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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Shooting at Excalibur Leaves 2 Dead

Two people are dead after a shooting Friday night at Excalibur. Coming hours after the a gunman killed 26 children and adults at a Connecticut elementary school, the incident touched off panic at the hotel with people fearing another horrific rampage was unfolding, but while details are still being investigated it appears to have been a domestic murder-suicide.

30 year old Jessica Kenny worked at the Vegas.com concierge desk near the front desk at the hotel. At around 8:30pm a man approached Kenny, shot her multiple times, and then shot himself. The gunshots sent panicked guests fleeing out of the hotel and into hiding places until it was clear that the shooting was over.

Kenny was transported to a local hospital where she was declared dead.

The shooter has not been identified but is believed to be Kenny's ex-boyfriend.

This was not the first shooting inside a Las Vegas casino. In 1999 a blackjack dealer at The Golden Gate was shot and killed by her ex-boyfriend; a 2000 shooting at the Stardust sports book left one man dead; also in 2000 a woman was shot at Harrah's when she was caught in the crossfire of a robbery gone wrong; and in 2007 a man with a high-powered rifle opened fire from a balcony overlooking the casino at New York-New York, but while five people were injured, miraculously, no one was killed.

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Excalibur


 

Las Vegas by the Numbers

30

That's the number of years that Legends in Concert will be playing in Las Vegas now that the tribute show has found a new home at The Flamingo. The big difference is that it will be an afternoon show for the first time in its long run on the Sin City stages, with a 4pm start time six days a week. The show will close at Imperial Palace on December 30 and reopen in February of 2013.

21

That's the date in December when the Imperial Palace will officially become The Quad. The hotel's website is already using the new name and the IP signs are being removed from the building. Construction on the renovations to the hotel, which will completely remodel the front of the building, the casino, and many other public areas, continues through 2013.

3

That would be the number of water parks in Las Vegas if a proposal to build a new one at Circus Circus goes through. The plan would replace the hotel's RV park with a multi-slide, multi-ride water attraction by summer of 2014. It's not a done deal yet but looks likely. Vegas currently has zero water parks but two new ones are under construction - Wet 'n Wild on the west side of town and Cowabunga Bay on the east side of town.

17.3

The number of millions won by an unidentified slot player after lining up the symbols of the Megabucks machine at M Resort on Saturday, December 15. It's the first time the jackpot has hit in more than two years.

7

The number of hotels that will be launching fireworks from their roofs on New Year's Eve as part of the annual pyrotechnics show. The hotels include Aria, Caesars Palace, MGM Grand, Planet Hollywood, The Stratosphere, Treasure Island, and The Venetian. The show starts about 10 minutes before midnight.

6

That's the number of nights that Roseanne Barr is going to be playing at The Laugh Factory at The Tropicana starting in January of 2013. The comedian will anchor the 7pm show and is booked through at least March but may go longer. Tickets run between $50 and $70.

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The Show Goes On


 

The Imperial Palace Doesn't


 

Vegas4Visitors Weekly Awards

The Good Cause Award of the Week goes to the Las Vegas Chippendales' Jaymes Vaughn, who is raising money at ForgetCancerNow.com for his father who has been diagnosed with a rare form of the disease. Vaughn and his fellow Chippendales cast mate James Davis came in second on this season of "The Amazing Race."

The British Invasion Award of the Week goes to celebrity chef Gordon Ramsay, who will be opening two new restaurants in Las Vegas in the next week. The casual Gordon Ramsay Pub & Grill at Caesars Palace will feature British specialties and some American comfort food while BurGR (GR = Gordon Ramsay; get it?) at Planet Hollywood will serve sushi. No, no, just kidding... it's a burger joint.

The End of the World as We Know It Award of the Week goes to Rí Rá Irish Pub at Mandalay Bay, which will be having two toasts, asking everyone to hold their glasses aloft on December 21st at 4:01pm and on December 22nd at 12:01am. Those would be the times when the supposed Mayan prediction of the end of the world on 12/21/12 doesn't happen in Ireland and Las Vegas respectively.

The Are You Ready to Rock Award of the Week goes to Rock of Ages, the jukebox musical that is scheduled to open at The Venetian this week. The show, which features 80s rock songs from the likes of Foreigner and Bon Jovi, will play Tuesday, Thursday, and Sunday at 8pm and Saturday, Wednesday, and Friday at 7 and 10pm. Tickets range between $65 and $144.

The Speaking of Broadway Award of the Week goes to The Book of Mormon, the Tony Award winning musical that will be playing at The Smith Center in 2014 as part of their Broadway Series. Tickets will go on sale next year.

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Beefcake For a Cause


 


Get Out the Hairspray


 


Attraction Review: KISS by Monster Mini Golf

I have to admit that despite being a child of the late 70s and early 80s, I never really "got" the rock band Kiss. I mean, I understood the concept - "I want to rock and roll all nite... and party every day!" - but I was more of a disco/pop/R&B type of kid. Mirror balls and Donna Summer, I understood. Platform shoes and Gene Simmons, not so much.

But that lack of appreciation for the band and its music didn't stop me from enjoying Kiss by Monster Mini Golf, an indoor amusement park that is devoted to all things "Detroit Rock City."

Memorabilia lines the walls and fills display cases, from photos and records to automobiles. The hardcore fan could probably spend an hour just looking at all the "stuff" but most folks can give it an appreciative nod and move on to the gift shop that has logo merchandise in just about every form possible. Looking for a Kiss golf ball? They've got you covered.

A small video game arcade breaks the all-things-Kiss mold by offering up various amusements that have nothing to do with "Beth" or the people who sang about her.

Beyond that is the main attraction - the 18-hold, glow in the dark, indoor, Kiss-themed miniature golf course. Stop and appreciate the lunacy of that concept for just a moment before I tell you that no matter how ridiculous it sounds, it actually kind of works.

The course itself isn't all that challenging - the holes are pretty standard and only a few involve obstacles that will strand those whose dexterity and sobriety are intact. But there are a few fun ones including putting through a giant guitar and the final hole where you have to knock the ball up Gene Simmon's tongue. Well, not his real tongue, but a larger than life simulation of same.

A live DJ spins nothing but Kiss tunes and occasionally pops up to announce giveaways and to heckle golfers.

The facility also has a private room for meetings or parties, a VIP room complete with comfy couches and a big screen TV, and a wedding chapel where you can have a Gene Simmons lookalike perform your nuptials. I actually witnessed such an event - the union of a heavily tattooed woman and her biker boyfriend - and it was both as silly as you'd expect and unexpectedly sweet.

Entering the facility, browsing the memorabilia, and looking through the gift shop are free endeavors. The miniature golf will cost you $11.95 for 30 minutes, which is plenty of time to work your way through the course.

This is exactly the kind of wacky attraction that helped to define Las Vegas and even though I might have preferred a Prince by Monster Mini Golf, I still found Kiss to be an entertaining diversion.

Sorry... now I'm picturing the Prince themed miniature golf course.

KISS by Monster Mini Golf
4501 Paradise Rd.
Las Vegas, NV 89169
702-558-6256
website
Vegas4Visitors Rating: B+

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Rock On!

 

Restaurant Review: Public House at Luxor

This could be confusing so let me explain. Public house is the full, formal name for what the Brits colloquially refer to as a "pub" or, here in the States, a "brew pub" or "gastropub," the former if they brew their own beer or the latter if they serve fancier food, but the Public House here is the name of the restaurant at Luxor and, oddly, the name of a restaurant at The Venetian which have nothing to do with each other and aren't the same at all, with The Venetian one being more of a gastropub than the Luxor one, which is kind of a sports pub, which is a whole other animal altogether.

Understand? Yeah, neither did I. But the short version is this: Las Vegas has two restaurants called Public House but the only thing they have in common is good food, lots of drinks, and reasonable prices.

The Luxor Public House is in the space once occupied by Company American Bistro near the LAX nightclub. It's a brightly lit, airy room with a big bar, lots of tables and booths, and more flat screen televisions than you'll know what to do with. "Spectacular Sports" is the subtitle on the front of the place but interestingly enough the place feels less like a sports bar and more like a nice restaurant that shows sporting events if that makes any sense. Maybe it's the live DJ that was spinning tunes even on a Sunday morning. That seemed odd to me until one of the employees explained by saying "Welcome to Vegas" and I shrugged and let it go.

The menu is one page of pub-grub style food that has an upmarket air to it. I wouldn't go so far as to place this in the gastropub category (which the other Public House at The Venetian definitely belongs in), but it's definitely more than just burgers and chicken wings.

Appetizers include items like a chicken and corn chowder, calamari with pickled cherry peppers, a hummus plate, mussels in roasted garlic butter and Belgian ale broth, kettle chip nachos smothered in smoked gouda and beer-braised short rib meat, and a cheesesteak spring roll with jalapeno jack cheese and shaved rib eye steak. We started simple (and caloric) with the deep fried macaroni and cheese squares, which were served with both a fiery hot sauce and a chipoltle ranch. They were good but the spice averse should be warned that there are jalapenos in the squares so have some water standing by.

Salads include Greek, classic Caesar, Cobb, grilled steak, and more. You can add a variety of meats to it or you can have it served in a whole weat wrap with fries on the side.

The sandwich section has beef and turkey burgers, a couple of chicken options (hickory smoked or salad), filet mignon sliders, pastrami on rye, and some BBQ options including short rib and pulled pork.

The handful of entrees include everything from jambalaya to meatloaf to steak and seafood.

Weekend brunch offers a couple of breakfast type items and desserts are mostly skilled bakes (chocolate chip cookie or brownie, with ice cream).

In other words, while the menu is only one page it offers a little something for every taste.

We visited around lunch so our selections came from the sandwich section.

The turkey burger, which can be a bit bland and boring, came with chipoltle aioli, smoked gouda, and guacamole, although I opted out of the latter. There was a tangy flavor in the meat that was echoed in the spicy mayo and cheese that combined to make this a decidedly not boring version of the dish.

The slow roasted pulled pork came topped with crispy onion straws and cole slaw and was definitely more on the sweet side of the BBQ spectrum, just the way I like it.

The beer braised short rib was basically a pile of, juicy tender rib meat on a bun with caramelized onions, cheese, and horseradish.

About the only thing I could find to complain about were the French fries, which were a bit bland for their $7 price point.

While we're on the topic of prices, everything is very reasonable. Appetizers run $7-$16 (with most $12 or less), salads are $10-$16 (plus $5-$8 if you add chicken, shrimp, steak, or salmon), sandwiches are all around the $12-$16 range (except for the $25 filet mignon sliders), and entrees are all within a few bucks on either side of the $20 mark. Our bill with one shared appetizer and one shared dessert plus three sandwiches, tax, and tip worked out to be about $25 per person.

Service was fantastic - friendly and efficient.

Despite their names, the two Public Houses in Vegas are very different animals so it's tough to compare them and impossible to pick one over the other. I recommend them both.

Public House
Luxor
3900 Las Vegas Blvd. S.
Las Vegas, NV 89109
702-262-4525
website

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A Look Back: 600 Weekly Columns & 2006

In a couple of 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 598th so if things go according to plan we'll see 600 right around 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 back at 2006, which is when we said hello to Red Rock Resort, South Point, and the Phantom of the Opera; we said goodbye to The Stardust, the Boardwalk, and The Castaways; we heard about some wild ideas for Vegas casinos including those with sports and water themes; and I went to Keith and Jen's wedding and wound up on a stripper pole. The two didn't have anything to do with each other but... well, just read on...

January 9
Stratosphere Coaster Closes
There are a few less screams coming from high atop the Stratosphere now that the hotel has permanently closed the High Roller rollercoaster. The ride, which opened with the hotel in 1996, has sent more than 4 million passengers on a dizzying loop around the outside of the tower some 900 feet in the air, but hotel officials say that its time to move on to something bigger and presumably scarier. The ride is in the process of being dismantled and a new ride is being developed to take its place although there are no details on what it may be. Whatever it is, I can almost guarantee you that I won't be riding it. Yes, I am that much of a wuss.

January 9
Stardust To Close
2006 will most likely be the last year for Vegas visitors to grab a piece of Stardust.

The Stardust Hotel & Casino, in business since 1958, will be closing later this year and torn down in 2007 to make way for a $4 billion development to be called Echelon Place it was announced last week. The 60-plus acre project from parent company Boyd Gaming will contain a grand total of 5,300 hotel rooms operating under four different banners.

The first, and by far the biggest, is the Boyd owned and operated Echelon Resort, a $2.9 billion hotel and casino that will feature 3,300 rooms - 2,600 "standard" units in one tower and 700 suites in a second. Next will be a Las Vegas version of the chic Los Angeles hotel The Mondrian that will feature 1,000 rooms and a separate check-in, pool, restaurants, bars, and more. The same group that is creating the Mondrian will also create a 600 room Delano hotel, patterned after the South Beach resort of the same name. Finally, one of the leading hotel groups in Asia will build a 400 room Shangri-La hotel, complete with a 20,000 square-foot casino.

At the center of all of this accommodation madness is a massive casino and entertainment facility. It will feature 140,000 square-feet of casino space (that's second only to MGM Grand on The Strip), a 350,000 square-foot shopping facility (roughly the same size as Venetian's Grand Canal Shoppes), a 4,000-seat theater for major productions and concerts, a 1,500 seat theater for smaller events, 1 million square-feet of convention space, a giant pool and recreation area, and another spa.

January 16
Boardwalk Closed
Time ran out on the Boardwalk Hotel & Casino on the Las Vegas Strip when the doors were closed for good on January 9. The hotel, which had been in business in one form or another since the early 1970s, will be demolished to make way for the upcoming Project CityCenter, a $5 billion development of hotels, casino space, entertainment venues, shopping, and condominiums slated to open in 2009 on the land between Bellagio and Monte Carlo.

By the way, some people have been asking me for clarity on what is going where on that particular chunk of real estate. Pretty much everything from the border of Monte Carlo to Bellagio is being torn down with the exception of the Jockey Club time-share towers. That will stay and a completely separate casino-hotel-condo project called the Cosmopolitan will be built around it. Project CityCenter will start at Monte Carlo and stretch northward behind the Cosmopolitan project.

January 16
Castaways Imploded
It only took eighteen seconds to remove the final remaining piece of a bit of Las Vegas history. Using more than 200 pounds of explosives, demolition crews brought down the tower of the Castaways, a hotel that had begun its life in 1954 as The Showboat (a name it kept until 2000). The rest of the property had already been demolished including the casino, low-rise motel-style buildings, and the 106-lane bowling alley, once the largest in the world. Station Casinos owns the property and has not made any announcement on what, if anything, they plan to do with the lot once they clear away the rubble.

January 30
$4 Billion Sports Themed Resort Proposed
A new resort is being proposed for North Las Vegas that could be the ultimate dream-come-true for sports fanatics - so much so that they made that part of the name.

The $4 billion project, dubbed Ultimate Sports Resort, would feature 5,500 rooms, a casino, and several sporting and exhibition venues including a 26,000-seat arena, a 10,000 seat arena, a 5,000-seat aquatic arena, a bowling alley, an ice rink, and several other facilities of various sizes to accommodate other events. If it happens, it will go on a 116-acre chunk of land near the Las Vegas Motor Speedway, a few miles north of The Strip.

According to the group driving the project they hope to break ground before the end of the year and have the whole thing up and running by 2009, however there is a lot of speculation that this may be yet another one of those situations where people make grand pronouncements without necessarily having the resources to back it up. Matt Rose, the CEO of the organization behind USR, is still trying to line up investors ($4 billion worth of them, mind you) and is also being sued by a former business partner who claims that Rose stole the idea.

February 6
Project CityCenter Gets Bigger
It was already the biggest construction project ever planned for The Strip and one of the biggest ever in the United States but now Project CityCenter, the new city-within-a-city planned by MGM Mirage, is getting even bigger. The company announced last week that they were adding over 1,000 more condominium/hotel and traditional condo units, bringing the total number to 2,800. Combine that with the 4,000 hotel rooms slated for the project and you can see why the bill for the whole thing has now gone up from $4 billion when originally announced to a heart-stopping $6 billion now. Construction is scheduled to begin in April of this year and the facility, which will include a casino, entertainment venues, shopping, and more, is scheduled to open in phases throughout 2009 and 2010.

February 7
Papa Was a Rolling Stone (Casino)
In what may be another coup for Las Vegas (or a sign of the impending apocalypse depending on your point of view), rumors are swirling that there may be a new rock and roll themed casino carrying The Rolling Stone moniker on its way to the city. The venerable music magazine's founder Jann Wenner was reportedly in Vegas recently scouting sites and trying to set up a deal, with the focus being on the Alexis Park hotel on Harmon Avenue... you know, right across the street from the rock and roll themed Hard Rock Hotel and Casino.

The owners of the Alexis Park deny that a sale is in the works but the stories that appeared in various news outlets insist that Wenner is floating a $500 million project that would fit in nicely along the up and coming Harmon Avenue corridor. In addition to The Hard Rock (and its billion dollar expansion now underway), several hip and happening projects are in the works including the George Clooney and Rande Gerber Las Ramblas resort, the W Hotel, and the upcoming transformation of The Aladdin into Planet Hollywood.

February 13
Did I Say $6 Billion?
Remember that story I did just last week about how Project CityCenter, the massive new development from MGM Mirage going in between Monte Carlo and Bellagio, had gotten bigger and was going to now cost $6 billion, up from the original $4 billion they said it would cost? Yeah, scratch that. Apparently now it's $7 billion. Why the bigger price tag? Well, part if it is the addition of more condo/hotel units (over 6,000 hotel and condos total), the addition of a property-wide monorail system, and a general desire to make the place more luxurious then they had originally envisioned. This, combined with rising construction costs in the area, have resulted in the shocking new total. Construction will begin in earnest this summer and they have set an opening date for phase one in November of 2009.

February 13
Lady Luck Closes
A downtown staple for more than 40 years has closed its doors, at least temporarily. The Lady Luck hotel and casino was shuttered on Saturday, February 11 in anticipation of an extreme makeover. The company that runs the joint still isn't saying what they intend to do with the place but rumors seem to indicate that it will not be as radical as tearing it down and starting over but will be more than just a new coat of paint. Expect major overhauls from the ground up with a new casino, new restaurants, new rooms, and more. There is also no firm opening date but early 2007 is likely.

February 20
Tropicana Replacement Details Unveiled
They've been talking about it for yeas but for the first time Aztar Corporation, parent company of The Tropicana, has released details about what will replace the aging Strip hotel. The Trop will be demolished to make way for two hotel casinos, the first of which will be built on the northern end of the property along Tropicana Boulevard. It will include more than 2,700 rooms, a 100,000 square-foot casino, retail and restaurant space, a new parking garage, and a rooftop pool and recreation facility.

There are lots of questions remaining about the specific details of the project but the biggest is this: when will it happen. Typically of Aztar, they aren't saying. Currently the hotel is only taking reservations through April 15 but that cutoff date has been moved dozens of times and there's no indication that it is a firm date now either. The Tropicana is making money and so pulling the plug to cut off any revenue for the 2 1/2 years it would take to build a new resort is a daunting prospect at best.

April 3
A Las Vegas Wedding Story
Meet Keith Buck and Jen Hudson.

I became acquainted with the Roanoke, Virginia couple a few months ago when Keith sent me an e-mail saying he had given copies of my Moon Handbooks Las Vegas to family members as Christmas presents. They were planning on being married in Vegas in April 2006 and wanted to make sure the guests knew everything there was to see and do in the city during the non-ceremony portions of the weekend. He jokingly asked if I wanted to come to the wedding, casually mentioning there would be an open bar at the reception.

He obviously didn't know me very well. Open bar? I'm there, dude.

April 17
Frontier Replacement Details Leaked
Montreux is a town in Switzerland most famous for its annual jazz festival and if Phil Ruffin gets his way it'll also be the name of a Las Vegas resort. Ruffin, owner of the New Frontier on The Strip across from Wynn Las Vegas, dropped some details about his plans for the aging hotel's replacement recently.

The new resort would feature 2,750 rooms and suites and unlike most other recently announced projects it is not intended to be a super-luxury development. Instead, Ruffin plans to go after the upper middle market that these days are usually found at places like The Mirage, Paris Las Vegas, and New York-New York.

There will be a big casino of course and all of the other accoutrement expected with a modern Las Vegas resort including a full array of restaurants, nightclubs, entertainment venues, shopping, and meeting space.

The whole thing will be wrapped up in a package that will not be a Paris or Venetian style replica of its namesake but rather will evoke Montreux in other ways. Ruffin is even reportedly negotiating bringing part of the famed jazz festival to Las Vegas and will focus heavily on the musical style to get the point across.

The biggest and most eye-catching detail about the new hotel, however, will be the giant Ferris wheel planned for the front. Long planned for Vegas at various locations, the 450-foot tall observation wheel will feature glass-enclosed, climate-controlled cabins much like the London "Eye" wheel that it is modeled after.

April 24
Red Rock Opens to Raves
Musician Sting gave a surprise hour-long concert to VIP guests at the opening of Red Rock Resort last week as a massive fireworks display heralded the debut of Las Vegas' newest hotel/casino, Red Rock Resort. The reviews for the $925 million resort on the west side of town have been almost all stone-cold raves so it looks like parent company Station Casinos has another hit on their hands. The resort features more than 400 rooms (with another 400 on the way), an 87,000 square-foot casino, more than a dozen restaurants, a massive 3-acre pool/beach facility, a spa, nightclubs and bars, and much more.

May 1
Encore Groundbreaking
Steve Wynn led the charge of shovel toting VIPs last week to break ground on his newest resort, Encore. The ceremony was held on April 28, one year to the day after Wynn Las Vegas opened and 56 years after the hotel it replaces, The Desert Inn, opened. The new hotel will be erected adjacent to Wynn Las Vegas on the north side of the property and is scheduled for completion in December 2008. The expansion of the resort will be fully integrated with neighboring Wynn Las Vegas, containing all the usual elements one would expect in a $1.7 billion property including additional rooms, convention and meeting space, more casino space, restaurants, nightclubs, spa and salon, retail outlets and swimming pools including one that will be a year-round, indoor facility with a retractable roof.

May 15
Hard Rock Sold!
Vegas hot spot The Hard Rock Hotel & Casino has been sold to a New York based hotelier for $770 million. Morgans Hotel Group is the name of the company most of you have never heard of but they are making a big play for Vegas with not only this strategic purchase but with their upcoming contributions to Echelon Place, the Stardust replacement due in 2010. Their Delano and Mondrian brands will be represented with 600 and 1,000 room (respectively) hotels on the massive 63-acre development.

May 15
Boardwalk Imploded
Despite the fact that they said they weren't going to do it, MGM Mirage "quietly" imploded the hotel tower of the former Boardwalk last week to make way for their $7 billion Project CityCenter complex. I say quietly because as with most recent implosions in town it was done in the middle of the night with almost no advance notice. Lots of people are annoyed about this trend, longing for the kind of broad spectacle that used to accompany such events or at least some sort of warning so they can plan a visit to the site watch a bit of history tumble down. The reasons behind this strategy are numerous but all of that may change with some of the big buildings that will be coming down in 2007 like The Stardust, The Imperial Palace, and perhaps The Frontier - there may be more "show" attached to the goodbye of those buildings.

May 22
Tropicana Bidding War
It started out relatively simply: Pinnacle Entertainment announced they were going to purchase Aztar Corp, parent company of The Tropicana in both Las Vegas and Atlantic City among other casinos around the country, for about $2.1 billion (or $38 a share). The deal seemed done and the new owners were already talking about the future of the aging Strip hotel.

Then things got out of control.

Three other companies leapt into what turned into a massive and unprecedented bidding war for the company with share price bids being topped almost every day. $39 a share. $41 a share. Did I say $41, I meant $45. No, look over here... I'll give you $48! And a pony!

Two months of this kind of shenanigans ensued and the price climbed higher and higher, reaching levels that most gaming analysts were either privately or publicly referring to as ludicrous. But the bidding continued and two of the apparently less intense competitors fell out early leaving just Pinnacle and Columbia Sussex as the sparring partners.

Well, last week it appears that the end of the war has finally been reached. And the winner is... Columbia Sussex, whose final offer of $54 a share (or roughly $2.75 billion) made Pinnacle Entertainment take their checkbook and walk away.

June 5
Cirque du Elvis?
Why stop with the Beatles? During a podcast interview with local writer Steve Friess, Cirque du Soleil's director of creation Gilles Ste-Croix let it drop that an Elvis themed Cirque show will be the main entertainment attraction at Project CityCenter, the $7 billion complex of hotels and condos going up on The Strip just north of Monte Carlo. Cirque and the Presley estate recently reached a long term deal to develop Elvis projects and it looks like this will be the outcome. Of course you're going to have to wait awhile to get your Jailhouse Rock on. Project CityCenter is not expected to open until 2010.

June 12
Las Ramblas Rambles Away
The much ballyhooed hotel-condo-casino complex Las Ramblas had rambled into the Vegas footnotes as the project has been cancelled and the land sold. Backed, in part, by no less than Academy Award winning actor George Clooney and nightclub impresario Rande Gerber, Las Ramblas was going to be a $3 billion, 4,000-room resort with a giant casino and tons of upscale amenities located on Harmon Avenue just west of the Hard Rock.

The land has been sold to Edge Resorts for a whopping $75 million and will be incorporated into their W Hotel and Residences, planned for the adjoining plot of land at the corner of Harmon and Koval. That project, with 3,000 units and a 75,000-square-foot casino will get a neighbor of smaller boutique hotels surrounding a second casino according to Edge Resorts spokespeople.

Disappointing pre-sales of the condo units and increasing construction costs doomed the Las Ramblas project, something that is happening to a lot of the previously announced condo complexes. But apparently the W is doing well and the first phase is 200 percent reserved, again according to spokespeople. That part should open by 2009.

July 24
Bye Bye Beach
The owners of the popular The Beach nightclub near the convention center have received approval from the county to tear down the building and build a 600-room hotel/condo and casino complex on the land. Included in the plans are 300 hotel rooms, 300 "resort condos" (meaning they can be rented as hotel rooms by owners as well), a 20,000-square-foot casino, and a restaurant and lounge in a 39-story building. There are plenty of regulatory hurdles left to jump through and the details of things like financing and timelines are sketchy but the owners insist they are serious about doing this. It is a prime location for the convention-goer crowd and the intense competition in the nightclub market means that there is probably a much better use for the land, but I'm still taking a "believe it when I see it" attitude on this one.

July 24
A Reader Complains About My Review of Phantom
Finally, your comments about my negative review affecting the livelihoods of the cast and crew of Phantom not only gives me way too much credit and influence but is wildly naive. As an "18 year old soon to be theater major" I need to warn you that you are in for a lifetime of bad reviews. Justified bad reviews, inept bad reviews, cruel bad reviews, bad reviews that are bad because the reviewer was in a bad mood, bad reviews because the reviewer hit it on that one off night, bad reviews because the material was not to the reviewers taste, and on and on and on. And there is absolutely nothing you can do about it - you need to accept that right now or you need to get a new major.

August 28
Sign of the Apocalypse
I know a bunch of people were saying that August 22nd was supposed to be the end of the world but apparently they were off by a week.

August 29, 2006 is "Paris Hilton Day" in Las Vegas and if that's not a sign of the apocalypse I don't know what is.

By the way, the press release I received [about the event] does contain a disappointing note: "Please note: Due to heat conditions causing possible safety issues, the world-record attempt touted as "The World's Heaviest Pig in a Blanket" has been postponed."

I'm telling you. The end of the world as we know it.

September 25
"Splash" Down
After more than two decades of aquatic (and ice) themed variety entertainment, "Splash" is going to be shutting down Saturday, September 30 for good. Officials with The Riviera made the unexpected (and still not terribly surprising) announcement last week offering nothing but praise for the show they had canned.

September 25
Indoor Water Park, Ski Resort Planned for Vegas
Ever since Wet 'n Wild on The Strip closed in 2004, I've been getting a lot of questions from readers wanting to know when a new water park will open in the city. If all goes according to plan it could be as soon as 2008 and it'll have an indoor ski resort, a hotel, a casino, and more to go along with.

Las Vegas Wet is the working title of the resort being planned by a couple of high-profile developers who got their amusement/attraction cred working for Disney and Universal Studios. They say they have more than $1 billion lined up to execute on their dream of creating the largest indoor water amusement facility in the world.

The project would include two 600-room hotels, one for the water park and one for the ski dome. The entire facility would be divided up into a series of lands much like an amusement park. Luxe Lagoon is the centerpiece with a gigantic indoor wave pool, a beach, and a series of water slides. This would link to adjacent lands such as Survivor Island, a tropical themed area with shaded beaches and pools; Painted Desert Oasis, with landscaping reminiscent of the nearby Valley of Fire State Park (plus some waterfalls and water slides); Vintage Vegas, with more pools and slides surrounded by classic Sin City neon and iconography; Glacier Bay, with ice formations surrounding warm and cold pools; and the Hidden Riviera Beach Club, an adults only section offering "European" bathing (read: topless). The whole thing would be connected by a river ride spreading across 30 acres that would let people choose a lazy surf from one land to another or a more adventurous white water trip.

The other big feature would be the Snow Dome, and indoor ski resort complete with a its own hill, snow, and a variety of skiing and snowboard courses.

In addition the project will feature dining, entertainment, nightclub, and retail components; a 5,000 seat events arena; a casino; a spa; and a movie theater.

I'm usually pretty leery of wild ideas like this (anyone remember the Moon Las Vegas concept?) but the people behind it seem to have enough of a track record in creating these kinds of family entertainment complexes and sound pretty serious about where they are at in the process.

The developers say they are close to closing a deal for a big chunk of land on Las Vegas Boulevard south of Interstate 215 (that's a couple of miles south of Mandalay Bay) but wouldn't say exactly where. If all goes well they hope to have the place up and running by 2008 or 2009 at the latest.

October 30
Stardust To Close This Week
After 48 years, The Stardust will close this week to make way for a new $4 billion hotel and casino development called Echelon Place. Everyone seems to be jumping in on the bandwagon to reflect on the classic Vegas hotel, with the Las Vegas Review Journal running a series of articles about the history of the place and a brand new book from RJ writers packed with photos and tidbits.

I stopped in The Stardust last week to take one last look at the place before it closes for good and remembered that this was one of the first places I ever gambled, winning what I considered at the time to be a pretty stunning $100 on a quarter machine way back in my glorious youth.

October 30
South Coast Becomes South Point
The transfer for the hotel formerly known as the South Coast to new and former owner Michael Gaughan is complete and with it comes a new name: South Point. The signage around the hotel is already being changed and the website reflects the new moniker as well. Since Gaughan sold the Coast Casino chain to Boyd Gaming, they retain the rights to the Coast brand, hence the Point change (and as Gaughan jokingly pointed out, he only has to change three letters).

December 4
Bette Midler, Cher Set For Caesars
Our friend Norm Clarke at the Las Vegas Review Journal is reporting that the deals are done for Cher and Bette Midler to take over the Colosseum at Caesars Palace once Celine Dion's gig is over. La Dion will wrap up her hugely successful run at the end of 2007 with Cher coming on board in early 2008 and Bette mid-year and will alternate runs for a week or two at a time from that point forward. No word on whether Elton John will continue his "Red Piano" performances, but it begs the question of whether the Colosseum is big enough for three divas.

Review Quotes
From the review of Elton John in The Red Piano, his original show at Caesars Palace
So I leaned over to the very nice women from Nebraska sitting next to me and I said, "How many chances are you going to get to dance on stage with Elton John?" The next thing I knew I was tripping as I went up the stairs in front of 4,000 people. Oh well. My stage dancing days are way behind me. But I still got to dance on stage with Elton John so there, nyah.

From the review of Dan Marino's Fine Food & Spirits, a restaurant that was at Hooter's
Dan Marino, for the uneducated, was the quarterback of the Miami Dolphins from 1983 to 1999 who broke virtually every single measurable record in football and is considered to be one of the greatest players in the history of the game. And yes, the only reason I know that is because I looked it up. Shut up.

From the review of magician Dirk Arthur's show, which played at The Tropicana
And then there's the whirling blades of death. Okay, in Arthur's case it was more of a giant corkscrew of death, but the concept is the same: the magician is locked in a box and some dangerous looking instrument of medieval torture is lowered toward the box. Will he survive?! SPOILER ALERT: He survives.

From the review of Phantom: The Las Vegas Spectacular, which played at The Venetian
What I got was that the Phantom was quite, quite demented and I didn't see why Christine would've had even the slightest interest in him. Then again, this is the very crux of just about every episode of the "Jerry Springer Show" so perhaps there's something to it after all.

From the review of BOA, a steakhouse that was at Caesars Palace
You get to choose one for free but being the important food critic guy that I am (stop laughing), the chef very kindly sent out ALL of them for us to sample. It was obviously a bit overwhelming and after awhile I kind of lost track of what I was tasting but I can say for sure that the cabernet and peppercorn were runaway hits and the caramel soy and ginger was what I will refer to as an acquired taste that I didn't acquire.

From the review of Fashionistas, a show that played at Planet Hollywood
Although to call Fashionistas subtle is like calling The Strip understated. The in-your-face sexuality is just this side of soft-core porn with only the dirtiest of dirty bits left to the imagination. It's like watching a late-night movie on Cinemax only without the bad dialogue getting in the way of the action. Again, there is no x-rated nudity but you'll see every other bit of skin on the human body, often engaged in simulated acts of carnality that could make everyone this side of Paris Hilton blush. Definitely not the show to take your mother to.

From the review of American Storm, a male strip show that played at The Riviera
The women I was standing in line with before this show were apparently taking wagers on why I was there to see male strippers. Several of them were pleased when I told them I was going to be reviewing the show but there were a couple who must have lost the bet. I'm not sure what their theory was and I decided not to press the issue.

From the review of Bareback, a country music themed topless review that played at Harrah's
There are a couple of fun audience participation numbers - if you see a dancer or singer coming toward you and don't want to get a face full of shaking things, look the other way. This show was not my cup of tea for a couple of reasons, mostly having to do with the fact that I'm not an appreciator of the primary theme of the show. And I don't like country music either.

From the review of Lucky Cheng's, a drag queen nightclub/restaurant
As we go through life we develop a canon of truisms - self-evident, obvious truths that guide us on our sometimes rocky path. Do unto others, is probably one of the most famous, but the list is long and gets longer as we learn and grow.I recently added a truism to my personal canon. One so obvious and evident that I can't believe it took me forty years to come to this realization: never take your parents to a drag queen nightclub because at some point you may wind up on a stripper pole of front of them.

Top 10 Hotels

  1. Red Rock Station
  2. Green Valley Ranch
  3. Bally's
  4. The Mirage
  5. The Ritz-Carlton Lake Las Vegas
  6. The Golden Nugget
  7. THEhotel
  8. Wynn Las Vegas
  9. Caesars Palace
  10. Main Street Station
Top 10 Shows
  1. Rita Rudner
  2. Mystére
  3. Prince
  4. Mac King
  5. Lance Burton
  6. Second City Improv
  7. Elton John
  8. Penn & Teller
  9. Simply Ballroom
Top 10 Restaurants
  1. Hannah's
  2. Hash House a Go Go
  3. Austins
  4. Commander's Palace
  5. Pampas Brazilian Grille
  6. Triple George Grill
  7. Fellini's
  8. Capriotti's
  9. Dan Marino's
  10. Memphis Championship BBQ
Top 10 Attractions
  1. The Atomic Testing Museum
  2. Bellagio Conservatory
  3. Fountains of Bellagio
  4. Fremont Street Experience
  5. The Liberace Museum
  6. Mirage Dolphin Habitat
  7. Mirage Volcano
  8. Lake Las Vegas/MonteLago Village
  9. Stratosphere Tower/Thrill Rides
  10. The Neon Museum/Boneyard
Top 10 Nightclubs/Bars/Lounges
  1. Cherry
  2. Ivan Kane's Forty Deuce
  3. Moon
  4. Krave
  5. Sand Dollar Blues Lounge
  6. Body English
  7. JET
  8. Pure
  9. Light
  10. Tao

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Vegas 2006


 


Stardust Memories


 


Bye Bye Boardwalk


 


What Was Left of The Castaways


 


Original Aritst Rendering


 


Hey Lady!


 


The Happy Couple


 


The Real Montreaux


 


Red Rock Resort


 


Sold!


 


Sold!


 


It Became This


 


Las Ramblas Artist Rendering


 


FANtoms Come After Me


 


Splash Down


 


Only 3 Letters Changed


 


Elton John


 


Roar


 


Odd


 


Odder


 


Best Hotel 2006


 


Best Show 2006


 


Best Attraction 2006


 

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