Monthly Archives: November 2016

Curtain to Fall On Tropicana’s “Band of Magicians”

We knew “Band of Magicians” wouldn’t last long at Tropicana, but we didn’t think it would only last three weeks.

The doomed show, billed as featuring the “world’s first magic supergroup,” is about to do a vanishing act after becoming yet another victim of the Tropicana Curse.

Band of Magicians

In this illusion, the performers predicted what audience members would say. We predicted “Band of Magicians” would close by the end of 2016. Voila?

According to Johnny Kats at the Las Vegas Review-Journal, the four members of the “Band of Magicians” cast have already been notified the show will be going dark.

We anticipate an official announcement will be forthcoming soon, including something about the show seeking another venue in Las Vegas. Because for failed Las Vegas shows, that’s the law.

While “Band of Magicians” was almost entirely forgettable, it did have strengths. The performers are technically talented magicians, and extremely likable and funny.

Band of Magicians

If “Band of Magicians” was on your bucket list, we have some bad news.

The show, though, largely featured close-up magic projected on screens. “Band of Magicians” lacked the spectacle Las Vegas visitors have come to expect from performers like David Copperfield and Criss Angel.

Penn & Teller at Rio and Mac King at Harrah’s have made the most of patter and charm, but they’ve been at this awhile, and it’s not easy.

Band of Magicians

If we wanted to watch magic on a screen, we’d buy video of a Doug Henning special on Ebay. Oh, just move on, millennials.

The economics of producing a Las Vegas show were also in effect at Tropicana. Despite “Band of Magicians” being produced on a shoestring budget, union and other costs meant the show had to sell a substantial number of tickets to survive.

We wish all the “Band of Magicians” performers well in their future endeavors, of course. No one wants to be added to our list of Las Vegas shows that have closed in 2016. “Band of Magicians” brings our running total to a jaw-dropping 25.

Band of Magicians

Given they’re young, attractive and talented, we suspect they’ll land on their feet. Bastards.

We’re thinking 25 closed Las Vegas shows in a year is plenty. We need a moment to catch our breath.

In Vegas, though, only the strong survive. “The Purge” means stronger shows, with solid marketing, have a better shot at the limited pool of show-goers. It’s painful to see the herd thinned, but the survivors have a better chance of success.

What’s worked in the past in Vegas—played-out magic, cheesy lounge acts and topless revues—seem to be fading away. Big name residencies are killing it. We can’t wait to see what’s next.

A Quick Check-In at Lucky Dragon Las Vegas

Against all odds, Lucky Dragon is nearing completion and is set to open on December 3, 2016.

We thought it might be a good time to pop by and see what’s up at this new Asian-themed casino at the north end of The Strip.

Lucky Dragon

Lucky Dragon is the first ground-up Las Vegas casino project in six years. The Cosmo opened in December of 2010.

It appears the construction elves have been very busy, as Lucky Dragon now has lots of exterior signage and lights.

Lucky Dragon

It’s a little like when your dad gets drunk before putting up the Christmas lights.

Can’t say we’re a fan of the blinking exterior lights, as it seems Lucky Dragon decided to skimp on that feature. You decide.

Despite the questionable decision about those exterior lights, we love the fountain with the spinning ball thingy.

Lucky Dragon

Perfect pínghéng. Of course we know Mandarin. That’s not the kind of thing where you can just look up a word on the Internet, you know.

Inside, one can see the casino taking shape.

Lucky Dragon

The newest source of our taxable, hand-pay jackpots.

It’s been reported Lucky Dragon recently installed a massive, 1.25-ton dragon chandelier, and it’s so gorgeous, it more than makes up for the faulty fuse outside. Who goes outside, anyway? There’s gambling inside!

Thanks to Lucky Dragon for the chandelier photo.

Lucky Dragon

The chandelier has 280 hand-blown glass orbs, which might explain why the orbs look so relaxed.

There are Asian appointments, and we got a peek at a distinctive piece of decorative art fashioned from bicycles.

Lucky Dragon

About 430 million people own bicycles in China. Yes, we counted.

We get downright giddy when a new Las Vegas casino opens, so we’re anxious to get inside Lucky Dragon and see what surprises are in store. The gambling. The authentic Chinese food. The Captain Morgan, poured from the bottle. Hey, some things transcend language and culture.

There’s still a lot of work to be done, but Lucky Dragon seems to be on schedule for its December 2016 opening. During our visit, furniture was being delivered, and this DIY sign was being used to identify the casino’s address.

Lucky Dragon

Lucky Dragon is located near the Bonanza gift shop and SLS Las Vegas, at 300 W. Sahara Ave. Adorable.

Kudos to Lucky Dragon for staying the course and giving us something new and exciting to finish off 2016. As the Chinese say, “All things are difficult before they are easy.” We’d say that in Mandarin, but we don’t want to show off.

Lucky Dragon Progress

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Coed Adult Show “53X” to Close at Paris Las Vegas

It’s a tough time to be a Las Vegas show. The coed adult show, “53X,” will close at Paris Las Vegas on Nov. 20, 2016.

“53X” joins a brutally long list of Las Vegas shows that have closed in 2016.

The good news is the closing of “53X” provides an excellent excuse to look at a photo of super hot people, several of whom could probably benefit from the eating of a sandwich.

53X at Paris closed

Even dramatic cost-cutting measures like not providing male performers with shirts couldn’t save “53X.”

It’s important to try and ferret out a reason “53x” closed, of course. (Props to Johnny Kats at the Las Vegas Review-Journal for the scoop.)

Could it be the kind of show? A topless revue, “Cherry Boom Boom” recently closed at Tropicana.

Was it the fact “53X” tried to appeal to both men and women? A coed strip club, Olympic Garden, and its show “Men of Olympic Garden,” recently closed downtown.

Perhaps it was the location of the show? “Jersey Boys” recently closed at Paris Las Vegas as well.

Could it be people aren’t thrilled about a show with numbers in the title? “One Epic Night” was dead on arrival at Plaza.

Could it be the name of the show itself? “53X” was inspired by how the word “SEX” appeared on early pager displays. “Spoofical” had a weird name, and that one closed at Planet Hollywood.

Oh, what are we doing? Those fanciful reasons aren’t it. There’s something all closed Las Vegas shows have in common: They don’t sell enough tickets. We probably should’ve just skipped to that part.

The world of Las Vegas shows has experienced a purge in 2016, so perhaps the bleeding will stop in 2017. Maybe Las Vegas shows will find some equilibrium, some balance and stability.

Which would be incredibly boring, but it could happen.

Vital Vegas Podcast, Ep. 32: Foodie Tour, Beauty & Essex and News So Thick It’ll Tear Your Eustachian Tube

When they invented podcasting, they could never have envisioned this. Or else they’d have thought twice about inventing podcasting. In case that wasn’t clear.

It’s the Vital Vegas Podcast, of course, and in this episode, we croon and ramble and dole out scoop like nobody’s business.

We talk Evel Pie, Beauty & Essex and “Band of Magicians” (a forgettable show at Tropicana) for starters, and share the reason some high rollers ask for two comped rooms in the same hotel, but on different floors. There will be blushing.

Beauty & Essex

Beauty & Essex at Cosmopolitan is cleverly disguised as a pawn shop. Just about everything is for sale, too.

We chat with Donald Contursi, President of Lip Smacking Foodie Tours, a great way to explore some of the best restaurants downtown and on The Strip. Lip Smacking Foodie Tours recently snagged “Best Las Vegas Tour” in the Las Vegas Review-Journal’s “Best of Las Vegas” honors.

Lip Smacking Foodie Tour

Yes, it’s a “foodie” tour, but one does not live by food alone. This panty-dropper cocktail from Therapy concurs.

Naturally, we round up all the latest Las Vegas news. It’s the law.

In “This Week in Las Vegas History,” we remember the Kefauver hearings, which started Nov. 15, 1950. We also, finally, figure out how to pronounce “Kefauver.”

Our “Listicle of the Week” is “10 Things That Feel Different in Las Vegas.”

Lastly, we break down how to play one of our favorite slot machines, Top Dollar.

So, take a listen to the magnificent mess that is the Vital Vegas Podcast, named one of the top podcasts of 2016 by A Gentlemans Word.

25 Utterly Offbeat Las Vegas Photo Ops

Just about everyone’s taken photos of the “Welcome to Fabulous Las Vegas” sign and the Bellagio fountains, but we like our photo ops a little more twisted.

We’ve pulled together 25 obscure, quirky and downright bizarre photo ops in Las Vegas, so wipe the schmutz off your lens as we expose the offbeat side of Sin City.

1. Downtown Meerkats

Downtown’s Life is Beautiful music festival has brought a lot of eye-catching artwork to Las Vegas, and this meerkat sculpture is one of our favorites.

Meerkats Las Vegas

This art installation was created from trash and found materials by Portugese artist Bordalo II.

2. Bliss Dance

Oh, we’re not done at The Park yet, bub. Yes, we said bub. Somebody had to. We broke the story Bliss Dance was coming to Las Vegas, so she holds a special place in our heart. She’s also naked, so there’s that. Bliss Dance, a 40-foot public art piece by Marco Cochrane that originally appeared at Burning Man, is based upon an actual woman who would never date us in a bajillion years.

Bliss Dance

Similar to many professional dancers in Las Vegas, Bliss Dance took about 10,000 hours to construct.

 3. Typewriter Eraser at Aria

It’s an eye-catching piece of art, and its name is Typewriter Eraser, Scale X. Aria and City Center are bursting with art, and Aria even offers a brochure to help find it all.

City Center typewriter eraser

We like it for its dizzying scale and its ability to confound millennials. Because typewriters. And erasers. And brochures.

4. Berlin Wall at Main Street Station

There’s no way this chunk of the Berlin Wall isn’t making our list of offbeat Las Vegas photo ops. Not so much because it’s the Berlin Wall, but because it’s in the men’s restroom. Women can get their pic, too, just ask security to escort you in.

Berlin Wall Main Street Station

When erected, the Berlin Wall was 27.5 miles long. We can all see where this photo caption is going.

5. St. Valentine’s Day Massacre Wall at The Mob Museum

Speaking of unique walls, how about this macabre offering at downtown’s must-visit Mob Museum? It’s a strange and fascinating artifact from the 1929 whackings of seven mobsters, presumably by members of Al Capone’s posse. Why anyone would associate the mob with Las Vegas is anybody’s guess.

Mob Museum St. Valentine's Day massacre

The Mob Museum Web site has a fun nickname generator. Try it later, you’re in the middle of a listicle.

6. John Gotti’s Sportscar

While we’re downtown, we should probably hit the Plaza. And speaking of “hits,” be sure to snap a photo of the Teflon Don’s car in the Plaza’s casino. No, really, in the middle of the casino. The car is on loan from the aforementioned Mob Museum.

John Gotti

The 1972 Jaguar XKE convertible was supposed to be on display until mid-2015. Think they’re giving it back? Fahgettaboudit.

7. The Pink Motel

Fun City is a motel in a fairly crappy part of Las Vegas, but it’s worth the risk to life and limb, mainly because the motel’s pink. Fun fact about Fun City: In “Vegas Vacation,” the Griswalds got remarried at the adjoining Chapel of the Bells.

Pink Motel Las Vegas

Many Las Vegas strippers fly in for weekends and stay at Fun City. Which might explain why the Stratosphere looks like that. Just saying.

8. Diamond Inn Motel’s Pink Elephant

You can never have too many seedy motels or too many pink things. This roadside curiosity recently got some repairs, so it’s ready for its close-up. The pink elephant can be found along Las Vegas Boulevard, near Mandalay Bay and the welcome to Las Vegas sign.

Pink elephant Las Vegas

The pink elephant was imported from Disneyland in the 1950s. It used to trumpet loudly, but the County forced the owners to remove the sound device. Thank you, County.

9. Elephants at Rainforest Cafe

If you’re a fan of pachyderms, you’ll be thrilled to know there are more elephant photo ops in Las Vegas, and these babies still have their trumpeters intact. These large elephants can be found at the new location of Rainforest Cafe, Harmon Corner, at the juncture of Las Vegas Boulevard and Harmon Avenue. They’re a little cheesy, but the lifelike movements will win you over.

Rainforest Cafe elephants

Embrace the cheese. Although we were expelled from school for that one time.

10. Crazy Girls Bronze Statue at Planet Hollywood

Just around the corner from Harmon Corner is Planet Hollywood, and Planet Hollywood is the new home of an iconic, and decidedly offbeat, photo op. It’s a bronze statue for “Crazy Girls,” a topless revue that was once at the demolished Riviera. The statue can be found at the base of the escalator leading up to the hotel’s Sin City Theatre.

Crazy Girls statue

It’s considered good luck to rub the statue, hence the strategic buffing, if you get our drift.

11. Chocolate Statue of Liberty at New York-New York

Everything’s better with chocolate, so it follows the Statue of Liberty is better made of chocolate. Hershey’s Chocolate World at New York-New York boasts a Lady Liberty replica made of 800 pounds of chocolate. Yes, in a city where the temperature often exceeds 120. Here’s a video about the making of this curious Vegas photo op. The statue took 1,000 hours to make, or roughly the amount of time your flight takes when you’re headed to Las Vegas.

Chocolate Statue of Liberty

We’re thinking this has the makings of the world’s largest, and most patriotic, s’more.

12. Dogs at Cosmopolitan

We don’t know much about these dogs, other than that they’re very cooperative when it’s time to take a photo. The collection of pups (there are five) can be found on the level above the Cosmopolitan’s casino.

Cosmopolitan dogs

The position of the dogs changes from time to time, so drop by and check out the latest doggy positions. We probably should’ve checked your I.D. before letting you read these photo captions.

13. Headless Lenin at Mandalay Bay

Just outside the Red Square bar at Mandalay Bay you’ll find a headless statue of Lenin, sometimes referred to by his DJ name, Vladimir Ilyich Ulyanov. When the statue first went up, it had a head, but customers complained, mainly retired servicemen. So, the head was lopped off in 1999.

Lenin Red Square

Lenin is considered one of the most influential foreign leaders of the 20th century, so 96% of Americans have no clue who he is. All due respect.

14. Big Rig Jig

Let’s head (please refer to #13) back downtown to get a look at Big Rig Jig, a hidden gem and spectacularly weird Las Vegas photo op. Big Rig Jig is a 50-foot, 25-ton sculpture, assuming you use the term “sculpture” very loosely.

Big Rig Jig

Big Rig Jig sits in the courtyard of the closed Fergusons Motel. Think “Human Centipede,” but with trucks.

15. Manneken-Pis at The D Las Vegas

No, really, that’s what it’s called. This defiant statue is an over-sized replica of the famous statue in Brussels. Which is another country altogether, we’re pretty sure. Manneken-Pis means “little man pee” in Dutch. This isn’t rocket science, you know. This blog personally tossed the very first coin into the Manneken-Pis fountain and promptly won $1,000 on a Top Dollar slot machine in The D. Which makes this not only an offbeat photo op, but also a financial planning strategy. Or something.

Manneken-Pis The D

The original Manneken-Pis was designed by Hiëronymus Duquesnoy the Elder, a name which got the dude epic amounts of tail, trust us.

16. Mantis at Downtown Container Park

This 150:1 scale model of a praying mantis lights up the sky with fire each night at the Downtown Container Park, a shopping district fashioned from recycled shipping containers. The flame-throwing mantis took 3,000 hours to build and burns through about 50 gallons of propane each day. Flames from the beast reach six stories high.

Container Park mantis

Be sure to bring some extra bejesus with you, as the mantis is sure to scare what’s in you out of you.

We weren’t kidding about the “six stories high” thing, by the way.

17. Painting at Park on Fremont

Park on Fremont is a bar and restaurant on (wait for it) Fremont Street. East, to be specific. Fremont East is flush with idiosyncratic bars, and Park on Fremont is no exception. On the restaurant’s patio, you’ll find an awkward painting most customers don’t even notice. We did, and now you will, too. Snap away!

Park on Fremont

Ask your server if you’d like to sit in the non-blushing section.

18. Giant Fire Hydrant

This larger-than-life fireplug, found in downtown Las Vegas, is said to be the world’s largest working fire hydrant. We’d love to say we verified that claim, but that would involve setting our drink down for a minute, so no thanks. The hydrant is located near the Western Hotel, which was euthanized in 2012.

World's largest fire hydrant

On hot days, officials uncap the hydrant so children can cool off. They can be reclaimed in Arizona.

19. Truck Cab at Pizza Rock

All right, just one more Las Vegas photo op downtown before we head back to The Strip. Guests of our favorite Vegas restaurant, Pizza Rock, are sometimes surprised to see a Peterbilt truck cab. Their surprise turns to WTF when they realize the truck doubles as the restaurant’s DJ booth.

Pizza Rock truck cab

This is the only acceptable kind of “long-hauling” in Las Vegas, thank you very much.

20. Blue Man Group at Luxor

Back to The Strip we skip! In November 2015, Blue Man Group moved back to Luxor after a number of years at Monte Carlo. After settling in, they set up a photo op to help market the show. Inside the display, you’ll find life-like blue persons and random props to up the weird quotient. Guests can stick their head through a hole in the wall of the display (swapping faces with legendary TV painting instructor Bob Ross), making the display both interactive and sort of disturbing, in a good way.

The display is named the Blue Man Wax Shack, a cross-promotion with Madame Tussauds, which created the blue men.

The display is named the Blue Man Wax Shack, a cross-promotion with Madame Tussauds, which created the blue men.

21. “Ka” Dragon at MGM Grand

At the entrance to the “Ka” Theater at MGM Grand, there’s a massive, colorful dragon, the perfect addition to your Las Vegas photo collection. “Ka” is one of the Cirque shows in Las Vegas that offers a free open house to guests. There are very few words we love as much as “free.” They include “Captain,” “craps” and “formicophilia.” Don’t ask.

Las Vegas photo op

Dragons are mythological, much like the Alon resort.

22. Mastro’s Ocean Club at Crystals Mall

You either get why this is an offbeat photo op or you don’t. And if you don’t, we admire the rose-colored glasses through which you view the world.

Mastro's Ocean Club

We’ve tried getting a reservation at Mastro’s, but it’s hard.

23. Penn & Teller at Rio

That’s right, one of the quirkiest Las Vegas photo ops isn’t a thing, it’s a who. Troublesome magicians Penn & Teller hang out with audience members after their show, signing autographs and taking photos. Unlike some Vegas celebs, they don’t charge for the meet-and-greet, they do it as a way to show appreciation to their fans.

Penn & Teller

It’s not a Madame Tussauds thing, promise. It’s the actual Penn & Teller.

24. Scorpions at Nacho Daddy

If you thought the scorpion shots at Nacho Daddy were creepy, wait until you see their new display case. Nacho Daddy opened a location on The Strip in August 2016 (at Miracle Mile Shops) and installed a custom display featuring gargantuan Emperor scorpions. The case was built by the team from the reality show “Tanked,” and Nacho Daddy was featured on the show.

Nacho Daddy scorpions

The Emperor scorpions at Nacho Daddy share their case with lots of very, very nervous crickets.

25. Seven Magic Mountains

They’re big, they’re bold and they’re out in the middle of nowhere. Seven Magic Mountains is about 10 minutes south of the Las Vegas Strip, and you sort of can’t miss them. Seven Magic Mountains is seven pillars, all between 30 and 35 feet tall. Each rock weighs between 20 and 25 tons. The public art piece took five years to complete, at a cost of $3.5 million. You want offbeat? You’ve got it!

Seven Magic Mountains

About a third of Vegas visitors come from California, so this photo op has quickly become a Sin City fanatic favorite.

Here’s a look from a slightly different perspective.

Well, that should keep you busy during your next visit to Las Vegas.

Have a favorite offbeat Las Vegas photo op? We might just include your suggestion in our follow-up story which we’re sure you’ll be clamoring for any time now. We’ll wait.

Evel Pie Opens on Fremont Street With Pizza, Hooch and Rattlesnake Sausage

There’s a new pizza joint in downtown’s Fremont East District, Evel Pie.

The daredevil-inspired restaurant and bar opened Nov. 9, 2016, offering cheap pizza and booze, a retro vibe and a metric ass-ton of awesome Evel Knievel memorabilia.

Evel Pie

Live hard, yes. Eat pizza, yes. Let’s chill on the “ride fast” thing, though. Las Vegas drivers.

Evel Pie sits in the space formerly occupied by F. Pigalle, a fondue restaurant. Before that, it was the site of another pizza restaurant, Radio City Pizzeria.

Where Radio City failed, we expect Evel Pie will succeed. A key difference: Much better pizza. And at $4 for a slice of cheese, Evel Pizza is a perfect fit for Fremont Street.

Evel Pie

If you’re unfamiliar with the term “drunchies,” now’s a good time to learn.

Rattlesnake sausage is a topping option (five bucks more per slice), so that’s sure to be a thing. Other specialty toppings include Daiya vegan cheese and “Man Candy,” whatever that might actually be.

Specialty pizzas include selections with colorful names like Cheesy Rider ($22), Goblin ($28) and Balls to the Wall (priceless).

The menu also features salads ($7), if you must, and Evel’s Hot Pocket Rocket Calzones ($11).

Evel Pie

This Evel Pie menu is worth its weight in Man Candy. It’s candied bacon, by the way. It’s just funnier to pretend to not know things.

Domestic beer is $4 (pitchers are $14) and draft root beer is $4 (pitchers are $10). And, yes, there’s Captain Morgan. Don’t you ever think about anything else?

Evel Pizza comes to Fremont via the folks behind another beloved, kitschy bar in Las Vegas, Golden Tiki. Evel Pizza has something else going for it, the blessing of Evel Knievel’s son, Kelly Knievel.

Kelly Knievel’s involvement is apparent, as the decor at Evel Pie is like a shrine to the 1970s icon.

Evel Pie

While many new Las Vegas restaurants have been going the way of painfully hard chairs and benches, Evel Pie makes guests welcome with comfy booth seating.

A truly epic element of the Evel Pizza experience is the presence of two classic arcade games, Stunt Cycle and an Evel Knievel pinball machine.

Evel Pie

Stunt Cycle was released in 1976, just four years after Pong. Millennial translation: This is how people occupied themselves before Tinder.

The owners of Evel Pie seem proud of the fact there’s no specialty cocktail menu, although they’ve left the door open to developing one in the future.

They’ve managed to capture the feel of a 1970s pizza shop, and the unpretentious atmosphere is likely to go over well with fans of downtown Las Vegas.

Evel Pie

Love this mural of Snake River Canyon. Evel Knievel tried to jump it in 1974, but his parachute deployed prematurely, a feeling this blog is far too familiar with, sadly.

Evel Pie is expected to use its window for late night to-go service, a practice started by Radio City Pizzeria, but which never quite caught on.

Evel Pie

Garage door-style windows give customers a glimpse of some of the neon gloriousness of Fremont East.

When you hit Evel Pie for a slice, make sure to check out all the Evel Knievel tschotskes. Evel Pie is part museum, part monument, part time machine.

Evel Pie

We’re fairly sure Evel Knievel’s family is still paying off his medical bills.

Update (11/15/16): Evel Pie now offers a happy hour.

Evel Pie happy hour

What’s not to love about hooch on the cheap?

We’re adding Evel Pie to our ever-growing list of must-visit restaurants, so let us know what you think. Especially if you agree with our opinion. Otherwise, shut your pie hole.

Evel Pie

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