Men are hard at work as ticket sales go live and an opening date looms nearer for Men of the Strip.
The following is a reprint of an article from 5/17/17…
THREE YEARS AGO
The number of details that have gone into producing Tropicana‘s Men of the Strip, like any production, have been daunting. Hours of planning, casting, networking, legalities and preparation must bring those elements together before a single performance is tallied. But they all get traced back to one thing…an idea.
Singer/writer/producer Jeff Timmons is the brains (and considerable brawn) behind Men of the Strip, the new show bowing this month at Trop’s Havana Room. As the story goes, Timmons was guest-hosting Chippendales at Rio a few years back when he became inspired to create his own cutting-edge male revue.
From there, the inevitable avalanche of brainstorming, financing, auditions and show creation yielded a nationwide tour that culminated in a triumphant Vegas showcase. Alas, things came to a grinding halt after a tragic event. Despite the successful run and a ravenous fan base, Men of the Strip was shelved indefinitely.
Inside the Henderson, NV dance studio during costume fittings…
FOUR WEEKS AGO
This spring, the creative process is back again in full swing. Earlier in April, three key players from Men of the Strip‘s creation converged in Las Vegas for a relaunch…this time on a much larger scale (last month I reported on the expanded show/nightclub/pool party concept here). And as promised, I was there to capture some of the preparation and speak with members of the team…both new and returning.
Timmons was front and center…and all around the studio…during auditions for new dancers. An open casting call had been announced in Los Angeles and Las Vegas for the first two days of April, with candidates encouraged to pre-submit video demonstrations of their skills.
Mike Foland arrives at Tropicana with rookie Tyler Froehlich…
Social media plays a big part in casting these days. Show choreographer Glenn Douglas Packard, returning from MOTS’s initial run, reached out to various dancers in the industry. He also stepped out of the box by direct-contacting newbie Tyler Froehlich, whose Instagram page he happened upon.
Both Timmons’ and MOTS’s Facebook pages broadcast the auditions live, with viewers encouraged to chime in on their favorites. The show’s financier Mike Foland told me that the cast would constantly be interactive with fans, both online and after each performance. He wants the audience to get to know the men as individuals and enjoy their unique personalities as much as their looks and dancing skills.
With a projected start date looming and ticket sales about to go live, only one week passed before the cast was chosen, notified and assembled to begin rehearsals. I stopped by the following Monday at The Stage, a professional studio in Henderson, where the men were already sweating through their paces.
Choreographer Packard (far right) and Men of the Strip 2.0
Timmons wasn’t present on the day of my visit. As has been the case since announcing the residency, he was making the rounds of a media publicity blitz. That means traveling to various cities, appearing on talk shows and doing interviews to promote his baby.
Mike Foland greeted me and showed me around as costume fittings were underway. I immediately recognized the uber-cool biker costumes that opened up the show in 2014. Over in the main studio, choreographer Packard was shouting out instructions for that very same number: “Okay, helmets on your shoulders. One-two-three, thrust, turn, turn!” (or something to that effect).
After putting the dancers through their paces, Packard discussed his goals for MOTS 2.0. The multi-talented choreographer/dancer/TV star is fresh from directing his first film, PITCHFORK, a horror thriller (released on Blu-ray and DVD this month).
With creativity in overdrive, Packard said he has taken the best of the Mandalay Bay show and pared it into a fast-moving 90 minutes designed to leave audiences out of breath.
“We’ve got a great bunch,” he said. “They’re deep into the third number, and it’s only been one week. It took a month to get this far the last time around. We’re lucky to have gotten a really good group. The challenge now is to teach what we already have to a whole new cast of men…” Packard confided.
Advertising materials inside the resort will soon blanket the city…
Fortunately, he’s inherited ample support from the group’s mentor-figure, returning performer Joel Sajiun. Dominican Republic native Sajiun moved back to South Florida after MOTS disbanded, waiting for a phone call. “Three years I wait. Three years! I was about to take a construction job next week when the phone rang” he said. “It was fate.”
Foland echoed that sentiment. “We waited a long time for Men of the Strip to come back together. We had to heal first. When we were ready, it was hard to find the right place”. He and others scoped numerous locations in Vegas and came close to signing a deal with The Stratosphere (the former Poly Esther’s nightclub). “Then Havana Room was presented to us, and we knew this was it. Everything fell into place”.
Mike Foland surveys the Havana Room after meeting with Tropicana execs…
Now that the team is back in action, Joel Sajiun finds it hard to keep his emotions in check. He choked up several times during our conversation. The dancer recounted stories of special-needs audience members who attended the nationwide tour, and one dedicated fan whose family sent a message of gratitude after she had passed away.
“What we’re doing here is special. It isn’t just a male stripper show. In some way, we’re making people feel better and affecting lives. Anybody can give extra attention to a pretty girl in the audience, but to us, everyone is special.”
As he stood up to rejoin his partners, Sajiun stopped and looked me in the eye. “This sounds funny, but what we’re doing here…somehow it’s special. It makes a difference to people. I know it does…and I’m glad to be a part of it.”
Timmons and Foland sat down with me at the Tropicana‘s casino lounge last week to discuss their progress. They’d just come from a meeting with hotel execs. Both were energized by the challenges involved in organizing a residency versus a tour.
“Last time around was easy!” said Timmons. “When we were touring, we just advertised at a city, showed up in our bus and performed. Now it’s a whole different game. I’m trying to make sure we’ve got coverage in People magazine, US Weekly, TMZ. We’re learning the intricacies of Vegas marketing…taxi ads, ticket brokers, hotel concierges, timeshare people. You can’t just erect a billboard here and expect people to line up.”
“Havana Room never had a resident show before” Foland added. “We’ve needed to work with Ticketmaster to map out the space, arrange seats and decide on price points. Glenn has to rework production numbers for the uniqueness of the floor layout and audience placement. It’s tough!”
Timmons and Foland chat with industry colleagues outside of the Viva Vegas awards….
With only two weeks to go before opening night, I joined the cast and management of MOTS for the Viva Vegas TV Awards celebration at nearby Mandalay Bay. That industry-centric event had already nominated MOTS for “Best Male Revue” (their showcase performance at MB in 2014 made them eligible). They ended up taking the prize over more established brands like Chippendales and Thunder From Down Under.
Clearly, the word has gotten out that Men of the Strip will be a formidable entry in Vegas male revues. Coming out of a three-year holding pattern, that’s encouraging to Timmons: “You know, we waited a long time for this. Tragedy struck and nearly wiped us out…but I never gave up hope. The universe has aligned for us”.
“Now is the time. And we’re ready!”
Men of the Strip will perform Thursday through Sunday at 9 pm at Tropicana beginning May 25th July 14th. Tickets start at $49.99 (plus taxes/fees) and are available via this link. Use offer code “PARTY” for a 30% discount.
The Sin City you knew and loved has gone a little bit “Mad Max” and a whole lotta “Resident Evil: Extinction”…
Wynn Las Vegas is putting new security measures in place on weekends, requiring customers to be screened for metal objects and putting more uniformed officers in place.
The moves follow a fight on Labor Day Weekend that prompted an aggressive lawsuit by Wynn, and problems at other properties on the Las Vegas Strip that included shootings recently. Metro Police say they have noticed an uptick in violence at or near Las Vegas Strip properties since August, which has already led to more than 1,100 arrests.
Back in October 2018, I penned a piece announcing my transition from “Vegas visitor” to “Sin City local”. In that article, I promised to continue writing from the perspective of a tourist, while peppering in the additional tips I’d absorb as a resident along the way.
Since then, a lot has changed. You’re about to read what may be the final entry in this blog. Only time will tell. Keep in mind that the name of this site is “Vegas Unfiltered”. You might not like what you’re about to read, but quite often, the truth is ugly. And that’s the state of Las Vegas right now. Very ugly.
It’s often said that art imitates life….and vice versa. So when I looked towards the entertainment world for a representation of Las Vegas circa “summer 2020”, I found myself inside the dystopian setting of “Resident Evil: Extinction“. You’re probably familiar with that particular film, and if you aren’t, the description might seem uncomfortably familiar.
Based on popular video games and third in a series of movie adaptations, “Resident Evil: Extinction” depicts a post-pandemic Las Vegas in which our iconic hotels and casinos are overrun with hoards of the infected. The Strip is a wasteland, and those who survived the global pandemic become victims of bloody violence.
Factor in “Mad Max”-style high speed police chases along with the new phenomenon of ¨scooter gangs¨ in place of outlaw bikers…and you’ve got an post-apocalypse double feature that none of us could have imagined witnessing during our lifetime.
Does that seem dramatic and exaggerated? Well, perhaps you should follow Vegas news more often. Sin City has indeed become a seedy, violent place to visit. Since the shaky reopening of the Strip, downtown and surrounding areas, the shootings, muggings, murders, suicides, protests, riots and brawls have become rather routine. Sounds like the perfect vacation spot, doesn’t it? Just bring your bulletproof vest and join in on the fun.
Grim business prognosis from 8NewsNow published 9/21/20
Sights like this were common just a few short months ago…
The seeds of chaos were planted in May
Las Vegas Metropolitan Captain James LaRochelle told ABC News on 6/24/20 that the department saw an increase in crime starting late the previous month.
“Three weeks ago, we had a really bad week, with 11 murders in 10 days. Some of those were domestic violence-related. Our gang murders are about 22% of our homicides, and our rate of solving those is a bit lower. At one point in April we had solved 100% of our murders, and now we’re at about 80%,” LaRochelle told the outlet. “We’re still slightly down in violent crime year-to-date, but lately we are seeing an uptick and it is a concern.”
Police chase on Las Vegas Boulevard, Labor Day weekend 9/5/20
When the first restrictions were rolled back and chains were cut from casino doors, I penned a series of articles detailing the efforts to lure tourists back. From new sanitation protocols to removal of parking fees, I assured readers that Vegas was ready and waiting for you. In retrospect, that was a foolishly optimistic stance.
Brawl at Encore 9/6/20 (Labor Day weekend)
Getting here is one tough battle
If you plan on visiting in the coming weeks or months, prepare for a very nerve-wracking experience. It begins at your local airport, where restrictions and measures will make everything from going through security to sitting at the gate and your actual flight anything but pleasant.
Chances are that you already had a rough time booking your trip, as airlines are bleeding cash and have slashed the number of daily flights into and out of the city. Along with limited options, expect an increased likelihood of delays and cancellations, too.
You’ll be required to wear a mask from the time you enter your departure point until you actually breathe Nevada air…it’s not a negotiable matter. You can say goodbye to having an in-flight cocktail to set the mood, and forget about even having a soft drink unless you buy a bottle at the pricey terminal newsstand. In an effort to minimize contact, flight attendants will mostly remain at the front and rear of the plane. You’ll get a cup of water and perhaps a bag of crackers…also known as “prison rations”.
You won’t know if the flight attendants and gate agents are smiling behind those masks. They certainly don’t want to be in an enclosed space with potentially infected passengers, but they’ve got to make a living. So shut up, avoid your neighbors, follow the lengthy list of rules, deal with the lack of in-flight amenities and sit still until the plane comes to a complete stop.
It may be a long time before McCarran International Airport is thriving again…
Things are beginning to look bleak
Once you disembark, the airport will provide a depressing first impression, with closed restaurants and bars, darkened slot machines and minimal available services. Due do decreased demand, you may deplane in a different terminal than usual, requiring a shuttle bus, tram or lengthy walk to pick up your baggage.
Most local UBER and LYFT drivers have given up servicing the airport, so anticipate a wait time of 30 minutes or so for a pickup. Tempers are short and I’ve witnessed multiple arguments in the terminals and at pick-up areas. Are you happy to be here yet?
When you arrive at the hotel, you’ll have your body temperature scanned by one of a variety of different methods, walk through a maze of stanchions to get to the few human beings behind the reception desk, or opt to check yourself in via an automated kiosk. The goal once again is to limit human contact in a city once known for its heightened hospitality. And keep that mask on at all times…unless you’re smoking, of course. Then it’s okay.
First class service is a thing of the past
After standing in line to pick up your room key, you’ll most likely stand in another line to use the elevator. Most resorts are restricting the number of persons allowed on each trip, yet they’ve closed off certain areas of the hotel to maximize efficiency during decreased occupancy. So you’re all going to the same floors in the same tower while being instructed to practice social distancing and not crowd into the elevators together. Did you follow that?
Take note that, just like the airlines, Vegas hotels and casinos are operating at a loss. They’ve cut their workforce tremendously, so services are minimal and not always offered in a pleasant manner. Those who remain employed are severely overworked and under a great deal of stress.
South Point Casino 8/30/20
Are you the kind of person who likes to have your hotel room serviced on a daily basis? Most travelers do…it’s nice to have someone else fix the bed, replace the towels and wipe down sinks and countertops. Well, not in today’s Vegas. It’s now standard for housekeeping to only do their tasks when you completely check out.
Need towels or supplies? Leave a message with housekeeping, and if you’re lucky, what you requested may eventually be hanging from the knob outside your door. Is your trash can full? Bag it up and leave it in the hallway with everyone else’s. There’s no room service if you wish to have breakfast in bed or splurge on a midnight snack. Doesn’t this all sound lovely?
MGM Resorts recently announced the layoff of an additional 18,000 workers. That’s on top of the thousands that they’ve already let go. So yes, that associate you’re engaging with is happy to have a job, but that’s the extent of their joy. Don’t hint for an upgrade…they aren’t in the mood to hear about your birthday while they’re wondering if or when they’ll get the ax.
Popular hotels like The Palms, Rio, The Cromwell, Planet Hollywood, The Linq, Tropicana, Main Street Station, and Park MGM continue to remain dark. Others have reduced operating hours, closed restaurants and buffets (Wynn already shut down their buffet after re-opening it in June), scaled back gaming options, eliminated valet service, and closed pools, spas, salons, fitness facilities, player’s club lounges, and more. You’re still on the hook for the full price of resort fees, despite the removal of most amenities.
The once-popular Wynn Buffet during peak lunch period on Saturday 8/16/20
Low down and dirty
Maintenance at most Strip hotels, with the notable exceptions of Wynn and Westgate, has been downright disheartening. Common areas and guestrooms are receiving poor to indifferent upkeep, despite the PR crap they’ve been shoveling. Hotels may be promising “Clean and Safe” but the puddles of dried urine/vomit, dirty rooms, grungy common areas and filthy parking garages tell a different story. Once again, cost-cutting and workforce reduction are to blame.
Guests returning to Flamingo Hotel Casino during reopening week were greeted with filth and disarray…
Glitz and glamour have been replaced with crime, decay and neglect.
If you decide to venture out, know that Las Vegas Boulevard is a mess. As usual, outdoor escalators are out of commission despite months of opportunity to repair them during the shutdown. Sidewalks and overhead walkways are filthy, too. The homeless problem has grown, so you’ll be dodging a lot more beggars than in the past.
One place that doesn’t seem to be suffering economic loss is Fremont Street. Nevertheless, the nightly street party is a COVID-friendly petri dish of overcrowding, gang bangers, hot heads, and anti-maskers. Going there on a weekend evening is literally taking your life into your own hands.
Labor day Anarchy as crowds go “Mad Max”
Check out this shocking video from Friday night, 9/4/20 (Labor Day Weekend). Take note of the pair of Las Vegas Metro police officers at 00:11 to 00:17, strolling through the crowd without masks. Apparently it’s optional for them to wear face coverings but not for you. So why aren’t they stopping the violators they see in every direction?
Public video posted to Facebook by Martin Laursen has gone viral…
After a Labor Day weekend filled with violence and brawls, Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Captain Patricia Spencer held a press conference at the “Welcome to Las Vegas” sign on Tuesday 9/8/20. She declared “We understand that our neighboring states all have COVID restrictions and the residents are looking for places to go and be entertained and get out. However, we cannot tolerate the violence.”
“There were numerous fights that took place with large amounts of people in various Strip properties,” Spencer continued. “For those people who are coming here to have fun and take part in the festivities and the entertainment here, we welcome you. For those of you who are coming here to prey on the tourists or residents of this community, it will not be tolerated.”
Here’s another video from Labor Day weekend on Fremont Street, capturing the tail end of a confrontation between the crowd and law enforcement. Why would you subject yourself to this kind of atmosphere?
Public video posted to Facebook by Martin Laursen…
Despite thousands of empty hotel rooms, abandoned hotel towers, and a vacant new stadium, massive construction projects continue…
Room rates have been slashed, so people who couldn’t normally afford high-end hotels are taking advantage of once-in-a-lifetime bargains. What does that mean to you? The luxurious experience you may have once enjoyed has now gone “ghetto”.
Wynn Resorts Ltd. spokesman Michael Weaver said the company is increasing its room rates and investment in its security workforce and procedures after a fight broke out at Encore over the weekend. The company has no record of injuries from the incident.
Weaver said the changes are being made to ensure Wynn’s two Las Vegas properties, Wynn Las Vegas and Encore, “maintain the guest experience standards for which (they) are known.” Las Vegas Review-Journal 9/8/20
Brawling at Wynn/Encore 9/6/20 (public photo posted to Facebook by Martin Laursen)
Vulgar, obnoxious, and violent behavior are prevalent around the clock. Both the police force and private security officers have their hands full dealing with anti-maskers, fights, street racing, protests, on-property marijuana use (prohibited by law) and additional crimes.
Downtown and the Strip saw their share of protests and riots this spring…
Why bother coming when there’s nothing to do but brawl?
If you can look past all of the above in hopes of “getting your Vegas on”, what’s left to do? Well, right now there are no nightclubs, day clubs or casino bars. There are a few scattered deejays, no karaoke and minimal live entertainment. Dancing is strictly prohibited (I’m not sure if you’re allowed to quietly hum the theme from “Footloose”, though). You might catch a lounge singer here and there, or perhaps some “Streetmosphere” performers at Venetian/Palazzo. That’s about it.
On and around Las Vegas Blvd 10 am on Tuesday 9/22/20. It’s a ghost town.
There are no production shows, no headliners, no topless revues, no singing gondoliers, and no magicians or comedians. Cirque du Soleil has gone bankrupt, Human Nature and Blue Man Group have left the building, and Wynn’sLe Reve has sunk to the bottom of the pool. Every single stripper joint is out of commission, and prostitution is still illegal here, too. I’ll ask again….are you having fun yet?
Update 9/23/20 – Nevada’s governor lifted restrictions on bars effective Monday 9/21/20. I ventured out the following evening for happy hour at a Palazzo eatery, then a nearby local tavern during the first Raiders home game. I was expecting a healthy turnout, yet both places were nearly empty. See below.
Entertainers bite the wrong hand
If you’ve followed this column for any length of time, you know that I have a soft spot for the entertainment community. I’ve hyped individual performers, new shows, revisions, special events, and pop-up appearances. Charity efforts, openings, profiles pieces, sexy celebrities, and passion projects have made up the bulk of Vegas Unfiltered Blog.
In an effort to assist the return of live entertainment, last week I contacted dozens of entertainers and requested that they record a 30-second video plea to Governor Sisolak to eliminate restrictions on live performances. I volunteered to gather and forward them to the Governor. After all, if movie theaters and water parks can reopen, why not production shows? But it would seem that many entertainers would rather eat their own tails than use their voices to make a difference.
In this age of selfies and TikTok videos, turning one’s phone into a tool for self-preservation should seem like a no-brainer. What I got instead was an avalanche of negativity, mockery, apathy and downright hostility from a number of entertainers. To say that I was shocked would be mild, especially after years of selflessly supporting them. I’m still reeling from the pain.
“You aren’t an entertainer…stay out of it”. “Are you crazy, suggesting that I go back to work? You’re telling me to put my life at risk!”. “I’m busy right now, let me think about it”. “I don’t appreciate being put in this position”. “I can’t take a political stance…it might jeopardize my job”. Oh, you mean the job that left you high and dry without unemployment compensation? The one that might never actually return while you sit on your ass getting fat? Yeah, that one.
Where am I going with this particular tangent? Well, the response I got was a punch to the throat, and quite indicative of the ugliness that has pervaded Sin City…and the nation as a whole. The amount of negativity around us is off the charts, but especially here, where there is little hope of things returning to normal anytime soon.
Considering all of the lost jobs, closed businesses and violence in the streets and neighborhoods, it’s completely understandable for people to feel this way. But would I recommended coming here for a vacation at this time? Absolutely not.
After recovering from the 10/1 mass shooting, 9/11 attacks, and 2008’s economic crisis, COVID-19 may be what finally causes Las Vegas to topple…
Consider sitting out the next couple of rounds
This city can no longer deliver any of the excesses that it’s famous for. Carefree revelry doesn’t have a place in a COVID-impacted society, and today’s Vegas offers nothing that you can’t get somewhere else. After spending the better part of a decade encouraging you to come here, I can no longer do that in good conscience.
Las Vegas isn’t worth your time, the inconvenience, the expense, or the risk to your health and safety. For now, it’s better for you to just stay home and wait it out.
Update 9/11/11 – in an effort to reduce the amount of violence on their properties, Wynn Resorts has filed an agressive and daring lawsuit. They’ve also vowed to increase their security force and have committed to raising room rates to discourage bad apples.
In a 9/9/20 interview with Las Vegas Review-Journal, CDC Consulting Vice-president Greg Mullen stated “Several of our higher-end profile clients say their high-end guests are done coming until this is under control. They’re scared to walk outside their rooms, and don’t feel safe on elevators or on the casino floors themselves. It’s a bad look. … You can really, severely, put a tarnish on Las Vegas.”
Vegas Unfiltered Blog will be taking an indefinite break. If and when there is a reason to put Sin City back on your to-do list, you might see this site return. Until then…stay safe, stay smart and be well.
Thanks to my partner-in-crime at VegasFool.com, I just learned that the uproarious burlesque musical ‘Cherry Boom Boom’ is coming back to Vegas. Its original run at TROPICANA in 2016 was prematurely clipped at the cowboy boots after only a few short weeks. But that was due to plenty of behind-the-scenes drama at the long-troubled Tropicana Showroom and not the fault of the show itself.
While it’s likely that the smaller showroom and stage at Hooters Hotel Casino will require an overhaul of the production, there’s no question in my mind that the heart of ‘Cherry Boom Boom’ will still beat hard, strong and bright red, So in anticipation of its second helping of sweetness, here’s my review as published during the initial Tropicana run. Get tickets for the Hooters relaunch by visiting Vegas Fool through this LINK. Prices start at only $37 plus taxes/fees.
WTF did I just see? I can’t really say for sure, but it was enjoyable to the max. Yes, a T & A girl-power topless revue getting a positive review from a male member of the LGBTQ community. Is that an impressive endorsement? I would have to say “yes.” And you’ll be saying “Oh, yes” if you make it to Tropicana to check out Cherry Boom Boom.
I’m going to be absolutely direct here – Cherry Boom Boom is effing crazy. It makes no real sense, despite offering some semblance of a love-story plot. Does it take place in a brothel? A Coyote Ugly-style roadhouse? Perhaps a surreal make-believe world where men barely exist and gorgeous women dance and get intimate together in various types of fetish gear and hard-rocking costumes? Honestly, I couldn’t tell you…not that it matters.
The goal of a burlesque show, either traditional or in one of its many recent re-imaginings (like Absinthe), is to stimulate and entertain. The cast of Cherry Boom Boom does so in spades. It’s worth mentioning that the number of performers is surprisingly large for a production of this nature. But since Cherry has avoided the burlesque moniker in favor of “Rock ‘n Roll A Go-Go”, it’s clear that they’re intent on re-writing the rules for Vegas topless revues.
Tropicana‘s main showroom has a wide, deep stage, which CBB (let’s stick to that abbreviation for awhile) utilizes to the max. The lone two-level set is massive, adorned with chains, large video screens, parallel bars…and a stripper pole road sign. Production numbers fill every corner, zipping around to dizzying effect. It’s the antithesis of Jubilee‘s slow-strolling showgirls of Vegas past.
High above the stage and to the left is a boudoir decorated in vivid pinks. An aerial acrobatic ring descends from the ceiling on occasion, and various props are wheeled out to accommodate specialty acts. They include a mechanical bull and a human-sized bird cage.
Hosted by the androgynous “P*ssy Control” (perhaps named after the song by Prince, whose catalog gets a visit in the soundtrack), the central romance is basically a flimsy coat-hanger on which to hang libido-stimulating production numbers. It’s played out in a world of rock music, bullwhips, lingerie and cowboy boots.
A pair of small-town innocents (Rock of Ages, cough-cough) take jobs at “Cherry Boom Boom”, the brothel/nightclub/whatever of the title. Their first meeting and subsequent romance are mostly mimed wordlessly while naughty action swirls around them. Naturally, they’re drawn into this fantasy lifestyle and decide to explore their own desires. Eventually, they get back together and things wrap up in a finale reminiscent of Grease.
If it wasn’t for the charm of the two principals and their amusing explorations of lust, the plotline could easily be eliminated, and CBB would still be a solid, satisfying production. The performers are some of the most physically attractive women on the Strip. There’s also a hard-bodied juggling aerial cowboy tossed in for girls (and gays).
Costuming is top-notch, the choreography is consistently impressive, and some sequences are downright breathtaking….especially one using wheeled mirror panels and another involving cafe chairs.
Then there’s the soundtrack. Much like Rock of Ages, CBB is a jukebox of hits, but this one crosses genres and spans decades of heart-pounding favorites. I had a hard time staying still in my seat. The songbook includes favorites from artists like AC/DC, Joan Jett, Led Zeppelin, Lenny Kravitz, Elvis Presley, Foo Fighters, Melissa Etheridge and Heart. Almost all are the original recordings, mixed and arranged for maximum impact. I noticed only one cover version (“Darling Nikki” by the omnisexual Prince).
Tropicana has had a rough go of it for the last few years, at least with their entertainment offerings. When the rare hit comes along, fate intervenes and things still go awry. Here’s hoping that Cherry Boom Boom is the one that breaks the Tropicana Showroom curse. It truly is a blast…and one that deserves to last.
‘Cherry Boom Boom’ is scheduled to perform 11pm Thursday through Saturday at Hooters Hotel Casino starting August 15th. Tickets start at $37 plus taxes/fees and can be ordered here.
Greg C. brings us another photo essay, this time on sadly-departed classic neon…
When you hear the words “Classic Vegas” or “Old Vegas,” your mind probably tends to gravitate towards Rat Pack shows or tales of the Mafia. For my photographer friend Greg C., the classics are spelled out in miles of glowing neon. Glorious, painstakingly-created works of art…
There’s nothing like memories from past visits…arriving in the city under a blanket of darkness, turning onto the Strip and seeing the dazzling light show that stretched out for miles ahead of you.
Driving past the dual ivory and gold towers of Tropicana, gawking at the multi-colored rings of Bally’s futuristic entry, basking in the flickering of Bill’s Gambling Hall…eventually reaching the ultimate Vegas throwback…Sahara Hotel Casino.
For me, the colors of the Sahara will always hold a special place in the hall of memories. It was the second place that I stayed in the city. I vividly remember getting out of the taxi and listening to the buzzing of the neon tubes and on-off clicking of the bulbs around the porte -cochere.
It was chilly that night, but the signage and blinking lights gave off their own warmth, inviting me inside for an adventure not to be forgotten.
I am assembling photos of all the neon signage and cool structures that have vanished in Vegas since 2010. When the photos are seen all together, it creates a vivid idea of how much has been lost in only the last six years.
Greg is absolutely fascinated with Sin City architecture. His photo essays of Westgate Sky Villas, hidden structural oddities and recent implosions speak for themselves. Now he’s ready to turn his lens towards the demise of long-loved neon signage and very familiar landmarks.
The beautiful neon and bulbs from the Barbary Coast were kept by Bill’s Gamblin’ Hall….. but scrapped when they transformed the simple old-school place into the bland Cromwell….
O’Shea’s gave its life so that Project Linq could live. The new version is a pale ghost of the original…a raucous, cheap, easy-access place for casual fun lovers to get plastered and grab some basic eats. Naturally, it had to be wiped out as it runs counter to the modern corporate ideal of high-end, high-budget fun. The old façade was awesome — lots of neon and flashing bulbs. Yep….get it outta here! No place for that in Vegas.
Imperial Palace: Yeah…it had really gone downhill. Still, it was a cheap place to hang if you wanted to be on the central Strip and were on a budget.
The entrance of Bally’s being destroyed to create the wonderful ghost town of retail shops — the “Not-so-Grand Bazaar”. And the cool purple-glowing section of Casino Royale, destroyed for the modern blah Walgreens and White Castle additions. Gotta have retail now, don’t we?
And out on Flamingo and Paradise, the familiar neon outline of Mr. T (of Terrible’s) was replaced by Silver 7’s. Adios to $9.99 Baby Back Ribs….
Tropicana is still there (well, most of it) but the old-school signage with neon and flashing bulbs is gone…as is the Folies Bergere, which was the resort’s trademark entertainment for most of its pre-renovation life.
One of the older wings of the property was demolished in 2010 (the 300-wing)……half of it by a little-known implosion. Today’s look is much more bland without the alternating dark/white stripes and the gold-accent glass on the tower tops that was whited out during the refit. The tower along the Strip also had a cool electric-blue waterfall going down the end (which they turned dark — bad decision). We need all the neon we can get…..
Convention Center Drive: Greek Isles was not a big name for sure…..it was actually a dump–in bad repair. The hotel has the dubious distinction of being the most renamed joint in Vegas….Debbie Reynolds before Greek Isles…. and the Paddlewheel before that……..and the Royal Americana before that……and finally the Royal Inn (its original name when opened in 1970)…. it was bought by Clarion in 2010 and imploded wearing that name.
The elderly Somerset House Motel across the street dated to the early 60’s. It was leveled in 2011. Nothing but empty lots where both stood (seems to be a recurring trend in that area).
It’s hard to get excited by the new trends of “office-building chic”, multi-toned beige and monochromatic blah. Even some room renovations have stripped out colors in favor of hospital-room white (see Delano‘s clinical decor at Mandalay Bay, which feels like being in a padded cell). When Sahara became SLS, the cans of white paint must have numbered in the thousands.
The north end of the Strip has clearly been hit the hardest. Not only have historic properties like New Frontier and the legendary Stardust been turned into rubble, but ballyhooed projects meant to rise from the debris have fallen into their own decay. Let’s hope the same thing doesn’t happen where Riviera once stood.
Can’t begin to say enough on this one–it’s already been talked about enough…. but it has to be mentioned as it was probably the greatest loss of neon glory in recent years…..
These days, visitors are greeted by huge LED screens that rival those in Times Square. Sure, they’re eye-catching, but also cold and clinical.
Fremont Street is the best remaining place to see authentic neon artworks in all their splendor. But they, too, are falling out of favor as hotels get purchased and modernized (think The D and Golden Gate).
If you love neon like Greg and I do, be sure to visit your favorites and snap some photos while you still can. The pile of carcasses at Neon Museum will most likely grow higher as Sin City continues to rip out its own electric heart.
Photos and quotes by Greg C
This article previously appeared on another site. It has been updated.
Find out why I’m constantly fawning over Westgate Las Vegas…
At this point, many of you must be wondering about my constant crowing over Westgate Las Vegas. The explanation is quite simple, and a primary reason why this blog exists. I LOVE Sin City…but despise how it has turned from a value-packed destination into a town that practically rapes its guest with all kinds of bullsh*t charges.
I wrote a detailed report about those trends right here. It covers nearly everything that has gone wrong in Sin City over the past few years. I don’t mind saying that it’s a must-read if you haven’t visited Las Vegas in awhile, and is sure to open your eyes.
Westgate Las Vegas, unlike the Strip resorts, has taken an active approach to delivering the goods. Everything that you always loved about this city is still there (one caveat being the resort fee, but…) including great service, respect for its guests, striving for the best possible dining/entertainment and sleek, reasonably priced rooms/suites presented with an electric vibe.
The classic stylings of the former Vegas you (and perhaps your parents) loved are still here, polished to a glossy sheen and enhanced with modern conveniences and perks. All at a price that won’t make you feel violated when it comes time to check out.
The same philosophy applies to those infernal parking fees that were rolled out by MGM resorts two years ago (thanks for absolutely nothing, MGM). So while nearly all the major Strip resorts continue to gouge its guests ad nauseam, my favorite destination shows them how it should be done.
It’s worth noting that, since this article’s original publication nearly two years ago on another website, I have stayed numerous times at Westgate during non-peak/non-convention periods. During those visits, the gates were conveniently open..and so were the opportunities for free (and hassle-free) parking without even the need for ticket validation or a room key. Apparently the resort is enforcing controlled access only when the situation demands it…to enhance the experience of their own guests.
The following section, although a re-publishing, has been updated and revised with current information.
Ever since MGM Resorts instituted a complex and ever-rising parking charge at their Strip properties, it was only a matter of time before others like Caesars properties, Cosmopolitan and Wynn/Encore followed suit (let’s call it “resort fee deja vu”). But while these insulting fees basically stick it to everyone (excluding certain levels of play and resort-branded credit card holders), Westgate Las Vegas has a parking policy to protect and reward their guests.
That statement might initially sound like the infamous public-relations nonsense issued by Caesars Entertainment Corporation when they instituted resort fees “because the public demanded them.” Not so at Westgate, where the intent is clearly to ensure that their lots aren’t being jammed by drivers who are actually heading elsewhere.
You see, Westgate Las Vegas is in the sticky position of being both 1) adjacent to a convention center that charges hefty parking fees, and 2) located on a monorail line that takes riders all the way to MGM Grand and other properties along the way that now charge parking fees.
When I met with reps from the Westgate marketing team a while back, the subject of parking policies came up. Rumors had been swirling about MGM’s plans and Westgate was already considering their options to address the ramifications.
Soon after, both my friend (photographer Greg C.) and I separately discovered that the multi-story garages and open-air lots had been secured. Automated ticketing kiosks had been installed and a ten-dollar daily fee was now in effect.
But….this is important….the fee was reimbursable for hotel guests, restaurant diners, attendees to Westgate shows and those who come to visit the casino and sports book.
The “To Serve You Better” double-talk that’s usually issued in these situations is actually genuine here. Westgate patrons won’t have to be concerned that conventioneers and monorail riders are using up the available parking spaces.
Signs are liberally posted throughout Westgate to show where to get your ticket validated. Naturally, you’ll need to present your dining/show ticket/betting receipt/player’s card as proof of your patronage.
Then you simply insert that validated ticket into the automated exit gate at the lots and garages. Hotel guests have it even simpler, as their room key operates the exit gates as well.
In addition, Westgate charges $20 to utilize their valet service during events and conventions, especially those at the adjacent Las Vegas Convention Center. But once again, this fee is reimbursed for hotel guests.
While walking the property to photograph the lots, gates and kiosks, I noticed several circumstances where cars approached the gates, read the new policy signage, then backed out and left. This is only conjecture, but I have to assume that these persons weren’t actually Westgate customers, meaning the intent of the fees is working.
If this program turns out to be successful, perhaps we can eventually expect other resorts in similar situations (think Tropicana, Venetian/Palazzo and Treasure Island) to try their hand at customer-friendly parking programs. And once again, this could work in their favor to take on the money-grubbing bigger chains.
The policies and practices in Las Vegas are ever-evolving…and they’re rarely designed to truly improve the Vegas visitor’s experience. So, while MGM and copycat properties are using parking fees as a blatant cash grab, more guest-friendly resorts will be protecting their own.
That’s why I’ll be booking more stays at Westgate. You should consider them, too.
Follow this link for a current list of Westgate Las Vegas discounted room rates, packages and promotional specials.
David Goldrake’s grandiose production at Tropicana will touch your senses and soul…
Something mysterious is going on at the intersection of Tropicana Avenue and Las Vegas Boulevard. The entertainment gods have seen fit to grace that location with three epic magic shows. One performer is legendary, the second is flashy, and the newest is a challenger of major proportions. His name is David Goldrake, and his new show David Goldrake: IMAGINARIUM at Tropicana is an entertainment gold mine.
Following on the heels of Jan Rouven‘s shocking abrupt closure and the short-lived Band of Magicians, one might question the wisdom of opening yet another illusion-based production inside the troubled, beautiful Tropicana Showroom. But the third time is clearly a charm, as David Goldrake’s gorgeous presentation is worthy of the space. It’s also deserving of the opportunity to take on David Copperfield and the far-inferior Criss Angel.
Say what you will about the relevance of magic shows in 2017 Las Vegas, but IMAGINARIUM is much more than hokey top hats and sexy assistants. With an ethereal introduction of smokey morphing shapes and lush music, IMAGINARIUM sets up a surrealistic mood that the Luxemborg-born Goldrake maintains throughout.
After an opening illusion, Goldrake comes out to introduce himself and explain IMAGINARIUM, the circus sideshow that he visited as a child for a fifty-cent admission price. The experience of growing up as a fascinated young man in Europe permeates the production, enhanced by the host’s unique accent and magnetic presence.
David Goldrake, while known in several countries as an “International Man of Mystery”, has yet to make a mark on U.S. pop culture. When you’re a somewhat unknown quantity in Las Vegas, it helps to have charisma and good looks…both of which Goldrake has in abundance.
David moves with the grace and elegance of a dancer, yet his massive muscular frame fills the grand Tropicana stage. So do the lush sets and immersive backdrops that pull you into each illusion. Expensive-looking video content from Drop The Spoon (Le Reve/Franco Dragone), steampunk-style design by EDT and costumes from Erin “Topaz” Lareau rival anything that the Cirque-financed Criss Angel has presented at Luxor.
All of those bells and whistles don’t mean anything if the star performer can’t capture your imagination. IMAGINARIUM does so in spades. Large-scale stunts like a human-sized hourglass disappearance and passing through a sheet of solid metal will have you scratching your head.
A particularly memorable moment comes when Goldrake collects rings from the hands of three volunteers. Placing them on a spindle while in constant view of the audience, he agitates the rings until they’re suddenly linked together into a small chain. And before you can say “audience plants”, one participant of that illusion was my companion for the evening…there was no collusion.
David’s assistants, two women and two men, are skilled performers in their own right. The gorgeous dancers, contortionists, acrobats and aerialists get their own well-deserved sequence, an old-tyme European-styled sideshow sequence highlighting individual talents that come together for a rousing mini-finale.
My favorite set piece, by far, is a salute to Houdini’s underwater straitjacket escape. A shirtless (and ab-tastic) Goldrake is chained and suspended upside-down in a glass chamber filled filled with water before your eyes. Never once is the clear tank out of sight…the gasping, bubbles and struggles are real. So were the accelerated beats of my heart.
It’s always exciting when a new name bursts on the Vegas scene and raises the bar for a everyone…audiences and performers alike. We saw it happen when Spiegelworld (Absinthe and Cosmo’s Vegas Nocture) challenged Cirque du Soleil, Matt Goss shook up the lounge scene and BAZ: A Musical Mashupredefined musical theater. We’re seeing it once more with David Goldrake: IMAGINARIUM.
There’s a hot new illusionist in town and he’s not to be missed. If you see only one large-scale magic show on your trip to Sin City, make it David Goldrake: IMAGINARIUM. You will be thrilled, mystified…and your heart will soar skyward.
David Goldrake: IMAGINARIUM performs Tuesday through Sunday at 7pm. Suitable for all ages. Tickets start at $39.90 plus taxes/fees and can be ordered here. Groupon is currently offering discount seats starting at $28 with no additional fees by clicking here.