Las Vegas 2020 Is A Violent Post-Pandemic Wasteland – It’s Time To Stop Pretending Otherwise


The Sin City you knew and loved has gone a little bit “Mad Max” and a whole lotta “Resident Evil: Extinction”…

Back in October 2018, I penned a piece announcing my transition from “Vegas visitor” to “Sin City local”. In that article, I promised to continue writing from the perspective of a tourist, while peppering in the additional tips I’d absorb as a resident along the way.

Since then, a lot has changed. You’re about to read what may be the final entry in this blog. Only time will tell. Keep in mind that the name of this site is “Vegas Unfiltered”. You might not like what you’re about to read, but quite often, the truth is ugly. And that’s the state of Las Vegas right now. Very ugly.

like something out of an apocalypse film

It’s often said that art imitates life….and vice versa. So when I looked towards the entertainment world for a representation of Las Vegas circa “summer 2020”, I found myself inside the dystopian setting of “Resident Evil: Extinction“. You’re probably familiar with that particular film, and if you aren’t, the description might seem uncomfortably familiar.

This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is unnamed-8.jpg

Based on popular video games and third in a series of movie adaptations, “Resident Evil: Extinction” depicts a post-pandemic Las Vegas in which our iconic hotels and casinos are overrun with hoards of the infected. The Strip is a wasteland, and those who survived the global pandemic become victims of bloody violence. Factor in the “Mad Max”-style high speed police chases that have also become commonplace and you’ve got an after-the-apocalypse double-feature that none of us needed to witness in our lifetimes.

Does that seem dramatic and exaggerated? Well, perhaps you should follow Vegas news more often. Sin City has indeed become a seedy, violent place to visit. Since the shaky reopening of the Strip, downtown and surrounding areas, the shootings, muggings, murders, suicides, protests, riots and brawls have become rather routine. Sounds like the perfect vacation spot, doesn’t it? Just bring your tear gas canister and join in on the fun.

Sights like this were common just a few short months ago…

The seeds of chaos were planted in May

Las Vegas Metropolitan Captain James LaRochelle told ABC News on 6/24/20 that the department saw an increase in crime starting late the previous month.

“Three weeks ago, we had a really bad week, with 11 murders in 10 days. Some of those were domestic violence-related. Our gang murders are about 22% of our homicides, and our rate of solving those is a bit lower. At one point in April we had solved 100% of our murders, and now we’re at about 80%,” LaRochelle told the outlet. “We’re still slightly down in violent crime year-to-date, but lately we are seeing an uptick and it is a concern.”

Police chase on Las Vegas Boulevard, Labor Day weekend 9/5/20

When the first restrictions were rolled back and chains were cut from casino doors, I penned a series of articles detailing the efforts to lure tourists back. From new sanitation protocols to removal of parking fees, I assured readers that Vegas was ready and waiting for you. In retrospect, that was a foolishly optimistic stance.

Brawl at Encore 9/6/20 (Labor Day weekend)

Getting here is one tough battle

If you plan on visiting in the coming weeks or months, prepare for a very nerve-wracking experience. It begins at your local airport, where restrictions and measures will make everything from going through security to sitting at the gate and your actual flight anything but pleasant.

Chances are that you already had a rough time booking your trip, as airlines are bleeding cash and have slashed the number of daily flights into and out of the city. Along with limited options, expect an increased likelihood of delays and cancellations, too.

You’ll be required to wear a mask from the time you enter your departure point until you actually breathe Nevada air…it’s not a negotiable matter. You can say goodbye to having an in-flight cocktail to set the mood, and forget about even having a soft drink unless you buy a bottle at the pricey terminal newsstand. In an effort to minimize contact, flight attendants will mostly remain at the front and rear of the plane. You’ll get a cup of water and perhaps a bag of crackers…also known as “prison rations”.

You won’t know if the flight attendants and gate agents are smiling behind those masks. They certainly don’t want to be in an enclosed space with potentially infected passengers, but they’ve got to make a living. So shut up, avoid your neighbors, follow the lengthy list of rules, deal with the lack of in-flight amenities and sit still until the plane comes to a complete stop. 

It may be a long time before McCarran International Airport is thriving again…

Things are beginning to look bleak

Once you disembark, the airport will provide a depressing first impression, with closed restaurants and bars, darkened slot machines and minimal available services. Due do decreased demand, you may deplane in a different terminal than usual, requiring a shuttle bus, tram or lengthy walk to pick up your baggage.

This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is 20200402_094748-1.jpg

Most local UBER and LYFT drivers have given up servicing the airport, so anticipate a wait time of 30 minutes or so for a pickup. Tempers are short and I’ve witnessed multiple arguments in the terminals and at pick-up areas. Are you happy to be here yet?

When you arrive at the hotel, you’ll have your body temperature scanned by one of a variety of different methods, walk through a maze of stanchions to get to the few human beings behind the reception desk, or opt to check yourself in via an automated kiosk. The goal once again is to limit human contact in a city once known for its heightened hospitality. And keep that mask on at all times…unless you’re smoking, of course. Then it’s okay.

First class service is a thing of the past

After standing in line to pick up your room key, you’ll most likely stand in another line to use the elevator. Most resorts are restricting the number of persons allowed on each trip, yet they’ve closed off certain areas of the hotel to maximize efficiency during decreased occupancy. So you’re all going to the same floors in the same tower while being instructed to practice social distancing and not crowd into the elevators together. Did you follow that? 

Take note that, just like the airlines, Vegas hotels and casinos are operating at a loss. They’ve cut their workforce tremendously, so services are minimal and not always offered in a pleasant manner. Those who remain employed are severely overworked and under a great deal of stress.

South Point Casino 8/30/20

Are you the kind of person who likes to have your hotel room serviced on a daily basis? Most travelers do…it’s nice to have someone else fix the bed, replace the towels and wipe down sinks and countertops. Well, not in today’s Vegas. It’s now standard for housekeeping to only do their tasks when you completely check out.

Need towels or supplies? Leave a message with housekeeping, and if you’re lucky, what you requested may eventually be hanging from the knob outside your door. Is your trash can full? Bag it up and leave it in the hallway with everyone else’s. There’s no room service if you wish to have breakfast in bed or splurge on a midnight snack. Doesn’t this all sound lovely?

MGM Resorts recently announced the layoff of an additional 18,000 workers. That’s on top of the thousands that they’ve already let go. So yes, that associate you’re engaging with is happy to have a job, but that’s the extent of their joy. Don’t hint for an upgrade…they aren’t in the mood to hear about your birthday while they’re wondering if or when they’ll get the ax.

Popular hotels like The Palms, Rio, The Cromwell, Planet Hollywood, The Linq, Tropicana, Main Street Station, and Park MGM continue to remain dark. Others have reduced operating hours, closed restaurants and buffets (Wynn already shut down their buffet after re-opening it in June), scaled back gaming options, eliminated valet service, and closed pools, spas, salons, fitness facilities, player’s club lounges, and more. You’re still on the hook for the full price of resort fees, despite the removal of most amenities.

The once-popular Wynn Buffet during peak lunch period on Saturday 8/16/20

Low down and dirty

Maintenance at most Strip hotels, with the notable exceptions of Wynn and Westgate, has been downright disheartening. Common areas and guestrooms are receiving poor to indifferent upkeep, despite the PR crap they’ve been shoveling. Hotels may be promising “Clean and Safe” but the puddles of dried urine/vomit, dirty rooms, grungy common areas and filthy parking garages tell a different story. Once again, cost-cutting and workforce reduction are to blame.

Guests returning to Flamingo Hotel Casino during reopening week were greeted with filth and disarray…

If you decide to venture out, know that Las Vegas Boulevard is a mess. As usual, outdoor escalators are out of commission despite months of opportunity to repair them during the shutdown. Sidewalks and overhead walkways are filthy, too. The homeless problem has grown, so you’ll be dodging a lot more beggars than in the past.

One place that doesn’t seem to be suffering economic loss is Fremont Street. Nevertheless, the nightly street party is a COVID-friendly petri dish of overcrowding, gang bangers, hot heads, and anti-maskers. Going there on a weekend evening is literally taking your life into your own hands.

Labor day Anarchy as crowds go “Mad Max”

Check out this shocking video from Friday night, 9/4/20 (Labor Day Weekend). Take note of the pair of Las Vegas Metro police officers at 00:11 to 00:17, strolling through the crowd without masks. Apparently it’s optional for them to wear face coverings but not for you. So why aren’t they stopping the violators they see in every direction?

Public video posted to Facebook by Martin Laursen has gone viral…

After a Labor Day weekend filled with violence and brawls, Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Captain Patricia Spencer held a press conference at the “Welcome to Las Vegas” sign on Tuesday 9/8/20. She declared “We understand that our neighboring states all have COVID restrictions and the residents are looking for places to go and be entertained and get out. However, we cannot tolerate the violence.”

“There were numerous fights that took place with large amounts of people in various Strip properties,” Spencer continued. “For those people who are coming here to have fun and take part in the festivities and the entertainment here, we welcome you. For those of you who are coming here to prey on the tourists or residents of this community, it will not be tolerated.”

Here’s another video from Labor Day weekend on Fremont Street, capturing the tail end of a confrontation between the crowd and law enforcement. Why would you subject yourself to this kind of atmosphere?

Public video posted to Facebook by Martin Laursen…

Tourism has plummeted – let’s continue building!

Massive construction projects like Resorts World, the Las Vegas Convention Center expansion, MSG Sphere, Downtown Arch and Circa Hotel have created lane closures, traffic back-ups, and annoying detours all over the tourist corridor. It’s an absolute cluster-fuck out there. We’re in the midst of a worldwide pandemic…so let’s build-build-build!

Despite thousands of empty hotel rooms, abandoned hotel towers, and a vacant new stadium, massive construction projects continue…

Room rates have been slashed, so people who couldn’t normally afford high-end hotels are taking advantage of once-in-a-lifetime bargains. What does that mean to you? The luxurious experience you may have once enjoyed has now gone “ghetto”.

Wynn Resorts Ltd. spokesman Michael Weaver said the company is increasing its room rates and investment in its security workforce and procedures after a fight broke out at Encore over the weekend. The company has no record of injuries from the incident.

Weaver said the changes are being made to ensure Wynn’s two Las Vegas properties, Wynn Las Vegas and Encore, “maintain the guest experience standards for which (they) are known.” Las Vegas Review-Journal 9/8/20

Brawling at Wynn/Encore 9/6/20 (public photo posted to Facebook by Martin Laursen)

Vulgar, obnoxious, and violent behavior are prevalent around the clock. Both the police force and private security officers have their hands full dealing with anti-maskers, fights, street racing, protests, on-property marijuana use (prohibited by law) and additional crimes. 

Downtown and the Strip saw their share of protests and riots this spring…

Why bother coming when there’s nothing to do but brawl?

If you can look past all of the above in hopes of “getting your Vegas on”, what’s left to do? Well, right now there are no nightclubs, day clubs or casino bars. There are a few scattered deejays, no karaoke and minimal live entertainment. Dancing is strictly prohibited (I’m not sure if you’re allowed to quietly hum the theme from “Footloose”, though). You might catch a lounge singer here and there, or perhaps some “Streetmosphere” performers at Venetian/Palazzo. That’s about it.

There are no production shows, no headliners, no topless revues, no singing gondoliers, and no magicians or comedians. Cirque du Soleil has gone bankrupt, Human Nature and Blue Man Group have left the building, and Wynn’s Le Reve has sunk to the bottom of the pool. Every single stripper joint is out of commission, and prostitution is still illegal here, too. I’ll ask again….are you having fun yet?

Entertainers bite the wrong hand

If you’ve followed this column for any length of time, you know that I have a soft spot for the entertainment community. I’ve hyped individual performers, new shows, revisions, special events, and pop-up appearances. Charity efforts, openings, profiles pieces, sexy celebrities, and passion projects have made up the bulk of Vegas Unfiltered Blog.

In an effort to assist the return of live entertainment, last week I contacted dozens of entertainers and requested that they record a 30-second video plea to Governor Sisolak to eliminate restrictions on live performances. I volunteered to gather and forward them to the Governor. After all, if movie theaters and water parks can reopen, why not production shows? But it would seem that many entertainers would rather eat their own tails than use their voices to make a difference.

In this age of selfies and TikTok videos, turning one’s phone into a tool for self-preservation should seem like a no-brainer. What I got instead was an avalanche of negativity, mockery, apathy and downright hostility from a number of entertainers. To say that I was shocked would be mild, especially after years of selflessly supporting them. I’m still reeling from the pain.

https://www.cnn.com/2020/08/13/us/las-vegas-tourism-coronavirus-impact-invs/index.html

“You aren’t an entertainer…stay out of it”. “Are you crazy, suggesting that I go back to work? You’re telling me to put my life at risk!”. “I’m busy right now, let me think about it”. “I don’t appreciate being put in this position”. “I can’t take a political stance…it might jeopardize my job”. Oh, you mean the job that left you high and dry without unemployment compensation? The one that might never actually return while you sit on your ass getting fat? Yeah, that one. 

Where am I going with this particular tangent? Well, the response I got was a punch to the throat, and quite indicative of the ugliness that has pervaded Sin City…and the nation as a whole. The amount of negativity around us is off the charts, but especially here, where there is little hope of things returning to normal anytime soon.

.https://www.reviewjournal.com/local/local-las-vegas/las-vegas-economy-rocked-by-pandemic-faces-end-of-federal-benefits-2072516/

Considering all of the lost jobs, closed businesses and violence in the streets and neighborhoods, it’s completely understandable for people to feel this way. But would I recommended coming here for a vacation at this time? Absolutely not.

After recovering from the 10/1 mass shooting, 9/11 attacks, and 2008’s economic crisis, COVID-19 may be what finally causes Las Vegas to topple…

Consider sitting out the next couple of rounds

This city can no longer deliver any of the excesses that it’s famous for. Carefree revelry doesn’t have a place in a COVID-impacted society, and today’s Vegas offers nothing that you can’t get somewhere else. After spending the better part of a decade encouraging you to come here, I can no longer do that in good conscience.

Las Vegas isn’t worth your time, the inconvenience, the expense, or the risk to your health and safety. For now, it’s better for you to just stay home and wait it out.


Update 9/11/11 – in an effort to reduce the amount of violence on their properties, Wynn Resorts has filed an agressive and daring lawsuit.  They’ve also vowed to increase their security force and have committed to raising room rates to discourage bad apples.

In a 9/9/20 interview with Las Vegas Review-Journal, CDC Consulting Vice-president Greg Mullen stated “Several of our higher-end profile clients say their high-end guests are done coming until this is under control. They’re scared to walk outside their rooms, and don’t feel safe on elevators or on the casino floors themselves. It’s a bad look. … You can really, severely, put a tarnish on Las Vegas.”



If you’d to learn more about the Las Vegas response to COVID-19, consider reading my article : “Sin City Shutdown – They’ll Never Learn”

…as well as its companion piece: “Sabotaging Sin City’s Return”

Vegas Unfiltered Blog will be taking an indefinite break. If and when there is a reason to put Sin City back on your to-do list, you might see this site return. Until then…stay safe, stay smart and be well.

Las Vegas Shutdown Gives Birth to ‘VINdemic’


Not even a killer virus can extinguish the creative supernova of ‘Bronx Wanderers’ own Vin A.

It’s often said that forest fires are nature’s way of restoring balance. After an inferno, the soil is replenished with vital nutrients, and new life springs forward. Las Vegas entertainment is in the midst of its own conflagration. Once the smoke clears, rotted logs like Mariah Carey, Terry Fator, and Criss Angel will have hopefully dried up and blown away. That’s when the rebirth of Las Vegas will really begin.

29871805_371057056721967_3880733133087608455_o

Raw, hungry talent like Colin Cahill and Makenzie Fly (Mak and the Cheese), Dai Richards (Tenors of Rock), Ian Ward, and Andrew Diessner having been yearning to move to the front. But they aren’t waiting for the flames to subside. They’re digging in, planting new seeds, and maximizing their time away from the stage to create, express, and surge forward.

50461299_10158100528999622_5932802715838054400_o

You might say that Vin A. of The Bronx Wanderers is leading this ambitious youth movement. Driven by the ongoing closure of his family show at Harrah’s, Vin has been working nonstop since mid-March. Music videos, virtual concerts, writing/hosting his own web program, penning new songs, and even launching an offshoot band…all this and more have kept the handsome hunk at the peak of his game.

It’s a mad world, according to our man of the hour. Ask where he gets his boundless motivation and the smart-aleck New Yorker is likely to answer “It’s all about the money, man!”. But don’t believe it for a moment. Vin has the “entertainer gene” ingrained in every cell, fiber, and drop of blood. He lives for music, the rush of creative expression, and the thrill of sharing his vision with the world.

29872657_371456310015375_1535400028668354120_o

Vin totally knocked it out of the ballpark early this summer when he debuted the imaginative music video for “Know Where (To Begin)“. A jaw-dropping analysis of God, creation, war, and the fate of our existence, it’s delivered on an epic wave of gripping instrumentals and passionate vocals. Check it out.

Vin has been prepping several follow-ups to 2017’s wonderful “Geology“. One is VINdemic, a solo acoustic album that shares a name with his collaboration with family patriarch Vinny Adinolfi. Carefully following mandated health guidelines, the duo has been performing sold-out shows at E String Bar, an intimate “jazz supper club” in Henderson.

118187842_10101503822250410_8045418086636512961_o

Another place you may have enjoyed Vin’s music is at Tuscany Suites Resort, where he recently appeared alongside Vegas favorite Kenny Davidsen. Kenny’s “Bowtie Cabaret” is a weekly series highlighting local favorites like Jimmy Denning, Colin Cahill, Cassie Stone, Lorena Peril, and Ashley Fuller.

Are you tired yet? Well, Vincent Adinolfi the third isn’t. He’s also been appearing on programs like Rocking Comedy Show with Jay Bird and Time2Vegas. His own talk show What The Cluck?! started season two this year with a new location at The Space. The daring chat-fest mixes politics, comedy, social commentary and current events in wildly-random doses. You never know where a conversation will lead, just like Vin’s music.

116264645_10224557909354553_5760288287094448028_o

As a die-hard fan, I truly enjoy the pleasures of Vinny’s compositions. Many of them are styled like an opus, with dramatic shifts in tone, style and direction. He deftly crisscrosses genres within a song, dallying in classic rock, pop, soul and funk along the way. “Know Where (To Begin)” will be one of the singles from his OTHER new album entitled “Mountains of Ignorance“, and yet another Bronx Wanderers recording is on the way. Geesh!!!

VinDemicBannerScreenshot3

In a normal year, Vin’s fizzy upcoming “Wishing Well” would have been a chart-topping summer hit to cruise the streets by. This week, he and multi-tasking partner Elizabeth Jane Hunt, along with a sizzling team of dancers, filmed a music video for “Wishing Well“. The shoot drew talent from the casts of X Country and Aussie Heat.

Here’s a sneak peek directly from the studio:

You may be wondering at this point if there’s anything left to do. I haven’t even gotten to the biggest undertaking…personalized Bronx Wanderers shows. Since the beginning of August, fans have been able to commission custom live performances. You choose the songs and select either VINdemic (father and son) or the full Bronx Wanderers group. Rates start at only $50 and you can get all the details by clicking here.

Not only will the guys play whatever song(s) you choose from the 130+ song menu, you will watch your performance LIVE and interact with the guys via A private Facebook feed on your phone or computer in real time. THE BEAUTY OF THIS OFFER is you will receive a polished video of the performance via email with great audio AND video quality that you can keep FOREVER.

116253286_10160069977759622_4625213758443417477_o

While other Vegas shows have been quietly waiting to return…or have permanently folded…Vin A. and The Bronx Wanderers refuse to become a faded memory. You can follow the latest announcements, including their eventual reopening at Harrah’s, through the official Bronx Wanderers page and the dedicated Vin A. Facebook page.

A Healthier Vegas Visit Is Possible With ‘Stay Well’


Unique lodging/convention experience utilizes the latest technology to protect you from infection while infusing your mind, body, and spirit with “wellness”…

I originally wrote this article in early March of 2020 for BestOfVegas.com, but it never saw the light of day. BestOfVegas remains in limbo, but now that we’ve reopened most hotels and casinos, the piece still has relevance. So, I present it to you here in its original form. 

There’s no question that traveling can have exhausting effects, both physically and mentally. Combine that with a few days of traditional Las Vegas excess and you’re likely to feel run down…or perhaps even ill. There are many types of recovery services available to counteract these symptoms. Or, you can be pro-active by booking your vacation in a Stay Well™ room at MGM Resorts.

Created by New York City corporation DELOS, the trademarked Stay Well™ concept was brought to Sin City in 2012 when dozens of fully-equipped, non-smoking rooms were introduced at MGM Grand. Since then, they’ve greatly expanded the number of rooms, introduced a Stay Well lounge and expanded the lineup to Park MGM and Mirage resorts. A select group of Stay Well protocols are also featured under the banner of “Fresh by Stay Well” at New York NY, Excalibur, and Luxor.

What makes a Stay Well™ room different from others? Everything! From the air you breathe to the water you shower in. From the sound-dampened walls and plant-extract memory foam mattress to red-spectrum circadian lighting, Stay Well enhances your body’s ability to relax, recover, rest and reinvigorate.

A Stay Well app by Cleveland Clinic allows you to maximize the available amenities and benefits. And perhaps most important of all, dangerous germs, viruses and other microbes are given the heave-ho by using non-toxic cleaning products and UV light-cleaning tools.

46496051_10156832673534640_8794696646735691776_o

Famed alternative-medicine advocate Dr. Deepak Chopra serves as an advisory board member for DELOS. He endorses the benefits of their specialized guest rooms. “Stay Well Rooms are built on many individual features, which when combined, have an unprecedented positive health impact for the traveler. Your wellness experience has been specially designed in collaboration with leading doctors, architects, engineers, and medical institutions.”

Screenshot 2020-03-10 at 6.03.40 PM

“Amenities like purified air, healthy lighting, an allergy-friendly environment, dawn simulation, and aromatherapy increase energy, reduce stress, improve productivity and enhance your sleep quality. Our vitamin C shower infuser reduces chlorine to help skin and hair stay soft and smooth. Stay balanced, stay fresh, Stay Well.”

With all of today’s fears of contaminants within gathering spaces, Stay Well has expanded to offer its proactive health protocols to convention guests at MGM Grand by way of “Stay Well Meetings”. Air purification removes toxins, allergens, smoke and microbes from the air. Surfaces are treated with “WELL Shield”, a self-cleaning photocatalytic coating that destroys harmful organic compounds. Cleveland Clinic provides innovative menus and online tools to combat the negative effects of travel (like jet lag and poor diets).

mgm-grand-meeting-stay-well-meetings-interior-conference-room-center-view.jpg.image.1440.550.high

Stay Well amenities are clearly identified on the booking page of each hotel’s website. Every MGM Resorts property in Las Vegas (with the exception of Signature at MGM Grand) should be offering Stay Well enhancements or fully-conceived guest rooms by summer 2020. While no single program can prevent illness or provide absolute safety from infection, it’s helpful to know that options are available. So now you can reduce risk and reap the benefits of a healthier Vegas experience at the same time.

mirage-hotel-stay-well-room-in-room-tray.tif.image.1240.544.high

Photos: MGM Resorts, Stay Well by DELOS

 

 

Hot Guys of Vegas: Andrew Diessner, Entertainer Extraordinaire


Multi-hyphenate entertainer is so all-around stunning that ya just wanna…

Do you remember that guy in high school who was seemingly perfect? Everyone loved him, he was the captain of every club and team, and somehow was also the teen that never got a blemish. He didn’t trip in the hallway or drop his books…and he had the body of a young physique model.

thumbnail_Screenshot_20200819-043121_Instagram

Yeah, every class has at least one of those, then we get older and those guys turn into “one of us”. Unless your name is Andrew Diessner…then you just keep getting better looking…and better at everything…with each passing year. Where do these people come from, anyway?

Well, in Andrew Diessner’s case, the answer is “humble beginnings”. The sizzling gentleman whom you see in the clip above is far removed from the overweight child who was bullied by his peers. It was through internal motivation that the multi-octave hunk who’s equally impressive in jazz, opera, pop, soul, and rock music was once an insecure boy who disliked his own reflection.

thumbnail_Screenshot_20200819-043201_Instagram

“I was bullied relentlessly because I carried a little more weight than most. Being a “husky” kid was brutal. Children don’t hold back from telling each other how they feel and digging it in with a double-edged sword. I will never forget how uncomfortable I always felt in my skin. I never had the Nike Jordans, or the cool baggy pants (which were TERRIBLE, by the way, lol).”

“I didn’t really fit in any specific circle in school, so I bounced around a lot. I was sort of the class clown for each clique. Unfortunately, the words and the actions of those kids stuck with me for a very long time.”

thumbnail_Screenshot_20200819-043532_Instagram

That’s why the Denver, Colorado native is drawn to causes that assist depression, addiction, suicide prevention, and childhood bullying.

“I still see that 12-year-old me in the mirror sometimes. I don’t want any child to have to go through that. I know it gave me thick skin, but some kids don’t ever pull out of it. That leads to substance abuse, depression, anxiety, and so many other terrible things. If I can start a program, a charity, SOMETHING to get the word out and make a difference, I would give it everything I got.”

“Giving it all” is the fiber that seemingly holds this 34-year-old, 5-foot 10-inch hunk together. Those in the Vegas entertainment field have had it especially rough, as the unpredictable nature of their work has been infinitely compounded by COVID-19. But Andrew once again looked inside, gathered his strength, and came out better in a variety of ways.

“During the beginning of the pandemic, I sort of let myself go. Sort of is an understatement. I gained 16 lbs. (172lbs to 188lbs). I got sick of looking at myself in the mirror and feeling sorry for myself because I was uninspired and out of work, so I joined a transformation competition that I saw posted on Instagram. It was with a newish app called Fitness Culture Training.”

“I always like a good old-fashioned competition, and I am pretty competitive by nature, so I figured, why not make some money while simultaneously getting my physique back? It was a no brainer for me. I ended up doing really well and probably making one of the best transformations I have had to date. I wanted to be ready for when the city came back…mentally as well as physically. I wanted to be hireable NOW…being confident in my skin and having a Vegas-ready body was imperative.”

With the amount of uncertainty ahead in the entertainment field, many performers have been looking into alternate and additional careers. It’s our harsh current reality where only the smart and pro-active may be able to cover their expenses while still pursuing their passions.

thumbnail_Screenshot_20200819-043314_Instagram

“Man, this pandemic has been relentless. I honestly didn’t imagine it was going to last this long. I lost all my contracts at sea, as I am a guest entertainer that travels with two 45-minute shows. I had plans of buying a house in May when all my contracts at sea were done. I wanted to start building solid roots here in Vegas and become more involved in the entertainment scene here. I had two weeks scheduled to fill in for Colin Cahill at Atomic Saloon Show that I was really looking forward to performing in as well.”

“Pretty much every opportunity was stripped from me overnight. I didn’t know what I was going to do, but I knew that I would just have to keep a strong mental state. I haven’t been able to the entire time, but getting heavily involved in my transformation and digging into my passion for fitness, pulled me out of it. It was the healthiest option, and I was tired of feeling mentally and physically ill all the time. I knew I was better than that.”

“I am now starting online classes to become a certified personal trainer with ISSA, as well as a certified sports nutritionist, and transformation specialist. This has been a path I’ve wanted to explore for a long time, and there is no better time than now. It is something that I am very passionate about, and I am really looking forward to helping people change their lives.”

“To all the friendly people who laughed, pointed fingers and called me a fatty in middle school…love ya 😊 If you struggle with getting back into shape and you need some help and motivation…pm me. Helping you achieve your best self is my passion. Let’s do this together!”

I mentioned that Colin (Cahill) is known around town as “The Shirtless Singer”, yet Andrew is more of a white-shirt-and-bow-tie guy. I couldn’t help wondering if that was about to change now that the two of them are on a level playing field in the physique department.

Colin Cahill and Andrew Diessner (as “Blue Jackson”)

“Haha…Colin is the Man…and a dear friend of mine. He definitely has the reputation of losing the shirt on the stage, and I could never blame him. He looks fantastic! I have always been performing for a bit of a different demographic, so the bow tie and white collared shirt were necessary.”

“But it’s funny you mention that specifically because in my current desert photoshoot, I am walking with an open white collared shirt while removing a bow tie…sort of funny you mentioned it. So I guess you could say, that IS changing. I have worked hard for what I have, why not show it off more? Hard bodies sell. That’s just a fact.”

Watching Andrew perform, I was reminded of another handsome hunk with powerful vocals and a swaggering style…Grammy-nominated singer/actor/songwriter Cheyenne Jackson (Glee/American Horror Story/Descendants). I’ve spoken to Jackson several times, both in New York City and Las Vegas’ own Smith Center for the Performing Arts. I pointed out that he’d be great at playing Andrew in a biopic…and Diessner seemed to enjoy the comparison.

 Andrew and Cheyenne Jackson follow similar career paths…

“OMG this is too funny. It’s like you’re calling out everything in my life as it has happened haha…Cheyenne Jackson is one of my favorites. He did a show called Xanadu on broadway, and I played the same character, Sonny Malone, in the show when a theater did it in Colorado. I had a good friend of mine tell me that I should just follow his career moves because we were so similar.”

“I take it as such a huge compliment because Cheyenne is a major talent and a great looking guy. So, I would choose Cheyenne or Henry Cavil (to play me). Cavil has that steel jaw, great physique, and heaps of talent. Though, both of them have more hair than I do at this point. I may be going down a Statham/Willis/Johnson/Diesel route these days.”

With Halloween creeping up on us quickly, I inquired if that finely-tuned physique would get some exposure in the form of a gratuitous skin-baring costume. Perhaps something along the lines of Rambo or a superhero?

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

“Those are all really great costume Ideas. Rambo would be fun because I could put on a wig with a bandana, dirty up the face and chest, throw some ammo over my shoulder, and a cigar in my mouth. I have always enjoyed action flicks and have the dream of one day being able to star in a few of my own. That is why Captain America would be a close second…Marvel…HINT HINT COUGH COUGH…next superhero? What a blast that would be!”

75450005_10105619779488843_718490858311122944_n

And what would he be wearing under those camouflage pants or tights? “Boxer briefs….always”.

After you’ve gotten on the subject of a guy’s undies and realize that you haven’t even covered some of the basics, it was time to backtrack a little. So I threw out some of those traditional interview questions about his background, stats and likes/dislikes.

72086170_10105517265692313_7301660066392834048_n

“I have been in Vegas for 4 years now. Originally, a relationship brought me out here 😬 Turned out, It was the best thing even though we are not together anymore (he’s currently single). There are so many performance opportunities for me here. I can’t wait until the city comes back.” 

68663479_10105413095140933_2260992448152993792_n

Dogs or Cats: “I grew up with both cats and dogs.  My preference has to be with dogs though. They are loyal, always happy to be beside you and be the companion you need. I prefer medium to large dogs, though I do have soft spot for the little ones. Cats turn on a dime and you never know what the hell they’re thinking…except you can guarantee they think they’re better than you lol I do, however, love watching cats get into trouble due to their curiosity.”

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Hobbies: “Snowboarding, fishing, cooking, writing music, craft beer connoisseur, hiking, Jeeping, lake adventures (paddleboarding, boating, wakeboarding), raveling, being close to the ocean (snorkeling, jet skiing, scuba diving), trying new foods and drink, bar games (pool, darts), Texas Hold em…”

Charitable causes:Three Square (a Food Bank) is my favorite place to volunteer, Mondays Dark, and I am currently looking for more opportunities!”

Apparently, those opportunities include an audition video for Magic Mike Live, which I happened to discover on YouTube. And yes, he strips the shirt off at the end:

Dream role and collaboration: “A show I would love to star in…if we are talking about the stage, I would have to say Sweeney Todd. I LOVE the music and the character. It’s dark, it’s witty, and playing a loveable villain is always a good time. Duet partner…hmmmmm that’s a tough one…but I do love Anna Kendrick. So if you have some connections, throw them my info haha.”

“Otherwise, I would love to co-write a song with Brandi Carlile…What an incredible songwriter and singer she is. I can’t help but get emotional when I listen to her music. If we are talking here in Vegas…I really really really want to sing with Lorena Peril from FANTASY. She has a stunning voice, is downright beautiful, and has a heart of pure gold.”

As we brought our time together to a close, I mentioned that I found Andrew’s voice to be unexpectedly powerful. I inquired as to whether he felt that was due to physical or emotional traits.

78909819_10105634927646813_3167242599287226368_n

“I believe it to be both. I use the emotions that connect me to the song to emote power, volume, nuance, finesse, and whatever else is required of me vocally. And I’m lucky to have a voice that is versatile and can deliver different sizes of voice, as well as warmth and color. I studied opera theater in school, and I believe it gave me the training to be able to sing many different genres healthily.”

91064508_10105907708406983_1961550665465462784_n

As we soldier through the most trying time of our lives, being healthy is indeed at the top of everyone’s list. Thank goodness that awesome hunks like Andrew Diessner and fellow members of “Hot Guys of Vegas” can inspire us…while adding a much-needed helping of eye candy to our recipe for overall wellness.

Photos courtesy of Andrew Diessner social media, clips via YouTube…

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Face the Spirits of Downtown’s ‘Apache Hotel’


Binions’ long-shuttered original rooms dare you to spend the night…

Screenshot 2020-08-16 at 8.22.15 AM

You know the feeling of silent dread that creeps up your spine, tickling the back of your neck? How about the compulsion to suddenly do something with no rhyme or reason? Toss those sensations into a trick-or-treat bag, along with an intense need to get the hell out of the house, shake well, and that’s how I found myself checking into the eerie Hotel Apache this past weekend.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Many of you may remember that Binions Casino once operated as a hotel, too. Its tower, topped by a digital thermometer and rotating letter “B”, is a familiar landmark. Once known as The Mint, it was the second-tallest building on Fremont Street until the under-construction Circa Hotel. Closed since 2009, Binion’s 366 rooms reportedly require expensive asbestos removal before they can ever be reopened to guests.

7653771372_f60ea6efda_b

In a clever shifting of plans, owner TLC Casino Enterprises, which also operates 4 Queens Hotel Casino, decided to refurbish and open Hotel Apache, the long-hidden original structure above Binion’s Casino. Opened in 1932, those 81 rooms have remained unoccupied for 69 years.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

“There are secret tunnels…escape routes. It is a hotbed for activity. Deaths, suicides, murder…you name it. It happened right up here. One of the most haunted locations in Nevada.” So claims Zak Bagans, owner of Zak Bagans: The Haunted Museum. Early last year, Bagans and the Ghost Adventures Crew shot an episode at Hotel Apache, hoping to get a glimpse of the paranormal beings who reportedly occupy those rooms and corridors.

102935675_602324493735196_8396359680112867215_o

The full “Binion’s” episode of Ghost Adventures is available for you to watch above. So, I won’t spoil anything here…but be sure to visit The Haunted Museum next time you’re in the Arts District.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

While nearby Golden Gate Hotel Casino (above) has downplayed decades of paranormal activity claims, Binion’s wears its dark reputation like a ghostly white sheet:

Historic Haunted Hotel Apache at Binion’s

Book Now

The Hotel Apache was originally opened by the Silvagni family in 1932. The family came to Las Vegas as a cement contractor for the Hoover Dam project and realized the workers needed a place to get away from their work and the heat of the desert. It was the first in Las Vegas to air-condition its hotel lobby and have air curtains at the entrance to the hotel. The hotel was eventually acquired by Benny Binion and was the place to stay for many Hollywood movie stars like Clark Gable, Humphrey Bogart and Lucille Ball. It was also the first in Las Vegas with an electrically operated elevator, fully carpeted casino and made poker a mainstream casino game.
Over the course of over 90 years, the historic Hotel Apache and Binion’s Gambling Hall have had many reports of spirited guests in residence who make it clear that the Hotel Apache and Binion’s Gambling Hall still belong to them. Several employees have been touched, nudged, report sightings of figures; and ghost hunters have reported high levels on their EMF meters and motion sensors along with mediums seeing actual images of past owners’ family members.
Book your next stay at the Historic Haunted Hotel Apache and let us know what you experience.

You might remember when Binion’s hosted their own horror attraction during the annual Fremont Street Halloween celebration:

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Binion’s Haunted Casino is a high-tech, theater-of-the-macabre attraction. Guests make their way through three distinct “haunts” — Club Dead/Casino RoyHell, The Hotel Diablo and the 3-D Toxic Martini Lounge — loaded with state-of-the-art animatronics and live “scare actors” in full make up and costume. This attraction is recommended for those 12 years and older.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

So, why not go full-throttle and open those notorious hotel rooms to the public, too? You’ll certainly get a chill when you pass vacant casino tables on your way to the quiet rear portion of the casino. That’s where you’ll discover the reservation desk, situated above the forgotten Binion’s Original Coffee Shop.

Check-in was swift, as I was the only guest (I saw no other patrons in the hotel during my entire stay). You can take the adjacent stairs or a creaky old elevator that deposits you right into the maelstrom of supposedly unearthly beings.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Don’t expect anything fancy at Hotel Apache. The rooms are bare-bones, extremely small (normal for the era) and…shall we say…”rustic”. But the air conditioner is effective, wi-fi is strong (and free), and the shower works great. Bedding and towels are better-than-average quality, the mattress is firm and comfortable, and the closet is almost as large as the bathroom. There’s even an exhaust fan, something rare in Downtown Vegas bathrooms.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

The room has an electronic safe (no surcharge), plenty of power outlets, and a bedside USB charging jack. The vintage framed photos, rotary telephone, and retro Victrola clock-radio are awesome touches. Amenities include free parking in the ample (but rundown) garage, as well as access to a 25th-floor rooftop pool with one of the best views in Downtown. Forget any scenery from your window, though, as the sole pane was of stained glass. But at $45 plus tax on a Friday night (with no resort fee!), it’s a steal.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

As for any bumps in the night….the only unsettling event I experienced took place while preparing for an evening at The Garden with friends. As I was showering, a loud thud in the bedroom startled me. It turned out to be my smartphone, face down on the floor and several feet away from the flat surface that I’d placed it on. Yikes!

20200815_080412

As mentioned above, there were no other guests to be seen the entire time. Thanks to the silence, this “paranormal investigator” slept like a baby, uninterrupted by rattling chains or shadowy specters. Before I knew it, the sun was up and it was time to have an inexpensive breakfast downstairs. Don’t worry if you’re a late riser, as checkout is a generous 12pm.

thumbnail_THE_SHINING_horror_thriller_dark_movie_film_classic_skeleton_graveyard_cemetery_gothic_skull_1920x1080

If you’re set on communicating with the dead, you might have to wait until celebrity medium Thomas John returns to Caesars Palace. But if you’re looking for a simple, clean, and convenient stay that won’t put a dent in your wallet, Hotel Apache is an honest-to-goodness trip back in time.

Hotel Apache is located at 128 E. Fremont Street Las Vegas, NV 8910. Phone Toll Free: 800-937-6537 or 702-382-1600

Photos: Sam Novak, screen caps from Travel Channel’s “Ghost Adventures”

 

 

 

 

 

Farewell to “Le Reve – The Dream” at Wynn


The most-loved production show in Las Vegas announces its closure due to COVID-19.

The word “devastated” took on a whole new meaning at 4pm today when the cast and crew of “Le Reve” received word that the show was permanently shuttering. I’ve gotten an avalanche of texts and messages from friends and colleagues who know what this show means to the city of Las Vegas…and to myself personally.

11074375_10206675140902882_7768924477293561091_n

While I allow this news to digest this evening (and mourn the loss of my favorite show), I’ll leave you with this article that I penned for VegasChatter.com in January of 2014. Be safe, stay strong, and be smart.

Click here to read (archived articles may take longer to load).

Six and a half years ago I wrote what would be one of my favorite articles and THE BEST EXPERIENCE I’ve had in this city. Farewell, Le Reve. You’ve earned a place in Vegas history that time will never erase, and I thank each and every person involved for creating one of the most beautiful productions Las Vegas will ever see.

12373185_10208315125381469_791507776313429124_n

Cover photo courtesy of Alexander Stabler, performer at “Le Reve – The Dream”

The Remarkable Life of Roman Mokrenko


Ukrainian aerialist’s gravity-defying career path will astound you…

Sometimes the pressure of our daily routine makes us say “I just want to run away and join the circus”. But have you ever known someone who actually has? Well, meet a man who ditched his white-collar career for a chance at Sin City’s newest big tent spectacular.

dtr_3862.jpg

Roman Mokrenko is a 29-year-old Ukrainian from the port city of Odessa. Known as the “Pearl of the Black Sea”, Odessa boasts amazing architecture and a renowned Opera and Ballet Theater. The natural beauty of the Ukraine is as much a part of Roman as his love for physical arts. A longtime athlete, he studied acrobatics before pursuing a career in law. While attending the National University Odessa Law Academy, he simultaneously became a Junior Lieutenant in Military School.  

Being both a lawyer and a military officer didn’t extinguish Roman’s desire to accomplish something artistic:

One moment I just realized that this office life is not for me. I cannot live without a “scene”. Thank God I have a background in acrobatics and artistic gymnastics…I almost never stop training. There is too much energy in my head and body that I have to “splash” somewhere.

29789957_1783053131752087_4911889613405391879_n

If you’re going to make a splash, what better pool than the Las Vegas entertainment scene? There are countless productions here that incorporate aerialists, gymnasts, acrobats, and contortionists. So when Roman discovered a casting call for the new circus-style show CELESTIA at The STRAT, he decided to take the plunge.

20190605_194522.jpg

I applied for the casting without much hope. Here you can see the best artists of the world. I thought it was impossible, but now I’m here! This is my favorite part of life in Las Vegas. I have seen almost every show.

Roman arrived in Las Vegas on Valentine’s Day 2018. You might say that this was the beginning of a love affair with Sin City’s desert. Although he misses life by the sea, the excitement of performing in Vegas has allowed Roman to reach new heights. He just had to learn how to deal with the scorching climate.

31453981_1807413552649378_4545523417327075328_n

Air conditioning saves us from extreme heat. But sometimes when I have practice in the afternoon it just helps to warm up and train without a shirt. On stage, the artist must look divine. Not for nothing that I train every day and stay on these diets. If you have something to show off, then why not?

He may joke about flaunting his chiseled abs, but Roman’s physique has landed him several modeling gigs…some of them a bit unusual.

Roman Mokrenko

I was a sketch model several times in New York City when the show was being revised. People sit in circles, have drinks and make sketches while you’re almost naked. I’ve had several shoots with photographers…one was for a foot fetish site, haha!

That Ukrainian sense of humor came through in Roman’s character work for CELESTIA, but it’s his physical abilities that stand out. He hopes that audiences will be inspired by his feats and channel that into their own fitness journey.

We’re on our phones all the time, but we can do it with some “profit”. Keeping in shape is much easier than going in and out of form. For ordinary people (not performers), 30 minutes a day will be enough. Just walk on a treadmill and watch a movie or play a game.  

When not entertaining crowds, Roman still finds himself in the company of fellow artists. After a massage and hearty breakfast at Omelet House, he heads to a very unique school:

52896802_607673803011565_2618741499965210624_n.jpg

I like Nevada Rhythmic Academy. It’s a place where I can train, invent new acts, meet artists from other shows and try something new together. There is a real aura of the gym in which I grew up.

Mokrenko is considering buying a home here in Las Vegas, but there are a few dreams overseas yet to realize:

One day I’d like to be live on a stage with Ludovico Einaudi, Max Richter, Olafur Arnalds or Hans Zimmer. They are my favorites. And I want to perform with Nederlands Dans Theater. It will be an amazing mix between ballet and aerial performance…like dancing in the air!

As is quite often the case in the Vegas entertainment environment, Roman’s time at CELESTIA abruptly came to an end. Fortunately, his talents and great looks led him to other exploits, like joining the myriad of hot guys in Sahara‘s Blanc de Blanc and Atomic Saloon Show at Palazzo.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Since the pandemic’s city-wide shutdown of live performances, he’s spent much of the spring and summer focusing on photography. Not one to shy away from showing off his hot body, the former soldier is often in front of the lens as well. And he’s wisely taken advantage of the quiet streets and sidewalks to obtain some incredible shots.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Roman agrees that now is the best time to get in shape and document your results with a terrific collection of portraits and landscape shots. To see more of his gorgeous work, visit the official Instagram gallery. If you’d like to know more or to schedule a shoot, contact him directly through Facebook messenger via this link.

96288198_109235174114451_7695798713951715328_n

Photos and video: Roman Mokrenko, Sam Novak

‘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