Friday, July 29, 2011

Plaza Partners Up With Gay Basher For Theater!

No, really.

The supposedly resurgent Plaza just announced a deal with the Insurgo Theater "Movement" to have the local troupe present its frequently terrible productions in a new 75-seat space on the hotel-resort's third floor. Insurgo is expected to open with "Waiting For Godot" when the place officially re-debuts on Sept. 1. (David McKee broke the news before the press release via CityLife, by the way.)

You might recall the Insurgo from my LVW column last fall. They're the ones whose owner, John Beane, wrote this on a public Facebook site to openly gay Review-Journal theater critic Anthony Del Valle:

“you’re a piece of shit, man. i can take a bad review any day and i definitely have shit nights as an actor. but youre just such a fucking piece of spam about it all. you cant just write the review. youve got to demean, you’ve got to insult the company and the effort of doing it at all. the union redemption offering at the end was just faggoty pissy bullshit. it was womanly. seriously. fuck you.”

Mr. Beane would later respond that he did not call Del Valle a faggot and offer up a link to Tim Gunn in an "It Gets Better" video to show how he really, truly empathizes with the Plight of The Gays. He never apologized or even acknowledged that his use of these slurs was ill-advised.

And now the Plaza is his partner. How exciting for them!

Wall Street Journal Mocks CityCenter

Someone has spoofed the art at CityCenter, as Ali Berzon of the Wall Street Journal reports here. Hat tip to David McKee, whose blog I found this on today:

Thursday, July 28, 2011

LVW Col: My Vegas Bucket List

Listeners to The Strip have heard me talking about this, but this past weekend I put in some extended hours working down my Vegas Bucket List. ALSO, LVW has set up an interactive thing where you can tell them what's on your bucket list, so go here for that. Here's this week's column about why I'm doing it. Enjoy. -sf

As Time Ticks Down, My Bucket List Grows

“The best is yet to come, and babe, won’t it be fine,” Tony Bennett crooned to the rapt audience at the Palms. “You think you’ve seen the sun, but you ain’t seen it shine.”

That was Sunday, a night I almost never go out. And I was legitimately exhausted to boot, because on Friday I’d driven to Cedar City, Utah, to see a play at the Utah Shakespeare Festival and then woke up early to spend Saturday hiking in Zion National Park.

I toyed with the idea of passing on Bennett, but then remembered what was propelling this frenzy of activity in the first place: My time in Las Vegas is ticking down, and I don’t want to regret things I didn’t do. By the end of August, my partner and I will be en route to Ann Arbor, Michigan, to participate in a fellowship I earned, and there’s no telling whether we’ll move back.

I am treating this as a major life passage. And I’ve learned through prior life passages that it’s extremely important to me to squeeze every last drop out of the last epoch before it’s over and my world changes forever.

Thus, my Vegas bucket list.

Read the rest at LasVegasWeekly.Com

Dave Berns' Weird Gay Adventure

Let's get this out of the way first: It doesn't bother me that I wasn't quoted in Dave Berns' Vegas Inc cover on the gay marketing of Vegas despite spending a bunch of time essentially providing him with information he used as well as many of his other sources.

Really. I do that to other people all the time, it's part of the process. We interview lots of people, gather information, decide what to include based on all sorts of criteria. No big deal.

No, what bothers me is that Dave Berns is well aware the data he cited about gay travel trends in Vegas are not scientific or reliable and he used them anyway as if it is. Few journalists would rely on a poll on a website as some sort of fact, but he nonetheless used numbers derived in very nearly the same way.

Dave (left) and I discussed this at length, the fact that Community Marketing Inc out of San Francisco polls a self-selected group of gay and lesbian people via the Internet and that the respondents are generally the same urban, tech-savvy people poll after poll. The tell-tale sign ought to be such idiotic CMI conclusions as that Las Vegas is the nation's No. 1 travel destination for middle-aged lesbians. Yeah, right.

CMI uses no random sampling, no effort to be demographically diverse in any way. As Berns was finishing his piece, I forwarded to him the latest CMI "survey" to show him how shoddy their methodology is. He replied with agreement. I also told him to ask Bob Witeck, a well-known GLBT publicist and marketer in Washington, for his views on CMI's data, but Witeck later told me Berns didn't bring up the topic at all.

Instead, Berns wrote these passages anyway:

A 2009 Community Marketing study found that the average household income for gay men and women is $81,500, or about 80 percent higher than the figure for the typical US household. Forty percent of gay men reported household incomes in excess of $100,000 annually. Thirty-six percent of lesbians reported household incomes of more than $100,000.


Las Vegas consistently ranks among the top business and leisure destinations for the 4,296 LGBT travelers surveyed by Community Marketing. New York, San Francisco and Las Vegas typically hold the top three spots, with lesbians between the ages of 18 and 54 choosing Las Vegas as their favorite getaway.

Where's the skepticism about CMI? Where is the explanation to readers of their methodology? It's not there because that would distract from and convolute the story that Berns wanted to tell. There actually is a very good, credible source regarding GLBT average income, and what it shows is that lesbian couples are among the least affluent configurations because on the whole American women make less than men and two women make less than two men or a man and a woman. Lee Badgett of University of Massachusetts at Amherst, who has a Ph.D. in economics from Berkley, even wrote a whole frigging book about it.

But hey, never let bad data get in the way of a good story, right?

It's not the only place Berns lazily cites ridiculous data. This, too, is a joke:

Statisticians and social scientists have long argued that up to 10 percent of the US population is gay. The figure could be much larger.

Uh, no. Actually, the 10 percent figure has long been debunked as a perversion of statistical analysis by pseudo-scientist Alfred Kinsey 70 years ago, as this NPR story from just last month explains. The most recent studies -- say the ones done repeatedly since the mid-1990s when gays finally started to feel OK about even answering such questionnaires -- put the GLBT portion of the general population at about 3.5%. No, Dave, it's not likely to be "much larger." The root of the 10 percent cannard has been disproved for so long that we had seminars at the national convention of the National Lesbian and Gay Journalists Association a decade ago on why it's important to report these things accurately even if they don't "help the cause."

Finally, this is 2011. Gay people are on TV every day, getting married or marching as active-duty military personnel in pride parades or dancing funky in the aisles of their daytime talk shows. So why, oh why, did Berns feel the need to quote anonymous gay people in a fluffy trend story?

Anonymity, it has evidently been forgotten, is supposed to be a journalist's last resort when he truly cannot get the information or perspective any other way or, perhaps, if he just doesn't have the time to keep beating the bushes for someone who will answer on the record. It's become a cancer on the credibility of the media, another reason the public has consistently downgraded its regard for the information we provide. We owe our readers better, and we owe them a better reason for using anonymity than merely that a person with nothing to lose just didn't want to give their name while providing comments that could be obtained elsewhere.

There was just no need for this. Dave had several folks, myself included, who could have used email and Twitter to get him dozens of gays happy to talk on the record about Vegas. It appears he was so enslaved to his opening anecdote about the gay Blue Moon Resort -- he did go out of the office for that bit, after all! -- that his commenters could only be men lounging at that pool on that day and evidently they played hard-to-get with him. Never mind that a 24-room gay motel doesn't reflect anything about a trend in a city with 150,000 rooms, but that's a whole other thing.

If Berns couldn't find any gay travelers to talk on the record about their views on Vegas in the week or two he worked on this piece, that's intensely sad news for Vegas Inc and a disturbing indication of where a once-outstanding reporter's energy level has sunk. Then again, the editor -- an out gay man who ought to have known how idiotic it is to cite that 10% Kinsey figure -- didn't hold him to much of a standard anyhow, so whatever.

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

The Strip is LIVE tonight w/ Charlie Palmer & Hal Sparks

We are live again tonight on this UStream channel, starting at 7:30 p.m. PT this time so we can play both interviews before Miles gets home for the proper portions of the show.

This week, we visit once more with Charlie Palmer, who used this program once upon a time to reveal a WORLD EXCLUSIVE about plans to build a Vegas hotel. Last week, it was announced he'll be inducted into the American Gaming Association's Hall of Fame, so we talked about that, why he never expanded beyond his two Vegas restaurants, what's next for him in New York now that his Grand Central Station eatery is closed and why the e-winebook idea he pioneered at Aureole hasn't really spread as far and wide as expected.

We also have an interview with the very funny comic and former "Talk Soup" and "Queer As Folk" star Hal Sparks, who talks about having his show interrupted by Motley Crue rocker Vince Neil's "assault" on ex-girlfriend and ex-TV reporter Alicia Jacobs at the Hilton in March. We'll play a Vince-related excerpt of the Hal Sparks chat during the main show, then issue the whole thing as a Strip Extra to keep the main episode from becoming too long.

So start by playing the Hal Sparks conversation at about 7:30 p.m., followed by the Charlie Palmer interview, followed by the proper show when Miles arrives from work to do the proper show parts.

Just a tip: As the weeks tick down, the live show gets weirder and weirder. Normally, I end up with about 1-3 minutes of outtakes, but it's been more like 10 over the past few weeks. Miles can't seem to help himself, and it's really funny stuff. So come on down for the live show while you can!

Or, of course, the podcast version will be out later this week. And soon I will pull together our final outtakes show, too. Sigh. A lot of "last" this and "final" thats going on around here. Yikes.

Finally, if you're unclear who Hal Sparks is, check out these excerpts of his 2010 Showtime special, "Charmageddon":

Monday, July 25, 2011

Media Muddle: Gross Pools, Due Credit & Stupid Questions

A few bits and pieces of stuff that caught my eye lately in the Vegas-related media:

* Nothing makes me happier than when a local freelance writer breaks a good, enterprising story out from under the established press, and that's what Melissa Arseniuk did on Sunday in The Daily with her probe of the cleanliness of the pool water at several Vegas "day club" venues. It's thoroughly disgusting but also a pretty great idea and one that it's fairly unlikely either major media company -- or Arseniuk's former employer Vegas Seven for that matter -- would do as it would put at risk one of the few steady advertising revenue streams that have held up through the recession. Nicely done, although did she have to invoke the most predictable of Vegas cliches in her lead? You have that awesome a story idea, it deserves equally original writing.

* Anyone who cares about Vegas and Vegas business matters ought to be subscribed and listening to the Vegas Gang podcast to begin with. But if you need convincing, pick up their superb and frank interview with M Resort developer Anthony Marnell III.

* On that same VG episode, former In Business Las Vegas editor Jeff Simpson noted the meager Vegas media response to the passing of Terry Lanni and used it as a mark of why it's so important for people who care about Vegas -- and cover it -- to pay attention to what's going on on blogs such as Two Way Hard Three and VegasTripping. (I'd add in Stiffs & Georges, too, as required visiting.) Of course, I agree, but Jeff left out one more important piece of it: The established media also must start to acknowledge when online publications break news. Norm Clarke of the R-J is the only one who does so consistently. It was VegasTripping.Com that broke the Aria Legionnaires' disease story, but for whatever reason Jon Ralston would rather give the scoop credit to his hated rival the Review-Journal (?!?!?) than the correct outlet. Lookit:

That's at least two errors in two sentences for Ralston, who loves to mock the R-J for its mistakes but won't ever correct these. First, VT had this up at 8:50 a.m. and the R-J had this up at 9:46 a.m., so VT wins. Oddly, Ralston should have known because he linked to the VT posting. But, also, VT's Chuck Monster is not a local. The blog is based in California. Oopsie.

* Speaking of David McKee, he now has my blessing to be upset with Brian Greenspun for not memorializing Terry Lanni in his Sunday column. In fact, neither newspaper even bothered to write an editorial about Lanni and Vegas Inc just reran Liz Benston's first-day obit. A shameful, disrespectful goodbye for a monumental figure. I was glad to see Howard Stutz follow up with a report about Lanni's memorial service in Southern California, but why wasn't that in the newspaper, too?

* A few things I learned from other journalists this week:
* In journalism school, you learn never to open a story with a question. I'm OK with opening with questions -- I never do it, but I don't always hate it -- but I do think there ought to be a rule that you never open a story with a dumb question. You know, like when J. Patrick Coolican of the Las Vegas Sun writes:

Throw this onto the ever-growing pile of the baffling: Why is there no discussion about blight on the Strip? Why is there no sense of concern — and with it, fresh ideas — about the long stretches of our most important economic and cultural asset that are pocked with half-finished projects or just empty land?

Is he kidding? Maybe this goes back to Simpson's point about Vegas journalists needing to pay attention to what's going on online. "No discussion?" There's discussion constantly on the Vegas-related podcasts, at least, including Vegas Gang and The Strip. There was discussion of it in the MSM, too, when Steve Wynn paid to put up trees in front of the stalled Echelon to improve the view a little, when Sheldon Adelson put a wrap on the stalled St. Regis condos and Caesars Entertainment finished the exterior of the stalled Octavius Tower and when MGM Resorts finished the exterior of the vexed Harmon and when the Stratosphere CEO told me for my LVW column that what I dubbed as Decay Alley at the north end of the Strip post-Sahara would be rough on them.

Which is to say, there's been discussion. No, Patrick, you're not the first to notice this. You may have an interesting idea for what to do up there, although I've never heard the many tourists I hear from regularly suggest what Vegas is missing is an outdoor market where they can buy crafts and crap in 105-degree heat. But when you open like that, you show how little you pay attention to the discourse going on all around you.

* Norm Clarke is a maestro at finding the Vegas angle of just about any celebrity death, and there seem to be an awful lot of 'em. So here's what he came up with regarding Amy Winehouse. Amazing, really.

* In case you missed it, I raved about Andrew Kiraly's novel Crit on The Strip last week. It was our Top Secret Tourist Tip of the Week for July 20, too. I read it in about four hours and I'm a slow reader. Buy it.

Extra Audio: Phantom's Super Phan

My column in Las Vegas Weekly two weeks ago was all about Janis Sartin of Castaic, Calif., a Phantom superfan who has seen the show in Vegas 55 times and counting. In fact, she's back in town today and by the time I have breakfast with her tomorrow her count will be 57.

I just posted to our podcast feed an extra edition featuring the interview with Janis, who is quite frank about her Phantom obsession. It's a fun chat and you can hear it here or download it by right-clicking here.

Also, here are some phun pictures from her collection of photos with Phantom stars and her Phantom collection at home: