Friday, April 17, 2009

The Petcast is LIVE on Saturday!

OK, we're gonna try this again. It's been a while since everything's worked, but we're pretty sure we've got it all organized and hope you'll join us at LVRocks.Com for the live show and chat. Our guests on Saturday are:

10 am: Portuguese water dog owner/enthusiast Dr. Jim Brannan (in studio)
10:30 am: Claudia Presto,
11 am: Karla Kinstler, owl expert and blogger
11:30 am: Writer Christie Keith, Your Whole Pet blogger

All times Pacific. Join us or grab the podcast when they begin to flow again. Subscribe (it's free!) via iTunes.

@NewYorkMag's #Twitter Crossword Goof

Ever do a crossword puzzle and decide that the clue just MUST be incorrect? About 9,999 out of 10,000, you're wrong.

How precious, then, that the one exception I've ever found would happen to come on the heels of the national media's ridiculous infatuation with Twitter. I do the New York magazine crossword each week because it's always fun and clever, so I'm a bit in shock that Maura B. Jacobson would let this one, from the April 20, 2009 issue, slide.

The answer is TWITTER, as shown above by the fact that I've solved the rest of the puzzle.

But here's the clue:

Oops. It couldn't happen to a dumber techno-fad.

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Admitting Mistakes

I wonder. Yesterday, billionaire Sam Zell, who bought the Tribune Company in 2007 and has since gutted the Chicago Tribune and L.A. Times into near-oblivion while still not solving their problems, admitted he shouldn't have bought the company. Zell told Bloomberg TV:

"By definition, if you bought something and it's now worth a great deal less, you made a mistake and I'm more than willing to say I made a mistake. I was too optimistic in terms of the newspaper's ability to preserve its position."

The same could be said for virtually every major deal in Vegas and Vegas' "ability to preserve its position" in the past few years: Las Vegas Sands' bizarrely aggressive approach to Macau, Station Casinos and Harrah's going private, the major mid-decade mergers, MGM Mirage building CityCenter and so on.

Who in Vegas, I wonder, will be first to stand up and admit that they made an error in judgment? Who will be first to acknowledge that the misery visited upon this city and these companies right now is not merely the helpless result of an unexpected economic disaster? Who will say, "We screwed up, we should have had a contingency plan because these are uncertain times and anything could have happened?"

Just asking.

The Show is UP: Heavy Metal's Sweetest Star

Here's the terrific conversation with Dee Snider. Plus, there's some good news nuggets in Banter you won't hear anywhere else...yet! Click on the date below to listen or right-click and save to your computer. Or subscribe (it's free!) via the iTunes link or via the Zune link.

April 16: Hard Rock's Sweetest Star

In retrospect, Dee Snider was born to play Vegas. And finally, thanks to Monster Circus at the Las Vegas Hilton, that time has come for the long-haired, gravel-throated, lingerie-wearing front man for the heavy metal band Twisted Sister. The former choir boy from Long Island speaks this hour to Steve about the show, about just how subversive all that hard-rocking crossdressing was back in the day and about Barry Manilow’s reaction to sharing his showroom with this bunch. Plus, is Gene Simmons of Kiss really is as big a jerk as he seems? Snider has some interesting thoughts on that, too.

In Banter: Le Reve's new ending, the Venetian's umbrella act, Wynn on TV, Hellmuth via chariot, bye-bye whore tax and a great new Vegas pay-per-view idea.

Links to stuff we discuss:

Dee Snider’s website
Monster Circus tickets
Snider’s radio shows Fangoria and House of Hair
A Monster Circus review by Joe Brown of the Las Vegas Sun
Shecky Greene’s website
The Washington Post on NPR’s record ratings in 2008
American Anonymous by Benoit Denizet-Lewis
Vanity Fair piece on Bernie Madoff
The “60 Minutes”, uh, loving portrait with Steve Wynn
Jon Ralston’s interviews with Steve Wynn, Day One and Day Two
Steve’s Las Vegas Weekly column about the death of the whore tax
VegasHappensHere.Com photos of The Joint
The logo of Loves Park, Illinois

This week's LVW Col: Funny While It Lasted

Here's my take for Las Vegas Weekly on the whore-tax proceedings and their, uh, broader purpose. Enjoy. -sf.

Funny While It Lasted
The brothel tax never had a chance, but one thing’s sure: a good time was had by all

For a split second, I lost my cool and my mind. That’s always fun.

I was in a small conference room at the Sawyer State Office Building in Downtown Las Vegas crowded with people who hate prostitution (because they love prostitutes) watching the feed from Carson City where the most surreal public hearings to take place anywhere in America this year were under way.

The folks in Nevada’s capital had had their say, for the most part. State Sen. Bob Coffin, who sponsored the bill that might have assessed a $5 tax on every legally sold sex act in the state, had laid out his views. A bevy of babes-for-sale spoke up in support, as did Dennis Hof—the Moonlite Bunny Ranch owner—and a few others.

Finally it was Las Vegas’ turn to contribute to the proceedings, and I couldn’t have been more excited. The people who hate prostitution (because they love prostitutes) had waited patiently through dullsville chatter from the Senate Taxation Committee about money for cops, something about property taxes and some other blah-blah-blah before, finally, the discussion had turned to the good stuff: whores!

It began slowly with some guy in Vegas who was incorrectly introduced as being in favor of the whore tax but who instead read a letter from a nun who hates prostitution (because she loves prostitutes). But it then got good in a jiffy when prominent anti-prostitution activist Melissa Farley insisted all legal prostitutes need to be rescued, but, anyway, the idea of the state taxing this crime against humanity would amount to “legislative pimping.”

Awesome, I thought. The bar is set high now! Here we go! Let’s see how totally nuts the rest of these folks can get!

But as Farley finished, the feed from Carson City switched to some other hearing. The Vegas crowd, which had just started sharpening its pitchforks, was short-circuited. A secretary came in to explain that the Taxation Committee had run long thanks to the earlier snooze festival on serious tax matters, and anyone who hadn’t testified could fax or e-mail their views to Sen. Coffin and friends.

I was furious. I claimed to be furious on behalf of all the people who hate prostitution (because they love prostitutes) because they were being deprived of their ability to speak and because this outage interfered with my ability to observe as a working journalist.

Yet as I muttered my righteous indignation to the hapless secretary and then barreled out of Sawyer, I caught myself. I wasn’t angry because First Amendment rights were being trampled or because I was missing a news event I needed to cover. (It turned out the hearing was halted when the Vegas feed stopped, so I missed nothing.)

No, I was angry for the same reason my mom used to get pissed when some news event interrupted her soap opera: Somebody had interrupted a good show.

And then, suddenly, I realized: It was just a show.

Read the rest at LasVegasWeekly.Com.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Brother, Can You Spare A Ticket?

The economic downturn is not funny. People who lose their homes, their savings and their jobs are not amusing. Even overly ambitious multinational corporations having trouble making multimillion-dollar debt payments on massive construction projects they should've thought twice about commencing isn't really the stuff of humor.

But. I got this one press release today that cracked me UP. In fact, I'm just bummed I didn't read it before we recorded tonight's episode of "The Strip." Then again, maybe "bummed" isn't such a good word here.

The subject line was "Mac King Passes Entertainment Stimulus Plan." Really, I wonder. How so?

Turns out, comic-magician Mac King is giving away free tickets to "local families that have fallen on rough economic times. ... During the month of May, any Las Vegas resident experiencing financial hardship can present their Nevada ID to the Harrah’s box office to receive complimentary admission for two to the Mac King Comedy Magic Show."

Now I love Mac King. His show is awesome. His cartoons in the Sunday papers are always fun. He gave a great interview on "The Strip," too, in October 2007. He even triumphed in a Stripper Poll one time about the funniest regular act in Vegas. I encourage everyone to go see his show. By far, it's the best daytime show in Vegas.

That said, I'm trying to figure out how this works. Do you go to the Harrah's box office and say, "Hi, I'm poor, gimme some tickets"?

Maybe you need to show up in garb like this:

I mean, the star's in a plaid suit, so they might just think you're a Mac King groupie or something. Would they let the guy below in?

And what happens if the family picks up their freebies and then sells 'em? Do they get in trouble? I mean, these are tough times.

The Strip is LIVE tonight w/Dee Snider

Here we go again! I was quite nervous about interviewing Dee Snider, frontman of Twisted Sister and now of Monster Circus at, of all places, the Las Vegas Hilton, but holy crap it was a great conversation. Snider talks about his youth as a choir boy, about shopping for makeup and lingerie and about whether Kiss' Gene Simmons really is the jerk he shows himself to be. I guess when you can't bear heavy metal music, you come up with unusual questions to ask one of its pioneers.

Join us at 6:45-8 p.m. PT in the chat room at LVRocks.Com for the live version of "The Strip," complete with news from Vegas, the tourist tip and all the rest of the fun. We'll only be playing one half of the Snider conversation, so you'll have to pick up the podcast version on Thursday for the rest. Subscribe via iTunes.