Monthly Archives: November 2020

The Big Secret “Pawn Stars” Doesn’t Want You to Know

In Las Vegas, there’s always more to the story, and the story behind the story of “Pawn Stars” is a shocker.

“Pawn Stars,” of course, is the hugely popular “reality” series based in downtown Las Vegas at the Gold & Silver Pawn Shop.

The colorful cast of “characters” are iconic at this point: Rick Harrison, Corey Harrison, “Chumlee” Russell and the recently-deceased Richard “Old Man” Harrison.

Pawn Stars

We miss the “Old Man” because he was our crotchety spirit animal.

This History channel juggernaut has indeed made history. It made its debut in 2009 and has become one of the most successful reality shows of all time.

Here’s where we get to the secret.

Thanks for reading this far. We know you’re busy.

With the success of “Pawn Stars,” business at Gold & Silver Pawn Shop went off the chart. Fans of the show swarmed the shop, often standing in line to try and get a look inside the store or even a brief glimpse of the cast.

Over time, it became virtually impossible to shoot the show inside the pawn shop.

Pawn Stars

The popularity of “Pawn Star” has presented some challenges.

That’s when the producers of the show got clever.

They built a duplicate pawn shop on the premises, but out of sight of the public.

The pawn shop clone allowed production to happen without interrupting business in the real pawn shop.

That’s right. Most of the “Pawn Stars” you see is taped on a set, not in the Gold & Silver Pawn Shop proper.

We’ll wait while your mind is blown.

Pawn Stars set

Not the pawn shop! Also, no Santa, Loch Ness, ghosts, leprechauns, angels or free drinks in casinos. Sorry!

Once you realize there’s a look-alike pawn shop, it’s hard to watch the show in quite the same way.

You can’t help but notice the front door is different. The real door is translucent (you can see people and traffic outside), but the on-set door is opaque (see photo above).

Even the signs over the entrance are a little bit off.

Pawn Stars fake set

These guys aren’t just great at spotting forgeries, they’re pretty good at creating them.

You’ll also start to notice the merchandise on the walls changes whenever the show pans the real interior of the shop and the alternate “Pawn Stars” universe.

The producers did a pretty convincing job of replicating the shop, but the differences aren’t hard to spot.

These days, it’s rare to see members of the cast in the store, and they don’t actually take part in any of the pawn shop business. From what we understand, the shop makes far more from the show and sightseers than it does from the pawn business.

Some visitors do get to interact with the cast, but they’re unpaid “extras” pulled from the shop floor to take part in production.

“Extras” are instructed to act naturally, including not looking at the stars during taping. Next time you watch “Pawn Stars,” take note of how nonplussed those “customers” in the background are.

Pawn Stars fake shop

“TV show? What TV show? We’re just here to look at jewelry, coins and items of historical significance.”

While we’re disillusioning you, we may as well also share the haggling on the show isn’t real, either.

Prices are finalized before filming begins, so the back-and-forth and trademark “What are you looking to get out of it?” is straight-up entertainment.

Fun fact: You’ll never see the “Pawn Stars” guys make the first offer on anything. That’s rule number one of any negotiation, pawn shop or not.

Also, perhaps not surprisingly, the cast doesn’t just know all that history. They’re prompted by staff and provided historical background, often right on the set.

Beauty & Essex

This pawn shop is absolutely real. It also happens to be at Cosmopolitan.

Does any of this inside skinny diminish our enjoyment of “Pawn Stars”? Hell, no.

There’s a reason the series is so successful. Every seller, no matter how pre-screened they are, brings with them a discovery of some sort, a potential treasure.

It’s wildly entertaining to see delusional people who think their trinket is worth infinitely more than it is, and it’s equally fun to watch someone learn their throwaway keepsake is worth a fortune.

Rick, Corey and Chum are infinitely watchable as they exhibit an uncanny knowledge of things they’d probably never heard of prior to whatever episode they’re taping that day. It’s worth noting Rick Harrison is a trivia buff, so he knows a lot, just not hundreds of episodes worth.

Chumlee candy shop

You have a better chance of spotting Chumlee at his candy store at Pawn Plaza, right next to the pawn shop.

In yet another twist, an episode of “iCarly” was filmed on a look-alike “Pawn Stars” set, apparently built just for the episode. We would “investigate” this further, but we are “lazy” and aren’t really all that motivated to “do anything” other than “drinking and gambling and putting things in parentheses.”

iCarly Pawn Stars

The Hollywood version of the “Pawn Stars” comes complete with carpeting and teens.

It’s fun to stop by Gold & Silver Pawn, and the lines haven’t been nearly as long during the pandemic, so there’s never been a better time to visit.

Just don’t get your hopes up about meeting the cast or being on “Pawn Stars.”

We’re sorry and you’re welcome.

Downtown Visionary and Former Zappos CEO Tony Hsieh Dies at 46

Just when you thought 2020 couldn’t get any more painful, it takes a tech innovator and downtown luminary. Tony Hsieh has died at age 46.

Tony Hsieh is perhaps best known for being the former CEO of online shoe retailer Zappos, but many will remember him for his contributions to the evolution of downtown Las Vegas.

Tony Hsieh

At 46, Tony Hsieh was just getting started.

How did Tony Hsieh die?

It was an accident. Tony Hsieh died on Nov. 27, 2020 from injuries (burns and smoke inhalation) resulting from a house fire.

We’ll spare you the details out of respect for his friends and family, but the house fire happened in New London, Connecticut on Nov. 18, 2020.

Those familiar with the situation share the incident took place in the home Hsieh recently purchased for his girlfriend, Rachael Brown, for $1.3 million.

Friends speculate the fire may have started when a candle was knocked over, but it’s unlikely we’ll ever get the full story (and there’s always more to the story).

Those friends also say Hsieh was in ICU from the date of the accident until the decision was made to remove him from life support.

News of the death of Tony Hsieh has been met with a massive outpouring of sympathy, as he not only created incredibly successful businesses (he sold Zappos to Amazon for $1.2 billion), but also invested $350 million in downtown Las Vegas and was an important figure in its revitalization.

Tony Hsieh was brilliant and eccentric and unassuming, an undeniable risk-taker who put his money where his mouth was.

Tony Hsieh

This ribbon-cutting marked Tony Hsieh’s decision to bring the Zappos headquarters downtown. It changed everything.

From the Downtown Container Park to the Life is Beautiful music festival, Hsieh’s quirky sensibilities breathed new life into downtown Las Vegas.

His Downtown Project (recently rebranded to DTP Companies) has a stake in downtown fixtures like Gold Spike, Nacho Daddy, Inspire Theater, Corduroy, The Smashed Pig, Oak & Ivy, Vegenation, Eat, The Goodwich and other downtown hangs.

Learn more about Downtown Project.

Plaza Las Vegas

One of our fondest memories of Tony Hsieh was the time he and Plaza staffers (including CEO Jonathan Jossel) jumped in the hotel’s pool fully clothed.

We’re gutted by the passing of Tony Hsieh and we only met him a couple of times.

Hsieh was a complex guy. His professional and financial successes got all the attention, but he had serious personal struggles, according to those who knew him best.

It’s believed those personal demons played a part in his stepping down as Zappos CEO and “retiring” in August 2020. He sought help in his search for wellbeing and made a concerted effort to “disconnect,” including a “digital detox,” per reports.

Hsieh recently set his sights on Utah, buying up millions of dollars worth of real estate in Park City. He never said why publicly, and now we may never know.

We’d heard rumblings Hsieh’s Utah plans included the creation of a Life is Beautiful-inspired music festival. What might have been.

Tony Hsieh

Tony Hsieh, doing what Tony Hsieh did. Hanging out, brainstorming, “colliding.”

As we write this, the death of Tony Hsieh hasn’t really sunk in.

Hsieh was truly one-of-a-kind and anyone who loves downtown Las Vegas can’t help but wonder, “What now?” Or maybe more accurately, “Who now?”

Tony Hsieh gave us so many things to love, and he actually deserves the kind words being said about him following his untimely death.

Zappos

You either got Tony or you didn’t.

Hsieh will get a tribute on the Viva Vision screen at Fremont Street Experience. The screen is five football fields long, but it still doesn’t feel big enough.

We’ve floated the idea of naming the new downtown arch after him: The Tony Hsieh Archway has a nice ring to it.

Tony Hsieh Archway

Pretty sure Tony Hsieh wouldn’t want all the accolades. He’s getting them, anyway.

Hsieh once said, “People may not remember exactly what you did or what you said but they always remember how you made them feel, that’s what matters the most.”

Tony, we’ll remember all of it. What you did and what you said lives on downtown, in the hearts of your friends and fans, in the places you created and supported, in a legacy we will not let be forgotten.

Update (11/29/20): Here’s the tribute at Fremont Street Experience played on Nov. 28, 2020.

Update (11/30/20): Tony Hsieh’s official cause of death has been deemed smoke inhalation. The cause of the fire is still under investigation.

Update (12/1/20): More information is coming to light about the circumstances of Tony Hsieh’s death.

Update (12/4/20): More information is being reported about Tony Hsieh’s death and what led up to his untimely death.

Downtown Las Vegas Gateway Arch is Officially Lit

Like just about everything else in Vegas, downtown’s new archway is lit.

And possibly fleek.

The arch went live a couple of weeks ago, officially, but some glitches with the lights lingered.

YESCO, the sign company in charge of installing and maintaining this striking erection, has resolved those issues, so the arch is fully operational.

downtown archway Las Vegas

We should probably avoid using the words “striking” and “erection” in the same sentence.

The archway made its debut with little fanfare, no doubt because it was expensive ($6.5 million) and people can’t seem to shut their yappers with misguided concerns it’s not a great time to spend that kind of money on bling when so many in Las Vegas are experiencing financial challenges due to the pandemic.

Oy, with the whining and naysaying.

arch googie stars

The best parts of any Las Vegas sign with Googie stars are the Googie stars.

The archway is marketing. Marketing increases business. Increased business generates jobs and prosperity. Prosperity is a good thing.

Conclusion: The arch deserves more fanfare.

Setting aside the vocal minority that tries to ruin everything, the welcome arch is a beauty and has turned out to have a lot more eye candy than originally anticipated.

The renderings just didn’t do it justice. Which is why Al Gore invented the Internet and why porn invented video for the Internet.

Here’s a look at the new welcome arch in downtown Las Vegas.

While there was no ribbon-cutting or official gathering to launch the arch, it’s already drawing visitors, many of whom do not appear to understand that standing in the middle of a major thoroughfare for a photo isn’t going to get them an invitation to join MENSA anytime soon.

The archway sits at the foot of The Strat casino. Cars actually drive through the legs of the arch to enter Strat’s port cochere.

The Strat needs to send a thank-you note to the City of Las Vegas every day, as the eye-catching new addition is going to draw many more gazes toward its front door.

Downtown gateway arch

Construction equipment for scale. The archway is about 80 feet tall.

Fun facts: The arch is illuminated by 13,016 individually programmable LEDs and draws 61,000 watts of power. A hair dryer on high heat uses about 1,500.

At a time when there’s been a lot of gloom in Las Vegas, the downtown welcome archway is a refreshing blast of radiance that couldn’t have come at a better time.

Las Vegas has always been about glitz, and the arch perfectly straddles the line between the glamorous and garish.

The downtown gateway arch is just what Las Vegas needs as it strives to recapture its sparkle.

Virgin Hotels Las Vegas May Delay Opening (Again)

Damn it. It looks like Virgin Hotels Las Vegas will delay its opening, again.

The resort, formerly Hard Rock Las Vegas, was set to open Jan. 15, 2021, but Richard Bosworth, President and CEO of the casino’s owner, JC Hospitality, has informed employees they may have to push that date back due to concerning predictions by health agencies and recent directives from Nevada Governor Steve Sisolak.

Virgin Hotel Las Vegas pool

We are currently experiencing an epic level of bummed about another delay in the opening of Virgin Las Vegas.

In an internal memo, Bosworth said, “While the current restrictions put forth by the Governor are only scheduled for three weeks, there could be an extension if there is no improvement in the COVID-19 crisis. Either way, a slowdown in county services and the inability to have gatherings with over 50 attendees will likely impact many of our pre-opening activities.

The missive continues a wee more ominously, “Additionally, we have learned today through both the CDC and John Hopkins University that the next surge is projected to occur in early January, right in the middle of our scheduled launch. It is very difficult to know if this prediction is accurate, but it could be extremely disruptive to our opening.”

In his communication, Bosworth touches upon some harsh realities of opening in mid-January.

“We are closely following hotel bookings for January,” the memo says. “With unprecedented low occupancy projections for Las Vegas, it is unclear that if we did open as scheduled, there would be enough business to support scheduling even 50% of our staff.”

Richard Bosworth

Our heart goes out to you and the team, Boz. Yes, he said we can call him that.

Bosworth says the final decision has yet to be made, but given the circumstances, it seems prudent to wait a bit rather than opening and being crushed by capacity limits and ongoing travel restrictions.

No new potential opening date for Virgin Las Vegas has been shared.

Bosworth says to staffers, “Making the decision to delay is very painful for all of us. As I have stated before, we want to start ringing our cash registers and for all of you to start earning a great living. While I am not able to determine a new opening date at this time, it could be three weeks or more beyond the original date of January 15th.”

It appears our collective suck won’t end with the end of 2020.

Bar at Commons Club

We really, really wanted to have a drink here in January.

This new casino resort is shaping up to be a sweet new offering (including an enticing collection of bars and restaurants), and while it’s disappointing to hear we probably won’t be able to get inside this Virgin in mid-January, it’s something to look forward to, and we could all use more things to look forward to.

Update: Our sources say Virgin Hotels Las Vegas will open no later than April 7, 2021, although it could open sooner.

Wynn’s Red Card Loyalty Club Set for Rebrand as Wynn Rewards

Wynn Resorts says it will roll out a revamp of its loyalty club program on Dec. 21, 2020.

The casino’s Red Card will now be called Wynn Rewards.

Details are scant about how the rebranded loyalty club will differ from the existing one.

It seems the overhauled Wynn Rewards will have tiers, but we thought the Red Card already had tiers. We clearly don’t get out enough.

Wynn Rewards

Casino loyalty clubs in one sentence: Play more, get more stuff.

A teaser on the Twitters says, “The Rewards will be worth the wait. Red Card will soon become Wynn Rewards with more ways to earn Five-Star resort experiences, more rewards and more benefits.”

It’s likely the change to its loyalty club was sparked by challenges related to the company’s Encore Boston Harbor.

Results at that casino were hugely disappointing, even prior to the pandemic, and company leaders admitted it was due, in part, to the company’s lack of experience with regional casinos.

“High-frequency” markets, where locals visit often, are a very different animal than Wynn’s business in Las Vegas.

Encore Boston Harbor lost $34.1 million in the fourth quarter of 2019. The resort opened at a cost of $2.6 billion. Yeah, it’s awkward.

The fact is Wynn Resorts hasn’t had to market all that much before. Wynn and Encore are world-class destinations, and that “Five-Star” reputation does a lot of the heavy lifting on the marketing side.

Marketing Wynn and Encore is like marketing the iPhone. People just sort of show up.

Now, Wynn Resorts is rolling up its sleeves and getting into the grind of attracting grinders, discerning locals who need more perks to attract their gambling dollars.

The company has already reduced table minimums, made parking free and added more value-oriented fare at Encore Boston Harbor.

It’s worth noting parking at Wynn and Encore is free, too, and we wouldn’t get mad if these casinos reduced table minimums here, too.

More details about the new loyalty club program are expected on Dec. 1, 2020, so we’ll keep our eyes peeled. Which is a really creepy way of saying “be on alert,” but just go with it.

Update (12/2/20): Here are some details about the perks associated with the new Wynn Rewards.

Wynn Rewards

Aspirational perks up in here.

Donny Osmond Returns to The Strip With Solo Show at Harrah’s Las Vegas

The better half of the former Donny & Marie show is returning to the Las Vegas Strip.

Donny Osmond will do a solo, presumably “multi-year,” residency at Harrah’s Las Vegas starting Aug. 31, 2021.

Donny Osmond

He’s awesome. He’s back. And he’s not drinking coffee or tea.

The Donny & Marie show ran at Flamingo for 11 years, closing on Nov. 16, 2019.

Their show was remarkable for a number of reasons, including the fact the sibling’s original contract was for just six weeks.

Their well-reviewed Flamingo residency was very lucrative. The Osmonds reportedly each earned $1.6 million a year base salary, plus 40% of the box office gross.

While Donny and Marie Osmond made bank during their Flamingo residency, there were ongoing rumors of friction between them. Donny should totally name his next album “Rumors of Friction.”

Donny Las Vegas

Even at Flamingo, the writing was on the wall.

The pair barely performed together onstage, and rarely spoke offstage. Guests who paid for meet-and-greet photos got either Donny or Marie, not both.

As tensions grew, it was clear the duo wanted out, but the money was just too good to bail.

However, all awkward things must come to and end.

Apparently, Harrah’s (owned by Caesars Entertainment) and Donny Osmond are confident there’s still high demand for his talents as a solo artist, and we agree.

Donny Osmond Harrah's

Donny Osmond is one of the few performers who looks better before they’re Photoshopped.

While the banter between Donny and Marie Osmond was a highlight of their show, we’re pretty sure Donny can hold his own and his fans are both legion and extraordinarily passionate.

Osmond has lived an extraordinary life, with 33 gold records to his name. He’s currently working on his 63rd album.

The only lowlights we can see of Donny’s life are: 1) He had to do a residency with Marie, and 2) He and his wife have never had oral sex. (At least that’s what he told Howard Stern.)

Even if Donny Osmond had done nothing else in his professional career, he did this.

The outtakes are even better. Behold the moment when Donny Osmond went from American cultural icon to whatever is even better than being an American cultural icon.

This is just one of the reasons Donny needed to go out on his own in Las Vegas.

He’s genuine and likable and talented and hilarious.

Plus, he won season nine of “Dancing With the Stars.”

Donny Osmond

However cool you think Donny Osmond might be in person, he’s cooler than that.

Tickets for Donny’s show at Harrah’s start at $65, with a bump for VIP meet-and-greet packages. Finally, a meet-and-greet that’s worth the price.

Big props to Donny for his divorce from Marie, and we can’t wait to see what Donny’s got up the sleeve of his technicolor dreamcoat!