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Preview: Las Vegas Blog: Steve Friess' VEGAS HAPPENS HERE

Las Vegas Blog: Steve Friess' VEGAS HAPPENS HERE

Now your favorite Vegas-centric weekly celebrity interview program co-hosts come to you almost daily here. Check regularly for breaking news and exclusives on all sorts of Vegas, entertainment, casino and gambling-related matters, plus personal stuff, too

Updated: 2018-03-24T08:15:58.663-07:00


This Blog Is On Hiatus


Part of the stipulation of my fellowship is a requirement that I stop working and focus on my academics, my long-term projects and my life among the other fellows. I know others don't understand that, but there really is no way to be truly in this extraordinary experience and keep one hand in my "normal" life. That's why the podcast has ended, and that's why this blog must cease to be updated.

I have no doubt I'll return to blogging, either here or in another form, after this is over. Trust me, you'll know what that time comes. Or check back here around May 2012.

In the meantime, we conclude with this Flickr slideshow below. It shows our new home in Ann Arbor followed by some images of the quaint houses in the handsome neighborhoods behind us as well as images from the first Michigan football game we attended and shots of campus life. This slideshow was created before Aces died, but I've opted not to edit it because she will always be a part of our first weeks here. The only change I've made is to remove the photo of the street where she died. I couldn't handle that, I'm sorry.

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See you sometime next year.

R.I.P. Aces Smith-Friess


Two nights ago, the littlest, newest and spunkiest member of our gang, Aces, slipped out of the backyard through a gap in the fence and was hit by a car. Even as I write this, it doesn't seem quite real that any of this has happened.The house we are renting in Michigan fronts to a very busy street -- think Desert Inn or Eastern in Las Vegas -- and Aces was the sort of fearless puppy who bolted after whatever got her excited. It was dusk, I was running around the yard playing with the dogs and didn't realize she had run off. We knew there were some gaps in the fence, but it had rained nonstop for days, so we hadn't gotten to filling it.When I noticed she was missing, I raced out front to call for her, expecting her foxy little face to turn up grinning at me. It did not.Instead, I spotted an unrecognizable lump in the first lane of the street. I won't describe her; I just can't except to say that she seemed to have come unraveled. I thought she might still be breathing, so we raced to the animal ER about three miles away. It was futile. We left in sobs, her little pink collar and tags in my blood-soaked hands.Needless to say, this has put a traumatic damper on our first weeks of this new life. Grief for a pet is very complicated because the pain is real and present and yet there's a fear the world will find it trivial. I've seen it referred to it as the ultimate "first-world problem." But even if you can't relate to the impact an animal can have in your life, you must be able to comprehend the dizzying, nauseating experience of encountering such a sudden, violent death to something so sweet, defenseless and dependent. That I did not realize she was gone for those few minutes -- the entire awful thing took place in the span of less than 10 minutes -- will haunt me for as long as I have other animals. That she is so instantaneously gone is disorienting, confusing and painful for everyone in this household.We know there are many friends, family, readers and listeners who have enjoyed hearing about our life with Aces. She's a dog that had been abandoned by someone in dire economic straits who dumped her in our neighbor's arms at a supermarket a couple days before Christmas. The neighbor brought her to us, and we took her in.Since then, she was the centerpiece of countless photos and Tweets. She was brought into the household to bond with Miles because the other two, Black and Jack, had taken to me in a way that left him alienated. It worked; Miles and Aces drove 2,000 miles together from Las Vegas a few weeks ago while I took the other dogs on a more scenic route. That photo above was taken by Miles in a hotel room in Nebraska during their drive.Unlike the other dogs, Aces was an equal-opportunity lover. In doing so, she seemed to teach her brothers to be kinder and more open to people other than me, and Black and Jack have been unusually doting and cuddly towards Miles in the past two days. May that be her legacy.We know many of you will feel compelled to do something or write to us. All we'd really like is for you, if you feel so moved, to toss a few dollars to the Humane Society of the United States in Aces' name to honor her memory. Had our neighbor not accepted Aces from her desperate prior owner, she would have surely ended up in a shelter. She was a rescue animal, minus the paperwork.This blog will stop being updated as of tonight, so I urge you to "friend" us on Facebook if you'd like to keep up with us. We just felt strongly that we wanted people to know what had happened, how wonderful an animal we've lost and how heartbroken we are.[...]

Leftover Funnies Before I Shut Up


   OK, so I've got to stop blogging, as I'll explain in the next and final post. But before I go, allow me to empty my files of odd, interesting and weird stuff. Like, for instance, I don't recall if I ever posted this photo anywhere but on Twitter, but if that's not Vegas, I don't know what is: I think I took this screenshot because I wondered how the Monte Carlo and New York-New York was so unlucky as to be the skyline image of The Strip for, of all things, the web banner for the police:I think Hanging With Friends might be right about this being a proper noun......and I know my iPhone's predictive text is right about Matt Goss:Gosh, this from our HOA's monthly circular is great news!!! click to enlargeI have no idea how this gibberish came to be, but I do think that Caesars Entertanment ought to consider, in rebranding Imperial Palace, calling it Impiety City instead:click to enlarge I didn't know airports have slogans, for what it's worth:  Juvenile, I know, but it was a porn convention:Am I the only one a little thrown by the fact that Flickr used what appears to be this guy's Manhunt pic to promote their service? Meanwhile, the crack, uh, staff at Caesars Entertainment has a squatting problem because THIS is CaesarsEntertainment.Com:Yikes, right?And, finally, Miles wants me to have this enlarged and hung over my desk to deflate my ego whenever necessary:I put The Olds to sleep.[...]

Stuff I Found Cleaning Out My Vegas Office


As you may have read in my acclaimed love-letter essay to Las Vegas and my life there in Las Vegas Weekly, I spent my final days in Nevada packing up a house and office stuffed to the gills with historical and peculiar Vegas stuff. There was a shelf in my office closet with at least a six-foot pile of press materials that proved akin to an archeological survey, newest to oldest layered upon one another like a geological formation.The stuff I unearthed was Vegas in its most optimistic, boosterish form, such as the above document outlining the expansion plans for the airport. I also found this promo for CityCenter......which is technically true because, uh, the future always begins now. Duh.I loved this relic... ...and made sure to put this piece of Frontier glass in a safe place.I found this magnet from the late, great Dive at the Fashion Show Mall, where I used to take my little brother all the time for fries and to peer through the periscope that offered a Strip view. It was just last month that a listener of the podcast asked me something about this place:I found these artifacts of the earlier days of our podcast...We used to send CDs and thank-you notes to all our guests, and once we got this back from the amazing Paula Poundstone:Here was one of the table centerpieces from the final performance of Siegfried & Roy, a fundraiser for Keep Memory Alive, the foundation that funds the Lou Ruvo Cleveland Clinic for Brain Health in Vegas:I found it rather unsettling that I did not and still don't remember that I had actually been a patient in 2002 of the most infamous endoscopy doctor in America:At the same time, I find it awesome beyond words that I found this, which my old R-J friend Natalie Patton sent to me in 2000 when I was about to depart for China:And I have no idea whatsoever how I came into possession of this rather invaluable bit of family history......but I'm so glad I have it.[...]

The Show is UP: The Finale


We're having some sort of problem with iTunes and our final -- and several recent special -- episodes of "The Strip" have not been making it into the RSS feed. We're working on fixing that right now, but all of the recent episodes since the iTunes snafu began are listed with links to your right on this blog. I hope to have TheStripPodcast.Com fixed and updated as soon as possible. FYI, We urge you NOT to unsubscribe from our RSS feed because you just never know when a random special might surface there. I still have some good stuff sitting around waiting for my time to edit and post. It could be a while, but it will happen.Anyhow, here's the show you and we have been simultaneously waiting for and dreading. Enjoy, and listen all the way to the end.Sept. 7: The FinaleSpecial Reissue: The First Episode from 9/1/05After six years, this is the final regular episode of "The Strip." The show, which debuted on Sept. 1, 2005, was co-hosted by journalists and life partners Miles Smith and Steve Friess. In this emotional episode, we recount the top 10 moments of the show as voted on by listeners, talk about the changes in their lives and play some classic old clips including a never-before-published 6-minute rehearsal in which they discuss what they show should be about and how they'll go about doing it.The top clips include great moments from Whoopi Goldberg, Tony Curtis, Jim Murren, George Wallace, Johnny Mathis, Sheldon Adelson and, of course, Steve Wynn.Links to the original episodes that spawned the Top 10 moments list:10. Whoopi9. Johnny Mathis8. George Wallace7. Jim Murren6. Steve Wynn touring Encore5. Tony Curtis4. Sheldon Adelson Slamming Steve Wynn3. Steve Wynn touring The Wynn2. Miles doing Neil Sedaka (various shows)1a. Steve Wynn Slamming Adelson in Macau1b. Steve Wynn calls Adelson "delusional"Links to stuff discussed:Steve's LVW column updating old columnsSteve's four blog-and-Flickr shows for The Road Trip: 1 2 3 4Flooding closed the St. Joseph, Mo., casinoThe Knight-Wallace Fellowship that Steve is now onJersey Boys moving to ParisHunter Hillegas on KNPR on the PlazaThe Luxor is sinking?Bradley Ogden out, Gordon Ramsay in at Caesars Palace[...]



(image) Hoo boy... This is really it! We are really, really here, and if you don't believe us, here's a shot of the dogs in their new abode to prove it. It's time to be a fellow and improve ourselves.

We'll record the finale of The Strip from our new Ann Arbor home on Monday evening at 8 p.m. Eastern Time. It'll be a stroll down memory lane in many ways, and we encourage everyone to join us in the live chat room.

Do NOT forget to vote on the Top 10 moments of the series, too. I'll compile the clips we'll use mid-day Monday. And then, after that, dim the marquee lights on Las Vegas Boulevard, folks, because The Strip as you know it will be over.

The Road Trip, Part IV


We concluded our big road trip from Vegas to Ann Arbor, Mich., by waking up amid the Springfield cornfields. Again, there's a Flickr slideshow player at the end of this post or you can watch it here.As Amy and the dogs relaxed at the hotel on Thursday, I headed to the splendorous Illinois Capitol, where I ended up on a tour given by a fellow who could not have been less interested in giving a tour.  When I asked if there was any way to get to the top of the dome, as I had the day before in Missouri, he claimed asbestos and bird poop prevented such things from happening. It didn't sound very credible to me.He also seemed not to notice that of the three of us on his tour, two wore hearing aids. When he was asked him to repeat himself, he seemed absolutely aggravated by the chore and frequently dumbed down what he had said before. It wasn't that we were stupid, sir, we just didn't hear you because you muttered and didn't wish to be there.That said, the Springfield capitol is very impressive and extremely historic. But a few things struck me. First, the Abe Lincoln obsession is totally understandable, but there are other U.S. presidents with significant Illinois ties such as Ronald Reagan (born in Dixon, Ill.) and Barack Obama, the former state senator. I had to ask when we were in the Senate chamber where Obama sat. Roughly, it was here:That was a seat in the back, denoting how junior a member of the body he was. That furniture was not used by him as the prior stuff was replaced a few years ago. His old desk was destroyed. "We didn't know he'd become president," the guide wryly remarked.And I think that's my takeaway from Illinois, that that building and that whole scene is yet another reminder of just how totally unlikely it was that this guy was ever going to become president, let alone within the decade. He was one of so many legislators, and he served in a building that is a monument to so many incredible historic figures. It doesn't matter what you think of Obama; his path to this office is just extraordinary and almost without precedent in American politics.Illinois is also known for having several recently convicted governors. I wondered how they'd play that here, but they just put up their portraits nonetheless, as seen by the one here of ex-Gov. George Ryan. The guide said "the controversial Gov. Rod Blagojevich's portrait will be here someday, too." OK, then.I'm often asked what's the difference between one and another capitol, and they do blend together. But stopping in on those in Illinois and Indiana on the same day really hit home the differences. Illinois was gorgeous and artistic, a monument to the affairs of the public and our way of life. Indiana? Meh.The Springfield dome was amazing, Indianapolis' perfunctory:The legislative chambers in Illinois were august and dramatic......and Indiana's was decidedly not. One state takes good care of even its restrooms. The other doesn't care.   The entryway for Illinois is grand and imposing, Indiana less so.The artwork and sculpture throughout in Springfield was first-rate, relevant and historic. This is how Indianapolis has left Christopher Columbus' bust desecrated by pigeons: Gross! Lord only knows what Columbus' relevance to Indiana was to merit him as a major piece of art, but if they do have it they kinda owe it to him not to look like he just participated in a gay gang bang.I also have never seen an informational marker that ran out of space as this one did:You may also wonder who the hell else does this hobby. Actually, loads of folks:And here's the page I signed for, perhaps, the last time as a Las Vegan:On the drive, Amy and I debated the proper spelling of "capital" v "capitol." So you know, the city is a capital, the building is a capitol. Google Maps didn't know that, either, though:There's much more, including more terrific puppy pix, in this Flickr slideshow of this segmen[...]

Road Trip, Part III


OK, so I'm a little behind here, but that, above, was me on the steps of the Kansas Capitol on Topeka on Tuesday. This is where, in the summer of 1993, my fascination with statehouses began. As an intern at the Topeka Capital-Journal, I used to sit on those steps at sunset and write letters. The steps were as lovely and broad as I recalled, and I did sit to write some letters there, too. But holy Christ it was hot out, so the recreation of a younger self's romantic habit was sort of rushed so as to not kill my dogs. They lived, by the way, as seen here with my travel companion, Amy:All this said, it seems appropriate that I'd discover upon my return visit to Topeka that I'd been doing the state capitols thing all wrong all this time. I chatted up the visitors reception desk lady, told her of my hobby and how it all started here, and she says to me, "Well, do you have The Book?"Uh, what book?!?Turns out, there's a book. And hobbyists are supposed to get them stamped when they visit different capitol buildings. Yes, there's a frigging stamp, too. See?I kinda wish someone had told me about this, say, 18 years and 35 capitols ago. Grrr.There are plenty of interior photos of the Topeka capitol in the Flickr slideshow for days 5 and 6 of the big road trip to Michigan, the player for which you'll find at the end of this post.But the big revelation of this leg of the trip was the sensational Missouri Capitol in Jefferson City, which was simply so impressive. I was blown away from the entry to the gorgeous dome and meaningful artwork throughout, but then I also got sort of lucky.You see, I always ask if there's any way to climb to the top of the dome. This worked in Providence, you may recall. And here, the word from the visitors reception folks was that you could do it only if you were escorted by "someone with a key." Who have keys? Every state representative. One fellow on an elevator -- I asked if he was a state rep! -- told me to just go into any rep's office and ask. So I stepped in here......and the wonderful lady who works with Rep. Mary Nichols, D-Maryland Heights, Mo., was happy to do it. That meant walking me behind the upper edge of the House chambers, which resulted in this Death Star-esque photo:Then she unlocked a padlock, came with me part of the way to shoot this......and told me where to go before letting me climb up there by myself. There's a little walkway that encircles the very top, and I got some wonderful shots of Jefferson City and the Missouri River it straddles.Many more images of this adventure are in the Flickr show. But it was interesting to spot this sign:It was surprising to see such explicit art on the grounds of the building once overseen by ex-Gov. John Ashcroft, who had the Department of Justice cover up naughty bits of statues in DC when he was the Attorney General. Go ahead, enlarge this to see that the sculptor clearly gave this stone statue some, uh, wood:People ask what the attraction of capitols is. I'm not terribly interested in museums, but I think I enjoy learning about history and seeing great art in buildings that continue to function and where history continues to be made. In other words, it's a living, breathing edifice. And I find out all sorts of tidbits I didn't know, such as that both Lewis AND Clark were once governors of Missouri:And yes, I got The Stamp.After Jefferson City, Amy and I headed east once more, this time en route to Springfield, Ill., to spent the night. We stayed almost entirely off the Interstates, which gave us some wonderful opportunities for diversions and discoveries. For instance, we headed through tiny Louisiana, Mo., a town right on Mississippi River. Before we got into town, we happened to drive past......a 140-year-old Jewish cemetery?!? It was an awfully unlikely find, so we stopped and browsed the 40-odd graves. As you can see in the Flickr slideshow, most of t[...]

The Road Trip, Part II


After the big party Hunter and I attended in Sun Valley on Saturday, Hunter flew back to Vegas on Sunday from Salt Lake City to check out -- and be summarily unimpressed -- with the reopened Plaza. Check out brutal Tweet 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, and 6. The Plaza is in big trouble if they don't get their act together asap. Anyhow, I left Hunter and stopped by the Utah Capitol. I know I've been there already, but I couldn't find the picture, so I took another one. Then, on the way out of SLC, I saw this: Yes, I was tempted to stay on I-15! The next leg of the road trip awaited, though. I headed to Dinosaur National Monument, which straddles the northwestern Colorado-northeast Utah border and evidently is where loads of dinosaur fossils have been found. It's sorta schticky, as seen by this by the visitors center... ...but also a rather scenic 10ish-mile drive. You see vistas like this: There is a dinosaur artifact area but it was closed when I was there. Either way, there's great camping and hiking land up there, and the rocks have gen-u-ine petroglyphs, see: There's more from here in the Flickr slideshow at the bottom of this post. But this awesome bit of neon from Steamboat Springs, Colo., was just wonderful: I didn't stay there because the Fairfield Inn was cheaper and I got Marriott points, but I was surprised on Monday morning to find that the resort-fee concept has spread: It was only about $3. I guess it included Internet service, but I wasn't warned and it didn't actually work. I didn't complain, though, because for reasons I do not know, the front-desk dude gave us a massive room upgrade to a gigantic, gorgeous room. Meanwhile, a subplot of this trip is that it's Black and Jack's first major road trip and their bodies aren't taking it all that well. They've had a rough time, but I've been coddling them a bit extra and feeding them carefully and finally, today, they're not as miserable, see: Today, I drove through the sensational Rocky Mountains through the Rocky Mountain National Park route, aka U.S. 34, with John Denver's Greatest Hits playing on the iPod, of course. Here's the best shot: There are loads of other awesome pictures in this Flickr slideshow, which starts in SLC, goes to Dinosaur and Steamboat Springs and then into the park. And, yes, this shot... ...was a little dangerous to take. But then I got to Denver and picked up Amy, who flew in from Vegas to accompany me for the rest of the trip. Next stops: Topeka, St. Joseph, Mo., Jefferson City and Springfield.[...]

The Road Trip, Part I


I made my tearful farewells on Friday morning, then picked up RateVegas.Com's Hunter Hillegas at McCarran for the first leg of my road trip to Ann Arbor. We drove north from Vegas on U.S. 93 through Pioche, Ely and Jackpot, Nev., where we spent the first night. Here's something funny that happened: src="" allowfullscreen="" frameborder="0" height="349" width="425"> I had been to Ely a couple weeks ago on my Eureka sojourn and have had a separate slideshow ready to go from that whenever The Daily runs my Eureka-gold piece. Thus, I'll hold off on those shots, and the shots in the slideshow below are only from this trip. Hunter's got a bunch, too, but he hasn't posted them yet. I'll link when he does. I had routed us to Panaca for lunch because... I'm not sure why, actually. I'd heard of it and included it in my Vegas Bucket List column. Turns out, there's truly nothing there. Pioche, on the other hand, was utterly lovely and quaint and we stopped for gas and lunch there. There are shots of that in my slideshow. After lunch and Ely, we drove to Jackpot, a border town on the northern edge of Nevada intended to lure gambling dollars from Twin Falls, Idaho folk. But this place surprised both Hunter and me as being far more built-up and legit than we expected. Cactus Pete's, owned by the same folks as the Stratosphere, was a real place with a decent all-night cafe (on weekends) and a busy casino floor. Our hotel, the West Star Hotel "Casino", by contrast, was just sad. I'll update my slideshow with Hunter's shots later in the day. Then it was on to Sun Valley, Idaho, where we attended a massive party hosted by Elaine Wynn for four Sun Valley friends who turn 90 this year. They included Vegas financier legend E. Parry Thomas, California real estate mogul Harry Rinker, California accounting giant Ken Leventhal and Chicago industrial park developer Marshall Bennett. I'm working on at least one significant feature on Elaine Wynn, so I really wanted to attend this for the color I needed to place Elaine at the center of Sun Valley high society. The pictures reflect the party. Vegas bigwigs in attendance included Irwin Molasky, the Thomas and Mack clans and Janie Greenspun Gale. Also, Idaho Gov. Butch Otter gave a toast. Here's a whole slideshow from Flickr: Today I take Hunter to Salt Lake City, from whence he flies back to Vegas to check out the new Plaza before heading home to California. I'll have a day on my own through the Rocky Mountains, then I'll pick up Amy in Denver for the rest of the drive. We'll hit three or four state capitols I've not seen, including Jefferson City, Springfield and Indianapolis. If we have the energy, we may carry on to Columbus, too, before heading north to Ann Arbor. Miles decided he wanted to drive on his own for some post-Vegas catharsis, so he has Aces as his co-pilot and I have Black & Jack. Gotta go! More later. Also, check out Hunter's stuff on Twitter. [...]

My last regular LVW Col: Leave Barney Alone!


Here we go, folks. I've got a whole package planned next week, but this is the last regular edition of The Strip Sense, unless the LVW repurposes the column's name for someone else. I kinda hope they don't since Miles came up with it, but it's their call. Either way, this is my final entry. Enjoy. -sf

Leave Barney Alone!
The county's attempt to control those in costumes is a waste of time


It is something like 156 degrees outside, and I stand at Flamingo and the Strip begging. “Please,” I plead with Luigi, Barney and Mr. Stormtrooper. “I really need your names for my column. It’s a journalism thing.” And yet, as if they’re Iranian dissidents, Mafia informants or underlings of Sheldon Adelson, they refuse to tell me who they are. The fear is palpable.

“You gonna to get us in trouble,” the big purple dinosaur says with more broken English and less gay giggle than I recall from babysitting my sisters’ kids. “Leave us alone.”

I’d love to, but local politicians have in their sights the poor souls who dress up as fictional characters and take photos with tourists for tips. “We can’t just sit back and allow something like this to happen without addressing it,” said Clark County Commissioner Lawrence Weekly at the August 2 meeting.

Actually, sir, you can.

Read the rest at LasVegasWeekly.Com

The Blooper Show is FINALLY Up!


Our blooper episode, recorded on 8/14, turned out to be a blooper in and of itself. I forgot to set GarageBand to record the feed from the mixer, so instead we recorded what the Mac's mike heard. It was a terrible mess and a huge loss because the original version was so much fun. But frequent guest co-host Amy came back on Saturday, 8/20 with another pizza and we re-did it with updated Vegas news and no chat room. This means the chat room folks haven't heard this version, either, which is unusual. Anyhow, enjoy! I'll post whenever I know when we're doing another show, but the grand finale episode will definitely by Sunday, Sept. 4, from Ann Arbor. Also, there will be MANY specials and extras coming in the podcast feed over the next week, so subscribe via iTunes. I won't be announcing them here. -sf Aug. 20: BLOOPERPALOOZA! Extra: More bloopers that didn't make it in the main show Episode Guide: Open & Banter: Start to 36ish Intro/End-Show Bloopers : 36:45-44ish Wordplay Bloopers: 44:30ish-50ish Banter/Midshow Bloopers: 50:50-1:07ish Trivia/Poll/Feedback: 1:07ish-1:20ish Interview-related Bloopers: 1:20:35-1:31ish Cursing Bloopers: 1:31:20-1:35ish Miles' Voices Bloopers: 1:35:30-1:40ish TSTToTW: 1:40ish-end Something More: 1:53-end As faithful listeners know, this podcast is edited. We appreciate being independent, but we don’t believe that independent means we should be careless and sloppy. So Steve goes through every week and cleans it all up so you don’t have to waste your time hearing long pauses and unnecessary or irrelevant banter. Also, there’s a whole culture that’s built up around the chat room and we interact with those out there in ways that the podcast listener wouldn’t follow. So, anyhow, each year we have created a Bloopers Episode. Hear us curse, bicker and ponder deep but Vegas-irrelevant thoughts. It's fun. You'll laugh. Mostly. In Banter, we mulled our encounter with Mrs. Wynn in Sun Valley, talked about the de-Elvising at Aria and the likely implosion of The Harmon, we explained our strategy for packing and moving and much more. Near the end, we also discuss Steve's bingo adventure. Links to stuff discussed: What our ReLo Cubes look like, from Upack.Com Aria is De-Elvising and removed the ugly wrap Links (when available) to the Eureka Flickr Slideshow, The Daily article, the KNPR segment and the LV Weekly column The site for Tanked Steve's Las Vegas Weekly cover story on the Jockey Club MGM Resorts wants to implode The Harmon, according to the WSJ 360Vegas Podcast is worth a try Pix one, two and three of Steve’s Bingo adventure at Sunset Station [...]

R-J Layoffs Yield Bizarre List of Employee Ages


So that, above, is a letter that arrived at the homes of those who were "selected for Involuntary Termination" (read: You WIN!) along with a truly bizarre attachment that I'll get to in a moment. You can click on the image above to enlarge it and read it. I've read this sentence many times and I can only conclude that someone who somehow still has a job needs a remedial writing course: The Company is providing information to you regarding class, unit or group considerd in the selection decision to you, as well as information regarding other classes, units, or groups similarly evaluated by higher levels of management. Yeah, beats me, too. But what comes after this is even stranger: It's a three-page list of every newsroom job and the age of the person who occupies it. There are no names, but it's not difficult to figure out who's who in many cases. Here's a couple of examples: As you can see, I'm being very selective here. I could post the entire list with everybody's ages, but there's no need for that. The newsroom leaders, however, who expect every reporter to ask the ages of most figures in stories, cannot claim any sort of vanity or privacy in the matter. Mostly, though, I'm trying to understand the purpose of distributing this. They're giving those who were fired a list of everybody's ages. Is this a pre-emptive legal defense against someone who might sue them on grounds they were terminated based on age? It seems really extraordinary to go this far, but I'm not a corporate lawyer and haven't had a full-time job since Clinton, so I don't know. It was fascinating, though, and I'll do some age analysis in a moment. But first, the document answers a few questions we've been wondering. Who, exactly, was fired in Thursday's newsroom purge? Here's that list: So that's 12, every one of whom was on my list, so I did a complete job. My list was longer -- 22 names -- because it includes the fired from non-newsroom departments as well as a few who lost their jobs over the past week or two, too. Thus, I stand by my reporting and accept that, above, as the official count for the newsroom itself for that one day of carnage. Again, I don't see the need to publish the ages of those fired or other those who kept their gigs. But I found some interesting data therein nonetheless. This document indicates the newspaper now has 107 newsroom employees, although that includes four non-journalist support staff jobs. Of this, there remain 43 "reporters" or "senior reporters" across every section including their weekly publications such as CityLife and the View neighborhood sections. That's about one reporter for every 46,511 people in Las Vegas. I do not know what the national average is or the average in other cities, so I can't put that number in context. Other tidbits: * The average age of those who lost their jobs on Friday was 51.4.* The oldest newsroom employee is a 69.1-year-old columnist.* The youngest newsroom employee is 20.4-year-old photographer.* There are five staff photographers and two photo editors left, meaning the department lost 36% of its employees and 44% of their shooters.* The paper now has just one graphic art illustrator on staff. If that person's on vacation or out sick, I guess there are no charts or graphics in the paper?!?* The average age of the R-J's reporters is 42.5.* The youngest reporter is 22.3, the oldest is 63.9.* This list indicates there are four columnists. I assume they include Norm Clarke, John L. Smith, Jane Ann Morrison and, well, I don't know. It's confusing because there are clearly more columnists, see: I guess many of these folks -- such as Howard Stutz and Mike Weatherford -- are counted as reporters or maybe "senior reporters." And I imagine folks like Vin Suprynowi[...]

More On R-J Carnage: Severence, Silence & Sherm


[UPDATE: Oskar Garcia of the Associated Press is out with a report on these layoffs that pretends none of the reporting you've seen here exists. He did, however, speak to Bob Brown, the publisher who declined my requests as well as those of KNPR. Evidently, Mr. Brown does not believe in speaking about this within his own community. Not terribly good modeling for potential sources for the newspaper itself, is it? See what he had to say to Garcia here.] I continue to add names and details to the prior post on the firings at the R-J, and it doesn't seem like a second round is occurring today as was rumored. But here's some news from today: * Severance: The employees who lost their jobs yesterday were handed a white envelope, told to get their things and escorted out of the building. Here is how one now-ex-RJer described their parting gifts via email to me: Terminated employees were given their checks paid through the week with any leftover vacation/sick time hours included. The severance offered is 12 weeks of pay if you sign on the line not to sue the Stephens Media Group if it is found that they had terminated you for other reasons, such as age or some other protected class. Sign that and you get your money. Also, we get three months of medical benefits, including family coverage. If we have a lot of stuff in our desks, we must make appointments to collect the items before 8 a.m. so our presence is not be disruptive. HR Benefits Manager Cindy Meyers or corporate attorney Mark Hinueber went over the package with us and explained how to file for unemployment and what to say. Those with 401(k)s can leave our money where it's at or cash it out to roll into an IRA (not recommended). Editor Mike Hengel was seen standing by a photographer as he cleared out his locker to ensure he didn't leave with company equipment. Wow. That's just heartbreaking. Just because the corporate bastards act like greedy asses who don't take any pride in the quality of their product doesn't mean the former employees will, even in the darkest moments of their professional lives. Such demeaning treatment at the conclusion of long and honorable service is depressing and, sadly, quite normal today. * Silence: Bob Brown, the new publisher who was the ad director, has told KNPR that there will be no press release about the careers he just wrecked. He hasn't responded to e-mail or phone calls from me, either. But KNPR is undeterred and recognizes the importance of this news, so I'll be on State of Nevada on Monday at 9 am PT discussing the firings and what it means for Las Vegas journalism. This will be my second appearance since my farewell interview, which is kind of funny but also a bit of an honor. Also, while I do appreciate the traffic and attention, I think it's sad that the Las Vegas Sun's only coverage of this matter was to provide a link here. * Sherm: In the wake of such emotional news, I yesterday laid into Sherm Frederick, the disgraced former publisher of the Review-Journal. I do believe he made several terrible decisions and is owed some of the blame. But I also have heard -- and I remember from my own time there in the 1990s -- that he was always a staunch defender of his journalists having once been one and probably kept some people on longer than he should have because he had a personal connection with and empathy for them. That all can be true and honorable at the same time as he coasted along during the Vegas boom years and took credit for profits that were inevitable in that economy. What he never did was prepare for the next generation of journalism in any meaningful way and he just allowed a moldy old system to roll along unabated. But mostly, if Sherm is unwilling to take [...]

Massive Layoffs Strike The R-J Today


Last Updated at 2:05 p.m. PT, 8/19/2011 with new names and other details. I'm working hard to gather up all of the names of those journalists who are being ushered out of the Review-Journal's headquarters right now. As I did when Greenspun Media Group canned nearly 40 people in 2009, I will continue to update this post as more names and details are confirmed. Right now, I count 22 people on the list, almost all of them newsroom folk. I've also noticed that the RJ appears to have stripped the website of RJTV, the ill-executed daily news capsule that might have actually worked if it had decent production value and if there was some way to download or embed it. On Facebook earlier today, former R-J Editor Thomas Mitchell wrote in response to talk show host Heidi Harris asking if the fired included anyone she knows: "Probably not ... photogs, sports, artists, pressmen, ad folks. But there is one you know, but I've not got confirmation of departure." More recently, he commented on the Facebook site of one of the fired, Dennis Rudner, "Hope you got a decent severance package." Here's hoping that the "one you know" referenced by Mitchell is not the legendary John L. Smith, whose column last weekend certainly struck me as tentatively valedictory. That would be devastating. I also hear a press release is being worked up which, if true, would be substantially more transparency than occurred during the Greenspun massacre. (Update: No answer -- not even voicemail -- in Publisher Bob Brown's office.) So here's the growing list. I'll add new names and the length-of-service as the information comes in. Most of these folks were fired today, but a handful lost their jobs in the past couple of weeks. In addition to this, I understand 15 employees in the press room -- a full shift -- were let go earlier this week. And, of course, there was another, smaller layoff spree at the RJ earlier in March. I keep this list so the public knows how their newspaper is being diminished and also so these men and women do not become anonymous casualties after their many years of hard work: * Edmund Meinhardt, editor, LV Health/View on Health, 4 years * Steve Guiremand, sports copy editor and @UNLVRebelNation tweeter * Dennis Rudner, assistant sports editor, 12 years * Jim Decker, photographer, 24 years * Jean Thorne, graphics * Rowena Sioson Castillejos, graphics * Jason Whited, CityLife staff writer * Alan Choate, general assignment reporter * Jim Haug, education reporter * Joyce Lupiani, content editor, 16 years * Gary Thompson, photographer, 35 years * Craig Moran, photographer, 17 years * Mike Johnson, news-graphic artist, 26 years * Valerie Miller, Las Vegas Business Press reporter * Scott Wyland, county government reporter * Duane Prokop, 5+years * John Gurzinski, photographer, 20 years * Nate Tannenbaum, RJTV anchor * Erik Huey, online advertising * Jeff Wolf, sports reporter * Dean White, assistant to circulation director * John Edwards, business reporter Rudner, on his Facebook wall, wrote: "The worst part about being laid off after 12 years on the job is the effect it has on your children, even if they are teens." Heartbreaking. That impact to the photo department is severe. And it's made even worse to those shooters by the fact that they don't own their own equipment anymore. That is, when the cameras went high-tech digital and cost $5,000+ each, the photogs began simply using the company's. So these folks are hamstrung in terms of freelancing, from what one shooter told me. Also in the photo department, former photo editor Jeff Scheid was demoted to staff photog and Kevin Cannon is the interim photo editor. This paints a picture of a newspaper in dire e[...]

We are LIVE tonight with BLOOPERPALOOZA!


(image) As promised, we're live tonight with bloopers, bloopers and more bloopers. We'll begin at 6 p.m. PT, we'll have a special in-studio guest with us, and we've got a ton of very funny, silly or weird moments that you didn't hear on the shows of the past year.

Also, after the proper show is over, we'll play the other 19 minutes of bloopers we're putting into a special edition. All told, we'll probably be on the digital air from 6-8p. Join us here.

One word of warning: Miles has a foul mouth. This show is not appropriate for the intensely religious or small children.

Sending Good Vibes To John L. Smith


(image) This morning's newspaper arrived with news from Review-Journal columnist John L. Smith that he just underwent surgery for throat cancer. As usual, he disclosed it and described his experience with the flair and grace that he has displayed for decades as, by far, the most gifted columnist in the state.

It sounds like they have the problem in hand, and here's to John making a full recovery. It's kind of amazing to realize that he was out in the hot Vegas sun chasing down a wayward voter who might have thrown a 1-vote North Las Vegas City Council race even as he was getting second opinions on how to address his diagnosis. That front-page column, in fact, ran the same day, Aug. 5, he had seven hours of surgery to remove the cancer. I'm certain the night before he was being wheeled into the OR, he was answering questions from copy editors. In a city of many columnists -- heck, reporters! -- who never get off their duffs to literally chase a story, John remains true to the craft and a lonely, exceptional example for the rest of us.

John is also, by a large measure, one of the best human beings in Las Vegas media. He's just a nice, humble, friendly man. And the hits he's suffered in recent years -- his daughter's brain cancer, bankruptcy brought on by Sheldon Adelson's hubris, divorce, a DUI and now his own cancer -- returns us to the age-old question of why bad things happen to good people.

Today's column sounded a little bit more valedictory than I hope he intended. He writes as though he's got one foot out the newsroom door, and that would be a tremendous loss for the R-J and the community.

Miles joins me in hoping John has a speedy recovery. The city needs him, perhaps more than it knows.

My Stuff, Lately


(image) Nobody will ever accuse me of slacking off at the end of my Vegas run. In the past week alone, several significant pieces have appeared, but two in particular are worthy of highlighting:

* JOCKEY CLUB 4EVA: The cover of the Las Vegas Weekly is an assessment of this little eyesore of a timeshare complex run by understandably grumpy people and it's weird relationship with all the massive towers, most specifically the Cosmo, that surround it. As I am writing this from charming Ely, Nev., I can assure you I appreciate history and revere what's come before, but as a business model the Jockey Club portends the future of Vegas in a not-so-good-way. Check it out.

* HYDEIA BROADBENT, FORMER CHILD STAR: Fifteen years ago, North Las Vegas resident Hydeia Broadbent addressed the Republican National Convention as a 12-year-old with AIDS who stopped the show and forced the religious right to hit pause on the culture war for a split second. She became the most famous youth HIV/AIDS activist in the world, filling a niche vacated by the deaths of Ryan White and Pedro Zamora. I profiled her for an award-winning cover story in Poz Magazine back then, but what's become her since? Well, she's 27 now, barely speaks to her mother and is trying her best to recover from a childhood in the spotlight during which nobody really thought that she'd ever live to be an adult. It's messy and fascinating, and I'm pleased Desert Companion gave me the space to tell the story.

In addition to all that, there's also my column in the Weekly assessing the changes at the Plaza and a feature in Desert Companion on the largely unnoticed 100th birthday of the late William F. Harrah. And other stuff, too, but I can't think of it at the moment as I've gotta get in the car and head to Eureka. But there's some stuff to chew on for your Friday.

Next Show is Sunday at 6p


I'm in Ely, Nev., about to head to Eureka for a piece on how the high price of gold is impacting one rural community that lives off of mining. Then I have to drive back to Vegas and we have the farewell party on Saturday from 2-5 pm PT at Piero's. I've also got a massive pile of writing to do to finish up about four assignments by the end of the weekend.

On account of all of that and the fact that sorting out all the outtakes and assembling our final bloopers episode of "The Strip" will take some serious editing time, we're going to be live on SUNDAY at 6 p.m. PT instead of Saturday, as aforementioned. We'll have a special guest or two, and a good time will be had by most. Join us here for that on Sunday.

The Farewell Tour Hits Stride On Wednesday


All the appreciation we've been feeling from listeners, readers, friends, sources and colleagues as the days tick down before we leave Vegas has been overwhelming and gratifying. Still, it's hard for me to stop working when there's so many stories left to finish, so it's a weird time.

For efficiency's sake, I've consolidated some key moments tomorrow. Podcast fans ought to know we will NOT be doing a live show on Wednesday but, instead, will do a live one on Saturday night with some surprise appearances. More on that to come.

Here's what happens tomorrow:

* At about 10 a.m. PT, I'm scheduled to be on KNPR to talk about these years of coverage and whatever else they throw my way. Listen live at or on 88.9 FM if you're here. It'll replay at about 9 p.m. PT.

* At 11:30 a.m., I address the monthly luncheon of the Lambda Business and Professional Association. This is the gay business networking group where I interviewed Carolyn Goodman and Chris Giunchigliani in May in the only serious news-making debate/forum/event of the otherwise dull 2011 mayor's race. This time, I'll be discussing what I've seen change in news coverage and the lives of GLBT people in Las Vegas since I first arrived in 1996. It's at Las Palmas Mexican Restaurant in Commercial Center and costs $15 at the door. All are welcome, gay or not.

* At 4 p.m., I'm due at the Coffee Bean at 10834 W Charleston in Summerlin to discuss my two pieces for Desert Companion, the lifestyles magazine produced by Nevada Public Radio. More on those pieces in this separate post, but they include the one on would-have-been-centenarian William F. Harrah and a lengthy, important piece on the troubled transition to adulthood for Las Vegan Hydeia Broadbent, once America's most significant child advocate for people with HIV/AIDS.

So that's tomorrow. And don't forget YOU are welcome and invited to our farewell party at Piero's on Saturday from 2-5p. We don't actually check out of Vegas for another couple weeks and my Las Vegas Weekly presence doesn't end until Sept. 1, but these will be very, very busy and stressful times indeed and it's nice to do all of this before it gets completely out of control in our home.

Why I'm On A Diet


After this week's LVW column on the local Weight Watchers cover model appeared, I received a lot of email similar to this blog comment from Josh of VegasMavens.Com: How much of your success with WW would you attribute to wanting to enter your Fellowship "leaner and meaner" or, perhaps, just leaner? Would you consider posting a more detailed posting on your experience with WW on your blog or perhaps on the podcast? As Miles will tell you, there's nothing I enjoy talking about more these days than my diet because, well, it's going so well and has been relatively easy for me. But first, an important disclaimer: I have been gifted with my mother's efficient metabolism. I am not Frank Bruni. I merely abused that gift and am now in course-correction mode. Recall these photos from prior blog posts: That's a lot of snacking with impunity. I was always reasonably thin regardless. Here are some shots of me from age 21 to 34, when I covered the OJ Simpson trial alongside Dominick Dunne: And then something happened. All that glorious junk food decided it liked hanging onto me. Here, in order, are shots that show the story. The first one, from a 2008 political memorabilia convention, was less than a year after the one above with Dunne. After that, I'm in San Antonio for my Little Brother's Air Force boot camp graduation (March 2009), covering a deadly courthouse shooting in Vegas (January 2010), at Casa Wayner (January 2011) and at Barry Manilow's piano (March 2011), plus the shot atop this post covering the Tea Party rally in Searchlight in March 2010: I could see where this was going and I had to buy bigger clothes, which simply offended my thrifty Jewish sensibilities too much. Trouble is, as you can see, I'm not someone who had to worry about this before. And, also, I'm not someone particularly inclined towards exercise. But then I developed an inflammation in my left heel that my podiatrist believed had to do with recalibrating my gait to accommodate my weight gain, and that freaked me out even though it was merely a theory for the foot pain I've been experiencing. So, yeah, with all these other massive life changes coming, I decided to do something about before it went too far, I got too old and I just became contented being a larger and larger person who can't bear to look at myself in photos. I opted for Weight Watchers mainly because Miles and I had discussed it for a while and it seemed like a plan that provided the best structure without forcing people to eat their food, as Jenny Craig and Nutrisystem do. Miles has opted not to work on his weight until we get to Michigan, which I respect, but I didn't want to hold off any longer. Here's the part where I'm going to sound like a WW evangelist. I like how it works. They weigh you and take your height, and from that they give you a certain number of points that you can eat per day. In my case, I got 46 points each day and I started at 219 pounds, a figure that completely shocked me. The points are calculated by some WW formula in which carbs, protein, fiber and fat are tabulated via a special WW calculator. To keep you from being discouraged or feeling deprived you also get 49 extra "bonus" points a week, although I don't believe I've ever use any of them. I'm not sure I could have bothered with WW a year ago for two reasons. First, the old program counted various fruits and vegetables against your points, and that's a lot of what I eat to avoid being hungry. The new "Points Plus" system allows as much of most fruit[...]

The show is UP: Settling Old Scores With George Wallace


We broke some "news" in our George Wallace interview this time. The comic says he's thinking he may vacate the Flamingo showroom where he's appeared for eight years. He also indicates that his friend, Gladys Knight, is having throat trouble and plans to quit her Tropicana gig. And he and Wayne Newton actually have gotten into it over Wallace's ads calling himself "the new Mr. Las Vegas." Fun stuff. Click on the date below to play or right-click to save the show. Or you subscribe -- for free -- in iTunes or Zune. -sfAug. 7: The Real George Wallace?George Wallace threw us for a loop back in the fall of 2005 when he claimed to be two different places and then unceremoniously dumped us. And he’s paid for it, at least in these parts, with us mocking him as the symbol of a bad guest and many listeners saying they’d avoid his show because of the shoddy treatment. But Steve can’t really leave well enough alone. As we conclude our run as Vegas podcasters, he wanted another whack at Wallace, and so he was over at the Flamingo today for a face-to-face conversation. It turned out to be very fun discussion in which Wallace spoke possibly vacating his berth at the resort when his contract ends this year and much more.In Banter: Oscar Goodman Steak, Steve Wyrick woes, outdoor (?) summer theater in Vegas, obsessing over fake Spongebobs and more.Episode Guide:Open & Banter: Start to 18ishGeorge Wallace Part I: 24ish--51ishTrivia/Poll/Letters: 51ish-59ishGeorge Wallace Part II: 1:00-1:26ishTSTToTW: 1:26-endLinks to Stuff Discussed:George Wallace’s websiteOur original George Wallace interview episode from 2005VegasHappensHere.Com on Wolfgang Puck leaving the Springs PreserveA report on developments related to Oscar Goodman SteakThis blog asks whether Steve Wyrick will ever openThe Strip Sense column in 2010 on the Plaza’s gaybashing theater operator, John BeaneThe cutting-edge Riv brings bingo backThe County Commission obsesses over fake SpongebobsSpring Mountain Ranch State Park’s Super Summer TheatreRailroad Pass casino is 80The Sahara’s NASCAR auction is onCee-Lo may have a Vegas residency gigLance Rich’s proof there was no water in My Heart Will Go On in …A New Day[...]

MINI-EXCLUSIVE: Oscar Will Have A Glass Office At Oscar's


It's a small detail, but it's one that makes me mildly more optimistic that any steakhouse, even one "licensing" the name of our wildly popular former mob attorney/mayor, can work at the Plaza.

A Plaza source told me today they're building a glass-walled office for Oscar Goodman off from the bar area in the famed glass-dome space that is soon to open as Oscar's. In it will sit his famous mayoral furnishings, including this:

I'm told it'll be sort of like the Oscar Goodman Zoo where visitors will be able to witness the famed leviathan himself in his natural habitat. Interesting. You can see my pictorial of Oscar's City Hall office from 2009 here.

I'm still fairly dubious of how well this concept will work. As I'm hearing it, this steak place is going to be sort of a Vegas-themed Hard Rock/Planet Hollywood kinda thing, decorated with Oscar's likeness and artifacts of his illustrious careers. There's even talk of opening Oscar'ses in other cities after this one establishes itself.

Ultimately, though, gimmick-driven restaurants usually don't succeed, not even in the case of Switch at Encore where the kitchen is run by exceptional chefs. So Oscar's will have to serve up great food that is, because this is still Downtown, inexpensive. And cheap steaks usually are not terribly good steaks. So there's the conundrum.

Still, if Carolyn's husband is actually there hamming it up a lot -- and I mean A LOT -- then maybe it could work. I question, though, how often Oscar Goodman might toil in his office doing whatever "work" he has to do after, say, 6 p.m. when the dinner rush takes place.

Magician Steve Wyrick Postponed Again; Will He EVER Open?


That's not just my question. It's the one stalking the folks at the Las Vegas Hilton, too. There's some snag going on over there that goes beyond needing more time to perfect the show, and now I have a Hilton source telling me there are financial problems. Before it even opens, there are financial problems?!?I had exclusively reported on July 26 the the journeyman magician's new headliner gig had been postponed from a 7/27 opening to an 8/5 opening, and the other day a ticket agent told me its new opening date was 8/6. Well, that's today, and the Las Vegas Hilton website has scrubbed those dates and a ticketing agent said it's supposed to open 8/9 but "I can't really predict the future."Indeed. Don't hold your breath on that, either, because the resort's website shows Wyrick scheduled to appear EVERY SINGLE NIGHT UNTIL JANUARY 31, 2012 WITHOUT A SINGLE DAY OFF.Yeah, right.[Aside: By then will it even be "the Hilton" by then?]If you try to book tickets for any of these dates, you evidently can do it, though. They're $39.95 to $125. Something tells me there'll be plenty of seats available on a walk-up basis, though, so I'd hold off on that.Why does this even matter? Well, Wyrick's face is already plastered on a 20ish-foot-tall banner on the side of the resort where Barry Manilow's visage once gazed down upon the masses. Has there ever, in the history of Las Vegas, been a show advertised and promoted like that that has simply never opened?Wyrick, of course, has a long history of financial troubles and disappointing shows. Most recently, he went bankrupt after the $35 million Wyrick Theater and bar complex in the Miracle Mile Shops failed miserably. And yet he keeps trying to come back, and that spirit and effort deserves a certain admiration from even those not impressed by his tricks.There's one more bit of proof, though, that Wyrick is clearly not ready for primetime at the Hilton. what you find out front at SteveWyrick.Com. Maybe that's a time-traveling DeLorean? THAT would be an awesome trick.[...]

KSNV's Beautiful Tribute To Miles


Yesterday was Miles' final day at KSNV, the NBC affiliate in Las Vegas. He worked there or at the company's Reno station for 12 years, finishing up as the executive producer overseeing the entire news operation for the past four years. To commemorate the occasion of his departure -- he's coming with me to Ann Arbor to partake in my fellowship -- his friend and anchor Jessica Moore offered these truly lovely words at the close of the last newscast he produced, the 5 p.m. show:

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FYI, we're having a little party at
Piero's on Aug. 13 from 2-5 pm where friends, colleagues, listeners, readers and viewers are welcome to swing by and visit with us. Hope to see you there!