Saturday, July 19, 2008

Hot Mormon Hunks...and Babes?

You may have heard about the Mormon fellow who put together a beefcake calendar of returned missionaries in and out of the white-shirts-and-black-nametag get-up.

He got excommunicated last weekend for a variety of reasons but mostly because of the calendar's linkage of the chastity of missionaries and the raw sexuality of same. This prompted Newsweek to assign me to do a longer look at the calendar and its various issues. That piece is presently the most-emailed and read piece on Newsweek.Com right now over the past 24 hours. It's kind of amazing since the piece isn't even in the marquee on Newsweek's splash page.

The part I love most is not that Newsweek unwittingly chose one of the two gay models (that's him, Dustin, above) in the 2008 calendar (email me if you want to know who the other one is...) to use as the image with my story.

No, the best part is his disclosure of what comes next: Mormon Muffins: A Taste of Motherhood. That is, Mormon MILFs and their Jell-O mold recipes. Can the Mormons re-excommunicate someone?

Thursday, July 17, 2008

Lake Las Vegas Goes Bust

Following on my LVW column's theme of questioning the idea of having anti-Vegas vacations in Vegas at such places as the Trump, there's news tonight that Lake Las Vegas Resort has declared for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection.

This actually isn't really so much a tourism story as a real estate one. They just haven't sold enough of the homes and, in this market, they likely won't for the near future. This press release linked here indicates that the region's owners took control in January after the prior owners defaulted on $540 million in loans last year. The new operators insist that this will "reinvigorate Lake Las Vegas as a premier master-planned community." Okey dokey.

I've always been baffled by the resorts out there and why anyone would come to Vegas for a lakefront vacation. Montelago Village, the shopping district, has been utterly empty whenever we've been down there. I had taken to referring to the Starbucks down there as the lowest-grossing Starbucks in North America and have been waiting to see if it'll be one of the 600 closed in the coffee giant's restructuring. We shall see...

Trump: "Best-Executed Version of The Worst-Considered Idea"

As promised, here's my Las Vegas Weekly column for July 17 on the oddity that is the Trump.


The mogul's Strip tower is loaded with question marks


I'm sitting at the lobby bar of the undeniably pretty Trump International Hotel on a Sunday evening about to tuck into a $21 burger and sip from an $8 pink-grapefruit soda. I didn’t mean to splurge on dinner here, but I popped in to take a look-see and realized that this was the only thing for me to do.

Which is, of course, the big problem here. The slender gold tower with the most famous name in real estate emblazoned atop it is a bafflement to all who consider its existence. It is also, by a large measure, the very last place most Las Vegas tourists should ever feel comfortable visiting.

In fact, I’m going to go out on a limb here and suggest that not only will the planned second tower never be built, but we in the media will also be writing many stories in coming years about the struggle of this property. It is the best-executed version of the worst-considered idea in Vegas today.

I’ll explain that in a moment, but consider the exchange I had when I pulled up. There’s no self-parking, and the valet woman looked me up and down when I stepped out of my vehicle. I was unshaven, wearing a gray T-shirt, ratty painter’s shorts and sandals, and I felt immediately as though I was violating some standard of decency. She was pleasant enough, but she also grilled me with a smile.

“Are you checking in?” she asked.


“Are you meeting someone?”


“Are you going to the spa?”

No. I assume she knew I wasn’t going to the fancy restaurant in those duds. “Just here to look around,” I said cheerily.

“You know there’s no casino here, right?”

Uh, yes. Can I have my valet ticket? Please?

Once inside, I was certainly impressed by the polished lobby with all its sparkly things and comfy sofas. But I was struck by how anti-Vegas the entire place is.

I know, I know. Exclusivity is this joint’s big selling point. But it doesn’t seem like they’re doing a whole lot of selling here. I met a Norwegian at the bar who was in on business and usually stays at the Wynn but decided to give the Trump a go because the room rates were more than a quarter lower than Wynn’s. He’s enjoyed himself here, he said, because “there’s almost nobody here, so the service is great, and it’s a lot quieter.”

That’s an endorsement, but an odd one. There are very few people who come to Las Vegas to get away from the hustle and bustle. Some come here for work and prefer to be shielded from it, true, but as Sheldon Adelson has so successfully proved, you must appeal to both conventioneers and vacation travelers in order to keep a steady occupancy level throughout the week and year.

Instead, what we have is a hotel-condo property that seems to actively discourage the casual visitor, which is, dare I say it, un-Vegasian.

Read the rest HERE.

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Show is UP (already!): Wanda Woman

Whoa! We're posting this week's show early because we had no show last week and I know some of you are suffering S&M withdrawal. You can read Steve's LA Times piece on Wanda Sykes here, by the way. Click on the date to hear it or right-click to download the show and listen whenever you want. Or subscribe via iTunes here or via Zune here:

July 17: Wanda Woman

She told Jane Fonda to f--- off in "Monster-in-Law," had her portrait snapped by Annie Leibovitz for Vanity Fair magazine and, this fall, is expected to marry Julia Louis-Dreyfus on the sitcom “The New Adventures of Old Christine.” Those are some of the highlights of Wanda Sykes’ illustrious career. The comic-actress, who performs stand-up twice in July and twice in August, speaks to Steve this hour about all that and some of the less thrilling moments – can someone say Pootie Tang?

In Banter: The Vegas Podcast-a-Palooza is coming up, a WSOP marathon night, BLT Burger rocks, Rub less so, MGMGrand.Com has troubles and more.


Get seats for Wanda Sykes' P-Ho shows in 7/18-19 and 8/8-8/9 here
Wanda Sykes' website is here
Steve's AFP piece on the WSOP finals is here
Find out more about the Vegas Podcastapalooza here
Read about WSOP finalist Craig Marquis' father here
The kerfluffle over the MGMGrand.Com is all over the blog here
The site for BLT Burger at the Mirage is here
Read Steve's LVW column on the Trump here (after 7/17)
Hear the full version of Wanda's porn-related phone prank and others here

Monday, July 14, 2008

Live from WSOP 08...

...Here I am in a ringside seat just feet from the action of the ESPN Table at the World Series of Poker. I just got scolded for using my flash, but not before I took these pix...

As I type, the chip leader, Dennis Phillips of a St. Louis, Mo. suburb, just split a pot with another player. Phillips is a never-married trucking account manager who won his entry in a satellite tournament at a local Harrah's casino and has now won at least $591K. Wow.

There are 11 players left and we'll be here till they get down to the November Nine. That is, after they get to nine finalists, they'll stop play until November. That's him below in the red St. Louis Cardinals cap.

No. 11 and No. 10 get $591K. If they make it to the last 9, they get at least $900K. The final eight will get more than $1 million. The champ gets $9.1 million.

This could go quite late. I'm not planning to blog much more here, but I thought it would be fun to post this one set. Also, I'm kind of bored. Which is so rude, given that I'm in a seat that most of the poker bloggers would kill for. I'm not so worthy...

Much, Much, Much, Much Too Early

I once heard someone wish me a Merry Christmas the week after Halloween. I've seen ads for menorahs in September. Hell, in China they leave Xmas decorations up all year long, just like Wall-E.

Still, this is absurd.

I don't mean to beat up on the MGM Grand again. But they make it so easy.

I just got an email from them urging me to let them "help you with your holiday party." I wondered what "holiday" that could mean and, yep, they're really, really thinking ahead. It's July 15. Christmas is more than five months away. And MGM Grand send out this?

They must be talking about Xmas, right? I mean, note the "make a list, check it twice" allusion and the red and green motif? People don't generally throw Rosh Hashanah or Sweetest Day parties, do they?

And, much more importantly, this is the MGM Grand so it must be asked: Will they even honor whatever prices they quote? Meow!

The Strip is LIVE on 7/15 @ 7 p.m.

Join us Tuesday at 7:05 p.m. PT in the chat room and listen to the webstream at LVRocks.Com for the live version of "The Strip." Comic Wanda Sykes talks to Steve about Julia Louis-Dreyfus, Jane Fonda, Barack Obama and a whole lot more. She's playing at the Planet Hollywood on July 18-19 and again in early August. Plus, we'll discuss the MGM reservation mess, the Vegas Podcast-a-Palooza, the World Series of Poker and much more.

Come on down -- or wait till Thursday for the podcast. Your call. We love you either way.

Mamma Mia, Trump and WSOP

Sorry I've been quiet today, but it's been a bit of a busy morning writing my next Las Vegas Weekly column and filing a piece for tomorrow's New York Times on the renewed Steve Fossett search before heading to lunch at BLT Burger at Mirage.

I'm at the Rio right now for the World Series of Poker -- the last 27 are being whittled down to the so-called November Nine today. So, since I don't actually have to spring into intense action until we get closer to that -- and there are 18 of the 6,844 players left, I have a breath.

I'll discuss BLT Burger on this week's episode of "The Strip" this week but suffice to say it was a very pleasant surprise. And yesterday's visit to the Trump is the subject of a slightly admiring but largely scathing LVW column to come, so I'll hold my fire on that until Thursday with perhaps some preview on the show as well.

Which leaves all I have to discuss right now is the preview I attended yesterday of the "Mamma Mia!" film yesterday. And girls, y'all better get out that pack of wild horses you used to drag your men to "Sex and the City" last month if you want to go in pairs to see this. Even more than SATC: The Movie, MM!: The Movie is nothing but eye and ear candy for the ladies and, happily for me, the boys-who-like-boys crowd. Dominic Cooper, the actor who plays Sky, in particular, is a young, beefier Adrian Grenier who does entire numbers with the camera lovingly panning over his immaculate physique. Read all about him from the San Francisco Chronicle here. He's like a Mario Lopez who can act.

The local MM! cast attended and they all were effusive. I imagine that's partly because the movie provides a three-dimensional view of what, on stage, is essentially two dimensional. And they were very respectful of Meryl Streep as Donna Sheridan in the flick even though it was clear she did not do justice to many of the more difficult singing moments -- particularly "Winner Takes It All," which is the emotional core of the entire show.

Ultimately this was a very campy, very sexy, very expensive version of the show with Streep sort of saying to the audience: "I'm Meryl Streep, I'm going to have fun playing this role and you're invited to come along on the ride with me." It is a lot of fun, if you're into that sort of thing.