Thursday, February 19, 2009

And now for some GOOD tourism news!

I actually broke this news a couple weeks ago out of my lunch with Boyd Gaming co-founder Bill Boyd, but the LVCVA just put out a press release announcing Hawaiian Airlines is adding a third daily flight from Honolulu to Las Vegas four times a week. It starts next week.

Still, I don't mind re-reporting something like this. It's just nice -- and unexpected -- to report something good happening in the tourism business around here. I wonder how it is the Hawaiians still have money to travel, but thank goodness they do.

Elaine Wynn: "I'm doing just great."

OK, that's a sneaky headline. It implies I had a discussion with her about the possibilities of a divorce, which I did not explicitly have. But I did interview her yesterday for a profile of a significant Wynn figure I'm writing and, as always, there was some fun runoff material that doesn't belong in my story. I'll get to the "I'm doing great" part in a sec.

First, though, one fun bit arose from a recent comment I had made on VegasPBS' Nevada Week in Review a few weeks back. (I'll be on again this weekend, FYI.) The panel was discussing the Republicans' problem finding a candidate of stature to go up against Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid next year despite his abysmal popularity rating in Nevada. For some reason, I offhandedly mentioned Elaine Wynn and then later realized she'd actually be a formidable candidate and senator. She is, after all:

(a) a lifelong Republican with significant ties to President Obama
(b) a successful, fiscally conservative businesswoman
(c) someone with significant means and name recognition and
(d) someone who may be looking for something else to do if she is divorcing her husband or needing some time apart.

Might Mrs. Wynn follow the Mrs. Clinton route and strike out on her own? I think she'd scare the crap out of the Democrats. Heck, she'd scare the crap out of Nevada Republicans, too.

So I inquired as to whether she'd ever run for office. She said no, that she feels she has more influence in her charity work which revolves largely around disadvantaged youths via Communities in Schools, of which she's national chairwoman. But here's part of the discussion:

Elaine Wynn: I wouldn’t consider running for office. It’s too rigorous and, in this day and age, it’s too unkind. I wouldn’t want to subject myself to the unpleasant part of it. And then most of the time you’re working in committees and you're compromising. I’m a leader. I’d run for governor before I ran for the Senate. [long pause] But I wouldn’t do that! So don’t get any ideas!

Friess: Well, you’re a Republican and the Republicans don’t seem to have anybody to run against Harry Reid.

Wynn: I would never run against Harry Reid. I think it would be stupid for our state to run anyone against Harry Reid. I think we have the most powerful person in the Senate and despite what one’s political persuasions might be, the state of Nevada benefits greatly from him being where he is. Anybody who’s thinking otherwise is not sophisticated.

Yowza! I wonder if she's speaking specifically of people like Review-Journal publisher Sherm Frederick, who has been on a jihad against Reid for years now. And to think Sherm tried to gin up his sophistication cred recently by (apologetically) explaining to readers how he loves arthouse flicks. Foiled again!

I spoke to Mrs. Wynn by phone from her home in Sun Valley, Idaho, and asked if she was feeling any post-opening blues. Her response:

I feel like I’ve done my final exams, I turned in my term paper, I got an A and now I’m on vacation. It feels fabulous. I went to the grocery store today! I went to the stationery store and bought envelopes. I’m back in the real world again. I’m with my grandchildren. ... I know it sounds ridiculous being a billionaire, but I love the simple things in life.

Of course I wanted to ask directly about the possible divorce and the other woman, but I did not because there is something about the dignity of this woman that makes even someone as intrusive and shameless as I am want to behave yourself. So instead, I asked this ambiguous question near the end of the chat and I sensed she knew what I was asking:

Friess: You’re doing OK?

Wynn: Yeah, I’m doing great, I’m doing just great. I’m very excited and anxious for the next chapter in the company and I’ve started visiting my CiS sites. I went to Chicago, I went to North Carolina. ... I’ve only been chairman for one year of this organization and the first year there was a high learning curve and so now I’m getting out in the network. But I’m living in Las Vegas and I intend to remain active in the company and that won’t change.

That last sentence seemed to be key. If it weren't for the talk of the possible divorce, I find it hard to imagine she'd even address whether she'd be living in Las Vegas or continue to "remain active in the company."

I did wonder, since Elaine gave that statement to Norm saying "there will only be one person that will occupy the villa and that will be Mr. Wynn," if they had more than one home in Vegas. She said no, they only have the villa at Wynn Las Vegas. So they're both living in Las Vegas and they have but one residence. Could all this divorce talk be malarky or premature?

What seems very, very clear is that she's focusing on her life and that the cutthroat nastiness of high-profile divorce that the gossip press loves to stew in is fairly unlikely to emerge here no matter how much the New York Post hopes so. For those of you nervous that an internecine squabble could damage the company and the only gaming company whose stock has maintained any semblance of value, the vibe I got was that that's not going to happen.

Oh! And one more interesting remark. This one gives you just the right sense of how this woman thinks, how optimistic she is. She sees a silver lining on all this economic misery. Sayeth Elaine:

The bargain hunters are getting great deals now, but I think later when things do normalize, that they’ll remember what good times they had and they’ll come back. They’ll pay a little more money but they’ll come back. And they’ll have been exposed to something they might not have had a chance to be exposed to before. At least that’s what I’m hoping.

So the current criminally low-priced Vegas is . . . a loss leader for the future of Vegas! Hooray!

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Those silly British scandal sheets...

...are having a weird field day with the naming by the New York Post of a British divorcee, Andrea Hissom, as Steve Wynn's paramour. Weird, that is, because it's unclear whether most Britons have heard of Wynn and it's clear they're slapping together breathless articles with very little knowledge of the Wynns, Las Vegas or, for that matter, facts.

This lengthy piece in the Daily Mail by Paul Thompson, posted a few hours ago, is the most blatant example. I thought it might be entertaining to take it apart a little bit. Like this part:

Under U.S. law Wynn's wife, who divorced her husband in 1986 only to re-marry him five years later and helped build his casino empire, would be entitled to half his fortune.

Legal experts said the divorce would be the most expensive ever, eclipsing the £100million U.S. basketball star Michael Jordan paid his wife Juanita when they split.

The piece never identifies said "legal experts" but it's really an odd statement because if the Jordans' divorce cost him US$140 million, it's nowhere near the most expensive settlement ever. That honor goes to ... the owner of the New York Post, Rupert Murdoch. He parted with $1.7 billion in 1998 to get unhooked from his wife. At least three other couples have split for more than the Jordans, including two American couples, according to this list. The reporter must have gotten this from Fox News' list here, but that's celebrity divorces and evidently it's wrong, anyway, since Murdoch is at least as big a "celebrity" as Wynn. Interesting that Fox News didn't include their owner, huh?

Of course, I find it difficult to imagine Elaine would try to take Steve to the cleaners, considering that both of their financial interests are so firmly bound up in their company. Stranger things have happened, though, but she didn't do that when the divorced the last time so far as I have heard. That was pre-Mirage, though. I just don't see her wanting to make this messy; it's not usually her way.

Back to the article:

Rumours about 67-year-old Wynn's marriage surfaced at the opening gala of his latest five-star Vegas hotel Encore just before Christmas. The Las Vegas casino tycoon's wife and his daughter were seen crying at the launch for the £1.8billion hotel.

That's fun, cuz there was no opening gala before Christmas. The place opened before Xmas, but the gala was at the end of January on the weekend of Steve Wynn's birthday. And the Norm Clarke column where this crying thing came from doesn't say that it occurred "at the launch."

According to Las Vegas newspaper columnist Norm Clarke Wynn has moved out of the suite he and his wife shared at the Wynn hotel, one of six he owns in Vegas.

Interesting, since Norm never said Wynn owns six homes in Vegas. Or is it that he owns six hotels? Either way, it's false. Norm did say that Elaine issued a statement saying, "There will only be one person that will occupy the villa and that will be Mr. Wynn." That's exactly the opposite of the Daily Mail report, right? And this comes from the aggrieved party.

I liked this part, too, about the alleged girlfriend:

She is believed to be well known among London's social set, and her Facebook page lists over 70 friends including financier Guy Dellal.

Is her having 70 Facebook friends impressive, a sign of status? Because if that's so, I ought to start planning my bid for president. As an aside, I'm not even sure this is the right person; she does not appear to have a single Facebook friend in Las Vegas. You'd think someone here would want to friend her, right?

One more little thing:

His company developed The Mirage, Treasure Island, Bellagio and Wynn Hotels.

Well, his former company developed the first three. I think the reporter thinks Wynn still owns or operates the first set. And, if he thinks there are six Wynn hotels in Vegas, what's the sixth? The Golden Nugget, which is now at least three owners removed from its days as a Wynn asset?

From there, the story goes through Wynn damaging the Picasso, the Wynns' earlier divorce and remarriage and the kidnapping of Kevyn Wynn in 1993. (Thompson says it was Gillian, so he didn't get that, either. Yeesh.) It's like the writer couldn't stop. I'm surprised he didn't mention Wynn's meeting with the Dalai Lama and Andy Warhol.

The Wynn drama is interesting, but I suspect it's less exciting than the Brits want to make it out to be. There is a legitimate reason for the public to be interested, mainly that the fate of a publicly traded company hang in the balance.

But, again, I just find it hard to imagine Elaine Wynn wanting to make a big spectacle -- or a big pay day -- out of any of this. I was told that they visited Danny Gans backstage together recently and even held hands. That doesn't sound like either of them have whoever the latter-day Marvin Mitchelson is on speed dial.

RJTV is...

...a lot better today, on the second day out. Watch it here. It's more of a proper show, with Nate reading some stories. It's essentially a newscast without any video, but I suspect we'll get to that. Still no share-ability or portability. It's almost like they're inventing the modern news program one block at a time, which is odd because it's already been invented. But it's nice to see it's more substantive than the first attempt.

To respond to one recent commenter: The other videos on the site are NOT what is being referred to as RJTV. It's cool that they're there and some are better than others, but it really just points to the fact that they've been doing some of this work in a somewhat disorganized way for a while and still they've not stumbled across the commonly offered tools for sharing this content around the Web.

Oh, and one more thing: Thanks, Nate, for skipping the sheer shirt today. Whew.

Live Chat 7-8:30 pm Tonight

Join us in the chatroom at LVRocks.Com from 7-8:30 p.m. PT as we play a special EXTRA interview that won't go into the feed until next week, a chat I had last year with Dean Martin's son, Ricci Martin. It's a fun walk down Old Vegas memory lane!

Monday, February 16, 2009

The Show, Such As It Is, Is UP

This is what happens when we don't have a proper studio. The audio's a bit rough, to say the least. I should have done some extra tests to make sure it worked well, but I didn't. I tried to fix it, I'm not sure I was all that successful. BUT...the interviews with Fator (starts @ 26ish) and Brown (starts @ 1:01ish) are quite loud and clear. They're also really good interviews. The tourist tip, poll and trivia question can be read at TheStripPodcast.Com, too. It's a good show - there's even a bit of a surprise within the first minute - but I feel the need to offer all of this disclaiming because, unlike a certain other media outlet in town, I am embarrassed when my product is substandard. OK, with that, here's the weekly info: Click on the date below to listen or right-click and save to your computer. Or subscribe via iTunes here or via Zune here.

Feb. 15: The Impressionist Era Of Vegas...

with Terry Fator and Gordie Brown

Call it the impressionist period of Las Vegas. This month, three major impersonator acts open – or reopen. Danny Gans relocated to Encore, Terry Fator took Gans’ space at the Mirage and Gordie Brown, late of the Venetian, has returned to his old Golden Nugget haunts. Fator and Brown both join us this hour. Find out what Fator’s new Mirage-appropriate puppet will be and hear all about Brown’s early years as a celebrity stalker. Plus, Steve grills Brown on parts of his act he didn’t like.

In Banter: Behind the scenes at Cirque dance auditions, Oscar v Obama, Curtas v Encore, bye-bye La Cage and Heidi Fleiss, the Excalibur’s new deal.


Get tickets for Terry Fator at the Mirage here
Get tickets to Gordie Brown at the Golden Nugget here
Get tickets for Danny Gans at Wynn Las Vegas here
Terry Fator’s website is here
Gordie Brown’s website is here
Danny Gans’ website is here
Read Steve’s column on Danny Gans’ show here
Find out what happened to the LVRocks studio here
Read Steve’s posts on the Obama v Oscar row here and here
Hear the 2/12 Oscar Goodman press conference here
Read John Curtas’ blog review of Encore here
The Review-Journal’s report on the closure of La Cage is here
The Las Vegas Sun’s story on the rebranding of the Trop is here
If you care, Richard Abowitz discusses Heidi Fleiss’ no-go of a stud farm here
Read about the smoker to fell out of the Circus Circus window here
Our listeners’ new show Seattle Geekly, can be found here
Buy an Edirol that we use to record interviews here
See the list of companies likely to go under, with two Vegas-related entries, here

We Waited THREE MONTHS For This?!?

Update: There does seem to be a link now from the front of the homepage. Whoop-do-doo. You'd think they'd put that there before they promoted it in the newspaper.

Hey kids! They finally really did get RJTV online today after lying to readers yesterday about its existence. No, they didn't put any indication of that out front of the ReviewJournal.Com website -- why make it easy for anyone to find anything on your website?!?!? -- but if you go to the Multimedia page, it starts rolling and suddenly, there's this...

It's a 86-second "show" (of which a good 12 seconds is the logo in the beginning and end) that presents an echoy Nathan Tannenbaum in a sheer white shirt pronouncing the outline of his tanktop undershirt. He sits before that blue background to welcome us and then reads a few headlines, the most important of which, given the order, seems to be that there's no mail today.

This is what you see:

Then we get a weather report, see?

Not sure what that fiery eclipsy thing with the green dot at the center's supposed to be, but whatever. End times upon us? A subtle wink at the NBC show "Heroes"? Someone playing with a cheap graphics program? Who knows!

But that's it. Three months since the newspaper announced this endeavor, all they've managed to produce is a minute's worth of stuff that people don't go a newspaper website for -- it's called Weather.Com, friends -- and no video, nothing.

Oh, I'm sure this is a work in progress. I just wonder why it would take three months to concoct something that any teenager could put together in about a half hour. And, of course, I had to provide screenshots in this post because...there's no "share" function. No way to imbed it on a blog, no way to post it on Facebook or MySpace, no YouTube channel for the Review-Journal, no subscription link to get it delivered to you via iTunes or another portable media device aggregator. Oh, and of course, no interactivity. Not an email address to write to or a comments section. Nada.

The LVRJ.Com crew will probably whine that I'm not being fair, that this is a beginning. Except that they just spent months working up something that isn't useful, isn't interesting, isn't portable. It's like a Vegas hotel opening while the casino, the rooms and all the restaurants are still under construction. What the hell have these people been doing for three months?

The tools for all of what they actually need to make this effort worthwhile are readily available and in widespread use on most major news websites. There's just no excuse for this. It's the work of rank amateurs, which I'm sure makes Sherm Frederick proud.

Sunday, February 15, 2009

LVRJ.Com Not Ready For Primetime... usual.

On page 3A of today's newspaper, there's this very prominent notice:

RJTV on the air

In a new feature for the Web site, Nate Tannenbaum will present the latest headlines and upcoming news from the R-J. Check the top of the home page for the link or the Multimedia page.

I don't know about you, but this filled me with uncontainable delight, inspiring overwhelming fits of anxious anticipation. So I rushed to the website to see what this project that has been so hyped for so long has in store! I mean, it's been in development for more than three months. I can't imagine what could possibly take so long, but finally the blessed day has arrived and RJTV is on the air! (Of course, it is not transmitted over the air, but accuracy, schmaccuracy.)

So, anyway, I go to the Review-Journal. And I see this:

Can you find the promised reference to RJTV? No, me either. There's nothing there. So I went on to the link published with that printed announcement in the newspaper, which is

Hmmm. No impractical, unsubscribable video file of a bow-tie-wearing ex-weatherman here, either.

So why would they put it in the newspaper? Don't ask me; I've long since given up on figuring these folks out. But I did find something else kind of interesting when I hunted for my RJTV fix: That video with the bare bottom about the porn folks that accompanied Corey Levitan's piece last weekend isn't in the Multimedia site's archive. It's still available on the website, but it's not in the list of Most Recent Videos. Nor, for that matter, is the Doug Elfman-anchored Vegasland show -- either the current one or most of the old ones.

It all adds up to an online division in obvious, continuous disarray. It cracks me up that they claim such ambitious plans as putting Tannenbaum's show on smart phones when they don't even have Elfman's weekly program on an RSS feed or available for subscription in iTunes. I guess we'll have to wait for their Online Guy to go to the conference where they'll teach him that.

But, hey, they shouldn't feel TOO badly. (Well, yeah they should.) Look what you see at first when you go to Mirage.Com these days:

Yep - there's "Little Time Left" until they unveil the new volcano that, uh, has been open for two months now. Odd. At least from what I can tell they've scrubbed the site of Siegfried & Roy and Danny Gans, finally. That was embarrassing.