamie, my almost-17-year-old Little Brother. (That's him above to the left. I'm the one to the right looking momentarily a lot younger than my almost-35 years.)

The slide is terrific, although the lines are probably quite long on the weekends, and the scenery is certainly a huge step up from the old Golden Nugget pool area that was actually shuttered for part of the year and turned into a makeshift poker room.

Good news is that, while the pool is intended for hotel guests, by law they must admit you if you say you're going to gamble at one of the three poolside tables. Don't know if that means you can bring along your kids, though. Also, local Nevadans are permitted in for free with a Nevada ID after 6 pm.