Friday, October 19, 2007

David Copperfield's "Museum"

I've been working the David Copperfield story today, albeit with little success as there's very little available information beyond the fact that the Vegas FBI raided the magician's warehouse here on behalf of the Seattle FBI. The rest of the information out there -- that it has to do with a sex incident in the Bahamas and that the FBI left the warehouse with a large sum of money -- is all reported by the local TV and paper using unnamed sources.

That said, the warehouse is kind of in=teresting because on "The Strip" in December 2005, Copperfield declined to identify even where it is located. And here's the exchange about it that we had at the time:

Copperfield: I have a museum here, it's not for the public. It's a secret museum. It’s got all kinds of really cool stuff. That's become the place where all my stuff goes.

Friess: What's the purpose of having a secret museum?

Copperfield: Well, I'm a magician, so I do magic stuff and the museum and all of the stuff I have are dealing with secrets. If it were a public museum, it wouldn't be good for my fellow magicians.

Friess: It is funny because I did find it on your website, there was a lot of discussion of all the different items that you collected. Is there a point where it will be public? What will you do with all these things. And where are they? I was looking on the site to find out where this museum was and I really couldn't find out.

Copperfield: Exactly.

Friess: Because it's not there.

: No, I don't keep this to myself. Scholars get to use it. People who are writing books on magic use it for research. And for the public, I've done lots of displays. The people from the Smithsonian design displays and take it out on the road. ... They take them to Washington D.C. or New York City or to L.A. to the Kodak Theater where they do the Oscars. I tihnk it's important to let the people experience it and that's what I'm doing.

Friess: It's called the International Museum and Library of Conjuring Arts. Interesting way of putting it. Conjuring arts. It has a sort of Harry Potter ring to it.

Copperfield: There you go. It didn't 5 years ago.

You can hear the entire discussion here or right-click here to download it and hear it whenever you wish.

Thursday, October 18, 2007

The Strip and The Petcast

Good news: This week's "The Strip" is now available, loaded with breaking news and other fun chatter as well as an interview with an original "O" cast member. Hear it here or right-click here to download it and listen to it whenever you want! Also, the show went a bit long so we've put out the interview with an original "Mystere" cast member as a separate bonus edition. Hear that here or right-click here to download it.

Bad news: We're not doing a live recording of "The Petcast" this weekend. We'll get to that on Oct. 27 from 10-noon PT at LVRocks.Com. We'll remind you when the time comes.

Breaking: American Idol, The Las Vegas Spectacular?

I've now heard from high-ranking officials of more than one casino conglomerate that go-betweens for the producers of American Idol are hard at work trying to marry the reality megahit brand to Vegas in some sort of as-yet-undefined show concept. It's really fluid what it would be -- some sort of talent show involving the audience? a concert featuring ex-AIers? -- but as the city tries to look beyond big-name headliners, Cirque-type spectacles and Broadway, this is one thought that holds some real appeal and pre-sold marketing clout.

Whatcha think of them apples?

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Confirmed: Beauty of Magic Gone 12/8

It's confirmed! "The Beauty of Magic," the biggest mistake on "The Strip" in many years, closes on Dec. 8 when Pamela Anderson is through.

I had noticed they weren't selling tickets beyond Dec. 8, so I asked Brad Seidel, the publicist for the show. And he wrote back: "Yes, the show will conclude its exclusive Las Vegas run at that time as planned."

Hmm. Hans Klok told anybody who listened he expected Siegfried & Roy-like run of many years, not six months. I'm certain I saw him say that on the "Today" show.

Oddly, I found this weird Sept. 24 interview on a site called PR.Com, which is clearly some sort of paid publicity thing masquerading as journalism. He confirms the Dec. 8 end there, sort of, but there's also this exchange: Do you want to stay in Las Vegas indefinitely, for years?
Hans Klok: I would love to.

Hmm. Bummer, that.

Why do I carry such vitriol for this particular show? I think it's because I despise being lied to. You know, like when this questioner states, "You guys were still selling out even in the summer...." I highly doubt this show ever sold out one single time.

Or this most cynical of exchanges: How come you and Pam are insinuating that you’re dating when you do press? Is it an ongoing gag between the two of you?

Hans Klok: Yeah, it’s more a funny thing, because when that happens it’s always during a TV show when the host is always making Pamela Anderson jokes. It’s just a routine. We have a very good chemistry and that’s it. We’re good friends and I’m not going to make it more then what it is. So you’re just playing on the joke basically…

Hans Klok: Yeah, we’re playing on the joke, but I think we played so much on the joke that everybody [believes it]. There are articles everywhere saying, “Are they dating?”

Hans Klok: We’re not, but it’s fun. We have a great time. It’s just a big joke. I know. You have to have fun with the media.

Hans Klok: Right! Well, they’re picking it up and it’s good for us. And I don’t have any tattoos…

Huh? "Have fun"? You mean LIE because you think it's a clever way to drum up publicity? And get caught when Pam ends up having one of her whirlwind romances and it's NOT WITH YOU?

Bye, Hans. If you ever come back, please bring some tricks of your own.

The Strip is LIVE at 7 pm PT

Join us as usual -- OK, this time on a Wednesday -- for the live show starting at about 7:05 pm (assuming I brings the script this time...). We'll celebrate the 9th birthday of "O" with a chat with an "O" and a "Mystere" performer, plus talk about the week's Vegas news and much more.

Come on down to LVROCKS.COM tonight! Or be that way and grab the podcast, which will be available late Thursday.

Twas A Very Merry Friessmas!

Since a few of you asked, I'm not sure when I started referring to my birthday as "Friessmas," although I think it was back in grammar school when I fantasized that someday my birthday would be a holiday. Yes, even then I thought an awful lot of myself or, at least, my future self. Silly, I know, but when you're as an unpopular and weird a little turd as I was back then, you relish your birthday as the one day off from misery. (Awww. Tragic.)

Of course, I've built up a whole ritual, complete with requiring my partner to play "Once A Year Day" from Pajama Game on Friessmas morning even though it's actually a song about the annual company picnic. (I'd been with Miles two weeks when our first Friessmas came around. Amazing, isn't it, that he didn't open the escape hatch then and there!)

Anyhow, it was a lovely Friessmas. I got to do another NYT piece, this time about a stay of execution in Nevada for a killer who, strange as it seems, actually did not wish to see another Friessmas. And I discovered that one of my more pathetic dreams had been fulfilled, the NPR show "Wait, Wait, Don't Tell Me" used one of my stories as fodder for a joke! I'll play the segment on this week's "The Strip," so tune in when it's up tomorrow night. I suppose I should've known the idea of transplanting the scalps of cadavers would tickle them, but I sort of thought Rock, Paper, Scissors professionals might, too. Ya never know. I just learned it also made a Leno monologue! Woo hoo!

I heard from my family via phone, our ritual in lieu of cards and gifts for adult relatives, and Miles left me all day with a tempting stack of wrapped gifts on our gorgeous new kitchen table. I did not cheat, either. We dined at Joyful House, the most authentic Chinese restaurant I know in Vegas where I don't have to use my now-overrusted Mandarin skills to order. We came home for our little gift-and-cake ceremony, as you can see. The puppies enjoyed it too!

The loot consisted of a Norah Jones CD, a new Ruth Rendell book and a beautiful new winter jacket (see left) from Saks that Miles seems to have spirited out of the store without having the alarm tag removed. There I am modeling. My friend Walt gave me a season of "All in the Family" on DVD and my mother says a gift is en route. And, of course, there were many e-cards, calls and other well-wishes. So thanks to you all for all that!

Monday, October 15, 2007


Sorry folks. Miles wishes to take me out for Friessmas, so we'll convene Wednesday this week at 7:05 pm PT. In honor of this week's 9th anniversary of the debut of "O", we'll have an original "O" performer and an original "Mystere" performer for a Cirque-tastic episode!

Join us at LVROCKS.COM.

The Odd Things People Do For Love & Money

In the past year or so, I seem to have found myself attending all sorts of very strange conventions and events. There was the Rock, Paper, Scissors championship, the hair-restoration surgeons conference, the professional celebrity impersonators, the professional bullriders and the casino chip collectors, just to name a few.

But today, I had to go check out the Major League Gaming $100,000 championship. That is, there's a very rich prize for those who are the best at, uh, a video game. Halo 2. They even had a pair of guys doing color commentary to all those who were following the action at home on a Web stream.

I know, I know. I shouldn't scoff. But I can't help it when I'm told by the MLG spokesdude that recent stats show 75 percent of males age 12-18 play these games two hours a day and half of men 18-34 do the same. And when I see a man who brought his 6-year-old to Vegas to have him compete in one of the contests, I feel like calling Child Protective Services.

My Little Brother, Jamie, and my nephew, Zach are both 17 and totally into this stuff. Now, for the purposes of a New York Times feature related to this world, I must have them show me how this game works. I text messaged Jamie from the event to tell him so. He tried to explain, thinking I needed the info then and there. This is what he wrote:

"Game's about a 'biological super-soldier' being woken from his cryo tube in the first game and throughout the games you defeat aliens called covenant and save the universe and mankind. In the multiplayer, it's different. There are game variants like team slayer, team objective and others. Players can get level ups and rank ups like private and captain. Also, a lot of customization."

Umm, OK. So there IS a reason why tomorrow, when I turn 35, I fall out of Madison Avenue's most desirable marketing demographic.

Sunday, October 14, 2007

Something to Consider When Booking a Vegas Room

John L. Smith is probably the finest working writer in Las Vegas and, as it happens, also a terrifically nice person. He occupies the bottom strip of the Review-Journal's Nevada section a few times a week and we'd all be better off if he could do so even more often. He's a lifelong Las Vegan -- yes, there are a couple of those -- with terrific sources and a storehouse of good will built up over decades of storytelling, a wonderful and rare blend of hard-hitting expose and tear-inducing human drama.

And none of that is able to protect him from the misery he's going through now. John filed for bankruptcy protection last week, forced into the move not by the crushing financial burden of his young daughter's three-year battle against cancer but by what amounts to an incredibly frivilous libel lawsuit filed against him by billionaire Sheldon Adelson.

John made some mistakes about Adelson in his 2005 book on Vegas titans, "Sharks in the Desert." Adelson was upset by suggestions that he might have some connection to organized crime and sued both Smith and his publisher, Barricade Books. Smith acknowledges the mistakes and inserted an errata sheet in copies of the books. He also apologized for the mistakes in his Review-Journal column.

That would seem like a reasonable -- heck, possibly excessive -- attempt to fix the problem. Except that the lawsuit wasn't withdrawn. The various and sundry debates of both sides in this mess can be read about in this news story from Friday and also in this superb column by editor Thomas Mitchell. As Mitchell notes, it doesn't matter if any journalism law professor can point out flaws in Adelson's case, the facts that Smith made several good-faith efforts to correct the record and that Adelson can't point to any damage suffered from the book. None of that matters because Adelson has expensive lawyers who must know the flaws of the case but figure they can bleed Smith into submission or, in this case, financial purgatory. And we thought Republicans were opposed to abusing the legal system in this manner!

Of course, it's all made the worse because Smith is enduring a private horror that would prompt most kindhearted people to back off, his only child's hellish battle against cancer. In fact, it is this battle and John's willingness to share it with his readers that has prompted my own partner, Miles, to pledge to grow out his hair and donate it to a charity that makes wigs for people balded by disease and its treatments.

Adelson's lawyer offered a $200,000 trust for Smith's daughter's treatment even as the two were in litigation. Smith could accept that, but it would mean he'd also be giving up his ability to objectively cover one of the most significant business interests in the city. That may be a tough one for non-journalists to get their heads around, but it's a principled stand and one that I, frankly, am not entirely sure I'd have to honor to take in the face of such a personal crisis.

I'll happily believe Adelson made this offer out of real empathy and may not understand the journalistic bind it would create for Smith. And I don't deny that Adelson has the right to be upset if Smith wrote something inaccurate that could taint his image.

But assuming that the entire matter boils down to Adelson wanting to protect his good name, it's confusing that Adelson would want all of his fine philanthropic work to be overshadowed by his lack of benevolence toward Smith in just letting the thing go. Which would seem to be the worse image problem, a widely disproved connection to organized crime many decades ago that few would even have known about were it not for this lawsuit or the fast-traveling -- and true -- news that an unfathomably wealthy man is forcing a working-class father with a sick child into bankruptcy?

Smith, meanwhile, continues to conduct himself with his standard good taste. Today's column doesn't mention the lawsuit directly even though, if you know about it, you can read between the lines. Rather, it happens to be three years this week since Amelia was first diagnosed, so he uses it to remind himself and us of his daughter's sweetness and bravery. They're now in one of many limbos, a month away from yet another pronouncement about the child's survival.

Read it now, with tissues.

Remembering The Misery of Going Out Gay

With Miles away in Atlanta visiting his mom and me wanting to sell some of my "Gay Vegas" guidebooks, I forced myself to go sit in a booth at a National Coming Out Day street fair last night outside two of the city's gay bars. I really hate these scenes, having graduated years ago from the need to be out amongst the gays in party settings. I'm happy that others find such social settings enjoyable, but I don't smoke, drink or dance and I'm happily married, so the only purpose for my being there is to take note of how my looks have faded.

That said, it was a colorful crowd to be sure. I just loved the effusively Afrotastic look in the picture above and, sure, it's never painful to behold a strapping youngster such as this fellow selling Jello shots.

But the weirdest moment was when I encountered emcee and local TV personality Chris Saldana with a pair of blondes earlier in the evening. Saldana introduced me to his friends, but the ugly look from one incredibly arrogant-looking, uh, person sent shivers up my spine. I walked away bewildered by what I had done other than smile and extend my hand.

What I didn't realize until later was that I had been sneered at by none other than the YouTube star of the moment, Chris Crocker, whose "Leave Britney Alone!" rant following her horrible VMA appearance last month shot him/her to, uh, "prominence." (I am not mocking transgender people here; it is really unclear how Chris self-identifies.) I had text-messaged Miles to tell him someone LOOKED like that Britney-crier, but it never actually occurred to me that someone would pay for he/she to travel to a gay-pride-type event or that the public would want to see such a thing. I made it over the stage just in time, in fact, to see this person exhibit his/her "talent," which seemed to consist of talking bawdy, asking the crowd which men had shaved their nether-regions and teasing (?) the audience with the prospect (unfulfilled, alas) of pulling down his/her pants.

I packed up the booth and headed home almost immediately. Selling books isn't important enough to suffer in such a manner!