Category Archives: Las Vegas WTF

Las Vegas Eccentric Lonnie Hammargren Bares All on “Hoarders”

Lonnie Hammargren is a bit of a Las Vegas legend.

The former Las Vegas Lt. Governor has spent his life collecting curiosities, displaying thousands of objects in three adjoining houses in a residential Las Vegas neighborhood.

Lonnie Hammargren

The indefatigable Lonnie Hammargren.

Each year, Lonnie Hammargren and his wife Sandy open up their home(s) to the public on Nevada Day, showcasing about 10,000 pieces of memorabilia, much of it related to Las
Vegas.

Hammargren Hoarders

Lonnie Hammargren’s collection of stuff spans three homes and a lifetime.

This blog is an avid collector of things, so we’ve always sort of admired Lonnie Hammargren for his commitment to the acquisition of stuff.

Now, we don’t know how to feel. The premiere episode of the ninth season of reality series “Hoarders” featured Lonnie and Sandy Hammargren, and it turns out trouble’s afoot in the “Hammargren Home of Nevada History.”

Lonnie Hammargren Hoarders

What could possibly go wrong?

“I estimate I’ve spent about $10 million on things I’ve collected,” says Lonnie Hammargren on the show. “It wasn’t a lot for me at the time. Like Frank Sinatra, I did it my way.”

For many years, Hammargren could afford his passion for collecting, as he was the first first neurosurgeon in Nevada.

Things have changed, however. During the “Hoarders” episode, it’s revealed Lonnie and Sandy Hammargren are $750,000 in debt.

Hammargren Hoarders

We feel you, Lonnie.

The episode highlights the growing conflict between the Hammargrens, with Sandy stating, “Lonnie has spent an enormous amount of money on his collections. I’m done with it. We’ve acquired a lot of debt and now it’s time to start selling things so that we can live off it.”

“I don’t have the money to continue paying my mortgage, says Lonnie Hammargren. “If I don’t pay the mortgage, I could lose my house.”

As is the “Hoarders” way, experts are brought in to assess the situation. On the case are a clinical psychologist specializing in hoarding disorder, Dr. David Tolin, and an “Extreme Cleaning Expert,” Matt Paxton.

Hoarders Las Vegas

Time for some “Hoarders” realness.

Tolin pulls no punches, saying, “Rich hoarding and poor hoarding can look very different, but they’re both still hoarding.”

Tolin continues, “Lonnie really wants people to notice him and he wants people to like him. There definitely is an element of Las Vegas culture. I also get a sense that behind that, there’s a little bit of a fear there. Maybe I will die and be forgotten. And I get a sense that terrifies him.”

Sandy Hammargren

If they gave awards for patience, Sandy Hammargren would have a house full of trophies rather than Nevada memorabilia.

The awkwardness continues as the experts try to convince Lonnie Hammargren it’s time to sell off some of his prized possessions. Or at the very least some he doesn’t prize.

Hammargren resists until the psychologist points out how much his wife is suffering, and asks, “What would you sacrifice for your wife’s happiness?” Lonnie Hammargren answers, “Anything.”

Of his 10,000 items, Lonnie Hammargren agrees to sell 27.

“Hoarders” brings in a familiar face to help with the process of estimating the value of Hammargren’s things, Mark Hall-Patton. Hall-Patton (pictured below, at right), of course, is a regular on another reality series, “Pawn Stars.”

Hoarders Hammargren

In the realm of nonverbal communication, folded arms don’t scream, “This is going really well!”

It becomes clear quickly Lonnie Hammargren’s view of the world is a special one. Then again, this is the man who has a tomb with a sarcophagus in his garage where he plans to be entombed.

Hammargren tomb

Lonnie Hammargren with his tomb.

At auction, the 27 items bring a soul-crushing $4,112.

Hoarders Hammargren

You thought we were kidding? This is an actual “Hoarders” title card.

The cringeworthiness peaks when Hammargren states he’ll use the proceeds of the auction not to pay his mortgage, but to publish his life story.

The psychologist adds, “Unless Lonnie really wakes up to his wife’s suffering, unless he really makes a decision to change things, I don’t know if things are going to get any better.”

Unlike so many episodes of “Hoarders,” this one doesn’t have a happy ending. Lonnie Hammargren remains an enigma, seemingly oblivious to the distinction between a collector and a hoarder. We’re actually not too clear about that ourselves.

Hoarders Hammargren

A typical day for Lonnie Hammargren includes organizing artifacts, cataloging new acquisitions and not getting any.

Ultimately, the experts packed it up. Dr. David Tolin summed things up by saying, “At the end of the day, Lonnie wants to be left alone, so that’s what we’re going to do.”

After watching “Hoarders,” we’re not sure how to feel about the Lonnie and Sandy Hammargren saga. The emotions range from admiration to pity and concern.

Is Lonnie Hammargren a dreamer of big dreams or painfully out of touch with reality? We’re thinking he’s a little bit of both.

Hoarders Lonnie Hammargren

Hang in there, Lonnie. Nobody ever became legendary by paying a mortgage.

During the “Hoarders” episode, he says, “I want to be a spectacle. Mohammad Ali was a spectacle. Jesus was a spectacle.”

One of the experts says, “I don’t think Lonnie is able to let go. Lonnie doesn’t really own his things. They own him.”

You can watch the entire episode of “Hoarders” online, and we’d love to hear what you think.

On thing is for certain. It took courage for the Hammargrens to air their drama on “Hoarders.”

Financial woes aside, many in Las Vegas would be devastated to see Lonnie Hammargren’s collection sold off.

We truly hope there’s a way for Lonnie Hammargren to fulfill his financial obligations without having to dismantle his legacy.

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Park People at The Park Make for Irresistible Selfie Bait

The Park, a restaurant row between Monte Carlo and New York-New York on the Las Vegas Strip, has become a hub for public art.

Upping the selfie ante, The Park is currently playing host to Park People, a series of life-sized human figures fashioned entirely from Lego bricks.

Park People Las Vegas

“Lego” comes from the Danish phrase “leg godt,” or “play well.” A good fit for Las Vegas, actually.

The Park People series was created by Nathan Sawaya, and is said to “explore the conceptual and expressive potential of process driven forms of the human body.”

So, yeah, Lego people.

Here’s a little video we slapped together, mainly because video is the new reading. Or something.

httpvh://www.www.youtube.com/watch?v=_edlmJ_NG-0
More Lego people, please!

Park People Las Vegas

Dude, it’s Vegas. You might want to pick up some sunscreen.

Sawaya holds an intriguing distinction—he is said to own more Lego bricks than any other individual, with two million bricks in each of his two studios (one in L.A. and another in New York).

Park People Lego art

Yeah, he’s nude, but at least he’d modest.

During our recent visit, guests were cozying up to the  nine interactive figures, providing a memorable moment in Las Vegas for tourists and, as an added perk, great buzz for The Park.

Park People Lego art

Watch the hands.

According to the news release about Park People, the Lego figures are “situated curiously” on “elegant” wooden benches. There’s a reason “elegant” is in quotation marks. Mostly because they’re just benches.

Park People artwork

The plural of Lego is Lego.

Each Lego sculpture can take two to three weeks to build, and each Lego block must be glued into place.

Park People Lego

Pretty sure somebody’s going to be hearing from Blue Man Group’s lawyers.

The Park People exhibit ends Dec. 30, 2016, so if you’d like to see these Lego sculptures, you’d better step on it.

Because Lego. “Step on it.”

We’ll wait.

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Two Things on The Strip Making Us Smile Right Now

It’s the little things that count, and two wee things on The Strip are making us smile right now.

For months, we’ve publicly bemoaned the tacky Dick’s Last Resort sign on the front of Excalibur.

Dick's Last Resort

We don’t have enough palms or faces.

Well, miracles never cease in Las Vegas, because the Dickish sign has been removed.

The now-blank space used to play host to a Merlin statue, but if rumors about a rebrand of Excalibur turn out to be true, he won’t be back. We’d rather see nothing than something nauseating up there.

Excalibur facade

Merlin the magician has (wait for it) disappeared.

Next, we’ve also spent months whining about the state of the pink elephant at the Diamond Inn Motel, very near the “Welcome to Fabulous Las Vegas” sign and across from Mandalay Bay.

Las Vegas pink elephant

Somebody looks like they’ve been rode hard and put up wet. Which is possibly a horse thing, but whatever.

Well, the owners of the motel finally ponied up for a repair, and the pink elephant is back to being ready for its roadside attraction close-up.

Pink elephant

Back in the pink! (Millennial translation: The pink elephant is lit.)

Las Vegas is full of surprises! And shrimp. But mostly that first thing.

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Venetian Sticks It to Players with Triple Zero Sands Roulette

It appears all bets are off when it comes to casinos coming up with clever ways to increase profits. Venetian Las Vegas recently introduced Sands Roulette, a game almost identical to traditional roulette, but with an insidious twist, a triple zero.

Most roulette tables in the U.S. have a zero and double zero. Those games have a house advantage of 5.2%. Not the worst game in a casino, but fairly hefty when compared to games like blackjack and baccarat.

Occasionally, you can find a European roulette table, with just a zero, and the house edge
dips down to 2.7%. In Las Vegas, those tables tend to be reserved for high rollers.

Sands Roulette at Venetian, with 0-00-000, means there are more ways for a player to lose,
and the house advantage jumps up to 7.7% (7.69% to be exact, but let’s not get bogged
down in details).

We’d love to show you a photo of the Sands Roulette table layout, but photography is
strictly forbidden at live tables in the Venetian. Therefore, we aren’t able to share the
photo below.

Triple Zero Sands Roulette

Sadly, this isn’t Photoshopped. It actually exists.

Yes, the bean counters are at it again.

While a 2.5% increase in the house edge may not seem like a lot at first glance, it
amounts to a huge windfall for the casino over the course of thousands, or hundreds of thousands, of spins.

The frustrating part about this particular revenue enhancement strategy is it’s
implemented in a way that seems underhanded. You won’t see a triple zero on the table, but
rather the triple zero is represented with an “S” and the Sands logo. The Venetian is owned by Las Vegas Sands Corp.

Sands Roulette intentionally takes advantage of less experienced players. One Venetian
staffer even said, aloud, “Tourists and conventioneers don’t really care.”

That opinion seemed to be confirmed by the fact the Sands Roulette table (there’s only one
in the casino at this point) was packed during our visit.

That same floor person admitted, “We try new table games for 90 days and evaluate the
results. If it tanks, it’ll go away.” Good to know, although much like 6-to-5 blackjack
(for many years, the game payed 3-to-2), sometimes such “innovations” never go away.

The Venetian staffer followed up with something rather ominous. He said, “If it increases
the drop, they’ll probably try adding another space.”

We’ll let that particular brand of WTF sink in for a moment.

Triple zero Sands Roulette

Sorry, we can’t show you this photo, either. Our hands are tied!

That’s right. Not only is the Venetian exploring new ways to stick it to us, they’re open to upping the ante. Let’s do this until we see what the pain point is, they seem to be saying.

Deep breaths.

Look, we don’t begrudge casinos the ability to increase profits. They’re doing it with paid parking and reduced liquor pour sizes and comp drink monitoring systems.

But is it too much to ask to not muck with a timeless, iconic casino table game? Seriously, WWJBS? (What would James Bond say?)

As mentioned, there’s currently only one triple zero table at Venetian, and we’re not
aware of any others in Las Vegas. It would surprise no one if triple zero games started
popping up at competing casinos in the very near future.

The Sands Roulette table had a $10 minimum, while all the other roulette tables had a $15 limit. One could make the argument the triple zero is a “surcharge” for the “lower” table minimum. Or not.

Will the average Las Vegas visitor realize they’re being dinged when they play the triple
zero Sands Roulette? Will knowing about it keep them from playing? We suspect not. Recreational gamblers don’t obsess over things like odds. These are the same folks playing the Big Six wheel, with one of the biggest house edges in a casino (as much as 24%, the mind reels).

Taken alone, Sands Roulette’s triple zero at Venetian Las Vegas isn’t the end of the world. But it does feel like another symbol of how casinos seem to be jeopardizing long-term trust and loyalty for short-term gain. With each new fee or detrimental change to a game, casinos run the risk of damaging the public perception of Las Vegas as a value-driven destination.

The opining about this state of affairs isn’t limited to us, of course. Our friend Sam Novak at VegasBright.com has a few thoughts well worth a look.

Ultimately, we decide what games succeed or fail. So, choose wisely.

Thanks to Marc Meltzer of EdgeVegas.com and the eagle-eyed folks at the Wizard of Vegas
forum for tipping us off to the unfortunate existence of Sands Roulette at Venetian Las Vegas.

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Surreal Sighting of the Day: Donald Trump Visits El Sombrero in Las Vegas

There we were, checking out the cafe at the Gambler’s General Store, when the unmistakable sound of political protesters chanting rang out.

Soon, a dozen or so dark vehicles rumbled down Main Street, the motorcade of none other than Presidential hopeful Donald Trump.

Donald Trump

We spotted Donald Trump’s motorcade near Gass Avenue. Total coincidence.

A large police presence quickly formed outside a small Mexican restaurant, El Sombrero Mexican Bistro, in downtown Las Vegas.

Donald Trump

El Sombrero has been a Las Vegas fixture since the 1950s. You know, back when America was great.

Donald Trump visited the establishment for about 20 minutes, then emerged, surrounded by lots of very serious-looking Secret Service agents.

Donald Trump

Protesters, schmotesters, pass the salsa.

Donald Trump seemed to sense the vibe of the crowd outside (the protesters were out in force and very well-organized), so he moved quickly into his vehicle.

Then, though, he popped his head up above the top of the vehicle and waved directly at us. Because even Donald Trump wanted to know the thrill of being in this Las Vegas blog.

Donald Trump

1) Thank you for the photo, Mr. Trump. 2) Genius sign placement. 3) We can’t entirely explain the feet.

Apparently, Donald Trump had a quick sit-down with Hispanic business leaders during his visit to El Sombrero.

No matter your political leanings, you have to admit, you truly never know what (or who) you’ll see in Las Vegas.

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Las Vegas Review-Journal Takes Hits from “Last Week Tonight With John Oliver”

The Las Vegas Review-Journal and its owner Sheldon Adelson took some jabs on the most recent installment of HBO’s “Last Week Tonight With John Oliver.”

Host John Oliver devoted a portion of his Aug. 7, 2016 episode to the challenges facing the world of journalism, and broached the subject of problems arising from newspapers being owned by bajillionaires.

One of those bajillionaires, Sheldon Adelson, purchased the Las Vegas Review-Journal, and ever since there’s been an exodus of experienced reporters as well as concerns about the publication’s ability to cover stories related to Adelson’s business concerns.

Adelson Last Week Tonight

We would make a sharky comment about Sheldon Adelson were it not for the fact he currently employs more lawyers than China, France and Germany combined.

Sheldon Adelson is the Chairman and CEO of Las Vegas Sands Corp., which owns Venetian,
Palazzo and the Sands Expo and Convention Center in Las Vegas.

During the journalism segment, “Last Week Tonight” explains Adelson’s “businesses are at
the center of a lot of the stories the Review-Journal covers.”

John Oliver goes on to state, “There could not be a worse owner of a paper in Vegas than
Sheldon Adelson, with the possible exception of Cirque du Soleil. Because they wouldn’t
even give you a newspaper, you’d just have a fistful of glitter thrown in your face by a
90-pound man in a thong.”

Last Week Tonight Cirque

We are not aware of any Cirque show in Las Vegas that utilizes glitter, but let’s not get bogged down in details.

A highlight of the segment, though, is a satirical commercial for a “Spotlight”-inspired film. The piece shows a news team balancing hard-hitting news with Web-friendly fluff pieces that strive to get lots of clicks, “likes” and retweets. (A scenario, we should say, which plays itself out in local Las Vegas media daily.)

The mock movie trailer includes a review of the movie by the Las Vegas Review-Journal.

Last Week Tonight Review-Journal

Fun fact: Before appearing on SNL and in awful movies like “We’re the Millers,” Jason Sudeikis used to perform with Second City in Bugsy’s Celebrity Theater at Flamingo.

Here’s video of the segment on “Last Week Tonight.” Skip to 12:20 for the Vegas stuff.

While delivered with a humorous bent, the “Last Week Tonight” segment about the dilemma faced by newspapers made some thoughtful, nuanced points we didn’t entirely understand.

But we really enjoyed the part about the raccoon cat. Totally sharing it on Facebook.

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