Friday, September 10, 2010

The Strip is LIVE noon-2 p.m. PT Saturday!

Remember the bizarre and sexually graphic interview I had with Tony Curtis way back when? Well, things got similarly weird with Cloris Leachman, as you'll hear if you join us live at noon on Saturday at LVRocks.Com.

We'll begin at noon with the normal live show with me and Miles. After the proper show's over, we'll play the full Cloris interview. So we should fill up the whole two hours. Miles has to get to work, so we'll do our parts and then deploy the Cloris-bomb immediately thereafter.

Oh, and here's an awesome little Jimmy Kimmel bit that Cloris did last year. Props to TritonPSH for passing it along:

As always, you can listen live at via LVRocks.Com and join the chat with fellow listeners. Or wait and grab the podcast version via iTunes, Zune or that nifty "Listen Now" player on TheStripPodcast.Com.

The Sorry State of Vegas' 9/11 Memorial

One of the first stories I covered when I returned to Vegas in August 2002 to freelance from here was a firefighters union convention at which the New York-New York resort announced with great fanfare they would be carving out a plaza in front of Vegas' Statue of Liberty for a Sept. 11 memorial.

They did so, creating 21 lit glass boxes that were to hold items that were left at the base of the Statue of Liberty in the weeks and months after the 9/11 attacks. They included T-shirts and gear from fire and police departments around the world as well as cards and signs, a steady stream of which reflected the worldwide outpouring and the desperate need people had to find some symbolic way to pay tribute.

New York-New York did it, yes, and they've been so demur about it that they don't even squawk about it on their website for fear of seeming to be trying to take advantage of the suffering of that day. It was, I believe, the first permanent 9/11 Memorial in the nation.

Yet on Wednesday night, I noticed nearly half of those lit displays are presently empty. This is strange because there were thousands of objects saved and archived at UNLV, where they sit in boxes waiting to be rotated into the display. Many of the items that are still in the memorial exhibit have become so faded that you can't read them anyway and probably should be replaced.

The responsibility for the upkeep belongs to the maintenance department at New York-New York, owned by MGM Resorts International. I didn't have a chance today to inquire as to why the memorial has been left in such disarray, but I did want to put this out there now because the ninth anniversary of the attacks is upon us. One would think that whatever the cause of the problems over there, someone would think that for that particular occasion, the memorial ought to be in tip-top shape. Right?

5 Saturdays Boost July Visitation 4.7 Percent

Don't get your hopes up too high, folks, but there's actually some seriously good news today on the economic front.

The LVCVA put out the monthly data for July, and the headline is that visitation and room-nights occupied were both up 4.7 percent and that room rates rose 4.8 percent over July 2009. Also, July 2010 saw a record drive-in traffic from California. At the same time, though, gaming revenue dropped 5 percent from last July, reflecting more frugal tourists.

The big caveat here is that there were five Saturdays in July, but guess what? That also happened in 2006, one of our peak years. I looked at the numbers from back then, and they tell the story even better:

* Visitation in July 2006 was only 1.1 percent higher than in July 2010
* There were 15,000 fewer rooms then
* The average daily room rate was $104.19, down $13.81 or 13.2 percent
* Gaming revenue for Clark County was $850,255,000, off more than $156 million or 18.4 percent.

So, the visitation gains are real. It's just that the rest of the enterprise remains a wreck. Downtown Las Vegas in particular is a disaster, down 19.3 percent in gaming revenue in July 2010 versus July 2009 but down 35 percent fr0m July 2006. Sweet lord.

Also sad: That extra Saturday didn't even help Laughlin and Mesquite, both of which still lost visitors in July 2010 versus July 2009. Laughlin room rates were down 12 percent, to $40.14 a night, although the Laughlin airport saw a 28.2 percent jump in passengers deplaning. Did a new carrier come to that market?

Bottom line: Las Vegas is still extremely popular. The notion that the city is dead, that it can never recover, is a lie. People still love coming here and they'll be back whenever they can afford it. That's the silver lining, even if it is way, way, way off in the horizon.

Breaking: Liberace Museum Closing

This is actually a pretty big deal. The 31-year-old Liberace Museum is shutting down on Oct. 17 because of a decline in visitors, so the Liberace Foundation says it will focus specifically on its scholarship program. They say they're planning a national tour with some of the exhibit items.

That's an incredibly sad development. It adds to the list of museum closings in recent years and puts some fantastic relics of Old Vegas beyond the reach of the public, but it also eliminates a unique show space where singers from Strip shows have been enjoying creative outlets. They just redid the sound system in there, in fact.

Here's hoping someone on The Strip or downtown sees an opportunity in this. The museum is really well done -- years ago it was pure kitsch, but in the past decade it had improved to being well-curated kitsch -- and could be a serious attraction if tourists could walk to it instead of taking a bus, cab or rental car. Cancer-stricken actor Michael Douglas told USA Today just yesterday he's still committed to playing Liberace in a biopic opposite Matt Damon, and that could jumpstart public interest.

Maybe it could end up at the Tropicana alongside their mob exhibit, making for a retro-Vegas museum center?

Thursday, September 9, 2010

This week's LVW Col: Cloris!

Had a helluva chat with the amazing Cloris Leachman. The full interview will be podcast this weekend, but here's the Las Vegas Weekly version. -sf

On the eve of her Vegas debut,
Cloris Leachman looks back on
a life well-lived


I’m about an hour into my 15-minute phone interview with actress Cloris Leachman, and I am finally starting to run out of things to ask her. I’m so treasuring the conversation, however, that I’m not ready for it to be over.

To my surprise, I suddenly realize, neither is she. The list of topics we’ve mulled has become epic: Her ex-husband’s affair in the 1970s with Joan Collins, then a star-fucking actress whom Leachman’s circle of Hollywood friends referred to as “the British Open”; whether Marlon Brando ever had gay sex, which she says is possible because Elia Kazan, their Actor’s Studio instructor, “wanted us to experience absolutely everything”; why she wasn’t scared that time, as a young Broadway actress, when a guy pinned her to a pillar in a New York hotel lobby and humped her until he ejaculated. “It was so remarkable,” she laughed, “It was more bizarre than anything else. It was like, ‘What the fuck?’”

Read the rest at LasVegasWeekly.Com

The Most Bizarre, Awesome Oscar Goodman Interview EVER

Stop whatever you're doing. Really. You must listen to this. Yes, it's 28 minutes long and no, you can't download it. But it disappears from the website in five or six days, so hurry the %&#! up. And damn you, BBC, for apparently not making the video version available to stateside viewers.

Las Vegas Mayor Oscar Goodman gave an interview in his office to Stephen Sackur of the BBC World Service's HARDTalk that aired on Sept. 7 and 8. It's pretty obvious he was unfamiliar with Sackur's style, which is to say Sackur is clueless and intense and unbelievably confrontational in the most fascinating way imaginable. It's almost a parody, almost a Sacha Baron Cohen piece, except that Sackur is known for this and he's entirely, emphatically sincere.

What you end up with are exchanges like this:

Sackur: What do you believe, Mr. Mayor? The guys you represented in those days, do you believe they had blood on their hands?

Goodman: That wasn’t my job to make that determination…

Sackur: I’m asking you, as a human being, what you think?

Trust me, there's a load more like that. And out of this, we hear from Goodman these outrageous, offensive chestnuts:

* When asked about the aura of sleaze that surrounded him moving from mob lawyer to mayor:
“I’m the only politician that hasn’t been indicted, so apparently they were wrong.”

* Confronted about alleged child prostitution in Vegas:
"I don’t see any 14-year-old girls walking around advertising their wares."

Oh! And apparently there's some secret plan to get new water supplies for Las Vegas from the Pacific Northwest?!? Maybe I haven't been following this closely enough? Thank God Sackur didn't ask Oscar about prospects for an NFL team or who knows what he might've claimed.

Truth be told, the interviewer -- ah, they call him a "presenter" over there, don't they? -- was a bit off his rocker suggesting that Goodman ought to have told Steve Wynn and Sheldon Adelson to stop building to prevent the bust, giving Goodman's mayoralty credit for helping Vegas become the Entertainment Capital of the World and positing that Goodman left the Democratic Party because President Obama allegedly slighted Vegas twice. He also takes whackadoodle ex-Councilman Steve Miller as an authority, to which Goodman responds that Miller's a joke who "couldn't win an election if he tripped over one." (Is tripping on something a way to win things, by the way?)

Sackur clearly irrationally despises Vegas and everything involved with it. That normally drives me bananas, but here it is unbelievably amusing because he shoves it with reckless abandon in the face of a man equally steadfast in his belief that the city has no flaws at all.

But Sackur also puts Goodman on the spot about that Bombay gin promotion contract -- he even knew that half the money went to Carolyn Goodman's school -- and harshly confronts Goodman on some of his more outlandish statements. The mayor, believe it or not, seems to admit some of them -- like beating Bob Herbert of The New York Times with a bat or cutting off taggers' thumbs -- were perhaps unbecoming but also helped draw attention to "important" issues.

Here's maybe the weirdest part, though: Goodman kept his cool. Far from the theatrics he pulls from time to time at press conferences, he just rolled with it, once in a while saying something is "unfair" but never raising his voice or lashing out.

Go. Now. Listen to it. Unreal stuff.
You just haven't lived until you've heard a stick-up-his-ass Brit say the phrase, "Hot girls direct to your room."

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Lion Attack Didn't Roar Until It Was On YouTube

You might recall that one of the biggest news stories of the past decade out of Las Vegas involved a public animal attack that nearly killed a man and ended one of the most legendary performing careers in illusionist or Strip history.

It was a big deal. Magazine-covers-for-weeks big deal. Such a big deal, you would think, that if anything even remotely similar to it ever occurred again, the press would go into a, uh, feeding frenzy.

But, no. You'd be forgiven if you were unaware until yesterday that a lion went after a handler in the MGM Grand's Lion Habitat exhibit more than a week ago. And you probably still would know little about it if not for this:

How could we all have missed this? Well, for one thing, it was buried deep in Friday's Review-Journal as the LAST brief, less important than even an update on a murder case in another state.

The R-J gave this matter a whopping 78 words. Seventy-eight. It turns out, the brief was actually written by the Associated Press and used, as well, by the Las Vegas Sun on their site. So neither paper even covered it themselves and the AP, which was indefatigable thanks to former Vegas correspondent Adam Goldman on the Roy Horn case, provided nothing but a quickie explanation from a MGM Resorts publicist. That explanation: The handler had "stepped too close" to one of the lions.

I don't get it. The call comes over the police scanner that someone had been bitten by a lion at the MGM Grand in the middle of the day and nobody in the newsroom on Bonanza says, "Holy crap! We gotta get over there! We've gotta talk to tourists! We've gotta find out what's happening!"? Even if, as happened to be the case, it turned out to be a minor injury, how do you know when that scanner call goes out?

Ah, but now that there's a YouTube video, the local news stations and national web media are interested. Yet nobody's bothered to ask how even the meager, play-it-down explanation from MGM Resorts comports with what we see in the video! If the guy who was bitten "stepped too close" to the cat, how far away are they supposed to be? That other guy is seen petting ole Leo as though he were a German Shepherd moments earlier, right?

OK, so the handler did get away with some stitches on his leg and the public wasn't in danger. Does that mean this isn't serious business? I bet the folks at Sea World, who saw a skilled trainer killed by Shamu in February, might disagree. And didn't I just read that Dirk Arthur is planning to bring a menagerie of dangerous wild cats on stage at the tiny, gross showroom at O'Shea's next week? Doesn't it behoove us in the media to be vigilant about such events as warning signs that raise questions about the wisdom and safety of such exhibits?

I'm surprised, but I suppose I shouldn't be, that MGM Resorts still tries to minimize these incidents after what happened to Roy Horn in 2003. They had to know sooner or later, a tourist would post a video like this, right? Remember, this is the gang who for years has spun that white tiger Montecore was just trying to help Roy when he shook him like a rag doll even though 1,500 horrified viewers saw it happen. These are the folks who got Sen. Harry Reid to ensure the USDA would never make public the video of the incident.

So their explanations must be examined skeptically and these stories must be covered. And you know what else? Here's an added little bonus: People care. They love reading about this stuff. It's news AND it garners eyeballs. Neat, huh?

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

The Show is UP: Jerry Lewis

Sorry I didn't get this up on the blog sooner, but the show has been in the feed since yesterday morning. I'm just getting really backed up with assignments, so apologies. Click on the date below to listen or right-click to download and listen at your leisure or subscribe to get the episodes instantly when they're available via iTunes or Zune.

Sept. 6: The Nutty Prognosticator

Three years ago, at the height of the Vegas boom, Jerry Lewis predicted that the resorts were overbuilding and would eventually smother one another. He just didn’t expect it to happen so fast. Now, with the city in a world of hurt, the tough-talking, foul-mouthed comedy legend both commiserated with the current state of affairs and suggests some solutions. Steve spoke to the 84-year-old in advance of that much-cherished Labor Day tradition, the annual Jerry Lewis Telethon to benefit the Muscular Dystrophy Association, and the two talked about the mob, Steve Wynn and the current state of his career. Yes, he still has a career, and we’re likely to hear a lot more from him in coming months.

In banter: The R-J lawsuit campaign could hit the Strip, the Great Petcast Roadtrip, the screwy monorail directional signs and more.

Links to stuff discussed:

How to donate to the Jerry Lewis MDA Telethon
Send a Salami video from YouTube
The Jerry Lewis CD of standards from 1956 on Amazon.Com
Yelp! on Bagelmania, Firefly and Emeril’s
Steve’s blog and Flickr on the Great Petcast Road Trip
Roadfood.Com, Urbanspoon and Dogfriendly.Com
The Sun and Review-Journal on the R-J lawsuit against Sharron Angle
Steve's coverage of the lawsuits, including the Angle suit on Paris Hilton and the monorail signs
Vinnie Favorito’s “new” contract at the Flamingo, as covered by us in June
Mike Weatherford’s perfect column about how silly the Madonna-Vegas rumor
The Bon Jovi rumor from the Examiner.Com
Zowie Bowie’s website
The VegasHappensHere.Com link regarding NPR’s “Wait Wait” using Steve’s story as a joke