Living the LUXE Life at Westgate


Latest guestroom category offers a chic, contemporary vibe…

With all of the well-deserved hoopla surrounding Westgate Las Vegas and their recent 50th anniversary celebration, it was somewhat easy to overlook that they’d also entered year 51 with something new and quite hip…. the LUXE guest room category.

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Adding to a profile that includes the comfortable entry-level Premium Room and sophisticated Signature class, LUXE rooms bring cool, elevated hipness to the classic resort. Striking in their simplicity and bathed in a soothing blue/green/beige palette, LUXE rooms offer contemporary luxury that satisfies without pretension. A 360-degree peek is available by clicking HERE.

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At 400 square feet, LUXE follows the oversized floor plan that Westgate guests have long appreciated. Wise placement of furniture and bright walls provide a sense of something much larger. The illusion is accentuated by dual wall-mounted bedside shelves that eliminate floor-hogging nightstands. Both are equipped with multiple power outlets and USB ports within the lamps.

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King-sized beds (2 queens are available) have headboards accentuated with a back-lighting feature that’s controlled by easily-reached switches. A single digital clock radio is included, something that many room updates are now forgoing.

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Mattresses are thick, pleasantly firm and not too low to the floor. Sheets are somewhat on the coarse side, which seems to be the case in all Westgate rooms that I’ve tried. But you’ll forget about that issue when you rest your head on one of four over-sized pillows which are simply marvelous and my favorite in the city (sorry, Delano).

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While they might not being standard in all LUXE rooms, mine (number 22-138 in the north tower) included an attractive blue sofa. It faced a 58-inch wall-mounted TV above an entertainment unit that doubles as a dresser. Three drawers with frosted-glass front panels are flanked by cabinets for a digital-lock safe and a mini-fridge, both provided at no extra cost.

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A sleek, simple desk is situated at the main window, providing spectacular views of the Strip or scenic golf club…and of course, plenty of natural light. Night owls and business travelers will appreciate the ornate desk lamp with additional charging ports and power outlets.

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The bathroom area is bright, clean and shiny with plenty of polished surfaces. The sink cabinet appears to be a holdover from the previous incarnation. Lower shelves stock plenty of towels (Westgate is never stingy with their towels and washcloths) and a hair dryer.

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Toiletries are somewhat superior to the awful, watery cheapies that MGM and Caesars properties supply. A walk-in shower with sliding glass doors has a ceiling-mount rain shower head as well as a chrome hand-held style. Water pressure is excellent and hot temps arrived quickly. There were no drainage issues, another extremely common (and inexplicable) issue with Vegas showers.

Other in-room amenities include fast, solid wi-fi (included in resort fee), board and iron, manual black-out curtains and pay-per-view movies. A/C was great and relatively quiet. Alas, in-room coffeemakers are not provided, but 24-hour Fortuna is situated just off the central elevator banks and serves Starbucks products for your java fix.

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LUXE rooms will run you essentially double of their entry-level counterpart and roughly 45 percent more than the Signature class. Even at that price point, they provide an excellent value and an attractive alternative to ever-rising Strip prices. LUXE joins an extensive guestroom line-up with a wide variety of suites. Those include the split-level pool deck Lanai Suite (which I may visit for an upcoming piece), the amazing 29th-floor Specialty Suites and a trio of rooftop Sky Villas.

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Whatever your mood or budget, Westgate Las Vegas has something to please. It’s my favorite overall resort in Sin City with even more great things on the way. Happy 50th Anniversary, Westgate!

Photos: Sam Novak

 

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Whitney Phoenix Strikes a Chord at Bellagio Las Vegas


Iconic pianist celebrates 21 years of entertaining resort’s guests….

There are those who lament the golden era of Vegas….a time when tuxedos, gowns and roses were the norm. Visitors sipped champagne while enjoying the lush entertainment of glamorous singers and musicians. While times have changed, the timeless elegance of Whitney Phoenix and his music remain.

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For more than two decades. Mr. Phoenix has been creating memories at Petrossian Bar and Lounge. Situated just off Bellagio‘s main lobby near the famed Fiori di Como ceiling, this refined gathering spot welcomes new arrivals and serves as a gateway to the gaming floor. And with Whitney on the stunning one-of-a-kind Steinway grand, atmospheric music is elevated to world-class entertainment.

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You might think that fans of Pitbull and Calvin Harris might not have an appreciation for the stylings of a piano maestro, but that is far from the case. Whenever Mr. Phoenix plays, young and old alike gather to listen. Crowds form all around the circular lounge, often lining up six deep. Even bustling travelers stop to relish what they’re hearing, applauding after each song, medley and concerto.

With his silver hair and custom tuxedo jackets, Mr. Phoenix presents a striking figure. His poised elegance and gentle smile are even more intriguing when you learn of his military background in the Marines. He also served as an instructor in the Armed Forces School of Music. Expressive and engaging, the maestro inhabits each piece, giving it life and heart in a way that few artists can.

Much like fellow prodigy Elton John, Phoenix began formal instruction at the age of eight. Four years later he was performing solo concerts on his way to a lifetime of success and noteworthy achievements. He became popular in Las Vegas through regular appearances at Imperial Palace (now Linq Hotel), Caesars Palace and MGM Grand.

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Marianne LeMoine Phoenix has been Whitney’s wife and collaborator for 24 years. The two met in 1993 when she hired him to do vocal arrangements. “I ran out of money to pay him so we made other arrangements” she jokes. An accomplished vocalist and comedienne, Marianne’s current production 50 Pounds From Stardom is a labor of love for which Whitney serves as musical director.

A former back-up singer for Dolly PartonDebbie Reynolds…and one very special night with Diana Ross, Mrs. Phoenix laughs about the days when she hung out with Wayne Newton and his entourage, raising cane in places like the New Frontier and Stardust. She’s proud that her husband continues the quality of classy, elegant entertainment that Vegas was founded on.

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As Whitney drew applause for a stunning full-length rendition of Queen‘s Bohemian Rhapsody, Mrs. Phoenix recounted how her husband began playing here “not on the very first day, but the day before.” The pair had arrived, elegantly dressed for his initial shift and expecting him to play at the grand opening gala. Instead, workers were still laying mosaic tiles on the lobby floor and the lounge’s staff was organizing glassware and bottles.

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Photos: Sam Novak

 

 

 

Westgate Las Vegas Celebrates 50th Anniversary In Style


Iconic hotel casino is Sin City’s first mega-resort…

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Many historians consider Mirage to be the first super-sized hotel concept in Las Vegas. The truth is that the resort now known as Westgate Las Vegas began the era more than 20 years earlier. Opened in the summer of 1969 as International Hotel, this massive structure became the largest hospitality destination in the world.

Full of superlatives and packed with luxurious amenities, the International was created with a goal of supplying top-quality accommodations and stellar entertainment with the best staff ever assembled.  A dream project of billionaire Kirk Kerkorian, the 30-story structure was fast-tracked from ground-breaking to grand opening in under 17 months, an amazing feat even by today’s standards.61642082_2344871152275416_260241152320471040_n

Many of today’s visitors still refer to Westgate as “the former Las Vegas Hilton“, the name it carried from ’71 through 2012. During that time it would become associated with Elvis Presley’s landmark residency and later, Star Trek: The Experience. It was also home to dozens of legendary performers like Barbra Streisand, Liberace, Suzanne Somers, Charo, Wayne Newton, The Commodores, Sheena Easton and the Andrew Lloyd Webber musical Starlight Express.

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Five years ago the property was acquired by Westgate Resorts and CEO David Siegel pumped millions of dollars into a massive restoration project, keeping the entire resort operating as renovations took place. The new owner refused to allow his staff to lose their jobs during the transition, protecting thousands of workers from financial hardship.

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Siegel’s dedication and longtime love for the property was in full display during an epic 50th anniversary celebration on August 3rd. Invited guests strolled down an ornate corridor festooned with images of historic moments, pausing for photographs on the carpet before a pre-party cocktail reception.

Glass cases of memorabilia lined the perimeter of the room, recognizing noteworthy events and moments of the last five decades. Mr. Siegel joined Mayor Carolyn Goodman and President/GM Cami Christensen onstage to toast the legacy of the hotel. They also recognized the thousands of people who have contributed to its ongoing success.

Dignitaries from the worlds of entertainment and media then joined high-rollers and honored staff for a spectacular meal in the main dining hall. Guests enjoyed an appetizer of lobster tail and prawns, a main course of beef wellington and champagne as performers like Frankie Scinta and Zowie Bowie provided music and laughter.

Christensen then honored longtime employees including theater usher Angel Lopez Rosas. Mr. Rosas has been part of the service team since the hotel opened, working an estimated 12,000 shows. The party then moved to famed International Theater for a stunning performance by Elvis tribute artist Ted Torres Martin and “Sweet Inspirations”, which included a performer who had shared the very same stage with Presley during his sold-out residency.

Looking forward, Westgate continues to… (Click HERE to continue reading)

Photos: Sam Novak, Westgate Las Vegas

 

 

Jeff Civillico – Physical Comedy At Its Best


Crowd-pleasing entertainer juggles his way into your hearts…

What do you get when you combine the rubber-faced madness of early Jim Carrey with the heart-stopping physical comedy of Buster Keaton and Jerry Lewis? Whatever your mind can conjure, it’s unlikely to resemble the reality of handsome headliner Jeff Civillico.

Vegas fans have been lining up for a decade to enjoy Jeff Civillico: Comedy In Action. He’s been on marquees from V Theater to the former Imperial Palace (now The Linq) to the Flamingo. What started out as a guest segment in variety and magic shows has evolved into a full-fledged production befitting the multi-talented star.

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In recent years, Jeff’s taken his all-ages show to audiences around the country. His contagious energy and outrageous antics elevate a wide variety of corporate functions and fundraising events, too. Still he manages to return each week to Las Vegas for filled-to-capacity performances at Paris Hotel Casino.

So, what exactly does Jeff Civillico do? Alas, the answer’s not so simple. You may as well try explaining Cirque du Soleil to a friend. But the simplest way to describe Comedy In Action is “It’s an interactive juggling improvisational prop-comedy marshmallow battle.” And Jeff’s co-stars are a plunger, Granny Smith apples, a straitjacket…and you.

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Tireless in his delivery and wildly spontaneous, Jeff fires off jokes so quickly that you’ll barely be able to catch your breath. He even makes wisecracks while balancing a massive construction ladder on his chin. Nobody is safe from Jeff’s humor, either. Children are props in an electrifying plate-spinning sequence and two unassuming dads become accomplices in the most unhinged unicycle ascent you’ll ever see.

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Photos: Sam Novak

 

 

 

 

 

SERVED – Green Valley’s Culinary Delight


Chef Matthew Myer brings eclectic flair to the neighborhood….

In recent years, the popularity of chef-driven restaurants has exploded. Once centered on the Strip, kitchen wizards have found success in Downtown and surrounding areas. One might observe that the further they get from the tourist district, the more daring and creative they become.

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Such is the case with Chef Matthew Meyer. This dynamic young graduate of Pasadena’s Le Cordon Bleu culinary institute is the creator/owner of SERVED, a relatively new restaurant in the McDonald’s Highland area of Henderson. Located at 1770 W. Horizon Ridge Parkway, this intimate brunch/dinner establishment is a local gem that’s worth seeking out.

Despite his young age, Chef Meyer has been shaking up the Vegas dining scene for over a decade. You might remember his two iterations of Matteo’s Gourmet Cafe and the popular Just Rollin’. As his exposure in magazines and websites has grown (along with the accolades), so has Chef Meyer’s offerings to the valley. Matteo’s Gourmet Food Services, a high-end catering operation, provides exceptional cuisine for special occasions.

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All of this experience and experimentation has culminated in SERVED, Meyer’s latest dine-in endeavor. A sleek yet simple restaurant, SERVED provides Meyer the opportunity to share his latest creations in a personal atmosphere with the highest regard for quality ingredients and skillful preparation.

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Chef Meyer describes his approach to the menu as “Cultural favorites, redefined…where guests will have a chance to savor the flavors of the world in a single dish.” Eric C. Gladstone, the marketing powerhouse behind the annual Vegas Unstripped and other highly-regarded food festivals, had this to say about Chef Matt and SERVED:

Chef Matt takes a global approach to his creations, fearlessly crossing culinary boundaries to combine flavors from throughout the Eastern and Western worlds, as well as myriad techniques. But you don’t have to pull apart all the effort in order to enjoy them–the food truly speaks for itself. This is the most exciting breakfast, lunch and dinner food happening in Henderson right now.

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With an introduction like that, it would be tough not to have high expectations. But at a recent presentation of his latest dishes, both experts and laypersons like myself were equally impressed by what we sampled.

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First up were a few tapas: Asparagus 5 Ways – pureed, grilled, fried, fermented and raw asparagus served alongside a poached egg and hollandaise ($10).

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Scallop Benny presents seared scallops, celery root puree, roasted celery root, poached egg and hollandaise, celery/apple salad topped with celery lace tuile ($12).

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Fans of deconstructed dishes should get a kick out of Raviolo ($12), a plate of egg yolk, herbed ricotta, herb-laminated fresh pasta, Guiness braised short rib, broccolini and pan sauce.

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My personal favorite from the tapas selections was Octopus Benny ($11) served with sesame heirloom tomatoes, white corn puree and uni caviar hollandaise.

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Appetizer Beef Tataki ($11) is thinly-sliced and lightly seared mushroom marinated beef with fermented mushroom aioli, parmesan shavings and fried capers.

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A few more tapas were distinctly Asian, beginning with Pinchi Kimchi Foie Gras ($12), a seared piece of foie gras atop a rice pancake, served with kimchi, pickled radish, Korean pear salad, crispy fried rice noodle, sesame oil and a soy galbi glaze.

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Thai Suckling Pig ($12) is an unforgettable crispy pork belly in sweet soy sauce sprinkled with fried garlic and served with broccolini and a poached egg.

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The one dish that everybody buzzed about was Beef Stroganoff ($22) from “Classics Redone”. It’s Guiness braised short ribs atop house made pappardelle and fermented mushrooms. Familiar yet unique, it’s one selection sure to satisfy.

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Despite the small size of SERVED’s dining room, the list of stunning dishes is hefty, thanks in no small part to sharing a kitchen with Chef Meyer’s catering service. The daily Brunch Menu lists elaborate benedicts and egg dishes, hash, pancakes, French toast, tacos, sandwiches and a wide variety of gourmet burgers.

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Their evening Dinner Menu, Wednesday through Sunday from 3pm to 9pm, ups the ante with an inclusion of salads, “Reverse Brunch” and “Chef Special” entrees. Daily Specials weekdays from 9am to 2pm offer significant savings and even 2-for-1 sandwiches on Tuesday.

As a relatively new local, I’ve enjoyed discovering a wide variety of eclectic and unique dining offerings, some that tourists may sadly never see. But thanks to food enthusiasts like Eric C. Gladstone, Esther’s KitchenEDO Gastro Tapas and Wine and the upcoming Graffiti Bao restaurant are getting the exposure and popularity they deserve. Add SERVED to that list, and visit Chef Matt and his team right away.

SERVED is located at 1770 W. Horizon Ridge Parkway in Henderson/Green Valley. Open Monday and Tuesday 9 – 3, Wednesday to Sunday 9 – 9. Call 702-263-0136

Photos: Sam Novak, SERVED via Facebook

5 Reasons to Party with ‘Tenors of Rock’


The all-hits classic rock show at Planet Hollywood brings down the house…

From lounge lizards of the Golden Era to the headliners of today, music has always been at the heart of Sin City entertainment. And nowhere does that heart beat stronger than with the dynamic stylings of Tenors of Rock.

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An international confection of rip-roaring vocals, boundless energy and a live onstage band, Tenors of Rock has evolved from a group of X-Factor hopefuls into a world-renowned brand with two touring groups and their own chart-topping hits. Now in their third year of Las Vegas success, the boys recently landed a new home at Planet Hollywood’s Sin City Theater.

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Whether you’ve seen their previous residency at Harrah’s or are discovering them for the very first time, here are some great reasons to spend the evening with Tenors of Rock.

Classic Rock Anthems – the popularity of classic rock is at an all-time high. Tenors of Rock brings you American favorites like “Sweet Child of Mine”,” Shook Me All Night Long”, “Desperado”, “More Than A Feeling” and British hits including “Pinball Wizard”, “Satisfaction” and “Back in Black”, all delivered in their signature style.

Intimate Venue –  Rock shows often get caught up in bombast and pyrotechnics, rarely offering the subtleties of lush harmony and complex vocals. Sin City Theater provides a rare personal experience with a band that has played to upwards of 100,000 at a time. Percussionist Nannette Fortier and guitarist Chris Cicchino also benefit from the smaller space, allowing the musicians to absolutely shine.

Dynamic Personalities – Vegas audiences immediately fell in love with members Dai Richards and Jonathan Williams (Wales), Daniel Shumann (Melbourne), Tommy Sherlock (Liverpool) and kilt-clad extrovert Jimmy Denning (Scotland). Onstage chemistry makes every performance an electrifying concert experience. Newest members Andrew Freeman (Raiding the Rock Vault) and BAZ alumnus Paul Johnson (Las Vegas) are injecting a healthy dose of American DNA into the mix.

Amazing Talent – The level of experience behind Tenors is world class. Williams excelled as Les Miserables lead “Jean Valjean” in London’s West End. Shumann has a background in TV, opera, cabaret and musicals. Richards is a founding member who…

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Photos: Tenors of Rock