Monthly Archives: June 2015

Pete “Big Elvis” Vallee, King of the Elvis Tribute Artists, Takes a Break From His Harrah’s Show

When we heard our friend Pete Vallee, “Big Elvis,” had stepped away from his show at Harrah’s Las Vegas because he hadn’t been feeling well, we had a minor freak-out about the health scare.

“Big Elvis” is a beloved Las Vegas lounge fixture, whose heart is as big as his voice, and he’s been packing them in with his free show for years. Before Harrah’s Las Vegas, he had a long-running stint at the former Bill’s Gamblin’ Hall, now called The Cromwell.

While the news about his going on a hiatus wasn’t great, Vallee assures us he’s doing fine and just taking a break from his demanding performance schedule.

Big Elvis Las Vegas

Pete Vallee was named one of the top 10 Elvis impersonators in the world by Time magazine.

While he admits to being exhausted, we’re thankful his medical situation isn’t more serious. He’s taking some time off to rest up and lose some weight. “Big Elvis” says he’s already down 15 pounds.

Vallee’s weight, while a great marketing hook, has been an ongoing struggle. At one time, he tipped the scales at nearly 1,000 pounds. He jokes that the need for a little time off may also have to do with his recently turning 50.

Big Elvis says he’ll be back at Harrah’s Las Vegas soon.

Big Elvis wedding

Big Elvis got hitched to Amanda back in July of 2010. Sadly, the two have parted ways.

In the meantime, there are rumors Vallee’s friend and lounge favorite Cook E. Jarr will temporarily take over his spot at Harrah’s. Cook E. Jarr also recently landed a gig at Paris in the hotel’s Napoleon Lounge.

While you’re waiting for the return of Vallee’s free Harrah’s show, check out his movie making the rounds at film festivals, “La Conner P.D.” The name refers to La Conner, Washington. Vallee’s brother, Guy, operates a cafe in the picturesque town. Read more.

The fans of Pete “Big Elvis” Vallee are legion, and this Las Vegas blog one of them. We hope Vallee be feeling better and returning to the stage again soon, bringing the songs of Elvis to life like nobody else can.

Update (4/6/17): Big Elvis is back and better than ever. He even got a star on the Las Vegas Walk of Stars. Here’s the Big Elvis schedule at Harrah’s: Big Elvis shows happen Monday, Wednesday and Friday at 2:00 p.m., 3:00 p.m. and 5:30 p.m.

Before You Hate on Chick-fil-A Coming to Las Vegas, Stop and Read This

The best place on Earth (SPOILER ALERT: Las Vegas) is about to get even better. Chick-fil-A has announced it will open up to 10 restaurants in Nevada over the next five years.

To those who have partaken in The Greatest Chicken Sandwich in the Known Universe, this news is akin to hearing Elvis is coming back from the dead and opening up a karaoke dojo. It may even be better than that.

Chick-fil-A confirmed long-standing rumors it would open its first Nevada outpost within the next 18 months.

Update (1/26/17): Two Chick-fil-A locations have opened in Las Vegas. Find out details.

The first location will be in Henderson, a smaller, less interesting, version of Las Vegas. The short ride to Henderson, and the utter lack of anything else to do there, will be completely worth it.

Chick-fil-A Las Vegas

Las Vegas is about to put its collective dollar bill into the g-string of Chick-fil-A.

The Chick-fil-A restaurant in Henderson will be located at Stephanie Street and Warm Springs Road, a fact you’ll no doubt find irrelevant until the moment the location opens, then you’ll be Googling the holy hell out of “Chick-fil-A Las Vegas address,” trust us.

Chick-fil-A has more than 1,900 restaurants serving the lucky bastards in 42 states, but until now, Nevada has been ignored by Chick-fil-A like the comedian in “X Burlesque.” But no longer. The boundless gloriousness of its chicken sandwiches and waffle fries are close-at-hand.

Beyond the life-altering food, Chick-fil-A is also known for the friendliness of its staff and overall guest experience. Not the friendliness other restaurants force their employees to fake, either. The other kind. The kind that restores your faith in humanity.

Now, we know what you might be thinking. Chick-fil-A is the company once embroiled in controversy about its support of groups opposed to same-sex marriage. That’s past tense, baby.

See, the clueless brouhaha-sparker was the company’s CEO Dan Cathy. For years now, Chick-fil-A has been trying to distance itself from his misguided public statements. After an avalanche of feedback from customers and other reasonable people, Dan Cathy saw the light. He’s figured out you can hold personal beliefs, but in the end, it’s better to adhere to the separation of church and chicken.

Seriously, though. If you really want to take a stand against companies that have ever supported organizations with offensive agendas, you’re going to be giving up a lot of your favorite things. (Ever drive a Volkswagen or clothing from Hugo Boss?)

Here’s the facts: In September 2012, an organization called the Civil Rights Agenda confirmed Chick-fil-A has “ceased donating to organizations that promote discrimination, specifically against LGBT civil rights.” Chick-fil-A itself has said the company “will treat every person equally, regardless of sexual orientation.”

Chick-fil-A cows

We suggest Dan Cathy make it up to us by keeping their Las Vegas restaurants open seven days a week! Chick-fil-As are typically closed on Sundays. Don’t get us started.

Why hasn’t that news been out there as widely as the original controversy? Because there’s nothing in it for grand-standing buffoons like Mike Huckabee, and the media gives a lot more air time to boycotts and big, ugly controversies than it does making things right.

So, let’s move on and revel in the engorged anticipation so richly deserved by the news of Chick-fil-A bringing a metric ass-ton of chicken sandwich succulence to Nevada in the relatively near future.

Let us focus our attention on what’s really important: How in the hell are Chick-fil-A’s so much better than any other chicken sandwich, ever? Chick-fil-A says the sandwich is “a boneless breast of chicken seasoned to perfection, hand-breaded, pressure cooked in 100% refined peanut oil and served on a toasted, buttered bun with dill pickle chips.” The company’s secret recipe has eluded copycats and food detectives, but some say the trick is to brine the chicken in pickle juice.

Chick-fil-A Las Vegas

Get thee inside us, temptress!

Let us focus our attention, too, on Chick-fil-A’s soft serve, “Icedream,” so good it has its own Facebook fan page but can also cure that disease where your arms look like tree bark. Actual results may vary, but it’s really, really good.

There’s more news to come about Chick-fil-A’s impending conquest of Las Vegas, and we’ll make sure to keep you abreast of any developments. (Like we were going to miss out on that joke. Do you know this blog at all?)

When the first Chick-fil-A location opens, you’ll be able to find us camped outside like those whack-jobs in line outside Best Buy waiting for the latest iPhone.

Except not in a weird way. The other way. The way that restores your faith in brining.

Update (5/15/19): It’s tough to defend Chick-fil-A sometimes. Here’s a recent article where the company explains its donations to two controversial organizations when it comes to LGBT rights, the Fellowship of Christian Athletes and the Salvation Army. While these organizations do a lot of good, there’s no denying they are staunchly against same-sex marriage. That might not sit well with some customers, including us. Does it mean we won’t eat at Chick-fil-A? Hard to say, but it’s anything but a clear cut issue.

Update (11/18/19): That’s more like it. Chick-fil-A will no longer donate to organizations perceived as anti-LGBT. Read more.

Zydeco Po-Boys, Siegel’s 1941 and Therapy: Downtown’s Restaurant Explosion Continues

The restaurant scene in downtown Las Vegas is booming, and the latest wave of openings includes three tempting new eateries (and drinkeries): Zydeco Po-Boys, Siegel’s 1941 and Therapy.

Let’s lick the thighs of these brand new downtown restaurants! Or possibly a more appropriate way of saying that.

First up, it’s Cajun fare at Zydeco Po-Boys. Zydeco Po-Boys is part of a new restaurant district of sorts, near the new Glutton and VegeNation restaurants, a block off Fremont Street East.

Zydeco Po-Boys

Zydeco is a musical genre popular in southwest Loinsiana, and has also been spelled “zarico” and “zodico,” because it’s hard to spell when you’re hopped up on gumbo.

During our first visit to Zydeco Po-Boys, we bumped into chef Brandon Trahan, who seems very much the real deal, at least accentwise.

When asked what brought him to Las Vegas, he says, “Hurricane Rita.” Trahan ran a laundry until the hurricane hit, then attended culinary school and forged a partnership with the Downtown Project to make his dream of operating a restaurant a reality. Read the whole deal.

Zydeco Po-Boys

Much of the decor is repurposed. Repurposing is very popular with the kids.

Trahan designed the restaurant space and created the menu of Southern Louisiana favorites as well.

The menu is whimsical and features sausage, turkey, shrimp, catfish and ham po-boys (basically sub sandwiches). Oh, and “debris,” the bits that fall of the roast beef and brisket. We’re so trying that.

Zydeco Po-Boys

Whimsical and easily changed if the chef so desires.

Trahan says he’ll also serve alligator from time-to-time, but we won’t hold that against him. Because he personally made the restaurant’s tables. Out of doors.

Zydeco Po-Boys

You try making a table out of a door. Go on, we’ll wait.

Zydeco Po-Boys will be open 11:00 a.m. to 9:00 p.m. each day. Find them on Facebook.

Next up!

In the time-honored Las Vegas tradition of glorifying criminals, Siegel’s 1941 restaurant has opened at the El Cortez casino in the former, much-missed Flame restaurant space.

Learn more.

Siegel's 1941

Siegel’s 1941 was named after Bugsy Siegel. Thankfully, it’s not called Bugsy’s. He hated that nickname, preferring Ben or Mr. Siegel.

When we visited Siegel’s 1941, we were informed no photos are allowed. We absolutely love when that happens.

Siegel's 1941

Siegel’s 1941 seats 180 people and is just off the casino floor. Yet it doesn’t much smell like a casino. Go figure.

What’s the 1941 in Siegel’s 1941? Well, that’s the year Siegel was tried for the murder of Harry “Big Greenie” Greenberg. After the death of two state witnesses, no additional witnesses came forward. Acquitted.

Siegel's 1941

Dibs on the eerie Bugsy head at the hostess desk.

El Cortez describes Siegel’s 1941 as “upscale casual,” because you can never have too many oxymorons!

The menu at Siegel’s 1941 runs the gamut of steaks, seafood, sandwiches and a wide variety of American comfort foods. Here’s the full menu for Siegel’s 1941 at El Cortez (.pdf format).

El Cortez cafe

El Cortez appeals to a value-seeking clientele. Prices are often half of what you’d pay on The Strip for comparable eats. During our visit for restaurant photos, we hit a $500 slot jackpot, so we’re fond of the looseness of the casino’s slot machines, too.

Siegel’s 1941 is open 24-7, replacing the casino’s now-closed Cafe Cortez to make room for a new nightlife offering, which will presumably be called the Siegel Social Club.

Our third and final bit of downtown newness hasn’t quite opened yet, but it’s set to go on June 19, 2015.

It’s Therapy restaurant and bar on Fremont East, about half-a-block east of Fremont Street Experience.

Therapy restaurant and bar

Therapy restaurant and bar sits in a space formerly occupied by a Dollar (yawn) Store. So, we approve. Especially given the “bar” part.

Therapy’s 4,000-square-foot space features the aforementioned bar and a mezzanine level overlooking the restaurant. Therapy can accommodate 130 people, all of whom lie on couches. Unless we completely made that up. Because Therapy.

At one time, Therapy was going to be called Fremont Social, but the name was changed because more letters in the name would’ve resulted in the restaurant’s neon sign costing nearly twice as much. We have no “facts” to back up that theory, but Occam’s razor has totally got our back on this one.

Therapy Las Vegas

Therapy is next to Insert Coins and Vanguard Lounge. There’s a joke in there somewhere. We’ll get back to you on that.

The restaurant will have live entertainment and feature “urban American cuisine, served tapas-style.” Oh, and something about “progressive, yet approachable.” And it’s a “gastro-lounge.” Don’t ask us what all that means. We just copy and paste things! Read more.

Because Therapy isn’t open yet, we weren’t able to take a photo of the restaurant’s interior. Unless you know this blog at all! Hello!

Therapy Las Vegas

A few weeks ago, this was an empty shell. We like this a lot better.

We security breach because we care.

The building in which Therapy resides was built in the 1940s, so some design elements (like the exposed brick walls and wood ceiling) take advantage of the building’s existing features.

Therapy restaurant will be open 5:00 p.m. to midnight for its opening weekend, then 11:00 a.m. to midnight thereafter. Find out more on the Therapy Facebook page.

This blog is gushing euphoria about all the new restaurants in downtown Las Vegas! (It goes without saying Gushing Euphoria would make a pretty good band name.) If you try these new offerings, let us know what you think. Presumably over dinner at one of these new offerings. Your treat. We’re a blog, not an Adelson.

The Latest Las Vegas Sports Arena Project That’s Definitely Going to Happen

In the spirit of setting aside our skepticism and staying ever-upbeat, we’d thrilled to report on yet another massive Las Vegas development project that’s definitely happening!

The project is a new sports arena and complex, featuring a 70,000-seat soccer stadium, convention area, racetrack and a hotel. Take a look at what’s been called the “Fusion Project.”

Las Vegas sports project

Las Vegas is the largest exporter of development project renderings in the world.

With their discerning eye for projects that are definitely happening, local Vegas media is reporting this sports complex will require 200 acres of space. Because if there’s anything in plentiful supply in Las Vegas, it’s lots of inexpensive, 200-acre sites upon which to build sports stadiums.

Here’s another look at this game-changing project.

Sports arena

We’re no architect, but it looks like the roof of the arena can easily be collapsed for storage like a folding windshield sunshades. Even we know innovative design when we see it!

Simply breathtaking!

The sports venue project has been in the works two years, although “no land has been locked down yet,” nor is there any evidence financing of any kind is even remotely in place. (It’s expected to cost about a billion dollars, which is not just some made-up number!) In the realm of Las Vegas development projects, though, these are minor details!

What’s important is the project is backed by an athlete. In Las Vegas, athlete-backed development projects always, always go off without a hitch.

In this case, the athlete is soccer coach and former player Daniele Fortunato. He currently manages S.C. Beira-Mar in Segunda Liga, wherever the hell that might actually be.

We don’t have  rendering of Daniele Fortunato, sadly, so let’s look at another rendering of this as-yet-unnamed project that is definitely happening, and probably very soon!

Las Vegas sports venue

Consider this project rendered.

About the project, Fortunato said, “I believe in this project 100% and people that are working this project believe 100% so the reason why we not fail, I don’t know now.”

It’s just that kind of articulate, visionary leadership projects like this need to ensure their success!

No official paperwork of any kind related to the project has been filed with anyone, but that doesn’t make the project any less likely to definitely be happening in what we suspect will be the very near future. Read more.

What do you say, one more rendering?

Las Vegas sports venue

Any 200 acres will do!

Here’s more information, including a local news report that’s clearly been rigorously researched and is anything but pointless, fanciful gibberish.

We can’t wait to hear more (or any) details about this exciting new sports arena project, backed by soccer star Daniele Fortunato, definitely happening in Las Vegas. Any day now.

Rock in Rio USA Shocker: Festival Lost $28 Million in Its First Las Vegas Outing

We knew it was bad, but even we had no idea Rock in Rio USA would end up taking a financial hit like this.

Number continue to come in, but reports are Rock in Rio USA’s loss for its first foray into Las Vegas (and the U.S. market) was a jaw-dropper: $28 million in the hole and counting.

That’s a sizable loss, especially for a festival hyped as the potential financial savior of the north end of the Las Vegas Strip.

MGM Resorts, too, had a lot on the line with Rock in Rio USA, ponying up half the cost of infrastructure at the music festival’s City of Rock site, to the tune of $20 million. (Rock in Rio USA contributed an additional $20 million.) Note: We previously reported the investment in the site was $75 million, as cited in other reports, but an MGM Resort rep reached out to clear up that error. The company does not acknowledge additional “losses” beyond its $20 investment in the site.

Rock in Rio

Much of Rock in Rio USA’s “City of Rock” was shipped in from Brazil. That just sounds expensive.

Dramatically downsized ticket sales estimates were among the first signals Rock in Rio USA wasn’t going to deliver the goods either for the festival or MGM Resorts.

Originally, organizers projected a rosy 80,000 festival-goers a day over the four-day festival (May 8-9 and 15-16, 2015), or a potential 320,000 attendees. Ultimately, organizers claim 130,000 tickets were sold, or about 60% fewer than estimated. Some question whether even that number is inflated.

Even a $50 million domestic and international marketing blitz couldn’t bridge a revenue gap created by a disappointing band line-up and a brand that, while popular in Brazil and Portugal, had no name recognition in America.

Reviews of the Rock in Rio USA music festival were generally positive, but the result of the substantial financial hits taken by MGM Grand and Rock in Rio USA is likely to be that the festival won’t return to Las Vegas for another installment, despite claims it would be back in 2017 with an expanded, six-day schedule.

Both MGM Resorts and Rock in Rio are adamant the festival will return, however.

Word has it unfulfilled expectations and unexpected cultural differences, exacerbated by the language barrier, have burned bridges unlikely to be rebuilt.

Rock in Rio USA

Don’t assume something’s not true just because it’s Photoshopped.

No official statements about the financial losses, or the state of the relationship between Rock in Rio and MGM Resorts, have been issued publicly to-date. MGM Resorts is a public company, so their financials are available for review (the next report happens in August, 2015).

There has been a lot of make-nice spin, with generous amounts of behind-the-scenes in-fighting and drama worthy of a telenovela.

MGM Resorts hopes to recoup its investment in the 40-acre site at the corner of Sahara Ave. and Las Vegas Blvd. with other events, but that’s far from certain given the lackluster return on the company’s investment with Rock in Rio USA.

It’s much more fun to report on Las Vegas successes, but from everything we’ve heard, Rock in Rio USA fell short in a big, expensive way–a reminder there are no sure things in Las Vegas, musical or otherwise.

Lance Burton’s “Billy Topit Master Magician” Movie Trailer is Unfortunate

Magician Lance Burton is pretty much royalty in Las Vegas, but his latest effort could have audiences shouting, “Off with his head!”

The retired magician has made a film, “Billy Topit Master Magician,” and judging by the trailer, well, take a look for yourself.

Here’s the films logline, “A Las Vegas magician who performs at children’s birthday parties convinces the woman of his dreams to be his assistant, while the local mob guys try to make him disappear permanently.”

The film has the zero-budget look of a production done by a bunch of high school friends (indeed, many in “Topit” are longtime friends and colleagues of Lance Burton), and the script (assuming there was one) was apparently slapped together with the goal of including as many awkwardly high collars, cartoonish stereotypes and clichéd illusions as possible.

Billy Topit

Lance Burton did about 5,000 shows at Monte Carlo, any one of which would’ve made a better movie than “Billy Topit.”

Lance Burton is credited as the film’s producer and director, but it’s clear he’s not up to the task of helming a feature film (even one intended for kids), and clearly lacks even a rudimentary understanding of blocking, dialogue or acting.

During his three decades as a Las Vegas magician, Lance Burton entertained millions of people. Movies have a language all their own, though, and Burton’s talents simply don’t translate.