The Remarkable Double Life of CELESTIA’s Roman Mokrenko


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

Click HERE to read via BestOfVegas.com…

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 comes 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!

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CELESTIA performs Wednesday through Sunday at 7 p.m. with additional 9 p.m. shows Friday through Sunday.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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‘Aussie Heat’ Fires Up the Strip


The “other” Down-Under male revue is faster/hotter/better than you’d ever expect…

In the world of sexy productions, male revues get very little respect. Audiences unfamiliar with these productions may have had their perceptions tarnished by cheesy appearances on 90’s daytime talk shows. But today’s male revues are polished, contemporary and well-mounted stage productions. And they’re enjoyable by all adult audiences, not just breathless bachelorette parties.

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Naturally, their are noticeable differences in what they have to offer. Chippendales remains the gold standard with a cast of towering, beefy clean-cut hardbodies. Magic Mike Live wraps their slim young pretty-boys in a ribbon of female-empowerment with the unusual addition of a female host. Black Magic Live offers an African-American cast direct from Lifetime Television Network. Then there’s Thunder From Down Under, the long-running production at Excalibur packed with sweaty wild boys from “Oz”.

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If you’re wondering why Sin City would need another Australia-based male revue, then you haven’t seen Aussie Heat.  Two minutes into this daring production and you’ll know that it’s completely different from anything else in the city. You owe it to yourself and your friends to head over to V Theater inside Planet Hollywood Miracle Mile Shops and experience this stunning show right away.

While other male revues tend to recruit guys based on their looks/physique then teach them how to groove, the Aussie Heat hunks are established dancers and acrobats. Break dancing, flips, pop-lock moves and sensual grinds were already in their blood long before joining the troupe. It’s just so happens that their athletic bodies and handsome faces match their amazing abilities. It’s a surefire combination delivering thrills that can’t be topped anywhere. 

When not raising temperatures onstage, the Aussie Heat cast is actively involved in a number of charitable causes. The guys conduct dance classes and an annual fundraising show at Opportunity Village, a local organization dedicated to enriching the lives of disabled adults. They actively support the American Cancer Society via an ongoing “Real Men Wear Pink” fundraiser and participate at numerous events like AFAN‘s annual AIDS Walk and Black and White Parties.

Aussie Heat also carries the distinction of welcoming men to participate in their show. They promote equality for everyone and actively invite members of the LGBTQ community in their advertisements. They’re regulars at Pride events and have partnered with a variety of gay and gay-friendly organizations like QLife, a Vegas-based media firm now in its 41st year.

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Another thing that sets Aussie Heat apart from their comrades-in-bulging-arms is audience interaction. Billed as “The Most Hands-On Show In Vegas”, Aussie Heat is far from a “stand and model” production. Audience members vie for prizes via body-shot competitions and blindfolded lap dances inside the intimate showroom.

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Click HERE to continue reading…

 

 

Behind the Hidden Door of ‘Barbershop: Cuts and Cocktails’


Sin City’s newest speakeasy gets the Cosmopolitan treatment…

Las Vegas culture is a wonderful blend of innovation and rediscovery. Even when everything old is new again, those returning favorites get a Sin City twist. The speakeasy is one such legend experiencing a contemporary resurgence. Born out of Prohibition-law necessity, those secret drinking establishments of yore are popping up all over Vegas again. And this time, they’re just for the fun of it.

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Cosmopolitan Las Vegas has already struck gold several times over with hidden venues. Secret Pizza is no longer a secret. Beauty and Essex‘s pawn shop/restaurant/lounge is on many a must-do list and Ghost Donkey‘s hidden door at Block 16 Urban Food Hall has been discovered countless times. So why not a speakeasy tucked behind a functioning barber shop?

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The Barbershop: Cuts and Cocktails is indeed a fully-functioning salon for men. It offers a variety of services like precision haircuts, “clean-up” trims, beard/brow grooming, facials and old-fashioned straight razor shaves. The decor is awash in rich woods, black and white tile, antique cash registers and of course, barber poles. Gentlemen can relax with their favorite libation while being pampered by Master Barber Jose Sosa and a team of experts.

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While under a steaming towel, most patrons are unlikely to notice new arrivals looking for that secret door. Cocktail seekers are gathered together by a host then taken to an inconspicuous janitor’s door off to one side. Coded knocks reveal a pair of curious eyes from behind a peep-hole. The day’s password is given, gaining entry for your party to the wonders that await inside the main parlor.

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           Myself with Jason “Jroc” Craig (left) and photographer Noel Dahl…

Passing through this gateway, you may encounter Jason “Jroc” Craig, an ex-Marine whose imposing physical presence is as impressive as his list of successful nightspots. Jroc is one of the guiding forces behind The Barbershop, created with partner Ryan Labbe of 81/82 Group. Their new hideaway joins other recent hits like Apex Social Club at The Palms and Cosmo’s own CliQue Bar and Lounge.

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The 81/82 team, in conjunction with Clique Hospitality, conceived The Barbershop as a tribute to the Prohibition era…”when whiskey and liquor were king and word of mouth was gold”. Liquor was made however possible back then, so flavors and mixers were added to “soften the blow” of less-than-stellar spirits. That ingenuity from necessity yielded classic scotch, whisky, bourbon and rye cocktails we know and love today.

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The Barbershop’s extensive drink menu is just as stylish as the mixologists who create from it. Japanese, Canadian, American and Irish whiskeys share space with tequilas, mezcals, “Jesus Juice” and “Fancy Sh*t”. Draft and bottled beers join signature “Spiked Juices” and top-shelf hard liquors to satisfy every mood and craving.

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Click HERE to continue reading…

Photos: Sam Novak, The Barbershop

 

 

 

‘Potted Potter’ Casts a Laughing Spell on Vegas


Bally’s rapid-fire Hogwarts spoof is a silly, irreverent treat…

The quaint Windows Showroom at Bally’s Hotel Casino has been home to a number of successful productions, from The Bronx Wanderers to legendary Wayne Newton. Even 50 Shades: The Parody enjoyed a long, healthy run in the second-level space.

Now the quirky venue is hosting another laugh-filled movie spoof, this time without the riding crops and blindfolds. Experience a phantasmic adventure filled with magic wands, dark arts and fearsome dragons at ‘Potted Potter – The Unauthorized Harry Potter Experience’, a face-paced and humorous retelling of the wizarding-world saga.

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‘Potted Potter’ was created by Daniel Clarkson and Jefferson Turner, sharp-witted BBC actor/writers who clearly love the source material. They’re also the stars of the production, which has toured through the United States and the rest of the world. Clarkson and Turner themselves came here to launch the Vegas residency, acting out all the characters in the two-man comedy. They’ll be here only a short while before passing the torch to a new Sin City cast.

Nobody can skewer pop culture like the British (think Monty Python’s Flying Circus, Little Britain and the films of Simon Pegg). The students and faculty of JK Rowling’s beloved Hogwart’s School of Witchcraft and Wizardry prove to be perfect targets for this style of humor. Using just a few silly props and lots of audience participation, Daniel and Jefferson plunder and pillage the entire seven-book epic (and dozens of characters) in only seventy minutes.

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Children will have an especially good time at the all-ages ‘Potted Potter’. During a media event that this writer attended last week, an adorable five-year-old girl with amazing improvisational skills was welcomed onstage for a magic-wand battle. Her deadpan responses and gestures matched anything that the professional cast could dish out. It was truly a priceless moment, one of many sure to follow in the open-ended run.

Click here to continue reading….

‘Celestia’ Comes to Earth By Way of the Vegas Strip


New astral-themed production opens at the STRAT…

Anticipation’s been as high as the massive tent erected on its behalf. An announced January premiere came and went, as did competing tent show Fuerza Bruta. But after many delays and hoopla galore, CELESTIA has finally come to Earth…and landed on the Las Vegas Strip.

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CELESTIA is the first large-scale entertainment offering under the STRAT’s new ownership and name. As the iconic hotel casino continues its evolution from Stratosphere into a decidedly more hip and relevant offering, CELESTIA has become an inadvertent keystone of their new image and business model. Naturally, a lot hinges on its success.

Last week’s official premiere was flashy and epic in scope. Celebrities like BMX pro Ricardo Laguna and entertainers from all over the city enjoyed signature cocktails and delicious bites at a pre-show reception. Then guests grabbed boxes of popcorn before heading into the main tent.

The cavernous performance space, which is beautifully landscaped on the exterior, looks even larger thanks to colorful motion projections of the cosmos. Stars twinkle in every direction and colorful astral bodies spin and glow. The stage is arranged proscenium-style, an unusual departure from the typical circus-in-the-round.

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But CELESTIA is more than the traditional three-ring spectaculars of your childhood memories. As a live band pumps out the arresting opening number, a large international cast appears from all directions. Still more plunge downward from unseen platforms, filling the air and stage with wonder.

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A threadbare premise follows central character “Celestia”, a star who’s taken the physical form of a young woman. Hoping to learn about artistry and human emotions, Celestia journeys through our world accompanied by a pair of comical sidekicks. Of course, this story line is just an excuse to present a variety of colorful and jaw-dropping acts.

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The fledgling production is beautifully mounted with snappy pacing, memorable costumes and a very attractive athletic cast. Contortionists, aerial artists, archers and knife-throwing wizards fill every square foot of the wide, neon-lit stage. Performers run through the aisles and leap onto platforms scattered throughout the audience, making for great photo-ops along the way (the show is flash-free picture-friendly).

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Fans of The Greatest Showman will enjoy seeing Russian Bar athletes The Sandou Trio. America’s Got Talent finalists Sergey and Sascha bring their stunning head-to-head balancing act to Vegas crowds as well. A spectacular sequence on the Wheel of Death will have you alternately hiding your eyes and raising your voice with cheers. Mounted of a massive scale, this finale rivals anything Cirque du Soleil can offer.

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Speaking of Cirque, you may wonder where CELESTIA fits into an already crowded entertainment landscape. Click here to continue reading… 

Photos: CELESTIA, Sam Novak

 

 

 

 

WAYNE SKIVINGTON OF ‘ZUMANITY’ TALKS FATHER-SON BONDING, VEGAS-STYLE


Cirque du Soleil performer and young son inspire others through fitness…

Click HERE to read this article via BestOfVegas.com…

Raising a child in any large city can be a challenge. You want to be a great role model, provide for your children yet still make their formative years memorable, fun and happy. Now imagine being a single father in “Sin City”…and you’re a performer working late nights in an adult-themed production. That’s the reality of ZUMANITY heartthrob Wayne Skivington.

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Skivington was born in a British Military Hospital in Germany. He began formal gymnastics instruction at the age of four and his natural talents were quickly recognized. When his family returned to Great Britain in 1994, Wayne performed in many exhibitions. While representing the nation at an international competition in Palm Springs, his troupe stopped in Las Vegas, visited Treasure Island’s Mystere….and Wayne’s love affair with Cirque du Soleil began.

Mesmerized by the renowned Alexis Brothers’ balancing act, Wayne sent his show reel to Cirque du Soleil along with an employment application. In 2008, as he was about to turn twenty-one, the handsome athlete was invited to join the Montreal-based entertainment company.Screenshot 2019-06-10 at 1.02.12 PM.png

To his surprise, Wayne was hired for their Las Vegas division and placed him in Mystere, the very show that had inspired him to apply. Accepting the position required leaving his sports coaching/conditioning studies at University of Leeds, but it’s a decision that Wayne has never regretted.

After his stint at MYSTERE, Skivington became the coach for Criss Angel BeLIEve and joined the cast onstage as a fellow performer. Now thirty-one, he’s a fitness coach at Rebound Vigour during the day and ZUMANITY’s sexy Scotsman at night. His sensual acrobatic routine raises temperatures ten times each week at New York NY Hotel Casino.

Fatherhood has taken Skivington’s personal life to greater heights than a trapeze. Six-year-old son Rowan shares Wayne’s blonde hair and gift for gymnastics and acrobatics. The two have become a worldwide sensation thanks to a series of father/son workout videos that Wayne shared on social media platforms.

 

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Being a single parent with two jobs, I don’t have a great deal of spare time. So, my son is always with me. It was by sheer fluke that one day whilst videoing, like most parents do, I realized my son was copying me working out. He loves attempting to do what daddy does!

Wayne stresses that his time with Rowan isn’t what he considers to be a formal exercise regime. He saves that for personal training sessions, garage and gym workouts…and of course, rehearsals at the theater with show partner Katerina. When Rowan and his dad do their amazing feats, it’s just father-and-son fun.

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I think my videos have become popular because I am including my son in my active lifestyle, demonstrating the possibilities that lie with the greatest tool we own… our bodies! They can also see the trust my son has in me and the confidence I am building in him, all achieved through bonding during our playtime.

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There’s no question that raising a little one in a city-wide adult playground poses its own challenges. Wayne has the unique added complexity of being in a production meant for mature eyes only. But this son of a military officer grew up quickly on a worldwide stage. He’s gained a lifetime of practical experience that most parents would never have exposure to.

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Now Wayne is sharing his knowledge and perspectives by bringing fitness to families. He’s created a program called IP FIT FUN, which combines time-management principals with exercises that utilize your most valuable equipment – your own body.

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IP FIT FUN helps parents teach basic fundamentals of movement (to their children) through interaction and bonding. (They learn) to work out at home using body-weight exercises. Kids just soak up everything they see and realize anything is possible with a little dedication.

I want to encourage people to be a good role model, live a healthier lifestyle whilst having fun with the family, enriching relationships and memories that will last a lifetime.

As for the possibility of a father-son acrobatics act? Only time will tell if Rowan follows his dad’s footsteps into acrobatics and performance. But for now, he’s off to an amazing start. And his father will be there every step of the way.

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                “You are my motivation, my inspiration and my drive! I do it all for you”…

                                                                                           – Wayne Skivington

Pics courtesy Wayne Skivington social media, individual photographers credited there…

 

 

Must-Visit Vegas: Q & A with Golden Tiki’s Branden Powers


It’s Disneyland for grownups at Chinatown’s throwback lounge…

Tucked away in charming Las Vegas Chinatown is a magical little place. Fairly hidden between a jewelry store and a Korean BBQ restaurant, the quaint little storefront is deceptively unobtrusive. But one step inside the heavy wooden doors leads you to a world of wonders. Welcome, explorers, to The Golden Tiki.

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Under a fiber-optic sky replete with shooting stars, a three-sided long bar serves visitors a vast array of specialty cocktails from a delightfully-endearing line-up. Bamboo, palm fronds and trickling water enhance the Caribbean-inspired stylings. Behind a team of costumed bartenders, video loops from vintage films will make you feel like you’ve embarked on a three-hour tour of the islands.

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Explore a little further into the dimly-lit corners, behind the giant seashell and beyond the cave-like private booths. There you’ll discover a stunning collection of curiosities, memorabilia…and a cabinet filled with the shrunken heads of numerous Vegas celebrities.

There’s never a cover charge at The Golden Tiki. Nightly live bands fill the air with frivolity like a Don Ho Tribute Happy Hour. Humorous themed events like Charlie Brown’s Thanksgiving Dinner have fans returning time after time.

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   Powers (right) presenting the late Robin Leach with his own “shrunken head”…

How Branden Powers‘ salute to kitschy Vegas came to be is a story unto itself. He was more than willing to share the journey in a recent interview:

When did you first come up with the concept for Golden Tiki and how long did it take from inspiration until opening day?

One day in 1992 I stumbled upon a wonderful tiki paradise inside Islands Restaurant and Lounge at the old Hanalei Hotel in Mission Valley San Diego (now home to the yearly Tiki Oasis gathering). I immediately fell in love and began to promote two weekly events under the name “Taboo” and my production company Cocktail Nation. I had thousands of people each week, all dressed to the nines with aloha shirts, Fez hats, smoking jackets and cocktail dresses.

The events, some of the first in America, were instant hits. One day I’m called in for a meeting. I enter to the remnants of what was once paradise to find that all of the priceless artifacts were removed, the walls painted white and the fish that had been there for forty years gone! My heart sank.

Three years ago I was approached by Jeff Fine, Joe Cain and Seth Schorr. They owned a bar that needed help. I wasn’t even thinking tiki. That part of my life died in the 90’s. I was wanting to call it Madame Wongs and make it a punk rock bar. Jeff said “How about tiki?” I thought it was a brilliant idea but only if I could build it the right way.

It needed to have multiple layers and a strong back story. I wanted an “adult Disneyland”, so I hired a team of hardworking Tiki tradesmen and we went to work nonstop. Sixty days later we opened our doors to a packed house and a broken air conditioner.

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It was a success but not without the blood, sweat and tears of many GM’s, bartenders and servers who helped mold The Golden Tiki into what was recently awarded The Best Bar in all of Las Vegas. I owe all of them and my patient wonderful partners a debt of gratitude.

We’re celebrating our 3-year anniversary August 26th but we really opened in June 2015. Once we opened we’ve never closed. There are no locks on our doors.

Have you always been a collector of the curiosities that you proudly display there?

I have been. My love is collecting street art, outsider art. A few years ago I gave away over 100 pieces of art on the streets of Las Vegas in what was a city side scavenger hunt. I’m also a huge record collector, but I mostly collect interesting people. I have the most awesome group of friends.

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Did you deliberately model the atmosphere and service to replicate “old Vegas”?

Yes. I have been coming to Vegas since I was a kid in the 70’s. I loved that era. My star-filled ceiling at The Golden Tiki was inspired by my love for Benihana and their ceiling at the former Las Vegas Hilton (now Westgate).

I moved here in 1999 and was saddened that so many icons were shutting down only to be replaced by soulless glass boxes that looked like airports. Our company’s goal is to open many themed environments that bring back the early Vegas visionary magic of Jay Sarno and Steve Wynn.

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I am the creator and managing partner of The Golden Tiki. I have three partners in this venture (Jeff Fine, Seth Schorr and Joe Cain) and our main parent company is High Horse, which we’re changing to Food Fight Inc. 

Tell us about the specialty cocktails that make up your drink menu?

We’re very proud to announce that we just brought on an award-winning USBG mixologist Adam Rains who will be taking our cocktail program to the next level. We want to compete on the world stage. Adam is assembling a team to do just that.

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Do you have a personal other favorite Tiki lounge, past or present

My heart will always be with the Islands Restaurant and Lounge. My giant clam waterfalls are an homage to that tiki bar. I honestly appreciate all tiki bars. I’m a lover of escapism. People try and pit Frankie’s Tiki Room against us but honestly I love them.

We’re two different experiences. They call us Disneyland and that’s okay by me. I think they’re small and dive-y but that’s equally as awesome. Their drinks are great and people should definitely explore them. Why limit yourself or the good times and adventures you can have?

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Who would be your dream celebrity to present with their own shrunken head?

If I could present anyone alive or dead. It would have been….

Click here to continue reading via BestOfVegas.com…

The Golden Tiki is located at 3939 Spring Mountain Road in Chinatown. It never closes. For more information call 702-222-3196.

All photos courtesy of The Golden Tiki