Monthly Archives: April 2018

Barry Manilow Finally Confirms Westgate Residency

Confirming a story we first got wind of back in Nov. 2017, Barry Manilow will undertake a new Las Vegas residency at Westgate Las Vegas.

The renowned singer-songwriter launches his follow-up to a two-year stint at Paris Las Vegas on May 24, 2018.

His new production, “Manilow Las Vegas: The Hits Come Home,” will be 85 minutes long.

The “home” in the show’s title is presumably a reference to the fact Manilow had a previous five-year run at Westgate (then the Las Vegas Hilton) that started in Feb. 24, 2005 and ran through 2010.

Barry Manilow at Westgate

Fun fact: Barry Manilow didn’t write one of his biggest hits, “I Write the Songs.” It was written by Bruce Johnston.

Manilow’s new show will feature some 40 of his top 40 hits, as well as a crowd-pleasing medley of catchy jingles he wrote for commercials back in the day.

Manilow wrote “You Deserve a Break Today” for McDonald’s, “Stuck on Band-Aid” for Band-Aid and “Like a Good Neighbor” for State Farm, among many others.

At 74, Barry Manilow has expressed a desire to have an easier schedule, as well as wanting to be able to keep his back gainfully employed, so his schedule will be relatively light at Westgate.

Scheduled dates are May 24-26, June 14-16, June 21-23, July 19-21, July 26-28, Sep. 27-29 and Oct. 4-6.

Tickets prices will range from $19.75 to $329.75.

Barry Manilow

Also fun: When Barry Manilow lived in Bel-Air, he frequently received room service from the Bel-Air Hotel at his home.

Manilow should be a much-needed boost to a spotty history of entertainment offerings at Westgate.

Additionally, his schedule is realistic and the theater is small enough (about 1,600 seats, despite the fact Manilow has said it’s 3,000 in media reports) that the producers shouldn’t have to paper the house to keep the theater full.

We saw Barry Manilow’s show at Paris, and his voice was still strong and charisma (and humor) were very much intact, so we look forward to seeing “Manilow Las Vegas: The Hits Come Home” at Westgate.

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“Brilliant” at Neon Museum is an Illuminating Vegas Must-See

The Neon Museum is a national treasure, and now it’s even better with the debut of “Brilliant.”

“Brilliant” brings 40 vintage signs back to life through the miracle of projection mapping.

As you view photos and video of the new Neon Museum show, remember, not a single one of the signs actually functions.

Neon Museum Brilliant

There are few pursuits more noble than making neon glow again.

“Brilliant” is the work of artist Craig Winslow, and his digital skills and creativity are very much on display at the Neon Museum.

The signs aren’t just re-animated, they’re elevated. It’s reality, or more accurately history, heightened and amplified.

And speaking of amplification, “Brilliant” features about 20 songs by performers like Frank Sinatra, Elvis and others.

Neon Museum Lady Luck

“Luck be a Lady” kicks off the show and immediately activates the tear ducts. Allegedly.

“Brilliant” lasts about 30 minutes, but you’ll wish it would never end.

While photos and video aren’t allowed during the show, the Neon Museum, very thoughtfully, lights up all the signs at the end of “Brilliant” so guests can capture images.

Neon Museum signs

These weren’t part of the show, we just like old Vegas signs.

Here’s a glimpse at “Brilliant,” courtesy of the Neon Museum. And, no, video doesn’t do it justice.

We didn’t use the word “miracle” lightly.

“Brilliant” is a marvel of technology. Craig Winslow used photos and video to create a digital model of each of the 40 signs in the Neon Museum’s north gallery, basically an overflow storage area now put to much better use.

Winslow then created a light show that uses the defunct Las Vegas signs as projection screens. If you look closely, you can see that many of the bulbs on the signs are broken or missing, but during the show, the signs are better than new.

Binion's Horseshoe sign

You will be tempted to lick this, but don’t. Seriously, what is wrong with you?

Beyond replicating the pattern of the bulbs, the show also features film footage projected on the signs.

The eight projectors used in “Brilliant,” which is shown in the round, are housed in two 20-foot towers.

Part of the fun of “Brilliant” is trying to identify the signs and the casinos and other businesses whence they came.

Yes, people still occasionally use the word “whence.”

Neon Museum Brilliant

Talk about an odd couple. The ball is from a Denny’s sign, the bottom is from Flamingo.

Beyond the Lady Luck sign, our favorites included letters and Googie stars from the Stardust and the Binion’s Horseshoe, from a time before it was just Binion’s. Also gorgeous was a Golden Nugget sign, as well as one with the word “Famous,” once used by the Pioneer Club.

Stardust sign

We’ll take a partial Stardust sign any day.

The signs in “Brilliant” are nothing if not eclectic. There’s also the cowboy from Terrible’s (now Silver Sevens), a Liberace sign, one from Denny’s, another from O’Sheas and even one from the Sweetheart Wedding Chapel.

Brilliant Neon Museum

In 2017, Las Vegas experienced a 26-year low in the number of people getting married here. You go, rationality.

There’s even a Kentucky Fried Chicken sign in the mix. Listen for a chicken during the show.

“Brilliant” shows four times nightly, with tickets at $23. The price is even more reasonable ($15) for Nevada residents, those 65 and older, students and active and retired members of the military. The show is free to children younger than six.

The Neon Museum also offers a combination price ($42, or $32 for all the groups mentioned above) for “Brilliant” and the Neon Boneyard, which we not only recommend but consider a non-negotiable part of any Las Vegas visit.

Terrible's cowboy

Nobody was really clamoring for the Terrible’s sign to make a comeback, but just go with it.

Both the Neon Museum Boneyard and “Brilliant” require a reservation, so try being proactive for once in your life and book a ticket ahead of time. Go here.

Neon Museum Brilliant

Yes, it’s technically “Brilliant!” with an exclamation point. Not in this blog, however, we have sensitive hearing.

One of our favorite parts of visiting the Neon Museum isn’t actually inside the museum, it’s the welcome center.

The Neon Museum’s welcome center isn’t just a replica of the former La Concha Motel lobby, it’s literally the La Concha Motel lobby, and it’s gorgeous AF.

La Concha Las Vegas

The La Concha was designed by Paul Revere Williams, one of the first prominent African-American architects in the country.

The Neon Museum is about three minutes from downtown’s Fremont Street, or about a $6 Uber ride. Do not try to walk there, by the way. Fair warning.

In case we haven’t made it abundantly clear, “Brilliant” more than lives up to its name.

In fact, it’s so mesmerizing, we sort of want the whole world to be projection mapped.

Catch “Brilliant” at the Neon Museum and we guarantee you’ll fall in love with Las Vegas all over again.

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Vital Vegas Podcast, Ep. 77: Neon Brilliance, Mob Museum Moonshine and More

It’s all the Las Vegas you can fit into your tympanic cavity!

In this week’s episode, we review the new show at Neon Museum, “Brilliant.”

“Brilliant” brings 40 defunct signs back to life through the miracle of projection mapping. Yes, it’s a miracle, and this 30-minute show will make you fall in love with Las Vegas all over again.

Neon Museum Brilliant show

Amazingly, not a single bulb on these signs actually works. “Brilliant” is right!

Next up, we dive headlong into a new offering at Mob Museum, The Underground.

The Underground is a Prohibition-inspired speakeasy and features a working distillery.

On the show, we chat up a master moonshiner about turning corn mash into hooch, then we make our way to a new exhibit at Mob Museum, the “Use of Force Training Experience.”

Mob Museum distillery

Yes, moonshine’s made from corn, which sounds healthy, but still.

The rest of the show is an inebriated blur of Las Vegas rumors, news, a list of our favorite neon signs and self-serving drivel. What’s not to love?

Take a listen and learn why our podcast was named the 11th best podcast in Las Vegas, and that was probably being generous.

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25 Things We Learned About You From the 2017 Las Vegas Visitor Profile Study

We find you absolutely fascinating.

The Las Vegas Visitor Profile Study is an opportunity for us to learn something about you through the art and science of surveys.

Each year, the Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority (LVCVA) interviews a group of randomly-selected visitors (3,600 this time) to get a peek at what you do in Vegas, how often and how much you spend doing it.

While some question the accuracy and value of the numbers, the Las Vegas Visitor Profile Study is wildly entertaining and a fun way for us to write a blog post by mostly copying and pasting.

Las Vegas Visitor Profile Study

This publication is as close as we’re ever going to get to liking numbers.

Let’s go! Here are 25 things we learned about you from the LVCVA’s 2017 Las Vegas Visitor Profile Study.

1. In 2017, 79% of visitors had visited Las Vegas before, up significantly from 73% last year.

2. Seventy-four percent (74%) of those surveyed said they visited Las Vegas only once in the past year. Slackers.

3. When asked if they had attended a convention, trade show, association or corporate meeting, 11% said they had. That’s a lot of lanyards.

4. Forty-six percent (46%) of Las Vegas visitors arrived by air, with 54% arriving by ground transportation.

5. According to the survey, 29% of visitors reported taking a taxi during their Vegas visit, up from 26% last year, while 19% said they used a ride-sharing service, up from 13% last year. The taxi statistic is one of those questionable numbers we were talking about, as taxi rides have been declining for three years now due to companies like Lyft and Uber.

Lyft Line Las Vegas

Rideshare has changed everything, despite what the survey says.

6. The proportion of visitors who reported using a travel agent to plan their trip to Las Vegas (10%) decreased compared to 2013–2016 usage. Yes, travel agents apparently still exist.

7. Fifty-seven percent (57%) of visitors said they had visited downtown Las Vegas on their trip, up significantly from 2013–2016.

Downtown Las Vegas

Kudos if you can look at this chart and not think about Otter Pops.

8. The average adult party size in 2017 was 2.3 persons, up from 2.2 in 2015. It’s best if you don’t ask what .3 of a person looks like.

9. Fewer 2017 visitors had children under the age of 21 in their immediate party than last year. This is the best news, ever.

10. In 2017, visitors stayed an average of 3.5 nights and 4.5 days in Las Vegas.

11. In 2017, visitors spent much more on food and drink than in each of the past five years. The average expenditure was $376.97. If Las Vegas visitors are anything like us, this was mostly drink.

Lago cocktail

This bad boy at Lago inside Bellagio is a must-taste.

12. Nearly three-quarters (74%) of 2017 visitors said they gambled while in Las Vegas, an increase from 69% last year.

13. The average trip gambling budget ($541.18) was down from last year’s, but has remained in the same range over the recent past. We blame it on those “When the Fun Stops” brochures.

When the Fun Stops

You Vegas your way, we’ll Vegas ours.

14. About nine in 10 (89%) visitors who gambled said they gambled on the Strip corridor, while four in 10 said they gambled downtown, a significant increase from past findings. Conclusion: We are spending way too much time downtown.

15. Among those who gambled while in Vegas, 77% gambled for two hours or less, up significantly from each of the past four years.

16. Visitors were asked what other nearby destinations they had visited or planned to visit. The most common responses were the Grand Canyon (65%), Hoover Dam (57%), Zion National Park (12%) and Lake Mead (11%). Yes, many of these destinations are “outdoors,” which is why you “will not find us there.”

Red Rock Canyon

About 8% of Vegas visitors say they’ve gone to Red Rock Canyon, and not just because we happened to have a photo of it handy.

17. The average trip expenditure on shopping was $143.13, up significantly from $122.66 in 2015. Interestingly, at the upscale Shops at Crystals shopping center, guests are charged $143.13 just for thinking about some of the merchandise.

18. Nearly six in 10 (59%) visitors in 2017 attended shows during their stay.

19. Thirteen percent of Vegas visitors who attended shows saw a comedy show and 6% saw a magic show.

Mac King show

Mac King does comedy and magic, so two birds.

20. Almost three-quarters of 2017 Las Vegas visitors were married. Some managed to have a good time, anyway.

21. Sixteen percent of visitors were from foreign countries.

22. A third (31%) of visitors identified themselves as non-white.

23. One in six (17%) visitors to Las Vegas in 2017 were retired.

La Bayou grandmother

Any excuse to share this photo of our Gram, currently getting a hand pay from St. Peter.

24. Almost half (45%) of visitors in 2017 were under the age of 40, hence the proliferation of virtual reality and cornhole in Las Vegas.

25. We saved the best for last: Nearly seven in 10 (69%) visitors used Web sites, social media or apps to plan their Las Vegas trip. Translation: This blog. Or at least another, better, Las Vegas blog. Or the Facebooks and Twitters. Some people even listen to podcasts, and you know who both of you are.

Thank you for making us part of your Las Vegas experience, and for sharing your inner essence with the Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority.

See the full 2017 Las Vegas Visitor Profile Study (.pdf).

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Vital Vegas Podcast Ep. 76: Ellis Island’s Birthday, Skill-Based Slot Machines and More

In this week’s installment of the Vital Vegas podcast, we share all the latest Las Vegas news and prove, once and for all, people have extraordinarily low standards for entertainment!

What we lack in podcasting talent, we make up for with great guests.

First, we chat up Christina Ellis, Director of Marketing at Ellis Island Casino. The diminutive casino celebrated its 50th birthday on April 13, 2018, and we dropped by for some scoop, including news about the new Front Yard.

Ellis Island Front Yard

Ellis Island will mark its 50th year with a new place to test your liver, the Front Yard.

We also interview Paul Steelman, a well-known casino architect whose company, Competition Interactive, is making a go of skill-based slot machines.

Steelman talks about his new game, Running Rich Racing. The new game is being field tested at Planet Hollywood, The D and the Venetian.

We played the game at The D and we were awesome. Again, don’t believe everything you read on the Internet.

Running Rich

Running Rich Racing is the only evidence we’ve seen skill-based slot machines don’t suck.

Also on the show, we share a “Listicle of the Week” featuring Las Vegas resorts that never happened. Some of the names you’ll know, like Alon and Echelon Place. You’ll also learn about the Caribbean Casino, Playboy Hotel and Casino, Montreaux Resort and (wait for it) Titanic Resort.

No, really.

Yes, podcasts might be boring, but they’re better than being alone with your thoughts! Take a listen.

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“Opium” at Cosmopolitan is a Raucous Romp Around Uranus

A new show from the twisted minds at Spiegelworld, the company behind “Absinthe,” has opened at Cosmopolitan. “Opium” is an imaginative, irreverent journey through a vast expanse of WTF.

We’ve got a metric ass-ton of adjectives still to come, but let’s cut to the chase about what “Opium” actually is.

At its core, “Opium” is a comedy-variety show. The good news it’s an exceptionally imaginative one.

Opium at Cosmopolitan

We don’t entirely remember this sequence in “Opium,” but that could be related to the fact the theater’s signature drinks are delicious. Thanks to our pal Erik Kabik for all the production photos.

“Opium” is frothy and puerile and bizarre and psychedelic and LGBT-friendly and downright exuberant.

We warned you there would be more adjectives.

Perhaps we should put it this way: “Opium” is evidence weed is now legal in Las Vegas.

Enough foreplay!

Opium Las Vegas

Subtle, “Opium” is not.

The basic premise of “Opium” (we’re fairly sure they named the show before they knew what it was going to be about) is that a crew of colorful characters is traveling on a spacecraft, the OPM 4.2, from Uranus to Las Vegas.

Yes, there are a lot of Uranus jokes. Maybe you should’ve taken a moment to look up the word “puerile.”

A lot of time and creativity have been devoted to fleshing out the characters in the show, and each has a distinct subplot which unfolds during the roughly 90-minute production.

Opium Cosmopolitan

The cast of “Opium” attacks the outlandish premise with verve and gusto. Fun fact: Verve and Gusto were a popular comedy team in the 1930s.

The characters include Captain Ann Tennille, Lt. Lou Tenant, Chip, Rob the Robot and (wait for it) Leslie. Somebody clearly ran out of steam with the Leslie thing, but the cast never seems to suffer the same fate. They’re universally comedically talented and seem genuinely enthusiastic about taking part in this new theatrical effort at Cosmopolitan.

Along with the larger-than-life characters, there’s a talented singer who drops in with random musical interludes throughout the show, presumably to provide a diversion from the comedy bits and variety performances.

Think Melody Sweets in “Absinthe,” but in drag.

Opium

If they give away an award for “Torch Singer With the Hairiest Back,” this guy’s a shoo-in.

Vegas Seven has a rundown of the cast of characters.

The humor in the show, 90 percent of which orbit around sexual organs, is non-stop.

“Opium” isn’t as edgy or caustic as “Absinthe,” but it manages to hit the sweet spot for Las Vegas visitors out for a night of inebriation and adolescent humor.

And while we’re on the subject, it should be noted one might want to avoid comparisons to “Absinthe.” While a common DNA between the shows is undeniable, “Opium” is more strange
than raunchy.

“Opium” also exists on a much smaller scale than “Absinthe.” The mere fact “Opium” is in a theater with a low ceiling means it can’t have some of the more jaw-dropping variety acts that have made “Absinthe” a must-see show in Las Vegas.

“Opium” relies on well-performed, tried-and-true variety acts it can easily swap out with others if needed. You know the ones, they involve variety show classics like hula hoops, unicycles and objects being juggled.

Opium

Enjoy classic variety acts? Join the club.

While none of the acts were death-defying, some were stand-outs, like a balancing act with a trained Chihuaua. Then again, that could be because we are a dog person.

There was also a stunning woman wearing S&M garb dancing with, and inside, a giant balloon, a throwback to Angel Perrino’s tap dancing act in the early days of “Absinthe.” We asked for a photo, trust us. No luck.

A favorite of the evening was the sword swallower, Brett Loudermilk. Sword swallowing is standard variety act fodder, but the performer had top-notch material and delivered it
masterfully.

Opium

Yes, the sword swallower joke that springs to mind is exactly the one in the show. You should be in the entertainment business!

The biggest laughs of the evening were evoked by a couple who did alarming things with bananas.

Not the kind of alarming things you’re thinking of, perv. They basically bite off pieces of banana and spit them into each other’s mouths through the air. And they’re really good at it.

The duo also gets audience members to participate. Which is as hilarious and disturbing as it sounds.

Highly entertaining acts, to be sure, but we’re thinking if the show finds some success, a bigger budget will be available for variety acts with a similar wow factor to “Absinthe.” Which we’re still definitely not comparing “Opium” to, by the way.

The show’s producers have made it clear the show is still being developed, so we have no doubt the jokes are being punched up and other variety acts are up for consideration.

Opium

Hula Hoops were once banned in Japan because the hip movement was deemed indecent. Sort of a selling point for “Opium.”

Other items of note: The show’s five-piece band is top notch. One would expect nothing less in Las Vegas.

The psychedelic sci-fi costumes are eye-popping and ingenious. Nearly all are shimmery and intentionally too tight, which adds to the androgynous vibe of the production.

Opium Las Vegas

Leave it to Las Vegas to take banana hammocks to the next level.

Because we know how you are, we can confirm there is some toplessness in “Opium,” but it’s more for the sake of comedy than arousal. All due respect.

The show takes place in the Cosmo’s Opium Theater, adjacent to Rose. Rabbit. Lie. Find the box office at the top of the escalators above Vesper lounge.

A bar inside the theater offers a limited selection of liquor, as well as a signature drink menu themed to the show. Drinks include the Kiss My Asteroid, Gorgon’s Revenge, Sputnik Cage and the Pan-Galactic Gargle Blaster.

The specialty cocktails are $18, which seems like a lot until you realize a Captain and diet at Vesper, served in a thimble, is $12. Live a little.

Opium Las Vegas

The Kiss My Asteroid cocktail. We do not recommend using Pop Rocks during your post-show intimate encounters unless you have excellent insurance. We are not kidding.

Ticket prices for “Opium” vary widely at the moment. The best deal we’ve found is a $35 ticket if you book using the promo code “MOON.” That discount should work for tickets through May 21, 2018.

Regular ticket prices are $79, with upgrades available at $99 (ringside), $119 (terrace) and $129 (Banana Zone, which isn’t really a thing, but you don’t know that).

Visit the official Cosmopolitan site to find out more.

Overall, “Opium” is a worthy genetic mutation of the highly-regarded “Absinthe” and a vast improvement over the previous Spiegelworld show at Cosmo, “Vegas Nocture.”

Opium Las Vegas

Shout-out to our favorite celestial phenomenon, the areola borealis.

“Opium” at Cosmopolitan checks most, if not all, the boxes to make for a successful Las Vegas show. Music, check. Levity, check. Visual acts you don’t have to understand English to enjoy, check.

Oh, and the occasional boob. Check. (Or boob check. See photo above.)

It’s time to gird your warp core, because “Opium” is a little bit “Galaxy Quest” and “Spaceballs,” a little bit “Absinthe,” a little bit drug trip and a whole lot of “When can we see it again?”

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