Thursday, July 16, 2009

The Show is UP: Holly Madison

Sorry I'm so late getting this up! It's been a very long day with two NYT assignments and lots of MJ benefit conference calls. Now I'm heading out to see Charo at the Riv. Don't be mean about that; I hear she's really good. There's a prospect I'll fall asleep, I'm so exhausted, but I'll grab a Red Bull or something. As for the Holly chat, the live chat room fell silent during this conversation when we played some of it then. When I wondered about the silence, one listener wrote, "This is really surprisingly interesting, so I'm just listening." Cool, huh? Check it out. You know the drill: click on the date below to listen or right-click and save to your computer. Or subscribe (it's free!) via this iTunes link or via this Zune link. -sf

July 16: The Smartest Little Dumb Blonde in Vegas

Holly Madison admits it: She wants to be famous. And she doesn’t mind being famous just for being famous – in the tradition of Pam Anderson and Marilyn Monroe, she says – but she wants to try her hand at a few things first. To that end, the ex-Playmate who appeared as Hugh Hefner’s No. 1 babe on “The Girls Next Door” and spent a few months as Criss Angel’s girlfriend, now stars as the innocent-turned-naughty Bo Peep in the Planet Hollywood burlesque production, “Peepshow.” In this conversation, Madison discusses her ambitions, the situations in which she is not comfortable being nude and – as odd as it may sound – what she’s reading right now. You’ll be surprised that it’s not in English.

In Banter: The big MJ tribute benefit concert, Peep v Crazy Horse, WSOP and Twitter, Welcome to LV sign vandals, Prive/PHo fined, Harrah's latest Big Idea, MGM's CSI attraction and more.

Links to stuff discussed:

Holly Madison’s website
Tickets for Peepshow
Las Vegas Celebrates The Music of Michael Jackson homepage
Sparky in Las Vegas, who worked up the current VegasLovesMJ.Com site
Daniel Negreanu’s sometimes offensive @RealKidPoker Twitter feed
Cirque’s Elvis show website
Howard Stutz’s piece on the Planet Hollywood’s $500,000 fine
VegasHappensHere.Com on Prive’s lawsuit against Michael Politz
Las Vegas Sun on Harrah’s Project Link
MGM Mirage’s press release on CSI: The Experience
The Review-Journal on the Boulder Dam closure
The LVA item on the closure of Lamborghini in at Vegas
VegasHappensHere.Com on Crazy Horse v Peepshow

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

WSOP On The Brink...Of A Problem

One of the charms of the World Series of Poker in recent years has been how international the final tables have been. A Dane won the thing last year, a Laotian immigrant won the year before, of the last 18 final tablists, half resided outside the U.S. They included three Canadians (one Vietnamese-born), two Danes, a Russian, a South African and a Brit.

This year, not so much. As I type, the field of 6,494 is now down to 14. Of those, only two are not Americans, James Akenhead of England and Antione Saout of France.

Now, there's nothing anyone can do about how the cards go and there were more than 100 nations represented. That number was down some from last year, but still.

At the same time, an All-American Final Table kind of throws a kink in the plan. Once they get down to nine finalists, they will pause play until November. The idea there is to create buzz for the players, most of them unknown. The real growth markets for the World Series of Poker are outside of the U.S., in places not already saturated by poker rooms and TV poker shows. Last year's Danish winner Peter Eastgate, for instance, set off a new poker frenzy in Denmark.

Personally, I'm rooting right now for the French guy because I've spent all day trying to get editors of newspapers all over the world interested in letting me write about today's action and the 27 folks left when they began at noon. All were assured to win at least $352,000, so it seemed like any of them making it this far should be a local story in their cities. Yet my only nibble is with the French wire service Agence France-Presse, and ONLY if the French guy makes it. Times are tough in the media biz.

Now, all this is moot if pro Phil Ivey can hang on. He's a major poker star and having that kind of star power will help propel interest during the break. Just look at him. He's got the style of Tiger Woods and Barack Obama. He makes it to November and the WSOP folks will be ecstatic.

Jackson Figure Damaged At Vegas Tussaud's

I had reached out to Madame Tussaud's Wax Museum in Las Vegas to see about using the Michael Jackson figure in some publicity photos for "Las Vegas Celebrates The Music of Michael Jackson," our upcoming charity tribute concert. We had actually changed our minds about this idea, but the Tussaud's folks got back to me to day to say we could if we wanted to.

In the process, there was some news: The MJ figure is actually "off the floor" until at least tomorrow because ... someone broke his arm.

Amy Helton, the museum's spokeswoman, assured me that it was unintentional, that a guest accidentally did it on Monday and that these things do happen.

I have three or four figures off the floor at anyone time because they have a scratch on them or they have broken figures or things like that," Helton said. "It certainly wasn't deliberate. They're sturdy figures, but sometimes they get manhandled a little too much."

The MJ figure at Tussaud's (at Venetian) was a place for grieving fans to pay respects in the days after the King of Pop's death. All Tussaud's around the world that had MJ figures placed him out front for non-paying guests to visit him and leave mementos. He remained out front until last Tuesday's memorial, when they returned him to a place inside. Cards, letters and a guestbook are being sent to the Jackson family; other items like stuffed animals are being donated to charity.

Jackson has, not surprisingly, been among the most asked-after figures in the past week since he came back inside. The perennial top favorites are Barack Obama and Elvis Presley, Helton said. Obama shouldn't get too comfortable, though. His popularity is subject to political winds, as was George Bush's when I took my mom and sister last year and saw people taking all sorts of lewd photos with 43. See?

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Hey Terry Fator: Keep Your Mouth Shut, Dummy.

The one thing that everyone who has met and interviewed ventriloquist Terry Fator agreed on -- even when they disagreed on what they thought of his show -- was that he seemed like a truly nice guy. Middle-America nice.

And then this.

It's not that he hit the height of fame and fortune and then dumped his wife of 18 years after, by his own account during earlier interviews after he won "America's Got Talent," she held his hand through those long stretches of anonymity and reassured him of his talent and promise. Nobody can really know what goes on between two people, nor should anyone judge it. It looks like a stereotypical celebrity divorce story, but people do divorce. That's their business.

But, Terry, having your publicist put out a press release Tweeted by Norm Clarke saying you're dating some hot young model who was your assistant? Is that necessary? Catching your soon-to-be-ex-wife unaware? Humiliating her? And then telling KVBC's Alicia Jacobs this:

"Though our marriage is ending, I continue to have a tremendous amount of respect and affection for Melinda. As you can imagine, this is a truly difficult time and it is my hope that everyone will understand that this is a personal matter and respect our privacy."

WTF? Who had the publicist tell everyone about it in the first place? Where's your contrition for this embarrassment being your doing? Is there something in the water for you red-staters that everything's the media's fault?

Dude, listen up. Put down the talking turtle, too.

You're a middle-aged, wildly overpaid -- although now I'm hearing far LESS wildly overpaid than that $100m figure that you've touted and which makes no mathematical sense -- singing ventriloquist. US Weekly is never going to care about you, no matter how weird your love life gets and at the moment it's just conventionally ugly. If you think that cavorting your hookups in the media, if you think that waving over the tabloid press and inviting the world to observe you in this intimate way will be a good thing for your career and your fame, you're wrong. It's creepy. And sad.

And worse, it ruins your brand just as surely as Meg Ryan ruined hers. You're the nice, family-friendly guy. The press-friendly Danny Gans. But first you started infusing your act with unnecessarily partisan digs at the new president and really raunchy, homophobic and derivative Michael Jackson stuff.

Now this. Shut up, pal. Get through the divorce and show the world you respect the woman who made it all possible for you. Learn a lesson or two from what middle-age loser idiots Mark Sanford, John Edwards and John Ensign look like right about now.

Free advice. Worth what it cost.

The Strip is LIVE tonight w/HOLLY MADISON!

You think she's just a blond, air-headed, surgically enhanced, talentless fame-seeker. But "Peepshow" Holly Madison wants you to know: She's no air-head. The rest? Well, she'll play along with that. The lovely ex of Hugh Hefner and Criss Angel is our guest tonight and she'll address all that and some more.

Plus, some comings and goings on the Strip, Crazy Horse v Peepshow and much more.

Join us at 7 p.m. PT at LVRocks.Com for the live steam, chat room and studio cam. Or wait for the podcast version and subscribe (it's free!) via this iTunes link or via this Zune link. Your call.

Monday, July 13, 2009

The latest LVW Col: Three Lousy Ideas

With all the MJ Concert stuff and my car woes, I forgot to post this past week's Las Vegas Weekly column. Enjoy. -sf

Bad Things Do Come In Threes

There are so many great thinkers in Vegas producing so many great ideas. More than in any place else I’ve lived or traveled, the ingenuity and experimentation never ceases. But every once or twice in a while, you see something that makes you go “WTF?” or, at least, “Enough already!” It’s been nearly two years since I’ve done this, so it’s time to take to task the folks behind the worst ideas gripping our fair city.

1. Hetero-homosexuality for fun

Years ago, when I came out to a particularly straight male friend of mine, his first reaction was to ask whether I knew any lesbians who might want to get it on with him. And certainly, to an awful lot of hetero guys, that’s what lesbianism is good for, their own peculiar entertainment. So I shouldn’t have been surprised—and yet somehow I was—when about six months ago a certain breed of Vegas nightclub promotions started proliferating: the girl-on-girl kissing contests.

You can almost hear Beavis and Butt-Head in the meeting when they came up with this idea. “We’ll get some hot babes together, huh-huh, and get ’em to go all lesbolicious on each other, and then we’ll pick the best one, huh-huh, and give ’em a prize. It’ll be, like, awesome, huh-huh!”

Nice. Vegas clubs are now in the business of baiting their prey with live gay-for-pay action.

Read the rest at LasVegasWeekly.Com.

Sunday, July 12, 2009

The MJ Concert Begins To Take Shape

As I've said on the podcast a few times now, I'm co-producing "Las Vegas Celebrates Michael Jackson," a benefit concert on Aug. 29 at the Pearl at the Palms to raise money for music education in public schools. My partner in this venture, "Jersey Boys" star Erich Bergen, is really the visionary behind all of this as well as the true MJ die-hard, but I jumped in because it seemed like a terrific, timely and dignified way to use this pop-culture moment to do some real good. It also struck me as an idea much too lofty and ambitious for one person to execute, so I offered Erich my help and we formed a team.

We released the first bit of news today -- the date, place and time -- to Norm Clarke of the Review-Journal because Norm was the first to notice Erich's Tweets within days of Jackson's death about wanting to get something like this together. And just now we learned how big an event this could become when Access Hollywood placed a piece about our show atop their site.

There will be plenty more to come, including the lineup of talent -- and it's going to be amazing -- performing from the Jackson songbook and other ancillary Jackson-related events we're hoping to put into place on that day, which would have been the King of Pop's 51st birthday.

Please note: This is a celebration of his music. As I argued in my recent Las Vegas Weekly column, there is a significant difference between venerating the man and appreciating his work. There will be no speeches about Jackson the man at this event. It is all about the songs, the dancing, the art.

If you'd like to help in some capacity, email us at Every dime is going to the causes we choose -- VH1's Save the Music Foundation is the leading contender at this point -- so we'll surely need some help in a variety of ways unclear to us as yet! You can also follow us on Twitter at @VegasLovesMJ and a rudimentary site is already in place at VegasLovesMJ.Com, but the fine folks at the Palms will be doing something better than what I threw up there last night in anticipation of Norm's piece. There's also Facebook group.

Should be a busy summer!

Harrah's Embraces The Mid-Market

Liz Benston of the Las Vegas Sun has a terrific piece in today's newspaper breaking news about Harrah's new plans for the Strip. It's as though someone over there finally realized that (a) there are already enough hotel rooms and that the high-end of the market doesn't need any more options and (b) Harrah's knows mid-market best and there's nothing shameful about admitting that.

The Harrah's solution is something called Project Link, a rendering of which is above courtesy of Harrah's Entertainment. Basically, instead of imploding the Imperial Palace, Harrah's and Flamingo, they want to enhance that section of the Strip as the center of gravity for the mid-market tourist who wants reasonable accommodations and a safe, fun place to drink, party and hookup. (It's fascinating, really, how the east side of the Boulevard from Harrah's to Bally's is for one tier and the west side of the same street from Caesars to Aria, is intended for an entirely different clientele, but I digress.)

As Benston explains it, Project Link would be a pedestrian mall area between the IP and the Flamingo from the Strip to Koval punctuated on the eastern end with a mammoth ferris wheel. Along the way, they envision a corridor of as many as 20 restaurants and bars opening out to the pedestrian area.

There are several reasons why this is a brilliant idea. For one, it just sounds like fun and a space where critical mass can build among those priced out or turned off by the posh nightclub scene. For another, from what I can tell it wouldn't create any new traffic problems and, in fact, could give new relevance to the Las Vegas Monorail, should it still be in business by then. And also, it wouldn't add any new gaming or hotel capacity.

The big loser could be Fremont Street because the ideas and target audiences are similar. But both have their own thing, and Project Link -- they'll have to have a better name for it, of course -- could never pretend to recreate an Old Vegas feel. So there's that.

Seems like a great idea. Too bad debt-overwhelmed Harrah's has no money to get going on it for quite a while and by then, God knows, they'll be on to another Big Idea. And none of this resolves the question of what Harrah's plans to do with its extensive land holdings east of the Strip. You might recall their last Big Idea was to build an unnecessary traffic-disaster of a sports arena behind Bally's.