Friday, December 31, 2010

Watch Me On KSNV Tonight For New Year's Eve!

I'm sort of co-anchoring one of KSNV's New Year's Eve locations tonight with reporter Marie Mortera, so tune into Channel 3 from about 10 p.m. PT until midnight or so for our various cut-ins. There are anchors and reporters for Channel 3 on the Strip, Fremont Street and at least one other location, too.

Not to give much away but Marie and I will be in a more sedated locale where we'll be having dinner -- and you'll probably recognize one of the others at the party as a frequent "The Strip" guest host, FYI -- and chatting about the year past and ahead in entertainment, the casino biz and more.

I don't know if the coverage will stream online, but we'll record it and figure out a way to get it online if their site doesn't archive it later. Should be fun. I even rented a monkey suit, see?

I'll also be Tweeting between shots, so pay attention at @TheStripPodcast. We also will have, with little doubt, the very best vantage point for viewing the fireworks, so you'll want to watch KSNV to see what I mean.

[Disclosure: Miles is the executive producer at KSNV and will be managing the coverage from the studio. It was, however, Marie's idea to pair up with me, not Miles'.]

Thursday, December 30, 2010

This Week's LVW Col: The Olds Do Cosmo

Hope everyone has been having a terrific holiday week. Enjoy. -sf

The Olds do the newest Strip property


As we made our way past the tri-level chandelier that is the signature of Vegas’ newest playground, two grouches provided decidedly different reactions. Terry, eyes agog, stepped back several paces to marvel. And Walt?

“All they need in this fucking thing is a fortune teller,” he harrumphed. “Now come on, Terry, I’m hungry.”

The ritual was off to a roaring start. Terry and Walt are The Olds, a couple for 35 years, locals for 30 years and, most important, doting adoptive gay grandparents to me since 1996. They’re generous, wise, nosy and maddening, devotees of the Gore Vidal era of cutting gay wit.

The Olds do this endearing thing: They eat at every new casino on the first Saturday it is open. Only this explains why I rode in a minivan with The Olds, their neighbor Frank and The Olds’ two poodles to the Cosmopolitan at 7:30 a.m. on the Jewish God’s blessed day of rest.

Read the rest at LasVegasWeekly.Com

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

A B+ For Sinatra Dance With Me

I finally got out to see "Sinatra Dance With Me" at the Wynn last night, several weeks after chatting with choreography legend Twyla Tharp and hearing primarily good things from Mike Weatherford (Grade: A-) and David McKee (Liked it except not a fan, evidently, of shirtless men).

I'm a little torn. I am neither one of the millions of Americans nuts about televised dance competition shows nor of the generation that believed Sinatra was The Shit. But for 70ish minutes, I was frequently mesmerized by the beauty and elegance of the four couples and myriad ensemble performers and almost entirely enveloped by the stunningly perfect acoustics of the recorded Sinatra vocals over the live big band.

Trouble was, there were periods in which I found myself focusing on one or the other and finding that the two didn't fit together as well as I'd like. This became particularly evident in the "That's Life" portion in which the dancers got very frenetic and overly affected but I couldn't tie much of anything they were doing to either the lyrics or the story that was sort of being told. (Well, there was the part where the male dancer bobs the female dancer's head when Frank croons "I've been a puppet...".) It also was a bit strange that in segments when there would seem to have been dramatic tensions, when the male dancers are being cads to the women, the women seemed to just keep their very broad stage grins on so as to say... well, I'm not sure.

There were a couple of true standouts, in particular Charlie Neshyba-Hodges as the bartender who falls for the plain girl and freaks out about the familial implications in the first version of "Makin' Whoopie." Neshyba-Hodges, the program says, won the 2010 Astaire Award for Best Male Dancer for the same role in "Come Fly Away," the original Broadway show upon which "Sinatra Dance With Me" is based. The other dazzler was Marielys Molina, formerly of "Peepshow," who took on the role of sexpot Kate because the usual lead, Tony-nominated Karine Plantadit, was snowed out of Vegas along with one or two other regulars. Molina, who normally handles one of the other leads, had a vivacity and power that made it impossible to stop staring at her.

McKee complained in his CityLife review that about two-thirds in, there are a few discordant, very shirtless, sexed-up scenes. He asserted that it seemed base and crude for the classiness that is Sinatra. And yet, I found this to be the most satisfying portion of the program. The audience gets plenty of cleavage and leg from the female performers but the guys are not just buttoned up in period garb for the majority of the show but sweating so profusely through their clothes as to make them occasionally uncomfortable to look at. When they break out of those strictures, their dance also feels looser and more fun, the music felt less museum-piece and more present-tense.

I sat immediately behind, believe it, Twyla Tharp herself. She held a white notepad on her lap but never jotted anything on it, and she left about six songs from the end. I guess she's fairly contented with where the piece is now, which makes sense since she's been producing variations of some of these movements since the 1970s. It was fun, though, to watch her little white head bobbing and shoulders moving to the music as the show started.

What intrigued me, though, was the audience reaction. First, it was nearly full for a Monday but this is a holiday week, so take that for what it's worth. But it was a significantly older crowd -- I may have been the youngest person there -- and they held off their standing ovation until the live band was acknowledged. That was telling; dancing is everywhere these days, but you don't get to see that many live musicians do that sort of music that well very much, do you? I had the feeling some in the crowd would have been just as happy to see them without all the young-people shenanigans on stage.

I enjoyed "Sinatra Dance With Me" enough to give it a B+ and want to go back to see the lead cast at some point. This felt throughout like a Vegas show for grown-ups.

Cosmo v Aria, A Fortnight Later

We in the media have wondered how we might know if The Cosmopolitan is doing well. It's a private company and they're not obligated to tell us, and I'm quite confident John Unwin's never going to bemoan conditions to wretches like me or Howard Stutz.

Happily, I recently discovered my favorite gaming industry analyst, Robert LaFleur of Hudson Securities, is back in action tracking room rates and providing reports to journalists. Rates are pretty much the only external data available, but it's painstaking to keep up with it because of the fluctuations. He does it so we don't have to, and his latest weekly report, out today, paints a fascinating early picture of Cosmo and what it's done to Aria and even Bellagio in its Shiny New Thing phase.

That graphic above (click on it to enlarge) shows that Cosmo has been raising its room rates dramatically for every single normal date LaFleur has checked. He looks every Monday for rates on Wednesdays and Saturdays over the coming two months or so. According to LaFleur, weekday asking prices are up 41 percent from when he started tracking them in November.

Meanwhile, next doors...

Cosmo's rack rates are 88 percent higher than Aria and 118 percent higher than Vdara on on weekends in January. And, in other parts of the report, we learn that Aria has dropped rates for six of the dates checked through the end of February. Most notably, they lowered their Saturday night rate for MLK Weekend by $30 to $209, which is interesting because the another LaFleur chart shows that Bellagio is up $50 on the same night to $279.

Cosmo's rates need to be taken cautiously because it is a new place and there's buzz. That second graph, in fact, shows that the rate differences between Cosmo and Bellagio/Aria/Vdara coming back into orbit by February.

But I'm intrigued by this: Aria continues to be lowering room rates on the same holiday weekends that its big sister, Bellagio, is raising them, is not good news for the MGM Resorts bunch.

If only they hadn't opened CityCenter in phases...

P.S. It's worth noting that the weekend the Vdara folks tried to extort $50 out of my CityCenter-loving sister-in-law, the rates had been reduced twice in two weeks leading up to that date. So demand was empirically soft, but she couldn't even have a 1 p.m. checkout?!?

Monday, December 27, 2010

Aces, The Podcast

I corralled Emily out of her Michigander sabbatical to join me for a special phone edition of The Petcast last night to talk about and document the wondrous -- and all too rare -- joy of getting to know a new pet like our Christmas addition, Aces.

You can hear it by clicking here or right-click here to download it and hear it later. You can also subscribe for free to The Petcast in iTunes or Zune, by the way. I don't usually blog about individual episodes of The Petcast when they're up, but this one has lots of good advice (from Emily) on how to deal with adopting a rescued or abandoned animal and integrating it in a household with other pets. Also, it gives me the chance to post this photo, as if I needed one.

Another Reason She's Called Aces

That, above, is one of the final drafts of the back page of the Dec. 20 issue of Newsweek parsing out seven recent/ongoing projects in Vegas and where they stand. I wrote it, of course, and it was timed for The Cosmopolitan's opening.

While we were on our New York trip, I reviewed probably a dozen drafts. By the time we got to the final draft, I decided to let Miles look it over because I knew I was too familiar, that I would miss something.

What important change from the version above (click on it to enlarge) did Miles figure out, thereby averting a torrent of ridicule from the Vegas blogosphere?

Here's a hint disguised as a gratuitous reason to post another new puppy photo:

Thanks guys! Here's 1 more of Aces, at the laptop! @jayf... on Twitpic

A Good No-Sign For Aria?

Perhaps as a Christmas gift to good taste, prestigious architects, their own alleged high-class vision and this blog, look at what the MGM Resorts brain trust did over the weekend:

In case you haven't been following, this is what the same image looked like as of Dec. 19:

See that puzzling little star, the seeming beginnings of a hideous building wrap? It's gone!

I'd like to celebrate. I'd like to believe that someone over there suddenly scrounged up some respect for the artistic giants who designed that magnificent building. I'd like to think that maybe that little star was a multimillion-dollar version of when you or I slap a patch of paint on the wall to see how it looks.

Alas, I am not so trusting. In fact, I keep hearing MGM is about to wrap one of its resorts with an ad for a new TV show. Hopefully -- and I can't believe I'm saying this -- it's the Luxor. That would be regrettable, too, because the Luxor is the only other building they own that is distinctive and architecturally interesting. But they've already done it a few times there, so it's hard to get worked up about it.

[h/t to PanorAmy for the pix.]

Sunday, December 26, 2010

Introducing Aces Smith-Friess!

Notice anyone new above?

Here, let me help you. This... Aces. Here's what happened:

The doorbell rings at 8 a.m. on Dec. 23 and it's our next-door neighbor:

She explains that the day before, she was in the grocery store parking lot when some lady came up to her in the rain and said she needed to move out of town and couldn't take her dog so here, see ya later, buh-bye. Or something like that. Also, the dumper handed over another horrifying outfit -- which we will get to shortly -- as well as food, a bed and a toy. I can only imagine what was going on there that someone would need to do such a thing. Very disturbing and sad.

So my neighbor took this dog, handed to her at random, home. But her husband wasn't into having a dog and, in particular, a small one. And, I am imagining, they said to one another, "What about those gay guys next door who already have two Chihuahuas? Surely they or some of their gay and/or small-dog-loving friends would take her!"

I told the neighbor we'd consider what to do. That meant that by lunchtime I was pondering whether and how to surprise Miles for Christmas. I called the vet to ask if he could check her out, which they were happy to do that evening for free as a "new pet" visit. Here I am with the dog waiting at Desert Inn Animal Hospital:

The thing is, we already have two dogs, 7-year-old brothers named Black and Jack. Incredibly cute, but 100% mine. They are intensely territorial and possessive of me to the point that they still, nearly six years since we rescued them from the shelter, bark at Miles when he comes home. They sit like tumors on my sides when we watch TV and accept Miles as their Lord and Savior only when I am busy for long periods, out or away. It's not a fulfilling pet experience for him, but I *do* walk them, feed them and spend more than half of every waking day with them.

Yet the bias is also because of their personalities. They don't care for pretty much anyone other than me. While I fully understand that, it's sad for Miles.

The vet told me that this dog was an intact, in-heat female of about 1 year of age, about 8 pounds when not clad in ridiculous and demeaning clothing. (Jack is 11 pounds and Black is 14 pounds.) She was very healthy, although she'll need to be spayed and that could cost $250ish.

I decided we ought to give this dog a try. I would spring her on Miles on Christmas somehow and, if she didn't fit in our household for some reason, someone via this blog or Facebook or Twitter would surely welcome her. We've done it before, remember?

For an hour that night, I socialized her with Black and Jack. Then I got our neighbor to take her for a night. On Christmas Eve I took a break from making homemade butternut squash gnocchi and port-dijon filet mignons (there is a photo, but it was as delicious as it was un-photogenic) to run Aces, as I suddenly started calling her, to the home of my Little Brother's mom, Stacey.

Yes, Aces. We have Black and Jack, so the Vegas cards theme felt right, but calling her Queenie seemed just a wee bit too gay, even for us. Anyhow, here's me with Black and Jack on our final morning before life as we knew it changed:

Stacey kept Aces until Christmas afternoon when we went over for the holiday meal. I had bought a pink collar and a pop-up crate at Target, and I was going to actually wrap it and have Miles open it. We're always joking as we open gifts, "Is it a puppy?" But I accidentally brought Aces out in her crate when I thought Miles was outside. He wasn't. Surprise!

They bonded very quickly! They sat together the rest of the evening...

...and then when we got home, too.

Later, we started crate-training her since she seems to have an inkling about being housebroken but we're not sure. Here she is in her crate:

Aces has a very comfortable personality. She's like a sack of sugar, happy to be held by whomever wants her. She's conflict-averse, so when Black and Jack dominate me, she's inclined to go to the other human. That bodes well for Miles.

How are Black and Jack adjusting, you ask? As well as can be expected. They're a little confused and irritated but also intrigued. But Aces holds her own, growling when they get too near. So I think there's some assimilation going on. Here are their very first group photos:

Those and the first photo in this post tell the story, which is Aces trying to be herself while Jack is curious and concerned and Black doesn't really care at all.

For the most part, I've backed off. When Miles is out, I certainly cuddle with her and have walked her, but we're working on keeping her as "his" dog to the extent that's possible. The good news is that when he came home, she went right to him and I was suddenly uninteresting. I can't imagine that, but I'm glad for it.

Perhaps, though, Aces is mad at me because I insisted she model the other hideous outfit that her abandoner gave to my neighbor:

Check it out:

I'll never put that on her ever again, but I do understand if she's forever bitter. In fact, maybe that was part of my plan!