Category Archives: travel

Big Changes Coming to Tropicana in Las Vegas

The Tropicana’s new ownership group, headed up by former MGM Grand Inc. President and Chief Operating Officer Alex Yemenidjian, plans to spend more than $100 million in the next year to ‘”transform the Tropicana to pre-eminence,” says Yemenidjian. 

The new owners, Tropicana Las Vegas Inc., plan to remodel the hotel’s 1,876 rooms, the casino floor, two new restaurants and center bar, the showroom, convention center and the pool areas with a South Beach Miami theme.  

A new sports book, poker room, and replacing the casino’s slot machines and table games are other planned changes.  

Pedestrian bridges from Excalibur and MGM Grand to the Tropicana are also planning to be extended. 

The changes will be introduced with new marketing and entertainment programs. 

The new owners plant to take over the Tropicana’s nongaming opertions July 1, pending Armenco Holding’s approval by the Nevada Gaming Commission, which meets June 18.

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Magician Rick Thomas Brings White Tiger Act to Sahara in Las Vegas

Magician Rick Thomas and his band of white tigers will open at the Sahara on or about July 1.  Thomas has had a longRick Thomas career on the Las Vegas Strip, performing at the Tropicana and Stardust before his show at The Orleans closed in June 2007.

Thomas will do a mix of afternoon and evening shows in the theater built in 2000 by fellow magician Steve Wyrick.

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Naked Mona Lisa Secretely Hiding in Las Vegas?

An original Leonardo da Vinci painting of a topless Mona Lisa may be just locked away in Las Vegas, being tracked down by art collectors. MonaLisa

Another Sin City urban legend?  Maybe not.  The wild scenario surfaced yesterday on MSNBC’s Web site about a similar da Vinci artwork now on exhibit in the Tuscan town of Vinci, the birthplace of da Vinci in 1452. 

“The newly revealed painting, hidden for almost a century within the wood wall of a private library, shows a portrait of a half-naked women with clear links to the famous (clothed) Mona Lisa,” according to Discovery News. 

The bombshell came at the end of the article when Alessandro Vezzosi, director of Museo Ideale, the museum that housed the painting, wrote, “Our quest for naked Mona Lisas continues.  We are now on the tracks of another interesting version of Las Vegas.”

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Sneak into Las Vegas Casino/Hotel Pools for FREE!

Las Vegas tourists and residents alike enjoy splashing around in pools and trying to cool off  as temperatures hit the triple digits.  But with our economy languishing in the doldrums, it’s sometimes hard to find enough dough to pay for the experience.  So, here’s our Las Vegas Backstage Access listing of the most sneak-friendly pools in Las Vegas.  Enter at your own risk!

Tropicana – 3801 S. Las Vegas Blvd.   Start at the Reno Avenue entrance at the southwest side of the Tropicana.  It’s maybe not the classiest place, but it’s gigantic, including a swim-up bar, blackjack tables, and two separate hot tubs. 

Flamingo – 3555 S. Las Vegas Blvd.  Go in the parking garage, walk down the metal staircase, go across the street and head directly into the extremely crowded pool area.  Could be there is staff members at entrance, but usually not a problem to enter. 

Riviera – 2901 S. Las Vegas Blvd.  Their very deep pool isn’t fancy with waterfalls, bars and such, but very relaxing.  They don’t ask to see a room key to get a beach towel, just think of a name and room number and write ’em down before you enter. 

Artisan – 1501 W. Sahara Ave.  Valet park your cark and saunter through the lobby.  Features a cool grotto with foliage and comfy lounge furniture.  Not a bar at the pool, but you can use the pool phone to call the bar and a bartender will bring your cocktails poolside. 

Golden Nugget – 129 Fremont Street  Security guards stand sentry at the door, but just look like you’re going swimming, bring your own towels, and wait for families to go through and follow them.  Huge waterslide that goes through a shark tank.  Very luxurious with cushioned deck chairs and VIP areas.

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Garth Brooks Roping In New Las Vegas Deal?

As previously reported by Las Vegas Backstage Access, Garth Brooks poo-pooed any plans he had of performing in Las Vegas, supposedly working out a deal with Steve Wynn.  Was it a smokescreen?  GarthBrooks

On Monday at the Wynn Encore he had a surprise concert for 600 to 800 VIP guests.  The guests arrived at the theater to find black hats on their seats.  Out came Brooks, who put on a full concert without a band behind him. 

Some say that Brooks already has a Encore contract in his hands, but the sticking point is ticket prices.   Brooks, like Bruce Springsteen before him, apparently isn’t comfortable with “Vegas” ticket pricing- at least not yet.

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Previously Jailed Celebrity Impersonator Trina-Johnson Finn Returns to Las Vegas Home

Las Vegas celebrity impersonator Trina Johnson-Finn arrived back at McCarran International Airport in Las Vegas on Wednesday evening, reunited with her husband and realtor, Raymond Finn, and a throng of well-wishers and fellow Las Vegas celebrity tribute artists that were shouting, waving and offering up balloons and flowers, including Willie Nelson (Roy Hammock), Jimi Hendrix (Jimi Taylor), Elvis (Greg Miller), Celine Dion (Elisa Furr), and Liza Minnelli (Suzanne Goulet).  

The former backup singer for Barbara Streisand and MC Hammer was finally back, united among friends and family, 15 pounds lighter after being jailed for more than 100 days in the South American nation of Suriname, surviving on a diet of mostly rice and fish. She was recently acquitted of all charges as reported by Las Vegas Backstage Access

She was accused of fraud after a South American promoter tried passing her off as the real deal Toni Braxton. She was told she was going to lip-sync five Braxton songs at a birthday party, but instead the “party” turned out to be a full-blown concert with hundreds of people paying more than $50 a ticket.  The crowd ultimately got the ruse, became unruly, verbally abusing and pelting her with bottles before she was arrested. 

“The first thing I’m going to do is sleep.  And maybe have a cocktail,” Finn said upon her return.

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Las Vegas Adult Entertainment Club Class Action Lawsuit Claims Taxi, Limo Company Extortion, Illegal Kickbacks

A class action lawsuit filed on June 2 alleges a wide-ranging extortion scheme involving Las Vegas’ most prominent adult entertainment clubs and taxi and limousine companies.  The suit, which was filed in federal court in Las Vegas, alleges that taxi and limousine companies extorted more than $40 million in illegal kickbacks from local strip clubs.   

According to the legal complaint, Las Vegas taxi and limousine drivers demanded payments from the clubs of as much as $100 per male passenger.  If the clubs refused to pay, the drivers would simply divert passengers to a different club. The lawsuit claims that the kickback scheme hurts Las Vegas at a time when the city is already suffering economically.   

“Vegas has been one of the top tourist destinations in America for families, but its position is being threatened,” says Jay Edelson, lead attorney for the lawsuit.  “This is precisely the type of activity that keeps families away.” 

As taxi drivers prefer to pick up men who are more likely to go to strip clubs, the suit claims that families and women were snubbed by drivers and found it hard to hail a cab at  night.  The suit also claims that millions of dollars in tax revenue have gone unpaid to the local, state, and federal government. 

The allegations of a wide-ranging extortion scheme have been hotly discussed locally.  An recent expose by George Knapp, a nationally recognized Las Vegas  investigative reporter, found that cabbies routinely lied to  passengers—telling them that certain clubs are undesirable or unsafe (“riddled with bullet holes” was one description) in hopes of diverting them to a “paying” location.  After Nevada state  legislators attempted to put an end to this practice, the cab drivers responded by flexing their muscles.  They shut down the Strip and threatened to crash ground transportation at the airport. 

“The vast majority of taxi and limo drivers are honest and hardworking people, but this minority has a stranglehold on the city,” says Edelson. “It is finally time to put this practice to an end.”   

The suit is being brought on behalf of Theodore Trapp who lives in Southern California, and as a nationwide class. The suit names more than two dozen defendants including, Deja Vu Showgirls, Spearmint Rhino, Cheetah’s, Yellow Cab Co. and Checker Cab Co. It also references Tony Chong, an individual taxi driver who, according to the suit, has publicly admitted his involvement in the extortion scheme. 

To download a copy of the lawsuit filed:  http://www.prnewschannel.com/pdf/Trapp-Big_Poppa.pdf

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Candy Spelling Footloose at Las Vegas’ Jewelry ‘Candy’ Show

Candy Spelling attended the luxury jewelry Couture trade show on May 28 – June 2 at Wynn Las Vegas, apparently loving every sparkling moment of it.  Spelling, whose jewelry collection occupies two rooms in her 70,000-square-foot home, enjoys attending Couture annually, where more than 200 global jewelry designers and retailers meet in Las Vegas. Candy Spelling

“I really do love jewelry,” says one of the most famous wives and notorious mothers of Hollywood. 

Spelling, who enrolled in a gemology course with the Gemology Institute of America (GIA) years ago, has recently released her new book, “Stories from Candyland,” and it has several Las Vegas shout outs.  Las Vegas is where she struck a $100,000 jackpot (the lucky keep getting luckier) and where she’s been making cameos at Couture for the past 18 years to remedy what she calls her jewelry “illness.”

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CineVegas Film Festival in Las Vegas Offers Movies Galore- And Much More

Running over six days and one weekend, the 11th annual CineVegas film festival, starting this Wednesday, June 10, at the Brenden Theatres inside the Palms in Las Vegas offers a broader range of movie screening opportunities than ever before, providing something for every discriminating taste and style, from world premieres to sneak previews of independent film features that will be soon playing in theatres around the country.  

If that’s not enough, many seminars, parties, and A-list celebrity awards are also on tap, offering participants the opportunity to rub elbows with some of the best filmmakers in the country. 

Not surprisingly, Las Vegas itself plays a major role in several of the world premiere movie selections. 

Although there are way too many movies and events to list here, Las Vegas Backstage Access has put together our best picks, listed in date chronological order: 

Wednesday, June 10 at 7:30 p.m.

“Saint John of Las Vegas”  Opening night world premiere movie starring Steve Buscemi as a gambling-addicted Albuquerque insurance adjustor, who returns to the scene of his temptation to investigate a fraud case, encountering a variety of offbeat characters, including a wheelchair-bound stripper and a human torch. 

Thursday, June 11 at 3:00 p.m. & Sunday, June 14 at 1:00 p.m. 

“Vegas: Based on  a True Story,” from Iranian director Amir Naderi,  the movie focuses on ex-gamblers trying to keep their family out of trouble- until the temptation of finding cash in the desert proves too irresistible. 

Thursday, June 11 at 7:30 p.m. and Friday, June 12 at 12:30 p.m.

“All In:  The Poker Movie,” is a documentary world premiere movie that was filmed in Las Vegas that focuses on poker as “a way to chase the American dream,” according to director Douglas Tirola.  

Saturday, June 13 at 5:30 p.m.

“Thor at the Bus Stop,” is a U.S. premiere movie all about a Norse god that finds himself in a Southern Nevada suburb trying to save the world. 

Sunday, June 14 at 3 p.m.

Willem Dafoe receives Vanguard Actor Award 

Sunday, June 14 at 5 p.m.

Filmmakers and Honorees Awards Ceremony & Reception at Rain Nightclub inside the Palms.  In addition to awards to Jon Voight, Willem Dafoe and the Kuchar Brothers, Jenova Chen and Kellee Santiago will receive the Planet Illogica Award for New Media. 

Sunday, June 14 at midnight:

“Lookin’ to Get Out,” is a totally revamped version of Oscar-winning actor Jon Voight’s 1982 made-in Las Vegas comedy movie filmed at the original MGM Grand (now Bally’s), which director Hal Ashby recut and donated to the film archives of the University of California, Los Angeles just before his 1988 death.    Voight will also receive the Marquee Award that accompanies the screening. 

Movie screenings listed here are at the Brenden Theatres at the Palms.  Individual screening tickets are $10, except for Wednesday’s opening movie premiere of “Saint John of Las Vegas,” which is $25.  Festival movie screening passes range form $40 to $500, with Las Vegas, senior, student and military discount packages available.  Tickets may be purchased at the CineVegas box office at the Palms, or online at www.cinevegas.com or by phone 888-883-4278.

Be sure to check out prior January 6,  April 25 and May 29 Las Vegas Backstage Access articles on the CineVegas film festival.

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Las Vegas Tribute Artist Trina Johnson-Finn Released in Suriname

A judge in Suriname on Friday released Las Vegas entertainer Trina Johnson-Finn who was accused of posing as singer Toni Braxton at a concert there where she was pelted with trash and booed offstage. 

The 20-year professional singer who has augmented her career by impersonating stars as a “tribute artist” is now planning her return to Las Vegas to be with her husband, Raymond Finn, emotionally drained and financially devastated after the ordeal. 

Finn, who had spent three months in jail there, said she would not be present at her formality sentencing hearing on Tuesday. 

Finn has repeatedly said she was not involved in the impersonation scheme cover up that charged up to $53 per ticket for the Feb. 28 concert in Suriname’s capital.  A crowd of 3,000 threw bottles and beer cans at Finn in what has been dubbed the “Phony Toni” concert. 

The promoters Angel Ventura and his girlfriend Signet Sampson, though, remain in custody there and are expected to stand trial in July. 

Please see  April 25 and May 7 Las Vegas Backstage Access articles covering this case.

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Breast Implants for the Asking

An idea spawned casually over drinks at Pure nightclub in Caesars Palace in Las Vegas in 2005 is paying off big-time.   Seeing a cocktail waitress in the club who explained to guests she was saving money for breast implants and the willingness of many men in the group she was serving to immediately pledge anywhere from $5 to $50 to her cause – raising $750 before the night was over – prompted enterprising entrepreneurs Jay Moore and Jason Grunstra to return to California and try the same process online, launching www.MyFreeImplants.combreast

Cyber-solicited cosmetic surgery has apparently come of age.

 Acceptance of the idea, though, started slowly, with only four women in 2005 raising enough money for their implants.  Today, 425 women have reached their fundraising goals of $5,000 to $7,000, exchanging messages, photos and videos for cash donations.   The site’s founders expect $2.6 million in voluntary donations this year; that’s down from the $2.8 million raised in 2008- the recession is apparently hitting everyone. 

Women who want breast implants join the site for free.  At a minimum, men must buy “message credits to email with the women- $1.20 per message, $1 of which goes to the woman being messaged.  Men who want more from the site must pay $9.95 a month in membership fees, which busy the so-called “benefactors” a few free message credits, and, more important, access to every woman on the site: her photos, blog entries and else she makes make available.  These benefactors can make direct donations to women they like, or negotiate an exchange for their donations. 

It’s strictly forbidden to exchange actual addresses, e-mail or otherwise.  And giving your real name is cautioned against. 

About 2,000 men are paying the monthly fee; men who are, in effect, paying money to give to women they’re told they will never meet. 

The average donation is $30, though some have donated the full cost of a surgery. 

Surgeons can pay for ads to appear on the site or pay $295 annually to be listed among recommended doctors, provided they’re board certified. 

Women on the site never actually get the money they raise.  Instead, it’s held in trust, with interest accruing, until they meet their surgery goal.  Then, when the surgery is complete, the organizers pay the doctor directly.  On average, women take from six to seven months to meet their goal, though it can take years for many.  The trust holds about $2 million now. 

Some surgeons have refused to accept the Web sites patients, denouncing the process as degrading, shocking and appalling, relating it to an offshore lottery on a person’s health.  But many surgeons are going along with the idea. 

The hard part of it all for many of the women is persuading strangers to give them money online.  The “trick” is that women have to spend hours online developing relationships with benefactors, enticing them to send more message, buy photos and make donations. The large investment in time it takes to be successful is why 140,000 women have created profiles on the site, but only 3,500 are active. 

When the surgery is done, women are also contractually obligated to provide “after” pictures, so the people who made the donations can see what they paid for.  (The post-surgery photos available online are all of clothed women.)  The contract also requires women to stay on the site, talking to their benefactors, for an additional six months.

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Burlesque Queens Flaunt Their Pasties in Las Vegas

The Burlesque Hall of Fame’s annual Exotic World Weekend is running now through Sunday at The Orleans in Las Vegas.   The talent gathering includes retired and active burlesque dancers.  It’s been the fifth venue for the celebration in as many years. ExoticWorldWeekend

Burlesque greats like Tempest Storm, Kitten DeVille, and Candy Caramelo (billed as the “world’s biggest showgirl,” flaunting her 46DDD cups) will be on hand (or in hand?) doing their thang. 

“We’re happy to have our own little world,” executive producer Frederic Apcar says of the 800 vintage-wear enthusiasts that are planned to frolic at the event. 

The “Best of Burlesque” pageant will be on Saturday.  On Sunday their “Closing Gala” will star El Vez, the gay Mexican Elvis Presley.  For information, click on over to www.burlesquehall.com or call The Orleans box office at 702-365-7070.

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Michael Jackson Opening a ‘Thriller’ Casino in Las Vegas

The 50-year-old pop icon singer and prior Las Vegas resident is reportedly planning to launch the zombie-themed gambling den in Las Vegas next year. 

He is also believed to be working on a new album, several films and a museum to house iconic items from his career. 

Jackson is even hoping to launch a three-year world tour after his 50-date residency at London’s O2 arena concludes in March 2010. 

The pop superstar claims he is interested in any business endeavour that can help revive his flagging fortune. Jackson is allegedly over £100 million in debt. He has been sued by dozens of former associates and was even forced to sell his beloved Neverland Ranch last year. 

The star is expected to make nearly £100 million from his ‘This Is It’ London residency, which is due to start next month, but fans fear he will not be fit enough to perform. 

Jackson has already postponed the first four concerts and is facing the prospect of delaying more, as he allegedly battles skin cancer.  The singer reportedly had surgery to remove potentially fatal growths from his nose and arm last month, and may have to undergo intense radiotherapy treatment which would leave him unable to perform live.  Although the 50-year-old star insists he is in great health, doctors are apparently worried about a patch of cancerous skin on his chest.

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Fleetwood Mac in Las Vegas

Iconic mega-band Fleetwood Mac brougth their “Unleashed” tour to the MGM Grand Garden Arena on Saturday, May 30.  

Fleetwood Mac was on the road for the first time in five years and it’s the first time the band has not used a tour to support an album.  While there is a recent CD/DVD version of “Rumours” that has hit the stores which includes unreleased tracks and footage, the tour itself is being promoted as a greatest hits show. 

The musician’s onstage as part of Fleetwood Mac has changed several times since they formed in 1967.  And this time around the line-up included John McVie, Stevie Nicks, Lindsey Buckingham and Mick Fleetwood.

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Las Vegas CineVegas Film Festival Celebrity Honorees Named

JonVoightJon Voight, left, and Willem Dafoe, right, will be feted at the 11th annual CineVegas film festival starting on June 14 at the Palms Casino Resort in Las Vegas.  Voight will receive the Marquee Award, and Dafoe, the Vanguard Actor award. Willem Dafoe

The fest will also honor directors George and Mike Kuchar and video game creators Jenova Chen and Kellee Santiago. 

The CineVegas film festival will run June 10-15 in Las Vegas.

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Las Vegas Welcoming Sign is One for the History Books

The “Welcome to Fabulous Las Vegas Nevada” sign on the south end of the Strip has been greeting motorists entering Las Vegas for a half century.  Now the Strip icon has elevated status, just being listed on the National Register of Historic Places.  This designation comes in a year that marks the sign’s 50th anniversary.WelcomeSign

“The sign is one of he most recognizable images associated with Nevada and its tourism industry,” said Ron James, Nevada Historic Preservation officer.

Designed by Betty Willis in 1959, the sign stands in a traffic median on Las Vegas Boulevard, just south of Russell Road.  The Young Electric Sign Company owns the sign and leases it to Clark County.

Much in that area has changed since the sign was first installed.  Mandalay Bay towers above where the Hacienda Hotel once stood. The Signature Executive Terminal has replaced the old McCarran airfield.  And the boulevard is no longer the main route from Southern California.

In December, the county opened a 12-space parking lot and walkway on the median, making it safer for people to snap pictures of the sign.

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Sunflowers in Las Vegas

If you’re looking for a FREE mini visual vacation to clear your senses, Las Vegas Backstage Access recommends going to Sunflowersthe Bellagio Conservatory & Botanical Gardens which has unveiled its summer tribute featuring sunflowers, a lemonade stand, a 42-foot-high Ferris wheel and an aviary completed with exotic birds.

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It’s No Bull: Bullfighting Comes to Las Vegas!

Las Vegas constantly is reinventing itself as a city.  So it comes with surprise that bullfights are now coming to Las Vegas, starting on September 14-15 at the South Point Arena.  That follows with the second event on September 27-30. The matador lineup includes Mexico’s Eulalio Lopez, known as “El Zotoluco.” Bullfighting

The bill of faire, though, will be made more palatable, featuring bloodless bullfights. 

 It has been more than 40 years since bullfights were held in Las Vegas.

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Want to meet President Obama in Las Vegas?

How does meeting President Obama sound? Have you ever wanted to create a great campaign slogan? Now is your chance to do both. 

On May 26th, President Obama, Rachel Yamagata, Rita Rudner, Sheryl Crow, and Bette Midler will be honoring Nevada’s Senator Harry Reid at a tribute event at the Colosseum at Caesar’s Palace.  A limited number of seats are still available for $250, $125, and $50. 

Nevada residents who purchase tickets and submit their idea for a 2010 campaign slogan for Harry Reid by 11:59 PM Saturday, May 23rd (including those who have already purchased tickets) will be automatically eligible to win a pass to a very special backstage reception with President Obama, Senator Reid, and special guests.  Reid’s campaign manager, Brandon Hall, will judge one original campaign slogan submission to receive a pass to the backstage reception. 

Click here to purchase your seats and submit your idea for a 2010 Harry Reid campaign slogan to be automatically entered in the contest for a pass to the special backstage reception. 

To bypass the slogan submission form, and simply purchase tickets to the event, click here.

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Can’t make it to Las Vegas to watch the World Series of Poker?

Can’t make it next week to Las Vegas to watch the World Series of Poker?  That’s not a problem according to WSOP officials. Twenty-four of the final tables for the 40th Annual WSOP will be streamed live via the Internet. 

Click on the following link to view the online poker schedule:

http://www.pokerlistings.com/select-wsop-final-tables-to-stream-live-online-41326

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Top 10 Las Vegas Entertainment Picks for Memorial Day Weekend

With an estimated 230,000 visitors flocking into Las Vegas over the holiday and entertainment options busting from the seams, here’s our Las Vegas Backstage Access Top 10 best picks for prime time Memorial Day weekend fun faire in Las Vegas: 

May 23 – Whoopi Goldberg at Wynn Encore

May 23 – Jermaine Dupri at Body English in Hard Rock

May 23 – Taylor Swift at Mandalay Bay Events Center

May 23, 24 – Beach Boys at Mandalay Bay Beach

May 23, 24 – Free concerts for The Guess Who (23) and Blood, Sweat & Tears (24) at Lake Las Vegas, ‘Summer of 69’ Tour

May 23, 24 – Dane Cook at the Pearl in the Palms, “Isolated Incident Tour”

May 24 – Allman Brothers Band 40th Anniversary Tour at the Sandbar at Red Rock Casino & Hotel

May 24 – Terrell Owens “Athletes & Angels Takeover” at New York-New York Rok Vegas nightclub

May 24 – Tiesto at the Jet nightclub in the Mirage

May 24 – Joel Madden of Good Charlotte does a DJ set at the Bank in the Bellagio

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Carmen Electra to Star in ‘Topless’ Las Vegas Show

CarmenElectraAmerican TV and film personality Carmen Electra is geared up to star in a new ‘topless’ Vegas show, but she will not be going topless.

Though the topless cabaret show at MGM Grand has signed Electra, she will not baring all for the show.

“She’s not going topless, but she will be wearing very little. She’s going to wear whatever she is comfortable with,” People magazine quoted a source as saying.

Meanwhile, Carmen is thrilled to be part of the much-anticipated forthcoming show.

“It is such an iconic show and I was in awe after seeing it for the first time. The dancers and the performances are so sensual and sexy,” she said.

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Nevada Cops Issue Tickets Like Crazy

If you’re travel plans call for driving to Nevada over this holiday weekend, be careful- be very careful. Nevada sheriffs handed out thousands of tickets on Nevada highways last weekend, mostly for speeding.   One can only imagine how many tickets will be issued over the three-day Memorial Day weekend.

Between last Friday and Monday, the Nevada Sheriff Highway Patrol issued 4,074 tickets, as well as helping remove 21 suspected impaired drivers from the road and arrested 31 people for outstanding arrest warrants.

The tickets handed out included:

* 3,020 speeding violations.
* 113 seatbelt infractions.
* 17 child restraint infractions.
* 154 Gaming and Liquor Act violations.
* 47 failing to stop at a stop sign infractions.
* 134 other hazardous violations such as careless driving, stunting.
* 589 non-hazardous violations such as no insurance, suspended drivers.

The Nevada Sheriff Highway Patrol, launched in 2006, conducts traffic enforcement on the state’s highways. When asked whether or not many of the speeding tickets could have been avoided, the NSHP responded:  “There are plenty of online resources available for people to use. Programs such as www.TrafficTicketInformation.com offer tons of good advice on how to go about dealing with a traffic ticket.”

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Phantom of the Opera Fanatics Invited to “Fans Week” in Las Vegas

Famed Broadway director Harold Prince will give the keynote address and share his experience of putting together The Phantom of the Opera at a “Phantom Fans Week” Sept. 16 through 20 in Las Vegas. PhantomoftheOpera

Phantom – The Las Vegas Spectacular — Prince’s 95-minute environmental adaptation of the smash by composer Andrew Lloyd Webber at the Venetian Resort — will host the week-long celebration of all things Phantom. 

That week, according to producers, fans will get exclusive access to the show at special ‘Insider Sessions’ and hear from the biggest names in the Phantom world.  With different registration levels available, ranging from $250 to $450 ticket prices, fans can spend a full week or a short weekend. 

All registration levels include admission to all six “Insider Sessions,” including the keynote address by multiple Tony Award-winning director Prince, the chance to attend up to four performances of the 90-minute, uniquely-tailored Vegas Phantom and “exclusive access into a grand Masquerade Ball with the cast of Phantom.” 

A special dinner with executive producer Scott Zeiger at Wolfgang Puck’s Postrio Restaurant or a Farewell Brunch at Bouchon Restaurant are also offered. 

“Insider Sessions” include a Q&A with Tony Award winner Anthony Crivello, who plays The Phantom; meetings with Phantom’s production designer Paul Kelly, associate costume designer Sam Fleming and other personnel who will share their secrets of success. 

Phantom was adapted for the sitdown Vegas run in a venue that re-creates the Paris Opera like no other production of the Lloyd Webber musical. 

“We’re proud to host the first ever Phantom Fans Week and offer this kind of exclusive access,” said Scott Zeiger, co-CEO of BASE Entertainment and executive producer of Phantom – The Las Vegas Spectacular. “In addition to hosting this extraordinary affair, we’re also thrilled to have Harold Prince, our illustrious director, return to Las Vegas.” 

Packages start at $250 a person with special discounts for those who register early. 

Phantom at The Venetian is produced by The Really Useful Theatre Company Inc. and BASE Entertainment. 

Phantom performs at The Venetian Resort on Monday and Saturday at 7 and 9:30 p.m. and Tuesday through Friday at 7  p.m. (dark Sunday). 

For more information or to register for Phantom Fans Week: http://www.phantomvegasoffers.com/newsletters/fansweek/full/index2.html 

For more information on Phantom – The Las Vegas Spectacular:

http://www.phantomlasvegas.com

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British Press Speaks Out on Las Vegas’ World Record Bikini Parade Love In

“The publicity stunt, which saw around 300 bikini-clad women parade down The Strip, will do little to improve the city’s reputation for a lack of political correctness (women were asked to send in a photo along with their hip, waist and bust measurements, before participations could be approved) but plenty to publicise the city’s famous pool party scene.”

Charles Starmer-Smith, writing in the Daily Telegraph in the United Kingdom about last week’s bikini parade in Las Vegas.

“The mayor of America’s entertainment city also joined in the festivities, although he remained fully clothed at all times. He opened the event by issuing an official proclamation declaring its summer in Vegas, one month ahead of the rest of the northern hemisphere.”

Sarah Gordon, writing in the Daily Mail of the United Kingdom about the same event.

Las Vegas Backstage Access wrote on the event on May 15.

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Brits Love to Fly to Las Vegas

British Airways will start flying from London’s Heathrow Airport to Las Vegas’ McCarran International Airport in October. 

With planning for this in the works for years, Heathrow, the busiest international airport will begin daily service on October 25, with a flight arriving in Las Vegas at 5:10 p.m.  The return trip to London will depart at 7 p.m. 

The airline will use a Boeing 777, photo at right, configured with 274 seats, 24 of which will be “world traveler plus,” 36 business-class, with seats that recline fully to 180 degrees, and 214 economy class seats. BritishAirways

 Fares will begin at $461 round trip, plus taxes and fuel surcharges. 

British Airways will be the second United Kingdom carrier providing direct, daily service to Las Vegas.   Although Virgin Atlantic already makes the trip it flies from the much smaller Gatwick Airport.

The new Heathrow connection will put Las Vegas within one stop of cities around the world, making it that much easier for people to travel to Las Vegas and, hopefully, boost Las Vegas’ sagging tourism.  

Based on top overseas source markets for Las Vegas visitation compiled in 2007 (latest available figures), United Kingdom passengers already account for 409,000 annual visitors, 11.5 percent of the total international tourism, second only to Canada that brings 1.5 million visitors, 41.4 percent of the total. 

Las Vegas will be the 19th American city with British Airways service.

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Carlos Santana, Ganja & Bogeymen

Carlos Santana under hypnosis must feel he’s died, gone to heaven, then was  lucky enough to have been mysteriously reincarnated smack dab in Sin City.  To be honored and appear in a Las Vegas concert series no less, with ticket prices hovering in the rare ionosphere air, most likely exudes an unsurpassed nirvana feeling for the music icon that’s managed to live out his 1960s in 2009.  CarlosSantanaUSE

“Supernatural Santana: A Trip Through the Hits” is Santana’s new 72-show residency at the Hard Rock Hotel & Casino in Las Vegas that launches May 27, with 36 concerts planned for this year and 36 in 2010. 

With Santana anything is possible- and usually you can bank on it.  Talking and singing about love, light, and spirituality, you never know quite how to read him. 

What drives this man of superhuman music talent?  Some might arguably say it’s money and really his last stand to go for the gusto, with ticket prices for his new Las Vegas shows ranging from $79 up to $299 — which is a lot of money for many people in this economy. 

But their apparently all wrong; Santana says it hogwash:  “I have no clue about that. I’m more with, ‘This finger goes onto this note and it makes juicy sounds, and I’m going to make people dance and laugh.’  It’s not like I don’t care or I’m ignorant. It’s just that I’m not wired to have that insignificance on me other than what I’m going to get to give back to other people. 

His viewpoint on drugs, on the other hand, is a totally different matter. “I think that the solution to all of this stuff would be to legalize it, decriminalize it, reinvest all that money into teachers in schools.” says Sanatana. 

“If we would teach in schools the incredible sensation of climax that it feels to be of service to other people — like Mother Teresa, or Desmond Tutu or the Dalai Lama — smoking pot, and drinking tequila, and watching porno or whatever people do, it pales in comparison when you actually wake up to be of service to people.” 

I think we should legalize marijuana. I think Barack Obama should bring the brothers and sisters home — the soldiers. If I was to see him, I would go, ‘Listen to Marvin Gaye’s ‘What’s Going On’ and John Coltrane, and bring the boys home from the war now, like we did with Vietnam.’ They’re not going to come here. People in Vietnam did not come here to attack us after we left them alone. So let’s get rid of that fear, that fantasy, that stuff. Let’s get rid of the bogeyman, because the bogeyman is us looking in the mirror of each other.” 

So just maybe his residency in Las Vegas might also be his ticket for euphoric happiness, proving to offer a symbiotic relationship with his favored ganja.  Where Las Vegas is not really Amersterdam where anything does go, it’s somewhat friendly to marijuana smokers.  “Medicinal use” of course. 

After all, Nevada’s voters legalized marijuana for medical purposes in 2000. Patients diagnosed with a “qualifying condition” are allowed to possess small amounts of the drug.  They also are allowed to grow it for their own use. 

They are not allowed to grow it for lots and lots of other people and sell it to them.  But any licensed doctor can prescribe marijuana in Nevada. 

But regardless of Santana’s passion and love for good vibes, cannabis and dislike of bogeyman, his upcoming Las Vegas concert series will surely test the mettle of our local entertainment-based economy in these challenging times.

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Actress Teri Hatcher Teaches Daughter How to Gamble

Teri Hatcher may have just caught the gaming bug while staying at the Bellagio in Las Vegas during the “KeepTeriHatcher Memory Alive” charity fundraiser for the new Lou Ruvo Brain Institute back in March (Las Vegas Backstage Access March 7 article). 

Now word is that Hatcher is teaching her 11-year-old daughter how to gamble- so the youngster can hone her math skills. 

The Desperate Housewives actress, also an avid horse racing fan, candidly admits she has started taking her kid Emerson to meetings, so she can challenge her with betting equations. 

Hatcher insists the sport is helping her daughter learn how to add and subtract. 

She says, “I do use the opportunity to make her understand math and what you’re betting and what you get back… so we work on math. It’s fun.”

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Las Vegas Tourism Industry Faces Tough Times

The $231.2 million budget for the Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority – the group charged with the responsibility for attracting visitors to Las Vegas – will be punctuated by 12 months of spending cuts, a hiring freeze and ban on employee overtime. 

“We’ve had to adjust in ways we’d never dreamed of,” said board member and MGMG Mirage executive Chuck Bowling, in a board of directors meeting last week. 

The loss of $65 million from room tax is creating challenging budget choices, which is 11 percent smaller than the budget for the 2009 fiscal year. 

The authority will save $23 million in the upcoming year as a result of a decision to suspend work on a proposed $890 million renovation of the Las Vegas Convention Center.   

It will save an additional $2.4 million on salaries, wages and benefits across all departments, thanks in large part to a current hiring freeze that covers 50 open positions and tight overtime restrictions. 

Their advertising budget is not immune from the axe, as the authority shaved $3.3 million, leaving a budget of $86.5 million to advertise Las Vegas to the world. 

Declines are expected to become less steep in September, which will be one year since the Las Vegas economy went into a nose dive.

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Indy 500 in the Pink, Features Las Vegas Owner

SamSchmidtPink is the new red at the Indy 500 this year for an Indy race car owned by Sam Schmidt, right, of Henderson, Nevada. 

AlexLloydSchmidt’s driver for the pink car is an Englishman named Alex Lloyd, left, – aka Pink Lloyd – and the No. 99 HER car will start in the middle of the fourth row of the starting  grid with an impressive four-lap average qualifying speed of 222.622 mph. 

Pink isn’t a new to the venerable Brickyard.  In 1955 Bob Sweikert drove a pink car into victory lane.  Thirty years later, Emerson Fittipaldi, the two-time Indy winner, made his 599 debut in a pink car.  Recently, Jeff Ward drove an Aerosmith-sponsored car that was painted pink mostly to call attention to the rock band’s song of the same name. 

Schmidt, who has been coming to Indianapolis as a driver and car owner since 1996, said he never envisioned that Lloyd would qualify for the first day.  Nor did he anticipate the torrent of publicity the pink car would receive. 

The care was painted pink at the request of sponsor HER – Healthy Energy Revitalizer, an energy drink for women.  On race day, HER models will be strutting around the Gasoline Alley pits in skimpy pink uniforms in classic Las Vegas tradition that will make Lloyd’s look pale by comparison. 

Think Pink when watching the Indy 500.

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Bravo for Wynn Las Vegas Encore

Travel and Leisure Magazine named the Wynn Las Vegas Encore to its “It List:  45 Best New Hotels in 2009” in its June issue.  The “It List” is an annual list compiled by the magazine. Encore

Travel and Leisure editors said while there are touches of opulence and luxury around every corner, “we fell for the natural touches:  sunlight inside casino and a botanical backdrop of sculpted flower beds, laurel tree, and spotted palms that make the 2.3 million square feet of public space feel downright cozy.” 

The $2.3 billion Encore, Steve Wynn’s latest creation, opened last December in Las Vegas.  It has 2,034 rooms and suites, 72,000 square feet of gaming space, five restaurants and 11 high-end retail stores.

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Las Vegas Room Occupancy Rates Bounce Back

roomsLas Vegas is not going back to their heyday of charging $500 per night room rates.   With ever increasing competition and the growing room inventory, those days are probably gone forever.  

But visitors are now at least starting to return to the bright neon of Las Vegas, lured by the lower relative room rates and successful direct marketing drives by Las Vegas hotels that are filling the weekday void left by conventiongoers whose budgets have dwindled. 

Las Vegas vigorous room marketing efforts are at last starting to pay off.  

With Las Vegas hotel demand and occupancy rates inching upwards, Las Vegas resort executives are rethinking their room strategies and are considering increasing room rates, a move that could contribute to improving their sagging profit margins and contribute to the start of a healthy Las Vegas business rebound in 2010. 

“The weekends are consistently solid now,” MGM Mirage CEO Jim Murren said during a conference call last week to discuss first-quarter earnings.  “Even when we don’t have a major event we are able to occupy rooms at a solid level.” 

In January, MGM Mirage’s hotels had an occupancy rate in the 70s- a respectable statistic for many major cities but ranked poor for Las Vegas, where hotels have historically operated at higher than 90 percent occupancy.  That figures has risen each month this year, reaching 95 percent in March and 97 percent in April, in line with a year ago before business worsened. 

Las Vegas room rates although increasing, are still depressed, according to official figures from earnings reports and tourism officials.  MGM Mirage’s revenue per available room was $102, or 34 percent lower in the first quarter than the year-earlier period. 

Undaunted, Phil Ruffin, who bought Treasure Island from MGM Mirage in March, plans to raise their room rates.  “I’m not going to give rooms away.  That’s a heads-in-beds philosophy,” Ruffin said.  “I don’t want the $50 customer.” 

You can still make money – more money, in fact – by running at 70 to 90 percent occupancy and charging more for rooms, according to Ruffin.

Whether this strategy and others like it continues to work depends on the ongoing reaction of recession-battered tourists that have now tasted sweet vintage hotel price deals in Las Vegas.  

Las Vegas tourism growth, analysts say, will only continue if tourists believe they’re getting a bargain and a good combination deal- not just a good room rate, but meals, shows and drinks as well.

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Looking Youthful Will Cost ‘Ya – – $12 Billion!

BotoxAmericans spent nearly $12 billion on cosmetic procedures to look good good last year – much of it on breast implants, surgical face-lifts and Botox injections – a medical practice feeding frenzy that has touched everyone from young professionals to aging baby-boomers. 

Saving face doesn’t mean one has to go under the knife.  From hyaluronic acid injections to fractional resurfacing, nonsurgical options are an essential part of facial rejuvenation techniques. 

What started with Botox now includes a host of Restylane, Puragen, Sculptra and Evolence remedies. 

Dr. Paul Lorenc of New York believes cosmetic surgery has become more popular today because it’s much easier to perform, there’s less downtime for recovery and it’s more exposed in the media, saying, “What we are doing 10 years ago was archaic. We have progressed tremendously in the name of patient benefits and safety.” 

The No. 1 surgical procedure nationwide in 2008, according to the American Society for Aesthetic Plastic Surgery, was breast augmentation.  The average cost is $3,885 for silicone gel implants and $3,603 for saline implants. 

The top nonsurgical procedure in the nation was Botox injections ($2.46 million) at an average cost of $443 each. 

Face-lifts are still the main component of cosmetic treatments, with 132,000 procedures performed in 2008 at an average cost of $6,728. 

Since 1997, the number of cosmetic procedures nationally has increased 457 percent to 11.7 million surgical and nonsurgical procedures annually.  Women have 10.6 million, or 91 percent, of the procedures.

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Holly Madison to Star on ‘Peepshow’?

Hugh Hefner’s former No. 1 squeeze, who now provides almost daily eye-candy photo ops in Las Vegas, will reportedly co-star opposite former Spice Girl Mel B in the adult cabaret “Peepshow” at Planet Hollywood Resort in Las Vegas.    TheHollyMadison2 show has recently converted its format and is largely topless.

Madison is replacing Kelly Monaco, who never planned to go beyond her three-month contract. 

Yesterday, Madison lead the pack in the world’s largest bikini parade in Las Vegas – 281 bikini-clad women set a world record, according to a Guiness World Records represenataive, parading on the Strip from the Wynn resort to Fashion Show mall.

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Las Vegas Goes to Hell for Fun of it

Many believe that Las Vegas already provides the best ‘Hell on Earth’- but it’s all good clean Old West fun when the Helldorado Days celebration comes to the middle of downtown Las Vegas this weekend in Las Vegas.

Things come and go in Las Vegas, however, Helldorado Days, sponsored by the Las Vegas Elks Lodge, has been a local tradition and favorite since 1934.   A parade, rodeo, carnival and Whiskerino contest – competitors are judged for the best and largest beards and mustaches – are featured events.

A variety of entertainment will be ongoing today through Sunday at the Fremont Street Experience throughout Helldorado Days.

The PRCA sanctioned professional rodeo, which started in 1944, but has been on hiatus for the last 12 years, will be centerpiece anchor of this year’s event. Local companies donated 2,700 tons of dirt for a temporary rodeo arena that holds 5,300 people.

Hopefully, the rodeo and many other activities will provide paydirt for the Elks Lodge, which uses the proceeds from Helldorado Days to fund local nonprofit organizations. The Elks hope to bugle if they raise their goal of $100,000 to give out college scholarships, support for nonprofits and a summer Santa program for children at Child Haven.

Carnival – 5 p.m. to midnight Friday, noon to midnight Saturday, noon to 11 p.m. on Sunday. Carnival tickets cost $, but free with purchase of rodeo ticket.

PRCA Rodeo – 7 p.m. to 9 p.m. Friday and Sunday; 9 p.m. to 11 p.m. Saturday. Tickets are $12.50 for adults, $6.50 for children 12 and younger.

Whiserkino contest – 4:45 p.m. on Friday at the Third Streeet stage at Fremont Streeet Experience.

Helldorado parade – 7 p.m to 9 p.m. Saturday, travels north on Fourth Street from Charleston Boulevard to Ogden Avenue.

For more info, www.elkshelldorado.com

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No Doubt Headlines Tiger Jam XII This Weekend in Las Vegas

Pop rockers No Doubt will kick off their first tour in five years when they headline Tiger Jam XII presented by AT&T on May 15 and 16 at Mandalay Bay Events Center in Las Vegas. NoDoubt

Formed in Anaheim, California, No Doubt reached international success with their 1995 release Tragic Kingdom. That album, including the mega hit “Don’t Speak” among many others, has sold over 15 million copies worldwide. Their follow up, Return of Saturn, was nominated for the Best Rock Album at the 2001 Grammy Awards and granted a four star review by Rolling Stone Magazine. The band went on to win two Grammy Awards for 2001’s multi-platinum Rock Steady and performed at the Superbowl XXXVII Halftime Show in 2003 alongside Sting. 

After the double platinum success of No Doubt’s Singles Collection, featuring the hit “It’s My Life,” and a subsequent tour with Blink-182, lead singer Gwen Stefani released two successful solo albums in 2004 and 2006 respectively. 

TigerWoods“I’m thrilled No Doubt is kicking off their tour at Tiger Jam XII,” event host and professional golfer Eldrick (Tiger) Woods, 33, said. “They are amazing performers, and I’m honored they are helping raise funds and awareness for the millions of young people my Foundation supports.”

Saturday evening’s highlights will include top-notch epicurean fare and exclusive live and silent auctions featuring one-of-a-kind luxury items. Following the dinner and auctions, the celebration will progress to the Mandalay Bay Events Center stage, where Woods will introduce Grammy Award winners Gwen Stefani, Tony Kanal, Tom Dumont and Adrian Young for a rocking concert.

“Playing this show is going to be really fun for all of us.  Tiger’s foundation empowers kids to achieve their dreams and we’re excited to help support that,” No Doubt’s singer Gwen Stefani said.

Paramore and The Sounds will join No Doubt as special guests on the Tiger Jam stage. 

Tiger Jam has garnered a reputation as being one of the premiere fundraising events benefiting children for past 11 years. Each year, the concert event hosted by Tiger Woods raises millions of dollars for the Tiger Woods Foundation and youth-driven charities in Las Vegas, as well as the VH1 Save the Music Foundation, and the GRAMMY in the Schools program.

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One Up, One Down in Las Vegas Recession Game

The recession has slowed much of the recent growth in downtown Las Vegas, but Mayor Oscar Goodman’s dream of a downtown renaissance is still alive.  Goodman cut the ribbon at last Thursday’s opening of the El Cortez Cabana Suites, a boutique hotel adjacent to the longtime downtown property. 

The Cabana Suites, developed on the site of the 100-room Ogden House, is located at the corner of Ogden Avenue and 6th Street.  Billed as the “sassy younger sister” to the El Cortez, owners hope the aqua-blue exterior and posh lobby make the property stand out in a neighborhood that has seen stunted growth in recent years. 

Word also came last Friday that another Las Vegas downtown business, the Galaxy Theaters at Neonopolis, closed its doors. The move leaves the once promising entertainment complex without an anchor tenant.

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Nevada Travel & Tourism Sales Blitz This Week

Some may still not feel promoting Nevada travel and tourism benefits is a good idea in our stagnating economy, especially following President Obama’s February comments about frivolous travel in Las Vegas by corporations that accepted federal bailout money.  

But don’t tell that to Las Vegas Mayor Oscar Goodman or casino mogul Steve Wynn.  Both want to bend the ear – and more – of President Obama when he vists Las Vegas on May 26 and headlines a fundraiser for Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev.  (Las Vegas Backstage Access April 1 article.) 

Wynn wants Obama to specifically address Nevada tourism.  “The people that voted in the Democratic Party, for the main part, work in the tourism and travel industry as cooks and waiters and housekeeping,” Wynn said. “They are being hit very hard not only by the recession but by federal policy that has discouraged travel.” 

Providing added fuel to boost Nevada’s flailing tourism industry, six Nevada Commission on Tourism (NCOT) staffers have taken to the road early today for a western sales “blitz” during National Travel and Tourism Week to promote special travel deals designed to boost Nevada visitor numbers, according to NCOT chairperson and Nevada Lt. Gov. Brian K. Krolicki. 

The sales team will visit travel agents, tour operators, AAA offices and other influential tourism industry representatives in Los Angeles, Phoenix, Sacramento, Salt Lake City, San Diego, San Francisco, San Jose and Seattle. Several tourism industry partners from around the state will accompany the staff members from NCOT’s Sales and Industry Partners department. 

“There’s no better time for fun in Nevada than now, because of the special travel deals at hotels, golf courses, shops, spas and entertainment venues throughout the state. It’s a productive way for NCOT to observe this year’s National Travel and Tourism Week and a great way to attract more visitors in this current economy,” says Krolicki.   

The team will visit AAA offices that advise consumers about travel destinations, tour operators that bring groups of customers to Nevada and receptive operators who help with arrangements in the state. At each stop they will distribute USB flash drives that contain the new NCOT Industry Partners Newsletter, Nevada Magazine’s Events and Shows publication, a listing called What’s New in Nevada and an introduction to the new Web site, NV.Mobi, which makes travel information accessible by mobile phones and devices, a consumer newsletter and special spring travel packages. They also will hand out the Visitor Guide and fliers with information about special events and attractions. 

The team will also visit six different tribes to exchange ideas and generate interest in attending American Indian events in Nevada throughout the year and meet with a Japanese credit card company in Los Angeles to promote special Nevada travel deals for the company’s cardholders. 

Nevada’s attractions and deals with tour operators and motorcoach companies will be promoted in Salt Lake City, a strong market for travel to Elko County and other points in eastern and southern Nevada including Las Vegas. 

“Tourism is a highly competitive industry, and we need to be aggressive and never let up in our sales and marketing efforts,” Krolicki said. “Nevada is a destination that allows consumers to maximize the value of their dollars, and we must do all we can to boost awareness, attract more business and maintain our place as a leading destination.” 

The sales blitz is NCOT’s second since December 2008, when economic challenges were escalating and the commission stepped up its already vigorous sales efforts. 

National Travel and Tourism Week on May 9-17 is an annual observance by the U.S. Travel Association in Washington, D.C., that focuses on the industry’s contribution to the U.S. economy, which is worth more than $700 billion.

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Mother’s Day Ala Las Vegas Style

There are some holidays that go hand-in-hand with the fabulous glitz and glitter that is Las Vegas.  New Years Eve, any three-day weekend, any day that let’s you blow off fireworks from the top of the parking garages, just to name a few.  But there’s one day that may not be what you consider a natural fit with the Las Vegas economy – and it really, truly, is the most natural of all holiday destination matches – Mother’s Day in Las Vegas. mothersday

Looking to give Mom a few days off the clock?  Perhaps a room with a (Strip) view, room service and sunshine by the pool may give her the chance to dial down the stress and forget her carpool duties for a while. 

Want to spoil Mom and give her a pamper-by-numbers opportunity?  How about a luxury suite at the Trump Hotel along with the Mother’s Day Spa Package at The Spa at Trump?  This package includes a facial, pedicure and spa robe for $179.  

But if you would like your mom’s spa day to do more than celebrate your special lady – how about the Trump Gold Package?  Donate $25 or more to the American Heart Association (via the Trump Hotel) and receive a Gold Body Scrub, Gold Facial, Trump Massage and Gold Bar Box Set for $189. 

Restaurants in Las Vegas will be offering many unique luncheon and dining opportunities that will work for any budget.  

At $50 or more per person, the Paris Hotel and Casino’s premier restaurant, the Eiffel Tower Restaurant, will offer open early on Sunday, May 10 for a Mother’s Day lunch brunch from 10:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m.  Reservations required. 

Or for a few dollars less, about $35 per person (special pricing for children), ENVY the Steakhouse at the Renaissance Las Vegas will also offer a brunch for Mom’s on May 10 complete with mimosa’s and Wes Winters at the piano. 

With options ranging from Rumjungle to Pamplemousse, it will be possible to wine and dine Mom regardless of what type of meal she may be interested in and the budget available for the celebration. 

So give Mom a chance to break away from the every day routine and have a very grand Vegas Mother’s Day.

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Marie Osmond ‘Very Supportive’ of Gay Rights

Las Vegas performer Marie Osmond has come out in favor of gay rights. marieosmond2

In an interview with Los Angeles radio station KOST 103.5, the Flamingo headline said it was “not a sensitive issue” for her.

Osmond said she supports gay couples having civil rights. 

“I think it’s important to look that at the commandment love thy neighbor as thyself,” said Osmond, who has eight children.  Her oldest daughter, Jessica, 21, has been in a gay relationship for three years.

Please see prior Feb. 24 and April 20, 2009 Las Vegas Backstage Access articles.

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Boxer ‘King’ Floyd Mayweather Jr. Announces Ring Comeback

Unbeaten welterweight pro boxer Floyd Mayweather Jr., once considered boxing’s best pound-for-pound fighterfloydmayweather when he retired in December 2007 after knocking out Ricky Hatton, said he’s coming back to take on Juan Manuel Marquez on July 18 at the MGM Grand Arena. 

Mayweather, a Las Vegas resident,  is undefeated at 39-0 with 25 knockouts. 

“The king is back!” Mayweather said.  “I’m here to fight and reclaim what is mine.” 

The scheduled 12-round slugfest will be held at the welterweight level with a 143-pound weight limit.

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Imprisoned Las Vegas Celebrity Trina Johnson-Finn’s Faces Trial in Suriname

Las Vegas celebrity impersonator Trina Johnson-Finn has been incarcerated since March in a Suriname jail, location of Finn’s Feb. 28 concert.    

She was denied release on Tuesday and now faces a May 26 trial date on charges of impersonating Las Vegas entertainer Toni Braxton.  

Her attorney had reportedly filed an appeal to have released based on the arrest of the concert promoter, Angel Ventura, last Saturday, who was captured in a harbor bar in Paramaribo, the capital of Suriname.  

The judge denied the motion. 

Please see prior April 25 Las Vegas Backstage Access article.

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Live Dangerously- Be a Paisan for a Week

Trash that McDonalds’ burger and head out today for some unsurpassed carbo loading, feast on healthy Italian sauces, and, at no extra up charge, experience an enlightened cultural Italian infusion to your life. italianfood

The San Gennaro Feast will celebrate 30 years of Italian food, music, and hospitality in the Las Vegas Valley on May 6 through 10.  The biannual feed and cultural event has more than 200 vendors and draws thousands of people.  

The feast is always packed, coming a long way from its fledging start in the parking lot of the Italian-American Supper Club with just a handful of vendors and people.  

The event’s namesake – the feast – will be provided by 80 food vendors, not just Las Vegas restaurants but some as distant as Boston and New York.  

The business brains behind the event are partners Hank Squartino and Vincent “Jimmy” Palmisano.   The business was started by Squarino and Palmisano’s great uncle to celebrate Italian food and culture. They now fly in from Florida to Las Vegas eight weeks before each San Gennaro Feast to prepare for what they refer to as a massive block party.  Even so, planning for the event is a nearly a year-round job.  They sample all the cuisine before it is booked and prepared for the feast.  Only the best, most authentic Italian cuisine is accepted through the gates. 

The five-day San Gennaro Feastwill kick off with a fireworks show at 9 p.m. Wednesday, May 6.  Hours are from 4 to 11 p.m. Wednesday and Thursday; from 11 a.m. to midnight Saturday and from 11 a.m. to 11 p.m. Sunday at the Grand Canyon Shopping Center, near Flamingo road and the Las Vegas Beltway in Spring Valley.  General admission is $7; seniors are $6 and children less than 54 inches tall (with no spaghetti in belly) get in free.  For information, please visit www.SangennaroFeast.org

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World Series of Poker Prepares to Shuffle Up & Deal in Las Vegas

Despite the sour economy and Nevada gaming revenues being down almost 10 percent in 2008 and more than 16 percent down over the first two months of 2009, is apparently not an overriding concern for officials for the World Series of Poker in Las Vegas who remain optimistic and confident that the variety and depth of the best poker playerspetereastgate in the world will be the draw needed for the 57-event WSOP tournament that begins its six-week run May 26 at The Rio, the host casino for the event. 

To sweeten the pot, a $40,000 buy-in no-limit hold’em event on May 28 is expected to draw poker’s most elite players.  Then, two days later, the tournament will host a $1,000 buy-in no-limit event that is expected to attract another approximate 6,000 players. 

If that’s not enough draw, on May 31, a special two-day Champions Invitational will take place with the 27 living previous World Series of Poker world champions being invited to participate in a no-limit hold’em event. 

The 2009 World Series of Poker event will include 10 World Championship $10,000 buy-in events and seven $1,500 buy-in no-limit hold’em tournaments.  The $50,000 buy-in H.O.R.S.E. event, which mixes five different poker games, will take place on June 26.  The $10,000 buy-in World Championship No-Limit Hold’em Main Event will being on July 3 and reach its final table of nine players on July 15. 

For the second straight year, players will then wait four months before returning to the Rio on November 7 to play for the championship, which ESPN will televise on a same-day taped delay.

Last year’s World Series of Poker event in Las Vegas drew 58,720 entries from 124 countries and awarded a prize pool of more than $180.7 million.  The winner in November was 22-year-old Peter Eastgate of Denmark, who became the tournament’s youngest-ever word champion, taking away $9.15 million in a four-hour heads-up final table with Russian Ivan Demidov.

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Woodstock Las Vegas

Forty years ago the Woodstock music festival featured tie-dyed bedecked hippies that espoused peace, love, happiness, fused with lots of freebies – speech, sex and pot – and a plethora of equally mind-blowing music.  Now Las Vegas plans to vicariously relive those groovy days and, hopefully, provide a much needed boost to Las Vegas’ sagging economy as well, reeling in more visitors that spend more money on food, entertainment and gambling.  woodstock

That’s the hope. 

And the Fremont Street Experience in downtown Las Vegas (three miles north of the end of the Las Vegas Strip) is banking on it, spending about $1.7 million on the promotional campaign between Memorial Day and Labor Day weekends- $500,000 more than it normally would during the season.   

They’ll be paying tribute to 1969 all summer long with free rock concerts and seasonal themes that feature the likes of yesterday’s music heavy hitters Blood, Sweat and Tears; Three Dog Night; the 5th Dimension; Rare Earth; the Grass Roots and Canned Heat. 

John Van Hamersveld – artist known for his artwork for “The Endless Summer” in 1966 and for making the cover of the Beatles’ “Magical Mystery Tour” album in 1967 – will be painting two buses, one to be used as a stage. 

Special videos shows are being planned for a giant screen hanging over the street that include rolling credits memorial for the 58,000 Americans killed or missing in action from the Vietnam War. 

Each of the 10 casinos on the Fremont Street Experience are also making plans to tie to the 1969 theme.

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Playmates, Playboys Lust for Playmate of the Year Honors in Las Vegas

Tonight fur of the fluffy white kind is going to fly in Las Vegas:  Playboy is announcing their Playmate of the Year atBrande Roderick Simon Restaurant at Palms Place.  The guy with the most Viagra in the world, Hugh Hefner, will be there, along with his Playmates from the past 55 years- a total of 68 beauties. 

Leading Las Vegas Backstage Access to question if Hef can clearly remember what happened that far back?   Is a bunny tail by any other name, still a bunny? 

The host of the sensual foray is Brande Roderick (pictured) of “Celebrity Apprentice” and 2001’s Playmate of the Year at the invitation-only event. 

It’s quite an honor for the City of Excess, as it marks the first time the event has been held outside the Playboy Mansion.

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Las Vegas Air Traffic Down, Bird-Aircraft Strikes Lead Nation

The Federal Aviation Administration says hundreds of airplanes collided with birds at Nevada airports between 1990 and 2008, but, thankfully, few of the incidents resulted in substantial damage to aircraft. birdstrikes

Although McCarran International Airport visitor traffic is down in Las Vegas, it led the nation with 244 bird strikes, five of those incidents resulting in substantial aircraft damage. 

Following the Las Vegas record, the Reno-Tahoe International Airport followed with 176 strikes, four involving substantial damage. 

Elko Municipal Airport reported eight strikes, one involving substantial damage. 

The reports follow January’s ditching in the Hudson River in New York of a US Airways jet after being struck by a flock of geese after takeoff.

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Terry Fator’s Quantum Las Vegas Leap

Just three years ago Terry Fator was giving a performance at a fair near Houston, Texas to an audience of one.   He considered walking away from show business but made a fateful decision to audition one more time and after winningterryfator2 the second season of America’s Got Talent, Fator has stopped wondering whether he’s in the right profession. 

Fator has signed a five-year contract to perform nightly at The Mirage Casino and Resort in Las Vegas. He is replacing Danny Gans, who has moved to Steve Wynn’s Encore, and will be presenting his show at the Terry Fator Theatre. 

But if the ventriloquist act isn’t exactly what you’re looking for, take a look at the artists who are working the room on the nights that Winston the Impersonating Turtle is taking a break.   Ray Ramono and Brad Garrett, Ron White and Lewis Black will all give it a whirl in the Terry Fator Theatre in 2009. 

Don’t  count out the entertainment value of a night with Fator and company:   “I look at myself as a talk show host and the characters are my guests,” says Fator. “I can guarantee anyone who comes to my show, within a second or two, will feel that the puppet is the real entity.”

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Don’t be a Scaredy-Cat- Be Their Prey in Las Vegas

When I was a kid, my brothers and I would spend hours each week hanging on the fence at the sand pit.  I couldn’t tell bulldozeryou what those bull dozers and earth excavators were doing – it wasn’t a proper rock quarry or even a real sand pit – but we would race around the bend, following those machines around that acre-wide hole in the ground, super impressed with the big loads, loud noise and heavy hauling.  Those drivers were our rock stars. 

Now there’s a new company in Henderson, Nevada that has made a bet that there are plenty of similar people who have never lost their childhood fascination and attraction to ‘dozers and Cat’s.  Big Dig Las Vegas is offering even the most novice of equipment operators – no experience required – the chance to get behind the controls of one or more real earth movers.  They will pick-up visitors at their hotels and wisk them to their 10-acre ‘playground’ for a day of car-smashing and earth-moving fun like no other.  You’ll hear the metal-gnawing machine groan with each bite and the earth shake with each excruciatingly juicy grab-and-drop. 

Some restrictions apply – you have to be 18 and sober to participate.  But as long as you meet those criteria you can select from the Dozer Adventure, Agression Session or Hard Core Challenge  (maybe that allows you to rain destruction down on one of the half-finished casinos?) and you could just get your agresssions out and spend part of your family reunion enjoying the most healthy and legal form of destruction that the Las Vegas Valley has to offer.

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Mariah Carey & Hubby Nick Cannon Plan Lavish One-Year Anniversary Bash in Las Vegas

Mariah Carey and husband Nick Cannon will be literally rolling the dice for their one-year-anniversary with a lavish celebration in Las Vegas. mariahcarey

The Glitter star stunned fans last year when she married hip-hop star Cannon in a private ceremony in the Bahamas on April 30. 

A year later, the duo is still going strong and are planning their one-year anniversary party in Sin City at the end of April, it’s claimed. 

The celebrations will reportedly begin at 11 p.m, on April 30 and go on until the early hours of the morning at the Palms’ Moon nightclub in Las Vegas. 

Mariah’s marriage to Nick was her second time – she split from recording-industry mogul Tommy Mottola in 1998, after five years together.

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Susan G. Koman Foundation’s Las Vegas Race for Cancer Cure

“It started with a promise…it will end with a cure.” susankoman

The 14th annual Susan G. Koman Southern Nevada Race for the Cure will be held on May 2 in Las Vegas.  The route will begin at Las Vegas Blvd. and Clark and continue through downtown to Las Vegas Blvd and Fremont – the Fremont Street Experience. 

The Susan G. Komen for the Cure Foundation was established by Nancy Brinker after her sister, Suzy, was diagnosed with breast cancer in 1978.  Treatment options were limited and there was little if any public recognition of the cause or impact of breast cancer.  Suzy died at the age of 36 and her sister Nancy made it her goal to fund health care options, develop treatments and raise awareness of this deadly disease.  The Susan G. Komen Breast Cancer Foundation officially opened its doors in 1982.  

The Race for the Cure is the largest single fundraiser for the Koman organization.   Proceeds from the race help fund breast health education, cancer screening, patient support and treatment.  

On average, 75 percent of the funds raised in Nevada stay in Nevada to help local women.  

Online registration will be available through Monday April 27, however you may register up to and including race day and there is still time to be a sponsor or volunteer at the event.

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Beyonce Heads for Las Vegas Glitter

Since Las Vegas first grew out of the desert dust, powerful female entertainers have always found a home in the main beyonceshowrooms of Las Vegas casinos and hotels.   In just the past year, Las Vegas marquis have invited tourists to spend an evening with Celine Dion, Cher, Bette Midler,Taylor Swift, Rita Rudner, and coming this July, appearing at the Encore Theatre, in Steve Wynn’s latest and greatest Wynn Las Vegas hotel – Beyonce.   

Beyonce Knowles began her “I am…Sasha Fierce” tour in Edmonton Canada in March 2009.  After several dates in Canada, the tour moved on to Europe in April with stops in Austria, France, Germany and Spain along the way and ending with a series of performances in England. 

On June 21 Knowles’ Sasha tour makes its way stateside to Madison Square Garden in New York and continues across the country until July 30 when her tour arrives for four nights in Las Vegas.  

The title of Beyonce’s current album is a play on the persona she created over the past few years.  One half of the tracks of “I am…” are personal stories and come from the singer’s soul.  The other half of the album, “….Sasha Fierce” is full of the spark and flame that has come from the stage persona of Sasha.  And Beyonce will be bringing her all-female band and this high octane combination to Las Vegas for their joint Encore Theater marquis moment in July. 

Mike Ross of the Edmonton Sun recently gave Beyonce’s performance at Rexall Place 4.5 out of 5 stars rating stating, “Beyonce can sing traditional R&B if she wants. She proved it late last night – wailing on the Etta James classic At Last, which she performed for the inauguration of U.S. President Barack Obama.”

Tickets will go on sale through Ticketmaster on Saturday, April 25.  And – the good news – Beyonce is making first 2,000 seats available for $20 (plus applicable service charges).

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Robin Williams’ Comedy Featured at CineVegas Film Festival in Las Vegas

Robin Williams is always a tough act to follow.  But at the 11th annual CineVegas film festival in Las Vegas from June 10 through 15 at the Palms Casino & Hotel he’ll be the last act. robinwilliams

His dark comedy “World’s Greatest Dad” directed by Bobcat Goldthwait will close the six-day film extravaganza.  The film features Williams as a high school poetry teacher trying to connect with his teenage son (Darryl Sabara) and an art teacher (Alexis Gilmore) – until a freak accident triggers both tragedy and opportunity. 

The very popular annual Las Vegas festival features a “Pioneer Documentaries” section featuring seven non-fiction films including the world premier of the poker documentary “All In.” 

“Diamond Discoveries” section spotlights new independent films available for distribution, among them “Palermo Shooting,” starring CineVegas chair Dennis Hopper, and “Vegas:  Based on a True Story,” about a compulsive gambler and his blue-collar family living on the outskirts of Glitter City. 

The festival’s “Area 52” is devoted to midnight showings of underground and cult films. 

A special section will also spotlight features and shorts produced in Nevada, or by Nevada filmmakers, including the world premiere of “Thor at the Bus Stop,” which follows a mythical creature on his final journey. 

More information is online at www.CineVegas.com

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Las Vegas Benefit Concert on May 2 for Trina Johnson-Finn

On May 2 a benefit concert will be held in Las Vegas for Las Vegas celebrity impersonator Trina Johnson-Finn, who has been jailed in South America for more than seven weeks.   trinajohnsonfinn

Johnson-Finn goes on trial in early May on charges of fraudulently performing as Tony Braxton in the South American nation of Suriname. 

Johnny Stuart, longtime operator of the “Legends In Concert,” is having the event at his Legends Ranch from noon to 8 p.m.

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Las Vegas Embraces Hip-Hop Culture

Las Vegas is finally getting in the groove and embracing the hip-hop culture movement, sort of.  hiphop

On April 25 they’re hosting the “Hip-Hop Culture 2009…The Evolution” event which features Las Vegas DJs, MCs, poets, artists, dancers, fashion designers, and other assorted artsy-fartsy types in an effort to keep its positive, “encouraging youth to stay in school and support good communities, while at the same time discouraging gang participation, violence and drug use.”  

A good cause for Sin City. 

The event will start at 2 p.m. at the Sammy Davis Jr. Plaza at Lorenzi Park, 720 Twin Lakes Drive in Las Vegas. $5, $3 for seniors and children 6-12. 702-229-4800.

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Learn How to Use Your Fly in Las Vegas

It’s not what you think.  Actually, some say it’s better, more skillful.  The Nevada Department of Wildlife  (the other flyfishingvariety) will be having a free Introduction to Fly Fishing class on April 25 at the NDOW Las Vegas office and the Floyd Lamb Park in Las Vegas. 

The classes will cover basics such as knot tying, terminology and the equipment needed to fly fish, along with casting skills. 

There is also another fly-tying workshop on April 28. 

For more information and registration contact Ivy Santee at 702-486-5127, ext. 3503.

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Liberace Show, Museum & Foundation Sparkles in Las Vegas

As the promotion of Las Vegas culture continues to be challenged, with many museums closing or facing severe budget cuts, the Liberace Museum continues to weather the economic storm.  In fact, it’s just celebrated its 30th anniversary. liberace1

Liberace’s fan popularity continues to soar.  A new show titled Liberace: The Man, The Music & The Memories has been announced for Broadway this fall. The musical will recreate the experience of a Liberace concert in a Las Vegas show room. The musician and comedian Wayland Pickard has been cast in the leading role. 

Liberace opened his museum in 1979, three years after establishing his Liberace Foundation for helping students of the arts.  All proceeds from the museum still support the foundation’s mission.  So far, 2,500 scholars have received $5.2 million in awards. 

Over the years, the museum hasn’t changed much.  And though his fans are aging, still about 50,000 people tour the Liberace Museum daily, says museum director Tanya Combs.  Featuring his cars, pianos, clothes, and jewels, the people who come through the doors watched Liberace on television, saw him in concert, or just heard the museum in a fun attraction, she adds. 

Then there are those people who know Liberace, with his bejeweled costumes, larger-than-life jewelry and penchant for flashy shows- the kin of Las Vegas kitsch. 

Liberace performed in Las Vegas for the first time in 1944, playing the piano at the Las Frontier Hotel.  He dubbed himself Mr. Showmanship in 1956 during an engagement at the Riviera, and make Las Vegas his official residence.  

Liberace represented a style of entertainment that became the very essence and embodiment of the City of Entertainment.

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‘What Happens in Las Vegas Will Stay There’ for Three More Years

The Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority has approved a new three-year advertising and marketing deal with R&R Partners, creators of the “What happens here, stays here” popular Las Vegas advertising slogan. 

The new deal is shorter than two previous five-year pacts with R&R but comes with an option for a three-year extension to 2012.

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Parrotheads in Las Vegas A-hoy!

Legendary singer/songwriter Jimmy Buffett will be returning once again to the MGM Grand Garden Arena in Las Vegas for a one night show on May 16.   jimmybuffett

After gaining considerable success in the music business, Buffett opened the Margaritaville restaurants which are now found in 11 locations including 3555 Las Vegas Blvd. South on the Las Vegas Strip.  His business empire also includes the Radio Margaritaville station on Sirius Satellite, extensive Margaritaville merchandising and he continues touring in support of his body of music.   

Tickets for the May 16 performance are reportedly still available: http://www.mgmgrand.com/entertainment/grand-garden-arena.aspx or www.vegas.com

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Stay and Play in Las Vegas- PLEASE!

Las Vegas visitor volume, occupancy and spending are down as businesses and casinos continue to struggle and reinvent themselves in the recession.  Now Las Vegas is turning to their residents to help them survive.  Hopefully, this will be the winning hand that convinces residents to stay and play awhile before, during, or after their regular vacations. 

There are package deals galore offered at resorts, not only in Las Vegas, but also in Primm, Boulder City, Mesquite and Laughlin. Almost every resort and restaurant is jumping on the bandwagon by offering amazing deals so sweet, locals are opting for a staycation. 

“Stay and play here” is the new Las Vegas slogan aimed at getting locals to spend money in their own backyard. “That’s what we want them to do. We want them to stay in Las Vegas and spend the night instead of traveling to other cities,” said Palms Resort Owner George Maloof. 

Maloof, along with other resort CEO’s are making a deals people can’t refuse. Half-off dinner at Paris, discounts on rooms and rides at New York New York, to name a few. 

“I think the local people just need to be reminded of how great this city is and what great amenities we have. There’s nothing like it in the world,” said Maloof. 

The deals range from entertainment, to shopping, dining and room reservations are all listed on the website http://www.stayandplayhere.com , a site created by the Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority and the Las Vegas Chamber of Commerce. 

Almost every Las Vegas hotel and casino has jumped on the bandwagon. 

To take advantage of all the deals, all you need is your Nevada State ID.

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Miss Nevada’s Gown to Win the Crown?

For decades there’s been a standard beauty pageant look- Aqua net hair, bright red lipstick and that too bright never fading smile.  But in the last 10 years, a new image has emerged.   The padded shoulders and brittle taffeta skirts have slowly been replaced with more current fashion designs including an evening gown created by Project Runway designer Kayne Gillespie. 

This year, Miss Nevada-USA Georgina Vaughan will take the fashion focus all the way to haute couture with a wardrobe of designs by Lana Fuchs of Lana Fuchs Couture. 

A Las Vegas resident since 1995, Lana Fuchs has designed one of a kind clothing worn by celebrities such as Paula lanafuchs1Abdul and Meaghan Martin.  And now she has created a weeks worth of looks for Georgina Vaughan including a fashion forward evening gown that is expected to help set the Las Vegas local apart from the other 50 Miss USA contestants. 

“There’s such a mold of the typical pageant girl,” she says. “Being blond, people prejudge you.”  

Lana Fuchs had a successful runway debut at the Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week in Los Angeles in October 2008.  She’s also been featured in Marie Claire, Harper’s Bazaar, In Touch Weekly and 944. 

The Miss USA Pageant will be televised live from the Planet Hollywood Resort & Casino, Las Vegas on Sunday, April 19th, starting at 7 p.m. on NBC.

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Criminal Minds Star Morphs into ‘Allllvinnn!’

CBS’s Criminal Minds very popular actor Matthew Gray Gubler is a Las Vegas product born and bred.  Performing as matthewgublerthe three Ph.D. degree-holding Dr. Spencer Reid on the TV series since 2005,  Gubler was raised in a quiet neighborhood near Bob Baskin Park in Las Vegas, later graduating from the Las Vegas Academy of Performing Arts High School and later attended a four-year class at the Las Vegas Academy of International Studies, majoring in drama and graduating in 1998.  

After that “The Gube,” started his “profiling” career by studying at the University of California in Santa Cruz and two year later decided to leave California and move to New York to enroll at  the Tisch School of the Arts, later graduating from that school in 2002.  While in Manhattan he walked the runways for some of the biggest fashion designers including Marc Jacobs, Burrberry, Louis Vuitton, Tommy Hilfiger and Sisley. 

Gubler, 29, is now taking a brief television break from his “personal voyage of desperation and tragedy,” to voice Simon in the new Alvin and the Chipmunks: The Squeakuel movie planned for release on December 25th by 20th Century Fox.

 “I welcome the role with open arms because it’s so fun- not that I don’t love looking at bloody fingerprints,” says a confident and beaming Gubler. 

Okay!

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World’s Largest Heliport Plans Grand Las Vegas Valley Liftoff

Our economy is tanking, but don’t tell that to the thousands of tourists that daily fly in helicopters to get a birdseye view of the majestic Grand Canyon.  An average of 99 helicopters fly out daily from McCarran International Airport in Las Vegas, just six fewer than the 2005 peak.  And that doesn’t include the additional 3,500 customers that are planned to fly daily from the new Boulder City Aerocenter [Las Vegas Backstage Access April 2 article].

The first phase of the proposed 229-acre Sloan heliport, costing an estimated $115 million and projected for a mid-heliport2011 completion, will provide the home for 80 to 110 helipads.  

That will make the heliport the biggest on the planet, say Federal Aviation Administration officials. 

The heliport will also clear McCarran airport space for jetliners to bring much-needed tourists to boost the Las Vegas Valley’s economy, while safely moving helicopters away from crowded city neighborhoods. 

The FAA has recently signed off on the environmental assessment that now paves the way for the Bureau of Land Management to transfer the Sloan heliport property to Clark County.

Heliport project groundbreaking is planned for early 2010. 

Maverick Helicopters is planned to be the first tenant to lease heliport space, which may approved as early as April 7 when the Clark County commissioners meet to discuss the matter.   Two more tour operators could join Maverick in occupying the heliport.

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NASCAR Award Ceremonies Planned for Las Vegas

Although some minor details need to be ironed out, it’s almost a done deal that Las Vegas will be the new home to the NASCAR Sprint Cup banquet, awards ceremonies and postseason celebrations in the first week of December, most likely December 4. nascarawards

The event honors the top 10 NASCAR drivers from the Chase for the Sprint Cup championship. 

A major event acquisition coup for Las Vegas,  for the past 27 years the prestigious event was held in New York City. 

Planning has been in the works for the past two years by Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority (LVCVA) president Rossi Ralenkotter and his team.  Speedway Motorsports Inc., owner of the Las Vegas Motor Speedway, has lobbied for the event. 

The LVCVA would reportedly pay NASCAR between $500,000 and $1 million for each year of the contract, which may be for three to five years. 

NASCAR would be the second major professional sport to shift its awards ceremony to Las Vegas this year.  Ralenkotter negotiated a three-year deal to bring the NHL awards to the Palms Casino & Hotel on June 18.

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A Little Less Juiced Sin City

Although reportedly ‘safe and sane’ energy juice drinks are now alternatively swigged in copious amounts nightly by Paris Hilton and her clan to keep them up all night and partying hearty, it’s nice to know that less juice of yet a different type can also be a good thing in the City of Entertainment.  

Although many states reported little or no change in energy use during Earth Hour, officials at NV Energy report that earth-hourenergy consumption during the March 28 one-hour event [click on prior Las Vegas Backstage Access articles: 1  2] in the Las Vegas Valley dropped roughly 3 percent below a typical Saturday night. 

Although virtually every Las Vegas hotel-casino on the Strip powered down their exterior lights for an hour during that evening, it’s really difficult to accurately determine how much of that power drop might have come from conservation-minded residents turning down or off their lights as the company doesn’t differentiate between power use along the resort corridor and residential consumption. 

But saving energy really wasn’t the goal of Earth Hour.  Rather, the idea was a call for world action for climate change, letting policymakers know the people mean business on the issue. 

Las Vegas means business on climate change initiatives and saving energy costs.

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Las Vegas Topless Strip Clubs Rain Cash-For-Customers

As former topless cabaret mogul and government informant Michael Galardi walks the Las Vegas Strip schmoozing and looking for a new gig, a high-stakes strip poker match of a different type is agressively being played out at many Las Vegas topless adult entertainment clubs. 

Long a “what happens in Vegas, stays in Vegas” accepted business practice, Las Vegas strip clubs handsomely tipped cabbies that delivered lusty patrons to their doorstep.  Fifty bucks was the norm for over a decade.strip-clubs1

Until now.  

As home prices and sales continue to plummet and people try to find jobs or at least hold on to their employment, many Las Vegas topless strip clubs have seen fit to double the cab tip ante to at least $100 per customer.   That new ransom could equates to an average estimated payout of $5 million a year by each participating strip club.  A C-note buy in for participating in the cash-for-customers game is commonly paid by Ricks’ Cabaret Gentlemen’s Club, Treasures, Sapphire Gentlemen’s Club, and many more- at least the ones that aren’t secretly looking for new owners or staving off their bankruptcy. 

No end appears in sight for the advancing Taxi Topless War.  Many clubs are trying to recoup rising “acquisition” costs by charging higher cover charges and drink prices.   Rick’s CEO and President Eric Langan mirrors the intentions of many strip club owners, saying he has no intention to be outbid by his Sin City bretheren and is willing to write off the expenses as the cost of marketing. 

As Las Vegas cab and limo drivers rake in record amounts of dough, they’re also arguing more with doormen to cut ever higher deals.   And it’s not uncommon to see cab drivers pass up picking up ladies waiting for a ride on the street in favor of waiting gents that can bring them more revenue.

Casino hosts, too, are also rapidly buying in to the very lucrative cash-for-customers game.   They’re not just referring their clients to the strip clubs, but hosting them inside the caverns of lust.

And, of course, you can bet your last dollar that the IRS will eventually come sniffing around and look for its due.

Recession hitting the Las Vegas topless clubs?  Pshaw!

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Rock ‘N Roll Double-Header Tour Heading to Las Vegas?

This summer, Def Leppard and Bryan Adams will give the phrase “Take Me Out to the Ball Game” a whole new meaning def-leppardas they co-headline a nationwide Rock ‘N Roll Double-Header Tour. Teaming up for the first time, two of the most popular rock acts to ever take the stage are slated to perform at 26 minor league baseball stadiums around the country, starting on June 1 when they travel to Portland, Oregon, home of the Beavers.

Bryan Adams and Def Leppard, combined, have sold more than 100,000,000 albums worldwide. Each made their album debut in 1980 — and 25 years later they are still hitting performance homeruns. Only five rock groups can claim two original albums selling 10,000,000 plus copies each in the U.S.: The Beatles, Led Zeppelin, Pink Floyd, Van Halen and Def Leppard. 

However, not seeing the Las Vegas 51s, our 27-year-old Triple-A minor league baseball franchise team that plays at Cashman Field, on the concert tour list, Las Vegas Backstage Access is checking with Chicago-based promoter Jam Productions to see if they’ve simply flubbed up.  

Or could it just be that Derek Stevens, CEO of the Stevens Baseball Group, who bought the franchise from Mandalay Baseball Properties in 2008 has other plans for his team this season?

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Las Vegas Art Scenesters Buckle Up for Bumpy Roller Coaster Ride

The Las Vegas Art Museum shutdown last month.  The Nevada Ballet has cutback on staff and postponed programs.  The Las Vegas Philharmonic is cutting back and holding on.   art

The Nevada Opera Theatre, though feeling the economic impact,  is cushioned somewhat by their pre-recession budgeting. 

“The effect on us has not been as traumatic as on the philharmonic and the ballet because of their much larger agenda and audience participation,” said founder and director Eileen Hayes, whose theatre actually has seen a budget increase from about $225,000 to $300,000. 

“Yes, contributions have been down, especially between the last two years and this year, but we’ve been in the mode of reducing our once big deficit dramatically over the last few years. And our audience attendance is really starting to rebound.” 

Beyond those factors, the company has not tied itself to a set season of performances and the attendant costs. When it does perform, it is at smaller, less expensive venues. Though for the past two years the company has not staged its usual production at UNLV’s large Artemus Ham Hall, Hayes expects that to resume. Tickets have been kept less than $50, and the group has kept close tabs on production budgets. 

“We’re just being very careful what we do,” Hayes said. “We have cut back on guest performers over the last several years. We used to bring in entire sets and costumes, but now we’ve gotten frugal and rent pieces locally and from Southern California. We used to rent entire sets from New York, but those days are gone.” 

At Opera Las Vegas, finances are actually on the upswing. Citing “prudent and creative fundraising,” Hal West, vice president of marketing and public relations, said his company is aiming for a 50 percent budgetary hike, increasing program investments from $50,000 to $75,000. Containing expenditures by staging only two productions this year, they briefly considered doubling the top $40 ticket price but nixed that notion. 

Similarly, the 32-year-old Las Vegas Little Theatre, Las Vegas’ oldest community theater, is functioning fairly well on a nearly $200,000 budget, maintaining six productions in the main stage theater and three in the smaller Black Box. 

“We’re not rolling in money, but we’re no worse than in previous years, paying our rent and electric bills,” said board President Walter Niejadlik, noting that keeping expectations reasonable and avoiding grandiose goals helps steady the balance sheet. “We’re not doing huge productions costing $20,000 a pop that never have a shot at making money back. It’s the undoing of a lot of arts organizations in this town. Everyone’s going to be the next greatest thing, doing art for art’s sake, but with no business sense.” 

Theater audiences traditionally skew older than for other art forms — on average, 65 to 70 years old, Niejadlik said — with more discretionary income to spend on the arts. But that demographic reality has a sad side: the steady attrition of season subscribers. Las Vegas Little Theatre loses about 70 subscribers a year. 

“Without being terribly morbid, they’re dying,” Niejadlik said. “We get a list of subscribers who have passed away. Our big focus is on getting younger folks into the theater.”

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Las Vegas Travel Web Site Upgrades Customer Options

VEGAS.com has revamped its Web site, enabling the creation of custom Las Vegas travel package for their customers with just one visit to the site. 

The improved VEGAS.com allows consumers to move seamlessly through its many offerings , adding items to their virtual shopping carts and checking out in one transaction after all the trip’s components – travel, lodging, shows and other activities – are  in place.  

Shoppers check on ticket availability for shows and other Las Vegas entertainment options before making their hotel and airline reservations at a package rate. 

It also offers flights from 400 airlines – up from one – and supports making flight reservations to Las Vegas from 1,700 cities, up from 90. 

When combined with the thousands of hotel, show, tour, golf, nightclub and restaurant options marketed by the site, VEGAS.com estimates that it will enable consumers to choose from 207 billion possible combinations of Las Vegas tourism offerings.

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Out with Miss America, In with Miss USA

No sooner than Miss America pageant contestants sashayed in and out of Las Vegas, then 51 Miss USA contestants strutted in to take their place at Planet Hollywood Resort & Casino.  On April 4 at 6 p.m. all the Miss USA contestants will have their first official welcoming ceremony, with the public invited to come out and meet, greet and photograph the bevy of beauties outside the resort on Las Vegas Boulevard plaza, 3667 Las Vegas Boulevard South. 

The iconic Donald Trump-owned Miss USA® Pageant returns for its second year to Las Vegas and the Theatre for the Performing Arts at the Planet Hollywood Resort & Casino.

Representing Miss Nevada USA will be Georgina Vaughan, who will have a brief four-mile drive from her home in georgiavaugnSummerlin to the festivities.   The local 20-year-old blonde beauty plans to wear a bikini from Jessica Simpson’s swimsuit line for that part of the competition and promises that she’s also going to take a risk with her evening gown competition as well.

“It’s definitely going to be something spectacular and different. I want to be a trendsetter because that’s what Nevada is all about in the first place. It’s going to have a real sparkle to it, but nobody will see it until the actual moment I walk in it for the competition.”

Rounding out the Las Vegas welcoming committee entourage will be Crystal Stewart, 2008 Miss USA®; Thomas McCartney, president and CEO of Planet Hollywood Resort & Casino; Lawrence Weekly, Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority Board of Director and Clark County Commissioner; and other dignitaries.  KLUC’s Chet Buchanan will be onsite as the local emcee.

If the mass meet and greet is just too bland for you, might want to consider attending the Sunday, April 5 pajama brunch at Simon at Palms Place from noon to 2 p.m.  Twenty-six Miss USA contestants will be in their jammies eating anything yummy.    Then that evening the high metabolism blessed lovelies will pig out on pasta at Buca di Beppo in Las Vegas and be entertained by chef Michael Miyahara.

There is no word on whether Katie Rees, Miss Nevada USA 2007, who was stripped of her title after racy photos emerged of her kissing other women, will show up to kibitz with the new flock of beauties.

Also, no blog postings are being planned about having fun at Guantanamo Bay, as happened when Miss Universe Venezulean beaty queen Dayana Mendoza visited the detainee camp with Miss USA 2008 Crystal Stewart and posted her late-March bombshell entry.  It quickly vanished and was replaced by a statement from embarassed Paula M. Shugart, president of the Miss Universe organization.

The 2009 Miss USA® Pageant will air live on NBC on April 19, 2009.

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Playboy Icon Hugh Hefner Turns 83 in Las Vegas this Weekend

hugh-hefnerHugh Hefner will be prancing around all this weekend in his aged red robe all over the Palms Casino in Las Vegas celebrating his 83rd birthday. 

There’s a Palms Place pool party scheduled from 2 to 4 p.m. Saturday, April 4 at the Playboy Club & Moon Nightclub. 

And there is great potential for some memorable catfights, as Hef’s “old” flame, Holly Madison (and, recently, Criss Angel’s ex), is reportedly joining her “Girls Next Door” gal pals, Kendra and Bridget.   During this fray, Hef will meticulously grooming their replacements with tender loving care: Crystal Harris and 19-year-old twins Karissa and Kristina Shannon.   

If you’re planning on going, be sure to bring Hef a birthday present:  Viagra

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Business Booms for M Resort in Las Vegas Valley

Anthony Marnell III opened his new $1 billion M Resort property in Henderson, Nevada on March 1 and Las Vegas Backstage Access was there and wrote on it.  The resort was swamped with 4,000 guests on opening night, forcing many guest to park their cars on the dirt just to get in.  

Attendance continues to surge.  The Las Vegas Review-Journal reported that 20,000 people, lured by the promise of $10 in free slot play, signed up for their slot club in the first two day.    Other guests swamp the two eateries, the Red Cup Café and the Vig Deli.  Table games, at least the $10 ones, are generally packed with clients, even during the week. 

Encouraged by the results, Marnell has expanded his 1,800-member work force by 250 people.  That’s a 14 percent increase in a down economy.

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Boulder City Boosts Nevada Tourism Appeal with New Air Terminal

The Boulder City Municipal Airport in Boulder City, Nevada, located about 40 minutes outside from central Las Vegas, has been waiting many years to get a showcase air terminal for their 3,500 customers who fly helicopters and planes daily to the Grand Canyon.  Now their dream is a reality with the opening of the new $9 million Boulder City Aerocenter.  The 30,000-square-foot terminal at the airport is the project of Southern Nevada’s Halvorson family – largest air tour operators in the world – which own Papillion Grand Canyon Helicopters, Grand Canyon/Scenic Airlines and the Canyon Flight Trading Company. 

The terminal has allowed the myriad of Las Vegas and North Las Vegas flight tour operations to consolidate at one location and in so doing reduced some of the mounting air clutter over residential areas and provided more takeoff and landing slots for bigger aircraft at McCarran airport in Las Vegas.

Dramatic 26-foot tall windows face the ramp, runway, and offer a panoramic view of the desert and mountains beyond. 

A large retail store features clothing, accessories, and souvenirs, along with a photo processing center and café. 

On the second floor there are offices and a call center where approximately 350 employees accept travel reservations and conducts tours in 16 languages.

Not bad for a sleepy little Nevada town with no gambling allowed.

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Carlos Santana to Headline The Joint in Las Vegas Hard Rock

Iconic guitarist Carlos Santana, 61, and his band, including drummer Dennis Chambers and keyboardist Chester carlossantanaThompson, has just signed a two-year deal through 2010 to do 36 shows a year in the newly refurbished The Joint, which opens on April 17.   Their Supernatural tour starts on May 27 and continues through June 14; they’re scheduled to return in September. 

Santana said he will approach his upcoming The Joint residency “from the point of bringing a spiritual confidence,” philosophically musing “a sunset and sunrise is never the same.  Making love is never the same unless you’re doing something wrong.”

Produced by media production company Frank the Plumber, the group will do four shows a week for three weeks per run.   Tickets go on sale today.

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Las Vegas’ Sexiest Cocktail Waitresses

Sooner or later Las Vegas Backstage Access knew it would happen:  a Las Vegas branded sexiest cocktail waitress contest.  Who would have thunk it?  Sponsored by the Las Vegas Review-Journal newspaper, there were 4,539 respondents that were ultimately paired down to a field of 10.  And the winner is… Luxor’s LAX nightclub server Jordan “J-Lee” Abeyta- all 5 feet, 2 inches of 36-24-32 of her. jordanabeyta

The single Abeyta, 22, of Portuguese and Spanish descent, who someday wants to host a travel show on cable TV, briefly talked about her victory: “I’m really honored to be chosen.  All the girls in the contest were beautiful.  Maybe they’ll [customers] recognize me, come in and want to sit at my table.”  

Clicking her six-inch stilettos smartly, Abeyta turns and works her magic- like she does three nights a week across the three football field lengths of hardwood floor at the LAX nightclub from 10 p.m. to 4 or 5 a.m. 

Abeyta earned 21 percent of the vote, followed by competitors Andrea Atkinson from Christian Audigier The Nightclub (16 percent) and Joey Williams from Tao (14 percent).

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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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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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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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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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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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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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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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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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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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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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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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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 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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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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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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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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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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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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$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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“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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Is Michael Jackson going to perform in Las Vegas?

Money-hurting music pop star Michael Jackson, on and off again Las Vegas resident, has got rid of his white gloves and is now in talks to mount a concert comeback with up to 30 live shows in either London or Las Vegas later this year.michaeljackson

If it happens, it would be Jackson’s first major performance since his 2005 acquittal on child molestation charges.

London’s O2 arena is said to be competing with a few hotels in Las Vegas to lure the 50-year-old “King of Pop” back to the stage he once ruled.  This effort has been launched in the past, but now it’s in earnest.

Even though his bizarre behavior has wrecked his image, some insiders think the shows could net him $215 million, according to published reports in British newspapers.

“It will be the greatest comeback in the history of pop and there would be no problem selling out the O2 every night,” one source told London’s Daily Mail. “No one is concerned about his reputation and people don’t feel it is a risk. Organizers are confident people will come from all over the world to see him.”

There’s one fact for certain:  Jackson really needs the work.  Once one of the richest entertainers in the world, he’s in severe dire financial straits these days.  Last year he had to fight a $7 million lawsuit by a son of the King of Bahrain over an unpaid debt. In April, he’s auctioning off thousands of his possessions, including the sequined white glove he famously wore in the “Billie Jean” videos.

Jackson has said he is working on a new album, but nothing has materialized.  An adaptation of his video “Thriller” is supposedly headed for Broadway.  Released into 1982, “Thriller” is the best-selling album of all time and launched Jackson’s career into the stratosphere.

He’s largely been a mysterious recluse in recent years while his reputation has been battered by sex scandal, strange illnesses, plastic surgeries and other odd and eccentric behavior.

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Danny Gans Performs at Wynn’s Encore Theatre

It was first Danny Gans, “The Man of 200 Voices,” performing at the Mirage in Las Vegas in 2000 with Steve Wynn as dannygans1his backer.  And now, not much has changed:  “Danny Gans, the Man of More Than 200 Voices,” is regularly entertaining at the Encore in 2009.  And Steve Wynn is once again watching him from the wings. 

Gans one-man Vegas show began at the Stratosphere in 1996, moved to the Rio in 1998 and then to the custom built Danny Gans Theatre at the Mirage in 2000.   He brings new material and an expanded repertoire to the Encore Theatre which is sure to earn him further recognition in the local entertainment industry.

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Naomi Arin Contemporary Art Gallery in Las Vegas Presents “Yo Mama: Sheila Pepe and Friends”

On the first Friday of each month, the Las Vegas downtown art district hosts a celebration of local Las Vegas artists called First Friday.  As the past board vice-president for First Fridays, Naomi Arin continues to be an active leader in the development of the Las Vegas downtown art community.  Her gallery, Naomi Arin Contemporary Art, formerly known as Dust Gallery, is located at 900 S. Las Vegas Blvd, Suite 120B.  Past exhibits have included Israeli Art Now which featured works by Israel’s top contemporary artists,  Adi Nes and Ori Gersht, and ‘MARKED’ with paintings by Chad Brown and Etsuko Ichikawa. 

Through March 29, from Tuesday through Saturday from Noon until 5 p.m., the Naomi Arin Contemporary Art sheilapepeGallery will present “Yo Mama: Sheila Pepe and Friends,” an exhibition of work by artist Sheila Pepe.  

Knitters from New York, Los Angeles, San Francisco and Las Vegas have knitted individual pieces expressing their own matriarchal background.  The artist, Pepe, gave the participants a formula to instruct them how to incorporate references to their mothers, grandmothers, and other maternal relatives into the knitted work. The pieces are being joined together into one installation at the Naomi Arin gallery, 702-880-3878

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Coming up this weekend on Las Vegas Backstage Access

Las Vegas Backstage Access is preparing articles to be published this weekend on Danny Gans, Naomi Arin Art Gallery exhibit, Tiger Jam XII, “Men of X,” and, yes, even Michael Jackson- and more.  Stay tuned.

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Country Music & NASCAR Rev Their Engines in Las Vegas

More than 10,000 NASCAR fans are expected to swarm the Fremont Street Experience in downtown Las Vegas this weekend.   The sixth annual RaceJam will bring entertainment highlighted by country star Trent Tomlinson and former Lynrd Skynrd drummer Artimus Pyle in Saturday night performances from 9 to 11 p.m.   Also, from 6 to 8 p.m, on Saturday, Southern Stue, Tony Marques, and T.J. Weaver will be performing.  Still not having your music fill?  If so, come back on Sunday from 8 to 11 p.m. to listen to the Highwire Band and Speaks Brothers.

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Las Vegas NASCAR Weekend, Meet the Drivers & More at Stratosphere

The Stratosphere Casino Hotel and Tower in Las Vegas is featuring a full line up of NASCAR weekend activities from February 26 through March 1 including raffle drawings, show cars, race simulators, and drink specials.nascar2
 
From Thursday, February, 26 through Saturday, February 28, the Stratosphere will hold casino drawings for NASCAR and Coca-Cola merchandise including autographed helmets, BBQ grills and apparel. Participants may earn tickets from 7 a.m. Thursday, February 26 through 8:45 p.m. on Saturday, February 28.
 
The drawing schedule is Thursday, February 26 at 3:30 p.m. and 8:30 p.m. Friday, February 27 at 6 p.m., 7 p.m., 8 p.m. and 9 p.m. Saturday, February 28 at 8 p.m. and 9 p.m. All drawings will take place on the casino floor.
 
Then on Friday, February 27 from 7 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. in front of Rudy’s Inc. on the Stratosphere casino floor you can meet and greet NASCAR drivers, getting autographs from Hermie Sadler, Scott Wimmer, Todd Bodine, Kenny Hendrick, Reagan Smith, Jeff Green, David Green, Terry Cook, Eric McClure, Dexter Bean, Scott Riggs, Dave Blaney, Casey Atwood, and Kirk Shelmerdine. 

On Saturday, February 28 from 6 p.m. to 9 p.m. the iRacing.com racing simulator will be outside the front entrance to the Stratosphere.
 
The Stratosphere is located at 2000 Las Vegas Boulevard South. For information, call 702-380-7777.

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‘Osmondmania’: Las Vegas Blessing or Curse?

Osmondmania.  It’s everywhere- the Las Vegas equivalent to motherhood and apple pie.donnymarie

The seven Osmonds have been performing in front of world-wide audiences for 50 years.  They were virtually born on stage and continue to make it their home, thrilling many millions of people with their unique brand of barbershop, pop, rock, country, and jazz music

With millions of albums and have several gold and platinum records to their credit, the Osmonds have broken records for sell out performances once held by the Beatles and Elvis, and won numerous awards including the People’s Choice Award.

And choking economy or not, Donny and Marie Osmond continue to perform and shine brightly on the Las Vegas Strip.  Taking the helm when past Flamingo headliner Toni Braxton had to end her show last April due to health concerns, their 90-minute greatest-hits multimedia show at the Flamingo Showroom, which opened September 9, 2008, has an extended run through October 2010.

Now it appears the Osmonds will be Las Vegas for an eternity- and then some.  “The Osmond musical name-and teeth- will live for a long time,” jokes Donny, 51. “Marie and I still are working hard in Vegas because, with dozens of grandkids waiting in the wings and needing jobs one day, we may have to take over every hotel on the Strip.” 

Osmondmania appears here to stay in Las Vegas.

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Boston’s Vinnie Favorito Packs ‘Em In at the Flamingo in Las Vegas

Times are tough, but you wouldn’t know it by watching the insulting Boston comic Vinnie Favorito throw down a torrent of smack and pack ’em in nightly at the Flamingo in Las Vegas.vinniefavorito

Although we’re all perhaps feeling a little down on ourselves right now, Favorito has refined his ethnic humor to fit our blended and ever evolving society.  He has his black jokes and his Mexican jokes, but when he finds a couple in the audience with of each he asks, “When something’s missing, who do you blame?”

Why is Favorito’s style so popular?  It’s hard to know for certain, but maybe there’s an undercurrent of nostalgia for the simpler era of chop-busting.

Or perhaps it’s because we have moved so far past those simple definining lines in the real world, and it’s now just harmlessly ridiculous when Favorito acts mock-astonished that a Mexican couple has no children.

Either way, there is something direct and kinetic about a guy that keeps you on the edge of your seat, wondering if you’ll be the next victim.

Vinnie Favorito carries on the Don Rickles torch daily at 8 p.m. and 6 p.m. on Saturdays at the Flamingo in Las Vegas.

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Las Vegas Tops Forbes List for ‘America’s Emptiest City’

A report out this week from Forbes.com found that based on the sheer volume of abandoned apartments and homes, Las Vegas beat out all competitors.  Detroit, Michigan ranked second, followed sequentially by Atlanta, Ga, Greensboro, N.C., and Dayton, Ohio.forbes

Forbes.com evaluated fourth-quarter data from the U.S. Census Bureau to determine which city ranks as the country’s most-abandoned market.    Las Vegas boasted a rental vacancy rate of 16 percent and a home vacancy rate of 4 percent, the editors say.  Keith Schwer, director of the Center for Business and Economic Research at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas, says that amounts to 31,000 empty apartments and homes.

But this statistic alone, and the dubious publication-selling list rating that goes along with it, does not begin to tell the complete story.  The relative numbers of Las Vegas inhabitants have not packed up their bags and skedaddled out of town in droves.  Far from it.  

Consider that Las Vegas back in the irrational build-crazy construction years between 2003 and 2006 were churning out a record number of between 30,000 and 40,000 new units a year, far surpassing most cities, supply far outstripping the artificially created demand.   Residents were not leaving, just more houses were built than needed.  Now, Las Vegas has many of those same dwellings back on the market, dramatically contributing to the current Las Vegas unit glut and claim to fame.   The expectation of growth building on growth never materialized.  The housing bust crippled consumer spending and the recession began.

But as one can see by going to the many entertainment and dining venues in Las Vegas, there are still plenty of people in Sin City and lots of action and excitement abound.   With the enticement of unprecedented Las Vegas entertainment, dining, and lodging deals galore, you’re invited to come on in- the water’s fine.

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NASCAR Roars into Las Vegas

NASCAR weekend in Las Vegas is almost here!  The Las Vegas Motor Speedway is known as a complete racing nascarcomplex with road courses, a 3/8 mile oval, dirt track and drag racing facilities.  The fans will be there once again on Saturday, February 28 for the Nationwide Series Sam’s Town 300 and on Sunday March 1 for the NASCAR Cup Series Shelby 427. 

The NASCAR Cup series has been making a yearly appearance at the Speedway since 1998 when Mark Martin took home the trophy.    The winners list from past years includes Jeff Gordon, Sterling Marlin and Jimmie Johnson as well as Jeff Burton and Matt Kenseth – who have both won two Cup races in Las Vegas. 

Local police have warned all race fans to avoid driving to the Speedway via I-15 due to construction.  The DOT road widening project is expected to only further complicate the normally hectic traffic.   To avoid the weekend traffic jam, try attending the Las Vegas Super Sprint Classic held on the Dirt Track on Wednesday February 25 or the World of Outlaws Sprint Cars and Bullring Bombers event on Thursday, February 26.

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Munich Symphony Orchestra Takes Las Vegas Center Stage

Hanibal the Cannibal Lechter (Anthony Hopkins) enjoyed listening to their good vibrations as he dined in “The Silence of the Lambs” movie.   Now, safely tucked away in your chair, you too can hear the Munich Symphony Orchestra – they’ve recorded music for more than 500 movies – under the direction of guest conductor and pianist Phillippe Entremont when they perform an all-Beethoven program at 7 p.m. tomorrow, Sunday, February 22, at Artemus Ham Hall on the University of Nevada, Las Vegas campus.   $45 to $90 ticket prices. 702-895-2787.

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‘Legends in Concert’ Las Vegas Show Upgraded After 26 Years

legendsTomorrow, February 21, the third longest-running show in Las Vegas, behind only “Follies Bergere” (closing this March) and “Jubilee!” gives its last performance in its longtime home at the Imperial Palace on The Strip.  It reopens on Monday, February 23 at Harrah’s Las Vegas, sharing the main showroom with comedian Rita Rudner (prior Las Vegas Backstage Access blog article).

“Legends in Concert” is marking the move to make some long-delayed upgrades and relaunch their show that’s somewhat become a victim of its own success.

When original producer-director John Stuart introduced the show to the Strip in May 1983, it was quite the in place to go.  Departed Las Vegas greats such as Bobby Darin returned and shared stage time with other ill-fated stars who never made it to the Sands.  Buddy Holly and Janis Joplin were part of the opening-week lineup.

But now, costumed impersonators- or “tribute artists” as they are affectionately called- are so widely accepted and a staple of entertainment, that few blink an eye when a new artist enters the fray.  Tributes to everyone from John Denver to Ozzy Osbourne are a regular staple of off-Strip local casinos, as well as tribal-owned casinos around the country.  And lately, the official versions of classic rock bands such as Journey and Styx have blurred the faux line even more by pulling in singers from the tribute circuit.

With so many look-alike and now sound-alike acts in Las Vegas and around the country, it’s been hard for “Legends” to maintain its authenticity and dominance.  What makes Elvis One better than Elvis Five?

Answering the challenge, the new “Legends” at Harrah’s has been reinvented and will feature a new accompanying video to put each act into the context of its original times.  And the format is trying harder to blend the “modular” approach that allowed acts to easily be swapped in an out and provide a refreshed audience experience over time. 

The show also has grown bolder about exploring its fanciful and alluring premise, letting some of its acts – and their underlying new visual technology – appear together and thus magnify the illusions.  One Christmas themed episode re-created the famous “Little Drummer Boy” duet between Bing Crosby and David Bowie.

Has “Legends in Concert” truly experienced a New Age rebirth?

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Suds Gush at Sin City Brewing Company in Las Vegas

Economy got you down?  Well, head down to the Flamingo in Las Vegas come this March and you will have a new place to drown your sorrows.  

The Sin City Brewing Company has plans to open its second Las Vegas location inside the Flamingo.   (The brewery’s original location is inside the Miracle Mile Shops at Planet Hollywood Resort in Las Vegas.) 

The new Las Vegas-based microbrewery will be located near the hotel’s guest entrance and valet area and have an outdoor patio area adjacent to the Flamingo’s 15-acre pool and wildlife complex.

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Snow Skiing in Las Vegas?

Yes, it’s true.  Granted, it’s not the Vail or Aspen Colorado variety, but Las Vegas usually receives a good sprinkling of the white fluffy stuff each year, showing it off on the nearby snow-capped Charleston Peaks. snow

In the last couple of months, snow has made a rare appearance, sprinkling its way down to the Las Vegas valley floor for days, snarling traffic for hours for some, and providing a new photo op for others.   And for one day the local schools were even closed. 

The only developed ski facility in Southern Nevada is the Las Vegas Ski and Snowboard Resort in Las Vegas, which lies in the Spring Mountain National Recreations Area, located about 45 minutes from downtown Las Vegas.  Skiers can ski all day and then either stay there at the Charleston Hotel and Resort, or the Mount Charleston Lodge, or just choose to head back to Las Vegas to take in a Las Vegas show or try their luck on the gaming tables and slots. 

In addition to its café and bar, the 8,300-foot-level recreation area base boasts a sports shop, equipment rentals, and instruction for skiers and snowboarders.  The ski area offers two double chair lifts and many ski trails from the top of the lifts at nearly 9,400 feet.  Compared to many ski venues, the price for lift tickets is a steal of a bargain:  All day lift tickets are $50; for senior citizen and children the cost is $30. 

For an added adventure treat, Las Vegas Carriages provides a horse-drawn sled ride through the pines in the crisp winter air.  The rides load up from behind the Mount Charleston Lodge on weekends and last about 20 minutes.  Cost is $25 for adults and $15 for children (702-596-6715).

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Las Vegas Hard Rock Hotel Prepares for Strong 2010

hardrockThe Hard Rock Hotel in Las Vegas recently topped off its 15-story, 374-room hotel tower, part of their $750 million expansion project.  The tower is expected to open this December and feature eight spa villas on the main level with direct access via walkway to the Hard Rock Hotel’s Beach Club swimming pool.  The tower will also boast seven penthouses, each with a different theme.

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Harrah’s Entertainment Draws Down Credit Line- Prelude to Bankruptcy?

Harrah’s Entertainment recent move last Friday to draw down the $740 million remaining on its $2 billion credit line, could point the company toward financial restructuring that potentially could include bankruptcy filing.   harrahs

Michael Sullivan, a University of Nevada, Las Vegas finance professor, said that Harrah’s could be hoarding cash for operations in light of the current economic climate or to pay covenants on current borrowing. 

Or it could be looking to file a bankruptcy plan. 

Bond and gaming analysts have yet to react to the announcement.  And Harrah’s executives declined to comment yesterday. 

Harrah’s, who told their employees last week it would cut managers’ pay and suspend employees 401(k) contributions during the economic downturn, posted a net loss of $415.1 million from January 1, 2008 through September 30, 2008.  

Harrah’s will report their annual results on March 13.

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“Menopause” Musical at the Las Vegas Hilton Set to Close April 5th

Inspired by a hot flash and a bottle of wine, writer/producer Jeanie Linders created the show as a celebration of women who are on the brink of, in the middle of, or have survived “The Change.” Since its first performance, the show has evolved as a “grassroots” movement of women who deal with life after 40 and all the challenges that result in the mental, physical and spiritual freedom of the post-World War II baby boomer generation.

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Las Vegas Rain Nightclub Rains on Oscar Awards

The Oscar Night America event, which was to have been held February 22 at the Rain nightclub at the Palms Casino & Hotel has been cancelled due the economic downturn.  Organizer Jimmy Foster, president of Whispering Giants, the special events company in charge of organizing the event, says, “We feel it is better to skip this year and revisit our fundraising initiatives in 2010.”

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Captain Kirk Beams Down to Las Vegas in ShowWest Starship

showwestBefore Chris Pine walks the red carpet during the May Star Trek movie premier this May, he will first be attending the ShoWest Final Night Banquet on Thursday, April 2 to accept the ShoWest Male Star of Tomorrow award.  

Past winners of ShoWest Male Star of Tomorrow have included Emile Hirsch, Shia LaBeouf, Heath Ledger, and Matt Damon. 

ShoWest is an annual event for motion picture professionals and theatre owners.  This year it will be held at Bally’s and Paris Hotel and Casino in Las Vegas from March 30 through April 2.  

Although current economic trends have cut into the entertainment budget of most families, ShoWest provides an opportunity for theatre owners and operators to find enhancements and offer incentives that will not only bring those crowds back but keep them at the theatre longer.

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MAGIC Show Sprinkles Magic $$$ Dust on Las Vegas

Lance Burton’s magic and his theater at the Monte Carlo, suprisingly, is not the center of the Las Vegas MAGIC universe this week.  Burton, at least for this week,  has to share his headliner billing with the Men’s Apparel Guild of California.  magicuse

The MAGIC show runs February 17 through February 19 at the Las Vegas Convention Center and Las Vegas Hilton in Las Vegas.   Expected to draw an estimated 120,000 attendees, the show brings the best and most prestigious clothing exhibitors to Las Vegas convention halls, introducing new style and trends that fast-track to the general marketplace.  

This year MAGIC will expand further with the introduction of “MAGIA at MAGIC”.  Located in the South Hall of the Las Vegas Convention Center, MAGIA is designed for the Hispanic and Latin American markets. 

“We realize that this is a pivotal time in our industry,” said Chris DeMoulin, President of MAGIC International and Executive Vice-President, Advanstar Fashion Group.  Categories are evolving, trends are changing and our clients are looking to MAGIC for a new approach to their business needs. We’ve assembled an amazing team and listened to invaluable feedback from our customers, and the result is a strategy we believe in. There has never been a more exciting time to be a part of The MAGIC Marketplace.”

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Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Models Prove Life Exists After Football

Sports Illustrated Swimsuit ModelsThe NFL football season is history.  But that doesn’t mean excitement needs to be put on hold. Oh my gosh, no.  The folks over at Sports Illustrated were creatively up to the challenge, responding by providing the ultimate in eye-popping candy when 19 swimsuit models arrived in stunning fashion at LAX nightclub in the Luxor Hotel and Casino in Las Vegas on Thursday, February 12, to launch their new promotion for the much awaited 2009 Sports Illustrated swimsuit edition.  

The event marks the first time the Sports Illustrated swimsuit model team decided to make Las Vegas their destination promotion site.  Earlier in the week they were in New York.  The models arrived in grand style aboard “SI One,” a Southwest Airlines Boeing 737-700, which was completely wrapped in Sports Illustrated swimsuit imagery- something unique to no doubt soothe weary pilots’ eyes as they fly the airways.  This is also the first time that Southwest Airlines has wrapped a plane in virtually nose-to-tail imagery. sportsillusplane

Although the Sports Illustrated 46th swimsuit edition is now available on newsstands, Las Vegas Backstage Access thought you might want to see a quick teaser flash slideshow of the 19 models arriving on the red carpet at LAX. (please click on underlined words to view show; view their names by clicking on captions button in lower right).  Our professional photographers have assembled a quick exclusive glimpse of the beauties.  Included is cover girl Bar Refaeli (pictured in this article), the girlfriend of actor Leonardo DiCaprio, and Brooklyn Decker, fiancée to Andy Roddick.  Six-time Grammy award-winning recording artist John Legend performed at LAX for attendees. 

The Sports Illustrated Swimsuit franchise reaches more than 66 million satisfied adults annually in over 10 countries including China, Czech Republic, Greece, Mexico, Netherlands, Russia, Slovakia, South Africa, Spain, and Taiwan.  

Approximately one in three Americans over the age of 18 “read” the Sports Illustrated swimsuit model edition.

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Las Vegas’ Newest Headliner: Terry Fator at The Mirage

Terry Fator, 43, has come a long way.   The “America’s Got Talent” impressionist, singer, comedian, and ventriloquist went on from winning that competition in 2007 to land a five-year, $100 million deal The Mirage in Las Vegas, with an option for an additional five years.  terryfator1

“When I won Talent, my wife and I were broke,” says Fator, who has a new autobiography, “Who’s the Dummy Now.”  “Now I have to convince her that she doesn’t have to buy shoes at discount stores.”

Fator is the newest headliner at The Mirage.  His performances start today, Saturday, February 14, at the helm of the 1,265-seat Terry Fator Theatre (formerly the Danny Gans Theatre) for five shows a week.

Fator’s show is family-friendly and features a cast of seven puppets, including Cowboy Walter, Emma Taylor and Winston the Impersonating Turtle. Combining ventriloquism and impersonation, Fator performs the singing styles of an eclectic group of stars including Elvis, Maroon Five, James Blunt, Tony Bennett, Garth Brooks, Etta James, Marvin Gaye, Nat King Cole and his daughter Natalie.

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Neon Planned Outage on Las Vegas Strip

It’s a very rare occurrence when Las Vegas Strip neon marquees intentionally go dark.  The odds are better for hittingearthhour a Megabucks jackpot.  But on a usually bustling Saturday night, March 28, at 8:30 p.m. local time, running for one hour, Las Vegas casinos, businesses, and residents are being asked and urged to turn off their lights and join 240 cities in 70 countries in support of a global call for action on climate change. 

The event marks one of the few times Strip lights have been darkened for specific occasions, such as the deaths of presidents and entertainers.   The last time was for the funeral of iconic entertainer and Las Vegas resident Robert Goulet on November 9, 2007. 

The World Wildlife Fund is asking all businesses, government agencies, and individuals to dim or turn off lights for their Earth Hour event.   Las Vegas has been designated as a flagship city.  Earth Hour will begin in Fiji, in the Southwest Pacific, and will move across our planet, culminating on the West Coast of the United States.

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Las Vegas Leaders Irate Over President Barack Obama’s Remarks

It’s difficult to find anyone in Nevada, politician or otherwise, who is not ticked off – boiling mad- over President Barack Obama’s economic stimulus legislation comments on Monday while he attended a town-hall meeting in Elkhart, Indiana.  Obama said: “You can’t get corporate jets, you can’t go take a trip to Las Vegas or go down to the Super Bowl on the taxpayers’ dime.”travel

Since then Las Vegas Mayor Oscar Goodman has appeared in front of every camera and microphone he can muster, nerves frazzled and hotter than fish grease about the President Obama’s comments, demanding an immediate retraction and apology.  He followed his demand in a letter. 

In our Nevada economy that has been particularly hard hit by the recession, the enflaming remarks by could prove disastrous, many Nevada leaders say.   The number of Las Vegas tourists fell 4.4 percent last year and the descent continued in December, which saw a 14.2 percent dip compared with 2007. 

Rossi Ralenkotter, president and chief executive officer for the Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority, appeared alongside Goodman, saying later he couldn’t put a price tag on repairing damage from Obama’s remarks. 

MGM Mirage spokesman Gordon Absher followed suit, saying Obama’s comments had “wildfire potential.” 

Most business leaders agree that extravagant, ostentatious frivolous spending is one thing, but it’s the “Las Vegas fun factor” under control that can precisely be the economic stimulus ticket to drive up the attendance at Las Vegas conventions and serve as a win-win lift for our sagging national and local economies. 

But are out-of-town business conventioneers really listening? 

Goldman Sachs Group Inc. continued to draw heat and withdrew its plan to hold a three-day conference in Las Vegas after accepting $10 billion in federal bailout funds. 

Similarly, last week Wells Fargo & Co., which received $25 billion in taxpayer money, cancelled a planned employee recognition conference in Las Vegas. 

The fear is that Las Vegas is unjustly getting a growing reputation as a frivolous destination for companies- and not just those getting federal bailout money.  To which Goodman responded, “What we’re famous for has nothing to do with the fact that you can have a serious meeting in Las Vegas.” 

Only time will tell what will be the ultimate economic tourism impact of Obama’s remarks- time Las Vegas has very little of.   It could be that Obama’s comment might tilt the economic pendulum more in favor of Las Vegas tourism, actually bringing in more tourists as Las Vegas continues to work damage control on its reputation as a place for serious business.

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Hollywood Madam Heidi Fleiss Drops Desert Stud Farm Plans

There are many things that former Hollywood Madam Heidi Fleiss isn’t.  (Though, we’ll just save those for a rainy day heidifleiss2article.)  However, there are many things she is:  quirky and unpredictable are words that immediately come to mind.   But Fleiss is also a consummate businesswoman. Testimonial to that fact, her Pahrump, Nevada “Dirty Laundry” coin-operated laundromat that started a year and a half ago continues to be very successful.  In fact, she plans to open another, perhaps many of them.

She also can intuitively sense when her karma isn’t right. In 2005 she concocted a unique plan to open a Nye County brothel on 60 acres of land, close to tiny town of Crystal, Nevada to exclusively cater to women.   Planning to feature a stable of peck-endowed hunks, Heidi’s Stud Farm would have been the first bordello of its kind.   She was featured in many newspaper and magazine articles and even did a HBO documentary espousing the virtues of being unvirtuous. 

Only one problem about her plans:  Fleiss failed to take the first step of submitting an application for a brothel license. 

Now it appears she never will.  “I think I’m going to put all my property up for sale in Crystal,” Fleiss said. “I don’t want to work so hard . . . and deal with all the nonsense of the sex business.”

 But she’s definitely not into retiring and watching sunrises and sunsets either.  Plans, although not elaborated on, are for the colorful and controversial Fleiss to embark on a new Nevada alternative energy project.  

She also plans to build her dream house somewhere- it’s just she’s just not sure where yet.  

However, one thing is for certain- her lifelong steadfast commitment to her 25 pet parrots that freely roam inside and outside of her home- a double-wide trailer atop her hillside property in Pahrump.  “My birds come first,” she said. “I’ll live wherever’s best for them.”

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Sugarland To Perform In Las Vegas

Las Vegas Backstage Access is not into the habit of providing a long listing of events.  That can be obtained from many sugarlandother publications.  However, when an event is really spectacular, new, or otherwise just kitschy, then we’ll bend your ear.  Such is the case – minus the kitschy – when this year’s Grammy winning Sugarland performs live in concert at the Primm Valley Casino Resorts on Friday, July 24.   If you haven’t seen them – country music duo composed of singer-songwriters Jennifer Nettles (lead vocals) and Kristian Bush (background vocals, lead vocals, mandolin, and acoustic guitar) – or just want to take an escape from the Las Vegas neon, you’ll assuredly have lots of fun.  For more information, call 702-386-7867

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Booze, Go-Go Dancers, & Business Mix at Las Vegas Nightclub & Bar Show

Did you know that vodka comes in 80 varieties? Booze, go-go dancers and serious businesses mix together at the Las nightclubVegas Convention Center during the annual Nightclub and Bar Convention and Trade Show in Las Vegas, March 1-4, 2009.  

Last year’s event attracted over 20,000 industry professionals who had a difficult task of staying focused while testing products 9-5.  With ice-carved bar stands and bottomless shot glasses, the showfloor is a magical place to bump into Jack Sparrow in character- or a pair of D cups.

Nightclub and bar operations knowledge galore will be mixed and served up at this year’s show. Leading bar and nightclub industry executives, owners and innovators from around the world will be on hand to discuss creative ways to drive business growth and profitability.  

Master of mixology “King Cocktail” Dale DeGroff will be presented a Lifetime Achievement Award on March 3.    In addition to the Lifetime Achievement Award, Nightclub & Bar will also name the winners in five additional categories, culminating in their Five Star Awards.

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Russian National Ballet Comes to Las Vegas

Russia is a huge country with lots of art and cultural exports including dancers Mikhail Baryshnikov and Rudolf russianballetNureyev and producing classic works such as Swan Lake and The Nutcracker.  Now, two of the country’s most famous companies, the Bolshoi and Kirov, are touring the United States and are coming to the UNLV Performing Arts Center, Artemus W. Ham Concert Hall, on Wednesday, February 11, at 7 p.m. Tickets range from $45 to $90.  Info: 702-895-2787

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‘Scale the Strat’… Las Vegas’ Ironman?

Pike’s Peak has their racing car climb.  And people are always climbing this or that in search of some new record. stratosphereNow, not to be outdone, Las Vegas offers THE competitive event for the fearless and definitely not the light of heart: “Scale the Strat”  

Over 400 people are expected to compete in a 108-floor vertical ascent, climbing up the 1,445 steps inside the Stratosphere.  It is not recommended for the average couch potato or acrophobic.  The first 26 flights of stairs are configured like a typical stairwell, but the upper flights are suspended inside the middle of a hollow tower with open air on each side.  

The top 50 athlete climbers with the fastest times on Friday morning, February 20.   Then they will do it all over again the next morning, Saturday, for top awards, psychic satisfaction- and psychiatric evaluations.  

In addition to the hearty competition there will be plenty of food, cocktails, and entertainment. 

Proceeds from Scale the Strat will help support the many life-saving programs of the American Lung Association of Nevada. 

For more details, call 702-431-6333 or visit http://www.scalethestrat.com

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Champagne, Caviar Facials and Diamond Pedicures

Escape the woes of our zany world and pamper yourself a bit – or longer – by stepping into something really spa-tacular.  Experience…the Calgon take on human growth hormones:  ElevenSpa spa

This very luxurious off-the-scale 20,000-square-foot spa is opening on Wednesday, February 11, at Town Square in Las Vegas.    It’s so massive that corporate spa events are being planned. 

Originating in Delray Beach, Fla., the unique spa has a new Las Vegas home- and size isn’t all that matters.  It features many amenities not commonly found in spa-ing including six foot tall white patent leather chairs that are wrapped in down (yes, down); mobile pedicure stations; and through all the torture their clients are encouraged to dip their dainty tippy toes into gorgeous glass woks instead of commonplace jet tubs.  

And for the discriminating audiophile spagoer, a DJ booth hovers above the spa with plug-and-play ability so you can control your own beats- if you dare. 

And don’t even think about ordering the ol’ green tea and ice water.  C’mon, you’re in Vegas, baby!  Champagne is always an arm reach away – served on butlers’ trays.  

Bottomless champagne, complementary “after” makeup applications, welcome gifts, and a lounge and relaxation room, resplendent with artificial grass, all tug visitors’ robes to stay longer than planned.  And if all this is not enough, a curved wall projects classic films onto it as you luxuriate your day away.  

For further info, 702-967-1100

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Tiger Jam XII, No Doubt, Celebrities in Las Vegas on May 16

Tiger Jam is coming back to Las Vegas with renowned musical talent, amazing guests, and, of course, a legendary tigerwoodshost.  No Doubt will join Tiger Woods on May 16, 2009, at the Mandalay Bay Events Center in Las Vegas to celebrate Tiger Jam XII presented by AT&T and kick-off their first tour in five years. The event benefits the Tiger Woods Foundation and select Las Vegas-based charities.

“I’m thrilled No Doubt is kicking off their tour at Tiger Jam,” Woods said. “They are amazing performers, and I’m honored they are helping raise funds and awareness for the millions of young people my Foundation supports.”

Saturday evening’s highlights will include top-notch epicurean fare and exclusive live and silent auctions featuring one-of-a-kind luxury items. Following the dinner and auctions, the celebration will progress to the Mandalay Bay Events Center stage, where Woods will introduce Grammy Award winners Gwen Stefani, Tony Kanal, Tom Dumont and Adrian Young for a rocking concert.

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Free Entertainment in Las Vegas: Fremont Street Experience

fremontstreetIn the 60’s Vegas was known for the Rat Pack, showgirls and inexpensive entertainment.   Today the $180 per person ticket for some of the best rated Strip shows is above the budget of many tourists looking for a way to get the most value for the dollar.  Perhaps that explains the interest in the Fremont Street Experience:  A no-cost spectacular that blends elements of classic Las Vegas with current technology in comfortable old-Vegas style. 

When the Fremont Street Experience was first proposed the idea of creating a pedestrian mall under a lighted canopy was not just considered risky, but ridiculous.  However, with an eye to revitalizing the downtown area and giving a boost to Las Vegas landmark hotels like Binon’s and the Golden Nugget, the city council closed a four block stretch of Fremont in 1994 and began the process of creating a unique historic Las Vegas visitor opportunity. 

Now you can step off Las Vegas Boulevard at Fremont and step into the Neon Museum – a collection of neon signs from bi-gone casino’s and hotels.  There is a selection of inexpensive curb-side and casino restaurants to choose from and hourly presentations on the Viva-Vision canopy providing free viewing.  Different bands perform each week for free on the central sound stage.  That’s also where specialty events take place several times a year, including the annual New Years Eve celebration that is jam packed with wall-to-wall partygoers. 

Please check out the Fremont Street Experience calendar for the Viva Vision schedule and for a list of hotel/restaurant options and check online for package discounts available throughout the year.

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