Friday, October 23, 2009

The Strip + Petcast Are LIVE 4-6 pm PT Saturday!

We'll be recording two episodes of "The Petcast" followed by a new episode of "The Strip" tomorrow afternoon from 4-6 p.m. PT at LVRocks.Com.

First, Emily and I are set to interview Ed Martin, owner of the Hartsdale Pet Cemetery, the nation's oldest pet burial ground. Among other famous pets interred, Hartsdale last month handled the cremation of the last surviving working dog on the scene of the World Trade Center post-9/11.

Then, at about 4:30 pm PT, we Petcasters chat up Christina Cooper, co-owner of the Global Wildlife Center near Baton Rouge, La., about caring for a baby kangaroo abandoned by its mother, also a center resident.

After that, Miles and I will discuss the week's Vegas news -- Steve Wynn gets political, Monopoly takes over the town, rumors surrounding Barry Manilow and much more -- and feature a terrific interview with Fleur de Lys owner Hubert Keller about his "Top Chef" experiences and much more.

You can listen live from 4-6 p.m. PT via LVRocks.Com and chat with fellow listeners and us in the chatroom. Or hang on and we'll publish the podcast editions. Your call!

Thursday, October 22, 2009

The show is UP: The Podcast-A-Palooza Episode!

Here's the Podcast-a-Palooza episode featuring a really solid conversation with Chazz Palminteri. We'll be recording again on Saturday 5-6 pm and our guest will be chef Hubert Keller. More in a post on Friday, but try to join us at LVRocks.Com for that if you can. As always, you can subscribe to the podcast (it's free!) via iTunes or Zune and get the show automatically or click on the date below to make it play for you. You can also right-click to download it to your computer to hear whenever you wish. Enjoy. -sf

Oct. 20: Podcast-a-Palooza 2

Take a Chazz On Us

When the idea first came up, nobody -- and by nobody we mean Steve -- thought it could possibly work. Chazz Palminteri was a career character actor with modest name recognition next to the likes of, say, Holly Madison, and his plan was to bring a serious autobiographical one-man play to the Strip? Fuggedaboutit. But Palminteri has faced down doubts about "A Bronx Tale" before, and here he is now in the middle of a two-week run at the Venetian that has been extended by popular demand. Palminteri joined us live at the 2009 Vegas Podcast-A-Palooza to discuss the show, his friendship with Frank Sinatra and the chronological problem in his play that only three people have ever asked him about in 20 years.

In Banter: Rating the Garth deal, revealing some new slot machine ideas coming to G2E.


Chazz Palminteri's website
VegasHappensHere.Com's skepticism about Chazz's show earlier this year
The Vegas Gang podcast
Five Hundy By Midnight
Podcast-a-Palooza emcee Dave Lifton's new show, PopDose
The IMDB site on the stinker flick Chazz discussed, Scar City
Our podcast episode with Palminteri's "Bullets Over Broadway" co-star Jennifer Tilly
Steve's Las Vegas Weekly column about Steve Wynn and Garth Brooks

This Week's LVW Col: Wynn Plays It Safe

There was something odd about the Garth announcement. All the spectacle of it came from...Garth. Wynn was almost a bystander. That got me to thinking. And here's what I wrote for this week's "The Strip Sense" column in the Weekly. -sf

Back to Basics -- And Garth!
After lots of trial and error, Steve Wynn is playing it safe

Wynn already gone Garth mad: on Twitpic

Let’s get this out of the way right off the top: Garth Brooks will sell out every seat of every show for however long he appears at the Wynn Las Vegas. Period. This is the top-selling American solo artist ever, he’s starved his fans of live performances for almost a decade, he’s forced Steve Wynn to cap ticket prices at $125, and he’s only got a room half the size of the Colosseum to fill.

That does not mean, however, that that’s all there is to say about this deal. Embedded in this decision, in fact, is a great deal of information about the rough, humbling road that Wynn has traveled on the show front since his flawless days as owner of that other little group of joints he built on the other side of the street.

The charming press event at which Wynn and Garth Brooks made this badly kept secret formally known to the world was a minefield of contradictions to me. I know Wynn well enough to know he’s proud of his relationship with Brooks and excited for what he will be able to offer his guests, but I wonder, frankly, if even he is aware of how much he’s changed his story since the Wynn Las Vegas opened.

Take, for instance, the moment when Wynn said, “There’s nothing like a single performer standing on a stage without any help.” It took a little while for me to figure out why that remark was so familiar, but it did finally hit me: Wynn and I sat together at the first performance of Avenue Q in the same theater in August of 2005, and, as the music began to swell, he leaned over to me and whispered giddily, “There’s nothing like the overture of a Broadway show.”

Ah, yes. Broadway. Remember that plan? Wynn didn’t.

Read the rest at LasVegasWeekly.Com.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

My Nasty, Brutish and Short TV Career

Dang. And I thought that the freelance newspaper biz was rough!

Today came word that NewsONE at 9, the Emmy-winning one-hour local daily newscast helmed by anchor Jeff Gillan on Las Vegas One, was canceled effective immediately. That is, they halted the newscast the day before I was to film my first celebrity-interview segment.

Actually, I was supposed to start last week but then that got scuttled by the timing of the Wynn-Garth news conference and my obligation to cover that. Now it'll never happen, at least not in that format.

I feel awful for Jeff Gillan, a terrific anchor who will surely find another broadcast home in Las Vegas. But I'm also marveling about how this recession now hasn't just wreaked havoc on my print career but also my non-existent TV one. Sigh.

Torn By A Puppy...Again

UPDATE: The NSPCA told me to call the vet. I called the vet. The vet's office said the SPCA has to call and allow them to discuss the animal with me. I called the SPCA, they said they would do so and to call the vet in a little while. I did. The vet office was then on the line with the SPCA and told me that they would tell the SPCA what's what and I could get it from them. That is not acceptable. I'm not inheriting a multi-thousand-dollar expense based on third-hand information. I told them I can't adopt a troubled animal without speaking directly to the vet. The folks at Sahara Pines Animal Hospital told me that was too bad and HUNG UP ON ME. So right now, not looking so good.

Torn about adopting this 3 month old doxie. Will need leg sur... on Twitpic

This is Reeses, the last remaining member of the Candy Bar Bunch. She and her siblings and mom were found in a drawer in a foreclosed home. She's a daschund-chihuahua mix. Incredibly sweet and docile. The NSCPA named all the puppies after candy. The rest have been adopted, but Reeses has a leg deformity caused by some form of neglect or abuse.

The NSPCA brought Reeses to KVBC to show off on the air last week. Miles fell in love. He didn't know about the required surgery, begged me to go look yesterday. I did. She is, undeniably, a magnificent and beautiful creature. We've been debating a third pet for a while, which is why this topic keeps coming up.

I'm about to call the vet that did the x-ray to see what the story is with the leg. As I understand it, it will not develop properly without the surgery and will cause all sorts of trouble later on. And it will probably cost thousands of dollars that we don't have.

Will keep you all updated. She's such a nice puppy. If anyone out there wants to take her on, she's hanging out at the NSPCA shelter. They've also, incidentally, got two huge pigs and three chickens available. Who knew?

Monday, October 19, 2009

Planet Hollywood Towers: A Special Preview

Because Planet Hollywood (@phVegas) actually understands the significance of New Media, Hunter Hillegas of RateVegas.Com and I got to take a first-look tour of the Planet Hollywood Towers by Westgate today along with a group of lucky attendees of Saturday's Vegas Podcast-a-Palooza at the Palms. Vegas Bill (@VegasBill), who keeps tabs on all sorts of Vegasy goings-on on Twitter and his site, was one of those attendees as well.

This building, it must be said, is a very odd place. I'm not sure if I mean that in a good or bad way; it will take on a different life when it opens in December. But P-Ho-To is a different animal isasmuch as it is a fractional-ownership condo-hotel with 1,201 units. That means some people buy shares in it, others buy them outright and others just book on Travelocity or wherever.

It starts out well with the front desk...

...and a nice swimming pool just off the naturally-lit lobby:

But, strangely, they're saying only guests of the tower get to use this pool. I say that's strange because I asked P-Ho owner Robert Earl once whether he planned to renovate the hideous pool areas he inherited from the idiot Aladdin developers and he said that it wasn't really doable but that the new towers would have better pools. I'll have to dig up the quote, but I'm sure he was saying that guests of both P-Ho and P-Ho-To would get to use them. Hard to imagine it now because the pool at P-Ho-To was nice but not really big enough to accommodate thousands of guests.

Anyhow, the fun of a first-look tour is seeing stuff still underwraps. This is the lobby...

...the escalator from P-Ho-To's valet entrance...

...the elevator faceplate...

...the 10,000-square-foot ballroom (dunno what this mound of furniture's for)...

...and the hallway.

On the 30-something floor, we visited a 1-bdr suite and an attached (if you want it that way) studio. The 1-bdrs have these beautiful kitchens:

The whole kitchen thing led to a discussion amongst us tourists (tourers?) about whether people staying at, say, Trump or Signature actually use those kitchens. Hunter says yes. I'm dubious beyond maybe the fridge and microwave. Where do they shop? (Soon, P-Ho-To will have Whole Foods at The Crystals at CityCenter, tis true.)

Here's the bathroom -- that's a shower to the left, a WC to the right:

And here's the living room area:

One of the coolest features I'd never heard of before is that these suites will have blackout curtains for the windows upon which the TV can be projected if guests so desire. They'll watch movies or TV or whatever. That's pretty clever.

You know a British guy owns the place when the trash chutes are labeled thusly, huh?:

Next we went to the 55th floor (right, guys?) and saw the 2-bedroom suites. Before I show that, though, I ought to show an exterior of the building. Note below the pink pointy tip jutting out?
Well, this is what that pink part looks like from the inside:

It's a pink zone! Here's what it looks like with people in it...

...and this is what CityCenter looks like:

I came really close to titling this post "Planet Hollywood Towers by Barbie." I mean, wow. And, yes, it was a bit warm in that space, too. It's just...strange. Elle Woods would be thrilled.

I didn't take particularly good photos of the furnishings, much of which weren't in the suite anyhow. I'm sure that Hunter has some great stuff that he'll undoubtedly post on the blog of RateVegas.Com. He's already posted several on @Hunter Twitter feed.

But, as I am wont to do, a few more oddball observations. First, this is the view of the Marriott Grand Chateau and Polo Towers.

You may not be able to see it, but I did not know that both have rooftop pools. Why don't more of the Vegas resorts do this, I wonder. Seems pretty awesome to me.

Second, this is the carpet in the hallway on the higher floor we visited:

It's getting trashed by bits of construction crud and movers and such. Wouldn't it make sense to lay the carpeting last, after all the hard work is done so it doesn't look hagged out before you even open?

I just loved VegasBill's Blackberry case...

Summation: I dunno. The views are terrific, the furnishings seem modern and sleek, the kitchens looked fabulous and...I don't know who's coming. Or what they're eating, since the building will only have one restaurant and they're not even sure if (a) it'll be open when P-Ho-To opens or (b) what sort of fare it will offer.

Since they're not going to be able to sell many fractionals for quite a while, it's essentially another 1,200 hotel rooms added to the oversupply at the same time as thousands more open across the street. If CityCenter really drives in new Vegas tourism, then P-Ho-To is in a great position to be the more affordable new experience with great access to the other one. Time will tell and five years from now I suspect both skeptics and optimists will see evidence that they were right.

Elijah Johnson's Vegas Finale

Last night, Elijah Johnson and Ruby Crawford became the first members of "The Lion King" cast to leave since the show premiered at the Mandalay Bay in Las Vegas earlier this year. Elijah was one of two to play Young Simba and Ruby was one of two to play Young Nala. And, of course, Elijah was the breakout star of "Las Vegas Celebrates The Music of Michael Jackson," the benefit show at the Palms that I co-produced. If you don't remember, here's that YouTube clip:

So here's Elijah and Ruby acknowledging the band as they take final bows:

Elijah Johnson, breakout star of the mj benefit, takes his fi... on Twitpic

In both cases, the kids have outgrown their roles. Elijah and his dad, on "The Strip" in September, said the contract dictated he could not grow more than 2 inches!

Elijah is signing a development deal with Gavin Maloof and his family that hopefully will result in grander exposure. He's also been auditioning for a litany of Disney-related TV shows and has had a number of callbacks. I didn't know much about Ruby before yesterday, but she's already been in "The Color Purple" on Broadway and played Jennifer Hudson's little sister in the "Sex and The City" film. So I sense they'll both do well.

They had a potluck party between shows that I attended thanks to Elijah's dad, Carlton.

What's "dirt"? We didn't have that at potlucks on Long Island.

Anyhow, the kids seemed to be in pretty good spirits. Here's one of Ruby and Elijah with the other Young Simba, Dwayne Asante Ervin in the kids' dressing room...

...and one of Elijah in the makeup room...

|...and one of me with Elijah:

Ruby and Elijah's last show was the 4 p.m., which I understand was about 80 percent full. (A friend who accompanied me was able to buy a ticket in the $86 section for half price because he was a local, by the by.)

The rest of the actors had an 8 p.m. performance, too, so the ate in makeup:

That last one's Thom Sesma who plays the evil brother Scar. My second reason for going back to see TLK was to figure out which performer I'd want to bring on to my Las Vegas One segment soon. Sesma seems to fit the bill as he's both an experienced actor (Miss Saigon, "Law and Order") and he's in TLK from beginning to end whereas other major characters' roles are shared as they age.

Of course, being back stage I couldn't resist some fun shots of the goings-on. Here is actress Jade Milan, who also plays Young Nala, getting made up for the 8 p.m. show.

And there were some costumes around, of course...

I wanted to shoot some of the backstage scenery but I was asked not to by the stage manager. Oh well. It's pretty cool to see, though.

I did find it odd that someone had a "congratulations" cookie made for the two actors who had just become unemployed:

Perhaps it was one of those mistakes, like when my sister sent me a birthday fruit basket with the following balloons:

My sister, @elynnemarleo, sent me this lovely fruit basket, b... on Twitpic

Anyhow, Sunday was actually a busy day for Michael Jackson tribute show alums. My co-producer, Erich Bergen, returned to Vegas to pack up his home as he, of course, left "Jersey Boys" and is in the middle of shooting three episodes of "Gossip Girl." And one of the Frankie Valli actors from "Jersey Boys," Travis Cloer, made a cameo at Zowie Bowie's "Vintage Vegas" show at the Monte Carlo.

But, of course, there was only one more chance to see this...

...and I'm glad I did. I can't wait to see what becomes of both young talents.