For Your Aural Gratification, It’s the Vital Vegas Podcast

Due to popular demand, or more accurately, due to a delusional sense of self-
importance, it’s the Vital Vegas Podcast!

The new Vital Vegas Podcast is an extension of this blog, just without the valuable
information, humor and photos.

Vital Vegas Podcast

We couldn’t possibly apologize enough.

In this episode, we tackle the media phenomenon that was the arrest of two nitwits
for being naked on the High Roller Ferris wheel.

High Roller Ferris wheel

The High Roller Ferris wheel. Getting on is fun, but not as much fun as getting off!™

We also blather on endlessly about the looming construction hiatus at the Lucky
Dragon resort.

There’s also our first podcast call and reader-submitted questions, all the latest
Las Vegas news and other features guaranteed to be more enthralling than your local
top 40 radio station. That is, if you use the words “guaranteed” and “enthralling” very loosely.

Gird your loins, because despite our better judgment, the Vital Vegas Podcast is here.

If you’d like to show a blatant disregard for common sense, you can subscribe to the
Vital Vegas Podcast on iTunes.

Or catch the latest episode here.

We’re not entirely up to speed on all this podcasting rigamarole, but we’re damned
well certain people don’t use the word “rigamarole” enough.

We’d love to get more questions to answer on the show, so send them along!

Thanks to everyone who bullied us into doing a podcast, an opportunity to step outside our comfort zone, a new means of self-expression and ultimately a new platform to publicly humiliate ourself. Good times.

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Lucky Dragon Construction Set to Halt Due to Lack of Funds

The plug’s reportedly being pulled on construction at the boutique Lucky Dragon Hotel & Casino on the beleaguered north end of the Las Vegas Strip.

A source with knowledge of the project says a scenario many predicted and dreaded will soon come to pass. Lucky Dragon has burned through its capital, and other potential sources of funding to complete the project have dried up.

We’ve made frequent stops at Lucky Dragon to track its progress, and recently noted the building’s distinctive red windows now cover the entire exterior of the nine-story hotel tower.

Lucky Dragon

There’s a reason they call it a “facade.”

Sadly, indications are that work inside Lucky Dragon are about to be put on hold indefinitely.

Serious concerns about the financial state of Lucky Dragon arose in November 2015 when the project’s developers took the drastic step of appealing to the Las Vegas City Council for $25 million in subsidies to keep Lucky Dragon moving forward. The attempt to shake loose public funds was rejected.

At the time, real estate developer Andrew Fonfa and gaming executive William Weidner warned they might have to slow or stop work on the project without the assistance of the city. Approaching the City Council was a Hail Mary pass, as we’ve yet to come across another case in Southern Nevada history where public funds have been used to fund a hotel-casino.

Lucky Dragon

To be fair, partially-finished buildings in Las Vegas are prettier than many finished buildings in other cities. Because Las Vegas.

It appears the Lucky Dragon developers weren’t over-dramatizing their financial dilemma. The construction company for the project, Penta Building Group, will purportedly soon discreetly shut the site down and Lucky Dragon is likely to sit dormant until further financing can be found.

Lucky Dragon has already cost its developers $24 million in equity. To-date, Lucky Dragon has been funded an additional $60 million by Asian investment, specifically through the EB-5 program. The EB-5 program allows foreign investors to contribute funds to American development projects in return for permanent legal residency in the U.S.

Due to shifts in the Chinese economy (including a crack-down on political corruption), investment has slowed significantly and Lucky Dragon has come up short, resulting in the end of construction for the unspecified future.

While Lucky Dragon said it had $30 million in bank financing lined up late last year, that loan was contingent upon the project getting public funding assistance. Since that didn’t happen, it’s rumored the bank loan also didn’t happen.

Penta has continued construction at a furious pace (the hotel tower was topped off in November 2015), but now Lucky Dragon is said to have depleted its cash and Penta isn’t the kind of company that would be foolish enough to let developers run a tab.

Lucky Dragon

We never fully grasped the phrase “in deep kimchi” until now. Which we’re pretty sure is Korean, but just play along.

A real estate expert without specific knowledge of the Lucky Dragon project said, “It’s very possible there are people not getting paid right now.”

Building the “shell” of a hotel, then having it sit dormant, isn’t unprecedented on the Las Vegas Strip. The Octavius Tower at Caesars Palace, for example, was built to a certain point (exterior only) but stalled in 2009 thanks to the economic downturn. Construction resumed when the economy improved and the hotel eventually opened in 2011.

Hopefully, the looming pause in construction at Lucky Dragon will be just that, a pause.

An alternate outcome, of course, could be a fate similar to that of the unfinished Fontainebleau Las Vegas, all but abandoned in 2007. It’s unsightly carcass is an eyesore to this day, although it’s believed there are currently qualified buyers in negotiations to purchase it. Fingers crossed.

And don’t even get us started about the SkyVue observation wheel.

Lucky Dragon Hotel & Casino

County officials were so sick of looking at the incomplete Fountainbleau, they instructed the owners to beautify it, such as with a building wrap. That could be in store for the exposed casino area of Lucky Dragon, above, and it ain’t cheap.

As for Lucky Dragon, this is likely to be a serious, publicly embarrassing blow. It’s also a blow to the surrounding area, where SLS Las Vegas and other businesses anxiously await the opening of other casinos, including Resorts World and Alon Las Vegas, to give Las Vegas visitors more reasons to visit and play on that challenging portion of The Strip.

No official statement about Lucky Dragon’s rumored financial pickle or imminent work stoppage has been forthcoming.

It should be noted the financial fortunes of Lucky Dragon could change at any time. Let’s hope a bold investor will see the potential of this unique resort and swoop in to make the Year of the Monkey the Year of the Dragon.

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Couple Has Sex on High Roller Ferris Wheel, Ignores Our Advice, Gets Arrested

It was bound to happen, and it’s happened in the biggest possible way. Two tourists have been arrested for sexual acts on the High Roller, the world’s tallest Ferris wheel, and it’s all this blog’s fault.

Just kidding. Probably.

Chloe Scordianos of Hicksville, New York and Philip Frank Panzica III of Houston, Texas were arrested when they mounted the High Roller and began smoking, a flagrant violation of the observation wheel’s safety policies.

Oh, and they also got naked.

High Roller sex

At-a-glance, the difference between the reactions of men and women when arrested for having sex in public.

The couple was spotted by High Roller security, who used the ride’s intercom to instruct the couple to put their clothes back on.

The couple promptly ignored the instructions, police were notified, and after the 30-minute ride the two were taken into custody for pretty much doing what people come to Las Vegas to do if they’re doing Las Vegas right.

The complaint against the pair alleges “extensive nudity,” which is much more of a danger to public safety than the other kinds of nudity, and cunnilingus. We are not making this up.

The arrest report claims the couple said they were “just having a good time and didn’t think anyone would notice.” Read more at the Las Vegas Review-Journal.

A potentially funny story quickly went pear-shaped when the couple learned public sex acts are a felony in Las Vegas, with the potential of a year in jail. Because sometimes what happens in Vegas ends up at the Clark County Detention Center.

Another uncomfortable aspect of the story is it appears from Panzica’s Facebook page he has a fiance who looks nothing like the woman he was selflessly servicing on the High Roller.

High Roller break-up

The entire Internet just cringed, simultaneously.

Update (2/10/16): According to KTNV, Panzica was in Vegas with his fiance and they had fought earlier in the day. After his arrest, his girlfriend bailed him out for $3,000.

The scandalous story has received extensive news coverage, often including references to one of this blog’s most popular stories, ever, 11 Vital Tips for Having Sex on the High Roller.

Um, thank you?


Here’s the thing, though. These two either aren’t great readers, or they aren’t very good instruction-followers.

Untold numbers of Las Vegas visitors have successfully gotten it on in a High Roller cabin, trust us. The idea is to do it discreetly!

These two rocket scientists ignored our tips (and common sense), and now the High Roller and law enforcement are sort of forced into making an example of them.

They didn’t bring a blanket, they did the deed in broad daylight, they didn’t stay seated. If somebody tells you to stop over an intercom, you stop, because it means your cover is blown and your time yodeling in the love canyon has come to an end. Or something.

Make no mistake, these arrests would never have happened had the couple not been viewed smoking, as that’s a legitimate safety concern in the High Roller pods. Only after seeing the couple smoking were High Roller staff forced to call the police. It’s likely security staff would have turned a blind eye to the nudity and sexual activity, because other passengers did not make complaints, even after the cops arrived.

High Roller Las Vegas Ferris wheel

The High Roller advertises itself as “The Happiest Half Hour in Vegas!” Which is only true if one doesn’t understand the concept of an “escort service.”

While we don’t expect these folks will do any time for this lapse of judgment, their ineptly executed hook-up is definitely causing some chaos in their lives, and the associated lawyering is likely to be very expensive. Enjoy your 30 minutes of fame, kids.

Update (2/12): More details became available via a video made by Panzica and, wait for it, his “big-hearted” fiance. Glorious.

As for the High Roller, this is just about the best thing that could ever happen.

Reps of the observation wheel have expressed concern the story will impact the attraction’s reputation, by which they mean many, many more people will want to ride it. At least that’s what we got from it.

After all, the High Roller’s own advertising is a not-too-subtle tease for those wanting to join the 550 Foot High Club.

High Roller Ferris Wheel

Thank you, double entendre gods.

The arrest of this cavorting couple on the High Roller Ferris wheel is a very public reminder that while Las Vegas flaunts its reputation as an adult playground, there are limits.

Remember, don’t smoke where you’re not allowed to smoke, and always remember to use this incident as a justification to not perform cunnilingus.

At least that’s what we got from it.

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“Jason Bourne” Chase Ends With Spectacular Riviera Crash, Official Trailer Debuts

It’s hard to say which was more exciting, Jason Bourne’s car piggy-backing a SWAT van and crashing into the Riviera casino, or the Super Bowl trailer featuring Las Vegas footage and the name of the latest installment of the Bourne franchise (wait for it), “Jason Bourne.”

At the moment, we’re still reeling from the Riviera stunt, so we’ll just go with that. Major spoilers ahead, by the way!

Bourne Riviera crash

Bourne’s Charger and a SWAT van get busy. Hey, it’s Vegas.

After weeks of “Jason Bourne” sightings on the Las Vegas Strip, the big day of the Riviera stunt finally arrived on Feb. 5, 2016.

There were a couple of clues Bourne was coming to The Riv. First, the Riv’s facade was lit up. Also, a special awning appeared overnight leading up to the stunt.

Jason Bourne Riviera stunt

The Riviera name won’t be seen in the film. The Riv’s fictional name will be the Empire Casino.

As this blog has documented, perhaps a tad too obsessively, the Riviera was the climax of a high-speed car chase that began at Aria.

Bourne Riviera stunt

The awning after dark.

During the chase, Bourne’s car takes a ramp at Bally’s and ends up on the roof of a SWAT van with the movie’s villain, played by Vincent Cassel (“Oceans 12”), inside.

Here’s the jump at Bally’s.

Through a bit of movie magic, the sequence cuts to the Riviera, despite the hotels being a mile and a half away from each other.

Fans were treated to a spectacular stunt where Bourne’s car is ripped from the roof of the SWAT van while the SWAT vehicle barrels through the doors of the Riviera. Here’s the best view of the stunt we’ve seen so far, and not just because we captured it.

Look closely and you’ll see a cable extending from the back of Bourne’s Charger. The awning’s just for show, and the cable actually keeps the Charger from moving forward with the SWAT van. The cable will be removed with CGI in the finished film.

It’s interesting to note that stunts of this kind are typically done by a film’s “second unit,” or sans stars. However, those on the scene say Matt Damon and Vincent Cassel took part in the stunt sequence at Riviera.

It was glorious seeing an iconic hotel being used to such great effect in a Bourne movie.

Bourne Riviera crash

Zooming in, you can see the movie’s set decoration created signage for shows in the Empire Casino. Attention to detail, baby.

This is absurdly fanatical, but if you look up Ron Reiss (the performer depicted in the fake sign above, along with the amusing text, “Bringing Back the Ukulele”), you’ll find a result for Ronald R. Reiss, a set decorator with a metric hell-ton of credits, including “The Matrix,” “Jurassic World” and “Robin Hood: Men in Tights.” Awesome Easter egg, Ron, but nothing escapes this blog. (We totally just scooped IMDb.)

Also on the sign above, you’ll see a reference to Exocon. That’s the name of the fictional tech conference at Aria where Tommy Lee Jones’ character (CIA Director Robert Dewey) is a speaker, and another character (Deep Dream Founder and CEO Aaron Kalloor) played by Riz Ahmed is assassinated by Vincent Cassel’s character and the Strip chase begins.

But wait, there’s more!

While the stunt outside the Riviera was spectacular, for those who adored The Riv, what was inside was fairly spectacular as well. Here’s what we could see from the outside.

Bourne Riviera slots

Riviera lives again!

That wouldn’t be nearly as spectacular were it not for the fact the inside of Riviera was stripped clean when the hotel closed.

Here’s what the interior of the Riviera looked like on May 6, 2015.

Riviera closed

Sorry we didn’t appreciate you enough when you were alive, Riviera.

For the making of “Jason Bourne,” crew dressed the Riviera’s casino to make it look open, including dozens of slot machines and about 20 table games.

Here’s an exclusive look inside the Riviera, thanks to our favorite extra in the history of ever.

Bourne Riviera crash

We do not use the term “movie magic” lightly.

If you didn’t know this was a movie set, you’d swear that photo was taken when the Riviera was still in operation. Vegas nerd gold!

Here’s another incredible shot our superfan mole passed along that shows the SWAT van inside the Riviera just after it crashed through the break-away glass doors.

Bourne Riviera SWAT crash

Lesson: Don’t drink and try to evade justice.

Our extra friend says Bourne (played by Matt Damon, of course) emerges from his car, injured, in hot pursuit of Vincent Cassel (an assassin, carrying a gun and duffel bag). There’s a gun fight.

Extras didn’t get to see how the sequence ends, but it’s a pretty good bet Jason Bourne prevails.

Although filmed just a few weeks earlier, another chase sequence made it into the “Jason Bourne” trailer unveiled during Super Bowl 50.

Here’s the aforementioned trailer.

Havoc, consider yourself wreaked.

Jason Bourne trailer Vegas

We are not cleaning this up.

If you look closely, you can see some faux shrubbery along the front of Paris Las Vegas, where there’s typically just a bare sidewalk.

Jason Bourne trailer

The SWAT truck’s POV just before it plows the road, Jason Bourne in hot pursuit.

Here’s video of the plowing the road sequence taken by a fellow Bourne fan.

We snapped pics of that very same stretch of The Strip on Jan. 21, 2016.

Bourne Las Vegas

Filmmakers either wanted to pretty up this stretch of The Strip or, more likely, camouflage it. This is the same spot where an asshat plowed into pedestrians in December 2015. So, awkward.

Told you we’re obsessed.

Oh, and in the trailer, you can also see the moment when Vincent Cassel’s bad guy offs Riz Ahmed’s character, just after Ahmed’s character says something about having sold his soul and betrayed the public trust. (“Jason Bourne” sounds like it will delve into the world of cyber-security and privacy in a big way.)

Vincent Cassel Bourne

Vincent Cassel’s character presumably shoots his target from the rafters, but the Ironwood Ballroom at Aria doesn’t have a rafter area, so this part of the assassination sequence was probably shot on a soundstage in L.A.

Filming of “Jason Bourne” is wrapping up in Vegas, so we hope to finally get some much-needed rest.

Bourne Riviera Empire Casino

The Riv’s scheduled for implosion in early 2017. “Jason Bourne” is an epic way for the Riviera to be immortalized, even as the Empire Casino.

We’ll probably do a comprehensive wrap-up at some point, so if you’re a Bourne fan, stay tuned.

“Jason Bourne” wrapped production in Las Vegas on Feb. 8, 2016 (actually in the wee hours of Feb. 9) with a re-shoot of the Bally’s jump sequence. Insert sad face here.

“Jason Bourne” opens July 29, 2016. We should have a viewing party or something. Preferably in our pants.

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A Rare Peek Inside Gordon Ramsay’s Relationship With Caesars Entertainment

One of the upsides of filing bankruptcy is some inside stuff becomes public stuff. This is some of that stuff. And it involves a celebrity chef, none other than Gordon Ramsay.

Caesars Entertainment’s bankruptcy is complex, and the company is trying to juggle its obligations and relationships as the process sorts itself out.

One of those relationships is with Gordon Ramsay. Ramsay has three restaurants in Las Vegas with his name on them, and the Caesars bankruptcy has provided a unique opportunity to get all up inside the business dealings of these two parties.

Gordon Ramsay

This Las Vegas blog loves it some Gordon Ramsay, and his BurGR at Planet Hollywood puts out some of the best burgers in Sin City. No joke.

Caesars has negotiated a new contract with chef Ramsay that should save the company $144,000 a year. That includes fees paid to Ramsay for licensing his name.

Caesars Entertainment has 10-year deals with Ramsay, with optional five-year extensions. They allow Ramsay to develop the menus at his namesake eateries, but the contracts require the food be mainly “pub-style dishes.”

The chef is required to visit his Las Vegas locations at least once each year, for at least 24 consecutive hours.

Ramsay is contractually obligated to allow himself to be photographed at his restaurants.

Gordon Ramsay

Gordon Ramsay shaking it at one of his biggest Las Vegas money-makers, Gordon Ramsay Steak at Paris Las Vegas.

According to a story in the Wall Street Journal, Caesars pays Ramsay’s air transportation, either in first class commercially or via private jet.

Once Ramsay arrives, Caesars is obligated to provide him with three deluxe rooms, presumably at Caesars Palace, the location of Gordon Ramsay’s Pub & Grill.

While the rooms are contractually free, Gordon Ramsay is responsible for incidental room charges, including room service. Ramsay does get a sweet 30% discount, however.

Now, we get a look into the juiciest part of the arrangement with Gordon Ramsay.

For his Las Vegas restaurants, Ramsay gets five percent of gross sales up to $10 million. Sales in the $10-15 million range earn a 5.5% cut, and sales of more than $15 million result in a 6% windfall.

By all accounts, Ramsay’s three restaurants in Las Vegas have been very successful. He’s got another on the way with Gordon Ramsay’s Fish & Chips, opening in 2016 in The Linq promenade.

Gordon Ramsay Fish & Chips Linq

Ramsay’s new restaurant was named Gordon Ramsay’s Fish & Chips only after an unsuccessful bid by chip to get more prominent billing.

However, Caesars can end its relationship with Ramsay if the restaurants don’t hit sales targets. His Las Vegas restaurants must gross at least $8 million a year.

Perhaps the quirkiest part of this financial dance is the fact Caesars Entertainment can dump Gordon Ramsay if his company (wait for it) files for bankruptcy.

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Bourne 5 Car Chase Stunt Uses Bally’s Las Vegas Ramp as Launch Pad

Filming of the latest installment of the Jason Bourne movie franchise, titled “Jason Bourne,” is about to wrap in Las Vegas, but not before a few more awesome stunts.

The bulk of filming in Las Vegas has been a high-speed chase down Las Vegas Boulevard. The chase will appear in the action-heavy final third of the untitled film.

Bourne 5 car jump

Security was extraordinarily tight at the Bourne 5 shoot, so we’re unable to share the photo you’re currently viewing.

On Feb. 3, 2016, and the wee hours of Feb. 4 (we stayed up until 5:00 a.m. so you didn’t have to), the film’s second unit filmed a car jump stunt on the ramp at Bally’s Las Vegas.

The crew did a test at Bally’s weeks ago, and we’d heard the scene had been nixed by director Paul Greengrass, but apparently it’s back in. The more Vegas the better!

Matt Damon Bourne 5

Matt Damon’s chase car, looking a bit rough because the car’s taken some previous hits during the pursuit, gets prepped for the jump. The Bourne 5 star did some of his own driving during a sequence at Aria.

Here’s exclusive video of the stunt at Bally’s Las Vegas, as Jason Bourne, in a black Dodge Charger, pursued by police cars, attempts to stop a SWAT van (the one he’s been chasing on The Strip).

While Bourne misses the SWAT vehicle in this take, an earlier take had the Charger hitting the SWAT car, so expect that version in the film.

Bourne Betrayal jump stunt

The shoot at Bally’s involved more than 100 crew members, dozens of chilly extras (temps dropped to freezing) and about 50 cars and drivers.

Principal photography has ended in Las Vegas, so don’t expect to see Matt Damon, Tommy Lee Jones, Alicia Vikander, Julia Stiles, Vincent Cassel, Riz Ahmed or the other stars of the movie on-set this week.

Bourne car jump stunt

Most of the cars in the sequence had human drivers, but one car was too close to the action, so the task fell to this legless mannequin hoping to get his SAG card.

The grand finale of the weeks of shooting in Las Vegas is expected to be a doozy.

Check out all our “Jason Bourne” coverage, including more photos, video and spoilers even Variety, Hollywood Reporter and TMZ don’t know about.

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