Monthly Archives: February 2016

Graceland’s Elvis Exhibit Closes at Westgate, Drama Ensues

“Graceland Presents Elvis: The Exhibition” has closed at Westgate Las Vegas Resort & Casino amidst rumors of a dispute between the hotel and the tenant, a licensee of Elvis Presley’s estate.

Elvis Exhibit

Now, with 100% less exhibit, show and experience.

According to our buddy Norm Clarke at the Las Vegas Review-Journal, the exhibit was shuttered just 10 months into what was supposed to be a 10-year contract.

A rep of Westgate said the exhibit owed the resort “a substantial amount of money,” and the tenant was threatening to default, so the attraction was closed.

The timing of the closure is peculiar given the fact it was recently announced the nearby Riviera Boulevard was to be renamed Elvis Presley Boulevard, a move we thought boneheaded given the fact Presley died nearly 40 years ago.

We presciently discussed the waning appeal of Elvis in Las Vegas on the most recent installment of the Vital Vegas Podcast. Yes, our podcast is so influential, it helped close a Las Vegas attraction. And that’s the story we’re sticking to.

Elvis

“Viva Elvis” show at Aria, closed. “The Elvis Experience” show at Westgate, closed. The King’s Ransom exhibit, closed. Elvis-A-Rama museum, closed. Las Vegas needs to get an icon upgrade.

It was assumed the street change name was a move to help promote the exhibit, but now managers of the exhibit have contacted the county stating they would prefer the street not be renamed.

The Elvis exhibit has already been removed from the Westgate Web site, and there’s no word what might move into the 28,000-square-foot space.

Of course, there’s a chance the hotel could amicably resolve its conflict with the tenant, but it sounds like there’s bad blood, so that seems unlikely.

All we can do now is watch and wait, and try not to throw up a little when every single article covering this story contains this phrase, “Westgate’s Elvis exhibit has left the building.”

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Vital Vegas Podcast, Episode 4: Talking the Talk

Shockingly, there’s a fourth episode of the Vital Vegas Podcast. We did not see that coming.

In this week’s episode, we cover a lot of ground.

There’s an interview with comedian and juggler Jeff Civillico. The Flamingo headliner has a new TV show about Las Vegas, and the show is produced in a shipping container that sits on a water fountain at Linq promenade.

Las Vegas Good News

“Las Vegas Good News” host Jeff Civillico interviews a Brooklyn Bowl performer whose name we would convey if we were a note-taking type person.

Visit the Las Vegas Good News Web site, watch for the show in your hotel room or on Channel 13 (the ABC affiliate in Las Vegas) and make sure to keep an eye on Chelsea Phillips-Reid, one of Civillico’s bevy of co-hosts. Her pre-taped, “Daily Show”-style interview (back when “Daily Show” was funny) with a Gilley’s chef was a stand-out on the episode we attended.

We also chat with Seth Debowy, an entrepreneur whose company, Vegas Felt Co., makes clothing from salvaged casino table felt. Debowy provides an insider’s look into the process of developing his line of collectible clothing, and shares a few felt secrets, too.

For example, the vast majority of casino tables don’t actually use felt. We also learned if a high roller requests it, casinos will give them the table felt after their play. And also possibly cocktail servers.

Vegas Felt Co.

Take little piece of your favorite casino table game home with you.

The clothing company has come a long way since we first checked in. Check out the company’s official Vegas Felt site for more information.

Also on the show, we give our imbicilic take on the latest Las Vegas news, share some Las Vegas history (Barbary Coast closed this week back in 2007, now it’s the Cromwell) and drop the usual exclusives, including the fact Cosmopolitan resort is on the precipice of rolling out a drink voucher system at all its casino bars.

Barbary Coast security

Like many classic Vegas casinos, Barbary Coast had catwalks where security could peer down on tables to watch for cheats. This rare pic shows the peep holes.

Don’t miss some great listener questions: What’s the most trouble we’ve gotten into for a security breach? What’s a recommended panty-dropper cocktail? What are our five favorite video poker bars? All that and much, much less.

Oh, in the spirit of Jimmy Kimmel’s popular “Mean Tweets” segment, we read mean reviews of our podcast. Out loud. Somebody’s got to do it.

This iTunes review is a definite highlight: “End this abortion of a show before you lose all credibility.” Honestly, that’s an insult to abortions.

Take a listen. You can find all the episodes hereSubscribe at iTunes, and leave a review. Drop us a line to ask a question or tell us to STFU. You can also Tweet to @VitalVegas.

The Vital Vegas Podcast. It’s all the things you’ve come to loathe about this Las Vegas blog, but with more annoying ice-clinking.

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Progress Report: Las Vegas Arena, The Park and Monte Carlo Theater

There’s a dizzying number of new things coming to the space between New York-New York and Monte Carlo, so we thought it about time to share some photos, video and a few words to keep those things from slapping into each other.

First up, here’s a look at the current state of the Las Vegas Arena, also called the T-Mobile Arena. This 20,000-seat gem is going to be a magnet for sports and concerts, and it looks like a million bucks.

Las Vegas Arena

Actually, the Las Vegas Arena looks like $375 million bucks, but who’s counting?

The arena’s seats have been installed, a far cry from just a few months ago when we popped in to take another metric ass-ton of photos.

Now, a mesh video screen is being installed on the arena’s eastern face.

Las Vegas Arena video mesh

That one dude, though.

Here’s a closer look at both the mesh installation and the dude.

Las Vegas Arena

Hero move.

We caught the first test of the Las Vegas Arena’s video screen at night, and it was very what you might call “T-Mobile magenta.”

T-Mobile, of course, snagged naming rights to the arena. We just like the sound of Las Vegas Arena better.

Las Vegas Arena

Motion graphic designer’s like, “Done!”

The Las Vegas Arena opens April 6, 2016, with a show by The Killers as a kick-off.

Here’s a peek behind the arena.

Las Vegas Arena

At this point, you may be obsessing over a construction site a tad too much. Somebody needed to say it.

Note that there’s a new ramp jutting out of the New York-New York parking lot (at left) to help ease traffic congestion.

There’s another bridge connecting the parking garage and the arena.

Las Vegas Arena

You gotta know when to hold ’em, know when to scaffold ’em.

Outside the Las Vegas Arena, concrete is being poured.

The Park Las Vegas

We trust these wooden thingys are where concrete is being poured. For all you know, they could be called “thingys,” so don’t get snippy.

The Park is beginning to look more like a park.

The Park, of course, is a pedestrian promenade that runs from Las Vegas Boulevard to the arena.

The Park could very well mark the return of promenading, once popular with square dancers. Oh, like you’re reading all this gibberish, anyway. Just look at the pictures.

The Park Las Vegas

MGM Resorts has invested a lot of time and money creating a diverse collection of desert-adaptive plants people will soon stroll right by on their way to the hooch.

Seriously, though, MGM Resorts has spent a lot of time thinking about all this.

The Park will have “breathtaking monumental shade structures, theatrical lighting, dynamic water features and meta-quartzite stone sourced from a local quarry.”

The Park promenade

How we’ve managed to enjoy the Las Vegas Strip prior to it having some meta-quartzite stone, we’ll never know.

The Park will be lined not only with trees and shade structures (more on those in a minute), but also shops and restaurants and bars, especially bars.

The Park

The Park will have a gourmet waffle restaurant, Bruxie, a sushi restaurant, Sake Rok, a beer garden and other dining and drinking options.

The Park will also boast a Robert Mondavi Jr. Wine Experience, Dierks Bentley’s Whiskey Row and Cuba Libre, a Havana-style restaurant and bar. Read more about the Las Vegas newness.

Check out our photo gallery below for more photos of the storefronts.

Before we move on, MGM Resorts has finally gotten around to confirming some news we reported exclusively a few weeks ago. A 40-foot-tall naked woman will soon be erected in The Park. The sculpture is called Bliss Dance, and “erected” is right. Read more.

Bliss Dance Las Vegas

That’s a palm tree. She’s not European.

The Bliss Dance sculpture is the work of artist Marco Cochrane and was originally created for the Burning Man Festival. It weighs about 7,500 pounds, took 10,000 hours to build and will be lit up by 3,000 LED lights.

The Bliss Dance statue will be installed at The Park on Feb. 29, 2016, making future anniversaries of the installation few and far between.

Now, about those shade structures. They don’t appear to have an official name, but they’re a distinctive element of The Park.

The ear trumpet structures were built by IHC Studio Metalix in the Netherlands, a ship-building company. Each structure took an astonishing 2,000 hours to complete. Naps and smoke breaks are apparently very popular in the Netherlands.

The Park Las Vegas

The 16 flower-inspired colander cones range from 55 feet to 75 feet in height. Hey, one of these names is going to stick, and we’d prefer it be ours.

Each of the botanical bugles has about 1,200 holes, which are intended to cast patterns on the ground.

Shade is going to become a critical part of The Park experience, especially given the fact Las Vegas becomes a massive kiln during the summer months (typically, March 1 through November 30). Which is why outdoor spaces are a relatively recent phenomenon in Las Vegas. Because things tend to shrivel up and blow away there. The good folks at MGM Resorts haven’t talked about that too much in their news releases, for some reason.

That said, the holey tulips are striking, and truly come to life at night. Take a look.

The Park shade

The average weight of each structure is between 12 and 20 metric tons, depending upon where it had lunch.

At night, the structures will glow, and the colors will change on the quarter hour, commonly known as “every 15 minutes,” or about the time it takes this blog to have sex 15 times.

The Park Las Vegas

While already lovely, the thousands of LEDs that will illuminate the structures haven’t even been installed yet!

These impressive structures should be a popular new photo op on the Las Vegas Strip.

The Park is set to open April 4, 2016, a couple of days before the Las Vegas Arena debuts.

Here’s a little video to help give you an idea of where everything is. Please note the large steel structure attached to the side of Monte Carlo. We’ll be talking about that next.

While much of the focus has been on the arena and The Park, quick work is being made of a new 5,000-seat theater at Monte Carlo.

Monte Carlo Theater

The new Monte Carlo theater is about the size to give The Colosseum at Caesars and Axis Theater at Planet Hollywood a run for their money.

Here’s another look at the Monte Carlo theater (whose existence was first reported in this very blog, of course), although it won’t be called the Monte Carlo theater when it opens in late 2016. Monte Carlo is getting a new name, so the theater will follow suit.

Monte Carlo Theater

Monte Carlo’s new theater necessitated Blue Man Group getting the boot to Luxor, which necessitated Jabbawockeez getting the boot to MGM Grand. Never a dull moment in Vegas.

Monte Carlo’s new name remains a delicious Las Vegas mystery.

Please feel free to dive headlong into our gratuitous, showboaty photo gallery of pics from the Las Vegas Arena, The Park and Monte Carlo theater. We can’t wait to see our first shows at the arena and Monte Carlo theater, and are truly looking forward to promenading at The Park in the shade of giant, honeycombed cactus blossoms. Or whatever.

Arena, Park and Monte Carlo Theater Update

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Mystery Solved: Hooters Casino Las Vegas to Stay Hooters

Ever since Hooters Casino changed ownership in May 2015, there’s been speculation about what the new incarnation of the hotel-casino will be called. Now we know.

We’ve learned exclusively Hooters won’t be rebranded at all, but will remain Hooters Casino Hotel.

Hooters Las Vegas

Hooters was once named Paradise Hotel. And 20th Century. And the Treasury. And Pacifica. And the Polynesian. And Hotel San Remo. Talk about an identity crisis.

A well-placed source in the company says discussion about a rebranding has been passionate and ongoing, but ultimately casino officials decided to stick with the Hooters brand.

In May, Hooters was purchased by a resort investment company, Trinity Hotel Investments, for about $54 million. Trinity partnered with Holiday Inn, and some believed Hooters would be rebranded as Holiday Inn. Not a bad brand, but not exactly a sexy choice for a Las Vegas resort.

Along the way, rumors surfaced the casino portion of Hooters Casino Hotel would be renamed the Hive, but that won’t be happening. Suggestions the casino and hotel might be named and marketed separately have also fallen by the wayside over time.

Hooters

The Hooters rewards club is called Rewards Club, which we’re actually glad about because we played with mercury a lot as a kid so we have trouble remembering things.

The company hasn’t officially announced its decision to stick with Hooters, but it makes sense for many reasons.

Hooters remains a fun brand with worldwide name recognition.

Word has it the owners of Hooters Casino Hotel have some significant upgrades in store, including a major renovation of the resort’s pool area.

It sounds likely the casino’s current management company, Navegante Group, will soon be shown the exit. Potentially, with them will go some of the ongoing challenges that have plagued Hooters. Because if this Las Vegas blog is anything, it’s optimistic.

A significant investment is planned to clean up and modernize the resort (it opened in 1973 as the Howard Johnson Hotel), so expect further announcements about specifics soon.

Hopefully, Hooters will get a much-needed lift, and we’ll be sure to keep you abreast of all the latest news.

World's Biggest Hooters

Augment your strengths and reduce your weaknesses, Hooters! Note: Hooters no longer has the largest Hooters restaurant. That’s at the Palms.

What, you thought we were going to go an entire blog post without a “hooters” joke? Do you know this blog at all?

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Downtown’s Banger Brewing Ups Its Gastronomy Game

Everyone’s pretty much in agreement that downtown’s Banger Brewing has beer down (wait for it) cold.

Recently, though, the popular microbrewery has brought on a new culinary partner, Las Vegas Food Junky, to ensure guests get a better-rounded epicurean experience.

Banger Brewing

If you blink, you’ll miss it. Insider tip: Don’t blink.

Las Vegas Food Junky is a Las Vegas catering company, perhaps best known for its food truck.

The company is owned by chef Marita Purcell, formerly a chef at Fleur by Hubert Keller at Mandalay Bay.

Las Vegas Food Junky

Chef Purcell whips up one of her signature cures for the drunchies.

Purcell and her team have put together a simple, crowd-pleasing menu that’s a great complement to Banger Brewing’s beer selection.

Banger Brewing menu

Let’s graze.

Preparing food at Banger Brewing provides a chef unique challenges, since the kitchen is outside the venue, and has a footprint about the size of a large phone booth.

Note to Millennials: Phone booths were things people stood in to make calls on pay phones. Pay phones were telephones you’d put coins into in order to call people. People were other humans you’d be forced to interact with, you know, before there was Tinder and free porn on the Internet.

Banger Brewing menu

The flip side of the menu. The suspense was killing you, wasn’t it?

None of the menu items are more than $12, and vegetarian options are plentiful. Each item on the menu has a suggested pairing with a Banger Brewing beer.

The Spaghetti Baguette ($10) was delicious and filling.

Banger Brewing food

Baguettes are long loaves of French bread, ranging in length from two inches to 26 inches, depending upon whether or not it can afford to go into the Champagne Room.

The Soy Chorizo Tostada With Avocado ($12) was hugely popular during our visit.

Banger Brewing

Tostada is a Spanish word meaning “toasted.” Especially fitting since you’re on Fremont Street.

Chef Marita Purcell plans to change up the menu often, so don’t get emotionally attached to anything.

Our favorite munchie was the Doughnut Holes With Cinnamon and Sugar ($8). We were told there was a baker’s dozen if these bad boys, but they disappeared before we had time to count them.

Banger Brewing

Little balls of heaven.

Banger Brewing fans will find the new menu tempting, and it’ll give those unfamiliar with Banger a reason to visit. Oh, and there’s also a metric hell-ton of frosty beer.

Banger Brewing

Ask about Banger Brewing’s free guided tour where you can learn about bungs and cask-conditioning and lagering and other brewery words we just looked up on the Internet.

The blissfully smoke-free Banger Brewing is located at Neonopolis in downtown Las Vegas, but don’t hold that against it.

Banger Brewing

Banger Brewing is Fremont Street’s first craft brewery. It’s one of the few places we’ll visit despite the fact it doesn’t serve Captain Morgan. Nobody’s perfect.

More photos below, because that’s how this blog rolls. And trust us, a few more of those amazing doughnut holes, and we’ll mean that literally.

Banger Brewing

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Vital Vegas Podcast, Episode 3: Derek Stevens Exclusives, Plus the 20 Best Free Things to Do in Las Vegas and More

It’s back, it’s bigger and it’s powered by Captain Morgan spiced rum.

It’s the Vital Vegas Podcast!

Vital Vegas Podcast

Notice we didn’t say “it’s better.”

This week on the Vital Vegas Podcast, we interview one of our personal Las Vegas heroes, Derek Stevens.

Stevens is the co-owner of The D Las Vegas, Golden Gate and 18 Fremont (the temporary name of the former Las Vegas Club).

Derek Stevens talks about a variety of subjects, including what’s in store at his Downtown Las Vegas Events Center and the Las Vegas Club, a casino he purchased with his brother, Greg Stevens, for $40 million.

Stevens also delves into why The D just launched a program where players can use their loyalty club points at two restaurants on Fremont East, Le Thai and Bocho. More restaurant partnerships are expected soon.

Derek Stevens

Derek Stevens cozies up to a chunk of the Blarney Stone at The D. It was recovered after being stolen by what is known in criminal circles as “a complete bonehead.” Long story.

In a telling and candid moment, Stevens also shares something few know about the casino mogul-in-the-making. It involves the personal toll of being the only casino owner in Las Vegas who can frequently be found at The D’s bar, Longbar, greeting guests and shaking hands. Lots and lots of hands.

Also on the show, we mark the third anniversary of the excellent “Million Dollar Quartet” at Harrah’s Las Vegas. The show opened Feb. 19, 2013.

We dug up an interview from 2013 with the show’s director, Eric Schaeffer. Schaeffer reveals how he helps prep his performers, and explains why “Million Dollar Quartet” is different from the typical tribute show.

Listen now! You can catch up on past episodes on iTunes.

 

Also in this episode, we answer the timeless question, “What are the 10 best free things to do in Las Vegas?”

In fact, we go the extra mile and provide the best 20. Yes, we’ve listed them below so you don’t have to suffer through the podcast. We’re proactive like that.

20 Best Free Things to Do in Las Vegas

We decided to skip the obvious choices on everyone’s list of the best free things to do in Las Vegas. That includes the Bellagio fountains, the Mirage volcano, the free circus acts at Circus Circus and the endlessly entertaining wildlife at Flamingo.

Here are our top 20.

1. Bellagio Conservatory (bonus: chocolate fountains at Jean Phillipe Patisserie, nearby)
2. Lobby video displays at Cosmopolitan
3. Berlin Wall and other curiosities at Main Street Station, including Winston Churchill’s snooker table
4. Big Elvis show at Harrah’s
5. Light shows at Fremont Street Experience, including two new ones featuring Imagine Dragons and Tiesto (bonus: free summer concerts)
6. “Ka” behind-the-scenes tour at MGM Grand
7. Flame-throwing praying mantis at Downtown Container Park
8. 107 Skylounge (formerly Level 107 Lounge) at Stratosphere
9. Gold & Silver Pawn Shop (featured in the “Pawn Stars” reality series) and the adjoining Pawn Plaza
10. Photo op with the Las Vegas sign

free things to do in Las Vegas

Sometimes, scam artists pose as “official photographers” at the Las Vegas sign. Give them a condescending look and move on.

11. Rock memorabilia at Hard Rock Hotel
12. Photo with a million bucks at Binion’s
13. Public art at Wynn Las Vegas
14. Carved woolly mammoth tusk at Treasure Island
15. Flair bartending at casinos around Las Vegas
16. Seahorses at Seahorse Lounge, Caesars Palace
17. Ethel M Chocolate factory tour
18. Craps lessons at various casinos
19. Free games (pool, shuffleboard, foosball) at places like Gold Spike, the sports book at Cosmopolitan, Encore Players Club, Beer Park and Slots-A-Fun at Circus Circus
20. People-watching

Get more free things to do in Las Vegas.

free things to do in Las Vegas

What, you thought we were kidding about the snooker table?

Of course, we couldn’t stop there. Here’s our list of the top five free Las Vegas things you should absolutely skip.

1. Swarovski light show at Grand Bazaar Shops
2. Fall of Atlantis at Forum Shops
3. Hand of Faith at Golden Nugget (it’s a stunt double at the moment)
4. Giant rocks masquerading as art at Bellagio
5. Rainstorm at Miracle Mile Shops

Also one the show is our relatively twisted review of “Twisted Vegas,” an alleged comedy which just opened at Westgate. The show pokes fun at Las Vegas, so we figure turnabout is fair play.

Twisted Vegas show

“Twisted Vegas. It’s repetitive, but at least what’s being repeated isn’t very compelling!”™

We’d love to hear what you think of the Vital Vegas Podcast, especially if you feel we should stop doing it, because we’re exhausted and these bags under our eyes are are starting to look like saddlebags. And not in a good way.

Thanks for listening, and a special thanks to Derek Stevens for being our first podcast guest that we didn’t completely make up.

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