MORE VEGAS INFO
VEGAS4VISITORS.COM WEEKLY COLUMN BY RICK GARMAN
October 1, 2012
TV Review: "Vegas"
I was a party many years ago, chatting with a group of people, one of whom was a doctor. The conversation turned to television and we began discussing various programs on the air. This was during the time when shows like "ER" and "Chicago Hope" were big ratings-getters but the doctor in the group said he couldn't watch them. Instead of allowing himself to be immersed in the human drama on display he couldn't help but think things like, "That's not how that would happen," "A real doctor wouldn't do that," and "If they had really done the procedure that way the patient would be dead." The doctor simply knew too much about doctoring that he couldn't be entertained by a show about doctors.
I relate this story as context for my reaction to "Vegas," the new CBS show starring Dennis Quaid as Ralph Lamb, the real-life cattle rancher turned Sin City Sheriff who faced off against the mob back in the day. Although it's a decent enough crime-of-the-week procedural, with solid performances by the lead actors, some cool old cars, and period costumes, I fear that I know too much about Vegas to ever allow myself to be entertained by it.
The show is set in 1960 and as we all know the Las Vegas of 1960 is long gone, so of course "Vegas" relies on sets and CGI to recreate the sights and sounds of the city. The pilot was shot in New Mexico and the rest of the series is being shot in Santa Clarita, just north of Los Angeles, with a block-long "recreation" of Fremont Street serving as the back drop. The centerpiece is the fictional Savoy casino hotel run by a mobster played with sociopathic glee by Michael Chiklis.
But here's where my problems with the show begin. They seemed to have gone out of their way to bring back the 1960 era in terms of dress, vehicles, and props (love the big rotary phones) but when it comes to how Vegas actually was in 1960 they seemed to have not paid attention at all.
In an establishing shot, The Savoy is pictured with signs for The Stardust and The Sahara in the background on the same side of the street, implying that those classic Vegas hotels are its neighbors. The problem is that The Stardust and The Sahara were on opposite sides of the street almost a mile from each other.
To compound matters, in the following scene, characters exit the Savoy and are on Fremont Street across from The Golden Nugget. So either the Savoy magically teleported from The Strip to Downtown Vegas while they were inside or it's a really big casino.
Other less-than-accurate portrayals of 1960s Las Vegas include placing City Hall on Fremont Street, mixing fictional casinos with real ones (the Tumbleweed and Ruby Dice alongside The Golden Nugget and Boulder Club), and casting McCarran Airport as a rusty, glorified Quonset hut when it was already a modern (for the times) facility. I'm not going to even get into the use of the Westward Ho years before the Westward Ho existed and not the Westward Ho that eventually did exist anyway. That was just weird.
I totally understand the need to take historical license, but as mentioned the Las Vegas they created was done on a set and computers. There would've been no extra effort or cost involved in not putting the Sahara and the Stardust on the same side of the street - it just would've made it correct. To a Vegas history buff like myself, this just comes across as if the creators were either lazy or simply didn't care.
Now, granted, most people are not Vegas history buffs like myself and won't care that a hotel can't be both beside The Stardust on The Strip and across from The Golden Nugget on Fremont Street at the same time, but it points to a larger issue for me.
When done right, the location of a series or a movie almost becomes a character itself; an integral part of the action. In "Vegas" there are casinos and mobsters and showgirls but it didn't feel like the Las Vegas of the era. 1960 was a high point for the city, coming off of a decade of expansion that wouldn't be seen again until the 1990s. The Dunes, the Desert Inn, the Sahara, the Stardust (not next to each other), The Tropicana, The Sands, and more were drawing hordes of people to the city; it was an entertainment mecca, with the eary formations of a Rat Pack era taking control of the showrooms; and the mafia ruled the city with impunity. I didn't get any of that in "Vegas" - a missed opportunity if ever there was one.
Strip all that out and what you have left is a fairly routine police procedural (dead body, clues, murderer is caught) with a better than routine cast including the stalwart Dennis Quaid as Sheriff Ralph Lamb, the gleefully maniacal Michael Chiklis as mobster Vincent Savino, the proper Carrie-Anne Moss as ADA Katherine O'Connell, and the deserves-to-be-in-a-hit-TV-show Jason O'Mara as Ralph's brother Jack. It's basically "CSI: 1960" only they replaced all that confusing science with good old-fashioned horse sense.
Ill give "Vegas" a chance to see if they can find their sense of place and use the Sin City of 1960 to its fullest advantage. I just don't know if I'm going to be able to allow myself to be entertained by it.
Halloween in Vegas
October 31st in Vegas used to be a non-event. Sure, there were some costume parties here and there and the random spider web bit of decor but for the most part the casinos and their patrons were too focused on gambling to think about Halloween.
Now the holiday has become big business in Vegas, with virtually every nightclub throwing massive Halloween parties and contests and scary attractions popping up all over town.
The biggest and best known of them is Fright Dome at Circus Circus, an annual event that takes over the Adventuredome amusement park and turns it into a scary Halloween attraction. To celebrate its 10th anniversary, the Fright Dome folks have teamed with legendary horror movie director George Romero to theme one of their five haunted houses (Ward of the Dead it's called) and they will also had appearances from Linda Blair and Elvira on opening weekend. More information is available at frightdome.com.
New to the scare-em scene is Eli Roth's Goretorium, a permanent attraction at the shopping center next door to Planet Hollywood on The Strip. Roth, the director of the horror film franchise "Saw" has created a mixture of a haunted house (or haunted hotel in this particular instance) and nightclub, where patrons can wander through various gruesome set pieces and have actors jump out and try to scare them.
New to the public will be Amazing Johnathan's Screamont Experiment. The off-kilter magician has been hosting an annual haunted house at his warehouse for years but it has been by invitation only. Now he is moving the attraction to the Las Vegas Club hotel on Fremont Street and opening the doors to the general public starting October 5th. More information is available at thescreamont.com.
Excalibur Restaurant Dispute Leads to Sudden Closures
When they opened last fall, Lynyrd Skynyrd Beer & BBQ and the American Burger Works were touted as the foundation for a new direction in the dining offerings at Excalibur. They were going to keep things in the moderate price range but were intended to move things up a notch or two in terms of the quality. No more cheap 24 hour cafes for the castle.
As of Wednesday of last week, there is a big wall in front of where the restaurants are located and they are apparently closed permanently. What happened?
According to reports, the parent company of both restaurants allegedly fell nearly $1 million behind in rent and other costs owed to the hotel. Fed up with the delinquency, Excalibur execs shut down the restaurants and put up the walls with very little notice according to most sources.
The restaurant company cried foul, alleging religious bias because the closure action happened on Yom Kippur. They filed for bankruptcy in an effort to protect their lease agreements with the hotel and the whole thing wound up in front of a judge in an emergency hearing.
But the judge sided with the hotel and so the restaurants are remaining closed and probably will never reopen.
What will replace them is still unknown.
Palms Debuts New Rooms
In what is being billed as the first major upgrade since the hotel opened more than a decade ago, the Palms has debuted the first of its new rooms, which are now available for bookings.
The new look and feel is a mix of subtle and bold, with light grey, silver, and white backgrounds set off by bold splashes of pink, purple, and green. Eye-catching (pun intended) murals take over the walls and the furnishings are sleekly modern.
But the remodel didn't just stop with the color scheme. The rooms have been stuffed with luxury elements including pillow-top mattresses, 46" HD flat screen TVs, a media hub so you can plug in all your gadgets, and completely redesigned bathrooms featuring step-in showers and more.
It's all part of a major update to the hotel that has already seen revisions to the pool area and will include an overhaul of the casino floor, new restaurants, and changes to the property's nightclubs. The project is expected to be complete sometime in 2013.
Resort Fee Update
The last time we checked those nefarious resort fees was March of 2012, at which time prices for them had gone up almost everywhere I checked.
It's six months later and there's good news and bad news. The bad news is that the resort fees are still there but the good news is that, for the most part, they haven't gone up any higher. Of course that's probably because they are already so high at most hotels that jacking them up even further would probably result in angry villagers with torches and pitchforks.
Only three of the hotels I surveyed showed increases in their resort fees since March: The Hard Rock Hotel is up about $4.50 to almost $25; The Palms is up $5 to $20; and the Tropicana is up $5 to $20 as well.
An interesting and important note about the The Palms and The Tropicana. When reserving rooms online, neither property showed the resort fee up front at the time of booking. You will get socked with that as a nasty little surprise when you go to check out.
Caesars Entertainment properties like Caesars Palace, Paris, Bally's, and The Flamingo are still holding true to their promise to not charge a resort fee so if you are adamant about not paying one, look at their hotels. The only other major property on The Strip that doesn't charge one is the Cosmopolitan of Las Vegas.
Vegas4Visitors Weekly Awards
The I Want to Put On My My My My My Boogie Shoes Award of the Week goes to Emmit Smith who is getting the top odds from Johnny Avello at Wynn Las Vegas' sports book to win Dancing With the Stars. The just-for-fun odds put Smith at 4:1 followed closely by Apolo Ohno at 5:1 and Gilles Martin at 6:1. The already eliminated Pamela Anderson was at the bottom but now Bristol Palin has that honor at 45:1.
The Are You Ready to Rock Award of the Week goes to Rock of Ages, the 80s themed musical set to open at Palazzo in December, for which you can now buy tickets. Prices range from $64-$144 and the show will be playing nightly except Monday.
The Who? Award of the Week goes to Coco Austin, Holly Madison's replacement in the naughty fairytale revue Peepshow at Planet Hollywood. Madison is leaving the production in October and rumors had everyone from Carmen Electra to Jenny McCarthy replacing her but that "honor" has gone to Austin, wife of rapper Ice-T and "star" of the E! reality show "Ice Loves Coco."