Saturday, June 5, 2010

Saxe-gate, Day 2

Yesterday, I spotted a pretty egregious claim in a May 28 press release announcing that the first seven showings - from June 11-17 - of "Vegas! The Show," a new production at the Miracle Mile Shops at Planet Hollywood, were sold out. It was baffling because (a) the show has been planned to open on June 18 for more than a week and (b) the notion that a show that hasn't even had a full dress rehearsal could be sold out for its first week is beyond laughable.

Well, evidently there's no love lost between David Saxe, the producer, and those who work for him. They've poured out of the woodwork to confirm for me privately that everyone knew before May 28 that this show wasn't opening until June 18. If I can get their permission, I'll quote from a few of those notes.

Also confirming what I'd been told was a ticketing agent; when I called and asked about tickets for June 12, she told me they weren't opening until June 18. I asked how long that had been the case and she said, "Oh, it's been that way for a long time now." How long? "Weeks, I think." Weeks.

Yesterday, I tried my best to get a response or explanation out of the Saxe people. Publicist Shelley Bruner called me back promptly and started giving me a line about how the change was made because there's renovations occurring at the V Theater so the shows that are normally there will be in the David Saxe Theater (formerly Steve Wyrick Theater) and that's pushed the opening date for "Vegas! The Show" back.

That is, in fact, partly true. That shuffle is going on. But it still doesn't explain why they didn't just say that instead of putting out this silly notice saying that the show was sold out when they knew it wasn't even going to be on at all.

I confronted Bruner and told her that I knew the shows had never been sold out. Rather than deny that, she told me she couldn't talk to me about that because "you're not an employee of the company." This is the PUBLICIST; her job is to deal with reporters!

Bruner asked if I wanted to talk to Saxe and I said yes. She said he'd be calling me shortly. That was 21 hours ago. I do have a hunch he or one of his folks had the time to leave an anonymous comment on the prior post attacking the blogging medium and my journalistic approach. That's what they do when they can't explain away their misdeeds.

Friday, June 4, 2010

Does David Saxe Just Make Stuff Up?

Seems like it!

The show-producing wunderkind of V Theater fame has a new one cooking, "Vegas! The Show." It's supposed to go into the former Steve Wyrick Theater. Except that earlier this week, journalists got this baffling email announcement:

We are proud to announce that Saxe Theater has experienced strong advance group sales of tickets to our newest show VEGAS! THE SHOW from both retail and group bookings.

As a result, we will accept reservations only for performance dates June 18, 2010 and later. On that date, the show is scheduled to go from one performance per night to two (revised show times will be 7:00PM and 9:00 PM, seven nights a week). Please change your listings and descriptions to illustrate VEGAS! THE SHOW performances June 11, 12, 13, 14, 15, 16, and 17 as SOLD OUT.

Ahh, but wait! The show doesn't actually open until June 18! And they've known that for weeks. So how does it happen that they would write this release of May 28?

Also, who the hell would even believe them? Why would a show nobody's ever seen with people nobody's ever heard of sell out before it even opens? What could they possibly be smoking? I mean, they're "proud to announce" something that makes absolutely no sense and also has the misfortune of being ridiculously false.

To be fair, it looks like this email may have been intended for ticket suppliers, but (a) it went out to the entire email list and (b) that doesn't mean lying is OK.

Isn't it enough that everything I've heard about this thing has me thinking it's a train wreck of Hans Klok or Criss Angel proportions in the making? But to imagine you can invent sold-out shows in order to create buzz or interest? Is he actually insane?

It makes me wonder about this other over-the-top boast in the same e-mail:

At this month's Las Vegas Convention & Visitors Authority supplier showcase VEGAS! THE SHOW was described as follows: "This must-see "official show" of Las Vegas recreates the greatest moments in Vegas' history."

How can anyone call this show anything if it hasn't even opened yet? Has someone -- who?!? -- gotten a full-dress preview? I'm highly, highly doubting that.

I've got calls out checking on what the Saxe people have to say for themselves. This was something buried in my email and I just spotted it, so I apologize for not addressing it sooner.

The Strip starts at 4:30p PT on Sat

We start "The Strip" at 4:30 p.m. PT on Saturday because I need to get out by 5:30 p.m. and get over to Bellagio to cover the conclusion of Phil Laak's record-setting marathon poker attempt. You can hear us live at LVRocks.Com.

So here's the plan:

4p: The Petcast w/ guest Amanda Fortino of PETA
4:30-5:30p: The Strip w/ guest Vinnie Favorito
5:30p-on: We play Favorito interview in full

ALSO, former Las Vegas Sun/Weekly entertainment scribe Joe Brown is our special guest co-host! (Yes, Miles is working, sigh.) All our guest co-hosts are special, but seeing how Joe is leaving town pretty soon, it will be fun to debrief him on his views of the Vegas entertainment he covered for two years.

And yes, I guess this means Joe's no longer disgusted with me. Go figure.

Breaking: Harrah's Signs Favorito Thru 2017

Very funny insult comic Vinnie Favorito just told me in a conversation recorded for "The Strip" that this week he signed a six-year extension with Harrah's Entertainment. The Flamingo headliner had 14 months left on his current deal, so that's a lot of confidence and must reflect pretty robust ticket sales to warrant them wanting him to stay in their stable through 2017. Vinnie also said the company told him they hope to move him to another resort in a year or so and make him the "face" of that property. My guess: There'll be a Vinnie Wrap on the Planet Hollywood sooner or later.

We were going to play a new Donny Osmond interview on this week's episode of The Strip, but then Favorito went and broke this news, so the deck shuffles and Vinnie's up this weekend. More on tomorrow's podcasting schedule in the next post. Just wanted to get this up now.

Thursday, June 3, 2010

Unabomber Going For Poker Record

This one should get fun. Phil "The Unabomber" Laak -- the goofy poker star boyfriend of actress/poker champ Jennifer Tilly -- is now about 25 hours into his attempt to break the record for the longest poker game. Officially it's 72 hours but someone did 79 hours last year that wasn't Guinness-sanctioned but still part of lore, so Laak is going for 80 hours. That would have him finish up at 7 p.m. PT on Saturday.

I've got a fun AOLNews.Com piece up about his quest. He's an odd but entertaining duck and his discussion of such things as the weird T-shirts he has planned, his craving for mint chocolate chip ice cream and his discovery -- and repulsion to -- catheters are all classic Laak. Tilly chimes in a little, too.

In addition, I've posted in the podcast feed my 20-minute chat with Laak and Tilly, who as you can see was there when I went to cover the thing on Wednesday evening.

You can hear that chat by clicking here or download it to hear later by right-clicking here.

Finally, you can watch him live right now via his Ustream feed, which can be played below, too. There's not much to see, but more than 800 people are watching anyway -- and complaining in the chat about how boring it is. Silly.

Sun's new political ace staying in Reno

As a brave anonymous commenter to my Tuesday post on the Sun's staffing woes chided, the Las Vegas Sun recently told its staff it was hiring soon-to-be-former Reno Gazette-Journal political ace Anjeanette Damon. She starts after the June 8 primary.

There's a reason I left this out of that post. Yes, I had heard this -- though I hadn't seen the postings about it, true -- but nobody could tell me where Damon would be working.

I was unable -- until now -- to get an answer to the question. She's staying in Reno. She just called me back to tell me so. And no, the Sun's statehouse scribe David McGrath Schwartz is not coming back to Las Vegas.

That means that the Sun will have two political writers in Carson City and, as of now, none in Vegas after Patrick Coolican leaves for the L.A. Weekly on June 8.

I've no criticism of Damon's remaining in the north, territory she knows well. But it still means that, unless the Sun poaches someone from the R-J, they'll be hiring from outside not just the paper but the state. I'm sure whoever they get will do great -- the clearly have a knack for identifying talent -- but the months between June 8 and the November election aren't really a time for on-the-job training. They will be some of the most important political months in the state's history.

P.S. As I responded to that kindhearted anonymous commenter, Jon Ralston doesn't fit into this equation because Ralston's primary duties are as host of his daily TV show and author of his daily e-mail blast. He writes a column a couple times a week for the Sun and I'm sure he offers a tip or two to Sun beat writers, but he is not actively involved in the day-to-day coverage of politics and does not write lengthy think pieces on trends, people or issues.

That's what we lose with the disappearance of Mascaro, Coolican and Mishak. We get some of that back from Damon, but not as much as we need. And they still have no D.C. bureau now, but ex-R-J political writer Molly Ball did just update her Facebook status to say she has arrived in Alexandria, Va. Just saying.

LVW col: How To Kill Your Vegas Career

Here's this week's LVW col., the follow-up to this weekend's stunning interview with comic Paul Rodriguez from the podcast, which you can hear here. Enjoy. -sf

His own worst enemy
Comedian Paul Rodriguez talks smack
about the Trop and his own show,
but it’s no joke



A comic’s big mouth is his most significant attribute. No comedian makes much of a splash in the culture without seeing things in a different, hopefully funnier, light than the rest of us. Sometimes that means being outrageous or offensive, which audiences understand. Every so often, though, that willingness to call it as they see it, that reflexive instinct toward truth, can become treacherously self-defeating.

Exhibit A: Paul Rodriguez.

It is hard to imagine how the funnyman can have much of a future as a Vegas resident headliner after what he said last weekend on my podcast. You might think I’m overstating it, but I’ve spent the days since that interview chatting with entertainment directors and publicists up and down the Boulevard. The guy could be in serious trouble.

Read the rest at LasVegasWeekly.Com.

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Puck Shucks Bistro For Pizza

This may be a first: Wolfgang Puck's Brasserie PUCK at CityCenter's Crystals has been renamed and rethemed. Instead of it being bistro-esque, today it reopens as Wolfgang Puck Pizzeria & Cucina.

This would be like Cirque deciding to replace Criss Angel Believe with Donny & Marie after six months. In Puck's 18-year history of restaurants in Vegas, I don't believe there's ever been an instance where he's opened up in one direction and decided in very short order to give it up and go an entirely different direction. In fact, I'm not sure any of his restaurants ever underwent *any* reconception and only one that I know of, the late, great Chinois, has ever closed in Las Vegas.

What does it mean? Well, clearly Puck & Co. realize the clientele visiting Aria and Crystals are more down-market than they once expected. They must have figured being around these huge, hyper-expensive shops on an $8.5 billion campus would have meant people looking for a serious, sit-down dining experience.

But, no. At least at Crystals, they want pizza. Not a good sign for MGM Mirage.

Mea Culpa

In yesterday's blog post on changes at the Sun and Greenspun Media, I erroneously indicated that former Sun and Las Vegas Weekly writer/editor Joe Brown had "seemed to announce" that he was leaving journalism. I had read something that led me to think that that was the case and, in my haste to post, I went with it even though I could not find the original source material.

Brown was upset with that passage -- since changed -- and wrote to call me out on it. Still unable to find the reference that led me to that conclusion, I asked him to help me remember to what I referred. It was a peculiar form of journalism -- publish something, then ask the offended subject who was telling me I was wrong to help support it -- but eventually the confusion was clarified. Again, he was rightly gobsmacked and aggravated. I was being informal with Joe in my emails because I thought we were friendly and didn't recognize the gravity of his ire; I belatedly figured out he was just really disgusted with me.

It turned out, I had been looking in the wrong place but my recollection wasn't really that far off. I had thought Joe had written something in the Weekly, but in fact he had given a comment to Norm Clarke in the Review-Journal. This was Norm's passage from a May 26 column:

Joe Brown, one of the most talented writers to work this city's entertainment beat, is moving on. Hired by the Las Vegas Sun two years ago, Brown confirmed Tuesday in an e-mail that he has left his writing job at the Las Vegas Weekly and Greenspun Media: "Heading for points unknown. This kind of thing felt more exciting when I was younger."

I took that last sentence to imply he was giving up on journalism. Now I realize that "this kind of thing" could mean just about anything -- that he's fed up with internal drama at Greenspun or the Weekly, that he's no longer interested in this particular subject matter, that he's feeling too old to cover a place like Las Vegas.

Of course, I could have just asked. And I didn't. And now I still haven't; he told me he's just leaving Vegas but not journalism and that's all I really think anyone cares about here. Brown's departure is a loss to Greenspun Media and to the city as well as to the colleagues over there who regard him as their friend. So whatever it is he plans to do, I wish him the best and I apologize for the distress brought on by drawing conclusions.

P.S. If you want to read one of my favorite pieces by Joe, check out this Las Vegas Weekly piece in which he poses on the cover both in and out of drag. Classic.

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

More Crippling Departures At LV Sun

The utter deconstruction of the momentarily Pulitzer-caliber reporting staff of the Las Vegas Sun continues in earnest this week with another batch of crucial departures:

* Michael Mishak, the sole Vegas-based political writer left in the stable, is off to Sacramento to the L.A. Times' California statehouse bureau. Mishak was supposed to head to Washington D.C. to take over the paper's capital bureau for Lisa Mascaro, who left last month for the Times' D.C. bureau. With Mascaro and Mishak gone as well as Patrick Coolican (off to the L.A. Weekly after the June 8 primary), that leaves just David McGrath Schwartz in Carson City and nobody in Vegas with any history to cover the critical Reid-v-Whoever race.

* Alex Richards, the paper's key computer-assisted reporting expert, is off to the Chronicle of Higher Education very soon. That means bye-bye to substantive data analysis for a while.

* Stephanie Tavares, an environment reporter, is off to law school in Vermont. Her husband, the extremely amusing Brendan Buhler, was one of the 37 who lost their jobs in the Greenspun Media's Great Purge.

* Joe Brown, formerly a culture writer for the Sun who moved to be a writer/editor at the Las Vegas Weekly amid the Great Purge, is leaving the magazine and the city.

There are two ways to look at this. First, the past year has seen the largest en masse elevation of Vegas journalists to important national publications in the shortest period of time I've ever seen. It's a testament to what the Sun has been, at least for the past several years, that these opportunities are coming to these young, hungry journalists. Now's the time to snap up some new whippersnappers with potential and do it all again, to see if lightning can strike twice.

But the timing just could not be worse. The entire political team vanishing in arguably the most important political year in Nevada history? Add education scribe Emily Richmond's departure for eight months or so to Michigan for a fellowship starting in August and they're also without their ace heading into two other critical events, the selection of a new superintendent and the fiscal bloodbath that will be the state's 2011 Legislative session.

It's an honor that we've had reporters serving this city who get to bounce on to such cool stuff, but for them all to be doing so at the same time leaves the stable depleted. The R-J's political staff does their jobs well, but what I've enjoyed in recent years about the two newspapers is that the Sun can cede some of the day-to-day to the R-J and yield some insightful yarns and sophisticated analysis. It's hard to imagine who's going to be providing that analysis now.

The show is UP: Paul Rodriguez

Stars say the darnedest things, don't they? This may be the first time "blockbuster" and Paul Rodriguez were used in the same sentence, but wow, he really unloads. Here goes. Subscribe (it's free!) in iTunes or in Zune. Click on the date below to make it play or right-click to save it and listen at your leisure. Enjoy!

May 31: Paul Rodriguez In Not Amused

When was the last time you heard a newly minted Strip headliner complain that he’s unhappy with his host resort and already flirting with defecting to competing properties? Well, fasten your seat belts because never-shy comic Paul Rodriguez is about to knock your earbuds off. Rodriguez, who started at the Tropicana last week to middling reviews, explains – get this -- what’s wrong with his own show. Rodriguez, one of Comedy Central’s top 100 comics of all time, is also owner of the Laugh Factory in California where Seinfeld star Michael Richards had his racist meltdown which, he said, was incredibly good for the comedy club’s bottom line. He also had some new details about the Gloria Estefan-themed show expected to come to the Trop.

In Banter: Bye to Dennis Hopper, Gary Coleman and Woo Restaurant, hello to Surrender/Encore Beach Club, and eff-you to downtown's Plaza.

Links to stuff discussed:

Paul Rodriguez’s website
Paul Rodriguez’s famous skateboarding son’s site
Tickets for Paul Rodriguez show at the Trop
Rodriguez’s very funny opening act, Shayla Rivera
VegasHappensHere.Com coverage of the opening of Encore Beach Club and Surrender
Norm Clarke’s piece on the Beach Club
The Twitpic of Steve’s chocolate pancakes at Society Encore
The Strip’s interview with Roger Thomas when he revealed the design of EBC/Surrender

Dennis Hopper’s obituary and his 2006 Strip appearance
Nu Sanctuary
at Town Square
Changes to
dining at Cathouse reported by John Katsilometes
in downtown Las Vegas
Gary Coleman’s Vegas ties on The Surreal Life
MGM Mirage iPhone apps that we can’t try because of
it’s for 3GS devices
Woo Restaurant
closing at Palazzo
Steve’s LVW column about
how LVS screwed over Woo Restaurant
Las Vegas Advisor’s
news ticker
Mike Weatherford’s
C+ review of Paul Rodriguez
Rodriguez’s involvement with a water-rights fight, the Latino Water Coalition for Farmers

Sunday, May 30, 2010

TOLDJA: Wynn HQ not going to Macau

Steve Wynn sat down with CNBC on Thursday for a lengthy (for TV, anyhow) chat that is available in three parts of 5, 7 and 2 minutes respectively. You can click on the image above to watch the first part and go to CNBC.Com to see the rest.

The important stuff:

* In Part 1, he backs off on the notion of moving his HQ to Macau, redefining it as "splitting his headquarters" and that he'd be spending more time there. He says he didn't mean for people to "jump to the conclusion that we're leaving Las Vegas." Now where did we get THAT ridiculous notion from? Could it be because he told CNBC in April, when asked whether he would move his HQ to China, "It is not improbable or unrealistic. ... I'm seriously considering that and I am weighing the implications of how I engineer that."

* In Part 2, he basically exposes the instinct that ended his marriage in talking about how people of his generation are desperate to recapture youth or forestall old age. "
They're like me," he said of many of his customers. "They want to grow old ungracefully and, at any price, cling to immaturity." This is something to boast about? Really?

* In Part 3, he says the coming room renovations at Wynn Las Vegas that begin this summer and will last until March 2011 will cost $87 million or, interestingly, $18 per room per night occupied.

You can watch Parts 2 and 3 and read the written piece that accompanies them on CNBC's site. The article includes some stuff not heard on the video, including Wynn worrying about what happens if his cocktail waitresses gain a couple of pounds. He also tells CNBC that Encore Beach Club servers stand to make more than $100,000 a year, although there's no word whether he'll force them to share tips with the pool boys.