Grab Your Boots and Stetson for ‘BLICK LINEDANCE’

Sin City Dancing Returns in an exciting All-American way…


Yes, it’s true that Las Vegas is back. And if the packed airline flights that I’ve recently taken are any indication, that’s the way it’s going to stay. Restaurants, pools, and shows have opened up to increased capacity, and more fun and freedom are on the horizon. But what about dancing???

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Photos from mid-April 2021

The pathway to reopening nightclubs in our new era is going to be tricky. Too bad there aren’t any outdoor dancing venues around town to speak of. But award-winning line dancer George Blick has a plan to make COVID-safe line dancing the latest Sin City trend. 

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Gallery by Vinnie Cassidy…

“Line Dancing improves stamina, muscle tone and coordination, is a great stress buster and energy booster. Dancing is a unique form of exercise because it provides the heart-healthy benefits of an aerobic exercise while allowing you to engage in a social activity. It’s a community, and it’s all about having fun” says George.

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If you are in the camp that doesn’t find this activity to be appealing or hip, you might be in for a big surprise. Despite being a skeptic myself, I joined George and his crew, pre-pandemic, for an evening of fun at Stoney’s Rocking Country at Town Square. The youthful crowd was extremely high-energy and raucous, and all eyes turned towards George when he entered the dance floor. It’s quite a sight.

Blick Linedance began a YouTube Channel in October 2019, long before COVID-19 changed our way of life. An accompanying Facebook Page and official website keep fans up-to-date on the latest classes and events. George’s tutorials blend socializing, physical fitness and a love for good ole country music into a rip-roaring great time. Fortunately, the need for distancing of participants is built right into the checkerboard format. So…win-win!

169621015_542477543822771_7174071611073932316_n“The only way to keep the fire going is to outrun the wind.” – George Blick 

If the name “George Blick” seems familiar to you, it should. I’ve featured this handsome devil in an in-depth profile as well as an essay on Celebrity Quarantine Fitness.  The native of Whales played the role of “Stefan” in SEX TIPS at Paris Las Vegas, is a cast member of Mosaic‘s Aussie Heat and host of the new Rock Candy Male Revue at Alexis Park Resort.

Dancing has always been George’s passion. The Laine Theater Arts graduate holds six consecutive World Championship titles, has performed for the Queen, entertained aboard cruise ships, and shared his talents in over fifty countries. 

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On May 1st, George will be heading to California Ranch Company in Temecula for an outdoor festival. The EDGE DANCE EVENT invites guests to grab their camping gear, hook up their RV’s and prepare for a boot-scooting good time. Tickets and registration are available here

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Closer to home, Blick Line Dance holds beginner and intermediate classes in Las Vegas for those yearning to get out and enjoy themselves in a safer setting. Sessions take place Mondays (beginner) and Wednesdays (intermediate) at 9am inside Seniors Helping Seniors. Their center is located at 451 E. Bonanza Road. Classes last one hour and are quite a bargain at only five dollars each. Click here for more details. 

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Going forward, George would like to take advantage of warmer weather to bring line dancing “out to the streets”. He’s actively seeking venues with large spaces, paved surfaces and courtyards to launch concepts like “Linedance Brunch”, early-evening nightclub socials and the like. Perhaps it’s time to bring flash mobs back to the Fremont Street Experience

Vegas is back on its feet, and it’s time to bring a little “country” to Sin City. If you have a performance venue, group, club, or special event that could use an infusion of fun, contact George Blick to see what he can bring to the floor. You can reach him right here

Photos: George Blick, Sam Novak, Vinnie Cassidy

MGM Resorts Unveils ‘CONVENE WITH CONFIDENCE’ Program


Hotel-casino chain announces In-room COVID-19 screenings and new protocols to accommodate the return of meetings and conventions:

Press Release 4/7/21: Following months of trials, MGM Resorts is adding cutting-edge enhancements to its Convene with Confidence program, one of the meeting industry’s most comprehensive health and safety plans, designed to get businesses back to doing business in person.

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Now welcoming larger groups in accordance with increased capacity limits in Nevada, MGM Resorts is offering meeting planners the option for on-site rapid, molecular COVID-19 testing delivering highly accurate results for events large and small.

Since pioneering Convene with Confidence in September 2020 with an option for attendee testing in partnership with CLEAR, Cue Health and Impact Health, MGM Resorts has safely hosted close to 300 meetings and groups within the approved size limits using the protocols outlined in the program. Trialing the digital application for entertainment and sporting events, the Vegas Golden Knights recently began using CLEAR’s Health Pass for CDC health survey screening – processing thousands of fans at T-Mobile Arena each game night – demonstrating it is a smooth and efficient process, even at scale.

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“Convene with Confidence is a result of close consultation with health experts and our increased focus on leveraging innovation to not only provide a better guest experience – but a safer one as well,” said Bill Hornbuckle, MGM Resorts’ CEO and President. “MGM Resorts has long been at the forefront of the rapidly evolving hospitality and events industries. We are confident we’ve built a program that enables companies to meet in person, giving them peace of mind as they do so.”

Stephanie Glanzer, MGM Resorts’ Senior Vice President and Chief Sales Officer, said, “Meetings and conventions are critical to our company and to Las Vegas, in addition to the organizations putting on these programs. Developing Convene with Confidence, a completely customizable program, with multiple options for planners and attendees, reflects our deep commitment to the future health of the meetings industry.”

CONVENE WITH CONFIDENCE

Convene with Confidence consists of detailed protocols that incorporate health and safety into every aspect of the convention and meeting process. Efforts range from smart planning of the event itself to contactless check-in and increased cleaning schedules of common areas, with special attention paid to high-contact areas such as doorknobs and food contact surfaces.

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Now fully operational within the Convene with Confidence ecosystem are several advancements, including optional COVID-19 testing protocol that delivers fast results and allows event organizers the ability to create a perimeter for their events and exhibitions.

Convene with Confidence Strategic Partnerships

  • MGM Resorts has partnered with CLEAR, the secure identity company, to leverage its Health Pass technology – a mobile app experience that links verified identity with COVID-19 health insights, including a real-time health questionnaire, COVID-19-related test results, temperature checks via integrated kiosks, and soon the ability to link to COVID-19 vaccination records.
  • MGM Resorts has partnered with Cue Health, a healthcare technology company whose easy-to-use, portable COVID-19 test provides lab-quality results directly to connected mobile smart devices in about 20 minutes. The Cue COVID-19 Test for Home and Over The Counter (OTC) use is the nation’s first molecular diagnostic test available without a prescription with Emergency Use Authorization (EUA) from the FDA. This fast and accurate molecular test, which was previously piloted for small groups, is now fully integrated into MGM’s   ecosystem and can be administered at scale.
  • Tests are administered by Impact Health, a national provider of point of care healthcare services specializing in high-profile and high-volume events. The company is currently used by several federal and state agencies as well as corporate clients across the U.S.

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How it Works

  1. Prior to the event, attendees download the CLEAR mobile app to set up their account and verify their identity.
  2. Before entering the venue, attendees answer a series of health survey questions.
  3. Upon arrival, attendees take a molecular or antigen test. Attendees can access results by securely linking their testing account to their Health Pass through the app.
  4. Attendees have their temperature checked at a kiosk (optional) and scan their QR code to share their health insights. Based on survey answers and test results, users are issued a red or green Health Pass on their app. Green indicates approval for event entry; red indicates further testing and healthcare support may be required.

Event Options

Convene with Confidence includes a robust catalogue of new options that allow planners to customize their events:

  • Virtual Site Visits – Virtual site inspections and pre-planning services are available, including careful planning of event, meal and break times to safely optimize guest movement throughout the meeting space.
  • Hybrid Meetings – While many groups begin to return in person, individuals who aren’t ready to travel can take advantage of virtual capabilities coordinated by MGM Resorts’ in-house production team, delivering immersive experiences for all attendees, whether in-person or at home.
  • Creative Catering – Mealtime can be a significant challenge for meeting planners, especially for large groups. MGM Resorts has reimagined the catering experience, showcasing the incredible work of its culinary team, but with limited interaction.
  • Maximizing Floor Plans – Floor plans have been adjusted to allow for proper physical distancing within all meetings and events whether a larger-scale trade show or a seated conference. With MGM Resorts’ four million square feet of meeting space on the Las Vegas Strip, planners have complete flexibility to customize event layouts.

Glanzer added, “As vaccine distribution and utilization increase across the country, we are assessing options that would enable those meetings clients who so desire to seamlessly add proof of vaccine to their criteria for attendees. There is no singular formula for a successful program and our expert team will guide each client in building a framework that works for their organization.”

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IN-ROOM TESTING

Enhancing MGM Resorts mission to provide seamless and convenient travel solutions, all guests can now take advantage of a selection of in-room COVID-19 testing options at its Las Vegas properties.

In collaboration with Henderson-based Community Ambulance, guests can choose from three tests depending on their travel schedules and requirements of their next destination. This new offering builds on MGM Resorts’ robust Seven-Point Safety Plan, designed to deter the spread of the virus and protect guests and employees.

In-room testing options are available at MGM Resorts’ Las Vegas properties and include:

●          Standard RT-PCR Test – results in approximately 24 – 72 hours, based on lab availability

●          Fast Molecular (NAAT) Test – results in approximately 20 minutes

●          Rapid Antigen Test – results in approximately 20 – 30 minutes

Community Ambulance analyzes all test types and delivers results electronically to the guest.

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Testing appointments are available daily from 8 a.m. – 8 p.m. by calling guest services at the guest’s host hotel. Prices for in-room testing range from $140 to $230. Additional charges may apply for same day/after-hours requests and cancellations.


Here is my article, as published on 8/4/20, that details the Stay Well Lodging/Convention experience already in place:

There’s no question that traveling can have exhausting effects, both physically and mentally. Combine that with a few days of traditional Las Vegas excess and you’re likely to feel run down…or perhaps even ill. There are many types of recovery services available to counteract these symptoms. Or, you can be pro-active by booking your vacation in a Stay Well™ room at MGM Resorts.

Created by New York City corporation DELOS, the trademarked Stay Well™ concept was brought to Sin City in 2012 when dozens of fully-equipped, non-smoking rooms were introduced at MGM Grand. Since then, they’ve greatly expanded the number of rooms, introduced a Stay Well lounge and expanded the lineup to Park MGM and Mirage resorts. A select group of Stay Well protocols are also featured under the banner of “Fresh by Stay Well” at New York NY, Excalibur, and Luxor.

What makes a Stay Well™ room different from others? Everything! From the air you breathe to the water you shower in. From the sound-dampened walls and plant-extract memory foam mattress to red-spectrum circadian lighting, Stay Well enhances your body’s ability to relax, recover, rest and reinvigorate.

A Stay Well app by Cleveland Clinic allows you to maximize the available amenities and benefits. And perhaps most important of all, dangerous germs, viruses and other microbes are given the heave-ho by using non-toxic cleaning products and UV light-cleaning tools.

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Famed alternative-medicine advocate Dr. Deepak Chopra serves as an advisory board member for DELOS. He endorses the benefits of their specialized guest rooms. “Stay Well Rooms are built on many individual features, which when combined, have an unprecedented positive health impact for the traveler. Your wellness experience has been specially designed in collaboration with leading doctors, architects, engineers, and medical institutions.”

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“Amenities like purified air, healthy lighting, an allergy-friendly environment, dawn simulation, and aromatherapy increase energy, reduce stress, improve productivity and enhance your sleep quality. Our vitamin C shower infuser reduces chlorine to help skin and hair stay soft and smooth. Stay balanced, stay fresh, Stay Well.”

With all of today’s fears of contaminants within gathering spaces, Stay Well has expanded to offer its proactive health protocols to convention guests at MGM Grand by way of “Stay Well Meetings”. Air purification removes toxins, allergens, smoke and microbes from the air. Surfaces are treated with “WELL Shield”, a self-cleaning photocatalytic coating that destroys harmful organic compounds. Cleveland Clinic provides innovative menus and online tools to combat the negative effects of travel (like jet lag and poor diets).

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Stay Well amenities are clearly identified on the booking page of each hotel’s website. Every MGM Resorts property in Las Vegas (with the exception of Signature at MGM Grand) should be offering Stay Well enhancements or fully-conceived guest rooms by summer 2020. While no single program can prevent illness or provide absolute safety from infection, it’s helpful to know that options are available. So now you can reduce risk and reap the benefits of a healthier Vegas experience at the same time.

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Photos: MGM Resorts, Stay Well by DELOS

‘Unicus Manufactus’ – Muscle Up to the City’s Healthiest Food Truck


…or “What happens when two Las Vegas heroes launch a business during a pandemic”…

Once again, the challenges of 2020 have resulted in new, innovative and positive changes for our community. From daring music performances to the resurrection of old-school supper clubs and modern upgrades to the hospitality industry, Las Vegas has hit the “reset” button and is experiencing a fast-paced rebirth.

While some changes happened overnight, a pair of hometown heroes has been carefully curating a new approach to food trucks, those roadside food emporiums that soared in popularity during the “NO INDOOR DINING ALLOWED” madness of last year. But instead of the usual taco platters and BBQ’d ribs, this mobile kitchen promises an American-fusion menu with healthy flair.

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UNICUS MANUFACTUS aka U.M Trailer Bistro, is a curious name for an enterprise by first responders Daniel Sauls and Gunnar Walcavich. These two heroic friends protect the city’s citizens when the sun goes down and the bad guys come out. In the light of day, they’re whipping up creative new dishes to tickle the taste buds and build healthier bodies. That’s when they’re not hitting the gym to keep their own physiques in superhero condition.

The boys came up with the UNICUS MANUFACTUS moniker to acknowledge their mission statement, one that promises healthy, delicious dishes at the lowest possible price…all while never compromising quality. The Latin word Unicus means sole/unique/uncommon:

We didn’t pick the name “Unicus” because it sounded good. We picked it because Unicus is what we are. Our trailer looks different. Our food tastes different. Even our prices are different. We can guarantee there is nobody like us in the industry, that’s simply because we try harder. 

 You can tell that our nature is humanitarian, from the attention we give each customer to the prices across our menu. We ran through finance scenarios over and over to find the lowest numbers we could use on our menu BEFORE the pandemic. We want it to be apparent that we care.

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We are constantly thinking of ways, current and future, that we might be able to better Vegas with our existence. Our entire menu consists of items at $5 or less. We are (to my knowledge) the first mobile food business that provides not only caloric dietary information but MACROS as well!

We want to make ourselves available to those that need us most, as our mission is first and foremost to serve. We will diligently search for areas that service medical workers, first responders, and essential personnel during these trying times, in hopes to bring the most delicious food with a price that makes the most sense.

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The truth of that was most apparent recently when kitchen wizard Daniel had to undergo emergency surgery to save his life. Mere days later, he and Gunnar were back at that same hospital with UM Trailer Bistro to thank the hospital workers with their creations. They comped meals for anyone who wore scrubs:

We held a surprise service for the hospital that saved my life a little over a week ago. We always have so many hurdles to jump to try and accomplish things because of how new and small we are. We are a couple of persistent guys though, and yesterday was proof NOTHING CAN STOP US.

Persistence is a quality that Gunnar Walcavich exemplifies in spades. Vegas Unfiltered Blog readers first met this towering Russian boxer in my piece on ‘Quarantine Fitness‘, where I described his achievements and skills at getting people motivated.

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The formerly-overweight (and always-mugging) Gunnar recently earned a certification in Food Handling/Safety to accompany his personal training and nutritionist certifications. And his jacked physique makes the perfect canvas for Unicus Fitness Apparel that’s now available in the “Merch Market” section of their website.

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The menu at UM Trailer Bistro is a taste-tempting collection of recipes that Daniel has gathered from family members in Hawaii, along with others that he’s perfected through multiple trials. Pan-Asian influences are reflected in dishes like Agedashi Tofu, Ramen, Udon and Chashu bowl, and a Hawaiian Toast Breakfast plate.

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Daniel is especially proud of his freshly-made Shrimp and Grits and Fresh Pour-over Hot Chicory, a nutty, cajun-influenced alternative to traditional coffee beverages. And every item is served with style and a smile, accompanied by fun music from their vintage-style Victrola sound system.

We care about your enjoyment down to each bite and sip, and you can taste it every time. When you pay, you want to know that you got real ingredients, made WHEN you asked not before, and made with the care that we all desire our own food and drink to be handled with; and that’s our guarantee.

We promise that EVERY time you come by you will receive our best attempt at perfect service. Your food hits your hand hot, and your drink is either perfectly cold or has steam coming from it. You see us make each part of your drink, and even shake/stir it to make sure even your first sip is perfectly mixed and chilled. We actually care, and we care THAT much; and if you don’t believe us, come call our delicious bluff. 

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Along with the regular (and growing) menu, there is always a featured daily special to tempt you away from established favorites. And Unicus Manufactus has launched a 3-level loyalty program that can reward you with discounts and giveaways, one free item per month, up to a free item with every visit (purchase required).

The boys just announced a partnership with Tempo Ultra Lounge at 1000 East Sahara Avenue, where they’ll be every Friday and Saturday night beginning April 2nd. To learn where else to visit the UM Bistro Trailer, follow them on Facebook, check out the YouTube Channel, or subscribe at the official website.

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“Unique Handmade Culinary Creations & Libations for just $5. Need I say more???” – Unicus Manufactus

Photos: Sam Novak, Daniel Sauls, Gunnar Walcavich

Return Engagement: Adam Barabáš Comes Home for “EXTRAVAGANZA”


Prolific Performer Is Back On the ‘JUBILEE’ Stage For Sin City’s Newest Spectacular…

There’s a familiar saying that you “can’t go home again”, a perspective that never made much sense to this writer. So many things in our culture revolve around homecomings: family and class reunions, “home for the holidays”, the tale of the “prodigal son”. It’s only through revisiting our beginnings that we gauge how far we’ve come in life. 

Entertainer Adam Barabáš has had many homes throughout the years. He grew up in Dubnica nad Váhom, Slovakia, and spent several years on tours across the world. He even had an extended stay in Japan that would make for an interesting movie (you’d have to ask him about that yourself). But through all those adventures, Adam still finds his way back to Sin City time and again.

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I graduated from ballet at the Conservatory of Dance and Arts in Slovakia. After that I won ‘Mr. Slovakia’, and I decided to try my chances in the U.S. So, I packed up and  moved to Los Angeles and continued taking classes five times a week. Getting an agent was how I found my way to Vegas.

I first became aware of Adam at a performance of JUBILEE. Sailing across the stage in a classic top hat and tails, the handsome blonde captured my attention with his stunning grace and magnetic smile. Waltzing through the infamous “TITANIC” sequence, Barabáš exited, then reappeared in the next set….a recreation of the ocean liner’s engine room.

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Now a sweaty laborer, Adam was soaking wet, stripped to the waist, and covered in grease and grit, fighting for his life in the fiery boiler room of the ill-fated ship. It was all very over-the-top, just as the famed showgirl spectacular was meant to be. And it showcased the visual and physical attributes of this athletic heartthrob in the best possible way (I’m not drooling…you are).

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Over at The Linq Hotel Casino, you might have caught Adam serving as arm candy to Frank Marino‘s DIVAS LAS VEGAS. Powered by a selection of top hits, DIVAS was great fun for the audience, but not necessarily the best showcase for serious dancers. Still, Adam enjoyed his time there. Asked if the DIVAS dancers got the attention they deserved, he had this to say:

Yes, we actually did get respect from the audience by the end of the show. We were basically in every number, working our butts (and our shirts) off, so the audience was able to fall in love with us and pick out their favorite dancer!

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After Jubilee, the energetic actor/model/gymnast/dancer headed overseas for a musical production of The Bodyguard. Then it was off to Japan for iMen Tokyo, a male revue that allowed him to strip and grind. After spending time in Slovakia with the family, it was back to the States to join WOW, the water-themed musical spectacular at Rio Las Vegas.

I used to perform at DIVAS at The Linq in the afternoon, then I’d run to the Rio to do two shows at WOW. Once you’re passionate about anything, it comes easy. I love singing. I used to sing folk music back at home, which I miss very much. I play piano. And I’m good in math.

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Adam’s best pal is his golden retriever “Chip”…

Right upstairs from WOW, crowds packed in nightly to see Chippendales male revue. Eventually, Adam auditioned for the touring version, and was once again back on the road. Wildly popular, he made the 2021 all-star edition of their world-famous calendar as “Mr. March”. Somewhere in between, the busy hunk managed to model, do corporate gigs, and spend time with his golden retriever “Chip”. He might have visited the gym on occasion, too.

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Just as Adam was riding a new high, civilization came to a crashing halt, and Chippendales was put on hiatus. When Las Vegas shows started to return, the first new production out of the gate was Bally’s EXTRAVAGANZA. And Adam Barabáš found himself back on the stage that gave him his first Las Vegas break. 

My roommate (dancer Derrick Boyce of DONNIE AND MARIE/JUBILEE/THE PROM on Netflix) told me about EXTRAVAGANZA. When I looked into it, I discovered that it was the same production company I worked for in WOW.

I knew EXTRAVAGANZA was looking for dancers but I didn’t know if I was ready to leave Chippendales. It was the first show I was not a backup dancer in, but the star. Yet not knowing when they would be back on the road – I missed dancing so much!

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Adam, roommate (and fellow JUBILEE alumnus) Derrick Boyce, along with friend and entertainer Alexi Irvine (center), celebrated the holidays in style…

I reached out to the EXTRAVAGANZA dance captain and she sent my stuff to the director, who already knew me…and he called me right away. After hearing his vision for the show and how amazing it would be to be a part of this, I cut my time short in Texas, flew back to get my COVID test and started rehearsals right away.

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Coming to the JUBILEE Theater and seeing most of the props backstage made my heart jump. Very bittersweet feeling. Also I worked with Silvia Silvia and her husband before, which made it even more exciting! I hope the fact that EXTRAVAGANZA is open will bring lots of hope for all the performers and shows.

Bringing up the pandemic was a perfect opportunity to explore how the 30-year-old entertainer had spent all those months away from the stage. And I hit him with a few off-the-wall questions…just for the Hell of it.

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How did you keep busy during the Vegas show shutdown? 

I spent most of the time in Texas, where I went right after rest of my tour got canceled. At first I thought “TikTok will keep me busy”, but it was actually being on the phone with  unemployment every day! It took me 19 weeks to get paid. Also I spent a lot of time outdoors on my bicycle, swimming at the lake and at night, I usually cooked with lots of wine. I had a great time. I’m very lucky.

Do you still work out at a gym or have you adopted a home fitness plan? 

My gym where I live has two floors, but now that it’s closed, I downloaded some fitness apps that work for me. Usually I work out 4-6 times a week.

It seems that no matter what role you play, Adam Barabáš always ends up shirtless. Is this a coincidence or do you deliberately seek roles that allow you to showcase your perfect body? 

Hahahahaha….thank you. I don’t necessarily seek it but anytime there is an opportunity to show what I’ve been working on so hard, I’m in! I am a technically trained dancer, so I definitely appreciate technique in a choreography. I’ve always loved hip hop music video-style dancing.

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Is there a particular celebrity you’d like to work with someday?

Lady Gaga. Beyonce. Madonna. Missy Elliott. Meryl Streep. Brad Pitt. So many. It’s always been a dream of mine to tour with people like Madonna and other pop stars. So whatever style they do is the style I love! Also, performing solo is easier to do because I can just make it my own.

Kelly Clarkson, Shania Twain and Lady Gaga all want you to work in their show. Who do you pick? LADY GAGA!

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Pick one: Pizza, Sushi or Chocolate Cake. 

Sushiand I really like Chef Kenny’s Vegan Sushi here in Vegas. You should try it!

Pick one: Tuxedo, Jeans, or Swim Trunks? And where will you be going in that outfit? 

Swim Trunks. To Whole Foods. It happened.

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You have eight hours to do whatever you want in Las Vegas, no matter how much it costs. What will you do? 

First I would go have a dinner at NOBU, then I would rent a penthouse at the Palms, hire Diplo, and would invite all of my friends and strippers. Wait…all my friends ARE strippers!

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What has been your happiest moment in show business? 

Whenever my family comes see me perform. Actually, last year in Vienna I had more than 30 people from home in the audience. To have them buy my calendars, posters and even t-shirts, was a dream come true. I am very close to my only sister Simona, who lives in Slovakia. She’s awesome. 🙂

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Is there one show you’re most proud to have been in?

My journey in Vegas started as a showboy in legendary JUBILEE. Six years later I’m back, opening EXTRAVAGANZA during a pandemic. JUBILEE will always have a special place in my heart. I am proud of every show I’ve done. I’m grateful on so many levels. #FullCircle

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EXTRAVAGANZA performs at Bally’s Las Vegas at 6:30pm and 9:30pm with 4pm matinees on select dates. Click here for full schedule and to order tickets.

Some photos courtesy of NOEL DAHL PHOTOGRAPHY

BALLET 120 presents ‘The Nutcracker Suite’ For Today’s World


innovative Dance Troupe Re-imagines The Holiday Classic for a New Generation

This year has been unquestionably devastating to live entertainment. Sadly, things just took another grim turn. Nevada’s Governor Sisolak has announced an extension of the state’s three week “pause” into mid-January of next year. Say farewell to another round of shows, jobs, businesses and more.

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As we continue to adjust, some entertainers have turned to virtual performances to keep their craft alive. Ballet hasn’t necessarily been one of the fortunate genres. In the midst of worldwide chaos, this style of dance has been all but forgotten by some. But a troupe of talented, young performers who call themselves BALLET 120 isn’t about to let their beloved dance form fade away. 

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Vegas entertainers across the city have described to me how the pandemic has motivated them to become more innovative, prolific artists. BALLET 120 was formed three years ago, long before COVID-19 impacted our daily lives. Yet their group seems to have been affected by the same phenomenon.

The guiding force behind BALLET 120 is Benjamin Tucker. You might remember Tucker from this cast announcement of A VEGAS ROOM CHRISTMAS. He and fiance Emma McGirr, both from Nevada Ballet Theater, have been delighting guests all through December as they spin, dip and sail throughout the intimate dinner theater.

“We have shorter attention spans these days” says Tucker. “And people tend to think of ballet as being ‘stuffy’. They have images in their mind of tutus and pointe shoes. There’s often an emotional detachment between the performers and the audience, so ballet has had a hard time remaining relevant in the 21st century. BALLET 120 hopes to change all of that.”

Short self-made dance videos became a rage during the pandemic. But while COVID-weary people were creating “TikTok” clips and “Instagram Reels” to lift their spirits, BALLET 120 had already adopted these platforms as a legitimate extension of their art.

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A delicate caress. Meaningful gazes. Sweeping camera movements that capture every subtlety. Glorious outdoor settings and contemporary clothing. These are some of the relatable elements that BALLET 120 uses to draw their audience into the world of ballet. And it appears to be working fabulously. BALLET 120 continues to grow, explore new avenues and inject familiar properties with a dazzling dose of immediacy.

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During any “normal” Christmas season, Tucker and McGirr would be filling concert halls with fans eager to see their annual The Nutcracker Suite performance. But this year’s holiday season plays by a different set of rules. So BALLET 120 has given the classic a contemporary twist. 

Even if COVID-19 hadn’t canceled holiday performances from coast to coast, chances are that BALLET 120 would have eventually sprinkled their fairy dust on The Nutcracker Suite. But fans of the troupe won’t have to wait, as three new installments of the cleverly-named BALLET12020 Nutcracker have already hit the internet.

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The first, entitled “How the Grinch Stole Nutcracker”, is awash in color and beauty. Click this link to view it in its entirety. It’s followed by “Have You Heard The Tea?” and “Dancing In The Coffee Grounds”. 

The final entry “Put A Little Peppermint in Your Step” was released on December 22nd.

“2020 has been weird. So we will be bringing you “Ballet12020 Nutcracker” videos that are a little different than you might be expecting.” – BALLET 120

Saying that the past several months have been “weird” might be putting things mildly. The events of 2020 will undoubtedly echo through our lives for years to come. And BALLET 120 will continue to be a powerful force, inspiring change and forever influencing our view of the arts. 

To learn about BALLET 120 and view their creations, head to the BALLET 120 website, visit them via Instagram, or “like” them on Facebook

 

HOT GUYS OF VEGAS – Danny Wilkinson Grows in ‘The Garden’


From Hard-bodied Scholar To beefcake Bartender, a Las Vegas Resident Learns To Roll With The Punches…

Even if you’ve never seen the 1983 film FLASHDANCE, you certainly know the premise: “Welder by day, exotic dancer by night”. It seems as though there are plenty of scenarios like that in Las Vegas. This year, COVID-19’s destructive path has shifted career goals, altered destinies, and destroyed lifelong dreams. But it has also allowed resourceful people to excel at things they’d never considered before.

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One such survivor is Las Vegas resident Danny Wilkinson. This resilient 31-year-old learned the hard way that personal growth is no longer an option but a necessity. That’s how the Mesa, AZ native found himself as a staffer at The Garden, Las Vegas Art District‘s newest sensation.

It’s unlikely that Danny ever expected that his career path would lead him behind the bar of an LGBTQ hotspot. With an MBA from Western Governors University and a BS in kinesiology, he had worked his way through the ranks of Amazon.com‘s local distribution center to become a mid-level manager.

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Alas, cost-cutting at the wildly-successful online retailer led to some pre-COVID layoffs (ironic now in hindsight). Sadly, Wilkinson was part of a group that got their pink slips. So what’s a straight, educated hunk to do for employment during a pandemic? Well, you take the advice of friends who suggest marketing your impressive physique to the local gay bars.

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When nightlife wizard Eduardo Cordova announced a casting call for “model servers” and “model bartenders”, Danny showed up to The Garden with a winning smile and gym credentials in hand (or under his shirt, in this case). Asked why he wanted to work at The Garden, Wilkinson candidly answered “My gay friends think I’m cute!”.

If you remember my article on “Men of the Garden“, you’ll notice that Danny wasn’t included. He’s not quite as “showy” as some of the other boys. He’s more likely to kindle a slow burn…one that gets hotter upon return visits. Clever, observant, and genuine, he leaves a lasting impression with casual conversation and a laser-sharp gaze. Mandatory facial coverings can’t conceal that radiant smile, either.

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It took a long time for this article to come to fruition. Several months into the idea, Danny and I finally sat down for drinks and to talk about it. What I learned was that to survive in “new Las Vegas”, Danny rolled with the punches, was receptive to daring ideas, and still manages to have fun in a demanding new position.


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Your social media pictures depict a guy with a wacky sense of humor, yet you come across as really conservative when at work. Who’s the real Danny Wilkinson? Hhhmmm…. I’m definitely a fun loving guy that always wants to make people laugh and ensure that they’re having a good time, as well as have a good time myself. 

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What came first…the big muscles or Amazon.com? Hahaha! The muscles did! As the second youngest of seven kids, I was always trying to compete with my siblings. Naturally I wanted to be better at something than they were, which proved to be extremely difficult because they’re all very talented.

When did you start cross-fit training, and how does it fit into your daily routine?  Man… I started doing cross-fit seven years ago, if I remember correctly. Exercise/working out has done a lot for me mentally, as well as physically, so I try to make sure I get in the gym or work out at least once a day. Or at least do something active every day of the week! 

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Where did you go, pre-pandemic, for fun in Las Vegas?  I really enjoy drinking coffee and trying new breweries in town. So definitely going to coffee shops and checking out new ones in town and all the local breweries. Oh, and definitely checking out new restaurants…I’m a self proclaimed foodie that loves sweets.

Favorite restaurant in Las VegasThis is tough. I love food…. bbbbuuuutttt I’m going to have to go with Tacos & Beer or Bajamar Seafood & Tacos just by the Arts District! 

Are you more of a night owl or a day-dreamer? I’m honestly like a reversible shirt… definitely adaptable to every situation. But I’d say that I do enjoy the day and being in the sun. I’m a child of the sun!

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This is my boy Gabe. He is a lethal white Australian Shepard. He is 4.5 and I got him from A Home 4 Spot, a rescue here in Vegas. Gabe is literally my best bud!

You just lost a bet and you have to do something embarrassing in front of a crowd. Will you do a sexy dance or sing a romantic song? Oh wow… well I’m absolutely terrible at both, but I’m going to say that my voice is way worse than my dance moves. So a sexy dance it is!

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You just won a vacation and your choice is Alaska, Hawaii, or Miami? Which one…and what would be the first thing you do when you got there? Oh man! I’m going to Hawaii! First thing I’m doing is looking at booking a sky diving jump and a swim with the whale sharks! That’s on my bucket list to do both of those in the same day!! 

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Do you have a favorite charity or social cause? I’d say anything that can benefit kids and can offer them more resources, or ability to participate in sports. 

People would be surprised to know that you __ are a huge nerd. I really enjoy reading, subject matter is usually self-development, and I geek out on computer stuff. I don’t play many, or any video games, but building computers and seeing how people push the performance limits of them is pretty cool! 

You’re going to be locked in a room for three days and can only eat one type of food. What are you taking in with you? Oh this is too easy! I’m bringing all the fixings for a peanut butter and jelly hahaha! Yes, I do eat them quite regularly! 

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Hollywood is about to make a movie on your life. You get to choose the actor playing Danny Wilkinson. The actor is definitely going to be whoever the sexiest leading male actor is at the time! Hahaha, I’m kidding… or am I?! The real actor would be… seriously though, I think Jensen Ackles (SUPERNATURAL) would be a good fit! 

Favorite big-screen movieOoohhhh, that’s a tough one, too!!! I really enjoy going to the movies! It’s a bit nostalgic for me as I frequently went to the movies with my father growing up… but I’d say… THE CONJURING 2.

Is this the first time you’ve worked at a gay bar? How do you deal with flirting? The Garden is the first time I’ve worked at a gay bar. And usually I’ll laugh it off awkwardly, strictly because I’m a bit awkward. But most recently, I just flirt right back, haha.

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The Garden launches a sexy new themed night and bartenders are required to work shirtless. Your response is A) Do I really have to? B) Hell, yeah, I can finally show what I’m made of, or C) Whatever…I’m easygoing – I would say that I’m a mix of B and C. You know, we gotta be comfortable showing the guests what they want to see! 

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The Garden Las Vegas is located at 1017 S. 1st St Suite 180, Las Vegas, NV 89101. It is open Thursday through Sunday from 6pm to 1am. Call 702-202-0900 or visit their website to make reservati0ns. 

‘James Michael – Redneck Comedy Magic’ is Rip-Roaring Fun

Laugh-a-minute show reopens this weekend at The STRAT…

You may have attended your share of stand-up comedy and magic acts. But raise your hand if you’ve seen a tattooed bad boy bodybuilder comedian who performs illusions while stripping off his shirt and donning a tutu. That’s exactly the kind of antics you can expect at James Michael’s Redneck Comedy Magic.

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“Sin City is about to get a whole lot trashier”. That’s what Mississippi native James Michael shouted before grabbing his cowboy hat, slipping on his boots and heading to The STRAT Hotel Casino for his Las Vegas residency. Now performing six nights a week at L.A. Comedy Club, the Redneck Magician will entertain you with sleight of hand, card tricks, and some risque rope maneuvers. He might even steal your beer if you happen to look away.

With so many magic acts in town, it’s tough to stand out from the crowd. Perhaps that’s why the blending of comedy and magic is proving to be so successful. As the long-running Mac King (at Harrah’s) and Mike Hammer (Fremont Street’s 4 Queens Casino) have demonstrated, there’s a hungry audience for illusions mixed with laughter. Redneck Comedy Magic ups the ante by stirring in plenty of randy humor from the kind of guy you’d want to have as your drinking buddy.

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James Michael may be relatively new to Sin City audiences, but he’s been spreading his brand of madcap madness around the world for quite some time. A fitness model and part-time tattoo artist, Michael has performed on cruise ships, corporate functions, television shows….and supposedly “UFO’s, prisons, strip clubs and a Chuck E. Cheese” if his bio is to be believed.

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You might expect such a big bruiser to be an intimidating presence while onstage, but Michael is quite the gentle pussycat. In fact, he’s been known to bust through the doors of his local fitness facility while proudly wearing a “Hello Kitty” backpack. And much like last year’s The Naked Magicians, this wild buckaroo seems to strip off a piece of clothing after every trick or two. All the better to solidify his plans for world domination via an “AARP Chippendales”-style production. “Is it getting hot in here, y’all?”

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Redneck Comedy Magic is one of this writer’s favorite adults-only comedy shows. Tickets start at only $39.95 for general admission.  And with the money you’ll save, you might want to share a round of drinks with the star. He loves to hang around for conversation and pictures after the show. Just pretend that you don’t notice the tutu…

Redneck comedy magic performs nightly at the L.A. Comedy club at The Strat hotel casino. Showtime is at 6pm. Click here for full schedule and details. 

 

Hot Guys of Vegas: Andrew Diessner, Entertainer Extraordinaire


Multi-hyphenate entertainer is so all-around stunning that ya just wanna…

Do you remember that guy in high school who was seemingly perfect? Everyone loved him, he was the captain of every club and team, and somehow was also the teen that never got a blemish. He didn’t trip in the hallway or drop his books…and he had the body of a young physique model.

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Yeah, every class has at least one of those, then we get older and those guys turn into “one of us”. Unless your name is Andrew Diessner…then you just keep getting better looking…and better at everything…with each passing year. Where do these people come from, anyway?

Well, in Andrew Diessner’s case, the answer is “humble beginnings”. The sizzling gentleman whom you see in the clip above is far removed from the overweight child who was bullied by his peers. It was through internal motivation that the multi-octave hunk who’s equally impressive in jazz, opera, pop, soul, and rock music was once an insecure boy who disliked his own reflection.

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“I was bullied relentlessly because I carried a little more weight than most. Being a “husky” kid was brutal. Children don’t hold back from telling each other how they feel and digging it in with a double-edged sword. I will never forget how uncomfortable I always felt in my skin. I never had the Nike Jordans, or the cool baggy pants (which were TERRIBLE, by the way, lol).”

“I didn’t really fit in any specific circle in school, so I bounced around a lot. I was sort of the class clown for each clique. Unfortunately, the words and the actions of those kids stuck with me for a very long time.”

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That’s why the Denver, Colorado native is drawn to causes that assist depression, addiction, suicide prevention, and childhood bullying.

“I still see that 12-year-old me in the mirror sometimes. I don’t want any child to have to go through that. I know it gave me thick skin, but some kids don’t ever pull out of it. That leads to substance abuse, depression, anxiety, and so many other terrible things. If I can start a program, a charity, SOMETHING to get the word out and make a difference, I would give it everything I got.”

“Giving it all” is the fiber that seemingly holds this 34-year-old, 5-foot 10-inch hunk together. Those in the Vegas entertainment field have had it especially rough, as the unpredictable nature of their work has been infinitely compounded by COVID-19. But Andrew once again looked inside, gathered his strength, and came out better in a variety of ways.

“During the beginning of the pandemic, I sort of let myself go. Sort of is an understatement. I gained 16 lbs. (172lbs to 188lbs). I got sick of looking at myself in the mirror and feeling sorry for myself because I was uninspired and out of work, so I joined a transformation competition that I saw posted on Instagram. It was with a newish app called Fitness Culture Training.”

“I always like a good old-fashioned competition, and I am pretty competitive by nature, so I figured, why not make some money while simultaneously getting my physique back? It was a no brainer for me. I ended up doing really well and probably making one of the best transformations I have had to date. I wanted to be ready for when the city came back…mentally as well as physically. I wanted to be hireable NOW…being confident in my skin and having a Vegas-ready body was imperative.”

With the amount of uncertainty ahead in the entertainment field, many performers have been looking into alternate and additional careers. It’s our harsh current reality where only the smart and pro-active may be able to cover their expenses while still pursuing their passions.

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“Man, this pandemic has been relentless. I honestly didn’t imagine it was going to last this long. I lost all my contracts at sea, as I am a guest entertainer that travels with two 45-minute shows. I had plans of buying a house in May when all my contracts at sea were done. I wanted to start building solid roots here in Vegas and become more involved in the entertainment scene here. I had two weeks scheduled to fill in for Colin Cahill at Atomic Saloon Show that I was really looking forward to performing in as well.”

“Pretty much every opportunity was stripped from me overnight. I didn’t know what I was going to do, but I knew that I would just have to keep a strong mental state. I haven’t been able to the entire time, but getting heavily involved in my transformation and digging into my passion for fitness, pulled me out of it. It was the healthiest option, and I was tired of feeling mentally and physically ill all the time. I knew I was better than that.”

“I am now starting online classes to become a certified personal trainer with ISSA, as well as a certified sports nutritionist, and transformation specialist. This has been a path I’ve wanted to explore for a long time, and there is no better time than now. It is something that I am very passionate about, and I am really looking forward to helping people change their lives.”

“To all the friendly people who laughed, pointed fingers and called me a fatty in middle school…love ya 😊 If you struggle with getting back into shape and you need some help and motivation…pm me. Helping you achieve your best self is my passion. Let’s do this together!”

I mentioned that Colin (Cahill) is known around town as “The Shirtless Singer”, yet Andrew is more of a white-shirt-and-bow-tie guy. I couldn’t help wondering if that was about to change now that the two of them are on a level playing field in the physique department.

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“Haha…Colin is the Man…and a dear friend of mine. He definitely has the reputation of losing the shirt on the stage, and I could never blame him. He looks fantastic! I have always been performing for a bit of a different demographic, so the bow tie and white collared shirt were necessary.”

“But it’s funny you mention that specifically because in my current desert photoshoot, I am walking with an open white collared shirt while removing a bow tie…sort of funny you mentioned it. So I guess you could say, that IS changing. I have worked hard for what I have, why not show it off more? Hard bodies sell. That’s just a fact.”

Watching Andrew perform, I was reminded of another handsome hunk with powerful vocals and a swaggering style…Grammy-nominated singer/actor/songwriter Cheyenne Jackson (Glee/American Horror Story/Descendants). I’ve spoken to Jackson several times, both in New York City and Las Vegas’ own Smith Center for the Performing Arts. I pointed out that he’d be great at playing Andrew in a biopic…and Diessner seemed to enjoy the comparison.

 Andrew and Cheyenne Jackson follow similar career paths…

“OMG this is too funny. It’s like you’re calling out everything in my life as it has happened haha…Cheyenne Jackson is one of my favorites. He did a show called Xanadu on broadway, and I played the same character, Sonny Malone, in the show when a theater did it in Colorado. I had a good friend of mine tell me that I should just follow his career moves because we were so similar.”

“I take it as such a huge compliment because Cheyenne is a major talent and a great looking guy. So, I would choose Cheyenne or Henry Cavil (to play me). Cavil has that steel jaw, great physique, and heaps of talent. Though, both of them have more hair than I do at this point. I may be going down a Statham/Willis/Johnson/Diesel route these days.”

With Halloween creeping up on us quickly, I inquired if that finely-tuned physique would get some exposure in the form of a gratuitous skin-baring costume. Perhaps something along the lines of Rambo or a superhero?

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“Those are all really great costume Ideas. Rambo would be fun because I could put on a wig with a bandana, dirty up the face and chest, throw some ammo over my shoulder, and a cigar in my mouth. I have always enjoyed action flicks and have the dream of one day being able to star in a few of my own. That is why Captain America would be a close second…Marvel…HINT HINT COUGH COUGH…next superhero? What a blast that would be!”

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And what would he be wearing under those camouflage pants or tights? “Boxer briefs….always”.

After you’ve gotten on the subject of a guy’s undies and realize that you haven’t even covered some of the basics, it was time to backtrack a little. So I threw out some of those traditional interview questions about his background, stats and likes/dislikes.

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“I have been in Vegas for 4 years now. Originally, a relationship brought me out here 😬 Turned out, It was the best thing even though we are not together anymore (he’s currently single). There are so many performance opportunities for me here. I can’t wait until the city comes back.” 

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Dogs or Cats: “I grew up with both cats and dogs.  My preference has to be with dogs though. They are loyal, always happy to be beside you and be the companion you need. I prefer medium to large dogs, though I do have soft spot for the little ones. Cats turn on a dime and you never know what the hell they’re thinking…except you can guarantee they think they’re better than you lol I do, however, love watching cats get into trouble due to their curiosity.”

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Hobbies: “Snowboarding, fishing, cooking, writing music, craft beer connoisseur, hiking, Jeeping, lake adventures (paddleboarding, boating, wakeboarding), raveling, being close to the ocean (snorkeling, jet skiing, scuba diving), trying new foods and drink, bar games (pool, darts), Texas Hold em…”

Charitable causes:Three Square (a Food Bank) is my favorite place to volunteer, Mondays Dark, and I am currently looking for more opportunities!”

Apparently, those opportunities include an audition video for Magic Mike Live, which I happened to discover on YouTube. And yes, he strips the shirt off at the end:

Dream role and collaboration: “A show I would love to star in…if we are talking about the stage, I would have to say Sweeney Todd. I LOVE the music and the character. It’s dark, it’s witty, and playing a loveable villain is always a good time. Duet partner…hmmmmm that’s a tough one…but I do love Anna Kendrick. So if you have some connections, throw them my info haha.”

“Otherwise, I would love to co-write a song with Brandi Carlile…What an incredible songwriter and singer she is. I can’t help but get emotional when I listen to her music. If we are talking here in Vegas…I really really really want to sing with Lorena Peril from FANTASY. She has a stunning voice, is downright beautiful, and has a heart of pure gold.”

As we brought our time together to a close, I mentioned that I found Andrew’s voice to be unexpectedly powerful. I inquired as to whether he felt that was due to physical or emotional traits.

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“I believe it to be both. I use the emotions that connect me to the song to emote power, volume, nuance, finesse, and whatever else is required of me vocally. And I’m lucky to have a voice that is versatile and can deliver different sizes of voice, as well as warmth and color. I studied opera theater in school, and I believe it gave me the training to be able to sing many different genres healthily.”

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As we soldier through the most trying time of our lives, being healthy is indeed at the top of everyone’s list. Thank goodness that awesome hunks like Andrew Diessner and fellow members of “Hot Guys of Vegas” can inspire us…while adding a much-needed helping of eye candy to our recipe for overall wellness.

Photos courtesy of Andrew Diessner social media, clips via YouTube…

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Remarkable Life of Roman Mokrenko


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

Sometimes the pressure of our daily routine makes us say “I just want to run away and join the circus”. But have you ever known someone who actually has? Well, meet a man who ditched his white-collar career for a chance at Sin City’s newest big tent spectacular.

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Roman Mokrenko is a 29-year-old Ukrainian from the port city of Odessa. Known as the “Pearl of the Black Sea”, Odessa boasts amazing architecture and a renowned Opera and Ballet Theater. The natural beauty of the Ukraine is as much a part of Roman as his love for physical arts. A longtime athlete, he studied acrobatics before pursuing a career in law. While attending the National University Odessa Law Academy, he simultaneously became a Junior Lieutenant in Military School.  

Being both a lawyer and a military officer didn’t extinguish Roman’s desire to accomplish something artistic:

One moment I just realized that this office life is not for me. I cannot live without a “scene”. Thank God I have a background in acrobatics and artistic gymnastics…I almost never stop training. There is too much energy in my head and body that I have to “splash” somewhere.

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If you’re going to make a splash, what better pool than the Las Vegas entertainment scene? There are countless productions here that incorporate aerialists, gymnasts, acrobats, and contortionists. So when Roman discovered a casting call for the new circus-style show CELESTIA at The STRAT, he decided to take the plunge.

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I applied for the casting without much hope. Here you can see the best artists of the world. I thought it was impossible, but now I’m here! This is my favorite part of life in Las Vegas. I have seen almost every show.

Roman arrived in Las Vegas on Valentine’s Day 2018. You might say that this was the beginning of a love affair with Sin City’s desert. Although he misses life by the sea, the excitement of performing in Vegas has allowed Roman to reach new heights. He just had to learn how to deal with the scorching climate.

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Air conditioning saves us from extreme heat. But sometimes when I have practice in the afternoon it just helps to warm up and train without a shirt. On stage, the artist must look divine. Not for nothing that I train every day and stay on these diets. If you have something to show off, then why not?

He may joke about flaunting his chiseled abs, but Roman’s physique has landed him several modeling gigs…some of them a bit unusual.

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I was a sketch model several times in New York City when the show was being revised. People sit in circles, have drinks and make sketches while you’re almost naked. I’ve had several shoots with photographers…one was for a foot fetish site, haha!

That Ukrainian sense of humor came through in Roman’s character work for CELESTIA, but it’s his physical abilities that stand out. He hopes that audiences will be inspired by his feats and channel that into their own fitness journey.

We’re on our phones all the time, but we can do it with some “profit”. Keeping in shape is much easier than going in and out of form. For ordinary people (not performers), 30 minutes a day will be enough. Just walk on a treadmill and watch a movie or play a game.  

When not entertaining crowds, Roman still finds himself in the company of fellow artists. After a massage and hearty breakfast at Omelet House, he heads to a very unique school:

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I like Nevada Rhythmic Academy. It’s a place where I can train, invent new acts, meet artists from other shows and try something new together. There is a real aura of the gym in which I grew up.

Mokrenko is considering buying a home here in Las Vegas, but there are a few dreams overseas yet to realize:

One day I’d like to be live on a stage with Ludovico Einaudi, Max Richter, Olafur Arnalds or Hans Zimmer. They are my favorites. And I want to perform with Nederlands Dans Theater. It will be an amazing mix between ballet and aerial performance…like dancing in the air!

As is quite often the case in the Vegas entertainment environment, Roman’s time at CELESTIA abruptly came to an end. Fortunately, his talents and great looks led him to other exploits, like joining the myriad of hot guys in Sahara‘s Blanc de Blanc and Atomic Saloon Show at Palazzo.

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Since the pandemic’s city-wide shutdown of live performances, he’s spent much of the spring and summer focusing on photography. Not one to shy away from showing off his hot body, the former soldier is often in front of the lens as well. And he’s wisely taken advantage of the quiet streets and sidewalks to obtain some incredible shots.

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Roman agrees that now is the best time to get in shape and document your results with a terrific collection of portraits and landscape shots. To see more of his gorgeous work, visit the official Instagram gallery. If you’d like to know more or to schedule a shoot, contact him directly through Facebook messenger via this link.

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Photos and video: Roman Mokrenko, Sam Novak

Jeff Timmons of ’98 Degrees’ Weathers the Storm


Sin City’s resident super-hunk on quarantine, creativity and some very pesky buttons…

Boy bands. Every decade has its share. Some, like The Beatles, create a lasting legacy while others yield punchlines or are forgotten. Resilient members re-invent themselves, branching off in new directions until the inevitable reunion tour. Jeff Timmons of 98 Degrees has experienced most of the above. And, like the boy band he founded, Jeff still keeps temperatures rising.

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Timmons is a smart businessman as well as a seasoned entertainer. He’s weathered the ups-and-downs of fame and focused on personal growth when boy bands fell out of favor. While he was keeping busy behind the scenes in the music industry, the male revue Chippendales invited him to be a celebrity guest host.

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Uncertain of how it would impact his career, the Canton Ohio native was reluctant to accept. His wife Amanda, however, realized that it was a great opportunity and urged him to give it a try. A few weeks turned several successful months, and Jeff was suddenly everywhere in Las Vegas…pool parties, nightclub gigs, and even a protest march down the Strip with dozens of Jubilee showgirls (that’s a whole other story).

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While pop singers often quickly fade away, Jeff Timmons’ lasting image is tailor-made for the Sin City scene. He boldly embraces his sex appeal, which isn’t as common for male performers as you might think. With open shirts (sometimes even bare-chested) and sensual body language, the always-shredded hunk knows how to make hearts race and body heat soar.

Timmons is also the rare musician who celebrated his LGBTQ fan base long before it was common to do so. He recognizes everyone as equals and was ahead of the times by performing at gay clubs, participating in Las Vegas Pride, and promoting the NOH8 Campaign for marriage, gender, and human equality.

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After the Chippendales stint, Jeff settled here permanently with Amanda and the kids. Then he created his very own male revue called Men of the Strip. The sexy production was daring and cutting-edge, with a focus on live singing and one or two controversial sequences (like this one). MOTS toured the country, had a limited run at Hard Rock Live, and was covered in a documentary event for E! Network.

98 Degrees was headed to the Philippines as part of their latest tour when COVID-19 struck, so now Jeff is hunkered down in Las Vegas with the family. I was able to get ahold of the hard-working stud and talk about his motivations, latest activities and long-term plans. I also tried to get to the bottom of all those unbuttoned shirts.

You’ve dabbled in many facets of entertainment, like reality television, recording studio engineering, and mentoring new acts. What’s left to conquer?

When I think of things I’d like to “conquer” or from an accomplishment standpoint, I feel like I’ve got a LONG way to go. I’m working hard to make a mark in the TV space in a number of different areas. I’ve got a few non-scripted things in the works finally, an entertainment news magazine show, a holiday special, and some other things going. I eventually want to get some scripted things happening as well. I’m launching a podcast very soon, so there is some new news on the horizon. I’ve got a lot of things left to do!

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The Vegas entertainment community is crippled right now. Do you have any encouraging words or suggestions?

I think the entertainment business as a whole has really suffered, not just in Vegas. I’m fortunate enough to have a very loyal and dedicated fanbase. 98 Degrees has the luxury to reschedule shows, create new music, etc.  Not everyone has that luxury. I know I’m very lucky. I like to look at things from a positive perspective.  

Although this pandemic has been devastating to everyone, there are some good things that have emerged. There are tons of new and developing technologies that allow artists and entertainers to produce high-quality productions from their homes. The pause has really given me the opportunity to learn more about music and TV production, and get better in the studio. Artists just have to be creative on how to keep fans engaged.  

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Another plus is that because folks have so much time on their hands, entertainment is being consumed more than ever. You really only need a handful of loyal fans that believe in you and what you’re creating to make a living. You just have to be creative. And, although things can be depressing, find a way to stay positive and use the time to get better at your craft.

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There’s a joke going around that men will come out of the pandemic as either a “hunk”, “chunk” or “drunk”. Which one will Jeff Timmons be?

WELL… I started out working out like a fanatic (wannabe hunk), then slipped for a bit (put on some chunk), and now I’m back in obsessive mode (trying to get to hunk again). One thing has been consistent: the DRUNK part, lol…

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A lot of artists are saying that the shutdown’s isolation has allowed them to create new and better pieces of work. Have you experienced that?

I definitely have utilized the time to try to get better. After the initial shock of having to postpone 40+ shows, I rolled up my sleeves and have been using this time to learn more about the recording studio, reading a ton of inspirational and motivational material, and pitching a number of ideas to strategic partners that will go into production when things open back up. I’m trying to make lemonade out of lemons.

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What one Sin City guilty pleasure do you miss having at your fingertips right now?

I’m not much of a sleeper, so I loved how at any time of the night I could find something to do on the strip. I miss that.

Choose one new favorite: A) catching up on sleep B) binge-watching movies/shows C) spending more time with family

I think it’s a toss-up between B and C. We crafted our touring schedule to be home with our families during the week, but the quarantine has really allowed for much more quality time. I’ve also binged-watched about everything there is to watch on all of the streaming services. There isn’t much left but foreign language series, and I’ve fallen in love with a lot of those!

Have you formed any new habits that will remain when things return to normal?

I’ve always been a reader, but I make it a point to dive into at least one new book a week. That habit is going to stick for sure.

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Do you foresee yourself staying closer to home now instead of touring? Is there a possible Vegas residency in the works?

I LOVE being at home with my family. That being said, the demand for live concerts is at an all-time high. I think 98 Degrees has at least one or two more big tours in us. We are DEFINITELY exploring opportunities for a Vegas residency. The chance to be in one place and have the fans come to us is a dream come true. It allows us to stay with our families.

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You’re known to your fans, friends, colleagues, and locals as a kind, genuine person. What keeps you grounded?

I hope that’s true. I think it’s all about how you’re raised. My parents made sure we always stayed grounded and treated others with the utmost respect. Part of staying focused and keeping things real with yourself is having a constant inner dialogue about what your truth is and taking an inventory daily of what you’re thankful for. Grattude is the attitude!

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I often call you the “Sexiest Man Alive”. You embrace your physical appeal in a way that few male artists do. Have you always been that confident?

You’re always so kind when it comes to that. I’m so very flattered. I try to embrace it because it’s part of the business. Unfortunately, talent is always further down the list when it comes to success in the entertainment business. We learned that as a group early on. We know that fans are expecting us to look good. Anyhow, it gives us an excuse to stay healthy and in shape. Hopefully, it makes our wives happy!

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Will we see more of ‘Men of the Strip‘, or is that chapter closed for good?

I never want to close the chapter on ‘Men of the Strip.’  It was such a success from a touring standpoint and so much fun.  It was quite a different experience from anything else I’ve ever done.  There is always a demand for that show, so never say ‘never!’

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After covering new territory, Jeff and I revisited a series of questions that I first asked him back in 2013. As is the case with ever-changing Vegas, only two reponses remained the same. I’ll leave you to guess which ones they are.

Favorite Vegas Restaurant: Archi’s Thai Kitchen

Favorite Spot To Relax In Vegas: The pools at Wynn or Cosmopolitan

Best Thing Off The Strip: Downtown

Who Is Your Dream Duet With?: Bruno Mars or Ed Sheerin

Best-Kept Vegas Secret: Hiking and the lake

Must-See Attraction For Vegas Virgins: Absinthe (if it’s still running). Carrot Top still crushes, too

Best Hangover Cure: Hair of the Dog!

The Sin I’d Like To See Sin City Lose: The traffic on the Strip

Men Of The Strip Premiere

Favorite Place To Stay Fit: I do it at home now

Favorite Sexy Look On Stage – Tight Shirt, Unbuttoned Shirt, Or No Shirt?: All three have their advantages! (winks)

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You can keep up with the latest from Jeff Timmons and 98 Degrees by visiting his official Facebook page

Photos: Sam Novak, Gabe Ginsberg, Jeff and Amanda Timmons via Facebook