Friday, May 30, 2008

The S*it Flies At Panorama Towers

We discussed this on this week's podcast but it was so startling I figured I'd mention it here, too, since there's some other interesting stuff to report on this front.

As many of you know, we are investors in a unit, now rented, at Panorama Towers across from CityCenter. I had already heard some not-great things about some of the residents over there, but this letter from the HOA was downright shocking.

"Dear Residents,

It has come to our attention that there have been numerous instances where residents are using their balconies to dispose of various trash (i.e. dog feces, cigarettes, debris, etc.)

As per the CC&Rs, these actions are prohibited and will not be tolerated. In addition to the aesthetic deterioration of the building grounds, there has been damage to residents' property. ...

Residents or their guests are to refrain from using balconies to dispose of any kind of waste. As unfortunate and incomprehensible as it may seem to report, certain pet owners are disposing of dog feces over the balcony. This waste has either damaged residents' properties or, worse, fallen on fellow residents.

All dog waste should be discarded in the various provided dog stations and/or in trash chutes."

Oh, Andrew Sasson, what have you wrought? This is the sort of place where Leo DiCaprio, Pam Anderson and Jeff Beacher live? OK, I can see Beach there. Ha ha. Just kidding, Jeff.

The poop letter came a few days before another letter of interest. You see, the HOA rules for Panorama -- designed, evidently unsuccessfully, to maintain a certain quality level among those in the buildings -- only allow owners to rent out their units once a year for a lease of no shorter than six months. That is, rent it to a real resident renter, not as short-term vacation rental with all the undesirable aspects of that practice.

But the latest letter is a petition asking owners to change the HOA rules to allow the place to become a whorehouse, err, I mean a vacation rental building. I empathize with speculators, err, I mean owners who are upset by the loss of the value of their investment. I just don't know that turning the building into that sort of place is the long-term answer.

Oh, and one more little nugget. I also got an e-mail from the Panorama resale office. They've been worthless for many months in selling the units, partly because of the economy and partly because they don't list any of them on the MLS, but they say they've closed on four units in the past few weeks and have four others in escrow. This, they say may imply "the worst of the housing slump is behind us." Or, perhaps "this spike can be attributed to the recent announcement of Viva, Station Casino's newest venture, slated to be built directly to the south of us."

That's really an interesting point I hadn't considered. Now we're sandwiched between Viva AND CityCenter. It reaffirms my hope to hang onto this thing for a few years and see where it goes.

I do wonder, though, if they warn the new buyers to carry an umbrella around the grounds and to watch where they step. Blech.

Those Two Questionable Tussauds Statues

So more than one of you believes that the tuxedo'd guy that I couldn't ID at Tussaud's the other day was Michael Crawford based partly on the Phantom mask he's holding. I agree that's a clue and perhaps you're right, but here' s the side-by-side comparison of the two and if it is Crawford, it's a terrible version of him.

Easier to believe is that the other unidentified statue, which was near the Elton John placard despite there being no Rocket Man to speak of in the vicinity, was Jon Bon Jovi. Here's the side-by-side on that one.


Thursday, May 29, 2008

Next Week, on The Strip...

I just got confirmation that we will be having 2007 World Series of Poker champion Jerry Yang live in the LVRocks.Com studio this coming Tuesday for the show. We rarely hype guests much ahead of time but that's partly because usually the conversations are pre-recorded. But in this case, since it's live, I thought I'd get this up now so folks can plan to join the chat at LVRocks.Com and/or pass us your questions via email to TheStripPodcast [at] or in the comments section here. And no, he's not related to Jerry Yang, the CEO of Yahoo!

Check out my LA Times piece on the 2008 World Series of Poker, which kicks off on Friday.

The Petcast is LIVE on Saturday 10-noon PT

Emily and I are recording four new episodes of The Petcast on Saturday from 10-noon PT. Join us in the live chat at LVRocks.Com. Here's this round's lineup:

10 am: Janna Duncan of Drummond Ranch, where dog owners take their pets to herd sheep.

10:30 am: Carol Osborne, ringmaster for the CFA Iams Cat Championship.

11 am: Dr. Shannon Stanek, president of the American Association of Housecalls and Mobile Veterinarians.

11:30 am: Susan Wagner, president and founder of Equine Advocates, Inc.

Join us or wait for the podcasts. Your choice!

Show is UP: Ritaville

May 29: Rita Rudner

Rita Rudner is having another important career moment. The comic has a new book out that’s both funny and surprisingly emotional and she’s recently become the first Vegas comedian to star in a PBS special to air in June. Rudner, whose girly voice and wry battle-of-the-sexes observations continue to pack ‘em in nightly at the Harrah’s Las Vegas resort, joins us live this hour to catch us up on all of her activities.

In Banter: The s*it really flies at Panoram Towers, revisiting Manilow, notes from Tussaud's and SATC is coming to Vegas, sort of.


Get tix for Rita Rudner’s show at Harrah’s here
See Rita Rudner’s website here
See the info about Rita’s PBS special here
See Steve’s Madame Tussaud’s pictorial here
The site for Ethel M’s chocolate tour is here
Listen to Steve’s inspiration, Terry Gross, here
Miles’ starter kit for new Erykah Badu enthusiasts is here

Top Secret Tourist Tip of The, uh, Day

If you're around Vegas on Thursday and near the Wynn, you might want to get into the spirit of this coming weekend's opening of the "Sex and The City" movie by stopping by either the Manolo Blahnik store at Wynn from 6-9 p.m. for cocktails and a preview of "designs used in the film" or heading over to Blush, the ultralounge, from 9-10 pm for FREE cosmos. Yes, free liquor and Blush is open to the public. Normally there's a $30 cover. Anyone in before 10 p.m. can stay the evening without paying cover.

I wouldn't normally plug something like this except that it's open to the public and it's free alcohol. Oh, and there's nowhere else online that I've seen it advertised.

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

A Day Amongst The Real Fakes

I know, I know. It's totally tasteless. And probably unoriginal. But so what? I was playing tourist! There I am at Madame Tussaud's wax museum at the Venetian with Siegfried, Roy and, presumably, Montecore.

It was really a fun time over there Monday with my niece, Courtney, and my mother. Some of the wax figures were startlingly accurate, like these of Bette, Sammy, Lar, Tiger, Simon, Ryan, Bugsy and Hef...

I say Hef should BE so lucky!

Here I am with Air Jordan and, beneath that, just for comparison's sakes, with Yao Ming back in Changchun, China in 2001 when, for USA Today, I became the first American reporter to profile him.

I do wonder why George Washington seems so pissed...

...but maybe it's because Courtney's heart belongs to Lincoln?

I have no idea who these two are supposed to be, although the first one was next to the Elton John sign, but there was no Elton John to be found.

And here are some of the more questionable likenesses. Angelina looks fine, but what happened to Brad? And Jackie looks great, but JFK looks like an insurance salesman...

And Meryl? Julia? Oprah? WTF?

Near the end of the tour, they have patriotic figures. I assume it's standard to have the current president next to a podium. God only knows what visitors did to Clinton at the height of the Lewinsky scandal, but it was notable that virtually everyone did something to insult President Bush. See?

And there's a sign-out book as well where folks are asked their favorites and least favorites. Notice the consistency with which Bush was rated as their worst favorite.

But, all in all, a fun time. And, FYI, I discovered that if you are buying Blue Man Group tix anyway, you might as well go buy them at Madame Tussaud's and you'll get free entry to the museum. That's worth about $20-$24 a person.

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

"The Strip" is LIVE @ 7 pm PT w/Rita Rudner

Hey kids, Rita Rudner's on the show tonight -- live. Really. Like she's alive and we're asking her questions about her new book, her PBS special, about whatever else is up. And you can be in the chatroom at LVROCKS.Com to funnel your questions to her.

Plus, we took another look at Manilow, checked out Madame Tussaud's and the sh*t is flying at Panorama Towers. Literally. Yikes.

Show starts at 7:05 p.m. PT as always. The podcast will be available on Thursday as always.

A Very Venetian Memorial Day

My mother and 16-year-old niece (left) are visiting me this weekend so we've been doing all sorts of touristy stuff. In another post and on this week's upcoming episode of "The Strip," I'll get into both our Barry Manilow and Madame Tussaud's experiences. But for the moment, a few Memorial Day weekend bits about the Venetian/Palazzo:

1. Pay It Forward. Las Vegas Sands was ordered to pay $43.6 million. Read all about it here. Odds are high that sum will be reduced on appeal. Which will take years. So good luck with that.

2. Causing A Commotion. A loyal reader/listener, Chris, was in town and at the Venetian for a conference in the past few days when he noticed people gathering, cheering and clapping in the casino. He went over to see what was up "expecting to see some famous athletes, musicians or stars of some type." What did he see? "
A young man, mid-twenties, who I didn't recognize. ... As he drew closer I noticed that he seemed to be struggling to walk, I then noticed that he had a prostetic leg. Behind him another young man with a cane, next a young man with dark glasses and a seeing eye dog. Then I realized why I should be cheering for these guys, why we all should be cheering for them. These celebrities are injured veterans. ... It was a moving moment. I was proud of these soldiers, I was proud of the hundreds of people who honored them with all the Las Vegas lust they possessed." Indeed, Sheldon Adelson paid for 40 wounded vets to fly to Vegas, stay in fancy digs and see shows. Read the AP's account here, but note that LVS did *not* put out a press release on this. They did not go out seeking coverage. That's quite honorable.

3. Tamara, Tamara. After many months of being the only media person to tell you all about this new interactive show called Tamara coming to the Venetian, there's finally some actual physical evidence outside of the show's future entrance in the Grand Canal Shoppes:

4. Tale of the Tape. Many on the Internet, including me, have been monitoring this silly little thing as some sort of bellwether of quality or attentiveness. There's blue tape hanging from a rail at the Palazzo. It's been there since the place opened. We're all wondering when they'll notice. We're now up to six months, as of this photo today.

It's pretty meaningless, really. And funny.

Monday, May 26, 2008

LasVegasSun.Com's Arsenal Gets Even Better

Wow. I know that Review-Journal publisher Sherm Frederick thinks that the gorgeous web operation for the Las Vegas Sun is a silly waste of money and puzzles as to why the Greenspuns are pouring so much money into an operation that actually has lower traffic now than before it launched its sensational redesign. High quality and industry respect -- was named best newspaper website for a site of fewer than 1 million unique visitors a month earlier this month by trade publication Editor & Publisher -- are nice, Sherm might say, but what's the point if the eyeballs aren't looking your way?

It's not an unreasonable argument. It's just a short-sighted one. And as someone rooting intensely for the Sun's efforts to reward those who have risked so much and worked so hard for it, two recent developments are worth noting:

1. UNBELIEVABLE NEW CONTENT. Folks, you've gotta check this out. The LasVegasSun.Com now has this interactive historical map of the Vegas regionwhere you pick the date and it will show you, say, the Strip as it was at that time. Each resort or place is clickable and provides history. And there's so much more here, including an expertly produced, TV-quality 11-part decade-by-decade documentary about Las Vegas, implosion videos, hundreds of old Sun stories from the archives that illustrate various historical moments and audio testimonials from the likes of the late Benny Binion and late Sam Boyd. The depth of this feature is breathtaking, with more promised to come. Make some time to play around with it.

2. EVEN MORE TOP-SHELF TALENT. Rob Curley, the vice president for product development at Washingtonpost.Newsweek Interactive, long regarded as the industry's leading Web news-site visionary, is leaving those environs for the LasVegasSun.Com. Read this wonderful piece on him from Fast Company. On his own blog on Saturday, Curley wrote that the Sun is "easily one of the most interesting local media operations in the nation." For a city where no newspaper has ever even come close to winning a Pulitzer, that's pretty exciting. Curley pointed out Greenspun's vast influence in a long list of different media products, including the Las Vegas Weekly (where I have a column, of course) and Las Vegas One.

I don't know what the Greenspuns have in mind as they pour all these resources into these operations. Maybe they just want to serve the community with quality news and information services, as they've been doing at a hefty financial loss for decades? Nobody has ever accused the Greenspuns of being totally selfless, but this is a family of billionaires who didn't get that way by making bad business decisions. They can't be losing money by accident.

I can't answer that. But I can express some gratitude for it. I love the Internet as much as I love great journalism and I appreciate the effort to make the experience as cutting edge, informative and smart as the technology allows. So while the Review-Journal's visually miserable site has finally discovered blogs (and acts like it's some wild, wacky new frontier) but still hasn't heard of RSS feeds or indexing those blogs on Google's Blogsearch, the Sun is dazzling the entire industry.

Somewhere in some dark, sad corner on Bonanza Road, Sherm is cackling "Fools!" as he counts his money. Somewhere, no doubt, without wi-fi.