Saturday, January 17, 2009

This Week's LVW Col: The Headliner That Got Away

Here's this week's Las Vegas Weekly installment. Enjoy.

The Headliner That Got Away
Former Zumanity star Joey Arias should've been Cirque's first marquee star


I am one of just 70 people packed into an air-conditioning-less basement at an “experimental” theater in SoHo watching a gargantuan, nearly naked gender-bender stomping through a miniature set of New York City, à la Godzilla. At one point, much to the crowd’s uproarious pleasure, this monster taking Manhattan actually bites into and swallows the top of a skyscraper, the ultimate in chewing the scenery.

It is merely one outrageously campy, brilliant scene in a show that theatrically announces Andy Warhol pal Joey Arias’ triumphant return to his New York universe after five years as the hostess-with-the-moistest in Cirque du Soleil’s risqué revue Zumanity. In Arias With a Twist, the Greenwich Village legend is dropped back to Earth after being abducted for years by space aliens who, we may infer, are meant to allegorically represent the Cirque folks and Las Vegas itself.

In the show, which cost Arias and co-producer/puppeteering maestro Basil Twist about $100,000 to stage, Arias gets to do all the things onstage he really couldn’t do in the tightly scripted Cirque production still playing at New York-New York. He is at turns ridiculous, as when the aliens pleasurably probe him or when massive phalluses flail on gigantic puppets, and sincere, as when he puts his respected smoky voice to work on “All By Myself” and “You’ve Changed.” The result is a sold-out eight-month run that ended on New Year’s Eve as well as the glowing embrace of New York Times critic Ben Brantley, who opened his June review thusly: “Eat your heart out, Madonna.”

“Can you imagine this show in Vegas?” Arias cackles later over dinner at a nearby haunt, even as it’s clear he can.

And, in fact, so can I. In fact, the very reason I decided I needed to see Arias’ off-the-wall production while I was in New York last month was to confirm something I believed from the first time I learned of Arias back in 2003: Cirque missed an amazing chance when it had him in its clutches.

Joey Arias, not Criss Angel, should have been Cirque du Soleil’s first marquee headline performer.

Read the rest HERE

The Petcast is LIVE from 10-noon PT Saturday

Emily and I are back in the studio on Saturday for some new Petcasts. Join us from 10-noon PT at LVRocks.Com to listen live and join the chatroom.

Here's the scheduled lineup:

10 am: Beverly Hills Chihuahua trainer Mike Alexander

10:30 am: Allergist Bob Grubbe, M.D., of Oxford, Ala., on tips for sensitive pet owners.

11 am: Kristin Halston, who fosters dogs and provides resources for foster families at

11:30 am: Steve’s sister, Julie, who is a volunteer dog-walker with the Sedona Humane Society shelter.

Thursday, January 15, 2009

My Daily Show Moment

My NYT Mob Museum piece made a cameo last night. Check it out! This is the coolest thing that's happened since Jay Leno and "Wait Wait Don't Tell Me" joked about my USAT piece on hair transplants from dead people.

The Show is UP: Top 10 Moments of 2008...

...AND a new theme song. Which I'll blog about a little more later today or tomorrow. But anyhow, here's our annual look-back, delayed a week because of last week's Mamma Mia! exit interviews. There is some new stuff in here -- particularly Wynn talking about the Charles Barkley gambling debt and his plans for what to do first in using all his golf course land. Click on the date below to listen or right-click and save to your computer. Or subscribe via iTunes here or via Zune here.

Jan. 15: Top 10 Moments of 2008!

Steve, Steve, Steve. Wynn, that is. We’ve tallied up the Top 10 moments of 2008 as voted on by you and, surprise surprise, Mr. Wynn is involved in some way in six of them. But, still, a few others made outrageously memorable remarks on this program during the year that was, and we take our annual look back at all of it tonight. For good measure, though, we’ve got some never-before-heard bits to keep it fresh. Plus, news from Vegas, a new trivia question and a poll. You’re on the Strip, brought to you by Priceline.Com and Hotels.Com, and we’re kicking off a new year with a new theme song!

In Banter: The mob museum, Octavius tower blues, our staycation at Trump and Encore and a very weird phone call.


Norm’s piece on Cheap Trick is here
Steve’s NYT piece and blog post on the mob museum is here
Steve’s coverage of the porn confab for Newsweek in 2003 is here
The AP story on the halt of the newest Caesars tower is here

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

The Randomness of My Work

My brain is a storehouse of arcane information I hang on to until just the right moment. Then I pay the bills with it. Such was the case with my NYT piece last month about what now becomes of the Bush-specific line in the finale of "Avenue Q" and tonight it's the case for this weird piece I wrote that was just posted on Slate.Com.

Read it here. It's fun. And of no consequence whatsoever. Well, unless it drives someone to take a shot at President Bush between now and Tuesday. Then it becomes eerie and this post will be in incredibly bad taste. Now you know why it was difficult to write this thing, actually.

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

The Strip is LIVE tonight for our Top 10 of 2008

Yes, yes, we know. 2008 is already a distant memory. But we were busy last week honoring Mamma Mia!, so we're recalling the best moments of our show last year tonight instead.

It's really convenient to you, too; instead of wading through all those hours, here's your chance to cut to the chase. Hear Adelson claim he offered Wynn a job, Wynn say he's delusional, Tony Curtis talk about his spunk in the park and much, much more. Plus, we've got a new theme song to unveil and some bits of audio from the Encore tour that we held back just so we'd have something brand new to provide. Also, we mull the week's news and report on our Smithmas Vegas Staycation.

Come on down at 6:45-8 pm PT tonight at LVRocks.Com to listen live and chat with fellow fans. Or wait a couple of days for the podcast. Whichever you like.

Sunday, January 11, 2009

Of Lobotomies, Heart Attacks, and Fellatio

The Sunday papers were full of long pieces about how awful the economy is and who it's hurting now, which I find depressing and redundant so I passed them by. There were three bits of interest to discuss, though:

1. Poor Employees of Tom Mitchell. There was a sadly amusing and maddeningly clueless column by blog-hating R-J Editor Tom Mitchell explaining why the newspaper business is in such dire straits. True to form, he wanted to "offer some insight into the century-old business model for the modern daily newspaper" without seeing how ridiculous and paradoxical that phrase is. He does, in fact, still cling to a 100-year-old business model for a "modern" newspaper without ever acknowledging anywhere that that very century-old business model is going out the window in the new era. He describes his company's troubles as though it is merely being buffeted by the standard-issue problems of a slow economy, never once noticing that other important societal shifts are taking place that will never be undone even when the economy improves. He also continues to deliberately play fast and loose with data, referring to a tiny recent daily-newspaper circulation uptick while never admitting the paper's circulation is about the same as it was a decade ago and that his regime failed to capitalize at all on Las Vegas' record-setting population growth.

It depresses me because Mitchell and publisher Sherm Frederick will go on insisting as they run their newspaper into the ground that they are being harmed by forced beyond their control and take comfort in the fact that other major papers are struggling, too. Yet they have a singularly hideous and anti-user website that blares as breaking news such things as first-quarter football scores, they have bloggers who don't blog, they have video programming that can't be downloaded to any portable media device and their idea for cutting edge is to have a middle-aged weatherman read the news on a smartphone. They play victim of circumstance when, in fact, they are actively incompetent at using the Internet in a meaningful way that could put them in a position to capitalize once a viable Web-based business model develops. And besides the fact that I love newspapers and good journalism and want it to persist and thrive, I mostly worry that several fine journalists will end up jobless thanks to their bosses' myopia.

2. Viva Las Vegas for heart attacks: Parade Magazine ran an excerpt from a book by ex-Good Morning America executive producer Ben Sherwood in which he claims that the best place to have a heart attack is in a casino because everyone's watching and all the security personnel are trained at defribillating and CPR and stuff like that. That makes some sense, but Sherwood doesn't explain here the source of his contention that "the heart attack survival rate in Las Vegas is 53 percent." Does he mean at Strip casinos? Or citywide? He points to Seattle (16 percent) and Chicago (2 percent) as comparisons, but there isn't really any explanation as to why away from the casino floor Vegas heart attack victims would be any better off. It sure as hell ain't because our health care system's so terrific.

3. Not Howie Do It. Howard Stutz, the usually excellent gaming reporter for the R-J, had an off-day today. He did a lengthy piece on the departure of MGM Mirage CEO Terry Lanni that was full of nothing but praise for Lanni's tenure. Besides the question as to why this is worth a look now, nearly two months after Lanni left, there is nothing anywhere in the piece that examines Lanni's role in overleveredging this company into the challenges it currently faces. In fact, the troubled condition of the company at the time of Lanni's resignation is never mentioned and instead the focus is on the non-story about Lanni's phony MBA. That's odd; Lanni himself acknowledged that it seemed like a good time to go because the problems needed fresh eyes and new ideas. What's more, while everyone in the piece -- Gary Loveman, Bill Weidner, Jim Murren, Bill Boyd, Bill Bible, Dennis Neilander, Frank Fahrenkopf -- sang Lanni's praises, a tiny bit of balance could have easily been achieved by noting that Steve Wynn has been very critical lately of Lanni and others for making deals they shouldn't have. Wynn said as much to several news outlets in the rush surrounding the opening of Encore. And Wynn's not the only one who could have provided an alternative assessment of Lanni's tenure; someone on Wall Street easily could at least have been called upon to explain why the MGM stock had tanked so dramatically in Lanni's final year. Sure, most of Lanni's career was bountiful, but most of Alan Greenspan's career was bountiful, too, and we're all now taking a second look at that as well.