‘Fresco Italiano’ Races To The Top


Westgate’s superlative Italian restaurant takes highest ranking on TripAdvisor…

20200802_205422

The journey to success is never easy, especially in an era where anyone can be an online critic. It just takes a few troublesome reviews to jeopardize years of hard work. So there’s something to be said for a dining establishment that continues to rank higher and higher on a respected travel website…until it finally takes the top spot. That’s what Fresco Italiano has achieved…number 1 out of 290 Las Vegas Italian restaurants, according to TripAdvisor.

20200717_204931

I first reviewed this “journey for your senses” in the summer of 2017. Won over by its flavorful dishes, home-style atmosphere, exemplary service, and Tuscan-style decor, I found myself returning again and again. I’ve also done so many articles on the Westgate staff and operations that they’ve made me feel like one of the family.

So naturally, I’m biased when it comes to revisiting my favorite Italian destination. But don’t be deterred, because the slogan for Vegas Unfiltered is “Probably Biased -Definitely Honest”. Still, you don’t have to be a world-famous blogger (LOL) to feel right at home. Everyone is family at Fresco.

TripAdvisor

In the years since my first visit, there have been frequent additions to the menu, ensuring that each visit to Fresco Italiano is a unique experience. Things really took off when Chef Steve Young of Edge Steakhouse took on dual responsibilities as their Executive Chef, which including revamping their offerings.

TripAdvisor2

The talented culinary expert, whom I profiled here, managed to keep Edge Steakhouse at the highest TripAdvisor ranking while elevating its sister establishment to the same level. Fresco Italiano was also awarded the TripAdvisor Certificate of Excellence. Combine those accolades with the talents of General Manager Dora Pane and an expert wait staff (including the stellar Michael Nealy Baker), and you’ve got an unforgettable evening in store.

Dora Pane Fresco Italiano Westgate

 GM Dora Pane

Now that Westgate Las Vegas has both the top steakhouse and top Italian restaurant in the city, you owe it to yourself to check them out. EDGE Steakhouse is awaiting a date to reopen since the pandemic has greatly decreased traffic, but Fresco Italiano is serving up brand new creations directly from Chef Young’s kitchen.

Chef Steve Young Edge Steakhouse

Chef Steve Young

Here are a few dishes, some new and some familiar, that my companions and I enjoyed from the current menu:

20200717_193704

Bruschetta ($12.00) – heirloom tomatoes, basil pesto, vincotto, charred bread
Caprese ($14.00) – burrata, heirloom tomatoes, basil oil, extra virgin olive oil
Chopped Salad ($13.00) – romaine, iceberg, arugula, radicchio, bell peppers, onions, tomatoes, salami, crispy prosciutto, Italian dressing, parmesan (half-portion pictured above)
Tuscan White Bean & Kale Zuppa ($9.00) – white cannellini beans, Tuscan kale, Italian sausage
White Sangria and house-baked bread

 

 

Meatballs ($14.00) – slow-braised pork, beef, veal meatballs, stracciatella, grana padano, tomato sauce
Mozzarella Fritta ($12.00) – breaded whole milk mozzarella, tomato sauce

20200717_193918

Guazzetto di Cozze ($14.00) – salt springs mussels, artisan nduja, fennel, calabrian chiles, garlic butter
20200717_200038
Frutti di Mare ($29.00) – strozzapreti pasta, shrimp, scallops, clams, mussels, spicy tomato sauce
20200717_200054
Salsicce Italiane & Rapini ($20.00) – fennel sausage, orecchiette pasta, roasted peppers, ricotta salata

 

 

Pollo Arrosto ($29.00) – lemon & rosemary roasted half chicken, wild mushroom marsala, asparagus, cipollini onions, creamy polenta

Costata di Manzo ($45.00) – 18oz grilled bone-in rib eye, fingerling potatoes, cipollini onions, garlic butter, wild mushrooms

Salmone in Padella ($30.00) – artichoke hearts, fregola sarda, capers, basil, lemon butter

20200802_200956

Scaloppine di Vitello ($31.00) – sauteed veal loin, piccata style, capers, lemon, parsley, spaghetti

 

Pollo Arrosto ($29.00) – lemon & rosemary roasted half chicken, wild mushroom marsala, asparagus, cipollini onions, creamy polenta

20200717_205213

 

Tiramisu ($8.00) – mascarpone crema, marsala wine & espresso

Bomboloni ($8.00) – lemon & ricotta doughnuts, raspberry, crème anglaise, and Nutella dipping sauces
20200717_192309
As you can see, Italian meals are much more than past and pizza, although they’re represented here as well. There’s also an extensive wine list and additional meat and seafood entrees. A 3-course Chef Selection makes it simple, offering soup or salad, choic of main course and dessert for $40. Add a wine pairing for $7 more.
Fresco_Italiano_15__Views_of_Italy_.0
I think you’ll agree that once you visit Fresco Italiano, you’ll look forward to returning frequently…and bringing new guests along each time. Superior to anything you’ll find on the Strip…at prices that belie its quality…Fresco Italiano serves Italian cuisine better than anyplace else in Las Vegas.
Fresco Italiano is located along Restaurant Row at Westgate Las Vegas, 3000 Paradise Road. Open daily from 5pm to 10pm. Call 702.732.5276 for information, click here to reserve through OpenTable.

Actor/Musician Ian Ward is Ready to Rock ‘The Vegas Room’


Youthful heartthrob from “Rock of Ages” and “BAZ” possesses the soul of a legend…

Screenshot 2020-07-31 at 4.02.01 PM

There are many who consider Palazzo‘s BAZ to be one of the greatest productions that Las Vegas has ever seen. A gentre-defying blend of modern music and the works of literary greats as seen through the eyes of film director Baz Luhrmann, BAZ provided a forum for some of the best entertainers in the business.

When Ian Ward stepped into the role of “Romeo”, the youthful performer had big shoes to fill. James Byous, LJ Benet and Myles Nuzzi had all been stunning as the ill-fated lover, yet Ian (full name Ian Ward Brininstool) managed to make his own indelible impression. His powerful, heartfelt performance of Elton John’s “Your Song” elicited cheers from the audience…and the tragic “Love Is Blindness” (below) could cause you to erupt into sobs.

Ian made his stage debut at the age of nine, landing the lead in a large scale production of Oliver. Since then he’s taken on television with a role in Veronica Mars and the New York stage in musicals like Gettin’ The Band Back Together, Leaving Eden and the Radio City Music Hall Christmas Spectacular.

The native of La Jolla has performed on cruise ships around the world and lived in cities as diverse as Los Angeles, Miami, and of course, the Big Apple. Currently completing his studies at Berklee College of Music with an album on the way, he’s released a collection of self-penned singles that reflect a variety of cultural experiences.

82838991_10157782511270011_7672771770780221440_o

Ian was performing in the hit Los Angeles production of Rock Of Ages (with fellow BAZ alumnus Sean Lessard) when the pandemic forced it to close. Since then he’s been focused on his studies and writing new music. Like BAZ, Ian refuses to be categorized, yet influences from The Beatles, Elton John and classic rock anthems come through.

Screenshot 2020-07-31 at 4.02.45 PM

Like most entertainers, the sandy-haired Californian has been yearning for a return to live performance. He’ll be center-stage this Friday and Saturday with an intimate showcase at The Vegas Room. I caught up with Ian over the weekend, and this is what he had to say:

When did you first visit Las Vegas, and when was the first time you performed here?

Growing up in San Diego, Las Vegas has always been a vacation destination for me and my family. I clearly remember spending my 13th birthday here and doing the indoor skydiving experience with my best friend. I think somewhere deep in my subconscious, I always knew that I would be spending more time in this special city. My dream came true when I was cast as Romeo in BAZ back in 2017. This was my first time experiencing performing here and getting to know the entertainment community in Las Vegas.

Roles in BAZ, Footloose, and Rock of Ages have allowed you to stretch your acting, dancing and singing muscles all at the same time. Do you approach a song “differently” when you’re performing in-character versus as yourself? Which do you prefer?

When I am performing a song in a musical, I bring the past experiences and memories of that character into the words that he is speaking and singing. As an actor through song, you must be able to convey to the audience where this character is in their particular journey within the overall story of the play.  

When I perform an original song or a cover song in a cabaret setting, sometimes I am more focused on feeling the energy and vibe of the material and connecting with the audience. I want to communicate directly and bring them along on the ride. It’s much more collaborative with the people there enjoying the music.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Photos: Ryan Salinas for The Vegas Room

You tend to gravitate towards explosive productions, yet your solo work is of a more romantic nature. What kind of music do you listen to for your own enjoyment?

I love doing large scale productions because of the quality of lights, sound, special effects and the entire creative team that comes together to create something spectacular. However, in my solo work, I tend to gravitate towards love stories or stripped down acoustic sounds. I think this comes from my father’s influence in classic rock and my love for classic songwriters such as Neil Young, James Taylor, Sting, and The Beatles. I would love to blend high quality production with my own songs eventually.

Your cover of “Across The Universe” with Ruby Lewis is gorgeous and pure in its simplicity. How did that collaboration come about, and do you see the two of you working together again?

Ruby and I love to collaborate on songs that we share a passion for. One afternoon at my parents house, we were listening to some oldies and “Across the Universe” started playing. Ruby’s voice is so pure and strong that when we blend harmonies, it always sounds special and unique.  

We decided that it would be a nice take on a classic to do our own rendition, and I think the setting of my deck made the ambience all that more magical. She and I will definitely be doing more writing and recording together in the future. She is featured as the background singer on my song “Tru Luv” and sometimes I help arrange or cowrite on her songs. We hope to be onstage together soon!

Your IMDB and social media bios don’t list your birth year. Is there a reason behind that?

Haha! No reason for that actually. Maybe it’s just an industry thing…I think my agents might have taken it down online. I was born on Valentines Day, 1996.

You’ve shone onstage, on the screen and in the recording studio. What’s next to conquer?

I want to continue to grow my catalog in the recording industry and make songs that will make a difference to society and uplift people. A large goal of mine is to get significant progress made with my entertainment company ‘Outward Original’. This company was formed to establish artistic media that can create understanding and harmony. And, I want to collaborate with other artists to make art across all mediums. 

Many artists have reported a surge of creativity during the pandemic. Has this happened to you as well? What did COVID-19 deliver to your legacy?

This year has been very tough on everyone. Covid-19 was responsible for the closing of one of my favorite productions I have been a part of…’Rock of Ages Hollywood’…just after we had opened. It also took the life of my great friend, Nick Cordero, whom I shared the stage with in ‘Rock of Ages’.  

I went though a couple months of reflection and a form of depression where it didn’t feel authentic to be creating or trying to push my voice out into the world. However, now I am feeling invigorated and have been blessed with an influx of new opportunities, so I’m ready to get back out there and create!

Your website is “Ian Ward Out Ward Dot Com”. What is the message or meaning of that?

Ward is actually my middle name. My last name is Brininstool, of German descent. ‘Outward Original’ is the name of my entertainment company. And, being a spiritual person, I believe in the process of taking inspiration and then letting that flow freely outward into the world. So this play on words seemed both fitting and appropriate for my company and my beliefs.

Is there one well-known role that you’d love to take on? Who’s your dream onstage partner?

A dream role of mine would be to play Roger in RENT! Or be a part of a brand new, revolutionary musical where I get to build a role from the ground up. I had an experience like this when I was the first “Ren” in ‘Footloose’ for Norwegian Cruise Lines, because I got to make a lot of creative and artistic choices that became a part of the track for other actors to come! I am excited to see which great performers I get to share the stage with in the future!

The Vegas Room has quickly become the go-to venue/hangout for BAZ alumni (Randal Keith, Lisa Marie Smith, Anne Martinez, Eric Jordan Young) as well as other highly seasoned performers. Your inclusion in their entertainment line-up is testimony to your talent. What can guests expect from your showcase?

I feel so honored to have been asked to perform at The Vegas Room! My peers that worked on BAZ with me are so talented and are such gems in this city. I look forward to joining them in the roster at this great venue! The audience can expect a night of an eclectic smattering of classic songs, some originals I have been writing recently, and stories from my career that I hope will excite and interest people. I can’t wait to connect and entertain to bring some light to their night!


95469558_113846220318621_2821844065237073920_o

Ian Ward takes to the stage of The Vegas Room on August 7th and 8th at 8pm. Options include a 6:30pm dinner/show or 7:30pm light bites/show. Click here or call  (725) 206-7059 for more information and reservations. The Vegas Room is located at 953 E Sahara Avenue Suite E18 (Bright RED Doors), Las Vegas, NV 89104 

 

Ozon3 – Local Service Battles Airborne Contaminants The Natural Way

 


In the era of COVID-19, a burgeoning Vegas company promises “You won’t have to be afraid of what you can’t see. We have eliminated it”.

All of us are hearing about “the new normal”…a post-pandemic reality where our behaviors, sensibilities, and concerns will have to be re-established. More than anything else, we’re concerned about sanitary procedures and the transmission of contaminants, both airborne and on objects and surfaces.

101855315_112623293819298_4777264807002325512_n

My forward-thinking friend, businessman Mel Cole, founded a new company just as the pandemic was sweeping our country, and his timing couldn’t have been better. Ozon3 eliminates your worries by completely destroying the threat, whether it’s from smoking (cigarettes, cigars, marijuana), pet odors, mold, allergens, volatile organic compounds, all viruses (including seasonal flu), and even the dreaded COVID-19.

109555909_1161346480902301_8765306220768811253_n

You may have read my articles here and here about the various measures being taken by Sin City resorts to help keep our guests COVID-free. Their protocols include the use of UV light, low-pressure fogging systems, and the application of disinfectants. Ozon3 is a different approach, one that guarantees 100 percent coverage of every area, even into the air ducts. And there’s no residue or damaging effects to surfaces or objects.

115826996_10223660119956743_1109145802807825677_n

As you’ve probably surmised, ozone is the magic ingredient at Ozon3. You may remember from science class that ozone’s chemical formula is ’03’, which represents “trioxygen”. The distinctive odor of ozone is present whenever lightning strikes, and its rapid degradation allows it to become pure oxygen very quickly.

115822334_10223660119116722_4288775681181993770_n

When introduced into an area, ozone gas causes rapid oxidation of contaminants, which makes it incredibly useful in a variety of industries:

  • Disinfecting air and laundry in hospitals, office, and hotels
  • Disinfecting water instead of with chlorine
  • Deodorizing air and objects, such as after a fire
  • Killing bacteria on food or on contact surfaces
  • Controlling legionella (Legionnaire’s disease)
  • Sanitizing swimming pools and spas
  • Scrubbing yeast and mold spores from the air
  • Chemically attacking contaminants and eradicating water-borne parasites

Mel told me that the process is very simple and completely effective. Once pets and people are removed, his certified professional team enters, outfitted in protective gear. Then they use trusted, highly-rated equipment that converts oxygen into concentrated ozone. Within an hour, the area is “surgically sterile” and can be reoccupied soon after.

101960068_112653563816271_7845694407065225391_n

Since its launch this spring, Ozon3 has been used extensively in lounges, bars, medical and retail offices, apartment complexes, and private homes. Some of their most satisfied customers are those who have tested positive for COVID-19 and want to have the virus completely eradicated from their living spaces. If that doesn’t give you peace of mind about your own home’s cleanliness, I doubt that anything will.

Airborne diseases are caused by pathogenic microbes small enough to be discharged from an infected person via coughing, sneezing, laughing, and close personal contact or aerosolization of the microbe. The discharged microbes remain suspended in the air on dust particles, respiratory and water droplets.

Our Ozon3 treatments are powerful enough to deodorize and sterilize your space from any odors, mold, bacteria, viruses, and VOCs (volatile organic compounds). With today’s pathogens, it is highly recommended to eliminate threatening pathogens in large rooms, offices, hotels, restaurants, labs, pet zones, basements, garages, hospitals, schools, water and fire damaged areas, and more!

Ozon3 is offering a special price for readers of Vegas Unfiltered. Mention this article to get a rate of $165 per 1,000 square feet of space.

You should know that I am not receiving any financial compensation for this endorsement. I respect this business and its founder, therefore I recommend it as a service to my readers. 

Ozon3 is open Monday through Friday from 8am to 6pm, Saturday and Sunday from 10am to 7pm. Call 702.906.0320 for more information or to schedule an appointment. You can also visit their official Facebook page or website

Photos: Sam Novak, Ozon3

 

 

 

 

Jeff Timmons of ’98 Degrees’ Weathers the Storm


Sin City’s resident super-hunk on quarantine, creativity and some very pesky buttons…

Boy bands. Every decade has its share. Some, like The Beatles, create a lasting legacy while others yield punchlines or are forgotten. Resilient members re-invent themselves, branching off in new directions until the inevitable reunion tour. Jeff Timmons of 98 Degrees has experienced most of the above. And, like the boy band he founded, Jeff still keeps temperatures rising.

966573_10203721076093108_4399330906675874373_o

Timmons is a smart businessman as well as a seasoned entertainer. He’s weathered the ups-and-downs of fame and focused on personal growth when boy bands fell out of favor. While he was keeping busy behind the scenes in the music industry, the male revue Chippendales invited him to be a celebrity guest host.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Uncertain of how it would impact his career, the Canton Ohio native was reluctant to accept. His wife Amanda, however, realized that it was a great opportunity and urged him to give it a try. A few weeks turned several successful months, and Jeff was suddenly everywhere in Las Vegas…pool parties, nightclub gigs, and even a protest march down the Strip with dozens of Jubilee showgirls (that’s a whole other story).

Jeff Timmons

While pop singers often quickly fade away, Jeff Timmons’ lasting image is tailor-made for the Sin City scene. He boldly embraces his sex appeal, which isn’t as common for male performers as you might think. With open shirts (sometimes even bare-chested) and sensual body language, the always-shredded hunk knows how to make hearts race and body heat soar.

Timmons is also the rare musician who celebrated his LGBTQ fan base long before it was common to do so. He recognizes everyone as equals and was ahead of the times by performing at gay clubs, participating in Las Vegas Pride, and promoting the NOH8 Campaign for marriage, gender, and human equality.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

After the Chippendales stint, Jeff settled here permanently with Amanda and the kids. Then he created his very own male revue called Men of the Strip. The sexy production was daring and cutting-edge, with a focus on live singing and one or two controversial sequences (like this one). MOTS toured the country, had a limited run at Hard Rock Live, and was covered in a documentary event for E! Network.

98 Degrees was headed to the Philippines as part of their latest tour when COVID-19 struck, so now Jeff is hunkered down in Las Vegas with the family. I was able to get ahold of the hard-working stud and talk about his motivations, latest activities and long-term plans. I also tried to get to the bottom of all those unbuttoned shirts.

You’ve dabbled in many facets of entertainment, like reality television, recording studio engineering, and mentoring new acts. What’s left to conquer?

When I think of things I’d like to “conquer” or from an accomplishment standpoint, I feel like I’ve got a LONG way to go. I’m working hard to make a mark in the TV space in a number of different areas. I’ve got a few non-scripted things in the works finally, an entertainment news magazine show, a holiday special, and some other things going. I eventually want to get some scripted things happening as well. I’m launching a podcast very soon, so there is some new news on the horizon. I’ve got a lot of things left to do!

31357884_10155417904937747_5816787235332161536_n

The Vegas entertainment community is crippled right now. Do you have any encouraging words or suggestions?

I think the entertainment business as a whole has really suffered, not just in Vegas. I’m fortunate enough to have a very loyal and dedicated fanbase. 98 Degrees has the luxury to reschedule shows, create new music, etc.  Not everyone has that luxury. I know I’m very lucky. I like to look at things from a positive perspective.  

Although this pandemic has been devastating to everyone, there are some good things that have emerged. There are tons of new and developing technologies that allow artists and entertainers to produce high-quality productions from their homes. The pause has really given me the opportunity to learn more about music and TV production, and get better in the studio. Artists just have to be creative on how to keep fans engaged.  

87126503_10156892303072747_8583205765521604608_n

Another plus is that because folks have so much time on their hands, entertainment is being consumed more than ever. You really only need a handful of loyal fans that believe in you and what you’re creating to make a living. You just have to be creative. And, although things can be depressing, find a way to stay positive and use the time to get better at your craft.

There’s a joke going around that men will come out of the pandemic as either a “hunk”, “chunk” or “drunk”. Which one will Jeff Timmons be?

WELL… I started out working out like a fanatic (wannabe hunk), then slipped for a bit (put on some chunk), and now I’m back in obsessive mode (trying to get to hunk again). One thing has been consistent: the DRUNK part, lol…

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

A lot of artists are saying that the shutdown’s isolation has allowed them to create new and better pieces of work. Have you experienced that?

I definitely have utilized the time to try to get better. After the initial shock of having to postpone 40+ shows, I rolled up my sleeves and have been using this time to learn more about the recording studio, reading a ton of inspirational and motivational material, and pitching a number of ideas to strategic partners that will go into production when things open back up. I’m trying to make lemonade out of lemons.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

What one Sin City guilty pleasure do you miss having at your fingertips right now?

I’m not much of a sleeper, so I loved how at any time of the night I could find something to do on the strip. I miss that.

Choose one new favorite: A) catching up on sleep B) binge-watching movies/shows C) spending more time with family

I think it’s a toss-up between B and C. We crafted our touring schedule to be home with our families during the week, but the quarantine has really allowed for much more quality time. I’ve also binged-watched about everything there is to watch on all of the streaming services. There isn’t much left but foreign language series, and I’ve fallen in love with a lot of those!

Have you formed any new habits that will remain when things return to normal?

I’ve always been a reader, but I make it a point to dive into at least one new book a week. That habit is going to stick for sure.

69212098_2346934125343648_8382104362951901184_n

Do you foresee yourself staying closer to home now instead of touring? Is there a possible Vegas residency in the works?

I LOVE being at home with my family. That being said, the demand for live concerts is at an all-time high. I think 98 Degrees has at least one or two more big tours in us. We are DEFINITELY exploring opportunities for a Vegas residency. The chance to be in one place and have the fans come to us is a dream come true. It allows us to stay with our families.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

You’re known to your fans, friends, colleagues, and locals as a kind, genuine person. What keeps you grounded?

I hope that’s true. I think it’s all about how you’re raised. My parents made sure we always stayed grounded and treated others with the utmost respect. Part of staying focused and keeping things real with yourself is having a constant inner dialogue about what your truth is and taking an inventory daily of what you’re thankful for. Grattude is the attitude!

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

I often call you the “Sexiest Man Alive”. You embrace your physical appeal in a way that few male artists do. Have you always been that confident?

You’re always so kind when it comes to that. I’m so very flattered. I try to embrace it because it’s part of the business. Unfortunately, talent is always further down the list when it comes to success in the entertainment business. We learned that as a group early on. We know that fans are expecting us to look good. Anyhow, it gives us an excuse to stay healthy and in shape. Hopefully, it makes our wives happy!

16427773_1858531187694820_7172362526110668167_n

Will we see more of ‘Men of the Strip‘, or is that chapter closed for good?

I never want to close the chapter on ‘Men of the Strip.’  It was such a success from a touring standpoint and so much fun.  It was quite a different experience from anything else I’ve ever done.  There is always a demand for that show, so never say ‘never!’

20121141_10213672411430272_1913306870210573645_o


After covering new territory, Jeff and I revisited a series of questions that I first asked him back in 2013. As is the case with ever-changing Vegas, only two reponses remained the same. I’ll leave you to guess which ones they are.

Favorite Vegas Restaurant: Archi’s Thai Kitchen

Favorite Spot To Relax In Vegas: The pools at Wynn or Cosmopolitan

Best Thing Off The Strip: Downtown

Who Is Your Dream Duet With?: Bruno Mars or Ed Sheerin

Best-Kept Vegas Secret: Hiking and the lake

Must-See Attraction For Vegas Virgins: Absinthe (if it’s still running). Carrot Top still crushes, too

Best Hangover Cure: Hair of the Dog!

The Sin I’d Like To See Sin City Lose: The traffic on the Strip

Men Of The Strip Premiere

Favorite Place To Stay Fit: I do it at home now

Favorite Sexy Look On Stage – Tight Shirt, Unbuttoned Shirt, Or No Shirt?: All three have their advantages! (winks)

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

You can keep up with the latest from Jeff Timmons and 98 Degrees by visiting his official Facebook page

Photos: Sam Novak, Gabe Ginsberg, Jeff and Amanda Timmons via Facebook

Hot Guys of Vegas: Men of ‘The Garden’


Superlative new nightspot/restaurant has a painfully attractive cast of hunks….and one particularly hot lady…

107489488_1068749160210699_3615457264242299399_o

It’s tough enough to launch a new business under any circumstances. But what about during the tail end of a quarantine? As Vegas entrepreneur Eduardo Cordova recently learned, if you do so with careful planning and COVID-19 safety protocols, you’ll be off to a great start. The Garden Las Vegas did exactly that, providing the perfect tonic to a fun-starved community while offering a luscious assortment of mouth-watering eye candy.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

The Garden LV has only been open for two months but is already recognized as a runaway success. Located in the heart of downtown’s Arts District, the restaurant/bar has quickly become Sin City’s hip hotspot. The indoor-outdoor venue is located next to ARTIFICE BAR in the trendy Art Square, also home to monthly First Friday festivals.

Cordova had this to say about his latest venture: “The Garden is a fresh, new concept. It is an intimate and chic LGBTQ lounge bar (that) dives into an untapped market in the Las Vegas community, championing craft cocktails, light bites, and an indulgent ambiance.

While others have written about The Garden‘s lush decor, delicious food, stunning cocktails, and superlative entertainment, this column is called “Hot Guys of Vegas” for a reason. So let’s get straight to the beef and take a close inspection of a few of the hunks that make The Garden Las Vegas such a sumptuous experience.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Shyllon Melatti I first introduced you to Shyllon Melatti when the model and budding actor had taken over the role of “Stefan” in SEX TIPS at Paris Hotel. Since then, the handsome Vegas native was offered a hosting gig at Chippendales…just as the pandemic shutdown went into effect.

102408625_1047374759014806_3182257074574007866_o

Undeterred, Melatti joined the cast by way of Chippendales@Home, a virtual service in which the legendary entertainers present you and your friends with a private party. Shyllon’s been bumping and grinding along just nicely ever since. He also hosted a series of live fitness sessions and was featured in a guest spot for Las Vegas Magazine:

When The Garden had their initial casting call, Shyllon naturally stood out. Now he’s a favorite of guests both new and returning, skilled at presenting signature cocktails with a wholesome smile that his face mask does little to hide. Ask him nicely, and the charming cat-dad might flash his abs for you.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

20200605_195312

            Shyllon Mellati serves up smiles for celebrity medium Thomas John (right)…

Alejandro Chirino – Every cast has that one member who’s mysterious and shares very little about themself. Alejando Chirino is apparently that kind of guy. Strong and silent, the native of Matanzas, Cuba is able to say a lot by speaking next to nothing. The muscular hunk moves quietly through the lounge area of The Garden, instantly commanding attention by not trying to.

thumbnail_processed (5)

Clearly an enthusiast of fitness, the model-server has been devoted lately to the Black Lives Matter movement, calling for justice in a time when our culture is in chaos. Alejadro’s also a supporter of LGBTQ causes, dedicating his birthday towards the plight of gay and transgender people, especially in the Las Vegas community.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Ger Haro –  The fabulous Ger Haro is another returning favorite to the “Hot Guys of Vegas” column. The model and master mixologist is famed throughout the city for his rocking body, stunning tattoos, ever-dazzling hairstyles, outgoing persona and a shockingly-deep voice.

83510514_10220713850650697_7799770214832705168_n

Known as “Gerry” to his friends, Mr. Haro is a favorite subject of photographer Noel Dahl. The two collaborated on a 2020 fundraising calendar to benefit Amor Peludo, a Spanish-language non-profit that assists pet care and housing in the Las Vegas Latino community.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

This month, Gerry stepped out from behind the bar to try his hand at hosting The Garden‘s Thursday Bingo Night. But don’t be concerned…you’ll still be able to indulge in the handsome stud’s hand-crafted cocktails every Thursday through Sunday. And wait until you see what he can do with a cucumber.

20200703_191242

Brandon Grimm – There’s a silent one in every group, and there’s also the guy or gal who sparkles. And “Sparkles” just happens to be the nickname of Brandon Grimm. If you’ve ever hung out in West Hollywood, you might have encountered the bedazzled boy at world-famous The Abbey Food & Bar, where Brandon was once a dancer and manager. He’s also performed alongside Willie Gomez as a backup dancer for Britney Spears.

31357964_10101073331961295_2666105913974194176_o

Back in Las Vegas, the fair-skinned musclehunk has become airborn in Atomic Saloon Show, alternating center stage with fellow performer Davide Zongoli (another “Hot Guys of Vegas” alumnus). A skilled aerialist and pole artist, Brandon entertains audiences with his light-hearted wit and physical prowess. Both of those qualities come in handy when taking care of the loyal patrons that now return to The Garden every weekend.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Eduardo Cordova and Chandler Kramer Barbra Steisand once sang a cynical ode to nightlife romance:

Love comes from the most unexpected places
In bars that thrive on loneliness
Where people sell their sorrow for your time

62092885_10157416017629124_5199706786877145088_o

Fortunately for the adorable duo of Chandler Kramer and Eduardo Cordova, the opposite became true. Working side by side in a new business could easily fray nerves, yet this couple’s relationship has grown stronger. The two took their next step this past Independence Day weekend when Mr. Cordova proposed to Mr Kramer (an ICU Nurse at Summerlin Hospital Medical Center) inside The Garden, to the delight of their patrons…and friends throughout the city.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Lilian Aguilar – When I first decided to do this article, I approached bartender Lilian Aguilar while she was on duty. My apologetic words were something along the lines of “I’m about to do a feature on The Garden‘s staff. Unfortunately, I can’t include you, as it’s going to be all about the boys”. Miss Aguilar was quite understanding and thanked me anyway.

20200704_222244

Since then, I’ve observed this young lady in action and have realized that Lilian truly deserves her own special mention. After more than three years of Vegas Unfiltered and literally dozens of related articles, Lilian Aguilar is now the First Lady of “Hot Guys of Vegas“. She’s dynamic, glamorous, and a truly integral part of the team.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Lilian may be “one of the boys”, but she’s all woman…and an ambitious one at that. A longtime vegan, she’s a certified fitness trainer, certified plant-based nutritionist, a title-holder for Mrs. USA Globe, and of course, a model. She, along with The Garden‘s equally dynamic operating partner Edith Castillo (below) bring a powerful female presence to Sin City’s latest success.

107765455_1659217197563997_827193866028176373_o

The Garden is located at 1017 S. 1st St – Suite 180, Las Vegas, NV 89101 (702-202-0900)

Hours are Thursday & Sunday 6pm-1am, Friday & Saturday 6pm-2am. Reservations are recommended for dining. Click here for menus, reservations and additional information.

Photos: Higor Almeida Photography, The Garden LV, Brandon Grimm, Lilian Aguilar, Ger Haro, Alejandro Chirino, Eduardo Cordova, Chandler Kramer, Sam Novak

 

 

THE VEGAS ROOM – Sin City’s Best Kept Secret Is A Secret No Longer


Intimate supper club is a meticulously crafted experience from arrival through the final applause…

“I miss the days of old Vegas.” How often do you hear those words? Colored by a fondness for “when the Mob was in charge”, people lament about the golden era of Sin City. It was a time when you were escorted to your “usual table”, the bartender had that favorite cocktail waiting, and an evening out was a splendidly curated event.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

If you’re among those who yearn for the return of vintage-Vegas glamour, your prayers have been answered. Step through the red doors of The Vegas Room and enter a world where dinner and music are served on a plate of elegance. Here you’ll enjoy the most gifted entertainers of Sin City, showcasing their talents in an intimate presentation that you won’t see anywhere else.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

The Vegas Room is a passion project of sorts…a crowning achievement representing the careers of three gifted gentlemen. President Thomas Richard Michel orchestrates the business side, pulling from years in the entertainment and marketing industries. It falls upon him to ensure that every visit is uniquely memorable:

“There are so many talented performers in Las Vegas who don’t always have a place to share their talents. And, even if they do under normal circumstances, they often aren’t able to perform the type of material that they might really want to showcase. This was a key reason that The Vegas Room came to be.”

“Our mission is to envelop our guests in an environment that doesn’t really exist in Las Vegas anymore. It is a place where people can experience incredible local talent coupled with delicious handcrafted food, all in a warm and intimate setting.”

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

“The entertainment we showcase changes each and every weekend, and the handcrafted menu – whether for our five-course dinner, our light bites “Sampler” package, or our Sunday Jazz brunch – changes every two weeks” Michel explained. “For this reason, many local people are already returning frequently, as they appreciate our reasonable prices and the fact that there’s always something new and wonderful to experience.”

“Tourists also tell us that they’ll make The Vegas Room a definite “must-do” on their calendars when they’re back in Las Vegas. Whether locals or tourists, there’s no doubt that that type of reaction is extremely gratifying for everyone involved in The Vegas Room, whether a performer or staff member.”

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Although the tourism industry is currently in flux thanks to the pandemic, The Vegas Room‘s location gives it the ability to prosper, even in these uncertain times. Tucked away inside a rather humble and aging East Sahara shopping center, the small venue provides an immediate feeling of welcome familiarity. That’s especially important to locals, whose repeat business makes up the majority of their clientele.

The supper club experience might be new to contemporary generations, but it’s made a remarkable return, thanks in part to high-profile spaces like Rose.Rabbit.Lie (Cosmopolitan) and Bellagio‘s new Mayfair Supper Club. True fans of the supper-club concept know that a skilled chef is as much an integral component as the entertainers who command the microphone and keyboards.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Executive Chef David James Robinson is the owner of The Vegas Room. He’s known to thousands of fans and followers thanks to television shows, a strong online presence, and his 10-part cooking tutorial “Learn How To Cook (and eat your mistakes)”. It’s clear when he’s visiting tables that Chef David is having as much fun as his guests:

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

“We care enormously about the food and service we provide. Our guests at The Vegas Room will see that for themselves when they experience the reality – both in look and taste – that everything we make is handcrafted and made from scratch” (click here to view the latest brunch and dinner menus).

“For example, all of our salad dressings, soups, and stocks are uniquely ours and made fresh. Additionally, all breads, muffins, and biscuits were baked fresh that day, and every component of every dish was sourced and prepared with great care…and it always will be.”

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

“Our goal when it comes to the food we serve at The Vegas Room – whether for dinner or brunch – is to make it an equally memorable complement to our world-class entertainment, combining the two to make a truly wonderful evening or afternoon out.”

The entertainment community seems to have adopted The Vegas Room as their new combination hangout/haven. Often unable to perform in their usual venues thanks to the pandemic, they come here to share their craft and support one another. During each of my visits, entertainers from large-scale Strip productions were enjoying the food and cheering on their colleagues.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

As you might imagine, management has taken great care to ensure guest safety. Face masks are required until seated, guests have their temperature scanned (a two-second touchless process), and everyone is required to sanitize their hands upon arrival. The serving and bar staff wear protective facial coverings, and implements are santized and sealed. Tables are arranged to meet social-distancing protocols, aptly serviced by the always-wonderful Sandy Love. A full description of The Vegas Room‘s COVID-19 safety plan is available on their website.

                   Vocalist Randal Keith with Philip Fortenberry at the piano…

Onstage, stars like Anne Martinez (FANTASY, BAZ) Randal Keith (Phantom: The Las Vegas Spectacular, Showstoppers), and Eric Jordan Young (Vegas! The Show, Cocktail Cabaret, Rock Of Ages) present spectacular interpretations of classics old and new. As you might imagine from a line-up of that pedigree, Broadway showtunes frequently fill the air.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

There’s an enormous amount of respect between artists and the venue’s Director of Entertainment Brent Barrett, himself a seasoned performer (The Broadway Tenors, Chicago The Musical):

“From an entertainment perspective, The Vegas Room is meant to be a prestige room. That means that – as the Review-Journal stated recently – you have to be great to play this room. And, speaking of the room itself, instead of being a big theatrical space, it’s a very comfortable jewel box of a setting, currently seating less than 50 guests.”

“With our wonderful sound system and amazing acoustics, you really feel as though you’re listening to great standards, jazz, rhythm and blues, and Broadway showtunes in the comfort of your own living room. It’s THAT intimate. I think that is what has attracted so many of Las Vegas’s best performers to want to play the room.”

                                   Anne Martinez accompanied by pianist Dan Ellis…

“Because of that, we are able to present a robust array of truly incredible singers and musicians to our guests. And, many of the folks who attend The Vegas Room now return week after week to experience artists they know in addition to ones that they don’t…but should,” stated Barrett.

               Patrick Hogan performs at Sunday Jazz Brunch throughout July….

One such artist is Patrick Hogan, who dazzled audiences during July 4th weekend’s Sunday Jazz Brunch. The 24-year-old singer/songwriter is principal pianist at Mayfair Supper Club. Hogan performed two astonishing sets of his own compositions, along with many beloved standards.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Look for Patrick Hogan and fellow jazz great Amanda King Sundays throughout July. Upcoming evening performances include Travis Cloer (Jersey Boys) with pianist Chris Lash (BAZ), Toscha Comeaux (Cirque du Soleil) and The Vegas Room‘s own Brent Barrett.

The Vegas Room is located at 953 East Sahara Avenue E-18. Sunday Jazz Brunch is held weekly at 1pm. The “Supper Club Experience” takes place every Friday and Saturday beginning at 6:30pm. There’s also a “light bites” sampler option which seats at 7:30pm. Showtime is 8pm.

Click here for full details and to make reservations or phone (725) 206-7059

Photos: Sam Novak, Sparky Lisa, Lisa Marie, The Vegas Room, Brent Barrett, Amanda King, Toscha Comeaux, Travis Cloer, Christopher Lash

Kitchen Wizards Compete in ‘Harry Potter’-inspired Baking Challenge


Co-creator of “POTTED POTTER” at Bally’s seeks out best (and worst) baked goods…

Fans of the Harry Potter extended universe rejoiced when acclaimed live parody production “Potted Potter: The Unauthorized Harry Experience” opened on the Strip last summer. My original review called it “a silly irreverent treat.”

PottedPotterTitleWebRes

Now co-creator Daniel Clarkson has decided to focus on the “treats” in a wacky baking competition inspired by their hit. It’s his way of delighting fans during the pandemic shutdown while whetting their appetites for a refreshed version when the show returns soon.

If you’d like to learn more and participate, read the official press release below, then get started right away. The challenge ends on July 8th. And yes, your magical concoction can reap real prizes!

97982733_10157554887818667_3045358204885139456_o

Potted Potter: The Unauthorized Harry Experience – A Parody by Dan and Jeff has cast its spell on Las Vegas and the world as a hit, family-friendly show. While the Las Vegas production inside The Magic Attic at Bally’s Las Vegas is temporarily shut down due to the current COVID-19 pandemic, the team behind the hysterically funny parody have launched a wizardly baking challenge through their social media campaigns beginning Wednesday, July 1 and running through July 8, 2020.

One of the show’s co-creators, Daniel Clarkson will judge this magical “Potted Potter” baking competition that inspires all to get creative in the kitchen with prizes going to not only the best bake but, also to the most epic fail! Clarkson will pick his favorite bake (and the worst one too) using no criteria whatsoever, other than his opinion. Winners will be announced on July 14 and prizes will include items themed around the show – including magical sweet treats!

97367735_10157554887628667_3607559777434992640_n

So, get creative and maybe bake your own Muggle Muffins, Dumbledore Donuts, Mandrake Pie a “Snitch Dish” or even a Harry Potter Pound Cake! No idea is a bad idea with this one-of-a-kind baking competition. Be sure to post a photo and description of your finest bake (or failure) on social media using the hashtags #WizardingWorld and #PottedPotter to enter. And don’t forget to tag our judge, co-creator of “Potted Potter,” Daniel Clarkson (@daniel_veronica).

Though the show, along with every other production is shut down in Las Vegas due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Clarkson assures us that once the show returns to The Magic Attic at Bally’s Las Vegas, there will be some fun updates.

“We’re hoping we come back as soon as possible but we want to be sure it is safe for everyone, that is our main priority,” says Clarkson. “The production is such an interactive show so, we are working on ways to make it safe and even better – so when we do return, prepare to see “Potted Potter 2.0” very soon!”

Images and video courtesy of Caprio Media Design, “Potted Potter” via Facebook

WESTGATE VACATION VILLAS – The ‘Big Daddy’ of Orlando Resorts


In the concluding chapter of my exciting post-COVID research excursion, I tour the magnificent birthplace of Westgate Resorts…

If you’ve stayed with me this far, we’ve spent the past few weeks on a journey from Las Vegas to Orlando, with day-long jaunts to Cocoa Beach and a rustic dude ranch. Now we’re in Kissimmee, the land of theme parks and never-ending sunshine. That’s where we cap off our vacation (ahem….”research”) with a visit to Westgate Vacation Villas Resort.

20200524_094905

A massive one-stop destination, Westgate Vacation Villas Resort is the “Big Daddy” of Westgate’s portfolio. This is where it all began, with two unassuming structures erected next to a small lake. Founder David A. Siegel had decided to try his hand at a fledgling concept called “timeshares” when the Orlando region was poised to boom. Mr. Siegel had joked that if the vacation-ownership concept flopped, he could bulldoze the “A-B buildings” into the water and call it a day. But the curious lined up in droves and the rest is history.

The original 16-unit complex has grown into a full-service destination boasting hundreds of guest suites throughout a gorgeous collection of towers and modern villas. At its core is Westgate Town Center, a resort-with-a-resort that’s also the heart of this massive operation.

20200524_094851

With all of the activities in and around greater Orlando, you might think that a self-contained resort would be overkill, especially with Disney Parks, Universal Orlando, Sea World, and numerous water parks nearby. Well, think again. At the moment, many attractions are shuttered. Those that are currently open operate under restrictions that might dampen your concept of fun.

20200524_121350

That doesn’t mean you should forgo a longed-desired trip to the Sunshine State. On the contrary! Now is a terrific time to travel, especially for the reasons I’ve cited here. Just know that these are unpredictable times. Depending on the location and activity, you may be subject to face mask and temperature-scans. You’ll want to research the current requirements and protocols of your destination before leaving home.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

It’s also highly recommended that you build flexibility into your itinerary, just in case some of the attractions on your list happen to be shuttered when you arrive. In our new normal, things can change without notice. That won’t be much of a concern if you stay at  Westgate Vacation Villas.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

So, what’s there to do here? How about 14 temperature-controlled pools, hot tubs, and wading pools as a starter? Many of them offer bars, like Banana Cabana, which serves hot foods and pizza, too. If you want to stay cool, relax at the Disney Movie Theater or splash around Shipwreck Island Water Park (more on that one below).

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

At Swan Lake, you can rent giant paddleboats, or stay onshore and grab a putter for Jurassic Golf. There are soccer and baseball fields, tennis and basketball courts, and picnic areas with barbeque grills and outdoor kitchens. Grab some bicycles, challenge your high score at Mission Control Game Room, or learn how to play horseshoes and shuffleboard. Click here for a constantly-updated list of what’s open and available.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Director of Activities Dexter Candelaria was supervising the resort’s meticulous Fitness Center when I arrived. An ambitious young man brimming with enthusiasm, he was excited to tell me all about the fun events that he and his team have created. Candelaria stressed that every activity meets Westgate CARES health and sanitation guidelines while reminding us that “fun” and “safety” don’t have to be mutually exclusive.

The resort regularly publishes a list of games and virtual activities created especially for their guests, all with post-COVID safety concerns in mind. Choose from socially-distanced yoga classes, magic and cooking lessons, “Name That Tune”, poolside bingo, ping pong challenges, tie-dye creation, spin classes, and prepacked craft kits to enjoy in your suite or villa.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Despite the resort’s sprawling footprint, Westgate Vacation Villas specializes in personalized, attentive service. Many associates have been here a very long time, rising through the ranks as they’ve mastered the art of customer satisfaction. This was evident at the drive-up check-in station, where two skilled team members demonstrated the new process, which limits personal contact and allows you to register without ever leaving the vehicle.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Arriving by shuttle or taxi? No problem. Head inside Town Center‘s lobby, where you’ll find a traditional registration area, retrofitted to accommodate social distancing practices. There’s a welcome center, Sid’s Bistro, Tickets2You theme park service, and timeshare guest services.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

The back wall of Town Center‘s main building is a window to Shipwreck Island Water Park. A two-story masterpiece available only to resort guests and timeshare owners, Shipwreck Island features water slides, a lazy river, jetted palm trees, and of course, a pirate ship at its center. Surrounding the fun are Jolley Roger’s Galley, Crow’s Nest Bar, and Sea Dog’s Bar, with more on the way soon.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

The recently-opened Villa Italiano Chophouse is a Floridian take on Fresco Italiano, one of my favorite restaurants in Las Vegas. It even has the familiar Vespa scooters out front. An elevated dining experience with an extensive wine list and cocktail selections, Villa Italiano Chophouse serves steaks, salads, pasta, pizza….and my weakness, Chicken Parmesan. Visit their full menu by clicking here.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

As our tour was winding down, my guides and I stopped for lunch at Draft’s Sports Bar and Grill. Another favorite that I’ve dined at in both Westgate Park City and Westgate Lakes Resort, this one’s the true original. Pub fare, taphouse-worthy beer selections, and those infamous Draft’s shakes are just a few things you’ll crave again and again.

Outside of Town Center Pavilion, preparations were underway to relaunch the on-site hydroponics garden. Vegetables and herbs grown there will be used in the kitchens of resort restaurants. Inside, Hershey’s Ice Cream Shop brings back the world-famous flavors of my home state (Pennsylvania).

Next to Draft’s is Joe’s Marketplace and Deli, where you can pick up hot foods, snacks, and groceries to prepare you own meals back at the villa. They’ve also got a Corodvano Joe’s Pizza counter, which delivers directly to you. Then there’s a full-menu room service, which includes alcoholic beverages. Cheers!

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Accommodations at Westgate Vacation Villas range from Deluxe Studio Villas to sprawling Four Bedroom Presidential Villas. The economical Studio Villa is larger than a standard hotel room, with more than 500 square feet of living space. Each features a kitchenette with a coffeemaker, refrigerator, microwave, and toaster. The studio can sleep up to four, and bathrooms include a jetted tub and walk-in shower. All full-sized villas include a washer/dryer combo, handy if you’re staying for an extended period.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

The resort has a marina, business center, 10,000 square foot conference center, laundry facilities, three playgrounds, and six meeting rooms. There is no charge for parking, all rooms are non-smoking, and pets are welcome for an additional fee. Activities and common areas are ADA-compliant for guests with special needs. Those wishing to rent scooters can reserve them in advance by clicking here.

Screenshot 2020-06-26 at 11.37.55 PM

Each year, Westgate Vacation Villas hosts a salute to the American military. Hundreds of free vacations are gifted to real-life heroes and their families. Then during American Military Month, a multi-day celebration takes place on the resort grounds. This year’s gathering was put on hold for obvious reasons, but here’s a portion of the press release from 2019’s event:

“For three action-packed days, Westgate Resorts served and honored the incredible men, women and families who sacrifice to protect and strengthen our country,” said David Siegel, Founder & CEO of Westgate Resorts and a veteran of the U.S. Air Force. “We are proud to be able to provide a complimentary vacation full of special festivities each year to those who have faithfully served and protected our freedoms.”

Highlights of 2019 Military Weekend included a Military Resource Fair featuring 25 military organizations, Red, White & Blue 5K Run, a stirring performance of the play Last Out: Elegy of a Green Beret by Scott Mann, a special appearance by Florida Governor Ron DeSantis and an incredible outdoor concert featuring Gary Sinise & The Lt. Dan Band with Lee Greenwood followed by a spectacular fireworks display. Guests also enjoyed free admission to the state-of-the-art Shipwreck Island Water Park. In addition, the Westgate Resorts Foundation contributed $50,000 to military nonprofit organizations.

Keep in mind that you don’t have to be a timeshare owner to enjoy Westgate Resorts. They’re combination destinations that welcome traditional hotel guests, too. But if you find yourself wanting to learn the details of vacation ownership, presentations and resort previews are always available.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

After returning to Sin City, I attended the grand re-opening of Westgate Las Vegas. It was a spectacular and emotional affair that brought together hundreds of associates and a very dedicated management team. I also spent the past two weekends staying there, as it’s become my staycation go-to. As with all Westgate properties, everyone goes above and beyond to make sure you feel at home.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

So we’ve circled back to the spot where my fondness for Westgate began. Several years later, this company continues to strive harder, do better, and make you feel like family. We’ve also reached the end of my Westgate Orlando Resorts series. Four very different experiences in four glorious days, all operating under strict sanitation protocols to provide a fabulous and safe post-COVID vacation experience.

By the way…with travel prices still at all-time lows (and no job opportunities for this writer in the current economic climate, sorry to say), I’ve decided to revisit Westgate Orlando in a few weeks. Get the margaritas ready, guys…I’m coming back!

20200522_132808

Disclaimer – this is not a paid endorsement for Westgate Resorts. My opinions are my own. As the Vegas Unfiltered Blog slogan states, “Probably biased. Definitely honest”. 

Photos: Sam Novak (some villa interiors courtesy of Westgate)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Crazy Jay Shakes Up Vegas with “ROCKING COMEDY SHOW”


Long-running radio program raises a glass to mayhem and music…

69150909_10220778455270563_5964991558691323904_o

Video didn’t kill the radio stars, no matter what you’ve heard. They just evolved, changed the rules and came at you from a different direction. Unencumbered by those pesky FCC regulations, internet broadcasting has freed deejays and programmers to do things the way they’ve always wanted to. That’s why everyone loves RadioVegas.rocks and its featured program The Rocking Comedy Show.

96682608_3248597118492210_3554983223043817472_o

Taking over the world one laugh at at time, The Rocking Comedy Show is three hours of nonstop “cray cray”, if you can still use that expression without sounding lame. Just how nutty do things get? Imagine yours truly is co-hosting an episode where an indie musician (Scott Willians) and a healthcare worker are barfing up their contributions to the “Death Nuts Challenge” right outside the studio door.

It may sound like madness, but it’s just another day at the office for Jason Bird, aka “Crazy Jay”. The dedicated host and creator of The Rocking Comedy Show seemingly lives and breathes the party-hearty chatfest, which has deposited more than 1,100 episodes into the vault. That’s no small feat for a show that’s been running in one form or another since 2000…which is like a century in “radio years”.

Screenshot 2020-06-24 at 10.43.00 AM

Jay began broadcasting RadioVegas.rocks from a brand-new custom-built Kicker Studio earlier this year. He shares the space with two pups, a big desert tortoise and an ancient cat named “Hank Williams”. His dad is usually on hand to great visitors and keep Jay on his toes.

Guests play trivia games and get to compete for cool gifts….or the opportunity to strip the top off their competitor (relax….it was comedian Myles Weber, a dude with abs and a toned man-rack worth flaunting). Manly-man sponsors like Spunk Lube, Nut Rub, Dr. Squatch and local food favs Pinches Tacos and Jessie Rae’s BBQ supply the prizes…and in-studio muchies (yes!).

Since arriving in Las Vegas twenty years ago, Jay has had plenty of up-and-coming talent behind the microphone, and an impressive list of household names, too. He’s worked with Tommy Chong, Bill Cosby, Sinbad, Lily Tomlin, Weird Al Yankovic, and Bill Engval, among others. And there was that time when iconic actor Wesley Eure kicked off an appearance at The Golden Tiki for a Land of the Lost reunion.

Vegas celebs like Mike Hammer, Murray SawChuck, Elvis impersonator Steve Connolly, George Wallace, Colin Cahill (Atomic Saloon Show), Makenzie Fly and Louis D’Aprile (Sex TIps) have been know to drop by for their own brand of on-air mayhem.

Jay has demonstrated his love for the city with charitable events and epic halloween parties, where he gets to show off his passion for horror films. Then there was that time in 2014 when he broke a world record for the longest marathon broadcast (80 hours and one minute).

Lots of creative people have helped to evolve the show through the years. Some have gone on to create their own programs, and Jay’s invited newbies like myself to pop their broadcast cherries and share happenings, views…and maybe a sip of Tito’s.

Then of course there’s the music, like classic hits, underground finds and new songs….like the debut of Know Where (To Begin), the lastest from Bronx Wanderers bad boy Vin A:

This week I asked Jay to step onto the other side of the spotlight for a change…and answer a few questions. Here’s what he had to say:

What sets The Rocking Comedy Show apart from similar programs?

The content nowadays everyone has an online radio show or a podcast, but its the content that has to grab you and keep bringing you back. We are currently at 1,121 episodes and you don’t get there by doing the same stuff over and over. You have to be dedicated to do it, and that’s not just the show. It’s the prep, the social media, the website updates and more. If you don’t have the time to tell anyone about it or how to find it, why are you doing it?

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Is anything ever too outrageous?

Yes, we have hit that a few times. At first it may be funny, but you listen back, or listeners hit you up. I don’t regret any show I have done, and I don’t apologize for a bad one, I just move on and don’t discuss it.

Tell me about a guest stint that derailed, and one that you wished didn’t have to end.

Over 1k shows and I don’t think any of our stints have derailed. Most of the guests who come on are aware of the show and what it’s all about. We have done some killer interviews that maybe started slow, or off to a weird start, but then it took off. Sometimes it’s the guest, or their PR person telling us what we can’t ask them.

This happened with Vince Neil and also Lita Ford but then they brought up what we were told not to, and boom! magic. Also had comedian Sinbad on the show…he was scheduled for 30 we had him for over 2 hours and we never stopped laughing.

39221318_2046433068708627_5178493780193443840_n

Your favorite part of being a host?

Some would say the control. To me it’s the uncertainty of what can happen. If you’re on your toes and have a good ear, you can grab a sound effect or a song that goes with what your talking about, driving the train keeping it rolling, and keeping the timing of the show perfect. I don’t like to stay on one topic for too long. Get a big laugh, move on, don’t beat that joke to death, maybe revisit it later if you can.

What’s more fun…..discovering fresh talent or slamming tired celebs?

I love finding new talent and maybe pair them up with someone who does the show a lot and get them to do a song. Vegas has so much un-noticed local talent it’s amazing what I have found.

Screenshot-2018-12-23-at-8.17.24-PM

Mariah, Britney and Criss Angel are sinking in quicksand and you only have one lifeline. What’s your move?

I am assuming if I see them sinking I have also put myself in jeopardy with this quicksand. So, I would use the lifeline on myself because I have more shows to do.

93821651_10223371839423546_8932389978235731968_o

RadioVegas.Rocks is the home station for The Rocking Comedy Show. It airs Monday Nights 6:00pm -9:00pm, Tuesdays 3:00pm -6:00pm. To learn more or contact the station for advertising rates or guest opportunities, see the information below and tell Jay that Sam from VegasUnfilteredBlog sent you.
http://www.radiovegas.rocks
http://www.rockingcomedyshow.com
Twitter @rockingcomedy
@radiovegasrocks
@crazyjay44
702-600-4204
702-793-4441

 

 

 

SUMMER SPOTLIGHT 2020 with Gayle Nicholson


So excited to have been today’s guest on SUMMER SPOTLIGHT 2020 with Gayle Nicholson, discussing the pandemic’s effects on Sin City…and the awesome way that Westgate Las Vegas welcomed everyone back.

 

Video link courtesy of Gayle Nicholson