PEREZ HILTON -Breaking The Rules (and making some new ones) at Chippendales


The nation’s foremost social media “influencer” manages to make the outlandish seem easy in his guest-hosting stint…

I was one of many who were shocked when Chippendales announced notoriously-outspoken Perez Hilton as their next celebrity host. After all, the self-proclaimed “Queen Of All Media” was hardly forged from the same slabs of beef as previous guests like Tyson Beckford and Antonio Sabator Jr. So what gives?

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The answer is that the forces behind Chippendales version 2018 are ready to shake things up. With the absurdly awful Magic Mike Live biting into their sales and cutting-edge newcomers like Aussie Heat offering alternative takes on the male revue concept, it isn’t enough to just be the gold standard any more.

As I previously reported, Chippendales is one of several erotic male productions that have evolved in order to tap into the DINK demographic. What’s that, you ask? It’s the “Dual Income, No Kids” members of our society, which these days are widely represented by the gay community.

Perez Hilton Chippendales

With the passage of marriage equality, the need for gay-only entertainment options has largely melted away. LGBTQ tourists are now welcomed along with everyone else, so it’s common to see gay couples and groups attending male revues along with the ladies.

That’s why Perez Hilton fits so nicely into this hosting gig. Never one to shy away from controversy, the flamboyant Hilton is this generation’s Paul Lynde, Liberace or Siegfried & Roy. He’s way out there, yet approachable. Daring, yet somehow safe. A perfect mash-up of comedy, shock value and tongue-in-cheek humor to make your night on the town an only-in-Vegas experience.

Perez Hilton Chippendales

I sat down with Perez before the official opening of his debut last Friday. Decked out as a carnival barker in a spectacular Jeffrey DeBarathy-designed costume reminiscent of Britney Spears’ ensemble for The Circus tour, Hilton was surprisingly eloquent and soft-spoken.

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         The two of us at a performance of Spiegelworld’s OPIUM at Cosmopolitan…

When asked if he felt like a pioneer by being the first openly-gay host of a show that once prohibited men from attending, Perez seemed surprised:

Wait a minute….I’m gay? Who told you that? (laughter). Wow, I did not know that! So men weren’t allowed in the audience before…that’s interesting. But no, I can’t say that I feel anything like a pioneer. This is something that I’ve wanted to do for awhile and I’m glad we were able to make it happen!

“Now that you’ve been in rehearsals, gotten to meet all the guys and seen their inner workings (more laughter), were there any pre-conceived notions about Chippendales that were either confirmed or shattered?”

(sly grin) Hmmmm….there weren’t really any backstage shocks that I can think of. I know the show pretty well from coming so many times. And I’ve only been rehearsing since Monday so there hasn’t been a lot of opportunity to think about things like that when you’re focused on the work.

I will say that everyone here has been supportive of me and they’ve made it easy. It’s been so much fun and I’m eager to see how the audiences react. This is uncharted territory for me as much as them.

Perez Hilton Chippendales

With the pre-show party about to begin inside the adjacent Flirt Lounge, time was running short. So I was able to ask one last question – “What advice can you offer a small-time blogger like myself?”.

You need to know your audiences for every individual platform. The readers on Facebook are going to be a different group from those on Instagram. They want to experience different kinds of content, so you need to tailor each social media outlet to their expectations, not yours.

YouTube is the big one right now. You have to use video…and lots of it. People want to see for themselves what you’re up to. I have two YouTube channels and it’s a challenge to keep up with all of it, but you have to stay current and pump out new information all the time.

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                Ever-present mother Teresita enjoying Perez’s debut performance…

After fans (and the curious) had lined up and taken their seats inside Rio‘s custom Chippendales Theater, the countdown to showtime was interrupted by Perez himself. Appearing from behind the audience, the host stopped the show with a bit of impish playfulness before allowing the beefcake to be revealed.

Perez Hilton Chippendales

Throughout the evening, Hilton worked his way into the proceedings with his signature charm, playing emcee for a faux game show, busting in on performer Kyle Efthemes‘ “Purple Rain” shower sequence (yes, really) and holding an open forum for questions from the audience.

What could have been a train-wreck attempt at hipness from lesser media celebs (the flatliner response to Chester Lockhart and Scheana Shay’s short-lived stint at Sex Tips for Straight Women From a Gay Man comes to mind) turns out to be a brilliant move. And one that should bring in hordes of new fans to the long-running show.

Perez Hilton Chippendales

But don’t take my word for it. See the audacious Perez Hilton and his crowd-pleasing antics for yourself. Chippendales performs nightly at 8:30 p.m. with additional shows on Thursday, Friday and Saturday at 10:30 p.m.

Perez Hilton’s Chippendales residency runs Thursday/Sunday nights through Sept. 2nd, 2018. Tickets range from $64.95 to $165.09 + tax and fees (18+) and can be purchased by calling (702) 777-7776. VegasFool.com is currently running discount rates as low as $39 for select evenings.

Photos: Sammasseur, Perez Hilton via Facebook, Chippendales

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Sexy Power Duos: Alejandro and Sarah Le Clear-Domingo


The city’s best dancers are a husband and wife team that brings down the house each night at Palazzo’s BAZ….

Ask anyone what their must-do Vegas experiences are and you’ll undoubtedly get a list of familiar answers: a romantic stroll by the fountains of Bellagio…people-watching at Mon Ami Gabi…drinks at a favorite cocktail lounge.

For this writer, no trip to Vegas is complete without a seat at the Palazzo Theater for BAZ: A Musical Mash-up. And that experience was recently taken to new heights with the addition of husband-and-wife dance team Sarah Le Clear and Alejandro Domingo.

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Stunning to look at (Alejandro was featured as “Best Abs” in my column four years ago) and a revelation to see in action, this power duo exudes every aspect of power, sensuality, sophistication and the sheer stunning artistry of dance. Audiences may recognize them from nearly five years at David Saxe‘s glorious VEGAS! The Show, but BAZ has unleashed their abilities in a way rarely seen on any stage.

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I recently spoke with the couple after seeing BAZ for the the 27th time (yes, really) and invited them to participate in a fun Q & A. I’m honored to say that they excitedly agreed. But before we get to that, here’s a little about them and how they came together as a professional team.

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Sarah and sister Julianne were born in southern California and grew up in the Bay area of San Francisco. Their parents were college sweethearts who encouraged their daughters’ love of performance arts. So, Sarah began formal dancing classes at age five.

I started intense ballet training at a very young age at Contra Costa Ballet Centre. A very prestigious school that I took very seriously, but I knew I wanted to study all aspects of dance. This is when I started my training at Dance Connection Performing Arts Center in Concord California, under the direction and ownership of Paula Henson.

My years at the studio is when I flourished the most…I became involved in the competition aspect of the studio competing all over California through the competition season. I was so thrilled to be expanding my repertoire of styles.

Years of practice and competitions were rewarded by a Sue Pipo Memorial Dance Scholarship, and Sarah’s future in the world of dance was assured.

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After graduation I auditioned to be an NBA Dancer for  the Golden State Warriors and became the youngest on the team. From there I moved to LA to continue my training at EDGE Performing Arts Center.

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Alejandro is from Buenos Aires. A rare combination of brains, brawn and grace, he played soccer and piano in his youth before pursuing a career in civil engineering. Despite his athletic frame and dashing looks, the Argentinian native enrolled in dance classes at the age of sixteen just to overcome shyness. By eighteen this natural talent was already touring with the salsa-heavy Latin musical Baracatun.

Many entertainers credit their parents and family for setting them on the show-business path. Ale is no exception:

My parents, Jorge and Ana, are just the best parents you could ask for. They always have supported my crazy dreams, and me, even though it meant being away from them for long periods of time. I have also a very smart and sweet little sister called Mariana, four years younger than me. I’m very proud of her and the person she is becoming.

Alejandro received a scholarship to further his dance studies in ballet, jazz, contemporary and partnering at Teatro Colón and the National Institute of Art in Buenos Aires. In 2006 he left Argentina to perform at the Chateau du Versailles in the renowned Fêtes de Nuit. After that he settled for periods in both Paris and Barcelona then continued his training throughout Europe and the United States.

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In 2008 the couple met in Hollywood, Florida when both were hired as dancers and aerialists for Royal Caribbean‘s Explorer of the Seas. Rehearsing nine hours a day, six days a week can bring people very close…and so can a first date at the local Martini Bar. That was a decade ago, and the gorgeous couple has never looked back.

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You might think that sharing the workplace and being together around the clock might tighten the pressure on a relationship, but for Sarah and Alejandro, their art is what brought them together and keeps them strong.

As Ale tells it:

Sarah and I met working together. Since then we have been blessed with sharing the same stage in many different productions, something quite unusual in our line of work. We have had our share of ups and downs in this crazy performers’ world.

I personally love working with Sarah because I always know that she has my best interest at heart…and I have hers. So any criticism or note we give to each other always comes from a caring and honest place and it’s intended to make the other person better.

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Sarah added:

The tense moments are very rare for us because we know how lucky we are to still be performing together. More than anything, it’s fun. A lot of hard work goes into it but it’s worth it!

I asked the couple if either of them tends to “take the lead” during their rehearsals….

We have both been “dance captains” so it depends on what we are rehearsing for, honestly. We pay attention to what the other one needs because if we are going to look and feel good on stage we both need to feel comfortable. (Alejandro)

Hahaha…I think we both want to take the lead! That’s the thing when you’re married to your dance partner…you both want to be in charge. But I think we have a very strong communication and respect for the other so we’re able to tell each other our needs as a partner. Ale is a fabulous ballroom teacher and I will say I have learned a lot from him as far as execution goes. (Sarah)

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Life in Vegas has definitely agreed with the couple. Along with having a great collection of friends in the community, the two enjoy much that the city has to offer. Alejandro offered these insights:

In my free time I like reading, going to the gym and to the movies. I’m not great at cooking but do enjoy it. I always enjoy trying new restaurants and Vegas is an awesome place for that.

I don’t dance much when I’m not on stage, but I have always enjoyed salsa dancing. It’s the first style I ever learned and it’s so much fun in social settings. I’m not a nightclub kind of guy. I prefer going to a chill bar with friends and having a drink, listen to some music and have a good conversation.

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I like taking Sarah out for dinner to a good restaurant and buying her nice things. I love Sinatra at the Wynn…the atmosphere and awesome background music. For a “cheat meal” I’d have to say Vege-Way…some of the most delicious vegan burgers you’ll have.

We also enjoy taking some much needed time off and going on a relaxing vacation. So far my favorite spot has been the Riviera Maya in Mexico.

Sarah enjoyed Mexico as well, but she’s partial to a different vacation destination:

Hawaii!!!!! We make an effort to spoil ourselves with nice vacations. We also love going to the M Resort pool during the summer as well as trying new restaurants on the Strip or downtown. I love cheat meals!!! Mon Ami Gabi is one of our favorites.

At my “seasoned” age I’m not much for the nightclub scene anymore…and because we perform so much we tend to enjoy our nights off with no dancing. Although the occasional line dance night at Stoney’s with my girls is always a blast. And we love catching new shows and supporting fellow performers.

I was a competitive swimmer for eleven years, so swimming is a fun hobby of mine. Fitness is a huge part as well so I enjoy the gym. And of course I have my “guilty pleasure” hobbies which include “The Real Housewives of Orange County” and “The Bachelor”, haha.

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It seems that animal rescue is a common thread among cast members of BAZ. Along with Anne Martinez and Ron Remke, the Domingos have a special place in their hearts for the Vegas community’s needy animal population.

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                                              Little Milo loves his toys…

“We both love animals and support the work of amazing nonprofits like The Animal Foundation“, Ale stated. Sarah continued “I am a member of the Humane Society and like to donate to any charity that helps and aids animals..this is very important to me! We have one dog named Milo and he is our baby. He is a rescue dog and has become a part of the family!”

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Speaking of family, I inquired as to where the Domingos saw themselves twenty years from now. Both hinted at the possibility of little dancers in their future.

Maybe I will go back to school and become an engineer. I’v wanted to finish that career. Hopefully we will have kids by then and we will be choreographing for Broadway, cruise ships, or another Vegas show.

Bob Fosse’s work has always been an inspiration for me. I would love to perform some of his work on stage someday. I absolutely love his style and legacy to the dance world. I would also love to work with choreographers like Jerry Mitchell, Sergio Trujillo and Andy Blankenbuehler.

Maybe we will own our own production company… Who knows? (Alejandro)

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Sarah shares her partner’s admiration for the work of Bob Fosse, too:

I would love to work with Broadway choreographers or any master of “Fosse” style like Ann Reinking. Any Broadway show or tour would be a dream of mine, but I also consider myself very lucky and grateful for the career that I’ve had thus far.

The exciting thing about this question is that I just don’t know. We are gypsies and follow the work. Vegas has been incredibly good to us, but the “show” aspect of the city is changing. I do know that we will always be involved in the industry, one way or another.

And by then, maybe we’ll have our own “little performers” in the making.

It’s true that the future of production shows in Las Vegas seems rather uncertain, especially recently. The sometime-abrupt closures of long-running hits combined with many short-term failures reflects a changing landscape for Strip entertainment.

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The Domingos left secure positions with VEGAS! The Show after nearly five years to join BAZ. Only a short time later, they learned that the last performance would be on July 29th, 2018.

As they prepare for an emotionally-charged final weekend with this landmark production, neither displayed any regret for coming aboard at Palazzo‘s signature musical. Instead, they’ll look back with fondness and gratitude:

This is a tough one to talk about and not get emotional. I will never forget the very first time I saw BAZ two years ago. I left the theater feeling completely overwhelmed with what I’d just experienced and witnessed. I remember thinking to myself “What an incredible show to be a part of”.

When Alejandro and I received the call with an offer we were absolutely blown away. After our time at VEGAS! The Show I was now being given the opportunity to be a part of a production that I love and admire. Words can’t really describe how I feel about being a part of the magic of BAZ…especially with Alejandro. (Sarah)

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                      “The first time I saw BAZ”. Sarah Le Clear-Domingo

The more I think about it the more I’m convinced this was where we were meant to be at this moment in our lives and careers.  It’s a memory I will forever cherish, and will always put a smile on my face.

I absolutely love the movies BAZ is based on, and have been a fan of the production since it first opened at Light in Mandalay Bay. The level of talent is incredible, and I’m fortunate enough to share it with the person I love the most, my beautiful wife.

It also allowed me to go back to my beginnings in ballroom and perform in a style that has always been so close to my heart. It’s a show that I truly believe in and that I am so proud to be a part of. There’s nothing else quite like it in the city, and I think Vegas is losing a true gem.

This show reminds people that love is the only thing really worth living for, no matter what situation life throws at you. Yes, it can cause pain, but only if you were lucky enough to truly love someone.

BAZ has real content and real entertainment. I would love for people to remember its message alongside with the talent that brought it to life: “Love is like … oxygen. Love is a many-splendored thing… Love lifts us up where we belong.” (Alejandro)

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BAZ: A Musical Mash-up concludes its two-year run at Palazzo Casino Resort this weekend.

Photos: Alejandro and Sarah Le Clear-Domingo via Facebook, Nicholas Foote, Patrick Rivera, banner photo by David Brenot Photography, video courtesy of Dominick Pepe

Area 51 and the Alien Head


Guest writer Tasja Dubenko takes us on a modern-day treasure hunt into the forbidden desert….

A year ago, my friend Crysti succumbed to a new-found obsession called geocaching. To many it’s known as the world’s largest scavenger hunt. A few months ago she turned me on to the idea of trying her new addiction. At first I was apprehensive of such a “frivolous hobby”, but with the right company it could be an enjoyable past-time.

Area 51 Alien Head Geocaching

For those who aren’t familiar with geocaching, it’s basically treasure hunting for adults. You follow the coordinates on your smartphone’s geocaching app and look for hidden containers. Those vessels can hold anything from undesirable trinkets to something worthwhile…or even “trackables”.

Area 51 Alien Head Geocaching

Trackables are objects or coins with a code on them. The code can tell you (through the app) where they have been previously placed by other geocachers. Sometimes you will find trackables that have traveled all over the world.

My first find was a swift but exhilarating experience. Crysti found hers instantly but I took a good ten minutes or so of searching. When I found it, placed in a birdhouse behind some trees, there an instant reward. I popped the bottom loose and watched a scroll of paper with some miscellaneous items fall out.

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After about a month of accompanying Crysti on her adventures, she turned to me and said, “What would you think about flying down to Las Vegas, renting a car and driving the Extraterrestrial Highway to the Alien Head to geocache?”

Area 51 Alien Head Geocaching

                                           Photo by geocacher JBase…

There are 2,000 geocaches along the E.T. Highway and fifty-one are in the shape of an alien head in the middle of the desert. At first when she asked I thought to myself how crazy that sounded. I was convinced as a novice that there was no way I could accomplish such a task.

Area 51 Alien Head Geocaching

However, the impulsive and adventurous side of me whispered the words, “Let’s do it!”. Within the very next moment we had already booked our flight and hotel and had reserved a car. Fast forward a couple months later, we had only two hours of sleep each night for three out of our six-day Vegas trip.

Area 51 Alien Head Geocaching

When the big day arrived, we woke up at 2 am and grabbed our backpack (that had been packed the night before) and drove our car two and a half hours into the desert. We had wanted to watch the sun rise over the mountains and grab a few caches in the dark before reaching the Alien Head.

Area 51 Alien Head Geocaching

The plan was to complete the three-four hour hike before 10 am…when the heat would reach an unbearable temperature. Crysti is worry-free and a thorough planner whereas I prepare for obstacles, potential dangers and am a more “go with the flow” type of person. Despite these differences, we make an excellent team leaving no potential situations unconsidered.

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I’d had my reservations about the trip but what happened next I couldn’t prepare for. By the time we had driven an hour and a half into the desert, we were far from the nearest gas station or town. The view was absolutely incredible. We had just enough light from the moon to see the outline of the mountains and grab a few quick caches under its brilliance.

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                    Our first geocache of the trip on the E.T. highway…

After ten or so caches, we could stand on one side of the mountain range to watch the moon slowly begin to peak behind the mountain top while turning 180 degrees towards another mountain range and watch the sun begin to rise. At that moment I looked at my friend in awe and said, “You can’t buy experiences like this. You have to go live it.”

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             The moon slowing beginning to hide behind the mountains…

It was truly remarkable to witness the ending of night and beginning of day simultaneously in the heart of nature. Another hour or so later, we finally reached our destination at the Alien Head in the most desolate area I had ever dreamed of experiencing.

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             We got to watch the sun rise in the desert. What an experience…

There was nothing but the land and the highway we drove on, which stretched miles far away from our hiking spot. Our pictures did us a disservice attempting to capture the raw beauty of nature at its finest. With that being said, it was an experience not for the novice hiker or geocacher.

Area 51 Alien Head Geocaching

The hike took us roughly three hours (which is above average) in 112-degree weather. We came fully prepared with our fifty-pound backpack stocked with water, sunblock and some rocks with alien heads we had painted onto them to place at a few of the cache spots.

Area 51 Alien Head Geocaching

The desert was mysteriously quiet. Aside from the sound of your own footsteps or a lizard running across your path, the only sound you could hear was your own blood pumping and circulating throughout your body. It was a place where I had pushed my physical and mental limits while obtaining clarity I had never previously experienced.

However, there was something else about this barren area that seemed to hold a silent secret or contain an eerie vibe about it. I had heard before that this particular area has a reputation for multiple UFO sightings and having unusual events occur. During the first thirty minutes or so of our hike, it had been complete silence between us as we were fixated on our goal.

Area 51 Alien Head Geocaching

Suddenly, I stopped walking and turned to her and asked, “Do you hear that?”. She stopped to listen. “I don’t hear anything,” she replied. “I swear I heard a man yelling at us,” I stated.

I turned 360 degrees, taking in everything around me. “Obviously there is no one here,” I concluded. I had sworn I heard distinctive but inaudible yelling, yet nothing was within miles of us as far as the eye could see.

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We pressed on for another forty-five minutes and I forgot about the event until Crysti abruptly stopped. “Do you hear that?” she asked. I closely listened and heard nothing. “No, I don’t hear anything.” “That’s so weird, because I swear I heard someone yelling at us now too,” she remarked.

This unusual event had struck an unsettling feeling for both of us for many reasons. Clearly, we were the only ones out there. Not another soul was around for miles and if there was, we would have noticed long before they would’ve been able to approach us. At first I had thought maybe we were experiencing some sort of “delusion” from being out in the desert.

Area 51 Alien Head Geocaching

However, the other thing that struck me as odd was that we previously drank plenty of water before our hike as well as during. So dehydration wasn’t a concern, nor was the duration since we hadn’t been out there long before it happened the first time.

We did not have any more experiences like that, but I couldn’t help but feel like there was something beyond my comprehension lurking in the back of my mind. The longer we hiked, the more thankful I became that Crysti had downloaded a map on her phone to use offline since we anticipated losing service. Everything began to look the same the longer we pressed on.

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                    A little unsettling to find in the middle of the desert…

I couldn’t help but wonder if some unimaginable or sci-fi things actually took place around this area. Just as the thought crossed my mind, something caught my eye. It was some sort of skeleton. I have been a vet technician for seven years and it didn’t resemble any dog or cat skeleton. It quite possibly could have belonged to a deer, but there was something peculiar about it. There was only half of the pelvis and seven vertebrae attached.

Area 51 Alien Head Geocaching

                                      The things you find in the desert…

The rest of the skeleton was nowhere to be found. Furthermore, we hadn’t seen anything living except the lizards. But earlier in the day while driving I had seen two separate cows along the highway. Both were deceased with a perfect split down their sagittal planes.

The cows were perfectly hollow with no bodily organs or parts. It was simply the skeleton and skin. The fur had been sliced open with such precision that I couldn’t help wondering what had caused their deaths. As I gazed at the skeleton in front of me now, I wondered the same.

Area 51 Alien Head Geocaching

At the end of our journey we met our goal of all fifty-one geocaches. And we’d accomplished it while walking ten miles under a blazing sun in one of the most beautiful places I’d ever seen. It was unlike any experience I had ever had.

As we left in our car it was all I could do to look in the rear view mirror for a last glance at the untamed ground we had just covered.

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I turned to my dear friend as a smile crept upon my face and exclaimed breathlessly, “I can’t believe we just did that”.

Photos: Tasja Dubenko except where otherwise indicated

Creepy Chills Lie Behind the Rose-colored Glass of “Lucky Dragon Hotel”


A surreal, eerie experience awaits those who check into the ill-fated casino resort…

Lucky Dragon Hotel Vegas

Two short years ago, the Lucky Dragon Casino Hotel was a beacon of hope for the troubled north end of Las Vegas Boulevard. With stalled projects like Fontainebleau and Echelon Place (the future Resorts World) as constant reminders and the SLS Las Vegas already stalling, this Asian-themed boutique hotel could very well have been a much-needed jump start.

Lucky Dragon Hotel Vegas

Things looked even more promising when an early-December 2016 opening date got tossed out the window. To the surprise of just about everyone, Lucky Dragon‘s doors opened on November 19th, creating an avalanche of media hype, great PR…and once again, hope for this section of the Strip.

Lucky Dragon Hotel Vegas

The 203-room casino hotel offered three restaurants, a tea-garden lounge and quick-bite outlet as well as gambling that was designed to appeal to tourists from the Far East. Despite initial problems in getting the project financed and completed, Lucky Dragon was constructed around many Asian concepts of good fortune. Decor, lack of “unlucky” numeral four and feng shui were integral to Lucky Dragon’s design.

Lucky Dragon Hotel Vegas

By February of the following year, it was clear that luck had already begun to bleed away from the fledgling property. Media announcements hyped “improvements” to dining and gaming options. Dragon’s Alley food court was shut down to accommodate changes in the floor plan. High-end gaming was added to attract more cash flow.

Lucky Dragon Hotel Vegas

Lucky Dragon Hotel Vegas

                      Dragon’s Alley was an early victim of “improvements”…

Sadly, a month later Lucky Dragon‘s staff underwent a massive cut, with everyone from top managers to waiters being let go. As legal and financial troubles began to mount, live entertainment was added that summer as a new draw. Nevertheless, interest in the short-lived sensation had fallen away to essentially nothing.

By the time I finally got around to visiting the property last October, it was eerie, silent and virtually empty. Interestingly, the date was October 1st, 2017, the evening of the Las Vegas Massacre at Mandalay Bay‘s events center. So you can imagine that the entire night is burned into my memory…and this was a creepy way to start it off.

Lucky Dragon Hotel Vegas

As you can see from these photos, the casino and restaurants were nearly devoid of guests. What had gone wrong? Was it the unusual location in a sketchy neighborhood? Could the theme just be too targeted towards a specific demographic? Perhaps the place just sucked.

Lucky Dragon Hotel Vegas

Walking around the casino building was such a downer that I quickly departed without even taking the skybridge over to the hotel tower (they’re two separate buildings, which could also be a factor in its failure).

Lucky Dragon Hotel Vegas

By January of this year, the entire casino and restaurant operations were shut down, leaving the hotel and lobby lounge as the only survivors. How it has continued to function in its current state is anyone’s guess. Despite this, I’ve been itching to stay at the Dragon ever since…just out of morbid curiosity. After all, it could be quite a thrill, especially after just watching a full season of American Horror Story – Hotel.

Although this writer tends to fluctuate randomly between adventure (skydiving over the Vegas desert) and playing safe (no SAW Escape Room Experience for me, thank you) the idea of spending the night in a nearly-abandoned hotel sounded intriguing. So when an offer came up on Agoda.com for $24 a night with no resort fees, I swooped in like a vampire after a nubile virgin.

Lucky Dragon Hotel Vegas

                   A view of the parking garage from the unattended valet area…

I arrived into town on the morning of June 14th, weary from lack of sleep and needing a nap before a function that evening. Phoning ahead to see what the soonest check-in time could be, the agent told me to come over now. There would be no additional fees for early arrival. Nice!

Lucky Dragon Hotel Vegas

Lucky Dragon Hotel Vegas

Lucky Dragon Hotel Vegas

I headed straight over from the airport, found a parking spot in their convenient (and free) parking garage and made my way into the east structure. This is where things began to get ominous, as you can see from the photos.

Lucky Dragon Hotel Vegas

Lucky Dragon Hotel Vegas

Lucky Dragon Hotel Vegas

The former casino was dark, dreary and completely silent. Makeshift signs directed guests towards the opposite building via an enclosed skybridge. Access to restrooms and other areas was blocked off, not that anyone would want to explore, would they? (heh heh)…

Lucky Dragon Hotel Vegas

       Reverse angle of the skybridge and casino (in the distance) from the hotel corridor…

At this point I’d encountered no one….not a single living soul. The silence was off-putting and in sharp contrast to the bright colors and modern decor that awaited me when I entered the lobby. A short walk past the concierge’s desk (which was actually manned) and I was facing the agent with whom I’d spoken on the phone.

Lucky Dragon Hotel Vegas

It was clear from the lack of patrons why a room was available at this hour. Aside from the back of a head near the reception desk (pictured above), I hadn’t passed a single guest.

Lucky Dragon Hotel Vegas

Without a casino or any restaurants, the resort was likely to be slow…but completely dead? I’d never seen a Vegas hotel this devoid of activity and foot traffic. Even the Imperial Palace at its skeevy worst had always been packed with bargain travelers. So where was everyone?

Lucky Dragon Hotel Vegas

Behind me was the deserted Cha Garden, a lounge and bar that specializes in specialty teas. The western wall is a series of glass doors that open up to a splashing pool, waterfall and garden. The decor is modern, soothing and of course, very feng shui. A small breakfast and coffee are served here each morning, included with the resort fee.

Lucky Dragon Hotel Vegas

And speaking of that resort fee, the agent attempted to charge it to my credit card, despite the “resort-fee inclusive” offer I booked under. She claimed that there was no such offer to her knowledge but my printout proved otherwise. And then came a lengthy wait as the clerk took my paperwork to an unseen manager in the back.

Upon her return, I was advised that the manager had been unable to reach Agoda and that they’d make a decision later as to whether I’d be assessed the resort fee ($28 plus tax). Or so they thought it was up to them. I’m not a cheapskate, but a deal’s a deal.

Lucky Dragon Hotel Vegas

Lucky Dragon Hotel Vegas

I was finally assigned room 318 (despite being the only guest, the check-in process took nearly fifteen minutes) and headed back to the elevator. The hotel’s third floor was bright, clean and cheerful. So was the king-bed accommodations. Linens and furniture were in great shape, the carpeting looked fresh and the walls were decorated in soft, soothing colors.

In-room amenities were sparse but sufficient. TV, ironing board (iron by request), dual closets, clock radio and a digital safe are standard, as were a writing desk and easy chair. Two tiny bottles of water were stocked next to an ice bucket. There was no in-room coffeemaker, but your daily java is available for free in the lobby during morning hours.

The bathroom was simple but spotless and sleek. I especially liked the inclusion of a pair of insignia-branded robes. There were no toiletries provided except for a small tube of basic shampoo and two bars of soap. The walk-in shower was large and had a stationary head at a generous level, often a problem for people of my height or higher.

Lucky Dragon Hotel Vegas

Lucky Dragon Hotel Vegas

Aside from the unnerving quiet, I was somewhat uncomfortable with the constant pink glow that flooded my quarters via the rose-colored glass. It gave a nauseating sensation of being captive inside a strange glass cage…a suffocating, queasy feeling that was compounded by the less-than-attractive view. So the curtains were drawn closed and remained that way for the duration of my visit.

Lucky Dragon Hotel Vegas

After a nap and shower it was time to attend a function at a nearby resort. Once again, not a sound to be heard or a soul to say hello while strolling through the premises. At least this time the lighting had been turned up inside the vacant casino. That evening when I returned, the common areas were still silent…except for two somewhat rough-looking guys who seemed to have wandered in just to peek around.

With nobody to monitor things of this nature, the entire casino tower and hotel corridors are basically a free-for-all. It might have been reassuring to encounter at least some type of security presence. So I definitely don’t recommend staying at Lucky Dragon if you’re a solo female…or anyone who’s easily spooked.

Lucky Dragon Hotel Vegas

When suffling downstairs the next morning for some caffeine, there were actually other guests doing the same. I’d literally been here for over nine hours without seeing another patron. There was only a handful of guests, but all seemed pleasant, mannered and reserved…a bit surprising given the ludicrously-cheap rates.

The same agent was manning the reservation desk again. She advised me that management had been unable to reach the third-party booking site but wasn’t going to charge me the disputed resort fee. I let her know that I’d be showering and departing very soon, so the young lady kindly processed my check-out.

Lucky Dragon Hotel Vegas

                                                               Taxi for one, please…

Without any crowds to speak of, it’s an easy in-out process at Lucky Dragon, which was a big plus to me. There are no long taxi lines, Uber/LYFT hordes or buses to maneuver around. The Sahara Avenue location just off the interstate makes it easy to get to and from the airport.

Lucky Dragon Hotel Vegas

There are plenty of reasons to stay at Lucky Dragon along with many downsides. I’ve already booked two future stays here but am almost certain it will be completely closed before year number two is up.

Attempts to make additional reservations on their website result in error messages, no matter what date combinations I entered. Also, a few third-party sites now offer this troubling type of message:

Lucky Dragon Hotel Vegas

                                                            Lastminutetravel.com

The north end of Las Vegas Boulevard may or may not be undergoing a renaissance, depending on whom you ask, but it’s unlikely that Lucky Dragon Hotel Casino will be part of its rebirth. Despite all the excitement this little place once brought to the city, its future looks anything but rosy.

Lucky Dragon Hotel Vegas

If you’re curious, adventurous, unafraid and would like to try a stay at Lucky Dragon, give them a call at 702.889.8018. Or you might have more success than I did booking at their website. The address is 300 West Sahara Avenue, adjacent to the Golden Steer Steakhouse.

Lucky Dragon Hotel is currently the best lodging bargain in Las Vegas. It’s new, extremely comfortable and very, very strange. Give it a try! Just don’t wait too long…the flaming breath inside this weird, unlucky little dragon will most likely be extinguished very soon.

And one more failed north-Strip resort will sit amongst the others in the dark.

Lucky Dragon Hotel Vegas

Photos: Sammasseur, exterior shots by Greg C., American Horror Story: Hotel still from FX 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Shark Sightings Stun Tourists On Las Vegas Boulevard


Palms’ reinvention lights up Strip via Flo Advertising mobile LED billboards…

When you visit the city as often as I do, you tend to become…shall we say…jaded by most of the sights and sounds around you. You can only gawk at the Bellagio fountains, the Luxor pyramid or New York NY‘s twisting Big Apple Roller Coaster so many times before you start to walk right by with perhaps a casual glance.

So whenever something new and exciting catches my gaze, it’s a memorable Sin City experience. That’s what happened last month when heading over to Planet Hollywood Casino after taking in the Bellagio Conservatory and Botanical Garden‘s spring display (always pretty…and pretty much the same as the last time).

FLO Advertising Palms Casino

While approaching the crosswalk between Cosmopolitan and Miracle Mile Shops, I was stunned by what appeared to be a giant set of teeth about to devour a man’s hand. Cue the theme from “JAWS”.

It took a moment to absorb what I was seeing…then realize that I was witnessing FLO Advertising in action. You may have caught my previous piece on FLO and how their mobile digital billboards were drawing the morbidly-curious and adventurous types to the Official SAW Escape Room Experience.

FLO Advertising SAW Escape Experience

Taking in the stunned reactions from pedestrians at the busy intersection of four major hotels was, I’ve gotta say, pretty gratifying. It’s one thing to write about a cool concept but something altogether visceral to witness it in action.

That’s what makes FLO’s approach so effective…and why Stations Casinos has entrusted FLO Advertising to publicize their reinvention of Palms Casino. Here are the specs:

FLO’s mobile digital billboards are 23% larger than the conventional mobile digital billboards you’ve been seeing on the Strip. Their electronic signage is staggering 10,000 NITS brightness which is 25% brighter than the competition. Their state of the art technology is instantly update-able and flexible, allowing for unlimited creativity and immediate response to marketing demands.

FLO Advertising Palms Casino

At this point you’ve gotta be wondering what any of this has to do with sharks. Well, the predator in question is the main attraction at a new Palms lounge called Unknown Bar. Right in the heart of the casino’s reimagined gaming floor, Unknown Bar‘s unusual shark sculpture is called The Unknown (Explored, Explained, Exploded).

This eighteen-year-old work has never been publicly exhibited before, but now it’s the centerpiece of creator Damien Hirst‘s outlandish lounge concept. Yes, the British artist who made the sculpture from a real tiger shark (and lots of formaldehyde) also designed the bar space as well.

FLO Advertising Palms Casino

Hirst has been known to raise eyebrows (and ruffle the feathers of animal-rights advocates) with his use of real creatures as art. But stirring up controversy is intentional in the new Palms ‘tude. Check it out:

This daring video reflects that gutsy approach. It depicts vandalism and arson of the Palms as a reason to celebrate. Not the kind of advertising campaign you’d typically expect to see in today’s turbulent society. But hey, points for originality!

As cool and eye-catching as the video is, it’s one thing to view it on your smartphone or PC and something far different to catch it super-lifesize and super-bright while walking the heart of the Strip. Take my word for it…FLO technology is stunning with the naked eye.

The “From Dust To Gold” renovation is covering just about every nook and cranny of Palms. Top-floor funspots like Apex Social Club and The View will compete for your attention with ground-level Rojo Lounge and 24-hour Tonic.

FLO Advertising Palms Casino

On the dining front, beloved Cafe 6 at Palms Place has given way to Laguna Pool House and Kitchen, expanding the venue beyond gourmet burgers to full breakfast, lunch, and dinner. The poolside location is gorgeous and tempting, but keep your shirt on…the elevated menu makes it clear that this isn’t a swimsuit-appropriate eatery.

Both the buffet and 24-hour diner have been given top to bottom renovations and new names, too. Out with the world’s largest Hooters, in with Scotch 80 Prime, a fine-dining destination with a focus on rare whiskeys from Scotland.

FLO Advertising Palms Casino

Along with new dining and entertainment outlets, the common areas, guestrooms, infamous Sky Villas and even the parking garages are getting major overhauls. It’s all in an effort to bring Cosmopolitan-style coolness to the off-Strip legend while offering Stations-style value to tourists and locals alike.

FLO Advertising Palms Casino

With all of this newness in the works, it doesn’t surprise me in the slightest that Palms Casino Resort has teamed up with FLO Advertising to spread the word. Boasting the biggest and brightest mobile billboards in the city, FLO assures that visitors will take notice.

FLO Advertising Palms Casino

So the next time you’re fishing for a little off-Strip excitement, hop on a bus, taxi or LYFT to check out the changes at Palms. And keep your eyes open for that shark. But don’t worry about getting chomped…he’s only going with the FLO.

FLO Advertising Palms Casino

Information about FLO Advertising Mobile Digital Billboards is available on their website. Click here to learn more or request a quote. 

Photos: Sammasseur, Palms Casino Resort via Facebook   

Videos: Palms Casino Resort, FLO Advertising