Monthly Archives: March 2009

Nevada Film Industry Weathers Economic Storm with Gusto

While most segments of Nevada’s economy have been shrinking, if not temporarily disappearing all together, there’s one area that not only met budget projections but those projections earned more than $100 million dollars for various Nevada coffers.  witchmountain

The Nevada Film Office (NFO) announced that film related production revenue for 2008 totaled $110,552,900, making it the 9th year that the NFO has met their $100 million benchmark. 

“The figures from the last decade confirm that Nevada is at the forefront of the film industry as a production destination.” said Luis Valera, Commissioner for the Nevada Commission on Economic Development. 

The NFO assists a variety of productions including commercials, television series and student and feature movies.   The movie “21” and CSI: Las Vegas are favorites that come to mind.  But already in 2009 the reality program The Locator, comedy show Howie Do It and the news program ABC Primetime have all completed Las Vegas filming segments. 

In 2008, the current box office smash Race to Witch Mountain spent several weeks filming in downtown Las Vegas- and it didn’t just spend time under the glitzy neon glamour lighting.  As with other productions, non-Strip Las Vegas facilities served as useful and realistic filming locations.   The Fergusons Motel on 10th street was the home of down on his luck hero cabbie Jack Bruno (aka Dwayne ‘The Rock’ Johnson).  The El Cortez Hotel and perennial filming favorite, Planet Hollywood, was featured prominently.  And in addition to filming on the Strip and through Fremont Street, the Race to Witch Mountain crew spent time working at Red Rock Canyon – which once again appears to be the perfect setting for another far, far away and very arid planet. 

With a growing list of Las Vegas film projects already approved and permitted for 2009, this is sure to be another banner year for NFO revenues.  That should translate into more revenue in the bank for hotels, caterers and equipment rental agencies.  And, of course, Las Vegas residents who earn extra bucks playing extras, will continue to bring Nevada to life on plasma TVs around the world.  

With this amount of money spent by film crews each year, Las Vegas won’t even mind if the hero makes a grand exit through the side door of the Tropicana and walks out under the blinking winking lights of the Fremont Street canopy (Angel – Season 4 – The House Always Wins).   

After all, the buck stopped in Las Vegas, right?

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Throttle Up for Drag Racing Action in Las Vegas Starting April 2

It all started in 1951 with one goal:  to simply move hot rod drivers and their sleek gas and nitro-burning beasts off the streets and onto the dragstrip.  The National Hotrod Association (NHRA) was born in Glendora California and after more than 50 years, it continues to be one of the most popular racing programs in the country and is a regular visitor to the Las Vegas Motor Speedway. nhra

The NHRA brings the 10th Annual Summit Racing series to the Bullring in Las Vegas April 2 -April 5, 2009.  Qualifying rounds begin on Thursday, April 2 in the Top Fuel, Funny Car and Pro Stock categories but there will be more for fans and followers than just a chance to watch the action on the track.  

Three five-man NHRA teams will compete Thursday, April 2 at the United States Bowling Congress Open Championships at Cashman Center in Las Vegas. The three teams are special guests of the USBC.  The NHRA Floppers, NHRA Eliminators and the NHRA Holeshots will represent the best of the NHRA bowlers in one of the oldest competitive events in the United States. 

Also, on Thursday, April 2, from 6-8pm there will be a free NHRA driver autograph session in the Key West Room at The Palms Resort and Casino. Currently scheduled to be at the event are Top Fuel point leaders Anton Brown, Funny Car points leader Ron Capps, Pro-Stock 3rd place point driver Jeg Coughlin Jr. and many more.  Fans are invited to come get autographs and take pictures with their favorite drivers. 

The NHRA will be back in Las Vegas October 29 through November 1, 2009 for the Las Vegas NHRA Nationals, also scheduled for the Las Vegas Motor Speedway.

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Las Vegas Mob’s ‘Cement Shoes’ Now Concrete Canoes?

The mob has been doing much less ‘planting’ nowadays.  And with the many stalled and failed casino construction projects dotting the Las Vegas landscape brought on by an ever constricting economy, it’s no secret that Las Vegas has a ton – maybe two? – of ready and willing concrete at its disposal. 

Grabbing this weighty waste opportunity, UNLV engineering students have built and are planning to race a buoyant unlvcanoeconcrete canoe in the fiercely competitive 2009 National ASCE Concrete Canoe Competition in Tuscaloosa, Alabama on June 11-13.

But first they must clear the regional competition hurdle, finishing in the top five in competitions set from April 1 through 4 in Hawaii. About 20 teams are competing. 

To win it will take equal parts of technical skill, creativity and determination. 

Created from a year’s worth of blood, sweat, and tears, the slippery smooth, svelte 250-pound black, blue, and white canoe with a UNLV mosaic on the bottom, and the name Kiss Our Glass on the side, was engineered to be a precise 20 feet long and 30 inches wide. It has to be made that precise.  That’s the rules. 

The races, endurance, sprint, and slalom combined, count for 25 percent of the overall score. The remaining 75 percent is based equally on a submitted technical design paper that highlights the planning, development, testing and construction of the team’s canoe; a formal oral presentation, in which the team has to detail their canoe’s design, construction, racing ability and other innovative features, as well as defend their choices to the judges during a question and answer session; and the end product-the final racing canoe and project display, which is scored on aesthetics and visual presentation. 

Tiffany Hearn, 22, the senior engineering student and captain of the UNLV canoe-building team, haunchos the seven-member team of other UNLV engineering students that are trying to field a winning canoe. 

Engineering students at UNLV and all over the country do this every year. They enter local and regional competitions. A national champion is declared.  Last year the University of Nevada, Reno won.  

UNLV has never made it past the regional competition.  Last year they came in 11th place, their best finish yet. Maybe a win is in their cards this year. Maybe it isn’t.  That’s not the point. 

“This is a big project that takes months to complete. They have to be able to work as a team,” said Bill Culbreth, an associate dean in UNLV’s college of engineering. “Most engineering projects will work that way.” 

So it is that the national concrete canoe competition is more than a boat-building contest. It’s a metaphor for the real world — where there is not nor will there ever be a market for boats made of sand, glue and water. 

Noe Santos, 21, the team member most responsible for figuring out how to make this particular blend of concrete, doesn’t even plan on working in that area after he graduates in May. He’ll be doing research on solar cells. 

In the meantime, he and the rest of the UNLV team have spent at least 40 hours every week since May working on this canoe. “No Christmas vacation. No Valentine’s. No anything,” Hearn said. 

Santos further explained that you can’t use just any old concrete – and, no, they didn’t use our scrap casino concrete – to make a canoe that actually works. The competition’s rules say the canoe must float back to the surface after being submerged. UNLV has never done well on that test. 

The secret to the team’s confidence this year is the concrete concoction, which weighs in at 54 pounds per cubic foot, about 8 pounds lighter than water. 

The concrete, lined with a carbon fiber reinforcing mesh and with tiny metal cables, is then blended with tiny glass bubbles and hollow glass beads about the size of ice cream sprinkles so the concrete has little air pockets inside. 

In the past, UNLV’s teams have blended the concrete with rocks. They’ve had hits and misses, a couple of times suffering competition-ending catastrophic failures; the boats broke in half. 

But not this year, the team members say. 

The team took their boat out to a man-made lake at Desert Shores on March 14. They rowed in it. They sank it.  But the good news it that it came right back up. 

To work on their speed, team members have been practicing twice a week in a traditional fiberglass canoe. They’re getting pretty fast. 

Las Vegas Backstage Access hopes the UNLV team is just fast enough- taking home their first win!

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Sin City Vices Face Taxing Challenges

Las Vegas entertainment to some is not going out to an expensive dinner or even a movie- it’s simply having a nice slow drag on a cig after a hard day’s work while contemplating life’s woes over a frosty, frothy beer. sintaxes

But you better take your last chugs and drags now, for that all may soon change.   Instead of being considered expenses, these sanity-saving vices may soon become investments. 

If Assemblyman Bernie Anderson, D-Sparks, has his way with bill AB277, it would more than double the taxes placed on alcohol.  The Nevada Assembly Taxation Committee is scheduled to hear proposals that would dramatically raise taxes on alcohol and tobacco. 

Despite Nevada’s out of balance state budget, hospitality industry spokespeople are warning that higher taxes will hurt the already crippled service industry and are fighting the proposal tooth and nail. 

But, for now, these sin taxes are considered the most politically palatable – the low hanging fruit.  

Taxes, if approved, would be raised as follows:

– Hard alcohol, and anything with with higher than 44 proof, or 22 percent alcohol, would go from $3.60 to $7.86 a gallon. 

– Alcohol with proof of between 28 and 44 would go from $1.30 a gallon to $3.43 a gallon. 

– Alcohol with proof of between 0.5 percent and 28 proof – most beer and wine – would go from 70 cents to $1.77 per gallon. 

The bill could raise as much as $100 million a year, according to Anderson. 

The Distilled Spirits Council of the United States sent out a press release warning such a tax increase could seriously affect hospitality jobs. 

“In the depths of one of the worst recessions in history, I can’t think of a less appropriate time for Nevada politicians to punish the hospitality industry – the cornerstone of the economy – with higher alcohol taxes,” said Council Vice President Adam Smith, in the news release. 

Proposed Nevada Assembly bill AB255, sponsored by Assemblywoman Sheila Leslie, D-Reno, would also add another $1 tax to a pack of cigarettes. Currently, the state tax is $0.80. 

How much money the increased tax would raise is unclear because studies have shown that increasing the tax on cigarettes causes sales to go down. One estimate, prepared by Nevada legislative staff, showed it could raise as much as $251 million over two years.

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Nevada Lawmakers Aim to Keep State Museums Running

nevadamuseum1On Thursday members of a Senate-Assembly budget panel rejected Nevada Governor Jim Gibbons’ proposed cultural program cuts, saying they want to find funding to keep Nevada’s museums operating at close to current levels as possible. 

Under the governor’s submitted proposal, spending on cultural programs would have been cut nearly 36 percent, to $19.1 million over two years, and staffing would be cut by up to 40 percent. 

The just-renovated East Ely Railroad Depot Museum and Comstock History Center in Virginia City would have been closed, the staff of the Nevada Historical Society would be cut, and other museums would be open only four days per week. 

“Our recommendation [to the governor] was to basically leave them open with a little bit of cut, but keep them operating as much as possible,” said Nevada Assemblyman Mo Denis, D-Las Vegas, the budget subcommittee co-chairman. 

To potentially provide some additional Nevada museum funding, the subcommittee rejected the $7.7 million state computer program proposed by Governor Gibbons. 

If the museums remain open, Denis said, revenue from admission costs could also help the crisis. 

Sen. Warren Hardy, R-Las Vegas, also suggested museums review their policies on use of volunteers to provide adequate staffing at facilities. 

Senate Majority Leader Steven Horsford, D-Las Vegas, said the new Nevada State Museum at the Las Vegas Springs Preserve would have to wait until the 2011 legislative session.   That would mean the earliest the museum could open, according to Denis, would be 2013. 

If budget cuts are approved as is, library hours would be reduced from eight to four per day, staff would be reduced by half, and state library and museum archives could only be accessed by appointment.

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Las Vegas ‘Turns Off’ for Earth Hour

To the uninformed, looking out their window in Las Vegas on Saturday, March 28 from 8:30 to 9:30 p.m. may appear like a prelude to Armageddon or perhaps Apocalypse Las Vegas- dark and sinister, with none of the normal blinding neon to excite the senses. earthhour2

In reality this is not the end of days, merely Las Vegas’ non-hedonistic (say what?) participation in Earth Hour, a global attempt by the World Wildlife Fund to focus worldwide attention on the growing problem of climate change.  

So far, more than 2,200 cities and towns in 81 countries have agreed to go dark in this environmental activism movement. 

And this year, Earth Hour has particular importance to America:  Not only do we have a new president who appears to take climate change seriously, but the U.S. has a chance to redeem itself after former President Bush ceremoniously dissed Mother Earth when he refused to sing the Kyoto global warming agreement in 2005. 

In Las Vegas, hotel marquees on and off the Strip and signs (including the “Welcome to Fabulous Las Vegas” sign), Fremont Street Experience, and all businesses and residents are being encouraged throughout the Las Vegas Valley to participate and take a bold stand on climate change using their light switch as a ballot,  casting a vote for environmental action in the first global election on climate change- giving Las Vegas a chance to expand our definition of green beyond greenbacks, green felt and Green Valley. 

Las Vegas is one of 10 Earth Hour flagship cities.  The effort on the Strip is led by Harrah’s, but even MGM Mirage also has agreed to shut off its lights.  (Just so no one is misled, it’s just the marquees that will go dark, not the lights in the casinos.) 

Here are some Las Vegas locations to capture the experience: 

Earth Hour Las Vegas Official Media Center

The VooDoo Lounge, located on the 51st floor of the Rio All-Suite Hotel & Casino, offers a stunning view and vantage point of the Las Vegas Strip. VooDoo Lounge will give complimentary admission to all guests until 9 p.m. for those wishing to participate in Earth Hour.

 “Welcome to Fabulous Las Vegas” Sign

Clark County Commission Chairman Rory Reid, Commissioners Steve Sisolak and Susan Brager, and World Wildlife Fund’s Nick Sundt are scheduled to “turn off” the sign at 8:30 p.m. using a six foot tall light switch. 

Fremont Street Experience

Lights will go out on the Viva Vision canopy and hotel casino marquees at 8:30 p.m., proceeded by an Earth Hour video presentation and countdown. Glow necklaces will be given to first 5,000 guests. 

A list of Las Vegas participants to-date, and additional events and activities can be found at www.earthhourlv.org.

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Changing of the Guard for Las Vegas Burlesque Shows

In Las Vegas the only real certainty is uncertainty itself.  Entertainment acts change, shows come and go.  And G-string revues are as much a part of the Las Vegas entertainment fabric as gambling itself.  Some say they harken way back to the days of the Dunes Hotel & Casino where it was fashionable to head out and watch the glamorous shows.  Fast forward to today, even the hugely popular sex goddess and entrepreneur Tera Patrick is contemplating a switch from a steady diet of porn to burlesque in Las Vegas. 

Following the footsteps of “Lido” that closed in 1991 after 32 years, this Saturday, March 28 after 49 years the iconic “Folies Bergere” burlesque revue at the Tropicana in Las Vegas will sadly go dark forever after performing 29,000 shows- along with the feathered showgirls the the style, spirit, and very essence of classic Las Vegas entertainment.  

But, even if you’re not one of the lucky 100 people that got a ticket for the final Folies show or one of the 750 invited guests and alumni, there’s still hope.

You can still watch  sexy cabaret revues like “Fantasy,” “Crazy Girls,” “X Burlesque,’ or the full-blown old-Vegas style revue “Jubilee!,” that’s been going since 1981.   Then there is  the female attraction of  “Men of X at Hooters.”  

But if you are game for a brand new Las Vegas burlesque treat you might want to catch the first previews of “Peepshow” that start on March 30 and run through April 17 at Planet Hollywood.  Billed as a “modern contemporary burlesque” the sexy show features Scary Spice Girl Mel B. (Melanie Brown) and “Dancing With the Stars” champion Kelly Monaco, who also played on “General Hospital” and posed for Playboy- watching them perform alone is worth the price of admission – and a cast of 29 principals, tightly choreographed dancers, and a band of all female musicians.  peepshow

Neither Mel B nor Monaco will be topless, but several of the dancers will be for the cabaret show.  Mel B plays Peep Diva, the mistress of the ceremonies, and Monaco is Bo Peep, who falls asleep in a short movie that starts the show. 

Broadway director and choreographer Jerry Mitchell says, “It really isn’t a musical because there isn’t really a written book and scenes that string the show together in that sense.  It’s a story told through song and dance.  It’s really modern day burlesque.  We’ve taken song and dance and the arte of striptease to tell a story.” 

BASE is producing the Las Vegas show.  Architect David Rockwell (“Phantom, the Las Vegas Spectacular”) designed the lavish set.  And Greg Barnes, who won a Tony Award for “The Drowsy Chaperone,” is creating the costumes. 

The music includes Michael Bubble’s “Feeling Good,” Connie Francis’ “Teddy,” Madonna’s “Hung Up,” and original tunes by Andrew Lippa. 

“We took the bones of what I created in New York and tailored it for the Las Vegas market,” says Mitchell. “We couldn’t do this show in New York City.  This is a Las Vegas show, for sexy adult men and women who want to go out together and have an amazing time.  We’re not trying to pound anything over anyone’s head.”  

Mitchell says he doesn’t want to reveal too much else about the show.  

“I don’t want to be coy, but isn’t that the fun of striptease- what you don’t see as opposed to what you see?” says Mitchell.  “It’s one of the things I think is desperately missing here in Las Vegas and something I’m a huge fan of- the right time to take it off.  It’s about how you take it off.”

Tickets range from $65 to $100 and previews for the tale with a tease start on Monday, March 30 through April 17 at the showroom at Planet Hollywood Resort in Las Vegas (702-785-5000).

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Howard Hughes’ Main Man Gordie Margulis Dead at 77

Howard Hughes’ main confidant, Gordon Margulis, known to his many friends simply as “Gordie,” died at age 77 in a Las Vegas hospice after succumbing to cancer of the esophagus on March 25.  

Margulis was perhaps the closest and probably most unlikely confidant to the reclusive Howard Hughes.   It was Margulis who whisked a frail and mentally fractured Howard Hughes down the back stairs of the Desert Inn in 1970 to a waiting jet ambulance, being part of closing a historic era in Las Vegas history. 

Gordie and Melvin Stewart cared for Hughes every day of his life and was one of the very few people allowed in to see him.  While being part of the inner circle, always highly protective of Hughes’ oft-forgotten humanity, he also cooked for Hughes.  Gordie also remained a valuable resource for authors seeking to understand the Hughes legend. 

Margulis is survived by his wife, Helen, daughter Danielle, and sons Sean and Gordon.  Services are scheduled for 11 a.m, on Monday, March 30 at St. Francis of Assisi Catholic Church at 2300 Sunridge Heights Parkway in Henderson, Nevada.

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Chalk up one for Las Vegas ‘Adult Entertainment’ Peddlers

Like it or not, peddlers lining the Las Vegas sidewalks, clicking their provocative handbills, and otherwise hawking adult entertainment promotions to passerbys is a part of our historic, colorful fabric, and, for some, this perhaps adds to our alluring mystique.  After all, we are Sin City, right?   handbills

One can regularly see such peddlers on the sidewalks of the Las Vegas Strip, in front of the Las Vegas Convention Center, and many other places around town.  Almost everywhere except for congregating in original Las Vegas, more specifically the Fremont Street Experience.  

Until now. 

A court ruling recently set aside several Las Vegas ordinances that sought to limit such activities at the Fremont Street Experience.  Of course the laws could be once again appealed, but Las Vegas’ colorful Mayor Oscar Goodman, in his last term of office, said recently that it might be time to let the 12-year-old on and off again lawsuit go. 

The Las Vegas City Council will hear its options at an upcoming meeting, he said, and can weigh in on the merits of appealing the decision, trying to craft another set of ordinances or take some other approach. 

Quickly turning the other cheek, though, Mayor Goodman said Las Vegas would staunchly fight anyone who tried to pass out adult material, such as escort advertisements handed out on the Strip. 

“You don’t want to see one of these situations where a man takes his daughter down to Fremont Street to see the light show and has some smut shoved in his daughter’s face,” Goodman said.  “If they use the same aggressive mannerisms that they do out on the Strip, we’re certainly not going to tolerate that.” 

Glitter Gulch, a leading adult entertainment Fremont Street business, is just a stone’s throw away from anyone walking down those same streets. 

The American Civil Liberties Union was quick to challenge the city ordinances on free speech grounds, arguing that bans on passing out literature and advertising or on setting up tables to promote a cause were unconstitutional. 

The case has been winding its slow way through appeals, revised ordinace and more litigations since 1997. 

In enacting such ordinances, Las Vegas city leaders contend that businesses that rent space or kiosks from Fremont Street Experience LLC, which operates the pedestrian mall, needs some protection again people setting up competing sales operations next door for free.

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Las Vegas Mayor Gets Permanently ‘Waxed’

The gin-loving, always jovial Las Vegas Mayor Oscar Goodman gave his classic toast and thumbs-up pose, then joined the historic ranks of Madame Tussauds’ collection of wax-recreated oscargoodmancelebrities  in Las Vegas on March 26. 

The former mob attorney, who has served as the Las Vegas mayor for a decade,  now is in his last term of office, had his likeness enshrined as a new part of the permanent Las Vegas collection at Madame Tussauds Las Vegas at the Venetian, being part of the launch of the “Viva Vegas” group of celebrities who have elevated Las Vegas’ fame.  

The Goodman statue cost $250,000 to $300,00, looked a little taller and slightly slimmer (maybe it was the Gin imbibing from the prior night?) than the real deal, who also was sporting a wilder hairdo than the wax model.

Mayor Goodman quipped during his induction that his likeness was ‘scary,’ but the wax hall of fame was an “important step for Las Vegas,” then questioned:  “Is it strange to be named a celebrity when you have a fairly serious day job?”

Madame Tussauds representatives said “Viva Vegas” represents one of the most ambitious and interactive presentations in the attraction’s 10-year history.  The new exhibit not only features Goodman but 26 other wax figures from Las Vegas’ storied entertainment annals, including Elton John, Bette Midler, Blue Man Group, Liberace, Frank Sinatra, Dean Martin, Sammy Davis Jr., and, of course, Elvis Presley.

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Burning Man Turns Up Las Vegas Heat

Tired of the politico-speak, technobabble, and continuous water-drip torture of our choking economy?  Want to try your hand at building art- or a mutant vehicle?  Perhaps your cup of tea is spinning fire with  some poi and java?   If you don’t mind bringing in all your own sustaining necessities and using foot-power to travel, then you may enjoy escaping it all and heading to the Burning Man events in Nevada this year. burningman

Trying to explain what Burning Man is to someone who has never been to the event is a bit like trying to explain what a particular color looks like to someone who is blind. It means different things to different people.  But suffice it to say that every summer 48,000 plus artistic Burning Man participants (aka Burners) meet in the Black Rock Desert of Nevada to create Black Rock City and re-engage with community, and celebrate shared values of radical self-expression and self-reliance.   Expressing and relying on themselves to a degree that is not normally encountered in one’s day-to-day life, they celebrate the power of community, honor the importance of art, and enjoy the immediacy of experience. Then they leave a week later – without a trace of having been there. 

This year the eclectic artsy clan will gather from August 31 through September 7.  Having an “evolution” themed event which promotes the very core of individual survival and philosophies of Charles Darwin and Natural Variation, the event urges participants to question themselves, where they’ve come from, and how they can adapt to our ever-changing world. 

Prior to that, though, Southern Nevada burners have just announced that they are gathering for the Dark Skies Arts Festival 2009, their own annual branded regional Southern Nevada Regional Burn event.  It will be at Mojave Drums in Meadview, AZ (about 100 miles north of Las Vegas) for four days from April 23rd through April 26th.   A limited number of 250 tickets have gone on sale yesterday afternoon, ranging in price from $45 to $75 each.  There will be no gate sales. 

The Las Vegas artist and performer community is small, but mighty and growing – they’ve increased the number of locals attending events every time they do them.  Their community is based on participation and communication, creating a growth outlet for creative people.  The Dark Skies community is planning this year to build an art installation, a mutant vehicle for roaming the playa (you can’t drive your own vehicle within camp), and put on various performances. 

Dark Skies promotes a radically inclusive, participatory, self-reliant, leave-no-trace event existing amid a gifting society environment (no buying and selling of goods and services) where people don’t direct others, but rather do what is necessary (they call it a “DO-Ocracy”).  It’s not a rave or camping trip – it’s a community. 

Dark Skies is accepting applications for either participating in or conducting workshops and special events. Last year they had a hula hoopin’ workshop, past life regression, fire spinning, solar power, creative rope bondage and more.  They also have crazy, zany events like a tightie-whities contest.  Deadline to submit workshop requests is April 17. 

Are we really just a very small piece of a gigantic cosmic puzzle?

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Las Vegas’ CityCenter Project Facing Collapse?

The very survival hangs in the balance for Las Vegas’ largest employer and the city’s largest construction project- and arguably one of the world’s largest and most expensive buildings.   MGM Mirage, operating nine Las Vegas Strip resorts and employing more than 61,000 workers, is now embroiled in a contentious lawsuit over the $9.1 billion, 76-acre CityCenter development with its half-shared partner, Dubai World through its Infinity World financial subsidiary.  dubaiworld

Analysts said the lawsuit filed Sunday casts a damaging dark cloud over the project and sends more negative signals on the overall financial health of MGM Mirage.   According to the lawsuit, Dubai World, a 50-50 joint venture partner in the CityCenter project, is seeking unspecified damages and wants to be relieved of its obligation under the companies’ agreement, which was struck in August 2007. 

Dubai World, a world-leading business conglomerate suffering from a two-thirds drop in their oil prices – leading some to question if the lawsuit is merely trying to sever their joint venture agreement or simply gain more project control – said MGM Mirage, which is CityCenter’s managing partner, is responsible for mismanagement and cost overruns with the project.  Dubai World further contends that statements by the MGM Mirage in the company’s financial filings last week with the Securities and Exchange Commission constitute a breach of the joint-venture pact and has put the project at risk. 

The lawsuit took the MGM Mirage reportedly by surprise, but theirspokespeople responded vehemently yesterday that they are doing everything they can do and are ready, willing, and more than able to meet all financial obligations and debt holder payments. 

Despite the lawsuit, CityCenter still plans to open in stages, starting in October with Vdara, a nongaming condominium and hotel tower, and Aria, CityCenter’s centerpiece 4,004-room hotel-casino, scheduled to open on December 16.  

MGM Mirage continues to accept job applications, having over 90,000 job applications for the CityCenter project and planning to hire 10,000 employees to boost the staganant Las Vegas economy. 

However, MGM Mirage and Dubai World are still seeking the remaining $1.2 billion in financing to finish the project. 

MGM Mirage received from its lenders last week a two-month waiver to avoid violating its loan covenants.   Some financial analysts believe that MGM Mirage might have to file a Chapter 11 bankruptcy to restructure their $13.5 billion in debt.

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Jerry Lewis’ Love Child Plans First Visit to Las Vegas

Suzan Minoret, 56, who goes by the name Susan Lewis, believing recent DNA tests that prove she is the daughter of iconic comedy legend Jerry Lewis is planning her first trip to Las Vegas on April 25 to appear at the Earth Day Indoor Environment Celebration at JW Marriott’s in Summerlin.  The event benefits children’s indoor health environment education programs in Nevada.

Though it’s the Philadelphia woman’s first trip to Las Vegas, Jerry Lewis has called Las Vegas home for decades. 

Lewis’ son, musician Gary Lewis recently submitted to DNA tests and results indicated an 88.7 percent probability that the woman is related to Gary Lewis.

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Date Nite Takes the Worry off your Wallet

For a welcome break from quick, penny-pinching meals on the run, how does Robata Grilled Quail, Marinated Japanese Snapper with Black Grapes and Celery, Frittelle di Proscuitto, Pan Roasted Salmon, 18-Hour Braised Short Rib au Daube or Seared Hanger Steak sound for your scrumptious dinner tonight? 

Now what if we said you could get the appetizer, entrée, and dessert at world renowned high class restaurants in Las Vegas for only $40 per person? 

The Palazzo and The Venetian in Las Vegas have created a unique restaurant stimulus package that will satisfy your appetite without breaking the bank. Starting on March 25, Date Nite will be introduced as select fine-dining restaurants within both properties and feature exquisite and delicious pre fixe menus at a cost of only $40 per person. 

Each participating restaurant has unique appetizing pre fixe menus planned for Date Nite guests.  At The Palazzo, you can enjoy Charlie Trotter’s Bar Charlie, Mario Batali’s Carnevino, Dos Caminos, Morels French Steakhouse & Bistro, and SUSHISAMBA.  At The Venetian, the selection of restaurants include Mario Batali’s Enoteca San Marco and Wolfgang Puck’s Postrio. Additionally, Double Helix Wine Bar at The Shoppes at The Palazzo will be offering a specially priced glass of wine during Date Nite. 

And Date Nite doesn’t have to end with dinner.  The Palazzo and The Venetian are pulling out all the stops to provide more options for affordable luxury.  With the money saved, you can treat your guest a remarkable show, indulge in luxurious spa treatments from Canyon Ranch SpaClub®, or purchase something unique from 60 + lavish boutiques at The Shoppes at The Palazzo.  

Date Nite will begin Wednesday, March 25, 2009 and run through Friday, April 24, 2009 with pre fixe menus available Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday only. Each menu is $40 per person, exclusive of tax and gratuity. Additional charges may be applied for beverages or wine pairings.  To view the prix fixe menus at each restaurant, please visit www.palazzolasvegas.com and www.venetian.com. Guests must make a reservation, in order to be eligible for Date Nite. For reservations, please call the restaurant directly or The Palazzo at 702.607.7777 or The Venetian at 702.414.1000 and you will be connected to the restaurant of your choice.  Do it for love!  Do it for less!

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Reality is . . . World’s Strictest Parents?

“Reality” programming.  Design a fish-out-of-water scenario.  Find folks willing to have every moment of their life’s reality-tvexperiences video taped and displayed for what is sure to result in some public ridicule.  Then turn on the cameras and get ready to roll – somewhere there will be a market share willing to watch.  Considering the lower costs to produce shows like Survivor and the Amazing Race and the high advertising revenues those programs can generate, and it’s no wonder that more and more production companies are trying their hand at the “reality” television market. 

Not long after the reality travel shows started to hit the air, a second trend of hometown reality programming began appearing with shows like Super Nanny and It’s Me or The Dog popping up.  In these situation dromedies, dysfunctional family life was placed front and center with outtakes, personal video diaries and complete blog-o-sphere communities dedicated to dissecting each and every episode. 

Enter the latest in the reality genre – The World’s Strictest Parents.  For parents who are “proud of your firm parenting skills” this is a chance to host a teen who is “tired of your parents’ rules.” This import from British television is meant to shine a light on family relations and if it follows the path of the British original, that path will be short and rather one direction.  Unlike other trade-em-up programming such as Wife Swap where the mis-matched mom and family’s both trade out for two weeks or more, The World’s Strictest Parents is a one way flip that lasts on average only 8 days.  Unruly teens who are frustrated by the structure and stricture of their home life are sent to live with parents who are all about structure and stricture. 

If you’re interested in trying out, fill out the online form and head for casting in Las Vegas.  At least 8 episodes of the U.S. version are planned and have been picked up by CMT for an April pairing with Nanny 911.

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Lil Wayne Swaggas into Las Vegas

At 12 years old Dwayne Michael Carter Jr. was performing as the Tin Man at Eleanor McMain Secondary School in lilwayneNew Orleans.  Now 26 and known as Lil Wayne, he’s preparing to perform the major hits from his 13 year career at the Pearl Theatre at the Palms Hotel and Casino in Las Vegas. 

The Saturday, March 28 show comes just weeks before the anticipated debut of Lil Wayne’s seventh album, Rebirth, which is expected to follow in the Grammy nominated footsteps of The Carter III.  Which Rebirth cuts will be the next Swagga Like Us or Lollipop? 

Singer/songwriter Keri Hilson – the reported love squeeze of Lil Wayne – is also scheduled to perform with the rapper.  

Hilson’s own album A Perfect World will be available March 24.   Lil Wayne and Hilson performed together on Turnin’ Me On the third single from Hilson’s album released as a download on November 25, 2008.  Turnin’ Me On hit number two on Billboard’s Hot R&B/Hip-Hop Songs chart and broke the top 20 on Billboard’s Hot 100 chart.

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March Madness Translates into Las Vegas Happiness?

It used to be that the Super Bowl was the zenith of all sporting events for Las Vegas marchmadnesssportsbooks.  However this winter’s celebration of the professional athlete is finding a fierce challenger in the March playoff celebration of collegiate basketball. 

Over the last 20 years there has been a steady increase in the number of visitors booking rooms in Las Vegas during March Madness.  In 2008, February basketball betting was $116.7 million compared to $238.9 million in March, more than doubling the money wagered in Nevada casinos.   

Will this trend continue this year?  Can March Madness help boost the Vegas economy yet one more time? 

The answer for right now seems to be – yes and a guarded yes.  Major Las Vegas sports books at Caesars, Mirage and the Hilton reported late last week that more men than last year showed up for the start of March Madness, while taking the time to lounge in comfy chairs, and more importantly for the Las Vegas economy, drink and eat. 

Though this year’s Las Vegas sports books are taking in a greater number of bets, both men and women are betting fewer dollars per wager- so far.  

“I’m pleasantly surprised in light of the economy,” said a beaming Jim Pedulla, director of Caesars’ race and sports book.  He arrived to work last Thursday and had to immediately find an extra 160 seats for the more than 1,000 people who packed his book by 5:30 a.m. 

While great hotel and restaurant deals in Las Vegas are abundantly available both on and off the Strip, all the Las Vegas hotel sports books are definitely bustling with the brisk post-St. Patrick Day-pre-Spring Break-currently-celebrating March Madness crowds. 

Will this bristling activity be eventually translated into happy – not maddening – Las Vegas revenues?

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Holly Madison Sets Sights on New Las Vegas Gig?

After being the main love squeeze for Playboy mogul Hugh Hefner for seven years, breaking up, and recently breaking up from Las Vegas illusionist and Luxor headliner Criss Angel following a four-month live-in relationship, Las Vegas resident, actress, and “Dancing with the Stars” contestant Holly Madison, 29, says she is has no interest in hollymadisongetting back into another relationship anytime soon. 

But what she is wanting is to stay in the TV reality show business but move into “the production side of things.”  One of the three co-stars of the hit TV reality show “The Girls Next Door,” Madison now has her sights set on a Las Vegas project to be a reality show producer.  The concept reportedly would be a combination of “Girls Next Door,” and “The Hills,” with a little bit of the “Crazy Horse Paris” style topless revue thrown in just for good measure. 

“I want to establish my own brand and my own career and not be mooching off something else,” says Madison, who is now immersed into dance rehearing six hours a day at the Delgado Dance Studio in Summerlin.  Madison had no prior dance background before becoming a last-minute addition to replace the injured Jewel on “Dancing with the Stars” and remains in the competition with her dance partner Dimitry Chaplin.

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Cerda’s Enjoy New Las Vegas Home from Extreme Makeover: Home Edition

The Cerda family in Las Vegas woke up the morning of March 10 to a call from Ty Pennington and the crew from Extreme Makeover: Home Edition and on March 19, they went to sleep in a completely rebuilt, environmentally friendly home designed around the special needs of their children. cerda

While Wright Custom Home/Wright Engineers and more than 500 volunteers were demolishing and then framing out a new house in northwest Las Vegas, the Cerda’s were relaxing in Maui and trying to adjust to the change in their future.  Occasional video showed them limited progress on the building and they had no idea what the final structure would look like. 

After exiting the limo that whisked them home from McCarran International Airport, Chuck Cerda kissed the Extreme Makeover bus.  Surrounded by family, friends and well wishers, the Cerda family shouted “Move that bus!” and for the first time, saw their new two story home in Las Vegas. 

The Cerda’s children, Molly and Maggie, both suffer from Combined Immune Deficiency Disease (CIDD) which makes them more susceptible to lung and upper respiratory infections.  Because of their condition, the girls have limited contact outside the home that makes it even more important that the house be in pristine condition.  The HVAC system will filter the air better than a standard home heating/cooling system.  An advantage that was noticeable soon after entering the residence when Terri Cerda realized her daughter Molly wasn’t having breathing difficulties and didn’t require a nebulizer treatment. 

In addition to the valley volunteers that helped to build the new house, many local businesses contributed build related or maintenance assistance.  Walker Furniture donated furniture for the main rooms; Alarmco donated security services; Freedom Exterminators gave pest control treatments; and The Soroptimist International of Metropolitan Las Vegas provided a musical touch, donating oboes, a flute and $2,000 worth of music lessons for the girls. The four Las Vegas Raising Cane’s restaurants encouraged customers to donate a dollar to every ticket and gave the funds directly to the family to assist with ongoing expenses. 

However it wasn’t just the Cerda family who benefited during the home build.   The United Blood Services bloodmobile parked at the spectator site and visitors and volunteers took the opportunity to donate to the Vegas valley blood bank.  And the Three Square food distribution center in Las Vegas was the recipient of a non-perishable food collection also conducted at the spectator site. 

Extreme Makeover: Home Edition currently plans to air the Cerda family episode on May 10.  The television series airs Sundays at 8 p.m. on Las Vegas ABC affiliate KTNV channel 13.

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Red Rock Canyon Preserved in National Landscape Conservation System Bill

Though this bill has nothing to do with the bright lights of Las Vegas, the massive National Landscape redrockConservation System bill has plenty to do with protecting our collective natural heritage for future generations to experience.  

American Indian etchings on the sandstone walls, yucca plants, ancient Joshua trees and more are the beneficiaries when Congress passed this bill that makes Nevada’s three conservation areas, along with its 45 wilderness areas, 62 wilderness study areas, and 26 million acres of public lands in a dozen Western states, all protected in a permanent system. 

The newly enacted bill places natural lands importance on par with the National Park Services system and the National Wildlife Refuge system.  People will soon know what to expect when they visit these areas. 

Although the landscape system was established administratively by President Bill Clinton in 2000 and was kept intact by the Bush administration, it really didn’t have the necessary “teeth” since it didn’t guarantee Congress would make conservation an ongoing priority and fund protection efforts including artifact looting, vandalism, invasive plant and wildlife habitat damage from off-road vehicles and other intrusions, and cultural site and natural resource developments. 

The lands bill passed the Senate in January.  The House then tried to pass it last week by a two-thirds majority but fell two votes short. The Senate then reworked the bill last week and sent it back for reconsideration that passed by a simple majority of the House. 

Red Rock Canyon, located about 30 minutes west of  the Las Vegas Strip,  is one of the crown jewels of the National Landscape Conservation System.  The bill gives the 26-million-acre system in the Western states permanent congressional authorization to ensure its pristine features would remain intact for future generations.

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Las Vegas Performing Arts Center Plans for Groundbreaking

All is not gloom and doom when it comes to Las Vegas art funding in our recession.  The Smith Center for the lasvegasperformingartsPerforming Arts could break ground in as little as two months, thanks to the City of Las Vegas for being in the midst of finalizing a financing package that supports the construction and takes into account the impact of the economic downturn. 

The total $485 million center is being financed by many seed revenue sources including $105 million in Las Vegas bonds that are being backed by a 2 percent tax on rental cars, which are planned to be sold by the end of this month; $85 million in bonds backed by revenues from the Las Vegas Redevelopment Agency (not operating funds); and $150 million or more from the private Donald W. Reynolds Foundation.  

The City of Las Vegas total financial obligation for the center funding is $170 million.  

The Smith Center for the Performing Arts will be the anchor tenant of the 61-acre Union Park development in downtown Las Vegas that is touted to be the “new Las Vegas,” with the center containing a 2,050-seat main theater as well as smaller performance spaces and classrooms, a park and outdoor theater.  It will be the home of the Las Vegas Philharmonic and the Nevada Ballet. 

Construction costs make up $245 million of the total $485 million estimated cost, with the rest of the funding pegged for an operation endowment and furniture, fixtures and equipment. 

Construction is expected to generate 1,000 Las Vegas jobs over two years. 

“We are stimulating the economy,” said Las Vegas Mayor Oscar Goodman.  “We’re stimulating our intellect in the community.”

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Acrylic Nails are Dead

Throw out your nail polish remover.  Trash your nail dryer.  Spring’s hottest new beauty fad, if not budding long-term trend, is Minx.  These vinyl, stickerlike sheets have all but replaced nail polish and have stirred up a large appeal ranging from Rihanna, Beyonce, Pink, and Fergie to ordinary housewives with fashion maven tendencies. minx1

Making economic sense, pedicures can survive longer than a month and manicures, depending on the user’s lifestyle, range from five days to two weeks.  With many style options and colors to choose from, the long lasting wears also make the $70 manicures and $105 pedicure that Amp Salon (at the Palms Casino in Las Vegas) charges seem more palatable. 

The other benefit:  There’s no drying time.  Minx clients can dig into their purses for keys and cell phones with destroying their nails or their day. 

The application consists of a heating process, during which the vinyl sheet sticks to the nail.  From there the excess is filed off and the clients are good to go.  With the manicure included, the entire appointment process requires about a half-hour of time.

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Nevada Gets Its Own Insect

There’s been a move afoot by school children and Nevada’s Senate, refreshingly working in harmony, to select Nevada’s state insect.  Care to hazard a guess on the winner?  

Some said the winner would be the blood-sucking mosquito, having a double entendre:  a symbol for our economy and to commemorate the growing number of West Nile virus cases stemming from the stagnant pools of our many foreclosed homes.  Wrong. 

Some said the bedbug would be a better symbol, keeping with the “what happens in Vegas, stays in Vegas,” advertising slogan.  Wrong again.

 Sen. John Lee, D-North Las Vegas, piped up and alternatively suggested the barfly or “the lobbyist.”  Nope. damselfly

No, the winning flitting critter is the . . . damselfly, which is found in all parts of Nevada, resembling a dragonfly.  Male vivid dancer damselflies are bright blue and females are tan.   No telling what damsel colors would morph into when in distress.  

And, in tune with Nevada’s kitschy status, no other state has the damselfly as their official state insect.   

The project – Nevada Senate bill SB166 – was the brainchild of sponsors Sen. Joyce Woodhouse, D-Henderson, and Assemblyman Lynn Stewart, R-Henderson, working with fourth-grade educators throughout Nevada. 

A group of educators and scientists picked the damselfly earlier this month, as recommended by fourth-graders at Beatty Elementary School in Las Vegas, then there was a 7-0 ratifying vote, without filibustering, from the Nevada Senate Government Affairs Committee.  The Beatty entry was selected from more than 70 nominations and essays send in by 57 fourth-grade classes across Nevada. 

Now, only eight states have no official insect to call their own.

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Dennis Quaid to Receive ShoWest’s Male Star of the Year Award in Las Vegas

Dennis Quaid will receive the coveted ShoWest male star of the year nod at the upcoming confab of theater owners. dennis-quaid1

ShoWest runs March 30-April 2 in Las Vegas at Bally’s and the Paris Hotel & Casino. 

Quaid will be seen in theaters with Lionsgate and Roadside Attractions’ CG-animated “Battle for Terra,” which opens May 1. Later this summer, Qauid will be acting in Paramount’s actioner “G.I. Joe: Rise of the Cobra” and then in Overture’s horror pic “Pandorum.” 

Quaid will receive the ShoWest award at the closing banquet on April 2.

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The Bard Takes Up Sin City Digs

“A Taste of Shakespeare” – a new venture from the Las Vegas playhouse and Springs Preserve that presents  bite-sized 15-minute versions of the classic plays – is planned for the Springs Preserve in Las Vegas on May 23-25.  shakespeare

The outings will also feature food, wine tastings and performances by the rejuvenated Henderson Symphony Orchestra.

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Daffodils & Butterflies Flutter Into Las Vegas

The Bellagio Conservatory is now celebrating spring with horticulture tributes and displays from England, France, bellagioItaly, and Japan.  The latest transformation lasts until mid-May.   Dominating the setting:  daffodils, jonquils, butterflies, an armillary sphere once used by French astronomers to chart the night sky, a villa re-creation with travertine terrace and ancient stone sculpture and a Japanese Zen display.  The good news:  It’s all FREE.

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Business Ala Vegas Style

Sheldon Adelson, chairman of the Las Vegas Sand Corporation, and arguably one of the world’s richest, albeit sheldonadelsoncontroversial, people recently commented in Newsweek on the possibility of Las Vegas reinventing itself amid the intense current economic pressures: 

“Las Vegas is a city of entertainment, and that’s what it is.  Everyone wants to diversify.  Clinics are coming to Las Vegas, and a lot of people want to change it into a medical-research city.  God bless them,  I hope it happens.  But when we have a generic synonymity with entertainment, how can we say we’re an academic breeding ground for scientists?  Not in my lifetime, and not in my children’s lifetime.”

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Junk for some is $900,000 art for others

Two San Francisco artists are suing a Gerlach farm-owner claiming he torched La Contessa, a replica of a 16th century Spanish galleon that often appeared at the annual Burning Man festival.contessa

Simon Cheffins, an artist, and Greg Jones, a mechanical engineer who helped build it, said in their suit that Mike Stewart, owner of Orient Farms, considered their creation “junk” and destroyed it on Dec. 5, 2006.

The suit, filed in U.S. District Court in Reno, claims Stewart violated a federal law that prohibits the destruction of art work and seeks $900,000 in damages and also punitive damages and legal fees.

Although the ship was kept on property that Stewart had later acquired, the “Visual Artists Rights Act of 1990” protects and artist’s work regardless of where it’s housed, said Paul Quade, a Reno lawyer representing Cheffins and Jones.

Stewart, an outspoken opponent of Burning Man, never tried to contact the artists, Quade said, and had the debris left after the burning hauled away for “scrap.”
 
Quaid said that it took about 100 people more than 9,000 hours to build the galleon in 2001 and 2002 using donated funds and grant money.

“Performances of theatre, music and trapeze took place on La Contessa during Burning Man and other festivals,” Quade said. It was also featured as “a significant work of art” in numerous media outlets, he said, including Rolling Stone Magazine, the Discovery Channel, and the San Francisco Guardian.

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Bye-Bye to Jeff Beacher & The Scintas – Good Luck!

Jeff Beacher and his entertaining band of crazy misfit zanies, dubbed “Beacher’s Madhouse,” have long been Las Vegas jeffbeacherentertainment icons, performing at the Hard Rock Casino & Hotel in Las Vegas and elsewhere.   Beacher partied at Tao nightclub last week and in his farewell he said he will be touring with his entourage throughout Midwestern U.S., playing to smaller and enthusiastic audiences as he earns enough money, hopefully, to supposedly open his own house and show when he later returns to Las Vegas at some unspecified future time.

scintasSimilarly, The Scintas are sadly ending their nine-year run as Las Vegas headliners and taking their show on the road, at least for now. “With the economy where it is and people not traveling as much as before, we’re going to the people,” says Frankie Scinta, who fronts the four-member family group that includes brother Joey, sister Chrissy and longtime member Peter O’Donnell. The group is reportedly not moving out of Las Vegas, is currently working on a sitcom pilot, and they vow to return in April to the Suncoast for their thank-you to their Las Vegas fans.

Las Vegas Backstage Access wishes the best for Jeff Beacher and his entourage and The Scintas.

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Crime Pays in Las Vegas?

The Las Vegas proposed mob museum – a pet project of Las Vegas Mayor Oscar Goodman – has very few friends in Washington, but some legislators in Nevada’s Carson City capital apparently like the idea. mobmuseum

The project is on tap to receive a $300,000 grant from Nevada’s Cultural Affairs Commission, the biggest endowment ever bestowed by the agency.  Yes, the museum had originally asked for a $900,000 grant, but probably had misgivings about such a large request and later pared down their request down to $500,000.

The commission has given out 28 grants including $200,000 for the Neon Museum, $120,000 to help restore the 1850s Kiel Ranch, and $108,000 for the Las Vegas Water District to buy four railroad cottages built near the turn of the century and move them to Springs Preserve in Las Vegas.

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Jennifer Harman Celebrity Charity Poker Tournament on April 17

Once again poker great Jennifer Harman will be hosting the Jennifer Harman Charity Poker Tournament to benefit the Nevada SPCA.  This is the third year for the Las Vegas event which has raised more than $200,000 to fund the local charity. jenniferharmon

Harman, a Reno native who graduated from UNR, made her first World Series of Poker debut in 1996 where she placed 6 in a Limit Hold-Em tournament.  She now holds two World Series of Poker bracelets and is regarded as the best female poker player in the world. 

This years charity event is scheduled to begin April 17 with a No Limit Hold’em Poker Tournament at the Venetian Poker Room.  In addition to the tournament there will be a celebrity and pets’ red carpet, a silent auction, raffle and video presentation.

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U2 Gears Up for Las Vegas Concert

The U2’s “U2360” tour, scheduled only for large stadium settings around the world, will include an October 23 stop at u21Sam Boyd Stadium in Las Vegas.  The announcement coincided with word that U2 had scored its seventh No. 1 album on the U.S. pop album chart.  

But even the hugely popular Irish rock group is taking a hit during the recession.  “No Line on the Horizon” sold only 484,000 copies during the week ending March 8, according to Nielsen SoundScan.  That’s well down from the band’s best opening of 840,000 in 2004 with their “How to Dismantle an Atomic Bomb” album.

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DISH Las Vegas Culinary Fundraiser on April 3

In the depression of the 1930s, soup kitchens and breadlines were the primary sources of nutrition for a large portion of the country.  Now, in the recession of 2009, organizations like Three Square in Las Vegas are serving as disbursement hubs for donated foods and trying to keep meals on the tables of lower to middle class families in Southern Nevada. 

To support Three Square, local Las Vegas chefs and entertainers will be participating in DISH Las Vegas – a first time fundraiser at the Las Vegas Springs Preserve on April 3. 

Planned to participate will be Chef Kerry Simon, Chef Rick Moonen, Chef Peter Sherlock, Chef Rock of Hell’s Kitchen, Carrot Top, George Wallace, Clint Holmes, Louie Anderson, Susan Anton and UFC Fighters. 

The one-day event will include an art exhibit of personally designed plates, exceptional food, wine and musical entertainment.

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Wynn’s Lace Up Sparing Gloves

Steve Wynn and wife Elaine have selected their lawyers for their divorce battle.   In Elaine’s corner will be lawyer Don Schiller, who represented Juanita Jordan in her divorce from NBA icon Michael Jordan. 

In Steve’s corner will be attorney James Jimmerson, who handled Wayne Newton’s divorce and Mike Tyson’s bid to regain his boxing license.

With Forbes magazine announcing this week in its annual ranking of billionaires that Steve Wynn’s worth is pegged at $1.5 billion, down from $3.9 billion a year ago, the trial will assuredly provide the backdrop for one of the biggest divorce settlements in U.S. history. 

Chicago-based Schiller won a $168 million settlement for Juanita, which was ranked by Forbes magazine as “the most expensive in entertainment history.”

But Steve Wynn, who filed for divorce from Elaine on March 5, now reportedly being in love with British divorcee and socialite Andrea Danenza Hissom, will probably give up more than that.  The split is thought not be an amicable one.

In comparison, like billionaire Rupert Murdoch coughed up $1.2 billion in assets to former wife, Anna.

This has lead some to believe that the Wynn’s will eventually settle by splitting up the two huge Las Vegas casino-hotels – Wynn Las Vegas and Encore -that they opened in the past five years, renaming them Steve’s and Elaine’s.

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Spice Girl Mel B Takes It Off in Las Vegas

Former Spice Girl Mel B, who co-stars with Kelly Monaco, in the upcoming “Peepshow” at Planet Hollywood Resort in melbLas Vegas feels less is best.   While the singer was recently fitting her costumes she felt they weren’t suggestive enough and began immediately taking parts of her costumes off and hiking up the hemlines to make them ultra skimpier. 

Is it just something in the rare Sin City air or what that makes people do strange things here? 

The adult show opens for previews on March 30.

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Las Vegas is Best at Being on the Bottom?

Everybody likes being Numero Uno.  And Las Vegas is no exception.  For example, just last month, Nightclub & Bar losermagazine voted Sin City the top place honor for having the best pubs to get sloshed…er, sorry, no it was officially for having the “largest-volume of independent nightclubs, bars, and lounges in the United States,”  reeling in almost 25 percent of the Top 100 spots.  

And, with death-defying temperatures the norm, Las Vegas always rank high on lists for the number of sunny days in a year.

Being declared top dawgee is all well and good, but where is the real diversity in that?  How can you really differentiate yourself from the pack when all you can boast is just a squeaky clean image?  Just ask Brittany Spears, Paris Hilton, or Lindsay Lohan.  (Did Lohan ever find her missing car at Planet Hollywood?  That’s the stuff that needs to make the major news headlines, not the incessant and boring economy stuff, right?)

No, apparently where Las Vegas shines brightest in our choking desert sun is being reigning cellar dwellers and bestowed multiple honors for being the worst.

Last month Forbes magazine stepped out on a sturdy limb and declared Las Vegas as “America’s Emptiest City.”  (Vegas did so good, they even body-slammed Detroit!)   Not content with just bestowing a singular honor, the kind folks at Forbes then ranked our North Las Vegas and Henderson burbs among America’s 10 most boring cities.

And before decrying unfair discrimination by a single publisher, Men’s Fitness magazine also jumped into the act and ranked Las Vegas as the fattest city in America.   Then Business Week entered the melee and declared that Las Vegas ranked No. 7 among the unhappiest cities in the nation.  But, even then, there was a crimson lining:   Las Vegas was ranked No. 1 in suicide, No. 6 in divorce, and, for the hat trick, No. 9 in crime.

In a recent Las Vegas Sun analysis, Las Vegas was ranked as the No. 1 consumers per capita for hydrocodone (a.k.a. Vicodin and Lortab), and even earned a respectable fourth place for methadone, oxycodone and morphine consumption per capita.

In term of Las Vegas urban sustainability – a city’s ability to maintain a healthy living environment – the City of Entertainment is rapidly closing in on last place, falling from No. 27 to No. 47 among the nation’s 50 largest cities.

Las Vegas is rock-bottom – 54th, behind even Guam – in collecting child support payments.

So, can all this be attributed to merely bad statistics? Or is it a case of media sensationalism and just the desire for improving ratings?  And if these awards are well earned, would it really be that bad?  Think about it.  Perhaps Las Vegas needs a break from all of the historic nation-leading city growth year after year.  You know, a time to catch-up…chase away money-hungry California investors looking for a housing deal, and, in the process, give Las Vegas time to bolster its multiple sagging infrastructures.   Maybe the Las Vegas Visitors and Convention Authority and R& R partners could invent some new catchy slogans for the rebirth celebrations?

Regardless, having our nation’s ‘bad boy’ extreme persona is still providing Las Vegas an alluring fatal attraction:  A national study released in January said Las Vegas ranks among the top 20 major U.S. cities in which Americans would like to live.  

Las Vegas is ranked No. 20, but who’s complaining?

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Michael Jackson’s “This Is It!” Tour Sells 20,000 Tickets Per Hour

thisisittourEuropeans apparently still love the 50-year-old ‘Gold’ Gloved Wonder, who inhabited Las Vegas in reclusive style before recently moving to Hollywood.  

And his fans don’t mind paying for Jackson’s concerts in our economic recession.

Following Jackson’s 12-year tour layoff, AEG organizers now have extended his original 10-concert, $1 million per concert, deal at London’s 02 Arena to a total of 50, extending his planned performances out to February 2010.  

Tickets sold like proverbial hotcakes- with plenty of syrup:  360,000 tickets were sold in 18 hours during the presale, equating to 20,000 tickets per hour, and 33 tickets per minute.  

If – IF – Michael Jackson shows up and makes all his concerts, that will mean 1 million fans will have witnessed in person the aura and karma exuding from the self-proclaimed aging King of Pop.

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Las Vegas Nightclub Discrimination Lawsuit Continues

Las Vegas Strip casino and shopping mall lost a bid on Thursday to throw out a hip hop nightclub’s lawsuit alleging it is being discriminated against because most of its patrons are black. poetrynightclub

U.S. District Court Judge James Mahan said it was too early to make a decision until he hears more about Poetry nightclub’s claims of corporate racial bias against Caesars Palace, the Forum Shops and property owner Simon Property Group Inc. 

“There’s enough here that it survives a motion to dismiss,” Mahan said from the bench at the end of a one-hour procedural hearing. The judge said that the civil lawsuit was still in early pleading stages, and called for written motions before scheduling more arguments. 

Club owner Phase II Chin LLC, in a civil lawsuit filed Feb. 7, 2008, seeks unspecified monetary damages and orders prohibiting “racially-motivated” discrimination by the corporate entities.  “They don’t want black patrons in this establishment,” club attorney Harold Gewerter told the judge Thursday. “They don’t come out and say they don’t want minority patrons in there. But they show it with their conduct.” 

Caesars, Simon and the Forum Shops deny the discrimination bias claims, and lawyers argued that the case amounts to a lease contract dispute. They said Poetry was operating under an illegal sublease with the Wolfgang Puck restaurant, Chinois.  “Any claims of any racial bias are outrageous and completely false,” Gary Thompson, spokesman for Caesars Palace owner Harrah’s Entertainment Inc., said in a telephone interview. “The actual facts will come out as the case proceeds.”

Lawyer Charles McCrea Jr., representing Forum Shops and Simon Properties, said there was no evidence of bias in the four breach of lease notices he said the property owners sent to Chinois.  “We have a right to notify them the management contract violated the lease,” McCrae said. “Nothing in those notices alludes to race or demography.” 

Caesars lawyer Steve Morris said the casino was even further removed from any relationship with the club. “There is no contract with Caesars,” Morris told the judge, arguing that without a contractual relationship between the club and the casino, there could be no bias. 

Club representatives say they have a management contract, not a sublease, to operate an after-hours club upstairs from Chinois. Gewerter argued that made the club a “third party beneficiary” of the Chinois contract with Forum Shops, Simon and Caesars. 

The club, initially called OPM, opened in May 2003. The lawsuit alleges that by January 2005, Caesars, Forum Shops and Simon began “an ongoing campaign of harassment and misconduct” to force the club out. 

Club manager Michael Goodwin said outside court Thursday that because his club caters to a black clientele, casino and mall managers blame it for “every negative activity in Las Vegas and around Caesars Palace having to do with African-American people.” 

Goodwin denied incidents that officials cite involved club patrons, and said owners of the casino and upscale 160-store mall also imposed prohibitively expensive security requirements as a condition of allowing entry to the club through the main Forum Shops concourse-which Goodwin called “the only dignified way to enter.” 

Goodwin said he employs 30 security staffers inside the club and hires four armed Las Vegas police officers per night outside the club, which is open 10 p.m. to 6 a.m. four nights a week. He said he can’t pay what he called “impossible money” for more.  That means patrons in trendy club clothing have to enter by a back door and an unsightly litter-strewn service hallway.

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The Lion King Cast Announced

Casting has been announced for the new Las Vegas production of the Tony-winning The Lion King, which will begin previews at the Mandalay Bay Theatre on May 5 with an official opening May 15. lionking

The cast features performers who have triumphed in productions of Lion King around the world, including stagings in New York, Taipei, South Africa, London, Los Angeles, Australia, Toronto, Shanghai, Paris and Holland.  

Thom Sesma (The Times They Are A-Changin’) will play the evil Scar with Alton F. White (Ragtime) as Mufasa and Los Angeles native Marvette Williams as Sarabi. South African native Buyi Zama will play Rafiki.  The cast will also feature Kissy Simmons (Nala), Clifton Oliver (Simba), Damian Baldet (Timon), Patrick Kerr (Zazu) and Adam Kozlowski (Pumbaa). The three hyenas will be played by Keith Bennett (Banzai), Jacquie Hodges (Shenzi) and Robbie Swift (Ed). Duane Ervin and Elijah Johnson will alternate in the role of Young Simba, and Ruby Crawford and Jade Nelson will alternate in the role of Young Nala. 

Since its Broadway opening on Nov. 13, 1997, The Lion King has been seen by 45 million people worldwide. Directed by Julie Taymor – who became the first woman to ever receive a Tony Award for Best Director of a Musical – The Lion King has become an international hit with productions playing all around the globe. The Elton John-Tim Rice musical has won over 30 major awards. Those include six Tony Awards, including one for Best Musical; eight Drama Desk Awards; six Outer Critics Circle Awards; two Sir Laurence Oliviers; the Evening Standard Award for Best Theatrical Event; and three Los Angeles Drama Critics Circle Awards. 

Tickets will go on sale to the public March 14 at the Mandalay Bay Events Center at (702) 632-7580 or (800) 745-3000 or by visiting www.mandalaybay.com or www.ticketmaster.com.

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Criss Angel Receives Good News: Awarded “Magician of the Decade”

crissangelFor a change, good news showers down on Las Vegas illusionist Criss Angel.  The International Magicians Society has awarded the 41-year-old Angel, whose real name is Christopher Sarantakos, its first-ever Merlin Award for “Magician of the Decade” last Saturday in honor of his magical accomplishments. Angel previously received the organization’s “Magician of the Year” honor in 2001, 204, 2005, 2007 and 2008. 

The famed illusionist appeared humble when accepting the award, telling those attending, “I never set out to win awards, just to push my own envelope and try to create something that’s never been done.”

Criss Angel’s “Believe” illusion show opened at the Luxor in Las Vegas early in January to mixed reviews and almost immediately went dark for a Cirque du Soleil “magical” revamping before reopening later in the month.

To add to Angel’s mishaps, in late February, Angel broke up with his girlfriend, Holly Madison, who previously had been dating Playboy mogul Hugh Hefner until last October.

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James Packer, Crown Casino Scraps Cannery Casino Resorts Deal

Australian billionaire James Packer, 41, has scrapped his plans, at least for now, for a $1.75 billion takeover of Cannery Casino Resorts LLC.  Had the deal gone through, Packer would have obtained three Nevada casinos. 

Packer’s Crown Casino enterprise, Australia’s biggest, rose 13.5 percent on the news- an especially good sign as the Australian media has been especially hard on Packer as of late. jamespacker

Packer’s fortune shrank to half this past year according to Forbes Magazine and Crown has lost 56 percent of its value.

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KITT, Knight Rider Varoom into Las Vegas

Paul Casey Productions is bringing KITT back to Las Vegas.  Knight Rider fans know that both the 1982 original series pilot and the 2008 revamped series opener were based in Las Vegas and on March 20 and 21 the Fremont Street Experience will be the sight of this fundraising weekend.   knightrider

Although Hoff won’t be attending as he will be filming in New York “Dancing with the Stars” segments, organizers for the event promise many of the leading characters of the Knight Rider series will be on hand.

Events include a wedding at the drive-in chapel with KITT as the best man, a celebrity meet and greet, Q&A sessions and celebrity autograph sessions.  In addition, there will be KITT car displays and a moment with Las Vegas Mayor Oscar Goodman. 

One of the primary objectives of the Knight Rider Festival is to gather donations for the Children’s Miracle Network.  The Super Pursuit Mode KITT Fundraiser began months ago encouraging participants to collect money for the Children’s Miracle Network.  Funds collected at the Knight Rider Festival will go directly to the pediatric unit at St. Rose Dominican Hospital in Henderson.  The top 3 earners will be recognized with a Jay Orhberg Super Pursuit Award.

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Sir Paul McCartney’s Las Vegas April 19 Performance Sells Out In Seconds

Tickets for a one-off gig by Sir Paul McCartney in Las Vegas sold out in seven seconds after going on sale.  Just 4,000 fans will be fortunate to see the former Beatle perform at the grand opening of the New Joint at the Hard Rock Hotel and Casino in Las Vegas on April 19. paulmccartney

Sales opened on February 14, Valentine’s Day, and sold at a rate of almost 600 seats a second, according to promoter Concerts West, saying it would be “a night like Vegas has never seen before.” 

Prior to this, Take That held the record for the fastest sell-out of a music tour when all 600,000 tickets for their Circus tour sold out in four-and-a-half hours last year. 

Organizers claim Sir Paul has beaten that sell-out feat, although this has yet to be verified by the Guinness Book of Records. 

The new $60 million Joint is double the size of its predecessor.  Almost every leading band has performed there at some time, including Oasis, The Killers, Linkin Park and Bon Jovi performed. 

McCartney is also set to headline the opening day of the Coachella music festival in California in April.

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Nevada Ballet Theatre Gouged by Recession

The nonprofit arts group announced on March 10 that it is trimming its company of dancers from 31 to 22, reducing its administrative staff and leaving vacant positions unfilled.  The Nevada Ballet Theatre also has postponed its season finale, “New Work ’09,” which had been set for performance May 15-17.   That performance is now planned to be  incorporated into next season’s schedule. 

Further, season subscribers are being urged to donate their tickets back to the ballet to show support during its economic struggles.  To supplement this revenue, an anonymous donor has pledged to match up to $50,000 in contributions received before June 30. 

Nevada Ballet Theatre has been beset by declining donor contributions and ticket sales and drop in tuition revenue from its academy. 

The Smith Center for the Performing Arts in Las Vegas is targeting a 2011 opening, including a theatre that the ballet company has been planning to share with the Las Vegas Philharmonic.

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Jerry Lewis Has A Love Child?

jerrylewisDNA test results, according to United Press International, recently revealed that Suzan Minoret, also known as Susan Lewis, and Jerry Lewis’ oldest son, Gary, share a very rare DNA marker that indicates with an 88.7 percent probability that they are half brother and sister- and iconic comedy legend Jerry Lewis is indeed their biological father.

 

Jerry Lewis, a longtime Las Vegas resident, has never confirmed or denied that Susan is his daughter. 

 

Asked for comment, the comedy and film star’s spokeswoman, Candi Cazau, said, “Mr. Lewis has no comment – period.”

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Scooters Putt-Putt Into Las Vegas March 19

If you won’t be driving your Harley to Laughlin in April for the annual Laughlin River Run, perhaps you could drive your Vespa to Vegas in March at the 10th annual High Rollers Weekendscooters

This year’s rally – the last one planned for Las Vegas – is being hosted at the Tropicana and events begin Thursday, March 19 with daily activities including swap meets and scooter rallies.  Saturday, March 21 is the prime event – the National Scooter Build-Off.  

The Build-Off is an opportunity to show center stage the fabulous restorations of vintage scooters – specifically Lambretta and Vespas.  Teams from across the country have been refurbishing classic scooters – returning them to their original design and working order.  There are three judging categories:  Vintage, Custom Modified and No Limits.  More than 30 teams are scheduled to display their designs at the Show and Shine during the High Rollers weekend.

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Las Vegas Homeowners Get New Abode Courtesy of Extreme Makeover: Home Edition

The Cerda’s of Las Vegas are going to spend the next few days in Hawaii and when they get back from sun and surf in Maui, they’ll return to a rebuilt home courtesy of ABC’s Extreme Makeover: Home Edition.  

On Tuesday, March 10 Ty Pennington and crew woke the Cerda’s with the news that their home had been chosen for a construction make-over.  A short time later the family was whisked away in a stretch SUV to begin their holiday and the ABC crew began the task of packing the house and prepping for demolition on Thursday, March 12. 

The Cerda family bought their home in 2004 and have fought construction issues ever since.  Multiple floods caused water and sewer damage as well as potentially creating an unhealthy living environment filled with mold and bacteria.  This is always a serious situation but for the Cerda’s, it’s literally life and death.  The Cerda’s daughters, Molly and Maggie, both have Combined Immune Deficiency Disease (CIDD) which makes them more susceptible to lung and upper respiratory infections.  A cold becomes pneumonia.  Because of their condition the girls have limited contact outside the home making it even more important that the house be in pristine condition. 

In part, the Cerda’s were chosen for their need but also, because of their ability to reach out to others while they work through their own difficulties.  Chuck Cerda is a Homeland Security officer and Terri Cerda works in global relief efforts with search and rescue dogs during environmental disasters.  The family also founded “Artful Hearts” which supplies murals to organizations that work to help children with life threatening health issues. 

Wright Customer Home/Wright Engineers and more than 500 volunteers will participate in the rebuild of the home at Rainbow and Ann Road in Northwest Las Vegas.  During the rebuild, Extreme Makeover: Home Edition will be collecting food donations at the spectator area of the construction sight to benefit Three Square.  

Three Square is a Southern Nevada food distribution hub that to date, has distributed more than 10 million pounds of food to families in need.

Extreme Makeover: Home Edition airs Sundays at 8 p.m. on ABC affiliate KTNV Channel 13 in Las Vegas.

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Las Vegas Visitor & Tourism Stats Down

On  March 10, the Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority reported that potentially $131,600, 000 was lost in non-gaming revenue in the past 90 days resulting from 340 event cancellations and 236,700 lost room nights and untold amounts of casino betting.  January results, though, showed Nevada collected $47 million, a 42.4 percent drop from a year ago, and the 13th straight month gaming revenues have declined. 

Las Vegas visitors in January were fewer than 2.8 million people, a decrease of 11.8 percent from a year ago, yielding a 71.9 percent average occupancy citywide in January. 

A survey conducted by the authority reported 60 percent of Las Vegas resort operators think 2009 convention and meeting attendance will fall further than it did last year when business travel was down 5 percent.  That could spell trouble for the estimated 46,000 people in Las Vegas who have jobs relating to this business sector. 

Las Vegas boosters and the business travel industry blamed President Obama and his defenders, in part, for exacerbating recession-related travel declines by suggesting companies that hold events in appealing destinations could be in line for public shaming.

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St Patrick’s Day Celebrations in Henderson, Nevada

The 43rd Annual Sons of Erin St. Patrick’s Day Parade and Festival will be held March 12-15 in Henderson, Nevada.  The daily carnival at the Henderson Events Plaza, 200 Water Street, will have rides and games with a portion of the stpatricksproceeds going to Positively Kids.  Positively Kids offers services and programs to assist medically fragile children in the Las Vegas valley and is the charity benefiting from this year Sons of Erin St. Patrick Day celebration.

So whether you’re interested in a free concert sponsored by Phil Flowers Productions, want to spend an evening at the Irish Pub, enjoy carnival rides, or simply enjoy the spectacle and spectacular of the annual St. Patricks Day parade (scheduled for 8 a.m. Saturday, March 14), come on down and help turn Water Street green!

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ShoWest Awardees Announced

“Where does one begin when referring to Michael Caine,” said Mitch Neuhauser, ShoWest co-managing director.  “With over five decades of films to his credit, Michael Caine has quietly commanded the screen in well over 100 roles. He simply does it all, and he does it all so incredibly well be it comedy, drama or action. With such films as ‘Alfie,’ michael-caine‘Funeral in Berlin,’ ‘Sleuth,’ ‘The Man Who Would Be King,’ ‘Educating Rita,’ ‘Hannah & Her Sisters,’ ‘The Cider House Rules,’ ‘The Quiet American,’ and of course, ‘The Dark Knight,’ Michael Caine’s diversity has accorded him this incredible ability to draw movie audiences in worldwide throughout his career. We could not be more honored to present this brilliant actor with the ShoWest Lifetime Achievement Award.” 

Michael Caine will receive the ShoWest Lifetime Achievement Award at ShoWest’s Final Night Banquet and Award Ceremony at Bally’s and the Paris Hotel in Las Vegas on Thursday, April 2.  

Also being recognized at the 2009 ShoWest event are Zack Snyder as the ShoWest 2009 Director of the Year Award, Zac Efron – ShoWest 2009 Breakthrough Performer of the Year Award (previous Las Vegas Backstage Access article), Bradley Cooper – ShoWest 2009 Comedy Star of the Year Award, Sienna Miller – ShoWest Supporting Actress of the Year and Chris Pine – ShoWest Male Star of Tomorrow (previous Las Vegas Backstage Access article).  

Kerasotes Showplace Theatres Chairman and CEO Tony Kerasotes and President and Chief Operating Officer Dean Kerasotes, will also be honored as the “ShoWesters of the Year” at the 2009 convention.

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Lindsay Lohan Goes Bonkers in Las Vegas

lindsaylohan1With Paris Hilton’s 28th birthday celebration just this past Saturday, March 7 and all her zany friends and guests showing up at Body English nightclub in the Hard Rock Hotel and Casino in Las Vegas, we at Las Vegas Backstage Access predicted it wouldn’t be long until her other buds would soon follow suit. 

We were right. 

Lindsay Lohan joined her girlfriend Samantha Ronson in the DJ booth at Prive nightclub at the Planet Hollywood Resort in Las Vegas on March 9.   Later, Ronson was seen taking off in a car at the valet about 3:15 a.m. and a few moments later a “visibly upset” Lohan retrieved her car and took off racing after Ronson.  No other cars, thankfully, received any bruises. 

Now, for the hat-trick- we really need some kitchy Las Vegas antics from Britney Spears.  But who knows, maybe her Circus tour is tiring her out?

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Steve Wynn Calls it Quits

Las Vegas Backstage Access has been covering this story since the inception and has now confirmed that the Las Vegas casino mogul Steve Wynn’s marriage is all but over- for the second time.  A divorce petition was filed in Clark County Court in Las Vegas on March 5. steveelainewynn

On the surface, everything appeared good.  The Wynn’s celebrated the gala opening in late December of his newest $2.3 billion, 2,034-room casino gem, Encore Las Vegas.   Then, in January, Harry Connick Jr. was in Las Vegas and partied hearty with Steve and Elaine Wynn, serenading them with such memorable Frank Sinatra songs as, “Luck Be A Lady,” and “Here’s to the Losers” during Wynn’s 67th birthday celebration in Las Vegas. 

But during these gala and festive times, details largely hidden from prying eyes, the founder, chairman, and CEO of Wynn Resorts marriage to his wife, Elaine, was already on the rocks- Steve was in the midst of separating from his wife, a former Miss Miami Beach in 1960, and significant contributor to Wynn’s enterprises.

Wynn’s roving eye attracted British socialite Andrea Danenza Hissom, a 40-something divorced mother of two teenage sons, who was married to London-based investment broker Robert Davis Hissom.  It was the best of times- and the worst to times. The lovebirds were spotted in the posh Swiss ski resort of St. Moritz and also enjoying the sun’s rays while rendezvousing on Wynn’s yacht on the Carribean island of St. Bart’s. 

Meanwhile, Elaine kept a stuff upper lip, denying divorce rumors at all turns. 

Steve Wynn married Elaine in 1963 and they divorced in 1986, but married again in 1991. They have two children.

Hardship and controversy is no stranger to the Wynn’s.  Steve and Elaine Wynn were also victims of a kidnapping – one of their daughters was taken for ransom in 1993. She was returned after the Wynn’s paid $1.45 million to the kidnappers.  The culprits were later caught when they tried to buy a Ferrari with the moola. 

Wynn’s fortune was estimated at around $3.9 billion before our economy tanked.

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Extreme Makeover: Home Edition Rolls into Las Vegas, Benefits Three Square

For the fifth season of Extreme Makeover: Home Edition, Ty Pennigton and his TV crew are bringing their production trucks back to Las Vegas.  And this time they won’t just be assisting a local family but also aiding the Las Vegas Three Square food bank. ty-pennington

On March 3 Extreme Makeover: Home Edition had their kick-off rally that took place at the Fremont Street Experience, complete with warm words from Las Vegas Mayor Oscar Goodman.  Wright Custom Homes is overseeing the new Las Vegas build and even though there are more than 500 laborers ready to assist, they are still accepting volunteers to work on the current project. 

During season two of the series, in 2004, Las Vegas resident Patricia Brodbent’s home near Cheyenne and Webster was transformed by the ABC home improvement program.   Brodbent, a single mother recovering from cancer, has adopted several children with various medical issues including HIV.  And the ability to live her dream all began with a knock on the door. 

On March 10 in Las Vegas there will be another knock on the front door of a valley home and another family will have their life changed forever.  In the rapid action style of the show, demolition is scheduled for March 12 with the project planned for completion just 2 weeks later. 

During the rebuild, Extreme Makeover: Home Edition will be collecting food donations at the spectator area of the construction sight to benefit Three Square.  Three Square is a Southern Nevada food distribution hub that to date, has distributed more than 10 million pounds of food to families in need. 

Extreme Makeover: Home Edition airs Sunday’s at 8 p.m. on ABC affiliate KTNV Channel 13.

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Hope for Las Vegas Culture is Not Gone

Unless your idea of museum culture happens to be a new Mob Museum, as staunchly supported by Las Vegas Mayor Oscar Goodman, the picking in the Las Vegas Valley are becoming sparse to get that old time museum feeling.  

The Las Vegas Art Museum, which opened in 1997, has closed a couple of weeks ago and has joined the growing roster of cultural institutions that have suspended their operations in the face of a weakening economy.   Following suit, the plans for an upscale art gallery and museum proposed for downtown Las Vegas were nixed after being in the works for years. 

But, don’t give up the museum culture ship just yet.  Down south of Las Vegas in Henderson, Nevada the 15-year-old idea to build a science museum has taken a step closer to become a reality.    The Henderson City Council on February 17 approved an initial plan for a 51,600-square-foot museum on 150 city-owned acres near U.s. 95 and Galleria Drive. 

With most Henderson residents supporting such a museum, it would be the centerpiece of a mixed-use development that would likely include restaurants, retail space, and condominiums. 

Last year the City of Henderson paid $200,000 to consultants for advice on what kind of museum would best suit the area. 

The museum would likely focus on “scientific accomplishments and issues in Southern Nevada” and would cost about $61 million and could draw 300,000 visitors annually, the consultants said. 

The next step toward a museum is to adopt a master plan for the area, which would outline zoning changes and designs.  That would take about five months for the staff to create a plan to show the Henderson City Council.

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Las Vegas Leads Nation in Nightclub, Bar and Lounge Revenue

The post-mortem is in for what’s commonly referred to as “The Show,” and what’s officially known as the annual Nightclub & Bar Convention & Trade Show, part of the International Hospitality Week, that was held last week for four days, March 1 though  4,  in Las Vegas. nightclub2

But The Show was definitely not dead – and nobody was spotted reading any last rites- especially great news in our sour, but always sweet Las Vegas economy.  Thousands of bar and nightclub conventioneers, though, literally hoisted-elbow-to-elbow, packing the Las Vegas Convention Center to check out the large array of new bar products and equipment from around the country and, of course, taste scrumptious food samples and imbibe on out-of-this-world libations. 

The good news is that Las Vegas represented the largest-volume of independent nightclubs, bars, and lounges in the United States for 2008.  Bad economy or not, Las Vegas proved once again that successful bar and nightclub operations is an art and science revenue reality:  Las Vegas is the home of 21 of the top 100 nightclubs and bars in the nation, drawing in a combined revenue from $360 million to $570 million in 2008.   Further adding to the prestigious ranking, Las Vegas was home to 6 of the top 10 venues. 

“Clearly, Las Vegas maintains its dominance as a nightclub destination,” says David Henkes, vice president of Technomic and leader of the firm’s adult beverage practice. 

Such are the findings of the primary and secondary research study undertaken by Nightclub & Bar magazine and Chicago-based market research firm Technomic, Inc., who partnered together to develop the first revenue-based listing of top-producing independent nightclubs, bars and lounges in the nation. 

The survey used to develop the Top 100 list showed that 60 percent of respondents experienced increases in total revenues in 2008; only 11 percent experienced sales decline and 29 percent reported no change from 2007. 

On average, alcohol accounted for 71 percent of total revenues, with cocktails generating the lion’s share of drink sales – 52 percent – and beer and spirits contributing 38 percent and 10 percent, respectively.  Food sales accounted for an average of seven percent of venue sales. 

Henkes projects that nightclubs, bars and lounges will fare better than their casual dining colleagues in the face of the continued downward economic spiral.   However, he cautioned that as unemployment rises and the recession continues to impact more and more consumers, the young adult demographic that favors these independent nightclubs, bars and lounges will likely curb their discretionary spending. 

“To succeed in 2009, operators will need a clear value proposition:  understand why people come to your venue and deliver an experience they can’t get elsewhere,” Henkes affirms.  “In the best of times, it’s difficult to keep a hot club hot – many of these Top 100 clubs have done so continuously for years – but all bar operators will need to work smart to keep going and growing.  Each individual concept needs to continuously reinvent itself to stay fresh for today’s customer, who is becoming more discerning in where they spend their entertainment dollars.” 

To wet your whistle, here’s the ranking of Las Vegas venues from the nation’s Top 100 revenue 2008 listing :  Tao Nightclub (1) – pictured in inset, Tryst (2), Pure (4), Jet (5), The Bank Nightclub (7), LAX (8), Body English (11), Moon Nightclub (12), ghostbar (13), Prive (17), Playboy Club (21), Drais After Hours (22), Christina Audigier (27), rumjungle (28), Studio 54 (29), Blush (31), Rain in the Desert (35), Stoney’s Rockin Country Bar (38), Krave Nightclub (44), Tabu Ultra Lounge (60), and Poetry Nightclub (79). 

Bottom’s up- here’s hoping for a good bar and nightclub 2009 performance.

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Trekkies Eagerly Await Las Vegas Rebirth

For ten years, Trekkies made their regular pilgrimages to the Las Vegas Hilton visiting the Star Trek the Experience exhibit.   They would belly up to the Quarks bar and meet Borg in a 4-D ride with Captain Kathryn Janeway.  True fansstartrek1 would spend hours checking out the exhibits and reviewing the video timelines before embarking on a time-traveling shuttle ride.  But with declining attendance and increasing costs, the decision was made by the Cedar Fair Entertainment Company to decommission the Experience on September 1, 2008. 

Now, five months later, it has been announced that the Neonopolis, a three-story shopping center at the entrance of The Fremont Street Experience, will be the new home of Star Trek in Las Vegas.  Neonopolis current tenants include the Galaxy movie theatres and Jillian’s restaurant. 

The Quark-like restaurant and retail shop will hopefully be in business by the planned May 8 opening night of the latest movie in the Star Trek saga.  However, the expectation is that the Star Trek museum and rides won’t be ready until 2010.

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Tourism Leaders Want Stop to Las Vegas Business Travel Bad-Mouthing

Enough of the business event convention bashing say the leaders for the U.S. Travel Association.  They are fighting back against a severe tourism tumble in a new advertising campaign launched Wednesday to fight negative publicity brought about by the recession and made worse by bad-mouthing from a handful of members of Congress and President Obama. 

While those remarks were aimed at trips taken by companies that have accepted federal bailout dollars, tourism leaders say the fallout is pervasive and has spread throughout the corporate world.  “A climate of fear is killing (destination) communities, and it has to stop,” says Roger Dow, president of the U.S. Travel Association. 

The result has been millions of dollars in meetings and events are being cut back, canceled or merely being left in the planning stages. 

Las Vegas is a major victim, expecting to lose $20 million in trips from Fortune 500 clients alone. 

A recent survey by Meetings and Conventions Magazine showed that more than 20 percent of companies that have not received bailout money have canceled their events, with fear of bad publicity reportedly a big factor.  “What has occurred is we have a witch hunt mentality, and this has a huge cost, not just in dollars, but for the people who work in the industry,” says Dow. 

“Stop bad-mouthing Las Vegas and stop telling businesses and major companies to stay away from Las Vegas.  You are hurting our economy, you’re forcing major layoffs of employees in the hotel industry,” says Rep. Shelley Berkley, D-Nev.  

The new advertising campaign by the U.S. Travel Association is aimed at toning down the rhetoric and to detail punitive bills.  One such bill proposed last week by Sen. John Kerry, D-Mass, would prevent bailed out banks from “hosting, sponsoring, or paying for conferences, holiday parties, and other entertainment events.”

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Elvis is Back in the House

There are Elvis impersonators aplenty in Las Vegas, but one of the most popular is Trent Carlini.  Starting this Monday, March 9, Carlini will be officially launching “Elvolution” for seven shows each week in Steve Wryick’s magic theater in the Miracle Mile Shops at Planet Hollywood in Las Vegas. trentcarlini

Carlini, who came to Las Vegas in 1990, performing in “Legends in Concert” for six years, then followed for five years in “The Dream Kings” in the Boardwalk, says the “Elvolution” title is about how much Elvis fandom has evolved since Elvis’ death in 1977.  “People are actually appreciating the (tribute) artist’s talent other than enjoying the Elvis music.  People recognize me more as a talent more than someone just hiding behind a mask.”

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Happy Birthday, Paris Hilton!

Paris Hilton’s 28th birthday celebration is this weekend in Las Vegas at the Body English nightclub inside the Hard parishiltonRock Hotel and Casino on Saturday, March 7th  and she is inviting 50 of her closest Hollywood friends. The social maven is always controversial.  Earlier in February she received THREE losing awards at the Razzies, a spoof on the Oscars.  However, Parlux Fragrances just named Hilton as their celebrity of the year, where she will be honored on May 27 in New York.

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Las Vegas World Movie Premier: “Ace Ventura Jr.: Pet Detective” on March 8

Celebrities galore plan to walk the “green carpet” for the world movie premiere of “Ace Ventura Jr.: Pet ace-venturaDetective” on Sunday at Noon (line forms at 10 a.m.) at the Springs Preserve at 333 S. Valley View Blvd. in Las Vegas. 

The event, sponsored by Johnny Brenden (Brenden Theatres at the Palms) and the Palms Casino Resort in Las Vegas, features celebrity hosts Ryan Malgarini (CBS’ Gary Unmarried) and Brittany Curran (Legally Blondes).  And walking the carpet from the film will be Josh Flitter (Nancy Drew, License to Wed), Emma Lockhart (Batman Begins), Austin Rogers (Drillbit Taylor), Reed Alexander (Nickelodeon’s iCarly), Adam Hicks (How to Eat Fried Worms, Shaggy Dog), Hunter Clary (Fuel, The Transporter II, Meet the Spartans) and Dan Curtis Lee (Upcoming Zeke & Luther, Ned’s Classified School Survival Guide). 

Attendees can receive autographs from their favorite celebrities and then all are invited to a special movie showing at the venue. 

The movie follows the Ace Ventura motion picture series made popular by Jim Carrey.  Actor Josh Flitter, 12, plays Ace Jr., the son of the eccentric detective who steps into his father’s shoes after his mother is wrongly arrested for stealing a baby panda.  The movie provides a new generation of family fun and goof-brained comedy panda-monium as Ace Ventura Jr. teams with adventurous girl-next-door Laura (Emma Lockhart) and nerdish gizmo-wiz A-Plus (Austin Rogers) to chase down leads and laughs.

Ready for fun? Allriiiighty-then. Ace – Ace Jr. is on the case!

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Star Power Provides Fundraising Power for ‘Keep Memory Alive’ Lou Ruvo Benefit in Las Vegas

Ka-ching, ka-ching. . . the revenue results have been tabulated for last Saturday’s “Keep Memory Alive” fundraising benefit at the Bellagio in Las Vegas for the new Cleveland Clinic Lou Ruvo Center for Brain Health.  In a choking recession, Keep Memory Alive has cleared a cool $10 million for the event, including one $5 million donation, two $1 million donations.  That brings the grand total to more than $75 million raised by the organization since it started 13 years ago. 

The event’s huge success could have been attributed to many reasons: Siegfried & Roy’s supposed final performance, the gala ambiance, the scrumptious food prepared by celebrity chefs galore, or was it the free-flowing Dom Perignon? Maybe it was the auctioned trip to David Copperfield’s Bahamas estate, hosted by the magician, which went for $60,000?  Could the success be attributed to the gaggle of celebrities in attendance including Teri Hatcher, Hilary Duff, Danny DeVito and his wife, Rhea Perlman, comic actor (and former Riviera entertainment director) Steve Schirripa, Muhammed Ali, Kristin Davis, and Jane’s Addiction front man Perry Ferrell?

Tossing conjectures aside, the gala highlighted Keep Memory Alive’s team coordination and fundraising prowess to bring about an heightened awareness to brain disorder diseases – Alzeimer’s alone afflicts about 5.2 million Americans – and raise money in Las Vegas in a down economy for a great cause.

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Brande Roderick Walks Tao Nightclub Red Carpet in Las Vegas

If you missed Brande Roderick showing up in stylish fashion on the red carpet on Friday evening to host the Tao Brande Rodericknightclub in the Venetian Hotel & Casino in Las Vegas, we’ve included a fresh Vegas Backstage Access photo for your viewing pleasure.   And we asked again if she was going to be a winner on “Celebrity Apprentice” and again we got the cold shoulder.  But…a trivia question of the day: Who was the first “Baywatch” TV cast member that was also a PPOTY (Playboy Playmate of the Year)?  Erika Eleniak? Must be Pamela Anderson!  Nope – the first Baywatch babe to be the Playboy Playmate of the Year was Brande Roderick.   And now she’s the second PPOTY to participate in the Donald Trump’s “Celebrity Apprentice” TV show.  Brande has already done better than season one apprentice Tiffany Fallon, who was ‘fired’ in episode one.

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Brande Roderick Next ‘Celebrity Apprentice’?

branderoderickDonald Trump through contract provisions isn’t letting the Playboy model, film star, and entrepreneur tell for certain if she’ll be one of the two finalists left standing in “The Celebrity Apprentice” when The Donald makes a decision in the live May TV finale.    

Although Brande Roderick, tonight’s celebrity “host’ at Tao nightclub inside the Venetian in Las Vegas, says she has no idea if she’ll be selected, she added that Trump “never yelled at me.”  Could this be her subtle prediction?

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Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority Delays Convention Center Renovations

An $890 million planned Las Vegas Convention Center renovation that was once deemed to be vital for the Las Vegas tourism industry and economy is very likely to be put on official hold. lasvegasconventioncenter

On Thursday, the LVCVA said they would seek to suspend the project at least to the middle of 2010. 

LVCVA chairman and Las Vegas mayor Oscar Goodman called the delay practical, sighting the declining room tax revenue in Clark County, the authority’s primary income source, and other economic declines. 

The original convention center expansion proposal called for dramatic upgrades to the Las Vegas Convention Center’s façade and common spaces.  It would have increased the gross square footage from 3.2 million square feet to 3.8 million square feet that would have increased critical high demand convention areas including available meeting spaces, restaurants, food service, and taxi spaces. 

Jeremy Aguero of the economics research firm Applied Analysis said the suspension is an unfortunate reflection of the state of the economy.  In 2007, he prepared a report that said without improvements to the convention center, Las Vegas would lose $5 billion in convention-related economic activity. 

Las Vegas is the nation’s top location for trade shows and conventions.  It hosts 44 of the nation’s top 200 conventions and tradeshows, according to Tradeshow Week magazine.  Orlando is a distant second with 24. 

Goodman says he’s hopeful that work on the convention center renovation can resume in 2010.

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‘This is It’ Says Michael Jackson

As reported by Vegas Backstage Access a couple of times in the recent past, there was a strong indication that there would soon be a Michael Jackson tour announced.  Now it’s official:  The self-proclaimed 50-year-old King of Pop announced on Thursday at a London news conference that he will have a series of 10 performances – the ‘This-is- It’ tour – at the 20,000-seat London’s O2 Arena, beginnning July 8.  

After taking a 4 ½ hour physical from concert promoters’ doctors, Jackson was declared fit as a fiddle to perform.  Then he came out and told his fans that this would be his last concert in England, leaving the door open, perhaps, for concerts elsewhere.  

The shows would mark Jackson’s first major performances since 2001 and 2002, when he appeared at a pair of 30th anniversary celebrations and two benefit concerts.  His brief appearance at the World Music Awards in 2006 was booed by some audience members.  Jackson’s last extended performances were for the HIStory tour in 1996-97 that had 82 performances. 

There is still hope for Las Vegas performances, though.  While Jackson has expressed little interest in a long-term Las Vegas deal because of the rigorous demands, he has always thought of Vegas as a last stop for fading stars.  And remember that the Los Angeles-based AEG, which manages and books The 02 and also sets deals with The Colosseum at Caesars Palace.  AEG reportedly has a deal for more than triple the 10 dates that were announced.

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Louis Prima’s Jazz Lives On This Weekend in Las Vegas

lenaprimaIt’s been three decades since the legendary jazzman Louis Prima passed on, but his music still lives on through his daughter, Lena.  louisprima4Lena Prima, 45, will be performing a tribute concert to her late father at the Cannery in Las Vegas at 8 p.m. this Friday and Saturday. 

Louis Prima helped spearhead the acceptance of New Orleans jazz in the 1920s and big band in the ’40s.  By the ’50s and through the ’60s, he had a wildly popular lounge act in Las Vegas.  Prima was known as much for his sense of fun as for his excellent skills as a jazzman. 

Younger audiences continue to come to him via “Just a Gigola/I Ain’t got Nobody,” a chart success by David Lee Roth in the ’80s, and “Jump, Jive an’ Wail,” which the Brian Setzer Orchestra featured a decade later.

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Siegfried & Roy’s ABC Special Airs this Friday, March 6

If you were not among the 1,100 guests paying upwards of $7,500 for a ticket at the Bellagio last Saturday evening in Las Vegas when the Keep Memory Alive organization had their gala fundraiser for the Cleveland Clinic Lou Ruvo siegried2Center for Brain Health that featured the supposedly last performance from Las Vegas iconic entertainers Siegfried & Roy, there’s still hope.  And even if you did attend, it’s well worth it to watch the hour-long “20/20” news magazine special on “Siegfried & Roy:  The Magic Returns” that airs at 9 p.m. this Friday, March 5, on KTNV-TV, Channel 13. 

ABC News’ Elizabeth Vargas visits with Roy Horn and Siegfried Fischbacher in their Las Vegas home and hears about the grueling five years endured by both of them since Montecore, the massive white Bengal tiger, mauled Horn during a 2003 performance at The Mirage.  Siegfried went through ‘caregivers syndrome’ – when people who take care of other forget to take care of themselves – and is reported on as well.

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ShoWest to Honor Zac Efron as Breakthrough Performer of the Year in Las Vegas

High School Musical star Zac Efron will be recognized as ShoWest 2009 Breakthrough Performer of the Year at the zacefronannual Las Vegas event during the Final Night Banquet and Award Ceremony on April 2 at Bally’s and Paris in Las Vegas. 

Efron’s first appearance at ShoWest was as Nicky Blonsky’s love interest Link Larkin in the 2007 movie Hairspray.  He is best known as Troy Bolton, acting in three Disney High School Musical films. 

Mitch Neuhauser, co-managing director of the event, said, “[Efron’s] undeniable onscreen presence and charm have connected with fans around the world, and with the impending release of the comedy ’17 Again,’ Zac Efron is poised to break out as a true Hollywood star.”

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Michael Jackson Expected To Announce $10 Million Performance Deal on March 5

Michael Jackson has reportedly returned to London yesterday to launch his comeback.  The 50-year-old debt-ridden King of Pop, who has been living in Las Vegas for the better part of two years while entertaining many performance offers, is scheduled to make a “special announcement” March 5 at The 02 Arena in London.  michael-jacskon2

Jackson will reportedly perform 10 concerts for a reported $10 million.  

The Los Angeles-based AEG Live, who operates The O2, has reportedly booked the deal.  If the shows are well-received and attended, and Jackson can make the commitments, the deal could extend to a total of 20 to 30 performances, at up to $1 million per show. 

AEG also has a strong Las Vegas connection.  Could it be that he will perform here too?

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Station Casinos Rejects Boyd Gaming Buyout Offer

Station Casinos’ board of directors yesterday rejected Boyd Gaming Corporation’s unsolicited $950 million offer for a majority of Station’s property assets.  

Station Casinos, owner of 13 casino properties, cited their reasons of rejection were because of the “highly conditional nature” of Boyd Gaming’s offer, as well as the risks “in sharing sensitive and confidential information with a significant competitor.”  

Station’s rejection came on the same day they announced they had reached agreements with most of its debt holders to extend a deadline to vote on their bankruptcy proposal.  The agreement gives Station Casinos and their debt holders until April 10 to vote on the proposed debt swap and restructuring.

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MGM Mirage Tapped Out?

What a difference a short time can make in a volatile economy.  Months ago the MGM Mirage had billions of dollars of cash at its disposal, supposedly well insulated for the recession.  Now they are painting a continuing bleak and mgmmiragegloomy picture.   The MGM Mirage tapped last week their remaining $842 million in cash under their $4.5 billion revolving credit line because of the turbulent credit market markets and the “uncertain state of the global economy.” 

On Monday the MGM Mirage stock plummeted to an all-time low of about $3 per share, down about 95 percent from a year ago. 

Despite agreeing to sell the Treasure Island to former New Frontier owner Phil Ruffin for $775 million in December, the MGM Mirage, the Strip’s biggest casino operator, leading entertainment provider, and Nevada’s largest private employer could be facing a bankruptcy Chapter 11 filing if it can’t renegotiate better payment terms with its lenders covering some $7 billion in their outstanding loans.  The MGM Mirage has a little more $1 billion in cash remaining on their balance sheet. 

And if MGM Mirage lenders are not flexible in payment restructuring, also at risk is their new $9.1 billion CityCenter project that has a final $1.2 billion payment owed.   The project has been planned to open in October, with the 4,004-room Aria, the centerpiece hotel-casino, scheduled to open in December. 

Like most other Las Vegas casino operators, MGM Mirage has undertaken numerous cost-cutting and debt restructuring measures over the past year.  But, so far, none have brought them the much needed financial relief.   Talks on a variety of other debt restructuring schemes continue including selling some of their 10 Strip hotel-casinos, other properties, or, failing that, sell part of their CityCenter project and perhaps negotiate with Dubai World, already a 50 percent owner in the project that has invested almost $6 billion, for Dubai assuming a greater ownership stake.

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19th Annual Epicurean Affair Returns to Las Vegas on April 23

The 19th annual Epicurean Affair, sponsored by the Nevada Hotel & Lodging Association, the Nevada Restaurant Association and Flamingo Las Vegas, returns for its fourth consecutive year on April 23 at 6 p.m. to the Flamingo in epicureanLas Vegas.

Long considered the Las Vegas culinary event of the year, the Epicurean Affair allows guests the opportunity to sample delicious food, wine and cocktails at the Flamingo’s 15-acre tropical oasis, represented by more than 100 of Las Vegas’ top bars and AAA, Michelin, Mobil and James Beard Foundation award-winning restaurants and chefs.  General admission is $100 per person.  For info, call the Flamingo Box Office at (702) 733-3333.

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Atlatl Throwing Anyone?

The Valley of Fire State Park, located about 15 miles north of Las Vegas, is known for its vibrant red sandstone atlatllandscape with a variety of rock formations including natural arches.  But for real special treat on March 27 through 29 The World Atlatl Association is having a atlatl contest there where you can watch serious competitors and amateurs try their hand and muscle with the ancient weapon- a simple stick cleverly designed to hurl a spear with great force – from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. daily at the Atlatl Rock Picnic Area in the Valley of Fire.  

The park entrance fee is $6 per vehicle.  For more information, call 702-397-2088 or http://parks.nv.gov/vf.htm  Don’t forget your camera.

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Elton John Belts Out Last Beat on April 22 in Las Vegas …241 Performances & 3 Years Later

Sir Elton John started out as a limited run scheduled for just 75 shows over 3 years.  But as the lights went down on elton-johnthe first Elton John Red Piano performance at Caesars Palace on February 14, 2004, it became clear that this wasn’t going to be just a normal Vegas revue gig.  And it wasn’t the David LaChappelle photography, the inflatable banana’s and cherries or the actual red piano center piece that made his Las Vegas performances stand out.  It was the music, performed by Sir Elton John and his band that routinely drew his fans to his sold out show. 

Now, 241 performances later, Sir Elton John will say good-bye to the Coliseum at Caesars Palace on April 22, 2009. 

Sir Elton John’s career began in 1961 as a member of the band Bluesology.  In 1967 he started working with Bernie Taupin and a legendary music industry relationship was born.  After his 1970 self-titled debut album there followed a long string of critical and financial successes.  From 70’s hits like the perpetually popular “Your Song” to “Good-bye Yellow Brick Road” to 80’s favorites “Empty Garden” and “I’m Still Standing,” Sir Elton John and his who’s who cache of co-writers and producers have entertained audiences around the world.  

In 1992 Sir Elton John established the Elton John Aids Foundation to help find a cure for HIV.  To date, this organization has raised more than $150 million and actively works in 55 countries offering support services and treatment options to those living with HIV/AIDS. 

Also in the 1990’s Sir Elton John began another somewhat magical musical relationship when he collaborated with Tim Rice on Disney’s ‘Lion King’ soundtrack.  He earned a Grammy and his first Oscar for “Can You Feel the Love Tonight” and went on to work with Rice on the Broadway hit ‘Aida.’

While performing at Caesars these last five years in Las Vegas, Sir Elton John has shared the Coliseum Theater with Celine Dion, Cher and Bette Midler.  In late 2008 he took the Red Piano on the road, touring Europe with the show before returning to Las Vegas for the final Caesar’s performances.

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Myleene Klass getting hitched in Las Vegas?

Now magazine reports that the TV personality is keeping her options open. Myleene Klass and fiancé Graham Quinn intend to become man and wife one day – just not yet. myleene

“I know that Gray is The One and the feeling that we are partners for life is so strong,” says Myleene, adding, “But I’m less and less enthusiastic about a big white wedding because I already go to plenty of sit-down dinners and wear so many white dresses for work.  I have a feeling that ours may be in Las Vegas. Or a party in the garden with fairy lights in the trees and a fish-and-chip supper for the reception.” 

10 Years Younger  TV host Myleene, 30, met Graham when he was Hear Say’s bodyguard and they’re now parents to 18-month-old daughter Ava.  “We’ve been together for 6 years now and everyone keeps nagging us to get married,’ she tells Hello!  “But it’ll happen in time. There are other things to do first.”

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Las Vegas Native Kyle Busch Wins NASCAR Shelby 427 at Las Vegas Motor Speedway

For any athlete it’s a dream come true when they have a major win in their hometown.  On Sunday the dream came true for 23-year-old NASCAR racer and Las Vegas native Kyle Busch when he celebrated his first win in six career Sprint Cup starts at the Las Vegas Motor Speedway, racing to victory in his Toyota No. 18, sponsored by M&M’s. 

Busch performed his feat with gusto and racing mastery.  Racing before a near capacity 140,000 fervent fans at the speedway, he started deeper in the 43-car field than any of the event’s previous 12 winners. 

“I tell you what, this is pretty cool,” the Durango High School graduate said.  “I don’t exactly what it would mean but coming to the checkered flag, there were knots in my stomach.  It’s bigger than winning the Daytona 500.” 

After winning the race, Busch kneeled at the finishing line and kissed the track.

 It was Busch’s first Cup win of the season, and the 12th in 153 races.

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$1 Billion M Resort Grand Opening in Las Vegas

M-irage, M-andalay Bay, and M-GM Grand…M Resort Opens

And now – drum roll, please – a brand new Las Vegas “M”:   At 10 p.m. on Sunday, M-arch 1, the M-arnell family rolled their economic dice,  threw caution to the wind, as their 1,800 happily employed employees officially opened their new doors to 4,000 eager guests.   Opening fanfare included a fireworks and water and fire show to highlight their $1 billion M Resort and Casino grand opening.   Actually, it’s not even located in Las Vegas but on South Las Vegas Boulevard in Henderson, Nevada about 9 miles south of the Welcome to Las Vegas sign on the Strip.  The latest star to the Vegas resort landscape is being promoted as the best sta-cation destination for Las Vegas Valley locals and visitors that want to get off the well-traveled Las Vegas casino corridor.  

The first feature visitors to The M Resort casino floor will notice is the natural lighting.  That’s right – there are skylights on the casino floor that shine the Las Vegas sun down on the 92,000 square feet of video poker, slot machines and gaming tables including the M Resort’s own Jewelry Box Slots.  

Each of the 390 guest rooms offer floor-to-ceiling windows with incredible Strip and desert views.  And unlike most Strip hotels, the M Resort offers free resort wide wi-fi, in-room iPod docking stations and nightly turn-down service. 

M Resort OpensTheir 100,000-square-foot pool is incredible, providing a feeling of being in a canyon. 

Guests may also indulge in the luxuriating Organic Oasis Wrap at Spa Mio, dine at Marinelli’s Italian restaurant (one of nine restaurants) and enjoy a concert at the Villaggio Del Sole or in the Ravello lounge.  From the Hostile Grape wine cellar to the Babycakes Artisan Bakery to the 60,000 square feet of meeeting space – the M Resort is sure to have a taste that will entice you to stay.

 The M Resort come late fourth quarter 2009 will be joined in Las Vegas by the new $2.9 billion planned Fountainebleau resort and the $8.6 billion CityCenter project.

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Jonas Brothers ‘Stealth’ Into Las Vegas, Then Vanish

The teen idol Jonas Brothers stealthily arrived in Las Vegas on Sunday afternoon, when many were watching the NASCAR Shelby 427 race at the Las Vegas Motor Speedway, with a yearning to watch their 3-D concert.    jonasbrothers

The virginal Disney pop trio flew to Las Vegas and rode to the nearest movie theater, Rave Motion Pictures in Town Square.   The group, girdled by handlers, said hi to the teens that leapt from their theater seats, but then were gone in less than a minute.  Oh well.

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Illusionists Siegfried & Roy – & Career-Ending White Bengal Tiger -Take Final Las Vegas Curtain Call

Future performances from iconic Las Vegas illusionists Siegfried and Roy – and the white Bengal tiger that ended their prior careers – are, sadly, over.  siegfried

For their last hurrah the trio shared the stage on February 28 at the Bellagio Hotel and Casino in Las Vegas for their haunting final performance for the 13th annual “Power of Love” gala benefit for the Keep Memory Alive organization, proceeds going to the Cleveland Clinic Lou Ruvo Center for Brain Health in Las Vegas. 

Hosted by Robin Leach, in the audience were Teri Hatcher, Leeza Gibbons, Hilary Duff, Danny DeVito and his wife, Rhea Perlman, comic actor (and former Riviera entertainment director) Steve Schirripa, Muhammed Ali, Kristin Davis, and Jane’s Addiction front man Perry Ferrell.

The gala began by feasting on mouth-watering cuisine from chef’s Todd English, Wolfgang Puck, David Robins, Martin Heierling, and Jean-Philippe Maury. 

Then the abbreviated charity show saw Roy Horn and Siegfried Fischbacher side by side with Montecore, the massive white tiger that brutally mauled Horn during a 2003 performance.

Horn re-emerged Saturday dressed in a Gothic-style black-and-white robe, his face covered with a skeletal mask. The dark stage was covered in smoke.  Horn limped slowly onstage, often steadying himself on Fischbacher’s shoulder.

The two slowly performed a signature illusion as Fischbacher, dressed in white robes and a mask, stood inside a cage, which was cloaked in drapes.  As Horn removed the curtain seconds later, Fischbacher appeared across stage, a hulking white Bengal tiger in his place- it was Montecore.

As the crowd took to its feet, the men removed their masks and Fischbacher was standing between Montecore and Horn. They waved and blew kisses at the audience, but said nothing.

An announcer left the crowd with this final thought: “Within all of us there is an illusive melody, which when heard and followed will lead you to the fulfillment of your fondest dreams.”

On October 3, 2003, Montecore sank its teeth deep into Horn’s neck, dragging him offstage in front of a horrified audience. The illusionist, now 64, was partially paralyzed, suffering a damaged neck artery and crushed windpipe. 

After 13 years and more than 5,000 performances, the “Siegfried & Roy” show at The Mirage immediately went dark, ending one of the most successful shows in Las Vegas history.

During Horn’s long rehabilitation, though, both men remained devoted to their exotic habitat on the Las Vegas Strip. The Secret Garden and Dolphin Habitat at The Mirage hotel-casino houses lions, tigers and leopards. Fischbacher, 69, has called it Horn’s “reason to get up in the morning.”

The benefactor for the event, the Cleveland Clinic Lou Ruvo Center for Brain Health, will treat brain disorders like those Horn now suffers, is set to open later this year in a building designed by architect Frank Gehry.

An estimated $12 million was raised by the event for the Ruvo center, punctuated by  a $450,000 bid on a Rolls-Royce trimmed with the Keep Memory Alive logo, and a $5 million donation by Chuck Mathewson, CEO emeritus of IGT.   Steve and Elaine Wynn donated another $1 million.

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“Men of X” opens at Las Vegas Hooters on March 13

Joining the Las Vegas list of male G-string Las Vegas revues of “American Storm,” “Thunder from Down Under,” and mensburlesque“Chippendales: The Show” will be “Men of X” which opens at Hooters on March 13.  The six-man revue is produced by Angela and Matt Stabile, who also operate “X Burlesque” at the Flamingo.  The revue replaces comedian Bobby Slayton.

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