Friday, May 16, 2008

"It's A Cher Thing, You Just Don't Understand"

Help! I'm being beaten up by Cher fanatics who are offended by being referred to as fanatics or crazies but who prove their fanaticism and craziness by their certainty that nothing she did in her new Vegas show could possibly be grounds for criticism!

But first. A few others have now chimed in on the new show at the Colosseum that I was sorely disappointed by. I blogged some of it last week after I attended opening night and wrote a longer version for my column in this week's Las Vegas Weekly.

Mike Weatherford of the R-J gave this hot mess a B, but it was a lukewarm B at that: "This show, a continuation of her touring opuses of the 2000s, takes the format to its logical peak (and hopefully its conclusion)." He also points out that it's "front-loaded," giving us the best effect, costume and star banter in the very beginning.

Meanwhile, Joe Brown of the Las Vegas Sun took a similar tack: Cher "
provides everything you could want from a Cher show. She makes Cher sounds. She changes costumes and wigs after nearly every number (take your time, we’ll wait). There’s hair-tossing, hip-cocking, lip-licking, arm-crossing, eye-rolling, finger-snapping, skipping and sauntering Is it good? Does it matter?"

Neither main Vegas critic is particularly enthusiastic. No, that's left to, of all people, longtime Rolling Stone scribe and L.A. Times blogger Richard Abowitz, my friend and someone I've already needled quite a bit for this posting. Abowitz tried to tell me that his take on this thing wasn't as positive as Brown or Weatherford, but he actually wrote this Cher-style over-the-top sentence: "Cher has created a monstrously entertaining experience that (even more than "A New Day," which actually relied on a Cirque alumnae) captures a sort of ultimate state-of-the-art Vegas production show and places that in the midst of a Cher concert of resplendent diva glory." [Note from the grammar police: alumnae is plural. I think he meant alumnus, since that's a singular male form and he's referring to Franco Dragone.]

I don't know if any of them are going to get the sort of angry mail that I'm starting to receive from Cheristas for mocking their, uh, enthusiasm while taking stock of seriously flawed parts of one of the Strip's most expensive shows.

You see, Weatherford, Brown and Abowitz approached their commentaries from the point of view that this is Cher, there are certain expectations in that construct and those who love her will love this. It's a reasonable approach. Except that I'm not contented with the premise that the public's view of this thing is predetermined by their adoration or hatred of the star. There ARE many who are on the fence. I am living proof of that. If I were in Vegas for vacation and I was looking around at what's on, I *might* check out the Cher-Vegas thing even if I'm not the sort of gay who decorates sailor hats or the sort of groupie who knows what kind of tree Sonny Bono died slamming into.

That notion apparently offends those Cher crazies who attack the very notion of the more casual fan or audience member. One wrote: "
Who really should be catered to most, the dedicated fans who have supported Cher's career throughout the decades or Las Vegas visitors who have nothing better to do than take in a Cher show so they can say they saw it? I ... am very sorry you don't fully appreciate what Cher is all about."

The most significant critique of my nerve in approaching this from an outside-the-cult angle came from a woman who operates a popular Cher list-serv. I was nervous going into covering this thing for USA Today that I might not be able to identify all the songs, so I had gotten her phone number to call later that night in case I needed it. Turned out, I didn't. There were only a few songs I didn't recognize and I just didn't write about those.

I can just imagine what sort of outrage I've sparked on this list-serv from the beleaguered, put-upon Cher fans who, like their role model, are evidently so badly misunderstood.

Here's some of her lengthy note:

"I take your comments as personal attacks towards Cher fans as a whole. It's not uncommon to receive criticism. Over the years, both Cher and her fans have been degraded, but we all keep going strong. I just felt like, I needed to speak on behalf of all fans and let you know how we felt.

You, in my honest opinion, were lost. You had no clue what the name of any of the songs were and even asked to call me after the show to get the set list. I missed your call. I have to admit, after reading this review, I am glad that I did. Lord only knows, what you would have said about me just because I knew the names of the songs.

We use the phrase, "It's a Cher thing, you just don't understand." It's probably the best way to describe how we feel. There are not many who get it. It's a passion, Steve. Just like you may have a passion for sports for example.
[I don't. -sf] Many of us have grown up with Cher. We have been there since the beginning. We have watched her grow and mature. We have watched her succeed and fail. No matter what we watched, we have loved it all. That is probably the only statement in your review that is correct: "The most vocal Cher fans won’t criticize a thing."

Sure we know there were glitches in the show. It just opened. There are going to be glitches in every show. Cher is real Steve, and she sings live unlike many. The glitches show that she is not perfect. No one is. We can relate to her more so because of this."

I had engaged in some hyperbole in my piece about the extremes to which the most devoted go to see their idol. It was taken literally by many who wrote. More from the list-serv manager:

"As far as 'crazy Cher fanatics' mortgaging their homes, did they tell you this? Geez, I don't know one die-hard who is homeless. Sure we will take on many shows during her three year run. Many of us, will take on as many as we can. We save for these shows and go when our budget allows, just like you may save for something you want to do. Once again, it goes back to our passion.

Obvious Caesars believes that Cher has achieved that certain level of greatness required to perform at the Colosseum.If they thought she would be degrading to the Colosseum, do you honestly think they would have let her headline there?

Others that have performed there are great and I am in no way belittling them. The truth, however, is that everyone is different. Cher is Cher. She will always be Cher and she will perform how she wants to perform. This is no secret. Anyone who has had the honor of seeing her perform knows the style of her shows. Caesars obviously knew this when they brought her on board. Therefore, no one should be surprised at her performances."

But here's the real point, and the reason why these people's opinions are so irrelevant to non-Kool-Aid drinkers:

"The Colosseum leaves quite a bit to be desired. It might be grand as you call it, but the crowd that goes there really doesn't care what the performer is about. They are basically high rollers with a comp. They are rude and obnoxious. They are just there to see the show because they have received a free ticket. In my opinion, they are just taking up space. There is a difference between the high rollers and the die-hards. We actually want those seats! We want to be in the presence of Cher."

For the sake of the Colosseum, I do hope that there are enough people like this to fill 4,200 seats 200 times over the next three years. There probably are. But the real chip on the shoulder does not belong to those of us who can look objectively at an artist and a show and see room for improvement. The real chip belongs to those who believe that if you cannot accept The Gospel According to Cher, you should go find another church.

Thursday, May 15, 2008

Vegas Left BIG Gay $$$ On The Table

So the California Supremes have mandated today that gay couples must be allowed to marry, too. Not civil-union, but marry. No, Miles and I are not heading to glamorous Barstow or Needles any time soon, seeing how we wouldn't be able to take out newfound rights back with us to Vegas.

BUT. It was just a few hours after the ruling that the Wyndham Orange County put out a press release offering 50 percent off to the first 50 gay couples who book their weddings and receptions at the hotel and hold it by the end of 2008.

Here's what Tom Smalley, the general manager, said in a press release: "When we launched our same sex commitment ceremonies at the hotel last year, this was day I was waiting for. Today’s ruling brings to life this vision for supporting same-sex couples in Southern California, who want to be able to publicly and legally exchange their vows."

Yes, it's crass commercialism and opportunism. But that's just the point. Bring on all the crass commercialism and opportunism you can afford! When Nevada hypocrites decided earlier this decade to constitutionally ban same-sex nuptials after decades of symbolizing forces that conspire to defeat sanctity of marriage, they probably cost the state many, many millions of dollars in tourism revenues.

In fact, I'm going to do a little work on this question and see if there's someone who can give me even a vague estimate of how much money was lost. But I suspect the Vegas casino bosses who, a brutal economic downturn, must now watch a massive stream of gay-marriage tourists flood California -- even if it's legally meaningless from whence they came -- are wondering how the supposedly live-and-let-live voters of the Silver State got this one so darn wrong.

Perhaps it's just that they didn't flood the airwaves in 2000 and 2002 when the referendum was pending urging folks to defeat it on grounds not that it was a civil-rights atrocity but that it was economically stupid?

Just a thought.

Congrats to LasVegasSun.Com

R-J Publisher Sherm Frederick may cackle that his website is more successful despite the fact that he and his peeps take absolutely no pride in its appearance or functionality, but it is worthwhile to note that the Las Vegas Sun moments ago won Best Newspaper Website for a news site with fewer than 1 million unique visitors per month in the 2008 EPpy Awards given out by industry trade journal Editor & Publisher. The ceremony is going on right now at the Rio in Vegas and the paper's terrific redesigned site is up for some other honors too, but I've got just 10 mins left on my laptop battery and there's no telling whether my "mole" will let me know more before I lose power.

Anyhow, congrats to those who put in the hard work and expense to produce such a great service. Now here's hoping the Sun's owners, Greenspun Media, springs for a redesign of the horrific LasVegasWeekly.Com. Finding my column on that thing is harder than drilling for oil in Vermont. Yeesh.

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Sheldon Adelson "detained" in Israel?

UPDATE 3:18 p.m. PT:
Just spoke to Ron Reese, LVS spokesman, and he said Adelson was not detained, he was asked questions on Tuesday in his hotel room. "He is not being held, he is not being detained, he is not under investigation," Reese said. "He's just somebody who Israeli authorities think might have knowledge about a key figure in this investigation." Reese would not comment on the substance of the questioning or whether Adelson has knowledge about the investigation. Reese said Adelson is serving as honorary chair of a conference that opened today in Israel and that he sat next to President and Laura Bush at the opening event.

The Israeli news website Arutz Sheva is reporting that LVS Chairman Sheldon Adelson, the single biggest private American contributor to the state of Israel, is being questioned with regards to a widening corruption probe focused on Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert. Adelson and fellow tycoon S. Daniel Abraham (Slim Fast inventor) are in Israel for some meetings with Israeli president Shimon Peres, but the report indicates that Adelson was "detained" late Monday for questioning yesterday.

As I'm in Florida and about to spend the afternoon and evening with my 90-year-old grandmother who most certainly has no Internet access, I can't update this at this point. I'll try.

The Show is UP: In The Valli Of Jersey

Because I'm in Florida visiting my parents and will be traveling home tomorrow, I figured I'd put this post up now. Our latest show featuring a conversation with the legendary Frankie Valli is now online. The show won't be in the RSS feed for iTunes or Zune subscribers until early Thursday, as always, but you can download it by right-clicking here or listen to it via your computer by clicking here right now.

May 15: In The Valli of Jersey

A priceless falsetto took an Italian pipsqueak from New Jersey all the way to the Rock N Roll Hall of Fame. But it’s only now, with the huge success of the Tony-winning Broadway show based on his life, that Frankie Valli is feeling truly appreciated by the entertainment world. That show, “Jersey Boys,” opened last month to rave reviews at the Palazzo, returning the sound of Valli and the Four Seasons to the Strip in grand fashion. Valli talks about what covers he likes, why he left his Luxor contract so suddenly in 2005 and much more.

In Banter: Terry Fator takes over, Cher needs work, the WSOP undergoes big changes, shrimp cocktails are more expensive and why Vegas.Com rules the world.

Show Links:

Get Jersey Boys tickets for Vegas here
News of Terry Fator's takeover at the Mirage is here
Steve's blog post about Cher's show problems is here
A piece on the changes coming for the World Series of Poker is here
That website to find wireless hotspots in Vegas is here
A story about the increased prices for shrimp cocktails at Golden Gate is here
That weird Trek-crazy site's report on the possible closure of Star Trek Experience is here
Old blog posts about the feud, now over, with Robert Earl, can be found here

Simon Says Yum

I don't ordinarily contribute to the hype surrounding openings of new restaurants in Vegas mainly because there are so many of them. But I had to run over to the new Simon place at Palms Place last week for a piece on celeb chef Kerry Simon I'm writing, and lo and behold I wandered in when they were shooting print advertisements for the joint. It opened on Monday.

I thought you'd all appreciate the eye candy. There's some for boys and girls who like girls (see above and below)...

And some for those boys and girls who like boys...

Why are we out by the pool? Well, the place is surrounded by the L-shaped water area for Palms Place, the new tower attached to The Palms. Here's an inside-out view:

In fact, the place has so much light and glass that this photo of a six-shelf herb garden inside the restaurant from which the cooks can cut fresh sage, rosemary and thyme (but I don't think parsley, sorry Paul Simon) turned out sort of intriguingly artistic...

Here are a few other views of the David Rockwell-designed digs, open 7 am - 11 pm for breakfast, lunch and dinner (in that order, duh!)...

While there, I did get to partake in a taste test of a variety of mojitos and martinis being developed for the bar menu. Here's some of the evidence...

Pathetically, teetotaler that I am I ended up most enthusiastic about the virgin strawberry milkshake.

But really, this post isn't about food or architecture, is it? It's about beautiful people. So here's one more shot.

Tuesday, May 13, 2008


Join us at 7 pm for the live version of "The Strip" featuring our Frankie Valli interview tonight! Come to LVRocks.Com and chat with fellow listeners! I'll be phoning it in this time from Florida, where I'm visiting my family. That, by the by, explains why I've not been blogging. Sorry!

If you can't make it, fine. Be that way. Grab the podcast on Thursday.