Friday, July 2, 2010

Strip and Petcast Are Live On Sat

I had said we might skip "The Strip" this time because Miles is away, but instead I've come up with a fun way to get through a week in which many of my efforts to set up interviews fell by the wayside.

Guest host Amy and I will do a new live show and play a classic interview that many of you have heard about but never actually heard: George Wallace! Yes! We'll banter about the week's doings and all that, but we'll also play the November 2005 interview in which Miles and I were treated spectacularly badly by the Flamingo comic.

SO... We're live on Saturday from 5-6 pm for The Strip after Emily and I do a pair of Petcasts from 4-5 p.m. Join us in chat and see us on webcam at LVRocks.Com or listen via a smart phone. Or wait for the podcast. Any which way, should be fun.

Cosmopolitan Las Vegas: And another thing!

Fresh off of taking note of the Tropicana's insistence that you telepathically buy tickets for its new Brad Garrett's Comedy Club, today I was trying to get the Web URL for Cosmopolitan of Las Vegas for that aforementioned Portfolio.Com piece. (The Trop site, by the way, has been fixed and I've been thanked via Twitter for pointing out the problems.)

It's not that easy to find out. Yes, if you Google "Cosmopolitan Las Vegas" it pops up in the "local business" listing with a map. But that's the ONLY place you'll find the correct link to the resort's site. And if you don't do it that way -- and search engines are used mostly when people are in the ballpark of what they're looking for -- you're screwed. What's more, a Google search for "Cosmopolitan of Las Vegas," which is the actual, formal title of the property thanks to a lawsuit with the magazine of the same name, you also do NOT get the property's website in at least the first several Google pages.

My first try in Google, in fact, was "Cosmopolitan Vegas." Not only did the hotel's site not show up on the first page, it didn't show up in the first six pages, at which point I gave up. Here's what the top of that search looks like now:

Up top are all the news stories about the fact that the resort is taking reservations now, with my Portfolio blog item about the analyst weirdness in there now, too. After that, VegasTodayAndTomorrow.Com and the Wikipedia entry for the place are the top draws.

The site itself, if you can find it, is a little troublesome, too. For some reason in Firefox my totally up-to-date computer doesn't have the right version of Flash:

I tried upgrading my Flash to the version they required, but it still didn't work. It worked fine in Safari, though:

But I'm not real sure why a major hotel-casino would even use Flash, though, knowing that it'll look like this on iPods and iPads:

Sounds like the Cosmo's web team has some work to do. I'm completely mystified how they don't even show up in any permutations I could arrange except for that local-business listing. The site's been around now for many months, if not years.

Portfolio (aka me) Analysis of Weird Analysis

Gaming analyst Bill Lerner of Union Gaming believes the soon-to-open Cosmo adding 2,000 rooms to the city could cause room rates to RISE. Uh, what? So I did a Portfolio.Com blog looking at that weird idea a little closer:

A Las Vegas Analyst's Odd Prediction

It has become incontrovertible conventional wisdom that Las Vegas is overbuilt and that several large projects came to fruition at exactly the wrong time. The city boasts nearly 149,000 hotel rooms, of which 11,000 were added since the recession really took hold in fall 2008 thanks mainly to the openings of Wynn Resorts’ Encore tower, MGM Resorts’ CityCenter and two expansions at the Hard Rock Hotel.

Yet late 2010 brings another debut, the $3.5 billion Cosmopolitan of Las Vegas, a hotel and casino project owned by Deutsche Bank. In mid-December, Cosmo plans to dump another 2,000 of its eventual stock of 2,995 rooms onto the flailing, bargain-basement Strip immediately north of the struggling CityCenter.

Which is why Union Gaming analyst Bill Lerner’s July 1 email blast made eyes fall out of their sockets. “Cosmopolitan, we’re not so concerned about Las Vegas Impact.”


Could it be that he figures things are just so bad that they can’t really get any worse? How could yet another wad of rooms, especially those squeezed between the Bellagio and Aria (CityCenter's main hotel), not have a negative impact?

It’s very, very difficult to decipher Lerner’s logic, and after saying he’d try to call Portfolio back, he did not. But Lerner's note is yet another example of him crossing swords publicly with another analyst, this time Shaun Kelley of Bank of America Merrill Lynch. Kelley issued a June 30 report calling Cosmo “the largest negative for CityCenter and MGM as the market is clearly struggling to absorb” the 6,000 rooms added by the six-month-old $8.5 billion project.

Lerner refers in his missive to his comments being a reaction to “a competitor” and acknowledged to Portfolio that Kelley is his unnamed spar partner. And Lerner does, in his note, acknowledge there’s an oversupply in the market and even parenthetically notes that “one additional room is too much.”

Yet Lerner writes that room rates at the Cosmopolitan—the resort’s website is asking for $275 for opening weekend, well above the current average luxury Vegas room of about $200—could “have an odd, unintended impact on the market as it could pull rates UP (not DOWN as we think was implied in this competitor’s research report.)”

Lerner never actually explains how or why that would happen. His best bet is a fantasy, that “if operators theoretically colluded and took rates higher, we’re not sure demand would be negatively impacted of note.” Right, because Steve Wynn, Jim Murren and Sheldon Adelson, none of whom even like one another all that much, are seriously going to make such a pact. The SEC would just love that.

Read the rest at Portfolio.Com

Thursday, July 1, 2010

Is Brad Garrett REALLY at the Trop?

That's a rhetorical question, of course. I know the "Everybody Loves Raymond" star is headlining his own comedy club at the Tropicana because there's a billboard in front of the property and not just the compliant media but even credible, discriminating entertainment observers have raved about it.

But tonight I'm heading over to check it out for myself, and I needed to know what time the shows start. So, because I'm just that kooky, I went to the Tropicana's website. And here's the front page as I found it:

Huh. No Robbie Barone here. Let's try the "Nightlife & Entertainment" tab, shall we?

Not there, neither. Hey! Let's try that "VIEW SHOWS" tab there.

Nada. I know! I'll try the "Calendar of Events" link on the Nightlife & Entertainment tab!

Sigh. Nope.

As it happens, a couple minutes after I posted this, for whatever reason, the site's splash page started to rotate four images. It wasn't doing that earlier, I swear. And the fourth splash page is this:

So for a moment I felt a little dumb for picking on them. Except then I tried to click on the image, to go somewhere -- anywhere! -- for more information. And there's no place to go. There's no place to buy tickets. The rest of this post remained what you would find if you tried what I tried.

A good tip for selling stuff is giving people a way to buy it.

That's embarrassing. As the kids say, OMFG, WTF? The last time I saw a property treat one of its marquee show offerings like thi, it was Planet Hollywood vis-a-vis the Steve Wyrick show and we all know how that turned out.

I did finally find the show times. It's 8 p.m. tonight. I Googled "Brad Garrett Tropicana" and the first link was to a three-week old Trop press release. It was in there somewhere. I'm looking forward to the show, truly. And I'm hoping the Trop's website isn't the only funny joke.

Poll Showing Reid Up May Be Bogus

Here's something you don't see every day: The liberal blog site Daily Kos is accusing its own polling firm, Research 2000, of "fabricating or manipulating" poll results in such a way to make news and shape races. Kos founder Markos Moulitsas wrote on Tuesday:

“While the investigation didn't look at all of Research 2000 polling conducted for us, fact is I no longer have any confidence in any of it, and neither should anyone else. I ask that all poll tracking sites remove any Research 2000 polls commissioned by us from their databases. I hereby renounce any post we've written based exclusively on Research 2000 polling.”

Research2000 president Del Ali is denying any wrongdoing or number-fixing.

Politico's report this morning on this matter focuses on the firm's polls showing Lt. Gov. Bill Halter up over Ark. Sen. Blanche Lincoln in the June run-off in which she won and it seemed like a surprise. And in two pieces on the matter, Politico also pointed out curiosities in two other races, an Alabama Democratic primary for governor that showed one candidate up by 7 points a week before he lost by 24 points and another showing Carly Fiorina losing by 15 points a couple weeks before she won by 34 points to capture the Republican nomination for Senate in California.

But none of these reports noted the Nevada twist, the fact that Research2000 was also responsible for the widely disseminated and reported poll that appeared the week before the GOP primary that showed Sen. Harry Reid leading Sue Lowden, Danny Tarkanian and Sharron Angle. Here's Kos' raw data, and here's some of the headlines from (in order) the Huffington Post, Talking Points Memo and the Examiner:

The only news outlet to examine this that I could find was the Daily Caller, which noted that it's that Daily Kos poll that is keeping Reid appearing a lot closer than he may actually be to Sharron Angle in popular Real Clear Politics's tracking poll average. She's presently shown as ahead in by about 1.3 points, but remove the Kos/Research2000 poll and she's suddenly got an average 5 percentage point lead. That shows that just one poll with out-of-the-mainstream results can have a pretty dramatic impact and can make a race seem a lot closer than it is. That influences donors and press coverage, of course.

Interestingly, the Vegas media appears not to have bit on this one even though all have reported on Research2000 results extensively in the past. The Las Vegas Sun didn't note the Reid-leading element of the poll in its Angle-surging piece and the Review-Journal blog ignored the Reid-leading bit in referring to the poll's show of Brian Sandoval's growing strength over Gov. Jim Gibbons and Democrat Rory Reid. I can't be sure because his archives aren't online or searchable, but I have it in the back of my mind that Jon Ralston was dismissive in his daily email blasts. Nevada News Bureau noted the poll but did not analyze it.

To be fair, on some of the other races the Research2000 poll turned out pretty close to accurate. Sandoval crushed Gibbons 55-27, and the poll had predicted 48-27. Angle crushed Lowden and Tarkanian 40-26-23, and their poll had predicted it would be 34-25-24. Those variations can easily be explained by surging momentum in the closing days of the campaign that lifted Angle and Sandoval a little higher yet.

Meanwhile, the Huffington Post has now attached this startling notice to the top of their coverage of the poll:

EDITOR'S NOTE: The story below includes references to polling conducted by the firm Research 2000. The reliability and accuracy of Research 2000's polling has since been called into serious question by a report published in June 2010 by a group of statistical analysts.


Tuesday, June 29, 2010

The Show is UP: Chefs!

A food episode, yum! Dig in! 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!

June 28: Hot Air In The Kitchen
...with Rick Moonen & Jet Tila

You know what group of Vegas notables rarely, if ever, find themselves at the center of controversy? Chefs. Normally, they just oversee their kitchens, sell their books and show up on daytime TV feeding perky anchors delicious treats. That's why it was so jarring when Rick Moonen of RM Seafood at Mandalay Bay ended up in the middle of a feud with Top Chef Masters judge Jay Rayner this month over why Moonen came in second in the Bravo series. We'll talk to Rick about that and then turn to another outspoken Vegas chef, Jet Tila of Wazuzu at Wynn Las Vegas. Tila talks about his Guinness record attempts, local restaurant picks, and shows he loved and hated. Plus, he discloses the ingredients of Steve Wynn's special California roll, which is not on the menu. Tila says you can ask for it, though.

In Banter: Vegas downscaled with Ross Dress For Less and more, the wacko Jacko auction, the silliness in Vegas! The Show's advertising and a special cameo by a friend playing WSOP events this weekend.

Links to stuff discussed:

Rick Moonen’s website, book and restaurant
Jet Tila’s Las Vegas Weekly blog and Facebook page
Steve’s AOL News piece on the chip collector’s convention
The McKee-Prosser wedding blog post
Rob Walch’s Podcast411 and Today in iPhone podcasts

Steve’s AOL News report on the MJ auction
Kardashian store coming to the Mirage
Riviera act claiming he's 2009 Nevada performer of the year, Greg London
An image of Vegas! The Show’s ridiculous rack card
Hubert Keller’s TV cooking show, which is moving to Vegas
Facebook page for The Strip Podcast
Steve’s LVW column on the Top Chef outcome

Vince Neil last month: "When you stop, you stop."

A great many of you have emailed and Tweeted to me about the hypocritical nature of Motley Crue frontman Vince Neil's DUI arrest this week. I'll get back to that in a moment, but folks who didn't listen to the May 17 episode of "The Strip" didn't catch this exchange:

Friess: Since you said you don’t drink, when did you actually, finally stop?

Three years ago.

So you’ve been dry for three years?


In your videos and pictures online, you’re always in the picture with the glass.

Alcohol doesn’t bother me, being around it. I just choose not to drink. That’s really kind of it. When you stop, you stop. You don’t ask why. You’re just done with it.

What made you make that decision?

Because I was drinking too much of it. And I finally came to a point where I was done. I called my wife and said, I gotta go somewhere, I can’t this anymore. And that was it. It was a little over three years ago.

And you’d tried that before, right?

Yeah, I’d been in rehab, yeah.

: So what was different?

When people put you in rehab, that’s one thing. When you want to go to rehab, that’s another thing. Usually you go to rehab b/c the family puts you there, your job, whatever…

Legal trouble…

Yeah, whatever, and then they hope that some of it sticks. But when in your mind you’re done, you’re done. This is the first time I actually wanted to go to rehab.

When you watch in the celebrity culture people like Lindsay Lohan and Amy Winehouse, those sorts of people, do you understand what those other people go through? People who aren’t in the spotlight just watch people like Britney Spears and baffle over it. Do you get it? Do you have an empathy for those folks?

Yeah, like Lindsay Lohan came out of rehab and went right back to drinking because she didn’t want to be in rehab, she was put in rehab. She’s not going to stop drinking and doing drugs until she wants to. You can put these people away for a month or two months or three months, but they didn’t do it what he wanted to.

It became a more memorable exchange after Sunday's arrest in Las Vegas, obviously, because the rocker and entrepreneur -- with a line of tequila and a collection of bars, no less -- had pledged full sobriety. Unless the cops have this one quite wrong, that was a lie.

But it's not that he continues to drink that ought to upset anybody. Alcoholism is a terrible disease and, like other addictions, it makes liars out of the best of us. And as we've learned from Steve Wynn and Daniel Lamarre and a few others I do not have the power to force interview subjects to tell the truth under oath.

What's shocking here, however, is that he would drink and drive again, given that in 1984 he was drunk when he crashed a vehicle that left a passenger dead and two people in vegetative states. For that, he got a $2.5 million fine and 20 days in jail. You've got to be a pretty hard-core alcoholic to not keep such a horror front and center in your life.

But while listeners have reminded me of Neil's declarations in that interview, nobody has taken note of this part from later in the interview when we were discussing the tequila line:

Friess: Since you don't drink, how do you test new products?

Neil: I taste it. I have a sip of something to taste it. That's a different thing.

Friess: Typically people who are alcoholics say they can never again have a drop of alcohol, not even in food.

Yeah, those are people who are just Bible-thumpers. Both of my homes have full-stocked bars for people. I have no problem with it being around. I have no problem with my wife having a glass of wine at dinner and I don't or if I go to party. I was at an autism fundraiser the other nigth at the Sterling Club and you know, they hand you champagne, they hand you wine. It doesn't matter. I don't think about it. It doesn't matter to me.

Did you get that? His version of "stopping" meant becoming a casual, if minimal, drinker. But it's not moralistic propaganda that makes alcoholics incapable of having even a modest amount, it's brain chemistry. He also avoids the question at the end there, reverting to whether it bothers him if others drink. That's not the point. I know many alcoholics who don't have any trouble being around alcohol.

Neil has rehabilitated himself as a smart and successful businessman, and that's great. But if he wants to enjoy that success -- and not kill any more people -- he's going to have to have a radical attitude adjustment.