Saturday, August 16, 2008

Podcast-a-Palooza Today!


Hopefully we'll see y'all there! It's 4-6pm(ish) at The Palms in The Lounge, which neighbors the poker room just off from the casino. We're all very nervous, I think it's safe to say, so come on down and be kind. Also, win fab prizes.

Alas, no live Web stream. But we'll have audio to put in the feed soon enough and possibly even some video, too.

Gotta run to the P-Ho now and get on someone else's show. Woo hoo.

Friday, August 15, 2008

BestOfVegas.Com Has No Shame

Wow. I'm in awe.

Despite their promotional material being outed as inexcusably old and their "exclusive celebrity content" being outed as just this side of journalistic malpractice, look what just showed up in my e-mail box...

That's just breathtaking. The same image. The same wording. No shame whatsoever. But hey, they've got the dimmer of the Hiltons. Woo hoo.

Steve, Steve, Steve

I'm popping up in a whole bunch of places in the media this weekend besides for the Vegas Podcast-a-Palooza!

First, I discuss the rough state of the Nevada Republican Party on today's episode of the WashingtonPost.Com's Post Politics Podcast following a piece I wrote on the subject that appeared in Thursday's WP. You can click here to hear it or right-click here to download the 15-minute show. I come on around the 7th minute. It's a bit of a thrill as I listen to the PPP every day and think it's the most impressive podcast effort by a major mainstream newspaper.

Tomorrow morning, I'm heading to Planet Ho at the offensively early hour of 7 a.m. to go live with Today Show Travel Editor Peter Greenberg for his very widely distributed two-hour travel radio show (also, it's streamed live online by clicking here) as an expert on the intersection between celebrity and travel in Vegas. Other guests include fellow media whores Oscar Goodman and "Vegas Gang" regular Dave Schwartz.

Then at noon on Saturday, the National Geographic Channel premieres an episode of its "Man Made" series about the Loizeaux family and their casino-implosion enterprise called "Vegas Casino." It's a behind-the-scenes of the Frontier implosion and I was interviewed by them while on the site doing my piece on the family for the New York Times. Stacey Loizeaux tells me I made the cut. I take it they rerun these things quite a bit.

Finally, I appeared last Friday on Nevada Week in Review, where we discussed state and presidential politics and the journalistic ethics behind the CityCenter Drunky McDrunk expose in the R-J. It just went up online. Click here to download that.

Thursday, August 14, 2008

How Much Is That Big Head In All The Windows?

On this week's program, Nathan Burton does something rare for Vegas: He tells the truth. Find out how much the wrap of him at the Flamingo cost, what it would cost to remove and what all of that means for his job security on this week's episode of "The Strip." 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.

Aug. 14: Nathan Burton

If there’s anyone who can attest to the fact that achieving fame in Las Vegas is never easy, it’s illusionist Nathan Burton. Yes, his goofy grin is now plastered across a tower of the Flamingo Las Vegas now -- and he reveals what that costs! -- but his journey to that triumph required two decades of work, gigs at countless hotels and appearances on not one but two top-rated reality TV competitions. Oh, and sealing himself in a box with seven Vegas showgirls for a week didn’t hurt, either. Burton joined us in the studio, as did Amy Turner of GritsToGlitz.Com subbing for a working Miles.

In Banter: The ladies' night ruling, BestofVegas.Com's screw-up and Steve's theory on that Cirque-Dubai transaction.


Nathan Burton’s website is here
Get tickets for Nathan’s show at the Flamingo here
Read Steve’s coverage of the ladies’ night question here
See the mildly risqué microwave trick Burton did on TV here
Hear Amy’s regular show, Grits To Glitz, here
See Steve’s blog rant and the head-scratching images from BestofVegas.Com here
Read the AP report on Cirque selling a fifth of itself to Dubai here

Vegas Podcast-a-Palooza Ramping Up!

We're getting a fresh blast of great PR in advance of the Vegas Podcast-a-Palooza today!

First comes an eerily timed -- gosh, how DOES that happen? -- Question of the Day that gives an overview of the Vegas podcast world on the Las Vegas Advisor website. And my friend and colleague Norm Clarke gave us a hand in today's Review-Journal column, which can be found here. (I believe the QoD is only available for free on Thursday, then it's part of the archive for LVA members.) And now Joe Brown from the Las Vegas Sun referenced us in his blog post earlier today as well!

Of course, YOU are our best promoters. And that's why you'll be rewarded for showing up! The Las Vegas Convention & Visitors Authority has provided 150 blinky Welcome To Las Vegas magnetic lapel pins for guests on a first-come, first-served basis. And we'll do a drawing during or after each show to give away prize packs that include donated Vegas.Com swag, copies of my books and some other stuff that's in "The Strip" prize vault from the Huntington Press warehouse. And after all three shows are done, Tim, Michele, Miles, me and Hunter will take questions from the audience.

For our part, in addition to our Carrot Top chat, we've got a fascinating piece of never-aired audio to share from a recent interview that contains an amazing Sheldon Adelson anecdote and tonight I shall be having my much-anticipated rapproachement dinner with a certain Vegas mogul so there will be that to dish about.

If you somehow don't know what this event is that I jammer on about, click here and see. There's still some talk that we might stream the event live and I'll update when I know if/when/how. And whatever we do will be in our feed sometime next week for sure.

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

This is NOT how you do it.

(UPDATE: I was just listening to the current "Five Hundy By Midnight" episode and realized this is their sponsor. I'm not taking back my critique, but I wanted to make sure nobody thought I was tearing into BestofVegas.Com based on professional jealousy. I think it's quite important that sites and products like this understand and honor the marketing value of advertising in untraditional media and for that BestofVegas deserves props. -sf)

Say you have bought yourself an awesome domain name and you want to provide new content. And say that this content is intended to be the newest, the hottest, the latest, the greatest stuff in the market. And then say you execute a rather expensive campaign that involves blanketing the e-mail boxes and then the actual mailboxes of journalists with elaborate invitations to a soiree celebrating your launch.

I must assume that that is what the great minds behind BestofVegas.Com had in mind. What they didn't expect was to become a laughingstock for it. But in a moment, they will be.

I got said e-mail notice and this was the image that was contained therein:

There was instantly something that didn't sit right with me with this image. I suspected it had to do with the blue and green lights to the left of the logo. I was always intrigued by the claim of "exclusive celebrity content." But I'll get back to that in a moment.

Last week, a black cylinder arrived at the house. It contained a small poster, perhaps 10-by-18-inch in size. And where the image above darkens at the SAVE THE DATE part, here is what the entire image on the invitation looked like:

Do you see it? It took guest host Amy Turner just a split second to see what's so very, very wrong with this image this week as we recorded "The Strip." Yes, believe it! That IS the Aladdin right there, front and center. If you click on the image and enlarge it, you might be able to see just below the words "Group Company" a billboard for...wait for it... Siegfried & Roy!

The best, the newest, the hottest, the coolest. That's what they were going for. And how much faith could we possibly have that this website, which is largely utterly redundant of the gazillion better Vegas travel sites out there, could be when they're using a photo showing the Strip from at least 2003? FIVE YEARS AGO. The Wynn hadn't even opened yet. WTF?

That's just unforgivable, but so is the false claims the invite makes. Since I keep close tabs on who the other celebrity journalists with great access are and what they do, I was curious about their promise of "exclusive celebrity content." Lots of sites claim "exclusives" that turn out to be little video bits from red carpets, along which it often seems that all you need to be invited is a homemade press pass and a pulse. It's a rather loose definition of "exclusive" since they declare anything at all that they have on camera that nobody else has as exclusive regardless of the journalistic relevance or the willingness of the celebrity to tell the exact same thing to anyone else who will listen.

But anyhow, I get to the website and I find out front these...

...and I think, "Whoa, I dunno who these folks are, but if they're getting Molly Sims and Chris Rock, they're a force I'll have to reckon with."

Then I clicked on the "interviews." Remember, we're expecting "exclusive celebrity content." And what do I find? The entire Molly Sims interview is made up of quotes -- appropriately attributed, I'll give them that -- she gave to OTHER JOURNALISTS. The piece recycles bits first reported (ages ago, by the by) by Robin Leach and Underground Online, whatever that is. The Chris Rock thing isn't an interview at all, it's a rewrite of his media bio. There are also "interviews" with Ben Affleck (sources:,, Bette Midler (Reuters, "public statement"), Cameron Diaz (W Magazine) and Andre Agassi (Larry King,

As I said, I give them credit for properly crediting the origin of their quotes. That's conscientious and I can't tell you how much more severe this post would be if they had just ripped other people off wholesale. But still, does this qualify to you as "exclusive celebrity content"? Would you listen to "The Strip" if all it was was quotes grabbed from various radio and TV shows?

BestofVegas.Com is fine as a travel site. The parent company, Entertainment Benefits Group, is apparently a travel wholesaler of some sort that claims -- as they all do -- to offer great deals based on some bulk purchase. I can't quite make heads or tails from their website of what they do, but apparently they do it in various Florida destinations as well. Boffo to them.

But it always does rankle me when these sorts of Web sites pop up and pretend to be doing journalism. It's hard enough to be taken seriously in this town. When folks like this come along and fake it, it cheapens the rest of us.

Wacky Stuff Today

I'm taking it easy today, about to get the Nathan Burton podcast up and just reading the news to catch up a little. Turns out, you don't have to just look at the Review-Journal for weird stuff in the media these days.

First off, I offer this headline from the NO-SHIT files:

Uh, we needed a "report" on this? Isn't it assumed she was in anguish? And, anyhow, apparently she wasn't anguished enough to keep her lying, cheating sack of shit husband from running for president, which would have only taken threatening to expose this about him. What sort of Messianic complex must both of them have to believe they're so important to the fate of the Republic that they should seek to run it knowing he's a lying, cheating sack of shit and it's bound to become public. The nation already went through that once. I feel for Elizabeth up until the point at which she not only forgives him, which is her choice, but also she licenses him to risk further humiliating her family. Then it's her own damn fault. But that's really besides the point. The headline struck me as odd.

That's just my warm-up, anyway. The biggest domestic news of the day is the murder of the Arkansas Democratic Party chairman, right? Not to AOL, which had this list a little while ago:

A potential act of domestic, political terrorism ranks lower than a meaningless poll, Cindy McCain's painful handshake, rescued animals and an obscene debate coach. The Georgia conflict I buy, but otherwise wow.

But wait! It gets better. When you do find the murder story, take a look at this layout. Apparently the death of a Democratic Party official is of equal significance as the fact that a supporter gripped Barbie's hand too hard and sprained her plastic wrist. Were they trying to avoid the perception of journalistic political bias?

But the silliest thing I've seen today is this. In the AP piece on the murder, they quote a 17-year-old party volunteer named Sam Higginbotham. No, that isn't the funny part. The funny part is Sam's line about the gunman:

"He said he was interested in volunteering, but that was obviously a lie."

Well, obviously! And you know how I know? Because he shoved right past me and gunned down the boss. So clearly, he was fibbing! I'm a little surprised the reporters didn't find some desperate Democratic partisan to say, "Wait! What if he wasn't lying! The cops just shot a potential volunteer? OMG!"

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

BREAKING: Ladies Nights Doomed?

I just broke this news for The New York Times about the Nevada Equal Rights Commission finding that gender-based pricing violates Nevada statutes. It's an open question whether it's enforceable and I've also posted an analysis at the Las Vegas Weekly's site on that side of the matter. Plus, we'll discuss this on the podcast tonight as well quite a bit, so grab that show when it's up on Thursday.

I find the whole topic fascinating and encourage you to chime on on whether Strip attractions ought to be allowed to charge women less than men for the same services. You can read NERC's ruling -- love the part about women's body parts falling out -- by clicking here.

MGM Mirage, which owns three topless pools and hosts a few nightclubs with gender-based prices, disagreed with NERC. Here's what Alan Feldman, MGM Mirage veep, wrote me in a statement:
*We believe that the longstanding practice of many Nevada hospitality industries
to charge different entry/cover charges to men and women continues to be lawful.

*The state's public accommodation statute does not prohibit different cover
charges on the basis of gender, and never intended to prohibit such practices as
"ladies nights."

*Taken to its logical conclusion, NERC's decision calls into question such
practices as charging different prices for seniors or children at movies or
attractions such as museums or amusement parks. It might also apply to charges
for services such as haircuts and dry cleaning. Also, based on NERC's reasoning,
it is unclear whether a movie theatre would be permitted from prohibiting a
minor from entering an R-rated movie unaccompanied by an adult.

*While we are continuing to review the Nevada Equal Right Commission's position
in the Las Vegas Athletic Club matter, at this time we do not intend to change
our cover charge practices.

The Strip is LIVE tonight w/Nathan Burton!

The Strip is LIVE tonight at 7:05 p.m. PT with illusionist Nathan Burton live in the LV Rocks studio! Burton, whose face is now plastered in monster size across a tower at the Flamingo, will discuss his act, his "America's Got Talent" experience and that thing where he was in a box with seven showgirls a while back.

ALSO, Miles will be off handling election returns at the TV station, so Amy Turner of Grits To Glitz is filling in. We'll mull the latest news -- including something breaking right now that I'm working on for the NY Times -- and have a load of fun.

Join us in the chat room at LVRocks.Com at 7 p.m. or wait until later in the week for the podcast version. Your call, but I'm sure Amy would appreciate your support!

Monday, August 11, 2008

A Look at the Eastside

I thought this slideshow showing the changing colors of the soon-to-open Eastside Cannery about six miles east of the Strip was fun and worthy of sharing. Roberta LaRocca is a local realtor and she's got a bunch of other cool slideshows and such that can be found here, including some of the Strip and other regions of the city. Oh, and she's got one of Sparky, the dog that fetches stuff underwater!

Sunday, August 10, 2008

Please, Ed, Make It Stop!

Apparently, I was wrong in my last post when I assumed that the Review-Journal's sports columnist Ed Graney would move on to start covering what he understands -- the sports of the Olympics -- once competitions got underway. Evidently, despite the fact that Michael Phelps broke his own world record, an American tourist was killed and the U.S. president seemed to get hot and probably completely offended half of his anti-sex religious-kook base back home by frolicking with Team USA's 7/8-naked women's beach volleyball players, Our Man In China was busy writing the idiot's guide to Beijing tourist attractions.

Today's dispatch included a predictable piece on the awesomeness of the Forbidden City complete with a few minor inaccuracies and a reference to "The Last Emperor" as well as, this being a sports writer and all, an obligatory Tiger Woods analogy. You know you're in trouble when the piece starts with "Maybe you saw the movie. Maybe you didn't." Well, gee, Ed. That's kind of what "maybe" means. Thanks for covering all the bases.

But what's worse is the sidebar on weird Chinese food offerings on a stick at Wangfujing Night Market. This offered a particularly interesting contrast because there's Ed rambling about trying the scorpions-on-a-stick and taking note of other oddities and then in the R-J's sports section there's a piece by humorist Dave Barry that mocks all the journalists at the same site doing exactly that and thinking they're so clever. Except, of course, Barry was funny and original and Ed was a cheap, cliche-soaked imitation. Barry also noticed, as Ed did not, that the Chinese weren't eating these crazy things; Wangfujing is an odd tourist trap that profits off of the West's stupidest impressions of the Chinese by playing into it. "I would not be surprised to learn that the Chinese word for scorpion is 'TV reporter food,' " Barry wrote perceptively.

Also, Barry didn't throw in a gratuitous line about the Chinese eating dog parts like Ed did because, I suspect, Barry knows this is an increasingly rare concept, as an essayist in the NY Times noted recently. In all my travels and coverage in China, from sleeping on the floor of an AIDS victim's home in Henan Province to sleeping in a yurt in the remote northwest mountains of Xinjiang, I only ever saw one instance where anyone used dog meat for food. It was in a punishingly poor area near Guilin in south-central China where the desperation was beyond anything I'd ever seen. They eat anything they can in these places and you would, too. But in a modern metropolis like Beijing? Uh, no.

Our Man In China also cracked me up in his blog by going on a little babble about how foreign newspapers were burying the news of the dead American tourist. Uh, hello? Ed didn't write a word about it in today's paper, either, and the R-J ran a long wire story from the Olympics that took well into the jump to get to this news. It appears on page 10A, about 14 paragraphs into a story that is largely about Bush's exciting day. Ed chides the China Daily, where I worked and mocked mercilessly in Editor & Publisher years ago, for putting it on page 5. That's more prominent than the R-J!

So here's my prediction for the coming week. Our Man In China will go to the Great Wall, declare it truly impressive and take note of the T-shirt vendors there as a contradiction of capitalism in a Communist nation. He'll go to the Summer Palace and marvel at the big, expensive marble boat that can't float the Empress Dowager bankrupted the Navy to build, making some comparison to some U.S. pro sports team's failure to win despite spending millions on talent. Some Chinese person will ask to take his photo and he'll write with bemusement about the experience. He'll probably get approached by a Chinese hooker who acts demure and wants to "practice her English" and he'll think, "Wow, this is my Front Page Lead tomorrow!"

Or maybe Ed will focus on the sports themselves. One can only hope.

Bookmark this

If you love political cartoons and you're into the Olympics, I strongly suggest you bookmark this link from Daryl Cagle's Professional Cartoonists Index. It's a great time-waster. Some are biting, some are predictable, some are artistic and some, like this one below from the Hong Kong-based South China Morning Post, are all of the above.