The first chance for many visitors and Las Vegas locals to party and play the Sin City branded way in 2009 turned out to be, sadly, a little less-than-spectacular. There were limited Las Vegas A-list midnight performances by Kid Rock, Pink, Fergie, and Akon. And, as usual, there was a smattering of A-list celebrities playing peek-a-boo in and out of the Las Vegas nightclubs. The 291,000 visitors to the Strip this year also found themselves popping corks – and more – with Usher, Denise Richards, Kim Kardashian, or Ashley Simpson and hubby Pete Wentz. But for the most part, 2009, even though it brought more people in than last year’s estimated 284,000, provided partygoers limited sparkle and under restricted circumstance and attendance. Despite the enticement of rock-bottom room rates and added incentives, the number of Las Vegas visitors this year was down from the 305,000 people attending New Year’s in 2006. And this year there were 126 people arrested; 47 for driving under the influence.
In January 2008 a fire erupted on the roof of the Monte Carlo Hotel in Las Vegas and the ensuing investigation raised concerns about how easily Vegas Strip hotels could become blazing Hollywood backdrops. So, when the time came for the 2009 News Year’s Eve fireworks blitz to be planned – it had to be staged from the roof of lower, and somewhat safer, parking garages located around the periphery of Las Vegas. And once safety restrictions were paired with financial reductions, the city view that had once become a regular CNN moment beamed throughout the world didn’t even rate a cell phone video.
But not everyone in Las Vegas was participating in a subdued 2009 New Year’s Eve. Las Vegas Mayor Oscar Goodman, surrounded by his usual cache’ of jewel-toned showgirls, celebrated the start of 2009 at the Fremont Street Experience, his favorite haunt. “We’re the luckiest people in the world,” a beaming, red-nosed Goodman proclaimed to the record crowd of 30,000 in attendance. “I want all of us who live here to be prosperous and happy in 2009.” And we all know that when Oscar Goodman issues a proclamation, the city and citizens respond with fervor.
Our New Year’s wish is that this slow motion opening is just a simple starting point for what will be a spectacular 2009 for everyone.
Some may think it wasn’t as impressive as the descent of the flying Elvi, but many visitors to Las Vegas on New Year’s Eve 2009 chose to line the spectator viewing area’s of two different motorcycle jump exhibitions.
Las Vegas once again offered Red Bull motorcycle rider Robbie Maddison on a ramp to New Year’s revelers. In 2008 Maddison broke the Guinness World Record with a jump that was longer than a football field at the Rio Hotel. But in 2009 it was the vertical distance that proved a challenge. As part of an ESPN presentation, Maddison jumped his motorcycle to the top of the Arc de Triomphe in front of the Paris Hotel in Las Vegas. He launched his bike 120 feet up in the air to land on the Arc, took a moment to enjoy the view, and then came back via a 50-foot free fall drop to his landing ramp.
The crowd at the no-charge event went wild with their oohs and aahs, thrilled to have the opportunity to see Maddison in action.
But that was quite a different feeling from the fans up the Strip at the Mirage, where 46-year-old Robbie Knievel had just set up his ramps for his motorcycle jump. His motorcycle jump attempt came exactly 41 years after Knievel’s father, Evel Knievel, broke most of the bones in his body with a jump at Caesars Palace that went bad.
It was originally reported that Knievel would ride through the volcano flames in a televised event for FOX. However, after a lengthy delay, when the final jump occurred, the ramps were actually set up in front of the volcano and the burst of flames was just pretty scenery, instead of being a formidable obstacle for the bike and rider.
As the fans disbursed there were some who wished they’d spent their evening more towards the South end of the Strip. But Vegas has a way of making even the mundane fun and the story will last longer than the video will. Besides, there’s always next year.
On Saturday, January 24 at 8 p.m. the Miss America Pageant will kick off once again and be broadcast live from Las Vegas at the Planet Hollywood Resort & Casino. The 52 contestants will be hosted by emcee Mario Lopez from EXTRA, America’s Best Dance Crew, and ABC’s Dancing With the Stars fame. http://www.missamerica.org/
This year’s panel of seven judges includes a Broadway star, Laura Bell Bundy (plays Elle Woods in Legally Blond: The Musical); a renowned denim designer, Paige Adams-Geller; a Miss America-turned-philanthropist, Nicole Johnson; an Olympic swimmer gold medalist, Cullen Jones; a casting genius, Beth Klein; an entertainment news reporter and anchor, Jim Moret; and the hottest hairdresser in Hollywood, Ken Paves.
The night before the Pageant, a gala dinner and fundraiser will be held at Planet Hollywood Resort and Casino. http://cherrylsbridal.com/blog/?p=552
The 2009 Miss America Pageant also provides the culmination of the four-part TV reality series COUNTDOWN TO THE CROWN, which followed the 52 Miss America contestants as they live together and face off in challenges that helped them better prepare for the pageant. The series premiers on TLC on Friday, January 2 at 10 p.m. (ET/PT). A new wrinkle this year is that viewers at home will have the power to vote four contestants directly into the pageant’s Top 15.
Some fortunate Las Vegas entertainers live on in their death and later become business entities because of their larger than life charismatic persona- or at least we thought so, that is until our current economic financial crisis has imbedded its nasty fangs into virtually every sinew of Las Vegas business life.
FX Real Estate and Entertainment had a dream that started back in 1998 to build an 18-acre Elvis-themed resort on land they purchased in six separate transactions that occurred through 2005. It was to be built across from the CityCenter project that is now under construction and would stretch from where rental properties stand now, from the Harley-Davidson Café on the corner of Harmon Avenue to the Smith & Wollensky building just north of the MGM Grand.
Back then the business concept sounded great to Robert F.X. Sillerman, whose publicly traded company CKX, Inc. owns the name and image of Elvis Presley. The idea was also well received by Graceland hotel developer Paul Kanavos and residential and commercial developer Brett Torino.
But their lofty dreams and plans were largely dashed back in September when FX noted the all too familiar “dislocation and turbulence in the capital markets.” They have now defaulted on their $475 million loan from Credit Suisse and are on the verge of losing the land – and their dream – through foreclosure.
Yesterday FX, which is publicly traded on the NASDAQ, had a 10 cents per share close, a fall from their January 10 offering-day high of $10.02 per share.
In December 2007 truck stunt performer Rhys Millen sustained serious injuries that forced him to cancel his planned off-road truck back flip at the Rio Hotel and Casino in Las Vegas. After serious medical attention and a year of recuperation, Rhys Millen found himself snapping into his restraining harness, ready to roll on New Year’s Eve 2009.
ESPN brought us back to the Rio, where New Year’s Eve 2008 Robbie Maddison broke the Guinness World Record for a motorcycle distance jump. This time Millen, 36, was center stage at the Rio and New Year’s Eve 2009 proved not to be a disappointment.
Rhys Millen performed the first successful back flip in an off-road truck, adding to his impressive resume that includes being the 2008 Red Bull Drifting World Championship winner.
Millen’s moment of stardom, though, wasn’t one hundred percent sweet. There was a problem with the landing that caused the truck to roll and Millen missed out on a triumphant closing drive in front of the fans, but Millen was uninjured and the fans were still thrilled.
The question remains: What will the Rio and Red Bull and ESPN come up with for the Las Vegas revelers on New Year’s Eve 2010?