Immersive Experiences To Blow Your Mind


Why just watch entertainment when you can be a part of it?

With the drop in revenue from gambling and a huge reduction in the number of production shows in existence, it’s clear that Vegas visitors are seeking new ways to be excited. People want to be immersed in an experience…that’s why the Big Apple Coaster at New York NY now offers a virtual-reality headset option (for a $5 upcharge) to go with the traditional ride.

But in this age of higher/bigger/faster, that 22-year-old thrill ride is still just a new twist on something that’s been around awhile. So let’s take a look at some newer adventures to throw yourself into…and one or two that might actually require you to turn on your mind.

Go Faster

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Who doesn’t love the rush of adrenaline? Well you can get your share and a whole lot more at Police Chase LV. Buckle into a real Las Vegas cruiser and take off after skilled “getaway drivers” on a expertly-designed course at the LV Motor Speedway. Your highly-trained instructor will be strapped into the passenger seat and actually encouraging you to drive faster and be more daring. There are no limits except for the ones you put on yourself.

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SpeedVegas offers a real racetrack experience for the exotic car enthusiast. Pick your Ferrari, Lamborghini or Porsche and rip down an extra-long 1.5 mile racetrack designed by a team of international experts. Off-road racing and “drifting experiences” are available, too. The 35-million-dollar SpeedVegas private facility is only ten minutes away from the Welcome to Las Vegas sign and near the gorgeous M Resort and Casino.

Soar Higher

Things are looking up for those who long to reach new heights. There are plenty of immersive adventures to lift you to the clouds and return you safely back to earth. Skydiving enthusiasts are especially lucky, as there are a number of services to take you higher.

My personal nod goes to Sin City Skydiving, located south of the Strip on the way to Primm at the California State Line. A scenic 20-minute drive (transportation is offered) takes you to a small airport where you’ll receive instructions prior to a tandem jump with an expert. Click HERE to read about my jump and how you can arrange yours.

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If the idea of plunging towards the Earth seems a little severe, perhaps a graceful hot air balloon excursion? On mornings when the air is calm and clear, colorful balloons rise all around my neighborhood and fill the sky. Vegas Balloon Rides offers hour-long weekday morning rides with views of the Strip and Red Rock Mountains for only $169.

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Sail like a bird over the Hoover Dam and swoop like an eagle over the river and summits of the Grand Canyon with Serenity Helicopters. A five-star experience that sets it above other helicopter adventures, Serenity boasts a perfect safety record and a personalized experience to make that excursion the one you’ll remember for a lifetime. You can read all about my Sunset Grand Canyon Tour and Dinner with Serenity Helicopters by clicking HERE.

Cook With A Celebrity Chef

Local “Pampered Chefs” Bring the Excitement of Italy to Your Home

Cooking shows and celebrity chefs…two great tastes that taste great together. Why watch them passively from your television set when you can be a part of it? Pampered Chef is a clever concept in which chefs from some of the best restaurants in Las Vegas help you to host a cooking party.

Gather your family and friends into the kitchen of your home, timeshare or hotel suite and join Chef Piero Barbagallo as he and his fellow culinary experts teach you how to create a masterful dish from scratch. With simple ingredients, the right tools and a little flair, you’ll be on your way to bringing world famous dishes to your own table. Read more about Pampered Chef by following this LINK.

Discover Your Inner Wizard

The best way to figure out a mystery is to observe it very closely. So if you want to uncover the secrets of the dark arts (and channel your inner Harry Potter), enter The Magician’s Study. Once inside, you’ll discover a world of mystery and astonishment. An expert magician will sit down with you and a few other invited guests for an intimate evening of up-close illusions.

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                                     Is this The Magician’s Study? 

Your host must remain a secret, but he or she is an internationally-known and charismatic entertainer. The speakeasy-style events are also shared in a unique way:

I have crafted this to be a unique experience where guests feel special being able to attend something so secretive and highly exclusive that not just anyone can purchase tickets to. Guests pass along their code word like passing along a secret to others, allowing them to experience the evening.

This writer isn’t about to give away what I’ve learned, so if you’d like to peek behind the magic curtain, it’s yours to discover. You can also reach out by calling 702.934.2481 or emailing info@themagiciansstudy.com.

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There’s another way to see up-close magic here in Vegas. This one is more of a traditional show….yet you’ll still be mere feet away from the performers. Hollywood Stars of Magic has a rotating roster of top-of-their-game illusionists. Hosted by Vegas prestidigitator Tim Wise at the charming Royal Resort (near Las Vegas Convention Center) Hollywood Stars of Magic will baffle your mind. You’ll be so close that can reach out and touch. Showtimes are every Saturday at 2 p.m. and 4 p.m. and it’s appropriate for all ages.

Escape With Your Life

FLO Advertising SAW Escape Experience

We know it’s hard to think clearly under pressure. But what if you’re trying to save your skin and the clock is running out? Escape rooms are the latest way to experience the thrill of suspense and mystery movies without actually perishing in a booby trap.

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           Creator Jason Egan and actor Tobin Bell, the iconic “Jigsaw” himself…

The most cleverly-crafted Las Vegas escape room recreates chilling and gory hazards of a wildly popular horror franchise. Saw Escape Room is brought to life by Jason Egan, the brilliant artist behind Circus Circus Fright Dome. Endorsed by Lionsgate Studio (makers of the SAW films) and star Tobin Bell (Jigsaw), Saw Escape Room was ranked #1 in the nation last year by readers of USA Today.

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If none of those things strike your fancy, there are plenty of other “out there” options, from a Scavenger Hunt at Area 51 to Stripper 101 classes and even Blackout Dining In the Dark.

So the next time one of your friends says “Let’s do something different in Vegas” you can be the clever one with all the suggestions.

 

 

 

 

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Break The Rules (and the Speed Limit) at Police Chase LV


CHiPs actor Erik Estrada puts you in the driver’s seat for a real cops-and-robbers pursuit…

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“So, do you wanna be the bad guy or the good guy?” instructor Greg Ladner asked me as we walked towards an assortment of  high-powered vehicles. My eyes centered on a shiny Las Vegas Police Department cruiser. “A good guy, of course” I responded.

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Who wouldn’t want to rip down the asphalt in an authentic black and white, sirens blaring and adrenaline pumping? Add in the fact that I’d be chasing a highly-skilled “bad guy” trying to make his getaway in a pumped-up red sports car…..and you’ve got the makings of the most high-octane attraction since SPEED: The Ride at Sahara’s NASCAR Cafe. 

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                               Myself with trained driver Tony Acevedo…

Police Chase LV is a brand new experience at the Las Vegas Motor Speedway. It’s the only attraction of its kind in the United States, making it a uniquely Las Vegas experience. Genuine retired police vehicles, prison transport buses and jacked-up getaway cars immerse you in your favorite action movie. This is no sanitized, kid-friendly ride with speed limits and actors. The cops are real and so are the getaway drivers.

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The action at Police Chase LV is intense…cop chatter on the radio and blaring sirens remind you that this is no ordinary thrill. You’ll be encouraged to punch the pedal to the floor and take those curves as fast as you can! If you visit on the right days, TV’s own CHiPs star Erik Estrada will be there to greet you and get you started on becoming a make-believe cop or robber.

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If you’re worried about safety…and you have every reason to be…rest assured that protecting their participants is the number one priority at Police Chase LV (having a blast comes a close second). You’ll be required to attend a thorough seminar presented by highly trained instructors like Norman “Doc” Halliday. Then Estrada returns via video to provide additional information on the can’s and cant’s, what to expect on the course and how to maximize both safety and thrills.

Drivers must be at least eighteen years of age with a valid license. You will be required to sign a waiver before participating and not be under the influence of either alcohol or drugs. You’ll be under the constant supervision of your professional companion and must abide by their instructions.

     The good guys – Doc Halliday, Gred Ladner, Tony Acevedo and Bruce Parkin…

There are several different ways to experience Police Chase LV. This writer played the pursuit driver in a police chase, the passenger in an expertly-driven getaway car, then moved onto the ultimate option: Pursuit Intervention Techniques (PIT). In PIT maneuvers, police cruisers skillfully collide with a fleeing car, forcing it to spin, lose control and stop. Is your heart pumping yet?

Click HERE to continue reading.

‘ESTER GOLDBERG’S TOTALLY OUTRAGEOUS BRUNCH’ COMES TO THE VEGAS STRIP


New York comedienne Ester Goldberg brings the insanity of the Big Apple to the Strip…

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Not so long ago, daylight hours in Las Vegas were just a good time for rest and recovery. Then came the beach clubs, which brought nighttime excitement into the spotlight. These days, brunch shows are the “in” thing…and SLS Las Vegas has launched their own. Called Ester Goldberg’s Totally Outrageous Brunch, this is one new production that absolutely lives up to its name.

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Until recently, Senor Frog’s Drag Brunch was the height of morning-meal madness. Then Ester Goldberg and crew came to push the envelope and reach for the ceiling. Literally. Filled with aerial acts, improv comedy, burlesque, dancers, singers, a live band and the best Donald Trump impersonator on the planet, Totally Outrageous Brunch achieves new levels of lunacy.

If you’ve never heard of Ester Goldberg, don’t feel badly. This self-appointed “International Glamour Puss of All Media” is new to the Vegas scene but proudly boasts that she’s famous everywhere else on the planet. Watching Ester in action, you might be reminded of Britain’s Dame Edna…but Esther’s got a lot more pepper sauce in her Bloody Mary.

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Brunch is presented an hour before each showtime, so be sure to arrive early. A colorful array of fresh fruits, yogurt parfaits and bakery-shop specialties lead into a hearty selection of breakfast sandwiches,  gourmet deviled eggs, chicken and waffles and an incredible smoked pork belly. While dining you’ll be treated to teaser performances from a few of the stars. It’s best not to tell too much, but don’t be surprised if your table suddenly has a bawdy additional guest.

Click HERE to continue reading…

 

Dave Mancuso and the Art of the Perfect Shave


A Master Barber guides us through a classy and classic experience for men…

You may have noticed that this writer has been on a journey of self-improvement…and I’ve taken you along on the adventure. Together we’ve experienced a men’s spa day at Westgate Serenity Spa. Then we shot over to Cosmopolitan for a visit to STITCHED Haberdashery, followed by a series of sessions at Therma Slim Med-Spa. It was only a matter of time before our next must-do experience would be an expert straight-razor shave.

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There’s no question that when you look your best, you feel great too. And it doesn’t matter what brought you to Las Vegas. Even if you’re here just to sight-see or to attend a special event, those photos and memories are going to last a lifetime. Why not indulge in something that will relax, pamper and improve your looks all at the same time? You’ll get all that and more when you schedule a Premium Shave Experience at The Art of Shaving,

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The Art of Shaving at The Shoppes at Mandalay Place is much more than the usual retail outlets you’ve seen. It’s one of about fifty locations that also features a full-service Barber Spa. The AOS Barber Spas offer precision haircuts, beard trims, scalp treatments, express facials and Premium Packages. But as the name would suggest, The Art of Shaving Barber Spa is home to the world’s best straight-razor shave.

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Dave Mancuso has been with The Art of Shaving since coming to Las Vegas eleven years ago. His first nine years were spent at The Palazzo before transferring to Mandalay Place. It’s at their Barber Spas that Mr. Mancuso can fully utilize the skills he’s developed through thirty-nine years as a Master Barber.

The expertise and elevated level of service from a licensed Master Barber gives this Youngstown, Ohio native a distinct edge over traditional barbers. Dave keeps his license and craft up to date by attending regular Continuing Education courses. The fact that Dave’s also a licensed Cosmetologist ensures that your face and skin will be in the best possible care.

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A visit to The Art of Shaving is often a rite of passage. Men bring their sons here for their first professional shave. It’s also a popular must-do for Vegas visitors when arriving in the city. Just like ladies look forward to the many Vegas spas, men often make it their tradition to receive a straight razor shave when they come to town. And of course, many locals make this part of their regular grooming regimen. “We love our locals” says Dave.

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Walk-in visits are usually available, but it’s easy to schedule an appointment. The meticulously-presented retail area leads to a welcoming counter where you’ll be escorted to the Barber Spa. That short walk from the entrance will take you back decades in time, when the Barber Shop was a masculine cultural experience. The spinning barber poles and classic leather chairs set a wonderful mood for what’s to follow.

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Dave guided me through the entire process beforehand, describing every step in their famous Premium Shave. First comes the cleansing process, followed by hot moist towels to soften the beard and open pores. They’re infused with fragrant essential oils…and incredibly relaxing.

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It was at this part of the process that I started to go into a zone of deep relation. “Many of our guests fall asleep ” Dave told me. “Don’t fight it. I’ll wake you up in forty-five minutes or so” he joked. Fair enough….so I’ll let Dave take it from here in his own words.

I start with a warm steam towel, apply Peppermint Face Wash and cleanse the face using the Art of Shaving Power Brush. Next Peppermint Face Exfoliant is applied, massaged into the skin and removed. Pre-shave oil is applied and then a warm lather on top of the oil.

The Royal Shave is performed using a straight razor with a disposable blade (which is required by law so there is never any cross-contamination). I shave with the grain in which the hair grows, re-lather and shave against the grain. Another warm towel is applied to open the pores.

Rosewater Eye Pads are placed on the eyes and a Rose Clay Mask is applied to soothe and moisturize the skin. The mask is removed and then I give a face and neck massage using AOS After-shave Balm. I mist the face with rosewater and finish with a cold towel to close the pores…and more often than not to wake the guest up.

 

After that refreshing towel brought me back to my senses, it was time absorb the experience…and enjoy the feel and appearance of my smooth, immaculate face. Dave then took me into the retail and demonstrated some of the products that have made The Art of Shaving such a gold standard for men’s grooming.

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The New York City-based company was formed in 1996 by husband and wife Eric Malka and Myriam Zaoui. The two combined their skills to create the ultimate shaving products from natural and aromatic ingredients like those found in the kitchen. They published a book about their research, discoveries and a valuable guide to the ultimate shave in 2002. The company was acquired by Proctor and Gamble in 2009, so now the stores also feature Gillette razors and blades.

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While their high-end product line has been expanded to include all manners of body wash, beard care, grooming and fragrances, the core of their business is what they call 4 Elements of a Perfect Shave. These basics start with their pre-shave oil, a highly concentrated shave cream, a natural-bristle shaving brush and an after-shave balm. I picked up the 4 Elements set and was eager to try them in my own shower.

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“You only need to use a very small amount of our items to get the best results” Dave cautioned me. “One jar of our shave cream, for instance, will last for over eight months. In the rare event that someone is unhappy, it’s more than likely because they’re using too much. Once they use less, they’ll fall in love”.

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I left The Art of Shaving feeling like a million dollars and ready to enjoy a Saturday night on the town. Dave’s departing words were echoed a few days later after I’d given my Art of Shaving products a whirl at home. I wrote to express my appreciation…and my pleasure with the 4 Elements Gift Set. “I love my face again!”, I told him.

Mancuso’s response was priceless: “That is almost always the reaction we hear once someone plays with our products themselves. It will even get better with continued use. ENJOY!!!”

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The Art of Shaving/Barber Spa of Mandalay Bay is open daily from 9 am to 9 pm. It is located at Shoppes at Mandalay Place, 3930 Las Vegas Boulevard South. Call 702-632-9356 to make an appointment with Dave Mancuso. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Local “Pampered Chefs” Bring the Excitement of Italy to Your Home


Chef Piero Barbagallo and his colleagues help you to create a four-star Italian dining experience for your guests…

In today’s fast-paced world, the popularity of TV food channels and cooking classes continues to grow. Now you can experience the best of both in your own Vegas kitchen…with a world-renowned chef assisting you all the way.

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Meet Chef Piero Barbagallo, a manic ball of energy who hails from Palermo, Italy. Chef Piero has cooked at some of the finest restaurants around the world. He’s also been Food and Beverage Manager for a little-known gentleman named Wolfgang Puck, done the same for Trump Tower Las Vegas and has an impressive history of hospitality and management at New York NY, Bellagio and Palazzo.

With credentials like those, it’s hard to grasp that a man of such revered status would be available to cook and entertain in your kitchen, but that’s exactly what Pampered Chef provides. Barbagallo and other members of the Pampered Chef team help you to host parties that spread the word on their products and services while giving you and your friends a true interactive experience.

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While Chef Piero treasures his history with several popular Strip restaurants, the exhaustive hours were chipping away at precious time with his young daughter. “I wanted to try something different that would allow me to be home when my daughter returned from school. I’ve been with Pampered Chef only since December, but I already love it!”

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It’s clear that Chef Piero’s outgoing personality and passion for his craft are ideal for this type of venture. “I love food. I love people. And I love to entertain. Let me cook for and with you” he exclaims.

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Preparations were well underway when I arrived early for a 6 pm party. Chef Piero had already organized the ingredients, which are purchased by the party’s hosts. Special guest Chef Massimilliano Lanzafame of Sicily was hard at working creating a batch of dough. Bottles of wine and Pampered Chef catalogs/pamphlets were spread out on the reception table along with some snacks.

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The host location for the party was the Summerlin home of Marina Johnson. Ms. Johnson is an Advanced Director/Trainer who leads her own team of Pampered Chefs. And she made one hell of an eggplant dish just for me when I revealed that my diet plan prohibited me from indulging in the evening’s featured dish….authentic homemade ravioli with bruschetta.

As the three Italians bantered throughout the kitchen in their native language, the flurry of activity felt like a warm, chaotic ballet. A growing number of arrivals filled the kitchen and were invited to have wine, ask questions and participate in the preparation. It all came together in an evening that was part show, part lesson…and all unforgettable fun.

Pampered Chef offers a lot more than in-home cooking parties. They’re a multi-level marketing company that produces kitchen tools, food products and recipe books for the home. Party guests can order items that they’ve tried, take a catalog home and even host a Pampered Chef party for themselves. That gets you free items and substantial discounts to turn your everyday kitchen into a culinary wizard’s workshop.

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Although Ms. Johnson’s team consists of the finest Italian chefs, that’s far from the only cuisine that Pampered Chef can do. For instance, February is “Wine, Cheese and Chocolate” Month. Perhaps you’d prefer “Fajitas and Margaritas” or “Fast and Fresh Weeknight Meals”. Whatever your taste, there’s a Pampered Chef theme for you.

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Not everyone is a natural-born entertainer (I’m certainly not). And how often do you say “I wish that I (or my spouse) could be a better cook”? With Pampered Chef, your wishes can easily become a reality. They can handle just about any special social event and help you to get it off the ground.

Let Pampered Chef organize your wedding/baby shower, birthday party or fundraiser. Or you can just arrange a traditional Tupperware-style catalog party to introduce your friends to the products they offer…and make a tidy profit for yourself at the same time.

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If you’d like to view one of Chef Piero’s cooking classes remotely, tune to his frequent virtual demonstrations via Facebook Live. Or you can cheer him on in person this February 13th when he competes at CHEF BATTLE LAS VEGAS. The event begins 6 pm at Hofbrauhaus, 4510 Paradise Road.

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To schedule a cooking party with Chef Piero Barbagallo, call or text him at 702-544-3173 and say that Sam from Vegas Unfiltered sent you. To learn more about Pampered Chef products and services, contact Marina Johnson via this link

Photos: Sam Novak, Chef Piero Barbagallo

 

 

 

 

 

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

 

Lost Vegas – When Your Favorites Are Gone Forever


The decision-makers of Vegas may want you to forget all about what “used to be”, but not me…

Everyone knows about the ever-changing face of Vegas. While the publicity machine churns out NEW! BETTER! BEST! in the hopes of grabbing your attention (and getting a fair share of your travel stash), they fail to mention that, in the process, you might be losing your favorite Vegas “whatevers”. Most times they’ll disappear, with no hope of returning and never to be mentioned again. In today’s round of “Lost Vegas”, I’ll share some of my own fond memories…and perhaps a couple of tears.

Chef Kerry Simon passed away in 2015 after battling MSA disease, a form of Parkinson’s. His death was preceded by the closing of two Vegas restaurants, Simon’s at Palms Place and KGB Burger Bar inside Harrah’s. While I was fond of Simon’s for its location and ambiance, it was the food at KGB that drew me back many times.

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My favorite item there was the Thanksgiving Turkey Burger, a one-of-a-kind holiday celebration on a bun: big juicy turkey patty, stuffing, cranberry relish and sprouts topped off with a layer of turkey gravy. That belt-buster was even better when washed down with a Captain Crunch milkshake.

My favorite KGB server, Chris, used to offer his own variation of the Crunch shake, topping it with strawberry syrup. All the better to evoke memories of morning cartoons with a bowl of Crunch Berries, the best variety of Captain Crunch.

Kerry’s legacy will live on at Carson Kitchen, his final culinary offering to Sin City. We’ll miss you, Mr. Simon…and those fond recollections of Thanksgiving and Saturday mornings in front of the TV.

From there we move to Neonopolis, the troubled downtown shopping/entertainment complex which has been mired by a history of failures. The biggest one-two punch came with the simultaneous closings of Krave Massive and Drink and Drag.

Both businesses catered primarily to the LGBTQ crowd, but Drink and Drag was much more of a progressive mix of gay and straight. This nightclub/bowling alley was the epitome of Vegas oddities, mixing lip-syncing drag queens, pool tables, tasty food and muscular shirtless bartenders into one wild ride.

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Always a blast, especially for those with an open mind, Drink and Drag quickly became a hit. The former Jillian’s location offered big entertainment–and a very unusual evening on the town…for chump change. Unfortunately, there was more behind-the-scenes drama than a truckload of divas sharing a dressing room. Management and liquor-license issues ultimately closed the doors, taking sister club Krave Massive (one level up) with it.

The final incarnation of Strip mainstay Krave never really took hold downtown, despite a temporary life at Rio, which kept the brand in circulation during the construction phase. Promising to one day become the biggest gay venue in the world (complete with a rooftop pool) Krave Massive was more like Krave Minor…it lasted only four months. Most sections of the club were never completed, and those that were accessible lacked…a lot.

The former occupant of that third-floor space didn’t fare much better. Galaxy Theaters at Neonopolis once offered mainstream movies to downtown visitors and residents. What started off as a 14-screen multiplex was later downsized to 11. The theater complex was poorly maintained and drew a frequently rough customer demographic. It even operated without air conditioning (unthinkable in the desert heat) for the last several months of its existence.

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The theater was closed abruptly on the eve of the new Star Trek reboot on May 7th, 2009. Neonopolis frontman Rohit Joshi explained that without digital projection upgrades, Galaxy Theaters would need to “maintain its competitive edge” by shutting down. With logic like that, it’s no wonder that Neonopolis continues to sit mostly empty.

Speaking of Star Trek, the former Star Trek Experience at the Las Vegas Hilton continues to garner mentions at the annual Trek convention at Rio. Offering rides, character experiences, weddings, dining, a mock-up of “Quark’s Bar”, gift shops and a museum, Star Trek Experience drew visitors from all over the world. For many, it was the only reason to visit the otherwise-floundering Hilton (now a more successful Westgate Hotel Casino).

Star Trek entrance

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At one point, Rohit Joshi (him again) promised to reopen Star Trek Experience at Neonopolis, in conjunction with a new Star Trek film on May 8, 2009. Obviously that didn’t work out so well. These days, the casino portion of the Star Trek space is being used by Westgate timeshare sales people as a presentation room. A curious end to an otherwise-legendary exhibit.

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In the 1990’s, it seemed like every casino wanted to have thrill rides – IMAX simulators, roller coasters, sometimes even an entire amusement park. A few remain, but two of my favorites are long gone. The first I experienced, on my inaugural trip to Vegas, was the High Roller. No, not the observation wheel at the Linq, but a roller coaster that once wound around the top of the Stratosphere. That slow-moving train was more about the height than the dips, but I’ll never forget stepping into the car, looking over the edge and saying “I must be insane to do this”. High Roller was closed and dismantled in December of 2005.

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Sahara Hotel was home to Speed: The Ride, a fast-moving coaster that shot riders from inside the building onto the Strip. It turned them upside down, then sped up even faster for a jaw-dropping vertical climb. Once the train came to a stop, it ran backwards and returned to the station through a cool misty fog, all in a very rapid 45 seconds.

Speed was dismantled with the closure of Sahara and was slated to be rebuilt near Mandalay Bay under the shadow of a second planned giant observation wheel called SkyVue. Years later, the pylons for that stalled project remained unfinished and the property has a “For Sale” sign on the corner of the lot. Was Rohit Joshi involved in this venture? We can’t help wondering…

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Free attractions were once a popular way to lure people into the casinos…and hopefully to keep them there. Now that gambling is no longer the hot ticket, every available space seems to be destined for retailing. Hence, the removal of the white tiger pool at Mirage for a burger joint, the lions at MGM Grand for a sports pub, the Sirens and Pirates at Treasure Island for a CVS Drugstore, and on and on.

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Many others are removed due to costly maintenance and staffing expenses, like Rio‘s Show In The Sky, the Gods of the Festival Fountain (moving statues) at Caesars Palace Forum Shops, the lobby aquarium at Mandalay Bay and the Roman centurions that once strolled through Caesars Palace. Some attractions just yield to the times, like Merlin’s Dragon Battle at Excalibur…and the Sphinx water/laser show and Nile River Ride, both at Luxor.

What favorite attractions, features or offerings do you miss in today’s Vegas? Feel free to share in the comments below.

Photos: Sammasseur, Greg C., Banner photo via Cuningham Group Architecture