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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Potential Taxi Strike Looms

Getting around Las Vegas could become a lot more difficult this week now that contract negotiations between the union that represents taxi drivers and two of Las Vegas' biggest companies have stalled. Drivers have authorized a strike and it could begin as early as November 8th unless a deal is worked out.

The dispute has been going on for months after the union balked over a contract provision that would change the way that drivers get shifts. Currently the first choice of shifts is based on seniority and the new policy would base it on performance, attendance, and productivity. The union says the new method will lead to cutthroat competition between drivers who could resort to tactics like long-hauling (taking fares the long way) to run up revenue.

The companies involved in the dispute operate about half of the cabs in the city. Other companies have already started beefing up their fleets in response to the possible strike but will not be able to come anywhere near replacing all of the cabs that will be idled.

The negotiations are expected to resume this week but if nothing is settled by Thursday - the date when a temporary contract extension expires - the drivers are expected to go out on strike.

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Strike?


 


Getting Around in Las Vegas Without Taxis

If the taxi drivers go out on strike this week as expected, getting around Las Vegas is going to be challenging to say the least. Roughly half of the cabs in town will be pulled off the streets, meaning you're probably going to have to wait a long time to find one of the ones left, if you can find one at all that doesn't already have people in it.

So lacking a taxi, how do you get from Point A to Point B in Vegas? Well, it depends on where you're going, what kind of shape you're in, and how much you've had to drink.

The best way to get around town, regardless of how many cabs are in operation, is with a rental car. Not only does it dramatically increase your options in terms of what you can see and do, it could also save you a lot of money. I just booked a full-size car in Vegas for three days and it's going to cost me about $70 including taxes and fees. Taking cabs all over town can be much more expensive than that.

Having said that, most people who visit Vegas rarely go much further afield than the hotels and casinos that are near the hotel and casino in which they are staying. If your trip is mostly going to be you staying in one location then having a rental car collecting dust in the parking garage obviously doesn't make a lot of sense.

And of course driving is not an option if where you're going is a lot of nightclubs or strip clubs or casinos or any of the other places where drinking is going to be involved.

In that case a mix of walking and riding is your best option. There are several people-movers in Vegas including the Las Vegas Monorail and trams between Mirage and Treasure Island, Bellagio and Monte Carlo (with a stop at CityCenter), and Excalibur and Mandalay Bay (with a stop at Luxor). Of course the problem with those is that you have to want to go where they are going... you can't ask the driver to detour to Circus Circus.

There are also challenges with walking from place to place, not the least of which is the weather. People from cold places will scoff at this but it can get blustery and chilly in November and December so be sure to bring a coat with you. It's also often deceptive in terms of how far it is from one place to another. If you aren't in the best of shape, making that trek can be challenging.

Public transportation is mostly limited to buses that troll The Strip and they can be overcrowded and behind schedule even in the best of times. If there is a taxi strike, I would not depend on them to get you to where you're going.

For more information on getting around in Las Vegas, visit the Resources section of Vegas4Visitors.com, which has details on rental cars, the Monorail, shortcuts around town, and public transportaion.

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Rental Car Facility


 


Las Vegas Monorail


 


BB Kings Blues Club To Close

Visitors to Vegas will have a right to sing the blues after November 18th, the date on which BB King's Blues Club is scheduled to close.

The restaurant and live music venue at The Mirage has been having serious money trouble for the last year, with the hotel claiming it is owed hundreds of thousands of dollars. Bankruptcy and lawsuits have been involved, including one that involved a decision that ultimately led to the closure.

The Mirage argued that since it is owed so much money it didn't have to pay the restaurant any room charges that patrons incurred. The owners of the restaurant say that means they are basically giving away food and drink and can't sustain the business that way.

There is no word on what may replace the restaurant.

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Last Call

 

Ship to Shore: MGM Resorts Partners with Royal Caribbean

So you're sitting there at a slot machine and you think, wow... I'd love to be on a rock climbing wall on board a big cruise ship. Or vice versa, perhaps.

That's a better possibility now that MGM Resorts has now struck up a rewards club partnership with Royal Caribbean cruise lines.

The plan will send cruise offers to M Life players' club members and casino offers to Crown and Anchor Society members, allowing each special access and deals. Further integration will have cruises offered as slot tournament prizes and pre-sale ticket offers at MGM casinos for cruise passengers.

The new deal starts in January 2013.

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Bigger Than a Cruise Ship


 

Vegas4Visitors Weekly Awards

The Standing Award of the Week goes to Ovation, the showroom-esque facility at Green Valley Ranch, which is scheduled to close on November 24th. There is no official word as to what will happen with the space but a possible expansion of the casino has been mentioned.

Standing... Ovation... get it?

The What Have You Bought Your Wife Lately Award of the Week goes to Steve Wynn who is getting his wife her own restaurant. Andrea's will be the new name of the restaurant/lounge space at Encore that used to be known as Switch. It is set to debut in December and will serve Asian cuisine.

The Extension Cord Award of the Week goes to Insert Coin(s), the video game nightclub in Downtown Las Vegas that has opened a new branch in the owner's hometown of Minneapolis last weekend.

The What's in a Name Award of the Week goes to the Aliante Casino & Hotel, which is the new name for what used to be Aliante Station. The Station Casinos chain lost the hotel in bankruptcy and a management deal has now ended, hence the change. Nothing much is expected to be different with the hotel except the players' club will no longer be Station's Boarding Pass and there may be some restaurant switches.

The Know When to Hold 'Em Award goes to Greg Merson of Laurel, Maryland, who obviously did know when to both hold and fold 'em since he was the big winner of this year's World Series of Poker. He walked away with $8.5 million.

The Yeehaw Award of the Week goes to Stoney's Rockin' Country bar, which closed suddenly a couple of weeks ago but has now reopened in a new location. The new 8,000 square-foot venue is at the Town Square shopping mall a few miles south of Mandalay Bay.

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Sit Down


 


Going North


 

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 592nd 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. This week it's time to look at 2001, including the news of the year, some favorite quotes from reviews (mostly snarky in nature), and my picks for the best of the year in shows, restaurants, attractions, and hotels.

January 8, 2001
Three New Megaresorts On The Drawing Board
A group of developers has announced the acquisition of nearly 77 acres of land on the southernmost end of the Las Vegas Strip, with plans to develop the property into as many as three massive mega-resorts.

New World LLC, a consortium of developers including those responsible for the Showcase Mall next to the MGM Grand, have been quietly buying up land across the street from Mandalay Bay, adjacent to McCarran airport. The land includes over one-half mile of Strip frontage and extends back to airport property.

New World is currently in negotiations with several casino developers to turn the land into a sprawling resort complex that, according to their vision, would include three mega-casinos with thousands of rooms all connected by a central entertainment and/or convention center.

One possible partner in the new deal may be Virgin Airways magnate Richard Branson, who has been in discussion with several Las Vegas developers to bring his Virgin brand to a casino near you. Branson may find the location especially appealing since developers have floated the idea of a new international terminal at McCarran that could be directly connected to the new resorts, a perfect marketing one-two punch for Virgin's trans-Atlantic flights.

Development of the land has already begun with demolition and grading currently underway on a portion of the property. Conservationists are crying foul over plans to knock down the semi-legendary Glass Pool Inn, with its above ground swimming pool, but it appears the its fate has been sealed.

Small Fire in Vegas Defines Irony If you've been looking for the perfect definition of the word "ironic" it happened in Las Vegas last week. Firefigthers quickly knocked down a small blaze at a business near the Stratosphere on the north Strip last Thursday afternoon. The fire was apparently started when someone threw a lit cigarette into a cardboard box. So why is it ironic? The business in question was the AAA Smoke Shop. No one was injured and damage was minor.

February 5, 2001
More New Themed Resorts Planned
A group of developers has announced plans to build their own London themed hotel on the former site of the El Rancho, directly across the street from Circus Circus. You may remember that Turnberry Associates, builders of a high-rise luxury condominium complex, purchased the El Rancho to tear it down so their high-paying residents wouldn't have to look at the graffiti strewn eyesore. Now, they intend to do something more with the land than just plant trees.

Their unofficial plans would create a 44-story resort styled to resemble famous London landmarks such as the Tower Bridge spanning a faux river Thames, the Parliament building, and Big Ben to name a few. The hotel would have over 2,000 rooms and a 90,000 square-foot casino.

There is no word at this point on a timetable or a projected cost for the project.

But if London doesn't interest you, perhaps you would prefer ancient China? A California investment team has unveiled plans to build a 600-room hotel/casino called the Dynasty Forbidden City. The Asian themed resort will be located at the extreme southern end of the Strip (past Mandalay Bay) and will feature a parking garage designed to resemble the Great Wall of China.

No, I'm not making this stuff up.

Rick Springfield Joining EFX
Singer/Actor Rick Springfield has officially taken over as the lead in EFX, the big-budget production show at the MGM Grand. The 80's rocker, best known for his hit "Jessie's Girl," replaced Broadway legend Tommy Tune in the role and is reportedly putting his own stamp on the entire production. In addition to tweaking existing songs for a rock style, Springfield has penned two new songs and will somehow work in his hit "Human Touch."

Darwin Award
this may be in bad taste so please stop reading now if you are easily offended, but I had to put in my Darwin Award nomination on behalf of a man in Las Vegas. For those of you not familiar, the Darwin's are a web-based satire that offer faux awards to "people who significantly improve the gene pool by removing themselves from it" - in other words, people who do really dumb things and wind up getting themselves killed.

My nomination goes to the guy at the Aztec Inn, a small hotel near The Stratosphere, who was doing some work on a natural gas heating unit in one of the rooms. (You can see it coming already can't you?) According to fire officials, the man apparently decided that this would be a really nifty time to light a cigarette. The resulting explosion shook the hotel and was reportedly heard for blocks. Despite this, the man and a companion are expected to recover from their injuries so I guess technically he can't get a Darwin Award... yet.

February 12
MGM Theme Park Closes Permanently
As I predicted in this column a few months ago - and yes, I love being right about these things, by the way - the MGM Grand Adventures theme park is officially and permanently closed to the public.

After months of rumors, officials with MGM Grand announced last fall they were putting all of the rides in the park up for sale, citing disappointing attendance and revenue. Despite the fact there were "For Sale" signs on everything, company officials claimed they would reopen the park as scheduled in April if they were unable to get a buyer who would meet their lofty prices. Apparently someone had a big enough checkbook because the bulk of the rides and attractions at the theme park have now been sold.

March 5
Siegfried & Roy Won't Disappear
Okay so it turns out that Siegfried and Roy aren't going to retire after all. Despite rumors to the contrary, the famed Austrian illusionists announced last week that they were signing a new "lifetime" contract with The Mirage.

Before I go any farther I just want to defend myself and have you take note of the fact that last week's story was entitled "Scurrilous Gossip" - so you were warned.

Now, before you start imagining, as I have, what their act may be like when they are in their late 90's, let's take a look at that "lifetime" contract, shall we? It turns out that the new deal only goes through the end of 2003, at which point Siegfried & Roy have the option of renewing it - or walking away.

The pair also declined to say how often or how long they themselves would headline their own show under the new contract. This of course has led to more scurrilous gossip, most of which supposes that over the next two years of this contract Siegfried & Roy will be working a newer, younger headliner into the show who could take over when they finally do decide to go play with their tigers and try to figure out what else to spend their bazillions of dollars on.

March 19
Projects Compete For Downtown Space
The tallest building in the world? Indoor skiing? Baseball?

For years city planners have dreamed of what could fill 61 acres of Downtown land that used to be part of the Union Pacific railway yard. Last week, ten separate projects competing for that land were unveiled, and now the mayor and other city officials are trying to decide which one to build.

The bulk of the proposals call for a mix of residential, retail, hotel, office, and entertainment space, however a few of them stand out for their sheer audacity.

One would construct the world's tallest building on the land. At more than 2,200 feet tall (roughly 200 stories), the Millennium Tower would be almost twice the size of the Stratosphere Tower and would feature a casino at the base, entertainment offerings, retail and restaurant space, office space, a luxury hotel, and luxury condominium units.

Another proposal is tailor made for skiers and snowboarders. It would feature a giant dome covering an indoor ski-run (with manmade snow of course), a wave pool for extreme water sports, hot springs, and a spa.

Architectonia is the name given to yet another competitor that would build a 20,000-seat arena for a professional sports team, something that Las Vegas currently lacks - unless you count the XFL and since most people aren't, we won't either. This development would also include a giant mall with an ice-skating rink, offices, residential, and retail space plus room for a college campus.

Another potential development has been dubbed The Oasis, and it would feature a 12,500-seat baseball stadium, residential units, retail space, a performing arts school, offices, and more in a giant park-like setting patterned after the 3rd Street Promenade in Santa Monica, California.

April 9
Lawsuit of the Week
A small local hair salon has lost a court case against gaming giant Caesars Palace. Caesars sued the salon saying the name of the establishment infringed on their trademark and may confuse customers looking for fine Caesars salon services. The name? Scissors Palace. (The following week they filed a lawsuit against a strip club called Teaser's Palace)

April 23
Fee Draws Ire
In a town famous for separating cash from tourists it wouldn't seem that $3 could be so outrageous, but recently announced room surcharges have raised the ire of many a potential Vegas visitors, including this one. Harrah's, Rio, Riviera, and all of the Station Casinos (Texas, Palace, Fiesta, Sunset, et al) have added an "Energy Usage Surcharge" to the cost of their rooms, supposedly to help the gigantic resorts that bring in billions in dollars of revenue cope with the increases in electricity costs associated with the California energy crisis. It takes a lot of juice to run those slot machines, you know. The $3 charge, or some version of it, is rumored to be on the way at all of the major hotels in Vegas soon.

April 30
Massive New Development Announced
Lake Las Vegas, the upscale golf and resort community just east of Las Vegas, is about to get even more upscale with the addition of MonteLago Village, a 2,600-acre development valued at more than $500 million.

The centerpiece of MonteLago Village will be the Las Vegas area's first branch of the pricey and exclusive Ritz-Carlton hotel chain. The 350-room hotel will be built right on the shores of Lake Las Vegas and will be connected via walkways to a 40,000 square-foot European style casino, and a world-class spa.

May 21
Caesars Expands; Celine Signs Up
Caesars Palace announced details last week on their much-discussed expansion plans, which will include a new 900 room, all-suite tower and a Roman Colosseum replica to house a 4,000-seat entertainment venue.

In late 2002, Caesars will debut The Colosseum, a 4,000-seat entertainment venue to replace the famed Circus Maximus showroom that was torn down last year. The exterior of the giant venue will resemble the Colosseum in Rome and it will be located at the front of the property, near The Forum Shops mall.

In related news, an announcement is expected shortly that Celine Dion will inaugurate the new Colosseum on New Year's next year in a kickoff of her exclusive headliner deal with Caesars. The two-year deal is rumored to be one of the richest in Vegas history at more than $40 million.

May 28
New Stratosphere Ride Planned
If the roller coaster and "Big Shot" thrill rides at the top of The Stratosphere aren't thrilling enough for you, the folks at that hotel have something even bigger up their sleeve. Officials with the hotel announced plans to build a new ride that would drop people in a free-fall down the side of the tower and out over The Strip. Riders would climb in an open elevator style car about three-quarters of the way up the tower (approximately 700 feet) and then dropped on a J-shaped track that would expand out over Las Vegas Blvd.

I'll let someone else review that.

June 18
Olympian Wants Vegas Show
From the "Only in Vegas" file comes word that a former Olympic competitor is trying to bring a new show to town. The Las Vegas Review Journal is reporting that disgraced ice skater Tonya Harding wants to do a topless ice-dancing review in order to make some dough and show off the recent surgical enhancement of her chest. Rumor has it she has been pitching the show to various hotels in Vegas but that no one has taken her up on it yet.

There are so many things I could say here but I think the story speaks for itself, don't you?

June 25
Coinless Slots
The future of slot machines is coming to The Strip in force as Park Place Entertainment, operators of Caesars, Flamingo, Bally's, and Paris, have struck a deal with International Game Technology to purchase 15,000 "cashless" machines for their Vegas casinos. The so-called "EZ Pay" machines offer users the option to cash out their winnings in the form of a ticket that can be used in other EZ Pay machines just like currency or can be cashed in with casino personnel. The systems have been big hits at off-Strip casinos such as Terrible's and some of the Station casinos, but this will mark the first time they are making a big splash on Las Vegas Blvd.

August 27
Monorail Construction Begins
What do you get when you mix the governor of Nevada, showgirls in full costume, Elvis impersonators, and a really big drill? An "Only in Las Vegas" version of a ground breaking of course. All of the above were on hand for the official ceremony marking the start of construction on the $650 million monorail system that will link the north and south ends of The Strip. The Las Vegas Monorail will be an extension of the existing MGM Grand to Bally's line. It will head north from Bally's with stops at the Flamingo Hilton and Harrah's, then turn east to a station at the convention center and Las Vegas Hilton. From there it will head back north again to its final stop behind The Sahara on Paradise Road.

At more than $160 million per mile, the monorail is considered to be one of the most expensive public transportation projects in history, and certainly the most expensive in Nevada, requiring a special bond issue for the full amount.

September 10
Tic Tac Toe
The "People With Way Too Much Time On Their Hands" Award goes to the marketing department at the Tropicana in Atlantic City. The hotel is offering $10,000 to anyone who can beat one of fifteen live chickens on a video tic-tac-toe game. The specially trained chickens apparently almost never lose, making the cash award a rarity and the humiliation omnipresent.

No word on whether they'll be bringing the promotion to the Tropicana in Vegas... but we can always dream, can't we?

September 17
Commentary: Our National Tragedy
I initially thought of suspending my Las Vegas column for the week out of respect and mourning for the terrible tragedies that occurred in the U.S. last week. Then I realized that for every business that closes, every event that is cancelled, every column that doesn't get published, we are allowing the terrorists to win a little.

Perhaps in the grand scheme of things what is happening in Las Vegas pales by comparison, but in a strange way it is in the wild, truly American spectacle of The Strip that we can take some comfort. As the sky was literally falling in other parts of the country, the slots, the cards, the dice, and the general mass consumption paused for the briefest of moments to mark a passage of sorts and then resumed.

I think that's the way it should be.

Please don't mistake this for being any kind of disregard on my part for the scope of the tragedy. But after sitting watching countless hours on TV of the same horrors replayed over and over from different angles, I found myself hoping that all of the network and cable news anchors would say, "If anything else serious happens we will come back on the air immediately but for the next 30 minutes we're going to show Bugs Bunny cartoons."

Las Vegas, more than anywhere else in country and perhaps the world, is the equivalent of a Bugs Bunny cartoon during Armageddon. And I mean that in a really good way.

So this week some news on how Las Vegas reacted to the terrorist attacks and an update about the Tropicana's tic-tac-toe playing chickens.

That too is perhaps the way it should be.

Las Vegas Reacts to Terrorist Attacks
Within hours of the violent terrorist attacks on the East Coast of the United States, Las Vegas began to react to the potential threat posed on the city. With literally hundreds of thousands of tourists, employees, and residents jamming a couple square miles of very high-profile buildings, officials with the city and the resorts began closing some of the most popular attractions and making plans to accommodate all of the people stranded as the airport closed.

The Stratosphere, the tallest structure west of the Mississippi, was evacuated early in the morning and remained closed for the day although the rest of the hotel and casino remained open. The other big tower at Paris Las Vegas, a 50-story replica of the Eiffel Tower, was also closed.

All of the major malls were closed for the day on Tuesday including The Forum Shops at Caesars Palace, The Fashion Show Mall, The Galleria at Sunset, and The Boulevard Mall.

Some of the most popular attractions and shows cancelled performances including the Tuesday night editions of Siegfried and Roy, Danny Gans, Blue Man Group, and Cirque du Soleil's "O," while the Treasure Island Pirate Battle, the volcano at The Mirage, and the fountains at Bellagio were also shut down.

Weekend concerts and sporting events were cancelled as well.

Down the street at New York-New York, the new ESPN Sports Zone closed for the day and at the other end of the street the roller coaster at the Sahara halted rides.

A bomb threat caused the evacuation of The Convention Center next door to the Las Vegas Hilton, but despite the all-clear signal being sounded shortly thereafter, the facility remained closed. The Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority immediately pulled all television advertisements currently running nationwide.

Outside of the city, Hoover Dam was closed to traffic and the public with autos and trucks being diverted miles out of their way to make it across the Colorado River.

As the thousands of tourists and businesspeople who had been planning on leaving the city on Tuesday were informed that they were stranded, all of the city's hotels and resorts opened their doors to accommodate the crush. Although there were some reports of smaller hotels raising their prices, many of the big resorts offered heavily discounted rates to anyone who couldn't make it home.

By noon, every rental car company in the city was sold out and many were considering cab rides to Los Angeles.

Security was also heightened at all of the resorts up and down The Strip. Guards were posted at the loading docks of many of the big hotels to inspect and verify all deliveries.

Most of the casinos showed television coverage of the events of the day at the lounges and in the sports books, but for the most part the gaming action was uninterrupted. It offered a startling juxtaposition of people watching buildings fall down mere feet from people pumping quarters into slot machines.

Several of the chapels throughout Las Vegas were jammed with people offering their prayers for the victims of the tragedy.

During the day Tuesday and Tuesday night, many of the giant electronic signs at the Strip mega-resorts that usually broadcast commercials for shows and attractions instead showed American flags along with the words "God Bless America."

By Wednesday a modified sense of normalcy had returned to The Strip. Although the airport remained closed as did the Stratosphere and Eiffel Towers, most of the rest of the city went on with business as usual.

September 24
DI Implosion Still On
The scheduled implosion of one of the main towers of the Desert Inn will go on as planned October 23rd, despite the recent terrorist attacks in New York City and Washington. In an interview with the Las Vegas Sun, casino impresario Steve Wynn announced that the implosion would be as "low-key" as such an affair could be and would be scheduled at 2am to cause the least amount of spectacle. Despite fears of association with the destruction of the World Trade Center towers, Wynn decided to go forward with the implosion after being informed that it was the safest way to take down the 14-story tower.

October 8
Aladdin Files for Bankruptcy
Regular readers of this column have been following the saga of the new Aladdin as far back as April when I first reported that the hotel was in financial trouble. Finally last Friday the moment that everyone had been anticipating for months finally occurred: the Aladdin is officially bankrupt.

The filing happened late on Friday, September 28th, after the hotel was unable to meet a payment deadline that could have resulted in immediate seizure of all of the property's furniture and gaming equipment. The Chapter 11 declaration will allow the owners of the Aladdin, London Clubs International and Sommer's Trust, to keep the hotel open with some new infusions of cash from creditors.

With more than $700 million in outstanding debt, the bankruptcy is largest in Nevada history.

November 5
New Wynn Hotel Plans
Le Reve (French for "The Dream") is the name of the new resort that Wynn hopes to break ground on by as soon as December. Construction of the massive resort could take as long as 30 months, meaning that you won't be able to step inside until 2004 at the earliest.

The hotel will feature a 42-story tower housing 2,455 all-suite rooms. By way of comparison, Wynn's former glory the Bellagio is only 36-stories but has about 3,000 rooms. Le Reve will be tied with the new Palms Resort as the tallest room tower in Las Vegas - and before you start sending me nasty know-it-all e-mails, the Stratosphere doesn't count because there are no hotel rooms in their 110-story tower.

Just like Bellagio, the property will be fronted by a large man-made lake, although reports indicate that it will be smaller.

The casino will be on par with competitors - probably around 100,000 square-feet - and will feature all levels of gaming. But expect this to be a very expensive hotel so high-limit slots and table games will probably be heavily featured at Le Reve.

There will be two showrooms, one of which will feature a new production from the creator of Cirque du Soleil's highly successful "O" and "Mystere" at Bellagio and Treasure Island respectively. The concept of the show has something to do with a Himalayan tribe whose members can fly until they are eleven and... well, never mind. It sounds kind of odd on paper but if it's anything like the other two shows it should be amazing.

High-end shopping and dining will dominate the hotel with outlets from Chanel and Christian Dior plus a sister restaurant to New York's ultra-hip Balthazar. Other eateries will be developed by celebrity chefs to be announced as the project progresses.

Finally, Wynn is adamant that he is staying away from a theme for Le Reve. No pirates, no city replicas, no genie's lamp - instead, Wynn says the new hotel will use the desert southwest as its inspiration. What that means, we're not really sure but expect lots of earth tones.

Stratosphere Ride Battle Gets Ugly
It started out simply enough: The Stratosphere wanted to build a new thrill ride on their 110-story tower to lure visitors to their property in the no-man's land between The Strip and Downtown. However, it didn't stay simple for long as neighbors objected to the ride and it got shot down in a city planning commission meeting last month. Now, The Stratosphere is fighting back, apparently determined to do whatever it takes to get the ride built including threatening to pull support for a monorail and to build a 70-foot gorilla.

I love writing things like that and wish I could just leave it there but I suppose I should explain.

The new ride would have taken people in enclosed cars about 760-feet up the side of the tower and then dropped them on a track that would extend across Las Vegas Boulevard. It has been designed to be the tallest and fastest thrill ride in the world, reaching speeds of over 120 miles per hour.

Residents in the adjacent neighborhoods rallied against the ride, saying (among other things) it would be too noisy, would cause too much car and foot traffic, and would ruin the aesthetic of both the Tower and the entire area. City planning commissioners apparently agreed and voted against the project in a meeting last month.

But the story doesn't end there. The ride has another chance to be approved by the Las Vegas City Council at a meeting this week and The Stratosphere has dropped a couple of bombshells to try to sway the council's opinion on the subject.

First officials with the hotel announced that without the new ride, and the projected 3.4 million tourists it would draw annually, they didn't need a monorail station that is currently in the research phase. Without the Stratosphere's support and financial contributions, the proposed monorail to the Downtown area would be seriously jeopardized. The City Council really wants that monorail, so the threat to pull funding and support was taken very seriously.

Next those same officials announced that if the City Council didn't approve the new thrill ride they would fall back on previously approved plans to build a 70-foot tall King Kong thrill ride. That ride, approved in 1996 but never built, would hold up to 48 people inside the gorilla as it climbed up the side of the tower, screeching and dropping precipitously as projections of airplanes appeared to attack him.

Since the city didn't set an expiration date on their approval more than 5 years ago, the ride is still good to go apparently.

To say that neighbors were less than enthused about the alternate gorilla plan is probably an understatement. In fact some of what they had to say at a community meeting sponsored by The Stratosphere last week can't be printed here.

November 12
Algiers Days Numbered
It looks like the days are numbered for the Algiers, one of the oldest continually operating hotels on The Strip. A proposal is moving forward that would allow the owners of the Algiers to swap that parcel of land for another currently owned by the city at the corner of Harmon and The Strip, next to The Aladdin. The city would then tear down the Algiers and put a road through the property while the Algiers owners would probably lease out the new plot of land, possibly to a developer who wants to build the world's tallest Ferris wheel.

It's not a done deal yet but most of the legal hurdles have been jumped and if the plan goes forward it will mean the end of the road for the historic hotel, which opened in 1953.

November 19
MTV Heading to Vegas
MTV's reality series "The Real World" is about to separate itself even farther from reality. Producers of the hit show, in which seven 20-somethings live and work together while having their lives taped for the amusement of viewers, announced last week that the 12th season will be filmed in Las Vegas. Word on The Strip is that the lucky participants will take up residence in a 4,500 square-foot penthouse at the top of the new Palms tower, right across the street from The Rio.

December 3
Coyote Gets Ugly
And finally, on a "lighter" note, things got a little too "hot" at the new Coyote Ugly Nightclub last week when one of the fire-breathing bartenders accidentally set one of the customers ablaze. The club, based upon the movie "Coyote Ugly," features attractive female "show" bartenders who do things like flip bottles, dance on the bar, and yes, breathe fire occasionally although that latter practice is probably going to be dropped now.

The customer in question was taken to a local hospital where he was treated and released with very minor injuries.

I know I shouldn't think it's funny...

Best Review Quotes
From the review of De La Guarda (a Cirque like show that played at Rio for a short while)
Perhaps I'm just getting too old for this kind of stuff. The hyperactivity of the entire show - stunts, singing, lights, ear-shattering music, special effects, and especially the part where they re-enact a rave while expecting everyone to jump up and down - leaves me longing for a comfy seat, a cocktail waitress, and a white tiger or two.

From the review of Melinda, First Lady of Magic
Our first thought was, "Wow - this is what it would be like if they gave Vanna White a magic show."

From the review of Second City
Five performers (who rotate in and out from a company of nine) and a pianist/sound effects guy prove their quicksilver comic chops right out of the gate by improvising a light opera ode to a lucky audience member. In the show I saw, Nurse Beverly from Las Vegas got serenaded and the troupe managed to rhyme everything from bedpan to catheter.

From the review of Bottom's Up
In show reviews, I'm supposed to give you my fair, honest, and unbiased opinion but what should I do when my opinion is so obviously different than what the bulk of the audience thought? If an audience hoots, hollers, and begs for more but I hate it so much that I find myself praying there may still be an errant piece of the Mir space station plunging through the atmosphere headed directly for my seat in the showroom just so I won't have to watch another moment of the production, does what I think count? Therein lies my dilemma with Bottom's Up.

From the review of Storm (a show that played at Mandalay Bay)
Dichotomy: (noun) - something with seemingly contradictory qualities. See "Storm" at Mandalay Bay.

The opening is a terrific example. The theater, once a black box home to "Chicago," has been transformed into a black-box with lots of tropical hanging vines, jungle sculpture, and the front ends of cars (I don't know, I just report). As the show starts, faux lightning and thunder blares, foreboding music swells, the company enters dressed in brightly colored tribal costumes carrying rain sticks, and a video and voice over play showing people wandering about the desert. The passion swells, the drama intensifies, a four-story tornado swirls by on stage, and then... they break into "Conga" by Gloria Estefan and the Miami Sound Machine.

I think I speak for all of us when I say, "Huh?"

From the review of Mizuno's (Japanese grill at Tropicana)
Being the important Las Vegas critic that I am (no snickering in the back), I had just had a huge meal for lunch not five hours before and I was very worried I wouldn't be able to fully enjoy the meal at Mizuno's. I needn't have. Everything was so good that I absolutely gorged myself and had to be wheeled out on dolly.

From the review of Cili (a Wolfgang Puck restaurant)
Wolfgang Puck's newest posh eatery is not in one of the grand Vegas palaces but rather in a grand Vegas golf course. The multi-million Bali Hai Golf Club, located on The Strip just south of Mandalay Bay, offers valet parking, greens fees starting at around $150, and golf carts with global positioning satellite (GPS) tracking presumably so you don't wander off into the desert while looking for the 16th hole never to be heard from again.

But I digress.

From the review of Men are from Mars, Women are from Venus
I went into this show just dying to hate it. From the moment that I heard about it, I thought it was the dumbest idea for a musical since they tried to make Stephen King's high-school prom nightmare "Carrie" into an all-singing, all-dancing extravaganza.

Pardon me while I go get a glass of water to help me eat my words with.

From the review of Sammy's Woodfired Pizza
The views from the large picture windows are of a parking lot and the street, but I guess you can't always have volcanoes and roller coasters.

From the review of Skintight (a topless show at Harrah's)
Skintight currently features a "special appearance" by Playboy Playmate Cynthia Brimhall. She jokes, sings, and teases unsuspecting audience members and comes off as a more talented version of Pamela Anderson. And I mean that as a compliment. No, really.

From my review of Sazio (an Italian restaurant at Orleans)
I sampled the tiramisu, the cannoli, the spumoni, and what was undeniably the best traditional New York style cheesecake I've ever tasted. I almost blew off a show review later that night to go back and get some to take to my room. But I was worried about the size of my waistline throwing off the rotation of the earth so I decided not to.

From my review of Midnight Fantasy (topless review at Luxor)
Someone accused me recently of going into these types of shows with a predisposition toward disliking it. And perhaps they are right. After all, you can't possibly be coming to a topless show entitled "Midnight Fantasy" for culture. No, of course not. It's about the breasts. The cheap thrills. My opinion is, and always has been: take your $30 and go get a lap dance.

Or better yet, get two months worth of HBO. You'll get breasts AND "The Sopranos."

From my review of ESPN Sports Zone
The only sport that really interests me is bowling because it's the the only one in which cup-holders are provided for my beer.

From my review of Madonna at the MGM Grand
What better place to stage Madonna's avant-garde new "Drowned World" concert tour than in Vegas? Exotic dancers in barely there costumes? People on bungee cords bouncing around the stage and dropping from the ceiling? Eye-popping sets with lots of dry-ice fog? Vegas has had all of that AND white tigers so if it had been anyone other than Madonna standing behind the microphone it probably wouldn't have caused a ripple in the city's consciousness.

From my review of Studio 54
I'm going to cut Studio 54 a lot more slack than they probably deserve. I did attempt to visit this ultra-trendy nightclub at the MGM Grand on a Saturday night and it was a holiday weekend and it was right after the Madonna concert so maybe it was all my fault for not thinking things through a little better. Plus it was my birthday and I was turning 35 and I'm way too old for this kind of crap anyway, so please take everything you're going to read here with a grain of very bitter salt.

From my review of the Guggenheim/Hermitage Museums (at the Venetian)
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.

From my review of La Femme
There's a pretty fine line between what constitutes an artistic rendering of the nude female form and just a plain old naked woman. A Renaissance painting hanging in the Louvre? Art. An interpretive dance by a major ballet company attended by couples in tuxedos and evening gowns? Art. A showroom at a Las Vegas casino? Naked women.

Top 10 Shows

  1. Second City
  2. Mystére by Cirque du Soleil
  3. Blue Man Group
  4. Rita Rudner
  5. O by Cirque du Soleil
  6. Clint Holmes
  7. Lance Burton
  8. Siegfried & Roy
  9. Danny Gans
  10. Jubilee!
Top 10 Attractions
  1. Mirage Dolphins
  2. Casino Legends Hall of Fame
  3. Liberace Museum
  4. Eiffel Tower
  5. Stratosphere Tower
  6. Imperial Palace Auto Collections
  7. Gondola Rides
  8. Elvis-a-Rama Museum
  9. Speedworld
  10. Adventuredome
Top 10 Free Attractions
  1. Treasure Island Pirate Battle
  2. Bellagio Fountain Shows
  3. Neon Museum
  4. Fremont Street Experience
  5. Mirage Volcano
  6. Bellagio Conservatory
  7. Ethel M. Chocolate Factory
  8. Caesars Palace Fountain Shows
  9. Mirage White Tiger Habitat
  10. MGM Grand Lion Habitat
Top 10 Hotels
  1. Luxor
  2. Mirage
  3. Stratosphere
  4. Main Street Station
  5. New York-New York
  6. Paris Las Vegas
  7. Golden Nugget
  8. Boulder Station
  9. Caesars Palace
  10. return to the top

 


Vegas 2000


 


Stratosphere


 


El Rancho


 


Rick Springfield


 


MGM Grand


 


Mirage


 


Caesars Palace


 


MonteLago Village


 


Celine Dion


 


Las Vegas Monorail


 


Aladdin


 


Wynn Las Vegas


 


Algiers


 


Palms


 


De La Guarda


 


Second City


 


Storm


 


Men are From Mars...


 


Skintight


 


Studio 54


 


#8 Best Show of 2001


 


Best Attraction of 2001


 


Best Hotel of 2001


 

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