‘ESCAPE FROM AREA 51’ BRINGS EXTRATERRESTRIAL BATTLES TO VEGAS


Las Vegas thrill-seekers have plenty of ways to stimulate their adrenaline pump. From skydiving to helicopter rides to a high-speed chase attraction with real police vehicles, the possibilities are endless. Now Apocalypse Vegas has added what may be the wildest adventure of them all – Escape from Area 51 – The Special Ops Experience.

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The timing couldn’t be better for this all-in attraction. With so much attention being focused on that secretive military base in the desert, conspiracy theorists and alien enthusiasts have been going wild over attempts to storm the area. Escape from Area 51 gives you the chance to do it in a safe, controlled environment with real members of the military. 

Escape from Area 51 is anything but a hastily-designed tie-in. It’s the latest offering from Apocalypse Vegas, a top-rated attraction that’s been in operation for more than four years. Housed in a massive warehouse facility near Palms Casino, it contains a full-scale mock-up of a town under siege by alien forces.

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             Brett Sullard does his best “Col. Dutch Schaefer” from the film PREDATOR…

In order to save the citizens…and the planet…you’ll be trained in the use of military-style Airsoft firearms, learn how to collect intel, kick through doors, secure perimeters and retrieve an element that’s the key to winning the battle.

What gives Apocalypse Vegas its extreme realism is that your Operations Team Leaders (OTL’s) are genuine veterans of Special Forces. Members of the Green Berets, Army Rangers, Navy SEALs and Delta Force operations guide you through the assault from mission briefing to the actual attack.

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The 90-minute experience is fully immersive, enhanced with Hollywood-style sound effects and explosive lighting, full-scale sets and a scenario that places you at the center of a big-budget action film.

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                          Susie Q. joins us to celebrate after saving the planet…

Event coordinator Susie Q. Munoz is proud that Apocalypse Vegas provides military veterans with a new way to use their talents and skill sets:

Click HERE to continue reading…

Photos: Apocalypse Vegas, Sam Novak, Brett Sullard

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Westgate Las Vegas Celebrates 50th Anniversary In Style


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Photos: Sam Novak, Westgate Las Vegas

 

 

STITCHED & CHILL at Cosmo Delivers the Ahhhhs….


Men’s haberdashery pampers guests with spa treatments, sexy cocktails and delectable dishes…

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It’s always enjoyable to report when businesses and individuals “give back” by way of charitable events, humanitarian causes and acts of kindness. Sometimes a simple thing like showing appreciation for your team can set a business apart from the rest.

Feel Like a Kingsman at STITCHED

In December I told you about STITCHED, the superlative, unique men’s clothing boutique inside Cosmopolitan Hotel Casino. This week I was lucky enough to attend a gathering called STITCHED & CHILL. This event is an opportunity for the STITCHED team to extend their thanks to vendors who supply STITCHED with their magnificent menswear, accessories and materials.

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Tuesday’s party was created to coincide with the MAGIC Fashion Trade Show at Mandalay Bay. Don’t be thrown by the name….the only illusions you find there may come from figure-enhancing undergarments. MAGIC stands for the Men’s Apparel Guild in California, which was established in 1933. The semi-annual show comes to Las Vegas every February and August, bringing hundreds of exhibitors for a massive fashion showcase.

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To alleviate some of the stress that cross-country traveling and setting up a trade show can produce, the vendors for STITCHED are treated on the eve of MAGIC for a bit of pampering. That means cocktails and delicious nibbles courtesy of Cosmo’s STK Steakhouse and Momofuku multi-cultural bistro. It also means a little taste of luxury by way of massages, mini-manicures and detailing from an on-site barber.

Arriving at a sweet suite on floor 67 of Cosmo’s Boulevard Tower, my pal Danny and I were greeted by STITCHED Marketing and Brand Director Charly Mapes. The scent of the shop’s signature fragrance candles filled the air as we were ushered through the vestibule. The gorgeous space featured a wrap-around balcony with spectacular 270-degree views of the valley.

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Once onside, we were shown around by Sam Glaser, VP of Purchasing and Operations. After grabbing some cocktails provided by sponsors Maker’s Mark Bourbon and Casamigos Tequila, Glaser told us how STITCHED & CHILL came into being and the purpose behind it. Our suave host then invited us to indulge in spa amenities courtesy of some very talented individuals.

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My first treatment was a lush and relaxing chair massage by Valarie Marck of The Body Connection On-site Spa Services. Valerie and her partner Shawna Naylor became quite popular as guests flowed in and Sam Glaser filled up the appointment boards, cleverly mounted in the main entertainment area.

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Next up was a gentleman-style mini manicure by Dominique Pfeiffer of The Body Spa at Green Valley Ranch. While giving me a tasteful trim, shape and buff (along with a wonderful hand massage), Dominique mentioned that her son Nick works for STITCHED. Even though she’s quite busy at her own spa, Dominique said she enjoys the atmosphere of CHILL events and considers it a pleasure to share her skills here.

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As I’d just been to the barber earlier that day, I didn’t slide into the next chair. However, many of the gentlemen in attendance were able to get their necklines and beards trimmed and neatened by the barber. The next morning they’d be able to look their best at the trade show.

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As the evening wound down, we spoke to a few young ladies who were staying at Mandalay Bay Resort. They’d just arrived from New York and had already set up their exhibit, so they were enjoying the opportunity to take in the gorgeous sights, smells, tastes and services for themselves.

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Sadly, the man of the hour, Ricci Lopez-Hammargren was unable to attend the festivities. He was at Cosmo’s second-level STITCHED boutique, giving world-class attention to a visiting customer. As I mentioned in my previous article, men fly into Las Vegas from the four corners of the country (sometimes from overseas) to shop at STITCHED. It’s just that special.

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Why not discover the unique world of STITCHED for yourself? Click here to schedule your own personalized fitting experience. Hours are from 10 am through 11 pm daily. Call 702-698-7630 for more information. 

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MAGIC LAS VEGAS runs through February 7th at the Mandalay Bay Convention Center. Click here for more information. 

 

“Businesses With Heart” Hosts Winter Expo


“Cause Marketing Chamber of Commerce” presents a networking event and Winter Expo to benefit Hearts Alive Village Animal Sanctuary….

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Awhile back I told you about the wonderful Hearts Alive Village Animal Sanctuary, where special-needs cats and dogs are given hope. Their Communications Director Sheryl Green recently contacted me about an upcoming effort that will benefit the sanctuary:

Businesses with Heart Event Teaches Businesses and Non-Profits to Work Together

The mission of Businesses with Heart is “to educate and foster relationships between businesses and non-profits to improve sales, visibility, and our community as a whole. On January 31st, the 5th Businesses with Heart Expo will be held at United Way of Southern Nevada. The event will feature vendors, networking, educational speakers, and a ribbon cutting for the first ever Cause Marketing Chamber of Commerce. A portion of proceeds from the event will benefit Hearts Alive Village Animal Rescue.

The Businesses with Heart Winter Expo will be held from 1pm to 5 pm with the Cause Marketing Chamber ribbon cutting at approximately 1:15. It will be followed by open networking and then educational presentations from Sheryl Green, Don Lainer, CEO of Platinum Elite Group, Angela Carlson, N.D and Hansilena Roberts. The event will also feature vendors and complementary headshots from Las Vegas Event Photography. Sponsors of the event include Rob Martinez with Liberty Mutual Insurance, Yes Of Course Cellular Accessories, Peak Image Design, Coast 2 Coast Printing, and LVIP Dining.

For tickets or more information, click HERE.

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                       Hearts Alive Village: An animal sanctuary built on hope….

To read my article on Hearts Alive Village animal sanctuary, click HERE.

Straight to the Heart: Hospice, Therapy Dogs and a Pet Drive


“Man’s best friend will be there until the end”…

Having just lost my dear cat Sunny to cancer a few weeks ago, I’ve had plenty of hours to reflect on love, loss and courage. It’s been a rough time for this writer, so I can appreciate the enormous grief that families and friends face when losing a loved one. For patients who know that they won’t be recovering, there’s an absolute right to move on with dignity and compassion.

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Not all of us are equipped to handle end-of-life situations. Thank goodness there are community resources to ease the journey and provide comfort along the way. Nathan Adelson Hospice of Las Vegas is one such organization. This non-profit has been around for four decades, providing top quality in-home and in-patient palliative treatment and hospice care.

Nathan Adelson was a visionary administrator for Sunrise Hospital, the largest medical facility in Nevada at the time of its construction. Mr. Adelson was deeply respected as a humanitarian, overflowing with kindness and compassion. When cancer took his life, friends and family established the hospice to continue his enormous legacy.

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                                Nathan Adelson was taken by cancer in 1978…

The volunteers at Nathan Adelson Hospice dedicate time and their hearts to hundreds of dying patients each day. Naturally these special people come from all walks of life and a myriad of different social environments. Some volunteers even come from local animal shelters.

You see, therapy dogs are a big part of Nathan Adelson’s many programs. Their organization recognizes and promotes the comfort that animals bring to those undergoing emotional challenges. To make that happen, hospice patients get visits from specially trained support animals.

Paws for Paul Pet Therapy Program was created for in conjunction with celebrity Brad Garrett, a longtime advocate for NAH. Brad’s brother Paul Ames was the widely-respected manager of Brad Garrett’s Comedy Club at MGM Grand. Sadly Paul, who was an ardent supporter of animals, passed away from pancreatic cancer last year. To honor his legacy, Garrett and NAH President Carol Fisher launched the Paws For Paul pet therapy team.

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This dashingly handsome fellow is named Panzer. He and his mom Becky Gang are part of the Paws for Paul team. Becky is Panzer’s trainer and the two of them volunteer for Nathan Adelson Hospice. Becky has been training service and support animals for many years. Panzer is her ninth NAH co-volunteer and her current star pupil.

Here’s an excerpt from the NAH blog that tells a fascinating story about Panzer’s gifts:

When Panzer was leaving the Swenson facility one day, he insisted on stopping at the door of a patient. Becky asked the family if it would be okay if Panzer visited the patient and they gladly approved. Panzer went right up to the person’s bed and stayed nearby on the floor, providing quiet, calming support. It appears Panzer also has an awareness of when a patient is nearing the very end of his or her journey of life, as that patient was in the stages of actively dying.

When Panzer puts on his work vest, he knows he’s on the job and his temperament suits the task at hand – providing that gentle comfort to patients in need of a furry friend. He’s more playful and energetic at home. Becky says, “When he gets home from visiting hospice patients, it’s almost like he’s bragging to the other pets that he got to go out and provide help that day.”

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                          Panzer and trainer/co-volunteer Becky Gang….

Panzer and Becky are also doing their part for the 8th Annual Dog Bed and Blanket Drive. They’re asking the public to donate unopened food, blankets and bedding at designated collection sites to be distributed to local shelters. The winter months pose special challenges for local animal shelters. Contrary to popular belief, it does get cold in Las Vegas…and those concrete shelter floors can be unforgivable.

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Shelter cats are also included in the drive. Kitty care requires food, toys, beds, bowls and litter. Please consider dropping off cleaning supplies, towels, wash cloths, paper towels and other basic necessities too. These items are desperately needed to help keep animals comfortable, safe and healthy while they wait for someone to adopt them…or recruit them as service and support animals.

The marvelous mission and multitude of community-driven programs that the folks at Nathan Adelson carry out require a great deal of funding. Fortunately they’ve been selected as a 2019 recipient of the MONDAYS DARK program.

You may recall my recent piece on MONDAYS DARK, an entertainment series which donates the proceeds from every performance to a different cause. Their March 18th production at The Space (3460 Cavaretta Court) will benefit Nathan Adelson Hospice…and by extension, the Paws for Paul pet therapy program. Click here to learn more and get tickets to the show.

The cycle of compassion, kindness and caring on display in this community is absolutely massive in scale. It demonstrates once more what a closely-knit group the citizens of Las Vegas truly are. As a new resident, I couldn’t be more excited and proud to call this place my home.

The Paws for Paul Pet Drive runs through February 1st. If you’d like to donate, please bring new or gently-used items and unopened food to any of the four Nathan Adelson Hospice locations:

* 4141 Swenson St., Las Vegas

* 3150 N. Tenaya Way (near Cheyenne), Suite 350, in the Mountain View Medical Office Building, Las Vegas

* 2270 E. Commercial Rd., Suite A/B in Pahrump

* 1201 Nevada State Drive in Henderson

You can also deliver donations to any Ovation Property Management location listed here.

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                                            Dedicated to Sunny Novak   

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Special thanks to Emma Williams and Allison Duck for their assistance with this article.

2018 Events, Trends & Moments…Cosmic and Controversial


A lot has happened in the past 12 months. Today I look back on large-scale events…

GREATEST SIGHT IN THE SKY – Angels of the 2017 Massacre

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                      I witnessed it on Sahara Avenue near Palace Station…

This one is emotional and unforgettable. If you were there to witness it, you couldn’t have helped being shaken to the core. As friends and loved ones gathered to commemorate the victims of 2017’s mass shooting one year later, the sunset brought a phenomenon that was seen throughout the entire valley.

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                       Courtesy of Michal Furmanczyk, Absinthe acrobat…

While some were quick to explain it scientifically, many of us felt it was a sign from a greater power…or perhaps a message from another plane of existence. Whatever your take on the matter, there’s no denying that the sunset on 10/1/18 was one we’ll never forget.

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                                  Courtesy of performer Kim Lange…

ROLLING BACK THE PARKING FEES

So many people want to sling buckets of rotting fruit at the money-grubbers of MGM Resorts for instituting parking fees on the Strip. As usual, copycat CAESARS Entertainment followed, the same way they did with resort fees. But unlike those dreaded mandatory surcharges, many of their competitors have held off…or even rolled back…charging their guests to park.

To my recollection, Wynn/Encore was the first to rethink this strategy by offering validation to shoppers, show attendees and hotel guests. Cosmopolitan began including parking as part of their mandatory daily fees just this month. Of course, they had to spoil a bit of the satisfaction by RAISING the resort fee another four dollars per day.

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       Caesars couldn’t resist sticking it to their guests one final time in 2018…

Tropicana, Treasure Island, SLS, Stratosphere, Venetian, Palazzo and a few others still offer parking to everyone without cost. Then there’s the Caesars properties, who dropped a stinkbomb during New Year’s Eve weekend by introducing a flat-rate “surge price” of $20 per day. Keep on gouging, guys. You’ve learned nothing.

LADY GAGA IS THE NEW QUEEN OF THE STRIP

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It seemed really odd when MGM Resorts decided to spend $170 million to rip out their new-ish and gorgeous Aria Theater in favor of “more lucrative” convention space…and then spend millions more to expand/rebrand the adjacent Monte Carlo theater for…get this…more live entertainment. Mmmm kay….

The gamble seems to have paid off, though, as Park Theater just celebrated two years of hosting such high-profile acts as Cher, Ricky Martin, Queen/Adam Lambert and Stevie Wonder. Reports have surfaced that the unwelcome return of faux entertainer Britney Spears has suffered underwhelming ticket sales. But Lady Gaga’s ENIGMA residency came to the rescue by swooping in during the last few days of the year.

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Initial reviews have been stellar. Entertainment Weekly wrote “Enigma the show is a damn good time, and it’s admirable in its attempts to elevate a greatest-hits gathering into something striving for more, something that perhaps even galvanized an artist in the peak of her career to take a Vegas residency in the first place.”

A local media publisher, who shall remain unnamed, confided a different take with me: “Gaga was great. Everything else about the show was a disaster.”

There’s no question that Lady Gaga’s profile has risen substantially since she signed her Park Theater contract. She’s sure to get an Oscar nomination for A Star Is Born…and might actually win. Her credibility as a performer, humanitarian and cultural icon are unquestioned. So having her as a fixture on the Strip (for a planned two years) is a major coup for Park MGM. Britney who?

UPDATE: Mere minutes after I published this piece, it was announced that Britney had cancelled her Las Vegas residency, citing “family health concerns”. That’s PR-speak for “My sales suck and they want me out”. What a wonderful bit of news for lovers of genuine talent. Buh-bye, Brit Brit. Don’t let the door hit-hit.

https://www.ktnv.com/news/britney-spears-cancels-las-vegas-residency

TOUGH YEAR FOR VEGAS RESORT EXECS

The past twelve months have seen a surprising upheaval in upper management at major hotel casinos. It all started with an ominous event as embattled former Caesars Entertanment CEO Gary Loveman was shown the door in January…from his replacement job with Aetna. Loveman had never previously worked for healthcare companies.

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His successor Mark Frissora, who assumed the position from Loveman in summer 2015, will be departing his role in the next month or so. According to the Las Vegas Review-Journal, Frissora was accused in a Securities and Exchange Commission filing by his former company, Hertz Global Holdings, of “inappropriate accounting decisions and the failure to disclose information to an effective review” three weeks after he took over at Caesars. Ouch!

Gary Loveman wasn’t the only former resort exec to have a bad year. Longtime MGM Resorts‘ Felix Rappaport was found dead in his home this summer. Current MGM CEO Jim Murren issued the following statement: “We are saddened by the news of the passing of our former colleague and friend, Felix Rappaport. Felix was a member of the MGM Resorts family for more than two decades and is remembered fondly by many. Our condolences and prayers go out to his family at this difficult time.”

Also at MGM, it was announced in October that Bobby Baldwin, Chief Customer Development Officer of their resorts and President/CEO of CityCenter on the Strip, will depart both positions soon…without explanation. The press announcement was extremely brief and offered no details, which stirred up plenty of rumors. Hmmm…

During that same month, they welcomed George Kliavkoff as the new President of Entertainment and Sports. He took over for legendary bushy-maned Richard Sturm who had held that position since 1993. Sturm shocked many when he announced his departure from MGM five weeks earlier. He was leaving to form his own entertainment consulting firm that would work exclusively with…MGM Resorts (insert facepalm here).

VitalVegas.com reported on a number of departures and managerial changes this summer at Westgate Hotel Casino. The most noteworthy that I personally can report on was the promotion of Cami Christensen into the position of President and General Manager. I happened to be there on the evening of the announcement and was honored to offer congratulations.

Christensen has been with the property for over seventeen years and assumed the responsibilities of former GM Geno Iafrate, who reportedly departed to help launch a new franchising concept for Westgate’s Superbook. Oddly, Iafrate’s LinkedIn account currently shows him as having left the property and looking for work.

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             Gordon Prouty and Cami Christensen raise the bar at Westgate…

I was also excited to meet Gordon Prouty while covering the annual Mr. Olympia Weekend this summer. Gordon had just accepted a position as Westgate’s Director of Public and Community Relations. This dapper gentleman has an extensive background in media and community relations throughout the country.

Here in Vegas, Gordon’s been involved in several organizations and Greenspun Media Group. And as the best-dressed man in all of Las Vegas, he served as inspiration for my article on STITCHED Men’s Haberdashery. Only good things can happen at Westgate with Gordon Prouty behind the PR wheel.

There’s nothing like a sex scandal to ruin a man’s legacy. Just ask Kevin Spacey….or in this case, Steve Wynn. The super-successful businessman, whom many credit with the mega-resorts of today, had one really tough year. Allegations of sexual misconduct forced the magnate to sell off his shares in Wynn Resorts this past March. Just before that he’d stepped down as CEO of his own company while denying the claims being made against him: “The idea that I ever assaulted any woman is preposterous.”

The founder of one of Las Vegas’ most luxurious resorts was also forced to depart the on-property villa he called home, as well as to forfeit his healthcare and severance pay. To add insult to injury, Wynn’s final pet project, the Paradise Park Lagoon, was scuttled. It would appear that Wynn West, an expansion on the opposite side of Las Vegas Boulevard, has also been put on ice.

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                                                     Photo via KSNV-TV

This is the third project to fall apart on the former New Frontier Hotel space. Perhaps it’s just as well. Somebody is apparently building Wynn West just a little farther down the street anyway. Unfortunately they’ve named it Resorts World, which doesn’t quite have the same ring. But it certainly looks familiar…

Tomorrow I’ll conclude my year-end wrap-up with the things that made Las Vegas 2018 a deeply personal affair.

Banner photo by Jim Gisclair of Serenity Helicopters

 

‘MONDAYS DARK’ CELEBRATES FIVE INCREDIBLE YEARS


It started out as a small idea…

What if off-duty Sin City performers got together once a month to put on a show…and donate all the proceeds to charity? A simple and brilliant premise indeed, and one that has grown far bigger than anyone could have ever anticipated.

Mondays Dark just celebrated five wildly successful years of giving back by holding their annual wrap-up at The Joint inside Hard Rock Hotel. And just like on the night of its very first appearance, singers, comedians, dancers and magicians used their free time (many shows go dark on the slowest night of the week) to come together and raise money for a wide variety of worthy causes.

According to creator Mark Shunock, Mondays Dark was a very basic premise with the potential to do very big things. Coming from Los Angeles to take a lead role in The Venetian’s Rock of Ages, the native Canadian quickly fell in love with Sin City, and desired to do something positive for the residents of his new home.

Continue reading by clicking here.