Should Old Acquaintance Be Forgot


Wishing you the best for the year ahead….

As we say goodbye to 2017, I want to thank each and every one of you for joining me here at Vegas Unfiltered. It’s been a wonderful six months and will be exciting to see what lies ahead.

I send you sincere greetings and hopes for a safe holiday celebration, much joy and happiness ahead…and as always, a terrific time when you’re in Las Vegas.

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Sam Novak aka “Sammasseur”             

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2017 In Review Part 4 – Performances and Shows, Highs and Lows


Best Overall Show – BAZ: A Musical Mash-up

All of the dozens of shows around the Valley tend to fall into just a few categories. Then there’s BAZ: A Musical Mash-up. A song-and-dance unlike anything Vegas has ever seen, it’s hard to describe…and an experience you will never forget.

That’s why, after two consecutive years as “Best New Show” (new name, location and cast allowed it to qualify twice), BAZ: A Musical Mash-up gets my award for “Best Overall Show”.

Best Worst Vegas 2017

With three universally-renowned tragic love stories interwoven through a tapestry of contemporary hits, BAZ will have you dancing, crying, laughing and singing…all while rediscovering your love for musical theater.

Best Worst Vegas 2017

With the most talented cast in the city, BAZ: A Musical Mash-up is one show that demands to be experienced and shared. Kudos to Palazzo for their continued support of this amazing achievement.

Worst Overall Show – Black Magic Live aka Vivica’s Black Magic

This one started out with an ugly anti-gay controversy and ended up as a sloppy assault on the senses. An unbearable amateurish concoction with no rhyme or reason, an indifferent cast and an emcee (D-list movie director Jean-Claude LaMarre) who argues with and badgers an audience he’s ill-equipped to handle, Black Magic Live is one reality-show baby that was delivered stillborn.

Best Worst Vegas 2017

Audience abuse works fine if it’s meant to be comically shocking a la Absinthe. But at Black Magic Live, the insults are hurled without a single bit of tongue-in-cheek. “Don’t be touching my jacket with your greasy hands, lady. I don’t know you!”. Or how about “Sit down and shut the Hell up or you’re out of here!”.

Best Worst Vegas 2017

After 60 minutes of this nonsense and at least four instances of audience members rushing the stage and stopping the show, I was out of there, too. Save your money and time. Turn your back on Black Magic Live.

Best Performance – Ruby Lewis (BAZ – A Musical Mash-up)

It’s almost unfair to select one individual from the best line-up on a Vegas stage. Alas, choosing a “Best Performance” winner must be done, if for nothing else than to provide counterpoint to the absolute worst.

Best Worst Vegas 2017

Of all the amazing and gifted individuals who make BAZ the best show on the Strip, Ruby Lewis gets my choice for best performance. After a landmark performance on Broadway in PARAMOUR, Lewis returned to the For The Record Live family…and the Palazzo Theater…this summer.

Ruby’s jaw-dropping and emotional finale (Over The Love from The Great Gatsby) will have you gasping, wiping away tears and rising to your feet in applause. It’s the must-see moment on the Strip.

Worst Performance – Sammasseur  (BAZ – A Musical Mash-up)

“Wooden”. “Uninspired”. “As nervous as a long-tailed cat in a rocking chair factory”. Those are some of the reviews that would have been deservedly slung at this writer had I been an actual cast member of BAZ – A Musical Mash-up. Fortunately, my participation was limited to an exciting and brilliantly-conceived “boot camp” experience for members of the media (you can read all about it here).

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As an invited guest, I was privileged to go through the paces of a performer from choreography to costuming and make-up. Then an actual number in front of a selected (and very kind) audience of Venetian/Palazzo team members. I’m proud to say that nobody was hit when my shoe went sailing through the air during a kick….and I’ll leave it at that.

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    Myself with Ruby Lewis, Savannah Cross, Anne Martinez and Ron Remke…

Photos and Video: Sammasseur with additional courtesy of Palazzo Resort

 

2017 In Review Part 3 – Trends: Hot, Cold, Wet and Sweaty


Vegas Unfiltered’s  2017 In Review continues with “The Year In Trends”…

Most Influential TrendRideshare Services

Best Worst Vegas 2017

Taxis gouge and the lines are super-long. Buses smell…and so do many of the passengers. Rental cars rack up parking fees and run the risk of accidents and DUI’s. Then there’s the monorail line, which services too few hotels and shuts down at 2 am. Thank goodness stalwart party people can choose LYFT and Uber, two modern ways of getting around that have impacted the way that we “Vegas”.

Now completing their second year of servicing McCarran International Airport along with the rest of the city, these two ride-share services will get you where you want to go at any hour. Best of all, they’re cheap!

Best Worst Vegas 2017

There is a downside with rideshares in that both the airport and the resorts seem to have conspired with the local Taxicab Authority to locate designated pick-up spots in remote areas. But expect that to change as the initial shock wears off and rideshare companies evolve from being an upstart service to the transportation method of choice.

On The Rise – Classic Cocktail and Liquor Bars

Best Worst Vegas 2017

Rosina Cocktail Bar Palazzo

You may not have realized it, but bottle service has quickly become very “2014”. These days, the hip, young and young-at-heart are gathering at classic cocktail and liquor bars. Venetian/Palazzo opened up two this year (The Dorsey and Rosina) to enormous success.

Best Worst Vegas 2017

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Downtown’s Golden Nugget recently replaced Gold Diggers Nightclub with a Vegas version on NYC’s Troy Liquor Bar, bringing a much-needed element of class to the frequently-skeevy Fremont Street. I’ll be visiting that one soon and will report back.

Element of the Year – Water

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WOW World of Wonder Rio

Water was a major player in Sin City this year. WOW – World of Wonder joined O and Le Reve as the third water-based production (read my review here). More resorts added the option to decline housekeeping and laundry services in return for resort credit, saving money, labor…and lots of water. Chippendales brought in a Prince-ly “Purple Rain” shower sequence that has audiences breaking the sound barrier with screams.

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The level of Lake Mead continued to drop, worrying officials and providing a disturbing sight for those who fly into the Valley from the east. $817 million and six years were invested into drilling a new “intake straw” to ensure that the remaining water could continue to be siphoned in a “last ditch effort to save Las Vegas from drought doom” .

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Despite the water emergency, construction is set to begin on Wynn Paradise Park, a man-made lagoon and theme park that will replace the recently-closed Wynn golf course.

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Sadly (or perhaps fortunately), it also brings a whole new focus on the concerns for water mismanagement. Steve Wynn is probably hoping that the new fire-based INFERNO show at Paris will take some of the heat away from his continued wasting of Sin City’s most precious resource.

Fading Fast – Male revues

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Any regular reader know I love attending this type of show, despite the fact that some of them are sheer crap. While 2017 started with an all-time interest for male revues, the sizzle fizzled out pretty rapidly.

A marketing blitz for Magic Mike Live caused long-time standards Chippendales and Thunder from Down Under some concern. After the initial madness, MML became just another option in a landscape littered with hungry male strippers (what an image!).

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Black Magic Live quickly moved from the Strip’s Tommy Wind Theater to a banquet hall to an off-Strip ghetto nightclub. Aussie Heat has cooled down to two performances a week (with talk of closure in the coming weeks). Men of the Strip‘s dreams of a multi-media nightclub at Tropicana were reduced to a two-week gig at Hard Rock Cafe. Then they left Las Vegas altogether for a tour through North America.

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An insider told me that it’s much too difficult to launch a residency in expensive Vegas venues. He cites the ease of filling up large spaces in other cities where this type of entertainment is rare and there is little to no competition. The profit margin is much greater for tours as well.

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You can be sure that Chipps and Thunder won’t be going anywhere next year. Unfortunately, that’s probably true for the nauseating Magic Mike Live. But in Vegas, where Sin is touted as a lifestyle and wild girls (and gays) come here to get their male-stripper groove on, expect the choices to be more limited in 2018.

Photos: Sammasseur, Wynn Resorts (and other sources, too)

2017 In Review Part 2 – The “Bye, Felicia” Award for Most Interminable Residency


The inaugural “Vegas Unfiltered Wrap-up” is upon us. Brace yourselves…

It was the best of times. It was the worst of times. Within the laughter, tears and tragedy were moments of amazement and joy. Whatever you sought, there was something for you to relish and moments to make you cringe. Nothing will let you forget 2017 – the Year in Las Vegas.

The “Bye, Felicia” Award for Most Interminable Residency – Mariah Carey/Britney Spears (tie)

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Mariah and Britney are a couple of very defiant fish. You throw them into the lake and they stubbornly hop back into your boat. And like a couple of dying carp, they stink up their respective venues with dead eyes and mouths that sporadically gulp for air.

In Carey’s case, she can’t even be bothered to walk or dance. Instead, she gets carried around like a sack of lumpy potatoes. Or perhaps a corpse, as this infamous moment from July suggests:

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Mimi’s outrageous ego must have taken a nasty blow when Caesars failed to extend her 2-year residency. That final evening at the Coliseum was so under-attended (despite deep discounting) that the so-called diva refused to perform “until the place filled up”.

How do I know? Because I was there, talking to staffers who were laughing about it as it happened. Still, she came back for five sappy Christmas shows during the slowest week of the year. Tickets started at only $59.00. Ouch!

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Britney Spears will flap her arms and sleepwalk her way through a final performance of Piece of Me at Planet Hollywood this New Year’s Eve. Thank goodness her hunky and talented singer/dancer Willie Gomez will be onstage to inject a much-needed spark.

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There’s talk that Britney will resurface at another property, much like legionnaire’s disease keeps attacking guests at Rio Las Vegas. Her resilient career is proof that wooden objects really do float.

Dishonorable Mention – Criss Angel’s Mindfreak Live (closing October 2018)

2017 In Review Part 1 – Best and Worst New Shows


The inaugual “Vegas Unfiltered Wrap-up” is upon us. Brace yourselves…

It was the best of times. It was the worst of times. Within the laughter, tears and tragedy were moments of amazement and joy. Whatever you sought, there was something for you to relish and moments to make you cringe. Nothing will let you forget 2017 – the Year in Las Vegas.

Best New Major Show – David Goldrake IMAGINARIUM

Small-scale magic shows come and go all the time, yet the corner of Tropicana and Las Vegas Boulevard has been home to two large-scale headliners (David Copperfield and Criss Angel) for several years. Jan Rouven was doing pretty well as the third member of their triad until a nasty scandal sent him behind bars.

David Goldrake IMAGINARIUM

Enter David Goldrake, the mysterious muscleman from Luxembourg as heir apparent to Rouven’s crown. His IMAGINARIUM is epic, poetic, classical magic with high-tech dazzle and a solid multi-talented cast (read my full review here).

Let’s hope Goldrake’s mastery can overcome the curse that is Tropicana‘s long-troubled showroom. Skip the mediocre Mindfreak Live at Luxor (in its merciful final year) and give this one your entertainment dollars.

Honorable MentionMiss Behave Gameshow at Bally’s

Miss Behave Gameshow

Worst New Major Show – Magic Mike Live

What do you get when you build a show around a male stripper movie, then throw out the movie and keep the dancers in their clothes? That’s the cash-grab fiasco now playing at Hard Rock Hotel. I’ve nothing positive to say about Magic Mike Live…but if you’re still curious, you can read my detailed review here. Or you can save yourself some time and just check out this pic below.

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Movie superstar Channing Tatum hung his name on this bait-and-switch mess but you won’t see him anywhere in it. Not even in the posters. The world’s first male revue that mocks male revues (and men in general) with utter contempt, Magic Mike Live is a big fat turkey that deserves to have its head chopped off.

Dishonorable Mention – Black Magic Live at Embassy Night Club

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You’ll want to look away from the disastrous Black Magic Live… 

Photos: Sammasseur, David Goldrake IMAGINARIUM

“Rosina” Is The Latest Jewel In Palazzo’s Crown


Swanky art deco cocktail lounge elevates the already-luxurious Strip resort….

This past August, I penned a piece extolling the virtues of (and my love for) the Palazzo. Dripping with elegance and style, Venetian‘s high-end sister property offers a contemporary twist on top-tier resorts…and won my award for favorite five-star accommodations.

Rosina Cocktail Bar Palazzo

Now Palazzo has upped the ante with Rosina Cocktail Bar. Adding a page to the latest chapter of Venetian/Palazzo‘s evolution, Rosina builds on the momentum established by The Dorsey this summer. That cocktail lounge, with creations by famed mixologist Sam Ross, has already set a new standard for Venetian‘s lounge offerings.

While The Dorsey is an interesting mixture of old-school vibe (the library and fireplace are especially cozy) with contemporary music and hip DJ’s, Rosina harkens back to an era of sexy glamour and utter sophistication. It’s hard not to be mesmerized by the glossy blacks and shiny golds that make up the jewelry box-like exterior of this cocktail retreat.

Rosina Cocktail Bar Palazzo

Inside, lush chandeliers preside over four maroon-colored banquettes, small cocktail tables with pearl-colored leather chairs and high bar tables with stools in burgundy-covered cushions and backs.

Rosina Cocktail Lounge Palazzo

The 65-seat room is intimate, providing for impeccable service and attention to every detail. That includes an original beverage menu which celebrates the classic cocktails of bygone eras.

Rosina Cocktail Bar Palazzo

Upon arriving for a media preview, our party was led towards a glamorous lady posed upon the left side of the bar. This “cocktail fortune teller” asked each of us a few questions before suggesting a particular cocktail to start our evening.

Rosina Cocktail Bar Palazzo

Her recommendation for me was a Dark ‘N Stormy (from the “Shaken Cocktails” list – $18). Crafted from Bermuda rum, lime, fresh ginger and club soda inside a tall glass with a bar of hand-embossed ice, it reminded me of a high-powered Moscow Mule with a lot of sass. Additional shaken cocktails include the DaiquiriTom Collins, Presbyterian, Mai Tai and Gimlet.

Rosina Cocktail Bar Palazzo

Dark ‘N Stormy              

Rosina Cocktail Bar Palazzo

Mai Tai                     

Rosina Cocktail Bar Palazzo                    Daiquiri                    

The fortune teller steered my companion towards a Martini from the “Stirred Cocktails” menu (all $18). Made with gin, dry vermouth and either a lemon twist or olive, it was as smooth as it was lovely to look at. Other stirred cocktails include Mint Julep, Manhattan, Old Fashioned and Negroni.

Rosina Cocktail Bar Palazzo

Old Fashioned              

Later in the evening, I desired something fizzy. That meant a French ’75 (gin, champagne and lemon) from the “Bubbly” classics list, which also offered an Airmail (rum, honey, lime, champagne) and Jimmie Roosevelt (cognac, green chartreuse, bitters and champagne – all $22).

Rosina Cocktail Bar Palazzo

French ’75                   

Speaking of bubbly…if you’re out of champagne (four selections from France), there’s an innovative call button within reach. With it, you can have your flute topped off immediately. You won’t want to rush things, though, as the relaxing and elegant atmosphere will have you wondering where the time went.

A curated soundtrack of blues, jazz, soul and classic R & B plays overhead, ensuring that the mood is as classy as the cocktail in your glass. Be sure to ask your server about seasonal and daily specials while you’re there.

If you’re in the mood for wine, you can choose one of five whites from Germany, New Zealand, Italy, France and of course…California. Six red wines are brought in from Italy, California, Washington and this writer’s home of Willamette Valley, Oregon.

Baz Boot Camp

Perhaps it’s no accident that Rosina Cocktail Bar is right around the corner from Palazzo Theater. That’s where the stunning Gatsby-era BAZ – A Musical Mash-up performs Tuesday through Sunday at 7 pm. The two compliment each other perfectly, much like Bourbon Room once invited Rock of Ages guests to party on after the show.

Rosina Cocktail Bar Palazzo

Rosina Cocktail Bar Palazzo

You won’t need Gatsby’s tuxedo or Daisy’s sparkling gowns to enjoy a cocktail at Rosina, but it’s most definitely a dress-up atmosphere. So be sure to pack your favorite evening wear and immerse yourself in the shiny beauty of Rosina Cocktail Bar.

Rosina Cocktail Bar Palazzo

Rosina Cocktail Bar Palazzo

Rosina Cocktail Bar is nestled along the east side of Palazzo’s gaming floor. Hours of operation are from 5 pm through 3 am daily. The venue is available to host special events by calling 702.607.1945

Rosina Cocktail Bar Palazzo

Photos: Sammasseur, Anthony Mair, Palazzo Hotel and Casino

“Aussie Heat” Host Creates a Natural Approach to Fitness Products


Adam Barr’s muscular cast endorses his Green Barr cannabis-based wellness formulas…

Having covered the Mr. Olympia Fitness Expo for many years in Las Vegas, I’ve seen many outside-the-box health and fitness products. Ones like ManCakes high-protein pancakes. Arctic Zero fit frozen desserts. Ostrim ostrich-based jerky and meat sticks. Now Aussie Heat host Adam Barr has opened up a whole new world of ideas with a cannabis-based line of health and wellness products named Green Barr.

The uses of marijuana go back thousands of years, from ancient anesthesia in China to treatment of cataracts in Egypt. Until just recently, marketing items from this family of plants in contemporary United States would have been illegal…and perceived by many as outlandish. But times are changing and the laws are catching up.

Aussie Heat Adam Green Barr

There are those who view cannabis as a type of miracle cure. It’s been used for treatment from conditions as diverse as epilepsy in children to dementia in Alzheimer’s patients. It’s also known to ease the side effects of cancer treatments and has been proven to attack cancer cells.

As the medical community reverses its position on marijuana/cannabis from being a recreational drug to one of serious medical importance, the general public is taking note. And while everyone is playing catch-up with the legalities, forward-thinking individuals are preparing to usher in a new wave of uses.

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     Adam Barr (center, back row) and the guys have a flex-off with this writer…

Adam Barr is one such individual. You may recognize Barr from my numerous articles on the innovative upstart Aussie Heat male revue Planet Hollywood’s V Theater. Adam is a stand-up kind of guy…literally. When not using his charisma to host the sexy production, he sometimes takes to the stage for his own comedy routines.

Aussie Heat Adam Green Barr

Adam Barr is an advocate of all things natural…                  

But Adam’s venture into the cannabis business is no joke. This lover of nature in all its forms has looked to ancient healing methods to create the Green Barr line. His products use natural medicines to restore healthy living and promote recovery. With them, he intends to take the fitness community by storm.

Aussie Heat Adam Green Barr

In a phone interview last week, Adam explained the varieties of marijuana and why various classes are regulated differently.  He said that most people associate marijuana with THC (tetrahydrocannabinol), the mind-altering form that creates a euphoric “high”…and a stimulated appetite. THC is currently listed as a Schedule 1 drug by the U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency and is regulated as such (a detailed explanation is here).

But then there is CBD (cannabidiol), a non-psychoactive compound that’s mostly derived from hemp. While CBD won’t affect the mind, its positive effects on the body make for an impressive check-list of treatments for common ailments.

The most promising research these days is for the use of CBD to fight cancer. Cannabidiol has been shown to block the spread of cancer cells, slow their growth and encourage the destruction of cancerous cells altogether.

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The use of CBD and cannabis derivatives for everyday problems is what Green Barr is all about. By that I mean stress, anxiety, pain, acne, inflammation and depression. Then there are anti-emetic (nausea and vomiting) and anti-oxidant (neuro-regenerative) benefits as well.

Barr had the idea to create a line of micro-dose CBD (Emerald) and cannabis (Green) products that would target athletes, fitness enthusiasts and those looking for a natural alternatives for healing.

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Aussie Heat Adam Green Barr

         Stuntman Simon Farrow’s heroic frame is built on Green Mag Mist…   

Adam then teamed up with Simon Farrow, his muscular cast mate from Aussie Heat. Farrow is a sometime movie stuntman (Alien: Covenant) and actor who already had his own Organics4me line of magnesium-centric pre-workout spray. Together they’ve expanded and refined Green Barr‘s presentation to include teas, capsules, tablets, moisturizing creams and spray mist.

Aussie Heat Adam Green Barr

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Aussie Heat Adam Green Barr

While laws continue to change regarding the distribution of CBD and cannabis, Barr is taking a grassroots (pardon the pun) approach to marketing. In order to do that, Adam is starting small…like selling at farmers’ markets in Los Angeles.

Behind that will be conventional retailing through gyms and online. Of course, the goal of any marketing plan is mass distribution. In this case, easy-to-access state-regulated dispensaries are where Adam ultimately wants Green Barr to be sold.

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Not having tried marijuana products of any kind in the past, I was hesitant to sample a relaxation formula that Barr gave me. But years of insomnia have haunted me and it is difficult to get through an entire night.

So I tried one micro-dose capsule before bedtime and slept like I hadn’t in years….with zero negative effects the next day. In fact, I woke up feeling refreshed and alert and got that result every time. As you might imagine, it was thrilling.

The cast of Aussie Heat also uses and swears by Green Barr. With those hard-working bodies on display at the intimate V Theater each night, there’s no way to hide the results of their successful regimens.

Aussie Heat Adam Green Barr

Simon Ata puts “flex” in “flexible” thanks in part to Green Barr supplements…

Simon Ata aka “Simonster” is one of Green Barr‘s biggest advocates. As a member of StrengthProject.com‘s fitness team, this shredded young athlete performs astounding gymnastics, yet his body is always flexible and healthy-looking.

Aussie Heat Adam Green Barr

Performing a physically-demanding show nightly can be taxing on bodies of any age. For the Aussie Heat guys, a typical day requires rehearsal and stretching before hitting the stage at 10:30pm. Then they move over to nearby Blondie’s to greet and hang out with audience members before having dinner after 2 am. Then some of them hit the all-night gym for strength conditioning. If Green Barr products can help performers like these guys to get through a typical work week, imagine what they can do for someone in the conventional 9-to-5 world.

To learn more about the beneficial effects of micro-dose cannabis and CBD, check out Green Barr‘s Instagram page or visit them on Facebook.

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Me (center) flexing with the guys from Aussie Heat…                 

Note: This is not a compensated endorsement. Green Barr works for me.

Aussie Heat performs Thursday through Sunday at 10:30 pm inside Planet Hollywood’s V Theater. VegasFool.com is offering tickets starting at $39.00 (plus taxes/fees) by following this link and entering code VEGASFOOL 30 at checkout.

Photos: Sammasseur, Green Barr, Simon Ata, Adam Barr, Simon Farrow, Aussie Heat