Friday, February 22, 2008

The Petcast is LIVE on Sat, 2/23 from 10:30-noon PT!

Join us from 10:30 a.m. - 12 p.m. PT on Saturday, Feb. 23 at LVROCKS.COM for the live show and chat room for The Petcast. Here's the guest line-up:

10:30 a.m.: Skip Knopke, owner of Fairwinds Pet Memorial Services in Arizona about the lavish funerals some people are giving dead animals.

11 a.m.: Joanie Melvin-Theide, owner of Lurch, a 200-pound mastiff in Howell, Mich., who is being honored by the local Red Cross for donating blood 20 times.

11:30 a.m.: Courtney Battista, residential life official at SUNY-Canton, about the pet-permissive college dorm at the school.

Thursday, February 21, 2008

More kerfluffles with the free-tickets folks

This stuff seems to come up all at once a lot.

As has been discussed before on this blog and in my Las Vegas Weekly column, I'm constantly baffled by how the twin towers of free-ticket distributors in Vegas both operate and treat their members. They are, of course, HouseseatsLV.Com and ShowTickets4Locals.Com. They operate in similar manners, although Houseseats is a subscription-based service -- pay a certain sum, get all the tickets you can handle within a year -- and ShowTix4Locals.Com has both a free and subscription option.

This past weekend, HouseseatsLV.Com was able to offer its subscribers seats at one of the preview performances of Bette Midler's "The Showgirl Must Go On." That would seem like a really, really big deal. It's the show of the moment, these seats weren't even available to the public for purchase and it had to be a terrific coup to be able to offer that to members.

Alas, it's all supposed to be a secret, though. And so when I ran into Bryce Krausman at the valet stand at Caesars after Monday's preview, I guess I crossed a baffling line when I attempted to congratulate him on that triumph. Bryce was with some family members and seemed utterly incensed that I'd dare to utter such a terrible thing out loud. "Why do you have to say that?" he asked me repeatedly.

I really didn't mean anything by it other than that I was sincerely impressed. But then I became amused and surprised by the awkwardness that ensued until the tension was relieved by the arrival of Bryce's car. I have no idea what sort of sensitive negotiations go on behind the scenes for the tickets that these services get, nor do I understand why they'd be sensitive at all -- especially when we're dealing with preview tickets that aren't even available to the public. (I've laid out my argument as to why the secretive nature of those who get these tickets is illogical and you can read that here.) Would the Caesars people be embarrassed that they had to give away tickets that were being, uh, given away?

A day later, as we discussed this odd run-in on the live version of this week's episode of "The Strip," a couple of listeners reported receiving yet another threatening note, this time from HouseseatsLV's competitor, ShowTix4Locals.Com. Under the subject line of: IMPORTANT MEMBERSHIP INFORMATION came this:


Dear XXX,

It has been brought to our attention that some members are taking advantage of our call center operators.

If you contact our call center asking for show tickets before we send out an e-mail offering the show to our members, you will be deleted. If you did not see an e-mail offering tickets, do not call inquiring. That is not how our service works.

When we offer ticketss for a show, we receive calls from non-members asking for free tickets. If you share our phone number with any non-members, and you encourage them to call us for free tickets, YOU will be deleted.

If you call for tickets for more then one show a day, you will be deleted. Some members call and reserve tickets for multiple shows and decide later which show they will attend and leave the other shows hanging. That is not fair to other members who are told a show is sold out when there are unused seats.

If you call and reserve tickets for a show, and do not show up, you will be deleted.

If a free member calls up to claim tickets only offered to the premium members, you will be deleted from the system. After we take all the names for the comp tickets, we will look up your membership status. If you are a free member, there will not be any tickets waiting for you at the showroom box office when you arrive.

We URGE you to take a moment and read the FAQ page located HERE so you understand how our service works and how to prevent from being deleted!

Understandably, our listeners were worried, particularly since many of them found out about these services through our show or through various pieces I've done like this one for Forbes Traveler on the hottest shows in Vegas. In fact, they felt personally targeted because where I put "XXX" was their first names. So another notice went out shortly thereafter that said: "The previous E-mail went out to EVERY member. If you are not a rule breaker, you have nothing to worry about."

Well, that's a relief. How strange, however, that these operations run as though their clients are first-graders. Surely, there are ways to emphasize the rules, ridiculous though they are, in a manner that treats the members like adults.

By the way, I learned something interesting while working on that Forbes piece. Another ticket discounter, Tickets2Nite, which has kiosks on the Strip, now allows you to CALL them to find out what's available and order them on the phone! Tix4Tonight.Com, by the way, still requires you to go in person to see what's being offered and buy seats.

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

My Bette "Preview"

Here's what was posted on USAToday.Com today based on my sneak peek at the Bette Midler production last night. Keep in mind, it's a "preview," not a "review." For what it's worth. Another version of this piece will run in the print edition tomorrow.

More discussion on tonight's episode of "The Strip," so tune in and join the chat at LVRocks.Com at 7:05 pm PT or wait until Thursday and download the podcast from the site or iTunes.

Also, if you haven't noticed it yet, there's a terrific Bette blog out there called Bootleg Bette. My favorite part of it is this section called "Same Songs, Different Voices" which is an audio player full of covers of many songs, not just Bette's.

Monday, February 18, 2008

"The Strip" is LIVE Tues Night W/ Bette Midler's Choreographer!

Join us in the chat room at on Tuesday (2/18) at 7:05 p.m. PT for the live version of "The Strip," this week featuring a sneak-peek account of "The Showgirl Must Go On" as well as a terrific interview with Bette Midler choreographer Toni Basil, famed for the 1980s novelty hit "Mickey." Basil talks about shopping with Midler, about using maimed G.I. Joe figurines to plot out the Vegas production and about working on "Charlie Wilson's War" and many other films and TV shows. Here she is in her classic video:

Come on down. There'll also be a Bette-tinged Top Secret Tourist Tip, a review from a listener who saw the show on Sunday and even a Bette-related poll that's already posted to your right.

Or download the podcast version when it's posted on Thursday at TheStripPodcast.Com or by subscribing in iTunes. Your call.

Isn't This Illegal?

I'm a fan of magician Mac King, who performs at Harrah's daily. He's been a guest on "The Strip" and we're grateful because he's a very interesting, humble guy.

I'm just wondering about this. Mac does a weekly comic strip called Magic In A Minute. In it, he walks kids through the steps for doing simple magic tricks. It's well-illustrated and often quite clever.

But Sunday's strip, I suspect, is illegal. I had to scan it in from the R-J because there doesn't appear to be any place online to show you his most recent entries. In honor of Presidents Day, he, uh, teaches kids how to cut holes in $1 bills and feed it a peanut. Really. Click on the image above to see it more closely.

I found this appropriate site -- LawforKids.Org -- that answers the question of whether it's illegal to deface U.S. currency. It sure seems that way, although the definition on that site of what "fraudulent" is makes it murky. (Click on that link; I especially like the protest from Katie in Colorado who wants to make "buttens" out of "mony." Sigh.)

Intriguingly, the commenters on that site are discussing another money-altering trick of sorts, something called "Fraud" by Daniel Garcia. Here he is doing it on YouTube:

But, regardless, it is certainly questionable judgment to be teaching children in the comics pages to go to get a dollar bill and cut a piece out of it, no?

Vegas Skyline Photos Gone Wild!

Remember last year when I went on a rampage over the overuse of "What Happens Here Stays Here" and derivative cliches throughout the media? Well, I've spotted a new Vegas journalistic menace and I want your help stamping it out wherever it may rear its ugly head.

Outdated Vegas skyline photos. It's not quite as insidious as lazy writers thinking they're clever; I know photo editors in New York or elsewhere can't possibly keep track of what the Vegas skyline looks like right now. But they at least ought to be aware that it changes at least as often as their underwear and, thus, they should be alerted when they're using unforgivably old images. Indeed, they wouldn't send their relatives 3-year-old picture of their children and claim they represent their present-day appearance, so they should check the date before using some of the images they do.

Two case-in-points. The first one comes from my own piece on 2-3-08 in The New York Times about Vegas paparazzi:

I date this shot by the Times' Jim Wilson to at least 2006, based on the old Aladdin being intact and the Boardwalk Hotel-Casino still existing. Of course, I welcome anyone who can get a more exact read on it. I did notify my editors, who told me they'd flag it in their archives and get something newer.

My second example comes off of Newsweek.Com, where this picture accompanied a 2-18-08 rave review of the Vegas-set novel-of-the-moment, "Beautiful Children" by Charles Bock.

Obviously, this image shot by Richard Cummins of the Corbis photo agency is a lot more egregious. Siegfried & Roy are still on the marquee at The Mirage, for God's sake. That means it dates at least back to 2003.

The irony of that one is that I went to the Newsweek site because I was fascinated by the photo that actually was published with the same review in the print edition. I didn't have any criticism of it, but I'm still having trouble determining the vantage point from which it was taken. Since it wasn't online, I scanned it in and I hope you can see it:

Miles and I both stared long and hard at this shot by W. Van Cappellen of Reporters/Redux Pictures. At first I think it was shot in a room at the Flaming-O, but then it doesn't explain the resort's full-bodied reflection overlaid on the southerly view of Las Vegas Boulevard south of Flamingo Road.

Anyhow, please point to way when you see the major media using stale Vegas skyline photos. It is a scourge and it must be stopped!