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VEGAS4VISITORS.COM WEEKLY COLUMN BY RICK GARMAN
September 21, 2015
The Countdown: Top 10 Vegas News Stories of the Week
10. Strip Traffic Alert
It's about to get a little tougher to drive up The Strip. The county has announced that work on a sewer line in front of Crystals at CityCenter is requiring the shut down two lanes on each side of The Strip from Harmon Avenue to the main entrance of Aria for about a month... starting this past weekend! So that will mean instead of five lanes of traffic not moving you'll be sitting in only three lanes of traffic not moving even more. There are also expected to be periodic lane closures on Harmon Avenue so those of you who think you can sneak around by using the back roads may be disappointed. Maybe walking is a better idea.
9. "Major Entertainer" to Announce Vegas Residency
I got an interesting press release yesterday from MGM Resorts. Next Tuesday they will be announcing a residency of a "major entertainer," which is interesting but what makes it really interesting is the venue - this "major entertainer" will be doing a series of "exclusive worldwide engagements" at the Las Vegas Arena, the new 20,000 seat concert and sporting events facility under construction behind New York-New York as a part of The Park development. Celine, JLo, Britney, and Elton are filling a 4,000 seat theater but who could fill a 20,000 seat arena and would be willing to do it only in Vegas? Names I have heard floated include Madonna, The Rolling Stones, Katy Perry, and Adele but those are just random guesses. Read more about The Park.
8. Rodeo Moving to Las Vegas Arena
In addition to the aforementioned "major entertainer" and a hoped-for major league hockey franchise, the big new arena at The Park will have another high-profile event in the Nationals Final Rodeo. The event, held every December, brings together the best ropers, riders, and clowns from across the country in one big rodeo event, drawing tens of thousands of spectators. For as long as I can remember, it has been held at the Thomas & Mack Center at UNLV but it will move to the new arena in 2016.
7. Best Restaurant Name of the Week
The Gold and Silver Pawn Shop, famous for its starring role in the History Channel reality show "Pawn Stars," is getting a new next door neighbor in the form of a shopping plaza named, appropriately enough, Pawn Plaza. It'll have a handful of boutiques and restaurants including one that I have to tip my hat to. It's a New York-style pizzeria serving slices and whole pizzas, including a white pie made with ricotta and fresh basil, a traditional red pie with house made meatballs, and more plus salads and desserts. The name? Inna Gadda di Pizza. Come on! That's funny. Pawn Plaza should be opening very soon. Read more about the Gold and Silver Pawn Shop.
6. Legends and Olivia Newton-John Team Up to Find Tribute Artist
The long running Vegas show Legends in Concert has started a nationwide hunt for their first-ever Olivia Newton-John tribute artist - and ONJ herself is going to help choose the winner. Anyone can submit a video of themselves dressed doing their best "Physical," "You're the One that I Want," "Hopelessly Devoted" or any other ONJ song and a panel, including the real Australian singer, will pick one person to join the cast of Legends. They are also having a photo contest that you can enter to win hotel nights at the Flamingo and ONJ tickets. Check out the contest at Offerpop.com. Read the review of Legends in Concert and Olivia Newton-John.
5. Lionel Richie Doing Vegas Residency
Pop/R&B crooner Lionel Richie has signed up to do a residency at Planet Hollywood in the Axis Theater, meaning he will be among the rotating lineup there that features Britney Spears and Jennifer Lopez. Richie's show, called All the Hits, will feature, um, all his hits including "All Night Long," "Hello," "Stuck on You," "Say You, Say Me," and "Dancing on the Ceiling." He'll be doing at least 20 shows in 2016 and maybe more depending on how it goes. The first concerts are in April of next year and tickets are on sale now on Ticketmaster. Read the review of Planet Hollywood.
4. Hash House a Go Go 10th Anniversary
Hard to believe but Hash House a Go Go has been serving up its "twisted" fresh farm food for 10 years this month in Las Vegas. To celebrate they are offering a daily $10 special from September 21-30 that includes things like a $10 Bacon Mashed Potato Stuffed Burger, $10 Sage Fried Chicken & Waffles, and $10 for two Bud in a Bag(!!). The specials are only good at their West Sahara location but if you can't make it over there you can pay regular prices for the above dishes at their outlets at The Linq, Rio, Plaza, or at 555 N. Stephanie St. in Henderson near Sunset Station. Read the review of Hash House a Go Go.
3. Yet Another News Item About the Phantom Vegas Train
I'm so tired of having to write about this... but supposedly the high-speed train between Vegas and Victorville, California, about an hour north of Los Angeles, just got a boost with the announcement of a Chinese company contributing $100 million to the effort. XpressWest is the name of the line and they are now saying construction will begin in September of 2016. Mind you, this is the same line that was supposed to kick off in 2012 and 2010 and... I'll believe it when I can ride it.
2. JLo Celebrates Upcoming Residency in Vegas
Jennifer Lopez doesn't start her residency at Planet Hollywood until January but she is already commanding the celebrity scene in Vegas with a big party at Chateau Nightclub at Paris Las Vegas. Lopez and her boyfriend Casper Smart took over a VIP booth at the club after her performance at the iHeart Radio Festival at MGM Grand and was feted with champagne and confetti. Club goers got to hear a preview of her upcoming single "Breakin' Me Down" from her new album that will coincide with the debut of her show in Vegas. Read more about Jennifer Lopez in Las Vegas.
1. Good News/Bad News for Piff the Magic Dragon
The bad news is that my favorite Vegas act, the deadpan "magic" dragon known as Piff, didn't win America's Got Talent. He was a finalist on NBC's talent competition show but got beat out for the top prize by Paul Zerdin, a British ventriloquist. But the good news is that apparently Piff is getting his own show in Vegas anyway! John Katsilometes of the Las Vegas Sun is reporting that Piff will be doing his own show on Mondays and Wednesdays at Bugsy's Cabaret in the Flamingo starting in November. I haven't been able to find any other info on that yet so I don't know times or ticket prices but will let you know when I do. Zerdin will headline a three-night show at Planet Hollywood October 22-24 that will also feature Piff and comedian Drew Lynch. In the meantime, you can often catch Piff the Magic Dragon in the X-Comedy review at The Flamingo.
Life is Beautiful Festival Preview
Downtown Las Vegas will be buzzing this weekend with the third annual Life is Beautiful Festival, a celebration of music, food, art, and learning that takes over more than a dozen blocks of the neighborhood. I'll be doing special posts on Facebook from the festival on Friday and Saturday so be on the lookout for that.
The event starts Friday, September 25 and covers most of blocks from 6th Street to 11th along Fremont Street and from Carson Avenue up to Mesquite Avenue. For those not immediately familiar with street names, this is the area surrounding the Fremont East district, where places like The Commonwealth and El Cortez hotel and casino are located.
Friday's lineup features more than two dozen music artists on four stages including Hozier, Thievery Corporation, Twenty One Pilots, Robin Schulz, Major Lazer, and Porter Robinson. The big event, musically speaking, is Stevie Wonder, who will cap off the evening with a two hour show starting at 10:45pm.
Celebrity chefs like Hubert Keller and Calra Pelligrino will be doing presentations and special meals while dozens of local restaurants will be serving food in the Culinary Village. Culinary Dropout, Fleur by Hubert Keller, Hash House a Go Go, Itsy Bitsy Ramen & Whiskey, and Nobu are just a few of the recognizable names on the list and there will also be food trucks serving up everything from hot dogs to barbeque to lobster and beyond.
The art portion of the event will feature installations, murals, and special events around the festival grounds.
The Learning lineup includes three days of inspirational and educational "conversations" from leaders in business, sports, entertainment, and community activism. A sampling of the folks on the docket: Tony Hsieh, CEO of Zappos.com and the founder of the Downtown Project, which has been responsible for much of the revitalization of Downtown Las Vegas; Bill Nye the Science Guy; singer/songwriter Caitlin Crosby; IN-Q, a National Poetry Slam Champion; actor Justin Baldoni from "Jane the Virgin," actress Rosario Dawson; actress Kat Graham from "The Vampire Diaries;" transgender activist Geena Rocero; and more.
Saturday's festivities will include a special performance from the always dependably outrageous Absinthe along with more than three dozen bands and singers including Clean Bandit, Snoop Dogg, Chance the Rapper, Duran Duran, and Imagine Dragons.
Sunday wraps things up with concerts from Brandon Flowers, Weezer, Badbadnotgood and Ghostface Killah, Death Cab for Cutie, Madeon, and Kendrick Lamar.
They are expecting upwards of 80,000 people to attend the three day event and there are still tickets available if you want to be one of them. Three day general admission passes are $255 while VIP tickets will run you $595. Single day passes are also available $115 and $265 respectively.
As mentioned, I'm going to be at the festival on Friday and Saturday and will be doing frequent postings on Facebook to let you see what's going on, plus I'll have a wrap up piece the following week in the Vegas4Visitors.com Weekly Column.
Ride Sharing Apps Running in Las Vegas
After months of protracted legal maneuverings, ride-share apps Uber and Lyft began operating legally in Las Vegas last week, giving visitors another option for getting from point a to point b.
The saga started back in October of 2014, when Uber began operating in Las Vegas. The service was immediately challenged by local and state authorities on behalf of the Nevada Taxi Authority, which didn't want Uber in the state for what should be obvious reasons. Drivers were arrested, cars were impounded, and the whole thing wound up in court. In November 2014 a judge ruled against Uber and they shut down the service in Nevada but have vowed to continue fighting in court to be able to bring it back.
In May of 2015, the state legislature approved a bill that would allow the ride sharing services to start operating legally. It took several months to iron out the details, regulations, fare schedules, permits, and more.
In case you're not familiar with how ride-sharing apps work, the short version is that you need a ride somewhere, someone else has a car, and they are willing to give you a lift for a fee. To use the service, you download the app and create an account with a credit card. When you need to go somewhere, simply log on to the app, tap a couple of things, and presto... a car is on its way to you with a pre-negotiated price (you can add a tip but it isn't required) that is automatically billed to your credit card. No money changes hands.
The people who pick you up are not licensed taxi drivers - they are just people giving you a ride somewhere - although the ride share services say they have rigorous screenings and background checks of the drivers and require newer model cars with inspections and insurance. At this time they are only operating their basic service - Uber X, which is usually a small economy car, is all that is available but they are expected to expand to the XL (larger car), Black, SUV, Lux, and Access fleets at some point.
The services are doing pick-ups and drop-offs at all of the major hotels on The Strip and Downtown plus pretty much everywhere else in the city. They are doing only doing drop-offs at McCarran International Airport for now but are working on a system to add pick-ups there as well.
Base rates are standardized, with Uber at $2.40 to get in and $1.80 per mile plus a $1 safety fee and 30 cents per minute while Lyft is at $2.40, $1.85, and $1.55 respectively. Compare this to standard taxi rates, which are $3.50 to get in and $2.86 per mile.
It is worth noting, however, that Uber and Lyft employ what they call "surge pricing," which basically means that the busier they are, the higher the prices are. I check on Friday afternoon and Uber was operating at a 2.9x surge price, meaning that a trip from The Mirage to the airport, which would normally cost you around $30, was going for around $90. This will probably calm down as they get more cars on the road.
So should you use a ride-sharing app for getting around Vegas? I'm on the fence. On the one hand, I think competition is a good thing and hopefully it will have the same effect in Vegas that it has had in other cities wherein the cabs have to improve their level of service to compete. I also think the rates that taxis charge in Vegas are pretty obscene. But on the other hand I believe in level playing fields and Uber's frequent argument that they aren't really a taxi service and therefore shouldn't have to play by the same rules strikes me as the kind of thing they say publicly but then laugh about as soon as the door is closed. There are also the very real concerns about how often the drivers are screened, how often the cars are inspected, and how up-to-date their insurance is.
It's also hard to ignore the questions about how much money it actually saves. If there is no surge pricing in effect, you can probably shave a couple of bucks off what you would have paid a taxi, but then you have to figure out if the it's worth the extra potential hassle. You can pretty much step outside of any building on The Strip and there will be a line of taxis waiting to take you wherever you want to go so the idea of logging on to an app and waiting for a ride to show up just to save that couple of bucks may not make a lot of sense. Then again, the lines for those taxi stands can sometimes take awhile so it could all work out in the end.
If the surge pricing is in effect, I say forget it - you'll pay less in a cab.
Attraction Review: Hollywood Car Museum
Jay Ohrberg is royalty amongst people who view cars as more than just cars but as works of pop culture art. He created some of Hollywood's most iconic vehicles - the red and white Ford Gran Torino used in the '70s cop drama Starsky & Hutch; the Batmobile used in the Tim Burton film Batman Returns; KITT, the modified Pontiac Firebird used in the Knight Rider 2000 film; the southern-fried General Lee, a now controversial orange Dodge Charger with a confederate flag on its roof used the Dukes of Hazzard TV series; and, perhaps most significantly, the time-traveling DeLorean used in the Back to the Future movies.
Examples of these cars and many more are on display at Ohrberg's Hollywood Car Museum in Las Vegas. The facility acts partly as a collectible car showroom, partly as a shop for Ohrberg to create new works of art, and as a home to his collection of famous vehicles. It's not much more than several bare-bones rooms, haphazardly stuffed with automotive masterpieces - sort of like seeing a Picasso hanging in a warehouse - but it gets the job done.
A production version of the General Lee is here, as is a Starsky & Hutch Torino. There's a van from The A-Team, a Back to the Future DeLorean, and several Batmobiles, including ones from the '60s era TV show and from the Christian Bale era movies. Bond, James Bond, is represented with the original "submarine car," a heavily modified Lotus from The Spy Who Loved Me, and more from the Daniel Craig films. Vegas fans should get a kick out of the destroyed Mercedes convertible from the first Hangover movie. Keep going and you'll find Herbie the Love Bug, cars from the Fast and the Furious movies, wacky vehicles from the Flintstones movie, and even a life boat from the movie Captain Phillips.
Several of Ohrberg's wilder creations are also on display including a massive, pink convertible limousine complete with its own hot tub, and several "coffin cars," hot rods made with a grave digger spin.
I would have liked to have seen more context - details about which cars were originals and which were reproductions and how they were used in the filming - but if you have questions, just ask and the folks that work there will be happy to tell you as many stories as you'd like. Ohrberg himself is often on the premises and so you may get details straight from the horsepower's mouth.
Many of the cars were used during filming so they aren't exactly in the most pristine of shape, but that's okay - it gives them an authenticity that you won't usually find with the copies of these types of cars that you'll usually see on display.
The $15 entry fee feels a little high for anyone who isn't a car or pop culture geek, but for those who are this is a terrific way to spend an hour reliving the past via some really fine art.
The museum is located in an industrial plaza on Dean Martin Drive, on the other side of the freeway opposite Luxor and Mandalay Bay. It's toward the back of the collection of buildings so be prepared to do some hunting.
Hollywood Car Museum
5115 Dean Martin Dr.
Las Vegas, NV 89118
Vegas4Visitors Grade: B