Straight to the Heart: Hospice, Therapy Dogs and a Pet Drive


“Man’s best friend will be there until the end”…

Having just lost my dear cat Sunny to cancer a few weeks ago, I’ve had plenty of hours to reflect on love, loss and courage. It’s been a rough time for this writer, so I can appreciate the enormous grief that families and friends face when losing a loved one. For patients who know that they won’t be recovering, there’s an absolute right to move on with dignity and compassion.

27540986_1259715177495351_3009490876277565785_n

Not all of us are equipped to handle end-of-life situations. Thank goodness there are community resources to ease the journey and provide comfort along the way. Nathan Adelson Hospice of Las Vegas is one such organization. This non-profit has been around for four decades, providing top quality in-home and in-patient palliative treatment and hospice care.

Nathan Adelson was a visionary administrator for Sunrise Hospital, the largest medical facility in Nevada at the time of its construction. Mr. Adelson was deeply respected as a humanitarian, overflowing with kindness and compassion. When cancer took his life, friends and family established the hospice to continue his enormous legacy.

ms-00318_b001f06_001-004

                                Nathan Adelson was taken by cancer in 1978…

The volunteers at Nathan Adelson Hospice dedicate time and their hearts to hundreds of dying patients each day. Naturally these special people come from all walks of life and a myriad of different social environments. Some volunteers even come from local animal shelters.

You see, therapy dogs are a big part of Nathan Adelson’s many programs. Their organization recognizes and promotes the comfort that animals bring to those undergoing emotional challenges. To make that happen, hospice patients get visits from specially trained support animals.

Paws for Paul Pet Therapy Program was created for in conjunction with celebrity Brad Garrett, a longtime advocate for NAH. Brad’s brother Paul Ames was the widely-respected manager of Brad Garrett’s Comedy Club at MGM Grand. Sadly Paul, who was an ardent supporter of animals, passed away from pancreatic cancer last year. To honor his legacy, Garrett and NAH President Carol Fisher launched the Paws For Paul pet therapy team.

panzer03

This dashingly handsome fellow is named Panzer. He and his mom Becky Gang are part of the Paws for Paul team. Becky is Panzer’s trainer and the two of them volunteer for Nathan Adelson Hospice. Becky has been training service and support animals for many years. Panzer is her ninth NAH co-volunteer and her current star pupil.

Here’s an excerpt from the NAH blog that tells a fascinating story about Panzer’s gifts:

When Panzer was leaving the Swenson facility one day, he insisted on stopping at the door of a patient. Becky asked the family if it would be okay if Panzer visited the patient and they gladly approved. Panzer went right up to the person’s bed and stayed nearby on the floor, providing quiet, calming support. It appears Panzer also has an awareness of when a patient is nearing the very end of his or her journey of life, as that patient was in the stages of actively dying.

When Panzer puts on his work vest, he knows he’s on the job and his temperament suits the task at hand – providing that gentle comfort to patients in need of a furry friend. He’s more playful and energetic at home. Becky says, “When he gets home from visiting hospice patients, it’s almost like he’s bragging to the other pets that he got to go out and provide help that day.”

panzer02

                          Panzer and trainer/co-volunteer Becky Gang….

Panzer and Becky are also doing their part for the 8th Annual Dog Bed and Blanket Drive. They’re asking the public to donate unopened food, blankets and bedding at designated collection sites to be distributed to local shelters. The winter months pose special challenges for local animal shelters. Contrary to popular belief, it does get cold in Las Vegas…and those concrete shelter floors can be unforgivable.

shelter-cat2.jpg

Shelter cats are also included in the drive. Kitty care requires food, toys, beds, bowls and litter. Please consider dropping off cleaning supplies, towels, wash cloths, paper towels and other basic necessities too. These items are desperately needed to help keep animals comfortable, safe and healthy while they wait for someone to adopt them…or recruit them as service and support animals.

The marvelous mission and multitude of community-driven programs that the folks at Nathan Adelson carry out require a great deal of funding. Fortunately they’ve been selected as a 2019 recipient of the MONDAYS DARK program.

You may recall my recent piece on MONDAYS DARK, an entertainment series which donates the proceeds from every performance to a different cause. Their March 18th production at The Space (3460 Cavaretta Court) will benefit Nathan Adelson Hospice…and by extension, the Paws for Paul pet therapy program. Click here to learn more and get tickets to the show.

The cycle of compassion, kindness and caring on display in this community is absolutely massive in scale. It demonstrates once more what a closely-knit group the citizens of Las Vegas truly are. As a new resident, I couldn’t be more excited and proud to call this place my home.

The Paws for Paul Pet Drive runs through February 1st. If you’d like to donate, please bring new or gently-used items and unopened food to any of the four Nathan Adelson Hospice locations:

* 4141 Swenson St., Las Vegas

* 3150 N. Tenaya Way (near Cheyenne), Suite 350, in the Mountain View Medical Office Building, Las Vegas

* 2270 E. Commercial Rd., Suite A/B in Pahrump

* 1201 Nevada State Drive in Henderson

You can also deliver donations to any Ovation Property Management location listed here.

49561107_10218250451398410_4580885132910526464_n

                                            Dedicated to Sunny Novak   

                                                    (unknown- 1/2/19)

Special thanks to Emma Williams and Allison Duck for their assistance with this article.

Advertisements

NSPCA and FLO Advertising Team Up to Save Animals In Need


High-tech mobile digital billboard brings much-needed attention to Nevada’s no-kill shelter…

You’ve seen them on the Strip, grabbing the attention of thousands of tourists with its stunning clarity and brightness. You’ve read my articles touting their collaborations with PALMS Casino and SAW ESCAPE EXPERIENCE. You might have witnessed seen my own visage frightening visitors a few months ago.

FLO Advertising Palms Casino

There’s no question that FLO Advertising‘s mobile digital billboard service makes things happen. Now they’re using their technology to make a difference for homeless cats and dogs at the Nevada Society for the Protection Against Cruelty to Animals aka NSPCA.

 

 

Located at 4800 W. Dewey Drive, just a chew bone’s toss away from Mandalay Bay, the NSPCA operates as both a charitable organization and a no-kill shelter. The Las Vegas chapter, which is also the state headquarters, is home to over a thousand found and surrendered animals at any given time. This staggering number means that they operate at full capacity and rely on adoptions to make room for other needy animals.

Every soul is precious.  Dogs, cats, and other domesticated animals offer perfect love — unconditional devotion — and depend on people for care and survival.  Each one deserves kindness and a happy home.

Nevada SPCA rescues “unwanted” animals, those with advanced challenges (abuse, birth defects, illness, injury, neglect, starvation), and those in peril at other shelters. Volunteers and staff help mend broken hearts and broken bones.  They heal without deadlines and learn that people can be compassionate and nurturing. We then strive to match each rescued animal with people by personality and lifestyle in order to find them lifelong, stable homes.

Besides annually adopting and rescuing thousands of cats and dogs, and hundreds of birds and rabbits, Nevada SPCA also rescues and adopts more than a dozen other domesticated species in urgent need, including guinea pigs, ferrets, fish, goats, pigs, gerbils, hamsters, mice, rats, degus, sugar gliders, and turtles.

NSPCA

45862160_2146022578751651_5257160903698153472_n

It’s vital to recognize that any shelter worth its mission statement is very careful to match pets with the proper families. This vetting process ensures that each cat, dog or other pet will have the greatest success in integrating with someone’s household. It’s a painful truth, but not every person is meant to be a pet parent, and not every pet is right for every home.

46184581_2151024438251465_1030382574368718848_n

So along with protecting and providing for these animals, the NSPCA provides education to the public. A vast amount of their resources and time are devoted to rehabilitating pets that come from bad situations and/or health issues and injuries. All of these challenges require money, of course, so fundraising and community outreach make up a big part of the NSPCA‘s operations.

46517146_2163638440323398_6308856497359028224_n.jpg

Celebrities and other organizations often come to the aid of NSPCA. In October of this past year, Vegas Indoor Skydiving hosted the Third Annual Tunnel Flight Jam Competition and Celebrity Challenge. Familiar faces like Carrot Top, Golden Knights announcer Mark Shunock and BMX Pro Ricardo Laguna gathered to raise money for the shelter. Along with food, blankets and toys, the event collected over $3,000.00

44774021_2121415797878996_4467368301168689152_n

 Mark Shunock of MONDAYS DARK (with “Rugby”) is a big supporter of NSPCA…

As I’ve mentioned many times in the past, Las Vegas is a tight-knit community. The residents here are always eager to lend a hand and help one another. As luck would have it, popular thrill-maker Jason Egan of SAW Escape Experience is on the NSPCA’s Board of Directors.

FloHeader1

After his successful FLO Advertising campaign for the thrilling SAW attraction, Egan invited FLO’s Mike Foland to volunteer his mobile digital billboard services to the NSPCA. In no time, FLO was touting the glories of gorgeous Mamma Cass and her pups, along with Chevy (banner photo above), a badly-injured cat that was saved from a car engine and brought back to health.

It’s easy to recognize a FLO Advertising truck. They’re the biggest and brightest on the Strip, so naturally they leave a lasting impression. I can speak from experience, for when I advertised on FLO my readership absolutely soared. My billboard also expanded Vegas Unfiltered‘s demographics and coverage far beyond Las Vegas. In fact, I was recognized in the small town of Tonopah NV, over two hundred miles away, simply because of the advertisement you see below…and my enormous cranium, of course.

38761800_418774465283802_8508980222316511232_n (2)

All of the animals you see below and hundreds more are waiting for loving parents. If that person is you. make plans to visit the NSPCA and discover your new family member. Not only will you change their life, but they will change yours, too.

For information on  NSPCA, including adopting, donating or volunteering, click here. Hours for visiting are 10 am to 4 pm Monday through Thursday, 10 am to 5 pm on Friday and Saturday (no public hours on Sundays).

thumbnail_9989

To learn more about FLO Advertising or to request a quote, visit their webpage at floadvertising.com or call Mike Foland at 702.203.0471.

Photos: NSPCA, Jason Egan, FLO Advertising, Sam Novak

Being Gay at a 2019 Male Revue


Guest author Ryan Topping gives us another perspective on a topical subject…

I’ve had a couple of guest authors since the beginning of this site, but this is the first time that someone has written a companion piece to one of my originals. It’s important to note that Mr. Topping is a few generations removed from my own. He’s become an adult in a world where marriage equality and LGBTQ rights are mostly established (despite the current political regime’s attempt to undo them). Growing up in a more progressive culture undoubtedly impacts your point of view. But that doesn’t mean you’re oblivious to what’s come before…and what challenges still remain.

41067519_10217284027558418_4366732183721738240_n

You may recall that a little over a year ago, Sam published this article in which he ranked Vegas male revues from a gay p.o.v. I discovered that article while doing research for my 21st birthday, trying to determine if there were any shows in which I could expect to receive attention. Reading his article was the beginning of a series of events that lead to us actually meeting in person.

Sam’s article was fantastic (and in my opinion will always be his most useful), but I wanted to write one that dealt with the subject matter from a slightly different angle. I’m talking about the personal realities of attending as gay man. Unlike Sam’s article, I’m not intent on discussing each show individually, but instead certain things that apply to all. These matters can be viewed as positive, negative, or somewhere in between depending on the person and situation. So here they are, in no particular order:

You Will Always Be In the Minority

It’s a well-understood fact that gay people are a minority in the world. In daily life this difference isn’t always felt, but that all changes when we go to a male revue. You’ll instantly feel like a minority. I believe that in almost every one I’ve been to, I’ve been able to count the number of gentlemen on one hand.

I’d like to make a comparison for perspective. I’m currently attending nursing school, and out of my class’s forty-six students, I’m one of only seven guys. Even in this female-dominated field, that’s still a higher ratio than at a male revue. The first few times I viewed this a major negative. Despite being a confident gay man, this made me feel less so. Luckily after a few visits, it became a positive and was perceived as something that made me stand out.

You’ll Have a Your Own Private Bathroom

This is an example for a specific show, but I love it so much I had to include it. Both before and after Chippendales you can spend time in the adjacent Flirt Lounge. Only ticket holders can access this lounge so there are at most a few males there. While there are girls constantly coming in and out of the ladies’ room, you’ll have your own private restroom. That makes it a great place to fix your hair, check your teeth and be sure your outfit is just right before meeting the performers.

You’ll Never Be the Primary Focus. It Will Always Be “Ladies Night”

4119

No matter how progressive male revues have become, their focus will always be on the primary clientele…women. It’s impossible not to read or hear the words “Ladies Night Out”, “Girls Night Out”, “Bachelorette Party” or “Bride To Be”. I’ve never seen guys being addressed in either advertising or merchandising.  The host will almost always refer to the audience as “ladies” instead of “ladies and gentlemen” or something gender-neutral.

Handshakes, High-Fives and Hugs: The Dreaded Three

At many shows you can expect to receive handshakes, high fives and maybe a few hugs…but not much else. At Thunder From Down Under that’s all you can expect. While attending Chippendales I’ve had a few experiences that extend beyond this, but the one notable exception is Aussie Heat. Their show was specifically created with inclusive treatment in mind. For guys, this is the one show at which you expect to receive some serious, meaningful attention.

41413789_1112061555637277_6166193274517192704_n

You’ll Feel Grateful To Get What Women Routinely Receive

When women go to a male revue they are able to touch, grab and squeeze whatever they want on a dancer. For men, this is definitely not the case. Every little bit of attention you receive from a measly handshake to a high-five will feel like a privilege you had to earn…not something you have a right to expect. Yet the more often I go, the less it seems obligatory to be grateful for these things. Maybe that’s why I go so often? (ha ha)

You’ll Be Scared to Push the Boundaries

No matter where I am, I’m always concerned about not pushing boundaries. Women don’t have to be conscious of this at all. Most times I let the dancer guide where my hands go. I’m more independent and free at Aussie Heat, but even there I find myself being aware of it.

You Can Almost Forget About Going On Stage

When you’re a guy at Thunder From Down Under, you can forget about an onstage number. With Chippendales the best you can hope for is being roped up by the guys for their cowboy number…and that only lasts about a minute. For Aussie Heat the most I’ve seen is one guy onstage during a performance. The general point here is that you’ll be competing with every other man for that single opportunity, so your chances of participating are consistently very slim.

26168886_928611843982250_5662969901630217817_n

You’ll Get a Special Shout-out

This is another show-specific example but it’s one that means a lot to me so I’m including it. Chippendales recently added a special shout-out at the end for the men in attendance “because it’s all love”. When you have a whole room full of people clapping just because you’re present, that’s empowering.

You Can Share a Name With the Dancers

Full disclosure: I’m partial to this one because it directly applies to me. There are many gender-neutral names out there but the chances of a female audience member sharing a name with one of the performers is slim. It might not seem important but to me it does make a difference.

48172971_1174508189392613_7044281819012792320_n

                               Chippendales dance captain Ryan Kelsey…

I share my name with two of the Chippendales – Ryan Kelsey and Ryan Worley (read Sam’s profile of Mr. Worley here). One of those two may even have even said that I’m one the Ryans in their life. Who wouldn’t want a Chippendale to say that?

48363422_1176003922576373_8276661077589098496_n.jpg

                                                    With Ryan Worley…

They’ll Talk To You Like You’re “One of the Guys”

When interacting with the performers, you’ll probably be referred to as either “buddy” or the Australian equivalent “mate”. You’re more like your one of the guys than an audience member. This makes the conversation feel personable…as though they’re talking with you as a friend.

The guys also seem to open up more to other men. Recently I was expressing regret to one of performers who’d endured an uncomfortable onstage experience at the hands of a rowdy woman. He confided something equally shocking that he did to “get his revenge”. It’s doubtful he would have confided that to another woman but was willing to open up to “one of the guys”.

49459878_10218256777996571_4168987182129741824_n

You Will be Remembered On Your Next Visit

You can imagine that the performers see hundreds of females each week, but at most a handful of male audience members. In practice this means more than likely you will be remembered. My personal example was with Chippendales, I attended the show in September of this year and returned to three months later.

On the first night I went back a few of the dancers remembered me…one even remembered my name. Since it’s one we share I don’t know how much of a factor that was, but it still made me feel great. I returned a few more times throughout my stay and by the end all them knew who I was. It makes you feel special to be remembered.

4124

The acceptance of homosexuals in society has come a long way over the years. When Sam told me that he first saw Chippendales only four years ago, I was in disbelief. Did he really have to wait that far into his life to let loose and be free?

I’m fortunate enough to have been born into a more progressive time and was only twenty for my first experience of this kind. I was also shocked to learn that Sam would always be seated in the back. That has slowly progressed to its current state where men are often right up there in the front rows. 

41195640_10217284028278436_8870339194141016064_n

There were many gay men and women who laid the way so I could live in a more accepting culture. I hope that the amount of change and progress during Sam’s lifetime will also take place in mine. Fortunately for the challenges we still collectively face, simple pleasures like attending a male revue still outshine them all.

Photos: Ryan Topping

2018 Events, Trends & Moments…The Personal Side


Sharing some of the more intimate moments and thoughts of 2018 as I bring this year-end retrospective to a close…

THAT WONDERFUL HELICOPTER RIDE

There were a lot of changes in my personal life during the latter half of 2018. The biggest began during a fortuitous flight from my home in Salem Oregon to Las Vegas. A conversation with my seat mate and his wife, who was directly in front of him, led to a new friendship. And that friendship yielded one of the most (if not THE most) spectacular events of the year.

It’s quite common to see helicopters slicing through the skies of Sin City, but only one offers the experience as a luxurious jaunt over Hoover Dam to the Grand Canyon. I could go on and on with words, but this one deserves a visual. Thanks to Trina Larmony, Jim Gisclair and all the wonderful folks at Serenity Helicopters for making my heart soar. Read about the full experience here.

GONE AND FORGOTTEN – Vegas Bright

2q1nav

VegasBright.com was an idea that had so much potential. The brainchild of a fan of VegasChatter.com (the site that got me started in this industry), VB could have been an enormous success. I was approached by this particular reader with a proposal to gather former VC contributors, regroup and carry on the tradition. And I’d get to work (sans compensation, mind you) with wonderful photographer and friend Greg C. once more.

Alas, there was no direction, organization or cohesive path from the very start. Writers left with abandon and those who stuck around offered pedestrian pieces like the painful series “My Halloween Visit to Fremont Street” (that began the first week of November and carried on for ten insipid chapters into June of the following year), endless burger joint reviews (which earned our site the nickname “Burger Bright”) and week after week of fluffy reader-contributed “Must-do” filler.

Screenshot 2018-12-28 at 12.37.54 PM

If I sound bitter about this matter, I most definitely am. There was no excuse for such a wasted opportunity. My attempts to bring our team to a unified whole were consistently met with resistance by the founding editor. In fact, our writers never actually gathered a single time. Articles that I penned about fresh and exciting events were set aside for dusty reviews of long-running shows (that had nothing new to report on) and restaurants that had been around forever. It became a predictable and boring snooze fest, nothing at all like the site we’d set out to emulate.

After I departed in frustration to start this blog, a replacement editor came in. This guy subsequently put Vegas Bright on hiatus…not once but twice. That didn’t stop him, someone whom I’ve never actually met, from slandering both me and my brand-new page on Twitter (several times, actually). Not cool, dude! He mocked my readership and writing abilities (“You write? I’ve never heard of you”). Such childish behavior, despite the fact that dozens of my articles continue to fill the archives of his now-dead site.

Sounds an awful lot like our current White House regime, doesn’t it? When you feel inferior or threatened, it’s easier to insult than to up your own game. All bluster, little logic, zero action.

I feel pride in having an intimate and discerning readership (thank you all) and for not churning out the same recycled news bits as others do. What’s really cute is that, despite ripping my page apart, there were at least three separate incidences where Vegas Bright cribbed my headlines, articles, layout and photographs.

The most recent…or final…Vegas Bright piece was published on June 8th, 2018. It, too, was a knockoff of my ongoing series on Sin City oddities hiding in plain sight. Thanks for flattering me….yet again.

Screenshot 2018-12-28 at 12.26.54 PM

There’s been no explanation for the continued inactivity, no official “farewell” and no reason to believe that Vegas Bright will ever return. What a nice way to disrespect your loyal readers. Not that anyone actually cares. If a website utters its dying gasp in the virtual woods, does it make a sound?

MOVING TO LAS VEGAS

13124842_10208548238916288_2333246751284795577_n

The biggest personal event I have to share is the decision to relocate from Oregon to Las Vegas. To say that frequent flying between the cities is trying would be an understatement. Southwest Airlines, the primary carrier between the two cities, has yet to master the art of an on-time departure. Competitor Alaska Airlines, my preferred airline by leaps and bounds, has unfortunately scaled back the number of non-stops between the two cities.

To make things more frustrating, an incident at McCarran International Airport last November had me deeming their TSA checkpoint “the worst in the nation”. Then there are all the recent changes that make staying in a hotel on the Strip much less pleasant and affordable than just a few short years ago.

1006180744

      A typical morning view from my home in the Mountain’s Edge community…

Surprisingly, life for Vegas locals is quite a pleasant affair. Homes are newer, cheaper and slicker than you’d expect. The cost of groceries, gasoline and dining out are lower than where I came from (which is why so many locals see the Strip for the ripoff it is), and there are many outlying attractions and activities that tourists never know about.

b918da660416daa4eeb3824d7e951682l-m0xd-w1020_h770_q80.

       My four-level home has a rooftop deck with a view of the entire valley…

After making the decision spontaneously, I contacted Jeff Desruisseaux, a realtor whom I’d recently met at Leon Spinks’ birthday party. We arranged to meet and I headed down here to go house-hunting. Within 24 hours I had an offer in on my dream home, a four-level beauty, which was accepted immediately. Some things are meant to be.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

                                     I’ve made a lot of fantastic friends in this city…

In no time I was back in Oregon, packing the SUV with my rescue cats and getting on the road. On board was my orange tabby Sunny, who had lymphoma and was about to begin chemotherapy. Sadly, he passed away on January second. But the time we spent together on the highway was unforgettable.

1005180703c

My little buddy stayed hidden for most of the trip, but when the sun began to break the horizon, he came out of his carrier and watched the beautiful sunrise with me. As we drove along the lake, the warmth of the sun hit both of our faces and I knew it was a special moment never to be forgotten.

1005180706b

It was hard to start 2019 by saying goodbye to my little pal. Thank goodness he was treated with loving care by the staff and oncologists at Las Vegas Veterinary Specialty Center right up to his final moments. Amazingly, both Branden Powers of The Golden Tiki and Chef Bruno Morabito of Sid’s Cafe at Westgate have offered to make tributes to Sunny at their respective businesses. This community has a deep soul indeed.

49561107_10218250451398410_4580885132910526464_n

Life in Sin City has taken some adjusting to but there are no regrets….only new opportunities. This valley is packed with wonderful, giving and talented men and women. I look forward to telling you about them in the weeks and months ahead. And why, despite all the things that make Vegas less than perfect, it’s still a wonderful place to call home.

1104181653_pano

Thank you for being a loyal reader and friend. Happy New Year.

 

 

2018 Events, Trends & Moments…Cosmic and Controversial


A lot has happened in the past 12 months. Today I look back on large-scale events…

GREATEST SIGHT IN THE SKY – Angels of the 2017 Massacre

1001181820

                      I witnessed it on Sahara Avenue near Palace Station…

This one is emotional and unforgettable. If you were there to witness it, you couldn’t have helped being shaken to the core. As friends and loved ones gathered to commemorate the victims of 2017’s mass shooting one year later, the sunset brought a phenomenon that was seen throughout the entire valley.

49013949_10212781553123290_4735228583738343424_n

                       Courtesy of Michal Furmanczyk, Absinthe acrobat…

While some were quick to explain it scientifically, many of us felt it was a sign from a greater power…or perhaps a message from another plane of existence. Whatever your take on the matter, there’s no denying that the sunset on 10/1/18 was one we’ll never forget.

49091419_10218280462789633_6030891659980439552_n

                                  Courtesy of performer Kim Lange…

ROLLING BACK THE PARKING FEES

So many people want to sling buckets of rotting fruit at the money-grubbers of MGM Resorts for instituting parking fees on the Strip. As usual, copycat CAESARS Entertainment followed, the same way they did with resort fees. But unlike those dreaded mandatory surcharges, many of their competitors have held off…or even rolled back…charging their guests to park.

To my recollection, Wynn/Encore was the first to rethink this strategy by offering validation to shoppers, show attendees and hotel guests. Cosmopolitan began including parking as part of their mandatory daily fees just this month. Of course, they had to spoil a bit of the satisfaction by RAISING the resort fee another four dollars per day.

9269

       Caesars couldn’t resist sticking it to their guests one final time in 2018…

Tropicana, Treasure Island, SLS, Stratosphere, Venetian, Palazzo and a few others still offer parking to everyone without cost. Then there’s the Caesars properties, who dropped a stinkbomb during New Year’s Eve weekend by introducing a flat-rate “surge price” of $20 per day. Keep on gouging, guys. You’ve learned nothing.

LADY GAGA IS THE NEW QUEEN OF THE STRIP

49178087_1989602127793152_1663238918738280448_n

It seemed really odd when MGM Resorts decided to spend $170 million to rip out their new-ish and gorgeous Aria Theater in favor of “more lucrative” convention space…and then spend millions more to expand/rebrand the adjacent Monte Carlo theater for…get this…more live entertainment. Mmmm kay….

The gamble seems to have paid off, though, as Park Theater just celebrated two years of hosting such high-profile acts as Cher, Ricky Martin, Queen/Adam Lambert and Stevie Wonder. Reports have surfaced that the unwelcome return of faux entertainer Britney Spears has suffered underwhelming ticket sales. But Lady Gaga’s ENIGMA residency came to the rescue by swooping in during the last few days of the year.

48891145_1990067351079963_6361731521912504320_n

Initial reviews have been stellar. Entertainment Weekly wrote “Enigma the show is a damn good time, and it’s admirable in its attempts to elevate a greatest-hits gathering into something striving for more, something that perhaps even galvanized an artist in the peak of her career to take a Vegas residency in the first place.”

A local media publisher, who shall remain unnamed, confided a different take with me: “Gaga was great. Everything else about the show was a disaster.”

There’s no question that Lady Gaga’s profile has risen substantially since she signed her Park Theater contract. She’s sure to get an Oscar nomination for A Star Is Born…and might actually win. Her credibility as a performer, humanitarian and cultural icon are unquestioned. So having her as a fixture on the Strip (for a planned two years) is a major coup for Park MGM. Britney who?

UPDATE: Mere minutes after I published this piece, it was announced that Britney had cancelled her Las Vegas residency, citing “family health concerns”. That’s PR-speak for “My sales suck and they want me out”. What a wonderful bit of news for lovers of genuine talent. Buh-bye, Brit Brit. Don’t let the door hit-hit.

https://www.ktnv.com/news/britney-spears-cancels-las-vegas-residency

TOUGH YEAR FOR VEGAS RESORT EXECS

The past twelve months have seen a surprising upheaval in upper management at major hotel casinos. It all started with an ominous event as embattled former Caesars Entertanment CEO Gary Loveman was shown the door in January…from his replacement job with Aetna. Loveman had never previously worked for healthcare companies.

youre-fired-and-5b3911

His successor Mark Frissora, who assumed the position from Loveman in summer 2015, will be departing his role in the next month or so. According to the Las Vegas Review-Journal, Frissora was accused in a Securities and Exchange Commission filing by his former company, Hertz Global Holdings, of “inappropriate accounting decisions and the failure to disclose information to an effective review” three weeks after he took over at Caesars. Ouch!

Gary Loveman wasn’t the only former resort exec to have a bad year. Longtime MGM Resorts‘ Felix Rappaport was found dead in his home this summer. Current MGM CEO Jim Murren issued the following statement: “We are saddened by the news of the passing of our former colleague and friend, Felix Rappaport. Felix was a member of the MGM Resorts family for more than two decades and is remembered fondly by many. Our condolences and prayers go out to his family at this difficult time.”

Also at MGM, it was announced in October that Bobby Baldwin, Chief Customer Development Officer of their resorts and President/CEO of CityCenter on the Strip, will depart both positions soon…without explanation. The press announcement was extremely brief and offered no details, which stirred up plenty of rumors. Hmmm…

During that same month, they welcomed George Kliavkoff as the new President of Entertainment and Sports. He took over for legendary bushy-maned Richard Sturm who had held that position since 1993. Sturm shocked many when he announced his departure from MGM five weeks earlier. He was leaving to form his own entertainment consulting firm that would work exclusively with…MGM Resorts (insert facepalm here).

VitalVegas.com reported on a number of departures and managerial changes this summer at Westgate Hotel Casino. The most noteworthy that I personally can report on was the promotion of Cami Christensen into the position of President and General Manager. I happened to be there on the evening of the announcement and was honored to offer congratulations.

Christensen has been with the property for over seventeen years and assumed the responsibilities of former GM Geno Iafrate, who reportedly departed to help launch a new franchising concept for Westgate’s Superbook. Oddly, Iafrate’s LinkedIn account currently shows him as having left the property and looking for work.

21231962_10210517551763336_8445761316438759580_n

             Gordon Prouty and Cami Christensen raise the bar at Westgate…

I was also excited to meet Gordon Prouty while covering the annual Mr. Olympia Weekend this summer. Gordon had just accepted a position as Westgate’s Director of Public and Community Relations. This dapper gentleman has an extensive background in media and community relations throughout the country.

Here in Vegas, Gordon’s been involved in several organizations and Greenspun Media Group. And as the best-dressed man in all of Las Vegas, he served as inspiration for my article on STITCHED Men’s Haberdashery. Only good things can happen at Westgate with Gordon Prouty behind the PR wheel.

There’s nothing like a sex scandal to ruin a man’s legacy. Just ask Kevin Spacey….or in this case, Steve Wynn. The super-successful businessman, whom many credit with the mega-resorts of today, had one really tough year. Allegations of sexual misconduct forced the magnate to sell off his shares in Wynn Resorts this past March. Just before that he’d stepped down as CEO of his own company while denying the claims being made against him: “The idea that I ever assaulted any woman is preposterous.”

The founder of one of Las Vegas’ most luxurious resorts was also forced to depart the on-property villa he called home, as well as to forfeit his healthcare and severance pay. To add insult to injury, Wynn’s final pet project, the Paradise Park Lagoon, was scuttled. It would appear that Wynn West, an expansion on the opposite side of Las Vegas Boulevard, has also been put on ice.

c1e83730-a29a-43ff-992f-e7d38b8bcd88-large16x9_resortsworldsuedksnv.png

                                                     Photo via KSNV-TV

This is the third project to fall apart on the former New Frontier Hotel space. Perhaps it’s just as well. Somebody is apparently building Wynn West just a little farther down the street anyway. Unfortunately they’ve named it Resorts World, which doesn’t quite have the same ring. But it certainly looks familiar…

Tomorrow I’ll conclude my year-end wrap-up with the things that made Las Vegas 2018 a deeply personal affair.

Banner photo by Jim Gisclair of Serenity Helicopters