Weekly Column by Rick Garman

Want to know what's happening in Las Vegas? You've come to the right place.

Each week you can come here to get the latest news, the juiciest gossip, and the best reviews for the most fabulous city in the world, Las Vegas. Hey... it says "fabulous" right on the welcome sign!

The latest weekly column will always be on this page, but you can go back through the archives (all the way back to 1999!) or take a look ahead and what's coming up next for Vegas by using the navigation on the left hand sidebar.

Thanks for visiting! Enjoy!



Wayne Newton Sued; Estate Tour Put on Hold

After the loss of the Liberace Museum last year, those of us who craved a bit of classic Vegas glitz (with a healthy dose of cheese) were thrilled with the announcement that Mr. Las Vegas, Wayne Newton, would be opening up his estate for tours.

It appears, however, that we may not get our return of glitzy Las Vegas cheese anytime soon. The developer of the project, CSD, LLC, has filed a lawsuit against the singer and construction has halted.

To understand the lawsuit you have to understand the deal that was allegedly struck between CSD and Newton. The company bought the estate from Mr. Las Vegas for $19.5 million and planned to spend another $30 million to turn it into a major Vegas tourist attraction. The centerpiece would be the main house, a palatial mansion with a decor scheme that rivaled Liberace's for its extravagance but the facility would have also included various animal exhibits including one for his prized Arabian horses and another of the penguin ponds; a theater where Newton would perform; a classic car museum; a memorabilia museum; and a Wayne Newton themed car wash.

Yes, a car wash. See what I mean about glitzy cheese?

Part of the deal also included building a second house on the property that Newton, his wife, and his mother-in-law could all live in while the main house was being worked on.

CSD's lawsuit contends that Newton and his family refused to move out of the main house and have been unwilling to turn over the memorabilia needed to start creating the exhibits. They also say that the property was in a much worse state of disrepair than they believed. Even more explosively, they allege that Newton made working conditions at the property impossible by sexually harassing at least one female employee and by letting vicious dogs freely roam the property.

Newton's lawyers, unsurprisingly, say the whole lawsuit is a bunch of bunk and that CSD's allegations are completely false. They contend that the lawsuit was filed as a preemptive strike because they found out that Newton was planning on suing them for breach of contract alleging that various construction and permit issues are the reasons the project has ground to a halt.

Backing up Newton's version of things is a partial owner of the museum and a partner to CSD.

Regardless of who has the truth on their side, the project is most likely on life-support at best and dead at worst. The best case scenario is that the lawsuits get settled quickly and construction resumes but even then the chances that the estate would open to tourists this year are slim. And with the vitriol that seems to be flowing in both directions, the chances of a quick settlement are even slimmer. The worst case scenario is that the project is locked up in litigation for years, which would not only prevent the current developers from finishing but would keep anyone else from stepping in.

So, it appears for now that if you want glitzy Las Vegas cheese you are going to have to find it somewhere else.

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Don't Come On-a My House


Skyvue vs. the High Roller: Which Will Win?

The press release that went out last week touted the completion of the first phase of Skyvue, a 500-foot tall observation wheel being planned for the southern end of The Strip across the street from Mandalay Bay. That first phase primarily involved the building of the support towers that would hold up the wheel with the second phase involving the retail and restaurant center going in at the base of it.

The release did its job. It got picked up in virtually every Vegas related news outlet and blog and even made its way into major media outlets around the world.

But why send out a press release saying, essentially, "we're building the thing"? It's simple: a lot of people still don't believe it's really going to ever get completed and even if it does that it will pale in comparison to the other massive observation wheel, the High Roller, being built up the street behind The Flamingo by Caesars Entertainment.

Questions have abounded since the dueling wheels were announced including whether or not Skyvue's developers had all the financing in place. Regardless of the financials, Skyvue is moving forward - or rather, upward - and it appears that by 2013 visitors will have two options for their high altitude sightseeing.

So which will win? Or is there room enough in this town for two giant observations wheels?

The High Roller certainly has more going for it, at least on paper. The location is better, with Center Strip foot traffic being driven to it through Linq, the entertainment complex of bars, restaurants, and stores going into a former alley space between The Flamingo and Imperial Palace. It also wins the "bigger is better" contest, measuring in at some 50 feet taller than Skyvue. High Roller's design is also more interesting, at least according to the artist renderings. Whereas Skyvue has fairly traditional capsules integrated into the wheel, The High Roller has pods that stick out from the wheel offering unobstructed views in almost all directions once you get to the top.

On the other hand, Skyvue will probably have the better overall views. Positioned at the end of The Strip it will have some incredible sightlines of most of Las Vegas Boulevard and the airport while at least part of High Roller's journey will be looking at the parking garages behind the east Strip hotels.

I think a lot of it will depend on who gets to the market first and what the pricing will be. If Skyvue opens first and keeps its ticket costs under the $30 mark it could have enough momentum to keep it going. If the High Roller opens first and/or if they have a lower ticket price, it's going to be hard for Skyvue to compete.

Both wheels are expected to open sometime in the summer or fall of 2013.

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High Roller

Vegas4Visitors Weekly Awards

The Picture of the Week Award goes to the artist rendering of the upcoming SLS Vegas hotel, which is the new incarnation of the old Sahara on the north end of The Strip. If all goes according to plan the SLS will be open by 2014.

The Get Well Soon Award of the Week goes to Elton John, who had to cancel several Las Vegas performances at Caesars Palace after being hospitalized in Los Angeles for a respiratory infection. The singer is expected to be back pounding the piano soon.

The Luckiest Six Cards on the Planet Award of the Week goes to Dennis Hart of Palm Coast, Florida, the latest winner of a million dollars in Caesars Entertainment's six-card bonus version of Three Card Poker. Hart won the million at The Flamingo last week after lining up the A-K-Q-J-10-9 of diamonds between his cards and the dealer's.

The Where's the $ Award of the Week goes to "Vegas," the new TV show starring Dennis Quaid coming to CBS this fall. Quaid plays a fictionalized version of real-life Vegas sheriff Ralph Lamb, a former rancher who helped battle the mob. Check out the preview in the player to the right.

The Idiot of the Week Award goes to Michael Q. Belton, a California man who tried to rob a gaming table at Bellagio last week but only made it about 10 yards before he was tackled by casino employees. Belton says he was lured into the scheme by two other men he met on Craigslist.

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No More Sahara


Casino Heists: Has Anyone Ever Gotten Away With It?

As the incident at Bellagio last week shows, attempting to rob a casino is a spectacularly bad idea. I'm not suggesting that robbing any kind of establishment is a good idea, but robbing a casino, with its omnipresent cameras and security, is destined for failure.

Or is it?

While most smash and grab type casino robberies usually end up with the hapless suspect in handcuffs, there have been a few slightly more well-thought out schemes that people have gotten away with.

In 1992 a casino employee at the Stardust named Bill Brennan very casually walked out of the place with an estimated $500,000 in cash and gaming chips. The robbery was probably most remarkable for its complete lack of any kind of drama. Brennan just loaded up a back pack and walked out and was never seen again.

Half a million dollars is also the approximate haul from a 2008 robbery at the Las Vegas Hilton sports book. Two armed suspects wearing motorcycle helmets walked in and out in less than a minute and have never been caught.

Perhaps one of the most storied of casino robberies happened at Circus Circus in 1993. A man and woman stole an armored car from in front of the hotel with an estimated $2.5 million inside. The woman, Heather Tallchief, turned herself in after 13 years on the run saying that her partner, Roberto Solis, took all the money and left her penniless. Solis is still at large.

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Lucky 7: Attractions I Miss in Vegas

I've been going through some old Vegas4Visitors files and came across some long gone favorite attractions that I still wish were around.

Caesars Magical Empire
Many of our Facebook fans talked about this magic extravaganza at Caesars Palace as a show they missed. I classified it as an attraction since it was a collection of different experiences including some magic shows, dinner, bars (including one with a "haunted piano" named Invisibella), and much more. Regardless of what category you put it in, it was one of the best attractions in Vegas. Here's a quote from my review: "It's hard to put Caesars Magical Empire into a neat little classification. Is it dinner theater? A magic show? Comedy club? Theme park? Yes to all of those and a lot more including the most important classification as one of the best entertainment attractions in all of Las Vegas."

Casino Legends Hall of Fame
For years, The Tropicana had this terrific little museum dedicated the history of Las Vegas including gaming memorabilia, showgirl costumes, photographs, and more. As a big Vegas history buff, this one was one of my favorites. What I said: "Las Vegas history is disappearing fast - don't miss this opportunity to see a part of it."

Elvis-a-Rama Museum
Although certainly no Graceland, this Elvis Presley museum, which was located on Industrial Road behind Treasure Island, was a pretty interesting experience even for those who weren't big fans of The King. My review said, "It's pretty straight-faced (there's only one black-velvet painting) so if you're looking for cheesy fun, look elsewhere. Like in the gift-shop where you can buy Elvis fake-tattoos and mouse pads."

Liberace Museum
This one is a no-brainer. Liberace's legacy may be fading with time but there were few people who were so uniquely "Vegas" than this outrageous, flamboyant entertainer. As I said in my review, "It's kitsch, it's camp, it's silly Vegas fun and it's a part of the history of this city that I applaud the folks at the Liberace Museum for preserving. Sure, it may not be a collection of Picassos, but it is a bit of pop-culture history never-the-less."

Speedworld at Sahara
I'm usually not a fan of the 3-D virtual reality type stuff - they make my head hurt - but of all of them, this one at Sahara was the most fun if for no other reason than you got to drive race cars past, and in some cases through, the hotels on The Strip.

Treasure Island Pirate Battle
Before the Sirens came along and ruined everything, the Pirate Battle at Treasure Island was one of the biggest, silliest, and most mindlessly entertaining free attractions in Vegas. Or as I described it, "Great silly fun."

Wet n' Wild
One of the last great family friendly attractions in Vegas, this water park located just south of the Sahara, was a major draw for kids and adults. Two new water parks are planned for Vegas for 2013 but, alas, they are nowhere near The Strip.

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His Brother George Still Wishes He Was Here


Let's Get Wet

Lucky 7: Attractions I Don't Miss in Vegas

While there are many that I wish were still around, there are quite a few attractions that I don't miss at all.

Cranberry World West
Now there is only the Ethel M. Chocolate Factory, but back in the day there used to be multiple factory tours in nearby Henderson including this one for the Ocean Spray company. Let's just say cranberry juice ain't chocolate.

This game arcade was located at the Showcase Mall just north of MGM Grand. It closed very recently but to be honest I had kind of forgotten it existed.

Guinness World Records Museum
Now this one is reaching way back. This cheesy (and not in a good way) little "museum" was located in a strip mall near Circus Circus and was one of the very first things I ever did when I started writing about Vegas in the late 90s. Even at only $6, it was an overpriced rip off.

Guggenheim Museum
Speaking of overpriced rip-offs, this version of the famed New York City museum at The Venetian of the same name paled in comparison and shocked with a $15 ticket price. Now, granted, I may not have been the right audience for it. As I said in my review, "Although I can appreciate the importance of works from artists like Picasso, to me the concept of spending more than a moment or two looking at a painting hanging on a wall is bizarre. I mean, after all it's not like it does anything - it just sits there looking kind of pretty. There are no showgirls presenting it. It doesn't disappear to be replaced by a white tiger. And most importantly, if I put two quarters on it and pull the frame, not only does it not spit out coins while playing "We're In The Money," but I would probably get arrested for doing so."

Luxor 3-D Rides
As mentioned in the "Attractions I Miss" piece above, I'm not a fan of the virtual reality rides and these whirly, head-spinning, nausea inducing experiences at Luxor were just not my cup of tea.

Mirage White Tiger Habitat
I know, I know... heresy! But let's face it, the "habitat" at The Mirage was too small (run free, Elsa!) and there were usually too many people lined up to get a glimpse of the white tigers who usually just laid around looking bored.

Star Trek: The Experience
This 3-D motion simulator ride at the Las Vegas Hilton at least had the benefit of "actors" portraying various Star Trek good guys and bad guys, but if you weren't a fan of the show (which I wasn't), it just wasn't worth the inflated ticket price.

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