Last Cowboy Fighting

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C o w b o y   F i g h t s   F e d s ,   K e e p s   W i l d   W e s t   A l i v e

article & photography by Mike Stotts – www.BackstageAccessVegas.com  Copyright June 3, 2012.  All Rights Reserved.  No use in whole or part without expressed written permission of author.

“The Duke” with his classic swagger is probably looking down with a jaundice eye from on high- his Wild West, though kicking, is on life support, and bucking with a major wallop- in more ways than one.   The modern day melodrama is personified by Riverside, Nevada’s rustic VO Ranch, otherwise known as Bundy Ranch, a smooth 80-mile drive northeast of Tinseltown, USA- Las Vegas, Nevada.

And just so you don’t get the wrong idea, this is far from an ordinary ho-hum tale about lethargic cows and tobacco-spitting cowpokes.  If this doesn’t provide all the elements for a classic movie or novel, then nothing does.

What it is, however, is major cultural history in the making:  It is the last remaining working cattle ranch in Clark County, Nevada.

And the ranch’s valuable contributions to the American way of life and justice system extend far and wide, really without any geographical boundaries, and its effects pertain to many similar situations throughout the country.

The Bundy Ranch is fighting tooth and nail to keep alive a uniquely western icon – the working cattle ranch.   The ranch is trying to survive in hard times, feverishly pulling out all stops to provide a whole host of luscious seasonal melons and prime organic-grown beef raised on renewable natural resources to their buying public.   Fertilizer and petroleum-based growth products are forbidden words around the ranch.

The sprawling, otherworldly 150,000-acre gem of a ranch borders the Virgin River and is centered on its quintessential cowboy and family matriarch, 66-year-old Cliven Bundy.  God-fearing Bundy is a devout family man – 14 children and 48 grandchildren- and a cowboy’s cowboy in every respect, from his distinguished chiseled looks, to his jangling spurs, to his wiry, once bare-back riding frame, to his uberman strength—let’s just say that he can make any rank cow wince just at the thought of being wrestled down for a hot branding iron.  Translated:  If you get Cliven Bundy irritated, just be prepared for the consequences.

And, as with any good classic western movie, there is, of course, conflict.   In the ranch’s case, the battle royale is provided courtesy of the U.S. Department of Interior’s Bureau of Land Management (BLM).  Given their druthers, it seems, they would like nothing better to swoop down en masse under cover of semi-darkness with oodles of contract cowboys and helicopters to hijack Bundy’s 500 or so head of genetically superior range cattle from the so-called “Gold Butte” rangeland- home for the Bundy family and where they have legally lived and abided by all laws since 1877- that’s 135 years!

What’s all the hubbub about?  The BLM is, according to Bundy, now assuming the role of a landlord and not a manager, as was originally intended back in the 1990s, after initially having an administration-only role when the agency was formed in 1956.  The BLM strongly asserts that the Bundy land should be preserved for all and cattle over grazing and cowboys due irreparable damage to the land and the many critters that inhabit it, including the endangered desert tortoise.  Besides, they need to start collecting revenues in the form of public use fees.  In their minds, the Bundy’s are simply using the water and land rights for free.

From their perspective, it’s necessary to control and restrict access and allow the property to grow and develop in its own “natural” way, thereby turning the land into yet another federal conservation area, more aptly a stoic wilderness- and, in the process, add yet one more federal land parcel to their burgeoning land coffers– where the federal government already controls at least 86 percent of Nevada’s available land area.

As Cliven Bundy says, “The BLM puts a sidewalk through the land and then tells you not to get off on the grass.”  His point of view can easily be supported just by casually driving through the area – the growing “do’s” and “don’t” signs are clearly visible and restrict the public that the BLM serves from anything more than really a car-side snapshot of the land.

However, although the federal government purportedly claims “control” over these lands, there is mysteriously no bill of sale, says Bundy, to show the sale approval from the State of Nevada legislature.

What are some other points surrounding this intriguing Bundy-BLM feud?  Again, mysteriously, there is no evidence that the public and private interests have ever even joined together in a mutual environmental impact study on the lands up to this point, so it’s really hard to deconstruct the volatile situation and dissect fact from hearsay.

But even temporarily putting that embarrassing and tragic land management fopaugh aside, a simple visual tour of thousands of acres on the ranch reveals the much ballyhooed environmental “damage” is quite to the contrary:  The cattle, as witnessed, do not damage the land.

In fact, it was rare to find any trampled down vegetation and over-grazing effects, let alone remnants of human refuse and trash.

There is, however, plenty of evidence that Cliven Bundy has expended many railcars of sweat to tirelessly construct and maintain an unbelievable network of land access, grazing, and water improvements- including making water drip lines leading from tanks to water troughs on the property – 30 and counting – while always burying the supporting underground water lines for miles in the scorching desert.  The land provides way more than sustenance for his herd of cattle, too.  It also supports a thriving and growing population of wildlife, including deer, quail, chukar, coyote, mountain lion, and others.  One water access tank alone, says Cliven, provides a new home for up to 300 quail and chukar, as well as other wildlife.

It’s also already a great public place to come out and recreate, enjoying what the countryside has to offer.   Hunters, campers, sightseers, off-roaders, and multi-users alike have enjoyed access to these lands.  Cliven Bundy is not selfish.

Further, by permitting the cattle to selectively graze and feed (“prune”) close to the ground, as Cliven Bundy contends, this encourages the quick growing,  low-lying green vegetation to crop up in its place, which is then used as very nutritional feed by many smaller critters – yes, including (and especially) the maligned tortoise – while at the same time greatly reducing the massive fuel buildup caused by unchecked tall grasses that foster out of control wildfires resulting in a blackened landscape which ultimately yields an unsustainable plant and animal habitat for many years.

But, to see what this really means, you really need to go out and tour the area. It all then becomes crystal clear.

Quite simply, the all-day tour over thousands of acres (and over roads, many of which were made by the Bundy’s), revealed the Bundy Ranch is very pristine, almost angelic, effectively and efficiently serving a wide range of flora and fauna.

One could only wish that our national parks could be only half this conscientious in many of their land management programs.

Legally, though, it’s been a very tough calf to rope for Cliven Bundy.  Hardly a day goes by without some legal fandangling.  It just wears down your soul.   All 52 of his other nearby rancher friends eventually succumbed to the stress of it all over many years – some even dying from it – and ultimately gave up their preemptive resource rights due to government pressure, signing off their land grazing and water rights contractually to the federal government, and thus closing their ranches down for what, on the average, amounted to receiving the value of a new car.

But during it all, Cliven Bundy, somehow, remains steadfast and resolute in his desires and through his actions to keep his ranch open and free of any government encumbrances, no matter what, while buying or inheriting his land resource rights legally.

And, different than his past rancher bros, Cliven Bundy has had no contract with the federal government for 15 years.

But, apparently, that doesn’t matter one iota to the federal government.

Where the States and local entities and not the federal government should really get involved in matters of sovereign land and resource rights within its borders, by decree of the U.S. Constitution, the State of Nevada has remained mysteriously quiet on acting and voicing any statement or decree on the matter.

Applying not just to Nevada lands, it appears, the federal government, acting through the Department of the Interior and the BLM, has many times ostensibly created and authorized nearly carte blanche powers when it comes to controlling lands within western states.

To wit, on April 11, 2012, the federal government was about to raid the ranch and spirit the cattle off the Bundy Ranch, armed with an antiquated 14-year-old U.S. District Court of Nevada decision, but then mysteriously (amazing, how that word keeps cropping up, isn’t it?) called their coup off with but a week to spare.

The situation, however, remains very volatile and is far, far from being resolved. Cliven Bundy merely considers it a timeout – maybe a stay of execution? – if you will.   Although government authorities have verbally called off the raid, nothing official in writing, mysteriously, has ever legally been received by Bundy to permanently call it off.    The raid, then, can be renewed and take place on any given day.  Talk about living on needles and pins.

To make matters worse, with the BLMs lack of action, nearly immediately after their decision not to carry out the raid, The Center for Biological Diversity said it now plans to sue the BLM, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) and Clark County for “not taking required steps to protect the desert tortoise, a threatened species, from grazing in Southern Nevada.”

Although Bundy was not named in this latest action, only time will tell if this will become merely an end-around play with a flea flicker to the BLM and, once again, Bundy Ranch in the crosshairs.

While there can be an argument made for preserving the natural habitat of the Southern Nevada desert, there is also a valid argument that can and should be made for preserving a way of life – really, a culture – that extends back more than a century to when the Southwest was initially settled.

Bundy Ranch is not a place where visitors go to see a performer in cowboy boots and a red kerchief lasso a post and drawl on about chuck wagon dinners. When dad brings out the rope at the Bundy Ranch, it’s to heel a calf so it can be branded and dinners cooked in the long house by mom.  The next generation of Bundy Ranch cowboys – the Bundy children, grandchildren, great grandchildren and even his extended family, you might say – have already begun to learn how to manage the cattle herd and maintain the very desert land that the BLM is so worried about being desecrated.

And that may be the major point overlooked in this sad movie-like saga:  The Bundy family have a vested interest and ongoing active incentive to ensure that their land is not overgrazed or ruined.  Without their land, their cattle won’t survive, and other flora and fauna will go by the boards.  And there won’t be fresh, local-grown beef on your table either.

Being an environmentalist is not something the Bundy’s may talk about, but it is nonetheless a lifestyle they’ve effectively lived and prospered for more than 100 years.  There are no Las Vegas glitz and showgirls here- and, thankfully, never will be.

Few family-run businesses can claim they’ve been successful for five years, let alone in three different centuries, like the Bundy’s.  That’s an incredible accomplishment.  So, perhaps the BLM should pull out their play book and take a long look at how the Bundy Ranch family has accomplished this unusual feat.  And, in so doing, they would see a family dedicated to maintaining and preserving the natural desert habitat and its many renewable resources, while also maintaining their historic family legacy- the cattle ranch.

There has to be a way for both of these parties and their purposes to be served without sacrificing one for the other.

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Holly Madison Goes Goo-Goo Ga-Ga over Candy Necklaces in Las Vegas

Former Hugh Hefner flame, reality TV beauty and Las Vegas “Peepshow” star Holly Madison will unveil her new line of candy necklaces at the Sugar Factory inside Miracle Mile Shops at Planet Hollywood Resort & Casino in Las Vegas on Friday, May 21 at 5 p.m. 

 A longtime Sugar Factory fam, Madison approached the confection company to collaborate on a signature version of her favorite sweet treat, the candy necklace. 

Madison will be filming the candy necklace launch for her new E! reality TV series, “Holly’s World.” 

Sugar Factory isn’t your average sweet spot. The brand has made confections part of popular culture and has turned sweets into the latest designer accessory. Sugar Factory’s signature Couture Pop collections have already hit the red carpets in the hands of celebrities at major events in Miami, Los Angeles, New York City and Las Vegas. 

Kim Kardashian, the Pussycat Dolls and Britney Spears are now endorsing their very own Couture Pops, and are just part of the buzz that has made Sugar Factory a national media sensation in People, OK!, Us Weekly, In Touch Weekly, NBC’s “Today” show and more. 

The Sugar Factory offers everyone an opportunity for a sweet escape. For more information please visit www.SugarFactory.com.

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Miss USA Pageant Contestants Vie for Porn Star Honors in Las Vegas

Remember when Miss USA Pageant contestants once wanted to cure cancer and be the first female president?  Or do you recall when swimsuits and two-piece bathing suits were all the rage? Well, get with the times– that was so last century! This year’s Miss USA pageant is trying to boost rapidly sagging television ratings by promoting its upcoming pageant with an erotically explosive expose of the contestants shown in busty and skimpy photos and videos. 

A pageant spokeswoman calls the underwear photos tasteful. The contenders for the pageant title ALL dream of being Victoria’s Secret Angels, reveals pageant president Paula Shugart, president of the Miss Universe Organization, which operates the Miss USA pageant. 

“They’re not looking to bring peace to the world,” Shugart explained to Today Show co-host Matt Lauer on May 11. That’s why it was not just OK, but it actually made sense to have the 51 contestants photographed in bust- and leg-revealing, bras, panties, fish-net stockings and open men’s shirts, while laying on beds and chaise lounges, for their pageant promo shoots. 

The “come hither” black and white photos make the contestants look more like members of Tiger Woods‘ harem than the young ladies who supposedly combine beauty and brains we’re used to seeing in pageants.  

The tenuous line between wholesome family entertainment and soft porn has now, apparently, been obliterated- one for the dusty history books. 

Girls in bikinis appear chaste and sublime next to this year’s crop of potential Miss USAs, who are adorned in masses of long wild hair, heavy smoky make-up and pouty lipstick, sprawled seductively on beds. 

But pageant officials are quick to point out that the seductive shoots were all voluntary and had no force or effect on the judging.  Yeah, right.  Nearly all contestants participated.

Swirling controversy, however, has been common fodder for the pageant as of late.

Former pageant winner and now judge Tara Connor says she doesn’t have a problem with the revealing looks, questioning why many have their “panties in wad.” She nearly lost her crown after reports of substance abuse cropped up in 2006 and even had to go into rehab. 

The next year, Miss Nevada, Katie Rees, lost her title after racy photographs surfaced on the Internet.

And last year, Miss California, Carrie Prejean, got into some trouble for comments against gay marriage — and her own set of racy photos appeared.  Eventually, she was fired. 

Pageant owner and well-quaffed Donald Trump seems to feel that the sexed-up look is necessary for the contestants if the pageant is going to compete for ratings on TV. He says he has no problem with the pictures. He calls them “a little bit sexy” and is glad people will be watching.

“If you look at Miss America, it’s now off network television,” Donald told the New York Daily News

So, BFFs — wanting to be a beautiful brain surgeon who happens to also look good in elbow-length gloves and a ball gown just isn’t enough to compete in a beauty pageant anymore. 

You also have to be willing to crouch on a bed, pouting on all fours in Madonna-style soft-core porn pics. 

“There used to be an idea that pageants … were about upstanding young women with a future and it wasn’t at all surprising to find a woman of stature in public life, in government or corporate America who had a pageant tucked into her resumé,” says Pamela Paul, author of Pornified. ”There was an idea that pageant contestants could be well-rounded woman with ambition. This ad campaign chucks aside any other qualifications than they look good in a bra.” 

On the Miss Universe/Miss USA website for the 51 contestants, brief bios list their ages, hometowns- and nothing else. They do, however, all get star ratings. Interestingly, the top-rated contestant was Miss Louisiana, Sara Brooks, a 21-year-old from Lafayette who happens to be the most clothed of all of the 51 contenders. Maybe people do like having pageant beauty leave a little something to the imagination and just maybe they would like them to be brain surgeons as well as beauties after all? 

Just a few decades ago, more than 20 million viewers watched women in one-piece bathing suits in the Miss America pageant. But as the suits got skimpier, that portion of the competition was downplayed — and viewers fled. That contest is now off the air, a fate Miss USA is trying to avoid like the plague- at any cost.

“Any press is good press,” Conner admits. “So — keep talking!” 

NBC’s “59th Annual Miss USA Pageant,” which will broadcast live from Planet Hollywood Resort & Casino in Las Vegas on May 16 (7-9 p.m. ET). 

Tickets to the Miss USA Preliminary and Finals competitions at Planet Hollywood Resort & Casino in Las Vegas are available through Ticketmaster at www.ticketmaster.com and at (800) 745-3000. 

{Pictured is Miss USA 2010 contender Nicole Johnson from California.}

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Mystery Surrounds Death of Pro Golfer Erica Blasberg in Las Vegas Suburb

Pro golfer Erica Blasberg, according to most accounts, had much going for her in life and was well liked by her golfing peers, friends and family. 

Blasberg played her only L.P.G.A. Tour event this year just two weeks ago in Mexico and tied for 44th place. 

Blasberg found great golfing success in college, winning six times in two years at the University of Arizona and then turned pro and played on the Curtis Cup team in 2004. 

One of the most photogenic women’s golfers in the country, she also inked an endorsement deal with Puma. In addition, Erica competed favorably in the L.P.G.A. Championship, U.S. Women’s Open, Women’s British Open, and Kraft Nabisco Championship. 

But last Sunday something turned horribly – and deathly -wrong.  

Henderson, Nevada police spokesman Keith Paul would only say they are continuing to investigating the 25-year-old American’s sudden and untimely death on Sunday, adding it was not immediately clear whether foul play was involved.  

The virtual freeze of information from the Henderson Police Department about her death has fueled rampant speculation.  They only say that it was not a suicide. 

TMZ, citing Erica’s father, also proclaimed that it was not a suicide. 

HLN host Nancy Grace took it a step further: “Found dead, possibly smothered to death in the bedroom of her desert home,” Grace said on her recent show. 

Erica had withdrawn in recent months, not updating her website, Facebook or Twitter accounts. 

Paul said police responded to a 911 call and were dispatched to Blasberg’s suburban three-bedroom house in Henderson, Nevada, a suburb of Las Vegas, around 3 p.m. last Sunday. Paul declined to say who made the call, saying it was part of the investigation.  

But, since then, knowledgeable sources have came forward saying the call was made by a male golfer, yet unnamed, who was inside her home at the time. 

Blasberg, whose bags were packed and waiting to go on her next L.P.G.A. tournament in Alabama this week, according to her agent, Chase Callahan, also reportedly text messaged her caddie hours before her death, saying she would not be at the tournament.  

The caddie, Missy Pederson, recently told the New York Times that Blasberg said she wasn’t going to play at this week’s Bell Micro L.P.G.A. Classic in Mobile, Alabama. 

Because the message was sent in the middle of the night, Pederson said she was worried and texted back a question about whether Blasberg was all right–  and the 25-year-old golfer never replied. 

Pederson normally caddies for Irene Cho. Cho told the Times she and Blasberg had made plans to have dinner Sunday night in Mobile, the night before Blasberg faced a qualifying round. 

Cho said Blasberg was unhappy with her golf game lately. 

“She was kind of down on herself,” Cho said. “She was upset how she played last year. I told her she has so much talent and so much beauty and so many people who love her. I didn’t want her to lose sight of all that.” 

Her dad, Mel Blasberg, says Las Vegas had become a “bad influence” and a “distraction,” and she was considering moving back home to California.  Despite this, he seems to believe it wasn’t suicide saying Erica was upbeat during practice at Southern Highlands Country Club in Henderson just days before she was found dead. 

“I never saw her more positive,” says Blasberg.  “This was a very motivated person to get to Alabama this week.” 

Police will not say how Blasberg died and the Clark County coroner only said the autopsy results were inconclusive and that determining the cause of death through blood and tissue tests could take 4-6 weeks. 

L.P.G.A. spokesman David Higdon called Blasberg’s death a “tough hit” for women’s golf. “She was a very popular player and well-liked and we’re going to miss her,” Higdon said, adding, “This is a very close-knit group of players and tour and we’re saddened by what happened.”

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Economy-Busting $40,000 Motel Rooms in Las Vegas

A library with dark, wood-paneled walls and a bookcase filled with leather-bound books sits adjacent to a regal living room at Caesars Palace’s Octavius Tower. You’d almost forget you were in Las Vegas if not for the tanning pool patrons outside the window. 

The antique-looking books in the library are seldom used, but they add to the villa’s residential illusion. So does the formal dining room that seats 12 and the media room with movie theater-style seating. 

The centerpiece of each villa is the patio overlooking the pool area. The villas opened last fall, but the new Garden of the Gods pool just began to welcome summer visitors. 

The three massive villas are the newest suites at Caesars Palace. With nearly 10,000 square feet of space, they’re some of the most opulent and largest suites on the Las Vegas Strip. The villas are on the second floor of Caesars’ unfinished Octavius Tower and are part of the resort’s long line of over-the-top suites.

 From the private elevator to the 24-hour butler service, everything about the Octavius villas feels exclusive, including the price tag. The cost for a night is $40,000. The price isn’t recession-friendly, but their patrons aren’t exactly struggling in today’s economy. 

The Octavius villas feel more like miniature mansions than hotel suites. Caesars spent about $15 million on each villa – a total of $45 million – to accomplish that goal. The villas are a collection of eclectic furnishings and faux artifacts, giving the feel of a collector’s well-kept home. 

Wilson & Associates designed each suite with an individual identity — an opulent Grecian palace, an Old World Spanish home and a Parisian luxury apartment.

The design firm is responsible for other suites at Caesars, as well as the fantasy suites at the Palms and the rooms and lobby at The Venetian. 

At 9,930 square feet, the Greek-style villa, which Caesars Palace dubs “Constantine,” is the largest of the three. The four-bedroom villa is far from subtle, but it’s subtly Greek with its fake marble columns and terracotta painted vases. 

After stepping off the private elevator into the marble foyer of the Greek villa, guests will find a formal sitting room, a grand Steinway piano and working fireplace. On the other side of the hall are rooms with a pool table, a restaurant-sized bar and a theater. 

Down a long hallway there are four bedrooms, each the size of a large hotel room, with walk-in closets and their own bathrooms. With custom marble and mosaics, no two bathrooms in the three villas have the same stonework. 

Inside the Greek villa, the master suite’s bathroom is almost as large as the bedroom itself. The bathroom is covered in green and beige marble and features his and her toilets, sinks and vanities. It also has a steam shower, towel-warming racks and flat-screen TVs, among other amenities. A marble-topped tub with gold-plated fixtures is the centerpiece of the lavish master bath. 

As trivial as they seem, the toilets are often the talk of the suites.  They’re controlled by remotes, function as bidets, have heated seats and the lid opens as guests approach. There’s never a reason to touch the toilet seat. 

The villas are filled with quirks galore: mirrors that turn into TVs, pianos that play themselves and chairs that massage to the beat of an iPod’s song. A networked system allows the butler to control every device in the villa. 

Though the three villas have different design schemes, they have similar amenities. The French villa is light and airy. The Spanish villa is designed with distressed wood throughout the main rooms. 

Off each living room is the patio that overlooks the pools. Each patio includes a fire pit, dining table and a private Jacuzzi. 

The view of Flamingo Road is less impressive. Those views are reserved for penthouses and other suites higher than the pool level. The resort’s two 10,000-square-foot penthouses in the Forum Tower are still the largest suites at the resort. Caesars Palace now has 11 villas, 11 penthouses and about 200 suites.

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Feel No Pain: Get Uncork’d in Las Vegas

For the next four days you can attend the largest foodie event ever held in Las Vegas, if not the Western world: Vegas Uncorked, sponsored by Bon Appetit.

The event officially kicks off at 4 p.m. today when French superchef Alain Ducasse performs the champagne uncorking with a saber at his Mix restaurant and lounge atop The Hotel at Mandalay Bay.

The festival takes place May 6-9, with the signature event being a “Grand Tasting” ($175) on May 7 at the Garden of the Gods in Caesars Palace.  That event will feature chef Hubert Keller serving.

Not everyone has the chance—or wherewithal—to dine at the restaurants of chefs such as Joël Robuchon, Guy Savoy, Bobby Flay or François Payard, but they all will be there (along with about 60 other celebrated chefs) displaying and offering up their delicious wares.

Among the events on May 8 are the Ultimate All-Star Interactive Luncheon ($195) at Encore; Culinary Theater: All the Kitchen’s a Stage ($95) at RM Seafood; and the Wine Immersion Experience ($75) at Bellagio.

The lineup of celebrated chefs who have Las Vegas restaurants includes Bobby Flay, Wolfgang Puck, Paul Bartolotta, Julian Serrano, Todd English, Luciano Pellegrini and Charlie Palmer.

Tickets are going fast; please go to www.vegasuncorked.com for further information.

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Sean “Diddy” Combs Las Vegas Appearance Causes Red Carpet Cancellation

During Saturday’s Shane Mosely and Floyd Mayweather Jr.’s after-fight hosting appearance by Sean “Diddy” Combs at Eva Langoria’s Parker’s Eve nightclub in Las Vegas, the crowd was so huge at Crystals (CityCenter) that management was forced to cancel the red carpet event to ensure fan safety. 

“There are 6,000 people outside Eve now,” Diddy tweeted. 

Among the attendees:  TI, Gabrielle Union, Swizz Beatz and Nelly. 

Meanwhile, dining at Eva Langoria Parker’s Beso Restaurant (CityCenter), Paris and Nicky Hilton were spotted, who later partied at Tao (The Venetian), while down the Strip, Mya hosted the evening at Pure nightclub (Caesars Palace).

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