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APRIL 2014



Steve Sebelius: The GOP braces for a fight — with itself

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don’t imagine him as the biggest fan of spring, that T.S. Eliot, famously bumming on April as the cruelest month for nudging us with its primeval mandate for seasonal metamorphosis. Growth is hard. Change is tough. (Why you do us like that, April?) Particularly when it comes to our zones of comfort, our soft spots where a shell of sturdiness and stability matters: You know, like our homes. I’m not talking about the hassle of breaking out the Swiffer for a session of spring cleaning, but something more fundamental. Still bobbing in the wake of the housing bubble’s big pop — what’s it been, five years now? — the idea of home seems to be on our minds a lot lately, as investments (and as liabilities) both emotional and financial. With spring, construction machines tentatively wake up at the valley’s edges; the urb pioneers continue to seek shelter close to the city’s center; and recent seances among real estate experts produce prognoses refreshingly void of any freaky, suspect exuberance. (Though, as Eliot wrote, with spring comes uncomfortable change, too: In legislative offices and the hallways of local governments, there are murmurs about budget shortfalls due to the property tax cap, and discussions of whether we tightened the spigot too much, securing our homes but shortchanging the future.) Considered in that context, our feature “Room with a you” (p. 71) is more than a virtual tour of novel Nevada homes. Instead, it’s a tour of ideas about what else a home can be — an art museum, an archive, a laboratory, an architectural commentary. The spirit of spring is present elsewhere in this issue as well: in new scientific discoveries by a UNLV researcher (p. 36), in the sometimes harrowing personal discovNext MOnth eries of an avid hiker (p. 56) and, most beautifully, in our “In bloom” fashion Raise a glass to spread on p. 82. Also, there are lots of our favorite plants to eat on p. 64. Whatever, Eliot. places to sip, More like the coolest month. tipple and toast


APRIL 2014

n our own house, so to speak, we’ve been doing some sprucing up as well. You’ll notice a new look in this issue. That’s the fruit of the tireless work of Art Director Christopher Smith, whose redesign of the magazine is much, much more than just a new coat of paint. You’ll see at once that our new design is fresher, bolder and more emphatic — and, best of all, more readable — reflecting Desert Companion’s own continuing growth and evolution. (And to those vocal readers whose campaign of complaint about our possibly overzealous use of light cyan type threatened to reach a pitch of savage Euripedean frenzy: We have heard your pleas!)


alling all pro photo hounds, hobbyist shutterbugs, casual point-and-shooters and hopelessly addicted Instagrammers who see the world through the storm-cloud cast of a Sutro filter: May 5 is the deadline for our second annual “Focus on Nevada” photo contest. Last year’s inaugural contest was so successful, we decided to change everything. I’m kidding! But we did do some tuning up: We introduced subject categories — such as People, Landscapes and Artistic — to help inspire your photographer’s eye. This year, we’re also conscripting a diverse group of judges to determine the best shots in every category based on their visual impact, technical skill and creativity; the judges represent a broad swath of visual savvy in the valley, from photographers and designers to artists and architects. Finally, for would-be entrants who are afraid of signing their images’ lives away by entering the contest, we’ve tweaked the fine print; see the official rules for all the legalese-drizzled details. But what hasn’t changed: Great prizes, a chance to share your personal vision of the visual increditude of Nevada, and publication in our June photo issue. Questions? Email us at Andrew Kiraly editor

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The will to do wonders®


The will to do wonders®

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Caesars Foundation demonstrates its commitment to the environment through continued support of diverse organizations dedicated to reviving and sustaining natural resources: Restore the Earth supports wetland and habitat restoration along Louisiana’s Lake Ponchartrain that was severely damaged by Hurricane Issac. The Wetlands Initiative is devoted to reversing environmental damage and restoring wetland resources in the Midwestern U.S.


The will to do wonders®

Desert Research Institute’s graduate student fellowship program is dedicated to researching water quality issues at Lake Tahoe. Water Conservation Coalition’s ‘Safe Village’ project assisted with the inclusion of desert-friendly landscaping throughout Southern Nevada. Visit for more information.

® The will to do wonders®


APRIL 2014


Who makes the best coffee in Las Vegas according to Desert Companion readers? Sunrise Coffee! Or Sunrise Cafe! Or is it Sunrise Coffee Cafe? So confused! Head hurting! In our readers’ poll results published in our February Best of the City issue, we listed Henderson’s Sunrise Cafe ( as the winner. However! Sunrise Coffee (sunrisecoffeelv. com) owner Juanny Romero wrote in to politely inquire whether, oh, you know, maybe we meant … Sunrise Coffee? Doesn’t hurt to ask, right? “There is a Sunrise Cafe, which is a breakfast restaurant in Henderson,” she writes. “It’s a very yummy place, but completely different from us. ... We realize it’s possible that everyone has been voting for Sunrise Cafe and we were not even a part of the voting for Best Coffee Shop. We do wonder, though, if the misspelling and the use of another business’ name might have had a factor in the polling?” We went into the garage, popped the hood of the Best of the City Readers’ Poll survey software and … whaddyaknow, she’s right: Most of the Sunrise-loving respondents wrote Sunrise Coffee, in fact, rather than Sunrise Cafe. We apologize for the mistake. Consolation fun fact: Not only does Sunrise Coffee serve great coffee, but Juanny tells us it’s organic, fair-trade, co-op-produced and never test-squirted into the eyes of cute, furry animals.

Goodwin, senior director of programs and partnerships at The Gay & Lesbian Community Center, about our January “Influence” feature package; she was also included in the list. She continues: “Whether it was intended to be or not, the list you published is racist. In the year 2014, there is no legitimate reason for such a broad based list of community members to be devoid of black folks. ‘Persons of Influence’ is disturbing at best, and I am incredibly embarrassed to be included in it. It took me about a minute to think of the following names of black community members who are well-known and doing incredible work in this community: State Senator Patricia Spearman, Yvette Williams of the Clark County Democratic Black Caucus, Laura Martin of Progressive Leadership Alliance of Nevada (who has one of the most commanding Twitter presences that I’ve ever seen), or Derek Washington, well known community activist and State Lead of GetEQUAL NV. Again, I ask — why were no black individuals included in the list? Shame on Desert Companion for equating influence with whiteness.” Fair question. Answer: You’re right. The list wasn’t very racially diverse, and that evinces an embarrassing blind spot in what was clearly a flawed editorial process. We acknowledge that and take responsibility for it. And it’s a consideration we’ll keep in mind for future editions of the feature package and, of course, future issues of Desert Companion. But really, come on, did you have to sign off as “Your former reader”?



“In a city that is as large and racially diverse as Las Vegas, how is it possible that your staff did not find any black individuals considered worthy of being listed as influential?” asks Mel


Vo lU m e 1 2 I s s u e 0 4

APRIL 2014

“What a terrible injustice you do to your readers with your article on Dr. Heck,” writes Marilyn Mackett about Jon Ralston’s March column on U.S. Rep. Joe Heck, titled, “The

lonely alien of Congress.” “In the middle of his expensive campaign to convince the Nevadans he is a good representative, you help him along to get re-elected with your Ralston piece. Heck is known for his constant comments that he wants to help people, and then ALWAYS votes opposite the people. He doesn’t deserve a place in your magazine. He is anti-minority, anti-military (voted against reinstating their pay), anti-immigrant (talks like he wants the bill and always has a reason to vote against this issue), anti-women (against birth control), anti-gay, and antieducation. Heck has done nothing for our country except be at the ‘trough’ to get his education as a doctor and then leap into Congress as a ‘do-nothing’ representative. HE HAS EVEN VOTED AGAINST PBS AND NPR FUNDING. Why in the world would you support a creature who works for your death?” Well, since you put it that way! We’re sorry you interpreted the piece as an endorsement of Heck. That wasn’t the intention of the article; instead, the idea was to create a character study on a politician — regardless of his political stripes — trying to fly by his principles in a highly charged, highly partisan environment that doesn’t exactly nourish deepthink on the issues. Your charge that he doesn’t “deserve” a place in the magazine suggests there’s some mysterious threshold for meriting coverage in the publication beyond newsworthiness, but his profile and stature (and the fact that he’s up for reelection, a fact that we assumed to be of interest to readers) were more compelling elements for the basis of the story. We appreciate your input, Marilyn — but most of all, we appreciate that you didn’t sign off as a “former reader.” Phew!


Vo lU m e 1 2 I s s u e 0 4


71 interior motives

Five homes that reflect, and even indulge, their owners' strong passions — for art, the environment, sustainability and pop culture


APRIL 2014

82 spring

fashion in bloom

Freshen up the warm months with this season's liveliest floral designs

P H o t o G R A P H Y : J a k O B m c c ar t hy/ para s c o p e c r e a t i v e

APRIL 2014


Photo by Decca/Andrew Eccles

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APRIL 2014

Vo lU m e 1 2 I s s u e 0 4




departments All Things to All People 23 PoliticsIn the

GOP, the right hand isn't sure what the far-right hand is doing 26 trendingThe new

wave of pot merchants 28 zeit bitesGodzilla,

party of one! 30 ProfilePoet Olivia

Clare 32 STYLEClothes for

your next music festival 34 Open Topic

Change can be good — depending on what you change By Danielle Kelly


APRIL 2014

36 Science


90 The Guide

The gut instincts of a UNLV chemist may save your life someday By Heidi Kyser

Stories from my 10 years wandering Zion By Courtney Purcell

Don't tell us there's nothing to do in Las Vegas

63 Dining

96 End note

44 History

64 The DishEat your

We all know the movie Showgirls was a devastating bomb. Or was it?! By Scott Dickensheets

The plane crash heard around the valley — and in Hollywood By Robert Matzen

damn vegetables at these fine restaurants 65 on the plate

April's dining events

50 Culture

67 Eat this now!

Is the art of neon on the blink? By Lissa Townsend Rodgers

Pork-belly sandwich! Tamale boat! 68 First Bite

The Blind Pig and The Commissary

on the cover This season's look blooms like a spring dream Photography Robert John Kley Styling Christie Moeller Hair & Make-up Krystle Randall

P o rG t ra utt i te:r BCILL RE D HIUT GLHeES f t; Cra s h : s t a t e h i s t o r i c a l s o c i e t y o f m i s s o u r i ; N e o n s i g n : B r e n t H o l m e s ; Ta c o s : Sab i n Orr



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Mission Statement Desert Companion is the premier city magazine that celebrates the pursuits, passions and aspirations of Southern Nevadans. With awardwinning lifestyle journalism and design, Desert Companion does more than inform and entertain. We spark dialogue, engage people and define the spirit of the Las Vegas Valley.

Publisher  Melanie Cannon Associate Publisher  Christine Kiely Editor  Andrew Kiraly Art Director  Christopher Smith deputy editor  Scott Dickensheets staff writer  Heidi Kyser Graphic Designer  Brent Holmes

Account executives  Sharon Clifton, Carol Skerlich, Markus Van’t Hul, Tracey Michels, Favian Perez Marketing manager  Lisa Kelly Subscription manager  Chris Bitonti Web administrator  Danielle Branton traffic & sales associate  Kimberly Chang ADVERTISING COPY EDITOR  Carla J. Zvosec Contributing writers  Chris Bitonti, Cybele, Mélanie Hope, Danielle Kelly, Debbie Lee, Robert Matzen, Christie Moeller, Courtney Purcell, Lissa Townsend Rodgers, Steve Sebelius Contributing artists   Bill Hughes, Travis Jackson, Robert John Kley, Aaron Mayes, Jakob McCarthy, Chris Morris, Sabin Orr, Checko Salgado, David Stroud

Editorial: Andrew Kiraly, (702) 259-7856; Fax: (702) 258-5646 Advertising: Christine Kiely, (702) 259-7813; Subscriptions: Chris Bitonti, (702) 259-7810; Website: Desert Companion is published 12 times a year by Nevada Public Radio, 1289 S. Torrey Pines Dr., Las Vegas, NV 89146. It is available by subscription at desertcompanion. com, or as part of Nevada Public Radio membership. It is also distributed free at select locations in the Las Vegas Valley. All photos, artwork and ad designs printed are the sole property of Desert Companion and may not be duplicated or reproduced without the written permission of the publisher. The views of Desert Companion contributing writers are not necessarily the views of Desert Companion or Nevada Public Radio. Contact Chris Bitonti for back issues, which are available for purchase for $7.95.

ISSN 2157-8389 (print) ISSN 2157-8397 (online)


APRIL 2014

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Subject to availability. Management reserves all rights. The trademarks Cirque du Soleil, Sun logo, “O”, KÀ, Mystère, Zumanity, The Sensual Side of Cirque du Soleil, Zarkana are trademarks owned by Cirque du Soleil and used under license. The trademarks CRISS ANGEL Believe and Believe are owned by Criss Angel and used under license. The trademark LOVE is owned by The Cirque Apple Creation Partnership and used under license. Michael Jackson ONE is a trademark owned by Cirque Jackson I.P., LLC

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2014 Homebuyers’ Guide Taking the leap into homeownership? This guide will answer all your questions.

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On February 20, Land Rover of Las Vegas hosted Desert Companion readers to celebrate the February “Best of the City” issue. Attendees enjoyed light bites, cocktails and an opportunity to mix and mingle with some of the “Best of the City” award recipients.

View more images at Find us on Facebook at or follow us on Twitter @desertcompanion.

a 2013-2014 cox charities grant recipient, the children’s heart Foundation’s camp Mend-a-heart gives children with heart conditions the opportunity to experience camp.

We’re So Much More Than a cable coMpany. We’re the more than 1,300 Cox Communications employees who are making a difference right here in Southern Nevada. And we’re proud to present $168,000 in grants to 28 local nonprofit organizations, recipients of our employee-funded 2013-2014 Cox Charities grants. after-School all-Stars las Vegas What’s Cool After-School

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Godzilla vs. Pad Thai page 28

04 14

politic s, poetry & pot edition


Big-time wrestling In this corner, moderate Republicans! In the same corner, hardcore conservatives! Inside the battle for the GOP's soul B y S t e v e S e b e l i u s


n 2012, Democrat Justin Jones defeated Republican Mari Nakashima St. Martin in Senate District 9 by 301 votes. That close election allowed Democrats to retain their onevote majority in the state Senate. But before St. Martin could take on Jones, she had to fend off fellow Republican Brent Jones in a GOP primary, which she won by 255 votes. And while it’s impossible to say whether the money and effort she spent on an intraparty fight denied her a victory in the general election, it’s clear the primary didn’t help. St. Martin’s dilemma is not unique: So far, in 10 races up and down the ballot, ideologically conservative Republicans are challenging their more moderate brethren, a phenomenon not seen on the Democratic side. The primaries are skirmishes in a civil war raging within the GOP over its future, a war Democrats are watching with glee. And while those conservative candidates

I l lu s t r at i o n C h r i s m o r r i s

APRIL 2014


ALL Things


Hear more defend their reasons for running, their chances of victory are dubious at best.

All about taxes While a host of issues, fiscal and social, divide the party, one — taxes — can usually be used as a reliable litmus test. Ask conservatives why they distrust Gov. Brian Sandoval, and they will cite his embrace of a supposedly temporary package of sunset taxes. (That may be why Sandoval’s choice for lieutenant governor, state Sen. Mark Hutchison, is facing a challenge from hotelier Sue Lowden, and why she’s attacking him with a list of taxes and fees he supported.) Ask why they’re running a primary against state Senate Minority Leader Michael Roberson, and they’ll cite his violation of the Americans for Tax Reform’s anti-tax pledge, which he signed in 2010. What good does it do to elect Republicans, they argue, if they vote like Democrats? Or, at the very least, give away their votes without winning concessions from Democrats? In this, Roberson stands out as a particular target of ire: He not only switched from opposing the sunsets extension in 2011, he actually pitched a giant tax increase on the mining industry in 2013, one he suggested should take the place of a 2 percent tax on businesses proposed by the state teachers’ union. “He is just so bad, so toxic to the Republican Party,” says Chuck Muth, president of Citizen Outreach and a longtime proponent of Republican primaries against what he sees as squishy moderates. In fact, Muth says Roberson is a special exception to a general rule, to encourage Republican primaries only in districts where Republicans enjoy a majority in registration, so that no matter who wins the primary, a Democrat will not take the seat. Republicans in narrower districts or ones with Democratic majorities get a pass, Muth says. But not Roberson, whose embrace of a resolution that would remove a cap on mining taxes from the state constitution surprised even Democrats. Muth is also one of the loudest voices behind a controversial plan, backed by many grassroots conservatives, for the state GOP

They would rather burn the party down and remake it.


APRIL 2014

to endorse candidates in primaries. The process is seen as helping conservative candidates and has been boycotted by establishment figures, including Sandoval and Roberson.

The winning business Ultimately, the question must be asked: What will conservative Republicans achieve with primaries? In Roberson’s case, no one gives challenger Carl Bunce much of a chance. (That despite his record in helping libertarian-minded conservatives take over the state and county parties.) Bunce’s presence in the race, like all conservative challenges in Republican primaries, will force incumbents to devote resources that could otherwise have gone to fighting Democratic challengers. “It does make for certainly more challenges for the incumbent,” says Assemblyman Pat Hickey, R-Reno, the leader of Republicans in the lower house, who’s facing a primary challenge. “They have to spend more time and more money.” Hickey has argued for a “big tent” party where members of the so-called liberty movement (who sometimes call themselves “constitutional conservatives”) live-and-let-live with more moderate Republicans, rather than a “pup tent” party in which candidates snipe at each other. “I don’t want any faction thinking they are the true Republican Party,” Hickey says. But constitutional conservatives aren’t interested — in fact, they see moderates as the enemy every bit as much as Democrats, if not more so. So why worry? So many more people have voted for Hickey than have heard of his rival, what does it matter? Candidates tempted toward such thinking are haunted by the case of Democrat John Lee, a state senator handily defeated in a primary in 2012 by newcomer Pat Spearman. Now, no one can ignore a primary challenge. It’s also difficult to argue, as Bill Clinton once did, that winning races is the first duty of an elected official — otherwise, you can’t do anything in politics. That would taste like bile in the mouths of principled conservatives. For them, being right on the issues is better than winning. And, as one

Who's already eyeing the 2016 election? Hear a discussion on “KNPR’s State of Nevada” at desert companion. com/hear more

observer noted, they would rather burn the party down and remake it than inherit what’s been built.

a party purge?

Muth disputes the winning argument, saying even if current Republicans achieved a majority (impossible in the Assembly, given the makeup of the districts, but an achingly elusive goal in the Senate) they’d still fail to enact a conservative agenda. (This includes opposing a net increase in taxes; construction defect reform; school vouchers; public-employee retirement reforms; and education reform.) But there are things to which Republicans can point, such as teacher tenure and evaluation reforms passed in 2011 with the help of majority Democrats. Or school tax credit scholarships. Republican lawmakers had sufficient numbers to ensure majority Democrats could not enact taxes. Still, the fact that Republicans are not in the majority is a major hindrance to advancing a more conservative agenda. The path to success, said one trenchant observer in the GOP, is not for Republicans to be the polar opposite of Democrats, opposing taxes or expanded school funding, but to be a reasonable alternative, supporting smart, workable policies. Democrats will overreach, this person said, leaving Republicans to look responsible and trustworthy. But that pragmatism angers and animates the conservatives. It convinces them they’re the only real Republicans left, and that a party purge is the only way to defend the GOP “brand” from permanent dilution. They’re willing to risk losing, and a goodly number of them surely will, to make that point. Back in Senate District 9, a Roberson-endorsed lawyer, Becky Harris, is trying to unseat now-incumbent Democrat Jones. Once again, control of the majority hangs in the balance. But first she’s got to win the primary. Sure enough, she’s being challenged by not one, not two, but three fellow Republicans. One, Vick Gill, announced his candidacy and immediately criticized Harris. She apparently wouldn’t denounce taxes to his satisfaction.

ALL Things


Room to grow: Adam Bierman is a new strain of pot professional.


Grow up As the medical marijuana industry sprouts, a new class of professionals is budding. Meet the ‘potrepreneurs’ B y H e i d i K ys e r


n a warm February evening, toward the end of a monthly work group on the medical cannabis business, Adam Bierman takes the floor — a cramped spot of it between a folding table and a presentation board set up in a printing warehouse on Highland Drive. Bierman is the president of The MedMen, a Woodland Hills, Calif.-based business consultancy for medical marijuana. His company is behind the event that has drawn 30 or so people, now seated in metal chairs facing him. “If you don’t have real estate, you shouldn’t be here,” he barks at them. “You should be out looking for your building.”


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Compared to the featured experts who spoke earlier — focusing on the industry's business potential — Bierman comes off as a bit of a jerk. But he owns it. Dressed in a navy-blue suit that likely cost more than a few cars parked outside, he’s a younger version of Joaquin Phoenix. His most unnerving quality is how smart he sounds. Take the real estate problem he’s hammering on. His audience is curious about the 40 medical marijuana dispensary registrations up for grabs in Clark County. Nevada’s new medical marijuana law requires applicants to submit proof they’ve bought or leased a physical location for their business. Although the state’s health department hasn’t set an application deadline yet, insiders expect it to be early summer. Closing a property deal between now and then would be tricky. So would completing the rest of the 300-plus page application. Enter consultants such as Bierman. With three dispensaries and a cultivation network operating in Southern California, where conflicting state and

local laws put them in jeopardy of being shut down at any time, MedMen turned their attention to consulting. They say they have around 100 clients across the country, 13 in Nevada. The 14-person firm offers help with just about anything required to start a medical marijuana business — from licensing to operations, logo design to legal advice — and what it can’t do, it outsources. Bierman’s fee is $400 an hour; lower-level work costs less. “If you have real estate already,” he says, “be prepared to spend $100,000 to $150,000 to get it all in.” Client Kathie Gillespie, owner of A&B Printing, got in on the ground floor. She needed a consultant to put together financials and dig up crime stats and other information for the community impact statement. Of the four companies she interviewed, MedMen stood out. “Adam doesn’t try to BS you,” she says. Bierman represents the professionalized and capitalized interests converging on medical marijuana and, thus, Nevada. There’s gold in them thar growhouses. A report prepared for Nevada Senator and cannabusiness advocate Tick Segerblom for the 2013 Legislature puts the economic impact of the business at $33 million in year one alone. The rush, believe those who’ve long advocated for legalization, is what’s drawing potrepreneurs such as Bierman. “It’s gone from small groups of individuals, co-ops and patient associations helping each other to big-money interests,” says Michael McCullough of W.E.C.A.N., the Wellness Education Cannabis Action Network. “The people in the trenches are largely being shut out.” It’s a not-so-subtle shot at slick operators such as Bierman. Bierman takes criticism in stride. Nevada, he says, will be the marijuana capital of the U.S., and his fear is waking up one day to find that he missed the chance to become the Bill Harrah of pot. “I’m polarizing in the sense that I’m not shy about saying, ‘This is a business,’” Bierman says. “We want to take it out of the alleys and put it front and center, so that it can be taxed and benefit the community.”

p h oto g r a p h y B i l l h u g h e s





ALL Things

zeit bites

1. I dislike my co-workers!

What should I celebrate in April?

2. I'm fond of outdated cultures!

A lot, or with the white-hot intensity of 1,000 suns?

get poesy! Ladies and gentlemen, direct from “The Wasteland,” here’s T.S. Eliot to introduce National Poetry Month:

Are you a kook?


Confederate Memorial Day

A lot

Do you prefer music or lyrics?

april 26

1,000 suns


April Fools' Day

Music Both

Take your child to work day

april 1

National Poetry Month

april 24

3. Let's Talk about Values!

Record storE Day

Have you ever had sex?

april 19

Do you love a good meaningless, gimmick-driven holiday?

Are you a kook?

Arbor Day


April is the cruelest month, breeding Lilacs out of the dead land ...


Jazz appReciation month


INt'l Trombone Week


april 25


april 6-13 NO


Healthcare decisions day

Just kidding, tree huggers!

Still kidding, 54 people who know what that is!

Conch republic independence day

april 15

Still kidding, planet-lovers!

april 22

april 16

Tax Day

Earth Day

april 23

Patriots' Day april 21

Hey, that sounds like the intro to Financial Literacy Month, also in April. (We always mix those two up.) Regardless, whether you’re a poetry connoisseur, a casual fan or a man from Nantucket, April offers (poetic license alert!) a multifariousness of events. On April 8, Black Mountain Institute brings in Lynn Xu (Greenspun Hall, “If you have ever believed that organ donation for your lover is not merely useful but kind of hot,” one critic writes, “the poems of Lynn Xu are for you.” Speaking of organs, BMI will also stage a reading of "O, Heart," a verse drama by UNLV prof Claudia Keelan (April 24, Student Union, It’s about “a woman’s quest to understand the human heart through her encounters with ... Emily Dickinson, Jane Bowles and the father of modern cardiology," For “Creativity and the Word,” Lee Mallory will read his poems and discuss the creative process (April 27, Whitney Library, Of course, for some, every month is poetry month. Each Monday, Human Experience opens its mic at The Beat ( The Provoke Infusion series has settled into Bar + Bistro on Tuesdays (see its Facebook page). Word Up! Poetry does its thing at Wake Up Cafe on Wednesdays (Facebook again). And the Las Vegas Poets Organization throws down Pop-Up Poetry every First Friday at Art Square ( — Scott Dickensheets

Deleted scenes from Godzilla When the new Godzilla opens next month, it will feature several scenes set in Las Vegas. But not all of them. Here’s what was left on the editing-bay floor. — Andrew Kiraly & Scott Dickensheets

After marveling at its diaphanous, dreamlike beauty and daring lack of a traditional narrative structure, Godzilla eats Mystere.


APRIL 2014

Godzilla starts destroying suburban communities around the Strip, but is eventually driven away by poor education system, lack of family amenities and little sense of community.

Begins ferocious and terrifying destruction of Las Vegas; then settles into a lazy, safe routine; offered residency at Planet Hollywood.

In 44-minute continuous-shot scene, Godzilla waits for a table to open up at Le Thai.

Godzilla tries but fails to destroy Harmon Tower and becomes entangled in complex constructiondefect lawsuit.

Eager to learn more about exciting home interiors and spring fashion, Godzilla locates a Coffee Bean & Tea Leaf or Jamba Juice to pick up the April issue of Desert Companion.

Henderson l l Str o ll ‘n Ro Saturday, April 12, 2014 10am – 2pm


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ALL Things



Olivia Clare Poet


here’s probably no better way to definitively turn off someone iffy about poetry than with the grim phrase, “April is National Poetry Month.” If there’s anything that refuses to dovetail with a didactic, institutional awareness campaign, it’s poetry. So consider this pitch instead: “Poetry can teach you how to live.” That’s what Olivia Clare tells me recently over coffee when I ask: Why poetry? She delivers her answer not as some charged, grand pronouncement, but as a matter-of-fact declaration, as though she’s talking about a cool feature on a new smartphone. “I don’t mean this to sound corny or disingenuous, but I do read poems to teach me how to live,” she says. In other words, poetry does things for her — and, she insists, can do things for you. For Clare — a poet, Black Mountain Institute Ph.D. fellow at UNLV and, of course, avid poetry consumer — poetry startles, clarifies, complicates and comforts.

Clare’s own work is poised, removed but interrogative, and preoccupied with relationships between men and women. “Most writers have a problem that they keep working at, or a question they keep going to, and every time they go to the page or the computer, that’s the problem they’re trying to work out,” she says. “I’m trying to work out the relationship between men and women.” Here is one of her poems, “Crossing”: We came to a prime, a vexing, a rhythm. A figure in granite, remote, unused. And who has placed it here, between the mainframes, towers, towers? I said, I will

Poetry consumer? Yes. When Clare loves a poem, she memorizes it. “There are poems we have to have, that we have to keep to our hearts, right?” One of the first she ever memorized — and still one of her favorites — is Gerard Manley Hopkins’ famous meditation on mortality, “Spring and Fall” (“Margaret, are you grieving / Over Goldengrove unleaving? ...”) She adds: “W.S. Merwin’s ‘For the Anniversary of My Death’ is an amazing poem that will change you after you read it.” (“Every year without knowing it I have passed the day / When the last fires will wave to me ...”) What’s with all these reflections on mortality? “I always tell my students that poems are about two things: love and death,” she says. “And, of course, then there’s the sound and rhythm working together. When all those things come together as a whole, you have a poem that makes you want to memorize it and keep it with you.”


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take this remoteness, and fastened he/she to my back and stepped into the river twice twice. As Clare settles in to the three-year Ph.D. program, Vegas is already seeping into her work. “I’ve never been in a place with such a juxtaposition between convivial spirit and then profound desert solitude. That’s a lot of what I’m getting from here. And the otherworldly landscape in itself is very inspiring.” Clare finds novelty and promise in navigating that landscape that alternates between sparkle and scarcity. “Poets and fiction writers have periods of life when they’re out in the world, having experiences, but then you have to have these moments of extreme interiority, where you’re just sitting at home, just feeling the solitude.” Now is a good time to catch Clare in her “out in the world” phase; see p. 28 for a list of poetry-related events happening this month. — Andrew Kiraly

P h oto g r a p h y AARON MAYES

APRIL 2014


ALL Things


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APRIL 2014

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ALL Things

open topic


It takes all kinds Let’s not allow constant change to turn Las Vegas into everywhere else B y Da n i e l l e K e l ly


he plan was to drive to City. We weren’t exactly certain where it was, and we were absolutely certain that no one would let us in once we got there. But that wasn’t the point. A drive to City fit all the requirements for a thrilling journey to an unattainable destination. A heavily metaphorical Nevada afternoon. City is a sculpture that also functions as architecture, monumental in size and intention, quite literally an urbanesque complex of earthen geometries and constructed megaliths located in remote Lincoln County. It is one of a number of important examples of Land Art to be found in and around Nevada. Artists like Robert Smithson, Nancy Holt and Walter de Maria looked to the landscape as a kind of canvas, perfectly harnessing the geography and spirit of the West. Apart from challenging the commodity-based and institutional art world systems, the resulting works are highly experiential and, if you dig the Southwest landscape, breathtaking beyond words. The mastermind behind City, the artist Michael Heizer, began the project in 1970 and has been constructing it ever since. Of course, given that no one is allowed in to see the place, we have until recently only had his word that the project actually exists. A tantalizing what-if, in my mind. The post-Google Earth era has ruptured that bubble by making aerial images of the project available, revealing a partially completed sci-fi masterpiece more appropriate to the planet Arrakis than rural Southern Nevada. They look fake, mystical, Photoshopped and imperfect — like a collection of little alien toys. I imagine standing among its monoliths would feel like being immersed in a giant spectacle made of dirt. Ancient and intergalactic. But I kind of hope I never get the chance


APRIL 2014

because the fits and starts and exceptionally slow yet oddly edge-of-your-seat nature of the process has become, for this outsider, integral to the appeal. I love marginal states. I’ve spent most of my adulthood living in cities like City — on the cusp. I called Portland, Oregon home at a time when it was shifting from a working-class hippie port town to a mecca of urban youth cool. Dead Heads, electricians, punks and bike messengers all drank together — there was room for everyone at the bar, which isn’t necessarily the case these days. During that time a bumper sticker made the rounds demanding that residents “Keep Portland Weird.” In true PDX fashion, the phrase was condescending enough to suggest an intimate knowledge of weirdness that I had obviously never known, but self-congratulatory enough to presume to be acting in my best interest. By raising awareness about the swelling crisis, it admitted that it needed my help to stop the tidal wave of normalcy. For all of its co-opting of weirdness and implied open-mindedness, it struck me as narrow and a bit fearful. Plus, most of the people who had the bumper sticker weren’t


Close your eyes and open them, and you could be in any exciting urban area in any part of the country on the cusp of revitalization. But how much do we want to be like everyone else? even natives. What did they know from Portland weird? The city was all weird and cool to me. How about “Change is Good,” Bumper Sticker? Don’t tell me what to do, Bumper Sticker. I’ve been thinking about City and that bumper sticker a lot lately. The surge of change like gentrification might strike a city once or twice in a generation. But the ebb and flow of transformation is the lifeblood of Las Vegas, the city I call home. It is perhaps most like Heizer’s project, sci-fi in its own way, an earthbound spectacle emerging from the desert in a gloriously constant state of what-if. There is so much to love about my adopted hometown, and none of it obvious. It is tough, demanding and unforgiving. It can also be impeccably refined. A quick glance through social media confirms that it is neurotically self-obsessed. Come September, this city is beautifully bleached-out by the sun, like a favorite soft T-shirt. The Strip doesn’t care what you think: It dresses up and parties hard, wearing today’s mascara tomorrow, smudged, with pride. It will be anything you want it to be, generously holding your fantasies and realities aloft, pretending at balance. And it lets you be anything you want to be — if you can stand it. I know I will never understand its uniquely American brilliance. Heizer’s City is an iteration of this ever-evolving spectacle in the dirt: raw material, otherworldly context and endless contradictions that make for a thrilling journey to an unattainable destination. A markedly different kind of transformation is taking hold now in Las Vegas. Lately things feel different and the city looks different — and by different, I mean kind of the same. Small businesses are disappearing and old buildings are being torn down. Things look a bit more homogeneous, as does the clientele. Close your eyes and open them, and you could be in any exciting urban area in any part of the country on the cusp of revitalization. But how much do we want to be like everyone

else? Institutionalized change is a journey to an attainable destination, a beautiful one with bright, gorgeous buildings and fabulous amenities available in any other metropolis. Is the native culture shifting, or are recent transitions just harder to recognize? On a recent walk downtown I overheard a tourist observe in amazement, “It doesn’t look like Fremont Street ...?” with a slight question and a bit of sadness that I can’t distinguish from my own. A gamble on a grand scale is still a gamble, and at its heart the gamble is what makes this town hum. I love it. Over the years, some folks have been brave enough to take a big gamble on downtown, and I am excited to see what happens as the groundswell of change crests, but concerned as I watch change subtly erode the character, people and places that challenge my notions of normalcy and inspire reverence for the tenacity and creativity of the Wild West. It’s a shift I’ve seen happen before, and I hope there is room for everyone to sit at the bar. One of my favorite drives is a stretch of small homes on Eastern Avenue that have been converted into businesses, the majority of which have taken advertising into their own hands. The businesses share front yards with neighboring single-family homes, quaint and relatively old, and the street bustles with pedestrians of every ethnicity. Some buildings are boldly painted, others framed in LED reader boards with perhaps a giant blow-up mascot or two swaying outside the door. During the day you can see the warts and cracks, but at night it is a sparkling masterpiece of democratic ingenuity residing, like City, somewhere between sculpture and architecture. This urgent and ever-changing menagerie of vibrant colors, logos and lights is a design mashup full of off-the-cuff strategies for catching the eye and conveying an idea, tiny homesteads providing the framework for everyone’s latest dream. This is my hometown. I didn’t get it before, but I get it now. Here goes nothing: Keep Vegas Weird.


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(702) 818-4100 APRIL 2014



Gut check Post-op stomach infections kill thousands, but UNLV chemist Ernesto Abel-Santos and his team just might tame the beast in the belly B y H e i d i K ys e r


nurse wakes you up in the hospital; the doctor wants a word. Although still groggy from the sleeplessness of compulsive clinical care, you feel better. You’re breathing easier, the elephant on your chest is gone — just a touch of stomach cramps and diarrhea, undoubtedly from the cafeteria food. What could the doctor want? It turns out not to be about your pneumonia, the reason you were admitted to begin with. He says you’ve contracted a secondary illness, called Clostridium Difficile (C. diff) Infection, “CDI” in medical parlance. It seems the antibiotics that you were given killed more than the infection in your lungs; they also eradicated intestinal bacteria that help keep you healthy. Without these superhero gut flora to ward off unwanted intruders, an army of tiny, dormant spores have awakened, spilled into your intestines and begun spreading harmful toxins through your digestive system. Without treatment, they could cause severe diarrhea and damage the lining of your intestines. But perhaps the worst news is this: Because you’ve contracted a hospital-borne infection, your insurance may deem it a “never event,” and deny coverage for any of the services you’ve received.


APRIL 2014

Sound like a nightmare? It’s real. CDI sickens a quarter-million Americans each year, contributing to the deaths of 14,000 of them, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. A 2011 study by the European Society of Clinical Microbiology and Infectious Diseases estimated that the annual U.S. economic burden of CDI is $496 million for hospitals, $547 million for third-party payers and $796 million for society at large. “This is such a serious issue,” says Skip Galla, an RN in the infection-prevention program at UMC. “It’s adding insult to injury: You’re hospitalized to be treated for something, and you end up staying in the hospital to be treated for something else that you caught while you were there. It’s very challenging for hospitals.”

The scope of the crisis is why Ernesto Abel-Santos set aside his previous work on anthrax to focus on C. diff in 2007, when he moved here from New York’s Albert Einstein University to teach chemistry at UNLV. The associate professor of chemistry and his team have developed a compound that could prevent CDI, and, thanks to a deal he struck with a pharmaceutical company in Boston, it could be helping the public wake up from its hospital-infection nightmare within a few years. Bacteria versus bacteria


graduate student gave Abel-Santos’ compound the name CamSA. Ask him what it stands for, and you’ll get a shrug, accompanied by his frequently deployed and thoroughly disarming giggle. “Colic acid meta sulfonic something

P h oto g r a p h y C h e c ko S A lg a d o

Better living through chemistry: By applying his chemical knowhow to a common medical problem, Ernesto Abel-Santos might see his efforts result in a new drug.


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something,” he says, in the heavy Spanish accent he’s kept since leaving his native Dominican Republic to do a Ph.D. in chemistry at the University of Miami in the late ’90s. (After Hurricane Andrew shut down his department there, he finished his degree at the Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis.) Never mind its name. Abel-Santos prefers to talk about how CamSA works. It all starts with spores, he says. Most bacteria replicate like other normal life: They consume sugars, use oxygen, produce protein, divide every 20 minutes, and so on. Spores are different. When a particular kind of bacteria is starving, rather than die off, it forms a hard, resistant structure that can lie dormant for long periods. “Think about a seed,” Abel-Santos says. “You can have it in a package in your ga-

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APRIL 2014


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APRIL 2014

SCIENCE rage for years, and it just remains a seed. Then, you put it under the right conditions — soil, water, light — and it germinates and makes a plant, right? Same thing with a spore.” C. diff tends to harmlessly colonize infants, although only 5-10 percent of them carry it into adulthood. Most spores get into the grownup stomach when a person touches a contaminated surface and then his mouth. The risk of this is high in hospitals — even those with staunch anti-infection protocols, such as UMC. “The spores need nothing to live,” Galla says. “They live so long on a bedside surface that we’re unable to eradicate them. Soap and water don’t really even kill them; it just rinses them away. Bacteria are like glitter: If they’re in one place, they’re all over everything.” If someone picks up the spores while his gut flora are thriving, nothing will happen. Like seeds in a garden, C. diff spores need certain conditions to germinate. These conditions include the absence of the good bacteria that are natural infection-preventers. So, if the person is taking antibiotics — especially the broad-spectrum kind — his healthy bacteria may die along with the harmful ones, creating fertile ground for C. diff spores. How do you kill a C. diff infection? There are only a couple ways available to patients right now, and the most common one can create a brutal Catch-22. “The ironic part is that, in order to kill CDI, you have to take a different antibiotic than the one you took for the original infection,” Abel-Santos says. “But that new antibiotic is still going to be killing the rest of your gut flora, and remember: C. diff doesn’t die; it just forms spores. So, now you’re cured, and they take you off the antibiotics before your gut flora can come back. What happens? You get a new round of CDI. It’s a recurring infection.” This cycle can continue over months or years, spreading toxins that eat away at the intestinal lining. Worst-case scenarios include colitis, colostomy (removal of part of the intestine), even death. Besides antibiotics, another possible cure that’s still in the early stages of

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SCIENCE adoption is fecal transplantation. This, Abel-Santos says, is essentially “eating poop. The idea is that, by ingesting bacteria from a healthy donor, you replenish your gut flora before C. diff can germinate.” Fecal transplantation shows promise, he says. Still, for many patients, it’s an unpleasant choice. The anti-germination approach


he absence of infection-preventing gut flora alone doesn’t cause C. diff spores to germinate; a trigger is also required. To find this trigger, Abel-Santos and his team homed in on signals found only in the intestines. They narrowed it down to bile salts, cholesterol-type molecules that the liver releases into the intestines. If they could block those signals, they theorized, they could prevent C. diff germination. Over the following years, Abel-Santos


APRIL 2014

Spores live so long on a bedside surface that we're unable to eradicate them. Soap and water don't really even kill them; it just rinses them away. Bacteria are like glitter: If they're in one place, they're all over everything. and chemistry Ph.D. student Amber Howerton developed artificial versions of a bile salt that acts as an anti-germinant. Theoretically, patients on antibiotics would concurrently take an anti-germinant so, even if they ingested C. diff spores, the spores would just pass through the system without causing infection. Working with about a half-dozen other students, Howerton has done most of the lab work — from test-tube experiments to animal testing — homing in on CamSA, a compound that inhibits spore germination. They had to convert a teaching lab to a research lab, because there was previously no space for the type of work

they’re doing. Standing in front of a tall, glass-and-metal totem pole (a gel chromatography structure, used to isolate compounds) in the cramped basement of UNLV’s biology building, Howerton recalls the hours she spent watching YouTube videos and consulting with veterinarians in order to learn how to safely and effectively conduct animal tests. The work, which took on a starker meaning when an aunt in Oklahoma contracted CDI a few years ago, culminated in her Ph.D. dissertation. “CamSA worked much better than we expected,” she says. “We prevented infection in mice with a single dose.”

SCIENCE It is also an ideal candidate for a drug in a clinical setting, because scientists know exactly when patients are at risk of getting CDI (when they’re in the hospital and taking broad-spectrum antibiotics). If physicians could give the anti-germinant together with the antibiotics, they could cure the original infection while preventing the secondary one. When the patient is cured, all treatment is stopped, his gut flora return and life goes back to normal. Widespread application of the discovery is obvious, so when Abel-Santos took his idea to UNLV’s Lee Business School, it was easy for a group of grad students to come up with a scheme for commercializing CamSA. Their business plan, which won second place in the 2013 Southern Nevada Business Competition (a precursor to the Governor’s Cup), called for setting up a company here in Las Vegas, but Abel-Santos said he couldn’t get it to work.


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“The problem was lack of research infrastructure,” he says, referring to a scarcity in the type of lab space required for the trials that the drug will have to go through before hitting the market. Undeterred, the UNLV team partnered with Spordiff Therapeutics, a Boston-based startup cofounded by a pharmaceutical investor and a couple of scientists doing work similar to Abel-Santos and Howerton’s. Spordiff will carry out laboratory testing and clinical trials while the UNLV team keeps tinkering with the compound. The university holds the patent, and Spordiff will lease an option for it; Abel-Santos maintains claim to the original compound, but any new compounds will be the property of the pharma company. The university will get royalties on any eventual sales, with the inventors taking a cut. Abel-Santos and Howerton are al-

ready moving on. She has accepted a position as associate professor of chemistry at Nevada State College. He and his students are working with several new bacteria in the lab, incorporating collaborations with other scientists across the country. One of their papers has appeared in two scientific publications, and Abel-Santos been invited to present his work in London, Lisbon and Chicago. Despite having hit the big-time, neither plans to leave Las Vegas. Family ties, a love of the outdoors and the city’s unique combination of big-city attractions and small-town accessibility keep them happy here. “I like the people here,” Abel-Santos says. “I like the fact that it’s a new university. There’s a lot of things that we can do to move it forward. So, it’s a more exciting environment than a set, older university.” Even if it could use a bigger, better lab.


Crash mountain: Searchers go through the wreckage of TWA Flight 3 after the tragic crash of Jan. 16, 1942

Explosion in the night A fiery 1942 plane crash on Mount Potosi rattled the Las Vegas Valley — and sent shockwaves through Hollywood and beyond B  y R o b e r t M at z e n Editor’s note: On the evening of January 16, 1942, TWA Flight 3 slammed into Mount Potosi just west of Las Vegas, bursting into a ball of flame. On the plane was film star Carole Lombard, returning to Los Angeles from Indiana, where she was performing to promote war bonds. But she wasn’t just returning home to L.A. — her flight home was also a desperate attempt to keep her husband, Clark Gable, from the arms of another woman. In this excerpt from Fireball: Carole Lombard and the Mystery of Flight 3, author Robert Matzen reconstructs the night of the crash from multiple points of view based on several eyewitness accounts.


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P h ot o c o u r t e s y S tat e H i s t o r i c a l S o c i e t y o f M i s s o u r i


he Blue Diamond Mine sat atop a high bluff guarding the entrance to Red Rock Canyon, southwest of the growing city of Las Vegas. Almost 9,000 people now inhabited Las Vegas, and things were looking up further with the opening of a sprawling motor hotel and lodge called El Rancho Vegas, located on Highway 91 just south of town. The strip mining operation at the Blue Diamond produced gypsum for wallboard and had been in operation for 60 years. The mine’s workers and their families lived in a collection of company structures generously called the “town” of Blue Diamond, which sat low in the valley below the strip mine in Red Rock Canyon. Darkness had recently cloaked the diggings on the bluff. It had been a cold day and promised to be a colder night, a Friday night, with the sky clear and full of stars. Fifty-year-old watchman Danlo Yanich was on his rounds, which didn’t amount to much in a location this remote. There was a war on now, and facilities across the nation had been ordered on high alert due to the dangers of sabotage, but that figured to be on the coasts, where shipping proved to be vulnerable in the ports of Los Angeles and New York. Dan didn’t have any reason to figure that saboteurs would come stumbling up to the Blue Diamond Mine. If anything, they might be tempted to try for the Hoover Dam 15 miles to the southeast. It was with some security that Dan Yanich guarded the Blue Diamond mining operation, where

Then the sound stopped. Not as if it had faded away. It just stopped. Angry engines one second, and nothing the next. The engine noise was replaced by the dead silence of Mount Potosi at night. Strange, thought Charlie. intruders usually took the shape of wild burros or rattlesnakes. Yanich had emigrated from Yugoslavia and, with no formal education, he counted himself lucky to find a job at the mine in 1916, half his life ago. Food poisoning had laid him low earlier in the year, and for the past five months he had worked guard duty. Now he was getting better, slowly but surely. Going on 7:20, Dan saw a plane flying over a bit to the south and west, not too far off and not too high, considering that the mine sat way up on the bluff. Dan couldn’t hear the engines of the plane for the incessant drone of the machinery behind his ears, but he remarked to himself that this big baby was flying lower than he was used to, even considering the bombers and fighters that zipped past on their way to the classified area off to the southwest where Army maneuvers took place almost daily.

He knew motors, and he didn’t like the sound of that sputtering engine. By now the plane had flown over; Harper’s shift was about done, and his attention returned to getting out of there and warming up on this cold night. He vaguely heard the piston engines of the plane growling away into the darkness, working hard, their frenetic drone bouncing off the nearby cliffs and echoing through Red Rock Canyon behind him.

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an Yanich looked over at the silhouette of the plane and its wingtip running lights, one red, one green, and thought it a majestic sight, a big twin-engine number that he figured to be a bomber or a DC-3. TWA and Western Airlines planes flew out of McCarran Field up at the northern edge of Las Vegas, but so did all manner of Army planes; whichever this was, it was flying south-southwest, maybe toward Los ar below the bluff and away from the Angeles. Because of the war and the new mining machinery, Calvin Harper, blackout rules, far fewer lights burned in the head loader in the loading dethe area at night, including signal beapartment, was able to hear the plane fly cons for air traffic. Dan could see the sigover. Harper was down by the cook house nal beacon due east over at Arden, and it at the gypsum plant below the mine and seemed as if the plane flew right over it. just moments from punching out for the But the beacons high up on 8,000-foot night when he heard the mystery plane, Potosi Mountain to the south no longer lower and louder than other planes. He flashed their comforting beams at night. gave the airship a glance over his shoulHe could see Potosi’s black mountaintops der and saw a streak of flaming exhaust jutting up high in the distance, standing from the right engine — the plane was so blacker than the velvety sky above. Very low in the sky that the fuselage blocked high, treacherous mountains they were, his view of the left engine — but the pewhere even the prospectors didn’t go beculiar thing to Calvin was the sound of cause of the cliffs and the loose footing the engines. One growled steadily while and the boulders. Snow blanketed those the other seemed to come and go. He mountains all winter and gave them a would hear it, then it would sputpicture-postcard appearance, ter to silence, then he would hear but make no mistake: One wrong it again. Harper had ridden planes step up on Potosi Mountain, or Hear more a lot back when he lived in Los any of those mountains, and even Learn about Angeles, and he was a motor man the surest-footed man would be the secret who loved to fool around with his found only when buzzards pointhistory of the Air Force car engine and keep it humming. ed the way in the spring.


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History The Army fliers didn’t seem to mind the blackout and its darkening of the beacon lights, and the pilots of those big silver passenger planes didn’t seem to give a care about new rules either. Didn’t they fly by radio beam anyway? This pilot wasn’t any different. That big plane climbed like it meant business, cutting purposefully through a skyful of stars that sparkled faintly behind high, light cloud cover.



en or so miles due south, off an old mining road in the foothills of Potosi Mountain, Charlie and Ruth Hawley had finished pitching their tent and now warmed themselves by a roaring campfire in preparation for spending the night in a desolate spot with high hills on ei-


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Above, Carole Lombard leads the national anthem during an appearance to promote war bonds; right, happier times at the Gable ranch with Clark Gable in 1939

ther side. They were in the process of cutting firewood for the remainder of the winter and had half-loaded their pickup truck when darkness settled in. They sat in the quiet, the only sound the crackling fire, and stared into the flames. Ruth was about to retire to the tent when she heard a plane flying low overhead. The sound was loud enough that both looked skyward into the starry night but could not see an airplane. “They’re coming after us, Charlie,” said Ruth, deadpan, as she got to her feet. “Well, they have to be wonderin’ ’bout a fire in the middle of nowhere, I suppose,” said Charlie. “We have to be the only people for miles.” “Not flying very high up, is it?” she said, and left her husband by the fire. He kept looking at the sky. “For the mountains, no, it sure ain’t,” Charlie murmured, but his wife was already gone. “Not high up at all.”

And then the plane came into view directly over their fire with a highpitched mountain lion’s growl that shook the ground, a rumble he could feel in his bones. The engines seemed to be working hard, very hard. And no, the plane wasn’t as high up as a man would expect. Charlie Hawley had a perfect view of it, looking straight up into its belly, and the entire time he watched, the plane seemed to be turning left, left, left. Not

P h ot o s c o u r t e s y r o b e r t m at z e n

nside the Blue Diamond Mine business office, purchasing agent Ora Salyer sat cleaning up some figures in his books and heard the plane roar overhead. Planes simply didn’t fly so near the diggings at night, and so it was notable when he heard this one now. It was close enough and demanding enough that he gave it some notice, especially when he could feel vibration from the engines in his desktop. He half wondered what this plane’s story was and in what direction it was heading. It had to be an Army plane, it just had to be. When the machines weren’t running, the only sound in an hour’s time might be the howl of a coyote. This was, after all, unforgiving country, part desert and part jutting mountains. Cactus grew in the parched earth, and Joshua trees, and yucca plants, and not much else. Hearty folks lived here — you had to be hearty to get by in Southern Nevada. Then the sound of the plane receded, and Salyer’s mind went back to his figures. Yanich had moved on through the diggings down toward one of the conveyor belts, which were still in operation this late in the evening. Salyer kept at his bookkeeping, in the stillness of a perfectly ordinary, cold, and deepening January night.

much of a turn, but a little — enough to be noticeable. He could see the twin glow of lights streaking forward from the plane, and he could feel those angry engines. Inside the tent, Ruth was too damn cold to go back outside and watch some airplane. She buried herself under her bedclothes and contented herself to wait out those loud motors and a vibration deep enough to rattle her teeth. Charlie watched the plane fly on over the hill, and then the sound of the engines grew distant and the echo spread out and no longer sounded quite so angry. Ruth began to relax a little as the bedclothes warmed her up. She kept listening to a now-more-agreeable set of airplane engines out in the distance. It was almost peaceful. She had never been on an airplane; she didn’t figure she ever would be on one. But somebody was up there heading someplace, and that was the sound of their progress, that plane now some distance downrange. It was kind of comforting, the thought of people around, even if they sat way up there flying around in the sky. Then the sound stopped. Not as if it had faded away. It just stopped. Angry engines one second, and nothing the next. As if a light switch had been clicked, the engine noise was replaced by the dead silence of Potosi Mountain at night. Strange, thought Charlie. The whole thing with that airplane: strange. Now all was still, so very still, when just a few moments ago there had been such commotion.







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en miles north of the Hawleys, Dan Yanich had a different view. Yanich had seen a flash out the corner of his eye, and the ground trembled under his feet; the desk before Ora Salyer vibrated a bit more. Seconds later Salyer heard the faintest of rumbles in the distance. Like far-off thunder, except that it was a clear night and there weren’t any storms. Salyer was used to the reports of guns from hunters as he sat in the office, or from the Army boys practicing on the

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range to the south. It was always difficult trying to figure the origin of a gunshot or an explosion in the surrounding mountains, but whatever he had just heard tonight, and wherever, it seemed to be very distant but also sizeable, as if maybe the Axis had dropped a bomb or dynamited the Hoover Dam. Salyer scrambled up from his desk and slipped outside, joining Yanich there as the watchman frowned toward the south and said, his accent thick, “I think dat airplane maybe drop a flare.” Salyer stared off into the blackness to the south, and knew at once that this was no flare. He gaped at a fireball with flames licking upward into a high and spectacular orange beacon on Potosi Mountain. The view of both Ora and Dan was unobstructed, and that fire burned like something out of a nightmare, like something biblical, the flames reaching up what must have been hundreds of feet into the black sky, glowing yellow and orange, their light illuminating the smoke above, which gave the radiating effect of a halo. All around the fireball at the center, the snow on the mountain glistened like gemstones, and Yanich saw the effect as utterly beautiful. They could make out trees burning as well, despite the fact that a storm had just dumped a couple feet of snow on the peaks of Potosi, also known as Double Up Peak, also known as Double or Nothing Peak, and Table Mountain. It had lots of names because people respected it; it was a deadly place. They wondered what in the world … But deep down they knew, and their stomachs turned over: the growling plane that had flown past. Something had gone wrong with that plane. It didn’t seem plausible because of the ferocity of the explosion and that fire up there, which seemed to burn much brighter and hotter than any kind an airplane could cause. It made no sense, yet something had set the jagged peak of Potosi aflame. And that big plane had just flown over. Only one explanation made any sense: It was an Army plane loaded with munitions. Salyer ran inside and called the police station over in Las Vegas.

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Let there be light Does neon still have a home in the changing Las Vegas lightscape? Not much anymore — but it should  by Lissa Townsend Rodgers


hen people close their eyes and think of Las Vegas, their mind may light on a chilled cocktail, a statuesque showgirl, a pair of tumbling dice — but the background is always neon. Luminous streaks and flourishes of red and blue, canary and emerald, cerulean and magenta flashing and fading against a velvet-dark background. “That neon nighttime skyline is so evocative — of mystery, seduction, nightlife, risk, speed and possibility,” says Danielle Kelly, executive director of the Neon Museum. “That intoxicating mixture of allure and the promise of transformation — it embodies the shimmering desert mirage.”


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Yet, more and more, the neon-lit Sin City is more a fantasy image than a daily reality. Every week, we lose more of our luminous landmarks — from the plain, ’40s vintage Hilltop House Supper Club sign to the vast, ultra-mod, retro-futuristic rainbow-tinted panorama of the Stardust. One day they glow bright, then are dimmed and finally disappear entirely. Today’s casinos are far more likely to lure customers with a giant screen flashing the names of chefs and DJs than a 20-foot, silver-spangled stiletto heel or a three-story tower of perpetually popping pink champagne bubbles. Does neon still have a place in the changing Las Vegas landscape? For something so seemingly modern, neon’s history stretches back into the late 17th century, when the first experiments

EZ on the eyes: Neon has long been a key element of Vegas' visual beauty.

occurred. But it was developed into its iconic form in the late 1800s — Nikolai Tesla used to jazz up his lectures by displaying glowing tubes bent to form the word “light,” while Thomas Edison preferred rows of electric bulbs spelling out his name to wow the crowds. In the early 20th century, France’s Claude Neon company began developing colored neon for signs and architectural adornment. Neon officially came to the U.S. in the 1920s when the company designed a pair of signs for Packard in Los Angeles. The craze for neon swept the country, and the graceful Parisian craft became the perfect vehicle for American brashness. So, while Paris may call itself the City of Light, one could say that the title truly belongs to Vegas, whose love affair with bulbs and tubes elevated a sleepy town to a glamour capital. Neon fit Vegas like a custom-made tux, for several reasons. Those luminous lights have long been the sign of sin — when It’s a Wonderful Life transforms sweet, nice Bedford Falls into vice-ridden Pottersville, the first thing they show us is the neon. But in Las Vegas neon isn’t just for bars, strip clubs and tattoo parlors — it’s also for health food stores, hospitals and 7-Elevens. Even if it’s just a modest purple squiggle by the doorway, businesses try

P h oto g r a p h y BRENT HOLMES

to work it in the same way a Texas store might sketch a cowboy or a New York City restaurant would stencil a skyline: as a sign of civic pride. “The golden age of neon was the golden age of logo design, of comic books and comic strips and a lot of that was reflected in local neon,” says Len Davidson, author of Vintage Neon and founder of the Neon Museum of Philadelphia at the Center for Architecture in Philadelphia. “It was funny, campy, witty.” Painters of light


f Las Vegas’ decadence primed it for neon, so did its physical location. The desert landscape lacks significant features. Neon transforms a disconcerting, disorienting blankness into a backdrop, an empty canvas waiting to be painted with light. In his book, Inside Las Vegas, Mario Puzo insisted, “the one thing you won’t get (here) is art.” But somehow Puzo couldn’t see what was right in front of him (his Vegas is basically gaming tables with the occasional glance at a passing showgirl, anyway). Neon is the art of Las Vegas, much as jazz is the art of New Orleans. When you watch the blazing turquoise-and-salmon of the Fremont Street casinos strobing over your head, when you behold the shimmer and sparkle of the Strip casinos or see the rows of motel signs pulsating in candy colors, juggling fonts and geometry, it’s hard not to feel the flutter in your gut and a small, thrilled “Oooh!” on your tongue. “The wonderful craft and art that was done with neon — it’s folk art and, like most folk art, it’s not appreciated during its time,” says Davidson. “It’s only in the past 10 years or so people have wanted to preserve them. America tends to take things to for granted because they’re so common.” Even if you don’t consider neon an art, you can’t deny that it has served as muse to many. Think of the lyrical abstraction of gleaming, glowing, saturated color tubes that opens Casino or the flashing, dazzling sensory overkill backdropping a row of impassive, orange-clad cocktail waitresses in Koyaanisqatsi. Or the sleekly sparkling marquees that shine off the hood of James Bond’s Mustang Fastback

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Culture in Diamonds Are Forever. Listen for the bright lights, crystal city and devil’s porch light in songs by Doc Pomus, Gram Parsons and Tom Waits. Hunter S. Thompson, James Ellroy, Joan Didion writing about “the signs ways out in the desert, looming up” or Tom Wolfe exulting over “Boomerang Modern, Palette Curvilinear, Flash Gordon Ming-Alert Spiral, McDonald’s Hamburger Parabola, Mint Casino Elliptical, Miami Beach Kidney” in his efforts

to describe something “far out beyond the frontiers of conventional studio art.” While Vegas may be quick and vivid inspiration for a visitor’s creativity, local artists are especially saturated with neon’s influence. Neon is adaptable to a variety of aesthetics, from the dread of ’40s noir to the brightness of ’80s pop. “(It’s) an art form that defined the city for decades,” says Las Vegas Weekly arts writer Kristen Peterson. “It’s been interesting to

watch how differently artists approach neon as both idea and as subject matter, while avoiding cliché.” Among her favorite examples: “Erin Stellmon’s mixed-media compositions … Jerry Misko paints abstract or representational renditions of neon tubes on canvas (and) Richard Hooker, who has recently created work out of actual neon to create text slang.” She adds that many artists have “tapped into the historical and physical power of

Night bright Classic signs that still blaze on

Peter Pan Motel One of the few Fremont Street motel signs still in working order, this neon silhouette of the boy who never grew up is much-beloved by locals. (110 N. 13th St.)

El Cortez The El Cortez was the first hotel owned by Bugsy Siegel and, unlike the second, it’s kept the original pink neon intact. The rooftop hotel sign is a classic easily imagined in the background of a film noir, while the sideways “GAMBLING” sign is admirable for its forthrightness. Road Runner RV Park Along the Boulder Highway are a number of RV parks, such as the Road Runner, that still boast great signage. (4711 Boulder Highway) The Blue Angel Motel Another unique piece of work by


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the legendary Betty Willis, designer of the “Welcome to Fabulous Las Vegas” sign, the 25-foot buxom blonde has kept her halo straight (if not illuminated) and gown spotless even as Fremont Street has deteriorated around her. (2110 Fremont St.)

Sky Ranch Motel Another Fremont Street classic, the curvaceous script, scattered stars and crescent moon have probably attracted more photographers than tenants. (2009 Fremont St.) High Hat Regency Motel This sign is part of the small, remaining cluster of vintage neon motel signs on

the Strip, along with the Holiday and the Fun City signs that boast clown colors and blocky fonts. But the High Hat is classy, as the blue-and-silver palette, curvy script and luminous top hat indicate. (1300 Las Vegas Blvd. S.) Somerset Shopping Center A giant, groovy sputnik that remains in top tube-shining, bulb-blinking condition, regardless of what’s going on in the strip mall itself. (Las Vegas Boulevard S. and Convention Center Drive) Lawless Shopping Center One of the first signs by classic neon designer Brian “Buzz” Lemming (of the Sahara and a number of Fremont Street properties), this is another sign that keeps its glow, despite the vicissitudes of its Lake Mead strip mall location. A mix of fonts topped with a sort of asymmetrical asterisk, it shouldn’t work,

but it does. (4100 E. Lake Mead Blvd.) Circus Circus Porte-CochÉre This great swoop of dazzling pinkand-blue bulbs is one of the few remaining grand casino entrances.

Davy’s Locker It’s just a little dive bar off Maryland Parkway, but the sign is a local icon. An anonymous neon-lover footed the bill for a restoration a few years back, but the blue-and-red cartoon fish has recently been dim again. According to the day-shift bartender, they’re currently taking bids to fix the sign — any other anonymous neon-lovers out there? (1149 E. Desert Inn Road) — L.T.R.

neon through reference or as a live medium.” Depicting neon is another way to keep its influence alive; making art out of it also helps preserve the craft. Both the art and craft are featured at the Neon Museum, which offers signs as both visual art and historical relics. The museum has only been open since late 2012, but has attracted visitors from around the world; museum tours frequently sell out. “We have such a wonderful, diverse and loyal group of visitors to the Neon Museum,” says Kelly. Along with their preservation of signs that would otherwise rust into scrap, the Neon Museum attempts to return some to their former blazing glory. “The restoration of something like the Silver Slipper is very time-consuming because fabricators are essentially re-learning crafting techniques that are obsolete in the industry,” she says. Tube-bending, hand-building fiberglass — these are not lost arts, but they are definitely becoming misplaced. Most of the restored signs can be found around the city, shining as they did when first flipped on. “We try very hard to return signs as close as possible to their original location,” she says. Chewy neon center


any signs came from downtown Las Vegas, a neighborhood that has historically been a center of neon — and whose renaissance is proving both a boon and a challenge to its survival. A number of properties are in the process of being redeveloped, leaving the future of their historic neon in question. “I hope that downtown developers appreciate the rich and unique culture of this community, particularly as embodied in its neon,” says Kelly. “In my mind, a value for this city and its history necessitates a reverence for its neon.” Last year, The Downtown Project renovated the Ambassador Motel sign to celebrate the Life is Beautiful Festival (restored and augmented with a luminous llama in honor of Zappos/ The Downtown Project honcho Tony Hsieh’s penchant for the furry quadrupeds). New venues such as La Comida and Commonwealth have employed neon in their signage — or the newer,

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Totally tubular: old neon (from the Boneyard, above) and new (by artist Erin Stellmon, left)


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Choose your identity


reserving downtown’s neon is all the more crucial as the tubes fade out on the Strip, which is now dominated by swimming pool-sized digital billboards hyping a property’s shows, spas, restaurants and nightclubs. Signage was once a flamboyant evocation of a casino’s image: Given that every property offered cards and dice, coffee shops and steakhouses, showrooms and suites, the only difference lay in how they were presented. Guests chose the identity they most fancied and, as written in Learning from Las Vegas, “for three days one may imagine oneself a centurion at Caesars Palace, a ranger at the Frontier or a jetsetter at the Riviera rather than a salesperson from Des Moines, Iowa.” Back when people tended to hit town and then decide where to stay, a big, flashy display by the side of the road might make the difference in whether a

s c u l p t u r e p h ot o c o u r t e s y e r i n s t e l l m o n ; s t r i p c o l l ag e c o u r t e s y l as v e g as n e w s b u r e au

cheaper, more durable next-generation version of neon, anyway, wherein heated gas in glass tubes is replaced by LEDs in flexible plastic. It’s rather like going from analog to digital (quite literally, given that they both involve glass tubes replaced by computer chips). One of the areas watched most anxiously by neon aficionados is the strip of motels along Fremont Street. Elsewhere,

the demolition of decrepit bungalow courts may be unremarkable and even welcome, but here they fear for the fates of the Par-a-Dice and the Roulette, the Sky Ranch and the Desert Moon. For such a small space, a wide variety of signage is in jeopardy, from old-style ’40s boxes with glowing letters to over-thetop, Space Age Moderne flights of fancy. “The artistic influence has spread and Las Vegas motels have signs like no others,” Robert Venturi, Denise Scott Brown and Steven Izenour wrote in the seminal architecture book Learning from Las Vegas. “Not glamorous signs, but classic ones nonetheless,” says Steve Franklin, aka Downtown Steve, a neighborhood Realtor and longtime resident. “Vegas has the longest string of old roadside neon hotel signs in the country, and nobody seems to give two golden nugget shits about it.”


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Tender is the light: classic Strip signage

traveler choose to spend the night as a pasha at the Dunes or a tiki lord at the Tropicana. Today, everyone goes online and evaluates twenty properties from price to pillows before making a decision. “Current signs emulate the image montage experience of a television, computer or communication device, with the capability to pack lots of image-based information into one space,” says the Neon Museum’s Kelly. In rapid succession, they push everything from the current Cirque show and the luxury items available at Chanel to the “bottomless” Bud Light at the bar and the crab legs at the buffet. The new marketing-oriented format is apropos to the modern casinos, which are blank, glossy surfaces outside, standard mod-mid-century décor inside. Properties no longer build their identity from a theme that is applied to signs, titles, interiors, cocktail waitress uniforms. Today a property’s brand is made up of all the little brands it hosts: What is The Cosmopolitan’s theme but the sum total of lunching at Blue Ribbon Sushi, dining at Jaleo, shopping at All Saints, listening to Bruno Mars and drinking cocktails made with rosemary-infused simple syrup and coconut-ginger foam? In a way, the modern casino sign is just a list of likes and favorites,

much like an online profile; the visceral expression of art has given way to the informational barrage of advertising. “Neon has given the city its visual identity,” wrote groundbreaking neon artist Rudi Stern in his book, Let There Be Neon. “For those who love the medium, Las Vegas is enchantment. It lights the grand stage on which the American Dream has been playing to a full house since World War II.” Will neon be left behind as the big show enters the new millennium? Its glowing moment may have passed, but most people feel there will always be a place for the art and image that is so inextricably linked to Sin City. “We may not be seeing ‘spectaculars’ on the scale Las Vegas used to see, but we do see neon,” says Kelly. “Perhaps it is on a more modest scale, more stylized or applied as a design strategy or device to evoke a style or time period.” Local artist Stellmon believes that neon can be a part of the city’s future while linking us to the past. “I love the way neon can be nostalgic and comforting like an old diner sign on Route 66, or futuristic and cold like Blade Runner,” she says. “Vegas is both of those things, and the presence of neon, both working and not, represents that.” FLVYO


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to Oscar’s, that Springdale gathering place where burritos and tiny birds alike wait for your tired arrival. Understand, if only one thing: I’m a hack. I really am. But a determined one, with a wild vision of sandstone furnaces and icy pools of glowing emeralds — the highs and lows of southern Utah. Abbey’s land. The Hayduke Trail. I’d wandered all over the Sierra Nevada, the Tetons, the High Cascades, chasing Celine nightmares and Kerouac dreams, the Canadian and Colorado Rockies, the Alps, the Andes ... and the desert. The beautiful, sublime, supremely transformational desert. In all its Zen emptiness. And Zion, in particular, called me. Desolation angels, Jack’s term. Unclimbed summits, as if beckoning to be found alive, sirens, all of them. Some 95 percent of the park, so I once read, is inaccessible to man. Angels Landing was a triumph. So, too, in a weirder way, was that icy one, Walter’s Wiggles, where that scared boy said not a word of goodbye but merely skulked off across the snow toward some Impressions from 10 years of wandering ZionBy C ourtney Purc ell car untold miles way down below. I was unfazed; I was ready to plunge forward. Early on in my explorations, I had bought t started like it does for dads from the Midwest, Boy Scouts from Texas and newlyweds a topo map, shiny and new and eager to from the Bronx: with a hike up Angels Landing, that predictably obvious, narrow fin please, studied it, spotted an easy-looking of orange rock so tantalizingly cast out from Scout Lookout, a benign place to sit and peak on the park’s glorious East Side, and watch, to lunch, beyond that other squiggly, curious haven, yes, Walter’s Wiggles, there set out into a land of stolen Indian relics, in the mind-numbing center of the universe you and I call Zion Canyon. Named for the bighorn sheep with broken legs, drowned, park’s first superintendent, Walt Ruesch, Walter’s Wiggles was a place my wife and I would dying to last another season, and obscure later take (and lose) a young photographer who’d heard of my exploits in this, the grandest dreams waiting to be realized. I clambered of parks, and wanted to document my experience in what had morphed into my “native to the top of that next peak, then spotted anhabitat.” Or maybe he just wanted to go out for a hike and instead ended up scared out of his other, and another, and then another coumind for all the snow, the ice, and the endless drop-offs. It was mid-January, after all. In a ple dozen from that peak. Slickrock, miles largely vertical land of dinner-plate choss. of it, red and orange, yellow and peach. And Things got spooky, the drop-offs confrontational. Even the odd, exposed patch of such mysteries in every fold of red earth had the blood drained from it. The mood changed. After hours of plowing frozen earth. Waiting to be found. through snow and delicately skirting across exposed patches of diamond ice, our A petroglyph of a sheep, food for Hear photographer friend gave up and walked down the hill, into some unrealized dream the entire family. A pictograph of more Hear about of a soft couch before a warm fire; now it was just my wife and me. We forged on and an owl, a handprint chipped into some great made a committing rappel from one horrifying snowy ridge to a narrow, corniced a small boulder, cliff ruins. An Inspring hikes notch and hoped that a bit further, perhaps beyond the unclimbed summit, we’d dian burial chamber under an alin Southern Nevada on find a way to get out of there, back to safe ground, back to terra firma. And back cove. Pristine springs of hanging

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ESSAY ferns and clutching moss. Unimaginable clutter of virtue. And also a long-forgotten, secret canyon with pioneer inscriptions, hanging ladders and lots of history, entirely unremembered. (But the guy behind the backcountry desk, that senseless place where the phones are never answered, couldn’t care less when I told him about it, for he might want to notify a park historian. And that’s when I realized nobody really cared.) In the daily, ever-blissful void grind, those of us who take a moment to reflect, to acknowledge one’s breath, might notice among the bitterness of habit something strange yet comforting about a furtive uneasiness we prefer not to acknowledge. And with that awareness, something sublime presents itself. This, I’ve felt on not one occasion, not even two or three occasions, but on perhaps every occasion. It starts with the almost impercepti-

ble vibration of the sand and the rocks, a nearly clairvoyant communion with the scrappy shrubs, not the least lovable of which is the manzanita. Around the base of many such bush, on a multitude of occasions, barely recognizable from today or even tomorrow, I’ve delicately tied a piece of nylon webbing, to which I’d attach a rope, and from which I’d entrust my life. That deadpan red bark, the branches stiff and unforgiving, to these I’d count on for future days, step back over that tenuous cliff edge clinging to my rope, and hope that I’d reach the ground below at a speed much less than that which would kill me. See, in the Zion backcountry, large, deeply rooted, healthy trees, secure and robust, are a rare commodity, a solemn luxury, when you need to find a way off a steep face of crumbling and questionable integrity, as it all is here. More times than

not, it’s almost easier, certainly on the back from which dangles a filthy pack, to leave the ropes behind and rely upon your feet, your sense of balance and delicacy, and certainly your overzealous sense of nerve and grandly overstated bravado. And a tiny bit of all of this applied one night as I drove ignorantly into a storm, dark and drizzly, the unseen depths of a bottomless sky belching out insults, from my home in Las Vegas to the park’s doorstep to grab a few hours of precious and fitful sleep in the visitor center parking lot before … well, I’ll get to that in a moment. I never actually slept; see, if you tried it yourself you’d learn it’s impossible to sleep when you know in five hours you’ll terrifyingly embark on a clueless solo endeavor to climb a peak you can only hope is survivable without a rope, because you’re not bringing one and the steep rock’s too fragile, too heinous, too

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much like loosely consolidated gravel to trust anyhow, and there are few, nay almost none, of those sweet, little manzanitas around to save your life ... and I conveniently didn’t yet know that it was unlawful to sleep in the visitor center parking lot anyhow. I was languishing in a half-articulate state somewhere between meditation and death when a ranger banged on my window in the pouring rain and told me to get a move-on. Can’t sleep here, rules or no rules. And so get moving I did. Right to the trailhead, and right then off to that bastardly wonderful mountain, whose summit in some miraculous gesture of forgiveness permitted me to intrude upon her timeless solitude. I’d survived the way up and would likewise survive the descent. But I didn’t really do it alone — the rocks began to lightly vibrate, the many-faceted grains of sand of which they are composed to shimmer, and the mountain to breathe — I felt a connection, I felt one with the larger organism, and I was able to flow. Such experiences can be found easily here, and everywhere, if you pause to sniff the rarefied air of eternity. Nature teaches the mindful lessons. They are many: • Sometimes 400 feet is just barely enough rope. • More times than not, a rattlesnake will forgive you for nearly stepping on it. • There is a giant scorpion that lives even on the tops of the highest isolated plateaus that is not intimidated by your trespass. • Watching bighorn sheep jovially bounce across narrow ledges supported by unstable cliffs will alter the way you consider your position in the food chain. Their gait is poetic and rhythmic and full of truths. • You can hike 2,000 miles through and around a desolate and colorful wilderness and never see a cougar or a bear, but a hundred tourists can see one without opening a car door. • A nd we all care, though we are usually too ignorant to realize it.

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ESSAY I can remember once encountering brush so thick I traveled a quarter mile without ever actually touching the earth. There are other spots, ancient platforms on which to perch and redeem ourselves for all the wrongs we’re certain we’ve never committed but absolutely have. There are places, several of them in Zion, around which the earth actually revolves. Some are easier to reach than others; all will influence the way you view the earth, wildness and, thankfully, yourself. The interconnectedness of absolutely everything is displayed spectrally before your very eyes — and you are not the same person who left the car that morning. There, across a sea of sand and rock, are endless ripples of worlds altogether forgotten or entirely overlooked. Simply put, Zion is amazing. And so, too, are the people that come. Super-human types have done incredi-

ble technical mega-feats that will drop the jaws of the initiated and stir from slumber even the most veteran sofa king. And there are those waifish runners who travel like deer by trail 50-some miles across the park, from its lonely and forgotten Kolob Canyons entrance in the northwest to its slightly less obscure east entrance, in a single day. Even a punter like me has managed to put together some semi-impressive tests of endurance and triumph over error. One multi-peak enchainment in particular was 22 miles from car-to-car with some 11,000 feet of uphill gain, but the kicker as I see it had nothing to do with human accomplishment, no, it was that I never, ever stepped foot on so much as an inch of trail or found evidence of human influence while doing it. That, my friends, is the actual definition of wilderness. Wilderness. While you’ve the option of gallivanting through much of this wild-


ness blissfully unaware of anything connected with mankind, the inescapable fact is that you are forever surrounded by the cool and whimsical names given by man to many of the features within the park: The Watchman, Great White Throne, Weeping Rock, Icebox Canyon, Mount Majestic, Inclined Temple, Towers of the Virgin, Altar of Sacrifice. It stirs the imagination and alters the mind. And, my, how an organically unnamed, obscure, isolated peak no one cares about roots itself into your psyche when you have something to call it. I eventually wrote a book about the park and its wonderful landscape. Shame on me. You see, there’d been little or no information about exploring that rusty wilderness; I’d figured it out more or less on my own, and now I had to tell someone, tell everyone. Granted, I wasn’t the first explorer to lamely wander these stony woods, but I was certainly among






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the most foolish and arrogant. I wrote this shameful book, a boastful book about the nearly 100 different park summits I’d attained on my way to over 160 of those beautiful, wretched and crumbly things, about a few of the three dozen or so canyons I’d slithered through like some paranoid salamander seeking low ground away from unwatching eyes, and selfishly shared with people I’d never know the secrets the vast Zion wilderness had shared with me. But those strangers, doing what strangers and friends alike do, inevitably (heck, I practically dared them!) wandered and tread and corrupted that unpolluted land with trash and turds, piss and footprints. We all care, though we are usually too ignorant to realize it. I pulled the book off the shelves, regretted having published it, I shut my loud mouth, and continued to wander. Up mountain, down canyon, fewer granted since the masses took to holes in the ground by rope and by further guidebook, and around into colorful nooks and crannies, following sheep trails and entire herds of elk on their passages from one untamed pasture to the next. An unknown arch perched on the edge of a 2,000-foot precipice, bizarre and inspiring enough to draw tourists by the busload were it not for that seven-hour hike to reach it, there hovering over grooving ground so pointless and unpresumptive — this I’ve found too. Another day exploring the mountains. So … 95 percent, they said. Ten years wandering those hardened sands, creeping across summits and through shady dells, and I think, through no fault of my own, after all I have benefited from the companionship and technical prowess of many fools and fanatics, I’ve finally crashed through to about 80 percent. Casual work for an average bighorn sheep but pretty spectacular, I think, for a petty human being. Or maybe not. The only thing that matters, truth be told, is how much a human or other animal has grown from the experience. And how much he cares.

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The Dish 64 On the Plate 65 Eat this now 67 At FirST BITE 68

where to go, what to eat & drink

P hoto g ra p h y Sabin Orr

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Dining out

With the grain: 20 vegetable fried rice from China Poblano (left), the grain power salad (chicken optional) at Honey Salt (top)


Spring Cleaning These dishes featuring grains, greens and great flavors let you start the season light B  y Debbie Lee


ommercials for quinoa air on football Sundays, kale gets chopped into Starbucks salads, and Meatless Mondays is a legitimate movement. Has rabbit food really gone mainstream? Well, yes and no. Meat-free cooking is definitely having a moment, and chefs both on and off the Strip are on board with the trend. But for those who equate vegetarianism with sliced tofurkey and sprout sandwiches, brace yourself for food with — gasp! — real flavor. These six dishes may not stand in for a rack of ribs,


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but they challenge the notion that meatless eating has to be monotonous.

Twenty vegetable fried rice at China Poblano

At Chef Jose Andres’ ever-bustling Chino-Latino mash-up, this colorful bowl of fried rice is what I imagine would happen if Alice Waters staged a coup at her local Panda Express. “This is one of my favorite recipes,” says Andres. “We wanted to create a fried rice that had all of the tra-

ditional flavors, but also incorporated the lightness and sexiness of vegetables.” Short-grain white rice, tinged tan with salty soy sauce, is tossed with 20 veggies, including watermelon radishes, sweet potatoes and Brussels sprouts. Edamame, ginger and snow peas rep the Asian half of the equation, while crunchy chayote and jicama add a Latin flair. Tip: Keep it vegan by requesting it without eggs and oyster sauce. (The Cosmopolitan, 702-698-7900,

Grain power salad

at Honey Salt

Summerlin has claimed a Strip chef for itself at this farm-to-table restaurant, where Society Café alum Kim Canteenwalla provides a creative alternative to the predictable lunchtime Cobb or Caesar salad. “My wife (co-owner and restaurant consultant Elizabeth Blau) was instrumental in getting this salad on the menu,” he says. “The idea was to provide an option that was

P h oto g r a p h y S a b i n o r r

on the plate

April's dining events you don’t want to miss Brasserie, Burgers, and Oysters april 9. This upscale version of a backyard barbecue is inspired by both Parisian bistros and the famed Comme Ça Burger. Chefs will offer a selection of three rotating, made-to-order burger specials on the patio’s grill, cooked with California olive wood. All burger orders will be paired with one of Comme Ça’s signature 18A cocktails or two beers for $19. Comme Ça in the Cosmopolitan. Wednesdays, 5:30-8p through June 30. Info: 702-698-7910

healthy and yet very flavorful. If you add chicken, it makes a hearty entrée.” It also stands perfectly fine on its own. Chewy Beluga lentils and nutty red and white quinoa — or, as Canteenwalla calls it, “the brain grain” — mingle with nuggets of creamy avocado, crunchy ribbons of shaved fennel and a sharp citrus vinaigrette. “Quinoa is on its way to being mainstream, but right now it’s still costly,” says the chef. Still, he encourages cooks to tackle it at home with a few tips. “Always wash and rinse it with cold water first. If you want it firm, cook it with salt; without it, you’ll get a softer, fluffier grain.” (1031 S. Rampart Blvd., 702-445-6100,

Fried spinach salad

at Echo & Rig

Five visits, five orders. This salad has been a requisite first course at every one of my visits to this new Tivoli Village steakhouse. Of course, deep-frying plays no small part in its greatness. Spinach leaves are baptized in a bath of hot oil until shiny and crunchy, and then tossed with raw broccoli and cauliflower. Looking like shrapnel from a crudité bomb, the tiny and bitter florets offset the guilt of eating those crispy greens. Beware of tongue-numbing chiles, which hide at the bottom of the bowl. A single sliver for every two or three bites is enough to pack a punch. The salad is finally dressed with a lime-spiked vinaigrette — so tasty that

health food fair April 12. Whether you’re vegan, vegetarian or trying to improve your diet, the Health Food Fair promises something for every palate. There’ll be cooking and tasting stations, physical fitness experts doing exercise demos, live music and carnival attractions. Nutrition counselors will also be on hand to dish out information about healthy eating. The event supports the mission of Rosie’s Wish and Life Skills & Skillets, organizations that teach life skills for people of all ages who suffer from diabetes, and for prevention of diseases such as obesity through healthy cooking and eating habits. 11a-6p. $3-$5. Clark County Amphitheatre honey salt "farm table" dinner series april 14, 28. Featuring seasonally inspired American comfort food, Honey Salt’s “Farm Table” dinners are served family-style and showcase unique wine and beer pairings, while also showcasing local farms and locally grown produce. Farms such as Prime Time Farms, Prime Color Farms and Grow Smart Gardens will be featured at these dinners that take place on the second and fourth Monday of the month. $45, $65 with beverage pairing.


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Dining out

Green mind: Above, avocado tacos at Border Grill; below, whole wheat spaghetti from Otto

upscale Mexican chain restaurant, these outrageously decadent tacos hide under the guise of being good for you. Slices of buttery avocado are crusted with quinoa (yeah, again), amaranth and black sesame seeds, then tucked between warm, hand-pressed masa tortillas. Grilled corn relish is sweet and smoky, chipotle crema adds depth, and the briny zing of pickled red onions cuts through all of the richness. It’s like chicken-fried steak for the cruelty-free. Just note that this lunch menu item is only available by special request at dinner. (Mandalay Bay, 702-632-7403,

chef/owner Sam Marvin should consider bottling it for his take-out butcher shop downstairs. (Tivoli Village, 702-489-3525,

Avocado tacos at Border Grill

Don’t deny it. A hunger for anything deep-fried lies somewhere in all of us —even the health-conscious. At Susan Feniger and Mary Sue Milliken’s


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Whole wheat spaghetti with pesto, green beans and potatoes at Otto

As a former devotee of the original Otto in New York, I often suggested that visitors skip the pizza for pasta. For this version, Atkins acolytes and Paleo proponents need not apply. The starchon-starch dish is a delicious and oh-sogarlicky middle finger to the carb-counting lifestyle. Based on a recipe from Genoa, it marries whole wheat spaghetti — a firmer and nuttier alternative to

traditional semolina pasta — with plain boiled potatoes. Sounds bland, but the addition of green beans and a pungent pesto heighten the flavor. Just remember to share a bite with your tablemate, lest you be the lone victim of dragon breath. (The Venetian, 702-677-3390,

Vegan paella at Julian Serrano

For a different but equally tasty take on rice, invest an hour of your day while this traditional family-style dish is made to order. The usual ingredients, which include rabbit, chicken and snails, are replaced with a colorful cornucopia of seasonal vegetables — during a springtime visit, this included silky slivers of piquillo peppers, tender asparagus and green peas. Although it’s meatless, Serrano stays true to original cooking techniques. Shortgrain white rice is infused with heady saffron and then simmered to the tooth in an authentic paella pan. Designed with a large, flat surface, it’s perfect for creating socarrat, or that giant web of scorched rice that forms on the bottom of the vessel. Trust me — just like the burned bits left in the pan after cooking a steak, it’s where you’ll find lots of flavor. (Aria, 702-590-8520,


Eat this now!

Our favorite recent dishes that have us coming back for seconds

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The Tamale Boat at Al’s Beef

6840 W. Sahara Ave., 702-644-2333, An Italian beef sandwich might be the main draw at this new Midwest-based franchise, but the tamale boat is its secret star. For the uninitiated, Chicagostyle tamales, or corn rolls, bear only a vague resemblance to the kind made in any Latin kitchen. At Al’s, the tubes of cornmeal-encased ground beef are smothered with chili, cheddar cheese, and chopped raw onions. It’s just the kind of stick-to-your-ribs fare that will warm you up on a cold Chicago day — or in our case, in an overly chilly, air-conditioned room. — Debbie Lee

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Le Pig

Ta m a l e b o at: C h r i s t o p h e r S m i t h

at The Goodwich

Las Vegas Blvd. S. and Wyoming Ave., Great dining springs up in unexpected places in Vegas: a bao stand in a hair salon, a barbecue joint in a shipping container — and now there’s The Goodwich, a gourmet sandwich stand serving walk-up feasts in the Dino’s Lounge parking lot. While this location seems more apt as a stop-and-frisk checkpoint than a local restaurant launch pad, it has already spawned two Vegas favorites, Naked City Sandwich Shop (which became Naked City Pizza) and Viva Las Arepas. The Goodwich is a worthy addition. The genius of this sandwich stand is in its pairing epicurean fare with comfort food, creating a menu of hand-crafted sandwiches that are both innovative and familiar. One standout is the Le Pig, a pork belly masterpiece. In the version I had, the Le Pig was prepared carnitas-style, with small pork pieces fried to crispy perfection, coupled with a smooth melted Fontina cheese, then drizzled in truffle vinaigrette and sprinkled with chip bits. Since they playfully switch up the menu every few weeks, you'll taste a different rendition — but one that's sure to be just as good. — Chris Bitonti

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Dining out

From Blind Pig, the garlicky porchetta sandwich, left, and interior, above.From The Commissary, Latin smoked brisket, below, and cubano, far right. at FIRST BITE

counter culture gets gourmet Two new eateries try to mix casual and classy b y


n a city that sustains itself on imported resources, it’s sometimes easy to miss what’s right under our nose. Consider the current state of our dining scene. Giada! Guy! Morimoto! Cooking show hosts are seizing the Strip faster than Putin’s troops are storming Crimea, transforming the four-mile swath of casinos into a veritable Food Network theme park. As a result, our homegrown talents are forced to retreat. Take Anthony Meidenbauer, executive chef of Block 16. After honing his skills at the Wynn and Mandalay Bay, he now oversees the menus at some of my favorite spots in town. So why don’t we hear


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Debbie Lee

about him more often? The burgers at Holstein’s can hold their own against any Bobby or Batali-backed creation, and his entire starter menu at Public House just might be my idea of the perfect Last Supper. His latest project is The Blind Pig Provision & Lounge. Sitting on the ground floor of Panorama Towers, just behind the south side of the Strip, it’s one of Block 16’s more casual spots. It’s also one of the first examples of what I predict will be a trend in our city — a genre one might call “gourmet counter-culture.” Now that esteemed chefs (Gordon Ramsay, Michael Mina) have swapped white tablecloths for paper

placemats, the obvious next step in this regressive cycle is to bring their talents to refrigerator cases. There is a full service bar and restaurant here. And as one would expect from a place that sounds like it was spit out of a hipster restaurant name generator, the menu and décor are very of-the-moment. You’ll find an obligatory kale salad, a gluten-free pizza, and a gourmet grilled cheese. Couples may like that the environment — a dim and sexy lounge with exposed brick and Chesterfield banquettes — is also very date-friendly.

P h oto g r a p h y S ABIN O RR

Table 34

On a recent visit, an appetizer of crispy pork nuggets with sweet chili glaze was good; if they had arrived hot, they would have been deemed great. And for their price, the New York style pizzas were just okay. I much preferred the garlicky porchetta sandwich, even if it was a tad too heavy on fatty belly meat. It was also a pleasure to eat beer-battered onion rings that actually tasted like beer. If you prefer to grab your food and go, you can order any of these items at a counter in the “Provisions” half of the space. Part country store, part New York deli, it also features a separate menu of salads, juices, and pastries — my favorite being a nostalgic New York-style black and white cookie. For residents of Panorama and its neighboring building, the Martin, The Blind Pig has the potential to become the high roller’s version of Cheers. Otherwise, I regretfully suspect that the curious location may deter tourists (and even some locals) from giving it a try. Only time will tell if neighborhood patronage is enough to keep it going. Meanwhile, as Fremont Street rushes to reinvent itself, The Commissary has opened at the Downtown Grand (formerly the Lady Luck). Further supporting my culinary conspiracy theory that celebrity chefs are the alien invaders of fast casual concepts is chef Richard Sandoval. The international restaurateur

The Bl ind Pig at Panorama Towers, 4525 Dean Martin Drive, 702-430-4444,

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and “Top Chef Masters” alum brings his signature Latin flair to a slightly confused mini food court within the hotel and casino. The menu mixes tortas, tacos, and tortilla soup with a selection of burgers, hot dogs, and milkshakes. Unfortunately, on a Saturday night, the space was empty. So there was no excuse when chunks of crispy potatoes were raw in the center. My consort, who took the “crispy” description literally, chomped his way through three or four pieces before realizing that this was not the end result of an avant-garde cooking technique. At least the Latin smoked brisket was tender. And a cubano sandwich (ham, pork, Swiss) was serviceable. I’ll even be back when the weather is warm to indulge in a strawberry shake. But as far as downtown dining goes, I am still waiting to be wowed. So far, everything reminds me of those potatoes — only lukewarm at best.


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Room with a you

These five valley homes showcase their owners’ dedication to art, environment, pop culture and other personal passions

B y A n d r e w K i r a ly, H e i d i K y s e r & S c o t t D i c k e n s h e e t s

Photography by Jakob Mccarthy/parascope creative & christopher smith APRIL 2014


Neon stars and guitars She’s a little bit symphony; he’s a little bit rock and roll


he first two things you notice when you walk into the home of Warwick Stone and Bethany Swain define their guiding design intention. One is an original six-sheet, 85-inch-square poster from Howard Hughes’ 1952 movie, The Las Vegas Story, starring Jane Russell and Victor Mature; it hangs above a 6-footwide stone fireplace that lends a cavelike quality to the sunken living room. The other is an ivory-white standing bass, sitting on an elevated shelf beneath a skylight in the high-ceilinged room. Hand-painted with black silhouettes of


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characters and floral scenery from The Princess and the Frog, the instrument was one in a Disney princess series. Stone is the memorabilia curator for the Hard Rock Hotel and an erstwhile costume, poker chip and restaurant designer; Swain is a cellist with the Henderson Symphony Orchestra, and both she and her soon-to-be-husband sit on its board of di-

rectors. The couple wanted the home to reflect their shared love of music as well as their embrace of vintage Vegas. They chose a home in Rancho Bel Air Estates to be close to downtown and its mid-century modern vibe. “I’ve always collected musical instruments for the Hard Rock, but there are some things that I invest in only for myself,” Stone says. “I try to keep a lid on it, because I’ve met so many collectors whose collections take over the house. Do you really want to come in and see my collection of Hard Rock pins on the wall?”

P h o t o g r a p h y b y p a r a s c o p e c r e a t i v e /j a k e m c c a r t h y

Dual in the desert: The Stone-Swain home reflects their shared love of music — and vintage Las Vegas.

Neon by nature: Neon Museum photos printed on doors affirm the couple's love of vintage Sin City.

Swain adds, with a laugh, “You can see it upstairs, if you want.” She says she told Stone, when they moved into the home in 2010, that she didn’t want to live in the Hard Rock Hotel. But over the years, her abode has experienced a creeping, perhaps unavoidable “British Invasion,” as she affectionately deems her English fiancée’s influence. For example: Just inside the front door is a series of eight pictures that Bob Gruen took of John Lennon in 1972 for his “Walls and Bridges” solo album. They’re captivating and unique, and now that they’re there, Bethany confesses, it’s hard to imagine the house without such treasures. “They make great conversation starters,” she says. Still, the Vegas theme has an anchor in every room. A series of four Neon Museum photos, taken by Stone and Swain and printed on doors, hangs in the den. In the kitchen, the refrigerator front is

paneled with a 1949 photo of Fremont Street, seen from Union Plaza, that they found at the Las Vegas News Bureau. “One thing I do in my work is giant printing,” Stone says. “This is the kind of fridge that is designed to have a panel put in it to match your cabinets. So, instead of the wood molding, I put a piece of stainless steel in, with a print where the white is the stainless showing through, so it doesn’t look like a sticker.” This insider design knowledge seems to contribute as much to Stone’s professional influence on the home as his rockand-roll world connections. The place is filled with rare pieces of furniture and décor that the couple was able to acquire at auctions and garage sales for a fraction of their value, due to Stone’s knowledge. In one Hard Rock staff garage sale, they got a handful of Kelly Wearstler-designed chairs, sofas and tables for $500; Stone estimates one piece could have sold for $675 at auction by itself. “My motto,” he says, “is, ‘That’s too cheap.’ When I can see something is underpriced, I grab it.” — Heidi Kyser

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Zero clutter, smart curation and pop culture converge in one awesomely not very normal space

Behind clothes doors: Chris Kenner's clutter-free mentality extends to the room-size closet (below and inset).


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I’d hate to come home to a normal house,” says Chris Kenner, longtime executive producer of David Copperfield’s show, now at the MGM Grand. Seems his home-décor pleasure receptors are set to 11, well beyond the ability of some cookie-cutter McMansion to satisfy. Fortunately for Kenner, residential normalcy is a problem you can fix — rather spectacularly — with a contrapuntal mashup of Bob’s Big Boy statuary, Philippe Starck furniture, famously stuffed beavers and a big nerdgasm of pop-culture iconography. Oh, from the outside his house looks normal (funny how that word assumes a dingy pall after a few minutes at Kenner’s place), just another moderately upscale suburban box in a gated Spring Valley community full of them. Inside, not so much. A four-level (look, a basement! in Vegas!) loft home, it’s open; airy, too, thanks to huge windows. Amid all this space and light, you immediately notice the complete lack of clutter. For one thing, Kenner hates

wires and cords — which could be a problem, because he loves electronics, especially TVs, having 11 of them synced up around the house — so he’s created customized cabinets and other fixtures to hide them. Until he points this out, it mostly registers as a subtle absence — none of the squiggly visual clutter your peripheral vision picks up along the baseboards of a (yech!) normal house. It’s amazing how much this contributes to the serene sense of precision that permeates chez Kenner. Likewise, the second-floor closet tucks two people’s worth of clothing and shoes — “He has more than me, but mine are prettier,” his girlfriend, Nicole, chuckles — behind walls of uniform cabinetry. Kenner adores pop culture and has gathered immense amounts of it around himself: more than 2,000 James Bond movie posters; a huge scale model of the Millennium Falcon;

P h ot o g r a p h y b y C h r i s t o p h e r s m i t h

Ordinary doesn't live here

giant figurines of Mike and Sully from Monsters Inc.; the notorious stuffed beaver from The Naked Gun; a Bob’s Big Boy statue (some of these were gifts from his pal Copperfield). In one hallway, a framed movie poster slides aside to reveal a hidden vitrine with a specially lighted Batman suit. And that slides aside to reveal a throbbing ganglion of geek-bliss: a hidden room jam-stocked with memorabilia from numerous movies and TV shows. If you’re into this stuff, you could lose a few days in there. As it happens, that room is a handy metaphor for the way Kenner’s aesthetic functions. “I’m a nerd,” he says, “but I hide it.” Or rather: edits it. Most of us, owning so much pop-culture coolness, would spackle our house with it, every flat surface a mini-shrine. But Kenner, with a producer’s eye for presentation, takes his aversion to clutter to the conceptual level. A select few pieces, usually wall-mounted, bounce off of higher-brow stuff (sculptures by artist Frank Kozik, for instance, or furniture and fixtures by maverick French designer Starck) in a spirit of energetic

juxtaposition. The rest he concentrates in specialized spaces. This results in an environment that not only encourages maximum creative alertness — a boon to a guy in Kenner’s line of work — but keeps drab normality at bay. — Scott Dickensheets

Super soaker: The open-plan master bath is lent a playful air by a giant movie poster and a limited-edition wooden chair.

At play in the playhouse: From movie posters to statuary, the memorabilia in the open areas — hallways, the loft, the living room (above) and the basement (below) — is carefully selected. Many other treasures are gathered in hidden spaces (bottom).

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Every picture tells a story


hen you’re talking about home design, spare rarely means delightful. Rather, it calls to mind a sort of astringent, modern quality that’s all about an admirable clarity — but rarely about pure joy. Once you step inside Michael and Karan Feders' home off of West Charleston (assuming you pass muster with Basil, their hair-trigger Chihuahua) you know at a glance that this isn't the case in their spare but insanely lively two-story home. Because that glance will take in


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the art that makes all the difference: Stunning examples of Southern vernacular work — expressive, unschooled, intensely human — dispel any chilly rigor inherent in white walls, high ceilings, concrete floors and LEDs. (You won’t be surprised to learn that Michael, a licensing entrepreneur, supplied folk art for the House of Blues chain.) “The goal was to create a gallery environment,” Michael says, “and to me that means white walls everywhere.” It’s an aesthetic he hasn’t forgotten from childhood trips to the big museums. “You don’t walk through the Metropolitan Museum or the Guggenheim and see walls with a red sponge treatment.” So, yeah, the house is spare. From the rough-hewn kitchen table made of Tibetan wood to the screaming Janet Leigh shower curtain, no item or idea has been casually allowed in. But the spareness isn’t an end in itself; it serves

to frame the art. “The whole thing was to make a symmetry here so that you didn’t notice the house, just the art,” Feder says. But go ahead, notice the house — how the square wine rack quietly harmonizes with the square kitchen windows and the square sink to create a background zen that highlights the jolly red swath of Willie Jinks’ “Hoper Family Goes to Church,” or the huge, graffiti-inspired works by Lou Majors. “The house wasn’t supposed to invade your consciousness,” Feder adds, “but then, when you focused on the house, there were some cool stories.” Stories. That’s your first takeaway here. While you probably can’t afford a museum-quality folk-art collection, you can customize your environment with objects rife with meaning. The Feders’ house is filled with stories. That’s the nature of this genre: Folk art emerges from a storytelling urge so undeniable that, for example, Southern artist Eddy Mumma had to paint untold pieces modeled on English aristocracy, never selling or giving away a single

P h ot o g r a p h y b y C h r i s t o p h e r s m i t h

Amazing folk art fills a west-side home with narrative and wonder

Rooms with views: From the foyer (far left) to the living room (left) to the upstairs bathroom (below), the Feders' home fills your optic nerves with engimatic imagery.

one in his lifetime. (The Feders own five.) Other items trail fun stories about how they were acquired. Point being, few touches are merely decorative; the couples’ home life is pillowed in a rich sense of narrative. As he bounds through his house — expounding on the similarities between ancient cave paintings and folk art, describing how to fine-tune the placement of artwork (they hang construction paper sized like the paintings, tweak-

ing them for weeks) — the other lesson of this place becomes clear: surround yourself with things you have a flagrant passion for. “Art is the proper task of life,” someone — Nietzsche? A Facebook meme? — once said, and even if you don’t make art, you can make art central to your life. “It’s just a really creative space,” Feder says, standing in his living room. “It’s incredibly inspiring. For me, it elevates.” Sounds delightful. — Scott Dickensheets

Ringo? Bingo: This centuries-old English sheep-shearer's chair (above) was once owned by Ringo Starr. "Presumably some or all of the Beatles have sat in it," Feder enthuses.

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Held firmly in place This sleek modern home encourages an intimate relationship with the desert


om Kim has an interesting relationship with space. On the one hand, he’s all over the map — literally. When he’s not working (and odds are, he is), the globe-tripping Kim might be skiing in Whistler, British Columbia, sightseeing in Hong Kong or, yes, skiing again in Alta, Utah (Kim likes to ski). On the other hand, the intensity of his work as a local orthopedic surgeon — 16-hour days are not uncommon — often requires him


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to be nailed down with a ferocious focus. The result: Not much be here now time. So when he’s at home, he wants to decompress and just exist in a single place in a manner that’s vigorous and affirmative, something that says: I am in Las Vegas, I am in Southern Nevada, I am home. “I wanted a Strip view, but also something that embraced the desert landscape,” Kim explains. “But also something clean and linear without a lot of clutter.” He

hired local architecture firm assemblageSTUDIO to design a house that did that. The result: His 6,000-square-foot home in the Ridges dubbed Light & Water. It’s much more than a New Agey-sounding name. The sleek linearity of Kim’s home disguises a thoroughgoing ethos of uniting the indoors and the outdoors in clever ways that aren’t always readily apparent. Consider the dining room, for instance, where the burnt ash wall runs along a visual con-

P h ot o g r a p h y b y C h r i s t o p h e r s m i t h

A new angle: The 6,000 square-foot Light & Water subtly blends outside and inside with both its building material and architecture.

Minimal subliminal: In not-so-obvious ways, Tom Kim's home is meant to evoke the desert in which it's situated.

tinuum established by the black steel wall outside. “Part of the idea was to bring the elements into the house, so the material feels like it continues through,” says Eric Strain, assemblageSTUDIO principal. Or how the pool’s contiguity with the house — literally water against rock; you can step right into the jacuzzi from a bedroom — evokes the canyons and washes of Red Rock. “The pool engages the house instead of it sitting there as a separate piece,” Strain says. But the real prize is the second-floor deck. As roof decks go, it’s relatively modest; the architectural feature at work here is the view. Look east and you’re treated to the glittering lights of the Strip; look west and you can ponder the rusty ridges of Red Rock. In the middle is Light & Water, embracing Southern Nevada’s dual nature. — Andrew Kiraly

View master: The eastern prospect of Light & Water features stunning views of the Strip.

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Experimenting with nature


n the north-facing wall of Sierra Slentz’s living room is a photogram-like painting of several flower bouquets laid out, overlapping each other, against a background of her signature colors: aqua, magenta, pink. Slentz, who teaches art at Las Vegas Academy, made this piece in 2001, the year she graduated from the MFA program at UNLV. “Made” is the best verb, because her process involved more than just painting. “I actually grew all of these flowers in my backyard from seed, harvested them, put them in ceramic vases that I cast from interesting bottles I found in

Cooking with science: The walls of the Slentz kitchen tell the story of the experiments they've tried — and the fun they've had.


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the desert, and arranged them like a florist or set designer would do,” she says. “When I was painting this, the vase was sitting on the canvas on a flat surface, and the light was projected to cast shadows on it. I would play with the light to get the shadows that I wanted.” Like most everything else in the 1952 downtown home that Slentz shares with husband James Baeb and their daughter, Stellar Slentz Baeb, the painting doesn’t stand alone. Spilling over on the wall to the left of the large panel are several smaller pieces, illustrating an evolution in her work — from painting to sculpture to multimedia installation.

P h o t o g r a p h y b y p a r a s c o p e c r e a t i v e /j a k e m c c a r t h y

Indoors meets outdoors in this home-as-laboratory

Inside out: The continuity between indoors and outdoors jibes with the Slentz's urban farming practices.

Also, like the rest of the décor in the house, the collection of Slentz’s work on the living room wall represents an indoors-outdoors intersection. As you step through the front door, you’re greeted by two large picture windows giving onto the backyard, where chickens scratch, six raised garden beds bloom and a school of koi meanders around a large pond. In the kitchen, fully stocked ceramic egg trays line the counter, and the beans, grains, pickles and jams that the family cooks with sit in unusual bottles and vases on small shelves among the wall art. And there’s something besides art happening at this inside-outside nexus:

science. Explaining the origin of small, square tiles on the kitchen wall that serve as appliance backsplash — colored variations dotting a mostly white array — Slentz says: “In an elementary school where I worked, I was supposed to teach ceramics for an after-school tutoring group. … I wasn’t familiar with glaze or loading or firing a kiln, so the kids and I

set up science experiments with different colors and glazes and temperatures, and made notes to practice the process of investigating and learning and creating predictions.” It sounds strikingly like the process she and Baeb have gone through in creating their outdoor garden, chicken habitat, indoor hydroponics garden/fish tank setup and so on. “We just buy things from the store, cut them open, put them in there and see if they’ll sprout,” she says, referring to the plant-filled space atop a large fish tank in her art studio. Fish waste is pumped up to a bed of lava rock-like pebbles that hold moisture and nutrients and pass them to seedlings nestled there. “We just successfully sprouted some lemongrass from the Asian market. Now it’s in the backyard.” Soon, it will make its way to the kitchen, and then the dining room table, completing the circuit that Slentz and Baeb power with their apparently boundless creativity and energy. In this home-as-laboratory, everything is part of the grand artistic experiment. — Heidi Kyser

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bloom in

Photography Stylist

Robert John Kley

Christie Moeller

Hair and make up Model


Krystle Randall

Morgan, ENVY Model Management

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m Sachin + Babi black floral skirt, $695 Neiman Marcus in the Fashion Show Mall

Paul by Paul Smith painted rose print T-shirt, $195 Paul Smith at Crystals in CityCenter

Paul Smith Black Label floral skirt, $525 Paul Smith at Crystals in CityCenter

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Haute Hippie “Dream� floral-print silk blouse, $365 Oscar de la Renta black resin rose necklace, $595 Neiman Marcus in

the Fashion Show Mall Tarina Tarantino lace floral/Swarovski crystal hairclip in ivorette, $55 Tarina Tarantino floral tulle/Swarovski crystal hairclip in ivory, $95


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Ted Baker Electric Day “Dream� maxi dress, $375 Ted Baker London in the Forum Shops at Caesars Tarina Tarantino floral/Swarovski crystal headband in ivorette, $170

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Ted Baker Electric Day “Dream” print parka, $375 Ted Baker London in the Forum Shops at Caesars Tarina Tarantino Fiore “Gelato” earrings in Candy Floss, $38 Paul by Paul Smith floral dress with belt, $550 Paul Smith at Crystals in CityCenter


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Oscar de la Renta pink resin rose necklace, $495 Neiman Marcus in the Fashion Show Mall Oasis Harley floral dress, $115 Tarina Tarantino poppy/Swarovski crystal hairclip in purple, $88 Tarina Tarantino poppy/Swarovski crystal hairclip in violet, $88

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Katherine Feiner pink poppy print romper, $180 Oscar de la Renta carved rose necklace, $695 Neiman Marcus in the Fashion Show Mall Tarina Tarantino lace floral/Swarovski crystal hairclip in pink, $55 Tarina Tarantino poppy/Swarovski crystal hairclip in fuschia, $88


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29 th

Boulder City Art Guild’s

Annual Fine Arts Festival

Sat. April 12 & Sun. April 13 10 am to 5 pm Bicentennial Park: FREE ADMISSION! FREE DRAWINGS! Over 130 Southwestern Artists Fine Art Raffle to benefit Scholarships Great Food & Beverage Concessions!

Live Music by Michael & Billy O 3 Performances Daily: 12 N, 2 pm, 4 pm Featured Artists: Bring in this ad for 3 Brianna Gray & Karen Petrovich free drawing tickets

702-293-2138 Boulder City Art Guild, inc. is A 501 (c) (3) organization

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Jon The Spencer Tempest Blues Explosion

The Smith Center

The Beauty bar Call it “alternative pop/ rock,” call it “punk blues” — can’t make up its mind, either — the music of Jon Spencer Blues Explosion is rowdy, greasy, noisy and an affront to all that is decent, white-bread and middleof-the-road. Happy Easter! Catch them at 5p, April 12. Tickets: $15,


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“We are such stuff / As dreams are made on …” Prospero says in "The Tempest." The version of Shakespeare’s (probably) final play, showing in a tent at The Smith Center, certainly represents a dream come true for Teller, the magician. (Of course — it’s a play about magic.) Six years in the making, it boasts his illusions, music by Tom Waits, a two-person Caliban and, Teller fizzes, “the most astoundingly beautiful, weird, gorgeous set for 'The Tempest' that has ever been done.” It will show at 8p, April 6-20 (April 1-4 are special preview shows). Tickets: $35-$65,


22 12 Bryan Ferry the Pearl Theater inside The Palms From comments on, explaining Roxy Music’s “Avalon,” perhaps Bryan Ferry’s signature moment as a singer: “I think the song is about death and loss.” “The song is describing the feeling of satisfaction of being ‘at the top of your game’ …” “… a song about the end of colonial western thinking.” Ohhh-kayyy. What it’s really about, of course, is what all of Ferry’s music is about: his silken, relaxed, world-weary but generous voice, which you can hear at 8p, April 12. Tickets: $49$99,

Robert Coover

Matt ortego

UNLV's Greenspun Hall

Summerlin Library Hey, Las Vegas artist Matt Ortego, what’s up with this image, titled “Saving Face,” from your exhibit "Welcome the Enemy"? “It depicts someone losing one’s self due to mistreatment,” he says. “I came up with the idea when I was going through an episode of not being true to myself. The title is a play on words juxtaposing the meaning of the idiom with the meaning of the painting, which hopefully gives a comedic perspective.” See for yourself April 22-June 24, free,

Were we to describe novelist Robert Coover as a “postmodernist,” or say he is “avant-garde,” you’d be all, “Why, that sounds ‘interesting,’ and by ‘interesting’ I mean ‘academic and boring.’” But hold on. What Coover does is consume fables, myths and genres (“stories dreamt up by others and in whose dreams — often infantile dreams — we were now living”), and metabolize them into his own romping stories. It’s a process one of his characters likens to “dream-eating.” That sounds unboring (and dreamilicious). Coover reads at 7p, April 17, free,

I l lu st r ati o n Dav i d St r o u d

04 14


Channel 10

PRECIOUS OBJECTS Through April 10, Mon-Thu, 7a-5:30p. Cleveland photographer Charles Mintz exhibits prints of some of the 170 people who were photographed holding something with special meaning that they have had for a long time and that they would not replace, if lost. Next to each portrait is the subject’s handwritten explanation of why the object is so important. Free. Las Vegas City Hall Chamber Gallery,

LEONARDO DA VINCI: MACHINES IN MOTION Through May 4. These full-scale machines were built after detailed study of da Vinci’s designs by a group of scientists and skilled craftsmen in Florence, Italy. Visitors may touch and set them in motion, creating a captivating hands-on experience with an exploration of the principles da Vinci utilized to create each machine. Free with general admission. Springs Preserve

NEVADA WATERCOLOR SOCIETY SPRING SHOW Through May 10. An exquisite array of watercolor paintings showcasing works by outstanding local watercolorists and exploring subjects as varied as still life, abstracts, portraits and landscapes. Free with general admission. Big Springs Gallery at Springs Preserve

HILLARY PRICE Through May 16. Price’s oil paintings extend off the wall and into the space of the viewer. Fragmented images are painted onto layers of stretched pantyhose nylon, suggesting a visual representation of memories within the space of the brain. Free. Winchester Gallery, 3130 S. McLeod Dr.,

Call the Midwife Sundays at 8 p.m., beginning March 30

Masterpiece Classic:

Mr. Selfridge Sundays at 9 p.m., beginning March 30

Hotel Secrets with Richard E. Grant Thursdays at 10 p.m., beginning April 3

Your Inner Fish Wednesdays at 10 p.m., beginning April 9

The Bletchley Circle Sundays at 10 p.m., beginning April 13

MEMORIES FOR THE FUTURE Through May 23. Artist reception April 3, 6-8p. An interactive performance and site-specific installation presented by artist and former U.S. Marine, Michael Barrett. Barrett will crawl on hand and knee, individually shining on the more than 6,000 pennies making up his mosaic pattern on the Rotunda Gallery floor in order to honor service men and women. Free. Clark County Government Center Rotunda Gallery,

Ken Burns’ The Address Tuesday, April 15 at 9 p.m.

Visit to see the complete schedule today. 3050 E. Flaming Road, Las Vegas, NV 89121

702.799.1010 APRIL 2014



turn up the volume "Today we walked the space again, conceiving all the layout; it's going to be such a strong show," VAST Space Projects gallerist

presents glass transformed into jewelry, plates, bowls and other pieces of art. Carolyn Hurst is a master quilter. Gaile Ferguson is a student of photography and cinematography in the film department of College of Southern Nevada. The three combine for a holistic multimedia exhibit. Free. West Las Vegas Arts Center Community Gallery, 702-229-4800

Shannon McMackin reported in mid-March, as she and artist Mark Brandvik planned out Volume Control, his new exhibit. Designed specifically for VAST's Henderson warehouse, the show comprises "sculptural vignettes, dioramas, and tableaus referencing memory, architecture,

CELEBRATING LIFE! 2014 May 23-July 12. A juried art exhibition for artists ages 50+. Open to residents of Clark, Esmeralda, Lincoln, Mineral and Nye counties of Nevada. Free to enter; entries due April 22-23, 11a-3p. Charleston Heights Arts Center, 800 S. Brush St., 702-229-6383

and landscape," says the artist's statement. "Drawings in the


..." McMackin adds. Plus, nods

May 2. 7p; May 3, 2p. In a town where people falling from grace form the bedrock of the local economy, choreographer Kelly Roth chooses to bite the hand that feeds him as he examines the spiritually corrosive effects of moral relativism. Enjoy a night of dance with the Concert Dance Company and the CSN Dance Ensemble plus special guests. $10 adults, $8 students/seniors. Nicholas J. Horn Theatre,

to the automotive legacy of the space itself. Opens April 19 with a 7-10p reception. 727 Susanna Way, — Scott Dickensheets

MAD SCIENCE MANIA Through June 21. Sat-Sun, 11a and 1p. Mad scientists roam the Preserve with interactive experiments that are different every week. Free with general admission. Springs Preserve

FIRST FRIDAY April 4 and May 2. 5-11p. Celebrate Downtown Las Vegas’ unique brand of arts and culture with exhibits, open galleries, live music and DJs, food trucks, vendor booths and special activities for the kids. Free. Arts District; hub at Casino Center Blvd. between Colorado St. and California St., with an extension on 3rd St. and Colorado, plus music in the Get Back Alley in the Fremont East district,

SEEKING SILENCE April 4-June 6. Mon-Fri 9a-4p, Sat 10a-2p. A solo exhibit of fine art prints, drawings and installation artwork by CSN Professor of Printmaking and Drawing, Anne Hoff. Free. CSN Fine Arts Gallery,


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office, a loop of Brandvik videos

SUN CITY SUMMERLIN 2014 FINE ART SHOW April 5. 10a-3p; Awards ceremony 11a. The Sun City Art Club invites everyone to stop by and enjoy art, framed or matted and unframed, as well as framed miniatures. Celebrate the artists, purchase a work of art or buy raffle tickets to win one of the art teachers’ paintings. Free. Desert Vista Community Center, 10360 Sun City Blvd.

SESQUICENTENNIAL CULTURAL ARTS EVENT April 6. 2-5p. This exhibit of acclaimed watercolor artist and teacher, Mary Shaw, and her most talented students will feature the theme of historic Nevada. Also attending are local writers and CSN history professor, Michael Green. Books and paintings will be for sale. Free. Historic Mesquite Club House, 702 E. St. Louis Ave.

MAHOGANY SHOWCASE SPRING EXHIBIT 2014 April 19-June 7. Wed-Fri 9a-6:30p, Sat 9a-5:30p. Award-winning artist Brenda Dumas

ETHNIC EXPRESS INTERNATIONAL FOLK DANCING Every Wednesday. 6:30-8:45p. Have an evening of fun learning international dance styles, including Arabic, Armenian, Bulgarian, Chinese, Greek, Israeli, Macedonian, Russian, Serbian and Turkish folk dances. No need to bring a partner. Ages 8+ only. $4. Charleston Heights Arts Center, 800 S. Brush St.,

SCOTTISH COUNTRY DANCING Every Friday. 6:30-8:45p. (No dance April 18.) Celebrate the beautiful ballroom dance styles of Scotland. Dances can be joyfully energetic or graceful. From the first chord to the final bow or curtsey, participants will be inspired by the driving reels, jigs, strathspeys or lilting airs. Dancers should wear comfortable clothes and soft shoes. Ages 13+ only. $5. Charleston Heights Arts Center, 800 S. Brush St.,


Back By popular demand!

CLINT HOLMES: NEW YORK OLD FRIEND April 4-6. April 4-5, 8:30p; Apr. 6, 2p. Holmes leads an all-star cast, including Kristen Hertzenberg and Fifth Avenue, in a new show celebrating the relationship that people have with New York City. Included are songs by Billy Joel, Stephen Sondheim, Cole Porter, Vernon Duke, Kander & Ebb, and an exciting new body of music by New York composer/lyricist Ken Laub. $35$45. Cabaret Jazz at The Smith Center

D e s e r t C o m pa n i o n

Join us for a night of sips, nips, slugs anD swigs

LOVE VINTAGE LAS VEGAS STYLE April 5. 7:30p. A swinging evening featuring big band favorites made famous by the Rat Pack. Conductor and vocalist Matt Catingub performs with guest vocalist Anita Hall and guest drummer Steve Moretti. $25-$94. Reynolds Hall at The Smith Center

WARD 5 BLUEGRASS IN THE PARK April 6. 1-3p. Councilman Barlow invites you to bring the entire family to this free event to enjoy the music of local bluegrass and acoustic bands playing traditional American music with banjos, fiddles, guitars and mandolins. Free. Lorenzi Park Lake Band Shell, 3333 W. Washington Ave., 702-229-5443

UNLV JAZZ CONCERT SERIES April 9. 7p. This series highlights the best student musicians from UNLV’s Jazz Studies Program. Co-sponsored by UNLV’s Department of Jazz Studies. Free. Clark County Library,



May 1 6-9pm


April 9. 7:30p. With the introduction of a solo guitar, a drum set and a keyboard to her latest compositions, Krall’s piano and vocal talents shine brighter than ever before. $39-$149. Reynolds Hall at The Smith Center

PRESERVATION HALL JAZZ BAND April 11-12. 6p and 9p. The band derives its name from the venerable music venue located in New Orleans’ French Quarter, founded in 1961 by Allan and Sandra Jaffe. Now celebrating their

SpAcE iS limiTEd so please RSVp at by ApRil 28

APRIL 2014


THE GUIDE 50th anniversary, the band has traveled worldwide spreading their mission to nurture and perpetuate the art form of New Orleans Jazz. $39-$50. Cabaret Jazz at The Smith Center

RAISE THE ROOF April 12. 7:30p. Opera Las Vegas invites you to take part in a dazzling, high-energy, high-altitude extravaganza overlooking the Strip skyline. Coming to town and commanding the rooftop performance is world-renowned star of opera, film and Broadway, Julia Migenes. $300 includes meet-and-greet. Turnberry Place. Contact Nancy Dailey, 702-629-4165

STORM LARGE: TAKEN BY STORM April 18. 7p. From “Rock Star: Supernova” to Pink Martini, a sold-out run of her one-woman show “Crazy Enough” (expanded into a fascinating autobiography) to Central Park and Carnegie Hall, statuesque beauty Storm Large’s accomplishments are many. Performing with her band Le Bonheur, her amazing voice, riveting stage-presence and wicked sense of humor will blow you away with unique and memorable presentations of American songbook classics, Broadway tearjerkers and rock anthems. $39-$49. Cabaret Jazz at The Smith Center,

LAURA TAYLOR: IT MIGHT AS WELL BE SPRING April 24. 7p. Singer, recording artist and award-winning songwriter, Taylor and her talented group of musicians will perform a mixture of favorite spring songs, originals and songs from her CDs. This evening will feature special guest guitarist Joe Lano. $28-$55. Cabaret Jazz at The Smith Center

SOUL MEN: A TRIBUTE TO SOUL, R&B AND MOTOWN STARRING SPECTRUM April 26. 7p. The group boasts four incredible singers, each with the voice of a solo artist, who combine their voices and dexterity to create the angelic harmonies and deft choreography that have become trademarks of Spectrum, Las Vegas’ own award-winning Soul/R&B vocal group. $34-$37. Cabaret Jazz at The Smith Center

concert demonstrating that love means the same in any language. Featuring music from Ricardo Castro’s 1900 Mexican opera, Atzimba and Joaquín Rodrigo’s Concierto de Aranjuez showcasing sensational classical guitarist Pablo Sáinz Villegas. $25-$94. Reynolds Hall at The Smith Center

CSN ORCHESTRA April 28. 7:30p. The Department of Fine Arts’ Orchestra, conducted by Christopher Davis, showcases its 50-piece orchestra performing works from their symphonic repertoire. $8 adults, $5 students/seniors. Nicholas J. Horn Theatre,

LAS VEGAS YOUTH ORCHESTRA & SYMPHONIC BAND PRESENT MUSICAL MONTAGE April 30. 6:30p. The best of Southern Nevada’s student musicians ages 8-18 perform in the last of a series of family concerts for the season. Some music selections include: Highlights from "Porgy & Bess" and "American Landscape" by Newbold and Holst’s “Brook Green Suite” featuring Catherine Patton performing “Introduction & Rondo Capriccioso” by Saint-Saens. $10-$40. Reynolds Hall at The Smith Center

5, 8p; Shows April 6-27, Tue-Sun 8p; Matinees Sat-Sun, 2:30p. Enter an untamed world of phantoms, monsters, madmen and lovers with this wild adaptation of Shakespeare’s final play. This timeless tale of love, loss, virtue and vengeance is destined to leave you breathless, bewitched and begging for more. $25-$65. Symphony Park at The Smith Center

ABUELITA DE BATMAN April 5. 7p. The program consists of five short plays that take place in Mexico City in the 1980s. Characters use the title phrase as an ironic exclamation, meaning “truthfully,” as when the long-suffering wife of a drunken, womanizing, lying politician sighs, “Abuelita de Batman, I am lucky to have such a husband!” Presented in Spanish by AVACT. $10 in advance, $12 at the door. Winchester Cultural Center, 3130 S. McLeod Dr.,

WOMEN FULLY CLOTHED April 11. 7:30p. Robin Duke (“Saturday Night Live”), Jayne Eastwood (Hairspray), Kathryn Greenwood (“Whose Line is it, Anyway?”) and Teresa Pavlinek (“The Jane Show”) are known as the funniest women in Canada and will wow you their uproarious sketches and songs. $35-$55. Reynolds Hall at The Smith Center



May 1. 7:30p. One of the most beloved and celebrated musical ambassadors of our time, soprano Renée Fleming is known for her sumptuous voice, consummate artistry and compelling stage presence. She will be performing pieces ranging from opera favorites to Broadway standards. $39-$129. Reynolds Hall at The Smith Center

April 15-20. 7:30p; Apr 19-20, 2p. The beautiful Bess struggles to break free from her scandalous past, and the only one who can rescue her is the courageous Porgy. Threatened by her formidable former lover, Crown, and the seductive enticements of the colorful troublemaker, Sporting Life, Porgy and Bess’ relationship evolves into a deep romance that triumphs as one of theater’s most exhilarating love stories. $26-$129. Reynolds Hall at The Smith Center

TOM DREESEN May 2-3. 7p. In this unforgettable performance, Dreesen will take you from hearing Sinatra on the jukebox to one day touring the nation as his opening act. Dreesen mixes standup comedy with his keen insights and storytelling to bring to life the greatest career show business has ever known. $39-$69. Cabaret Jazz at The Smith Center

BABE RUTH, A LIFE AND A LEGEND April 18. 12-1p. Bring your lunch to enjoy this Chautauqua performance by award-winning author and journalist Frank X. Mullen. Free. Lloyd D. George Federal Courthouse Jury Assembly Room, 333 Las Vegas Blvd. S.,


LOVE AROUND THE WORLD April 26. 7:30p. Las Vegas Philharmonic’s vibrant


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April 1-27. Previews April 1-4, 8p; Opening Night April

April 18-19 and 25-26. 7:30p; April 20 and 27, 2p. Set during

the reign of King Charles II, this dramedy is rich in theatrical history as it tells the story of London’s most famous portrayer of female roles, Edward Kynaston, who is devastated when a royal decree allows women to act onstage. Recommended for mature audiences only. $12, $10 students/seniors. Nicholas J. Horn Theatre,

LAS VEGAS IMPROVISATIONAL PLAYERS April 19. 7p. Do you love watching “Whose Line is it, Anyway?” Come see Las Vegas’ hottest improv troupe perform such games, live! Interactive and safe fun for the whole family. $10 at the door, kids free. American Heritage Academy, 6126 S. Sandhill Road,

OZMA OF OZ April 25-26, May 2-3. 7p; April 27, May 3-4, 2p. This modern fantasy explores the relationship between a now teenaged Dorothy and her elderly Uncle Henry. After they are swept off a boat, they find themselves in the Land of Oz, where time does not exist, but lots of thrilling adventures do! Don’t miss Bill, the giant wisecracking chicken, the wacky Wheelers, and the wonderfully wise Ozma. $5. Charleston Heights Arts Center, 800 S. Brush St.,


AN AFTERNOON WITH GEORGE GUIDALL: THE ART AND ARTIFICE OF AUDIOBOOK NARRATION April 6. 2p. Veteran Broadway and TV actor Guidall will share personal stores and read from his repertoire of more than 900 audiobooks, giving voice to books by Picoult, Gaiman, Patterson and more, followed by a Q&A. Free. Clark County Library,

SET YOURSELF UP FOR REAL SUCCESS April 9. 6p. Leadership trainer, transformational coach and speaker, Cherry Reyes, will discuss the four elements to success: Relationships, Equipping, Attitude and Leadership. Understanding these success-building areas will only improve

your career and/or small business. Based on John Maxwell’s book, How to Be a REAL Success. Free. Sahara West Library.

CREATIVITY AND THE WORD: A POETRY PERFORMANCE BY LEE MALLORY April 22. 6:30p. Celebrate National Poetry Month with “the love poet.” A widely published performance poet and author of Now and Then, Mallory will read, discuss creativity and sign copies of his book. Free. Whitney Library,

OUT WEST @ THE LIBRARY: DIVERSITY DAY – A STAGED READING April 24. 7p. A reenactment of combative public testimony adapted from the Missoula City Council hearing to add anti-discrimination protection for the LGBTQ community, a first in Montana history. Author, playwright and filmmaker Gregory Hinton adapted the script from the actual Missoula City Council Journal of Proceedings. Discussion follows. Free. Clark County Library,

THE SMITH CENTER FOR THE PERFORMING ARTS WALKING TOURS Every Wed and Sat. 10:30a. Take a guided tour of the campus and learn about its architectural accomplishments, artwork and historic overview. Register in advance for free. The Smith Center,

than ever with more than 250 brews from more than 80 breweries. Featuring beer-inspired culinary menus, mixology demonstrations, educational elements, interactive exhibits and live music. $35-$80. Fremont East Entertainment District of Downtown Las Vegas,


A NIGHT ON THE TOWN April 4-5. 7p. Sun City Aliante Songsters’ spring concert will benefit Seniors with Warm Hearts. The group is composed of singers aged 55-85 and performs a variety of contemporary choral music. $5. For tickets, call Warren 702-538-9441

STARLIGHT AND STRINGS: TANGO April 11. 6p. Includes hors d’oeuvres, wine, live music, raffle and silent auction. Proceeds support the Winchester Cultural Center. $25 in advance; $30 concert day. Winchester Cultural Center, 3130 S. McLeod Dr.,

APDA ANNUAL OPTIMISM WALK TO ASSIST PARKINSON’S DISEASE PATIENTS April 12. 9a. In an effort to “Ease the Burden - Find the Cure” for Parkinson’s disease, join the American Parkinson Disease Association (APDA) in its annual 1-5K walk. The walk can be enjoyed by participants of all ages and is handicap accessible! $10-$35 registration, donations accepted. Craig Ranch Regional Park, apdaparkinson.donordrive. com/event/2014LasVegasRunWalk


UNLVINO April 9-12. Celebrate the 40th year of Las Vegas’ favorite wine tasting with four days of events especially for wine, beer and spirit enthusiasts. Benefits scholarships for students of UNLV’s William F. Harrah College of Hotel Administration. Events range from $100-$275. See website for locations,


NATIONAL REBUILDING DAY April 26. 7a. Presented by Rebuilding Together Southern Nevada, this daylong event unites more than 1,200 volunteers and community partners to repair and renovate 20 homes of low-income homeowners (elderly, veterans, disabled and families) throughout the Las Vegas Valley, in just one day! Various locations in Las Vegas, Henderson and North Las Vegas,

April 26. 4-8p. Nevada’s largest independent craft beer festival is bigger and better

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what is bad? By challenging our belief that Showgirls sucked, a new book offers thoughts on how to evaluate culture  b y s c o t t d i c k e n s h e e t s


ll these years later, it might be hard to recall the critical stink bombs that rained on Showgirls when it came out in 1995. Trust us: Reviews were brutal. Made in a clear spirit of provocation by the guys behind Basic Instinct — director Paul Verhoeven (Robo-Cop, Total Recall) and writer Joe Eszterhas (Flashdance) — it starred Elizabeth Berkley as Nomi, an ambitious stripper clawing and sexing her way through Vegas’ treacherous entertainment biz. According to the critical hive-mind, Showgirls was lurid, grotesque and — when Berkley was onscreen — heinously acted. Worst film ever, many said. It departed in a shower of contemptuous Razzie Awards, its status as a legendary failure sealed.


APRIL 2014

Adam Nayman wants to unseal it. The Canadian film critic has written It Doesn’t Suck (ECW Press, $12.95), a game attempt to reposition this classic howler as an underappreciated masterpiece — or, mind-bendingly, maybe both. “I am serious,” he says, guessing your first question. What does such a rethink entail? From the book and a chat with Nayman, here are a few pointers for appraising a (supposed) wreck like Showgirls — or any work of, ahem, art. Don’t pre-judge. It’s clear to him that Showgirls suffered for the fantastically successful sins of Basic Instinct. Critics, aghast at that movie's cynical manipulation of Sharon Stone’s privates, had their knives out for this next Eszterhas/Verhoeven pervathon.

Audiences, still uneasy about turning such a nasty film into a hit, stayed away. "The two still had blood on their hands from Basic Instinct," Nayman writes, "and it can be hard to outrun your past." He adds, "Showgirls had very little chance to settle into theaters" before it became a cultural punchline. "I'm not sure the climate was right" for an honest appraisal. Time has helped: Showgirls became a top-selling home video, and Nayman's book is part of a critical rehab that's been underway for years. Mind the details. Asked for a scene that might cue a more nuanced take on Showgirls, Nayman suggests a dinner between Nomi and the far more successful Cristal, played by Gina Gershon. "Verhoeven violates the 180-degree rule," he writes; that is, each character should stay on her side of the screen. Here, halfway through, they switch. A veteran filmmaker, Verhoeven knows the rule. But by violating it, he crystallizes the film’s character dynamic: Nomi not only wants what Cristal has, she wants to be Cristal. It's one of many example of the fluid technique that tells Nayman there's more going on here than the Razzies let on. Instead of just “good” or “bad,” wonder about decisions. This brings us to Berkley’s acting. Nayman doesn’t contend that it's conventionally good. But one thing seems clear: Her over-the-top performance was a choice. So: Whose? Why? One theory, which requires thinking a bit outside the frame: Verhoeven — a satirist, after all — joined her bad acting to good filmmaking as a meta challenge to Hollywood's established values. So, while it's set in a soulless Vegas, Showgirls may truly be about soulless Tinseltown. About Berkley's acting, there's no certain answer — it's the questioning that matters. “The performance is what it is,” he writes, “and both Showgirls the Masterpiece and Showgirls the Piece of Shit are unimaginable without it.” And here we are, still talking about it 20 years later. Not everyone buys this rereading, of course. Responding to Nayman, Esquire cultural critic Stephen Marche rewatched Showgirls: “The only way I could see Showgirls as a good film is if I completely re-established my criteria of aesthetic values …” No kidding. But what if that was the point all along?

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Desert Companion - April 2014  

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Desert Companion - April 2014  

Your guide to living in southern Nevada.