Feel Like a Kingsman at STITCHED


Cosmopolitan’s haberdashery is the ultimate clothier for men of distinction…

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In the 2014 box-office smash KINGSMAN: The Secret Service, master spy Colin Firth passes on some valuable wisdom to young Taron Egerton. “The first thing every gentleman needs is a good suit. Manners maketh man” he tells his protege from their base of covert operations…one that happens to be disguised as a shop for bespoke tailoring.

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You may not find a lair for international intrigue hidden inside Cosmopolitan Hotel Casino. But you will encounter the most stunning and exquisite men’s boutique in all of Las Vegas. Located on the second level, just a whisper away from gorgeous Chandelier Bar, STITCHED Lifestyle Men’s Clothier and Boutique is your gateway to an incredible world of sophisticated possibilities.

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I was first introduced to STITCHED through Mr. Gordon Prouty, Director of Publicity and Public Relations at Westgate Las Vegas Resort. This absurdly handsome gentleman is well-known throughout the city via his position at Greenspun Media Group…and his ongoing involvement with many local organizations.

No matter where I’ve seen him, Mr. Prouty is always impeccably dressed…so much so that I couldn’t help but ask about his dazzling and unique wardrobe. “STITCHED at Cosmopolitan” was the answer. “I’ll take you there some day if you’d like. It could make for an interesting article”. (let’s hope he was right)…

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Gordon Prouty (left) brings his winning STITCHED lifestyle to an outdoor event…

True to his word, this dapper gent arranged for me to meet Ricci Lopez-Hammargren. Mr. Lopez is General Manager and Vice President of Sales at STITCHED. This native of Las Vegas is also an accomplished journalist, voice actor and the newest board member of the Las Vegas Fashion Council.

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When I arrived at the haberdashery, Lopez was finishing up with one of his VIP clients. As I looked around the establishment, the flamenco guitar of QUEEN’s “Innuendo” strummed overhead, creating a marvelous mood for what was to come.

Soon I was receiving a wondrous tour while Gordon tried on some new arrivals. “Shall we begin outside?” Ricci suggested, eager to describe the care that went into creating the STITCHED frontage. Rich woods, tufted wall panels and sconces will undoubtedly grab your attention as you stroll through the resort. Don’t be surprised if your eyes drift upward to the distinctive red-leather lettering that spells out the shop’s name.

Below that, a magnificent door with custom-made hardware beckons you inside. “It looks a bit like a dungeon” Lopez laughed, pointing to the huge slab of dark wood. “And a little like the wardrobe that leads to Narnia” I added in my mind. For once you pass through that doorway, you leave Sin City behind and enter a time when elegance and frivolity strolled hand-in-hand.

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The main area of STITCHED is a dazzling festival of gorgeous shirts, colorful jackets, daring neckties and classy accessories. World-class brands like Tom Ford and Scabal are displayed alongside their own signature XXXX line on racks of re-purposed metal. Those unique displays come from the biking world of Roland Sands Design. Mr. Lopez told me that in the early days of the haberdashery (it opened with the Cosmopolitan in 2010) they actually had a Roland Sands motorcycle on display…along with a Vespa or two.

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While the main selling floor of STITCHED evokes at atmosphere of sophistication, the details lend themselves to moments of the more outrageous variety. Adorning the walls are pieces of taxidermy (not my thing to be sure), photos of well-outfitted celebrities…and shelves of colorful sneakers. High-end sunglasses, luggage, hats, pocket squares and belts are lovingly displayed in glass cases and on stands next to tastefully-weathered tables and cabinets.

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“This space is much more than just a store” Ricci proudly stated, his voice as elegant as our surroundings. “We’ve held parties, art showings, celebrity meet-and-greets, fundraisers….even weddings. I’m very happy that people choose our store to host their events. It’s an honor”.

As we headed towards the back section, I informed Ricci that I’d taken some photos upon my arrival. “Would you mind if I had a chance to straighten things up first instead? I’m a bit of a perfectionist”. Naturally I agreed, but later decided to mostly use existing photos from their Official Facebook page. After all, why attempt to duplicate what’s already been done flawlessly?

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                 Men of all shapes and sizes can benefit from a custom fitting…

To our left was where the STITCHED experience really begins…the measuring room. “Notice the platform where the gentleman stands for his fitting. It’s covered with red carpeting. Being fitted for a suit should make someone feel like a star”. And indeed the atmosphere appears stellar…standing in front of a three-sided mirror as dozens of measurements are recorded.

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Customers can choose clothing from in-stock selections and have them tailored for a perfect fit. Or for the ultimate STITCHED experience, you can have a one-of-a-kind outfit completely designed for you. Ricci and Sam Glaser (Vice President of Purchasing and Operations) have everything necessary to create a suit down to the finest detail.

There are limitless combinations to create your own design. Endless selections of fabrics, buttons, stitching and linings can be ordered from stacks of books if their huge existing selection doesn’t quite make the cut. You can pick your style, cut, lapel width, etc. or have one of the team….even Ricci himself…create one that reflects your style and personality.

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Ricci showed me a stunning jacket that had just been completed for a valued regular customer. The lining displayed a series of personal photographs that belong to the new owner. The final touch was a pocket square depicting the customer’s beloved grandmother. It was a surprise gift on behalf of STITCHED.

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Beyond that area, bathed in natural light courtesy of an enormous wall of glass, the “Santa’s factory” of STITCHED is open and inviting. An actual functioning work space, it’s home to the tailors and their craft. All of the cutting, sewing, embroidery and more occur here. “Other tailors hide this area away. It’s typically just four white walls where unseen craftsmen do their work. To us it’s the heart of our operations, and we like for it to be seen”.

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Along with their usual services, the team at STITCHED are pleased to act as concierges for customers. They’ll gladly arrange for transportation, entertainment…and perhaps even a bottle of their favorite spirits. Many other clothiers have their tailoring done at the Cosmo location. It’s a true reflection of the reputation they’ve built through an epic eight years in operation.

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“We have people fly in into Las Vegas just to come to STITCHED. They arrive at our store, spend a few hours here, then return. They can relax in our lounge, have a cocktail from their own private locker and enjoy the company of friends and other guests”.

Wait, what? A lounge with personal storage areas? As amazing as that sounds, it’s the absolute truth. Our next stop was indeed a lounge that has become the stuff of legend. Offering a fantastic view of the Strip, this man-cave is like nothing you’ve ever seen. The characters of KINGSMAN would feel right at home in this hidden retreat.

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Never before has this writer felt so at home in a place that was completely out of his realm. The STITCHED lounge is indeed the ultimate hangout for athletes, musicians, celebrities and top-tier movers and shakers.

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Across the back wall, dozens of locked cubicles (72 to be exact) display the names of their “owners” while inside, personal collections of spirits and libations await the next visit. Sitting in an enormous tufted-leather sofa, I was almost tempted to reach for a cigar…and I’ve never even smoked one.

“There’s a bit of a waiting list to get one of these” Ricci explained before zipping off to address an urgent matter. While sipping some fine whiskey with Mr. Prouty,  I chatted with Glaser and JJ McKay, a Seattle entrepreneur and creator of lifestyle website The Fresh Toast.

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It was easy to envision that plenty of business deals, influential decisions and memorable moments have taken place in this rather secretive location. From a retailer’s dollars-and-cents perspective, this space could be considered as wasted. But STITCHED is much more than just a retail outlet…it’s a lifestyle. An attitude. An experience to be desired.

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The Vegas flagship STITCHED has become so renowned that Mr. Lopez and his skills are now in demand in other cities. Ricci recently returned from Houston where he was flown in to do custom suits for the Astros team. Two additional STITCHED locations now provide dazzling clothing and accessories for the men of Washington D.C. and Miami.

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The greatest plaudits for STITCHED come from fashion-forward athlete Bryce Harper. He may not have started as an official spokesman, but that didn’t stop him from praising the wonders of his favorite clothier to his legion of fans. Bryce even got married in a tuxedo created by STITCHED for his nuptials.

Back here in Las Vegas, names like the GOLDEN KNIGHTS and Jaymes Vaughan (Celebrity Page TV, The Talk, Chippendales) have permanently-engraved plates identifying their own stored collections. Vaughan frequently shares his @StitchedLife fascination on Instagram. And you’ll see Ricci and team’s creations adorning hot local celebs like Micah Manalo (KTNV-TV), Matt Goss and Ricardo Laguna.

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It would be understandable to feel humbled in the company of such elite clientele. Ricci assures us that everyone is worthy of a quality suit…and he couldn’t be more proud to provide great clothing for the guys of Sin City. “A gentleman always dresses for the occasion” he says. “Strive for excellence and make your work worthy of being in front of a camera”.

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With the holidays and a new year nearly upon us, there will be plenty of opportunities for you to impress…and create memorable photographs. You owe it to yourself to step onto that red-carpeted riser. Enjoy one of the finest things that Las Vegas has to offer and indulge in some custom-tailored clothing from STITCHED. I know I will….see you there!

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STITCHED is located inside the Cosmopolitan Hotel Casino. Hours are from 10 am through 11 pm daily. Call 702-698-7630 for more information. To schedule a personalized fitting, click here.

Photos: STITCHED, Sam Novak, Ricci Lopez/Jaymes Vaughan/Ricardo Laguna/Micah Manalo/Bryce Harper/Gordon Prouty via public social media

 

 

 

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Jeffrey DeBarathy, The Ultimate “Go-To” Entertainer


“…this innovative young man is putting a very unique stamp on Las Vegas”.

EDITOR’S NOTE: This article previously appeared on another site in April of 2016. Jeffrey has gone on to work with many other artists and shows, including costume design for INFERNO at Paris Hotel Casino. He continues to be a featured performer at V Theater’s ZOMBIE BURLESQUE.

It’s pretty common for a performer or celebrity to be described as “chameleon-like”. Some entertainers can step into a wide variety of roles and fully command them. But a real show-biz chameleon can do just about anything, whether it be singing, dancing, acting, acrobatics…or choreography and costume design?

Yes, it’s possible. Say hello to Vegas multi-hyphenate Jeffrey DeBarathy.

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If you’ve attended any Vegas shows in the past several years, chances are that you’ve experienced the talents of Jeffrey DeBarathy. This 35-year-old Montana native has had involvement in the widest variety of productions that this writer has ever seen. It’s not unusual to encounter Jeffrey himself at least once on each of my trips to Sin City. The guy is EVERYWHERE.

Jeffrey began training in the arts when he was only three years old. He studied jazz, tap, and gymnastics in his hometown of Butte until the age of 19 when he was offered a chance to join Celebrity Cruise Lines as part of the Molyneux-Musick Entertainment Company. Those three years literally opened up a whole world of opportunities which saw DeBarathy performing in China, the Caribbean, Tahiti, Europe, Hawaii, and Alaska.

From there, Jeffrey made the decision to try his luck in Las Vegas. He was only 22 at the time but dove headfirst into action by joining the cast of the notorious STORM at Mandalay Bay and Charo‘s Spanish variety show BRAVO. His unconventional good looks and wild mane no doubt made an impression on casting directors, but it was Jeffrey’s talents that brought him to the front.

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               Jeffrey (upper right) with the cast of “Alice – A Steampunk Concert Fantasy.”

It wasn’t long before Jeffrey was taking charge behind the scenes, too, as dance captain for FASHIONISTAS. That erotically-charged fantasy played at KRAVE nightclub for four years. Numerous other shows followed, most notably Rio‘s final incarnation of SHOW IN THE SKY, the iconic attraction which closed permanently in 2013.

It was during a period of modeling in special events and print ads that Jeffrey discovered a flair for costume and fashion design. His talent for blending unusual and outrageous fantasy elements into his designs has made DeBarathy the go-to designer for many shows in the city. Jeffrey eventually launched his own specialty line of costumes, clothing and accessories called Jd Fashion Design.

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                             Jeffrey’s daring designs adorn The Men Of Steele

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Jeffrey (foreground) makes adjustments to a costume during rehearsals for 53X at Chateau Nightclub

In just the past month, Jeffrey has added three new productions to his resume, as costume designer for The Men Of Steele male revue and 53X (the sexy new show at Paris) and as a performer/designer for ALICE: A Steampunk Concert Fantasy at The Linq. That wild musical interpretation of Alice In Wonderland has been drawing crowds…and critical raves…during its monthly performances at Brooklyn Bowl.

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                                    As Zombie Burlesque’s “Johnny Wifemauller.”

Jeffrey is also the dance captain and a regular performer at V Theater‘s ZOMBIE BURLESQUE, the risque comedy-horror musical that we mentioned awhile back (in a profile of costar Aaron Lucey). AND, he’s the personal stylist/dance captain/dancer for songstress Kristine W., who’s launching another tour this summer.

Check out this music video they shot together at the Las Vegas Life Cube:

As Jeffrey’s talents allow him to reach and expand, it’s easy to imagine seeing his visionary work in major motion pictures, Broadway productions, and shows throughout the world. But for the time being, this innovative young man is putting a very unique stamp on Las Vegas.

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Jeffrey with Zombie Burlesque host Enoch Augustus Scott and castmate April Leopardi…

Photos: Jeffrey DeBarathy/Shannon M. Hardin-Oteyza via Facebook, Sammasseur, Zombie Burlesque, Alice – A Steampunk Concert Fantasy

Las Vegas and the Australia Connection


There’s a unique bond between Sin City and the Land Down Under…

Thanks to casino developer Sam Boyd and his trio of downtown properties, the people of Hawaii have forged a strong relationship with Las Vegas. The FremontMain Street and most especially California hotels are dependent on regular tourism from the Island State, and they cater to the culture in a variety of ways.

Restaurants serve Hawaiian favorites, staff wear island-style shirts, and Hawaiian retailers like ABC Stores and Lappert’s Ice Cream have locations Downtown. Signs throughout Boyd casinos even proclaim “Aloha Is Spoken Here”.

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        Olivia Newton-John at the opening party for her residency at the Flamingo…

On the other side of the equator, the continent of Australia has also formed a bond with Sin City. While not nearly as defined, there’s an undeniable connection between the folks from Down Under and the City of Entertainment. Let’s take a look at a few examples, and perhaps uncover why such distant locations are joined by an invisible highway of travelers…and why so many people relocate from one place to the other.

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   Perth’s Andrew Gill welcomes guests to the Mike Hammer Comedy Show at 4 Queens…

For Andrew Gill, it was the lure of magic that drew him to Vegas. Then 19 years old, this native of Perth flew across the Pacific to attend the World Magic Teen Mentoring Seminar by legendary Lance Burton. Things turned out so well that Gill remained and worked his way up to becoming production manager for Mike Hammer Comedy Magic.

Andrew stayed with Hammer’s team a few years until his work visa expired. Before returning, the ambitious young Aussie had developed relationships with fellow magicians Murray SawchuckDavid Copperfield and of course, Burton. Now a successful realtor (with his own magic act to keep things fun), Andrew returns annually for the MAGIC Live Convention at Orleans Hotel.

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     Human Nature gives Mike Tyson some love at the opening night of JUKEBOX…

Since this city thrives on sex appeal, it’s only natural that the legendary handsome men of Australia would come here to seek fame, fortune…and steaming hot billboards. Outback rancher Aaron Michael Lucey relocated here to become a successful choreographer and performer.

In addition to various other musical productions, Aaron was dance captain for Thunder From Down Under, the long-running Aussie-themed male revue at Excalibur. That was followed by Chippendales spin-off 53X and more recently Masters of Illusion.

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         Aaron Micheal Lucey traded a saddle for the excitement of the Strip…

Three years ago, the upstart Aussie Heat opened downtown, quickly expanding both the show and their audience in the larger V Theater at Planet HollywoodAussie Heat achieved the number one spot for Vegas productions on Yelp. Ninety-three percent of audience ratings are at five stars, so the risky plan for bringing a brand-new, er…brand to Las Vegas seems to have paid off.

Moving to Vegas Reality vs. Expectations                                       Tommy (far left) with the cast of Aussie Heat…

You may remember the guest article penned by former Aussie Heat dancer Tommy Harvey aka “Tommy Gun” (pictured above, first row far right). Tommy detailed what it was like to move here from Australia. Despite undergoing a bit of culture shock, it wasn’t long before the striptease artist/athlete was feeling right at home.

Former Aussie Heat CEO Jono Weinstock explained the appeal of Vegas stages to Australian entertainers:

“As a performer, this is the pinnacle of achievement…being able to perform so many nights and shows a week. Back home, maybe once a week if lucky. It’s the pinnacle of entertainment, too — a big bold fun adult playground. Parties, gaming, pools, DJ’s, shows…”.

Weinstock was also quick to point out a few of the many positives that Sin City offers for Australian tourism:

“It’s a 15 hour flight from L.A., so we only get big-name performers once every 20 years in their careers! (There’s) cheap shopping also. We pay three times as much for everything down there. The outlets are a winner..and the Aussie dollar at times has been very favourable…now not so much, but shopping is of huge value.”.

Chippendales joined the Aussie-hunk popularity wave by recruiting dancer Ryan Stuart, who was widely promoted as their first member from Down Under. Stuart’s looks, talent, and super-sexy accent aided in him becoming a regular host for the show. After an onstage injury, Stuart returned to Australia but takes back with him a lifetime of experiences.

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              Hit-maker Kylie Minogue cuddles with fellow Aussie Ryan Stuart…

Ironically, Ryan’s fellow Chippendale host Russel Francis chose the opposite path, leaving the stages of Vegas for those of Australia. The handsome singer/dancer from Jacksonville Florida, who had starred in Planet Hollywood‘s PIANO MAN and VEGAS! THE SHOW was riding a career high when he decided to make a big change.

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Former Vegas performers Russel Francis (center) and Ali Francis (far right) bring a little taste of Vegas to the Australian Olympic team in Queensland…

Francis won the affection of a Vegas! The Show audience…and his co-star/future bride Ali…when he proposed to her onstage at the end of a performance. After the honeymoon and lots of traveling, Russel decided to head to Australia for a chance to audition for Ricky Martin on their version of The Voice. A year after going through the audition process, he made it to the finals and worked with legendary singer Seal.

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                       Russel and myself after one of his Vegas performances

Russel sees a definite connection between Las Vegas and Australia:

“I’ve traveled for about five years straight, been to six continents and hundreds of countries. Australia is by far the closest country to the U.S. They actually call Brisbane ‘Bris-Vegas’.

I asked Russel if Australia’s similarity to the United States eased his transition…and if he was welcomed by native residents:

“They have welcomed me with open arms. Everyone has been so friendly and helpful. I’ve been booked on all kind of gigs because everyone loves that I’m here. If I get on the show (X Factor) and do well then we might be here for awhile”.

The people of Las Vegas clearly have open arms for Aussies as well. Take note when you attend a show here and the performers ask audience members “Where are you from?”. Chances are, there will be a large and rowdy group of Aussies, all having a great time together.

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              The Australian Bee Gees celebrate all things disco at Excalibur…

And why not? It’s great to feel welcome when you’re so far away from home. And Aussie visitors are bombarded by advertising for Australian Bee GeesHuman Nature, and previously for Olivia Newton-John. But if they ever feel lonely, there’s a community group dedicated to Australians who have relocated here.

Currently, no casino has followed the California‘s lead and dedicated their marketing directly to Australians (Excalibur comes close with the Thunder/Australian Bee Gees line-up). And this writer has yet to find a restaurant that specializes in lamington and pavlova.

But as the bond between these two cultures continues to grow and strengthen, don’t be surprised if someday the MGM Grand restores their Oz theme with a new twist….and the Rainforest Cafe re-opens as the “Koala Diner”.

Photos: Sammasseur, Russel Francis/Ryan Stuart/Tommy Harvey/Aaron Michael Lucey via Facebook, LIGHT Nightclub/Australian Bee Gees via Facebook

All Eyes On Vegas Once More


Publication is resuming from a new vantage point at the upper edge of the Valley…

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A few weeks ago I announced here that I would be leaving Oregon and moving full-time to Sin City. A lot has happened since that article was published, most of it great…and some a bit sad.

It’s rare that I share personal details at Vegas Unfiltered…that is, unless they’re related to the topic at hand. But I’m pleased to say that my crew of rescue kitties and I survived the two-day drive.

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We settled into our new home (a gorgeous four-level structure with a roof-top deck) and are adjusting quite nicely. All have done remarkably well…except for a big orange tabby named “Sunny”.

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Sunny enjoys watching the sunrise with his dad on our overnight drive to Vegas…

Sunny has had a really tough life. I found him dying in a snow storm four years ago in rural Salem Oregon. He had been run over and left for dead. I took him to a vet, he survived surgeries and an extensive recovery period. Despite having the feline version of HIV called FIV (yes, it’s a real thing), Sunny grew to be healthy, happy and loved.

Sadly, only two days after unloading my moving truck, Sunny was at the Las Vegas Veterinary Specialty Center. His new oncologist and I were discussing options to treat his nasal lymphoma, a non-curable cancer.

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As I write this, Sunny is in the next room being comforted by his gal-pal Tasha. My buddy underwent his first chemotherapy treatment last Thursday and is still hanging in there. Life for him will go only as long as the fates (and wonders of science) can allow.

My pal will enjoy being with us only. as long as his quality of life warrants it…then we’ll sadly say goodbye. Tasha will take it the hardest. She showed up a few months after I found Sunny and they’ve become inseparable.

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            George Blick will be in the Vegas Unfiltered spotlight very soon…

In the meantime, yours truly is ready to get back to publishing new profiles and experiences. Next up will be a profile of multi-hyphenate performer George Blick. Soon after will be a luxury Grand Canyon tour with Serenity Helicopters, a true VIP service. I’ll also be publishing my next piece through BestOfVegas.com. More on that one later.

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Thank you for sticking with me during this time of transition. I’m sure it’ll be worth the wait….these Vegas sunrises are certainly inspiring enough! Our Vegas Unfiltered adventure together is just beginning!

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Photos: Sammasseur, Serenity Helicopters, George Blick

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Dora Pane Fresco Italiano Westgate

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

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

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

Dora Pane Fresco Italiano Westgate

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

Dora Pane Fresco Italiano Westgate

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

Dora Pane Fresco Italiano Westgate

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

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

Dora Pane Fresco Italiano Westgate

                     Sharing the Fresco Italiano family experience with my own…

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

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

Dora Pane Fresco Italiano Westgate

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

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

 

 

 

Sky Villas Part 3: The Verona


Photographer Greg C concludes his photo essay on Westgate’s Sky Villas…

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In the world of casino hosts, the most coveted type of client is the “whale“. These super-high-rollers are enticed into visiting and remaining loyal by being showered with lavish treatment and perks. Usage of limousines and private jets, shopping excursions, star-studded parties…and of course, lodging in the hotel’s most palatial Sky Villas. All are intended to keep that high-roller on the property long enough to bet (and ideally to lose) large sums of money, and hopefully, to return in the future for more high-stakes wagering.

Sky Villas are rarely seen by the general public, and even more rarely are photographers allowed access to the degree that Greg C has been at Westgate Las Vegas. Today’s tour of the Verona Suite concludes his trilogy of photo sessions (take a look at the previous two here and here).

With any luck, we’ll be able to turn this collection into an ongoing series, one that gives our readers unparalleled access to those dreamy suites that adorn the clouds over Sin City. But for now, enjoy the Verona Sky Villa, courtesy of the staff and management at Westgate.

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“My first impression was like stepping into a palace of Old World splendor…a blend of Italian Renaissance and Roman Glory. They say that you come to Vegas to party and see the sights — the room is just to sleep and shower (and, you know). Well, not so here. The Suite itself is an adventure. You could make a vacation out of it”. – Greg C.

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The city of Verona in northern Italy is known for its art, architecture and spirit of romance. After all, William Shakespeare placed his titular characters in Verona for Romeo and Juliet. Once a colony of Rome, Verona is rich with statues, arches, domed ceilings, pillars and artistic motifs. True to its namesake, the Verona Suite at Westgate is ornate and overflowing with gorgeous detail and accents.

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The Verona was the first of the three to be built (completed December 1994) and is the largest at 15,400 square feet. If you were a fan of the Robin Leach series “Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous”, you might recognize the three-bedroom Verona, which was once featured on that popular show.

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Filmmakers used the Verona Suite as a stand-in for Liberace’s residence in the 2013 biopic Behind The Candelabra.

“The piano is a nice touch. If you’re a piano player, you have another reason to “stay home” in your suite. Talk about a nice ambiance to practice”.

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“Those statues! The one staring back at you with imperious Roman hauteur….the demure young beauty protecting her modesty in the garden”.

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“Yep…another awesome bedroom “suite within a suite”. And, of course, TV in bed…just what a vacationing Roman senator would require in the 21st century”.

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“Relax by the fireplace AND soak in the tub at the same time”.

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New hotels in Las Vegas have become somewhat clinical, almost office-like complexes. Their suites are tech-heavy and massive, yet could easily be found in any other city. It’s nice to know that glossy, lavish places like the Verona Suite still exist in Vegas and are treated with reverence today. They’re living reminders of a time that represented the true spirit of Sin City.

View w scope

You can learn more about these accommodations on the Westgate Las Vegas reservation website. They are rarely seen by the general public and are usually reserved for their top-tier guests. Nine other themed “specialty suites” are also available…if you feel like living large and have the wallet to back it up. Click here to explore them.

There’s always room at the top. Don’t let them tell you that there is not. – Singer Adam Ant

This article previously appeared on another site. It has been updated.

Photos: Greg C.

Sky Villas Part 2: The Versailles


“Themes may be a bygone era in Vegas as a whole, but they live on atop Westgate” – Greg C.

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Wordless sighs…that’s a typical reaction to the trio of Sky Villas that sit atop the Westgate Las Vegas tower. Resting like a crown atop the existing 29 floors, they are brimming with opulence and European style. Ornate, sprawling, and bordering on gaudy, the TuscanyVersailles and Verona Sky Suites are the epitome of Las Vegas excess.

Photographer Greg C. returned for the second day of shooting at Westgate (part one is here) in 2016Having been up there myself, I can assure you that very few things can prepare you for the extravagance…but a fancy-schmancy elevator embellished with artwork, mirrors, and a padded throne…er, bench, certainly helps.

“This suite was called the “Conrad” until recently……IMO the switch to “Versailles” was a good one– the old name was at odds with the classy “Verona” and “Tuscany”…. Conrad sounded a bit too “Joe 6-pack” to my ears…. wonder how they ever picked it.” – Greg C.

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Stepping through the rotunda and into the Versailles Suite, one might expect a choir of angels to be singing overhead. This three-bedroom accommodation spreads out over 12,600 square feet.

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High-rollers with concern for personal safety (and privacy) can bring their own “goons” to man the elevator rotunda’s security station. Bodyguards aren’t included in the villa’s rental rates, which start at $6,000.00 per night…and a three-night minimum.

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Impressive columns, hand-carved furniture, domed ceilings and plenty of genuine gold accents over a peaches-and-cream palette make it easy for you to pretend that you’re in a French castle.

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“Versailles does have plenty of decadent appeals. I could easily picture Louis XVI and Marie Antoinette living here if they got yanked into the 21st century. I almost expected to see servants in powdered wigs and pantaloons walking around in the suite…..those wall-sized paintings (and ceilings) really emphasize the theme.” – Greg C.

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After a workout in the private exercise facility, guests can relax at an intimate dipping pool situated within the grand courtyard.

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The two-story Versailles Suite has three bedrooms that can be accessed by a spiral staircase that rises 30 feet….or a dedicated elevator that is hidden behind an inconspicuous door.

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Luxury abounds in the multiple bedrooms, with mural-covered walls and floor-to-ceiling windows.

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This particular bedroom not only has the modern touch of a flat screen television at the foot of the bed, but also a terrace that opens onto this magnificent view.

Turnberry Place

“That open balcony – talk about the ultimate place to watch a sunset. You have a panoramic view of the Strip and mountains up there…a better view than many places, as Westgate is set back away from the Strip and allows you to really catch in the sights.” – Greg C.

View atop Westgate

“The upper-level balcony is well-concealed. You have to move back the drapes at one end of the windows to reveal the catches where the window swings out to allow access to the open deck. You can look down on the private pool area.” –  Greg C.

Deck area

Pool looking down from deck

What happens in Vegas might stay here, but that doesn’t mean it won’t be witnessed by somebody with a well-positioned telescope.

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Guests won’t have to go far to relax in a marble whirlpool bath, which also comes with a view.

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It may seem strange to use the word “small” in reference to the Versailles Suite, but it is the smallest sky villa at Westgate. The massive three-bedroom Verona Suite tops out at 15,400 square feet and will be featured in the final segment of this series.

If you happen to be a high roller in WOW Rewards Program and have scored access to any of the Westgate Villas or Specialty Suites, send me your photos and you might see them here. In the meantime, I’ll be sitting at the penny slots…playing small and dreaming of living large.

This article previously appeared on another site. It has been updated.

Photos: Greg C.