“Aussie Heat” Host Creates a Natural Approach to Fitness Products


Adam Barr’s muscular cast endorses his Green Barr cannabis-based wellness formulas…

Having covered the Mr. Olympia Fitness Expo for many years in Las Vegas, I’ve seen many outside-the-box health and fitness products. Ones like ManCakes high-protein pancakes. Arctic Zero fit frozen desserts. Ostrim ostrich-based jerky and meat sticks. Now Aussie Heat host Adam Barr has opened up a whole new world of ideas with a cannabis-based line of health and wellness products named Green Barr.

The uses of marijuana go back thousands of years, from ancient anesthesia in China to treatment of cataracts in Egypt. Until just recently, marketing items from this family of plants in contemporary United States would have been illegal…and perceived by many as outlandish. But times are changing and the laws are catching up.

Aussie Heat Adam Green Barr

There are those who view cannabis as a type of miracle cure. It’s been used for treatment from conditions as diverse as epilepsy in children to dementia in Alzheimer’s patients. It’s also known to ease the side effects of cancer treatments and has been proven to attack cancer cells.

As the medical community reverses its position on marijuana/cannabis from being a recreational drug to one of serious medical importance, the general public is taking note. And while everyone is playing catch-up with the legalities, forward-thinking individuals are preparing to usher in a new wave of uses.

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     Adam Barr (center, back row) and the guys have a flex-off with this writer…

Adam Barr is one such individual. You may recognize Barr from my numerous articles on the innovative upstart Aussie Heat male revue Planet Hollywood’s V Theater. Adam is a stand-up kind of guy…literally. When not using his charisma to host the sexy production, he sometimes takes to the stage for his own comedy routines.

Aussie Heat Adam Green Barr

Adam Barr is an advocate of all things natural…                  

But Adam’s venture into the cannabis business is no joke. This lover of nature in all its forms has looked to ancient healing methods to create the Green Barr line. His products use natural medicines to restore healthy living and promote recovery. With them, he intends to take the fitness community by storm.

Aussie Heat Adam Green Barr

In a phone interview last week, Adam explained the varieties of marijuana and why various classes are regulated differently.  He said that most people associate marijuana with THC (tetrahydrocannabinol), the mind-altering form that creates a euphoric “high”…and a stimulated appetite. THC is currently listed as a Schedule 1 drug by the U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency and is regulated as such (a detailed explanation is here).

But then there is CBD (cannabidiol), a non-psychoactive compound that’s mostly derived from hemp. While CBD won’t affect the mind, its positive effects on the body make for an impressive check-list of treatments for common ailments.

The most promising research these days is for the use of CBD to fight cancer. Cannabidiol has been shown to block the spread of cancer cells, slow their growth and encourage the destruction of cancerous cells altogether.

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The use of CBD and cannabis derivatives for everyday problems is what Green Barr is all about. By that I mean stress, anxiety, pain, acne, inflammation and depression. Then there are anti-emetic (nausea and vomiting) and anti-oxidant (neuro-regenerative) benefits as well.

Barr had the idea to create a line of micro-dose CBD (Emerald) and cannabis (Green) products that would target athletes, fitness enthusiasts and those looking for a natural alternatives for healing.

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Aussie Heat Adam Green Barr

         Stuntman Simon Farrow’s heroic frame is built on Green Mag Mist…   

Adam then teamed up with Simon Farrow, his muscular cast mate from Aussie Heat. Farrow is a sometime movie stuntman (Alien: Covenant) and actor who already had his own Organics4me line of magnesium-centric pre-workout spray. Together they’ve expanded and refined Green Barr‘s presentation to include teas, capsules, tablets, moisturizing creams and spray mist.

Aussie Heat Adam Green Barr

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Aussie Heat Adam Green Barr

While laws continue to change regarding the distribution of CBD and cannabis, Barr is taking a grassroots (pardon the pun) approach to marketing. In order to do that, Adam is starting small…like selling at farmers’ markets in Los Angeles.

Behind that will be conventional retailing through gyms and online. Of course, the goal of any marketing plan is mass distribution. In this case, easy-to-access state-regulated dispensaries are where Adam ultimately wants Green Barr to be sold.

Not having tried marijuana products of any kind in the past, I was hesitant to sample a relaxation formula that Barr gave me. But years of insomnia have haunted me and it is difficult to get through an entire night.

So I tried one micro-dose capsule before bedtime and slept like I hadn’t in years….with zero negative effects the next day. In fact, I woke up feeling refreshed and alert and got that result every time. As you might imagine, it was thrilling.

The cast of Aussie Heat also uses and swears by Green Barr. With those hard-working bodies on display at the intimate V Theater each night, there’s no way to hide the results of their successful regimens.

Aussie Heat Adam Green Barr

Simon Ata puts “flex” in “flexible” thanks in part to Green Barr supplements…

Simon Ata aka “Simonster” is one of Green Barr‘s biggest advocates. As a member of StrengthProject.com‘s fitness team, this shredded young athlete performs astounding gymnastics, yet his body is always flexible and healthy-looking.

Aussie Heat Adam Green Barr

Performing a physically-demanding show nightly can be taxing on bodies of any age. For the Aussie Heat guys, a typical day requires rehearsal and stretching before hitting the stage at 10:30pm. Then they move over to nearby Blondie’s to greet and hang out with audience members before having dinner after 2 am. Then some of them hit the all-night gym for strength conditioning. If Green Barr products can help performers like these guys to get through a typical work week, imagine what they can do for someone in the conventional 9-to-5 world.

To learn more about the beneficial effects of micro-dose cannabis and CBD, check out Green Barr‘s Instagram page or visit them on Facebook.

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Me (center) flexing with the guys from Aussie Heat…                 

Note: This is not a compensated endorsement. Green Barr works for me.

Aussie Heat performs Thursday through Sunday at 10:30 pm inside Planet Hollywood’s V Theater. VegasFool.com is offering a ten-dollar discount by following this link and using promo code VEGASFOOL10 at checkout.

Photos: Sammasseur, Green Barr, Simon Ata, Adam Barr, Simon Farrow

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Westgate’s Culinary Superstars: Chef Bruno Morabito

Sid’s Cafe’s “Master of Brunch” is serious about the joys of casual dining…

Part Two in my series on the fabulous culinary family of Westgate Las Vegas

Sometimes you talk at length with someone whom you’ve previously encountered only in passing…and they blow your expectations away. That’s what happened during my recent morning sit-down with Chef de cuisine Bruno Morabito of Sid’s Cafe. And it was a surprise that made my day.

Chef Bruno Morabito Westgate

Being a semi-regular diner at Westgate’s casual-dining restaurant, I’d seen Chef Bruno strolling by from time to time, greeting patrons at their table to check on their experience. This mild-mannered gentleman was personable, professional and seemed somewhat reserved. But give Chef Bruno the opportunity to relax for a bit of private conversation and this native of Rochester NY will light up the room.

Chef Bruno Morabito Westgate

Perhaps it’s the dazzling white coat that keeps his bubbly personality in check. Maybe it’s the presence of dozens of diners enjoying his creations. Or the years of disciplined experience in world-class kitchens around the city. Whatever the reason, when this veteran of the Las Vegas dining scene gets a moment away from the focus of responsibility, an entirely different person shines through.

Chef Bruno Morabito Westgate

The two of us got acquainted in a corner booth on the tail end of a Sid’s Cafe breakfast rush. Both of us had just returned from visits to Italy, so it was a nice ice-breaker. I confessed that I’d just watched one of his cooking segments about brunch on a local network affiliate page. “Oh, No! I can’t stand doing those!”, he chuckled with a mild flush. “I’m not a TV kind of guy. But I do like to talk about my food”.

Chef Bruno Morabito Westgate

    Jennifer Jean Snyder of KTNV Morning Blend reacts to Chef Bruno’s creations… 

Indeed he does. As is the case with many artists, Chef Bruno beams when discussing how he began to create delicious dishes…and which inspirations set him on the path to success. For Chef Morabito, it was exposure to a combination of many different cultures.

During his culinary school days at Lougheed College in Kitchener Ontario, this descendant of Italian immigrants was affectionately known as “The Yank”. He was nicknamed that by program director Wolfgang Stutz (one could safely assume that Stutz was German). But it was years of experience at a famous French restaurant that secured his place on the Valley’s list of superb culinary masters.

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Visiting the Amalfi coastline of southern Italy with brother Phil…               

After coming to Las Vegas with his wife, Morabito began a 17-month stint as Sous Chef for renowned Charlie Palmer at Mandalay Bay‘s gorgeous Aureole. Then came his first really big opportunity – a position at Venetian‘s world-famous Bouchon Bistro. Tucked away inside an exclusive area of the resort’s Venezia Tower, Bouchon is where Westgate‘s “Master of Brunch” developed his reputation for morning-meal brilliance.

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Chef Bruno (fourth from right) with Chef Thomas Keller and the team at Bouchon…               

Challenged by Bouchon founder Chef Thomas Keller to create a pork-belly BLT from a sketch, Morabito went “off the menu” and took a detour to the unexpected. With free reign to create any special he wanted, Chef Bruno added a personal “why not” favorite of Chicken and Waffles as a special.

A succulent serving of roasted chicken atop a bacon and chive waffle, sauce chasseur (aka “Hunter’s Sauce”), Tahitian vanilla bean butter and maple syrup, Chicken and Waffles was a runaway hit…and continued to grow in popularity. It became the cornerstone for an entire brunch menu that Morabito urged Kelly to try.

Chef Bruno’s brunch menu remains his legacy there and is now served in every Bouchon Bistro nationwide. It was also Forbes Travel Magazine‘s pick for Best Brunch in Las Vegas.

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                  Chef Bruno flanked by his lovely 14-year-old daughters….

After a decade with Chef Thomas Keller, this thoroughbred horse-racing enthusiast (he’s attended the last eight Breeder’s Cups and owns several horses back in New York) was now the proud father of twin girls.

The increased responsibilities of being a parent and husband to wife Tracy didn’t deter Morabito from taking on a new challenge, though. In 2014 he was recruited by celebrity Giada De Laurentis to be her new Chef de Cuisine at Giada inside The Cromwell.

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Chef Morabito and Giada De Laurentis remain friends…                     

History repeated itself a bit at The Cromwell. Morabito’s reputation for success allowed him to create a brunch menu for De Laurentis at the trendy eatery. If you seem to recall Chicken and Waffles in the Giada line-up, you aren’t mistaken…although he gave the dish a new distinctive Italian twist. It came as no surprise when the new offerings were lauded by Las Vegas Review Journal readers as “Best Brunch”.

Nearly two and a half years later, the visionary “Master of Brunch” joined the ever-growing list of superlative chefs at Westgate Las Vegas. And now he’s serving his award-winning food at Sid’s Cafe.

Sid’s Cafe is named after Westgate founder David Siegel‘s father, who absolutely loved Las Vegas. Sid’s may be the most casual of Westgate‘s restaurant, but the home-style menu is meticulously prepared and served with pride. Chef Bruno runs the entire operation, from kitchen to staffing. He’s a hands-on kind of man when it comes to ensuring quality:

What goes out on that plate has my name on it. I personally answer Yelp! and other guest reviews, both positive and negative. Kindness is an easy way to build rapport with our guests. I want you to be satisfied with what we bring to your table.

Bringing things to the table is exactly what Chef Bruno had planned for me. Being a frequent visitor, I was already familiar with lunch and dinner offerings at the Cafe (Matzo Ball Soup, Free-Range Turkey Burger and Chopped Italian Salad are my personal favorites). So it was with a bit fortuitous that I’d be sampling his brunch creations for the first time during our meeting.

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 Mojito Fruit Bowl with lime juice, mint and toasted coconut…                    

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Smoked Salmon Platter…                 

My host could scarcely hide his enthusiasm when describing each dish that arrived at the table.That carefully-hidden smile of his surfaced frequently…and it continued to grow with each visit back.

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Grande Cinnamon Roll is big enough for the entire table…                   

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Cinnamon Roll French Toast and several hearty skillet breakfasts…                 

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As Chef Bruno promised, everything he creates is fresh, delicious, gorgeous to look at and downright satisfying. Brunch is available at Sid’s Cafe every Thursday through Sunday from 7 am until 2 pm. You can add unlimited mimosas for $10.

Echoing sentiments from other Chefs I’ve spoken to at Westgate, Sid’s chef de cuisine is thrilled with the opportunity to add, fine-tune and elevate his cafe’s line-up. And no doubt the resort is pleased to have attracted another major player to their team.

As with all members of the Westgate culinary family, Chef Bruno Morabito aims to bring happiness to your table and a smile to your face. Be sure to ask for him when you visit…and don’t you dare miss that Chicken and Waffles masterpiece.

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Sid’s Cafe is open for breakfast, lunch and dinner. Hours are 7 am to midnight Sunday through Thursday, 7 am to 2 am Friday and Saturday. Call 702-732-5755 for more information. Dress code is casual, restaurant is non-smoking.

Photos: Sammasseur, Bruno Morabito via Facebook/Instagram, KTNV Morning Blend

 

 

 

 

Westgate’s Culinary Superstars: Chef Michael McNeilly of Fresco Italiano


Westgate’s unconventional Chef de Cuisine infuses every dish with his untamed spirit…

While Las Vegas continues to be a city of re-invention, some resorts in the Valley have been far more successful than others at maintaining their relevance. Westgate Las Vegas (previously the Las Vegas Hilton) continues to surprise with the levels of excellence it’s achieved in restoring the once-floundering property. It’s truly become Sin City’s most daring and innovative destination.

Westgate Chef Michael McNeilly

Since taking ownership in 2014, Westgate Resorts has set new standards for lodging, entertainment, gaming, service and fine dining. When launching this site, my very first article was a review of the outstanding Fresco Italiano. I’ve been back to Westgate many times in the ensuing months, enjoying the resort’s hospitality and amenities (you can read my recent review of their new spa here). 

Westgate Chef Michael McNeilly

Now I’m excited to publish the first in a series on the creative and gifted people behind Westgate‘s food and beverage offerings. As I’ve said in the past, there are great reasons why expert chefs leave some of the highest-profile restaurants in the city to make Westgate their new home.

Along the way,  we’ll explore how Westgate has become the new center of elevated dining excellence. More importantly, I’ll sit down with the creative minds behind these amazing dishes and cocktails. The artists will share their backgrounds, the influences behind their unique creations…and the personal drive that makes them some of the best in their fields.

Westgate Chef Michael McNeilly

And they’ll do all that it while serving me their favorite dishes. Bon Appétit!

Westgate Chef Michael McNeilly

Chef Michael McNeilly of Fresco Italiano                   

Nobody can prepare Italian food like a genuine Italian. At least that’s what I was told when growing up in a little town brimming with Italian immigrants. So don’t let Chef Michael McNeilly‘s last name fool you…he is indeed of Italian descent. Just don’t confuse him for a small-town boy. If you forget, his tough-talking uncensored manner of speech will remind you.

Chef Michael and his three younger siblings grew up in the tough areas of New York City. They were partially raised by his grandmother, who taught him her style of Italian cooking…and the importance of food in our everyday lives.

Food is power. It controls your day. Everything you do is planned around when you eat, what you eat and where you eat.

Westgate Chef Michael McNeilly

                          Michael (left) with father and little brother Johnny… 

As part of a hard-working blue-collar family, Chef Michael looked out for his siblings when not lending a hand at his father’s trucking firm. Delivering food and merchandise to businesses taught him early lessons in discipline. And no matter what went on before it, the family meal was always the best time of the day.

With Italians, the party starts in the kitchen. And it ends in the kitchen.

McNeilly admits that in his youth he was very prone to getting into trouble, some of it quite serious. His personal problems sometimes threatened to get the best of him. Developing an appreciation for cooking became a salvation of sorts.

Each corner in New York had something different….it was a melting pot of people and smells. The bakeries, restaurants and outdoor carts had every different kind of ethnic food you could imagine. I could travel around the world by walking through my neighborhood.

Chef Michael’s first professional foray into the culinary world came at age 14…as a garde manger (or pantry chef) for a French restaurant. He amusingly referred to himself as a “soda jerk” at Long Island’s Brown Osprey Restaurant. Watching the methodical operations of fine-tuned kitchens intrigued the young man and created a desire to learn more. Much more. So he absorbed everything he could from each mentor along the way.

Eventually Chef Michael realized he needed a change of location. A bad situation threatened to consume him if he didn’t seek a drastic change, so at 28 years old he headed for Texas and settled in Austin. That’s where his real adventure in culinary arts began.

Westgate Chef Michael McNeilly

Despite having no formal culinary degree, the Irish-Italian threw himself headlong into Austin’s dining scene. From Sous Chef at Roux to Chef at Mesa Ranch Bar and Grill, McNeilly learned the finer details on a wide array of food preparation. From “breaking down” large exotic fish to smoking and curing meats, nothing was too big or too challenging.

Westgate Chef Michael McNeilly

“I can do that” was the mantra that got McNeilly into higher positions…and greater opportunities to create. He recounted an amusing story involving a particular job he desired:

I showed up with my chef coat and utensils, let myself into the kitchen and took a place in the line. I started filling orders and sending them out. Others were looking at me like “Who are you?”. So I introduced myself and kept on working…for hours. I did so well that when I was discovered by management, they offered me a job.

Not everyone has the guts and gumption to spontaneously create their own position at someone else’s business. But Chef Michael refuses to follow the rules. His unconventional approach still works for him in his current role:

Whenever I’m told “You can’t do that”, my answer is “Why not? If it makes sense and will improve performance, morale, efficiency and the bottom line, I’ll find a way to make something happen…and prove that I was right.

Life in Austin was a time of constant growth… both personally and professionally. It was there that he met his wife Kelsey, settled down and started a family. From his home kitchen to the grill at legendary Four Seasons, Chef Michael balanced his family time with creating new recipes (and entire menus) and managerial responsibilities of running a kitchen.

The business aspects (like controlling food and labor costs to operations in both front-of-house and back-of-house) were modeled after the lessons he’d learned from his father.

Westgate Chef Michael McNeilly

By fall of 2012, the outspoken N.Y. badass with his signature baseball cap had become Executive Chef of Trattoria Lisinia, a highly-regarded restaurant on the Mandola Estate and Vineyard outside of Austin. McNeilly’s talent for charcuterie was a great fit for the Tuscany-styled eatery, where hand-made pastas and hand-stretched pizzas wrestled for attention with flame-grilled steaks.

Trattoria Lisinia‘s support of various youth organizations also struck a chord. Being appreciative of the opportunities he’d been given, Chef Michael began mentoring other young people that faced difficult situations (more on that in a bit).

Westgate Chef Michael McNeilly

Westgate Chef Michael McNeilly

      “Start them young” says Chef Michael McNeilly, pictured with his children… 

A role as Chef Partner for Fleming’s Prime Steakhouse and Wine Bar became McNeilly’s final position in Austin before taking the next big step…to Las Vegas. Much like other noteworthy chefs in the Valley, he was drawn to the unique opportunities at Westgate.

There’s a certain “something” that attracts extremely talented people to the historic property. Culinary artists with successful runs at The Cromwell, Caesars PalaceMGM Grand, Cosmopolitan and Wynn have made this off-Strip resort their home. Chef McNeilly seems to know why:

My worst day here is better than my best day when I’ve worked elsewhere. They (Westgate’s administrative team) allow us to have creative freedom and take chances. I love my bosses because they let me be me.

After a lengthy conversation filled with “colorful” language and plenty of laughter, Chef Michael took me to his dining room to enjoy a wide array of spectacular dishes. As I dove in with fork and knife, he told me about some noteworthy experiences since coming to Westgate.

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Westgate Chef Michael McNeilly

Fresco Italiano opened two years ago. Chef Michael has been there from the beginning, hand-picking the ingredients, staff and every dish on the menu. It’s a culmination of all the training and exposure he’s had since being a boy. He’s now a familiar face on local talk shows, demonstrating what makes his offerings unique and delicious.

Westgate Chef Michael McNeilly

Early this year, McNeilly and several other chefs from Westgate had the privilege to participate in one of the nation’s most prestigious culinary honors – preparing a meal for the legendary James Beard Foundation. This not-for-profit culinary arts organization, created with the involvement of Julia Child, honors chefs who make America’s food culture more diverse, sustainable and delicious for everyone.

Westgate Chef Michael McNeilly

Westgate Chef Michael McNeilly

Westgate‘s landmark event at James Beard House was called Valentine’s Day with a Vegas Kiss. Seven experts from the resort’s culinary team traveled back to McNeilly’s old stomping grounds in NYC, along with 40 crates of food, dishes, utensils and equipment. They created an epic six-course dinner for over eighty guests, complimented by 132 bottles of wine that also traveled with Westgate’s team.

Westgate Chef Michael McNeilly

The experience was immensely gratifying for Chef McNeilly. The son of a humble trucker had come full circle…and prepared the ultimate meal at the city’s most prestigious venue.

Westgate Chef Michael McNeilly

    Looking over a memory book from the James Beard Foundation dinner….  

It’s in that spirit that he continues to foster the young people of Las Vegas. He’s taken several members of Fresco Italiano‘s staff under his wing, training them in various aspects of restaurant operations. And hopefully grooming them for a lifetime of success.

This is a tough world that we live in. I want to help hard-working young people the way that I was helped. To give them a chance. If they’re willing to put forth the effort, I’ll do whatever it takes to improve their lives. It’s my goal to leave people better than I found them.

Westgate Chef Michael McNeilly

Fresco Italiano is open for dinner from 5pm daily with lunch on select days. Call 702.532.5276 for more information or to make reservations.

Photos: Sammasseur, Michael McNeilly via Facebook/Instagram, Greg C.

 

 

Anne Martinez Can’t Slow Down To Be “The Next Big Thing”


Meet a talent who’s equally at home in Gatsby’s world and Alice’s Wonderland…

Some performers set their sights on Las Vegas and dream of one day ruling the stage. Anne Martinez must have missed that memo about “someday”. You see, she came to Sin City four years ago and immediately began her Vegas reign.

Anne Martinez

You may not know Anne Martinez by name, but chances are that you’ve seen her perform at least once..and heard her glorious voice rattling the rafters. From Luxor‘s sexy Fantasy to Steve Wynn’s classy ShowStoppers. Dripping with blood at Zombie Burlesque or adorned with dazzling jewels in BAZ – A Musical Mash-up. There’s seemingly nothing that Anne cannot do.

Anne Martinez

Anne and her husband John Martinez came to Vegas in 2013. John’s expertise in rigging and scuba diving made him a perfect fit for Cirque du Soleil‘s water production “O”. While hubby was getting his feet wet at Bellagio, Anne was putting her own skills into play on various stages…while simultaneously working with a team of gifted colleagues to establish her own production company. BBR, like Anne, quickly made a name for itself with the genre-bending Alice: A Steampunk Concert Fantasy (more on that in a bit).

Anne Martinez

Despite her short time in the city, Anne dove headfirst into a wide variety of gigs, charitable functions and community events. Belting out hits at House of Blues Music Forward Foundation, joining Mondays Dark to benefit AFAN, singing the National Anthem during March Madness, saluting Amy Winehouse at Brooklyn Bowl‘s The Setlist late-night concert series…the list truly is endless.

Earning a BFA in acting no doubt explains Anne’s ability to step into a wide variety of song styles and characters, but her Masters of Fine Arts degree in Theatre Practice (aka show creation) is how Alice: A Steampunk Concert Fantasy sprang to life. Taking the darker elements of Lewis Carroll’s “Alice In Wonderland” and weaving them into a hard-rocking opera set in a retro-futuristic sci-fi world, Alice is sheer brilliance. Even Tim Burton didn’t try something so audacious for his interpretation.

Anne Martinez

Anne credits a great deal of Alice‘s success to other ambitious young artists like Jeffrey DeBarathyAdolfo BarretoLora KelseyAshley FullerClaudia MitriaApril Leopardi and co-director Ryan Kelsey. Having such a gifted ensemble almost guaranteed a show unlike anything Vegas had ever seen.

Naturally, Martinez wanted to see her baby become a resident production. Having outgrown its early days at Hard Rock Hotel‘s VinylAlice quickly became the must-see monthly event at Brooklyn Bowl…for locals and tourists alike. Even when the show was on hiatus last summer, she re-assembled the cast for a one-off at Las Vegas Pride.

Since then, Rocks Lounge at Red Rock Casino has become the permanent home for Alice. One Monday each month, the cast gathers for another epic performance. Their next show date is November 13th with guest performance by Cirque du Soleil artist Michelle DiTerlizzi as the Red Queen.

Anne Martinez

Compounding the challenge of short preparation time was the fact that her predecessors have gone on to major high-profile productions. Returning BAZ star Ruby Lewis finished her Daisy run at Light before the titular role in Broadway’s Paramour. Last fall, Joanna Alexis Jones left Palazzo Theater‘s production for the NBC broadcast of Hairspray Live. Her abrupt departure required Martinez to step into the star-making character.

Despite being an understudy for only a few short weeks, Anne’s version of Daisy was nothing short of breathtaking. She subsequently took on the lead role of “Satine”, made famous by Nicole Kidman in the film Moulin Rouge:

As if her schedule wasn’t already busy enough, Anne currently does double-duty as one half of the duo HEART in Stratosphere’s World’s Greatest Rock Show. She literally finishes her BAZ performance at Palazzo and high-tails it down the Strip to roar onstage and belt out high-powered anthems like this:

Before a performance of BAZ, I sat down with this dynamo outside of the Palazzo Theater to talk about her background, her inspirations, and of course, plans for her future in Las Vegas.

When asked what it felt like to join For The Record‘s innovative, genre-busting, star-making troupe, the Rochester NY native had this to say:

I think For the Record is a brilliant company that has only just begun on their road to amazing success! They have a keen sense of entertainment and are completely fearless in their journey of storytelling. It’s incredible to be a part of and magical to watch.

Despite the difficulties that entertainment productions aced in Sin City during 2016 (over 30 closures), Anne is optimistic that quality shows will continue to thrive on Las Vegas stages:
I think Vegas is an ever-changing amoeba that will always take us by surprise. As artists, we are always working toward entertaining our patrons and how exactly to do that. Experimentation is the key to growing as an artist and as a business. Keeping an open mind and trying new things will allow projects to grow and flourish. As new generations come forward, we can (hopefully) create entertainment that they will enjoy!
When asked how challenging it was to join an established cast then quickly step into a central role, Anne seemed grateful and confident at the same time:
My primary talent is willingness to learn. Everything can always be improved as a performer…but you have to be willing to jump. I love music with meaning. Listening to QUEEN and the BEATLES as a child really informed the sense of using music to speak…to color…to paint with your musicality….to speak your truth or to find the truth in others.

Martinez confided that coming down from the show each night is a bit difficult. The emotional energy required to take on a production like BAZ is also evident in her personal life and passions:

I love NSPCA. I have rescue cats myself and it breaks my heart to think they were hurt in the past. Adopting a pet or donating to NSPCA can save so many lives of innocent animals. I also have a yearly holiday show for Nevada Partnership for Homeless Youth. There are so many teens and children in need of protection, education and opportunity.
 Anne Martinez
Every year, pianist Kenny Davidsen and I gather numerous vocalists in Las Vegas who donate their talents for a night of music. Our next one is December 19th at Tuscany Resort. It’s so important to remember that everyone deserves a chance.

The morning after the recent shooting tragedy in Vegas, Anne and husband John were the first people I saw on social media delivering food, water and assistance to first responders operating out of the Las Vegas Convention Center. They were broadcasting live via Facebook and urging people to come down and do the same.

Later that month, she and her fellow castmates formed “Team BAZ” for last month’s Walk to End Alzheimer’s, the largest such event dedicated to fighting that dreaded disease.

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Just this past Sunday (November 5th), Anne appeared with many other entertainers at Venetian Hotel for the Vegas Cares Benefit Concert to support both victims of and first responders to the tragedy.

It’s clear that Anne Martinez has truly found happiness in the city she calls home. Her love for its people is as strong as the passion she delivers in her performances. I look forward to many more hours of enjoying this boundless talent in darkened theaters throughout Las Vegas.

BAZ – A Musical Mash-up performs Tuesday through Saturday at 7pm at Palazzo Theater. Tickets start at $65 and can be ordered by clicking here

World’s Greatest Rock Show performs Tuesday through Sunday at 9pm at Stratosphere. Tickets tickets start at $73 and are available here.

ALICE: A Steampunk Concert Fantasy performs one Monday each month at Rocks Lounge inside Red Rock Resort. Tickets are $25 and can be ordered here.

This article previously appeared elsewhere in another version. It has been updated with new information.

Photos:  Jake Klein, Patrick Rivera, Elaine Wilkinson, Richard Brusky, Bill Hiltz, BBR and Anne Martinez via Facebook. Videos by Sammasseur

Hiding In Plain Sight: Gabe Ginsberg, The Invisible Man


Sin City’s own BMOC (Big Man of Cameras) is everywhere…but he doesn’t want you to see him…

Gabe Ginsberg

There are certain people that we tend to bump into a lot, no matter what we’re doing or where we are. Sometimes we don’t even know those folks, but after several run-ins, there comes a point of “Hey, how are ya?”. Then friendship quite often ensues.

Gabe Ginsberg is one of those guys. While covering events for VegasChatter (and that other site), I’d frequently see him on the media scaffolds, snapping red-carpet shots for Getty Images. Clad in black from head to toe and carrying large amounts of gear on his imposing frame, Gabe still managed to blend into the background. He is quiet, efficient, completely inconspicuous…and delightfully intriguing.

There seems to be a certain culture among show-business photographers. Simultaneously friends and competitors, these guys kid around, gossip about happenings in the city and sometimes talk shit about one another. But not Gabe Ginsberg…he loves everyone and they all love him.

Gabe Ginsberg

Hanging with The Man at the annual Mike Hammer Celeb Go-Kart fundraiser…              

After rubbing shoulders a time or two, Gabe and I started chatting online and in person. His self-deprecating humor was infectious. He’d also tease me for being a “celebrity” while calling himself a “poor working schmuck”. You see, I’ve been in the unique situation of standing next to him with my camera AND being a guest at events he was covering. Funny how my face never made it to People Magazine.

Gabe Ginsberg

Yes, Gabe Ginsberg’s photos make it to People. And Billboard, MSN, CBS All Access, Us Weekly, Forbes, USA Today, Men’s Health, Huffington Post and many other print and online outlets. His lenses have captured the likenesses of Miley Cyrus, Ringo Starr, Paul McCartney, Drake, the Kardashian beasts (bills won’t pay themselves), Ben Affleck, John Cena, Ricky Martin, Floyd Mayweather and countless others.

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Gabe (left) in action at John Carpenter’s Halloween concert at Hard Rock Hotel…

Always respectful of celebrities and their space, Gabe is anything but an aggressive paparazzi type. This family man is an avid lover of nature, animals and glorious landscapes. His compassion for Las Vegas came through gorgeously in his coverage of the recent shooting tragedy. But let’s stick to things of beauty.

Gabe Ginsberg

Despite his worldwide coverage, Ginsberg is a favorite at local events and charity functions. He covers movie premieres, fundraisers, show openings, concerts and sporting events, too.

Gabe Ginsberg

Earlier this year, Gabe kept busy by shooting menu items for restaurants hopping aboard the UberEATS delivery service. And on the personal side, his skills guarantee you’ll get amazing portraits, family photos and Christmas Cards (now is the time to schedule your session, folks).

What I love most about Gabe, aside from his cuddly demeanor, is his twisted sense of humor. Scouring every corner of Las Vegas during a typical day, Ginsberg encounters a wide array of bizarre situations…and he writes about them regularly on his Facebook page.

His “Dumbass of the Day” series never fails to crack me up. It’s biting, hysterical and brutally honest – even when he points the finger towards himself:

Gabe Ginsberg

So wherever you may be in Las Vegas, keep on the lookout for the amazing Man In Black, Gabe Ginsberg. Despite his efforts to remain anonymous, he’ll be easy to spot. Just look for the crowd of celebrities clamoring to get their photos taken with HIM!

Gabe Ginsberg

Gabe Ginsberg is available for many types of freelance work. You can learn more or contact him by clicking here

Photos: Gabe Ginsberg via Facebook, Sammasseur

 

 

Alex O’Connor – Sin City Superman


Getting to know the hardest-working bartender in Las Vegas…

Much like the beacon atop the Luxor, the lights and excitement of Las Vegas are known to draw the ambitious and hopeful. There are limitless opportunities for a person with skill, drive, and personality to make a name for themselves. That’s what brought mixologist Alex O’Connor here four years ago. And this Sin City Superman has never slowed down.

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I first met Alex O’Connor three summers ago under the misters at O’Shea’s Casino outdoor bar. Despite the stifling heat, the handsome bodybuilder was all smiles and charisma, serving out cold beers with a healthy dose of anecdotes and advice for Vegas newbies. It was his multi-tasking abilities and respectful attitude toward the customers that made me sit up and take note…not that a six-foot-three behemoth is likely to go unnoticed.

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Jump ahead to last winter, and I spot Alex behind the bar at Share, a now-shuttered gay nightclub on Wynn Road. Clad only in boxer briefs and a smile (sigh….), he was once more gathering crowds while serving drinks in a fast-and-furious fashion. That’s exactly what makes Alex O’Connor the happiest – heightening the customer’s experience however possible.

Alex O'Connor

It turns out that Alex works in LOTS of places on and around the Strip. In addition to O’Shea’s, he’s been on the payroll for Drai’s Beachclub /Nightclub, the Center Bar at Hard Rock HotelJewel Nightclub at Aria Resort, the pool bar at Treasure Island and private functions on the side.

With a schedule like that, it’s difficult to imagine how anyone could get proper sleep, let alone keep up a physique like his.

“During the week I try for at least 3-4 hours.  On the weekends, I’m lucky to get an hour nap here or there between doubles.  I pretty much plan my days around my work schedules and going to the gym as well. I love to put my headphones on and hit the LVAC. My size is dictated by my work schedule. If I have leftover time, rarely, I leave it for errands”.

When I asked Alex how he got to be so disciplined, he told me it was self-taught. Family difficulties motivated him to move out on his own while he was a junior in high school. He worked full time and supported himself in his North Haven Connecticut hometown while still going to high school. But he’d already been working at a country club since the age of thirteen, a job he kept and expanded on for several years.

Alex O'Connor

Alex’s first experiences behind the bar were as a bar-back, helping keep things stocked and neat. Eventually, he became a full-fledged bartender and attributes his organizational skills as a secret to fast service. He likes to arrive far in advance of a shift, making sure everything is “just right” and where he wants it.

Alex says that some bars are much more stringent than others when it comes to monitoring the less-significant health code requirements, like the positioning of the ice scoop or keeping a bottle opener in the back pocket. While he recognized the importance of health department regulations, some are harder to adjust to…and it tends to be the minor ones that slow down his ability to keep the drinks flowing:

“We’re charging premium prices in the places I work. The customers deserve premium service to go along with it. It’s my job to give them what they want with a minimum of wait time…so they can get back to having fun”.

Nobody wants to give or receive slow service but think back to the number of times you’ve stood at the bar, seemingly ignored and passed over time and time again. Sure, it happens inadvertently, but Alex has some tips:

“Having your order and money ready will get the quickest service.  Especially in the high volume venues, this is imperative. I like to make what the customer will enjoy.  If they don’t know, I ask what spirit they enjoy and go from there. Generous tipping doesn’t hurt, either”.

Lightning-fast service is what got Alex hired for his first gig at Hard Rock Hotel’s infamous Rehab Pool Parties. He sent in an audition video of himself, rapidly slinging drinks during a peak period, to Rehab’s manager. One fortuitous plane flight later and O’Connor was trading a longtime gig in New Haven for the Las Vegas party scene. He enjoys working at all types of establishments, including LGBTQ clubs like Gotham Citi in New Haven and the former Krave of Vegas.

“I’ve worked in gay clubs for over ten years. I love the busy seasons, whether it be the holidays or convention time.  The busier the better”.

Alex O'Connor

With his name currently on at least three payrolls, Alex doesn’t get back home to Connecticut very often. But when he does, he picks up shifts at his old stomping grounds in New Haven. He literally works seven days a week, 365 days a year, making this young man the hardest-working bartender in Las Vegas. He clearly loves what he does and refuses to slow his pace.

When asked what form of Kryptonite can bring down this Sin City Superman, Alex quipped “Stealing my protein bars will ruin my day.”

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This article previously appeared in a different form on another website.

Photos: Sammasseur, Alex O’Connor