Writing Samples

Website & Blog Writing Samples

Categories:  Lifestyle, Business, Travel, Dining, Cars, Entertainment, & Sports

Reported, researched, and written by Mike Stotts.  Each article, ranging from small spot to feature length articles, also included my professional art: photography, slide shows, graphics, and/or videos, podcasts.  To facilitate your review and brevity, in many examples, such items have been omitted. Written for clients from 2014 – 2016, with a frequency from one to three articles per week.

You can also quickly review by using the hyperlink to the following sample articles (ctrl + click over title):

Color_me_a_fun_Las_Vegas_Runner

California_Pizza_Kitchen

Squelching_Hot_Las_Vegas

Cravers_Mob_White_Castle

Life_is_Beautiful

Snoop_Dogg_Hounds

Red_Bull_Air_Race_in_Las_Vegas

Toughest_Mountain_Biking_Competition

Hell_Raising_and_Religion_Do_Mix

 

 

 

California Pizza Kitchen Opening in Downtown Summerlin Brings Throngs of Happy Diners                                 

The grand opening of the California Pizza Kitchen in Downtown Summerlin on November 19, 2014, marked their union with nearly 200 other distinctive “CPK” branded restaurants blanketing the country.  And the distinctive California-themed casual dining cookery is also joining with their three other local Las Vegas, Nevada, restaurants: The Mirage Hotel & Casino, Town Square and Fashion Show Mall.

The public outcry and expressed demand for the new CPK restaurant in Downtown Summerlin to date has been no less than astounding.  “Since August [2014] we’ve nearly had 5,000 customer pre-signups,” says CPK employee Jade Anderson, adding, “Most of our restaurants take nearly a year to achieve that significant milestone.”

“We’ve been actively eyeing this Downtown Summerlin location for 10 years,” says Clint Coleman, chief development officer of CPK.  “We finally made it happen- this is a very satisfying location.”

Believing in more than just taking in revenue, CPK also regularly delivers back to local community charities.   With their pre-opening events alone, CPK has already donated to the After-School All-Stars and the Make-A-Wish Foundation.

The interior décor of this restaurant provides a new rustic look for the CPK chain while catering to local community art nuances, and using environmentally conscious reclaimed and repurposed materials in its construction, says Coleman.

For those wishing to take a break from the norm of dining room tables and chairs, there is even a nicely appointed cozy lounge for that special business- or intimate conversation.

But when contemplating dining at CPK, please be aware that it is not at all like partaking in the “other guy’s” pizza – you know, that greasy, cardboard-tasting lifeless pizza.

Rather, with their business mantra byline of “seek the unique,” whatever your palette, CPK consistently and dramatically delivers on their words, consistently using ingredients that are good tasting and healthy (many of their items are under 650 calories) – – all presented in a stylish, yet casually friendly and service oriented environment- where it’s obvious the waiters and waitresses are highly trained before being sent out to serve their clients.

Of course, their legendary signature hand-tossed BBQ chicken pizza is an emphatic must-try for foodies new to the CPK brand.  The BBQ sauce is infused with smoked Gouda, fresh cilantro and red onions, and crust options include gluten-free, thin crust and whole grain wheat.   Or maybe you would like to take a culinary adventure and try their  sumptuous Thai chicken, featuring a grilled chicken breast delicately topped with peanut sauce and accompanied by crisp bean sprouts, julienned carrots and slivered scallions.   There are also nearly 20 designer-topped pizza options to select from.

But don’t let their pizza moniker name fool you- the pizzas are not even approaching half of their unique dining experiences.   Realizing that some patrons have limited time and perhaps less hunger pangs, they offer a variety of savory lighter fare small plates, a host of tempting appetizers, delicious soups, and many scrumptious specialty salads- with offerings starting at under $5.

And CPK debuted with their Downtown Summerlin opening what they call a “new chapter” in their entrees- offering a fire-grilled 12-oz USDA choice rib eye steak complimented with house made Pinot Noir sea salt, topped with creamy bleu cheese butter and served with roasted fingerling potatoes and lemon-garlic arugula salad.   Trying it, it really is mouth watering for their new taste pairing sensation.

Quick lunch duos are also dining options, offering your choice of pizza or half sandwich, with a cup of soup or salad.

For those with heartier appetites, their main plate menus are plentiful.  Ranging from wild caught hearth-roasted halibut with butternut squash farro, to smoked cedar plank salmon seasoned with paprika and lime, to Mahi Mahi panko-crusted tacos with fresh avocado, and, last but not least, there is the delectable chicken Milanese and piccata.

A smorgasbord of pasta offerings includes the crowd favorite chicken tequila fettuccine with a creamy jalapeno lime sauce and the delectable shrimp scampi zucchini with lemon, garlic and white wine.

But what tantalizing meal would be complete without a tasty non-alcoholic beverage or pleasant libation?  CPK, again, delivers.   Providing a “wine adventure guarantee,” CPK encourages its clientele to be daring and adventurous and taste a new wine from a large variety of whites, reds, and sangrias.   If the wine taste selected does not thrill you, they will replace it with your regular favorite.  And they also offer progressive wine flights, where you can taste and compare three 3-ounce pours.

And the CPK spirited cocktails are spirits from a uniquely pleasurable world.   More than just having a small bar tucked away in a corner, CPK in Downtown Summerlin features a very large, full bar- the largest for their chain of restaurants.   And more than just being ginormous, it is unique, showcasing liquor that is commonly not provided by other restaurant chains, including the George Clooney and Rande Gerber promoted Casamigos Tequila- try their smooth tasting Executive Decision cocktail and you will become a believer.  For avocado lovers, your palette should experience their California Roots cocktail- Svedka vodka infused with avocado and mint- a taste not at all what you would think– better!  And for those wishing a margarita with a spicy kick, then their Citrus Adobo Margarita made with chipotle adobo, Casamigos Tequila, and fresh orange and lime will assuredly give you pleasant memories, if not dreams.

Please always leave plenty of room for – you guessed it – a lusciously sweet treat to top it all off.   CPK offers a wide selection of temptations, including their new salted caramel pudding, s’mores, key lime pie, or to induce immediate euphoric ceiling walking, try their Belgian chocolate soufflé cake.

To make your food indulgences even more satisfying, CPK offers their Pizza Dough Rewards program, where you earn many cost saving benefits with each visit.   And you don’t need to find and show a card to be eligible, just say your name.

Come early, be hungry- and be sure to stay late to savor all their many health-conscious culinary delights.

Open for lunch and dinner daily from 11 a.m. to 11 p.m. or later, depending on business, California Pizza Kitchen is in Downtown Summerlin, 10945 Oval Park Drive, Las Vegas, Nevada, 89135.  http://www.cpk.com/locations/summerlin/

And to shorten your wait, you may use their call ahead reserved seating service- 702-978-5759.

Color me . . . a ‘Very Fun’ Las Vegas Runner!

Adding to its growing list of sports accolades, the Las Vegas valley has now become the veritable “Fun Run Capital of the World.”   No matter the season of the year, runners of all shapes, sizes and personal persuasions crave lacing up their shoes just for the fun of it and then scurrying off to any event with the word “run” in it.

A cornucopia of “fun runs,” as they are affectionately called, are nearly a regular occurrence – running is not a requisite; a casual saunter or swagger will work just fine – where really the only main objective is purely amping up your personal fun.

A smorgasbord of sole delights awaits the derring-do’s: 80s Run, Ugly Sweater Run, Undie Run, Rock ‘n’ Roll (and not talking here just about the world famous Las Vegas Rock ‘n’ Roll marathon), and an exhaustive laundry list.

And now Las Vegas runner happiness is further augmented by the Color Run, otherwise dubbed as “The Happiest 5K on the Planet.”     Runners and wannabes pass through balloon arches at race check points in their colorful clothing – or white T-shirts – and then proceed to get drenched by volunteer staff squirting a variety of blue, yellow, orange, and grey-colored flour mixture on them as they run or walk by- – probably not the same, hopefully, as you’ll see mixed in the bread you may later be having for lunch.   (This eco-friendly soirée doesn’t even draw the ire from the Environmental Protection Agency!)

On February 25, thousands of runners will take part in the seventh-annual Color Run, a spritely five-kilometer zigzag through the cordoned off streets in the heart of historic downtown Las Vegas, Nevada, and color themselves into the history books, thus having been part of the largest event series of its kind in the world that annually hosts more than 300 events in over 50 countries.

So grab you neon duds, slither into your tutu and pull up your knee-high socks. It’s time to dance and run like nobody’s watching. Take commemorative selfies. Whatever strikes your fancy is the order of the day.

For more information:

http://www.active.com/las-vegas-nv/running/distance-running-races/the-color-run-las-vegas-2-25-17-2017

Squelching Hot Las Vegas Gets Ice and Snow

Just because Las Vegas is usually one of the hottest and most arrid places on Earth, it doesn’t mean the Mojave Desert oasis is void of anything wintry.  To wit, The Cosmopolitan Las Vegas Hotel and Casino now offers holiday ice skating (and yummy libations…it even snows!) from its upper deck overlooking the strip, while the swanky Summerlin mall, at the other end of the city, offers an outdoor ice skating rink. The venues are open from now through year’s end. Whoosh!

 

Cravers Mob White Castle Restaurant in Las Vegas Causing Shutdown

Two-inch square, flat and holey (some argue “holy”) ingots of steam-grilled, onion-drenched, 100% beef hamburgers wedged between bakery-fresh, heavenly buns, otherwise known as “sliders,” have become the ultimate royal kings in a white castle paying dutiful homage to Craver Nation– that’s what the White Castle cultist legion of foodies are called- who mobbed enforce the newly opened White Castle restaurant in Las Vegas, Nevada.

Like the hungry stoners portrayed in the 2004 flick “Harold & Kumar Go to White Castle” in their quest to snatch the down-the-hatch burgers, hundreds of people hungrily waited for hours with their happy mouths agape as the pleasurable gems flew off the many grills – at the astounding rate of 4,000 sliders per hour! – directly into their starving lil’craver stomachs, thus obliterating White Castle’s previous single-day sales record in a mere half-day for the Las Vegas store opening January 27.

Due to the overwhelming customer demand, White Castle, located inside the Best Western Casino Royale – arguably the smallest casino on the Strip – was forced to temporarily shutter their doors for nearly three hours on January 28, 2015, not for running out of food mind you, but rather, as some say, to take time to maintain their slider machinery that apparently could not take the exceedingly high volume anymore.  Their employees didn’t complain either.

Was it a case of the extreme munchies?  Undoubtedly.  After all, it took 94 years for the White Castle folks to decide to move to Las Vegas, since first opening their doors in 1921.

Starting business when their slider was priced at just a quarter, and priding itself on continually offering its customers distinctive taste and affordability, and being open 24/7, now White Castle boasts nearly 400 restaurants in 13 states – especially prominent in the Midwest and East – and feature a leading national presence in grocery stores through its retail division.

And for those culinarians wanting palette “spritzers,” they suggest their hot and tasty side items like onion chips, cheese sticks and chicken rings.  Mmmm!

Employee loyalty and longevity, a rare commodity in today’s workplace, is commonplace for the family-owned White Castle restaurants.  In fact, more than 1 out of 4 of their 10,000 employees has been working for them for 10 years or more.

People galore have persistently – and ravenously – been hounding White Castle executives literally for decades to open a store in Las Vegas.

And so it came to pass, Las Vegas has eagerly opened with a lip-smacking bang their first White Castle restaurant, bringing with it over 100 new jobs – and the distinction of being the very first one located in the Western states, some 1,265 miles away from their next closest location in Columbia, Missouri.

The Crave is a very powerful thing.

 

Life is Beautiful- Very, Very Beautiful!

Stevie Wonder, 65, hits all the right notes for his many loyal fans, headlining the jam-packed opening night of the Life is Beautiful festival in Las Vegas on September 25, 2015. Wonder has received 25 Grammy Awards, the most ever awarded to a male solo artist, and has sold over 100 million albums and singles, earning him the distinction of being one of the top 60 best-selling music artists of all time.

Attending last night’s opening celebration at the third annual Life is Beautiful festival in downtown Las Vegas, admittedly I was a tad bit skeptical, thinking it might be more hype and hoopla than substance, and could be a more suitable event for youth than adults, but instead I came away quite awe-struck and inspired—not an easy thing to pull off.

With nearly 90,000 festival goers anticipated over the September 25-27 weekend, the festival is bigger and more colossal than in the past, spread out over 15 cordoned off Las Vegas blocks, with an enduring emphasis on providing the best of music, food, art and learning.

The Life is Beautiful festival has put together one of the most diverse musical lineups you’re likely to find anywhere on four striking stages, providing rock, rap, reggae, electronic, indie and world music genres. This year’s headliners included the legendary Stevie Wonder on opening night, followed with an encore in later nights with the nationally popular Las Vegas-based rockers, Imagine Dragons and hip-hop superstar sensation Kendrick Lamar, as well as Duran Duran, Kendrick Lamar, Weezer and Brandon Flowers and nearly 70 other scintillating musical acts.

But the festival is much more than just an all day music marathon love-in. The Learning Series, for example, resembles the Las Vegas version of TED Talks, where many impassioned speakers give presentations about creating a better world, shaping the future and challenging the game of life. The wide-ranging specialists on Friday included Bill Nye (the science guy), Zappo’s Tony Hsieh and Jon Rose. On Saturday, entrepreneurs, innovators and champions of the industry, including Jeff Hoffman, Lane Wood, Melody McCloskey are on the entertainment bill. Then on Sunday, underdogs, athletes and those with humble beginnings were the focus. Actors Kat Graham and Rosario Dawson and more, spoke about their experiences in overcoming life’s many adversities, and how we can come together to “change the game.”

After walking and joyfully taking in the welcomed sensory overload, my attention quickly turned to food and drink options. Life Is Beautiful delivered- and in grand and impressive fashion. Sure, the staple traditions of hot dogs, hamburgers, pizza and beer existed, with oodles of tasty and unique food trucks, but for the more refined palette, some of the best celebrity chefs around, including Hubert Keller, Kim Canteenwalla, Elizabeth Blau, Sam Marvin and more were on-hand to give attendees live demonstrations and tastings of their latest culinary creations. Then, washing it down in grand style, mixolgists galore to whipped up some beautiful cocktails, and more craft beer than I have seen in any other Las Vegas music festival.

But what I fondly took away from the festival is the truly full-sensory, all-encompassing experience. It wasn’t just one element; rather it was the full-bodied synergy of the eclectic combination.

To that end, the interactive commissioned art installations truly added to the entertainment aura, providing the “glue” to fuse the many festival elements in an elegantly urban fashion. Visionary street artists like Banksy and D*Face, for example, have put in some large-scale murals on the side of downtown buildings where all you could do is just stare at their works in utter amazement. And the art hotel, where local artists took a building that was condemned and turned it into an unbelievable art show case, exquisitely showed their individuality, diversity and finely honed artistic skills on par with best artists around. And the great thing for Las Vegas: All art installations will remain up for a full year after the festival closes.

And for those people who may still feel that Las Vegas art and culture outside the bright lights of the strip boundaries is a challenging proposition, they need to really consider attending to see and embrace the Las Vegas urban landscape from a fresh perspective.

Embrace Las Vegas. Life is …delicately beautiful!

Snoop Dogg to Sniff Out Running ‘Hounds’ in Las Vegas

The air is always rarer in Sin City. But when the vibe and energy of Snoop Dogg is added to the sizzling mix, the “smoke” never clears!

Dogg will headline the biggest running event in the U.S. on November 13, 2016, when 40,000 marathon, half-marathon, 5K, and 10K runners of all levels from 50 states and 64 countries will compete for ‘top dog’ honors in the Rock ‘n’ Roll Marathon- running smack-dab down the center of the fabled Strip in Las Vegas, Nevada– BEFORE the races even start!

And Dogg isn’t the half of it.  Added to the musicians and DJs lining the course, it’ll surely be paparazzi heaven, as celebrities, big-name athletes, and other notables with running prominent in their DNA, likely to join in, such as Pamela Anderson, Will Ferrell, Heidi Klum, Ellie Goulding, Jimmie Johnson, Mark Feuerstein, Reese Witherspoon, and Sean Payton.

Some people will even take the grand opportunity to tie (or re-tie) the knot during the race, being flanked by running Elvis attendants wearing white spandex outfits.

 

World Championship Red Bull Air Race Spins Through Las Vegas

Undaunted by persistent 50 mile per hour winds and an overcast day, the finest racing pilots in the world finally took to the Las Vegas skies on the afternoon of October 16, 2016 at the Las Vegas Motor Speedway for the final Red Bull world championship air race of the season.

Pilots raced 80 feet off the ground at over 250 miles per hour and pulled a 10 g-force while navigating around the track through a series of air-inflated cones- barely the width of their wingspan.

 

Toughest Mountain Biking Competition in the World

Red Bull Rampage, recognized by bike racing experts as the toughest mountain biking competition in the world, was held near Zion National Park in Virgin, Utah, on Oct. 14, 2016.

Only 21 of the best freeride mountain bikers on the planet participated in this invite-only event.

Riders spent a week prior to the event working with their teams to dig and scrape course “lines” on the steep and jagged cliffs, some nearly 5,000 feet high.

Riders were judged on their technical riding ability and the complexity of bike tricks performed.

 

Hell-Raising and Religion DO Mix…Splendidly!

Florida Georgia Line headlines on opening night of the Route 91 Harvest Festival in Las Vegas on Oct. 4, 2015, proving they indeed have all the right country music mojo- no matter what you call their style of music.

 

The mix-and-match morphing of country music continues to go on at astounding rates. Sometimes, quite frankly, it’s difficult to really discern exactly what the real music genre is without attending a country music branded event.

 

Such is the case with the Florida Georgia Line. Tyler Hubbard, 27, and Brian Kelley, 29, and their highly talented band have quickly catapulted themselves into the “bro country” darlings of the country music sphere, not for their traditional renditions on country life mind you, but rather for their relentless party anthem style, where every Saturday Southern night is just another opportunity to create a rambunctious, rowdy experience topping the last one. And in so doing, they are building on an unmistakingly distinctive brand rife with their special concoction of country/hip-hop flair.

 

And headlining the first night at country music’s Route 91 Harvest Festival on Friday at MGM Resorts Village in Las Vegas proved to be no exception.  With the clapping accompaniment of nearly 25,000 fervid fans cheering them on, they didn’t disappoint.  Every beat of every measure was a very special heart-pounding and foot-stomping experience, captivating and launching the audience into an ever higher frenzied maelstrom.

 

It’s really not surprising, though.  Their special brand of music magic accompanies them everywhere they go.  The pair’s first full-length, Here’s to the Good Times, was the sixth-best-selling album of 2013 (topping Drake and Katy Perry, among others) and its momentum carried into 2014, when it was the 10th best-seller in the year’s first half, according to Nielsen SoundScan. And we can’t forget that the duo’s first four singles went to No. 1 on the Country Airplay Chart, and the two that followed hit the No. 1 spot on Hot Country Songs.  And Florida Georgia Line’s signature, career-making hit, “Cruise,” still holds two major distinctions: It’s the best-selling country digital song of all time, with sales surpassing 7 million, and, if that is not enough, it spent 24 weeks at No. 1 on Hot Country Songs (the longest reign in the history of the chart).

 

But despite their professional partier mystique that persistently (and accurately) lingers on, it’s also true that their God-fearing attitudes and practices have steadfastly carried with them from their youth. In fact, at church worship services is where Hubbard and Kelley were first inspired and discovered their love of music and performing. Nearly every chance they got they participated in a wide range of church activities and loved Christian rock ‘n’ roll music.

 

And to this day, Florida Georgia Line can party with the best of them on Saturday night, but then reflect and practice penitence and redemption on Sunday.  That’s just the makeup of the Florida Georgia Line.

 

With an impressive country music star lineup too large to count, today Keith Urban headlines and Tim McGraw follows on Sunday.

 

The event is so popular that Route 91 announced a three-day sell-out even before the gates first opened on Friday. No single-day tickets were sold, only three-day wristbands.

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Last Cowboy Fighting

Image

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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