Get ‘Portnoyed’ With Sin City’s Philanthropic Artist


Famed caricaturist Neal Portnoy donates talent and funds to furloughed Las Vegas performers…

For many entertainers, the benchmarks of success are seeing their name in lights and perhaps, someday, a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame. But you’ll know that you’ve really made it when your likeness has been “Portnoyed”.

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Neal Portnoy is a successful artist who specializes in caricatures (or “cartoon portraits”) of famous performers and sports figures. His Portnoy Gallery in Las Vegas is a veritable shrine to pop culture and the entertainment world. Its centerpiece is the Wall of Honor, a collection of Portnoy’s most revered work.

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Once a year, the Gallery holds a red carpet induction ceremony that’s attended by public figures, prominent athletes, celebrities and one very special doggie. Neal’s background as a baseball player and sleight-of-hand entertainer gives him a unique insight that few artists possess. His portraits, most often created with felt markers, capture the dedication of his subjects along with their humor, talent, and charisma.

Working with felt markers is a unique and challenging medium. As Neal explains it:

Markers…unlike oils, unlike acrylics, unlike water colors…is a stain. You can change colors in water colors, acrylics and oils, and kind of put what you want down. But with marker, every line you put down, stays down.  If I make a mistake, I make it into something else…’cause every line is an expression.

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When it comes to being charismatic, the Massachusetts native exudes a wonderful degree of warmth and confidence. It’s easy to understand why some of the most powerful names in entertainment have entrusted their images to Neal. From members of the Las Vegas Raiders to Barry Manilow, Freddy Mercury to Aretha Franklin, each work of art is timeless and unforgettable.

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My first opportunity to chat with Neal was earlier this year. It was at the Summerlin birthday party of influential power-player Mark Messina, where I shared a table with the artist and his charming wife, former New Yorker Dorothy Cannata Portnoy. During our conversation, Dorothy told me that she is the gallery’s Director. She also tirelessly assists her husband in his efforts to support the local community.

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The Portnoys invited me to their studio to check out Neal’s collection. Alas, a certain pandemic became headlines soon after, placing my visit on a to-do list for when life returns to normal. In the interim, I’ve researched the gallery via websites and social media. There I learned about a heartwarming effort that the couple and Mark Messina have created to assist out-of-work Vegas entertainers.

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As you may recall from last week’s article on the Mondays Dark Live Stream Telethon, the residents of Sin City are unparalleled when it comes to taking care of their own. That’s why Portnoy Gallery has decided to donate 50 percent of sales from Portnoyed.com:

Las Vegas has been hit particularly hard due to quarantines and venue closures.  Our entertainers have been among the hardest hit.  We would like to give back to the community, by providing our out of work entertainers 50% of proceeds from our current online products.  Please browse our store for your favorite Las Vegas entertainer, and together we can help them get through this period.

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Up for grabs are 76 uniquely-designed coffee mugs, each featuring a beloved Vegas celebrity. Musicians like the Bronx Wanderers, Niki Scalera, David Tatlock, Mark O’Toole, Michael Shapiro, and Zowie Bowie can join your coffee break, along with comedians Carrot Top, Mike Hammer, and John Di Domenico. Even Messina and my colleagues Gabe Ginsberg, Chet Buchanan and Johnny Katsilometes have their mugs committed to a mug.

UPDATE – On 5/17/20, Neal messaged me to let me know that my oversized mug had been “Portnoyed”, too. The honor is overwhelming…and I’m thrilled that he made the decision to include me in this illustrious collection.

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Hey, I’m on a mug! Get one by clicking here

To obtain one or more of these uniquely Vegas collectibles (while simultaneously fueling the movement to keep Las Vegas entertainment alive) visit this link. Until the gallery reopens, you can browse and purchase prints of Neal’s creations by clicking HERE.

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Portnoy Gallery is located at 1537 W Oakey Blvd, Las Vegas, NV 89102. Phone 702.685.2929 for more information.

Photos: Neal Portnoy, Dorothy Cannata Portnoy, David Orlov, Dianne Davis, Jonathan Scott

 

COVID-19 Aftermath – Shows Most Likely (and Least Likely) To Return


Taking a hard and painful look at the Vegas entertainment landscape as Sin City’s quarantine drags on…

As a devoted enthusiast of Sin City entertainment, it pains me to think of the hundreds of gifted performers currently out of work during the pandemic shutdown. Devoted to a volatile industry in which success is never guaranteed, many artists work multiple jobs and/or share living expenses just to get by. Combine this with a lack of adequate health care and spotty unemployment compensation, and it wouldn’t be surprising if many struggling entertainers decide to leave the city…or the industry altogether.

Sadly, there’s a likelihood that numerous residencies and production shows will decide to fold (or have their lifeline unceremoniously yanked) once the ramp-up begins. How this plays out is anyone’s guess, but I’ve been doing my own pondering on what changes lie ahead. Keep in mind that my conclusions aren’t in any way a reflection of quality…or lack thereof. Instead, I’ve considered factors such as pre-virus buzz, operation overhead (costs), post-virus marketability, name recognition, longevity, and brand loyalty.

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I might be completely wrong on these predictions or right on the money. Your guess is as good as mine. We won’t know until it actually happens, but here’s my list of shows that might weather the storm. And those that I believe will most certainly blow away.

Very Likely To Return –

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David Saxe Productions – the long and colorful list produced by David Saxe amounts to a well-oiled machine. His self-named theater inside Planet Hollywood’s Miracle Mile Shops and nearby V Theater churn out hits like Vegas! The Show, Zombie Burlesque, V – The Ultimate Variety Show and many more. Saxe is a master of efficiency and knows how to run and market his business. His children will survive just fine.

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ABSINTHESpiegelworld‘s naughty alternative to Cirque du Soleil is an instant hit that would have celebrated its ninth anniversary on April 1st. The bawdy burlesque ABSINTHE has spun off two successful companion productions and shows no sign of slowing down. Relatively low overhead (an outdoor tent, pre-recorded music, and simple props) should help it to last through a sluggish restart (if that’s how things play out, that is).

Other Spiegelworld titles OPIUM and ATOMIC SALOON SHOW might not have it so easy. Their out-of-the-way locations inside expensive Cosmopolitan and Venetian/Palazzo might prove to be a bigger challenge in the long run. Cosmo‘s costly parking fees make OPIUM an easy pass for locals, too. (Update 5/19/20 – Cosmopolitan has announced its intentions to discontinue parking fees)

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“O” at Bellagio – Despite a mountain of debt that Cirque du Soleil is carrying, it’s unlikely that they’ll allow their highest-profile Vegas production to fold. Since “O” is synonymous with the Bellagio image (just like its outdoor fountains and seasonal conservatory displays) it’s easy to envision the resort taking ownership of the show if it came down to that (Steve Wynn did that with Le Reve). “O” is still a very popular draw despite two decades and thousands of performances. Not my cup of tea, but for many tourists, it’s a must-see.

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CELESTIA – my insiders at CELESTIA assure me that the fledgling big-top production is on solid ground. STRAT Hotel Casino has a strong financial stake. which seems to be a common thread in the current make-or-break environment. Four-wallers (independent contractors) will suffer while casino-owned shows are likely to last. It all comes down to money.

Sex Tips For Straight Women from a Gay Man – This is an easy one to envision continuing. An extremely Vegas-y premise, an attractive local cast and very low overhead within an intimate theater setting. What’s not to love?

Solo and Lounge Acts – Our deeply-fractured economy is going to have a ripple effect on both consumers and the products they offer. Returning guests with limited discretionary income will most likely avoid the high-ticket attractions. That’s where one-man/woman shows come to the rescue.

With low overhead and a simple format, solo acts can offer solid entertainment and a retro vibe while passing the savings onto their audiences. Look for returning favorites like Mike Hammer, Murray Sawchuck, Carrot Top, Xavier Mortimer, Jen Kramer and maybe even the once-popular Gordie Brown to shine brighter in the spotlight. I anticipate that bloated, self-serving star vehicles like Criss Angel – Mindfreak Live and Mariah Carey‘s endless residencies will go down in flames, though. Darn.

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Expensive mega-residencies could also feel the same heat. Last year people were forking over a grand or more to StubHub for Lady Gaga tickets. Who has that kind of money now? Even though Paula Abdul‘s lip-syncing stomp-fest at the Flamingo couldn’t warrant a $49 price tag last fall, her short-lived residency now seems like a million years ago. Look for a glut of similar shows (like Derek Hough: No Limit), along with the resurgence of intimate lounge acts, to tide us over until the economy…and Vegas…rebounds.

Say Farewell –

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Blue Man Group (Update 6/30/20 The cast of Blue Man Group has been laid off by parent company Cirque du Soleil)

They’re old, tired, and as cliched as the fanny pack strapped around your cargo shorts. The trio of silent weirdos known as Blue Man Group is as annoying as those outdoor escalators that are constantly “under service”. Luxor‘s long-running production returned to the pyramid a few years ago, after more than a decade at Venetian and Monte Carlo. Now they’re in a much smaller venue and it’s easy to forget that they’re still around. Maybe COVID-19 will be the nudge that gets them to squeeze their final Twinkie.

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Human Nature (Update – permanent closure announced 6/10/20) –

It really upsets me to have this one on the list, but the Aussie quartet known as Human Nature appears to have been struggling for a while. I’ve been to the show a number of times in the past twelve months, and attendance has been anemic during each and every visit. Their live band has been downsized as a cost-cutting measure and the dancers were given a pink slip before that. They’ve also jettisoned the “Jukebox” format and returned to the Motown sound that put them in the U.S. limelight.

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Magic Mike Live (Update – Sahara opening postponed until 2021) –

                               We can wait even longer for this execrable slop to return….

The movie-inspired male revue received a scathing write-up from me upon its debut (deservedly so). Yet, the man-bashing mess, hosted by a shrill, leather-clad harpy who never shuts her f*cking mouth, somehow managed to become a hit. Still, the closure of Hard Rock Hotel sent the strippers dancers off into the sunset last year.

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Audiences were promised a spring relaunch at the newly-rebranded Sahara Hotel, yet an official debut date was never set and tickets have yet to go on sale. The 360-degree format requires a custom-built arena that Sahara didn’t have, so costly construction was required. Alas, an insider told me that the venue’s build-out was halted many weeks before the shutdown, suggesting that the bump-and-grind may actually be over. Today’s visit to the official website reveals that the word “spring” was removed, most likely due to the shutdown. Or are revised negotiations holding things back?

During the interim, MML has gone global with residencies in London, Berlin, Sydney, and Melbourne, so a pricey Vegas space is no longer a top priority for the franchise. Sahara Hotel has yet to prove itself as a hip destination, as demonstrated by the premature shuttering of similar-themed Blanc de Blanc. Combine that with the perpetual postponements of nearby Fontainebleau/The Drew and Resorts World, and things are looking pretty dead for Magic Mike Live.

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Cirque du Soleil 

Update 6/30/20 – Cirque du Soleil announced today that they have filed for bankruptcy protection and have eliminated 3,500 jobs…

I know what you’re thinking – “But you just said that “O” was safe?!?!?!?!”. True enough. But in our new reality, Vegas cannot sustain six (already down from eight) of what is basically the same show…especially at $150 and up for decent seats.

According to FinancialPost.com, Cirque owes more that $1.25 billion to creditors. MGM Resorts operates five of their six Vegas shows and is known to brutally slice away expenses wherever and whenever possible. So who gets their trapezes pulled? I’m looking at KA, The Beatles LOVE, and maybe Michael Jackson ONE.

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Hanging In The Balance/Probably Safe –

MYSTERE – the longest-running Vegas Cirque show follows its own set of rules since Treasure Island operates separately from MGM Resorts. MYSTERE is smaller in scale and has the lowest ticket prices. The others have massive sets, live musicians, huge casts and expensive automation that requires an entire team of technicians to operate and maintain. SO…..overhead…

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ZUMANITY – never a critical darling or fan favorite, but this one might not be in real jeopardy. It has many of the advantages that MYSTERE enjoys (smaller cast, intimate venue, lower ticket prices), and has already trimmed back its musicians and singers. But despite the adult-skewing format, ZUMANITY now pales in comparison to raunchy offerings from Spiegelworld. So once again, your guess is as good as mine.

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Le ReveWynn‘s signature production was never an out-and-out hit (some still believe it’s part of Cirque du Soleil fifteen years in), but it’s a critical darling and those who know it, love it. Le Reve is also owned by Wynn/Encore, which has deep pockets and an image to protect. When Steve Wynn’s own SHOWSTOPPERS was shuttered, massive shockwaves rippled through the entertainment community. That’s unlikely to happen again.

‘WOW: The Las Vegas Spectacular’ Celebrates Two Years on the Strip

WOW: The Vegas Spectacular – another budget-friendly production that hung in there despite the competition, WOW could in fact raise its profile and attendance numbers in the months ahead. Room rates at host hotel RIO start at a ridiculously-cheap $10 (plus resort fees/taxes) for the first half of May, so if the city actually opens, expect a pilgrimage to the aging off-Strip resort.

Sister production EXTRAVAGANZA missed its debut date at Bally’s last month and could possibly be in jeopardy. The cast of performers came from Israel and has yet to log a single hour in front of a paying audience. Housing the entire cast during quarantine is no doubt chipping away at the show’s reserves. Whether that could bring WOW down as well involves legalities that aren’t known to me. But from the outside looking in, it’s a pretty grim picture for EXTRAVAGANZA.

What are your thoughts, predictions and opinions? Feel free to add your comments or email me at Sam@VegasUnfiltered.blog.

THE BEST VEGAS SHOWS FOR $59 (OR LESS) TO SEE NOW


Click HERE to read the BestOfVegas version of this article and buy tickets to these shows and more at sale prices of $59 or less…

BestOfVegasEveryone loves a bargain, especially when it comes to stretching your entertainment dollar. Those deals become even better when you know how to get the most bang for your buck. Fortunately, we at BestOfVegas are constantly attending the latest and greatest productions and can help you choose the best shows, all at a discount that will make you say “Cheers!”.

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Here are our top five selections in Las Vegas entertainment, each at $59 or less. Reserve your tickets now while sale prices are in effect!

Top Comedy – Carrot Top at Luxor ($49)

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Luxor‘s “King of Laughter” has been packing them into the pyramid for over 15 years…with no end in sight. The fuzzy orange funnyman with a penchant for props skewers musicians, pop culture, airline travel and NASCAR fans in a nonstop barrage of gags, guffaws, and sidesplitting characterizations. If you haven’t seen Carrot Top, you’re missing a true Sin City institution. (adult audiences only)

More Comedy Top ChoicesJohn Caparulo’s MAD CAP COMEDY ($51), Mike Hammer Comedy Magic ($30)

Top Family-Friendly – CELESTIA at The STRAT ($40) 

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CELESTIA may be one of the best bargains in Las Vegas right now. An epic circus of wonders without the lofty prices of its better-known counterparts, CELESTIA presents amazing feats, dancing, and acrobatics under an incredible tent that’s equal parts “old school Big Top” and “hi-tech amazement”. A large cast of talented athletes, physical comedians, and musicians will leave you gasping, laughing and cheering long after the final bows.

More Family-Friendly Top ChoicesWOW – The Vegas Spectacular ($49), Popovich Comedy Pet Theater ($39)

Top Adult Production – Atomic Saloon Show at Venetian ($48) 

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Atomic Saloon Show is the lastest (and maybe greatest) treat from Spiegelworld, the team that brought you ABSINTHE and OPIUM. Set in a wild west brothel overseen by the villainous madame “Boozy Skunkton”, Atomic Saloon Show invites you to a bottle-smashing bar brawl that will have you blushing, laughing and questioning your own powers of sight. To tell you any more might spoil the surprises, but don’t miss this nuclear blast of high-powered fun.

More Adult Production Top Choices – Zombie Burlesque ($49), Sex Tips ($40)

Top Concert – The Bronx Wanderers at Harrah’s ( $59)

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The Bronx Wanderers is a family band with a penchant for the music of Jersey Boys, Stray Cats, The Beatles, and Neil Diamond. Their expanding popularity has necessitated moving into ever-larger theaters. Now featured at Harrah’s main showroom, the multi-talented troupe is overseen by patriarch Vinny Adinolfi. Dad’s recording-industry background provides the backdrop for a marvelous collection of hits both classic and current. A must-see production that touches the heart, The Bronx Wanderers will lift you higher and send your soul dancing into the streets.

More Band/Concert Top ChoicesTenors of Rock ($43), The JETS – ’80s and ’90s Experience ($44)

Top Sexy Revue (tie)Chippendales at Rio ($38), FANTASY at Luxor ($43)

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We’ll split this category right down the middle and give both Chippendales and FANTASY our top rating. The daring pair of skin-baring revues is considered to be the gold standard in their class of provocative entertainment. Delivering equal parts titillation, elegance, style, and sass, the one-two punch of Chippendales and FANTASY is all you’ll need to satisfy your thirst for sexy guys or girls. It’s worth mentioning that both genders are equally welcome at these shows, so don’t leave your other half behind…unless that’s part of your plan.

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More Sexy Revue Top ChoicesCrazy Girls ($45), Australia’s Thunder From Down Under ($50)

For discount tickets to all of these shows and more, follow THIS LINK to BestOfVegas.com

 

Hot Guys of Vegas – Humanitarians and the Humane


The latest of my series on the good-looking men who make Las Vegas a better place to live…

Hard to believe so much time has passed, but it’s been five whole months since my last entry in the “Hot Guys of Vegas” series! Since we’ve just come out of the “Season of Giving”, it only seems fitting to salute this current crop of hunks. One way or another, they’re all doing their part to make Las Vegas more live-able, either by promoting businesses, supporting worthy causes…or sharing their love for the animal kingdom.

Ricardo Laguna – Pro BMX rider/ TV personality

 

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                                                          Ricardo Laguna

Where you’ve seen him – sporting events, magazines, community functions

There are very few people in Las Vegas who haven’t encountered Ricardo Laguna. This stunning man has been a resident since the age of thirteen. When he’s not emceeing an event, helping with a charity or enjoying time with his family, he’s flying through the air on his BMX bikes. Sometimes he’s doing all of them at once.

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           Raising funds for the NSPCA at Vegas Indoor Skydiving Tunnel Jam…

Ricardo’s known for his charisma, community efforts and undying love for the city he calls home. He also owns an eye-catching wardrobe, thanks in part to friend Ricci Lopez-Hammargren at STITCHED Men’s Haberdashery (more on Ricci soon). But underneath those gorgeous clothes is an equally stunning body. In or out of a shirt, Ricardo Laguna is always dressed to impress.

Several children’s charities are close to Ricardo’s chest…er, “heart” . You may find him doling out ice cream at Ben & Jerry’s “Free Cone Day” to benefit CASA Foundation or fighting childhood obesity via Jump 4 Joy Foundation. But whatever he’s doing or how high he soars. Ricardo Laguna eventually ends up with his feet…and his wheels…firmly on the ground.

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Noteworthy traits – defiance of gravity, ability to great cheese on his abs

 

Mike Foland – entrepreneur/reality TV star/entertainer

 

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                                                          Mike Foland

Where you’ve seen him – E!’s Men of the Strip/FLO Advertising/Chippendales

Mike Foland might not be a household name…unless you’ve seen him as the smooth-talking “Money Mike” in E! Television’s Men of the Strip movie event. Nevertheless, Mike’s presence is felt in just about every corner of Sin City. He’s a man on the move, just like his awesome FLO Advertising mobile digital billboards that you may have seen this blog displayed on.

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Foland is one of those guys that everyone seems to know and love…and rightly so. He has his hands in so many operations and activities that it’s hard to describe exactly WHAT Mike does…or just how wide his interests are. Along with the advertising business, Foland works behind the scenes to create new Vegas entertainment, is a member of the National Addiction Center Treatment Alliance and owner of Sunshine Sober Home in Florida.

Mike’s remarkable background is just as varied. The West Palm Beach FL native began as a wrestler which segued into an MMA fighting career. Somehow along the way he managed to become a member of the world-famous Chippendales. No shortage of testosterone in this guy, that’s for sure.

Mike says his dancing days are far behind him now, but love for animals will always be a part of him. Very much a cowboy at heart, Mike enjoys farmer life and outdoor activities. Fishing, boating, hiking and diving are all part of what makes this rugged hunk a real “man’s man”. But deep down inside and underneath that ever-present cowboy hat, Mike Foland is a true softie.

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Noteworthy traits – gentle demeanor, major masculinity

 

Jeffrey Frischmann – showroom manager/animal rescuer

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                                                    Jeffrey Frischmann

Where you’ve seen him – Mike Hammer Comedy Magic/Spirit of the King

If you’ve had the good fortune to attend one of the two sterling shows at Four Queens Hotel Casino, chances are you’ve met young Jeffrey Frischmann. This handsome, soft-spoken boyish gentleman presents himself with a demeanor and elegance reminiscent of the showroom maitre d’s of yesteryear Vegas.

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                  Jeffrey joins Steve Connolly onstage at Spirit of the King

Jeffrey usually wears a wacky logo t-shirt under his dark blazer. which adequately represents the dual personality of this outstanding guy. Jeffrey’s quite formal on the outside but life-loving and adventure-filled within.

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You’d be hard pressed to find a photo of Mr. Frischmann by himself. He’s always with…or holding…someone or something he loves. Married to lovely Ayin with two-year-old daughter Farrah, this family shares their home with some other very special members.

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Jeffrey and Ayin are actively involved in providing homes for French bulldogs. As part of Nevada Frenchie Rescue, the couple has been instrumental in relocating pets from other areas into better situations…and have adopted several of them as well. Of course, they’ve experienced many tearful farewells along the way, but Jeffrey knows that the pain is worth the rewards.

This aficionado of all things retro-cool loves to hit up antique shops with his pal Carrot Top, listen to rock music on his vintage record changer and play pinball with pals. During the scorching Vegas summers, Jeffrey heads out to Lake Mead for swimming, boating and diving. In the winters, there’s snowboarding to keep him fit.

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Being Mike Hammer’s right hand man means that Jeffrey is ever-present at fundraisers and charity functions that Hammer hosts and attends. Most notable is a series of annual Mike Hammer Celebrity Go-Kart Races that have benefited a long list of charities.

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However Jeffrey spends his days, you can always find this great guy charming his guests at the Four Queens Showroom five nights a week. Making people smile comes naturally for Jeffrey. He represents his generation VERY well.

 

Notable traits – tough-guy tattoos, boyish grin

 

 

NSPCA and FLO Advertising Team Up to Save Animals In Need


High-tech mobile digital billboard brings much-needed attention to Nevada’s no-kill shelter…

You’ve seen them on the Strip, grabbing the attention of thousands of tourists with its stunning clarity and brightness. You’ve read my articles touting their collaborations with PALMS Casino and SAW ESCAPE EXPERIENCE. You might have witnessed seen my own visage frightening visitors a few months ago.

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There’s no question that FLO Advertising‘s mobile digital billboard service makes things happen. Now they’re using their technology to make a difference for homeless cats and dogs at the Nevada Society for the Protection Against Cruelty to Animals aka NSPCA.

 

 

Located at 4800 W. Dewey Drive, just a chew bone’s toss away from Mandalay Bay, the NSPCA operates as both a charitable organization and a no-kill shelter. The Las Vegas chapter, which is also the state headquarters, is home to over a thousand found and surrendered animals at any given time. This staggering number means that they operate at full capacity and rely on adoptions to make room for other needy animals.

Every soul is precious.  Dogs, cats, and other domesticated animals offer perfect love — unconditional devotion — and depend on people for care and survival.  Each one deserves kindness and a happy home.

Nevada SPCA rescues “unwanted” animals, those with advanced challenges (abuse, birth defects, illness, injury, neglect, starvation), and those in peril at other shelters. Volunteers and staff help mend broken hearts and broken bones.  They heal without deadlines and learn that people can be compassionate and nurturing. We then strive to match each rescued animal with people by personality and lifestyle in order to find them lifelong, stable homes.

Besides annually adopting and rescuing thousands of cats and dogs, and hundreds of birds and rabbits, Nevada SPCA also rescues and adopts more than a dozen other domesticated species in urgent need, including guinea pigs, ferrets, fish, goats, pigs, gerbils, hamsters, mice, rats, degus, sugar gliders, and turtles.

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It’s vital to recognize that any shelter worth its mission statement is very careful to match pets with the proper families. This vetting process ensures that each cat, dog or other pet will have the greatest success in integrating with someone’s household. It’s a painful truth, but not every person is meant to be a pet parent, and not every pet is right for every home.

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So along with protecting and providing for these animals, the NSPCA provides education to the public. A vast amount of their resources and time are devoted to rehabilitating pets that come from bad situations and/or health issues and injuries. All of these challenges require money, of course, so fundraising and community outreach make up a big part of the NSPCA‘s operations.

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Celebrities and other organizations often come to the aid of NSPCA. In October of this past year, Vegas Indoor Skydiving hosted the Third Annual Tunnel Flight Jam Competition and Celebrity Challenge. Familiar faces like Carrot Top, Golden Knights announcer Mark Shunock and BMX Pro Ricardo Laguna gathered to raise money for the shelter. Along with food, blankets and toys, the event collected over $3,000.00

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 Mark Shunock of MONDAYS DARK (with “Rugby”) is a big supporter of NSPCA…

As I’ve mentioned many times in the past, Las Vegas is a tight-knit community. The residents here are always eager to lend a hand and help one another. As luck would have it, popular thrill-maker Jason Egan of SAW Escape Experience is on the NSPCA’s Board of Directors.

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After his successful FLO Advertising campaign for the thrilling SAW attraction, Egan invited FLO’s Mike Foland to volunteer his mobile digital billboard services to the NSPCA. In no time, FLO was touting the glories of gorgeous Mamma Cass and her pups, along with Chevy (banner photo above), a badly-injured cat that was saved from a car engine and brought back to health.

It’s easy to recognize a FLO Advertising truck. They’re the biggest and brightest on the Strip, so naturally they leave a lasting impression. I can speak from experience, for when I advertised on FLO my readership absolutely soared. My billboard also expanded Vegas Unfiltered‘s demographics and coverage far beyond Las Vegas. In fact, I was recognized in the small town of Tonopah NV, over two hundred miles away, simply because of the advertisement you see below…and my enormous cranium, of course.

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All of the animals you see below and hundreds more are waiting for loving parents. If that person is you. make plans to visit the NSPCA and discover your new family member. Not only will you change their life, but they will change yours, too.

For information on  NSPCA, including adopting, donating or volunteering, click here. Hours for visiting are 10 am to 4 pm Monday through Thursday, 10 am to 5 pm on Friday and Saturday (no public hours on Sundays).

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To learn more about FLO Advertising or to request a quote, visit their webpage at floadvertising.com or call Mike Foland at 702.203.0471.

Photos: NSPCA, Jason Egan, FLO Advertising, Sam Novak

Vegas 2018 – Best of the Best, Worst of the Worst in Smaller Shows


Which one ones to rush to…and a few to steer clear of…

Earlier this week I put the spotlight on a few of the more spectacular resident productions on the Strip (read here). But for every grand-scale shows there are a dozen or more economical choices vying for your entertainment dollar. These little guys must survive without massive advertising budgets or big-name stars. The casts have to work that much harder to please their audience, often making for a surprisingly enjoyable experience.

Let’s take a look at a few of these lesser-known and more intimate shows…and sort out the gems from the lumps of coal.

MOST OUTRAGEOUS – Miss Behave Gameshow

Miss Behave Gameshow

Sometimes you just need to do something a little crazy. And that madness is even more intoxicating when there are dozens of like-minded guys and girls taking the same trip down the rabbit hole with you.

Miss Behave Gameshow is offbeat, raunchy, free-wheeling fun from creator Amy Saunders. Accompanied by a curious fellow named Tiffany, Saunders (as Miss Behave) guides you through a game whose primary rule is “There Are No Rules”. It’s part improv, part avante-garde performance and a heaping helping of audience participation.

Miss Behave Gameshow earns every laugh in the best way possible…by being genuinely entertaining. And there’s a heartwarming philosophy at its core that will send you out into the casino with a smile on your face. For something you can’t do at home, put this one on your next Vegas “must-list”. Full review here.

Runner Up – Sex Tips for Straight Women from a Gay Man

MOST IN NEED OF A FACELIFT – Carrot Top at Luxor

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Let’s be clear right away…I’m referring to Carrot Top’s act, not his actual face. And while I adore the orange-haired comic both personally and professionally, his act has become quite stale. It’s still hysterical for those who haven’t seen it in the past, but he’s been performing the exact same jokes and gags for over a decade now.

When I first started visiting Vegas in 2006, Carrot Top at Luxor‘s Atrium Theater was a must. As the years wore on, so did the jokes. Even his props look old and dirty now. The Hooters application. Rosie O’Donnell’s buffet tray. A-Rod’s steroid-filled bat…all past their prime. We love ya dude, but give us something new. And once again, I’m not talking about your face.

BEST DOWNTOWN SHOW – Mike Hammer Comedy Magic

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Mike Hammer shares his name with a fictional detective character, but you don’t need to be a sleuth to figure out why he’s such a success. The Chicago-born multi-hyphenate is good-looking, suave, a little bit raunchy and a whole lotta funny.

You might be thinking “Great, another cheesy magic act” but Mike Hammer Comedy Magic is a lot more Don Rickles than David Copperfield. Sure, his illusions are sharp and frequently earn gasps from the audience, but it’s his jokes that you’ll remember long after you leave.

There’s a lot going on when you watch Mike Hammer. The guy is clearly at the top of his game, mixing topicality with wit, sarcasm, unforgettable facial expressions and wonderful sleight of hand. It doesn’t hurt that he’s ridiculously handsome, stylish and more fit than guys half his age, too.

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                                            Little guy. Big entertainment…

Dollar for dollar, you won’t find a better entertainment value Downtown…or anywhere else in Las Vegas. If you’re heading down to Fremont Street, be sure to start your adventure at the showroom of Four Queens. And be sure to stick around after the performance to chat (or flex) with Mike. Sometimes that’s the best part of the night.

Honorable mention – Spirit of the King (also at Four Queens)

BEST VINTAGE VEGAS VIBE – Cocktail Cabaret at Caesars Palace

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For awhile it seemed like this little treasure was gone for good, then it returned a few months ago to Cleopatra’s Barge at Caesars. Nobody seems to know exactly how or why, but what matters is that Cocktail Cabaret is back.

The concept here is simple…a traditional early-evening lounge act overflowing with superb local celebs doing their finest standards and witty repartee. Backed by the wonderful Philip Fortenberry band, this foursome strolls throughout the audience, encouraging you to imbibe as they dance, sing and tell jokes.

Of the three times I’ve attended Cocktail Cabaret, lovelies Maren Wade (The Morning Blend), Niki Scalera and Eric Jordan Young (Vegas! The Show) have been constants. Guest performers include Ron Remke (BAZ), Travis Cloer (Jersey Boys), Daniel Emmet (America’s Got Talent), Shai Yammanee (Jubilee) and James D. Gish.

Whatever the line-up, the talent will be top notch and you’re certain to be entertained. Cocktail Cabaret is the type of show that put Las Vegas entertainment on the map. It’s vintage Vegas at its finest. Don’t miss it.

BIGGEST SNOOZE – Mat Franco: Magic Reinvented Nightly

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Vegas has become a bit of a sanctuary for America’s Got Talent contestants. Some hit it big (Terry Fator), others fade away quickly (Paul Zerdin). In the case of Mat Franco, there was a lot at stake.

If the gossip is to be believed, NBC put a chunk of their own bucks into renovating the Linq Hotel showroom for their latest AGT winner. The desire to solidify their brand in Vegas caused a riff between the hotel and Frank Marino’s DIVAS, which was being pushed to the side in favor of Franco. Few know it, but the long-running DIVAS was already in the crosshairs before a financial scandal slammed the door on the drag queen’s closet.

As for Magic Reinvented Nightly, nothing could be further from the truth. Good luck trying to spot something that you haven’t seen before. The production relies heavily on the star’s charisma to make it exciting. Sadly, Mat Franco is about as dull as a dead rabbit. His boyish grin is the only thing the magician has to offer, so you’re left with…..well, not much else.

Tickets to Magic Reinvented Nightly should come with a complimentary dose of No Doz.

FAVORITE TOPLESS REVUE – Chippendales/SEXXY (tie)

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In this era of equality, why should beefcake and T&A be separated into their own categories? Not at Vegas Unfiltered, where I’ll crow about the assets of Rio’s Chippendales and Westgate’s SEXXY in equal measure. Both are held in small-ish cabaret venues, feature a nice blend of traditional and cutting-edge sequences…and have a broad range of ages and ethnicities. In other words, there’s something here to curl everyone’s toes.

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Despite their naughty nature, Chippendales and SEXXY casts are quite akin to angels. Tirelessly working to raise funds and awareness for charitable causes, the topless performers of Chipps and SEXXY are as admirable as they are breathtaking. Read about Chippendales’ charity work by clicking here.

Runner Up – Zombie Burlesque

MOST PROMISING NEWCOMER – Opium at Cosmopolitan

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I hesitated to include OPIUM in the small-production category, as it really could go either way. It may have the backing of Spiegelword entertainment group….and a huge financial push courtesy of a big marketing campaign. But at its heart, OPIUM is very much a quirky little independent production.

Using a re-purposed showroom and sets from their previous flop Vegas Nocturne, the folks at Spiegelworld have fashioned a balls-to-the-wall variety show that wears its cheapness on its sleeves. Not to say that the costumes themselves aren’t fantastic, but any production whose central prop is an old Mattel Simon game…well, I’m sure you catch my drift.

Drenched in the type of naughty nastiness that you might expect to find at an underground avante garde show, Opium will do anything to make you gasp and bellow with laughter. A live band and vocalists, up-close acrobatics, a horny android and the cutest dog act you’ll ever see make Opium a great addition to the Strip. Read my full review here.

SADDEST CAREER PATH – Gordie Brown (Hooters)

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Pity poor Gordie Brown, a textbook example of a career in free-fall. The one-time Venetian headliner has been on a downward slide for over a decade. After leaving the Strip, this singer/impersonator settled in nicely at his own Golden Nugget showroom. As tickets sales continued to dwindle, Brown was shown the door. That led to a series of continually-smaller showrooms at Planet Hollywood and now the little-known Night Owl Showroom at Hooters.

It doesn’t help that Gordie’s material is as weathered and shop-worn as his voice. He tries his best, working up a messy sweat while attempting to get the most out of tired George Burns, Nicholson and DeNiro bits…all between gasps of air. You know you’ve hit rock bottom when you have to identify the characters to your audience….but since they all sound the same, does it even matter?

It’s worth noting that Mr. Brown is quite a beloved member of the local community. He’s a fixture at just about every fundraiser you can mention. He’s well-respected by his colleagues and fellow performers.

But as for his career, the once-promising star on the rise is now just bargain-basement filler. Even at $24.99 via Groupon, you’ll still feel cheated. Give Gordie Brown a hard pass.

BEST LOCALS SHOW – Mondays Dark at The Space

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Mondays Dark gets its name from the fact that most ongoing shows are “dark” on Monday, the slowest day of the week in Sin City. That frees up performers to do their own thing…and many of them still long to be onstage.

With that in mind, creator Mark Shunock (Rock of Ages and the miserable Magic Mike Live) gathers his show-biz friends a couple of times a month to “put on a show”. Then they donate all the proceeds to charity. Each event is absolutely unique from the others…and so are the casts. Each December, stars and the year’s charity reps gather at The Joint inside Hard Rock Hotel to celebrate their success and announce the next year’s charities.

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A humble concept has grown into one of the biggest little secrets in Las Vegas. I’ll be publishing a full article on Mondays Dark in an upcoming piece for BestOfVegas.com. But if you’re interested in learning more right now, follow this link.

Stay tuned for my next entry in 2018’s “Best of/Worst of”. Thanks for being a reader in 2018 and I hope to see you around town.

Lace Your Shoes for the 28th Las Vegas AIDS Walk

 


Thousands expected to gather for fun, fundraising and public awareness…

It’s rare that I post actual press releases to this blog, but this one is perfectly written and give all the details you could hope for. So here it is, intact:

“Walk to the beat” at Aid for AIDS of Nevada‘s (AFAN) 28th annual AIDS Walk Las Vegas on Sunday, April 15 at Town Square. As AFAN‘s largest fundraiser, last year’s walk saw more than 5,500 walkers and raised $300,000 to support critically needed HIV/AIDS services and prevention programs.

Aids Walk Las Vegas

As Nevada’s largest and oldest HIV/AIDS service organization, AFAN provides supportive services to more than 1,200 clients including free HIV testing, prevention education, client transportation to healthcare providers, rent and utility assistance, nutritional counseling, food vouchers, mental health therapy and kids’ programs.

Aids Walk Las Vegas

                                    Grand Marshalls “Penn and Teller” 

Penn & Teller will once again serve as grand marshals for the 17th consecutive year and are encouraging walkers to take the Penn & Teller Challenge, matching every challenger’s $250+ donation dollar for dollar. The top challenger will be awarded AFAN swag and other prizes, including tickets to various Las Vegas shows.

Aids Walk Las Vegas

                                                “Miss Behave and Tiffany”

The walk will be hosted by presenting radio sponsors iHeart Radio‘s Marco and Joanna from the Sunny 106.5 Morning Radio Show, as well as “Sex Tips for a Straight Woman from a Gay Man” stars Scheana Shay from “Vanderpump Rules” and Chester Lockhart from MTV.

Aids Walk Las Vegas

             Cast members from Aussie Heat will be at the QLife booth…

Aids Walk Las Vegas

                                      Ruby Lewis of BAZ: A Musical Mash-up

The hosts will introduce awe-inspiring performances from Melody Sweets, cast members from WOW World of WonderNorma LlyamanRuby Lewis, and the Las Vegas Academy of the Arts Broadway Collective.

Aids Walk Las Vegas

               Chippendales with last year’s guest host Tyson Beckford

In addition to the performers, Tony Dovolani and cast members from ChippendalesJennifer Romas from Sexxy the Show, (Westgate), Miss Behave Game Show (Bally’s), and several of Nevada’s public officials will make special appearances to support AFAN for its unyielding commitment to making Nevada AIDS-free.

Aids Walk Las Vegas

                                               Jennifer Romas of “SEXXY”

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In between being captivated by Vegas talent, walkers can visit more than 30 different vendor booths, ranging from local and national brand representatives or head to the carnival game area with little walkers.

Aids Walk Las Vegas

                                                          Antioco Carrillo

Said AFAN‘s Executive Director Antioco Carrillo:

This years’ AIDS Walk Las Vegas is more important than ever. With the dissolving of the HIV/AIDS presidential advisory council, funding for HIV/AIDS research and prevention has plummeted. AIDS Walk Las Vegas is a chance for community members to come together and raise their voices to support public health, social justice, and help make Nevada AIDS-free.

Aids Walk Las Vegas

Aids Walk Las Vegas

People of all ages are encouraged to participate in the 28th annual AIDS Walk Las Vegas. Registration is free and attendees are encouraged to form a team and fund-raise to receive incentives. For additional information and to register, visit afanlv.org.
Aids Walk Las Vegas

Presenting sponsors of AIDS Walk include Penn & Teller, iHeart Media, Event Consultants, The Walking Company, Greenspun Media Group, and PDQ Printing.

 

Photos: Te Ann Lakeotes, Madison Freedle, Gary Kabik, one7 Communications, Aussie Heat, Jennifer Romas, Miss Behave, Antioco Carrillo