All eyes will turn to sin city for a groundbreaking new virtual reality/live LGBTQ experience
Remember last summer when we were all going batshit crazy with cabin fever thanks to a certain virus? Well, the brilliant minds at Fresh Wata Creative decided to host events outside of their home base at 3905 W. Diablo Drive (near Allegiant Stadium). Topless revues, drag shows, comedy acts and more drew crowds of locals and visitors alike And just like that, Dreamland Drive-In was born.
Fast forward twelve months, and now Fresh Wata‘s interior has been transformed into StarBase, a hybrid event center for in-person and virtual-reality functions. Born out of the entertainment needs of a deeply-changed society, StarBase is fully equipped with high tech, ten rooms of excitement and a team that’s ready to welcome revelers to our new reality.
StarBase’s creators believe hybrid events are the future for companies and brands post-pandemic and wanted to give event planners a turn-key solution by booking the event space. In hosting your conference or party at StarBase, you have the option to live stream content out to Facebook, Twitch or into the StarBase building.
There are many firsts at StarBase from the first NFT gallery in Las Vegas, to being the first fully operable hybrid event venue in the world featuring a digital twin in Microsoft’s Altspacevr called StarBaseXR. Attendees can meet at StarBase physically and virtually. StarBase XR is a world presented by a group of developers and professional producers at Fresh Wata, to replicate the venue as a 360 environment online.
StarBase XR can be visited in virtual reality from a headset, like an Oculus 2, or a Mac computer or PC. In other words, the venue is not limited to the physical location in Las Vegas and in general the team believes the sky is not the limit! Engagements will be held virtually inside StarBase XR for those unable to visit in person.
This weekend, Pride XR will lift off from the StarBase launching pad. PrideXR is the world’s first live/VR global LGBTQ Pride event:
StarBaseand Dreamland presents PrideXR, the world’s first hybrid live/virtual reality Pride event on June 25 and 26, presented by Bud Light Seltzer and InterPride, a nonprofit dedicated to producing Pride parades, marches, festivals and events.
Revelers can celebrate two ways – through a custom-built virtual reality world via VR headset, or in person. Hosted on social platform AltspaceVR, the VR world features a full Pride experience with a dance floor, red carpet, vendors, hologram DJs, charity auctions and a PrideXR parade.
Friday, June 25 at 7 p.m. – Failed to Render Comedy Show
Stand-up comedians from Failed to Render, the first-ever hybrid comedy show, will take the stage in real life for the first time while simulcasting their show in VR. Following the show, DJ Celeste and DJ Skye will perform at the after party, along with live performances by Puerto Rican trap artist DAmire MAjor and more. Tickets are $35 and include a complimentary drink. Click here to order. Table and bottle service also available for the live show.
Saturday, June 26 from 6 p.m. to 2 a.m. – Starfire Saturday
Edie from Faaabulous! The Show will host the hottest LGBTQ+ dance party in the galaxy, featuring hybrid live/virtual reality performances by DAmire MAjor, Kristine Mirelle, Vanessa Lynnae, DJ Celeste, DJ Skye, DJ Aravi and DJ Luke Dice, along with surprise guest appearances throughout the night.
Tickets give you general access to all PrideXR events at StarBase on Saturday, June 26th, featuring the world’s first hybrid live/virtual reality nightclub experience presented by Bud Light Seltzer. With dazzling out-of-this-world performances hosted by Edie from ZUMANITY, and special celebrity guest appearances all night.
Tickets are $39.05 and include a complimentary drink. Vegas Unfiltered readers can get $20 off by using code “sam20“. Click here to purchase tickets. Bottle service available first come first serve or book in advance via email at firstname.lastname@example.org. StarBase is located at 3905 W. Diablo Drive in Las Vegas, near Allegiant Stadium.
Stellar talent raises awareness and funds to combat opioid crisis through ‘Victoria’s Voice Foundation’
Ah, freedom…it feels so wonderful. Gone are the capacity limits, mask requirements and temperature checks. Restaurants are back to serving great meals, clubs are opening and entertainers have taken to the stage. As Las Vegas welcomes back conventions, sporting events and concerts, one of the first fundraisers out of the gate is MUSIC FOR LIFE: An Evening to Save Lives at Westgate Las Vegas.
If you caught my article from a few days ago, you know that June 5th will be an exciting evening with actor Mark Patton (A Nightmare On Elm Street 2) to benefit LGBTQ youth. As luck would have it, the star’s host hotel Westgate will have their own spectacular show on the same evening. On June 5th at 7 pm, a collection of world-renowned names will donate their talented vocals for Victoria’s Voice Foundation.
The story behind Victoria’s Voice is one of tragedy and inspiration. Westgate Resorts patriarch David A. Siegel and wife Jacqueline lost their lovely daughter Victoria to a drug overdose in 2015. Only 18 years old at the time, Victoria left behind a secret diary that her parents found with the help of a friend. The grief-stricken parents decided to publish the diary, along with helpful resources, as a book. Their hope is that Victoria’s first-hand account might change the path of other youth facing the same demons.
In the ensuing six years, Victoria’s Voice Foundation has grown into a a massive initiative of projects, events, videos and resources. They’re aimed at ultimately ending the tragedies that result from drug dependency and abuse, especially in our young population. You can learn more about the services available from Victoria’s Voice Foundation by visiting here.
After the chaos of 2020, the nation needs charities like Victoria’s Voice more than ever. That’s why Westgate Las Vegas is bringing the power of entertainment to their International Theater for a one-night concert like no other:
Music For Life
A tribute to life, this momentous program aims to feature the country’s top talent and recognizable artists to parents and kids alike, such as AJ McLean of the Backstreet Boys, Chris Kirkpatrick of NSYNC, and Jeff Timmons of 98 Degrees, in one of the most exclusive venues in all of Las Vegas, The International Theater of Westgate Las Vegas Resort & Casino.
Known to be the home of music icons Elvis Presley, Dionne Warwick and Barry Manilow, this venue now becomes the site where David and Jacqueline’s friends and partners will come together once again to take the mission to the next level.
An Evening to Save Lives: MUSIC FOR LIFE is a special event to support the critical mission of the Victoria’s Voice Foundation to end the opioid crisis and save our youth. The work of the foundation is even more urgent now as the current COVID-19 pandemic has resulted in an alarming increase in the number of overdose-related deaths. All of your support and donations from this invitation-only event will help us continue our fight.
Music for Life is being produced by Johnny Wright, one of the most successful music executives in the industry. Wright has played a key role in the careers of multi-platinum acts like Janet Jackson, Menudo, Jonas Brothers, Backstreet Boys, Justin Timberlake and NSYNC. The concert line-up definitely reflects his background, with the inclusion of some significant performers from the boy band era.
World’s greatest party rocker DJ Lux will bring the crowd to its feet. Then Chris Blue, one of the brightest new stars on the scene, will take to the stage. Chris is the winner of season 12 of The Voice and is rising up the charts with his new single “Moon”. Watch the video here.
The roster of entertainers should thrill a broad spectrum of attendees. Fans of Detroit-style R & B can groove to the smooth, sultry sounds of Soul of Motown. This five-person act, which sets a new standard for tribute groups, just returned to Westgate Cabaret with their residency show. In addition, members Sean and Brandon Godfrey have risen to new heights with their NPerson duo gigs at Westgate’s International Bar.
Vocalists include Chris Kirkpatrick of NSYNC, AJ McLean of Backstreet Boys, and my personal favorite….Jeff Timmons of 98 Degrees. Jeff and I go back a number of years, and this Sin City mega-hunk is always ready to dive into charity events…especially ones that take place in his hometown.
To reserve your seats for this one-of-a-kind evening, follow this link. Tickets start at only $39.95 (plus taxes/fees). If you’d like to learn more about Victoria’s Voice Foundation, head here.
MUSIC FOR LIFE will be held Saturday June 5th at 7pm inside Westgate International Theater. Tickets start at $39.95 (plus taxes/fees).To better accommodate accessible ticket needs, Westgate Las Vegas Resort has requested that all special seating accommodations be solicited only through their representatives. Please contact a Westgate Las Vegas Resort representative for further help with your ticket purchase. Advance ticket purchase may be required. Telephone Number(s):702 732-5755 OR 800 222-5361
Embattled actor shares survival story that cuts deeper than fred kreuger’s glove…
It seems as though every horror movie franchise has an entry that’s perceived as the “red-headed stepchild”. There’s JASON X, in which Friday the 13th’s hockey-masked slasher is sent into space. HALLOWEEN 3 replaced Michael Myers with a mask-making Irish warlock (sounds absurd but is actually freaking awesome!).
Some of these films eventually gain a huge cult following for being ‘ahead of their time’. That’s exactly what happened to A NIGHTMARE ON ELM STREET 2: Freddy’s Revenge. A sequel to Wes Craven’s 1984 breakout hit, 1985’s homo-erotic Part 2 broke nearly all the rules. “Nancy”, the survivor of the first film, was written out and forgotten. Robert Englund‘s dream-stalking Fred Kreuger was now able to occupy the real world. But the most daring decision was to make Kreuger’s new target an awkward teenage boy.
That might not seem like such a big deal now, but remember that in the 80’s, Jamie Lee Curtis and other female “scream queens” were screeching their way to the top of box office and video rental charts. To complicate matters, Elm Street 2‘s sensitive male protagonist “Jessie Walsh” seemed to be (despite initial denials by the writer) more than just a little gay. He appeared to be PLENTY gay. And as it turned out, so was Mark Patton, the actor who brought Jessie to life.
I could delve into great detail on how Patton’s breakout role, combined with his closeted homosexuality, made life a living Hell for the young man. But you can relive it through Mark’s own words via the award-winning Scream, Queen – My Nightmare On Elm Street. This powerful documentary, which holds a 100% critics rating on aggregate site Rotten Tomatoes, dives deeply into Patton’s painful treatment, fan backlash, casting-director blacklisting, public slandering, and his eventual decision to leave Hollywood and the United States behind.
Decades later, Mark was found in Mexico by private investigators who were hired on behalf of NEVER SLEEP AGAIN. This four-hour Elm Street documentary (ironically spearheaded by Heather Langenkamp, the actress he replaced) allowed Patton to revisit his experiences on Part 2, which now carries the label of “gayest horror film ever made”. Thus began his journey back into the limelight, one that changed Mark’s personal outlook from “victim” to “survivor”….and eventually to “social activist”.
Patton believes that his personal survival of Hollywood homophobia can inspire today’s LGBTQ youth, so he’s coming to Las Vegas for a special screening of Scream, Queen. What’s more, he’s inviting a group of gay Las Vegas teens (some of them homeless) to attend. Cineloggia Movie Prop Museum Gallery, in conjunction with THE CENTER (also known as the Gay and Lesbian Community Center of Las Vegas), will welcome these young people free of charge.
Mark Patton devotees, Elm Street enthusiasts, and the general public are invited to purchase tickets to Scream, Queen and two related events. Here’s the press release:
As you may remember from my previous articles, fan-centric events really are a hot ticket. I’ve covered the annual Star Trek Convention, told you about meet-and-greet opportunities at The 35 Cinema, and given you insider details on this year’s DAYS OF THE DEAD in downtown Las Vegas. Now Sin City cinephiles have the rare opportunity to spend a few intimate hours with horror cinema’s most reclusive trailblazer.
Westgate Las Vegas has graciously offered their services as host hotel for Mr. Patton during his first appearance in Sin City. The iconic resort will present MUSIC FOR LIFE, a benefit for Victoria’s Voice Foundation, on the same weekend. I’ll be providing information on that concert, which raises funds to combat America’s youth opioid crisis, in an upcoming article.
If you’d like to attend any or all of Cineloggia‘s Mark Patton/Scream, Queen weekend events, tickets can be ordered here. And if you’d like to offer support for THE CENTER, they always welcome sponsors, volunteers, supply donations, and financial aid. Click here to learn more about THE CENTER.
Frights and excitement collide this weekend at star-packed fan convention…
Update 5/10/21 -Hate to be the bearer of bad news, but the film Richard Dreyfuss is currently working on is going longer than expected and has to cancel his Las Vegas appearance.
Grab your hockey mask, bite down on some garlic and fill your bottle with holy water. The official Days of the Dead convention is coming to downtown’s Plaza Hotel May 14th through the 16th. And if you’re into horror films like I am, you’re sure to have a chilling, thrilling good time.
The three day spook fest will be packed with stars, both big names and cult favorites. Perhaps the best-known celeb will be actor Richard Dreyfuss, who rose to fame in Steven Spielberg‘s JAWS. The two followed that blockbuster with their landmark sci-fi classic CLOSE ENCOUNTERS OF THE THIRD KIND.
Dreyfuss will be on hand for photo ops and autographs, so bring your memorabilia and a whole lotta cash (star signatures aren’t cheap). Also from JAWS will be Susan Backlinie, who portrayed the ill-fated “Chrissie”. Backlinie’s character opened the film with one of the most famous scenes in movie history…a horrifying sequence that still makes people think twice about swimming in the ocean after dark.
While we’re on the subject of Steven Spielberg, there will be a reunion of cast members from ET – The Extraterrestrial. Actors Dee Wallace, Robert Macnaughton and Henry Thomas are all slated to appear. Unfortunately, Drew Barrymore (“Gertie”) will not be among them. As for Dee Wallace, she also appeared in the cult horror classic The Howling, directed by Joe Dante (Gremlins, Eerie Indiana, Innerspace).
Are you a fan of the Halloween and Friday the 13th franchises? Then you’re in bloody-good luck, as actors from both series will be appearing next weekend. Singer/actors Alice Cooper (John Carpenter‘s PRINCE OF DARKNESS, JASON LIVES) and Slipknot‘s Corey Taylor (FEAR CLINIC, SHARKNADO 4) are on the roster as well.
Another big reunion involves the unforgettable “Dream Warriors” team from A Nightmare on Elm Street Pt. 3. Six of the original cast will be sharing memories of the shoot, posing for photos and answering questions. Freddy Kreuger‘s arch-nemesis Heather Langenkamp, who appeared in three of the films, was scheduled but had to cancel.
Robert Englund and Lisa Wilcox in Elm St 4: The Dream Master
You may remember that Lisa Wilcox, the star of Elm Streets 4 and 5, resides in Las Vegas and is manager of The 35 Cinema. The retro movie house is currently closed while expanding into a larger location (see below). Ms. Wilcox will be meeting fans separately from Days of the Dead at Cineloggia, a unique museum for movie props. Be there between 5pm and 8pm on Saturday May 15th to chat with “Alice”, the only character to survive Freddy Kreuger twice.
Lisa Wilcox isn’t the only Dream Master alumnus to have feet on both Las Vegas Boulevard and Elm Street. Cineloggia proprietor Nick Benson created the groundbreaking make-up and special effects for Elm Street 4: The Dream Master. And….he shares a birthday with “twinsie” Lisa Wilcox! Cineloggia is located at 900 Karen Ave. Suite D214 in the historic Commercial Center Plaza off Sahara Avenue.
Classic and cult movies will be presented using pristine vintage film reels and true analog projectors, as they were originally meant to be seen. Look for The 35 Cinema to reopen in its new home sometime in early July.
The visionaries of Commercial Center include (left to right) Bobby Watson and Tom Michel (The Vegas Room/The Nevada Room), Shane Bingham and John Lohmann (The 35 Cinema) Nick and Marla Benson (Cineloggia) and actress Lisa Wilcox (also of The 35 Cinema)
Myself with Lisa Wilcox
Along with Cineloggia‘s meet-and-greet for Ms. Wilcox, there will be official Days of the Dead festivities at downtown’s The Nerd. The sci-fi/superhero bar hangout inside Neonopolis is set to host a nighttime launch party on Friday the 14th at 10pm. Click here for the latest events schedule from the official Days of the Dead site.
Days of the Dead host hotel The Plaza is rich with its own cinematic history. Casino‘s famous dinner scene between Robert DeNiro and Sharon Stone took place in what is now Oscar’s Steakhouse. Sci-fi and fantasy films Cool World with Brad Pitt, Back to the Future II and Honey I Blew Up The Kid featured the casino resort. The 1994 version of Stephen King‘s THE STAND was set within its iconic tower, where devil’s spawn Randall Flagg took up residence in the penthouse.
It’s great to have conventions back in town, and Days of the Dead is sure to be a big success. VIP Packages are already sold out, as are discounted hotel rates for attendees, but you can still save money by ordering advance full-weekend passes. Members of the military are free with proper ID.
If you’re a high-level enthusiast, why not consider becoming a volunteer? I’ve worked several fan conventions and been assigned to some incredible celebrities. Plus, your entry is free. You can do so by clicking here.
Days of the Dead will take place May 14-16 at Plaza Hotel at the corner of Main Street and Fremont in downtown Las Vegas. To make hotel reservations for The Plaza, click here. For tickets to Days of the Dead fan convention, click here. A COVID-19 protocol/safety page for the event is here.
Photos: Sam Novak, Days of the Dead/Cineloggia/Plaza Hotel/ via Facebook. Banner photo: Zach Zeller
Immersive Cocktail experience brings the North Pole to Sin City’s Coolest Lounge…
“If the holidays are already feeling less like The Most Wonderful Time of the Year and more like open season on Big Capital, here’s a way to reclaim some Christmas cheer: drinking it.”
Update December 22, 2020 – Due to overwhelming response, The Sand Dollar Lounge owners Anthony Jamison, Benito Martinez, and Nathan Grates have announced the extension of Miracle on Spring Mountain into 2021. Las Vegas’ most popular holiday pop-up bar will now continue in festive mode through January 10, 2021. Since Nov. 23, the live music, craft cocktail and pizza bar has been transformed into the exclusive Las Vegas location of the renowned Miracle Bar Popup, a unique Winter Wonderland pop-up bar for the holiday season, while following and exceeding all safety protocols mandated by the state of Nevada.
As part of the extension, the following additional chef Pizza Pop-up nights have been added and all proceeds will continue to benefit the Las Vegas Rescue Mission:
Sun. Dec. 27th – Mike Vakneen & Ben Jenkins (Pop Up Pizza/Oscar’s Steakhouse)
Sun. Jan. 3rd – Nick Dugan (Michael Mina)
Sun. Jan. 10th – Adam Sobel (MINA Group)
With all that’s happened in the past eleven months, 2020 will undoubtedly go down as the worst year of our lives. Even the upcoming holiday season has been affected by renewed restrictions, canceled events and scuttled holiday shows. One bright spot has been A VEGAS ROOM CHRISTMAS, which plans to continue under stricter government guidelines. But what we REALLY need is a miracle. Fortunately, a special event has returned to bring peace, joy, and festive holiday cocktails to our struggling city – MIRACLE ON SPRING MOUNTAIN.
Last year I was unable to attend MIRACLE ON SPRING MOUNTAIN due to an impending loss in my household. Those bad memories might be a little less painful now had I ventured out to Sand Dollar Lounge and its magnificent holiday festivities.
If you’re familiar with Sand Dollar Lounge, you know that it’s a truly awesome hangout. It boasts a great staff, awesome cocktails, amazing pizzas and cool live music (when permitted by you-know-what). Nestled to the west side of an inconspicuous plaza on Spring Mountain Road (and not far from the world-famous Golden Tiki Lounge), Sand Dollar has been a legendary favorite since 1976.
Owners Anthony Jamison, Benito Martinez, and Nathan Grates successfully restored the closed-down establishment in 2009. Not content to rest on their laurels, they’ve taken on the massive task of transforming the historic fun spot into seasonal pop-up experiences. Right after this year’s spooky NIGHTMARE ON SPRING MOUNTAIN, the team flipped the switch to create a spectacular Christmas wonderland.
This year marks the second time that Sand Dollar Lounge has been part of the Miracle Cocktail Pop-up Bar network. The concept began six years ago in NYC’s East Side and has swept through the United States, Canada and countries like Panama, England and Switzerland. Sand Dollar proudly hosts the only “Miracle” pop-up in Nevada.
I’m told that “Miracle 2020” is bigger, bolder, more colorful and lots more elaborate than last year’s inaugural effort. I was on hand a few days prior to the the ribbon-cutting in order to sample the season’s specialty cocktails. Witnessing the transformation in such a short time was nothing less than staggering.
Beginning Friday 11/27, “Miracle” will open from 2 pm to 4 am. Decor was designed and installed by Bright Light Holiday Co., a local service owned by my buddy Garrett Pattiani. He and partners Kerry and Daniel Dennis primarily do outdoor decorating projects, but couldn’t resist the opportunity to put their unique stamp on this project. Says Garrett:
“Owner Anthony Jamison and I grew up in Tonopah, Nevada. When he heard that we did holiday decor, he asked us to collaborate with him. Kerry spends months planning the interior, searching for unique items and decorations to fit the “Miracle” brand. “
There are tens of thousands of lights, along with dozens of trees, elves, candy canes, stockings, snowmen and Saint Nicks. Highlights include a “Santa’s Twerk Shop” donation booth (proceeds benefiting the Las Vegas Rescue Mission), a North Pole stage backdrop, and a Hanukkah corner.
The year-round drink list will be temporarily switched over to an extensive holiday-themed Miracle Bar menu. Everything from the Snowball Old Fashioned to Jingle Balls Nog are served in special mugs and glassware that are available to buy for gifts or your own party ware. To add to the fun, there will be special themed nights and pizza events. Patrons are encouraged to dress in the spirit of the theme nights, with special attractions planned.
Ambient musical performances by solo and small combo artists will be offered on Friday and Saturday nights. During food events, prominent local chefs will create unique pizzas, with net proceeds going to Las Vegas Rescue Mission. The event schedule is as follows:
Sun Nov. 29th Justin Kingsley Hall Pizza Pop-Up
Mon Dec. 1 Ugly Sweater Party feat. Paradise City Creamery Pop-Up
Wed Dec. 2nd Johnny Church Pizza Pop-Up
Sun Dec. 6th Josh Smith Pizza Pop-Up
Mon Dec. 7th The Grinch Day
Wed Dec. 9th James Trees Pizza Pop-Up
Thurs Dec. 10 First Night of Hanukkah Vodka-Latke Party (free latkes while they last)
Sun Dec. 13th -Brian Howard Pizza Pop-Up
Mon Dec. 14th Candy Cane Day
Wed Dec. 16th Petrina Peart Pizza Pop-Up
Sun Dec.20th Chris Decker Pizza Pop-Up
Mon Dec. 21st Naughty or Nice night feat. Paradise City Creamery pop-up
Wed Dec. 23rd Justin Ford Pizza Pop-Up
During Miracle on Spring Mountain, Sand Dollar Lounge management will follow all existing and newly mandated Covid-safe protocols, including 25% capacity, required reservations via their website (limited to parties of 4 seated together), sanitizing between all guest visits, masks required at all times (unless physically eating) and more. Sand Dollar Lounge is non-smoking.
Sand Dollar Lounge is open daily from 2pm to 4am. It’s located at 3355 Spring Mountain Rd Ste. 30, Las Vegas, NV 89102. Call (702) 485-5401 or visit their website for reservations or more information.
Photos: Sam Novak, Jose Salinas & Eric C. Gladstone/Feast of Friends
Conclusion of my two-part look at casting the brightest event of the holiday season….
Remember that feeling you had as a child? All through the month of December you stared at the calendar, counting down the days until Christmas vacation. Then came the unbearable anticipation of the big morning under the tree, with all of gifts, hugs from family and friends…and of course, a fabulous meal.
Now that we’ve gotten older, those emotions tend to be forgotten. But this year, more than ever before, our inner child is longing for those feelings of joy, comfort, and celebration. The one place in Las Vegas that you’re sure to find them this holiday season is at The Vegas Room.
If you’ve missed my previous articles on A Vegas Room Christmas, you can read them by clicking here and here. You’ll learn about this magnificent production and the fabulous brunch or dinner that accompanies each performance. But let’s continue with the remaining members of the stellar cast, picking up where we left off last week.
RUBY LEWIS – Is it unfair of me to state in this section that Ruby Lewis is one of my favorite performers of all time? Probably….but there are really no words to describe my affection for this gifted young woman. No matter where she goes or what she’s doing, you’ll most likely see me in the audience.
In a city full of inflated egos and self-importance, only a performer as humble and genuine as Ruby Lewis would prepare a pre-show feast of home-cooked greens, black-eyed peas and ham for her fans. This is one southern gal whose mama raised her right (thanks, Eve).
I had the honor of sharing the BAZ stage with Ms. Lewis for a day…
I first encountered Ms. Lewis when she came to Mandalay Bay for the brief initial run of BAZ. Ruby’s stunning vocals brought audiences to their feet through her portrayal of “Daisy Buchanan”, debutante and heartbroken soulmate of one “Jay Gatsby”. I challenge you to watch this clip without getting goosebumps…and some tears in your eyes.
After a stunning leap to Broadway, Ms. Lewis returned to BAZ at Palazzo, played the lead in Marilyn! The New Musical at Paris Hotel Casino and hosted her one-woman show at The Space. You can catch Ruby and partner Ian Ward when they grace The Vegas Room stage for three consecutive Thursdays beginning October 29th.
Luke Striffler – If Ruby Lewis is the star atop the Vegas Room Christmas tree, then actor/singer/comedian Luke Striffler is the holiday eggnog. Smooth and bright with great body and a little kick, this is one Christmas cocktail you’ll want to sip all season long.
Luke charmed audience at Fremont Street’s D Hotel Casino in the popular Friends: The Musical Parody. He’s also created excitement with roles in Hairspray, Avenue Q. and Forever Plaid. Although born Stateside, Luke’s career took hold when he moved to London, where he starred in the featurette The Morning After with husband Joshua Berg. Two of Luke’s biggest breakthroughs were a role in the famed EastEndersBBC series and a semi-final placing on Britain’s Got Talent as part of The Kingdom Tenors.
Sin City gained more than just another handsome face when the multi-talented activist returned to the U.S. Once the pandemic shut down all live entertainment, it was Luke who created Performers Outlet: Covid-19, a support group for entertainers. The initiative provides encouragement, ideas, and opportunities for artistic collaboration while weathering this seemingly endless pandemic.
Janien Valentine – You know that you’ve achieved “entertainment royalty” when you’ve been immortalized by artist Neal Portnoy. That’s why people around the Valley wake up to a cup of Janien Valentine every day. Janien was “Portnoyed” by the famed caricaturist artist, who created a line of fundraising products to assist out-of-work entertainers (learn more by clicking here).
Ms. Valentine plants her boots firmly in a variety of musical periods. She can belt out today’s top hits, pay tribute to ballads of years past, then roar back in time to the Strip’s Golden Era. An all-around entertainer with incredible dynamic range, Janien blends the flavors of Ann-Margaret and Celine Dion with a sprinkle of Lola Falana and a dash of Tina Turner.
The native of East Amherst, NY is well-known to audiences through her work with The Scintas. She’s the principal vocalist of the musical trio Poperazzi, and you can drink in her scintillating energy at Bellagio‘s Mayfair Supper Club. Ms. Valentine returns this Christmas season to The Vegas Room after a splendid showcase in August.
Michelle Johnson – If the warm, fuzzy feelings of the holidays could take human form, I suspect they’d look a lot like Michelle Johnson. There’s something about the style, elegance, and comforting voice of the “First Lady of Jazz” that makes you want to reach for a brandy snifter and settle in by the fireplace for a crackling-good show.
The multi-award winner has graced Broadway stages, television screens and venues throughout Las Vegas. She’s collaborated with artists as varied as Barbra Streisand, Sheena Easton, Elton John, Clint Holmes, PM Dawn and Josh Groban.
For many, a Michelle Johnson performance is synonymous with the holiday season. That’s why her “Vintage Christmas” at The Smith Center quickly sold out last December. Alas, that amazing venue for the arts has been shuttered indefinitely due to the pandemic. Fortunately, fans can still get their Christmas fix of the starlet at The Vegas Room all through December.
A self-described “introvert” who confesses to wrestling with stage fright, the accomplished singer/songwriter/producer/author nevertheless exudes confidence and charisma with every pitch-perfect note. Ms. Johnson’s solo shows are teeming with humorous anecdotes and honest reflection that somehow make her feel like an old friend. In other words, she’s exactly the kind of person that you’d want to spend the holidays with.
Ben Tucker and Emma McGirr –
What’s a musical production without a pair of professional dancers? The Vegas Room has broadened their vision for “Irving Berlin’s White Christmas” with the addition of Emma McGirr and Ben Tucker. The real-life couple is part of Nevada Ballet Theatre, and have performed “The Nutcracker” both locally and for the Schrader Youth Ballet Company in Parkersburg, WV.
Two years ago, McGirr and Tucker founded Ballet 120, an innovative dance company whose goal is to make the artform of dance accessible to larger audiences via social media platform. They do so by creating brief, innovative video performances like the one below.
Emma and Ben plan to marry on January 2nd of next year. A Vegas Room Christmas marks their first professional appearance at the venue.
Check back with Vegas Unfiltered Blog in the weeks ahead for more information on A Vegas Room Christmas, including community efforts related to the event. Follow this link for complete information on pricing, schedules and reservations. The Vegas Room is located at 953 East Sahara Avenue E-18 in the historic Commercial Center complex.
Retro outdoor theater screens dozens of spooky comedies, bloody shockers and romantic chillers for safe Halloween fun…
The effort to successfully reopen indoor theaters has been such a struggle that eleven movie theaters in the Las Vegas valley closed once more this month. Some, like Eclipse Theaters in the downtown area and Tropicana Cinemas, a second-run bargain house, never unlocked their doors. Nevertheless, West Wind Drive-ins have been thriving!
West Wind Las Vegas is one of seven in California and Nevada operated by their parent company. I told you about this six-screen outdoor theater here. With budget-friendly prices on tickets and snacks, you can pack up the family (or a hot date) into your car and have a fun night out without breaking the bank. Even better, physical distancing is NEVER a concern at a drive-in, since you’re in control of your environment. You don’t have to interact with anyone if you choose not to (online ticketing is coming soon).
Modern conveniences like digital picture and stereo FM sound enhance the movie-going experience. Snacks and meals can be ordered from your smartphone for quick pick-up at the concession stand. You can smoke, bring your own food, turn up the volume as loud as you like on your car’s sound system and chat about the movie if you want to. It’s your own private universe under the stars.
All of those advantages are why the drive-in theater has surged in popularity this year. Not only has the retro concept become a place to rediscover classics on the big screen, but locations around the country have been showing new concerts and hosted comedy and drag shows. Even Jennifer Romas and the cast of Westgate’sSEXXY revue performed drive-in shows this summer at a special location.
COVID-19 is still affecting seasonal activities like sporting events and holiday parties. Depending on your neighborhood, even trick-or-treat might not happen. But nothing is tastier than freshly-buttered movie popcorn, and you can still dress the kids (or yourself) in costumes to see a great Halloween hit, double-feature, or even a trilogy….all for one low price.
From now through October 31st, West Wind is lighting up their six massive screen with dozens of horror titles. From franchise hits of the 80’s to the latest spooky titles. there’s something for EVERYONE.
Click here for the latest schedule, and check back often.
Family-friendly Spookers –
Romantic Vampire Films –
Franchise Horror Films –
Tim Burton Favorites –
John Carpenter Classics –
Low-Budget Shockers –
Big-Budget Titles –
Groundbreaking Classics –
There are plenty more films to be added to the list, and the festival runs through Halloween night. Click here for updates, and check back often.
West Wind Las Vegas Drive-in Theater is open year-round, rain or shine. They’re located at 4150 West Carey Avenue, northwest of downtown. Call (702) 646-3565 OR (702) 647-1379 for more information.
The Sin City you knew and loved has gone a little bit “Mad Max” and a whole lotta “Resident Evil: Extinction”…
Wynn Las Vegas is putting new security measures in place on weekends, requiring customers to be screened for metal objects and putting more uniformed officers in place.
The moves follow a fight on Labor Day Weekend that prompted an aggressive lawsuit by Wynn, and problems at other properties on the Las Vegas Strip that included shootings recently. Metro Police say they have noticed an uptick in violence at or near Las Vegas Strip properties since August, which has already led to more than 1,100 arrests.
Back in October 2018, I penned a piece announcing my transition from “Vegas visitor” to “Sin City local”. In that article, I promised to continue writing from the perspective of a tourist, while peppering in the additional tips I’d absorb as a resident along the way.
Since then, a lot has changed. You’re about to read what may be the final entry in this blog. Only time will tell. Keep in mind that the name of this site is “Vegas Unfiltered”. You might not like what you’re about to read, but quite often, the truth is ugly. And that’s the state of Las Vegas right now. Very ugly.
It’s often said that art imitates life….and vice versa. So when I looked towards the entertainment world for a representation of Las Vegas circa “summer 2020”, I found myself inside the dystopian setting of “Resident Evil: Extinction“. You’re probably familiar with that particular film, and if you aren’t, the description might seem uncomfortably familiar.
Based on popular video games and third in a series of movie adaptations, “Resident Evil: Extinction” depicts a post-pandemic Las Vegas in which our iconic hotels and casinos are overrun with hoards of the infected. The Strip is a wasteland, and those who survived the global pandemic become victims of bloody violence.
Factor in “Mad Max”-style high speed police chases along with the new phenomenon of ¨scooter gangs¨ in place of outlaw bikers…and you’ve got an post-apocalypse double feature that none of us could have imagined witnessing during our lifetime.
Does that seem dramatic and exaggerated? Well, perhaps you should follow Vegas news more often. Sin City has indeed become a seedy, violent place to visit. Since the shaky reopening of the Strip, downtown and surrounding areas, the shootings, muggings, murders, suicides, protests, riots and brawls have become rather routine. Sounds like the perfect vacation spot, doesn’t it? Just bring your bulletproof vest and join in on the fun.
Grim business prognosis from 8NewsNow published 9/21/20
Sights like this were common just a few short months ago…
The seeds of chaos were planted in May
Las Vegas Metropolitan Captain James LaRochelle told ABC News on 6/24/20 that the department saw an increase in crime starting late the previous month.
“Three weeks ago, we had a really bad week, with 11 murders in 10 days. Some of those were domestic violence-related. Our gang murders are about 22% of our homicides, and our rate of solving those is a bit lower. At one point in April we had solved 100% of our murders, and now we’re at about 80%,” LaRochelle told the outlet. “We’re still slightly down in violent crime year-to-date, but lately we are seeing an uptick and it is a concern.”
Police chase on Las Vegas Boulevard, Labor Day weekend 9/5/20
When the first restrictions were rolled back and chains were cut from casino doors, I penned a series of articles detailing the efforts to lure tourists back. From new sanitation protocols to removal of parking fees, I assured readers that Vegas was ready and waiting for you. In retrospect, that was a foolishly optimistic stance.
Brawl at Encore 9/6/20 (Labor Day weekend)
Getting here is one tough battle
If you plan on visiting in the coming weeks or months, prepare for a very nerve-wracking experience. It begins at your local airport, where restrictions and measures will make everything from going through security to sitting at the gate and your actual flight anything but pleasant.
Chances are that you already had a rough time booking your trip, as airlines are bleeding cash and have slashed the number of daily flights into and out of the city. Along with limited options, expect an increased likelihood of delays and cancellations, too.
You’ll be required to wear a mask from the time you enter your departure point until you actually breathe Nevada air…it’s not a negotiable matter. You can say goodbye to having an in-flight cocktail to set the mood, and forget about even having a soft drink unless you buy a bottle at the pricey terminal newsstand. In an effort to minimize contact, flight attendants will mostly remain at the front and rear of the plane. You’ll get a cup of water and perhaps a bag of crackers…also known as “prison rations”.
You won’t know if the flight attendants and gate agents are smiling behind those masks. They certainly don’t want to be in an enclosed space with potentially infected passengers, but they’ve got to make a living. So shut up, avoid your neighbors, follow the lengthy list of rules, deal with the lack of in-flight amenities and sit still until the plane comes to a complete stop.
It may be a long time before McCarran International Airport is thriving again…
Things are beginning to look bleak
Once you disembark, the airport will provide a depressing first impression, with closed restaurants and bars, darkened slot machines and minimal available services. Due do decreased demand, you may deplane in a different terminal than usual, requiring a shuttle bus, tram or lengthy walk to pick up your baggage.
Most local UBER and LYFT drivers have given up servicing the airport, so anticipate a wait time of 30 minutes or so for a pickup. Tempers are short and I’ve witnessed multiple arguments in the terminals and at pick-up areas. Are you happy to be here yet?
When you arrive at the hotel, you’ll have your body temperature scanned by one of a variety of different methods, walk through a maze of stanchions to get to the few human beings behind the reception desk, or opt to check yourself in via an automated kiosk. The goal once again is to limit human contact in a city once known for its heightened hospitality. And keep that mask on at all times…unless you’re smoking, of course. Then it’s okay.
First class service is a thing of the past
After standing in line to pick up your room key, you’ll most likely stand in another line to use the elevator. Most resorts are restricting the number of persons allowed on each trip, yet they’ve closed off certain areas of the hotel to maximize efficiency during decreased occupancy. So you’re all going to the same floors in the same tower while being instructed to practice social distancing and not crowd into the elevators together. Did you follow that?
Take note that, just like the airlines, Vegas hotels and casinos are operating at a loss. They’ve cut their workforce tremendously, so services are minimal and not always offered in a pleasant manner. Those who remain employed are severely overworked and under a great deal of stress.
South Point Casino 8/30/20
Are you the kind of person who likes to have your hotel room serviced on a daily basis? Most travelers do…it’s nice to have someone else fix the bed, replace the towels and wipe down sinks and countertops. Well, not in today’s Vegas. It’s now standard for housekeeping to only do their tasks when you completely check out.
Need towels or supplies? Leave a message with housekeeping, and if you’re lucky, what you requested may eventually be hanging from the knob outside your door. Is your trash can full? Bag it up and leave it in the hallway with everyone else’s. There’s no room service if you wish to have breakfast in bed or splurge on a midnight snack. Doesn’t this all sound lovely?
MGM Resorts recently announced the layoff of an additional 18,000 workers. That’s on top of the thousands that they’ve already let go. So yes, that associate you’re engaging with is happy to have a job, but that’s the extent of their joy. Don’t hint for an upgrade…they aren’t in the mood to hear about your birthday while they’re wondering if or when they’ll get the ax.
Popular hotels like The Palms, Rio, The Cromwell, Planet Hollywood, The Linq, Tropicana, Main Street Station, and Park MGM continue to remain dark. Others have reduced operating hours, closed restaurants and buffets (Wynn already shut down their buffet after re-opening it in June), scaled back gaming options, eliminated valet service, and closed pools, spas, salons, fitness facilities, player’s club lounges, and more. You’re still on the hook for the full price of resort fees, despite the removal of most amenities.
The once-popular Wynn Buffet during peak lunch period on Saturday 8/16/20
Low down and dirty
Maintenance at most Strip hotels, with the notable exceptions of Wynn and Westgate, has been downright disheartening. Common areas and guestrooms are receiving poor to indifferent upkeep, despite the PR crap they’ve been shoveling. Hotels may be promising “Clean and Safe” but the puddles of dried urine/vomit, dirty rooms, grungy common areas and filthy parking garages tell a different story. Once again, cost-cutting and workforce reduction are to blame.
Guests returning to Flamingo Hotel Casino during reopening week were greeted with filth and disarray…
Glitz and glamour have been replaced with crime, decay and neglect.
If you decide to venture out, know that Las Vegas Boulevard is a mess. As usual, outdoor escalators are out of commission despite months of opportunity to repair them during the shutdown. Sidewalks and overhead walkways are filthy, too. The homeless problem has grown, so you’ll be dodging a lot more beggars than in the past.
One place that doesn’t seem to be suffering economic loss is Fremont Street. Nevertheless, the nightly street party is a COVID-friendly petri dish of overcrowding, gang bangers, hot heads, and anti-maskers. Going there on a weekend evening is literally taking your life into your own hands.
Labor day Anarchy as crowds go “Mad Max”
Check out this shocking video from Friday night, 9/4/20 (Labor Day Weekend). Take note of the pair of Las Vegas Metro police officers at 00:11 to 00:17, strolling through the crowd without masks. Apparently it’s optional for them to wear face coverings but not for you. So why aren’t they stopping the violators they see in every direction?
Public video posted to Facebook by Martin Laursen has gone viral…
After a Labor Day weekend filled with violence and brawls, Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Captain Patricia Spencer held a press conference at the “Welcome to Las Vegas” sign on Tuesday 9/8/20. She declared “We understand that our neighboring states all have COVID restrictions and the residents are looking for places to go and be entertained and get out. However, we cannot tolerate the violence.”
“There were numerous fights that took place with large amounts of people in various Strip properties,” Spencer continued. “For those people who are coming here to have fun and take part in the festivities and the entertainment here, we welcome you. For those of you who are coming here to prey on the tourists or residents of this community, it will not be tolerated.”
Here’s another video from Labor Day weekend on Fremont Street, capturing the tail end of a confrontation between the crowd and law enforcement. Why would you subject yourself to this kind of atmosphere?
Public video posted to Facebook by Martin Laursen…
Despite thousands of empty hotel rooms, abandoned hotel towers, and a vacant new stadium, massive construction projects continue…
Room rates have been slashed, so people who couldn’t normally afford high-end hotels are taking advantage of once-in-a-lifetime bargains. What does that mean to you? The luxurious experience you may have once enjoyed has now gone “ghetto”.
Wynn Resorts Ltd. spokesman Michael Weaver said the company is increasing its room rates and investment in its security workforce and procedures after a fight broke out at Encore over the weekend. The company has no record of injuries from the incident.
Weaver said the changes are being made to ensure Wynn’s two Las Vegas properties, Wynn Las Vegas and Encore, “maintain the guest experience standards for which (they) are known.” Las Vegas Review-Journal 9/8/20
Brawling at Wynn/Encore 9/6/20 (public photo posted to Facebook by Martin Laursen)
Vulgar, obnoxious, and violent behavior are prevalent around the clock. Both the police force and private security officers have their hands full dealing with anti-maskers, fights, street racing, protests, on-property marijuana use (prohibited by law) and additional crimes.
Downtown and the Strip saw their share of protests and riots this spring…
Why bother coming when there’s nothing to do but brawl?
If you can look past all of the above in hopes of “getting your Vegas on”, what’s left to do? Well, right now there are no nightclubs, day clubs or casino bars. There are a few scattered deejays, no karaoke and minimal live entertainment. Dancing is strictly prohibited (I’m not sure if you’re allowed to quietly hum the theme from “Footloose”, though). You might catch a lounge singer here and there, or perhaps some “Streetmosphere” performers at Venetian/Palazzo. That’s about it.
On and around Las Vegas Blvd 10 am on Tuesday 9/22/20. It’s a ghost town.
There are no production shows, no headliners, no topless revues, no singing gondoliers, and no magicians or comedians. Cirque du Soleil has gone bankrupt, Human Nature and Blue Man Group have left the building, and Wynn’sLe Reve has sunk to the bottom of the pool. Every single stripper joint is out of commission, and prostitution is still illegal here, too. I’ll ask again….are you having fun yet?
Update 9/23/20 – Nevada’s governor lifted restrictions on bars effective Monday 9/21/20. I ventured out the following evening for happy hour at a Palazzo eatery, then a nearby local tavern during the first Raiders home game. I was expecting a healthy turnout, yet both places were nearly empty. See below.
Entertainers bite the wrong hand
If you’ve followed this column for any length of time, you know that I have a soft spot for the entertainment community. I’ve hyped individual performers, new shows, revisions, special events, and pop-up appearances. Charity efforts, openings, profiles pieces, sexy celebrities, and passion projects have made up the bulk of Vegas Unfiltered Blog.
In an effort to assist the return of live entertainment, last week I contacted dozens of entertainers and requested that they record a 30-second video plea to Governor Sisolak to eliminate restrictions on live performances. I volunteered to gather and forward them to the Governor. After all, if movie theaters and water parks can reopen, why not production shows? But it would seem that many entertainers would rather eat their own tails than use their voices to make a difference.
In this age of selfies and TikTok videos, turning one’s phone into a tool for self-preservation should seem like a no-brainer. What I got instead was an avalanche of negativity, mockery, apathy and downright hostility from a number of entertainers. To say that I was shocked would be mild, especially after years of selflessly supporting them. I’m still reeling from the pain.
“You aren’t an entertainer…stay out of it”. “Are you crazy, suggesting that I go back to work? You’re telling me to put my life at risk!”. “I’m busy right now, let me think about it”. “I don’t appreciate being put in this position”. “I can’t take a political stance…it might jeopardize my job”. Oh, you mean the job that left you high and dry without unemployment compensation? The one that might never actually return while you sit on your ass getting fat? Yeah, that one.
Where am I going with this particular tangent? Well, the response I got was a punch to the throat, and quite indicative of the ugliness that has pervaded Sin City…and the nation as a whole. The amount of negativity around us is off the charts, but especially here, where there is little hope of things returning to normal anytime soon.
Considering all of the lost jobs, closed businesses and violence in the streets and neighborhoods, it’s completely understandable for people to feel this way. But would I recommended coming here for a vacation at this time? Absolutely not.
After recovering from the 10/1 mass shooting, 9/11 attacks, and 2008’s economic crisis, COVID-19 may be what finally causes Las Vegas to topple…
Consider sitting out the next couple of rounds
This city can no longer deliver any of the excesses that it’s famous for. Carefree revelry doesn’t have a place in a COVID-impacted society, and today’s Vegas offers nothing that you can’t get somewhere else. After spending the better part of a decade encouraging you to come here, I can no longer do that in good conscience.
Las Vegas isn’t worth your time, the inconvenience, the expense, or the risk to your health and safety. For now, it’s better for you to just stay home and wait it out.
Update 9/11/11 – in an effort to reduce the amount of violence on their properties, Wynn Resorts has filed an agressive and daring lawsuit. They’ve also vowed to increase their security force and have committed to raising room rates to discourage bad apples.
In a 9/9/20 interview with Las Vegas Review-Journal, CDC Consulting Vice-president Greg Mullen stated “Several of our higher-end profile clients say their high-end guests are done coming until this is under control. They’re scared to walk outside their rooms, and don’t feel safe on elevators or on the casino floors themselves. It’s a bad look. … You can really, severely, put a tarnish on Las Vegas.”
Vegas Unfiltered Blog will be taking an indefinite break. If and when there is a reason to put Sin City back on your to-do list, you might see this site return. Until then…stay safe, stay smart and be well.
Co-creator of “POTTED POTTER” at Bally’s seeks out best (and worst) baked goods…
Fans of the Harry Potter extended universe rejoiced when acclaimed live parody production “Potted Potter: The Unauthorized Harry Experience” opened on the Strip last summer. My original review called it “a silly irreverent treat.”
Now co-creator Daniel Clarkson has decided to focus on the “treats” in a wacky baking competition inspired by their hit. It’s his way of delighting fans during the pandemic shutdown while whetting their appetites for a refreshed version when the show returns soon.
If you’d like to learn more and participate, read the official press release below, then get started right away. The challenge ends on July 8th. And yes, your magical concoction can reap real prizes!
Potted Potter: The Unauthorized Harry Experience – A Parody by Dan and Jeff has cast its spell on Las Vegas and the world as a hit, family-friendly show. While the Las Vegas production inside The Magic Attic at Bally’s Las Vegas is temporarily shut down due to the current COVID-19 pandemic, the team behind the hysterically funny parody have launched a wizardly baking challenge through their social media campaigns beginning Wednesday, July 1 and running through July 8, 2020.
One of the show’s co-creators, Daniel Clarkson will judge this magical “Potted Potter” baking competition that inspires all to get creative in the kitchen with prizes going to not only the best bake but, also to the most epic fail! Clarkson will pick his favorite bake (and the worst one too) using no criteria whatsoever, other than his opinion. Winners will be announced on July 14 and prizes will include items themed around the show – including magical sweet treats!
So, get creative and maybe bake your own Muggle Muffins, Dumbledore Donuts, Mandrake Pie a “Snitch Dish” or even a Harry Potter Pound Cake! No idea is a bad idea with this one-of-a-kind baking competition. Be sure to post a photo and description of your finest bake (or failure) on social media using the hashtags #WizardingWorld and #PottedPotter to enter. And don’t forget to tag our judge, co-creator of “Potted Potter,” Daniel Clarkson (@daniel_veronica).
Though the show, along with every other production is shut down in Las Vegas due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Clarkson assures us that once the show returns to The Magic Attic at Bally’s Las Vegas, there will be some fun updates.
“We’re hoping we come back as soon as possible but we want to be sure it is safe for everyone, that is our main priority,” says Clarkson. “The production is such an interactive show so, we are working on ways to make it safe and even better – so when we do return, prepare to see “Potted Potter 2.0” very soon!”
Images and video courtesy of Caprio Media Design, “Potted Potter” via Facebook
The rebirth of Las Vegas was stillborn, and it’ll be years before this city is relevant again.
Update 8/16/20 – Well, here we are five months later and things are worse than they’ve ever been. Aside from the rollback of parking fees on the Strip, the corporations have learned ZERO about luring people back. There are still the exorbitant resort fees, $20 cocktails and nickel-and-diming practices.
Tourists have been hit with COVID-19 surcharges, mask and temperature-scan requirements, limited dining options, no live entertainment and darkened storefronts. Major casinos remain dark, thousands of staff members have been let go and even McCarran Airport has laid off almost a thousand employees.
Cirque du Soleil has filed for bankruptcy, Wynn has closed down Le Reve permanently, Human Nature tossed in the towel, and the Blue Man Group has been given their walking paper. I’d be hard-pressed to encourage people to visit Las Vegas for the foreseeable future. There’s nothing here that you can’t get elsewhere cheaper/faster/easier. If that sounds like a downer, of course it is. But if you were expecting rosy bullshit from a site named “Vegas Unfiltered”, you were mistaken.
The rebirth of Las Vegas was stillborn, and it’ll be years before this city is relevant again.
UPDATE 5/19/20 – It appears that SOMEBODY has been listening to all of us who have urged the major resort chains to make changes. MGM Resorts and Cosmopolitan have announced that they’re dropping parking fees. As VitalVegas.com reported, Caesars had no choice but to do the same. Unfortunately, nothing has been done about resort fees. In fact, Cosmopolitan will be raising theirs from $39 per day to $45.
Venetian/Palazzo is slated to unlock their doors on June 1st. The giant resort has launched a program called “Share the LOVE” and they’re showing their appreciation with an offer geared towards essential workers. MGM and Westgate have publicized their sanitation protocols, which I’ve elaborated on here and here.
Sadly, there have been major layoffs during the interim, and some casinos have decided to label themselves as “Permanently Closed”, allowing for the termination of thousands of employees without recourse or compensation. Among them are The Palms, Fiesta Henderson, Texas Station and Rampart casinos (read more here).
So….it’s a mixed bag at this point. One victory. one stalemate…and plenty of casualties. But everything remains in flux, with major announcements arriving in my email nearly daily. As hotels ramp up their reopening plans, it is in your best interest as a customer to investigate the best deals, best prices and best overall plan before you decide to return to Sin City. Good luck and have fun…..we’re (kind of) back!
On March 17th, 2020, Governor Steve Sisolak shut down the City of Las Vegas, along with the rest of the state, for a minimum of thirty days. In order to slow the rampant spread of COVID-19 aka “Corona Virus”, all non-essential businesses were ordered to shutter. This included bars, hotels, casinos, indoor-dining restaurants, gyms, spas, salons, movie theaters, shows, most stores, parks, recreational attractions and much more.
Caesars Palace Forum Shops and Bellagio….both empty…
Thousands upon thousands of people are currently out of work (myself included). Very few are receiving compensation from their employers during this dark period, leaving homes and families at risk for multiple hardships. Can a town that’s already endured major drops in tourism due to 9/11, 2008’s economic collapse and the 10/1/17 massacre rebound from yet another cataclysm?
The party is over on Fremont Street…at least for the time being…
An insider source requesting anonymity sent these astonishing photos…
Will the stuffed suits in powerful boardrooms learn from their own mistakes…ones that were already dragging our tourist industry downward? What can be done to lure people back…and will we see a return to the perception of Las Vegas as a value destination? One can only hope.
A darkened Wynn/Encore offers hope to the remaining few passers-by…
The days leading up to the Governor’s declaration were filled with unbearable tension. Grocery store shelves were plundered as major Strip productions shuttered one by one. Next came the closing of buffets and restaurants, then entire hotels and casinos. Working parents suddenly had to figure out what to do with their children when all schools closed down this week.
Town Square near McCarran Airport is a ghost town…
As in other cities around the world, mundane activities like getting a haircut or meeting friends for lunch are no longer part of our lives. Everything has changed in just a matter of days. Once it became clear that this was our new normal, a friend and I entered “survival mode”. I was just laid off from two regular writing gigs (supposedly temporarily, but who knows?) and he needed a place to live, so now I have someone to share expenses with…and lean on at the same time.
Having resided for 14 years in hurricane-prone South Florida, this writer was used to disaster preparation as a routine activity. Stock the pantry, refill prescriptions, get extra pet food and litter, withdraw cash from the ATM, gas up the vehicles and charge everything that uses a battery. Then comes more drastic steps like buying plywood to board up the windows, checking/replacing fire extinguishers and having weapons on hand in case violence ensues.
All of this may sound drastic or even dramatic, but let’s face it…if people trample each other for a TV on Black Friday, what would they do when food and supplies run out? The answer isn’t an easy one.
Despite the seriousness of the situation, many have been working hard to maintain hope…and a sense of humor. Facebook has been a great outlet for people to offer assistance, share their talents and keep each others’ spirits high. Cirque du Soleil performer Alberto Del Campo (read about him HERE) is hosting free online pole fitness classes.
Talented spouses MaKenzie Fly (Sex Tips) and Colin Cahill (Atomic Saloon Show) have created “Mak and The Cheese” a Facebook page featuring witty songs and skits inspired by the “virus hiatus.” And yours truly hosted a “Sexy Apocalypse Party” at Palms Place, where shirts were optional (this is Sin City, after all).
As we locals ride out the long month ahead in our own unique ways, it’s clear that we’ll come out on the other side as very changed people. Thousands will undoubtedly remain unemployed. Homes will be lost and crime rates will rise. Many businesses will most certainly close for good.
The Bronx Wanderers toast their final performance…for now…
Entertainment offerings may no longer be the flashy, expensive productions (like Cirque du Soleil’s R.U.N) that have recently racked up millions in losses. Virgin Hotel (the former Hard Rock) and Allegiant Stadium completion dates will be pushed back. And you can forget about Resorts World and Fontainebleu/The Drew opening any time soon….yet again.
The Governor’s announcement was like licking the stamp on a death notice that was waiting to be mailed. Las Vegas has been struggling for quite some time, mostly due to poor decisions that have turned an inexpensive, beloved retreat into a tourist-gouging cesspool of greed. The bigger the city has grown, the less forward-thinking it has become. What we as citizens saw and heard tonight will forever be embedded in our minds. But can we say the same about the big-company execs who are directing the city’s future?
After the news conference, my new roomie and I gathered our wits and headed to the Strip to absorb the shocking reality of it all. What we witnessed were empty sidewalks, abandoned massive resorts, and shuttered storefronts. The world-famous Bellagio Fountains were dark, as was the Mirage volcano and the boardwalk along Treasure Island. Gone were the endless lines of taxis waiting to pick up tourists.
Overhead, pedestrian walkways were void of people, and the outdoor escalators at each major intersection went silently up and down with nary a soul to ride them. Amusingly, they all seemed to be working for a change, now that there was nobody to use them. If you were looking for the company of others, all you had to do was head for the nearest dispensary, where people encircled the buildings, hoping to get their stash before mandatory shutdowns went into effect.
Lines at marijuana dispensaries stretched around the block…
“Visit Las Vegas” is airing nationwide TV promising a bigger, better Vegas…
Now that we’ve witnessed that fall of Las Vegas, where do we go from here? As I said, it will most likely be a very different place…but will it be better? Maybe the “new normal” will yield smaller-scale ideas, where charming lounge-style acts push multi-million-dollar headliner residencies out of the way.
Terminal 1 at McCarran International Airport 3/18/20, 10am
Perhaps we’ll see a resurgence in gaming, bolstered by better odds than visitors can get at their local casinos. And if we’re lucky, quality service by smiling human beings will shove out main offender MGM Resort‘s move toward automation and self-service. If I’m paying $50 for a buffet, is it too much to ask for an actual person to refill my iced tea?
Found on my Facebook feed…
What Las Vegas REALLY needs is to learn a hard, definitive lesson from this punch to the stomach. Hotels must send parking charges out into the desert, never to return. People are sick of looking at their restaurant/bar tab and finding a laundry list of bogus service charges and taxes added onto their already-expensive bill. And when a hotel advertisement says “Stay here for $___”, that better be the actual rate. We’re done with $45 resort fees. Stop it…right now!
There are only so many times that a city built on tourism can bounce back from major disasters. Las Vegas has survived at least three of them in the past two decades. If the corporations that run this city don’t push the “restart” button and bring back what made this city successful for decades, then maybe it doesn’t deserve to recover at all. Right now, the only thing we all share is hope for a better tomorrow.
Click HERE to read this article’s companion piece: “Is Sin City Determined to Drive You Away?”
Photos: Sam Novak, Bobby Watson, Kevin Janison, Marianne LeMoine Phoenix, Greg C., Bill Chenowith, Vin A., Andrew Hill. Special thanks to Richard Lindblom.