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

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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                     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!

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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.

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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.

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“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.

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“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.

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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.

 

Sky Villas That Will Blow You Away


Photographer Greg C. unveils Westgate’s legendary 30th floor sky suites…

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As the sun went down on the final days of Riviera, it’s unofficial title of “the Last Grand Old Dame of Vegas” quietly drifted eastward across Paradise Road. There, another vintage edifice continues to evolve and change while embracing its historic past. The more we explore its various facets and offerings, the more photographer Greg C. and I continue to be enamored by Westgate Las Vegas.

Westgate Las Vegas Resort began life as the International Hotel Casino back in 1969 and it rightfully took its place as one of the premiere destinations in the city. Elvis Presley was associated with the property much like Riviera and Sahara shared the Rat Pack. These days, while SLS Las Vegas has scraped away any significant remnants of the SaharaWestgate salutes its history with a bigger-than-life statue of Elvis right in the heart of the lobby.

As Greg puts it, “I have to admit I really like how the place looks and feels. It has the nostalgia of the 20th century blended with the hustle of the 21st. Kind of like Caesars on the Strip, they have managed to keep the place going without getting stale and musty”.

While roaming the property on my own, I noticed the care in the details with which the resort had changed over the logos from “Hilton” and “LVH” (Westgate’s other former names) to the current one. It was evident in the ones laid into the marble flooring, etched into door glass and positioned on directional signs…as if they had been there all along. Brass accents, gold-toned trim, and glass chandeliers had been lovingly restored and polished, too, giving a vibe of “old Vegas” that still looked somehow contemporary.

My three-night stay a while back included a sleepover in the massive and ornate Hollywood Suite, which was stunning. So much so that I requested that our resident photographer Greg C have the opportunity to visit and shoot more of the upper levels. Well, it took awhile for things to come together, but now I have plenty of Greg’s photos to share with you.

One of Westgate’s representatives was kind enough to take Greg on a tour in 2016. Their first stop was the four-bedroom Tuscany Suite.

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As Greg describes it: “The Tuscany is one of three Sky Villas built on the top level (30th floor), this one atop the east wing. Its decor dates back to the Hilton era. When you go up by elevator, you step out into a rotunda with three doors, one for (each of) the three high roller suites”.

“The Tuscany is the second largest of the villas at 14,500 square feet. It was opened in 1995, and some of the space that it occupies had once been a penthouse that Elvis stayed in back in the 1970’s. It was vastly enlarged in the 90’s”.

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The pool view is an interior view as it is completely surrounded by the suite”. Greg C.

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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. They range from a serene Napa Valley decor to the pristine bliss of the Bahamas…and of course, that glitzy Hollywood Suite (below).

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Next up will be the Versailles Sky Suite

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

Photos: Greg C., Sammasseur (Hollywood Suite)

Sexy Vegas Power Duos: Lupita and Michal Furmanczyk


Absinthe’s rippling acrobat and Golden Nugget’s model dealer make pulses races from center-Strip to the heart of Downtown….

If you’re a regular reader of this column, you know that I’m obsessed with gorgeous people. From the lusciously stunning Savannah Cross to the hunky likes of Willie Gomez and Chris Hodgson, Vegas Unfiltered is unapologetic in its constant praising of the stunning people of Vegas.

But what makes them beautiful goes way beyond their physical traits. Unique architecture and world-class offerings are what may attract visitors to Las Vegas, but it’s the men and women who give it a heart and soul. Humanitarians like Noel Dahl and Eric Roy, talented chefs like Steve Young and voice-perfect singers like Anne Martinez are what really makes Sin City a very special place to visit and enjoy.

Two very different people from distant parts of the world were drawn to Las Vegas to fulfill their dreams. When their paths crossed under random circumstances it was like lightning in a bottle. The couple hasn’t been apart ever since.

Now the entire valley is an enormous, joyful playground for this pair to share their passion for Las Vegas…and each other. Ladies and gentlemen…meet Lupita and Michal Furmanczyk.

Power Duo Michal Lupita Furmanczyk

The former Miss Lupita Ruiz comes from a small town in Veracruz, Mexico. “It’s the kind of town everyone knows each other and everything is within walking distance”, she told me. The middle of three children (an older brother and younger sister), Lupita graduated high school in El Paso, Texas then immediately whisked off to Reno Nevada to further her education.

Power Duo Michal Lupita Furmanczyk

After a semester at University of Nevada Reno, Lupita dropped out to pursue a career in poker. “I used a fake ID to be able to gamble in the casinos because I was underage” she confided. “During my short poker career I met all the professional poker players and my best friend Jerry Buss (owner of the Lakers, who passed away from cancer). And, a number of celebrities from David Beckham to my favorite George Lopez“.

After four years in Reno, it was off to Florida to major in Valencia College‘s dental hygiene program. With her degree nearly completed, the call of Las Vegas drew her back to Nevada. “I came here for school but i didn’t really have to come here for it. I’m just impulsive and one day felt like changing the scenery”.

Power Duo Michal Lupita Furmanczyk

Although Lupita planned to finish her degree, the fates had other plans. “I missed the deadline due to my credits taking too long being transferred. Instead of skipping the semester I decided to attend their Performing Arts School”. That’s where destiny put Lupita in the path (and arms) of a towering hunk from Warsaw, Poland.

Power Duo Michal Lupita Furmanczyk

Michal Furmanczyk is also one of three children. His older brother Kamil is an engineer and sister Kasia, the eldest, is a teacher. Despite Michal’s muscular exterior, he too is an intellectual. “I graduated from the University in Poland in 2008 with a degree in psychology. My dad had wanted me to be a policeman but I had very different plans for my future, haha!”.

Power Duo Michal Lupita Furmanczyk

Somehow, that career in psychology gave way to performing astounding acrobatic feats in front of live audiences. “Many people might think that I attended some “circus school” or something associated with sports. Partially its true” he laughed “as lots of my classmates in high school were Olympic Champions”. Like his future wife, Michal followed his inner voices…and they led him to what would become a well-known big top on the Strip.

Power Duo Michal Lupita Furmanczyk

         Michal and partner Lucas (standing) during their hand-balancing act…

“I’m the only person in the family who end up working in circus. In the winter of 2010, my partner Lucas and I were working in Munich when Spiegelworld producer Ross Mollison and artistic director Wayne Harrison’s Cheep (yes, that’s his name) saw us performing. Right afterwards they came up to us and said that they’re opening a new show in Las Vegas. Ross told us he’d like us to be a part of it…how could we refuse such a great opportunity?”

That was seven years ago. Since then, Absinthe has become the must-see breakout hit at Caesars Palace. After awhile Misha, as he’s affectionately known, wanted to broaden his formal education, this time in the world of performing arts.

Power Duo Michal Lupita Furmanczyk

“I felt need to go back to school and learn something. At first I wanted to try a program from behind the camera but that didn’t match with my show schedule. So, I signed up for acting classes….I thought it might be helpful since I work on stage nightly. There is always something new to learn. Lupita and I were classmates and became friends right away. We met in June of 2014 and by the end of that year we were already living together”.

Power Duo Michal Lupita Furmanczyk

Power Duo Michal Lupita Furmanczyk

The two were married in January of 2017 and has been sharing the life that so many couples dream of. They travel frequently to Hawaii (Maui is their special place) and relish outdoor activities like hiking and swimming…when they aren’t working out to keep their bodies in such impressive condition.

The couple’s dogs Romeo (a Florida pooch with his own fan page) and Coco (whose heartbroken appearance won them over at a shelter) love to frolic in the water. As Misha tells it, “Meyo (Romeo’s nickname) goes nuts when he sees the water. He used to jump over the fence at the house where we lived before, just so he could swim in the neighbor’s pool”.

The foursome sometimes take day trips to Willow Beach, Arizona so the pit bulls and their parents can frolic in the water. It’s a scenic locale that’s great for plenty of photo ops. “We both enjoy photography…Lupita in front of the camera and I like to be on both sides”.

It’s easy to see why Lupita’s career in modeling is as successful as being a model dealer at downtown’s Golden Nugget Hotel Casino. And of course having her husband behind the lens brings out the best in both of them. But that hasn’t stopped the professional photographers from making Lupita one of their favorite subjects.

Power Duo Michal Lupita Furmanczyk

Of course, a sexy young couple living in Sin City is bound to indulge in all that the Strip has to offer. Lupita and Michal enjoy dressing up for a night on the town, taking in the delicious foods (Lupita’s partial to the chicken tikki masala at TUMERIC – Taste of India on Fremont Street), great entertainment and spectacular views. Sometimes they just like to clown around together.

Power Duo Michal Lupita Furmanczyk

SHOWSTOPPERS at Wynn/Encore was their favorite production…until the show came to a close. Now Michal is high on OPIUM at Cosmopolitan. “OPIUM’s the newest show from Spiegelworld. It’s hilarious and totally different from any other show you have seen anywhere. Totally must-see!” (look for my review in an upcoming column).

The pair currently owns two homes, a condo Downtown and another on the south end of the Strip. “I love real estate and home decor projects” Michal told me. “Lupita has a great vision and searches for inspiration online to find out what would look nice and match in our places”. His wife added “We both are artistic people so anything creative we enjoy”.

One thing this writer admires about the Furmanczyks is that they totally embrace their sex appeal. They have no hang-ups about their physical selves and don’t feel the need to hide what their hard work and dedication have created.

Power Duo Michal Lupita Furmanczyk

Says Michal “We just know who we are and we do we what we want. I don’t work out to keep my body under a t-shirt. Sometimes yes, but in general I like to wear nice fitted clothes. Many guys don’t really know their bodies and they just follow others without being conscious that they can dress nicer”.

Being an influential power couple in the City of Entertainment might be a dream come true, but both of these fine individuals have worked hard to overcome difficulties and humbler times. Michal is especially grateful for achieving respect as a performer after a personal tragedy nearly crippled him.

“In 2007, I had an accident where I broke both of my legs and completely shattered my ankles. A doctor told me that my career was over. I wasn’t able to walk for about a year. Then I started walking slowly for another year…like an old man. After that I was able to start slowly running. Now I’m proudly rocking the stage every night”.

 Power Duo Michal Lupita Furmanczyk

He closed out our interview with one final thought. “We’ve got to remember to never give up and be very strong. Luckily I had great, true friends that never left my side and kept my spirits high. I’m very thankful to each person who helped me at that difficult time. And I remember very well who was there for me”.

Power Duo Michal Lupita Furmanczyk

Now that the Furmanczyks have found one another, their futures should be very bright indeed.

ABSINTHE performs Tuesday through Sunday at Caesars Palace. Show schedule is available by clicking here. VegasFool.com has discount seats available via this link
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Photos: Michal and Lupita Furmanczyk, Miguel Vazquez, Ramiro Cervantes,  Jose Karelin Gonzalez