Puttin’ On The Ritz at BAZ BOOT CAMP


Yours truly has a “Performer for a Day” experience at the signature Palazzo production…

Baz Boot Camp

There was a boy
A very strange enchanted boy.

They say he wandered very far
Very far over land and sea.

A little shy and sad of eye
But very wise, was he.

Those dreamy lyrics from 1947’s classic NATURE BOY open the stunning BAZ: Star Crossed Love inside Palazzo Theater. And for one immersive day, they also described this author’s experience inside the world of Romeo and Juliet, Moulin Rouge and The Great Gatsby. Well, minus the “very wise” part, perhaps.

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BAZ: Star Crossed Love is a very unique piece of live entertainment. It has the distinction of being my choice for “Best New Show” in both 2015 and 2016. How? By moving from Mandalay Bay’s LIGHT Nightclub and being relaunched after a major reworking. While essentially the same production at heart, BAZ was fine-tuned to maximize the benefits of a custom-designed venue inside Palazzo Resort.

Baz Boot Camp

With the full support of Sands Corporation, BAZ went from “the little show that could” to an amazing word-of-mouth success. To celebrate their triumphant one-year anniversary (in the intensely competitive Vegas show-scape, no less), a handful of recognizable media celebrities were invited to attend an afternoon “boot camp”. They were welcomed to step into the shoes of BAZ cast members and perform a number from the show in front of a live audience.

Baz Boot Camp

Invitees included Barrett Foa (Eric Beale on NCIS Los Angeles), Andrew Freund (Fox Network’s Dish Nation), Las Vegas Review Journal columnist John KatsilometesMorning Blend host Jennifer Jean Snyder…and a certain small-time BAZ-loving Oregonian blogger. How I ended up being included in a group of such talented and distinguished individuals is anybody’s guess…but I wasn’t about to jeopardize the invitation by questioning it.

Upon receiving the email, it took me all of ten minutes to stop jumping up and down, clear my schedule and book a flight to Las Vegas. In no time, our group was seated in the auditorium and receiving a round of greetings from Keith Salwoski, Executive Director of Public Relations and Blair Farrington, the Show Manager.

Baz Boot Camp

On our laps were folders detailing the Boot Camp itinerary, along with statistics about the show. Introductions were made all around, then we headed to the stage for dance lessons with BAZ‘s ballroom champions Savannah Cross and Marcquet Hill.

The next sixty or so minutes were perhaps the most invigorating, exhausting, humbling and memorable since my skydive this past February. Surrounded by cast members Ron Remke, Broadway star Ruby Lewis and Anne Martinez (Alice: A Steampunk Concert Fantasy), our stalwart band of boot-campers received expert instruction on how to kick, swoop, heel-toe-heel-toe and drop-drop-drop.

Baz Boot Camp

During all the excitement and sweat, it became clear that one member of our novice group was lagging behind….and it was me. While the others seemed to have varying degrees of showbiz experience, “Sammasseur” brought little to the stage besides laughter and enthusiasm.

Baz Boot Camp

Shaun Burgess of Vegas.com (white shirt) gets tips from cast member Ron Remke             

Baz Boot Camp

                      Johnny Kats and I go through the paces…and kicks…

To their stylish womp-womp-womps I countered with my Franken-stomps. Their high kicks were my wobbly half-kicks. At one point my left shoe even went flying through the air. While trying hard to look like Gary Cooper, I’d somehow stumbled into the tap dance scene from a certain Mel Brooks film.

Baz Boot Camp

Photographers and a videographer recorded the action as Savannah and Marcquet added more steps to the sequence. Ron Remke kept my spirits high with high-fives and “You’ve got this!” encouragement. I marveled at the ease with which his body swooped and swayed through the mechanics of the steps…just like everyone else around me.

Baz Boot Camp

Baz Boot Camp

Jennifer, Savannah and Melinda Sheckells show the cameras what they’ve got.

Soon we were putting the sequence to music and running through the entire scene…from an opening one-legged kneel to the final thrust of our arms. This time, we sang along with the dancing (take that, Britney!). After a brief rest (not brief enough, gasp gasp) it was behind the stage and downstairs to the actual dressing rooms used by the cast.

Once there, a small army of make-up artists and hair stylists gave us the theatrical flair that help make the already-stunning BAZ performers one of the most attractive casts on the Strip. My face was covered in a sweat-proof foundation and my eyebrows were darkened and thickened.

Baz Boot Camp

Baz Boot Camp

While in the chairs, the other guests and I were given on-camera interviews to share our initial impressions. The most common response drew attention to how difficult the dancing was. No matter what level of proficiency they’d brought to the boot camp, it was clear that our troupe had gained a greater respect for the craft of live performance.

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    NCIS Los Angeles actor Barrett Foa is used to being in the make-up chair…

Baz Boot Camp

             Andrew Freund records a clip for his Dish Nation TV series…

After donning our tuxes and dresses, it was back to the stage for a round of individual and group portraits before our actual performance. Dynamic Michael Shulman (of ShulmanSays.com) acted as emcee and welcomed our audience – guests, friends and execs/team members of various departments within the Venetian/Palazzo family.

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   Ruby Lewis returned to BAZ last week after a triumphant lead on Broadway…

The whirlwind afternoon had come to its biggest moment – a production number carried out by professional performers with the Boot Camp troupe on an actual Las Vegas stage. To call this a “pinch me” moment would be too mild…and it seemed to be over before it actually began.

Baz Boot Camp

Baz Boot Camp

Standing out there on an elevated extension of the stage, my arms outstretched with applause all around me, this total novice and dedicated fan understood the drive that brings talented individuals to Sin City stages. A lifetime of lessons, joy, pain, sacrifice, tears and ambition to perfect their art culminates in that one moment…and there’s nothing like it in the world.

Clips from the One-Year Anniversary Performance of BAZ

Returning to the dressing room, the guys and I laughed about how fun the afternoon had been, but the experience was far from over. From there, the group headed over to Venetian’s The Dorsey to sample various libations created by famed mixologist Sam Ross for their new summer cocktail menu.

Then we slid next door for an outrageously delicious array of small plates and entrees at Chica, the new Latin eatery by celeb chef Lorena Garcia. Perhaps it was the round of cocktails at Chica that gave us our second wind, but Barett Fao, Andrew Freund and I decided to grab a taxi and head down the Strip for another song-and-dance show. It was a long, exhilarating, exhausting and unforgettable day.

The next morning I grabbed my laptop to learn that reviews were pouring in for our BAZ Boot Camp performance. For once, the tables were turned…and the critic was receiving critique. Much like the day before, everyone was extremely kind:

Savannah Cross (BAZ Boot Camp instructor/performer) – Killed it!!

Blair Farrington (BAZ show manager) – Sam… you added a lot of personality to the BAZ Boot Camp performance! Welcome to the team!

Shane Scheel (creator of BAZ) – Thank you Sam Novak for your unwavering support of BAZ Star Crossed Love.

Bill Evans (BAZ emcee/performer) – You look good Sam!!!

Lisa Sundseth (VegasUnfiltered reader) – You are a STAR ⭐️!!

 

Nikki Ann Medaugh (VegasUnfiltered reader) – Dapper, very dapper. Who knew you could look so good wearing all of those pesky clothes?

 

Private Message: “Sam – you looked hot hot hot in BAZ CAMP!”

Private message from a cast member: “Sam!!! Ah Thank YOU so much for your incredible energy and presence!! Today was so incredibly enjoyable and was a reminder of why I love this this art form so much. All the love!”

Private message from a cast member – “Sam! You were fantastic and I’m so glad you had fun! Thank you for being so supportive of us!”

Rising from the bed of my Palazzo suite (which they’d kindly arranged for me), I noticed how sore my legs were from the previous day. It was a warm reminder of the incredible effort that performers give forth to keep us entertained.

Baz Boot Camp

With cast member Ron Remke and Jennifer Jean Snyder of ABC’s Morning Blend

As I went through the rest of that day, I kept thinking about how generous everyone at Palazzo and BAZ had been. They are a tightly-knit group, brought together for one purpose and working together to make BAZ the best show on the Strip…a genuine labor of love.

It was an honor to be a part of BAZ Boot Camp – and I think I made a few friends along the way.

The greatest thing
You’ll ever learn
Is just to love
And be loved
In return….

                                                                             – lyrics from NATURE BOY

Baz Boot Camp

Photos: [Sammasseur, BAZ Boot Camp at Palazzo, 20th Century Fox]

 

If You Build It On The Sidewalk, They Will Come. Maybe…


Vegas is utilizing every available space to sell you something – with mixed results.

Sidewalk

Taking in the north half of the Strip from the 26th floor of Wynn’s original tower, I was reminded of a trend that has swept over Vegas in recent years. An amazing amount of new stores, bars and restaurants have risen where once was nothing but sidewalk.

Sidewalk

Sugar Factory restaurant in front of Fashion Show Mall. The CVS/Avengers annex that replaced a pirate ship’s dock. Gilley’s and Starbucks over the wooden “boardwalk” of Treasure Island. One of the newest is Wynn Plaza, the fourth retail corridor at Wynn/Encore resort. All have sprung from what is now considered “wasted space”.

Sidewalk

Rhumbar at Mirage was one of the first to initiate this approach. Using square footage from decorative faux grass and shrubbery, the lounge/patio opened in March of 2009. Tellingly, it arrived around the same time that the casino’s White Tiger Pool was removed in favor of BLT, a gourmet burger joint.

This entire section of Mirage was once accessed by a “people mover” or electric walkway. As was the philosophy of the new “megaresort” concept, people-movers and free attractions would lure pedestrians inside from the Strip, where they’d hopefully stay to gamble and more.

But with this decade’s falling interest in slot machines and table games, the wise men of Mirage opted to replace that expensive tiger pool with something that could potentially generate alternate income. At the same time, the people-mover was replaced with a conventional concrete sidewalk, a cost-cutting measure that reflected the new business model.

Sidewalk

Sidewalk

Soon after, Paris Hotel Casino ripped out the gorgeous La Fontaine des Mers fountain and constructed Sugar Factory restaurant and store in its place (it later became HEXX Kitchen + Bar). Then HEXX was topped with a second level for Budweiser Beer Park. That made two bar/restaurant concepts on a spot that was once just eye candy.

Sidewalk

Interestingly, now that Sugar Factory has relocated to Fashion Show Mall, it holds the dubious distinction of rising up not once but twice from Vegas Strip sidewalks.

Once the practice of using every available inch of sidewalk space for retail took hold, entire sections of Las Vegas Boulevard literally became Strip malls. So long Bally’s fountains and gardens, hello hideous Grand Bazaar Shops.

Sidewalk

Sidewalk

As shifting trends have turned Las Vegas into an oversized Mall of The Americas, visiting the casinos is no longer a must-do activity. Why bother to go inside when you can eat, drink and shop right on the sidewalk?

Sidewalk

Monte Carlo, the rather generic-looking MGM Resorts property that was once fading into indifference, was rebranded into the even more generic-sounding PARK MGM. The first step in that process was…you guessed it…the retail-ization of the hotel’s frontage. Out went sculptures and a large fountain, in came Double Barrel Roadhouse, 800 Degrees Pizza, Boulevard Creamery and more. Decorative flourishes were gutted and replaced by pale colors and some cheap-looking olive green paint. Boring!

Sidewalk

This time, the build-out was so extreme that the hotel is essentially hidden from view. Would you even recognize it now from the photo above? It would seem that, as with casinos, the hotels themselves are now becoming a side offering.

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The retail-ization of Las Vegas Boulevard eventually spread to Downtown’s Fremont Street. Underneath the four-block canopy, a wide-open pedestrian mall is now packed to the max with kiosks, vendors, bars and patio lounges (that require a drink minimum to take a seat).

Binion’s is the best example of how Downtown casinos shifted their focus from interior to the sidewalks. Exploring the property, you’ll find numerous examples of a time when guests stayed and played indoors.

Sidewalk

Sidewalk

On the second floor, a buffet and the Gee Joon Asian restaurant are collecting dust. In the basement, a once-popular 24-hour Coffee Shop is abandoned as well.

Sidewalk

The back half of the casino floor, where guests once checked into the hotel (shuttered since 2009), is nearly forgotten. The poker room, original home of the World Series of Poker, has also been put to rest.

Sidewalk

But out front, thriving Whiskey Licker Bar and Cowgirl Up  Cantina would have you believing that all is well inside the historic property. Outdoor revelers raise their glasses and park their bums on saddle-shaped stools, most never venturing into the aging property. New visitors might never realize that a 366-room hotel once operated there.

Of course, outdoor offerings are no guarantee of success. When Lady Lucky reopened as Downtown Grand in 2013, a great deal of fanfare centered around activities planned for adjacent Third Street. Sidewalk gambling, movie screenings and indoor/outdoor dining and an open-air nightclub (courtesy of Richard Sandoval’s “Commissary”) were rolled out. Not one of those things took hold.

Then the folks at Downtown Grand took yet another cue from the Strip and announced an outdoor urban park called The Quad. Utilizing empty lots and part of a parking garage, The Quad was to feature a stage, tavern, fitness center, nightclub and climbing wall. If all of this sounds familiar, perhaps you’re thinking of LINQ Promenade or The Park at New York NY. Surprisingly, it all fell through in favor of an additional hotel tower, currently under construction.

Sidewalk

And so it goes…the constant reinvention of Las Vegas. Eventually, visitors while tire of the heat and venture back into the casinos that put Sin City on the map. Until then, the white tigers will be waiting.

Photos: {Sammasseur, Flickr]

 

 

 

Looking Down on Fremont’s “Ground Zero”

Downtown demolition zone signals changes that aren’t necessarily improvements…

A familiar phrase regarding Las Vegas is “The only constant is change”. That observation has traditionally applied to the Strip, but historic Downtown is undergoing its own cycle of reinvention…at the cost of what made it unique.

While revitalization of the Fremont East zone has brought a welcome influx of new ideas (cool restaurants, hip bars and Downtown Container Park), that same influence has resulted in dramatic differences to the Fremont Street Experience corridor that aren’t necessarily welcome.

Fremont Street Ground Zero

Demolition and construction on and around Fremont Street now faces the same scrutiny that took place when it was closed to vehicular traffic and topped with the current video canopy. Purists lamented losing the ability to drive their cars down Fremont Street to bask in historic hotel architecture and glorious neon.

In 2017, that same area is now choked with outdoor bars/patios, vendor kiosks, street performers, homeless beggars and a hideous eyesore known as SlotZilla. That thrill ride re-purposed the Viva Vision screen as a tunnel for the zip-line attraction.

For this writer, one of the saddest developments on Fremont was the closure of longtime favorites Mermaids Casino, sister operation La Bayou and the Las Vegas Club Casino Hotel. All were sentimental go-to’s that represented value, history and a true vintage-Vegas feel.

Fremont Street Ground Zero

Now two of them, along with “gentlemen’s club” Glitter Gulch, are being leveled along with nearby structures for construction of a brand-new casino/hotel. La Bayou‘s demo resulted in the soon-to-open expansion of adjacent Golden Gate Hotel, the oldest remaining building on Fremont Street. That one-time favorite had already gotten a major modernization and expansion a few years back that resulted in removal of wonderful Bay City Diner and the beloved 99-cent shrimp-cocktail counter.

It seems that whenever I fall for a business or landmark in Las Vegas, my affection guarantees it’ll wind up in the demolition cross-hairs. Sure, renovation brings new visitors and attention to an area, but for some of us, “progress” feels like a slap in the face.

Mermaids was an absolute must on my Fremont Street stops. Cocktail waitresses Gabriella and Ling Ling were bright spots each and every time. They took care of me like nobody on the Strip ever would.

Now, 99-cent hot dogs and the endless supply of free drinks have been taken away. Those friendly ladies who once recognized me from trip to trip have literally disappeared.

Fremont Street Ground Zero

The grungy smell of Las Vegas Club hotel, along with its creaky elevators and humble rooms, was a minor but tolerable drawback of staying there. LVC was a serviceable option whenever I needed clean, simple budget lodging. Just a few years back I was able to stay there for only $14 a night…with no resort fee, free parking and gloriously-easy in/out access.

The newer North Tower, which I got upgraded to on that particular stay, was easily on par with the rooms at 4 Queens and Fremont Hotel. Plus, they were absolutely massive by Downtown standards and a had recently been modernized. Both towers of Las Vegas Club were fortunate enough to get refreshed up with the same carpeting and furniture that Plaza Hotel had obtained from the failed Fontainebleau project.

This summer, the Las Vegas Club is being brought down by the same ambitious innovators who added $20 resort fees and intensely-loud music to their Downtown hotels. While many view Derek and Greg Stevens as saviors, to myself and many other historic Downtown fans, they’ve become mixed blessings.

Nobody enjoys seeing the places they fall in love with being torn down for the sake of progress. No matter what rises in those locations, it won’t be the same. They’ll be expensive, more Strip-like and less of what made Fremont Street an alternative.

Fremont Street Ground Zero

So say goodbye to Vegas Vickie and other glorious pieces of neon art that once shone down on visitors. No matter when or where they end up, they won’t be in their original home.

As for the structures that will eventually rise from the footprint of Las Vegas Club and Mermaids…they’ll only be “lip-service improvements”. New hotels can never fill the void left by long-lost favorites that were just fine back in the day.

Photos: [A friend]

RICHARD MARX Will Be “Right Here Waiting” For You At Flamingo


The 80’s hit machine previews his upcoming Flamingo residency for the media…

There’s something about the music of the eighties that makes it timeless. Despite being a very identifiable product of the era, that sound is still fresh and alive three decades later. The same can be said for Richard Marx, who shared some of his songs from that period last night at Cleopatra’s Barge.

Richard Marx Flamingo

The lounge venue inside Caesars Palace was the location for a special preview of Richard’s upcoming SATISFIED: Only The Hits at nearby Flamingo. Members of the media and Marx’s fan club filled the venue for a taste of what was in store for Vegas audiences next month.

Fit, handsome as ever and truly ageless, the Grammy winner settled in with a string quartet and guitar for acoustic versions of his hits. The superstar, who’s sold over 30 million records throughout his career, belted out those tunes with a voice that hasn’t changed a bit since his debut album in 1987.

Richard Marx Flamingo

Richard Marx Flamingo

The appreciative crowd was invited to join in for “Should Have Known Better” after being mesmerized by favorites like “Endless Summer Nights” and “Don’t Mean Nothing”. Along the way, Richard joked about his infamous mullet and those of-the-decade outfits.

While discussing Flamingo’s upcoming residency, the 53-year-old described his enjoyment in performing those iconic songs in a scaled-down fashion. “I don’t know why I waited so long to do this…I’ve been playing with myself my whole life”, he joked.

Richard Marx Flamingo

The short teaser came to a close with Marx at the piano for “Right Here Waiting”. The private performance was designed to get his fans and members of the media excited about the upcoming series of shows. It definitely left us “Satisfied”…and wanting more.

“See you guys in a couple weeks! Thank you so much”.

RICHARD MARX SATISFIED: Only The Hits begins August 15th at the Donny and Marie Showroom inside Flamingo Hotel Casino. Tickets start at $59 (plus taxes/fees). Click here for more information and show dates. 

Photos and video: [Sammasseur]

SEX TIPS Brings “Queer Eye” Humor To Life


Off-Broadway sex farce is a bawdy good time…

Fans of Bravo’s Queer Eye were excited when Netflix recently announced a reboot of the lifestyle-advice series. Until its return, Vegas audiences can get their fix with a similarly-themed romp that recently debuted at Paris Hotel Casino.

Sex Tips For Straight Women

Sex Tips for Straight Women From A Gay Man is the lengthy title of the new production inside Anthony Cools Theater. The long-running off-Broadway hit, built around an actual self-help book of the same name, has been cleverly dressed up in Sin City appeal.

Sex Tips For Straight Women

Kendra Wilkinson (The Girls Next Door, Kendra On Top) stars as Robyn Brown, uptight moderator of a book forum known as Rendezvous with Alternative Authors of the Modern Era (RAAME, aka “ram me”). Ambitious Robyn, who may or may not have poisoned a superior to advance her career, discovers that the next scheduled book discussion will be on…you guessed it…”Sex Tips For Straight Women From A Gay Man”.

Sex Tips For Straight Women

Jai Rodriguez plays Dan Anderson, a fictionalized version of the book’s very gay author. Arriving on a breeze of fizzy flamboyance, Anderson refuses to participate in Robyn’s stuffy moderation methods. Fearing his exit will sabotage her promotion, Robyn pleads with him to return. Anderson agrees…as long as he’s allowed to loosen up her stuffy book readings. AND, he wants to prove the validity of his book’s advice.

Sex Tips For Straight Women

Luckily for Dan, he’s noticed that Robyn harbors a pent-up passion for Stefan, RAAME’s studly audio-video stagehand. He tempts Robyn to try out his sex techniques by using Stefan as bait. But first, he gives the librarian-styled moderator a “Queer Eye” make-over before the pair head out to a singles bar.

At this point, Dan recruits members of the audience to join the cast. One lucky guy becomes a recipient to Robyn’s homosexual-style pick-up techniques. Then Dan teaches a trio of  blindfolded ladies how to pleasure a man’s sexual organ…as “only a gay man can”.

Various props, a fruit juicer and a neon air cannon come into play as the lessons progress. As you might imagine, these outrageous sequences bring down the house with laughter.

Sex Tips For Straight Women

Along the way, Stefan agrees to assist Robyn’s lessons…for the sake of science, of course. He’s stripped down, stretched out, groped, massaged, licked and more. Incredibly attractive Chris Hodgson shines as linguistically-challenged Stefan, the lanky stud at the center of everyone’s desires. Hodgson, familiar to fans of Jubilee! and 50 Shades: The Musical Parody, is terrific and will have audience members of both genders swooning.

Jai Rodriguez is surprisingly charismatic in the role of Dan. His comic timing and improvisational skills make him a natural for the interactive sex farce. He is especially fun as “Pearl Necklace”, an elderly female alter-ego who shares a lifetime of conquests with the flabbergasted Robyn.

Playboy alumni Wilkinson is appealing but a little stiff as Robyn. While game, the performer could have benefited from a little more stage experience before taking on a headlining Vegas role. In fairness, the reality-TV star seemed to relax during the performance I attended (as a guest) as her own character transitioned from frumpy to liberated. Kendra arrives at her comfort zone during a striptease finale in Hodgson’s bulging arms.

With clever writing, three very attractive leads and blush-inducing humor, Sex Tips For Straight Women From A Gay Man should delight adult audiences of all sexual identities. It’s bright, bawdy fun and the perfect start to an evening on the town.

Sex Tips For Straight Women From A Gay Man runs through August 20th. The show performs 7pm nightly in the Anthony Cools Showroom (dark Wednesdays) with an additional 11pm show on Saturdays. Tickets start at $42 (plus taxes/fees) and can be ordered here. Groupon is currently offering an assortment of discounts on preferred seating and VIP meet/greets with the cast. Click here for details. Audience members must be 18 or over.

Photos: [Sammasseur, Levi Walker via Chris Hodgson Facebook]

MEN OF THE STRIP Hosts Gala Premiere

Fans and media converge for opening of Jeff Timmons revue at Hard Rock Live…


Revisiting the evening that fans and media converged for Jeff Timmons’ male revue at Hard Rock Live…

Men Of The Strip Premiere

The ironies couldn’t be any clearer. A fledgling show, years in the making, hosts a gala event just a few doors down from the casino that failed them. The new performance space shares branding with a hotel that’s home to a competing production.

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Both shows are spearheaded by heartthrob celebs, but only one bothers to show his face…and lots more. After many false starts and obstacles galore, Men of the Strip has landed on the Strip.

Men Of The Strip Premiere

Men Of The Strip Premiere

Male revues are just like actual men. They come in all styles, attitudes, levels of sex appeal and price points (just kidding about the last one…sort of). As ticket buyers for an adult-themed show, it’s up to you to decide which one scratches your particular itch.

Men Of The Strip Premiere

In the case of Magic Mike Live at Hard Rock Hotel, some fans of hunky productions are feeling cheated. My own review called it “delusional”, “fun-sucking” and “an overblown bomb”. Your very expensive ticket will get you inane blather from a shrill harpy “comedienne”, striptease dancers who neglect to actually strip, a so-called story line involving a waiter and a mystical unicorn (WTF?).

The real kick in the pants comes from an absentee star – actor Channing Tatum – whose only “appearance” in a show bearing his name is via an audio recording.

Men Of The Strip Premiere

At Hard Rock Cafe’s live-music Strip venue (next to MGM Grand Hotel), things are quite the opposite. All the pretense, social lectures and broken promises of Magic Mike Live have been thrown out the window. In their place are seven talented singers/dancers/actors who sound good, look great and actually take their clothes off.

Men Of The Strip Premiere

Fun-filled production numbers involve plenty of audience interaction, selfie ops (the show is camera-friendly) and tipping with cash (something forbidden in casino showrooms). Most of all, the celebrity attached to Men of the Strip is in the house…and a big part of the show.

Jeff Timmons, the ageless and ab-tastic founder of vocal group 98 Degrees, has been intent on launching the next generation of male revues ever since his stint at legendary Chippendales. Jeff and I sat down to chat several times in the months leading up to this weekend. It’s clear that his passion for the project is boundless. Fortunately,  that enthusiasm comes through onstage and energizes the cast.

Men Of The Strip Premiere

MOTS’s tightly-knit production rarely slows down to let you breathe. The troupe makes its first appearance from the rear, hidden under sleek black helmets and leather gear. 

Walking in formation, they gather for a hard-edged sequence created by famed choreographer Glenn Douglas Packard (Michael Jackson, Pink, Whitney Houston). Packard, pictured below, is hands-on throughout the performance and also serves as emcee.

MOTS223

Next up, singer Colin Cahill briefly goes mellow with an acoustic version of  Ne-Yo’s “Let Me Love You” that segues into a sultry chair number. Various takes on masculine fantasies follow, delivered with a lighthearted playfulness that MML doesn’t even strive to achieve.

Men Of The Strip Premiere

Timmons was a crowd-pleaser at the show’s premiere on Friday. Not only did he debut a new song written especially for MOTS, but he got raw and sexy with an audience member in his own set-piece. Shredded to the max and tanned to perfection, Timmons tore off his shirt and flaunted a body that even Channing Tatum would envy.

Men Of The Strip Premiere

Packed with die-hard 98 Degrees fans, the crowd went wild when band mate Justin Jeffre joined Timmons for their hit “Give Me Just One Night (Una Noche)”. Other surprise guests are sure to follow, as the singer has promised to feature his celebrity friends when they’re in town.

“Come Play With Us” is Men of the Strip’s marketing slogan. Splashed on billboards around the city, the ads promise a night filled with music, muscle, sweat and laughs. MOTS delivers on those promises throughout the show and well into the evening. The guys hop up on the bar after the performance and guests are encouraged to party, pose for photos and indulge in drink specials.

Men Of The Strip Premiere

The third-floor showroom offers amazing views of the Strip and boasts an outdoor balcony. Parking is available in the Showcase Mall garage behind the cafe for easy in/out access.

Men Of The Strip Premiere

If a party atmosphere is what you’re looking for in a male revue, steer clear of Magic Mike Live. Make your way to Hard Rock Live for Men of the Strip…on the Strip.

Men Of The Strip Premiere

Update – Since the original publication of this article last July, Men of the Strip has gone on to tour the country. The show also achieved my highest ranking of guy-friendly male revues, tying with Aussie Heat at Planet Hollywood. The video clip below will give you some indication of just how gay-friendly the run at Hard Rock Live actually was. 

Cast member Tyler Froehlich, whom I featured in the piece Hot Guys of Vegas – Dad and sons, is now a part of the legendary troupe at Chippendales. He’s already become a fast favorite with audiences both in Las Vegas and when touring around the world.

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                        Tyler Froehlich, real-life soldier turned dancer…

Jeff Timmons has since toured with a reunited 98 Degrees for a series of concerts to promote their Christmas album. They’ll be returning to Green Valley Ranch this coming November 17th (click here for tickets). I attended a performance on December 23rd and the show was astounding. Don’t miss it this year.

Mots2.jpg

   Myself with Timmons, Mike Foland and Daniel Kouretas at 98 Degrees Xmas…

MOTS’s frontman Mike Foland has assured me that the groundbreaking production is planning another return, mostly like to be launched with a reality TV series tie-in. I’ll be the first to keep you up to date on any developments that cross my desk. 

– Sam

Photos and Video: [Sammasseur]

 

Seek and Discover BAR SAKE

Bar Sake – Westgate’s hidden gem is worth the search….

 


The concept of hotels-within-hotels may be lost on some, but it’s been growing steam. Nobu of Caesars Palace, Delano at Mandalay Bay and SLS‘s new W partnership are examples of the latest in maximizing square footage while blending brand recognition with something new (and hopefully exciting).

Westgate Las Vegas recently rolled out a similar idea with Bar Sake. Tucked away inside “The Village”, Bar Sake was a bit difficult to find. Silly me – it never crossed this writer’s mind that there was more to Benihana‘s themed village than just Benihana.

Bar Sake Westgate

Not having been to Westgate’s location before, I had no idea that there was an entire complex inside the familiar Japanese chain steakhouse. Among the ornate gardens and koi ponds is Rikki Tiki Sushi, with Silk Road Asian Bistro nestled to one side and the relaxing and lovely Bar Sake in the far rear.

Now in its third month of operations, Bar Sake is a bit of a hidden gem. Opened with minimal fanfare, it’s one of those places that you hope just enough people will discover to make it successful…without losing the atmosphere of intimacy that made our “guys’ night out” so satisfying.

Bar Sake Westgate

The small dining and bar area is bathed in rose-colored hues. We took seats around a low table and were offered a welcome sake as once served to President Obama by Prime Minister Shinzo Abe in Tokyo. The smooth beverage set a wonderful tone for the prepared menu of food and drinks we were invited to sample.

Bar Sake Westgate

My companions and I started with an assortment of Signature Cocktails, created especially for Bar Sake by Eddie Perales, GM of Beverages at the Westgate Resort. Perales is an award-winning mixologist who’s been listed in the Guinness Book of World Records.

As a world-reknown flair bartender and ice sculpturist, Perales knows how to infuse his cocktail creations with a hearty slice of fun. He came to our table to share his enthusiasm for the Bar Sake cocktail list…and the excitement of trying out new creations in the weeks and months ahead.

Bar Sake Westgate

Much like Fresco Italiano‘s GM Angelo Cordero, Perales came to Westgate by way of Caesars properties. Whatever is luring these top-level experts to the off-Strip property, Westgate guests are all the better for it. The resort continues to please and surprise with superlative offerings, and Bar Sake is no exception.

As you might expect, the cocktail menu here is built around sake, the famed Japanese rice-based alcoholic drink. Perales has whipped up unique creations like the Jaded Midori (Midori Melon Liqueur, Tyku Cucumber Sake and lemon juice) and the Ginger Kamikaze with Tykusoju, Tyku Cucumber Sake, Domaine de Canton, lime and simple syrup.

We also indulged in a Paris To Tokyo (ST-GERMAIN elderflower liqueur, Tyku Cucumber Sake and Mionetto Prosecco) and a Strawberry Coconut Mojito created with Tyku cucumber and coconut sakes, Southern Supreme Mojito Lime and Sweet & Sour. All were light, refreshing and absolutely delicious.

For those wishing to stick strictly to sakes, the list of options is divided into four sections: “Fun”, “Expressive”, “Pure” and “Classic”. The beverage list also includes a wide variety of wines, whiskey, beers and non-alcoholic beverages.

Bar Sake Westgate

Despite the name, Bar Sake isn’t strictly a “sake bar”. It offers a wide variety a sushi and spectacular plates created before your eyes. Based on a centuries-old method of North Japanese food preparation called Robata, Chef Masa Shiga slow-grills his dishes on skewers over a high-heat charcoal “Robata” grill.

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Bar Sake Westgate

Hamachi Kama is Yellowtail Cheek, the most flavorful part ($12)…                  

Robata cooking originated with Japanese fishermen, who gathered to prepare their meals around a communal hearth. Sharing these delicious dishes with my friends carried on that tradition, albeit in extremely different surroundings.

Bar Sake Westgate

TOMATOMAKI ($4) are bacon-wrapped cherry tomatoes…           

Robata skewers come three to a plate for $16. Choices include TSUKUNE (chicken meatballs), GYU filet, SAKE (Atlantic Salmon), SHITAKE, NISU eggplant and SHISHITO (a sweet Japanese pepper).

Bar Sake Westgate

Tsukune chicken meatballs and Gyu fillet, each 3 for $16…             

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Bacon-wrapped asparagus (far left, $5) join two other Robata skewers at Bar Sake…

Small plates are broken up into four categories: poultry, vegetables, seafood and meat. They range in price from $4 vegetable dishes to $18 for the likes of black cod, duck breast and lobster tail. All are presented with color, flair, and delicious seasonings like wasabi, Yuzu pepper paste and sweet miso.

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Gindara is a black cod seasoned with sweet miso ($18)…                  

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         Kohitsuji (above right) are soy/garlic-marinated lamb chops ($18)…  

Sushi lovers can choose from a list of five, ranging in price from $12 to $18. Although we were tempted to try a few, our collection of macho gents decided to save any remaining taste buds and close out this magnificent meal with a couple of sweets.

Bar Sake Westgate

Bar Sake Westgate

There plenty of Asian-themed restaurants and bars in Las Vegas, making it difficult for one to stand out so distinctly. Our visit to Bar Sake was magnificent, worthy of the raves.

Unique in location, offerings and atmosphere, Westgate’s Bar Sake is the perfect little venue to gather at with friends, a loved one…or to discover all by yourself.

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BAR SAKE is located within “Restaurant Row” of Westgate Las Vegas, inside the Benihana Village. It is open Friday and Saturday from 5 p.m.  For reservations or info, call (702) 732-5755.

Photos: [Sammasseur]

 

 

      

Prince Lives Through THE REVOLUTION

“The Revolution has done the unimaginable and reformed to honor their front man”.


The funkmeister’s original Minneapolis band rocks Brooklyn Bowl Las Vegas…

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We’re just the band, okay? We’ll never replace him…we’ll never be him…we’ll never try. We’re just going to be The Revolution.

Last year, in my review of Westgate‘s resident show Purple Reign, I had this to say:

Reign is as close as you could get…and ever will again…to a genuine Prince concert”. And while that production still sizzles with jaw-dropping authenticity and onstage talent galore, the original band from Purple Rain has made a bit of a liar out of me.

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The Revolution has done the unimaginable and gotten back together to honor their front man. The reunion show, currently touring nationwide, brings the gift of their music back to the stage for a landmark evening.

Having lived the songs and experiences as they happened, only The Revolution is able to deliver the early songs of Prince to fans in a way that no tribute show ever could.

Prince The Revolution Brooklyn Bowl Vegas

Prince The Revolution Brooklyn Bowl Vegas

A somewhat anonymous backup group from their beginnings through the double-length album 1999, The Revolution officially received its name and identity via Purple Rain. That iconic 1984 movie highlighted their memorable talents and personalities. It also depicted the real-life struggle that Wendy Melvoin and Lisa Coleman had in getting the Purple One to recognize their own compositions.

After his death in 2016, guitarist Melvoin, keyboardists Coleman and Matt (Doctor) Fink, bassist BrownMark and drummer Bobby Z performed a series of sold-out shows at First Avenue Nightclub in Minneapolis. Returning to the actual setting of Purple Rain inspired them and healed them. So, they decided to take that therapy on the road.

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Wendy recently told Billboard Magazine “We all sort of had this moment where it felt like this was almost too much. But at the same time we made people smile and they felt good and they got to grab onto at least the legacy of him so that his death didn’t feel so permanent.”

BrownMark added “We have the ability now to give people a glimpse of what we experienced with him, and I think that’s a powerful thing. I know it helped me heal.”

Prince The Revolution Brooklyn Bowl Vegas

One of the biggest live-entertainment regrets this writer has carried through the years is that I’d never gotten to see Prince and The Revolution performing together. The many Prince concerts I’d attended were subsequent to their disbanding in October of 1986.

Prince had constantly reinvented himself throughout his career and changed (or lost) backup performers with regularity. So it was with great pleasure that I got the opportunity to witness The Revolution at Brooklyn Bowl on June 21st.

Prince The Revolution Brooklyn Bowl Vegas

Still shot from the 1984 film (above)….                 

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…and at Brooklyn Bowl on June 21, 2017…                            

The Brooklyn Bowl concert venue, bathed in purple floodlights and a light veil of fog, was the perfect place to recreate the legacy of First Avenue. Of course, Wendy, Lisa and the others made the illusion a reality, performing with precision and plenty of heart.

Opening with the infamous “Wendy…is the water warm enough?” line from “Computer Blue” and seguing into the politically-charged anthem “America” (from Around The World In A Day), it was clear that the 80’s lyrics resonated just as strongly today. Next came the euphoric “Mountains” from Parade (aka the Under The Cherry Moon soundtrack), followed by 1999‘s “Automatic”.

With that quartet of opening numbers, the band had already visited four massively successful albums in as many years, spanning multiple genres with ease. But there was plenty more to come in the nearly two-and-a-half hour show.

Video highlights…    

Eschewing their trademark frills, make-up and lace for conservative slacks and jackets (Dr. Fink rocked the scrubs and stethoscope), The Revolution delivered that rare reunion performance that didn’t feel like an obligatory money grab.

They also left behind the posturing and characterizations that once provided memorable foils to their flamboyant leader. With Prince now looking down from the Heavens, what remained was a very genuine group of friends…who touched the audience with sentiment, appreciation and love.

Prince The Revolution Brooklyn Bowl Vegas

The band was joined on several numbers by Stokley Williams, lead singer of Mint Condition. Rather than mimic the vocals and stylings of Prince, Williams gave them his own flair, infused with energy and plenty of funk.

Prince The Revolution Brooklyn Bowl Vegas

At one point the venue felt silent as Melvoin delivered an emotional tribute via “Sometimes It Snows In April” (also from Parade). As she approached the mic, an electronic thump boomed from the speakers. “Is that you, Prince?”, she mused.

Always cry for love…never cry for pain. 

He used to say so strong unafraid to die.
Unafraid of the death that left me hypnotized.  

Sometimes it snows in April.
Sometimes I feel so bad, so bad.
Sometimes I wish that life was never ending.
But all good things, they say, never last….

The guitarist took several opportunities to remind the audience that all of these great songs now belonged to the fans. Through them, Prince and The Revolution would live to sing another day.

Prince The Revolution Brooklyn Bowl Vegas

It’s important to know when you leave here tonight that these songs really belong to you guys. If you wondered “Who’s singing these tracks?”… if you came here going “Who’s gonna do this? Who’s gonna do that?” YOU guys are!  Wendy Melvoin of The Revolution

The Revolution continues their tour of North America through August 11th. Cities and dates are available by clicking here

Photos and video: [Sammasseur]

Men of the Strip FINALLY Sets Debut Date


The super-charged male revue signs deal for HARD ROCK LIVE on the Strip…

Those who’ve followed my column through the years at two other sites know that the journey of Men of the Strip has been filled with drama, emotion, sweat and unexpected twists. The saga was even covered in a two-hour E! Network documentary, but that’s only been a fraction of the story.

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The wait is over, boys…time to work it.        

Throughout the journey, singer Jeff Timmons and crew have had one goal in mind – a residency on the Las Vegas Strip. As of this afternoon, the time has arrived. HARD ROCK LIVE, a large performance venue inside the Hard Rock Cafe (next to MGM Grand Hotel), will be hosting MOTS for a limited run starting July 14th.

 

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Choreographer Glenn Douglas Packard puts the troupe through its paces…              

The interesting thing here is that the high-powered Timmons-backed show has been entangled in many ways with competing Magic Mike Live (with actor Channing Tatum as the in-name-only front man). That revue, launched with enormous hype (and subsequently large ticket sales), is also at a Hard Rock venue…the off-Strip Hard Rock Hotel on Paradise Road.

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Magic Mike Live turned out to be a major fiasco in terms of a standalone production. Despite hefty audience turnout, the show itself is one of the worst productions for Sin City in recent memory. Men of the Strip, on the other hand, delivers everything it promises in top-notch fashion.

Here is the press release that was sent out just a short while ago:

HARD ROCK LIVE WELCOMES MEN OF THE STRIP THIS JULY

 All-new male revue to perform limited engagement on The Strip

LAS VEGAS (June 28, 2017) – Summer just got hotter with the announcement of Las Vegas’ newest male revue, Men of the Strip, coming to Hard Rock Live this July. With a limited engagement of six performances, the multi-faceted all-male cabaret show is sure to heat things up on The Strip.

Created by Emmy-nominated celebrity choreographer, Glenn Douglas Packard, Men of the Strip takes the art of seduction to a whole new level with the hottest male entertainers delivering the ultimate live adult entertainment experience.

Jeff Timmons (who has enjoyed phenomenal success with his internationally-renowned boy band 98 Degrees, sold millions of records worldwide and had gold and platinum records in 27 countries around the world) combined talents with Packard (who has worked with legendary performers such as Michael Jackson, Pink, Usher, and Ricky Martin) to create an all-new show that is sure to leave audiences wanting more.

Starring some of the most seductive men handpicked from auditions held nationwide, the show features original choreography, music, one-of-a-kind personalities and explosive energy in a fun, interactive and intimate setting. Guests will enjoy getting up close and personal with Timmons and the sexy “six pack” of male dancers and singers. Whether it’s to celebrate a birthday, bachelorette or divorce or just have the ultimate Girls Night Out, Men of the Strip aims to please!

Performances are scheduled for 9 p.m. on:

 Fri., July 14, Sat., July 15, Sun., July 16, Fri., July 21, Thurs., July 27, Fri., July 28

Tickets are on sale now and priced at $50 per person for general admission and $100 per person for VIP (includes preferred seating, meet & greet and photo), plus tax and fees. Tickets can be purchased online http://www.ticketweb.com/venue/hard-rock-live-las-vegas-las-vegas-nv/189164?REFERRAL_ID=twvenues or by calling 702.650.8590. VIP tables that seat up to four people are available for $500 (plus tax and fees) and include premium seating, a meet & greet, photo and a bottle of champagne. Tables can be booked by calling 702.650.8590 or by emailing lisa_hendrixson@hardrock.com.

Men of the Strip is produced by Jeff Timmons and Top Level Entertainment. For more information on Men of the Strip, visit menofthestrip.com.

As a fan of Jeff Timmons, choreographer Glenn Douglas Packard and the entire cast and team of Men of the Strip, this writer couldn’t be more pleased to be sharing this announcement with all of you. I will be there on opening night, and hope to see you there as well.

Photos: [Sammasseur, Men of the Strip, Hard Rock Live]

 

 

Vegas Don’ts: “What Was I Thinking?”


A YOUNG MOTHER SHARES HOW TAKING HER CHILD TO SIN CITY RUINED HER LOVE FOR LAS VEGAS…

Not long ago I struck up a conversation with a staffer at my orthodontist appointment (in Salem, Oregon where I moved from last fall). When asked what I do for a living, I described my column and how it offers unfiltered reviews/advice/news on all things Vegas. Her reply was an unpleasant “Ugh…Vegas!”.

Obviously, there was a story behind her response. “I went to Vegas recently” she offered. “It’ll be a long time before I go back…if ever.” It turns out that she and her husband had decided to take their eighteen-month-old baby for a few days in Sin City. “What was I thinking? It was a miserable experience”.

As a person who cringes at the sight of little children being dragged around Vegas at all hours (and in truly inappropriate locations), I was eager to explore this young mother’s experiences. But more importantly, I had to find out what would ever possess her to take a baby there in the first place.

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“I used to hear that it was a cool place for kids. Lots of fun things for them to see and do – animal attractions, amusement rides, neat stores and lots of things to look at. I figured we could stick to those sorts of activities. And if one of us had the itch to do something more “adult”, my husband and I could trade off watching the baby”.

Well, let’s be honest and take a look at that last statement…doing something “more adult”. That’s the REAL reason any grown-up heads to Las Vegas – for things you can’t experience in your everyday life. But don’t some parents want to have their cake and eat it, too?

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                             Check this out, kids. Can you say “Gentleman’s Club”?

Carrot Top frequently disses Vegas-bound families in his comedy show. “What the #&*! is it with all the kids on the Strip?” he asks. “Drugs, booze, gambling, and prostitutes. Yeah, bring the kids!” he intones. And he is so very right.

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The fact is that there is absolutely NOTHING family-oriented in and around the Strip (excluding natural attractions like Red Rock Canyon) that can’t be done cheaper/better/funner somewhere else. Your kids want a rollercoaster ride? There are family parks all over the nation. Animal attractions? Same thing. And those places aren’t surrounded by “porn slappers”, suggestive billboards, inebriated revelers, homeless beggars and adults doing grown-up things with a drink in their hand.

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Then there’s that small matter of temptation. All the things that parents want to do when the kiddies aren’t around are suddenly within reach 24/7. Sure, parents can trade off, leaving one adult feeling left out and completely eliminating the opportunity to do things together as a couple or family. Or little Bobby can stay with a sitter in the hotel room while you get your groove on. And that circles right back around to “Why did you bring your children here in the first place?”. Could it be absolute and utter selfishness?

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           Another role-model mother lavishes attention on her brood at Fremont Street…

That selfishness manifests itself in another significant but frequently unmentioned way. Having your children around in an adult playground completely disregards the fact that many if not most Vegas tourists come here to GET AWAY FROM KIDS! A screeching, bawling baby on the casino floor at 2 am is hardly what somebody wants to hear when they’re about to roll the dice.

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Who feels like watching their language and behavior when they’re strolling around with a cocktail in their hand? I’ve encountered situations where entitled parents have scolded revelers both on the Strip and at Fremont Street with a stern “Watch your mouth, there are kids here!”.

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                Family outing to Budweiser Beer Park at midnight. Nothing wrong here…

Alrighty, mom….that’s your fault, not theirs. Thanks for displaying your self-importance and driving a stake through other peoples’ good times. Nobody wanted to stumble over your rugrats on their way to the bar. Put them in bed or leave them at Grandma’s house…where they belong.

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            Little Sally loves dancing in the streets….right next to that stumbling drunk…

While these parents are here spoiling the fun for others, they also make it difficult for our service employees to do their job. I’ve witnessed a mom and dad arguing with Golden Nugget security to allow them to bring their stroller out onto the Fremont Street Experience after midnight on New Year’s Eve, despite the fact that 1) it was an over-21 ticketed event, 2) there were thousands of drunk people crammed into that tiny four-block area, and 3) their baby didn’t even have a blanket over it and the temperature was below freezing.

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                 Don’t worry, kids. Security only comes around every 30 minutes or so…

Another common thing I see is parents allowing their children to sit at slot machines, which is blatantly against the law. After security comes and orders them to get up, those irresponsible moms and dads tell them “Okay, he’s gone. You can sit back down now”. What a way to teach your children right from wrong, eh?

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How about that time I spotted Dad sitting down with his two boys at the LINQ Sports Book. Or the Mom that settled in with her babies at the Art Bar of Downtown Grand for a little storytime? Again they had to argue with security when informed that they weren’t allowed here. It’s a scenario that just gets repeated over and over and over….

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                  A model mother reads to her children at downtown’s ART BAR…

“Kids in Vegas” is one of the hottest and most volatile subjects on any Vegas message board. I’ve gotten into many a heated discussion with those of dissenting opinions. My stance is that your children should vacation in places meant for children. A tourist destination promoting “sin” is not that place.

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The most frequent defense that people use for being pro-kids is “My parents took me to Vegas and I turned out alright”. But did you really? There are plenty of parents who would contend that deliberately exposing children to the dangers and excess of Las Vegas is anything but “alright”.

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            I watched this inspirational family hop the monorail gates without paying…

The classic Vegas of a few decades back is long gone, my friends. Mobsters notwithstanding, the Strip and Fremont Street are much grittier and more dangerous now than ever before. Visits here are no longer classy affairs filled with evening gowns, elegance and lounge singers.  

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I’m cutting straight to the truth at this point. Contemporary Vegas is the worst place for a caring parent to take a kid. It regularly sees violent crime in the streets, casinos and sidewalks. Shoot-outs, robberies, murders, police stand-offs and a deliberate attack on Strip pedestrians by a motorist have filled headlines in recent months. I could also bring up the deadliest massacre in modern American history if you’d like, but if you haven’t gotten my point by now you’re never going to.

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               Strollers are prohibited at Wynn/Encore. And the rule is enforced so well…

Then, of course, there are the rapes, muggings, pick-pocketing, suicides, drug overdoses, etc. that go unreported or unpublicized. You’re unlikely to encounter any of that with your family at Magic Mountain or Lego Land.

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Here are a few sobering statistics to consider before packing  a suitcase for the little ones:

The overall crime rate in Las Vegas is 37% higher than the national average.

For every 100,000 people, there are 10.73 daily crimes that occur in Las Vegas.

In Las Vegas you have a 1 in 26 chance of becoming a victim of any crime.

Las Vegas is graded an F for crime compared to all U.S. cities.  (Source – areavibes.com)

Another popular argument from parents who bring their families to Vegas is “The kids wanted to go”. Did they, really? If so, ask yourself where their information comes from. Surely your precious little ones haven’t been allowed to watch The Hangover or CSI. So they must be hearing how fun Vegas is from Mom and Dad, right?

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It’s doubtful that parents share the true Vegas experience with their kids. Those descriptions get sanitized and romanticized, leading kids to envision the city as one big carnival. Somewhere along the way, details about drinking, gambling, smoking joints, three-ways, and lap dances got left out of the story. So don’t blame the kids if you’ve made Vegas sound appealing to them.

Remember that bizarre 90’s attempt to rebrand Vegas as family-friendly destination? It’s now viewed as an ill-advised phase, if not downright embarrassing. Most of the rides, attractions, free shows, and kid-friendly casino themes have been scaled down or stripped out altogether.

Back then, the MGM Grand had a theme park and the hotel itself was designed as a replica of Emerald City. But Dorothy and the Munchkins are long gone and with good reason. The concept didn’t work.

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Let’s circle back to the mom at the beginning of this piece. She told me that bringing her baby along truly spoiled the love she and her husband felt for Vegas. “We couldn’t do anything we wanted to do. I felt guilty – just awful – for exposing my baby to that kind of environment. It made me second-guess what I loved about going there, and it’s unlikely that we’ll be returning before my daughter grows up”.

She paused to think for a moment, then offered a final bit of wisdom that stuck with me…and inspired this article.

“You know, we’re the ones who wanted to be parents. Nobody forced us to take our child along. We chose to do that ourselves. Only one of those decisions was a mistake…and we won’t be making it again”.

Other sites give you a glossy vision of Sin City…you won’t find that here. Get real.

 Photos: Sam Novak