Revamped “Thunder” Goes From ‘Strike-out’ to ‘Home Run’

Long-running male revue takes early lead as most-improved production of 2021…


Regular readers of Vegas Unfiltered Blog have probably figured out by now that this writer is an out-and-proud gay man. If you haven’t, my long-running “Hot Guys of Vegas” series should have tipped you off. Nevertheless, this column has never been focused on that aspect of my personal life. I just mention it now to give some insight on my perspective of male revues.

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Clowning with the guys of “Aussie Heat”…

That being said, I’ve spent many a night with my friends at Aussie Heat and Chippendales. And I’ve deliberately avoided that misguided mess called Magic Mike Live (one of the worst major productions of any kind). The other that’s been high on my “Do Not Fly” list is Australia’s Thunder From Down Under at Excalibur.

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My first visit to “Thunder” was in December 2015…

If you’re curious as to why “Thunder” ranks so low in the hierarchy of Vegas beef-fests, the full review from 2018 is here. But I can give you the Cliff Notes version:

“It’s everything that the equally awful Magic Mike Live ridicules male revues for being. Packed with rote production numbers, Thunder will have you mentally scratching off each item from the list of cliches as it plays out on a cheap plywood stage.”

Now, I experience no joy in publishing negative reviews, especially when the cast and crew are rarely to blame. “Thunder” being in a temporary venue at the time (their second-floor showroom was undergoing a desperately-needed re-fit) certainly didn’t help. But three years later, I revisited this “Outback throwback” on a whim and found myself having a fantastic evening.

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“Thunder” shares a revamped showroom with “Australian Bee Gees”…

Let’s start with the venue itself. The newly-christened THUNDERLAND showroom received a pretty modern retrofit. The odd two-level footprint is sadly unchanged, and the choice of furniture is somewhat curious (psuedo-IKEA, much like Mat Franco’s space at The Linq). But the current positioning of seats and tables has improved the sight lines. Moving video walls double as a stage curtain, bar service has received an overhaul (with optional online ordering), and the lighting/sound system booms like a beating chest. 

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Speaking of chests, the cast of Thunder is one pec-tastic bunch. Each is chiseled, handsome, and much better at dancing than the last go-round. And this is where I noticed the first major improvement…individual performers are given a chance to shine. Each guy is introduced after their respective showcase moment, removes their mask, offers a few words to the audience…and one even sings the rafters loose.

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As for the ensemble numbers….my biggest gripe was the lazy choreography and cliched acts. Mercifully, “George of the Jungle” seems to have crashed into his final tree, and the vampires have retreated to their coffins. Replacing them are an uncomfortable SWAT team sequence in riot gear (too soon, guys) and a take on the 300 Spartans (meh). The rest is a top-shelf combination of musical hits, contemporary moves, and extreme athleticism that brings horney guests to their feet. 

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It’s worth noting that the element of male audience inclusion remains unchanged since my last review:

“Don’t expect to get more than a fist-bump from the dancers as they work their way through the audience. The rough-and-tumble men of the Outback are dripping with testosterone, but only seem interested in sharing it with the ladies.”

The show is specifically geared towards women, and the few guys in attendance are presumed to be supportive straight men (not tonight, fellas!). Hopefully the minds behind Thunder will catch up with the all-are-welcome Aussie Heat and realize that they’re turning away an untapped, lucrative market. Click here and here for more of my analysis on that topical subject. 

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New host Scott Reading is sass, class…and one sweet surprise…

Now for the best improvement of all….host Scott Reading. This bloke is just about everything you could hope for in a male-revue emcee. He’s sexy, charming, charismatic, funny, engaging, spontaneous, and downright fantastic. In other words, he’s everything that former front-man Marcus Deegan wasn’t:

Abrasive and short-tempered, Deegan seems to take delight in belittling rowdy audience members. The past two times that I’ve seen THUNDER, Deegan’s stopped the show dead in its tracks to berate rowdy women. He’s gone so far as to blatantly tell them to “Shut the f*ck up”. On one occasion, he came out during final bows to flip his middle finger at an audience member while mouthing “F*ck you!”…and it wasn’t done with a wink.

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Yes, Marcus…that’s the exit door…

Who knows how many ticket-buyers failed to return thanks to Marcus and his abusive antics? But with any luck, he’s gone for good. Let’s hope that Scott Reading is a permanent fixture. He alone is worth the price of admission….and that’s before he unleashes a massive surprise at the finale.

With the recent sale of RIO Hotel Casino to Hyatt, there’s no telling when gold-standard CHIPPENDALES will return to Sin City…if ever. Thank goodness Thunder From Down Under has stepped up to the plate. It’s an early front-runner for “Most Improved Production of 2021”. And once COVID restrictions are finally removed, this generous serving of beef from the Outback will become a veritable buffet.

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Australia’s Thunder From Down Under performs Wednesday through Monday at 9pm with additional showtimes on weekends. Click here for full schedule and to order tickets. Prices start at $70.95 (plus taxes/fees).

Photos: Sam Novak, Thunder From Down Under, Scott Reading via Instagram

 

Drag and Drop the Mic for ‘FAAABULOUS! The Show’ at NOTORIETY LIVE


New production dares to break the cardinal rule of drag entertainment….

Update 3/12/21 Since the original publication of this article in 2019, much has changed on the Vegas entertainment landscape. After a thorough search (and waiting for just the right time), the creators of ‘FAAABULOUS! The Show’ are launching this evening at their new resident location.

‘FAAABULOUS! The Show’ will perform every Friday night at 8pm inside the innovative and daring NOTORIETY LIVE in downtown Las Vegas. Price is $39.99 plus taxes/fees. To learn more about NOTORIETY LIVE, click this link for my article. To purchase tickets for ‘Faaabulous’, head right here.

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NOTORIETY LIVE is located in downtown Las Vegas on the third level of NEONOPOLIS at the corner of N. 4th Street and 450 Fremont Street, above The 35 Cinema and The Nerd. 


There are those who say that Britney Spears’ residency at Planet Hollywood was essentially a large-scale drag show. Outrageous costumes. Sexy back-up dancers. A heavily made-up performer who mimed her way through songs while sashaying around the stage, lip-syncing to the lyrics. Check-check-check.

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Being a naysayer of Spears and her own wooden, detached performances, I’ve found it more entertaining to enjoy the talents of Britney impersonators. Becoming someone other than yourself….now that’s real talent. Vegas favorites like Derrick Barry (America’s Got Talent, DIVAS) and Katie Murdock (Blond Invasion, Legends In Concert) take that artistry even higher by physically embodying the star while having angelic singing voices of their own.

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The art of drag is at an all-time high in our culture, especially here in Sin City. Senor Frog’s Drag Brunch at Treasure Island continues to pack in the crowd. Stars-N-Stilettos has arrived to take them on and Hamburger Mary’s has shifted its focus from beef to duct tape. Ester Goldberg gave it a go at SLS and Frank Marino’s DIVAS has been circling from above, rumored for a comeback at Hooters Casino (oh, the jokes we could make with that one).

The one common element for all of these productions is that drag artists rarely do any actual singing. Lip-syncing is the norm for this type of entertainment, hence the references to Britney. But that’s about to change with the debut of FAAABULOUS! The Show. This limited-run production will be the only singing/dancing/comedy drag show in Las Vegas…and they hope it finds a permanent home.

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FAAABULOUS! The Show is a labor of love. It’s created by two heavy-hitters with lengthy show-biz pedigrees. Christopher Kenney is best known to audiences as “Edie“, hostess of ZUMANITY by Cirque du Soleil. Writer/performer Jamie Morris is currently starring in the eye-opening Puppetry of the Penis at Erotic Heritage Museum and created new material for ZUMANITY’s 2015 refresh.

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Together, this partnership of boundless talent has captured the essence of drag and infused it with the vocal and comedic skills of five artists, each possessing their own impressive accomplishments:

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              Bella T. Ross, Dusty Muffin, Junebug, San San and Vita Summers…

BELLA T. ROSS is the creation of Josh Ross, a Los Angeles native and a Debbie Allen Dance Academy graduate who has been performing professionally for 15 years. Some of his credits include The Disney Channel’s “Suite Life of Zack&Cody,” Donn Arden’s “Jubilee!,” Tokyo Disney’s “Mystic Rhythms,” “Chicago The Musical” aboard The Allure of the Sea, “Cats The Musical” at Tuacahn Center for the Arts, “The Grinch Live!” at Universal Studios Hollywood, and “A Las Vegas Christmas” at The Linq Las Vegas.
DUSTY MUFFIN is the creation of C. Lash who is music supervisor/director and arranger for FAAABULOUS. He also created arrangements and direction for BAZ – Star Crossed Love (Palazzo), Scorsese: An American Crime Requiem (The Wallis), Tarantino (The Wallis) and Love Actually: Live (The Wallis). He was also the resident musical director and guest faculty member for UNLV’s Theatre Department.
JUNEBUG is the creation of Brooks Braselman, a Leo who enjoys thunder storms and keeping secrets. After majoring in musical theater at Boston’s Emerson College Brooks moved back to his home town of New Orleans. It was here he first squeezed his enormous head under a wig as Chicklet in “Psycho Beach Party” (Big Easy Award nomination). Since then Brooks has played a gaggle of lovely “ladies” including Christina Crawford in “Mommie Queerest (LA Weekly Award nomination), Natalie Green in “The Facts of Life: The Lost Episode,” Clarice startling in “The Silence Of The Clams,” Agnes Gooch in “Auntie Mame”, Velma Cruther in “Shut Up Sweet Charlotte!” He can currently be seen as Brock Hutchinson, along side John Malkovich, in the film “Supercon”, currently streaming on Amazon Prime!
SANDRA SANTIGOLD (“San San”) is the creation of Justin Rodriguez, a native of Queens, N.Y. who has called Las Vegas home for over 25 years. Credits include the National Tour of “RENT” (Angel), emcee/host of “Island Heat” at the Treasure Island Resort and Casino, multiple roles in “Tony ‘n Tina’s Wedding” at Bally’s Las Vegas; and even survived the short lived “Spoofical: The Musical” at Planet Hollywood Resort and Casino. He is currently the front man for  “Extreme Live”, a brand new immersive music experience at the Linq Las Vegas.
VITA SUMMERS is the creation of Ashton Shawver who played the role of Suzanne Sugarbaker in “Re-Designing Women” in Dallas (world premier), San Diego, Ft. Lauderdale and off-Broadway in New York. As Vita, Ashton has won several titles in the drag world including Texas All-American Goddess at Large and Miss Fire Island her first summer performing at the popular LGBTQ enclave. Vita also performed alongside Katy Perry on Saturday Night Live. A native of Texas who now lives and works in Ft Lauderdale, Vita is excited to be making her Las Vegas stage debut!
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“No lip-synching. No impersonations. The cast of “Faaabulous! The Show” – Vita Summers, Bella Ross, Sandra Santigold, Dusty Muffin and JuneBug – are true triple threats. They sing, they dance, and they are damn funny! Kenney and Morris want to take drag to the next level and they believe this is the show that Las Vegas needs right now”.

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

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. 

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

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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

Hot Guys of Vegas: Men of ‘The Garden’


Superlative new nightspot/restaurant has a painfully attractive cast of hunks….and one particularly hot lady…

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It’s tough enough to launch a new business under any circumstances. But what about during the tail end of a quarantine? As Vegas entrepreneur Eduardo Cordova recently learned, if you do so with careful planning and COVID-19 safety protocols, you’ll be off to a great start. The Garden Las Vegas did exactly that, providing the perfect tonic to a fun-starved community while offering a luscious assortment of mouth-watering eye candy.

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The Garden LV has only been open for two months but is already recognized as a runaway success. Located in the heart of downtown’s Arts District, the restaurant/bar has quickly become Sin City’s hip hotspot. The indoor-outdoor venue is located next to ARTIFICE BAR in the trendy Art Square, also home to monthly First Friday festivals.

Cordova had this to say about his latest venture: “The Garden is a fresh, new concept. It is an intimate and chic LGBTQ lounge bar (that) dives into an untapped market in the Las Vegas community, championing craft cocktails, light bites, and an indulgent ambiance.

While others have written about The Garden‘s lush decor, delicious food, stunning cocktails, and superlative entertainment, this column is called “Hot Guys of Vegas” for a reason. So let’s get straight to the beef and take a close inspection of a few of the hunks that make The Garden Las Vegas such a sumptuous experience.

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Shyllon Melatti I first introduced you to Shyllon Melatti when the model and budding actor had taken over the role of “Stefan” in SEX TIPS at Paris Hotel. Since then, the handsome Vegas native was offered a hosting gig at Chippendales…just as the pandemic shutdown went into effect.

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Undeterred, Melatti joined the cast by way of Chippendales@Home, a virtual service in which the legendary entertainers present you and your friends with a private party. Shyllon’s been bumping and grinding along just nicely ever since. He also hosted a series of live fitness sessions and was featured in a guest spot for Las Vegas Magazine:

When The Garden had their initial casting call, Shyllon naturally stood out. Now he’s a favorite of guests both new and returning, skilled at presenting signature cocktails with a wholesome smile that his face mask does little to hide. Ask him nicely, and the charming cat-dad might flash his abs for you.

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            Shyllon Mellati serves up smiles for celebrity medium Thomas John (right)…

Alejandro Chirino – Every cast has that one member who’s mysterious and shares very little about themself. Alejando Chirino is apparently that kind of guy. Strong and silent, the native of Matanzas, Cuba is able to say a lot by speaking next to nothing. The muscular hunk moves quietly through the lounge area of The Garden, instantly commanding attention by not trying to.

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Clearly an enthusiast of fitness, the model-server has been devoted lately to the Black Lives Matter movement, calling for justice in a time when our culture is in chaos. Alejadro’s also a supporter of LGBTQ causes, dedicating his birthday towards the plight of gay and transgender people, especially in the Las Vegas community.

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Ger Haro –  The fabulous Ger Haro is another returning favorite to the “Hot Guys of Vegas” column. The model and master mixologist is famed throughout the city for his rocking body, stunning tattoos, ever-dazzling hairstyles, outgoing persona and a shockingly-deep voice.

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Known as “Gerry” to his friends, Mr. Haro is a favorite subject of photographer Noel Dahl. The two collaborated on a 2020 fundraising calendar to benefit Amor Peludo, a Spanish-language non-profit that assists pet care and housing in the Las Vegas Latino community.

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This month, Gerry stepped out from behind the bar to try his hand at hosting The Garden‘s Thursday Bingo Night. But don’t be concerned…you’ll still be able to indulge in the handsome stud’s hand-crafted cocktails every Thursday through Sunday. And wait until you see what he can do with a cucumber.

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Brandon Grimm – There’s a silent one in every group, and there’s also the guy or gal who sparkles. And “Sparkles” just happens to be the nickname of Brandon Grimm. If you’ve ever hung out in West Hollywood, you might have encountered the bedazzled boy at world-famous The Abbey Food & Bar, where Brandon was once a dancer and manager. He’s also performed alongside Willie Gomez as a backup dancer for Britney Spears.

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Back in Las Vegas, the fair-skinned musclehunk has become airborn in Atomic Saloon Show, alternating center stage with fellow performer Davide Zongoli (another “Hot Guys of Vegas” alumnus). A skilled aerialist and pole artist, Brandon entertains audiences with his light-hearted wit and physical prowess. Both of those qualities come in handy when taking care of the loyal patrons that now return to The Garden every weekend.

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Eduardo Cordova and Chandler Kramer Barbra Steisand once sang a cynical ode to nightlife romance:

Love comes from the most unexpected places
In bars that thrive on loneliness
Where people sell their sorrow for your time

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Fortunately for the adorable duo of Chandler Kramer and Eduardo Cordova, the opposite became true. Working side by side in a new business could easily fray nerves, yet this couple’s relationship has grown stronger. The two took their next step this past Independence Day weekend when Mr. Cordova proposed to Mr Kramer (an ICU Nurse at Summerlin Hospital Medical Center) inside The Garden, to the delight of their patrons…and friends throughout the city.

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Lilian Aguilar – When I first decided to do this article, I approached bartender Lilian Aguilar while she was on duty. My apologetic words were something along the lines of “I’m about to do a feature on The Garden‘s staff. Unfortunately, I can’t include you, as it’s going to be all about the boys”. Miss Aguilar was quite understanding and thanked me anyway.

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Since then, I’ve observed this young lady in action and have realized that Lilian truly deserves her own special mention. After more than three years of Vegas Unfiltered and literally dozens of related articles, Lilian Aguilar is now the First Lady of “Hot Guys of Vegas“. She’s dynamic, glamorous, and a truly integral part of the team.

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Lilian may be “one of the boys”, but she’s all woman…and an ambitious one at that. A longtime vegan, she’s a certified fitness trainer, certified plant-based nutritionist, a title-holder for Mrs. USA Globe, and of course, a model. She, along with The Garden‘s equally dynamic operating partner Edith Castillo (below) bring a powerful female presence to Sin City’s latest success.

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The Garden is located at 1017 S. 1st St – Suite 180, Las Vegas, NV 89101 (702-202-0900)

Hours are Thursday & Sunday 6pm-1am, Friday & Saturday 6pm-2am. Reservations are recommended for dining. Click here for menus, reservations and additional information.

Photos: Higor Almeida Photography, The Garden LV, Brandon Grimm, Lilian Aguilar, Ger Haro, Alejandro Chirino, Eduardo Cordova, Chandler Kramer, Sam Novak

 

 

‘Señor Frog’s DRAG BRUNCH’ Extends Performance Schedule at Treasure Island


Trendy hit adds weekday performances to accommodate capacity crowds…

It’s bold, outrageous and one of those experiences that you just can’t wait to tell your friends at home about. It’s Señor Frog’s DRAG BRUNCH, the wild adults-only hit at Treasure Island. Presented by Voss Events, Drag Brunch is delicious food, shocking comedy, crazy dance numbers, and audience interaction, all served with a heaping helping of sass. And after four successful years, it’s one Sin City production that just keeps growing.

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The recent launch of RuPaul’s Drag Race Live! at Flamingo (also by Voss Events) is the latest cherry on that bright, sugary confection known as “drag.” A longtime Vegas institution, female impersonation goes back several decades in legendary shows up and down the Strip. From “Boylesque” at the Silver Slipper Casino to “Frank Marino’s DIVAS” and the current incarnation of Tropicana‘s “LEGENDS IN CONCERT,” drag continues to become more popular with each passing year. It’s also changed with the times and evolved from “fringe” to “mainstream”.

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Senor Frog’s DRAG BRUNCH was way ahead of the craze when it launched in 2016. The late-morning experience was already a hit in cutting-edge cities like New York, Miami, Los Angeles, and Toronto. But the unpredictable nature of audiences led Drag Brunch Las Vegas to start off slowly with only one scheduled performance per week. Fortunately, capacity crowds resulted in the addition of a second same-day performance, then an expansion to both Saturdays and Sundays.

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Now you can channel your inner diva eight times a week as Senor Frog’s DRAG BRUNCH is taking over a few weekdays, too. Hosted by RuPaul’s Drag Race alumnus “Shannel”, the show features a rotating cast of top-tier talent, many familiar to fans of the hit TV series. Their current performance schedule is Thursday through Sunday at 11:30am and 2:30pm. A large unlimited buffet featuring breakfast favorites, lunchtime selections, and delicious Mexican specialties, is provided by Senor Frog’s Restaurant.

Admission price to DRAG BRUNCH includes seating, show, brunch, and bottomless mimosas. There are upgrade packages for VIP seating, full open bar, and photos with the cast. If you’re a newbie and uncertain about “transitioning” into the world of drag entertainment, an inconspicuous standing-room option at the rear bar ($10) allows you to enjoy the insanity from a “safe” distance. Chances are that once you discover the wonderful world of drag, your concerns will fade away and you’ll soon join in on the fun.

With chart-topping dance hits, classic impersonation and lots of naughty innuendo, Senor Frog’s Drag Brunch is a top-notch smorgasbord of sights and sounds. So grab your friends, leave your inhibitions at the door…and make sure the little ones stay at home.

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Click HERE for the latest schedule and to purchase tickets/reservations. 

Photos: Sam Novak, Senor Frog’s Drag Brunch

New ‘AUSSIE HEAT’ Show Debuts at MOSAIC ON THE STRIP


Top-rated male revue brings the fun closer than ever at new venue…

BestOfVegas

Click HERE to read the BestOfVegas version of this article on their awesome site.

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They’re fun. They’re flirty. And they’ve never been more within reach. That’s because Aussie Heat, the sizzling hands-on dance revue from Down Under is now delivering their wild, sexy production directly to you…right on the Las Vegas Strip.

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Aussie Heat‘s new location is MOSAIC ON THE STRIP, a historic venue directly across from Park MGM Resort‘s EATALY. Formerly known as the Tommy Wind Theater (and Empire Ballroom before that), MOSAIC ON THE STRIP is an entertainment fan’s dream. The lush, classy venue is ushering in its next era with significant modern upgrades thanks to new management.

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Easily accessible from both sides of the Strip via a brand new pedestrian overpass, the independently-owned MOSAIC is a departure from the ordinary performance space. MOSAIC offers multi-level seating options to complement a nightclub-style vibe. A full-service bar/lounge welcomes guests before the curtain rises and hosts a free meet-and-greet party after every performance. There’s also a dedicated parking lot for easy in-and-out access.

As former contests of Australia’s Got Talent, the boys of Aussie Heat began their Vegas experience in a humble Downtown production called “Aussie Hunks”. Through the ensuing four-plus years, they’ve had a name change, amped up the excitement and outgrown their previous home at Miracle Mile’s V Theater. With hundreds of steamy performances under their loosened belts, Aussie Heat has deservedly earned great reviews and top rankings on both TripAdvisor and Yelp!. 

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Host (and show owner) Adam Barr is excited about the next big step in their quest to be Sin City’s top male revue. “The props and sets are better. The costumes are hotter. Our cast has expanded to take advantage of a bigger stage. We’ve added fantastic new acts and even an aerialist or two. And it’s still all about the audience having fun in ways they can’t at other shows. Thunder From Down Under is great, and Chippendales paved the way for this type of production. But we’re the only show of its kind where all of the members began as trained dancers first.”

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As an independently-produced show, Aussie Heat has the luxury of specifically tailoring sequences to the talents of individual performers. Muscular six-foot-four stuntman Simon will be featured in an action-packed new movie-themed number. Former castmates from Cirque du Soleil have come aboard to show off their gravity-defying skills. And pop-and-lock king Lennie adds his signature moves to the latest chart-topping hits.

As always, Aussie Heat remains interactive, “hands-on”, and trend-setting in their embracing of male guests…and the LGBTQ community as a whole. Unlike at competing shows, guys are encouraged along with the ladies to participate in onstage games, outrageous group photos, and of course…lap dances.

So brace yourself and hang on for a very wild ride through the outback. As Barr succinctly says with a laugh “If you don’t like attention from male dancers, you just might be at the wrong #%!& show!”.

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MOSAIC ON THE STRIP is located at 3765 Las Vegas Blvd. Aussie Heat performs Thursday through Monday at 10pm. Ages 21 and over. Tickets start at $54.99 (plus taxes/fees).

Photos: Sam Novak/Aussie Heat

 

 

 

 

Hot Guys of Vegas: Shyllon Melatti


Sin City native is the latest cast member to sizzle at CHIPPENDALES…

Stop it. Just stop it! We mere mortals can only handle so much sex appeal on one stage. Blame the people at Chippendales for raising body temps…and maybe even contributing to global climate change. But here we are once more with another absurdly sexy cast member…and this time his name is Shyllon Melatti.

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If you’ve seen the outrageous adult comedy “Sex Tips” at Paris Hotel, you’ve probaby already experienced plenty of Shyllon as “Stefan”. He joined a cast of handsome pleasures like Jai Rodriguez, Douglas Katch Gray, Mark Gregory Melton, and Louis D’Aprile, who all portrayed the wacky sex advisor “Dan Anderson”. There have been gorgeous ladies like Kendra Wilkinson, Katie Kenner, and the current MaKenzie Fly as tightly-wound “Miss Brown”.

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But it’s the character of ‘Stefan’ that has the most….er…”exposure” in this modern retelling of “My Fair Lady”. The hunky and linguistically-challenged stud earns a living as the lecture’s lights-and-sound tech. But when the moment arises, he’s called upon by Dan to strip down for a variety of demonstrations. The immigrant protests, of course (“Stefan is not stripper. I am scientist!”). That is until audience reaction sways him into a boom-chicka-wow-wow frame of mind.

Previous cast members Chris Hodgson, George Blick, and Colin Cahill have given their all for awesome interpretations of “Stefan”…and each has been featured in this column (for obvious reasons). Then the role went to our title man Shyllon Melatti. I was fortunate to be in the audience for Shyllon’s premiere performance. The gasps when he disrobed rippled through the audience…much like his stunning abs (see what I did there?).

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Shyllon is represented by TNG Models right here in Las Vegas. The six-foot hunk boasts a 40-inch chest, chiseled 32-inch waist, brown hair, and brown eyes. His distinctive scruff is even more appealing when he slips on a pair of eyeglasses. But you’ll be wanting Shyllon (rhymes with “nylon”) to slip out of those designer outfits and into something a lot less confining.

A self-described goofball, the Las Vegas native has appeared as the handsome lead in films like Goodbye (2011) and Hooked (2012). Athletic and adventurous, Shyllon loves the outdoors as much as he adores dogs and cats. Rock climbing, snow skiing, bicycling, camping, and diving into a waterfall…they’re all just a normal day for Mr. Melatti.

Much like his character, Shyllon is as academic as he is attractive. The UNLV graduate earned a Bachelor’s Degree in Criminal Justice and lists himself as Executive Assistant at Daniel Franzese Entertainment. Previously a brand ambassador for Rockstar Energy Drink, he was once a lifeguard at Mandalay Bay’s DAYLIGHT BEACH CLUB (swoon).

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Shyllon’s dabbled in the music industry at Lava Records and done charitable work through Rebuilding Together Southern Nevada (RTSNV) and as a Big Brother for Boys and Girls Clubs of Southern Nevada. And did I mention that he loves cats? (yeah, that one is worth mentioning twice).

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Sex Tips was Shyllon’s first role in a live stage production, and he clearly made quite an impression. In the early part of this year, his role was re-acquired by George Blick so that Shyllon could take on hosting duties at Chippendales. Alas, the pandemic shutdown had other plans.

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So for the time being, Shyllon and the rest of the Chippendales cast are up for grabs via Chippendales@Home. You and your friends can book a personal online party with the boys. Dance, chat, play naughty games and more. Check out my article right here for all the details.

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If you absolutely MUST see this hunk in person right away, Mr. Melatti is flaunting his biceps while pouring drinks at brand new The Garden. The swanky, stylish restaurant/lounge just opened in downtown’s Arts District and is spearheaded by nightlife impresario Eduardo Cordova. Click this link to learn more about The Garden. Then make reservations to spend the evening with Shyllon and his steamy colleagues.

While I can’t guarantee that Shyllon will take off his shirt for you from behind the bar, he just might flash his abs if you buy a round of shots. And you can always request a personal Chippendales Cameo message from him before he returns to the stage at Rio Las Vegas sometime soon.

 

 

 

2019 – The Year in Review: ‘What The CL#@K!? – The Second Half-Dozen


A look back at the second half of a year filled with memorable and some truly bizarre happenings in Sin City…

In the first half of this column, I began the year at a vacant, frozen outdoor carnival and left you hanging with the world’s biggest buttcrack at a stadium that was beginning to resemble a giant toilet bowl. Brace yourself, though…things were just starting to get weird. This is going to be a long one…

When the intense heat of Vegas summers reaches its peak, residents often enjoy their own version of “snowbirding” by heading to milder climates. With this being my first July as a local, I took the cue and headed for a ranch in the mountains of Oregon. The cool, fresh air revived my spirits, but then it was time to return for July 4th festivities back at home.

July –

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July 3rd was when the world moved…literally. While sitting on my couch writing a column for BestOfVegas.com, I felt the house begin to rumble and sway. Wondering if I was having a stroke or seizure, I scanned the internet and read page after page of “Did we just have an earthquake?” postings on Facebook. Although the city was a little “shaken”, the day continued.

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The early part of July 4th came and went with the usual pool parties and firecrackers, then the sh*t really hit the fan. I was at AMC Town Square watching a horror film when the Big One hit. Halfway through the film, the seats started bucking and the rows of chairs were visibly moving. I captured a quick video of the theater evacuation (above) which was picked up by local TV stations, Telemundo and NBC News out of New York City.

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Evacuating the shopping complex in my car, I barely dodged a tree that fell onto the road, then braved the bridge over the interstate to get home. Neighbors were in a panic and my underground irrigation system was ruptured, but other than shaken nerves, there was no real damage. Nevertheless, some of us have been a little on edge ever since.

The LGBTQ community came out to witness the official opening of ICONIC Nightclub. The reborn party spot took over a venue once occupied by SHARE. Despite a strong start and plenty of effort to make it a great alternative to popular PIRANHA, the turnout wasn’t strong enough to cover expenses and ICONIC shuttered in just a few months.

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As a regular patron, I was really disappointed by the lack of support for ICONIC. Owner Adam Simmons went above and beyond to provide outstanding staffing and make everyone feel at home. ICONIC offered great cocktails (my favorite was “Cucumber Fantasy”), wild entertainment and what may be the most attractive crew this city has ever seen, all at very affordable prices. So kudos to Adam and husband Jason for what they brought to the scene.

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My trip to Oregon had caused me to miss the grand opening gala of FLIGHTS Restaurant at Planet Hollywood’s Miracle Mile Shops. Fortunately, owner Alex Hult welcomed me and allowed me to experience the establishment’s fantastic food and beverage options for this review. I’ve been a regular ever since. I’m just glad I wasn’t under that fuselage during the tremor. It must have been impressive to see the safely-secured airplane “taking flight” for a minute or two.

Monsoon season arrived by mid-July but was supposedly weak compared to previous years. It’s not unusual for the Las Vegas Strip to experience significant flooding during summer downpours.

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Remember to NEVER park on the ground level in the Linq/Harrah’s area, as that spot is prone to violently flooding.

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          Scott Roeben (VitalVegas.com) joined the gang on his first visit to Golden Tiki

As neighborhoods around the city cleaned up mud and debris, I took a watery trip of a different kind…down the rapids and over the falls to the Land of the Lost. Actors Wesley Eure (Will) and Kathy Coleman (Hollie) of the classic TV series paid a visit to The Golden Tiki, where the legendary TV siblings were presented with shrunken-head replicas of themselves, courtesy of Branden Powers and his ever-expanding Cabinet of Curiosities.

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On a whim, I invited Kathy and Wesley to join me for another rip-roaring ride…this time to Chippendales. The expressions on the faces of my childhood icons as the men of Chippendales strutted their stuff were priceless! Performer/host Jayson Michael gave the stars a rousing introduction and the crowd loved it. Talk about surreal!

Lest anyone forget, the biggest WTF of the year…and perhaps the decade, remains the Grasshopper Invasion of 2019. The final days of July made worldwide news as Sin City was covered in a blanket of billions of migratory grasshoppers. The swarms were so thick that they showed up on weather radar as thunderstorms. Luxor‘s light beam acted as a beacon, creating a scene straight from the Bible.

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Was Sin City being visited by one of the great plagues? The wrath of God, perhaps? Well, according to the scientists it was just a side effect of the valley’s unusually most spring. Those same experts also predicted that the invasion would last for several weeks, which it didn’t. So I’m sticking with the “Ten Commandments” explanation.

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Allegiant Raiders Stadium was just about to complete its frame-out, casting an impressive shadow along Interstate 15.

August –

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Rio Las Vegas seemed to constantly be in the news. Will it be sold? (It was.) Will it be leveled for a new stadium? (Time will tell). But for fans of all things Star Trek, what mattered was whether the annual Official Star Trek Convention would return for another year (it did).

Once again, thousands of fans from around the world flocked to the off-Strip resort, which was transformed into the USS Enterprise. Just about every square foot of the convention hall was utilized for lectures, interviews, broadcasts, photo ops, virtual reality exhibitions, vendor space and a recreation of Quark’s Bar (formerly located at Las Vegas Hilton).

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That same weekend, the Las Vegas Hilton, now known as Westgate Las Vegas, celebrated 50 years of history and rebirth with a massive gala. I was honored and excited to receive an invitation. The event was held in the Grand Ballroom with live entertainment, a spectacular dinner, and tributes by Mayor Carolyn Goodman and resort owner David Siegel.

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I learned that August is apparently the unofficial month of hangovers, thanks to nonstop parties in Las Vegas. First up was the Annual Black and White Gala, a benefit for AFAN (Aid for AIDS of Nevada). This year’s event returned to Hard Rock Hotel (soon to be Virgin Hotel) after a so-so outing to Mandalay Bay’s Daylight Beach Club in 2018.

The adults-only soiree’s attendees are encouraged to wear black and white (as much or as little as they dare) while enjoying live entertainment and a variety of bites and cocktails provided by sponsors. Attendees including an array of performers like the cast of Sex Tips, members of Tenors of Rock and my main girl Endia Abrante of ShowgirlArrivals.com.

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Much of the decor was provided by Michele Rothstein‘s Balloons With A Twist. Michele recently became engaged to comedian John Di Domenico, best known as the World’s Greatest Donald Trump Impersonator.

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John provided the laughs at last year’s Mondays Dark year-end celebration and had proven to be a perfect foil for Ester Goldberg and Anne Martinez at Totally Outrageous Brunch. Congratulations to one of Sin City’s happiest couples and thanks to Michele for making the colors black and white even more beautiful.

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The next party was a media launch at Sugar Factory’s Chocolate Lounge for burlesque performer/singer Melody Sweets‘ new single “Flavor of the Month“. Guests included Amy Saunders of Miss Behave Game Show, fitness competitor/health coach Mandy White Eskelin and husband Sami Eskelin (Chippendales, sports fitness entrepreneur). My prolific colleague Chris Yandek of CYInterview.com posted this interview with Ms. Sweets soon after.

More festivities followed at Silverton Casino‘s VEIL Pavilion with the CFO of the Year Awards, sponsored by VegasINC and City National Bank. Next up was Havana Nights: Top Men of Success hosted by MyVEGAS Magazine and Blue Martini at Town Square.

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As for the Stadium, it had now come full circle…..er, “oval”.

September –

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Labor Day signals the unofficial end of summer, where the pool lines start to thin out and tourism drops. If all of that August party-going didn’t exhaust you, the final holiday of the summer surely would.

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I spent the evening enjoying the sounds (and sights) of DJ Nick Ayler, whom you may remember from this profile piece. Nick and I had a great time chatting (and downing tequila) between his sets at AVANT Lounge inside Iconic Nightclub. The crowd was a bit thin but the fun was certainly memorable.

Over at OYO (the former Hooters Hotel Casino), master mixologist Eddie Perales was keeping things smoking with his longtime partner and fellow cocktail craftsman Bobby G. You may remember Eddie from his many contributions to the Rio, Paris, and Westgate hotels, among others. He is also a world record holder in cocktail creation and a longtime Sin City resident.

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The newly-rebranded Sahara Hotel held a bubbly premiere for their champagne-themed adult variety show Blanc de Blanc. The men of Aussie Heat joined celebrities like SEXXY‘s Jennifer Romas, magician David Goldrake (who’s been teasing a Vegas comeback), BMX pro Ricardo Laguna, mentalist Marc Savard and musician Vin A. from The Bronx Wanderers.

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A pre-show gathering was held at the brand-new CASBAR LOUNGE before moving to the main event. Cast members from Thunder From Down Under and FANTASY enjoyed the performance from their VIP Premium-seating hot tubs. Yes, you read that correctly. Hot-tub seating for a Vegas show….why not?

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Just like the Star Trek Convention, this year’s Olympia Fitness Expo and Competition lured in thousands of devotees. Celebrities like Mark Wahlberg enjoyed top billing while Tropicana‘s own Chef Robert Irvine peddled his products and posed for pics.

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No matter where you looked, hot bodies and healthy lifestyles were on display. Vegas nightclub favorite and romance-novel coverboy Nick Bennett was busting his sleeves while promoting CELSIUS fitness and energy drinks, taking over for rapper Flo Rida from the previous year. I was unsuccessful in getting his shirt off for a pose, but there’s always Olympia Expo 2020

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Community-driven venue The Space was host to special fundraising event The Power of Pink and Purple to benefit the American Cancer Society. Organized by the big-hearted Logan Seven, the evening gathered those same tireless performers from Aussie Heat, SEXXY and David Goldrake along with Swing It Girls and “Pink” illusionist Kenneth Rex.

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Even though Monsoon Season 2019 was about to officially come to a close, the skies above Vegas offered one final reminder to never become complacent.

October –

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The tenth month of the year began on a solemn note, as it will continue to do so for decades to come. October 1st marked the second anniversary of the mass shooting across from Mandalay Bay. I happened to capture the above photo from the hotel’s rooftop Foundation Room.  You can spot the location across Las Vegas Boulevard as a darkened area that was once home to Route 91 Harvest Music Festival.

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No city does Halloween the way that Las Vegas does. Things get an early kick-off here, too. October 2nd saw the debut of SCARE at Town Square, an immersive and expansive experience to be shared by young and old. And best of all, there was an adults-only nightclub area, too.

The charity-driven UNDEAD MAZE rose once again, this year at Tivoli Village in the northwest section of the city. A passion project by tireless entertainer Shaun Friedrichs with ample assist from big-hearted Heidi Elkhill, it’s rated as one of the top haunts in the city.

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Hofbrauhaus on Paradise Road continued their annual tradition of Oktoberfest celebrity keg-tappings. The line-up this year included Zowie Bowie‘s Chris Phillips, Chippendales, Australian Bee Gees and Ricardo Laguna. If you’ve never experienced an evening at Hofbrauhaus, you owe it to yourself to visit. BTW, the talk is true….the staff paddles patrons on their birthday.

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Historic Mansion 54 in the Arts District kicked off costume parties with The Shade Tree‘s 30th Anniversary Mask Off Gala. The Shade Tree is an organization that provides sanctuary and support to women in jeopardy along with their children and pets.

Entertainment during the fundraiser was provided by the cast of Le Reve. PHo headliner Christina Aguilera made a brief appearance to accept an award. Amazingly, I missed seeing the superstar, as it was blink-and-you’ll-miss-it brief. Thank goodness the food by sponsors like Evel Pie, VegeNation, PublicUS and Le Thai was so memorable.

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Campy horror-comedy EVIL DEAD: The Musical made a “splashy” return to Las Vegas, this time with a significant upgrade. The onetime hit at V Theater had a two-week run as The Evil Dead HD Tour at The Space.

The community-driven venue was draped in plastic and outfitted with immersive high-resolution video “sets” that were used to brilliant effect. Rabid fans of the “Deadites” clamored for the front sections, where they’d be soaked in a spray of gore. How often do you see audience members exiting the theater while wringing blood from their hair and clothing?

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             This fellow was so soaked in fake blood that he threw his shirt in the trash…

November –

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The penultimate month of the year was a mellow one by any standards. No swarms of insects, not a single earth-shaking event…just a few new openings, a haloed moon and the return of one very bright star.

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Once again, The Space was THE place to be for noteworthy activities. While the best little theater in the city had been serving up gore and body parts just a few weeks earlier, now it was dishing out good old southern cooking and a night of unforgettable vocals.

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Demonstrating a level of class and warmth rarely seen these days, songstress Ruby Lewis made a triumphant return to the Vegas stage. The star of BAZ and Marilyn: The New Musical brought her one-woman show for a single-night event that was treasured by fans. Offering a clever mixture of prose, memories, laughter and towering vocals, Ms. Lewis and her band reminded everyone that the best performers are never too great to lose their sincerity.

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Ruby greeted guests with a crock of her own black-eyed peas, turkey, and cornbread, then joined them after the show for pictures and hugs. Self-proclaimed “divas” like Mariah and Madonna could learn a vital lesson from this classy young woman – R.E.S.P.E.C.T.

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ARIA opened KALOLOGIE, the very first and only medspa located on the Strip. Housed within the hotel’s expansive spa, KALOLOGIE offers treatments like body contouring, laser skin treatments, injectables and get this…..IV hydration therapy.

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So if the effects of Vegas partying take their toll on your face and body, you can still return looking better than when you left home. We in the media were treated to a flashy shindig with free B12 shots and a bag of goodies to take home. I’m addicted to my FOREO sonic skin cleansing device.

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ARIA was also one of the first hotels to officially kick off the holiday season. Their culinary artists from Aria Patisserie created a life-size gingerbread house in the main lobby, along with a counter to purchase hot beverages and sweets. I happened to be there when the pastry chefs were gathering for official photos, and they seemed deservedly proud of their work.

Beloved charitable photographer Noel Dahl presented yet another beautiful fundraising calendar, this time to benefit Amor Peludo Animal Rescue. Featuring adorable kittens, pups and hot male celebs like Ryan Worley, Adam Barr, and Gerry Haro, the event took place at Lazy Dog Restaurant in Town Square.

Alas, Mr. Dahl was once again the victim of higher-than-thou patrons who found his artistry to be offensive. A few faint-hearted Sin City parents complained to management that photos of shirtless men were in view and demanded that the fundraising display be removed.

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You may recall this article that I penned detailing Noel’s work being dragged through the mud by parents on local television. These are the same hypocrites who choose to raise their children in a city where prostitution billboards roll down the streets. To them, I say “Go f*ck yourselves”.

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Speaking of billboards, this riotous monument to failure was spotted along I-15 and the Desert Inn overpass at the tail end of November. Apparently, the abrupt closing of KAOS right after Halloween left no contingency funds for pulling down the advertisements. That meant we had to continue looking at the smelly remnants (aka “Cardi B”). Don’t let her roofie and rob you, guys.

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The always colorful Golden Tiki brought the month to a memorable close with their annual Charlie Brown Thanksgiving. Traditional Peanuts favorites like jelly beans, pretzels, toast, and popcorn were served on a pingpong table while a pair of naughty parrots sang dirty limericks and farted overhead. Only in Vegas, friends….

December –

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The month of December was bitterly cold by Vegas standards. Just like in February, the snows arrived on a recurring basis. Roads to Mt. Charleston, the Red Rock scenic driveway and interstate to Los Angeles were closed to traffic, leaving thousands of motorists unable to reach their destination during the height of holiday travel. Luckily, the city has thousands upon thousands of extra hotel rooms in what is always the slowest tourist season of the year.

The days leading up to Christmas turn Sin City into a bit of a ghost town. The only real activity comes from the residents, who go about their business as usual. Shows and restaurants go on hiatus, casino workers use their vacation time and hotels drop their rates to the lowest of the year. For those looking for a quiet, affordable getaway, mid-December in Las Vegas is bliss.

While the resorts took advantage of the downtime to dive into construction projects and improvements, the tireless members of The Bronx Wanderers were adding more shows to the schedule. In addition to special Christmas performances of their residency at The Linq (moving soon to Harrah’s showroom), breakout star Vin A. was spearheading a collection of three holiday spectaculars around the valley.

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I was fortunate enough to attend A Very Swingin’ Christmas at M Resort on December 21st, where Vin was joined by studly guitarist David Braun and patriarch Vinny Adinolfi. A crackerjack band, members of the Beach Boys and other talented musicians made for an unforgettable night that I hope will return next year.

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One entertainer who won’t be back is funnyman Jeff Civillico. After a decade of shows on the Strip, Jeff has decided to step off his unicycle, put down the juggling balls and focus on other ventures. The handsome comedian has been outspoken with his frustration at casino management over lack of support for entertainers. So he’s decided to step away from the Vegas stage. We’ll miss him.

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Russ White of QLife Media and The Charity Gurus was able to provide me with one final photo of Allegiant Raiders Stadium construction for the year. He took it from his condo in Veer Tower, part of CityCenter complex on the Strip.

Over at Rio, WOW – The Las Vegas Spectacular celebrated two years and 1,000 performances. A post-show party at CHAYO was attended by cast, crew, publicist Michael Caprio and the creator Hanoch Rosènn, who flew in from Israel to attend. Mr. Rosènn was incredibly kind and complimentary regarding the article I’d published on the show a few weeks earlier. During the tumultuous times for live entertainment productions, it’s wonderful to see WOW‘s success.

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Venetian/Palazzo is gearing up for another success of their own. Continuing their tradition of opening new restaurants at the close of the year (Matteo’s, Mott 32), my favorite luxury resort gave a sneak peek at Majordomo Meat and Fish. The latest offering from Chef David Chang is a massive undertaking located on Palazzo casino’s northwest side.

The invitation-only gala was attended by my wonderful colleague Allison Duck, hunky FREEZONE bartender Ric James Naughton and KTNV personalities JJ Snyder, Jason Dinant and Micah Manalo along with talented singer Brandon Nix (Magic Mike Live, Rock of Ages, Velvet Elvis). Majordomo Meat and Fish is open daily from 5:30opm to 10:30pm.

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At last, New Year’s Eve was upon us, so it was back to Westgate Las Vegas for their annual gala. This year’s attendees included FOX5 Emmy-winning anchor Jason Feinberg, the cast of Soul of Motown and prolific go-to photographer Ira Kuzma accompanied by his lovely wife Marie.

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After an incredible dinner, dancing, east-coast ball drop and entertainment throughout the resort by classy crooner Mark O’Toole and David Perrico’s Pop Strings Orchestra, the party moved upstairs via private elevator to Westgate’s famous Versailles Sky Villa. The rooftop mansion’s outdoor deck provided the perfect location for fireworks viewing of both the Strip and nearby STRAT Skypod.

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From there it was off to Charlie’s, a country-western bar near Orleans Casino that has somehow become a destination for local drag queens. They hosted a costume contest into the wee hours that was as funny as it was outlandish. And that’s how 2019 came to a close…as oddly as it began. Because nothing says “New Year’s Eve in Las Vegas” like cross-dressers and barechested muscle boys. Happy 2020, everyone!

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This year-end wrap-up is dedicated to the memory of my little lady Daphne, who passed away on Christmas Day.