Las Vegas Shutdown Gives Birth to ‘VINdemic’


Not even a killer virus can extinguish the creative supernova of ‘Bronx Wanderers’ own Vin A.

It’s often said that forest fires are nature’s way of restoring balance. After an inferno, the soil is replenished with vital nutrients, and new life springs forward. Las Vegas entertainment is in the midst of its own conflagration. Once the smoke clears, rotted logs like Mariah Carey, Terry Fator, and Criss Angel will have hopefully dried up and blown away. That’s when the rebirth of Las Vegas will really begin.

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Raw, hungry talent like Colin Cahill and Makenzie Fly (Mak and the Cheese), Dai Richards (Tenors of Rock), Ian Ward, and Andrew Diessner having been yearning to move to the front. But they aren’t waiting for the flames to subside. They’re digging in, planting new seeds, and maximizing their time away from the stage to create, express, and surge forward.

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You might say that Vin A. of The Bronx Wanderers is leading this ambitious youth movement. Driven by the ongoing closure of his family show at Harrah’s, Vin has been working nonstop since mid-March. Music videos, virtual concerts, writing/hosting his own web program, penning new songs, and even launching an offshoot band…all this and more have kept the handsome hunk at the peak of his game.

It’s a mad world, according to our man of the hour. Ask where he gets his boundless motivation and the smart-aleck New Yorker is likely to answer “It’s all about the money, man!”. But don’t believe it for a moment. Vin has the “entertainer gene” ingrained in every cell, fiber, and drop of blood. He lives for music, the rush of creative expression, and the thrill of sharing his vision with the world.

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Vin totally knocked it out of the ballpark early this summer when he debuted the imaginative music video for “Know Where (To Begin)“. A jaw-dropping analysis of God, creation, war, and the fate of our existence, it’s delivered on an epic wave of gripping instrumentals and passionate vocals. Check it out.

Vin has been prepping several follow-ups to 2017’s wonderful “Geology“. One is VINdemic, a solo acoustic album that shares a name with his collaboration with family patriarch Vinny Adinolfi. Carefully following mandated health guidelines, the duo has been performing sold-out shows at E String Bar, an intimate “jazz supper club” in Henderson.

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Another place you may have enjoyed Vin’s music is at Tuscany Suites Resort, where he recently appeared alongside Vegas favorite Kenny Davidsen. Kenny’s “Bowtie Cabaret” is a weekly series highlighting local favorites like Jimmy Denning, Colin Cahill, Cassie Stone, Lorena Peril, and Ashley Fuller.

Are you tired yet? Well, Vincent Adinolfi the third isn’t. He’s also been appearing on programs like Rocking Comedy Show with Jay Bird and Time2Vegas. His own talk show What The Cluck?! started season two this year with a new location at The Space. The daring chat-fest mixes politics, comedy, social commentary and current events in wildly-random doses. You never know where a conversation will lead, just like Vin’s music.

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As a die-hard fan, I truly enjoy the pleasures of Vinny’s compositions. Many of them are styled like an opus, with dramatic shifts in tone, style and direction. He deftly crisscrosses genres within a song, dallying in classic rock, pop, soul and funk along the way. “Know Where (To Begin)” will be one of the singles from his OTHER new album entitled “Mountains of Ignorance“, and yet another Bronx Wanderers recording is on the way. Geesh!!!

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In a normal year, Vin’s fizzy upcoming “Wishing Well” would have been a chart-topping summer hit to cruise the streets by. This week, he and multi-tasking partner Elizabeth Jane Hunt, along with a sizzling team of dancers, filmed a music video for “Wishing Well“. The shoot drew talent from the casts of X Country and Aussie Heat.

Here’s a sneak peek directly from the studio:

You may be wondering at this point if there’s anything left to do. I haven’t even gotten to the biggest undertaking…personalized Bronx Wanderers shows. Since the beginning of August, fans have been able to commission custom live performances. You choose the songs and select either VINdemic (father and son) or the full Bronx Wanderers group. Rates start at only $50 and you can get all the details by clicking here.

Not only will the guys play whatever song(s) you choose from the 130+ song menu, you will watch your performance LIVE and interact with the guys via A private Facebook feed on your phone or computer in real time. THE BEAUTY OF THIS OFFER is you will receive a polished video of the performance via email with great audio AND video quality that you can keep FOREVER.

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While other Vegas shows have been quietly waiting to return…or have permanently folded…Vin A. and The Bronx Wanderers refuse to become a faded memory. You can follow the latest announcements, including their eventual reopening at Harrah’s, through the official Bronx Wanderers page and the dedicated Vin A. Facebook page.

A Healthier Vegas Visit Is Possible With ‘Stay Well’


Unique lodging/convention experience utilizes the latest technology to protect you from infection while infusing your mind, body, and spirit with “wellness”…

I originally wrote this article in early March of 2020 for BestOfVegas.com, but it never saw the light of day. BestOfVegas remains in limbo, but now that we’ve reopened most hotels and casinos, the piece still has relevance. So, I present it to you here in its original form. 

There’s no question that traveling can have exhausting effects, both physically and mentally. Combine that with a few days of traditional Las Vegas excess and you’re likely to feel run down…or perhaps even ill. There are many types of recovery services available to counteract these symptoms. Or, you can be pro-active by booking your vacation in a Stay Well™ room at MGM Resorts.

Created by New York City corporation DELOS, the trademarked Stay Well™ concept was brought to Sin City in 2012 when dozens of fully-equipped, non-smoking rooms were introduced at MGM Grand. Since then, they’ve greatly expanded the number of rooms, introduced a Stay Well lounge and expanded the lineup to Park MGM and Mirage resorts. A select group of Stay Well protocols are also featured under the banner of “Fresh by Stay Well” at New York NY, Excalibur, and Luxor.

What makes a Stay Well™ room different from others? Everything! From the air you breathe to the water you shower in. From the sound-dampened walls and plant-extract memory foam mattress to red-spectrum circadian lighting, Stay Well enhances your body’s ability to relax, recover, rest and reinvigorate.

A Stay Well app by Cleveland Clinic allows you to maximize the available amenities and benefits. And perhaps most important of all, dangerous germs, viruses and other microbes are given the heave-ho by using non-toxic cleaning products and UV light-cleaning tools.

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Famed alternative-medicine advocate Dr. Deepak Chopra serves as an advisory board member for DELOS. He endorses the benefits of their specialized guest rooms. “Stay Well Rooms are built on many individual features, which when combined, have an unprecedented positive health impact for the traveler. Your wellness experience has been specially designed in collaboration with leading doctors, architects, engineers, and medical institutions.”

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“Amenities like purified air, healthy lighting, an allergy-friendly environment, dawn simulation, and aromatherapy increase energy, reduce stress, improve productivity and enhance your sleep quality. Our vitamin C shower infuser reduces chlorine to help skin and hair stay soft and smooth. Stay balanced, stay fresh, Stay Well.”

With all of today’s fears of contaminants within gathering spaces, Stay Well has expanded to offer its proactive health protocols to convention guests at MGM Grand by way of “Stay Well Meetings”. Air purification removes toxins, allergens, smoke and microbes from the air. Surfaces are treated with “WELL Shield”, a self-cleaning photocatalytic coating that destroys harmful organic compounds. Cleveland Clinic provides innovative menus and online tools to combat the negative effects of travel (like jet lag and poor diets).

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Stay Well amenities are clearly identified on the booking page of each hotel’s website. Every MGM Resorts property in Las Vegas (with the exception of Signature at MGM Grand) should be offering Stay Well enhancements or fully-conceived guest rooms by summer 2020. While no single program can prevent illness or provide absolute safety from infection, it’s helpful to know that options are available. So now you can reduce risk and reap the benefits of a healthier Vegas experience at the same time.

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Photos: MGM Resorts, Stay Well by DELOS

 

 

Hot Guys of Vegas: Andrew Diessner, Entertainer Extraordinaire


Multi-hyphenate entertainer is so all-around stunning that ya just wanna…

Do you remember that guy in high school who was seemingly perfect? Everyone loved him, he was the captain of every club and team, and somehow was also the teen that never got a blemish. He didn’t trip in the hallway or drop his books…and he had the body of a young physique model.

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Yeah, every class has at least one of those, then we get older and those guys turn into “one of us”. Unless your name is Andrew Diessner…then you just keep getting better looking…and better at everything…with each passing year. Where do these people come from, anyway?

Well, in Andrew Diessner’s case, the answer is “humble beginnings”. The sizzling gentleman whom you see in the clip above is far removed from the overweight child who was bullied by his peers. It was through internal motivation that the multi-octave hunk who’s equally impressive in jazz, opera, pop, soul, and rock music was once an insecure boy who disliked his own reflection.

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“I was bullied relentlessly because I carried a little more weight than most. Being a “husky” kid was brutal. Children don’t hold back from telling each other how they feel and digging it in with a double-edged sword. I will never forget how uncomfortable I always felt in my skin. I never had the Nike Jordans, or the cool baggy pants (which were TERRIBLE, by the way, lol).”

“I didn’t really fit in any specific circle in school, so I bounced around a lot. I was sort of the class clown for each clique. Unfortunately, the words and the actions of those kids stuck with me for a very long time.”

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That’s why the Denver, Colorado native is drawn to causes that assist depression, addiction, suicide prevention, and childhood bullying.

“I still see that 12-year-old me in the mirror sometimes. I don’t want any child to have to go through that. I know it gave me thick skin, but some kids don’t ever pull out of it. That leads to substance abuse, depression, anxiety, and so many other terrible things. If I can start a program, a charity, SOMETHING to get the word out and make a difference, I would give it everything I got.”

“Giving it all” is the fiber that seemingly holds this 34-year-old, 5-foot 10-inch hunk together. Those in the Vegas entertainment field have had it especially rough, as the unpredictable nature of their work has been infinitely compounded by COVID-19. But Andrew once again looked inside, gathered his strength, and came out better in a variety of ways.

“During the beginning of the pandemic, I sort of let myself go. Sort of is an understatement. I gained 16 lbs. (172lbs to 188lbs). I got sick of looking at myself in the mirror and feeling sorry for myself because I was uninspired and out of work, so I joined a transformation competition that I saw posted on Instagram. It was with a newish app called Fitness Culture Training.”

“I always like a good old-fashioned competition, and I am pretty competitive by nature, so I figured, why not make some money while simultaneously getting my physique back? It was a no brainer for me. I ended up doing really well and probably making one of the best transformations I have had to date. I wanted to be ready for when the city came back…mentally as well as physically. I wanted to be hireable NOW…being confident in my skin and having a Vegas-ready body was imperative.”

With the amount of uncertainty ahead in the entertainment field, many performers have been looking into alternate and additional careers. It’s our harsh current reality where only the smart and pro-active may be able to cover their expenses while still pursuing their passions.

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“Man, this pandemic has been relentless. I honestly didn’t imagine it was going to last this long. I lost all my contracts at sea, as I am a guest entertainer that travels with two 45-minute shows. I had plans of buying a house in May when all my contracts at sea were done. I wanted to start building solid roots here in Vegas and become more involved in the entertainment scene here. I had two weeks scheduled to fill in for Colin Cahill at Atomic Saloon Show that I was really looking forward to performing in as well.”

“Pretty much every opportunity was stripped from me overnight. I didn’t know what I was going to do, but I knew that I would just have to keep a strong mental state. I haven’t been able to the entire time, but getting heavily involved in my transformation and digging into my passion for fitness, pulled me out of it. It was the healthiest option, and I was tired of feeling mentally and physically ill all the time. I knew I was better than that.”

“I am now starting online classes to become a certified personal trainer with ISSA, as well as a certified sports nutritionist, and transformation specialist. This has been a path I’ve wanted to explore for a long time, and there is no better time than now. It is something that I am very passionate about, and I am really looking forward to helping people change their lives.”

“To all the friendly people who laughed, pointed fingers and called me a fatty in middle school…love ya 😊 If you struggle with getting back into shape and you need some help and motivation…pm me. Helping you achieve your best self is my passion. Let’s do this together!”

I mentioned that Colin (Cahill) is known around town as “The Shirtless Singer”, yet Andrew is more of a white-shirt-and-bow-tie guy. I couldn’t help wondering if that was about to change now that the two of them are on a level playing field in the physique department.

Colin Cahill and Andrew Diessner (as “Blue Jackson”)

“Haha…Colin is the Man…and a dear friend of mine. He definitely has the reputation of losing the shirt on the stage, and I could never blame him. He looks fantastic! I have always been performing for a bit of a different demographic, so the bow tie and white collared shirt were necessary.”

“But it’s funny you mention that specifically because in my current desert photoshoot, I am walking with an open white collared shirt while removing a bow tie…sort of funny you mentioned it. So I guess you could say, that IS changing. I have worked hard for what I have, why not show it off more? Hard bodies sell. That’s just a fact.”

Watching Andrew perform, I was reminded of another handsome hunk with powerful vocals and a swaggering style…Grammy-nominated singer/actor/songwriter Cheyenne Jackson (Glee/American Horror Story/Descendants). I’ve spoken to Jackson several times, both in New York City and Las Vegas’ own Smith Center for the Performing Arts. I pointed out that he’d be great at playing Andrew in a biopic…and Diessner seemed to enjoy the comparison.

 Andrew and Cheyenne Jackson follow similar career paths…

“OMG this is too funny. It’s like you’re calling out everything in my life as it has happened haha…Cheyenne Jackson is one of my favorites. He did a show called Xanadu on broadway, and I played the same character, Sonny Malone, in the show when a theater did it in Colorado. I had a good friend of mine tell me that I should just follow his career moves because we were so similar.”

“I take it as such a huge compliment because Cheyenne is a major talent and a great looking guy. So, I would choose Cheyenne or Henry Cavil (to play me). Cavil has that steel jaw, great physique, and heaps of talent. Though, both of them have more hair than I do at this point. I may be going down a Statham/Willis/Johnson/Diesel route these days.”

With Halloween creeping up on us quickly, I inquired if that finely-tuned physique would get some exposure in the form of a gratuitous skin-baring costume. Perhaps something along the lines of Rambo or a superhero?

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“Those are all really great costume Ideas. Rambo would be fun because I could put on a wig with a bandana, dirty up the face and chest, throw some ammo over my shoulder, and a cigar in my mouth. I have always enjoyed action flicks and have the dream of one day being able to star in a few of my own. That is why Captain America would be a close second…Marvel…HINT HINT COUGH COUGH…next superhero? What a blast that would be!”

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And what would he be wearing under those camouflage pants or tights? “Boxer briefs….always”.

After you’ve gotten on the subject of a guy’s undies and realize that you haven’t even covered some of the basics, it was time to backtrack a little. So I threw out some of those traditional interview questions about his background, stats and likes/dislikes.

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“I have been in Vegas for 4 years now. Originally, a relationship brought me out here 😬 Turned out, It was the best thing even though we are not together anymore (he’s currently single). There are so many performance opportunities for me here. I can’t wait until the city comes back.” 

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Dogs or Cats: “I grew up with both cats and dogs.  My preference has to be with dogs though. They are loyal, always happy to be beside you and be the companion you need. I prefer medium to large dogs, though I do have soft spot for the little ones. Cats turn on a dime and you never know what the hell they’re thinking…except you can guarantee they think they’re better than you lol I do, however, love watching cats get into trouble due to their curiosity.”

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Hobbies: “Snowboarding, fishing, cooking, writing music, craft beer connoisseur, hiking, Jeeping, lake adventures (paddleboarding, boating, wakeboarding), raveling, being close to the ocean (snorkeling, jet skiing, scuba diving), trying new foods and drink, bar games (pool, darts), Texas Hold em…”

Charitable causes:Three Square (a Food Bank) is my favorite place to volunteer, Mondays Dark, and I am currently looking for more opportunities!”

Apparently, those opportunities include an audition video for Magic Mike Live, which I happened to discover on YouTube. And yes, he strips the shirt off at the end:

Dream role and collaboration: “A show I would love to star in…if we are talking about the stage, I would have to say Sweeney Todd. I LOVE the music and the character. It’s dark, it’s witty, and playing a loveable villain is always a good time. Duet partner…hmmmmm that’s a tough one…but I do love Anna Kendrick. So if you have some connections, throw them my info haha.”

“Otherwise, I would love to co-write a song with Brandi Carlile…What an incredible songwriter and singer she is. I can’t help but get emotional when I listen to her music. If we are talking here in Vegas…I really really really want to sing with Lorena Peril from FANTASY. She has a stunning voice, is downright beautiful, and has a heart of pure gold.”

As we brought our time together to a close, I mentioned that I found Andrew’s voice to be unexpectedly powerful. I inquired as to whether he felt that was due to physical or emotional traits.

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“I believe it to be both. I use the emotions that connect me to the song to emote power, volume, nuance, finesse, and whatever else is required of me vocally. And I’m lucky to have a voice that is versatile and can deliver different sizes of voice, as well as warmth and color. I studied opera theater in school, and I believe it gave me the training to be able to sing many different genres healthily.”

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As we soldier through the most trying time of our lives, being healthy is indeed at the top of everyone’s list. Thank goodness that awesome hunks like Andrew Diessner and fellow members of “Hot Guys of Vegas” can inspire us…while adding a much-needed helping of eye candy to our recipe for overall wellness.

Photos courtesy of Andrew Diessner social media, clips via YouTube…

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Face the Spirits of Downtown’s ‘Apache Hotel’


Binions’ long-shuttered original rooms dare you to spend the night…

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You know the feeling of silent dread that creeps up your spine, tickling the back of your neck? How about the compulsion to suddenly do something with no rhyme or reason? Toss those sensations into a trick-or-treat bag, along with an intense need to get the hell out of the house, shake well, and that’s how I found myself checking into the eerie Hotel Apache this past weekend.

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Many of you may remember that Binions Casino once operated as a hotel, too. Its tower, topped by a digital thermometer and rotating letter “B”, is a familiar landmark. Previously known as The Mint, it was the second-tallest building on Fremont Street until the under-construction Circa Hotel. Closed since 2009, Binion’s 366 rooms reportedly require expensive asbestos removal before they can ever be reopened to guests.

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In a clever shifting of plans, owner TLC Casino Enterprises, which also operates 4 Queens Hotel Casino, decided to refurbish and open Hotel Apache, the long-hidden original structure above Binion’s Casino. Opened in 1932, those 81 rooms have remained unoccupied for 69 years.

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“There are secret tunnels…escape routes. It is a hotbed for activity. Deaths, suicides, murder…you name it. It happened right up here. One of the most haunted locations in Nevada.” So claims Zak Bagans, owner of Zak Bagans: The Haunted Museum. Early last year, Bagans and the Ghost Adventures Crew shot an episode at Hotel Apache, hoping to get a glimpse of the paranormal beings who reportedly occupy those rooms and corridors.

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The full “Binion’s” episode of Ghost Adventures is available for you to watch above. So, I won’t spoil anything here…but be sure to visit The Haunted Museum next time you’re in the Arts District.

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While nearby Golden Gate Hotel Casino (above) has downplayed decades of paranormal activity claims, Binion’s wears its dark reputation like a ghostly white sheet:

Historic Haunted Hotel Apache at Binion’s

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The Hotel Apache was originally opened by the Silvagni family in 1932. The family came to Las Vegas as a cement contractor for the Hoover Dam project and realized the workers needed a place to get away from their work and the heat of the desert. It was the first in Las Vegas to air-condition its hotel lobby and have air curtains at the entrance to the hotel. The hotel was eventually acquired by Benny Binion and was the place to stay for many Hollywood movie stars like Clark Gable, Humphrey Bogart and Lucille Ball. It was also the first in Las Vegas with an electrically operated elevator, fully carpeted casino and made poker a mainstream casino game.
Over the course of over 90 years, the historic Hotel Apache and Binion’s Gambling Hall have had many reports of spirited guests in residence who make it clear that the Hotel Apache and Binion’s Gambling Hall still belong to them. Several employees have been touched, nudged, report sightings of figures; and ghost hunters have reported high levels on their EMF meters and motion sensors along with mediums seeing actual images of past owners’ family members.
Book your next stay at the Historic Haunted Hotel Apache and let us know what you experience.

You might remember when Binion’s hosted their own horror attraction during the annual Fremont Street Halloween celebration:

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Binion’s Haunted Casino is a high-tech, theater-of-the-macabre attraction. Guests make their way through three distinct “haunts” — Club Dead/Casino RoyHell, The Hotel Diablo and the 3-D Toxic Martini Lounge — loaded with state-of-the-art animatronics and live “scare actors” in full make up and costume. This attraction is recommended for those 12 years and older.

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So, why not go full-throttle and open those notorious hotel rooms to the public, too? You’ll certainly get a chill when you pass vacant casino tables on your way to the quiet rear portion of the casino. That’s where you’ll discover the reservation desk, situated above the forgotten Binion’s Original Coffee Shop.

Check-in was swift, as I was the only guest (I saw no other patrons in the hotel during my entire stay). You can take the adjacent stairs or a creaky old elevator that deposits you right into the maelstrom of supposedly unearthly beings.

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Don’t expect anything fancy at Hotel Apache. The rooms are bare-bones, extremely small (normal for the era) and…shall we say…”rustic”. But the air conditioner is effective, wi-fi is strong (and free), and the shower works great. Bedding and towels are better-than-average quality, the mattress is firm and comfortable, and the closet is almost as large as the bathroom. There’s even an exhaust fan, something rare in Downtown Vegas bathrooms.

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The room has an electronic safe (no surcharge), plenty of power outlets, and a bedside USB charging jack. The vintage framed photos, rotary telephone, and retro Victrola clock-radio are awesome touches. Amenities include free parking in the ample (but rundown) garage, as well as access to a 25th-floor rooftop pool with one of the best views in Downtown. Forget any scenery from your window, though, as the sole pane was of stained glass. But at $45 plus tax on a Friday night (with no resort fee!), it’s a steal.

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As for any bumps in the night….the only unsettling event I experienced took place while preparing for an evening at The Garden with friends. As I was showering, a loud thud in the bedroom startled me. It turned out to be my smartphone, face down on the floor and several feet away from the flat surface that I’d placed it on. Yikes!

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As mentioned above, there were no other guests to be seen the entire time. Thanks to the silence, this “paranormal investigator” slept like a baby, uninterrupted by rattling chains or shadowy specters. Before I knew it, the sun was up and it was time to have an inexpensive breakfast downstairs. Don’t worry if you’re a late riser, as checkout is a generous 12pm.

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If you’re set on communicating with the dead, you might have to wait until celebrity medium Thomas John returns to Caesars Palace. But if you’re looking for a simple, clean, and convenient stay that won’t put a dent in your wallet, Hotel Apache is an honest-to-goodness trip back in time.

Hotel Apache is located at 128 E. Fremont Street Las Vegas, NV 8910. Phone Toll Free: 800-937-6537 or 702-382-1600

Photos: Sam Novak, screen caps from Travel Channel’s “Ghost Adventures”

Farewell to “Le Reve – The Dream” at Wynn


The most-loved production show in Las Vegas announces its closure due to COVID-19.

The word “devastated” took on a whole new meaning at 4pm today when the cast and crew of “Le Reve” received word that the show was permanently shuttering. I’ve gotten an avalanche of texts and messages from friends and colleagues who know what this show means to the city of Las Vegas…and to myself personally.

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While I allow this news to digest this evening (and mourn the loss of my favorite show), I’ll leave you with this article that I penned for VegasChatter.com in January of 2014. Be safe, stay strong, and be smart.

Click here to read (archived articles may take longer to load).

Six and a half years ago I wrote what would be one of my favorite articles and THE BEST EXPERIENCE I’ve had in this city. Farewell, Le Reve. You’ve earned a place in Vegas history that time will never erase, and I thank each and every person involved for creating one of the most beautiful productions Las Vegas will ever see.

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Cover photo courtesy of Alexander Stabler, performer at “Le Reve – The Dream”

The Remarkable Life of Roman Mokrenko


Ukrainian aerialist’s gravity-defying career path will astound you…

Sometimes the pressure of our daily routine makes us say “I just want to run away and join the circus”. But have you ever known someone who actually has? Well, meet a man who ditched his white-collar career for a chance at Sin City’s newest big tent spectacular.

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Roman Mokrenko is a 29-year-old Ukrainian from the port city of Odessa. Known as the “Pearl of the Black Sea”, Odessa boasts amazing architecture and a renowned Opera and Ballet Theater. The natural beauty of the Ukraine is as much a part of Roman as his love for physical arts. A longtime athlete, he studied acrobatics before pursuing a career in law. While attending the National University Odessa Law Academy, he simultaneously became a Junior Lieutenant in Military School.  

Being both a lawyer and a military officer didn’t extinguish Roman’s desire to accomplish something artistic:

One moment I just realized that this office life is not for me. I cannot live without a “scene”. Thank God I have a background in acrobatics and artistic gymnastics…I almost never stop training. There is too much energy in my head and body that I have to “splash” somewhere.

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If you’re going to make a splash, what better pool than the Las Vegas entertainment scene? There are countless productions here that incorporate aerialists, gymnasts, acrobats, and contortionists. So when Roman discovered a casting call for the new circus-style show CELESTIA at The STRAT, he decided to take the plunge.

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I applied for the casting without much hope. Here you can see the best artists of the world. I thought it was impossible, but now I’m here! This is my favorite part of life in Las Vegas. I have seen almost every show.

Roman arrived in Las Vegas on Valentine’s Day 2018. You might say that this was the beginning of a love affair with Sin City’s desert. Although he misses life by the sea, the excitement of performing in Vegas has allowed Roman to reach new heights. He just had to learn how to deal with the scorching climate.

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Air conditioning saves us from extreme heat. But sometimes when I have practice in the afternoon it just helps to warm up and train without a shirt. On stage, the artist must look divine. Not for nothing that I train every day and stay on these diets. If you have something to show off, then why not?

He may joke about flaunting his chiseled abs, but Roman’s physique has landed him several modeling gigs…some of them a bit unusual.

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I was a sketch model several times in New York City when the show was being revised. People sit in circles, have drinks and make sketches while you’re almost naked. I’ve had several shoots with photographers…one was for a foot fetish site, haha!

That Ukrainian sense of humor came through in Roman’s character work for CELESTIA, but it’s his physical abilities that stand out. He hopes that audiences will be inspired by his feats and channel that into their own fitness journey.

We’re on our phones all the time, but we can do it with some “profit”. Keeping in shape is much easier than going in and out of form. For ordinary people (not performers), 30 minutes a day will be enough. Just walk on a treadmill and watch a movie or play a game.  

When not entertaining crowds, Roman still finds himself in the company of fellow artists. After a massage and hearty breakfast at Omelet House, he heads to a very unique school:

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I like Nevada Rhythmic Academy. It’s a place where I can train, invent new acts, meet artists from other shows and try something new together. There is a real aura of the gym in which I grew up.

Mokrenko is considering buying a home here in Las Vegas, but there are a few dreams overseas yet to realize:

One day I’d like to be live on a stage with Ludovico Einaudi, Max Richter, Olafur Arnalds or Hans Zimmer. They are my favorites. And I want to perform with Nederlands Dans Theater. It will be an amazing mix between ballet and aerial performance…like dancing in the air!

As is quite often the case in the Vegas entertainment environment, Roman’s time at CELESTIA abruptly came to an end. Fortunately, his talents and great looks led him to other exploits, like joining the myriad of hot guys in Sahara‘s Blanc de Blanc and Atomic Saloon Show at Palazzo.

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Since the pandemic’s city-wide shutdown of live performances, he’s spent much of the spring and summer focusing on photography. Not one to shy away from showing off his hot body, the former soldier is often in front of the lens as well. And he’s wisely taken advantage of the quiet streets and sidewalks to obtain some incredible shots.

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Roman agrees that now is the best time to get in shape and document your results with a terrific collection of portraits and landscape shots. To see more of his gorgeous work, visit the official Instagram gallery. If you’d like to know more or to schedule a shoot, contact him directly through Facebook messenger via this link.

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Photos and video: Roman Mokrenko, Sam Novak

‘Fresco Italiano’ Races To The Top


Westgate’s superlative Italian restaurant takes highest ranking on TripAdvisor…

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The journey to success is never easy, especially in an era where anyone can be an online critic. It just takes a few troublesome reviews to jeopardize years of hard work. So there’s something to be said for a dining establishment that continues to rank higher and higher on a respected travel website…until it finally takes the top spot. That’s what Fresco Italiano has achieved…number 1 out of 290 Las Vegas Italian restaurants, according to TripAdvisor.

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I first reviewed this “journey for your senses” in the summer of 2017. Won over by its flavorful dishes, home-style atmosphere, exemplary service, and Tuscan-style decor, I found myself returning again and again. I’ve also done so many articles on the Westgate staff and operations that they’ve made me feel like one of the family.

So naturally, I’m biased when it comes to revisiting my favorite Italian destination. But don’t be deterred, because the slogan for Vegas Unfiltered is “Probably Biased -Definitely Honest”. Still, you don’t have to be a world-famous blogger (LOL) to feel right at home. Everyone is family at Fresco.

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In the years since my first visit, there have been frequent additions to the menu, ensuring that each visit to Fresco Italiano is a unique experience. Things really took off when Chef Steve Young of Edge Steakhouse took on dual responsibilities as their Executive Chef, which including revamping their offerings.

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The talented culinary expert, whom I profiled here, managed to keep Edge Steakhouse at the highest TripAdvisor ranking while elevating its sister establishment to the same level. Fresco Italiano was also awarded the TripAdvisor Certificate of Excellence. Combine those accolades with the talents of General Manager Dora Pane and an expert wait staff (including the stellar Michael Nealy Baker), and you’ve got an unforgettable evening in store.

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 GM Dora Pane

Now that Westgate Las Vegas has both the top steakhouse and top Italian restaurant in the city, you owe it to yourself to check them out. EDGE Steakhouse is awaiting a date to reopen since the pandemic has greatly decreased traffic, but Fresco Italiano is serving up brand new creations directly from Chef Young’s kitchen.

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Chef Steve Young

Here are a few dishes, some new and some familiar, that my companions and I enjoyed from the current menu:

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Bruschetta ($12.00) – heirloom tomatoes, basil pesto, vincotto, charred bread
Caprese ($14.00) – burrata, heirloom tomatoes, basil oil, extra virgin olive oil
Chopped Salad ($13.00) – romaine, iceberg, arugula, radicchio, bell peppers, onions, tomatoes, salami, crispy prosciutto, Italian dressing, parmesan (half-portion pictured above)
Tuscan White Bean & Kale Zuppa ($9.00) – white cannellini beans, Tuscan kale, Italian sausage
White Sangria and house-baked bread

 

 

Meatballs ($14.00) – slow-braised pork, beef, veal meatballs, stracciatella, grana padano, tomato sauce
Mozzarella Fritta ($12.00) – breaded whole milk mozzarella, tomato sauce

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Guazzetto di Cozze ($14.00) – salt springs mussels, artisan nduja, fennel, calabrian chiles, garlic butter
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Frutti di Mare ($29.00) – strozzapreti pasta, shrimp, scallops, clams, mussels, spicy tomato sauce
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Salsicce Italiane & Rapini ($20.00) – fennel sausage, orecchiette pasta, roasted peppers, ricotta salata

 

 

Pollo Arrosto ($29.00) – lemon & rosemary roasted half chicken, wild mushroom marsala, asparagus, cipollini onions, creamy polenta

Costata di Manzo ($45.00) – 18oz grilled bone-in rib eye, fingerling potatoes, cipollini onions, garlic butter, wild mushrooms

Salmone in Padella ($30.00) – artichoke hearts, fregola sarda, capers, basil, lemon butter

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Scaloppine di Vitello ($31.00) – sauteed veal loin, piccata style, capers, lemon, parsley, spaghetti

 

Pollo Arrosto ($29.00) – lemon & rosemary roasted half chicken, wild mushroom marsala, asparagus, cipollini onions, creamy polenta

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Tiramisu ($8.00) – mascarpone crema, marsala wine & espresso

Bomboloni ($8.00) – lemon & ricotta doughnuts, raspberry, crème anglaise, and Nutella dipping sauces
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As you can see, Italian meals are much more than past and pizza, although they’re represented here as well. There’s also an extensive wine list and additional meat and seafood entrees. A 3-course Chef Selection makes it simple, offering soup or salad, choic of main course and dessert for $40. Add a wine pairing for $7 more.
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I think you’ll agree that once you visit Fresco Italiano, you’ll look forward to returning frequently…and bringing new guests along each time. Superior to anything you’ll find on the Strip…at prices that belie its quality…Fresco Italiano serves Italian cuisine better than anyplace else in Las Vegas.
Fresco Italiano is located along Restaurant Row at Westgate Las Vegas, 3000 Paradise Road. Open daily from 5pm to 10pm. Call 702.732.5276 for information, click here to reserve through OpenTable.

Actor/Musician Ian Ward is Ready to Rock ‘The Vegas Room’


Youthful heartthrob from “Rock of Ages” and “BAZ” possesses the soul of a legend…

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There are many who consider Palazzo‘s BAZ to be one of the greatest productions that Las Vegas has ever seen. A gentre-defying blend of modern music and the works of literary greats as seen through the eyes of film director Baz Luhrmann, BAZ provided a forum for some of the best entertainers in the business.

When Ian Ward stepped into the role of “Romeo”, the youthful performer had big shoes to fill. James Byous, LJ Benet and Myles Nuzzi had all been stunning as the ill-fated lover, yet Ian (full name Ian Ward Brininstool) managed to make his own indelible impression. His powerful, heartfelt performance of Elton John’s “Your Song” elicited cheers from the audience…and the tragic “Love Is Blindness” (below) could cause you to erupt into sobs.

Ian made his stage debut at the age of nine, landing the lead in a large scale production of Oliver. Since then he’s taken on television with a role in Veronica Mars and the New York stage in musicals like Gettin’ The Band Back Together, Leaving Eden and the Radio City Music Hall Christmas Spectacular.

The native of La Jolla has performed on cruise ships around the world and lived in cities as diverse as Los Angeles, Miami, and of course, the Big Apple. Currently completing his studies at Berklee College of Music with an album on the way, he’s released a collection of self-penned singles that reflect a variety of cultural experiences.

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Ian was performing in the hit Los Angeles production of Rock Of Ages (with fellow BAZ alumnus Sean Lessard) when the pandemic forced it to close. Since then he’s been focused on his studies and writing new music. Like BAZ, Ian refuses to be categorized, yet influences from The Beatles, Elton John and classic rock anthems come through.

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Like most entertainers, the sandy-haired Californian has been yearning for a return to live performance. He’ll be center-stage this Friday and Saturday with an intimate showcase at The Vegas Room. I caught up with Ian over the weekend, and this is what he had to say:

When did you first visit Las Vegas, and when was the first time you performed here?

Growing up in San Diego, Las Vegas has always been a vacation destination for me and my family. I clearly remember spending my 13th birthday here and doing the indoor skydiving experience with my best friend. I think somewhere deep in my subconscious, I always knew that I would be spending more time in this special city. My dream came true when I was cast as Romeo in BAZ back in 2017. This was my first time experiencing performing here and getting to know the entertainment community in Las Vegas.

Roles in BAZ, Footloose, and Rock of Ages have allowed you to stretch your acting, dancing and singing muscles all at the same time. Do you approach a song “differently” when you’re performing in-character versus as yourself? Which do you prefer?

When I am performing a song in a musical, I bring the past experiences and memories of that character into the words that he is speaking and singing. As an actor through song, you must be able to convey to the audience where this character is in their particular journey within the overall story of the play.  

When I perform an original song or a cover song in a cabaret setting, sometimes I am more focused on feeling the energy and vibe of the material and connecting with the audience. I want to communicate directly and bring them along on the ride. It’s much more collaborative with the people there enjoying the music.

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Photos: Ryan Salinas for The Vegas Room

You tend to gravitate towards explosive productions, yet your solo work is of a more romantic nature. What kind of music do you listen to for your own enjoyment?

I love doing large scale productions because of the quality of lights, sound, special effects and the entire creative team that comes together to create something spectacular. However, in my solo work, I tend to gravitate towards love stories or stripped down acoustic sounds. I think this comes from my father’s influence in classic rock and my love for classic songwriters such as Neil Young, James Taylor, Sting, and The Beatles. I would love to blend high quality production with my own songs eventually.

Your cover of “Across The Universe” with Ruby Lewis is gorgeous and pure in its simplicity. How did that collaboration come about, and do you see the two of you working together again?

Ruby and I love to collaborate on songs that we share a passion for. One afternoon at my parents house, we were listening to some oldies and “Across the Universe” started playing. Ruby’s voice is so pure and strong that when we blend harmonies, it always sounds special and unique.  

We decided that it would be a nice take on a classic to do our own rendition, and I think the setting of my deck made the ambience all that more magical. She and I will definitely be doing more writing and recording together in the future. She is featured as the background singer on my song “Tru Luv” and sometimes I help arrange or cowrite on her songs. We hope to be onstage together soon!

Your IMDB and social media bios don’t list your birth year. Is there a reason behind that?

Haha! No reason for that actually. Maybe it’s just an industry thing…I think my agents might have taken it down online. I was born on Valentines Day, 1996.

You’ve shone onstage, on the screen and in the recording studio. What’s next to conquer?

I want to continue to grow my catalog in the recording industry and make songs that will make a difference to society and uplift people. A large goal of mine is to get significant progress made with my entertainment company ‘Outward Original’. This company was formed to establish artistic media that can create understanding and harmony. And, I want to collaborate with other artists to make art across all mediums. 

Many artists have reported a surge of creativity during the pandemic. Has this happened to you as well? What did COVID-19 deliver to your legacy?

This year has been very tough on everyone. Covid-19 was responsible for the closing of one of my favorite productions I have been a part of…’Rock of Ages Hollywood’…just after we had opened. It also took the life of my great friend, Nick Cordero, whom I shared the stage with in ‘Rock of Ages’.  

I went though a couple months of reflection and a form of depression where it didn’t feel authentic to be creating or trying to push my voice out into the world. However, now I am feeling invigorated and have been blessed with an influx of new opportunities, so I’m ready to get back out there and create!

Your website is “Ian Ward Out Ward Dot Com”. What is the message or meaning of that?

Ward is actually my middle name. My last name is Brininstool, of German descent. ‘Outward Original’ is the name of my entertainment company. And, being a spiritual person, I believe in the process of taking inspiration and then letting that flow freely outward into the world. So this play on words seemed both fitting and appropriate for my company and my beliefs.

Is there one well-known role that you’d love to take on? Who’s your dream onstage partner?

A dream role of mine would be to play Roger in RENT! Or be a part of a brand new, revolutionary musical where I get to build a role from the ground up. I had an experience like this when I was the first “Ren” in ‘Footloose’ for Norwegian Cruise Lines, because I got to make a lot of creative and artistic choices that became a part of the track for other actors to come! I am excited to see which great performers I get to share the stage with in the future!

The Vegas Room has quickly become the go-to venue/hangout for BAZ alumni (Randal Keith, Lisa Marie Smith, Anne Martinez, Eric Jordan Young) as well as other highly seasoned performers. Your inclusion in their entertainment line-up is testimony to your talent. What can guests expect from your showcase?

I feel so honored to have been asked to perform at The Vegas Room! My peers that worked on BAZ with me are so talented and are such gems in this city. I look forward to joining them in the roster at this great venue! The audience can expect a night of an eclectic smattering of classic songs, some originals I have been writing recently, and stories from my career that I hope will excite and interest people. I can’t wait to connect and entertain to bring some light to their night!


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Ian Ward takes to the stage of The Vegas Room on August 7th and 8th at 8pm. Options include a 6:30pm dinner/show or 7:30pm light bites/show. Click here or call  (725) 206-7059 for more information and reservations. The Vegas Room is located at 953 E Sahara Avenue Suite E18 (Bright RED Doors), Las Vegas, NV 89104