Branching Out Under The Bamboo of The Golden Tiki


Having a Q & A with Branden Powers, the ultimate lounge lizard…

As you may have heard from this blog’s Facebook posts, yours truly is branching out and writing pieces for other sites along with this one. My most recent, for BestofVegas.com, covers wonderful Golden Tiki in the Chinatown district of Las Vegas.

Click this link to read all about it…and be sure to include The Golden Tiki in your next Sin City adventure.

https://www.bestofvegas.com/articles/must-visit-vegas-golden-tiki-branden-powers/

 

 

 

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Blue Man Group – Fresh and Vibrant as Ever


Guest author Kristopher Kidd of discount ticketing site VegasFool.com grabs the reins for a review of the latest iteration of a long-running favorite…

If you’ve been visiting Las Vegas for any amount of time, there is no doubt that the colorful Blue Man Group have at least piqued your interest. Their Las Vegas journey began years ago at Luxor, followed by a move to Venetian, then Monte Carlo and now back again to Luxor.

Being one of the longest-running shows in the city is quite the accomplishment. Having seen the show before (and blown away), I was wondering if the Blue men had anything new up their sleeves. I was not disappointed.

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From the Blue Man-themed box office to the paper streamers before the show, we already knew we were about to experience something unique and fun. With so many new and re-imagined acts, it felt like I was seeing something familiar yet also somehow new.

The smoke drums are now one of my favorite parts of BMG. You’ll even be treated to the Big Drum, which is only found in the Las Vegas version of the show (Blue Man Group performs in New York, Chicago, Boston, Orlando, and Berlin as well).

Have no fear, many of your favorite Blue Man moments are still a part of the show. This includes catching marshmallows in their mouths from across the stage, the drum-bone, embarrassing late arrivals and the iconic paint drums.

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Yes, Blue Man is still loud, still hilarious, still in your face, and still the masters of sound using unconventional items for instruments. Who knew that three blue men with no ears could be such brilliant musicians?

On top of being a visual comedy concert, Blue Man also makes you think. They are better philosophers than they get credit for. Staying culturally relevant by exposing our obsession with smartphones gives the audience a chance to remind themselves to live in the moment.

The atrium-level theater at Luxor is one of the coziest you will find. With the show being so massive and the theater being so well laid out, you will literally feel the vibrations of the PVC pipe percussion.  If you’re brave enough to grab seats up front, parts of the show might land in your lap…in the form of paint and Twinkies.

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Don’t worry, ponchos are provided for those sitting in the appropriately named ‘poncho’ seats. Even sitting in the second half of the theater, you will still likely be within a few feet of a Blue Man at some point in the show. The interaction and audience involvement is all part of the fun.

Las Vegas shows sometimes struggle at simultaneously being entertaining for kids, teens, and adults. It’s hard for a show to appeal to all ages, but Blue Man Group is entertaining for everyone. It’s worth belaboring the point that it’s wildly entertaining even if your group consists of only adults.

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What’s so brilliant about BMG is their ability to entertain in many ways. It’s not just funny. It’s not just musical. It’s not just visual…it’s all of the above. You could even say it’s physically exhausting, not just for the performers, but for the audience.

Keeping up with so much activity at once is quite the accomplishment, so much so that you may be tempted to see the production again for anything you may have missed. From start to finish, the guys in blue will keep you entertained and engaged. The end of the show is as unexpected and hysterical as ever.

Blue Man Group is way too much fun!

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Blue Man Group performs nightly at 7 p.m. and 9:30 p.m. at Luxor Hotel Casino. Tickets can be purchased here. Deals for all other Las Vegas shows can be found by clicking here. The author of this article can be reached via email at KKidd@vegasfool.com

Photos: Blue Man Group, Kristopher Kidd

Close Encounters with Area 51’s Men In Black


Guest author Tasja Dubenko returns with a continuation of her eerie experiences in the Nevada desert…

I can recall vividly about seven years ago my friend Crysti and I doing endless research about Area 51. We would stay up late, sometimes even until 5am exploring Google until there were no more search results available. We had multiple books cracked open to various pages next to our laptops as we relentlessly combed through every tidbit there was to know about the subject.

Area 51 Alien Head Geocaching

We were only nineteen or twenty at the time, but the subject absolutely fascinated us. We couldn’t gain enough knowledge and even came up with our own conspiracy theories about what experiments took place there. Thinking about Area 51 excited us. It was like reading about something sci-fi with so much mystery encasing a hidden truth in it.

As I recall, we did this almost every weekend for months. Crysti would often sigh and exclaim, “Wouldn’t it be so awesome if one day we could at least just see the entrance? If we actually took a trip specifically just to see Area 51?” We would continue to dream about the opportunity that seemed so far-fetched. Little did we know that we would in fact do just that several years later. However, we may have gotten a little more than we bargained for.

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We had just gotten done doing a four hour hike in the middle of the desert on our geocaching adventure that was relatively close to Area 51. But our day was not complete. We absolutely had to see the enigmatic place that holds some of the greatest secrets that have been hidden from civilians for years.

Crysti guided me as I drove for what seemed like an eternity that appeared to lead to nowhere. And I mean nowhere. We literally drove at the bare minimum for an hour or two from our last destination at the Alien Head where we had geocached. I was going a little faster than I should have on the heavily graveled road, as the drive seemed endless and we had no concerns of encountering anyone else.

As expected, it was in the middle of nowhere and a very unusual place. There were several side roads that seemed to just disappear out of view. They would either lead towards a mountain where you could no longer see the road, or even on a flat terrain that seemed to just continue on, leading to nothing. As I continued driving, I got to a point where I thought to myself, “This is really weird. It’s like a maze deliberately trying to deter us with no real end point.”

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I also had a weird vibe about the area. It was exciting as we had dreamed about doing this for years, but something was off. Something just didn’t feel quite right. Apparently I wasn’t the only one who felt that way. My friend and I had been in a deep conversation for quite some time about certain events that happened in our earlier years when she abruptly interrupted the conversation to say, “You know, I have a really weird feeling about this place. It’s like a really weird feeling I’ve never had before and it’s not good.”

We discussed it briefly and came to a consensus that despite our peculiar feeling, we had come too far to turn around. So we pressed forward. We took a few random turns according to the map while Crysti convinced me we were on the right path. Nothing made sense out there, but maybe that is precisely their reasoning for it.

Suddenly the gravel road began to transition into a paved road. “We are only about thirty minutes away now!” she exclaimed. I continued to follow the random directions to Area 51 and as I did, the anticipation and excitement continued to grow and grow along with the uneasy feeling.

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When we saw the gate entrance in our horizon, we couldn’t have been any more exhilarated. After all these years, our dreams of this day happening had finally come true. As we drove closer and our destination became tangible, we became overcome with feelings of anxiety. “I feel like we shouldn’t be here,” I said quietly.

“I know. I feel weird like we are being watched from every angle” Cristi replied. “Don’t park too close to the gate. Should we even get out?”

“I didn’t drive all this way not to!” I said as I jumped out of the car.

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We only walked a few short feet away from where I stopped the car. We could feel as if a thousand eyes were watching us although we didn’t see anyone. It was the mother of all Big-Brother kind of feelings. “Let’s just take a few quick pictures and get out of here!” Crysti suggested. I was more than happy with that idea.

For being in such a remote area, I never had such an uncomfortable feeling before in my life. However, we both have always been extra sensitive to feelings and vibes we get, whether it is from a person or place. I quickly pulled out my phone and hit the button as many times as I could in the shortest amount of time possible to get a selfie of us.

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The sun was blinding us as we faced it to capture the gate and building behind us. But I couldn’t stop. “Let’s go!” she shouted to me as she began to walk to the car. “I want to get a quick picture of the sign!” I yelled back. I snapped a few of a post that had a sign that read ‘Military Installation, Off Limits to Unauthorized Personnel.”

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As I began to walk back to the car, I briefly looked over my shoulder just to catch one last glance of the gates that led to Area 51. Suddenly, my heart briefly stopped. There was another sign I didn’t see before that stated something along the lines of ‘Will Use Deadly Force.’ Shit. We had literally just cracked a joke about us accidentally dying due to getting lost and shot because we came too close to Area 51.

It was all fun and games when we were in the car joking about it, but now it felt like a real possibility. As we power walked to the car, suddenly we saw something coming towards us in our horizon. It was another car. In uncomfortable times we tend to make jokes. We laughed about the idea of another tourist getting lost and ending up where we were now. That joke quickly ended.

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As we sat in our car waiting for the other vehicle to drive closer to us, it suddenly pulled over and came to an abrupt halt still at a far distance from us. We were puzzled. “What should I do?” I asked. “Just drive, maybe they really are just tourists and are waiting for us to leave so they can take pictures,” she answered.

They were not tourists. As I began to drive the car slowly forward, the other car began to do the same. When we finally began to pass them, Crysti and I couldn’t help but stare. I mean, I could be wrong about them not being tourists, but both the driver and the passenger were dressed in suits with thin sunglasses that made them look like the Men in Black. They weren’t like any tourists I had ever seen before.

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“Drive slowly, I want to see them go through the gate.” I slowed the car to a crawl. We waited to see if they would go through the gate. They sat there directly in front of it, not budging. We were almost out of eye-shot when I started to see the gate lift and the car go forward right as they disappeared from site of our rear view mirrors. We wondered why they would wait until we were so far away before they actually went through, as we must have been a mile away.

We laughed it off and continued to joke that maybe they were actually not humans but maybe a part of some experiment that was being conducted at Area 51. We quickly dismissed the encounter as anything to be alarmed over and continued to drive for some time.

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At this point, we forgot about the car and had gotten into another in depth conversation that was suddenly interrupted. I glanced in my rear view mirror and saw a vehicle hauling ass towards us kicking up every bit of dust possible. We were now back on the gravel roads and a ways away from the gate at Area 51.

“Did you notice that white pick-up truck at the gate?” “Yeah.” “Is that the same one?” Holy crap it was. When we were taking pictures, we had noticed a truck behind the gate next to the building. But we didn’t see anyone there. I guess people really were watching us the entire time.

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Now they were after us, coming in hot. I began to panic. “What should I do?” “Pull over and see if he passes you,” Crysti said with some concern in her tone. I pulled the car over and the truck came to a screeching halt. It felt like a standoff with neither vehicle moving. The moment seemed to last forever even though it was only ten seconds or so. Still, the truck wouldn’t move.

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I began to drive again slowly. The truck waited for me to drive an acceptable distance before turning 180 degrees and drove off at an incredibly slower pace than when he was tailing us. The truck made it a point to ensure we were still continuing to drive in the direction away from the gate at Area 51. It was obvious our every move was being tracked and watched.

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Whoever they were, did not take unsolicited visitations lightly. They were willing to hunt our location down to protect their territory. As we watched the truck drive until we were out of view from each other, we breathed a sigh of relief thinking all this nonsense was behind us. We were actually eager to get out of there and back to our hotel hundreds of miles away.

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When we were (semi) close to getting back onto the highway, I noticed the road I was on didn’t look familiar and asked Crysti if we were on the right path. “I mean, the map says we are but I don’t recognize this either.” We continued to follow the directions, turning onto roads we obviously didn’t take when we started the journey.

We saw a few houses, but had another weird feeling about the direction we were taking. Finally, we saw the highway and were able to get onto it after a few more turns. Crysti seemed puzzled. “It’s weird because the last five roads we took aren’t even on the map.” “What do you mean? You told me to go this way,” I questioned. “I know but it just isn’t on the map. There are no roads names listed. It only told me to take a right or left. Like none of these roads exist on GPS or Google Earth. Even the houses aren’t showing up as listed addresses.

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What’s even weirder is that when we were headed to Area 51, the option of taking a right or left on these roads wasn’t there. I didn’t even see this area.” “What do you think that means?” I asked. “I have no idea, I’ve geocached all over the place in some really weird places but never had this happen. It’s almost seems like someone changed the routes on our map to make us head a different direction. I wonder if these homes belong to the people who work at Area 51?”

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This area wasn’t even visible when we started driving to Area 51. It was carefully tucked away and apparently hidden even from maps. Whether they belonged to anyone who worked at Area 51 or not, we were relieved to be out of there and on the highway again.

“Thinking back, did you ever think we would actually do this?” I asked. “We talked about it for years but I never thought if we ever did, we would have gotten chased down, discovered unlisted areas, or have seen the MIB!”

Be sure to check out Tasja’s previous article “Area 51 and the Alien Head” by clicking here.

All photos provided by the author (well, maybe)…

Hamburger Mary’s FINALLY Unleashes The Beef


Unique food and entertainment destination’s long-delayed debut is here…

It’s been more than a year since Hamburger Mary’s Las Vegas missed its projected opening date. There have actually been more delays and postponements than a Mariah Carey or Madonna concert. Some social-media skeptics have questioned whether the fun, quirky venue will EVER actually open.

But I’ve just returned from the official first hour of business and can say without a doubt: Hamburger Mary’s is going to be fabulous!

Hamburger Mary's Las Vegas

                       My original announcement as it appeared last summer…

No doubt you’ve seen my original piece that announced Mary’s return to the scene. It’s been one of my most heavily-read, suggesting that the Vegas community is really behind the venture.

Hamburger Mary's Las Vegas

So despite the low-key and quiet opening today (to allow for server training and fine-tuning operations), eager diners were lined up well before the doors unlocked. They were braving the heat for a first taste of Mary’s meat.

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Hamburger Mary's Las Vegas

Amid opening jitters and lots of excitement, partners Luigi Placencia and James Healey and General Manager Eleneki “Ernie” Yuen welcomed their first guests to the bright and campy restaurant and cabaret.

Hamburger Mary's Las Vegas

Hamburger Mary's Las Vegas

With everything that I saw today, Hamburger Mary's Las Vegas should be a big hit with the local community. It remains to be seen if the lucrative tourist trade can be made aware of its existence, but plans are in the works to draw fun-seekers from the Strip as well.

The large space at 1700 E. Flamingo Road is a true gem with ample free parking. Two dining rooms, two bars and two stages will allow for multi-purpose entertainment. An outdoor patio will be completed soon, adding to the mix.

Hamburger Mary's Las Vegas

Hamburger Mary's Las Vegas

Hamburger Mary's Las Vegas

Club Mary’s will take over one section of the venue on weekend nights beginning at 11pm. Food service is available from opening til 11pm on weekdays and until 4am for those party nights of Friday and Saturday.

 

A limited menu is in effect for the soft opening, which should run until the first week of September. Then comes the Grand Opening gala with everything Hamburger Mary’s is known for. Prepare yourself for outrageous drag shows, sexy male dancers…and perhaps a certain gathering of hunks that I’ve been working on for awhile.

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Hamburger Mary's Las Vegas

                Yes, your bill will come to you in a high heel shoe…

Hamburger Mary's Las Vegas

Hamburger Mary's Las Vegas

Hamburger Mary's Las Vegas

         Gender-neutral restrooms – Mary’s progressive all-welcome philosophy…

As Ernie Yuen posted on Facebook today, the challenges to plan out Mary’s return to the city will be worth it in the long run:

It’s been 17 months since Luigi Placencia and I met. I was doing a in-house call for our Las Vegas PRIDE Magazine. Lou wanted to be an advertising partner with Las Vegas PRIDE to promote his nightclub (FLAIR). We were sitting in this empty space, a very large room with 3 walls and a bar connected to a room that looked like a kitchen.

Luigi Placencia and I clicked, both of us with potty mouths and crazy personalities. We instantly became friends. This all started with one question an honest answer and a promise.

The Question- What are you going to do with this amazing space?

The Answer- I wanted to build a home for our Las Vegas LGBT Community

The Promise- If you build a Hamburger Mary’s I promise to come and work for you and be your GM.

Today- excited, happy, nervous- we open our doors at 11:00am- It’s finally here. Let the fun begin!

Hamburger Mary's Las Vegas

             Myself with partners James Healey (left) and Luigi Placencia…

Hamburger Mary's Las Vegas

   With FLO Advertising’s Mike Foland aka “Money Mike” of Men of the Strip…

Based on what I saw today, Hamburger Mary’s Las Vegas should be a big hit with the local community. It remains to be seen if the lucrative tourist trade can be made aware of its existence. No doubt plans are in the works to draw fun-seekers from the Strip as well.

Good luck to everyone and I’ll be seeing you. A lot.

Hamburger Mary’s is located at 1700 East Flamingo Road. Hours are from 11am to 11pm weekdays, Friday and Saturday until 4am.

Photos: Sammasseur, David Vincent via Facebook

 

Hot Guys of Vegas – International Edition


Serving up a heaping helping of Sin City beefcake from all over the world…

Sometimes an accent can make your heart beat faster. Sean Connery‘s Irish brogue. Antonio Banderas‘ Spanish stylings. The suave sophistication of Daniel Craig and his “Queen’s English”. Then of course there are the men of Australia. Each are sexy on their own terms.

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With Las Vegas being the capital of entertainment, studs (and damsels) from all over the world make their way here, often competing to find their way to the top. Dancers, models, singers, fitness celebs, strippers…and sometimes even escorts (this isn’t Disney, folks). If you can make it here, you can make it anywhere.

I’ve been lucky enough to become acquainted with some stunning examples of manhood since this column began. Graced with charm, ambition, great personalities and boundless talent, the Hot Guys of Vegas continue to fascinate and astound. This is my latest entry in Hot Guys of VegasInternational Edition.

 

Fabian Batey Petrina – immigration coordinator/bodybuilder

 

Hot Guys of Vegas International

                                                              Fabian Batey Petrina

Where You’ve Seen Him – Events, Physique Magazines, Bodybuilding competitions

Wrap your mind around this reality – a hard-bodied hunk with the cheekbones of a top model and the physique of a Greek god is actually an intellectual on a social mission. Now accept that reality as a truth. Meet Fabian Batey Petrina.

Hot Guys of Vegas International

Fabian grew up as a happy boy in Heidelberg. The son of a single mother, he remembers being very content. “Germany’s full of beautiful memories. I had an amazing childhood. Every time I think back on it, I just smile”.

Fabian’s mother grew up under rough circumstances with an abusive father and a mother who committed suicide when she was very young. Finding strength in the situation, she dedicated her own life to making her son’s a happy one. Then she fell in love with an American soldier and suddenly Fabian had a younger brother.

Hot Guys of Vegas International

When he was fourteen, Fabian’s family moved to Hawaii to be with his new stepfather. Things didn’t go well in this new environment. He describes himself as an awkward kid with glasses who didn’t know English well and was the target of mental and physical abuse by bullies. Things got so badly at school that he nearly followed his late grandmother’s path to escape the torment.

Then came the health issues. A tumor developed in one of his legs. A degenerative cartilage condition attacked the other. Multiple surgeries followed, with lengthy periods in a wheelchair and then crutches. But Fabian found a way to work through the emotional and physical pain. Bodybuilding ended up being his salvation.

As Fabian told Muscle & Performance magazine for their December 2017 issue:

The schoolyard became a battlefield in which I found myself dodging verbal and physical attacks, hiding in whatever shadow I could find. My left jaw and eye socket were fractured the one time I did try to stand up for myself, which shattered my self-confidence.

The one “friend” who remained by my side was the sport of bodybuilding. Working out became more than a hobby, it became my foundation, my sanity and my safe haven. Through hard work, I constructed an armor that took the target off my back and allowed me to stand up tall and be proud of who I am.

Hot Guys of Vegas International

Not satisfied with developing his body, Fabian earned multiple degrees in English and German literature and language. While attending the University of Hawaii at Manoa, Mr. Petrina served as an English tutor, despite it being his own second language.

Hot Guys of Vegas International

                    Fabian with his beloved mother at college graduation…

Passionate about the power of words, this remarkable young man assisted foreign and mentally disabled students who had difficulty with remedial and developmental English. His goal was to assist them through the cultural differences they were experiencing like he had. To accomplish that, he coordinated a program designed to give a smooth transition into the college lifestyle.

Hot Guys of Vegas International

If that wasn’t enough to solidify his place as a true-life hero, Fabian was also a volunteer at the Honolulu Fire Department, assisted the homeless via Houseless ‘Ohana organization and devoted his free time to the staff at Honolulu’s The Queen’s Medical Center.

Hot Guys of Vegas International

Hot Guys of Vegas International

Of course, living in the Island State’s sunny paradise provided for plenty of outdoor adventures…and opportunities to tan his amazing physique. Eventually Fabian decided to move to mainland San Francisco. Now he splits his days between the Bay area, Las Vegas and Los Angeles.

To me, living in Las Vegas is the perfect environment for bodybuilding. Not only is it extremely low cost of living, but the fitness community is huge here. My favorite part is the heat. I love desert heat. I don’t really like Vegas that much in the winter, but when it’s nice and hot it gives me energy.

Hot Guys of Vegas International

Whenever possible, Fabian likes to hang out with his fitness pals at Venice’s famed Muscle Beach. There’s no better place in the physique culture for photo ops and networking.

Hot Guys of Vegas International

This ambitious young man earned his WBFF professional status last summer, which allowed him to compete in London. Plus he’s now a brand ambassador for the MuscleTech line of fitness products and apparel.

Hot Guys of Vegas International

Fabian hasn’t forgotten the difficulties he faced as an immigrant. In fact, he’s now “paying it forward” in a sense. For the past three and a half years he’s been a Global Immigration Coordinator for Fragomen, a worldwide group of immigration consultants, solicitors and attorneys.

Hot Guys of Vegas International

It’s been a tough journey for this once-frail little dreamer. But Fabian’s story was never going to be ordinary. With his mother as his inspiration, Fabian believes that anything is possible. You’ve just go to be willing to work hard for it. Very hard.

Hot Guys of Vegas International

Get up early, bust ass, dream big, believe in yourself, and always – ALWAYS – remember to SMILE. – Fabian Petrina

 

 

David Goldrake – magician/philanthropist

 

Hot Guys of Vegas International

                                                    David Goldrake

Where you’ve seen him – IMAGINARIUM at Tropicana, charity events

In 2006, Hugh Jackman portrayed a mysterious illusionist in the film The Prestige. Sporting a lush wardrobe of ornate vests and gorgeous tuxedos, the Aussie heartthrob had many fans wishing the aristocratic magician would ditch his costumes to reveal a little of his famous physique.

Hot Guys of Vegas International

In 2017, Vegas fans of that movie got their wish…in a sense…when Luxembourg’s David Goldrake opened IMAGINARIUM at Tropicana‘s historic showroom. Much like Hugh Jackman, the beefy entertainer fills his jackets with rippling muscles and physical ferocity. And in a tension-filled segment, he DOES strip down to be submerged for an underwater escape. You can breathe now.

Hot Guys of Vegas International

As gorgeous as he is on the outside, David Goldrake has the same beauty within. I’ve had the pleasure of building a friendship with this gentleman over the past few months and continue to be fascinated with the kind and gentle soul that forms his core.

Hot Guys of Vegas International

Goldrake has performed throughout Europe for the better part of two decades. In 1997 he had his own weekly television show “Magic With David Goldrake”. A favorite at world-famous Magic Castle in Los Angeles, he estimates that he has entertained twenty million people around the world.

Hot Guys of Vegas International

David’s love for people is demonstrated by his dedication to philanthropic causes. He strive to raise awareness for issues dear to his heart, like Fondatioun Kriibskrank Kanner, a charity that assists children fighting cancer and their families.

Hot Guys of Vegas International

David entertaining children at SOS Village of Niger in 2011...

Then there’s SOS Villages d’Enfants Monde, a Luxembourg-based organization aimed at helping thousands of vulnerable children and their families worldwide. There are many more as well.

Hot Guys of Vegas International

Early next month, David will be a guest performer at the annual AFAN Black and White Party, a fundraiser for Las Vegas men, women and children living with HIV/AIDS. The event takes place September 8th at Mandalay Bay’s DAYLIGHT Beach Club. Tickets are available by clicking here.

The fact that David is fluent in seven languages continues to intrigue me…as does his unique Luxembourg accent. He can strike up a conversation with anyone…about anything…and usually in their native tongue. His love for people comes through at every moment…that’s especially true when he’s in front of an audience.

Hot Guys of Vegas International

Many illusionists see their performance as being “in character”. For Goldrake, his actual personality is as much of the show as his props or sets. Ever observant of the audience, he engages as many guests as time and crowd size will allow. This makes each visit to the production unique and satisfying.

Last week it was announced that IMAGINARIUM would be coming to a close at the end of September. So now it’s more of a must see than ever. David’s eloquence, passion for the art of illusion and over-the-top sexiness set him apart from most other entertainers on the Strip.

Hot Guys of Vegas International

That makes IMAGINARIUM a thing of true beauty…just like its star. Don’t miss it.

David Goldrake IMAGINARIUM performs Tuesday through Sunday at 7pm. Groupon is currently offering discounts starting at $26.00. Click here for tickets. 

Photos – Fabian Batey Petrina and David Goldrake via Facebook/Instagram, Wainwright Images, SOS Villages

 

 

Culinary Superstars – Dora Pane: Careers, Fine Dining and “La Famiglia”


In the concluding segment of my series, Fresco Italiano’s General Manager brings the invaluable warmth of family gatherings to her restaurant guests…

Last month I introduced you to a pair of genuine Italians who have brought true authenticity to dining at Westgate Las Vegas. And while I focused on dynamic Chef Paola Bugli in that previous piece, it was with the promise that next time we’d get to know Fresco Italiano‘s general manager Dora Festa Pane.

Dora Pane Fresco Italiano Westgate

It seems fitting that “Festa” is part of this lovely lady’s name. After all, the Italian derivation of “festival” is the sensation you’ll have when dining at this authentic eatery. Each meal is meant to be an experience, something that Ms. Dora (as I like to call her) promises to every guest.

Dora Pane Fresco Italiano Westgate

In order to deliver on that commitment, the native of Naples dined at Fresco Italiano to see what it was like…and determine if she could put her own personal imprint onto the already-successful restaurant.

I came at the end of last year to eat, check things out and see what it was like. I didn’t introduce myself to the server or tell anyone that I was considering a position here. It’s better to just observe, analyze and think about what could be improved.

Honestly, I wasn’t completely happy. When this is your career, you find yourself analyzing so many things. Fresco Italiano is a beautiful place and there were many things to love. But their way of serving the guests could have been carried out much better.

Dora Pane Fresco Italiano Westgate

It’s easy to be a restaurant critic in today’s world of online user reviews, but Ms. Dora was honing her craft (and what makes a restaurant successful) long before Yelp! came along. Years of experience in high-profile establishments throughout the Vegas valley established her as an expert at her profession. So when that evening at Fresco Italiano didn’t quite meet her exacting standards, she accepted an invitation to make it her own.

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It may surprise you that a manager would be so candid about their own place of employment, but Ms. Dora is no-nonsense and outspoken. Fluent in several languages, she’s a colorful conversationalist who speaks from the heart. Her exposure to a myriad of cultures and atmospheres warrants your trust in her abilities.

As soon as I came in, I needed to learn about my crew…as a group and as individuals. It’s tough to do that when a place is already established. You need to be sweet AND sour. There were things to fix, but I didn’t come here to change people. Only to make them better.

When operating a restaurant, Ms. Dora does so with a mixture of passion and skill from the perspective of an actual owner. You might say that operating restaurants is in Dora’s blood. Her father had his own passion for great dining service and was a longtime maître d’ in her hometown of Naples before becoming a food critic. Although he passed away at a relatively young age, Dora credits him with much of her professionalism and knowledge. 

Dora Pane Fresco Italiano Westgate

After high school, she earned degrees in both Education and Psychology from Italy’s Cristo Re Magistral Institute. That unique combination might not be the norm for a career in restaurant management, but she feels it’s given her distinct advantages in this field.

I’m a teacher here at the restaurant…and psychology helps me with my work, too. It’s much easier to teach children because adults tend to resist. Everyone has something that holds them back. It could be their pride, birth sign, background life…whatever. My job is to overcome that.

When I came here in secret, my server clearly had something holding him back. Now that we’ve worked together, he’s the best server in the entire restaurant.

As we spoke in the darkened lounge a little before opening time, Ms. Dora happened to notice a few people standing at the entrance. Excusing herself, she greeted the group and invited them to have some wine at the bar until actual service began.

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“My bartender will probably get angry with me for doing his job” she winked as we resumed our conversation. That small moment of courtesy spoke mountains about Ms. Dora’s character. A lesser host would have simply asked them to return at the proper time. But this professional knows that a good impression lasts a lifetime.

It’s no wonder that Dora Pane has been involved with many wonderful Las Vegas restaurants in the valley. She’s been in the Vegas area for twenty-one years and dove headfirst into the big leagues by starting at MGM Grand.

Ms. Dora eyes lit up as she excitedly shared her history throughout Sin City. While moonlighting at dance clubs, she quickly rose from working as a food server to managing family-owned food shops. That was followed by a position as assistant manager at Terrazza at Caesars Palace. Overlooking the glorious Garden of the Gods, Terrazza was a fine-casual Italian restaurant located in the spot now occupied by Rao’s Las Vegas.

Dora Pane Fresco Italiano Westgate

Remaining within the Caesars family, Ms. Dora opened Voga, a modern Italian venue at nearby Flamingo Casino Resort. Seen above with her epicurean team, she proudly described ten years with Caesars corporation, which also included a stint at Steakhouse 46 (inside Flamingo). Sadly, it all came to a close when the company began doing huge cuts.

Dora Pane Fresco Italiano Westgate

What followed was a vast array of life experiences – running Robert De Niro’s Tuscan-themed AGO at Hard Rock Hotel (“that place was too classy for Hard Rock”), collaborating with Todd Moreau at both Hard Rock and Sunset Station (“we tend to follow each other”) and achieving new career standards at ALLEGRO of Wynn/Encore.

Things didn’t go as well as I would have liked at ALLEGRO. The hours were very bad. I had a young child at the time and no extended family here. Money isn’t everything when your children need you. So I left ALLEGRO after exactly one year.

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Yearning more of an atmosphere and schedule suited for a working mother, Ms. Dora settled in wonderfully at Venetian‘s Trattoria Reggiano (locals flock to the Downtown Summerlin’s flagship location). Spearheaded by Fifth Avenue Restaurant Group, Trattoria Reggiano brought her into a powerhouse that operates over forty establishments….and full circle with their involvement at Flamingo, Venetian and MGM Grand.

Dora Pane Fresco Italiano Westgate

After high school, eldest daughter Daniela graduated from University of Nevada, Las Vegas and moved to Naples. Son Gio has followed in the footsteps of his mother and grandfather by joining the staff at legendary Vegas Italian eatery Battista’s Hole in the Wall.

Dora Pane Fresco Italiano Westgate

And with youngest daughter Alessandra now grown into a lovely young lady, mother Dora has seized another opportunity to make an impact on the ever-changing Sin City dining scene.

Dora Pane Fresco Italiano Westgate

Perhaps the importance of family is why Ms. Pane agreed to spearhead the staff at Fresco Italiano. As I’ve said many times in this column, Westgate exemplifies the principles of dedication, service and commitment to guests that Las Vegas was founded on.

It’s a philosophy that hearkens back to the days of Mob-run Vegas, when the guests were all that mattered (well, maybe a few other things, too…). With the recent downturn in stock values and profits for Caesars and MGM Resorts properties, the current business model for Las Vegas has been put under intense scrutiny. Westgate was already ahead of the curve on a customer-based ideology that’s sorely in need of a city-wide renaissance.

Dora Pane Fresco Italiano Westgate

                     Sharing the Fresco Italiano family experience with my own…

It’s true that attractions, restaurants and even entire resorts come and go in this city. But the priceless importance of its people will remain. What makes any organization work, at its core, is the dedication and camaraderie of its team.

Ms. Dora Pane understands this. With her in the driver’s seat and Chef Paola Bugli in charge of the kitchen, a journey through the Tuscan landscape via Fresco Italiano is one you’ll want to repeat over and over again. Finisci di mangiare!

Dora Pane Fresco Italiano Westgate

Fresco Italiano is open for dinner 365 days a year at 5 pm – lunch hours vary by date. For more information or to place reservations call 702.732.5276.

Photos: Sammasseur, Dora Festa Pane, Westgate Las Vegas, Cyber-reef.com

 

 

 

Get Ready For Another Dose of OPIUM


Spiegelworld’s sexy interstellar spaceship comedy gets an upgrade…

Damn, this has been a really tough summer for Vegas entertainers. Shows have been closing left and right, some before they’ve barely gotten out of preview. Sadly, I’ve seen many of my performer friends leaving Sin City for better opportunities in Los Angeles and New York City.

OPIUM Spiegelworld Cosmopolitan

So where does that leave a spaceship full of cosmic settlers trying to make a name for themselves on the Strip? Well, if you’re the passengers and crew of the OPM 73 Starship, you’re bound and determined to make your new production OPIUM a hit. After all, a return trip to Uranus would be the ultimate walk of shame.

That’s why the Spiegelworld team, creators of ABSINTHE, have streamlined and upgraded their glitzy homage to wacky 70’s variety shows with new songs, a faster storyline and plenty of humorous new acts. If you grew up on Saturday morning Sid and Marty Krofft programs like LAND OF THE LOST, DR. SHRINKER, FAR OUT SPACE NUTS and THE LOST SAUCER, then OPIUM is for you!

OPIUM Spiegelworld Cosmopolitan

You may have seen my previous review of OPIUM that I published in April. Well, blast that one into space via the airlock on Deck C. OPIUM 2.0 deserves its own write-up. It’s funnier, more shocking and a lot more polished. Look for things to get even flashier with the possible addition of BAZ’s prolific costume designer Olwen Zarlengo.

BTW, it’s still as naughty as ever, so leave your sticky little rugrats at home!

OPIUM Spiegelworld Cosmopolitan

The basic premise is the same – crewmates of the OPM 73 perform variety acts for the passengers when not engaging in sexual encounters with each other. We’re introduced to new trainee “Chip”, a virginal geek unsuccessfully looking for his first physical encounter. Despite all the randy opportunities aboard, Chip is holding out for love.

OPIUM Spiegelworld Cosmopolitan

Chip’s mechanical pal Rob the Robot doesn’t understand the concept of emotions, so Chip installs an upgrade into Rob’s software that puts him on his own path of sexual exploration. Can robots do the deed with horny humans while on a lengthy trek through the stars? You betcha….just wait until you see the newest crew member at the finale.

OPIUM Spiegelworld Cosmopolitan

The revised plot has jettisoned a riff on 1979’s Ridley Scott film ALIEN. Gone is the oversized Muppet running amok in the bowels of the ship. Captain Kunton is now in charge, replacing Ann Tennille (whose character has apparently disappeared into a black hole). The new captain has an affection for playing with his diablos (those Asian yo-yo’s), as well as certain members of the audience.

Luckily, the best variety acts have remained on board for all to enjoy. Portly maintenance man Scotty still dazzles with his flamboyant hula-hoop routine. Mateo – Queen of the Galaxy, aka the “Latino Freddie Mercury”, vies for your attention with a pair of banana-shooting WTF’s. And crowd favorites Yuri and Cosmo continue to dazzle with their shirtless-muscleboy-and-his puppy showstopper.

OPIUM Spiegelworld Cosmopolitan

        Flashy but maudlin “Dusty Moonboots” belts out another heartbreaking hit…

Also returning are drag-tastic crooner “Dusty Moonboots” and sword-swallowing Rear Admiral Todd Vader, whose role has been wisely amped up to include a subplot involving engine-room sabotage…using an enormous dildo. Don’t say you weren’t warned.

OPIUM Spiegelworld Cosmopolitan

Among the new acts is a whip-cracking Puerto Rican security officer Judita with an overactive libido. He has a mid-scene costume change that will have you gasping for days. Don’t let ANYONE spoil the surprise….and don’t reveal the twist once you’ve seen it.

As with most variety-dependent shows, expect OPIUM to continually evolve. You can be sure that each visit will be unique and memorable…just like every trip to Las Vegas.

OPIUM Spiegelworld Cosmopolitan

           Social media celebrity Perez Hilton and I take in a performance of OPIUM…

And with the volatile nature of today’s entertainment market, it would be wise for you to see OPIUM right now. You never know what threat lies around the corner…or in the furthest reaches of outer space. So grab a “Spocktail” and enjoy the show.

OPIUM Spiegelworld Cosmopolitan

OPIUM Spiegelworld Cosmopolitan

OPIUM performs at the OPIUM THEATER next to Rose.Rabbit.Lie on the second level of Cosmopolitan Las Vegas. Showtimes are Wednesday through Monday at 8pm with additional 10pm shows Thursday through Sunday. Tickets start at $79 (plus taxes/fees) and can be purchased via this link

OPIUM Spiegelworld Cosmopolitan

VegasFool.com is currently running a special for $38 that you can take advantage of by clicking here.

Photos: Sammasseur