Sabotaging Sin City’s Return


Miracle Mile Shops and Stations Casinos deliver crushing blows to the local economy amidst relaunch efforts…

Update 7/14/20 – I’ve been told by someone I trust that a major show on the Strip has pulled out all of their equipment, sets and props from the theater due to a dispute with Miracle Mile Shops landlords. They are demanding full rent incurred during the shutdown. I have been unable to confirm this with other sources, but it’s in line with the documents I’ve seen that were provided by a retailer within the mall.

Our entire nation continues to endure a seemingly endless pandemic lockdown. Weeks have turned into months, and quarantine extensions get added as our bank accounts dwindle. The world will be a very different place when all of this has passed. Only the strong, smart, and very lucky may come out of it relatively unscathed.

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The economy of Las Vegas seems to be most in jeopardy of total collapse. No other city depends so greatly on a daily influx of tourists. Our locals form a giant hospitality team, ready to host, serve, and entertain the world. If and how that will happen again has become an aggressively-debated subject, as a cringe-inducing exchange between Anderson Cooper and Mayor Carolyn Goodman recently demonstrated. So while casino execs and politicians huddle over their laptops, hashing out plans through virtual meeting apps, it’s the “little guys” who are about to suffer the most.

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This week, a series of letters was sent out to business owners and employees that will put thousands of Vegas residents permanently out of work. Those dedicated staffers and smaller-scale entrepreneurs are being erased from the chalkboard with the flick of a wrist. It’s a crushing blow delivered at time when people couldn’t possibly be more vulnerable, an ugly tactic we should remember with our wallets long after the doors to Las Vegas have been unlocked.

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Letter number one comes from Robert Buchanan, Vice President/General Manager of Miracle Mile Shops. Sent to tenants of the busy Planet Hollywood-based mall, the letter requires an agreement to pay the full amount of rent accrued during shutdown. Business owners must sign off on this legal agreement prior to reopening, despite the fact that their businesses have been unable to generate a single dollar of income since mid-March.

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The multi-page document, of which I have a copy, offers the option to defer payment of rent and spread it out over twelve months (without interest or penalties). Failure to pay the rent would result in a monetary default of lease terms. Recipients have been instructed to keep the terms confidential and not to discuss the matter with other occupants of the mall or any third parties (oops…too late).

While an interest-free rent deferral might sound generous on paper, the amounts in question can literally be hundreds of thousands of dollars per tenant. These are staggering sums that will more than likely cripple and/or close a significant percentage of Miracle Mile‘s shops and restaurants.

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The tenant that contacted me about this situation explained that rental rates are based on a monthly average of the mall’s total annual foot traffic. Nevertheless, no adjustments have been made to reflect a period of ZERO customers. No pro-rating, no discounts, no rent forgiveness, no exceptions. The store owner, who asked to remain anonymous, noted that his business was already struggling to break a profit.

Hard to share too much without giving away _____ (name of business) but I’d been trying to talk to them since this (the pandemic) started. No response, vague replies to emails. I kept asking a week leading into it. No guidance, no direction.

Finally we were given 24 hours to vacate. To get access we now have to schedule a meeting with a Miracle Mile security guy to walk us there. Total lockdown. They still want full rent. So ironic.

At Miracle Mile Shops, as in many other malls, a tenant’s rent is only one part of their financial responsibilities. They also have to pay their share of marketing, insurance, trash, water, security, facilities maintenance, and much more.

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In other cities, landlords have taken pro-active steps to offer assistance. They are so concerned about losing valued tenants that they’re asking what can be done to assure that shops will reopen. But in corporate-run Vegas, nothing matters except for pleasing the stockholders.

How is this legal? It’s insane! It will take Vegas at least a year to recover from this so how can the landlord do this to its tenants? Multiple tenantss are grouping together and with one voice seeking legal assistance to fight this greed.

It just simply breaks your gears when you’ve worked so hard for something and been paying big dollars to this landlord for them to rip out our hearts during a crisis like this.

I’ve already mentioned Mayor Goodman, whose “Open up Vegas and see what happens” stance has garnered an enormous amount of ridicule. At the opposite end is Governor Steve Sisolak, who put the statewide shutdown in place. Sisolak supports a slow and organized approach to restoring our daily lives, which has received its own share of protests and demonstrations.

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I’m not interested in delving into political arguments here, as I see logic in both approaches. The reason I bring it up is to emphasize that everyone has a stake in the decisions. Nobody has a perfect list of answers, so we wait, sacrifice, obey the rules (or protest) and watch those bank accounts dwindle down to nothing.

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In the meantime, everyone seems to be asking the same question: when will MGM Resorts open? The same with Caesars Entertainment properties and Sands Corp. (Venetian/Palazzo). And while we focused our gaze on the big three, a lesser-known chain called Station Casinos swooped in and drove a dagger through the hearts of thousands of its own employees.

Vegas-based Station, which operates ten local establishments including Sante Fe Station and Palace Station, has gotten pretty powerful in recent years. Bolstered by the success of Red Rock Hotel and Green Valley Ranch, Station plunked down a cool billion to buy and renovate the once-popular Palms Casino Resort. An undeniable failure, the “new” Palms bled massive amounts of money, mostly through the catastrophic disaster known as KAOS Nightclub.

Station Casinos rested their billion-dollar Palms investment on the shoulders of a vulgar rapper-felon…and a grown man dressed as a marshmallow…

On May 1st, Station Casinos sent out letters to full-time Palms employees, announcing their terminations…effective 5/16/20. Similar letters were mailed to employees of Fiesta Henderson and Texas Station, both operated by Station Casinos. What makes this letter particularly ruthless is that they’re referring to the shuttering of the three hotels as a “temporary closure”, which in actuality took place two months ago. What this means is that when Palms, Fiesta Henderson and Texas Station reopen (if ever), they will be treated as new entities.

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              Palms Casino is the latest tombstone monument dedicated to overreaching ambition…

In the meantime, Station is off the hook for protecting their own employees. The company will grant certain benefits through September, then the labor force is on its own. The letter also stated that their will be “no bumping rights”, meaning that terminated individuals would have to reapply for their previous jobs, forfeiting any earned seniority if they return. This also means zero opportunities to transfer to other Station locations to maintain that seniority.

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           Photo: Sky News

Some people out there may be inclined to say “Corporations have to do whatever is necessary in order to survive”. But what about right now? Unleashing a bloodbath in the current economy is simply catastrophic. I’d rather see a company dig in for the moment and take its chances later. Much later.

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So what is a struggling employee or business person to do in the current climate? We certainly can’t rely on the government to help. Very few people have had success in collecting unemployment benefits, judging by the daily posts I read on social media. Sadly, numerous businesses have announced that they won’t be coming back, either. Friends of mine from every walk of life are considering moving away and some have already begun the process.

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Performer Andrew Hill, who entertains audiences at Station Casinos, shared these hard words regarding the closure of Fiesta Henderson on Facebook:

Well looks like our contract at the Fiesta is done and dusted ! Yep, for all the clueless fools sprouting Vegas is gonna bounce back!! ….Can you all Please stfu!

If anyone quotes the most idiotic destructive statement of “Vegas always reinvents itself” or “ we’ll be bouncing back in no time” …. can you please punch them very hard in the face!

When ever the wonderful PR word “ reinvent” is used …. it is code for cost cutting, slashing entertainment and figuring out how to screw people to make more money…

For those who stick it out and hope for a successful recovery, things look bleaker every day. Think back to the long-term effects that 9/11 had on the airline industry. In order to offset dwindling profits, nearly all airlines began charging mandatory fees for checked suitcases and eventually, carry-on bags. Yet once air travel rebounded, those fees remained. They now generate more profit than actual ticket sales.

Las Vegas Hotels closed own to COVID-19 Virus.

As you read this, Las Vegas is virtually a ghost town. Every action taken by those in power during the days ahead will undoubtedly become a new standard. If the events of this week are any indication, the citizens of this city are in for for years of serious trouble.

Many of us have been hoping that Vegas will use the shutdown as an opportunity to undo damaging decisions of the past decade. Former Vegas Mayor Jan Jones Blackhurst is among them. We’ve urged the Big Three to toss out resort fees, eliminate paid parking, send “celebrity chefs” packing, dump those $20 cocktails down the drain and make Las Vegas appealing to the masses once more.

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Las Vegas may be your playground. But it’s also our home. The future of this city depends on it being recognized as a community of flesh-and-blood people. But nobody seems to be listening.

Banner Photo: Palms Casino via Facebook


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Click here for the article’s companion piece “Vegas Goes Dark – The Beginning of the End…or a new Beginning?”

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Click here for my related article “Is Sin City Determined to Drive You Away?”

 

 

 

5 Reasons to Party with ‘Tenors of Rock’


The all-hits classic rock show at Planet Hollywood brings down the house…

From lounge lizards of the Golden Era to the headliners of today, music has always been at the heart of Sin City entertainment. And nowhere does that heart beat stronger than with the dynamic stylings of Tenors of Rock.

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An international confection of rip-roaring vocals, boundless energy and a live onstage band, Tenors of Rock has evolved from a group of X-Factor hopefuls into a world-renowned brand with two touring groups and their own chart-topping hits. Now in their third year of Las Vegas success, the boys recently landed a new home at Planet Hollywood’s Sin City Theater.

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Whether you’ve seen their previous residency at Harrah’s or are discovering them for the very first time, here are some great reasons to spend the evening with Tenors of Rock.

Classic Rock Anthems – the popularity of classic rock is at an all-time high. Tenors of Rock brings you American favorites like “Sweet Child of Mine”,” Shook Me All Night Long”, “Desperado”, “More Than A Feeling” and British hits including “Pinball Wizard”, “Satisfaction” and “Back in Black”, all delivered in their signature style.

Intimate Venue –  Rock shows often get caught up in bombast and pyrotechnics, rarely offering the subtleties of lush harmony and complex vocals. Sin City Theater provides a rare personal experience with a band that has played to upwards of 100,000 at a time. Percussionist Nannette Fortier and guitarist Chris Cicchino also benefit from the smaller space, allowing the musicians to absolutely shine.

Dynamic Personalities – Vegas audiences immediately fell in love with members Dai Richards and Jonathan Williams (Wales), Daniel Shumann (Melbourne), Tommy Sherlock (Liverpool) and kilt-clad extrovert Jimmy Denning (Scotland). Onstage chemistry makes every performance an electrifying concert experience. Newest members Andrew Freeman (Raiding the Rock Vault) and BAZ alumnus Paul Johnson (Las Vegas) are injecting a healthy dose of American DNA into the mix.

Amazing Talent – The level of experience behind Tenors is world class. Williams excelled as Les Miserables lead “Jean Valjean” in London’s West End. Shumann has a background in TV, opera, cabaret and musicals. Richards is a founding member who…

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Photos: Tenors of Rock

FLIGHTS RESTAURANT Evokes the Heyday of Air Travel


Aviation-themed eatery comes in for a landing at Planet Hollywood’s Miracle Mile Shops….

In recent years, it seem like the chasm between affordable dining and high-end cuisine has gotten wider and deeper. Nowhere is this more apparent than the Las Vegas Strip. Thank goodness FLIGHTS has made a successful on-time arrival at Miracle Mile Shops of Planet Hollywood Resort. Dazzling, affordable and absolutely exquisite, FLIGHTS just may be the most memorable meal you’ll have on your visit.

Created by professional hockey player Alex Hult and wife Sarah, FLIGHTS was inspired by the popularity beer and wine “flights”. Those smaller-sized presentations seem to go hand-in-hand with tapas, small plates and family-style dining. Why not bring everything together into an airline-themed restaurant and pub?

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FLIGHTS is a fully-realized experience that begins the moment you arrive at the “gate”. Costumed reservation agents will check you in, issue a boarding pass and escort you inside. Passengers are given the option to check in on social media to receive a free glass of champagne. Once seated, you’ll be greeted by flight attendants (servers) in retro-style outfits, many of whom remain in character throughout your trip.

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Prior to take-off, you may wish to choose a Craft Cocktail or spirit/beer flight from the impressive beverage menu. Signature Cocktail Flights run $19 and offer exciting combinations of Mojito (watermelon/strawberry/classic), Cosmopolitan (cranberry/grapefruit/orange), Daiquiri (mango/lime/strawberry) and many more. Each flight will tickle your taste buds with a trio of fresh and exciting flavors.

The collection of Craft Cocktails offers something for every mood. From the light, bubbly Aviation (gin, creme de violette, luxard – $12) and Frequent Flier (Tito’s vodka, St. Germain liqueur, champagne – $12) to the smokey sultriness of Red Baron (mezcal, tequila, demerara syrup – $13), you’ll want to try them all. Fortunately, the flight attendant can be summoned at the touch of your own personal call button.

An absolute must-try is the Triple Threat ($22), the stunning union of a 22-oz. Prickly Pear Margarita, 7-oz. bottle of Corona Light and a vial of Patron Silver tequila. Served in a massive goblet, this party-in-a-glass should last you until the landing gear touches down. Amazingly, the Triple Threat (and all of the other flights and cocktails) are available for $10 daily from opening until 5 p.m.. This Happy Hour deal makes FLIGHTS one of the most outstanding bargains on the Las Vegas Strip.

But of course, cocktails are only one part of your in-flight service. A wonderful selection of small plates, entrees and desserts have been created in the galley by Chef Kyle Kingrey (M Resort, Palazzo’s LAVO). His beautiful and wonderfully-seasoned comfort food is presented family-style, so you’ll want to dig into several dishes.

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Colorful APPETIZER FLIGHTS like Ceviche (shrimp/ahi/salmon – $16), Ahi Tuna (sashimi/tataki/poke – $19) and Stix (thai chicken/chimichurri beef/ancho shrimp skewers – $18) will compete for your attention with shareable BITES like Korean “Buffalo” Chicken ($12), House Made Meatballs ($14) and Steak Street Tacos ($13).

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Entrees come in shareable portions on the dinner menu, too. Smoked Paprika-Dusted Salmon ($23), Crispy Chicken Breast ($22), Ancho BBQ Shrimp ($24) and Prime NY Steak ($32) are served on platters with a variety of sauces and garnishes. Vegan and vegetarian Sides like Roasted Mushrooms (with nori furkake and a miso ginger glaze – $7) and Mac & 4 Cheeses ($9) are so satisfying that two or three make a hearty stand-alone meal.

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There are several individual salads and dishes offered on lunchtime flights. Outlandish sandwiches like the Chicken and Waffle (with maple syrup, red hot butter and house slaw – $16) and Beef Bahn Mi Sliders (with pickled veg slaw and miso mayo – $6 each) play nice with traditional entree-sized Radicchio-Romaine Caesar, Caprese or Mediterranean Salads ($11, add chicken/ahi/salmon/thai shrimp for an additional charge).

Even the most exclusive airlines often neglect dessert…but FLIGHTS has you covered. Reversed Cheesecake Flight ($11) includes three styles of the popular treat (strawberry/Oreo/mango) within glass jars topped and topped with crumbled crust. An authentic New Orleans-style Beignet Flight ($11) delivers a bowl of sugar-dusted pastries, served warm with vanilla creme anglais, chocolate and strawberry coulis dipping sauces.

Chocolate Dive Bomber ($12) fills a goblet with molten lava cake, vanilla ice cream and two different sauces. Even though it’s listed as a “shareable”, this writer recommends one Dive Bomber for each passenger…just to avoid the potential for any mid-air incidents.

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Photos: Sam Novak, FLIGHTS, FLO Advertising

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

‘Aussie Heat’ Fires Up the Strip


The “other” Down-Under male revue is faster/hotter/better than you’d ever expect…

In the world of sexy productions, male revues get very little respect. Audiences unfamiliar with these productions may have had their perceptions tarnished by cheesy appearances on 90’s daytime talk shows. But today’s male revues are polished, contemporary and well-mounted stage productions. And they’re enjoyable by all adult audiences, not just breathless bachelorette parties.

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Naturally, their are noticeable differences in what they have to offer. Chippendales remains the gold standard with a cast of towering, beefy clean-cut hardbodies. Magic Mike Live wraps their slim young pretty-boys in a ribbon of female-empowerment with the unusual addition of a female host. Black Magic Live offers an African-American cast direct from Lifetime Television Network. Then there’s Thunder From Down Under, the long-running production at Excalibur packed with sweaty wild boys from “Oz”.

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If you’re wondering why Sin City would need another Australia-based male revue, then you haven’t seen Aussie Heat.  Two minutes into this daring production and you’ll know that it’s completely different from anything else in the city. You owe it to yourself and your friends to head over to V Theater inside Planet Hollywood Miracle Mile Shops and experience this stunning show right away.

While other male revues tend to recruit guys based on their looks/physique then teach them how to groove, the Aussie Heat hunks are established dancers and acrobats. Break dancing, flips, pop-lock moves and sensual grinds were already in their blood long before joining the troupe. It’s just so happens that their athletic bodies and handsome faces match their amazing abilities. It’s a surefire combination delivering thrills that can’t be topped anywhere. 

When not raising temperatures onstage, the Aussie Heat cast is actively involved in a number of charitable causes. The guys conduct dance classes and an annual fundraising show at Opportunity Village, a local organization dedicated to enriching the lives of disabled adults. They actively support the American Cancer Society via an ongoing “Real Men Wear Pink” fundraiser and participate at numerous events like AFAN‘s annual AIDS Walk and Black and White Parties.

Aussie Heat also carries the distinction of welcoming men to participate in their show. They promote equality for everyone and actively invite members of the LGBTQ community in their advertisements. They’re regulars at Pride events and have partnered with a variety of gay and gay-friendly organizations like QLife, a Vegas-based media firm now in its 41st year.

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Another thing that sets Aussie Heat apart from their comrades-in-bulging-arms is audience interaction. Billed as “The Most Hands-On Show In Vegas”, Aussie Heat is far from a “stand and model” production. Audience members vie for prizes via body-shot competitions and blindfolded lap dances inside the intimate showroom.

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Blond Invasion – The Ultimate Pop-Diva Experience


New production gathers pop’s biggest female superstars for the dream concert that never was…

Superstar headliner residencies are the biggest draw on the Strip right now. We’ve got Mariah, Janet, Gwen and more with Christina on the way (Pink and Katy Perry are rumored to be eyeing gigs as well). Can you imagine how awesome it would be if Madonna, Lady Gaga and Britney Spears somehow teamed up for the megawatt show of a lifetime? Now you can stop dreaming, because Blond Invasion is here.

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Blond Invasion is the latest show to open at V Theater inside Planet Hollywood’s Miracle Mile Shops. A stunningly clever yet simple concept, Blond Invasion is a beautifully executed salute to the ladies who keep us dancing. Unlike other tribute shows you may have seen, Blond Invasion doesn’t have lip-syncing or a rotating roster of celebrity acts. It’s a live performance created especially for fans of Madonna/Britney/Gaga by people who adore them.

In the crazy world of entertainment, you never know if or when you’ll ever get the chance (or finances) to see your favorite headliner. Britney lovers were blind-sided last November when her upcoming Park MGM residency was abruptly cancelled. Things turned even more dire just this month when the troubled pop tart’s manager stated that she may never perform again.

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Britney’s devoted fan base will be thrilled when performer Katie Murdock blasts through the Planet Hollywood ceiling with uncanny live vocals and spot-on Britney moves. Flanked by an explosive male dance troupe, Katie opens with the fabulous “Circus”, followed by sensational interpretations of “Toxic”, “Womanizer” and of course, “Work B*tch”.

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At the grand opening celebration, guests literally gasped when Ms. Murdock strolled into the party…the likeness was absolutely breathtaking. I later learned that Katie has already wowed thousands through her portrayal of Spears in the record-setting Legends In Concert. With fourteen years of Britney experience and a lifetime of singing and performing, Murdock’s act alone is worth the price of admission. But she’s just one of three powerhouse performances that make Blond Invasion such a treat.

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The 90-minute production opens with Coty Alexander striking a pose to Madonna’s “Vogue”, followed by “Into The Groove”, “Papa Don’t Preach”, “Human Nature” and more. A multi-faceted artist who’s also a Legends in Concert alumnus, Alexander has thrilled with her interpretations of Gwen Stefani and Lady Gaga, too.

Speaking of Gaga, prepare to be floored when Philadelphia native Christina Shaw and the boys let loose with “Bad Romance”. Clad in a blue wig and glittery spandex, Christina shows off her own real keyboard skills at a lush red piano for a ballad-style rendition of “Poker Face”.  She and the boys celebrate diversity with “Born This Way”, bring the party directly to your seat for “Just Dance” and wrap up with a fabulous round of “Applause”.

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                Christina Shaw’s Lady Gaga raises the roof with “Applause”…

Along with their individual sets, Blond Invasion‘s three stars come together for something you’ll never see anywhere else…Madonna, Britney and Lady Gaga on one stage. Together they unleash a career-spanning medley that’s a concert event like no other.

 

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Hidden Vegas: Aladdin’s Desert Passage Shops


Looking skyward for curiosities that make up “Hidden Vegas”…

Finding remnants from the bygone days of Vegas is always a treat. I’ve been scouring the mezzanines, peering under tarps and poking my camera through keyholes to find curiosities that sail under the radar for most people.

Last night while meeting friends for drinks and a show, I looked to the skies…from the inside of Miracle Mile Shops of Planet Hollywood. There I found remains of the formerly Arabian-themed Desert Passage Shops.

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I started coming to Las Vegas in 2005, and had only been through the Aladdin Resort once or twice. At that time, the Planet Hollywood restaurant chain was in deep trouble with closures taking place around the country.

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The announcement that Aladdin would be re-branded as Planet Hollywood Hotel Casino seemed very foolhardy. Sure, the movement to de-theme Strip resorts was in full swing and Middle-eastern-flavored places like Aladdin and Sahara had fallen out of fashion in a post-9/11 world. But Planet Hollywood??? That decision seemed as out-of-touch as renaming it after dying restaurant chains like Chi-Chi’s or Kenny Roger’s Roasters.

Shows how much I knew, as Planet Hollywood Hotel is now a hip, popular middle-tier destination, with stars like Jennifer Lopez and Pitbull frequently on the marquee. Of course their biggest draw is Britney Spears, so there’s still plenty of dried-up cheese on the Planet Hollywood menu.

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The existing hotel is the second Aladdin to be built on this part of the Strip. The original opened in 1966 and was imploded in 1998. A new Aladdin was rebuilt from the ground up and opened its doors in 2000. Seven years later it officially became Planet Hollywood Resort.

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The Arabian motif was gradually stripped from both the hotel and adjoining Desert Passage Shops, which received a new frontage and glossy modern exterior. Inside, the corridors got a top-to-bottom makeover. Most of the ceiling was painted into a matte-gray finish, discouraging shoppers from gazing upward at the former faux skies.

However, not everything was taken away. There are two distinct areas within the mall where the original decor survives. One surrounds the V Theater complex and fountain show.

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The other is nestled under the indoor rainstorm.

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Perhaps it’s telling that the domes, citadels and faux village structures that comprise the Desert Passage remnants exist where other attractions demand your attention…and offer a convenient distraction. You’ll find be hard-pressed to find any mention of them on the glitzy, contemporary Miracle Mile website.

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The Arabian architecture of Desert Passage is clearly…and hilariously…out-of-sync with the rest of the Mile.

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Until very recently, the south-facing exterior of the mall along Harmon Avenue still carried the Aladdin facade. The removal of Krave nightclub and opening of Buffalo Wild Wings and another Nacho Daddy finally jump-started the finishing of that section.

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It’s uncertain if the remaining Arabic interior will eventually get stripped out and de-themed. But for the time being, it’s another chapter in our book of Vegas curiosities.

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

Images: Sammasseur with additional stills from Miracle Mile Shops via Facebook, wishuwerehere.com and Greg C.