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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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‘Stripper-Mobile’ Putt-Putts Back to Las Vegas

The creator of the “stripper-mobile” plans to bring it back to Las Vegas but officials say they’ll try to enact a permanent ban on the traveling nudie show. 

Larry Beard, the creator of the innovative truck featuring strippers dancing in the back in a lighted Plexiglas box to advertise local strip clubs, said he wants to bring it back after their national “tour” to participate in Las Vegas’ April 30 Pride Parade. 

The truck debuted in November 2009 with dancers from the Deja Vu and Little Darlings strip clubs, but when Clark County commissioners complained, Beard took it off the streets. 

Since then, the truck has gone to New Orleans for the National Football Conference championship game, then to Miami for the Super Bowl. It also spent some time in Tampa Bay and St. Louis. 

“I’d like to run it up and down the road {in Las Vegas} a couple times,” Beard said. “If I get half a chance, you know, I will.” 

Clark County Commission members say they want to rewrite an existing law to keep the “stripper-mobile” off the Sin City streets for good.

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Thousands of people expected at Laughlin, Nevada motorcycle rally

Thousands of bikers and motorcycle enthusiasts are arriving now in the Colorado River resort town of Laughlin, Nevada and will be there over the next few days for a weekend motorcycle rally. 

The 28th annual Laughlin River Run is one of the largest ride-in motorcycle rallies in the western U.S. 

Attendance last year was 33,600, but in past years crowds have topped 60,000. 

The weekend rally was marred by a fatal biker gang shootout in 2002 when three people were killed and more than a dozen were injured in a brawl between Hell’s Angels and the Monogols at Harrah’s Laughlin.

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Las Vegas Tapped for World Travel and Tourism Summit

The World Travel and Tourism Council (WTTC) has selected Las Vegas as the host city for its 2011 Global Travel & Tourism Summit, following an endorsement from local tourism organizations. Earlier the Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority (LVCVA) had voted to invest $1.5 million in the event, which is scheduled for May, 2011.

With heads of industry and government from around the world expected, the Aria Resort & Casino has been selected to host the prestigious event.

WTTC chief executive Jean-Claude Baumgarten told the Associated Press recently the group had selected Las Vegas in part because the city is symbolic of tourism in the United States.

“We cannot choose a better place than Las Vegas,” Mr Baumgarten explained. “The whole economy, all of what we are seeing, all the impacts of travel and tourism on the economy, on jobs, on the future and investment make Las Vegas a better choice.”

Approximately 244,000 people are employed in the leisure and hospitality industry in Las Vegas – more than 30 per cent of Las Vegas’ total work force – according to the Nevada Department of Employment, Training and Rehabilitation.

The so-called Sin City is famous for gambling as much as tourism.

This year’s WTTC summit is scheduled to begin in Beijing, China on May 25th.

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Virgin Atlantic Plans to Increase Flight Service between U.K. and Las Vegas

British air carrier Virgin Atlantic has announced on April 7 it will increase its service between Las Vegas and the United Kingdom next year, launching twice-weekly flights from McCarran International Airport in Las Vegas and Manchester in England. 

The additional flights, which will start in April 2011 and are planned to operate on Thursdays and Sundays, will give Virgin Atlantic nine direct flights a week between Las Vegas and England.  

Virgin Atlantic has been flying between London’s Gatwick Airport and Las Vegas since June 200 and has carried almost 2 million passengers on the route.

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Sinners: Worship & Swim in God’s New Garden in Las Vegas

God has a new garden in Sin City?   Yep.  Scantily clad – or wearing nothing at all – Las Vegas sun gods and goddesses have a a whole new worship retreat at Caesars Palace. 

Caesars Palace has just opened its newly refurbished pool area.   Coined “The Garden of the Gods,” the complex has been completely and extravagantly redesigned by Allard & Conversano into three levels of aquatic wonder featuring eight unique and lavish pools inspired by the Roman Gods that encircle a five-acre pool complex. 

The area includes a swim-up blackjack pool, a European style pool, a family friendly pool, and even a guests-only, butler-served pool area. 

Each pool is named for a god or goddess and has its own special bells and whistles. The Fortuna pool, for example, features an 18-foot waterfall and a swim-up blackjack table. The twin Bacchus pools have butler-staffed cabanas which are, alas, for invited VIPs only. For maximum sun exposure, get over to Apollo — it’s strategically positioned to get your tan on.  And, unlike many of the other adult-oriented pools, Garden of the Gods also caters families with its Temple pool designated for young swimmers. 

At one of the pools, chocolate will be available not just as a snack or dessert but in the form of a 30-foot chocolate waterfall (good for dunking strawberries — sold by the bucket) that cascades into a 3-acre pool filled with the stuff only Willy Wonka could dream of. 

The Sokolati pool (greek for “chocolate”) is new to the Las Vegas scene and is the first swimming pool comprised entirely of chocolate. Depending on the season, you may find Sokolati filled with dark chocolate, milk chocolate, or caramel.

There pools are nestled among 44 new luxury cabanas, each stocked with plush furniture, flat screen TVs and wireless Internet. 

Caesars Palace has also added a whirlpool retreat area and garden wedding venue to provide a total pool experience. 

The pool complex is open daily from 8 a.m. to 7 p.m.. 

Check it out- you may just feel like you died and got a heavenly reprieve.

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Rocker Vince Neil is Higher than a Kite- Legally!

The aging but still high-energy rocker Vince Neil, apparently believes that if you don’t reinvent yourself you’ll die- or at least slowly wither away.  He’s once again onward and ever upward, this time in a unique way:  he’s launching his own mini air force! 

Neil, a Las Vegas resident, is helping people fulfill their dreams of having the opportunity to travel like a rock star.  The Motley Crue frontman is in the midst of launching Vince Neil Aviation to be headquartered in the private terminal at McCarran International Airport in Las Vegas. 

The first three planes in his new fleet are a Hawker 700, a Lear 35 and a Gulfstream. 

“The planes are now all finished, they are all tricked out exactly how you think a rocker’s tour plane would be, complete with painted flames on the fuselage and the zebra-striped interior furnishings!” Vince laughed. 

“The Hawker holds eight people and makes the trip to New York from Las Vegas nonstop. The Lear 35 holds seven and goes nonstop to Los Angeles, San Diego, Phoenix, Aspen and into Mexico and Canada, but cross country to the East Coast requires one fuel stop,” says Neil. 

“I even took the third plane — the Gulfstream — hopping through South America on my most recent solo tour there, and we stopped in Aruba on the way home to Vegas for a four-day-weekend vacation. I’ve booked it myself next week for concerts in Mexico,” says Neil. 

Neil says that he’d started his new airline company to primarily complement his other entrepreneurial enterprises that include his imported tequila, his Dr. Feelgood’s chain of rock bars and his Vince Neil Ink tattoo shops. 

Shortly, his new Web site VinceNeilAviation.net will be up and running with rates and all the other information on his charters. 

The rocker loves all his toys — a black 2008 Lamborghini, a 1932 Ford hot rod and his special Count Kustom chopper — that’s when he’s not working at his Tattoo Shop at The Rio or the Dr. Feelgood’s Bar & Grill on West Sahara in Las Vegas. 

Neil also will release his new solo single “Tattoos & Tequila” on April 6, and his new CD Tattoos & Tequila follows in May.  Check out an advance download sample, the video and his screensaver at VinceNeil.net.

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Las Vegas Gamblers Fold ‘Em

Las Vegas visitors reportedly wagered less in 2009 than in previous years- more than $50 less. 

A Las Vegas Visitor Profile released by Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority found the average gambler budgeted about $481 per trip last year. That compares with almost $532 in 2008, more than $555 in 2007 and nearly $652 in 2006. 

Gambling was just the tip of the economic iceberg:  lodging, dining, shows and shopping were also casualties.  The study found hotel spending per night was down 25% in 2009, to about $76; the average cost of a tour package was down 14%, to about $640; and the total spent on restaurants was down 8%, to about $250. Spending on shopping was down 16%, to about $102. Visitors spent an average of about $40 on shows, down 23%.

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Passage of Travel Promotion Act aims to spur growth into Las Vegas from international visitors

Las Vegas tourism officials believe the federal Travel Promotion Act legislation that was signed into law last week will lead to a marked growth in international visitors, one of the gaming industry’s few positive market segments in the challenging economic climate. 

Under the legislation, signed into law by President Barack Obama, a program will be created that will allow the United States to advertise the country as a destination for international travelers. It creates a public-private partnership for travel promotion that is partly funded by a $10 fee paid by international travelers. 

The idea for the Travel Promotion Act originated from the 1995 White House Conference on Tourism. It was revived after the economic downturn saw the United States lose some 68 million international visitors, which accounted for losses of $509 million in consumer spending, $32 million in tax revenue and 441,000 jobs, according to a study done by Oxford Economics. 

The same study found the act could potentially draw 1.6 million new international visitors to the United States, which would generate $4 billion in new spending.

Las Vegas tourism officials hope to capture some of those visitors and market separately to potential international visitors as well. 

The convention authority estimated the act would increase international visitation to 20 percent of Las Vegas’ total market share. In addition, while Oxford believes the act will be responsible for creating 40,000 tourism jobs nationally, the convention authority estimated an increase in international visitation could create another 12,000 jobs in Southern Nevada.

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NASCAR in Las Vegas Will Exceed Super Bowl Fan Draw

The many NASCAR driver meet-and-greet events and deafening varooms befitting plenty of exciting dirt track racing action all started yesterday in Las Vegas.  By the time the marquee Sprint Cup Shelby American on Sunday is over, an estimated 300,000 people will have experienced the roar of racing in their ears and smell of gasoline enticing their nostrils.   That’s four times the attendance at the Super Bowl, according to Chris Powell, president of the Las Vegas Motor Speedway. 

For the Sprint Cup race alone – the biggest event of the weekend – in 2009 about 140,000 spectators saw the race.  That’s down from about 152,000 in 2008 and the record attendance of 156,000 in 2007. 

Regardless of the ending attendance figure this year, the significant question is if those people can translate into record spending.  Most Las Vegans are hoping and praying it does, giving their languishing economy a much needed economic bump. 

Out-of-towners hold the key trump card to this weekend’s economic prosperity, comprising 70 percent of the race crowd invading Las Vegas. 

Attempting to lure more tourists to the track than prior years, race ticket prices at the Las Vegas Motor Speedway have been greatly reduced this year. With more people attending, hopefully, that will translate into more ancilliary spending on goods and services. 

Las Vegas hotels will undoubtedly be the major economic beneficiaries. The recessionary price levels of hotel rooms that have plagued Las Vegas for the past year have virtually disappeared, albeit temporarily. The Riviera, mirroring what most Las Vegas hotels are doing, is jacking their weekend’s room rates to a whopping $224 per night.  But next weekend the Riviera will zoom back down to their customary $79 level. 

Budget hotel are also raising their rates, as well the higher priced Strip hotels, such as Harrah’s that is sold out all weekend, and Wynn Las Vegas and the Hard Rock Hotel, both sold out on Saturday. 

VEGAS.com reports their Web site’s hotel room sales are up 30 percent. 

Rolling up the total revenue picture, excluding gambling revenue, the associated revenues from last year’s NASCAR weekend raked in $107 million, according to the Las Vegas convention and Visitors Authority. 

But that doesn’t come close to 2008 revenue, when the haul was $134 million. Most don’t think this year will equal that level. However, should the heavy rain that is anticipated to blanket Las Vegas intermittently on Saturday postpone Saturday’s Sam’s Town 300 race and cause the race to move to Monday, that might be just the silver lining needed to help close the revenue gap, keeping race fans in Las Vegas and extra day or two, perhaps aided in no small part by the dangling carrot of being able to see heartthrob racer Danica Patrick strut her stuff. 

Will this year’s racing events add up to yielding the top revenue producing weekend in Las Vegas?

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Fly into Las Vegas, Buy Booze while at Luggage Carousel

Buying booze at an airport luggage carousel will soon join the “only in Vegas” list.

Clark County commissioners are actively looking for a vendor to run a liquor store at McCarran International Airport’s baggage claim areas.

McCarran will be the only airport in the U.S. where highly spirited travelers could shop for euphoric fueling spirits as they await their bags to come down the turnstile. 

Randall Walker, the airport’s aviation director, estimates that the store would bring in $400,000 to $600,000 a year.  Definitely not chump change in a stale economy.   Equally important, the innovative approach would help the county help curb the fees on airline, which, in turn, would give airline carriers less reason to cut flights into the Entertainment Capital of the World. 

It’s wasn’t a slam-dunk decision, though.  Clark County Commissioner Steve Sisolak resisted the idea and asked that the board put off action for at least a month so that businesses, travelers, the taxicab authority and others can weigh in.  But his colleagues rejected the feeble plea, so he finally gave in and joined the pack in approving the booze store.

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Welcome to Sin City, Mr. President!

With an unprecedented 30-mile radius air traffic prohibition in place (usually it’s half that) during his trip to Las Vegas, costing commercial air tour travel operators thousands of dollars of lost revenue, President Barack Obama remains undaunted, planning to land his Air Force One gas guzzling hog later tonight, marking his second presidential visit to Sin City– you know, the little hideaway berg that encourages corporations to blow their government bailout funds or simply have students waste their college savings on gambling forays. 

Despite having such a notorious moniker, Las Vegas tourism officials have weathered the multiple gaffes and predict a million more visitors in 2010.  Thank you, Mr. President. 

He’ll probably need to bring a strong suit of armor and sharp swords when he speaks Friday for select invitees at the Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority, where his prior barbs were specifically aimed.

His olive branch offering, if you will, will be his quest to seek congressional approval of the Travel Promotions Act- an overseas $4 billion promotion program that could bring more moneyed foreign tourists to Las Vegas.   Morevover, the bill promises it could bring 40,000 new American jobs and $320 million in new federal tax revenue, according to the U.S. Travel Association. 

If that doesn’t stick when the Prez throws it against the wall, his backup plan (or an add-on, depending on crowd rancor) could be to announce the Department of Transportation’s $30 million project for a new Sahara Avenue – one of the most traveled byways in Las Vegas – bus project as part of the multibillion stimulus package. 

But outspoken ex-mob lawyer turned Las Vegas Mayor Oscar Goodman will not being rolling the red carpet out.   Goodman remains upset at President Obama. Goodman said he needs to be true to his conscience and, therefore, won’t accept invitations to greet the president of attend any town hall meeting unless he personally gets “some kind of retraction.”  

If you like to be part of this surely politically entertaining event, you can line up for tickets now at Green Valley High School in Henderson for Friday’s 10 a.m. town hall meeting. 

Mr. President, please be sure to enjoy yourself when you’re in the home of sin.  It’s a devilishly fun town.

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China Comes to U.S. Rescue of Maglev Train from Los Angeles to Las Vegas

Long discussed and hotly debated for years, it appears if the magnetic levitation train (called ‘Maglev’) ferrying passengers (and tourists!) from Los Angeles to Las Vegas is really to get started in earnest, it will take Chinese funding- lots of it. 

China announced last week that it is willing to loan $7  billion to build the project. 

All that is needed for the loan to go though is a promise of support from the U.S. government. 

Maglev officials said the Export-Import Bank of China is willing to lend the money with the knowledge that if the California-Nevada Super Speed Train Commission is unable to pay the funds back, federal officials will. 

What’s a little petty cash transaction between friends?

{Also, a prior article is available on the high speed Maglev train issue by Las Vegas Backstage Access.}

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Go to Las Vegas- and Go Broke?

A careless remark by President Barack Obama about Las Vegas has triggered a furious backlash from Nevada’s cash-strapped gambling mecca and a key Democratic ally fighting a tough re-election battle in the state. 

Speaking about the economy yesterday at an event in Nashua, New Hampshire, Mr. Obama told Americans: “When times are tough, you tighten your belts. You don’t go buying a boat when you can barely pay your mortgage. You don’t blow a bunch of cash on Vegas when you’re trying to save for college. You prioritize. You make tough choices.” 

The economy of Las Vegas, the world’s most famous gambling and entertainment destination, is heavily dependent on tourism and Las Vegans were already incensed by a crack from Mr. Obama a year ago that companies should not use federal bail out money for trips to the city.   The city is still reeling from that comment, trying to keep bookings and revenues up on conventions and other events. 

Mr. Obama’s latest remark about Las Vegas prompted a swift and angry retort from Harry Reid, the Senate Majority Leader, who is fighting an extremely uphill battle to win re-election in Nevada, which has one of the highest unemployment rates in the U.S. – a whopping 13 per cent.

Mr. Obama hurriedly dispatched a letter to Mr. Reid. “I hope you know that during my Town Hall today, I wasn’t saying anything negative about Las Vegas,” he wrote. 

Oscar Goodman, the Mayor of Las Vegas and an independent, also got into the fray, raising his voice and describing President Obama as “a real slow learner” who has a “psychological hang-up” about Las Vegas. 

Mr. Goodman added that this time an apology from Mr. Obama wouldn’t be enough. “I’ll do everything I can to give him the boot.” 

Last year, Mr. Obama apologized for his prior gaffe and during a visit to Nellis Air Force Base outside Las Vegas said that it was good to get out of Washington and “there’s nothing like a quick trip to Vegas in the middle of the week.” 

Repercussions surrounding the current incident are not nearly over.  In a couple of weeks, Mr. Obama is planning another visit to Las Vegas, which surely will cause sparks to fly anew.

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Las Vegas Pops for $500,000 New Year’s Eve Fireworks Show

It must be nice.  Despite record Las Vegas unemployment, layoffs, foreclosures, and other nefarious economic indicators, this evening at the stroke of midnight, somehow $500,000 of fireworks will shoot skyward from the rooftops of MGM Grand, Planet Hollywood, Caesars Palace, Treasure Island, The Venetian, Stratosphere, and the brand new entry this year- the top of CityCenter’s Aria. 

In seven minutes and eleven seconds the fireworks extravaganza, dubbed “America’s Party: A Vegas Celebration” will be over and one for the history books. 

For the past four days, 65 pyrotechnicians from the famed Grucci brothers have been rigging the big bangs to delight Las Vegas locals and mesmerize an estimated 315,000 out-of-town partiers. 

The Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department will have every commissioned officer – all 3,200 of them – keeping order in Sin City.  The Strip will be close to vehicular traffic and several on-ramps and exits on Interstate 15 will be shut down starting about 6:30 p.m. 

And if you were thinking on bringing your six-shooter and firing it wildly into the air, think again.  Police are promising to step up enforcement of firearms laws to reduce celebratory gunfire to ring in the New Year. 

Anyone for just imbibing on sparkling grape juice and crackers in their abode?

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FREE Las Vegas Bus Rides on New Year’s Eve

Southern Nevada transit officials say they are again offering free bus rides to partiers in Las Vegas on New Year’s Eve and early New Year’s Day. 

The free rides on all fixed-service routes are given in hopes of keeping traffic down and intoxicated drivers off the streets. 

The free rides will run from 6 p.m. Thursday until 9 a.m. on Friday. 

Officials say some routes will be detoured, including the Deuce bus along the Las Vegas Strip. That’s because much of the Las Vegas Strip will be closed to vehicle traffic as revelers party in the streets.

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New Hotel Rooms Aplenty in Las Vegas Create Buyer’s Nirvana

Recession?  What recession?  Apparently, Las Vegas is being true to its persona- betting heavily that 1,575 new hotel rooms are just what the doctor ordered- if not now, maybe in the future? 

A mere two weeks after the debut of the Aria at the $8.5 billion new CityCenter, two more casino properties have entered the Las Vegas lodging fray in a market already straining to fill the rooms it already has, witnessed by an average mid-80 percent fill rate and drastically declining room rates. 

The 52-story PH Towers at Planet Hollywood Resort have just added 1,201 rooms yesterday.  The rooms are being marketed at $229 midweek and $349 weekends.   And the top four floors will be 16 condominiums for sale, ranging from 6,000 square feet to 18,000 square feet.

Not to be outdone, the Hard Rock Hotel also yesterday added their HRH tower, bringing 374 more rooms that include seven penthouse suites and eight spa villas.  Opening with their tower is the 25,000-square-foot Reliquary Spa, a new parking garage with a porte-cochere and 40,000 square feet of new casino space.  Think it ends there?  Hardly.  A new Hard Rock nightclub, the 14,000-square-foot Vanity, waits opening on Dec. 31, which will also mark lights out for the venerable celebrity hangout, Body English.

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Super Las Vegas Holiday Hotel Deals

The Las Vegas Advisor says some grand deals are to be had this holiday season in Las Vegas.   In its annual December rate roundup, the Advisor found 43 Las Vegas casino hotels with rooms for less than $40, vs. 38 last December. Among them are Strip properties such as Bally’s, Excalibur and Harrah’s. 

The total below $30 was 27, two more than 2008. They include Arizona Charlie’s Boulder; Boulder Station; Circus Circus, El Cortez; Ellis Island Super 8; Fiesta Henderson; Fitzgeralds; Four Queens; Imperial Palace; Lucky Club Ramada; Plaza; Riviera; Sahara; Sam’s Town; Santa Fe Station; Stratosphere; Tropicana; Tuscany; Vegas Club. 

A whopping seven Las Vegas casinos had rates below $20, versus just one in 2008. Texas Station came in lowest ($14.99). Others in the under-$20 club: Fiesta Rancho; Gold Spike; Golden Gate; Hooters; Palace Station; and Wild Wild West. 

Other good December deals found included Luxor ($40), Las Vegas Hilton ($41), Monte Carlo ($46), Hard Rock ($47), New York-New York ($48), Rio ($49), Paris ($55), Palms ($59), TI ($60), Planet Hollywood ($68), MGM Grand ($70). 

The survey used multiple sources available to the public, Advisor publisher Anthony Curtis says, including casino reservation lines and Websites, third-party reselling Websites and the rate search engine Travelaxe. Rates change frequently, and the lowest ones may be sold out. 

Rates are “marginally higher than in July,” Curtis says. So, casinos may have “finally drawn their line in the sand” on lowering prices. “However, I think the low rates will hold for awhile and when they begin to nudge up, there will be tremendous and more targeted (packages).” 

The Advisor (lasvegasadvisor.com), which costs $37-$50 a year, is currently offering a $9.95 special at the Golden Gate downtown for members through Dec. 24.

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Strippermobile Shuns Las Vegas, Launches U.S. Tour

Just because it doesn’t happen in Las Vegas anymore, it doesn’t mean it doesn’t make sense- and money. Though the strippermobile is no longer trolling for customers down the Las Vegas Strip due to earlier Clark County Commissioner’s admanat objections based on safety concerns, in the next few weeks it will be going up and down Main Street, USA. 

On January 10, it will become a Las Vegas-born – and banned – business that took its show on the road. 

As previously reported by Las Vegas Backstage Access, the last and only time the vehicle rolled was November in Las Vegas, when bikini-clad strippers hopped aboard and gyrated inside the truck’s Plexiglas-enclosed cargo area, swung around a brass pole affixed to the middle of the truck bed. 

Launching what arguably may be one of the greatest marketing ploys ever, the  “Strippermobile Winter Tour 2010,” as it is dubbed, will be filmed as a documentary, carrying a full production crew with them.  Larry Beard, marketing guru for Déjà vu gentlemen’s club in Las Vegas, hopes to have it broadcast on cable television, albeit most likely adult on-demand channels. 

With three select strippers ready and willing to tout their wares, Beard expects the truck to roll out of Sin City on Jan. 10, making its first stops on their national tour in Southern California.  That state has almost 20 Déjà vu- operated strip clubs.  The strippermobile with then go up the coast, lingering in Portland, Ore., because, says Beard, the decency laws there are lax and the dancers will be totally nude during that stretch of the trip.   

After Portland, it’s off to Seattle, then to the Midwest- Minnesota, Illinois, Indiana, Ohio and Michigan- all of which have Déjà Vu clubs.  Then it’s off to New York City and Times Square, down to Maryland, over to Kentucky and Tennessee, down to Florida for the college spring break and over to Louisiana for Mardi Gras.  Then their itinerary takes the crew to Colorado before the wayward truck comes home to roost once again in Las Vegas in the spring. 

“And on our travels, of course, we’ll get pictures of the girls alongside Mount Rushmore and other famous sites,” Beard says.

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Las Vegas Freeze Approaches– 16-Foot Polar Bear Appears!

The Palazzo in Las Vegas is uniquely celebrating the holiday season with artic décor complete with a larger-than-life 16-foot polar bear poinsettia sculpture that raises awareness about conservation of polar bears and Arctic habitat. 

While guests of The Palazzo Las Vegas will enjoy the usual sunny weather for the holiday season, from December 9 through the New Year they’ll also encounter the winter décor display anchored by a special Arctic visitor: a 16-foot tall polar bear mother and 6-foot tall polar bear baby, made entirely of a specially-developed white poinsettia named “Polar Bear.”

The “Polar Bear” Poinsettia is developed exclusively by Ecke Ranch, the largest grower in the world of poinsettias.  The strong white coloration of the “Polar Bear” Poinsettia with its bracts of deep green veining is the perfect topiary fur for the polar bear display. The custom, hand-sculpted and hand-painted heads and paws, constructed by Design Solutions, bring the bears to life.  The mother and baby bear, consisting of approximately 10,000 poinsettias planted in sphagnum moss and weighs in at approximately 5,000 lbs. The bears snuggle on a custom-sculpted ‘arctic ice float’ that hovers over a water feature located at The Palazzo Atrium. 

In addition to the larger-than-life polar bears, The Palazzo embraces the holiday season with Arctic inspired décor elements that combine to create the breathtaking winter wonderland display. The gardens are filled with a variety of unique poinsettias and 25-foot silver tip pine trees; an 80-foot whimsical vine transitions to holiday with oversized pine cones, holiday berries, poinsettias and twinkling holiday lights; over 225,000 cranberries donated by Ocean Spray float above a water feature creating a sea of cranberries and snow will elegantly fall from above the décor adding to the Arctic theme. 

The white “Polar Bear” Poinsettias have an important message to promote awareness of polar bears and the loss of their Arctic habitat due to climate change. Ecke Ranch is donating a portion of the proceeds from each poinsettia cutting sold to Polar Bears International (PBI), a nonprofit organization dedicated to the worldwide conservation of polar bears through research and education.  This event will serve as the official launching pad for Ecke’s “Pay-it-Forward for Polar Bears” campaign which benefits PBI.   

“In a part of the world that never sees snow, it can be challenging to explain why the most important initiative that we can undertake at this time is saving polar bear habitat in the Arctic. Polar bears need sea ice for their survival, and so does the rest of the planet. The Arctic is a key regulator of the global climate system, and loss of Arctic sea ice will impact people and wildlife around the world. So when we save the polar bears, we save so many other species from butterflies to frogs,” said Robert Buchanan, president of Polar Bears International. 

“Currently the world’s CO2 level is at 385 parts per million (ppm) and growing at an average of two ppm per year. Scientists believe that the tipping point in the Arctic is around 400 ppm. Once this level is reached, the domino effect may not allow the summer ice to return for tens of thousands of years. This of course will not only affect wildlife but the ocean currents and humans in the end. This is not an irreversible situation. Individuals can and must make a difference. It can be as easy as packing a reusable bag when you shop, buy carbon off sets for your flights and purchasing products with limited and/or recycled packaging,” continued Buchanan. 

On December 9, The Palazzo will host the unveiling of the Arctic-inspired winter décor display to kick-off the holiday season and raise awareness about conservation of polar bears. The event will take place at 5 p.m. in The Palazzo Waterfall Atrium and the general public is welcome to join in the celebration.

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Sahara’s Las Vegas Deal for Hawaii Residents

The Sahara in Las Vegas has quite a deal with Hawaiian Airlines:  Buy a specially priced package for Hawaii residents and fly on Hawaiian Airlines and get a 5 percent discount on your air and two miles for every buck you spend at the property. You also can win one of these packages by texting Oceanic Vegas to 32862, or enter online at http://www.KimosVegas.com.

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Cirque du Soleil Announces New Elvis Presley Show in Las Vegas

Cirque du Soleil has announced the title for its new show based on the life and music of Elvis Presley: Viva Elvis

The production, to be directed by choreographer Vincent Paterson, will take up residence at the new Aria Resort & Casino in the brand spanking new $8.5 billion CityCenter in Las Vegas, beginning performances on December 18. 

Tickets are not yet on sale but the show will open for media previews in December. 

The show will fuse dance and acrobatics, live music and iconic tracks, nostalgia and modernity, high technology and raw emotion. 

While he is most famous for his collaborations with Madonna and Michael Jackson, Paterson has also worked in the performing arts. In 2006, he staged a ’50s style revival of Massenet’s Manon for Los Angeles Opera. 

Cirque du Soleil currently has numerous shows already in Las Vegas, including O, LOVE, Ka, Zumanity, and Mystere. 

The company is also currently touring its Allegria show; recently opened its new show Ovo in Toronto; and another new show, Banana Shpeel, begins performances in Chicago this month and will then play New York.

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Pacquiao-Cotto Fight in Las Vegas on Saturday to Be One for the Ages

Boxer Manny Pacquiao’s massive punching power is only matched by his massive drawing power, which has grown to overwhelm the traditional boundaries of the often insular realm of boxing, is driving the appeal of Saturday’s megafight with Miguel Cotto at the MGM Grand Garden Arena in Las Vegas- the boxing capital of the world.PacquiaoCotto

Arguably the most celebrated persona in his native Philippines, Pacquiao’s visage now graces the cover of the Asia edition of Time magazine. A five-page feature story appears in all editions, global and U.S., of the magazine. It delves into Pacquiao’s humble roots and his political ambitions in his homeland. 

“It is a great honor for me to be the face of my people and to let everyone know we are a small but mighty country,” Pacquiao said. “I have great pride for all of the Filipinos living throughout the world and it is these people that I fight for each and every time I step into the ring.” 

As a point of comparison, the most recent boxing covers of Time’s U.S. edition came in 1988 (Mike Tyson), 1978 (Muhammad Ali) and 1971 (Ali and Joe Frazier). 

Officials with Top Rank, the lead promoter of Saturday’s fight, point to a recent Sunday feature on Pacquiao in The New York Times as a manifestation of the media blitz that has accompanied the buildup to the fight. It was important to the promotion because of the worldwide reach of the newspaper’s Sunday edition.

It was also significant, and telling, because the Times typically affords boxing about as much coverage as it does the lumberjack competition. 

In a separate arena, Pacquiao was recognized this year as a Gusi Peace Prize laureate, an honor based in Manila, for humanitarianism. 

Pacquiao’s training sessions at the Wild Card Boxing Club in Hollywood, Calif., leading up to the fight not only generate mob scenes of fans and media members, but also attract the attention of the fire marshal to ensure the scene remains under some degree of control.

With its widespread appeal — “Beyond boxing, beyond sports,” Top Rank chairman Bob Arum said — the fight promotion has drawn some unconventional corporate partners. For example, the History Channel’s reality series “Pawn Stars,” about a family of Las Vegas pawnbrokers, is a sponsor. Among other branding efforts, the “Pawn Stars” logo will appear on the mat Saturday night.

It’s all expected to add up to pay-per-view sales — the engine that powers the big-time boxing business — for the fight that could approach or exceed record performances. 

The biggest pay-per-view bonanza to date was the 2007 fight between Floyd Mayweather Jr. and Oscar De La Hoya at the MGM Grand, which generated 2.4 million “buys.” This year, Pacquiao’s fight against Ricky Hatton did about 900,000 buys, and Mayweather’s fight with Juan Manuel Marquez generated about 1 million. 

“The closed-circuit locations are doing tremendously” in the lead-up to Pacquiao-Cotto, Arum said. “We had the quickest sellout of tickets in years. We base how the pay-per-view is going to do on those indicators. It should do absolutely great.”

Pacquiao stands to earn $20 million for the fight, with Cotto’s total take expected to reach $10 million — the biggest paydays for both fighters. 

The hook (no pun intended) is that Pacquiao, nearly a 3-1 betting favorite, will be pursuing a world title in a seventh weight division. But that’s just the sports-trivia way of wording it. 

In real terms, Pacquiao has done more than any other boxer to obliterate the very notion of weight classes in boxing, along with the fractured and too-often meaningless so-called championships they spawn. He wants to test himself against the best. 

The “catch weight” for Saturday’s fight is 145 pounds, but Pacquiao said if it was up to him personally, he would have gladly agreed to fight at the 147-pound welterweight limit. 

Wisely — and appropriately — everyone associated with the fight has declined to address the next step for the winner, although a potential showdown with Mayweather awaits. 

And for another, Saturday’s fight is a tough one to predict. It has split journalists, fighters and other boxing figures in their forecasts. Let’s say, for instance, it ends with a close decision. A rematch between Pacquiao and Cotto is a real possibility.

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Wynn Las Vegas Launches Jetsetter Getaways

Wynn Las Vegas is now offering the convenience and luxury of air travel from a private terminal with the Jetsetter Getaway Package, offering flights from Burbank-Glendale-Pasadena Airport and John Wayne Airport now through November, 2009. Premier passengers receive complimentary valet parking and hassle-free check-in and boarding for the Wynn VIP treatment.

These incredible packages include roundtrip air transportation in a beautiful, 50-seat jet and begin with complimentary valet parking upon arrival at the private terminal. Passengers skip the typical airport stress and check-in immediately. A dedicated pre-flight Wynn Concierge is on hand with each guest’s room key prepared and ready. Wynn in-flight concierges are available to assist with any and all resort arrangements. Complimentary champagne is offered prior to takeoff, and light snacks and beverages are provided during the flight.

Upon arrival in Las Vegas, limousine shuttles whisk guests directly from the tarmac to Wynn or Encore for a three-night stay, and travelers avoid the baggage carousels to find their bags awaiting them in their rooms. All guests also receive transportation back to McCarran Airport’s Executive Terminal in Las Vegas.

Personalized elite packages packages from Burbank are offered Friday to Monday and packages from Orange County are offered Thursday to Sunday. All packages start at $780 per person for double occupancy and $1,193 per person for single occupancy, including taxes and fees. Call 866.770.7929 and mention rate code WYNNBUR for a Burbank departure or WYNNORG for an Orange County departure to book your Wynn Vacations Jetsetter Getaway Package today, or visit www.WynnVacations.com for more information.

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Study Says Business Travel to Las Vegas Stimulates the Economy

At a time when companies are scaling back travel and attended costs, a new study shows it pays to invest in travel. It’s not only a win for those businesses, but a win for Las Vegas, which banks on those travel dollars. 

Las Vegas is not only the entertainment capital of the world, but it has long been the top destination for conventions, meetings, and trade shows which brings in an estimated $8 billion annually. That is until now. 

“When economy took a dip and there was some bashing of meetings by some federal officials, it really hurt Las Vegas,” said Cathy Tull with the Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Association. 

Las Vegas saw a 26-percent drop in convention travelers this year compared to last. But there’s hope things will soon turn around, thanks to a new study. 

Adam Sacks of Oxford Economics, a global research firm, has established a clear link between business travel and business growth. “For every dollar a company spends on business travel, incrementally that drives $12.50 in revenue and almost $4 in profits,” he said. 

The study simply states that business travel will stimulate the American economy. The study also points out that for the average U.S. business that does not travel in the first year sees a 17-percent drop in profits. 

And that’s not a chance business owners like Mike Weeks gamble on. “When you specialize like I do in personal injury attorneys and you are looking for the premiere firms, you have to go where they go,” he said. Weeks owns an advertising company and is in Las Vegas for a four-day convention to network and stimulate business– which is what the LVCVA says corporations should keep doing in this economy.

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Prison Buses Haul Feeling-No-Pain Las Vegas Sinners

Crime and punishment always gets center stage in Las Vegas.  On the heels of continuing high-profile criminal trials and Las Vegas announcing plans to finally construct a Mob museum (as previously reported by Las Vegas Backstage Access on Jan. 16, March 17, June 20 and Aug. 5), now you have an option of either taking a cab, limousine or, if real daring-do is in your blood, get whisked around Las Vegas in an authentic prison bus. prisonbus

It’s a 1950s style prison bus with bars on the windows, ready to take you to the nightclubs, bars, brothels, or whatever flights of fancy you desire. The company Las Vegas Con Xpress offers rides in these old and very kitschy prison buses, authentic right down to the graffiti. 

“Prisoners” or passengers are loaded up in the back behind a locked gate. You even get to pick your own “Sheriff”, also known as your tour guide.  Once loaded up and locked down, the prison bus heads to all the hottest spots in town. 

Con Xpress founder Danny Sinatra thought it criminal to pass up on his unique venture.  “Never in the U.S. have prison buses been put back into public use for charter services,” Sinatra says. 

There’s no question the buses are attracting attention. Since operations began about a month ago the buses have been involved in lots of drama, being pulled over by local police, Nevada State Police and, yes, even Homeland Security. 

Tourists swarm the bus, getting a fun kick out of this odd blast from the past.  “For a bachelorette or bachelor party it would be fun”, said Ray Navarro, visiting Las Vegas from Arizona. 

Sinatra says he’s fully licensed to operate his charter business and he is working with local law enforcement as well as security at casinos to let them know his buses are out on the streets. 

The company charges $180 per hour and the bus will hold 45 people.  For further information, call 702-588-8197.

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Las Vegas Hires Terrorism Analyst

Travelers to Las Vegas can perhaps feel a bit safer as they spend, win or lose money in the popular city. Last week, the Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority (LVCVA) voted to create a terrorism intelligence analyst position to work with the Metro police in the Southern Nevada Counterterrorism Fusion Center. 

The board voted to spend nearly $480,285 over three years for the position, which they hope will also assure business travelers, meeting planners, and conventioneers of their safety. 

According to the Las Vegas Sun newspaper, intelligence analyst would be appointed by Clark County Sheriff Doug Gillespie and would serve as a liaison to the LVCVA on terrorist activities. Metro officials told the Sun that there have been no major terrorism threats to Las Vegas but they recognize the city is a potential target.

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M Resort Spa Casino in Las Vegas Celebrates Labor Day with Style

M Resort Spa Casino in Las Vegas has pulled out all the stops for a Labor Day celebration.  The resort will host ‘End of Summer Festival ‘09’ a Labor Day bash on Sunday, September 6 from 3 p.m. to 8 p.m. poolside. Admission is free to the public.

Mix and mingle will be the order of the day as the M Resort pays homage to the holiday, complete with live musical performances, a fresh lemonade stand, watermelon-eating contest, a festival of food and a fireworks show. 

Much-loved ‘70s and ‘80s tribute band Loveshack will perform from 3 p.m. to 5:30 p.m. Loveshack is famous for their nostalgic, high-energy renditions of classics like “Hit Me with Your Best Shot,” “Jesse’s Girl” and “Come On Eileen.” Las Vegans  favorite, Nitro will perform from 5:30 p.m. to 8 p.m. Nitro delivers a rockin’ good time with well-known rock and pop songs. 

Guest foodies are invited to enjoy a feast of food favorites including south of the border fare, American classics, barbeque, burgers and hotdogs, cotton candy, gelatos, shaved ice and even M’s homemade pastries. Or, if that doesn’t strike your fancy, just gather around the pool deck for a wide variety of free activities for the kids including face painting, temporary tattoos and balloon art.

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Tropicana in Las Vegas Undergoes Major Rebranding Campaign

tropicana2As part of a $125-million renovation, the Tropicana Hotel and Casino in Las Vegas is undergoing a complete rebranding campaign, starting with a logo change announced on August 6. The company is working to build buzz about the brand and spread the message of the rebrand to influencers, tourists, and feeder markets in Southern California, Arizona, Texas, and New York.

Tropicana Las Vegas is led by chairman and CEO Alex Yemenidjian, who acquired the property with Onex Corp. after it emerged from bankruptcy July 1.

“We have new ownership now and a new management team,” said Trish Gilbert, VP of marketing for Tropicana Las Vegas. “It’s not just bringing [the property] up to today’s standards, but really adding the flare of a new brand to it,” Gilbert added. She described the new brand theme as “a Havana, old-Cuban theme, [with] Latin flare.” 

Tropicana is using traditional media relations—reaching out to travel and tourism publications, bloggers, and regional business news outlets—and social media, focusing on a soon-to-launch Tropicana Las Vegas blog, Facebook, and Twitter. 

The company is not currently working with a PR firm, Gilbert said, but it is “talking to several agencies of how they could come on board and help us during the actual launch,” which is currently scheduled for the third quarter of 2010.

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Fliers Shun Las Vegas in July

July was a real bummer for fliers coming to Las Vegas via McCarran International Airport.   The Clark County Department of Aviation said that 3.56 million people flew in and out of McCarran in July, down from 3.92 million a year earlier. McCarranAirportColorConv80dSMALL

For the year-to-date through July, McCarran’s arriving-and-departing flier count is down 11.5 percent, having fallen to 23.78 million fliers from 26.86 million fliers in the same period a year earlier. 

Michael Boyd, an airline consultant with the Evergreen, Colorado firm Boyd Group, said the year-to-date passenger drop is wider than the nation’s current 8.5 percent drop. 

Boyd also suggested that the passenger traffic drop could have been shallower if not for the comments made earlier this year by President Obama (prior article by Las Vegas Backstage Access).

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High-Flying Naked Las Vegas Tourist Nabbed

It’s not uncommon to have tourists to take off their clothes when arriving in Las Vegas (because of the intense heat, of course), but a passenger yesterday onboard a Southwest Airlines flight to Las Vegas  decided, apparently, he couln’t wait, and removed his clothing mid-flight, forcing the pilot to turn around, authorities said. 

Police were there to meet Southwest Flight 947 when it returned to the Oakland Airport, where it had departed 30 minutes earlier. 

The passenger’s name wasn’t released and authorities did not say what prompted him to take off his clothes, but they did say he was involved in a fight with a female passenger who was reportedly slightly injured. 

Flight 947 was originally bound for St. Louis, Missouri, but was making a stop in Las Vegas. It landed just before 11:30 a.m. and was scheduled to take off for St. Louis Thursday afternoon.

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Nevada Bill Proposed to Stem Anti-Resort Travel Policies by U.S. Government

Sen. Harry Reid, D-Nev., recently introduced a bill that would make it against the law for government bureaucrats to implement travel policies that prohibit official travel to destinations “perceived to be a resort or vacation destination.” 

Reid’s bill, called the “Protecting Resort Cities from Discrimination Act of 2009,” is the result of months of bureaucrat wrangling and issued in response to reports of myriad federal offices banning travel to resort destinations (especially Las Vegas) in favor of more staid locations.

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Best Dam Sight in Las Vegas

If you’ve driven over the Hoover Dam, you know it’s not the most relaxing thing you’ve ever done. Far from it.  The drive is torturously slow, usually with the traffic backed up for as far as the eye can see.  

But all that’s changing.   The Mike O’Callaghan-Pat Tillman Memorial Bridge is about to reach a milestone event, with the final piece of the supporting concrete arch to be placed on the $240 million bypass project by the second week of August, thanks to the hard work of some 1,200 construction workers and 300 engineers that have battled Southern Nevada’s extreme heat and high winds. HooverDambypass

Spanning 1,900 feet across the Black Canyon just south of the dam, the 1,060-foot arch will be the longest in the Western Hemisphere.  In two months, after the arch is completed, the temporary cables will be removed. 

When the whole schmazel is complete in late 2010, it will provide for four lanes of traffic 900 feet above the Colorado River, providing a more convenient and much safer way to traverse the Black Canyon and travel between Arizona and Nevada.

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Government Agencies Shun Las Vegas

With agencies like the FBI moving conferences out of destinations like Las Vegas, the U.S. Travel Association recent release of a comprehensive study of the ROI of business travel couldn’t come at a better time.

It’s not just corporate meeting planners that are afraid to hold events in beach, resort or entertainment destinations. Now government agencies are saying that both formal and informal policies have them avoiding destinations like Las Vegas and Orlando, FL., to avoid any criticism that their business meetings are really junkets.

“What’s going on is a lot of fear in the marketplace,” says Geoff Freeman, senior vice president of public affairs of the U.S. Travel Association (USTA). “That started in the corporate world and has shifted to government agencies. Folks from different agencies are admitting this is going on.”

It has gotten so bad, Freeman adds, that planners arranging meeting for government agencies “are willing to spend more money—taxpayer money—to avoid the perception of wastefulness.” Among those who agree is Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV), whose state relies upon Las Vegas as a major economic engine.

Noting that the director of the FBI recently ordered an agency conference relocated away from Las Vegas because it is a “vacation and leisure destination” as well as “an unmatched location for conducting business in terms of cost and availability of convention and related space,” Sen. Reid recently wrote to Rahm Emanuel, President Barack Obama’s chief of staff, asking for his “assistance to reverse the current informal federal policy which prohibits and/or discourages government meetings and conferences in Las Vegas and other cities on the basis that they are too leisure oriented to be awarded such business.”

Last week came the reply from White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel: Viva Las Vegas! 

The federal government has no business forbidding government meetings and conferences from taking place in communities “known for attracting vacationers,” Emanuel wrote. “For me, the test of government travel is what will be accomplished by that travel and whether the cost to the government is reasonable as opposed to other options.”

No word on how the “what happens/stays” formulation might be affected by the federal Freedom of Information Act.

“What’s really going on here is most people don’t think other people’s meetings are necessary,” says Freeman. “We must fight that as an industry.”

So far, he adds, the meetings, incentive, conventions and events (MICE) industry has failed to present the business case or defend the value of meetings and conventions. To that end, on July 28, the USTA will unveil a comprehensive study on the ROI of business travel—the quantifiable impact of business travel on business bottom lines.

But that’s only one step, Freeman warns. The MICE industry must continue along that path by continually making this point to the government, to the media, to business executives and to the general public if the message is to get through.

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Lose Your Clothes; Join Pajama Parties in Las Vegas

Las Vegas is all about being kitschy- dancing like no one is watching you.  Now you can translate that rhetoric into reality by joining in on a unique Pajama Party like no other.pajamaparties

Don your cutest nightie, feetsie pajamas, or wear your best Hugh Hefner robe and go bar hopping at many of the hottest clubs in Las Vegas, arriving with no pain on a luxury bus.  Imagine partying without the hassles of waiting in long nightclub lines, avoiding driving the Strip- and without the risk getting a DUI.  

Life can’t get better than that. 

For more information, visit www.pinkelephantgames.com

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Magician Lance Burton to Perform Six More Years in Las Vegas

After breaking his right foot during a show in May [previous Las Vegas Backstage Access article], magician Lance Burton is staying on the Las Vegas Strip for another six years.LanceBurton2

Burton and the Monte Carlo hotel-casino said yesterday that they have agreed to a new contract that will keep him as the resort’s headliner through 2015. 

The 49-year-old illusionist says he plans to return to the stage on Tuesday, July 7. 

Burton began his Las Vegas career 27 years ago with an eight-week trial engagement at “Folies Bergere,” which turned into a nine-year run.

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Get Naked in Las Vegas

For those enjoying the company of other naked people while in Las Vegas, please complete the contact link at the top of our Las Vegas Backstage Access blog and we’ll send by return e-mail a compiled listing of Vegas hot spots to let it all hang out, ranging from Las Vegas locations, groups, pools and more.

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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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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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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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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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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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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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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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‘Fearless’ Taylor Swift Makes Tracks Back to Las Vegas

Not many artists have an opportunity to make a concert entrance by descending from the rafters in an elevator and exiting to the showroom floor via a David Copperfield magic illusion, but young country music star sensation Taylor Swift had just that, stealing the moment at the 2009 Academy of County Music Awards at the MGM Grand Las Vegas on April 5.  taylorswift1

Swift will be back in Las Vegas on May 23 as she brings her Fearless Tour 2009 to the Mandalay Bay Resort and Casino.  Opening acts will be American Idol alum Kelli Pickler and country music group Gloriana. 

A few tickets are still available if you want to watch the Nielsen 2008’s top-selling artist perform.

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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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All Rise: The King is Back in the Building

For some, death is really not in their cards, it’s just a lifetime spent in purgatory.

Keeping with tradition, Las Vegas will celebrate the 40th anniversary of Elvis Presley this July with one of the largest Elvis conventions in the world. According to John Stuart, a long-time Las Vegas producer and the mastermind behind “Legends in Concert,” an award-winning celebrity impersonation show in Las Vegas, the idea is to bring back to faux life “all major people who were in the original concert 40 years ago.”

Though not an original Elvis band member, Sean Klush, the BBC’s “World’s Greatest Elvis” in 2007 is also planning to make his sparkling appearance. 

Elvis fans will get a a chance to take a special backstage tour and even participate in an Elvis impersonation contest. 

The King’s once-in-a-lifetime revival extravaganza is scheduled for July 15 through 19 at the Las Vegas Hilton.

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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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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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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 ‘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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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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DISH Las Vegas Culinary Fundraiser on April 3

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

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

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

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

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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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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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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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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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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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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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$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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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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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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‘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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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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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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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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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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‘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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‘Monster Circus’ Transforms Las Vegas into Rock ‘n Roll Extravaganza- and Freak Show

monstercircusWhat’s a “monster circus?”  It’s yet another new spectacular production for Las Vegas that never ceases to have enough aces up their entertainment sleeve.   Monster Circus is truly a freaky circus that combines a high-octane live rock concert – no DJs here – with sexy dancers, human circus acts, aerials, freaks of nature, and, of course, a tour bus full of platinum certified real rock stars that play their award-winning rock and heavy metal ballads of the ’70s, ’80s, and ’90s- all while interacting with their audience. 

It’s a first for Las Vegas. 

Rock star debauchery begins with an all-star lineup of the jaw-dropping Monster Circus band featuring artists  Rudy Sarzo (Ozzy Osbourne, Quiet Riot, Whitesnake, Dio) John Corabi (Mötley Crüe, Ratt), Fred Coury (Cinderella), Bruce Kulick (KISS), and Tony Montana (Great White). Various guest artists will “join the circus” and perform the hits they personally rock out to, creating an ever evolving talent and set list. In addition to these rock and metal masters, special theme nights will be dedicated to the songs of a single legendary band. 

All the non-stop zany action kicks off on March 19 inside the legendary Hilton Theater in Las Vegas where the biggest names in music, from Elvis Presley to Barry Manilow, have performed. The circus is in Sin City six nights a month on Thursday, Friday and Saturday nights with an 11 p.m. show time. March dates are 19-21 and 26-28.  And for those that still can’t get enough rock ‘n roll, a nightly after-show party will keep you blood pumping as the circus action continues till the wee hours of the morning. 

Tickets can be purchased at the Las Vegas Hilton box office, online at www.lvhilton.com, www.vegas.com, www.ticketmaster.com or by calling 702-732-5755 or 800-222-5361.

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Go to Disneyland for FREE

Representatives from Disney theme parks will be in Las Vegas this Friday, February 6, at Town Square, 6605 Las Vegas Blvd. South, from 11 a.m to 1 p.m. to encourage people to visit their attractions.disneyland

As part of Disney’s “What Will You Celebrate?” promotion, they will give away grand prizes of all-expense-paid vacations for four to a Disney park of the winner’s choice.  

Each person who registers for the promotion will receive a free admission to a Disney park on his or her birthday and an opportunity to win a variety of electronic prizes.  Valid birth documentation is required.

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Pinball Wizards Unite

If you like playing pinball, then get ready for some entertaining action.  The Las Vegas Pinball Collectors Club has pinballrecently purchased the retail building at 1610 E. Tropicana Ave. in Las Vegas, from a private seller for $1.24 million.

The 7,416-square-foot freestanding building was built in 1995. The new owner says he plans to operate a museum consisting of pinball machines that have been refurbished. The Las Vegas Pinball Collectors club donates all profits to the Salvation Army.

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Arrows Fly in Las Vegas

Although not arriving inside wooden horses, archers from around the world will convene at the Riviera Hotel and Casino.  They are the hosts for the first leg of the 2009 Three-Star Tour of the National Field Archery Association archery(NFAA) on February 6 -8.  

The archery competition has an award payout of $165,000. 

Archers who participate in all three tournaments – World Archery Festival, NFAA Indoor Championship (Louisville, Kentucky) and the First Dakota Bank Archery Classic (Yankton, South Dakota) – will earn an opportunity to ‘shoot off’ for a new Pontiac Sports Coupe. 

During the three-day Las Vegas event, attendees will be able to visit the world Archery Festival Trade Show where they can learn about the latest equipment available in the archery industry.

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Nevada Tourism Industry Under Fire

tourismNevada is home to many industries ranging from agriculture and ranching to the manufacture of lawn equipment and titanium products.  In the 1930s Nevada was known as much for the divorce industry as it was for mining.  But today, Nevada’s best known industry is tourism.  And tourism is under fire at the Carson City capital building in Nevada. 

As with most states, Nevada’s balanced budget requirement means that all the dollars and cents must equal out.  So when Nevada Gov. Jim Gibbons settled in to prepare the 2009 budget, declining revenue and economic downward trending made it necessary to decrease allotments for a variety of state funded agencies.   Education and health services have received the most media attention.  But in the process of allotting the evaporating funds, the Tourism Commission and the Economic Development Commission have also taken critical budget hits. 

The primary recommendation is to merge the two departments which would generate an expected savings of 58%.  Staff would be reduced from 28 to 18 and the vacant Nevada tourism director position would remain not filled.   In addition, funding would potentially be cut to current projects that support the Nevada Ballet Theatre, the Neon Museum, and the Atomic Testing Museum.

 Some of the budget cuts currently under consideration could actually result in the unintentional decrease of part of the natural revenue stream.  Because of staffing reductions and expense controls, the Tourism Commission’s Nevada magazine, would most likely become a lighter offering.  Advertisers who routinely use the magazine to promote their Las Vegas and Nevada events may be inclined to try another media format. and once they do, many may not return. 

Unless the other 49 states once again make divorce difficult to obtain, Nevada needs to ensure that tourism dollars are being spent in the best way possible to woo vacationers to stay and play the Nevada way.

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Joint Closes Iconic Chapter in Las Vegas Music History

jointThe best bands and entertainers have performed at the legendary Joint inside the Hard Rock Hotel in Las Vegas.   During its near 14-year run, The Joint has hosted the biggest names in entertainment as The Eagles, the Rolling Stones, The Beastie Boys, David Bowie, The Strokes, Robert Plant, Stone Temple Pilots, Tom Petty, Metallica, The Who, Steely Dan, Billy Joel, The Deftones- way too many to list.  But come this Saturday, February 7, the doors will shutter to the 2,000-seat venue as it is prepares for a bigger 4,000-capacity new The Joint that is planned to open in April. 

Saturday’s venue-closing performance will be from none other than the iconic rock ‘n roll Motley Crue, comprised of Vince Neil, Tommy Lee, Nikki Sixx, and Mick Mars.  

Be ready for action through the last beat- and, perhaps, beyond.  The last time a similar venue closed was the Aladdin Theater in 1997.  With that closing the people left the concert and many yanked up their chairs as commemorative souvenirs.   Who know what will happen this time

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Ne-Yo Comes Back to Las Vegas Home, Launches First Headliner Tour

With a No. 1-selling album and six Grammy Award nominations this year already under his belt, Ne-Yo – the artist ne-yoformerly known as Shaffer Smith when he went to Rancho High School in Las Vegas – will now kick off his first tour as a headliner in his Las Vegas hometown this Thursday, February 5, at 8 p.m. when he performs at The Pearl at the Palms Casino& Hotel.                                                   

Oddly enough, Ne-Yo wasn’t studying music when in high school- he was there for visual arts, drawing and painting.  In fact, no one knew he could sing. 

Coming full circle, this Sunday at the Grammy’s he will be hob-knobbing with his competition including Jay-Z and Kanye West, each of whom also has six nominations. 

His Grammy nominations this year include Album of the Year and Best Contemporary R&B Album for “Year Of The Gentleman,” Best Male Pop Vocal Performance for “Closer” and Best Male R&B Vocal Performance; and, in the songwriter category, Best R&B Song for “Miss Independent,” and for “Spotlight,” recorded by Jennifer Hudson.

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Sports Illustrated’s First Model Strip Preview

February is a month that offers something for everyone.  Historical celebrations, groundhogs in top hats, romance and roses, and if none of that appeals to you – how about the annual Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Issue?  sportsillustrated

Since 1964 February has been the month when men wait by their mailboxes to peruse the latest high fashion poses from the world’s most beautiful women.  Models yearn for the opportunity to pose in Sports Illustrated as it traditionally provides their entry ticket into supermodel status.  To support the yearly launch, there’s been an HBO special, video’s and CD’s, a reality TV model search and countless calendars.  And to introduce the 2009 edition of the Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Issue, now there’s a first ever personal appearance launch party planned.

Southwest Airlines will cover and wrap one of its Boeing 737-700 jets with art that celebrates the 2009 swimsuit edition.

And very early on February 12  they will fly between several and a half dozen of the magazine models from New York to Las Vegas for a series of opening events to be held in Las Vegas. 

Stop by later this week and read our Las Vegas Backstage Access blog for a list of the models and the local public celebrations that will kick-off the 2009 Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Edition.

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Bald Eagles Love Las Vegas

The bald eagle, the iconic national symbol of the United States, is our new Las Vegas snowbird.  Results from a recent survey show 108 eagles – 29 adults and 59 immature – now make their winter residence at the Lake Mead National Recreation Area. bald-eagle

Once on the brink of extinction, the bald eagle was declared an endangered species in 1967  for much of the United States, except Alaska, where about half of the world’s bald eagles live. 

This year’s bald eagle survey results at the Lake Mead Science Symposium on January 14 reported the second-highest tally of the Lake Mead National Recreation Area since the midwinter counts began in 1985.  

Last year the record tally was 116 bald eagles. 

A good area to view and photograph the mighty bald eagles is at the Overton Arm of Lake Mead.

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1930s Trailer Living Becomes En Vogue in Las Vegas

What goes around comes around.  Especially in Las Vegas, a city that continually reinvents itself by offering a blinding array of kitschy, hip, and retro alternatives to delight its visitors.  The newest opportunity:  You can plunk down $45 for an overnight trailer stay smack dab on The Strip in an asphalt campground.  It’s not any trailer.  Oh no. Rather, you get to enjoy ol’ time nostalgia living in a 25-foot classic silver-bullet Airstream trailer.  airstream

Airstream has delivered 10 of its snazzy period travel trailers to the Kampgrounds of America parking lot of Circus Circus in Las Vegas.  They’re available for immediate overnight rentals.  Think of it- could even make for a great honeymoon suite. 

With the prices of mid-level and lower-tier Las Vegas resorts plummeting, it could actually be cheaper to stay at a regular hotel.  But is economy what you really want for your vacation (or your honeymoon)? Consider that by staying in an Airstream you’ll have a bevy of gaudy red plastic flamingos hanging out in your asphalt yard.  Kids won’t be running up and down your hallways.  You will have a full galley, so you can cut down your costs of eating out.  And you won’t have housekeepers banging their vacuum cleaners against your door at an ungodly early hour when you’re otherwise predisposed.  

However, if grilling burgers in the rare air of Vegas or the haunting flamingos get too much, just pull the blinds and hole up inside of your Airstream with some Twinkies and Ho Hos and watch some cable-TV on two Toshiba flat screens.  (Yeah, I know, that doesn’t quite go with the feng shui of the 1930s ambiance, but after all it is Las Vegas.) 

The fact is that you may go so ga-ga over the whole experience that you might want to dig deeper in your pocket and pop for $50,000 for one of your own.  Maybe even a full-time abode?

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UFC Blood Fest in Las Vegas on Saturday

Preparation is a key for success- even for sedentary beer-hoisting football fans.  You might want to consider pre-ufcgame practice for the hard-pounding gridiron action by watching on Saturday night, January 31, at 4:15 p.m. the UFC premiere fight between warriors BJ Penn and Georges St. Pierre.  The duo will be smack-talking and raising their fists and feet for what will surely be an Octagon butt-kicking Blood Fest at UFC 94 at the MGM Grand Garden arena.  

And if you can’t make it down the MGM Grand, you might consider heading down to the Hawaiian Tropic Zone in the Miracle Mile at Planet Hollywood Resort.  They’re offering a fight special to watch the UFC  action on a big screen for $25 admission, with a minimum of $40 for food and beverage. 

Nevada, retaining the “lucky” persona rubric, is fortunate to host this contest. Many states, like New York, outlaw UFC fights.  

Some sports writers are predicting the Penn-St. Pierre match will be the biggest UFC fight ever.

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Las Vegas is THE Place for Super Bowl Partying

superbowlThere is no better place to take in all the football gridiron action this Sunday at Super Bowl XLIII then to watch and join in on the many parties in sunny Las Vegas.   There are lots of options to choose among before the kickoff between the Arizona Cardinals and the favorite Pittsburg Steelers.  (But for a championship game like this you can throw out favoritism, as anything can, and usually does, happen.)

Action kicks off not on game day Sunday, but Saturday when Kenny “The Snake” Stabler, who led the Raiders to a Super Bowl XI victory in 1977, and Jim Plunkett, who led the Raiders to two Super Bowl victories in the ’80s, will be on hand to greet and mingle with fans at the Sportsbook Bar and Grill at The Palazzo.   

Then, Notre Dame football legend and motivational speaker Dan “Rudy” Ruettiger will be appearing at the Orleans on Saturday, Jan. 31.

The Las Vegas Hilton plans to offer Super Bowl viewing on many 25-foot HD TVs using their state-of-the-art sound system at the Hilton Theater.
 
Not to be outdone, the Rockhouse Bar & Nightclub will host the game with a 100-ounce super-yards mega-cocktail. 

The New York-New York Casino will offer many delectable foods while having game action show on 165 televisions placed throughout the ESPN Zone restaurant.

After the victor is declared, there will many Las Vegas hotspots entertaining until the wee hours of the morning.   The new Encore will have partying going all hours in their new XS nightclub, as will non-stop action at the LAX at the Luxor, Pure nightclub, and the Rain nightclub at the Palms. 

Also, at the Palms rocker Bret Michaels and his “Rock of Love” girls will have an 8 p.m. performance at the Pearl. 

 

For a little comedy infusion after the game, consider attending the “Improv All Stars” showcase at MGM Grand.  Jerry Sienfeld, Drew Carey, and a host of top name entertainers will be on hand for their Super Bowl of Comedy.

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Resorts Continue to Build in Las Vegas

Despite our economy, there still is much casino and hotel room construction going on in Las Vegas. In fact, nearly 13,000 hotel rooms remain under construction in 2009.

The $2.9 billion Fontainebleau mega-resort is planned to open late this year.  It features 3,815 rooms and suites; 27 restaurants and bars; a 7-acre pool deck with four pools; a 350,000-square-foot shopping area called the Runway; and a spa with 55 treatment rooms.  That’s a mouthful.

The Silverton Casino Lodge is undergoing a $130-million expansion including adding pools, a high-limit gaming salon and 800 slot machines.

The Hard Rock Hotel & Casino expects to add 950 guest rooms and expand the pool, while adding more meeting space.

The $1-billion M Resort is heading toward a March 1 opening of its 390 guest rooms and a 100,000-square-foot pool that gives the feel of being in a canyon.

Finally, construction continues on Las Vegas’ 900-lb gorilla, CityCenter, an $8.6-billion development slotted to open in late 2009.  Hotels in the project include the 4,000-room, 61-story Aria Resort & Casino; a 400-room Mandarin Oriental, the first in Las Vegas; and Vdara, an all-suite condo/hotel project with more than 1,500 units. Structural issues have delayed the opening of CityCenter’s Harmon Hotel.

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World Series of Poker Adds $40,000 Buy-In Game in Las Vegas

The 40th edition of the World Series of Poker in Las Vegas at the Rio will begin play May 27 and include a one-time commemorative $40,000 buy-in no-limit hold ’em tournament to mark the tournament’s 40th anniversary. 

The $10,000 buy-in World Championship No-Limit Hold’em Main Event will begin play on July 3 and reach its final table of nine players on July 15.  Then the players will wait four months before returning to the Rio on November 7 through 10 to play for the championship that will be televised on ESPN on a same-day taped delay. 

Officials from Harrah’s Entertainment, which has owned and operated the World Series of Poker since 2004, hope the 2009 tournament will exceed the record-breaking revenue of the 2008 event, which had 58,720 players from 124 countries participating and awarded a prize pool of more than $180.7 million and awarded 55 gold bracelets for individual championships.

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Big Savings at MGM Grand in Las Vegas

Travel to Las Vegas has never been more affordable – with deep discounts at Trump Tower and more.  One of the most recent to add an on-line special to try and lure you to the city is the MGM Grand.mgmgrand

Take a moment and calculate the costs of your holiday.  Then consider the 30% discount on in-house services you’ll get at the MGM if you use your Mastercard through February 28. 

Room rates, separate from this promotion, are as low as $75/night.  And when dinner is charged to the room in any of their award-winning restaurants, take an additional 30% off.  You can take in the fabulous Cirque du Soleil show KA at 30% off.  Relax at the MGM Grand spa and charge it to your hotel bill, another 30% off.   http://www.mgmgrand.com/holiday/

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Crown Cleared to Buy Two Las Vegas Casinos from Cannery

Crown has won final approval from the Nevada Gaming Commission for the purchase of two Las Vegas casinos from Cannery Casino Resorts.cannery

A company spokesman said today the approval came late last week and removed one major regulatory hurdle for Crown’s $1.75 billion acquisition of Cannery Casino Resorts.

Regulatory approval for the December 2007 acquisition of Cannery Casino Resorts had been expected by the end of 2008.

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Las Vegas Comedy Magician Nathan Burton Offers Magic Deal

Premier Las Vegas magician Nathan Burton is offering a can’t-pass-up entertainment deal:  You can get a pair of tickets for $12 for his Flamingo comedy magic performance.   Normally, the price is $72 each.   Viewing suitable for all ages.  http://www.nathanburton.com/tickets.htm

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Sex Wanes in Las Vegas

Sex to Las Vegas is like the motherhood and apple pie for puritanical cities:  it provides the embodiment and very essence of Sin City’s worldwide allure and attraction.  Sex drives Las Vegas.  Or does it? sex

The sad but naked truth is Las Vegas sex convention dominance is being challenged.  Witness the results this year from the annual sex poster child- the AVN Adult Entertainment Expo at the Sands Expo and Convention Center that occurred on January 9 through 11.  Although similar smaller adult conventions take place, the Las Vegas AVN convention has always been the ‘Big Momma’- by and far the reigning ruler of THE largest event for the adult entertainment industry worldwide.  

Thousands of sex workers make their annual pilgrimage to the Mecca of Sin.  Last year event organizers reported attendance of approximately 12,000 sex industry workers, 17,000 fans, and 1,300 of the media.  That provides a whole lot of legalized peeking-and-peeping.  

But this year, only 250 exhibitors took the gamble to show up and showcase their latest and greatest in adult entertainment products and toys.  That’s down about 18 percent, according to expo spokesman Sean Devlin.  

The only saving grace is that fan and media interest appeared strong this year.  Many attendees grabbed the rare opportunity to see in one place the adult industry’s top stars and try to gain their “secrets” by attending fan seminars, events, and taking advantage of a plethora of up-close and personal networking opportunities. 

But looking doesn’t keep the lights on.  

The toxic U.S. economy has siphoned off billions of dollars in profits from the normally “healthy” sex business.   Though estimates vary, nationally the sex industry is thought to now generate about $13 billion annually.  That’s down from $18 billion three years ago, according to top industry figures.

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Barack Obama’s Inauguration Plays on Huge Las Vegas Hilton HDTV

The Las Vegas Hilton is opening its main headliner theater – where Elvis Presley launched his comeback – to the public on Tuesday, January 20, and will be the host for a special viewing of the inauguration of President-elect Barack Obama.  The doors will open at 8 a.m. for this history-making event that will be shown on an 18-foot-by-32 foot HDTV with state-of-the-art theater sound.

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Barack Obama Moves to Las Vegas

Barack Obama is now a permanent part of the Las Vegas experience.  On January 15 Madame Tussuad’s unveiled their Barack Obama wax sculpture at five locations, including their museum at the Venetian in Las Vegas.  The highly detailed sculpture shows the president-elect smiling with his arms casually crossed.

The artists at Madame Tussuad’s were prepared to update their presidential exhibit regardless of who won the election.  Clay molds were designed for both Senator McCain and then-Senator Obama.  Unlike most real-person sculptures that require meticulous measurements, photographs and video were used to create the best representation of both men. 

Obama’s arrival didn’t mean the end of President Bush.  While it’s true that at the Amsterdam Madame Tussuad’s, George W. Bush was left on the sidewalk surrounded by luggage, in most cases, the current president’s image will be carefully preserved in the museum archives.

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President-Elect Barack Obama’s Inauguration Train Leaves With Las Vegan Aboard

On Saturday, January 17 a history-making train will depart the Philadelphia station with President-Elect Barack Obama about for his inauguration in Washington D.C..  But this time, it’s different:  Guests being referred to as “ordinary Americans” will be riding along with Obama.  These are the folks who wouldn’t be able to pay the costs of attending an inauguration- but they are the exact same folks who made the inauguration of Barack Obama possible. 

Invitations to the expense-paid event went out nationwide and one of those invitations was sent to Las Vegas resident Rosa Mendoza.               

Mendoza, a teacher and Vice Chair of the Nevada Hispanic Democratic Caucus, helped organize Nevada Latino support of Obama from the beginning of the 2008 presidential campaign.  During her years as a single mother, working as a waitress while she earned her college degree, Mendoza believed in the possibilities for her and for her daughter in the “Land of Opportunity”.    And in candidate Obama, Mendoza found someone who had lived her life and understood her world.                                     

So in September 2008 when Mendoza had the chance to introduce then Senator Obama to 12,000 cheering supporters at Cashman Field, she told her story and invited the Nevada voters to choose Obama as the 44th President of the United States.  

When Barack Obama takes his oath of office on January 20, becoming the first black president of the United States, Rosa Mendoza will be there front and center- a witness to the history in making she helped create.

Rosa Mendoza never dreamed her actions would lead to selecting a dress for the presidential inaugural ball.

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Las Vegas’ New Cocktail: Neon & Mountain Spritzer

Unbenounced to throngs of Las Vegas casino denizens that seldom shift their gaze up from the one-armed bandits staring in front of them, a unique change of pace environment for fun and frolicking is emerging in Las Vegas.  It is a radical – some say refreshing – departure from the blinding neon and glitz of our valley.

And it’s also that special kind of place where local Las Vegans wouldn’t tell their visitors about it, because then they’d have to pop them to insure the word about the good find doesn’t get out to others.   But Bugsy Siegel is long dead.  (He is, right?)  Safely releasing the cat out of the bag – I hope – the alpine getaway is . . . drum roll . . .Mount Charleston, located about an hour’s drive north from downtown Las Vegas.mountcharleston

But the travel news is much more than just another scenic day trip.  The Las Vegas Review-Journal reports the scenic 64-room Mount Charleston Hotel is being renamed to the Resort on Mount Charleston, and the facility, originally built in the 1980s, is getting a major facelift including the current building of a new gym that will face out to the canyon, and renovations to the bar, dining areas, and spa.  The spiffed-up resort guest suites are planned to feature such amenities as kitchenettes, granite counters, mini-refrigerators, wine refrigerators, ovens, ranges, and even flat-screen TVs. 

And you thought Las Vegas was just for gamblers?   (But for those of you reading this and are getting a nasty flair up of gambling shakes, there are limited video poker machines on the property now with plans for expanding gaming.)

In our challenging economic times, it’s a business risk for Stephen Siegel, owner of the Resort on Mount Charleston, and Michael Crandall, the director of business for the Siegel Group.  But they have an innovative – brilliant – marketing idea:  In addition to expanding their traditional advertising methods to draw new clients, they want to link the Resort on Mount Charleston into listings on Las Vegas hotel-booking websites in search of new customers who want to visit Las Vegas but stay in a more serene or non-Strip setting.  They also want to establish a rewards program that links their resort to their other Las Vegas properties – the Gold Spike apartment complexes and Barcelona hotel-casino – to draw even more potential visitors.

In tough times, the tough always get going.  Godspeed to the Siegel Group.

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Las Vegas’ State of the City Address Focuses on Entertainment, Art, Travel Projects

Las Vegas Mayor Oscar Goodman was positive and upbeat when delivering his State of the City address on January 13, saying, “We’re not going to abandon our vision of being a great city,” talking to 350 people listening to his address at the Fifth Street School.  Continued investments in downtown Las Vegas projects, he said, were necessary to sustain the economy in the short and long-term.

And several projects were specifically singled out as requiring continued support:  Union Park, Smith Center for the Performing Arts (soon to break ground), the nearly completed Lou Ruvo Brain Institute, and the start of construction for a World Jewelry Center, a Charley Palmer restaurant/hotel, and a new city hall building.  

Curiously, the mayor mentioned nothing in his address on his favorite high-profile project: the Las Vegas Museum of Organized Crime and Law Enforcement, commonly referred to as the “Mob Museum.”   The project has been mocked and scorned nationally since it was reported that Goodman put it on his “wish list” to receive funding from the pending federal stimulus package.

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Survey Questions for January

Our economy is in the proverbial dumpster.   What do you think will be the future for the newspaper Trumptoastand magazine industry?   What business and journalism ideas and techniques do you think will best work to keep your clients happy and in business in these down times?

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Welcome to our Las Vegas VBA Blog

 

Vegas Backstage Access has launched live on the Web:

http://www.BackstageAccessVegas.com

Whew!  It was quite a long and challenging ride.  But it was well worth it.  Lots of careful thought and design planning time and effort went into our branding and launch. 

We’re all about writing and photographing on the Las Vegas entertainment, lifestyle, food, art, and travel scene. 

Feel free to read, write and submit anything you might think others in the journalism and photojournalism profession might enjoy.

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