Las Vegas and the Australia Connection


There’s a unique bond between Sin City and the Land Down Under…

Thanks to casino developer Sam Boyd and his trio of downtown properties, the people of Hawaii have forged a strong relationship with Las Vegas. The FremontMain Street and most especially California hotels are dependent on regular tourism from the Island State, and they cater to the culture in a variety of ways.

Restaurants serve Hawaiian favorites, staff wear island-style shirts, and Hawaiian retailers like ABC Stores and Lappert’s Ice Cream have locations Downtown. Signs throughout Boyd casinos even proclaim “Aloha Is Spoken Here”.

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        Olivia Newton-John at the opening party for her residency at the Flamingo…

On the other side of the equator, the continent of Australia has also formed a bond with Sin City. While not nearly as defined, there’s an undeniable connection between the folks from Down Under and the City of Entertainment. Let’s take a look at a few examples, and perhaps uncover why such distant locations are joined by an invisible highway of travelers…and why so many people relocate from one place to the other.

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   Perth’s Andrew Gill welcomes guests to the Mike Hammer Comedy Show at 4 Queens…

For Andrew Gill, it was the lure of magic that drew him to Vegas. Then 19 years old, this native of Perth flew across the Pacific to attend the World Magic Teen Mentoring Seminar by legendary Lance Burton. Things turned out so well that Gill remained and worked his way up to becoming production manager for Mike Hammer Comedy Magic.

Andrew stayed with Hammer’s team a few years until his work visa expired. Before returning, the ambitious young Aussie had developed relationships with fellow magicians Murray SawchuckDavid Copperfield and of course, Burton. Now a successful realtor (with his own magic act to keep things fun), Andrew returns annually for the MAGIC Live Convention at Orleans Hotel.

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     Human Nature gives Mike Tyson some love at the opening night of JUKEBOX…

Since this city thrives on sex appeal, it’s only natural that the legendary handsome men of Australia would come here to seek fame, fortune…and steaming hot billboards. Outback rancher Aaron Michael Lucey relocated here to become a successful choreographer and performer.

In addition to various other musical productions, Aaron was dance captain for Thunder From Down Under, the long-running Aussie-themed male revue at Excalibur. That was followed by Chippendales spin-off 53X and more recently Masters of Illusion.

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         Aaron Micheal Lucey traded a saddle for the excitement of the Strip…

Three years ago, the upstart Aussie Heat opened downtown, quickly expanding both the show and their audience in the larger V Theater at Planet HollywoodAussie Heat achieved the number one spot for Vegas productions on Yelp. Ninety-three percent of audience ratings are at five stars, so the risky plan for bringing a brand-new, er…brand to Las Vegas seems to have paid off.

Moving to Vegas Reality vs. Expectations                                       Tommy (far left) with the cast of Aussie Heat…

You may remember the guest article penned by former Aussie Heat dancer Tommy Harvey aka “Tommy Gun” (pictured above, first row far right). Tommy detailed what it was like to move here from Australia. Despite undergoing a bit of culture shock, it wasn’t long before the striptease artist/athlete was feeling right at home.

Former Aussie Heat CEO Jono Weinstock explained the appeal of Vegas stages to Australian entertainers:

“As a performer, this is the pinnacle of achievement…being able to perform so many nights and shows a week. Back home, maybe once a week if lucky. It’s the pinnacle of entertainment, too — a big bold fun adult playground. Parties, gaming, pools, DJ’s, shows…”.

Weinstock was also quick to point out a few of the many positives that Sin City offers for Australian tourism:

“It’s a 15 hour flight from L.A., so we only get big-name performers once every 20 years in their careers! (There’s) cheap shopping also. We pay three times as much for everything down there. The outlets are a winner..and the Aussie dollar at times has been very favourable…now not so much, but shopping is of huge value.”.

Chippendales joined the Aussie-hunk popularity wave by recruiting dancer Ryan Stuart, who was widely promoted as their first member from Down Under. Stuart’s looks, talent, and super-sexy accent aided in him becoming a regular host for the show. After an onstage injury, Stuart returned to Australia but takes back with him a lifetime of experiences.

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              Hit-maker Kylie Minogue cuddles with fellow Aussie Ryan Stuart…

Ironically, Ryan’s fellow Chippendale host Russel Francis chose the opposite path, leaving the stages of Vegas for those of Australia. The handsome singer/dancer from Jacksonville Florida, who had starred in Planet Hollywood‘s PIANO MAN and VEGAS! THE SHOW was riding a career high when he decided to make a big change.

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Former Vegas performers Russel Francis (center) and Ali Francis (far right) bring a little taste of Vegas to the Australian Olympic team in Queensland…

Francis won the affection of a Vegas! The Show audience…and his co-star/future bride Ali…when he proposed to her onstage at the end of a performance. After the honeymoon and lots of traveling, Russel decided to head to Australia for a chance to audition for Ricky Martin on their version of The Voice. A year after going through the audition process, he made it to the finals and worked with legendary singer Seal.

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                       Russel and myself after one of his Vegas performances

Russel sees a definite connection between Las Vegas and Australia:

“I’ve traveled for about five years straight, been to six continents and hundreds of countries. Australia is by far the closest country to the U.S. They actually call Brisbane ‘Bris-Vegas’.

I asked Russel if Australia’s similarity to the United States eased his transition…and if he was welcomed by native residents:

“They have welcomed me with open arms. Everyone has been so friendly and helpful. I’ve been booked on all kind of gigs because everyone loves that I’m here. If I get on the show (X Factor) and do well then we might be here for awhile”.

The people of Las Vegas clearly have open arms for Aussies as well. Take note when you attend a show here and the performers ask audience members “Where are you from?”. Chances are, there will be a large and rowdy group of Aussies, all having a great time together.

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              The Australian Bee Gees celebrate all things disco at Excalibur…

And why not? It’s great to feel welcome when you’re so far away from home. And Aussie visitors are bombarded by advertising for Australian Bee GeesHuman Nature, and previously for Olivia Newton-John. But if they ever feel lonely, there’s a community group dedicated to Australians who have relocated here.

Currently, no casino has followed the California‘s lead and dedicated their marketing directly to Australians (Excalibur comes close with the Thunder/Australian Bee Gees line-up). And this writer has yet to find a restaurant that specializes in lamington and pavlova.

But as the bond between these two cultures continues to grow and strengthen, don’t be surprised if someday the MGM Grand restores their Oz theme with a new twist….and the Rainforest Cafe re-opens as the “Koala Diner”.

Photos: Sammasseur, Russel Francis/Ryan Stuart/Tommy Harvey/Aaron Michael Lucey via Facebook, LIGHT Nightclub/Australian Bee Gees via Facebook

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All Eyes On Vegas Once More


Publication is resuming from a new vantage point at the upper edge of the Valley…

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A few weeks ago I announced here that I would be leaving Oregon and moving full-time to Sin City. A lot has happened since that article was published, most of it great…and some a bit sad.

It’s rare that I share personal details at Vegas Unfiltered…that is, unless they’re related to the topic at hand. But I’m pleased to say that my crew of rescue kitties and I survived the two-day drive.

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We settled into our new home (a gorgeous four-level structure with a roof-top deck) and are adjusting quite nicely. All have done remarkably well…except for a big orange tabby named “Sunny”.

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Sunny enjoys watching the sunrise with his dad on our overnight drive to Vegas…

Sunny has had a really tough life. I found him dying in a snow storm four years ago in rural Salem Oregon. He had been run over and left for dead. I took him to a vet, he survived surgeries and an extensive recovery period. Despite having the feline version of HIV called FIV (yes, it’s a real thing), Sunny grew to be healthy, happy and loved.

Sadly, only two days after unloading my moving truck, Sunny was at the Las Vegas Veterinary Specialty Center. His new oncologist and I were discussing options to treat his nasal lymphoma, a non-curable cancer.

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As I write this, Sunny is in the next room being comforted by his gal-pal Tasha. My buddy underwent his first chemotherapy treatment last Thursday and is still hanging in there. Life for him will go only as long as the fates (and wonders of science) can allow.

My pal will enjoy being with us only. as long as his quality of life warrants it…then we’ll sadly say goodbye. Tasha will take it the hardest. She showed up a few months after I found Sunny and they’ve become inseparable.

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            George Blick will be in the Vegas Unfiltered spotlight very soon…

In the meantime, yours truly is ready to get back to publishing new profiles and experiences. Next up will be a profile of multi-hyphenate performer George Blick. Soon after will be a luxury Grand Canyon tour with Serenity Helicopters, a true VIP service. I’ll also be publishing my next piece through BestOfVegas.com. More on that one later.

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Thank you for sticking with me during this time of transition. I’m sure it’ll be worth the wait….these Vegas sunrises are certainly inspiring enough! Our Vegas Unfiltered adventure together is just beginning!

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Photos: Sammasseur, Serenity Helicopters, George Blick

Branching Out Under The Bamboo of The Golden Tiki


Having a Q & A with Branden Powers, the ultimate lounge lizard…

As you may have heard from this blog’s Facebook posts, yours truly is branching out and writing pieces for other sites along with this one. My most recent, for BestofVegas.com, covers wonderful Golden Tiki in the Chinatown district of Las Vegas.

Click this link to read all about it…and be sure to include The Golden Tiki in your next Sin City adventure.

https://www.bestofvegas.com/articles/must-visit-vegas-golden-tiki-branden-powers/

 

 

 

Hot Guys of Vegas – International Edition


Serving up a heaping helping of Sin City beefcake from all over the world…

Sometimes an accent can make your heart beat faster. Sean Connery‘s Irish brogue. Antonio Banderas‘ Spanish stylings. The suave sophistication of Daniel Craig and his “Queen’s English”. Then of course there are the men of Australia. Each are sexy on their own terms.

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With Las Vegas being the capital of entertainment, studs (and damsels) from all over the world make their way here, often competing to find their way to the top. Dancers, models, singers, fitness celebs, strippers…and sometimes even escorts (this isn’t Disney, folks). If you can make it here, you can make it anywhere.

I’ve been lucky enough to become acquainted with some stunning examples of manhood since this column began. Graced with charm, ambition, great personalities and boundless talent, the Hot Guys of Vegas continue to fascinate and astound. This is my latest entry in Hot Guys of VegasInternational Edition.

 

Fabian Batey Petrina – immigration coordinator/bodybuilder

 

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                                                              Fabian Batey Petrina

Where You’ve Seen Him – Events, Physique Magazines, Bodybuilding competitions

Wrap your mind around this reality – a hard-bodied hunk with the cheekbones of a top model and the physique of a Greek god is actually an intellectual on a social mission. Now accept that reality as a truth. Meet Fabian Batey Petrina.

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Fabian grew up as a happy boy in Heidelberg. The son of a single mother, he remembers being very content. “Germany’s full of beautiful memories. I had an amazing childhood. Every time I think back on it, I just smile”.

Fabian’s mother grew up under rough circumstances with an abusive father and a mother who committed suicide when she was very young. Finding strength in the situation, she dedicated her own life to making her son’s a happy one. Then she fell in love with an American soldier and suddenly Fabian had a younger brother.

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When he was fourteen, Fabian’s family moved to Hawaii to be with his new stepfather. Things didn’t go well in this new environment. He describes himself as an awkward kid with glasses who didn’t know English well and was the target of mental and physical abuse by bullies. Things got so badly at school that he nearly followed his late grandmother’s path to escape the torment.

Then came the health issues. A tumor developed in one of his legs. A degenerative cartilage condition attacked the other. Multiple surgeries followed, with lengthy periods in a wheelchair and then crutches. But Fabian found a way to work through the emotional and physical pain. Bodybuilding ended up being his salvation.

As Fabian told Muscle & Performance magazine for their December 2017 issue:

The schoolyard became a battlefield in which I found myself dodging verbal and physical attacks, hiding in whatever shadow I could find. My left jaw and eye socket were fractured the one time I did try to stand up for myself, which shattered my self-confidence.

The one “friend” who remained by my side was the sport of bodybuilding. Working out became more than a hobby, it became my foundation, my sanity and my safe haven. Through hard work, I constructed an armor that took the target off my back and allowed me to stand up tall and be proud of who I am.

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Not satisfied with developing his body, Fabian earned multiple degrees in English and German literature and language. While attending the University of Hawaii at Manoa, Mr. Petrina served as an English tutor, despite it being his own second language.

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                    Fabian with his beloved mother at college graduation…

Passionate about the power of words, this remarkable young man assisted foreign and mentally disabled students who had difficulty with remedial and developmental English. His goal was to assist them through the cultural differences they were experiencing like he had. To accomplish that, he coordinated a program designed to give a smooth transition into the college lifestyle.

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If that wasn’t enough to solidify his place as a true-life hero, Fabian was also a volunteer at the Honolulu Fire Department, assisted the homeless via Houseless ‘Ohana organization and devoted his free time to the staff at Honolulu’s The Queen’s Medical Center.

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Of course, living in the Island State’s sunny paradise provided for plenty of outdoor adventures…and opportunities to tan his amazing physique. Eventually Fabian decided to move to mainland San Francisco. Now he splits his days between the Bay area, Las Vegas and Los Angeles.

To me, living in Las Vegas is the perfect environment for bodybuilding. Not only is it extremely low cost of living, but the fitness community is huge here. My favorite part is the heat. I love desert heat. I don’t really like Vegas that much in the winter, but when it’s nice and hot it gives me energy.

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Whenever possible, Fabian likes to hang out with his fitness pals at Venice’s famed Muscle Beach. There’s no better place in the physique culture for photo ops and networking.

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This ambitious young man earned his WBFF professional status last summer, which allowed him to compete in London. Plus he’s now a brand ambassador for the MuscleTech line of fitness products and apparel.

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Fabian hasn’t forgotten the difficulties he faced as an immigrant. In fact, he’s now “paying it forward” in a sense. For the past three and a half years he’s been a Global Immigration Coordinator for Fragomen, a worldwide group of immigration consultants, solicitors and attorneys.

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It’s been a tough journey for this once-frail little dreamer. But Fabian’s story was never going to be ordinary. With his mother as his inspiration, Fabian believes that anything is possible. You’ve just go to be willing to work hard for it. Very hard.

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Get up early, bust ass, dream big, believe in yourself, and always – ALWAYS – remember to SMILE. – Fabian Petrina

 

 

David Goldrake – magician/philanthropist

 

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                                                    David Goldrake

Where you’ve seen him – IMAGINARIUM at Tropicana, charity events

In 2006, Hugh Jackman portrayed a mysterious illusionist in the film The Prestige. Sporting a lush wardrobe of ornate vests and gorgeous tuxedos, the Aussie heartthrob had many fans wishing the aristocratic magician would ditch his costumes to reveal a little of his famous physique.

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In 2017, Vegas fans of that movie got their wish…in a sense…when Luxembourg’s David Goldrake opened IMAGINARIUM at Tropicana‘s historic showroom. Much like Hugh Jackman, the beefy entertainer fills his jackets with rippling muscles and physical ferocity. And in a tension-filled segment, he DOES strip down to be submerged for an underwater escape. You can breathe now.

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As gorgeous as he is on the outside, David Goldrake has the same beauty within. I’ve had the pleasure of building a friendship with this gentleman over the past few months and continue to be fascinated with the kind and gentle soul that forms his core.

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Goldrake has performed throughout Europe for the better part of two decades. In 1997 he had his own weekly television show “Magic With David Goldrake”. A favorite at world-famous Magic Castle in Los Angeles, he estimates that he has entertained twenty million people around the world.

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David’s love for people is demonstrated by his dedication to philanthropic causes. He strive to raise awareness for issues dear to his heart, like Fondatioun Kriibskrank Kanner, a charity that assists children fighting cancer and their families.

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David entertaining children at SOS Village of Niger in 2011...

Then there’s SOS Villages d’Enfants Monde, a Luxembourg-based organization aimed at helping thousands of vulnerable children and their families worldwide. There are many more as well.

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Early next month, David will be a guest performer at the annual AFAN Black and White Party, a fundraiser for Las Vegas men, women and children living with HIV/AIDS. The event takes place September 8th at Mandalay Bay’s DAYLIGHT Beach Club. Tickets are available by clicking here.

The fact that David is fluent in seven languages continues to intrigue me…as does his unique Luxembourg accent. He can strike up a conversation with anyone…about anything…and usually in their native tongue. His love for people comes through at every moment…that’s especially true when he’s in front of an audience.

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Many illusionists see their performance as being “in character”. For Goldrake, his actual personality is as much of the show as his props or sets. Ever observant of the audience, he engages as many guests as time and crowd size will allow. This makes each visit to the production unique and satisfying.

Last week it was announced that IMAGINARIUM would be coming to a close at the end of September. So now it’s more of a must see than ever. David’s eloquence, passion for the art of illusion and over-the-top sexiness set him apart from most other entertainers on the Strip.

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That makes IMAGINARIUM a thing of true beauty…just like its star. Don’t miss it.

David Goldrake IMAGINARIUM performs Tuesday through Sunday at 7pm. Groupon is currently offering discounts starting at $26.00. Click here for tickets. 

Photos – Fabian Batey Petrina and David Goldrake via Facebook/Instagram, Wainwright Images, SOS Villages

 

 

Culinary Superstars – Dora Pane: Careers, Fine Dining and “La Famiglia”


In the concluding segment of my series, Fresco Italiano’s General Manager brings the invaluable warmth of family gatherings to her restaurant guests…

Last month I introduced you to a pair of genuine Italians who have brought true authenticity to dining at Westgate Las Vegas. And while I focused on dynamic Chef Paola Bugli in that previous piece, it was with the promise that next time we’d get to know Fresco Italiano‘s general manager Dora Festa Pane.

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It seems fitting that “Festa” is part of this lovely lady’s name. After all, the Italian derivation of “festival” is the sensation you’ll have when dining at this authentic eatery. Each meal is meant to be an experience, something that Ms. Dora (as I like to call her) promises to every guest.

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In order to deliver on that commitment, the native of Naples dined at Fresco Italiano to see what it was like…and determine if she could put her own personal imprint onto the already-successful restaurant.

I came at the end of last year to eat, check things out and see what it was like. I didn’t introduce myself to the server or tell anyone that I was considering a position here. It’s better to just observe, analyze and think about what could be improved.

Honestly, I wasn’t completely happy. When this is your career, you find yourself analyzing so many things. Fresco Italiano is a beautiful place and there were many things to love. But their way of serving the guests could have been carried out much better.

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It’s easy to be a restaurant critic in today’s world of online user reviews, but Ms. Dora was honing her craft (and what makes a restaurant successful) long before Yelp! came along. Years of experience in high-profile establishments throughout the Vegas valley established her as an expert at her profession. So when that evening at Fresco Italiano didn’t quite meet her exacting standards, she accepted an invitation to make it her own.

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It may surprise you that a manager would be so candid about their own place of employment, but Ms. Dora is no-nonsense and outspoken. Fluent in several languages, she’s a colorful conversationalist who speaks from the heart. Her exposure to a myriad of cultures and atmospheres warrants your trust in her abilities.

As soon as I came in, I needed to learn about my crew…as a group and as individuals. It’s tough to do that when a place is already established. You need to be sweet AND sour. There were things to fix, but I didn’t come here to change people. Only to make them better.

When operating a restaurant, Ms. Dora does so with a mixture of passion and skill from the perspective of an actual owner. You might say that operating restaurants is in Dora’s blood. Her father had his own passion for great dining service and was a longtime maître d’ in her hometown of Naples before becoming a food critic. Although he passed away at a relatively young age, Dora credits him with much of her professionalism and knowledge. 

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After high school, she earned degrees in both Education and Psychology from Italy’s Cristo Re Magistral Institute. That unique combination might not be the norm for a career in restaurant management, but she feels it’s given her distinct advantages in this field.

I’m a teacher here at the restaurant…and psychology helps me with my work, too. It’s much easier to teach children because adults tend to resist. Everyone has something that holds them back. It could be their pride, birth sign, background life…whatever. My job is to overcome that.

When I came here in secret, my server clearly had something holding him back. Now that we’ve worked together, he’s the best server in the entire restaurant.

As we spoke in the darkened lounge a little before opening time, Ms. Dora happened to notice a few people standing at the entrance. Excusing herself, she greeted the group and invited them to have some wine at the bar until actual service began.

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“My bartender will probably get angry with me for doing his job” she winked as we resumed our conversation. That small moment of courtesy spoke mountains about Ms. Dora’s character. A lesser host would have simply asked them to return at the proper time. But this professional knows that a good impression lasts a lifetime.

It’s no wonder that Dora Pane has been involved with many wonderful Las Vegas restaurants in the valley. She’s been in the Vegas area for twenty-one years and dove headfirst into the big leagues by starting at MGM Grand.

Ms. Dora eyes lit up as she excitedly shared her history throughout Sin City. While moonlighting at dance clubs, she quickly rose from working as a food server to managing family-owned food shops. That was followed by a position as assistant manager at Terrazza at Caesars Palace. Overlooking the glorious Garden of the Gods, Terrazza was a fine-casual Italian restaurant located in the spot now occupied by Rao’s Las Vegas.

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Remaining within the Caesars family, Ms. Dora opened Voga, a modern Italian venue at nearby Flamingo Casino Resort. Seen above with her epicurean team, she proudly described ten years with Caesars corporation, which also included a stint at Steakhouse 46 (inside Flamingo). Sadly, it all came to a close when the company began doing huge cuts.

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What followed was a vast array of life experiences – running Robert De Niro’s Tuscan-themed AGO at Hard Rock Hotel (“that place was too classy for Hard Rock”), collaborating with Todd Moreau at both Hard Rock and Sunset Station (“we tend to follow each other”) and achieving new career standards at ALLEGRO of Wynn/Encore.

Things didn’t go as well as I would have liked at ALLEGRO. The hours were very bad. I had a young child at the time and no extended family here. Money isn’t everything when your children need you. So I left ALLEGRO after exactly one year.

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Yearning more of an atmosphere and schedule suited for a working mother, Ms. Dora settled in wonderfully at Venetian‘s Trattoria Reggiano (locals flock to the Downtown Summerlin’s flagship location). Spearheaded by Fifth Avenue Restaurant Group, Trattoria Reggiano brought her into a powerhouse that operates over forty establishments….and full circle with their involvement at Flamingo, Venetian and MGM Grand.

Dora Pane Fresco Italiano Westgate

After high school, eldest daughter Daniela graduated from University of Nevada, Las Vegas and moved to Naples. Son Gio has followed in the footsteps of his mother and grandfather by joining the staff at legendary Vegas Italian eatery Battista’s Hole in the Wall.

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And with youngest daughter Alessandra now grown into a lovely young lady, mother Dora has seized another opportunity to make an impact on the ever-changing Sin City dining scene.

Dora Pane Fresco Italiano Westgate

Perhaps the importance of family is why Ms. Pane agreed to spearhead the staff at Fresco Italiano. As I’ve said many times in this column, Westgate exemplifies the principles of dedication, service and commitment to guests that Las Vegas was founded on.

It’s a philosophy that hearkens back to the days of Mob-run Vegas, when the guests were all that mattered (well, maybe a few other things, too…). With the recent downturn in stock values and profits for Caesars and MGM Resorts properties, the current business model for Las Vegas has been put under intense scrutiny. Westgate was already ahead of the curve on a customer-based ideology that’s sorely in need of a city-wide renaissance.

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                     Sharing the Fresco Italiano family experience with my own…

It’s true that attractions, restaurants and even entire resorts come and go in this city. But the priceless importance of its people will remain. What makes any organization work, at its core, is the dedication and camaraderie of its team.

Ms. Dora Pane understands this. With her in the driver’s seat and Chef Paola Bugli in charge of the kitchen, a journey through the Tuscan landscape via Fresco Italiano is one you’ll want to repeat over and over again. Finisci di mangiare!

Dora Pane Fresco Italiano Westgate

Fresco Italiano is open for dinner 365 days a year at 5 pm – lunch hours vary by date. For more information or to place reservations call 702.732.5276.

Photos: Sammasseur, Dora Festa Pane, Westgate Las Vegas, Cyber-reef.com

 

 

 

Sexy Power Duos: Alejandro and Sarah Le Clear-Domingo


The city’s best dancers are a husband and wife team that brings down the house each night at Palazzo’s BAZ….

Ask anyone what their must-do Vegas experiences are and you’ll undoubtedly get a list of familiar answers: a romantic stroll by the fountains of Bellagio…people-watching at Mon Ami Gabi…drinks at a favorite cocktail lounge.

For this writer, no trip to Vegas is complete without a seat at the Palazzo Theater for BAZ: A Musical Mash-up. And that experience was recently taken to new heights with the addition of husband-and-wife dance team Sarah Le Clear and Alejandro Domingo.

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Stunning to look at (Alejandro was featured as “Best Abs” in my column four years ago) and a revelation to see in action, this power duo exudes every aspect of power, sensuality, sophistication and the sheer stunning artistry of dance. Audiences may recognize them from nearly five years at David Saxe‘s glorious VEGAS! The Show, but BAZ has unleashed their abilities in a way rarely seen on any stage.

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I recently spoke with the couple after seeing BAZ for the the 27th time (yes, really) and invited them to participate in a fun Q & A. I’m honored to say that they excitedly agreed. But before we get to that, here’s a little about them and how they came together as a professional team.

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Sarah and sister Julianne were born in southern California and grew up in the Bay area of San Francisco. Their parents were college sweethearts who encouraged their daughters’ love of performance arts. So, Sarah began formal dancing classes at age five.

I started intense ballet training at a very young age at Contra Costa Ballet Centre. A very prestigious school that I took very seriously, but I knew I wanted to study all aspects of dance. This is when I started my training at Dance Connection Performing Arts Center in Concord California, under the direction and ownership of Paula Henson.

My years at the studio is when I flourished the most…I became involved in the competition aspect of the studio competing all over California through the competition season. I was so thrilled to be expanding my repertoire of styles.

Years of practice and competitions were rewarded by a Sue Pipo Memorial Dance Scholarship, and Sarah’s future in the world of dance was assured.

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After graduation I auditioned to be an NBA Dancer for  the Golden State Warriors and became the youngest on the team. From there I moved to LA to continue my training at EDGE Performing Arts Center.

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Alejandro is from Buenos Aires. A rare combination of brains, brawn and grace, he played soccer and piano in his youth before pursuing a career in civil engineering. Despite his athletic frame and dashing looks, the Argentinian native enrolled in dance classes at the age of sixteen just to overcome shyness. By eighteen this natural talent was already touring with the salsa-heavy Latin musical Baracatun.

Many entertainers credit their parents and family for setting them on the show-business path. Ale is no exception:

My parents, Jorge and Ana, are just the best parents you could ask for. They always have supported my crazy dreams, and me, even though it meant being away from them for long periods of time. I have also a very smart and sweet little sister called Mariana, four years younger than me. I’m very proud of her and the person she is becoming.

Alejandro received a scholarship to further his dance studies in ballet, jazz, contemporary and partnering at Teatro Colón and the National Institute of Art in Buenos Aires. In 2006 he left Argentina to perform at the Chateau du Versailles in the renowned Fêtes de Nuit. After that he settled for periods in both Paris and Barcelona then continued his training throughout Europe and the United States.

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In 2008 the couple met in Hollywood, Florida when both were hired as dancers and aerialists for Royal Caribbean‘s Explorer of the Seas. Rehearsing nine hours a day, six days a week can bring people very close…and so can a first date at the local Martini Bar. That was a decade ago, and the gorgeous couple has never looked back.

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You might think that sharing the workplace and being together around the clock might tighten the pressure on a relationship, but for Sarah and Alejandro, their art is what brought them together and keeps them strong.

As Ale tells it:

Sarah and I met working together. Since then we have been blessed with sharing the same stage in many different productions, something quite unusual in our line of work. We have had our share of ups and downs in this crazy performers’ world.

I personally love working with Sarah because I always know that she has my best interest at heart…and I have hers. So any criticism or note we give to each other always comes from a caring and honest place and it’s intended to make the other person better.

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Sarah added:

The tense moments are very rare for us because we know how lucky we are to still be performing together. More than anything, it’s fun. A lot of hard work goes into it but it’s worth it!

I asked the couple if either of them tends to “take the lead” during their rehearsals….

We have both been “dance captains” so it depends on what we are rehearsing for, honestly. We pay attention to what the other one needs because if we are going to look and feel good on stage we both need to feel comfortable. (Alejandro)

Hahaha…I think we both want to take the lead! That’s the thing when you’re married to your dance partner…you both want to be in charge. But I think we have a very strong communication and respect for the other so we’re able to tell each other our needs as a partner. Ale is a fabulous ballroom teacher and I will say I have learned a lot from him as far as execution goes. (Sarah)

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Life in Vegas has definitely agreed with the couple. Along with having a great collection of friends in the community, the two enjoy much that the city has to offer. Alejandro offered these insights:

In my free time I like reading, going to the gym and to the movies. I’m not great at cooking but do enjoy it. I always enjoy trying new restaurants and Vegas is an awesome place for that.

I don’t dance much when I’m not on stage, but I have always enjoyed salsa dancing. It’s the first style I ever learned and it’s so much fun in social settings. I’m not a nightclub kind of guy. I prefer going to a chill bar with friends and having a drink, listen to some music and have a good conversation.

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I like taking Sarah out for dinner to a good restaurant and buying her nice things. I love Sinatra at the Wynn…the atmosphere and awesome background music. For a “cheat meal” I’d have to say Vege-Way…some of the most delicious vegan burgers you’ll have.

We also enjoy taking some much needed time off and going on a relaxing vacation. So far my favorite spot has been the Riviera Maya in Mexico.

Sarah enjoyed Mexico as well, but she’s partial to a different vacation destination:

Hawaii!!!!! We make an effort to spoil ourselves with nice vacations. We also love going to the M Resort pool during the summer as well as trying new restaurants on the Strip or downtown. I love cheat meals!!! Mon Ami Gabi is one of our favorites.

At my “seasoned” age I’m not much for the nightclub scene anymore…and because we perform so much we tend to enjoy our nights off with no dancing. Although the occasional line dance night at Stoney’s with my girls is always a blast. And we love catching new shows and supporting fellow performers.

I was a competitive swimmer for eleven years, so swimming is a fun hobby of mine. Fitness is a huge part as well so I enjoy the gym. And of course I have my “guilty pleasure” hobbies which include “The Real Housewives of Orange County” and “The Bachelor”, haha.

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It seems that animal rescue is a common thread among cast members of BAZ. Along with Anne Martinez and Ron Remke, the Domingos have a special place in their hearts for the Vegas community’s needy animal population.

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                                              Little Milo loves his toys…

“We both love animals and support the work of amazing nonprofits like The Animal Foundation“, Ale stated. Sarah continued “I am a member of the Humane Society and like to donate to any charity that helps and aids animals..this is very important to me! We have one dog named Milo and he is our baby. He is a rescue dog and has become a part of the family!”

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Speaking of family, I inquired as to where the Domingos saw themselves twenty years from now. Both hinted at the possibility of little dancers in their future.

Maybe I will go back to school and become an engineer. I’v wanted to finish that career. Hopefully we will have kids by then and we will be choreographing for Broadway, cruise ships, or another Vegas show.

Bob Fosse’s work has always been an inspiration for me. I would love to perform some of his work on stage someday. I absolutely love his style and legacy to the dance world. I would also love to work with choreographers like Jerry Mitchell, Sergio Trujillo and Andy Blankenbuehler.

Maybe we will own our own production company… Who knows? (Alejandro)

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Sarah shares her partner’s admiration for the work of Bob Fosse, too:

I would love to work with Broadway choreographers or any master of “Fosse” style like Ann Reinking. Any Broadway show or tour would be a dream of mine, but I also consider myself very lucky and grateful for the career that I’ve had thus far.

The exciting thing about this question is that I just don’t know. We are gypsies and follow the work. Vegas has been incredibly good to us, but the “show” aspect of the city is changing. I do know that we will always be involved in the industry, one way or another.

And by then, maybe we’ll have our own “little performers” in the making.

It’s true that the future of production shows in Las Vegas seems rather uncertain, especially recently. The sometime-abrupt closures of long-running hits combined with many short-term failures reflects a changing landscape for Strip entertainment.

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The Domingos left secure positions with VEGAS! The Show after nearly five years to join BAZ. Only a short time later, they learned that the last performance would be on July 29th, 2018.

As they prepare for an emotionally-charged final weekend with this landmark production, neither displayed any regret for coming aboard at Palazzo‘s signature musical. Instead, they’ll look back with fondness and gratitude:

This is a tough one to talk about and not get emotional. I will never forget the very first time I saw BAZ two years ago. I left the theater feeling completely overwhelmed with what I’d just experienced and witnessed. I remember thinking to myself “What an incredible show to be a part of”.

When Alejandro and I received the call with an offer we were absolutely blown away. After our time at VEGAS! The Show I was now being given the opportunity to be a part of a production that I love and admire. Words can’t really describe how I feel about being a part of the magic of BAZ…especially with Alejandro. (Sarah)

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                      “The first time I saw BAZ”. Sarah Le Clear-Domingo

The more I think about it the more I’m convinced this was where we were meant to be at this moment in our lives and careers.  It’s a memory I will forever cherish, and will always put a smile on my face.

I absolutely love the movies BAZ is based on, and have been a fan of the production since it first opened at Light in Mandalay Bay. The level of talent is incredible, and I’m fortunate enough to share it with the person I love the most, my beautiful wife.

It also allowed me to go back to my beginnings in ballroom and perform in a style that has always been so close to my heart. It’s a show that I truly believe in and that I am so proud to be a part of. There’s nothing else quite like it in the city, and I think Vegas is losing a true gem.

This show reminds people that love is the only thing really worth living for, no matter what situation life throws at you. Yes, it can cause pain, but only if you were lucky enough to truly love someone.

BAZ has real content and real entertainment. I would love for people to remember its message alongside with the talent that brought it to life: “Love is like … oxygen. Love is a many-splendored thing… Love lifts us up where we belong.” (Alejandro)

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BAZ: A Musical Mash-up concludes its two-year run at Palazzo Casino Resort this weekend.

Photos: Alejandro and Sarah Le Clear-Domingo via Facebook, Nicholas Foote, Patrick Rivera, banner photo by David Brenot Photography, video courtesy of Dominick Pepe

From Mormon to Male Revue: One Man’s Evolution, Vegas-style


Chippendales performer Ryan Worley’s solitary road to redemption…

Sin City’s adult production shows have been around for decades. In other cities, sexy performers might be viewed with a certain disdain, but here they are regarded with a unique reverence.

The showgirls of Jubilee! and Folies Bergere will always be iconic. The men of Aussie Heat are genuine bonafide trained dancers of impressive skill. The ladies of SEXXY and FANTASY work hard for the money. And then there are the Chippendales…a macho, muscular troupe whose name is synonymous with classy male entertainment.

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       Ryan and fellow Chipp James Davis don purple to support LGBTQ youth…

In a recent article I called the men of ChippendalesShirtless Angels of Charity“. They do indeed spend plenty of time contributing wonderful work for the Las Vegas community. But first and foremost, they’re a hunky bunch of guys who grind out sets in the gym before bumping and grinding onstage.

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Twenty-seven year old Ryan Worley never imagined that one day he’d be taking off his clothes for a paying audience. Raised within the strict guidelines and culture of the Church of Latter Day Saints, Worley was as far from Chippendales stock as one could imagine.

Yet we don’t always know what’s around the corner or lies over the horizon. And Ryan’s life so far has been anything but predictable.

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                         Ryan (far left) in a family photo with his siblings…

I was born in California on August 6th, 1990 and am the second oldest of four kids. We were raised in the Mormon religion and devoted to the church. After high school I was dating a girl who was not a Mormon…and being with her made me not want to serve my two-year mission.

Not volunteering for missionary work is very frowned upon within the culture. People will go as far as to shunning you for it…and that was the case for me.

Instead, I went to college at Brigham Young University in Idaho. This is a Mormon school and they have three campuses (Provo, Utah is the largest and most popular). I completed three semesters there and eventually transferred to Utah Valley University.

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While attending Utah Valley University, Ryan lived with a friend whose father was a Mormon Bishop. It was clear that, despite avoiding missionary service and not being very active any longer, his exposure to the Latter Day Saints Movement was deeply entrenched in every aspect of his life.

At the age of twenty, Worley was attracted to a fellow employee at the pizza parlor where he moonlighted. This young Mormon lady was active in the church and got Ryan to attend again. Their relationship would set the stage for some major obstacles ahead.

We dated for two years…and weren’t “the best Mormons”. As you may know, there are strict rules against sex before marriage. When we decided to wed, she wanted to have our ceremony in the Temple. I personally didn’t care, but it was important to her.

In order to do have a proper Mormon service, we followed the ritual to get “clean”. We met with our church’s leader, confessed our pre-marital sex, followed the required steps and waited the appropriate amount of time.

And once we got married, the sex just stopped.

Physical rejection from his new spouse was devastating to this virile young man, especially after all he’d done to make things “right” within their culture. But Ryan wasn’t about to give up on the relationship, so he sought out ways to set things back on course.

She had no desire to be intimate with me. I took it personally, as any man in that situation would. I brought it up several times but she didn’t see it as an issue. We spent three years trying to solve the problem. Marriage is very sacred to me and divorce runs through my family…I wanted to be the one to break the curse.

We went to the doctor because I assumed it was hormonal. All of her blood levels came back normal. I tried other things like reading the book The Five Love Languages. (a self-help manual that’s been on the NY Times best-seller list since 2009). I made sure that everything was perfect for her in every way.

Someone once told me when we first married that the number one cause of divorce is unmet expectations. That sentence resonated inside me. I made sure that all her expectations were met. I bought her a house, we had cars and I worked sixty hours a week at two jobs. It was so hard, but it gave her the time she wanted.

I’d done everything I could and felt the issue didn’t come from my end. She wanted to do counseling but everything a counselor would have us do would seem like homework and it wouldn’t feel genuine. Something like sex needs to be intimate…not forced.

That is when I got into fitness. If I looked good then she would want to be with me again, right? That isn’t what happened, but I did find my love for the fitness industry.

The gym became my sanctuary and a place where I could let go.

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Throwing himself into the lifestyle of intense fitness was very therapeutic. While building his body, Ryan acquired a new level of self-esteem which was critical in this period of rejection. The change to his physique was astounding. Still, it wasn’t enough to win back desire from his young bride.

Three years of being rejected took its toll…I felt so ugly and unwanted. She began to feel more like a sister or a roommate than my actual wife. I told her that I wanted a divorce and she didn’t put up much of a fight. We sold our house and she went back to southern California…I moved north to the Salt Lake City area.

Hot Guys of Vegas Eye of the Beholder

Ryan dove head-first into the fitness industry, serving as a Fitness Nutrition Specialist for a company called Complete Nutrition. While adjusting to a newly-single life in his small apartment, he was helping others get their own lives back on track. Knowing how to design customized meal plans for clients was invaluable when Worley planned to enter his first bodybuilding competition.

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Spending hours at home on his stationary bike, Ryan discovered the documentary The Perfect Physique on Netflix (readers may recall that I covered the red-carpet premiere of this film at Palms Casino during the 2015 Mr. Olympia).

Ever since I got into fitness I’d wanted to do modeling and end up on a cover of a magazine. TJ Hoban, who is a well-known fitness model, was talking in the film about the difficulties he’d faced, like when he had a serious onstage accident during a Chippendales performance back in the 90’s.

I’d heard about Chippendales before but didn’t know exactly what it was or what it entailed. What I did know was that if my idol TJ Hoban was part of it, then it must be something great.

I went online and immediately filled out an application, submitted a few pictures and told a little about myself…but I never actually expected to hear back from them.

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                                        Actor/model/fitness star TJ Hoban…

Even though his own performance experience was limited to a small Mormon singing/dancing group, Ryan was bursting with excitement…and hope. After applying, he joked with his Complete Nutrition employer that if Chippendales hired him he’d need to give notice.

Two weeks later, an email arrived from the show’s General Manager for an invitation-only audition:

I needed to rent a car for the drive from Utah to Vegas because my own was so crappy. Nobody knew about the audition. When I arrived early in the day, it was straight to the gym to pump up and look my best.

I was one of about fifteen guys there…and they all looked incredible. Kristen Makhathini (the show’s General Manager at the time) led the audition and had us take our shirts off for head shots.

We got on stage and began learning choreography. This was all very new to me. After about ten minutes, they split us into groups and mine was first. We ran through the routine a couple of times, then Kristen said “Alright guys, we are going to start cutting people so if you hear your name we don’t need you anymore and thank you for coming out”. The next sentence made my stomach drop: “Everyone in the first group except for Ryan can go home. Thank you”.

These other guys had flown in from all over the world and it was over for them in less than twenty minutes! My heart was beating out of my chest! They narrowed us down to four of us and said we’d know in a week. There were two spots, one for touring and another for the Vegas show. The tour manager came up to me and asked if I was able to get a passport. “I think I want to steal you for the tour” she said.

My mind went crazy…why did she just say “steal”? Did that mean I got the Vegas spot? That evening I watched the show for the first time, drove back to Utah overnight and never told anyone about it.

When the call came that he’d be a part of the Vegas production, it was time to shock his boss with the news of what he’d done…and to give that resignation notice they’d kidded about.

Along with this sudden change in his life’s course was the realization that he’d be stirring up controversy with his conservative friends and family.

Hot Guys of Vegas Eye of the Beholder

When I asked him what kind of reactions he received after telling people about Chippendales, Ryan sighed and took a moment to collect his thoughts. He was reluctant to slam the culture he’d been a part of for so long, but felt that he’d somehow broken free of someone else’s control and was ready to speak out about it.

My family has had a rough time with my new career but I knew they probably would. They don’t fully understand it or know what it is.

I’m no longer a member of the Mormon church but my friends and loved ones are and I want to respect that. I don’t want to hurt anyone’s feelings, but the truth is that they teach you to be close-minded. I remember how my siblings and I were treated after our parents divorced. We sat in the back of the church, alone, like outcasts among our own people.

Mormons have their own stance on issues and you have to accept them as yours. When I grew up, I found myself asking “Are these values mine because I’m naturally a good person or were they were taught to me by the church?. Even now I’m not sure, but my mom did bring me up to be a respectful man.

Worley went on to discuss things about the Mormon culture that still concern him. Matters like their unequal treatment of minorities and the LGBTQ community. He feels that’s why a lot of Americans are now leaving the church…and why it currently targets impressionable third-world countries.

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But now that he’s found a new “family” with his Chippendales brothers and their socially-positive work, Ryan Worley is ready to move forward and continue making things better for himself…and others.

I’ve been a Chippendale for almost a year now and love everything it has to offer. I get to do charity work in the community and appear on numerous TV shows. It feels like my years of struggle are over. This is my big break…I go to work and people cheer for me!

I reached out to TJ Hoban and Kandice King (directer of The Perfect Physique), told them my story and how much that documentary changed my life. They seemed very happy to have helped make my life a little better.

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After interviewing Ryan for this piece, I attended a performance of Chippendales at the Rio. Sitting in front of me, right up against the stage, was a group of his buddies. They’d come to Vegas to see for themselves what their longtime friend was now a part of. And they cheered just as wildly as everyone else in the audience.

Watching Ryan’s friends gather around him in the lounge after the show was a thrill to witness and experience. This young man had finally gained confidence and acceptance from his peers. And he’d done it on his own terms.

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“I’ve always felt like I was meant for big things and want to influence people in a positive way. Maybe my story can do the same for others”.

                                                                                                    Ryan Worley

You can read more about Ryan and his current projects in my column “Hot Guys of Vegas – Eye of the Beholder“.

Chippendales performs nightly at Rio Las Vegas. Click here for showtimes and tickets via our friend at VegasFool.com.

Photos: Sammasseur, Ryan Worley, The Perfect Physique, Chippendales via Facebook