Friday, March 25, 2011

Will The Review-Journal Sue Victor Chaltiel?

It's been a while since I've taken much interest in the Righthaven drama. That's the Vegas law firm that obtains copyrights from the Review-Journal to pursue litigation against bloggers and other website owners that steal R-J articles, charts and photos. I favor it, although I also think that a judicious and reasonable standard ought to apply to whom is sued.

Still, since the R-J's dramatic change to a kinder, gentler leadership regime, there have been far fewer lawsuits filed by Righthaven on behalf of the R-J. The company instead has moved on to work on behalf of the Denver Post, too. Steve Green, the Las Vegas Sun scribe who has assiduously documented Righthaven's many filings, hasn't posted a piece about a lawsuit related to R-J content since Jan. 4.

But, alas, there is a very visible -- if not relevant, at least free-spending -- candidate for Las Vegas mayor, Victor Chaltiel, who apparently didn't pay enough attention to what happened on this blog and how it impacted Sharron Angle in the last electoral go-around, and dumped the entire profile from the March 16 profile written by Alan Choate. Yes, he provides a link, but he also provides all 1,237 luscious words.

So, is Righthaven out of business in Vegas? I'm trying to reach the folks who would know.

Meanwhile, folks from out of town will enjoy Victor For Vegas' instaclassic ad. He's not polling too well in the Goodmanapalooza that is this race, but he's colorful:

[H/T to David McKee, Stiffs & Georges]

LVW: The Tropicana's Strange Gladys Knight Thing

And here's my latest Las Vegas Weekly entry, trying -- and failing -- to analyze the notion of Gladys Knight as the face of the Tropicana. Enjoy. -sf

Tropicana’s decision to headline
Gladys Knight is a real head-scratcher

Until last week, the Tropicana’s new management had been firing on all cylinders. It’s impossible to overstate the miracle they have pulled off in just 18 months, turning a decrepit and tragically mismanaged joke of a Strip institution into a resurgent, widely re-embraced remnant of Old Vegas.

They cleaned it up, first of all. Then they pursued a South Beach branding effort that included the Nikki Beach pool redesign and the addition of some food and beverage options. Brad Garrett’s Comedy Club provided a splash of low-cost celeb appeal and the Las Vegas Mob Experience offers a neat, gee-whiz attraction to round it out.

But on March 18, the resort announced the new face of its property, the person deemed its marquee entertainer. Keep in mind how important this position is and behold what Celine means for Caesars Palace or what Donny & Marie do for the Flamingo.

Who is the Trop putting forth as its Garth? Why, that au courant hipster, Gladys Knight.

Commence head-scratching.

Read the rest at LasVegasWeekly.Com

The Wrap: Celine's Back

OK. So in addition to my review of Celine's perfect new show, I've got some other goodies from Opening Night.

First and most importantly, I just posted to The Strip Podcast feed a 14-minute video report on the opening that includes some priceless footage of Robin Leach (at about the 5:00 mark) and his date giving an impromptu review, a Celine fan singing for me in exchange for a Celine thumb drive and some choice moments from the post-premiere press conference.

Download that by right-clicking here to watch it at your leisure on the device of your choice. Here it is, as well, on YouTube:

The video comes from livestreaming via iPhone from Caesars Palace before and after the show. (Unlike Rosie O'Donnell, I didn't think it appropriate to Tweet a video.)

If you're really interested, you can go to this UStream site and watch all the raw footage, including most of the footage from the press conference. I didn't including it in the video partly because the audio and video quality wasn't great -- Celine looks like a ghost for some reason -- but if you want to browse it, it's all there.

A few stray thoughts beyond my review about the opening evening's events:

* I know some folks will be surprised by my raves for Celine's show. It's just that good. Any of the too-cool-for-school folks who loved the Old Vegas should be able to appreciate how hard she works and how impressive her talent is, even if it's not their musical tastes.

* I have never seen a star not involved in a scandal do as exhaustive and comprehensive a press conference as Celine did last week. She was patient, complete and gracious. I just wish my colleagues wouldn't ask her stupid questions about how Japan's earthquake or violence in Mexico impacted her show prep and, also, that she wouldn't give such verbose and mundane responses. But more importantly, this was when the media ought to get to spray a star with questions, AFTER they've seen her performance. How I wish Garth Brooks had done one of these AFTER his debut at Wynn; I opted out of a one-on-one with him prior to the show's opening because I knew I'd have better questions after. Once we know what they've created, we can ask questions about their creative processes and decisions that they won't answer before it's revealed to the public.

* I was quite disappointed to see the publicists for AEG Live and the Colosseum at Caesars Palace continued to indulge Bill Cody and Chris Rauschnot, aka the Twitter Twerps. I know that since my Las Vegas Weekly column and Chuck Monster's VegasTripping.Com expose the central publicists at Caesars Entertainment have learned not to invite these swindlers and freeloaders to join proper journalists at press conferences. I'm told they were seen late into the evening chowing down on the free food. These guys are not legit, their Twitter follower numbers are artificially inflated and their material is scarcely seen. Also, they bully. It needs to stop. This goes to you, too, Venetian.

* I was also dismayed that when, during the show, ushers informed journalists they could not Tweet, they demanded special permission to do so. I just don't get this and never will. Yes, tweeting is a terrific medium, but it doesn't erase the obligation of someone at a show to obey the rules and not disrupt the experience of other patrons. There is nothing so important about something happening during a show that it needs to be tweeted. Rather, it shows a tremendous amount of self-importance and disrespect. If something newsworthy happens, then by all means whip it out. But it's not news that Celine was in a silver gown singing "Open Arms."

* I now have an extra Celine's Back wristband and thumb drive. Listen to the next proper edition of The Strip, due out next week some time, to find out how they can be yours.

Reviewing "Celine": A+

Yes, this is a bit late. I took some time off for some family stuff and just couldn't get motivated to post this until today. But I'm back now and feeling recharged. So here's the full review I did for The Daily, the iPad-only newspaper. For space reasons, they shrank it considerably. Also, you can see my 14-minute video report on YouTube or via The Strip Podcast, read other thoughts on the opening itself and view my Flickr slideshow from Opening Night. Enjoy.

Celine: A+

Queen Celine was at the center of two performances in one as she reclaimed her throne as reigning Strip monarch. There was her new show in Caesars Palace’s gargantuan Colosseum, of course, and that was 90+ minutes of grandiose, eye-popping brilliance. And then there was the circus surrounding her long-awaited re-coronation which was as schmaltzy and over-the-top as you’d expect from Vegas.

You knew that going in, of course, because Caesars Palace had no intention of soft-pedaling the moment. For months, a 40-foot-tall banner of Celine peering over her shoulder overlooked the casino floor with the tag: “Celine’s Back.” Get it? Her back? She’s back? Yup.

Then, in February, she, her husband and her three sons, including those newborn twins, arrived at Caesars in an Escalade direct from the airport for a welcome ceremony in the main entrance through which she bestrode a carpet of rose petals and was cheered by 1,000 employees hoping she alone could revive this gambling town’s sagging fortunes. USA Today, Newsweek and both Las Vegas newspapers have all asked in different ways whether she could “save” Vegas.

That’s a lot to put on anybody’s svelte shoulders, let alone a pop star. But if performing a fantastic production show is all it takes to turn around the nation’s worst home foreclosure and unemployment rates, Celine absolutely would be the panacea. Her first pass at Vegas, that legendary run from 2003 to 2007 of “…A New Day” in the 4,000-seat, $95 million showroom built to her specifications, was an overblown affair of Cirque du Soleil-style theatrics, costumes, dancers and props that left her looking small and marginalized, almost part of the band.

“Celine,” by contrast, is a simpler, less sprawling tour de force in which she is firmly the centerpiece at all times in a succession of glittery gowns that occasionally showed perhaps a bit too much leg. The film that opens the act serves almost as a “And That’s What You Missed On (Vegas) Glee” segment, first showing her closing “…A New Day” on this very stage, then trotting the globe on tour, then snuggling with the twins, then arriving at the aforementioned Caesars welcome event. Finally, she appears in a floor-length silver dress with structured bodice, the 300-foot-wide stage seemingly shrunk by curtains and lighting as she begins belting Journey’s “Open Arms.” Just as the giddy audience got acclimated to being in her presence, the stage opens up in a chillingly effective reveal (that I won’t spoil) and suddenly she’s fronting three backup singers and a 31-piece orchestra. That earned the second of the night’s 10 standing ovations.

There are no dancers this time, just lots of black-tie musicians and one self-assured songbird whose powerful voice is, in all sincerity, a magical instrument that makes younger people understand why their parents were so in awe of Streisand. The graphical imagery serves her, but when the music stops so she can hit high notes in “All By Myself,” it’s like watching Evan Lysecek land a perfect jump. She bops between genres – some Ella Fitzgerald here, a little Janis Ian there, a Bond-song medley, a Stevie Wonder virtual duet, a Michael Jackson tribute and a French song that made her actually weep – leading to the inevitable “My Heart Will Go On” closer. (Aside to Celine: You’re not required to do that song with underwater visuals just because the song is tethered to “Titanic.” Just saying.)

The gee-whiz visuals also enhance the Legend of Celine. She is adored because she blossomed from gawky teen to beautiful icon while insisting she retains the heart of commoner, a happy-ending version of Evita or Diana. So in “Where Does My Heart Beat Now?” a dozen screens show her at various career stages – bad hair, odd makeup, ascendant star – and when she sings Billy Joel’s “Lullaby” we become privy to home movies of her boys’ milestones.

That’s where the schmaltz overflows. The opening-night crowd were die-hards, many from here native Canada, who devour each homespun morsel. In one odd moment, the crowd erupts when young Rene Charles is seen blowing out his birthday candles, as if he actually were doing so in person. That’s devotion.

She tells corny jokes, too, that her partisans devour. Of her 10-year-old, she cracks: “He loves baseball, football, basketball. He’s having a ball!” And even the softest bits of the show – she does “How Do You Keep The Music Playing” as a duet to herself, singing to a creepy, Princess Leia-esque hologram of her herself – yielded standing ovations.

As the show closed, an 11-year-old girl from Boca Raton, Fla., seated ahead of a row of journalists held her hands up together to make the shape of a heart, then kept attempting to frame Celine inside it. Her father turned around, pointed at a notebook and barked to the reviewers: “One word: Divine. Write that down. Deee-Vine!” Then he shouted his daughter’s name and insisted, “She’s next. This is the next Celine, right here.”

Their joy was so pure, it would have been unkind to disabuse him of his vision. But, as Caesars Palace and the Strip just found out, it’s safe to say there’s just one Celine. And, yes, she’s back.