Vegas4Visitors.com 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.

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Frommer's Las Vegas 2013

"A sure bet"

"Whether you're a first time traveler to Las Vegas or a regular guest, there is much to learn and enjoy with this guidebook."

"The only book you'll need for your visit to Vegas"

These are just a few of the quotes from reviewers on Amazon.com for my Frommer's Las Vegas guidebook as it amassed two-dozen 5-star reviews from people who bought the book. That's more than the Unofficial Guide and the Fodor's guide combined! And I promise that I didn't write any of them!

Now, the 2013 edition of the guidebook is available, packed with new reviews, new features, new photos, and much, much more. Here's a rundown of what you'll find in the updated version of the book:

Chapter 1 is all about the "Best of Las Vegas," with my choices for "The Most Unforgettable Vegas Experiences," "The Best Food and Drink Experiences," "The Best Free and Dirt Cheap Experiences," "The Best Ways to See Vegas Like a Local," and the best casino, shopping, entertainment, and outdoor experiences. This is where you'll find the exclusive "Top 10 Things I Miss About Being Mayor" by former Las Vegas Mayor (and current restaurateur) Oscar B. Goodman.

Chapter 2 digs into "Las Vegas in Depth," with a fun history of the city; an updated piece about the mob in Las Vegas; advice on when to go; major convention dates; a calendar of major events; and more. The celebrity contributor for this chapter is magician Criss Angel, who wrote a list of his favorite appearances of Vegas in television shows.

Chapter 3 is "Suggested Las Vegas Itineraries," where I guide you through some fun ways to theme your vacation including "Iconic Las Vegas;" "Over-the-Top Las Vegas;" getaways for guys and ladies; an "Unlikely Las Vegas" itinerary that takes you off the beaten track; and the all-new "Eating Las Vegas," that will send you on a non-stop food orgy from dawn to dusk.

Chapter 4 used to be called "Things to See and Do" but now it's called "Exploring Las Vegas" and it has been completely overhauled. Reviews of all of the city's best attractions are here but they have new information, category listings, and more. There's also a feature on the resurgence of Downtown Las Vegas; the fun "Coming Attractions" box; info on getting married in Vegas including reviews of chapels and a "Top 10 Reasons to Get Married in Vegas" from Elvis impersonator Jesse Garon; and recreation opportunities including outdoor activities, golf courses, bowling, and spas!

Chapter 5 explores "Where to Eat" in Las Vegas with dozens of reviews of restaurants and buffets plus tips on where to find cheap eats, sweets, and more. I've also got a new, exclusive contribution from Chef André Rochat (Alizé, André's) where he clues us into the "Top 10 Things One Should Never Say to a French Chef." #6: May I order a souffle to go?

Chapter 6 is a completely redone "Shopping" section with new neighborhood categories, new reviews, and new features including one on stores that are tied to reality TV shows.

Chapter 7 is all about "Entertainment & Nightlife," with reviews of shows, bars, nightclubs, strip clubs, and more. I've also got a piece here by Penn & Teller!

Chapter 8 gives you some great information "About Casino Gambling," with tutorials on the major games and capsule info on all of the city's major (and quite a few minor) casinos.

Chapter 9 is the "Where to Stay" chapter, covering all of the places in which you might want to bunk for the night on The Strip, Downtown, and beyond.

Chapter 10 is about "Side Trips," with information on visiting the Valley of Fire, Red Rock Canyon, Lake Mead, and more.

And finally, Chapter 11 is about "Planning Your Trip to Vegas" with practical information about how to get there, how to get around, and all of the other bases that need to be covered.

Frommer's Las Vegas 2013 is available now on Amazon.com and other online retailers and should be in bookstores this week.

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Now Available


 


Tropicana Makes Deal with DoubleTree

A lot of changes have happened at The Tropicana over the last couple of years, not the least of which was a top to bottom remodeling meant to keep the 55 year old hotel competitive with its bigger, newer, shinier neighbors. But the most recent change is both noteworthy and kind of not at the same time as the hotel takes on an extended moniker: Tropicana Las Vegas, a DoubleTree by Hilton.

The strategic partnership between the Trop and Hilton affixes one of the latter company's most well-known, upscale brands to the former's, makes it available for reservations through Hilton's worldwide systems, and allows guests to use and earn HiltonHonors points at the property. Oh, and they have chocolate chip cookies at check-in. That alone earns it some points in my book.

But that's about the extent of the integration. Hilton is not taking over ownership or management of the hotel, there will be no changes to the property based on the deal, and you may stay there and never even see the DoubleTree name. It's more of a behind-the-scenes partnership in the same way that The Cosmopolitan is partnered with, and discoverable on the websites of, Marriott and The Ritz-Carlton.

In other Tropicana news, the new restaurant and nightclub Bagatelle is finally ready to open after months of delays (it was originally slated for Memorial Day). It'll be having some test runs over the next few weeks with a grand-opening expected in November. Bagatelle is taking over the club and pool area that was managed by the Nikki Beach organization out of Miami until that partnership dissolved suddenly last year.

Speaking of dissolving partnerships, Chef Carla Pellegrino is exiting the hotel although her restaurant Bacio will remain behind. Pellegrino says there are no hard feelings just not enough time as she prepares to be on "Top Chef" and open a new restaurant at Town Square in November called the Meatball Spot.

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What's In a Name?


 


Club Closures & Openings

Two major Las Vegas nightclubs closed this past weekend but both of them are coming back - one temporarily and one bigger (and presumably better).

Rain at The Palms became famous when it was featured on MTV's "The Real World," as the cast lived at the hotel and "worked" at the club. It opened in 2001 and was THE club for years, dazzling patrons with flame and water special effects and high-energy beats.

But ten years is about four lifetimes in the club world so the newer, shinier clubs around town have dampened Rain's appeal. Dampened. See what I did there? The club closed after Saturday night's Halloween party but it will reopen New Year's Eve weekend for special concerts by Kelly Rowland and Travis Barker.

Rain will be replaced by another club in 2013 but the details of that have not been revealed yet.

Krave caused waves when it opened in 2005 as the first gay nightclub on The Strip at Planet Hollywood. Well, close to The Strip - it's actually on Harmon Avenue, just a few dozen feet off The Strip but it's close enough. It has gone on to be one of the top revenue generating gay nightclubs in the world.

The club closed this past weekend but the hunger for Krave has not been sated. Hunger. See what I did there? The closure is only temporary as they prepare to reopen a new incarnation of the club that aims to outdo every other gay club and potentially change Downtown Las Vegas forever.

Krave Massive will be an 80,000 square-foot venue, billed as the largest gay nightclub in the world, with five themed dance floors, three bars, a theater, a performance space, and a pool. It's all going into Neonopolis, the shopping complex on the Fremont Street Experience, in the third-floor space once occupied by movie theaters. It is expected to be open by New Year's Eve.

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Drying Up

 

Moving On

Harrah's is Looking Like a Million Dollar (Quartet)

The hit Broadway musical "Million Dollar Quartet" is heading to Harrah's Las Vegas, taking over the showroom that is currently occupied by Legends in Concert.

The show is based on the true-life 1956 event when four guys got together for an impromptu jam session. Those four guys happened to be Elvis Presley, Jerry Lee Lewis, Johnny Cash, and Carl Perkins. The "jukebox musical" features songs from the superstars including "Blue Suede Shoes," "Folsom Prison Blues," "Fever," "Sixteen Tons," "I Walk the Line," "Great Balls of Fire," "Hound Dog," and "Whole Lotta Shakin' Goin' On."

The show was nominated for a Tony Award for Best Musical.

The tribute show Legends in Concert will be playing through the end of the year and "Million Dollar Quartet" is currently slated to open February 4, 2013. Tickets are available now and run between $69 and $94.

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Opens February 4, 2013


 

Vegas4Visitors Weekly Awards

The Lights are Bright Award of the Week goes to the Neon Museum, which opened its permanent facility this past weekend. Tours of the legendary boneyard are available to book online and are selling out fast so book early. I'll be visiting in a couple of weeks and will give you a full review soon.

The Hot Dog Diggity Award of the Week goes to Red Rock Resort, which is opening a second Las Vegas branch of the famed Pink's Hot Dogs this winter. The LA based legend (in business since 1939) got its first Vegas location at Planet Hollywood a couple of years ago.

The High Steaks Award of the Week goes to The Range, a longtime favorite steakhouse at Harrah's that will be closing November 11 to make way for The Strip's first Ruth Chris Steakhouse. The latter is expected to debut early next year.

The Loss of Words Award of the Week goes to Francois Dupuis, the actor who played "Big Baby" in Mystére at Treasure Island since the show debuted in 1993. Dupuis passed away in his sleep last week of unknown causes. I saw the show half a dozen times over the years and Dupuis was always a highlight - one of my favorite things about the show. To him I raise a hearty "Papa!!!"

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Off to the Big Circus in the Sky


 

A Look Back: 600 Weekly Columns

In a few weeks I will be writing my 600th Vegas4Visitors.com Weekly Column!

The Vegas4Visitors Weekly Column debuted in September of 1999 and I have been averaging about 45 of them a year, every year since. The one you are reading today is the 591st so if things go according to plan we'll see 600 right after the start of 2013 (which, by the way, marks the 15th Anniversary of Vegas4Visitors.com).

Every week from now until 600, I'm going to rerun some of my favorite pieces from columns of days gone by. Last week I started with 1999 and this week we're going to look at 2000.

January 3, 2000
Second Guessing New Year's Eve
Whether it was the outrageously high prices, the threats of terrorism and computer bugs, or just plain old lack of interest, the giant Y2K celebration in Las Vegas is being considered by most to be a bit of a bust.

Police estimates peg the crowds on The Strip at around 300,000 people, about 75% of the total from last year. Only 10,000 hit the party on Fremont Street, about 1/5th of last year's crowds. Citywide hotel occupancy is being estimated at around 85%, which is not only less than a typical New Year's Eve it's less than the average on any given weekend.

Southern California seemed to provide the bulk of the crowds, at least according to my unofficial and informal survey. Most had made their plans within the last few weeks having rethought their earlier non-festive itineraries. However, every person that I talked to that didn't attend one of the big shows or parties complained about the lack of special events out on The Strip. There were no concerts, fireworks, or even an official countdown, leaving the celebration to just be a mass of people walking around shouting "Happy New Year" at each other, mostly in a semi-drunken stupor.

The evening was uneventful with one glaring exception - an assistant wrestling coach from Stanford University died at around midnight when he fell from the 30-foot high light pole he had climbed in front of the Paris hotel. Authorities were unsure if he had been electrocuted by inadvertently touching a live wire or if it was the fall itself that killed him.

Otherwise, there were no major problems, Y2K or otherwise. Despite the bugs that shut down hundreds of slot machines in Delaware, Las Vegas saw no such problems and the machines continued to suck the savings out of the pockets of idiots like myself without a hiccup.

The only power outage occurred at The Mirage and surrounding resorts on Saturday morning. However, you can only blame it on Y2K in the loosest way - an errant mylar balloon left over from the previous night's celebration landed on a power wire.

January 10, 2000
Frontier Finale
his summer, The Frontier will be imploded to make way for a new $700 million resort called "City by the Bay". Similar to New York-New York and Paris, the new hotel will be modeled after a famous city, this time San Francisco. Reportedly, it will feature replicas of Fisherman's Wharf, Alcatraz, Lombard Street, and the Golden Gate Bridge, which will lead visitors from The Strip into the hotel.

The property will even feature a recreation of San Francisco Bay at the front of the hotel, complete with live animals, boats, and a wave-making machine.

The timetable calls for implosion in June or July, construction to begin in September, and the official opening in fall of 2002. Total cost: approximately $700 million.

January 31, 2000
Record Megabucks Jackpot Won
$27. That's the investment made by 37-year old cocktail waitress Cynthia Jay last week that netted her almost $35 million when she lined up the three Megabucks symbols on a machine at The Desert Inn.

Jay, a waitress at Monte Carlo resort, had been playing for less than a minute when the bells and whistles started. According to witnesses, the lucky winner began screaming "Oh my God" repeatedly before she was whisked away by hotel security.

February 14, 2000
Siegfried & Roy Celebrate 10th Anniversary
Legendary illusionists celebrated their 10th Anniversary of performances at The Mirage last week with a lavish party and celebration hosted by Mirage Resorts chairman Steve Wynn.

The duo, famous for their wildly extravagant stage show featuring illusions and a veritable zoo of wild animals, signed to perform at The Mirage shortly after it opened in 1987 but it wasn't until February of 1990 that the first show debuted.

At the time many doubted the deal. Wynn and Mirage Resorts offered the pair a record breaking $58 million plus their own multi-million dollar Broadway style theater while Siegfried and Roy put up $35 million of their own money to produce and stage the show in return for part of the profits. In the ten years since their debut, S&R have performed for over 10 million people and have raked in over $1 billion in box office receipts.

Yes, that's billion with a B.

February 28, 2000
Wacky Lawsuit of the Week: Big Loser Sues Rio
A Los Angeles area man has filed a multi-million lawsuit against The Rio Suites hotel in Las Vegas, alleging that casino officials plied him with booze and prostitutes until he lost over $1 million at their blackjack tables.

Harry A. Braverman claims that a gambling spree in 1997 was caused by the massive amounts of free alcohol and sex that the hotel pushed at him. In about three weeks, Braverman lost all of the money he had collected in an inheritance and insurance payments, sometimes betting upwards of $30,000 per blackjack hand.

March 6, 2000
Going Once, Going Twice, Sold! MGM Gets Mirage
Less than two weeks after they stunned the gaming world by attempting to purchase Mirage Resorts, MGM Grand Inc. announced this morning that a new offer has been accepted by the Mirage board. The deal will be worth and estimated $6.4 billion, the largest in gaming history.

MGM's original offer of $17 per share (approximately $3.4 billion) was rejected on Wednesday of last week by Mirage as being too low. Over the weekend, MGM came back with a counter offer of $21 per share ($4.4 billion) and late on Sunday night, the Mirage board said yes.

The new deal, which includes the assumption of $2 billion in Mirage debt, will make MGM Grand/Mirage the biggest gaming company in Las Vegas. With MGM Grand, New York-New York, Mirage, Treasure Island, Bellagio, and The Golden Nugget on their asset list, the new entity will have a room inventory that exceeds the current leader Mandalay Resorts (owner of Mandalay Bay, Excalibur, Luxor, and more).

March 6, 2000
Coinless Slot Machines?
Three of the biggest rivals in the slot manufacturing industry are teaming up to produce coinless slot machines. Anchor Gaming, International Game Technology, and Bally's Gaming filed for joint patents of the new technology which some believe is the inevitable future of the one-arm-bandits.

The cost of transporting, storing, securing, and maintaining all of the dollars, quarters, dimes, and nickels have led casinos to push for the coinless system for years. However the technology hasn't existed to be able to coordinate the machines with a mainframe system. This new patent will combine the efforts of the rival gaming companies and hopefully speed up the process.

The basic concept would have gamblers either deposit money into an account which would be accessed with a special card at the slot machines or to purchase pre-paid gaming cards that would be available in different amounts. Inserting either card into the slot machine would access the stored money and deduct or add accordingly.

No matter the protocol or the technology, you can expect to see the coinless slots in a casino near you, perhaps in the next couple of years.

Of course, then there are the old school people like me who believe that the feel of those coins and the sound of them raining down in the bin is something that can't be replaced by technology.

March 13, 2000
Start Your Engines: NASCAR Attraction Opens at Sahara
Race car drivers Dale Jarrett, Bobby Labonte, and Dale Earnhardt were just a few of the NASCAR superstars who joined thousands of racing fans to inaugurate a new $50 million racing themed attraction at The Sahara hotel and casino last week.

The centerpiece of the attraction is a 75,000 square foot NASCAR café stocked with racing memorabilia from photos to actual race cars. Unlike it's direct downtown competitor Race Rock, this racing theme restaurant comes with the name brand recognition of NASCAR, a wildly popular stock-car racing organization.

In addition to the restaurant and bar, a new roller coaster/thrill ride called "Speed" fronts the attraction. Billed as the fastest coaster in Las Vegas, the ride features a 24-seat compartment that goes from zero-to-70mph in a stomach-turning two seconds. The track runs through the hotel, under the sidewalk on The Strip, through the Sahara's marquee, into a vertical loop, and then up a 224-tower. Riders will experience weightlessness at the top of the tower and then will plunge back through the same course... backwards!

I, for one, will be watching all of this from the bar.

March 20, 2000
Megabucks Winner in Crash
Cynthia Jay-Brennan, the 37-year old cocktail waitress who won the biggest slot machine jackpot in history in January, was seriously injured in a car accident last weekend that claimed the life of her older sister.

Jay-Brennan was waiting behind several other cars at a red light when she was rear-ended by a suspected drunk-driver. According to police reports, the driver of the truck, which was traveling at a high rate of speed, hadn't braked at all when it slammed into Jay-Brennan's Chevy Camaro. The impact of the collision created a chain-reaction that involved five other vehicles.

45-year old Lela Sue Jay, a passenger in her sister's car, died at the scene. She was not wearing a seat belt. The occupants of the other vehicles sustained moderate to minor injuries.

Jay-Brennan, who won almost $35 million playing the Megabucks slot machines, is listed in serious condition in a local hospital.

The driver of the truck that caused all of this received only minor injuries and is being held without bail on felony drunk driving charges. It was his seventeenth arrest for driving under the influence. No, that is not a typo: 17th arrest.

April 24, 2000
Central Park Approved
A proposal to build a huge new park in Las Vegas has gained final approval and should be ready in time for the city's 100th Anniversary in the year 2005. The Las Vegas Springs Natural Preserve will be built on the 180-acre Big Springs historical site, the location of the first settlements in the Las Vegas Valley. The $171-million project will include groves of cottonwood trees, an endangered species habitat, a history museum, walking trails, Indian artifacts, and artificial wetlands. It will be the largest park in Las Vegas.

Ocean Spray Closing Tour
The popular Cranberry World West attraction shut its ruby red doors last week. It was a factory tour of the Ocean Spray manufacturing plant that featured information on cranberry production and free samples for visitors. Despite hosting more than 250,000 visitors annually, the company felt it could no longer support the costs of maintaining the attraction, which was free of charge to visitors. The factory will remain open.

May 1, 2000
Wynn Watch: Steve Buys The Desert Inn
Have I mentioned how much I love being right?

Months ago, long before the MGM Grand-Mirage merger touched off massive speculation about what departing chairman Steve Wynn would do, I put forth the theory that Wynn might purchase the long suffering Desert Inn. On Friday, he did - for $275 million in cash.

Venetian Part II
After officials at Bellagio announced a 1,300-room expansion at their high-end hotel, a flurry of other construction plans were put forth by the competition. Now that the Bellagio expansion is off due to the MGM Grand-Mirage merger, most of the competitor's plans have quietly been shelved as well. With one major exception: The Venetian.

Owner Sheldon Adelson says he is going forward with plans to break ground on phase two of his Venice themed resort later this year. Plans include more casino space, expanded shopping, and another 3,000 room tower (dubbed The Lido) that would bring the overall total to about 6,000 - the largest hotel in the world.

Construction would take about two years and would cost around $1 billion.

May 8, 2000
What Would Jimmy Buffet Think? Margaritaville Coming to Las Vegas
Word on the streets is that the owner of The Fiesta, a very successful hotel in the northwest part of the city, is planning to expand his operation a little closer to the action with a new 500-room hotel across the street from The Rio. The theme: Margaritaville! Officials for the company would not comment but the rumors have ground breaking occurring this summer and a late 2001 opening date for the project.

May 29, 2000
Frontier Implosion Put On Hold
Phil Ruffin, owner of The New Frontier, has announced that he is delaying his plans to tear down the legendary hotel in order to build a new San Francisco themed mega-resort. The implosion of the property was initially slated to happen this summer but now, with an unfriendly Wall Street staring him down, Ruffin feels that the time is not right to try and raise the money necessary for construction of the new hotel.

The New Frontier will remain "as-is" at least through the end of 2000 and perhaps beyond if the financial world remains shaky. Ruffin put it well when he was quoted as saying, "When you borrow $800 million, the interest rates make a heck of a difference."

June 5, 2000
MGM Grand Ready To Expand
The ink is barely dry on the recently approved merger between MGM Grand and Mirage and they are already talking about what to build next. The target: the Boardwalk Holiday Inn located between Monte Carlo and Bellagio.

The Boardwalk had been a part of the Mirage stable since 1998 and officials for that company had planned to tear it down and start over. Now that MGM owns it, apparently they feel the same way and are hoping to be able to start construction on a new mega-resort within the next 18 months.

No theme was announced but MGM officials said it would be aimed at the Generation X market, a segment of the population that is generally only targeted by the Hard Rock Hotel and the music venues at Mandalay Bay. According to reports it will not be modeled after a city like New York-New York or Paris, but will have a unique theme that leads Las Vegas in a new direction - or so they hope.

Interestingly enough, when the Mirage discussed plans to build a new property on the site, they were reportedly in discussions with the Broccoli family who owns rights to the James Bond character. Much discussion was bandied about on the possibility of a Bond themed hotel, complete with a major stunt show in front like The Pirate Battle at Treasure Island.

One of the big problems in that scenario however, is that the James Bond movie franchise is owned by a movie studio tied to a competing hotel right across the street - the MGM Grand. At the time nobody believed that MGM would sit idly by and let someone splash the Bond name on a rival property.

Now that MGM owns the property, could there be a revival of these 007 plans? Stay tuned.

June 12, 2000
Las Vegas' Next Mega-Resort
Steve Wynn, the founder and former CEO of Mirage Resorts, made a grand announcement last week about what he planned to do with his latest project, The Desert Inn. In an interview, Wynn unveiled his tentative plans to build a 3,000-room, ultra-luxurious hotel next door to The Desert Inn and eventually tear down the original Strip legend to build a second 3,000-room resort.

Eschewing the highly-themed hotels that have come down the pike in the last few years, including Venetian, Paris, and his former crown-jewel Bellagio, Wynn has decided that the wave of the future for Vegas is quiet elegance. Although no designs were revealed, Wynn stated that the new hotel would feature "gardens, landscaping, and natural light" with absolutely no hint of the over-the-top re-creations of famous cities that have dominated the Vegas landscape lately.

Caesars Omnimax Closes
A Las Vegas institution shut its doors recently as the OMNIMAX theater at Caesars Palace closed for good. The dome-shaped theater at the front of the hotel opened in 1979 and was ground-breaking for its wide screen, "immersion" technology films.

A spokesperson for Caesars told me that they are examining a variety of "exciting alternatives" for the space, but no final decision has been made.

Caesars recently announced a major remodeling that it will completely renovate the facade of the older towers, giving it an updated look matching more recent construction.

June 26, 2000
Desert Inn To Close
Only a few weeks after announcing that he would keep the Desert Inn open, new owner Steve Wynn has changed his mind, announcing that the hotel will close on September 30th. The decision apparently came after Wynn examined the bottom line and realized that there was no way to make money on the existing property.

The casino mogul, responsible for The Mirage and Bellagio among other hotels in Vegas, will use the property to build two separate 3,000 room hotels. The first, which will replace the struggling Desert Inn, will feature a 59-story room tower, courtyards, and gardens and aims to exceed Bellagio for its level of luxury and sophistication.

Ritz Carlton Coming To Town
The developers of Lake Las Vegas, an exclusive development just outside of the city, has announced plans to build a $500 million complex that will include a Ritz-Carlton hotel. The 350-room luxury hotel will be the centerpiece of the 50-acre project that will include a 40,000 square foot casino, condos, retail, and office space. It will be located near the recently completed Hyatt Regency.

Construction is set to begin this year with completion expected in 2002.

July 24, 2000
Monorail Closer To Reality
A long delayed and highly controversial monorail project that would link the north and south ends of The Strip took a step closer to reality last week when the Nevada Department of Business and Industry recommended that the state issue $650 million in tax-free bonds to finance the project.

The route would be an extension of the existing MGM Grand to Bally's monorail and would continue north past the Flamingo Las Vegas and Harrah's, then jog east to the Convention Center, and finally end at The Sahara, thus linking north and south.

Wrestlers Close To Selling Out
The World Wrestling Federation is apparently very close to selling The Debbie Reynolds Hotel, a property they purchased out of bankruptcy in 1998. Their original plan was to completely redo or replace the small hotel located near the Convention Center, but determined that the property was too small for their ambitious plans, which seems like something they could've figured out before they spent $10 million but what do I know?

WWF Chariman Vince McMahon made the announcement although he wouldn't reveal who is going to be buying the "Debbie" from them. He indicated that as soon as the sale was complete, they would move forward quickly to purchase another existing property or build one to suit their tastes.

The original plans called for a 1,000-room hotel, a 50,000 square-foot casino, WWF themed dining and shops, an arena for events, and shirtless security guards who would pile drive you into the carpeting if you did anything wrong.

I'm just kidding about that last part. I hope.

August 7, 2000
New Strip Entertainment Center
Go figure... with a name like Lakes Gaming, Inc., you'd think that their plans for a $700 million "entertainment center" for The Strip would include a slot machine or two, but you'd be wrong. The new complex, to be built on 16 acres of land between the MGM Grand and the new Aladdin, will feature an "upscale" mixture of retail, residential, commercial, hotel, and entertainment venues in a 52-story tower that company officials call a "blend of Times Square and Central Park."

Now, would that be the real Times Square/Central Park or the fake one sitting right across the street at New York-New York? Just wondering.

Digital Piracy?
The Treasure Island hotel and casino has become the first major hotel in Las Vegas to offer high-speed Internet access to its guests. In about 10% of their 2800 or so rooms, guests can now plug their laptops into a dedicated line that will provide them with high-speed, DSL service.

Such a thing would have been unthinkable in the old days, and not because the Internet didn't exist (although that could've been a stumbling block as well). The old-school way of thinking was to make the rooms as barren as possible to discourage people from spending more time there than in the casinos.

These days, rooms are becoming more luxurious and features such as Internet hook-ups are going to be the wave of the future to help guests, especially business travelers, feel pampered.

When the new Aladdin opens later this month, it too will offer the high-speed DSL service to guests. The same goes for about 20% of the 3,000 rooms at The Venetian, although all rooms have dedicated phone lines for standard (read: slower) Internet service.

Of course all of this high-tech wizardry comes with a price. The new service at the Treasure Island will cost you $19.95 PER DAY!!

I think I'll just keep unplugging the guest phone and doing it the old fashioned way.

August 14, 2000
Aladdin To Open This Week
More than two years and $1.4 billion later, the new Aladdin is set to open this Thursday, August 17th. The 2,567 room resort will feature an Arabian Nights theme and a 100,000 square-foot casino as its primary selling points.

However, some are wondering just how "done" the hotel will be upon opening. Only 1,500 of the rooms will actually be available for occupancy this week with a slow roll-out of the other rooms over the coming weeks and months. Plus, many of the amenities and restaurants, including PF Chang's China Bistro, will not be ready when the main casino doors swing open.

Analysts are concerned that it will echo the disastrous opening of The Venetian, when tourists and guests had to wind their way through construction that continued for months.

August 28, 2000
Desert Inn To Close Today
When the Aladdin opened last week, a new chapter of Las Vegas history was opened with massive crowds and fireworks. This week, a chapter of that same history closes, as the Desert Inn, a mainstay of the Las Vegas Strip for over 50 years, shuts its doors permanently.

But don't expect any kind of grand send-off. As of press time, officials with the Desert Inn are saying that they will quietly close the hotel at around 2pm today, Monday, August 28th, after allowing residents and tourists one last morning of gawking and picture snapping in the elegant Grande Dame of The Strip.

September 9, 2000
Circus Maximus Closes
The legendary Circus Maximus showroom at Caesars Palace closed for good last week with a show by Steve Lawrence and Eydie Gorme. Since its opening in 1966, the showroom has played host to just about every legendary Vegas performer that you can name including Frank Sinatra, Tony Bennett, and Tom Jones just for starters. An ongoing remodeling and expansion project at Caesars will replace the showroom with luxurious villas for high-rollers. Officials at Caesars declined to say whether the future will bring another performance venue to the hotel.

September 25, 2000
Venetian Gets Artsy, New Rooms A Possibility
The Venetian confirmed rumors this week that they would be adding not one, but two high-profile art museums to their property in the coming year. New galleries will be built to house collections from the world-renowned Guggenheim and the Hermitage museum of Russia. They will be housed in a new 35,000 square-foot addition to be built near the existing parking garage.

In addition, officials for the hotel said that they are investigating the possibility of adding another 1,000 rooms on top of the aforementioned parking garage, bringing their room total to over 4,000. It was unclear whether this meant that they are dropping their plans to build a second 3,000-room tower that would double the size of the existing hotel and casino.

October 2, 2000
Strip Eyesore To Be Imploded
After years of being the biggest blight on the Las Vegas Strip (if you don't count the "Crazy Girls" statue at The Riviera) the long vacant and deteriorating El Rancho hotel will finally get a proper burial this week. Crews plan to implode the building at around 2:30am Tuesday morning.

The El Rancho has had an interesting history, to say the least. It is not, as some believe, the El Rancho that was the first hotel on The Strip. That hotel was located up the street and burnt down in the 60's.

This El Rancho began its life in 1947 as the Thunderbird, the fourth hotel to be built on what would eventually become the Las Vegas Strip. Over the years it changed hands a few times and finally became the El Rancho in 1981 after a Spanish Mission style exterior was added.

It struggled for years until it finally closed in bankruptcy in 1992 and has been vacant ever since.

October 9, 2000
London Calling
Months and months ago I had an item in my column concerning rumors I had been hearing about famed London department store Harrod's considering a Las Vegas branch. Everyone involved at that time dismissed those rumors... "Poppycock" was a word thrown about.

Now look what was reported in the Las Vegas papers last week: "Harrod's Mulling Vegas Venture."

The stories, which appeared in both the Las Vegas Review Journal and Las Vegas Sun, report that Harrod's owner Mohamed Al Fayed (father of the late Dodi who died in the car accident with Princess Diana) is in negotiations with both MGM MIRAGE and Mandalay Resorts to open their first US branch.

Have I mentioned how much I love being right?

The Mandalay Resorts plan would feature Harrod's as the anchor of its long-delayed 1.5 million square foot shopping mall between Mandalay Bay and Luxor. Construction on that project was halted earlier this year when deals with a development company and Nordstrom's fell through.

The MGM MIRAGE plan is much more ambitious. It would reportedly make a 1 million square foot Harrod's the centerpiece of a new London themed hotel and casino. No details were released but it is envisioned as a mega-resort along the lines of Paris, The Venetian, or New York-New York.

This could be the project that replaces the Holiday Inn Boardwalk, just south of Bellagio. That hotel has been on the chopping block for awhile now, and everyone has been waiting to see what will replace it.

Expect an announcement before the end of the year.

October 16, 2000
MGM Theme Park To Close?
Rumors have been running rampant for some time now that the MGM Grand Adventures Theme Park might be closing due to poor performance, but all along, officials with the hotel would only say that they are "considering their options." Well, apparently the option that was the mostly strongly considered was shutting the joint down because last week they put all the rides up for sale.

October 23, 2000
Station On A Spending Spree
In their third major purchase of the year, Station Casinos has agreed to buy The Reserve, a struggling hotel/casino in the southeast part of the Las Vegas area. Although the $70 million asking price is enough to send my heart into palpitations, it is still far less than what most analysts believe the property is worth.

In a related deal, Ameristar Casinos, Inc., owners of The Reserve, agreed to purchase Station's two Missouri riverboat casinos for $475 million.

The Reserve is small jungle-themed hotel/casino that is primarily aimed toward the local market in suburban Henderson. It was built a couple of years ago and has struggled ever since, primarily due to it's relatively remote location.

The deal solidifies Station's hold on the locals market adding the Reserve, and the recently acquired Santa Fe and Fiesta to their current stable of Texas, Sunset, Palace, and Boulder Station hotels. The company is also planning to build at least two other new hotels in neighborhoods around Vegas.

Wacky Lawsuit of the Week
This was one of my favorite semi-regular features, where I tell you a little bit about a lawsuit that has been filed that could only happen in Las Vegas. I stopped doing them when one of the participants in a lawsuit that made it into my column wrote me, complaining that although it may seem humorous to me, it wasn't quite so funny to the people involved. They also questioned my journalistic integrity, accused me of not being compassionate, and may have made a veiled insult about my weight but on that last note, perhaps I'm just being sensitive.

Although I was sure I hadn't either a) crossed a line or b) crossed a line that didn't deserve to be crossed, I decided I wouldn't write about the Wacky Lawsuits of Vegas anymore, primarily because I was worried about becoming the subject of one.

But then I read about a new lawsuit that was filed last week and well... there's only so much willpower a guy like me can muster. Some things are just too good to pass up.

For the record, I am not intending to make light of the lawsuit or the injured parties. I am also not passing judgment on the merits of the lawsuit. I am simply reporting the facts and my classification of the lawsuit as "wacky" is meant with a great deal of affection. After all, without stuff like this I wouldn't have anything to write about.

It seems that back in November of 1998, one Kenneth Gray of Las Vegas was attending the Thanksgiving festivities at the Fiesta hotel in the northwest part of the city. Mr. Gray has filed a suit against the hotel claiming that part of the turkey day extravaganza went awry and he suffered serious injuries because of it.

Mr. Gray says he was knocked down by one of the 10 men who parachuted into the hotel parking lot and that as a result he has incurred more than $50,000 worth of medical expenses - expenses he wants the Fiesta to pay for.

By the way, did I mention that the 10 men who parachuted into the parking lot were part of a team called the Flying Elvi, a group of synchronized parachuting Elvis Presley impersonators.

Oh yeah... and they were all dressed in Santa Claus costumes.

And people ask me why I love Las Vegas so much.

October 30, 2000
New Vegas Hotel Plans Unveiled
Plans were unveiled last week for a new high-rise hotel casino just west of the Las Vegas Strip. The Palms, as it will be called, will feature a 95,000 square-foot casino and a 42-story tower with 470 rooms.

The hotel is being built by the Maloof family who were, up until recently, the owners of The Fiesta in northwest Las Vegas. They sold that hotel to the Station Casinos chain a few months ago and now will be focusing solely on the Palms.

The $265 million Palms, which will be located just across the street from The Rio and directly across the freeway from Bellagio, had its official ground-breaking last week, but construction actually began three months ago.

Additional features of the property will include extensive use of natural light and gardens, a 14-screen movie theater, and three entertainment venues, the largest of which will have 1,200 seats. It will also feature a race and sports book, but wagering on NBA games will be restricted since the Maloof family owns part of the Sacramento Kings basketball team.

The Maloofs are hoping to have the Palms open for business by December of 2001.

Bulletin: 10 Stories Of Vegas Hotel Stolen!
At least that's the way it appears at The Rio where press material and the hotel's web site lists the popular Voodoo Lounge as being on the 51st Floor of the Rio tower. I found this peculiar, and more than a little disconcerting, primarily because the hotel tower is only 41 stories high.

What happened to those other 10 stories? Did armed bandits forgo the casino cage and take entire floors instead? Did a disgruntled employee sneak off with them late one night? Aliens?

Nothing quite so sinister it turns out. It seems that in the Asian culture, the number 4 is considered to be bad luck. According to my co-worker - the lovely and talented Dawna Chan - the number 4 in Chinese rhymes with, and is therefore associated with, death. Any number containing 4 is to be avoided.

Since Las Vegas has a large Asian tourist market, The Rio decided to eliminate the concept of a 40th and 41st floors much in the same way that most American buildings don't have a 13th floor. The next available non-4 numbers were 50 and 51.

Although the hotel may have had the best of intentions when creating the faux-floor numbers, they are taking advantage of it in their marketing materials. Everywhere you see a mention of the Voodoo Lounge, they trumpet the "fact" that it is located on the 51st Floor. Some even go so far as to incorrectly state that you can "party 51 stories above The Strip."

You gotta love marketing departments, don't you?

This isn't the first time that a major change has been made to a Vegas building out of deference to Asian culture. When the MGM Grand was first built, the main entrance required you to pass underneath a giant lion, something that also went against ancient Chinese beliefs. When the hotel was remodeled, the lion entrance was removed.

November 20, 2000
The Genie Is Still In The Bottle
To be fair, the Aladdin has only been open a couple of months, but apparently it isn't too early to start bashing the hotel for poor performance. A number of analysts have leapt on the hotel's recent income and employment figures as evidence that the Aladdin is struggling in its new incarnation.

The property opened August 18th, one day late amidst a flurry of bad press. Since then they have reduced their employee roster by about 1,000 people and was reporting a 3rd quarter loss of over $40 million.

December 4, 2000
Another World's Largest For Vegas
Las Vegas is a town that seems to covet records, no matter how arcane or bizarre. Tallest tower west of the Mississippi? Check (Stratosphere). World's largest atrium? It's here (Luxor). The biggest Coca Cola bottle? Got it (Showcase Mall).

Well, sometime in the year 2002, Las Vegas will have another world record when "Voyager," the world's largest Ferris Wheel, debuts on The Strip.

Premier Rides announced their $40 million plans to build Voyager last week. It will feature 35 air-conditioned passenger cars, each of which can hold up to 16 people. The ride will last for over 20 minutes and will take visitors an astounding 518 feet in the air.

Voyager will be the second tallest structure in Las Vegas, second only to the Stratosphere tower.

The current holder of the title "World's Largest Ferris Wheel" belongs to the London Eye, which is some 68 feet shorter than the proposed Voyager.

The exact location of the ride has not been determined yet but developers say they have narrowed it down to a few parcels of land on the Southern end of The Strip, near Mandalay Bay.

December 11, 2000
Cast Changes
Perhaps in an effort to prove that life is just one big circle, there is yet another new star on the horizon for EFX, the production show at the MGM Grand. It started with Broadway Star Michael Crawford who was replaced by aging Rock Star David Cassidy who was replaced by Broadway Star Tommy Tune who will reportedly be replaced by aging Rock Star Rick Springfield. The guy who wanted "Jessie's Girl" in the 80's will be taking over for Tune on January 30th and the show will reportedly be revamped in a more rock and roll style.

Speaking of David Cassidy, his current show At the Copa will end its run at The Rio sometime in January. A reason was not given for the closing but the production has been rife with stories of disharmony between costars Cassidy and Sheena Easton. Cassidy will fulfill his contract with Harrah's Entertainment by doing a series of concerts at various Harrah's properties.

Top 10 Buffets

  1. Le Village Buffet at Paris Las Vegas
  2. Luxor's Pharoah's Feast
  3. Bellagio Buffet
  4. Main Street Garden Court
  5. Sunset Station Feast Around the World
  6. Bally's Big Kitchen Buffet
  7. Mirage Buffet
  8. Rio Carnival World Buffet
  9. Arizona Charlie's East Wild West Buffet
  10. Mandalay Bay Bayside Buffet
Top 5 Shows (Apparently I Couldn't Come Up with 10)
  1. Mystére by Cirque du Soleil
  2. Blue Man Group
  3. Lance Burton
  4. O by Cirque du Soleil
  5. Siegfried & Roy
Top 10 Attractions
  1. Casino Legends Hall of Fame
  2. Dolphin Habitat
  3. Treasure Island Pirate Battle
  4. Caesars Magical Empire
  5. Speedworld at Sahara
  6. Neon Museum
  7. Liberace Museum
  8. Fremont Street Experience
  9. Clark County Heritage Museum
  10. Bellagio Fountains
Top 10 Hotels
  1. Mirage
  2. Luxor
  3. Paris
  4. New York-New York
  5. Golden Nugget
  6. Mandalay Bay
  7. Caesars Palace
  8. Harrah's
  9. Arizona Charlie's East
  10. Bellagio
  11. return to the top

 


Vegas 2000


 


It Was Going to Close... Then Didn't


 


10 Years


 


MGM Meets Mirage


 


Coinless Slots Will Never Catch On


 


Vroom


 


It Eventually Became Springs Preserve


 


Desert Inn


 


Shaken Not Stirred


 


It Eventually Became This


 


Omnimax Was in the Dome


 


Plans for the Ritz Became This


 


It Eventually Became This


 


The First to Offer High Speed Internet


 


Alakazam


 


Art Didn't Last


 


Imploded


 


Reserve Became Fiesta Henderson


 


Palms Plans Became This


 


Stolen!


 


13 Years Later and It's Finally Going to Happen


 


#1 Buffet of 2000


 


#1 Show of 2000


 


#1 Hotel of 2000

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