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Why did he do it?

The puzzling crime and untimely death of pediatrician Ralph Conti

JULY 2014



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Cake and eat it, too


t was five years ago that we launched DEALicious Meals, our annual dine-o-pedia of amazing must-eat meals across the valley. Things were a bit different then: Desert Companion was a bimonthly magazine with an editorial staff of two, housed in a room that formerly hosted a classical music archive for 89.7 KCNV FM; we could have held touch football games in all the extra space. But there were also some fundamentals in place that haven’t changed since then, such as our commitment to honest, fun and forthright service journalism that explores, highlights and celebrates Las Vegas. Little wonder that DEALicious Meals quickly became an institution. In our various installments, we’ve served up everything from big, spicy and extreme food to ethnic specialties to breakout breakfasts and brunches on and off the Strip. This year, for our fifth anniversary, we decided to return to our original menu, noshing our way across the valley to dish up great tastes at every price point — you’ll find everything from killer $2 street tacos to upscale buffets that give the lie to that stubborn stereotype of a depressing heat-lamp pageant of baked ziti and rubbery steak. We also break out three classic casual eats — wings, burgers and hummus — and give these competing DEALicious Meals our own World Cup tourney twist. The valley’s changed over the last five years. For one thing, we have something resembling an economy again (hurray!), and our slow (and hopefully sensible) economic comeback is reflectNext MOnth ed in our ever-burgeoning food scene, which lately sees many Strip chefs going Well, well, well: It’s our native, inspired by the promising comehealth and back of Las Vegas’ urban core. In that medicine sense, DEALicious Meals is more than a issue mere foodie scavenger hunt. What we’re


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eating is a barometer of the state of our collective psyche. Hey, you don’t eat chicken wings when you’re sad. And while we’re returning to our roots in one department, in another we’re venturing into new territory. This issue of Desert Companion signals a journalistic mile marker: a long-form, in-depth story that’s our longest and most in-depth yet. In “Why did he do it?,” Heidi Kyser probes the troubling and complex case of Dr. Ralph Conti, a beloved Las Vegas Valley pediatrician who had a disturbing side job. From February to November 2006, after his pediatrics office closed for the day, he was a different kind of doctor entirely, performing stem-cell implants on sick people desperate to cure their multiple sclerosis, their cerebral palsy, their lupus. Along with his partner Alfred Sapse — a conspiracy-minded Svengali who was convinced that stem cells were the cure for numerous debilitating diseases, and that the FDA was quashing these cures on behalf of Big Pharma — Conti was convicted of fraud in November 2012. Sapse is doing time in prison, but Conti died under curious circumstances before he could be sentenced. Questions linger, the most compelling of which have to do with Conti’s possible motives and what they might mean: Was Conti a noble rebel physician who truly believed he was curing the sick? A con man whose stem-cell therapies were mere snake oil? A well-meaning dupe who was as much a victim as his desperate patients? Heidi Kyser talks to the major players in the case, including Sapse, serving his prison sentence in California, to create a nuanced portrait of a complex man, remembered by many as a compassionate doctor to countless children, by others as a criminal driven by darker impulses. Andrew Kiraly editor

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JULY 2014

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Brainstorming this project on Maryland Parkway


brought memories of childhood trips to the mall, harrowing time spent in the neonatal unit with my twins, and a lifelong love affair with UNLV. So intertwined has "The Parkway" been in my life, I thought documenting it would be a simple and fun exercise. But as it should be in documentary work, the process was more educational than recapitulatory. What I found were lost souls and blight, feisty entrepreneurialism, and those who refuse to give up on their neighborhoods. What I found was how little I understood the street of my life. — Aaron Mayes






(L) JUNE 2014

JUNE 2014




Here’s reader Lee Mallory on the June issue’s epic photosplosion: “Great idea to juxtapose the broad and beautiful ‘Focus on Nevada’ spread (our photo contest) with the equally discerning and more local ‘Visions of Maryland.’” That was our three-shooter photo essay digging into the chewy urban layer cake that is Maryland Parkway. “Thanks for 24 pages of wonder, and the guts to hand a magazine over, so fully, to the world.” Of course, one reader’s paean to worldly connection is another’s wayback machine: “Spent a good portion of my life going up and down that street,” Tamarisk Wood wrote on Facebook after seeing the Maryland Parkway photos. “I bet I could give a blindfolded walking tour of what was there from UNLV to Huntridge.” We may take you up on that, Tamarisk; we already have the blindfold (don’t ask). Meantime, which photo did you most respond to? “The one looking down the arches in front of Cheers toward the plaza where (Café) Copioh was,” she replies (above, bottom right). It whisks her back to a groovy time of “café-hopping, 24-hour donuts and hanging out at or in front of Cheers. Sad that those days are long gone.” Maryland is just as memory-drenched for Linda Alterwitz, one


of the photographers involved in the essay, so we asked if she had a moment of vivid recall while shooting. She did. “It happened while I was photographing the couple buildings that remained in Maryland Square … remembering what used to be there — the bank I used to go to with my mom, and the Baskin-Robbins ice cream store on the west corner. Then a security guard appeared, told me that there was no photography allowed and told me to leave. Those precious memories were with me very briefly as I packed them away once again and drove off.”

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But hold on! Not everyone loved “Visions of Maryland.” Reader Victoria Halfon is “furious to see on Page 65 a full-page photo of a hate-speech nut. I drive by this infuriating man several times a week, and am assaulted by his Nazi rhetoric on his clothing and signs ... It’s media attention like this that makes these nuts start shooting innocent people in their clamor for infamy. So while Palestinian terrorists have three teenagers held hostage in the West Bank area, you are giving a full page photo to the Palestinian flag waving behind this loser on his bike? Is this our guide to living in Southern Nevada? I’m actually ashamed of you and your insensitive behavior.” We’re sorry you feel that way, Victoria, but we can’t apologize for including Aaron Mayes’ photo in “Visions of Maryland,” the point of which was to capture and consider real life on Maryland Parkway — from the beautiful to the bad. To apologize for that would be, well, apologizing for journalism: honestly reflecting and investigating the

world around us. It’s absurd to assume that reflecting that world implies some kind of endorsement, sanction or encouragement on our part. Of course, it doesn’t. Ironically, your harrowing interactions with this man reinforce the premise of the photo essay; they affirm that, yes, this guy is most definitely part of the life of Maryland Parkway. Finally, we should consider a multitude of other likely factors that results in “nuts ... shooting innocent people” before pointing a finger at an easy target like “media attention.” That’s as simplistic as wishing that a man ranting on a street corner didn’t exist.


The Urban League of Las Vegas, subject of an All Things dispatch in June, is changing addresses and, as Andrew Kiraly noted in his story, dialing up its ambition: “The shift in HQ from Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard and Owens Avenue to west Cheyenne is itself a signal flare for a broader vision. ‘We’re not the Urban League of black people, and not the Urban League of North Las Vegas,’ says (new CEO Kevin) Hooks. ‘In order to show that, we’ve got to expand our footprint.’” Not so fast, says Facebook commenter Lynn Boland. “What’s wrong with being in a black neighborhood? Why not provide a place of ‘dignity’ in the black neighborhood for black and other clients who live there. Urban League’s CEO should be thinking about what’s accessible to clients. About revitalizing at the community’s roots. A beautiful place on Owens would have been very encouraging.” Hooks declined to address Boland’s comments directly, but the Urban League did say this: “The Las Vegas Urban League has eight offices in and around Las Vegas, including two near Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard and Cary that will continue to serve the entire community.”


The future means growing our businesses, watching our kids cross the stage at graduation, and maybe even seeing a flying car. But before it can happen, we need to continue conserving our water so our businesses, families and communities can continue thriving. So keep conserving, Southern Nevada. Because having a reliable water source means having a future. Learn more at The Southern Nevada Water Authority is a not-for-profit agency.

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32 tastes great, less billing

Find great food at every affordable price point with the fifth version of our annual roundup: DEALicious Meals 5: The Ingurgening!


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42 The sad

mysteries of the stem cell doctor

Why did a beloved, successful pediatrician get mixed up in a medical deception? By Heidi Kyser


JULY 2014



TU E S DAY, AU G U ST 1 2 — S U N DAY, AU G U ST 17 OSCAR® is the registered trademark and service mark of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences. Photo by Joan Marcus.


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JULY 2014

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26 24


departments 15 public F  remont

Rhonda Killough makes sure surplus fruit doesn't go to waste By Heidi Kyser

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

Street's party blues 17 zeit bites A

cocktail campaign 18 I, witness It's good

to have goooals 20 ProfileTwo

words: "creamy dreamies" 22 shopSummer fun 24 open topic

Downtown Whaterlin?


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64 End note Notes from my dinner at Guy Fieri's Vegas Kitchen & Bar

Special RepORT

Why did he do it?

on the cover

The puzzling crime and untimely death of pediatrician Ralph Conti

JULY 2014





The Farmer's Burger at Farmer Boys


Photography Sabin Orr

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All Things

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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, Tracey Michels, Favian Perez, Carol Skerlich, Markus Van’t Hul 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  Jim Begley, Chris Bitonti, Cybele, Mélanie Hope, Jarret Keene, Debbie Lee, Christie Moeller, Molly O'Donnell, Launce Rake, James P. Reza, Lissa Townsend Rodgers, Geoff Schumacher, Greg Thilmont Contributing artists   Bill Hughes, David Stroud, Hernan Valencia 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)


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Board of Directors Officers Susan malick Brennan  chair Brennan Consulting Group, LLC cynthia alexander, ESQ.   vice chair Snell & Wilmer TIM WONG  treasurer Arcata Associates Florence M.E. Rogers  secretary Nevada Public Radio

Directors shamoon ahmad, m.d., mba, facp kevin m. buckley First Real Estate Companies Louis Castle  director emeritus Patrick N. Chapin, Esq.  director emeritus Richard I. dreitzer, Esq. Wilson Elser Moskowitz Edelman & Dicker, LLP Elizabeth FRETWELL  chair emeritus City of Las Vegas Jan Jones Blackhurst Caesars Entertainment Corporation John R. Klai II Klai Juba Wald Architects gavin isaacs Lamar Marchese  president emeritus William mason Taylor International Corporation Chris Murray  director emeritus Avissa Corporation Jerry Nadal Cirque du Soleil William J. “Bill” Noonan  director emeritus Boyd Gaming Corporation kathe nylen PBTK Consulting Anthony j. pearl, esq. The Cosmopolitan of Las Vegas MARK RICCiARDI, Esq.  director emeritus Fisher & Phillips, LLP Mickey Roemer  director Roemer Gaming


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a differen t k ind of fremont street ex perienc e

Welcome to Downtownerlin! page 24

It’s just a phase D public spaces

Hey, Fremont Street. Cheer up. Don’t let growing pains get you down B y A n d r e w K i r a ly

P h oto g r a p h y b r e n t h o l m e s

ear Fremont Street: Hey! It’s been a while since I’ve seen you! Gee, how you’ve grown over the years — from a rough and dusty saloon street to teen-cruising spot to what you are today, part canopy-covered pedestrian plaza, part hipster bar district. I get it: You’re just starting to figure out who you want to be. And, of course, now that you’re a teenager, you’re experiencing certain ... changes. You have new feelings, you’re trying new things. We’ve all been there. In fact, that’s what I wanted to talk to you about: Your behavior lately really has your parents concerned. The drinking. The late-night carousing with underage friends. Those guys and girls who come over in their

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ALL Things

civic life

Hear more Elvis and showgirl costumes and hang out all night. I heard that the city just banned package liquor sales in the Fremont Street Experience, and that they’re urging the police to crack down on aggressive street performers — not to mention continuing to grapple with underage drinking in the East Fremont Entertainment District. Don’t worry. I’m not here to lecture. And I’m not here to put you on a curfew or kick your friends out or forbid you from drinking. That’s your parents’ job. I’m just here to give you some perspective. To remind you that you’re not alone. Other party streets, other famous (and infamous) entertainment districts have gone through similar growing pains. Take that as a comfort that you’re not alone in your journey, in your struggle to find yourself. Consider Bourbon Street in New Orleans. Talk about a wild child. You probably wouldn’t know this from the stereotypical images of bead-draped revelers chugging daiquiris from plastic hand grenades, but there’s a genteel historic neighborhood surrounding Bourbon Street. That neighborhood has never been too crazy about the partying that goes on in what one New Orleans blogger lamented has turned into “a staggering parade of drunken idiot boys and girls who make ‘Jersey Shore’ look like a Chanel runway.” Meg Lousteau, executive director of the Vieux Carre Property Owners, Residents and Associates, Inc. puts it more politely to me. “It’s definitely lively — some might call it too lively,” says Lousteau, whose group is dedicated to preserving the historic flavor of the French Quarter neighborhood. “Bourbon Street has put a lot of pressure on the residential character of the French Quarter. The noise from the street has virtually eliminated full-time residencies on cross streets and adjacent cross streets.” While a no-glass bottles law passed around 1980 made the streets safer and police presence is generally strong, she says dealing with the beast of Bourbon Street is an ongoing saga. “If

Other famous party streets have gone through similar growing pains


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Hear a

itored and enforced by a the rules were enforced — regarding discussion migraine-inducingly detailed sound levels, commercial solicitation of cleaning up Fremont zoning code. in the street, people selling shots — a Street on I guess my point is that lot of people would be a lot happier.” “KNPR’s growing pains are unpleasant A proposed revamp of a sound State of — but also that dealing with ordinance died in April after months Nevada” grown-ups’ rules is inevitable. at desert of campaigning by Lousteau’s group companion. These areas have a few things (and counter-campaigning by a rival com/hear in common: laws that at least musicians’ advocacy group). more try to curb drinking, a civilian In Texas, there’s Austin’s famous security corps, and strong, 6th Street, with its six-block subsection known as “Dirty 6th,” a raucous professionalized public-private alliances human river spiked with cheap beer, funded by special tax zones. Fremont loud music and howlingly drunk underStreet, I’m almost a little sorry to say grads. The Downtown Austin Alliance, that it’s just part of growing up. the public improvement district charged But you’re young yet. Take solace in with boostering the area, is nudging the vitality of that youth — and in the Dirty 6th to outgrow its phase as a barfact that they can’t regulate everything crawl launch pad where hipsters meet that happens in a public space. Look up to “preload” on cheap swill. One again at Bourbon Street, a boon to the item under discussion here is a move to economy of New Orleans, but an infuget Dirty 6th business owners to fix up riating scourge to many of the nearby their crumbling buildings — not an easy residents aghast at the excesses that take case to make when the college kids who place on the storied avenue despite their flock to your bar for $5 cans of Lone best efforts to manage the daiquiri-fuStar don’t care if the place is a dire hovel. eled demimonde. Tulane University “We’re not seeing reinvestment into the professor Richard Campanella, author buildings. The historic district is being of Bourbon Street: A History, looks upon overused, but not reinvested in,” says the tension with bemusement. Molly Alexander, executive director of “I could show you examples in almost the alliance. “It’s kind of a little old and every decade of people decrying Bourtattered.” And when the bars close at 2 bon Street, saying it’s worse than ever, a.m. — drinking curfew, not a bad idea, it’s out of control, it’s going downhill,” right? — there’s another unintended he says. “As an observer and analyst, I’m consequence. “At 2:15, people spill into mildly amused when you look at things the street, so you have a street party that over the span of many years and realize is uncontrollable.” Alexander wonders: we’ve been through this before, we’ve “The question is how you make (imheard these arguments before, that provement) work so it’s not a burden on this whole city is the product of this conbusiness owners, but it’s also an asset to tentious spatial conflict. Another way of the community. We haven’t figured it out, thinking about it is that it’s democracy but we’re really hoping there’s a place in action.” for leadership and vision.” So, Fremont Street, you may have to And in New York, the Times Square live with a few new rules — but don’t Alliance formed in 1992 to shepherd take it personally. Your parents still the iconic plaza into the modern age, love you. joining an ongoing redevelopment “One hundred years from now, campaign that eventually transformed scholars and thinkers will write about Times Square from Taxi Driver seedy to Fremont Street in the early 21st century in very intrigued and interested and Disneyland clean. Today, the alliance has engaged ways,” Campanella says. “It a full-time staff of 40, and 100 part-time will be seen as cool and authentic and and contract staff of street-cleaners real. The passage of time renders the and security guards. Even the blinding, inauthentic authentic.” billboard-size marquees that wash If you want to talk, I’m here for you. the square in electric glow are mon-

zeit bites

ALL Things

swizzle this!

How to look

Las Vegas, embrace the Picon Punch!

Las Vegas has a

lot of optic nerve — in this overwhelming environment, with so much to see, it can be hard to know how to look. We asked artist and teacher Martin Kreloff, who’ll administer his “Learning to See” class to Zappos employees this month, for a few pointers. Orange Is the New Orange. “Here’s an exercise that will increase one’s powers of observation. For the next few days, consciously notice everything you encounter that is orange. You’ll be amazed at how often the color appears — not just the obvious, such as traffic cones or coffee mugs, but you may also discover the color as a subtle design element in that favorite area rug that you look at every day. Change colors every few days — lavender, chartreuse, aubergine.” Hocus Pocus, It’s All in the Focus. “Focus on an interesting object — perhaps a favorite knickknack. Now, take your index finger and, holding it in the air, very slowly outline its entire shape. Your finger and eye are working together. As you practice this, your preconceived notions of shape will give way


’m on the hunt for a Picon Punch in Las Vegas, and I need some bars to help me out. You can find this lip-puckering aperitif at Basque restaurants in Northern Nevada. According to the classic recipe, it’s a pour of Amer Picon — an old French liquor based on citrus, rooty and quinine flavors — with brandy, grenadine, soda water and a lemon twist over ice. I enjoyed a few on a recent visit to Reno’s famous Louis’ Basque Corner (pictured). Many regard the Picon Punch as Nevada’s unofficial cocktail. Down here, I checked vintage bars like Dino’s Lounge and modern crafteries like Herbs & Rye. No luck. Most hadn't even heard of it. I looked in liquor stores for Amer Picon so I could make one at home. Turns out you have to import it from Europe, starting at $80 a bottle. Ouch. Backtracking on the phone, I learned that

Basque bars up north rely on a domestic substitute, Torani Amer. Eventually I discovered that the Total Wine & More in Henderson stocks the stuff. Still, a Picon Punch is best enjoyed at a bar or restaurant. It’s a convivial drink. I searched on. I even got in touch with Assemblyman William Horne. In 2013, he tried to get an amendment passed legally honoring the Picon Punch. Sadly, nothing came of it. However, he did think that Three Angry Wives Pub in Boca Park might actually serve one. I stopped by, but still no dice. But! Picon Punch will soon be served in Las Vegas. Three Angry Wives’ owner Sean Higgins told me he’s enjoyed the bitter beverage in Basque establishments up north, and he’s putting the de facto Nevada state cocktail on the menu soon. Now, can some more local bars show similar, um, state spirit? More Picon Punches for the people! — Greg Thilmont

to a deeper appreciation of the complex multidimensionality of objects.” Memories, Like the Corners of My Mind. “Close your eyes and men-


tally wander from room to room in your home. Visualize as many details as you can — pictures on the wall, books on the table, the colors of an accent pillow. Go back further, to other rooms from your past. You will be astonished at how much detail you recall — and the emotions that these recollections evoke.” Leading an Artful Life. “Many define art as something beautiful framed on the wall. This is very limiting. I believe we continually make creative decisions that enhance our everyday lives. The cut and color of our hairstyle, our choice of clothes. Whether these decisions are made casually or consciously, each reflects our aesthetic sensibility.”

Rob Mrowka has worked for decades on issues of natural resources in the West and Southwest, the last six as a senior scientist for the Center for Biological Diversity. A frequent presence in the media on environmental issues, Mrowka recently announced plans to retire to upstate New York. — Launce Rake

What lies ahead for Southern Nevada? The impacts from climate change loom large, and unless officials apply even a basic understanding of biology, the community will ultimately face collapse. We are already experiencing the increasing

heat and drought that is the new normal. The real problem is the failure of elected officials across the board to engage the community in discussion of the impending doom. It is dereliction of duty. Living within the current development footprint,

increased conservation indoors, and long-term planning to bring desalinated water, are the only hopes. Larger civilizations have failed when choosing between personal greed and community good. We’re facing the same sort of existential crisis. 

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ALL Things

i, witness


We are the World (Cup) Broadacres Marketplace, June 23, 2014


ater vapor from the misters blowing 20 feet above the crowd could barely be felt by the sweltering congregation below, but they didn’t care. The crowd of more than 500 was gathered at the Broadacres Marketplace swap meet on this early weekday afternoon to celebrate a national religion: futbol. Or, to the uninitiated, “soccer.” Specifically, the FIFA World Cup, and the Mexican national team. Broadacres management hosted the event with cheap beer, soda and tasty treats — Broadacres says it’s already the third-largest dispenser of churros in the world — plus nine flat-screen televisions hanging over the crowd. Green, white and red balloons were quickly purloined by parents and tied to their young. The World Cup usually spikes American interest in soccer — record numbers watched the U.S. team tie with Portugal the previous day — but to Latin Americans, it’s more than just a game. It encourages frenzied displays of emotion and familial devotion that can be truly extraordinary. Broadacres, for this game versus Croatia, was Little Mexico. Young and old, as many women as men, they hailed from Jalisco and Juarez and the Districto Federal of Mexico City; from Oaxaca and Chiapas and Baja California. And they came from El Salvador and Nicaragua and California and Washington state and, of course, Las Vegas. All cheered the “Tricolorados” of the Mexican team. The first 45 minutes resulted, as World Cup matches often do, in a stalemate. It was zero-all at half-time. I asked Ramon Rivera, 22, of Las Vegas, which team he supported. “Mexico!” he scoffed, as if there were an alternative. Ramon is an American citizen, but he’s not Mexican; his family is from El Salvador. “My friends are from Mexico, so, you know, I’m going to be with them,” he said. One of those friends, Eduardo Galavic, 21, was born in California, but his family is from Mexico. They soon had reason to cheer. Mexico scored at the 72-minute mark, bringing out the swinging jazz combo of drums, vuvuzelas and wooden clicky things, accompanied by wildly flailing Mexican flags. Mexico scored twice more before Croatia came back with an anemic goal in the final minutes. With the win, Mexico advanced to the next round. And what about the intriguing, if unlikely, possibility of a Mexico-USA confrontation? That would certainly divide some loyalties in the Broadacres parking lot. But not Eduardo and Ramon. They said they’d support the U.S. team. “If the USA wins, everybody would start liking our futbol,” Eduardo said. “Everybody would start liking futbol.” — Launce Rake


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P h oto g r a p h y BRENT HOLMES

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ALL Things


ride along

Lily Bui Ice Cream Truckster


Bui took it on with verve — but she got bored with just snow-cones. Soon after Sin City launched in 2012, she was experimenting with other fare: pastry, ice-cream cookie sandwiches and so-called Creamy Dreamies. Bui’s signature product, these consist of shaved ice folded into ice cream and topped with (or floated in) naturally flavored syrups and sodas. A popular example: the Super Awesome Rootbeer Float, a vanilla ice cream-snow-cone mashup drenched in a blend of root beer, cola and birch beer flavoring.

or someone who traffics in sweets, Lily Bui is surprisingly tiny and thin. It’s an occupational advantage, though, since there isn’t much room to maneuver inside her food truck, Sin City Snoballs and Snacks, which can be found most days parked on the northern edge of the Las Vegas Premium Outlets on Civic Center Drive. “Try this,” she says, her brown eyes smiling expectantly as she holds out a small pink box. “You’re going to love it!” What’s not to love about a half-dozen freshly baked mini-eclairs drizzled with homemade mango, strawberry and chocolate sauces? “Good, right?” she nods, as I sample a mango nugget. Clearly, it pleases her to please her customers.

Bui didn’t grow up cooking or dreaming of future chefdom. Her Vietnamese mother wouldn’t let her or her six siblings help in the kitchen of the Seattle home where they were raised after emigrating to the U.S. as postwar “boat people.” But the family’s culinary culture had a strong influence on Bui nonetheless: “My mom had a garden, and she was used to the old ways, where you went to the market to buy your meat or main dish, and the rest came from your garden. We’d pick out herbs and veggies, and she’d stir fry it all together, and that was our meal for the night.” As an adult who hadn’t taken to college, when Bui thought about what she wanted to do with her life, food kept coming up. She moved to Las Vegas, got a culinary degree and went to work on the Strip. Her background had blessed Bui


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with a gift for balancing flavors, she says, giving the example of a favorite donut she now makes at Sin City: ginger-sugar topped with strawberry sauce. Owning a snow-cone truck wasn’t Bui’s dream, either. That idea came from her partner (both personal and professional), Donald Frantum. A business consultant who specializes in the IT sector, Frantum missed Baltimore-style snowballs from his native Maryland when he moved west and found only Hawaiian shaved ice. After Bui had the couple’s first child, she began to feel restless staying at home. So Frantum made a suggestion: What if he managed a snow-cone truck business behind the scenes, and she ran it day-to-day, handling the food preparation and service up front?

The food truck business didn’t live up to its initial promise, Frantum says, but Lily’s creative product diversification — which includes a winter menu allowing her to stay open while other ice truck owners hibernate — helped Sin City survive the increasing squeeze that restaurant owners and public policy put on mobile food operations. Frantum recalls the initial excitement about food trucks at events, whose planners evolved to demand higher prices for fewer returns. “We were really fortunate when (shopping mall developer) Simon (Property Group) reached out to us in October,” Bui says. Having been an anchor food truck at the Premium Outlets for more than six months, Sin City is exploring the possibility of opening a permanent kiosk at the mall. Maybe in Summerlin, too. “I’m glad we started small and simple,” Bui says. “And now, we have room to grow.”

P h oto g r a p h y BILL HUGHES

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ALL Things


Feelin’ shady Don’t let summer burn you out. Throw some shade with these stylish sun-blockers B  y Christie Moeller

Wallaroo Naples fedora with UPF 50+, $44, Highland Falls Pro Shop, Las Vegas Paiute Golf Resort, Red Rock Canyon Visitors Center, and Mt. Charleston Visitor Center Oliver Peoples Marmont sunglasses with polarized lenses, which reduce glare, block UVA and UVB rays, enhance color and repel dirt, oil, water and fingerprints, $380, Ilori at Crystals in CityCenter

Sephora Favorites sun safety kit, featuring an array of products for tanning, bronzing, and protection in a bright travel bag. $20 from the sale of each kit benefits The Skin Cancer Foundation. $32, Sephora in the Miracle Mile Shops, Forum Shops at Caesars and Town Square

Seafolly “Coastline” 3/4 rash guard and soft pleat bottom with SPF 50+ rating. Top $111, bottom $66, Everything But Water in the Fashion Show Mall

Coolibar Long Sleeve Rash Guard chlorine- and saltwater-resistant aqua SUNTECT® fabric with UPV 50+ $69.50, Short Sleeve Rash Guard chlorine- and saltwater-resistant aqua SUNTECT® fabric with UPV 50+ $59.50, Orange Tropic & Batik Island Boardshorts chlorine- and saltwater-resistant aqua SUNTECT® fabric with UPV 50+ $69.50 Availabe at

Helen Kaminski Ivolina Raffia braid visor with SPF 50+, $145, Terrene at Aria Resort and Capri at Bellagio

Kerastase Soleil Huile Celeste lightweight protective oil mist for all hair types contains UVA and UVB filters and reflective gold micro-particles to protect hair and scalp from sun exposure. $44, LOOK Style Society at Town Square and COLOR by Michael Boychuck at Caesars Palace


NARS, In the forum shops at Caesars  François Nars, renowned French make-up artist and photographer, has set his lens and brushes on Las Vegas. Known for his modern packaging design and provocative product names such as Orgasm, Sex Appeal and Rated R, Nars recently opened his sixth U.S. flagship store in the Forum Shops at Caesars. The boutique carries the full range of NARS products, as well as market-exclusive products showcased in NARS’ signature sleek, modern design. If all that sounds deliriously sexy and high-concept, it is — but the store is not without plenty of customer-centric perks and comforts, such as hosted makeup stations, comfortable seating for guests and a bookcase of François’ favorite things — an eclectic mix of objects that have inspired him over the years, including films, books and photographs. You’ll also get some wisdom that goes more than skin-keep: They’ve got iPads on hand to teach customers the best make-up application tips and techniques. Info: CM


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ALL Things

open topic

(su b)u rban

One downtown to rule them all And that will not be “Downtown Summerlin” B y


G eoff Sc h u mac her

t’s the name that bugs people. “Downtown Summerlin” — it scrinkles the bearded faces of urban hepcats, for whom there is only one “Downtown,” and it’s epicentered at Fremont and Fifth (what the young people these days refer to as Las Vegas Boulevard). That wasn’t the original name. Not so very long ago it was called “Summerlin Centre,” featuring a shopping mall called The Shops at Summerlin. Summerlin Centre is a name you would expect for a suburban commercial-entertainment district, the “re” instead of the “er” adding the vital touch of faux sophistication. The “Shops at” construction added another subtle packet of master-planned flavor. Everybody was fine with “Summerlin Centre,” because it wasn’t pretending to be anything it was not. It was going to be a vehicular destination for the many valley residents who enjoy a patio lunch at Claim Jumper and a credit card slide at Nordstrom Rack. No harm, no foul. But “Downtown Summerlin” (set to debut in October) is something else. It’s a provocation. It’s a throwdown of a name, suggesting Summerlin Centre is hopping on a one-speed Schwinn with wavy handlebars and owning the right lane in search of trivia night.


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It’s a provocation in search of a conflict, though, because nobody seriously believes “Downtown Summerlin” will have any resemblance to a municipal downtown, even one as scattershot and low-slung as the one in Las Vegas. Downtown Summerlin, for all its aesthetic and commercial comforts, will lack the essential ingredients of an actual downtown. It won’t have demonstrative lawyers devouring gourmet mac and cheese in local eateries after their courtroom wins and losses. It won’t have gaggles of nerds debating Game of Thrones plot points over sips of PBR. It won’t have dumb-drunk tourists posing for pictures with sickly street performers dressed as Bret Michaels and Wonder Woman. And it certainly won’t have homeless people sprawling on sidewalks or shouting at light poles on street corners. These are the features of a true downtown, and Downtown Summerlin not only won’t have them but doesn’t want them. It also won’t have a Mob Museum or a


Gold and Silver Pawn Shop, or nondescript motels and strip centers converted into restaurants, shops and art galleries. It won’t have an independent bookstore (coming soon to the actual downtown) or historic neon signs. The distinctions are distinct. A few years back, I noticed that a lot of people I knew were spending a lot of free time at Town Square, the shopping and entertainment mall at the south end of the Strip. I was one of those people, drawn like a cat to a trickling faucet by the Borders bookstore, the Yard House restaurant and occasionally the new-tech movie theater. Noticing this trend, I declared, via our virtual downtown, Facebook, that “Town Square is the new downtown.” I anticipated — in fact, relished the prospect of — an avalanche of fuss, and here it came. This was before the Zappos-ification of the true downtown, when plenty of folks still questioned whether Las Vegas really had a downtown at all, and if it did, whether it was worth anybody’s trouble. Back when Fremont East was East Fremont. Nonetheless, the downtown loyalists snorted at my audacity. Even as some of them admitted spending quality time at Town Square, imbibing, buying Apple computers, etc., they insisted it was nothing more than a shopping mall. How could I possibly? Indeed. Because words have meanings that should be respected. “Downtown” should mean what it means, and not be poached by suburban developers who mine marketing data for cleverness opportunities. Downtowns are history lessons. Each parcel and building has a story. Downtowns are an ongoing archaeological dig, where the past is never dead, and the future is built upon — and inspired by — thick layers of heritage. Downtown Summerlin sounds like a winner. I’ll go there for sure, because I’m one of those people who enjoys the Cheesecake Factory/Macy’s/cineplex Saturday afternoon. I really wish they’d dump the name, though. Inevitably, “Downtown Summerlin” surfaced during a conference room brainstorming session. Inevitably,

it was pondered, prodded, tested out for suitability, durability, sustainability. With such careful consideration, though, it should not have made the final cut. If Nevada, like the ancient world, has seven wonders, Summerlin could be one of them. At 22,500 acres, it’s an amazing piece of development work. It’s big, it’s smart and it’s attractive. It has great places to live, clean places to work and wide-open spaces to play. It’s a model for modern desert living. It’s true that the one thing Summerlin has lacked is a nucleus — a gathering place big enough and desirable enough to accommodate both the 100,000 people who live in Summerlin and the hundreds of thousands more who want to spend time and money there. “Summerlin Centre” reflected that vision. The actual components of “Downtown Summerlin” still reflect that vision, but the name is trying to reflect something else. Here’s my proposal for Howard Hughes Corporation: Get the old brainstorming team back together, bring in some bagels and re-create the list of names you came up with a few months ago. Take a fresh look at all of them — except “Downtown Summerlin,” of course — and pick the best of the lot. Irvine, Calif., which was a master-planning inspiration for Summerlin, revolves around the Spectrum Center. The Woodlands, a big master-planned enclave outside Houston, calls its commercial hub Town Center. Celebration, Florida, brought to you by Disney, also went with Town Center. It’s not too late. Names change all the time. Just ask Samuel Clemens, Sean Combs or the Imperial Palace. And when it comes to naming new places, it’s especially easy to do before they go live. Walk away from “Downtown Summerlin” while you still can, and return to your suburban roots. Downtown Las Vegas has made incredible strides in recent years, thanks to vast infusions of money, creativity and enthusiasm. It’s still a work in progress, but the changes have been significant, and the last thing it needs is some poseur vying for its good name.

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Free our fruit Urban gleaner Rhonda Killough harvests the valley’s free-falling bounty to feed hungry bodies and souls B  y H e i d i K ys e r


y the time Rhonda Killough, founder of Project Angel Faces, arrives at Danny and Kathy Blood’s home in the Whitney neighborhood, a couple ladders are already set up under the humongous fig tree in their backyard. It’s 9 a.m. on a Saturday, but Killough clomps straight through the open gate, yelling, “Good morning! Fruit harvest!” It seems prudent to let homeowners know volunteers are taking over their backyard, but you sense Killough would make her presence known anyway. She and three helpers, all clad in long homeless adolescents will delight in the sleeves and sturdy shoes, will soon be bounty of strangers. It’s a practice known scouring the Bloods’ tree for fruit and as community fruit harvest or, more colgingerly twisting dark purple Mission loquially, gleaning. figs from branches to release But before any of that can hapthem, with a milky gasp, into canpen, Killough has business to take vas grocery bags. From the bags, Hear care of: Make sure your ladder the figs will go into large tubs for is placed on steady footing; try more sorting and a garden-hose bath. Learn how it several times before climbing our food They’ll then be divvied up in up; carry a bag over one shoulder system afplastic containers and delivered and reach for fruit with the other fects climate to places such as Whitney Se- change on hand; if you must venture out onto nior Center and HELP of South- “KNPR’s a branch, test it first; staying safe State of ern Nevada, where seniors and is more important than reaching


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Nevada” at desert companion. com/hear more

Harvest time: Rhonda Killough's gleaning operation redistributes surplus fruit, such as the figs above.

that elusive piece of fruit. It’s a bit of forced — albeit necessary — professionalism for an activity mankind has done since time immemorial. Picking fruit isn’t exactly rocket science; so why don’t people do it more often, on their own? Why, when, according to hunger-relief charity Feeding America, 18 percent of Clark County’s residents have limited access to food, can’t we gather nectarines and plums that would otherwise drop on the ground and rot and, instead, feed people in need?

P h oto g r a p h y B R E N T H O L M E S




That’s the idea behind groups like Project Angel Faces, which have been cropping up around the nation in the past decade. It’s difficult to quantify the amount of fruit from residential trees that goes unclaimed, but it’s likely significant enough to make a small dent in the hunger problem. Killough says a 2006 estimate using numbers from the Greater Las Vegas Association of Realtors put it at around 25 million pounds in Southern Nevada, but that data is no longer available. Next door, the Los Angeles County Agricultural Commission estimates there are 1 million fruit trees in front and back yards in residential L.A., says Rick Nahmias, founder and executive director of Food Forward, a role model among community fruit harvest organizations. Based on his five years gleaning fruit in Southern California, Nahmias figures 20 percent of the area’s fruit is being used, and Food Forward collects 250 to 500 pounds of fruit per tree, per year. Extrapolate — 800,000 trees multiplied by 250 pounds — and, even on the low end, you get 200 million pounds of free food going to waste. In one city. “It’s a huge problem, not just literally, but also metaphorically,” Nahmias says. “We have all this abundance in our back yards, the ability to solve a lot of our hunger issues, but we’re too lazy or unmotivated to make the change. … There’s an important mental shift that needs to happen around hunger. You can’t food-bank your way out of it. One way to do that in the Southwest is through produce recovery in backyards.”


Join the

BEST DOCTORS from Desert Companion’s August Issue at TPC Summerlin for our 2nd Annual Best Doctors Issue Party. Enjoy a lively evening of cocktails and good company. And, don’t forget to bring your A-game for a little friendly competition on the greens!


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Community The time is ripe


anny Blood is in touch with nature. As Project Angel Faces volunteers pick his fruit, he rattles off a list of the migratory birds that he’s spied from his yard, about a mile from the Las Vegas Wetlands. A wind chime hanging from one branch of a dead mesquite tree softly clangs. A hummingbird stops at one of two nectar-filled feeders. “They’re great,” he says of the gleaners. “This tree produces two to three harvests a year. We can’t keep up with it.” Both aware of his tree’s bounty and unable to make full use of it, Blood sits in the bull’s-eye of Rhonda Killough’s target market (most people, she says, aren’t even aware they have fruit trees). After the initial surprise of a stranger asking for their fruit, she says, donors are often relieved to have someone take it off their hands. It’s tough to imagine saying

Above : Rhonda Killough's with Simon Roybal putting saftey first. Right: Simon and Jennifer Brusvent pick some figs

no to Killough. At 5’8” with long auburn hair and ghostly blue eyes, the former dancer is a compelling figure. Her sweet, Melanie Griffith voice barely masks the intensity common to nonprofit business owners who must balance their drive to do good with the prevalent apathy of capitalist society. To accomplish her mission of ferreting out every food-producing tree in the Las Vegas Valley, Killough has become a regular on the circuit of community

events and speaking engagements that have anything to do with food or hunger. She’s branched out into small-scale agri-


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chilling Horticulture Group is in the business of creating award winning and water smart gardens and landscapes, and we have the awards to prove it! Let’s make your yard the next Southern Nevada Water Authority Landscape Award Winner. 2014 3rd Place Residential Design by a Professional

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culture too, operating a few community gardens and using their crops to both educate and feed at-risk populations. Despite these successes, Project Angel Faces has struggled to take root. After nearly nine years, it has neither a steady board of directors nor its 501(c)3 designation, though Killough says the process is underway. The halting rhythm of the organization’s growth reflects a sad irony in Killough’s relationship with it; the project both gives her a reason to live and, at times, demands more than she’s able to give. In 2002, Killough and her husband Tuan Pham were riding their BMW touring motorcycle on a trip to Great Basin National Park when they hit an anomalous bank in the road. As they skidded onto the shoulder, Killough’s foot caught a road marker, catapulting the couple into the canyon below. Although Pham suffered mainly scrapes and bruises, his wife was severely injured. Multiple broken bones, dislocated joints and torn ligaments resulted in 19 surgeries over the last dozen years. But all the rods, pins, and physical therapy haven’t succeeded in putting Killough back together again. Every so often, she discovers some new residual fallout from the accident — most recently, in her pelvis. She lives in constant pain. It was in 2005, during a bout of depression amid her recovery, that Killough began knocking on doors and asking for fruit. Wondering what she would do with her life now that she couldn’t dance, she’d been struck by twin public radio reports, one on the youth obesity epidemic (due partly to a lack of fresh produce in kids’ diets) and another about food waste. As she practiced using her walker outdoors, she noticed the vacant house next to hers had several productive fruit trees. It all came together: She tracked down the homeowner, arranged to collect the fruit and took it to a local food pantry for children. “I didn’t have any grand ambition,” she says. “I just wanted to do something to help me feel better. Doing something for other people brightens your spirit.”

Community ‘You’d never imagine it’


iss Rhonda is awesome,” says Chanel Howze, a former Whitney Recreation and Senior Center manager who worked with Killough on various food programs at the center from 2008 to 2012. “She’s such a happy person and gets so excited.” Children and elderly patrons alike adore Killough, Howze says. The kids, many of whom are homeless, would light up when they saw her, thrilled that she not only remembered their names, but also asked for updates on their lives. She started a garden club for them, bringing in fresh produce and leading educational activities — teaching them how to shuck a sunflower, for instance, or juice a pomegranate. “We’d have a lot of seniors who come to play cards and things like that,” Howze says. “They’d be in memory lane

when she would come in: ‘I haven’t had a fresh lemon in forever!’ To think all that came from the neighborhood. You’d never imagine it.” During peak production times, Project Angel Faces would drop off fruit once or twice a week, Howze says. Due to Killough’s tenuous health, it was sometimes hard for her to be there, but she remained determined and upbeat in the face of her own challenges, as well as those of the center. Howze recalls how, each of the three or four times vandals smashed and overturned some grow pots the garden club had planted, Killough would get new pots and help the kids start over again — without anger. The center recently completed a community garden that stemmed from her determination. Although she continues the community fruit harvest program with


Whitney and several other recipients, Killough says it has slowed down the last year or two. She’s not sure why. Perhaps the protracted recession encouraged people to take food wherever they could find it. Perhaps the popular farm-to-table movement made them more aware of the bounty growing under their noses. Still, she’s convinced there’s much more unclaimed fruit to be had — a conviction shared by other gleaners, including Rick Nahmias. “People should take a look at what’s around them and understand that these are important resources,” he says. “We’re putting water in the ground to feed these trees, and then turning our back on the fruit they produce. We live in cultivated deserts, so it takes an additional amount of water to grow that fruit. Someone should eat it.”

days of summer. days of hope. Summer is the season we’ve all been waiting for. It’s 100 days of high dives, ball games and barbecues. It’s 100 ways to dress a burger, catch some shade or get out of town. It’s 100 chances to clear the calendar for what’s most important. Every two seconds this summer, someone like you will need blood. Donating is quick and easy and, like all good things this time of year, it’s worth celebrating. What are your summer plans? This summer, there are 100 chances to give hope. Choose your day to help save three lives. Donate blood.

Choose your day to give hope.

Southern Nevada Chapter


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marks the fifth year that we’ve herded our collective gastronomic adventures into an annual flavorpedia of deliciositude. Whew! Five years. At an average of 79.3 meal deals per yearly feature, that comes to [kachunka kachunka, punching buttons on calculator, kachunka kachunka] … 396.5 DEALicious Meals served up in these pages — which translates into, geez, who knows how many moments of utterly transcendent foodie bliss. But it’s not like we’re counting or anything. Once again, forks in hand, we’ve scoured this tasty valley for great dining deals, hidden treasures and forgotten pleasures for palates of every persuasion.

Eat forth!

DEALicious Mealers: J i m B eg l e y, C h r i s B i to n t i , Scot t D i c k e n s h e e t s , J a r r e t K e e n e , A n d r e w K i r a ly, H e i d i K y s e r , D e bb i e L e e , M o l ly O ’ D o n n e l l , J a m e s P. R e z a , L i s s a Tow n s e n d R o d g e r s

The Farmer's Burger at Farmer Boys

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several over-the-top renditions of the humble french fry. There are the bacon cheddar fries, awash in cheese sauce and bits of real bacon — not that synthetic nonsense. For a full-meal-of-fries experience, the deluxe chili cheese fries are smothered in chili and cheese as well as grilled onions and jalapeños. It’s a lunch in itself — and possibly dinner. LTR 2191 E. Tropicana Ave., 702-736-1698; 4035 S. Decatur Blvd., 702-644-8747,


gourmet donuts at Pink Box




Taco Tuesdays are a perfectly popular promotion at cantinas across the country, but we don’t think anyone in Vegas picked up on the trend until Park snatched it up. Or maybe they did, but we didn’t care until these triple-bite-sized nuggets of steak-and-yum found their way to this pleasant gastropub. Order two and a happy hour brew and you’re still under 10 bucks. Tuesdays only. JPR


506 Fremont St., 702-834-3160,


rice and beans at Desnudo Tacos

Rice and beans are an afterthought in most Mexican restaurants, but at Desnudo Tacos, they’re the makings of a meal. The flavors rotate based upon what ingredients are available (garlic, verde, Spanish spices) at this surprisingly authentic Mexican joint run by two gringos, so you need to go early — and often — to get your favorites. Trust me on this. JB 3240 S. Arville St., 702-982-6435


hot dog


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4268 E. Charleston Blvd., 702-459-2106,

Various locations, 702-478-7465,



colita de pavo at Juarez Border Food

Coney Island and Lafayette Coney Island for hot dog supremacy is fierce. However, only Detroit Coney Island has staked a claim in Vegas, carrying on the tradition of serving up classic dogs to the hungry (and possibly drunk) masses. The dogs themselves have the “snap” of a good tube meat and are awash in Coney sauce, a semi-chili concoction that tops it off just right. LTR 301 Fremont St., 702-388-2120,

90 cents

glazed buttermilk donuts at Donut Tyme

at American Coney Island

Back home in Detroit, the ongoing battle between American

answer at this family-run eastside O-ring shop, where you’ll be transported back in time. Old-timers congregate here in the morning to drink hot fresh joe and opine, discuss, kvetch and kibitz. Come for the casual atmosphere; stay for the perfect glazed buttermilks. JK

Contrary to bro code, there’s nothing wrong with putting the Pink Box on a pedestal. The dollar donuts at this local chain are delightful, but for three extra quarters you can upgrade to the “Date with a Nutty Pig,” flavored with maple, dates, bacon, blue cheese, almonds, and balsamic — a treat fit for a fine dining dessert menu. DL

What’s open 24 hours and offers Texas sugar donuts, hot coffee and free Wi-Fi? Find the

revueltas pupusas at Las Pupusas

Juarez Border Food showcases the food of El Paso and Juarez, where, apparently, flocks of turkeys roam the streets all free-range — explaining the popular dish colita de pavo, or turkey tails. These morsels are diced, fried to crunchy, fatty perfection and served on an airy, mayo-slathered bun. No turkey chasing required. JB 412 N. Eastern Ave., 702-242-0055



More than just fun to say, the pupusa is a pancake-sized Salvadoran corn tortilla that is stuffed and griddle-cooked. Inside Las Pupusas’ revueltas pupusa, you’ll find refried beans, melted cheese and finely ground pork. Top that with curtido, a mild cabbage slaw, drizzle on some thin tomato salsa and fold to eat like a taco. Repeat as necessary. CB Multiple locations,

at Sammy’s Pastrami


These tiny kiosks may seem austere but, oh, the excess of cheesy, fatty, meaty, bacony goodness contained therein. Along with its vast menu of sandwiches, burgers and hot dogs, Sammy’s offers

happy hour menu at McCormick & Schmick’s

Odd that this clubby seafood restaurant located in suit ’n’ tie central offers some of the best


deviled eggs at Sporting Life Bar

Sporting Life’s deviled eggs give you but a hint of what treasures await in one of the valley’s most intriguing — and unsung — menus. For the price of a payphone call (yes, those still exist), you get a meld of mustard and pickle topped with fried capers. So much better than a phone call. JB 7770 S. Jones, 702-331-4647,

rich cheese between two corn cakes that could keep a gorilla going for days. MO food deals in town. From 4-7 p.m., the restaurant’s dark-paneled bar offers a dozen options, from $2.99 garlic rosemary fries to a $3.99 burger to $5.99 tuna tartare. You have to buy a beverage of some kind to qualify — which is where their beer, wine and well drinks for under $5 come in. LTR 335 Hughes Center Drive, 702-836-9000,


roasted pork butt arepa at Viva Las Arepas

1616 Las Vegas Blvd. S., 702-366-9696,

M&M Soul Food are complimentary. But these sweet, almost ethereally light cakes glistening with a swipe of butter are such a treat that I’d gladly pay for them. JB


3923 W. Charleston Blvd., 702-453-7685,

PBB&J You’ll never be so grateful you ordered something with the word "butt" in it. This arepa is a surprisingly filling, savory hunk of nirvana. Think the best sandwich you’ve ever eaten: roasted pork, juicy tomato and

at the Goodwich

With not a single sandwich over $9, this downtown eatery could easily dominate our list. My favorite is their riff on the childhood lunch classic combining housemade peanut butter, pepper jelly, rosemary and bacon. Heck, they’d be well-advised to rename themselves the Greatwich. JB 1516 S. Las Vegas Blvd., 702-910-8681,


al pastor tacos at Taco Tijuana



Break-The-Fast Wafflewich at T i a b i C offee a n d Wa ffl e B a r

Utensils are for the weak! Or at least that’s what I scream before every bite of Tiabi Coffee and Waffle Bar’s Break-the-Fast Wafflewich, a full breakfast in one handheld unit with eggs, cheese and bacon caressed between two crispy-yetspongy thin waffles. Dunk in syrup and try to contain yourself. CB

This may be blasphemous, but there’s a better taco out there than Tacos El Gordo’s adobada. Also from just south of the border, Taco Tijuana’s al pastor tacos eclipse their TJ brethren. The secret is in the preparation: Each is finished with slices from the outer layer of the spit, guaranteeing you charred goodness with every bite. JB 2554 E. Tropicana Ave., 702-547-9163


grilled vegetable wrap at Greens & Proteins

For more substantial fare at a place whose reputation is built on juices and smoothies, skip the caveman compulsion and go straight for the one that has the most flavor anyway: the grilled veggie wrap. Portobello mushrooms and bean purée give it heart, roasted red peppers and walnut cilantro pesto provide the zest, and an assortment of tasty produce will extend your post-workout self-satisfaction well into the afternoon. HK 9809 W. Flamingo Road,  702-541-6400; 8975 S. Eastern Ave.,  702-541-7800,


Best of Both Worlds

at Windy City Beefs 'N Dogs


griddlecakes at M&M Soul Food

3961 Maryland Parkway, 702-222-1722,


Yes, the cornmeal griddlecakes that accompany entreés at

Chicago is famous for three foods: pizza, hot dogs and Italian beefs. Lucky for us, Windy City offers two of them together in a single order in the Best of J U LY 2 0 1 4


Both Worlds, pairing a Chicago dog with a miniature 3-inch Italian beef with killer giardiniera. This duo transports me back to the Southside, even if it’s triple digits outside. JB 7500 W. Lake Mead Blvd. #10, 702-410-5016,

sweet, vinegary topping. Miraculous. I was not surprised when, as I took my first bite, “Like a Prayer” came on the radio. Neither was I surprised when I did not have a hangover the next day. LTR 917 Fremont St.

$7 $6

Polish sausage

Mick Sandwich at Southwest Diner

at King’s Sausage

Not exactly a restaurant, but an unexpected miracle right beyond the barroom door. King’s serves up homemade sausage and pierogis outside Atomic Liquors Thursday through Saturday. There are several varieties, but I usually go with the Polish on a fresh pretzel bun with homemade sauerkraut — a perfect balance of spicy meat, soft bun and

Thank god for Mick. A hardworking regular of Boulder City’s Southwest Diner, Mick was a vegetarian with exquisite taste; such taste, in fact, he earned an eponymous sandwich. Combining two eggs, avocado, Monterey Jack and mayo layered on wheat toast, it’s a simple combination that’s simply great. JB 761 Nevada Highway, Boulder City, 702-293-1537



at Chicago Joe’s

at Rani’s World Foods

lunch special Chicago Joe’s location is suspended somewhere between Downtown and the Arts District, its vibe somewhere between retro-mafioso vibe and lawyers-who-lunch. The lunch special aims to please a wide array of palates and wallets — everything is under 10 bucks, be it spaghetti and meatballs awash in old-school red sauce, golden-breaded eggplant parmigiana, the heavy four-meat sub or a light chicken salad. LTR

You may not expect to find fresh Indian cooking inside a supermarket, but that’s exactly what’s happening at Rani’s. This cafeteria-style spread is best sampled with a thali, an Indian mixed plate consisting of a pair of vegetarian dishes from a rotating selection, dal (lentils), roti (Indian flatbread), basmati rice and pickles. Inspired to try it in your own kitchen? Fresh produce, spices and even cookware are just a few aisles away. JB

820 S. Fourth St., 702-382-5637,

4505 W. Sahara Ave., 702-522-7744,


Rainbow Burrito at Rainbow’s End

Salmon Loves Lemon Roll at Sushi Twister

I’d stack this Boulder Highway-hidden Japanese raw fish joint against any other in town. The Kill Samurai roll kills. The Dead Dragon will do in your hunger. But it’s the Salmon Loves Lemon that so many rave about, and for good reason. Likely the best off-Strip gem of a sushi restaurant you’ll find south of Chinatown. JK 5566 Boulder Highway, 702-433-8892


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chicken fajitas at Eggcetera Café

The original vegetarian/vegan health food store took its unspoken philosophy — all taste, no harm — rolled it into one savory log of goodness, and made it the namesake of its café. It’s all the rice, black beans, avocado, salsa and sour cream you want in a burrito, minus the dairy, hormones, lard and animal fat you’d rather avoid. HK

Located at Eastern and Charleston, this just-opened breakfastand-lunch nook nullifies appetite pangs with kickass breakfast omelets and exceptional (and exceptionally sizzling) chicken fajitas. A more blue-collar and affordable — and far less pretentious — coffee house to treat the family before a visit to Downtown Container Park. JK

1100 E. Sahara Ave. #120,  702-737-1338,

2000 E. Charleston Blvd., 702-388-9998



at Fukuburger

at Fleming’s

chicken and waffles



Fukuburger is the valley’s most successful and storied food truck; while others have come and gone, the original Fukuburger remains. And unbeknownst to most, they still serve one of their periodic specials from the early days: chicken and waffles. A honey-and-sesame fried chicken skewer served alongside cinnamon andagi (Okinawan donut holes), this special truly is. JB Various locations,

happy hour Prime Burger Fleming’s Prime Burger, with a patty combining ground trim from their steaks topped with peppered bacon and cheddar, is an absolute steal during happy hour at $6 — the catch is it’s only available at the bar. If you want proper elbow room for some quality burger time, note that the Town Square location’s bar is much more spacious than the original on Charleston. JB 8721 W. Charleston Blvd., 702-838-4774; 6515 Las Vegas Blvd. S., 702-407-0019,

thentic and fresh fare at affordable prices by the pound. And they should all aspire to dishes like this: cubed bites of raw ahi tuna tossed with mild kimchi, green onions and sesame oil. Pair with a sweet fruit drink and shrimp chips, or feast on it over rice. CB


torta ahogada at El Birotazo

Torta ahogada means “drowned sandwich,” named after, I assume, the first Guadalajaran who tried to swim after eating this dense pork bundle. El Birotazo makes an authentic version of the regional entrée with a semihard French roll stuffed with pierna, then doused in a red chile de arbol salsa, lime and onion, served gliding in a pool of excess sauce. Life jacket not included. CB 4262 E. Charleston Blvd, 702-888-0858,

655 W. Craig Road #118, 702-639-0500





kimchi ahi poke at Poke Express

Poke Express is what every grocery store deli counter should aspire to, offering au-

fried catfish meal

at The Hamburger Hut ’N’ Market

sesame noodles at Fat C h oy

While practically all of Sheridan Su’s outstanding menu could be on this list and two of my favorites — the pot stickers and shrimp toast — were our 2013 DEALicious Meal of the Year, my latest go-to dish is his sesame noodles. The vegetarian dish delivers more than a hint of heat — and the generous amount of mushrooms means you won’t miss any protein. JB Inside the Eureka Casino, 595 E. Sahara Ave.,

The Hamburger Hut won’t win any restaurant decor awards, but its entire menu can be on this list, especially the fried catfish meal. The chow-pack comes with two catfish pieces coated in a Southern-style cornmeal batter and fried to a crispy-moist brilliance, then served on a bed of fries with homemade tartar and house hot sauce. CB 2512 E. Cheyenne Ave., 702-657-9202


DEALicious burgers


onservative estimate, I’ve probably eaten 2,500 burgers in my (no doubt considerably shortened) life. So, as we survey a few boutique burger chains — which, for this exercise, we define as fast-foodish chains existing between the luxe-burger joints of the spendy class and the mass patties of the hoi polloi — I have this to say: Get your buns in gear, Five Guys cheeseburger ($6.59, Sure, your weighty, double-patty mouthful thrills my inner carnivore. Lotta meat there, and quality stuff. But you don’t bring quite enough char or robust beefiness; remember, hype isn’t a seasoning. But big feelz for Smashburger’s Smash Classic ($5.99, It tasted fresher, the in-mouth interplay of ingredients more varied and satisfying — though it could pump up the beef flavor, too. No such worries with The Farmer’s Burger at Farmer Boys ($6.39, It may not live up to the company’s winking hyperbole — “The World’s Greatest Hamburger” — but there’s a nice, high char on this two-patty belly-buster, which neatly complements the bacon. (Though I did have to dislodge an unappetizingly large lump of avocado.) If you’re not up for Burger Bar or down for Burger King, plow down a Farmer. — SD J U LY 2 0 1 4



Tijuana dog at Haute Doggery

A fondness for Tijuana rarely has anything to do with hot dogs, but this fancy fast-food creation is just as addictive as the city’s more questionable offerings. All you need to know are two key adjectives: bacon-wrapped and deep-fried. Jalapeños, onions and a squirt of mayo are just fodder. DL 3545 Las Vegas Blvd. S., #L-30, 702-430-4435,


loco moco at Kauai Cafe


two mini burgers & fries at Kona Grill

For an island-style take on Salisbury steak, head to this mom-and-pop Hawaiian cafe in the Southwest. A traditional bowl of white rice topped with gravy-smothered beef patties and fried eggs will immediately stick to your ribs, leaving you to wonder how anyone manages to surf after eating it. DL 10140 W. Tropicana Ave. #122, 702-754-3559

DEALicious Hummus


ummus is to vegetarians what ground chuck is to omnivores: a multitasking staple that inserts a savory layer of protein into any dish. Being a veggiephile, I frequently partake of chickpea-tahini concoctions, and I’ll say this: You can keep your roasted red pepper and artichoke-Sriracha whatever; I like my hummus straight up. The intrigue is in the conversation between the half-dozen simple ingredients at play. For instance, White Cross Market deli’s hummus, handmade by owner Jimmy Shoshani’s Iranian mama, is screaming, “This lemon overdose is meant to brighten my garbanzo-heavy base!” But at $5.99 for a 12-ounce container, who cares? (1700 Las Vegas Blvd. S., 702-382-3382, If the base proportions must be off, I prefer they tilt to the tahini side, as at Parsley Mediterranean Grill, whose $5.99 hummus owes its unction to slightly overbearing sesame seed butter with a pronounced paprika accent. (6420 S. Pecos Road, 702-489-3189, parsleyfmg. com) But it’s best when chickpeas and sesame seeds disappear into an equitable discourse of lemon, garlic, cumin and olive oil. That’s the case at Amena Café & Bakery, which serves up a pound of its Nazareth-style hummus for $6.99. With fresh-baked pita bread and ramekins of pickled vegetables on the side, this one gets the last word. (2101 S. Decatur Blvd., 702-289-1010, — HK


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Known more for its sushi and its scene, this Boca Park patio party also slings something special: two gorgeous mini-burgers with a side of fries. Don’t call these babies sliders; while diminutive in diameter, they are thick, grilled to order and stacked with fixin’s. Chow ’em down in the bar during happy hour only, which thankfully includes all day Saturday

and Sunday. Add a cold draft and you have a mouthwatering meal under $10. JPR 750 S. Rampart Blvd.,  702-547-5552,  


Tim’s Fabulous Reuben at Great Harvest Bread

This cool, cozy, family-owned bakery offers awesome madeto-order grilled sandwiches, and Tim’s Fabulous Reuben is the one to choose from the signature list. The pastrami, Swiss cheese, sauerkraut and Thousand Island dressing are taste bud-banging, but the fresh pumpernickel bread is what really astonishes. Take some white chocolate chip cranberry scones back to your office co-workers. JK 4800 E. Bonanza Road, 702-452-9622; 6475 N. Decatur Blvd., 702-982-2465,


pozole rojo at El Menudazo

Pozole is all about the broth, and El Menudazo’s is rich, hearty and robust. Powered by pork ribs, this offering is substantially more complex than you’d expect from a tiny, off-the-beaten-path joint only open on the weekends. And because they take their time cooking it, once it’s gone, you’re out of luck — until next weekend. JB 3100 E. Lake Mead Blvd., 702-336-3334,


Italian beef sandwich at Big Al’s

It’s just sliced beef and white bread, and yet so much more. This Midwest creation is a manwich at its finest: exploding with flavor and free of vegetables. In fact, if you want to add something green (in the form of peppers), prepare for a supplementary charge. DL



coconut raspberry shake at Ho l s t e i n s i n t h e C o s mopo l i ta n

Being a vegan should mean never saying no to a milkshake. Well, maybe that’s not what being a vegan means to everyone, but Holsteins makes sure that nobody has to skip dessert. Coconut sorbet and raspberry vodka topped with a square of toasted coconut marshmallow, it's like a piña colada if sickly sweet turned sassy tart. MO

6840 W. Sahara Ave., 702-644-2333,

3708 Las Vegas Blvd. S., 702-698-7940,



at the Cornish Pasty Co.

There’s a reason the Oggie is the first item on Cornish Pasty Co.’s menu. Sure, they have fancy salmon and even vegan pasties. But this crusty envelope is hard to top with faux or fancy anything. With perfect oniony steak and thin potatoes, it’s a classic that, until now, was the only reason to see Cornwall. MO

outstanding. You’re doubling down on goodness when said place is in a gas station — that’s just pure confidence. Chile Verde Express’ signature dish is robust and complex, fuel good enough to be served outside a gas station. JB Inside Choice Gas Station, 8095 S. Rainbow Blvd., 702-260-7758


You’ve probably never noticed the Nicaraguan joint across from the Huntridge, but you should. The valley’s only Nicaraguan restaurant, Doña Norma’s serves the undeniably addictive tostones con queso. Caramelized plantains accom-

A cardinal rule of mine is that if a place is named after a dish, chances are that dish is pretty


tonkatsu (pork) curry at Oh! Curry

tostones con queso

at Chile Verde Express

1122 S. Maryland Parkway, 702-385-7309


953 E. Sahara Ave. 702-8624538,

chile verde combination plate

pany lightly fried cheese of curd-like consistency with a hint of salinity, making for a symphony of salty and sweet. JB

at Doña Norma’s

This anime-festooned Japanese curry house dishes up generous plates of crisply breaded pork cutlets, rice and pickled ginger with a lagoon of Asian-style curry. (It’s more gravy-like than Indian curry.) Order the tonkatsu with a side of fried chicken or an Orange Dream (citrus gelatin topped with whipped cream). JK 5051 Stewart Ave. #101, 702-531-5785 J U LY 2 0 1 4



stuffed pizza at Amore

This is not so much a pizza as it is a bread bowl full of melted cheese (with a splash of tomato sauce for color). Lactaid-dependents need not apply. Tip: Call the shop 30 minutes before coming in, since each gooey pie is baked to order. DL 3945 S. Durango Drive, 702-562-9000,

UNDER$15 DEALicious WINGS $11.50

country nachos


hicken wings: nature’s bar food. In the Vegas spirit of frenzied invention, you can get ’em brined, smoked, spiced, and there’s a probably a chef coating them in Sriracha Pop Rocks as I write this. Fine. Bedazzle the hell outta those yummy flappers, but let’s not forget a core principle: respect the meat. Three valley eateries get it. Chummy Hendo beerhole Johnny Mac’s (842 S. Boulder Highway, 702-564-2121, serves ’em by the pound — one for $10.25, up to 10 pounds for $49.95. Their milds and hots make a respectable showing, but their watermelon wings are a surprising treat, with a subtly fruity frisson that also (bonus!) tastes like chicken. The $8 “Spicy Korean Style” wings at KoMex Fusion (4155 S. Buffalo Drive #103, 702778-5566, are well-prepared, wuss-friendly (*sheepishly raises hand*) and afterburn with a pleasing, lip-tingling heat. But leave it to perennial sleeper hit Fat Choy (595 E. Sahara Ave., 702-794-3464, to boast the most winning wings of this chicken crawl. No zany Mortal Kombat flavor combos here, just your Buffalo-style ladder of mild/medium/hot that delivers a steady, spice-induced dopamine high. But execution is the real buzz here: Fat Choy’s wings ($7) present a perfect yin-yang of crispy and tender, chewy and moist, won’t-stop and can’t-stop, making these classic wings truly take flight. — AK

at Our Families Country Café

What happens when you layer the valley’s best chicken-fried steak atop nachos and smother the whole lot in sausage gravy and cheese? Welcome to country nachos, the ultimate comfort food. JB 10591 S. Rainbow Blvd., 702-270-8700,

chicken with Belgian waffle and blueberry-maple reduction), Nosh & Swig will nourish your deepest foodie cravings. JK 3620 E. Flamingo Road #5, 702-456-6674,


katsu curry at Tonkatsu Kiyoshi


grilled cheese at Echo & Rig

Hungry Man meets Hokkaido on this massive plate of deepfried pork with Japanese brown curry. Two juicy cutlets are crusted with panko crumbs — its crispy crags perfect for catching every last drop of spicy gravy — while a generous side of short-grain rice gives the palate a break between bites. DL 7780 S. Jones Blvd. #103, 702-837-7300,


Cock-A- Waffle-Doo at Nosh & Swig

Sam Marvin’s gussied-up grilled cheese bears no resemblance to the after-school snacks of yore. There are no plastic-wrapped processed cheese slices here; instead, braised short ribs mingle with salty Parmesan, sharp white cheddar and nutty gruyere. Sandwiched between thick-cut toast and served with housemade chips, it’s a brown bag lunch gone glam. DL 440 S. Rampart Blvd., 702-489-3525,



at Hungry Islander

With a color-coded menu organized by meats — purple (pork), red (beef), blue (seafood), chicken (yellow) — this small-plate eatery does it right. From the mighty Monte Cristo (black forest ham, gruyere cheese, fried egg, wild berry compote) to the outstanding Cock-A-Waffle-Doo (cornflake-crusted


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So apparently flocks of turkeys run free in Samoa, too. At the valley’s only Samoan restaurant, their version of turkey tails known as mulipipi is served from a small, protein-heavy buffet in the back of the retail space. Bathed in slightly sweet marinade, the meat falls off the bones with the touch of a fork. JB 3385 S. Decatur #33, 702-464-5100


rock and roll fries at Brooklyn Bowl

UNDER$25 $22.99

Saturday buffet


Maharaja shrimp tikka masala at Mint Indian Bistro

at Cafe Berlin

Rock and roll fries are an East Coast institution, so where better to find the dish than Brooklyn Bowl? A riff on poutine from the Great White North, this messiness is as addictive a dish as you’ll find. Aged cheddar supplies a surprisingly nutty undertone, melding with gravy and provolone in gooey goodness. JB

German might not be music to the ear, but the crowd at Café Berlin proves their food is manna to the mouth. The curry wurst reimagines German cuisine in a divine way, and that’s before you touch the assortment of schnitzel, kraut and brats on the buffet. Es ein party! MO

You don’t have to know that “maharaja” means great king; you just have to try Mint’s shrimp tikka masala and you’ll feel statelier. All the saucy, sweet, spicy creaminess of an eminent tikka with the sophistication of shellfish, this meal is fit for … someone craving the best Indian in town. MO

The LINQ #22, 702-862-2695

4850 W. Sunset Road #100-105, 702-875-4605,

730 E. Flamingo Road, 702-894-9334,


all you can eat at Rollin Smoke

The eternal line at this ever-bustling barbecue joint would move a lot faster if everyone would just pony up for this all-you-can-eat offer. An ideal arrangement includes rib tips, smoked brisket and some shrimp, but you can choose anything on the menu at any time of the day — no catch. DL 3185 Highland Drive, 702-836-3621,

$21 lunch, $26 dinner

all-you-can-eat sushi at Oyshi Sushi



shrimp and grits at E at

Smoked bacon, eggs, and pico de gallo are part of what make the delicately stacked decadence of the tastiest shrimp and grits you’ll get outside of Louisiana so refined. Although this is a dish for the famished and not the peckish, anyone can appreciate something that’s this worth the calories. MO 707 Carson Ave., 702-534-1515,

Still hungry?

Be sure to check out previous editions of DEALicious Meals — from ethnic specialties to spicy dishes to the best breakfast deals — at

All-you-can eat sometimes means not-the-best-you-caneat. No one has bothered to tell the chefs at Oyshi Sushi this, though. Hyperbolic roll names are nothing new in sushi world, but this place actually lives up to their Fantasy roll reputation. With salmon, shrimp, avocado, asparagus and cream cheese, who misses the rice? MO 7775 S. Rainbow Blvd., 702-646-9744,

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Why did he do it? 42

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O O The puzzling crime and untimely death of pediatrician Ralph Conti

story by Heidi

K yser


One summer evening eight years ago, Nina and Lawrence Dibbs drove to Foothills Pediatrics on the Siena campus of St. Rose Dominican Hospital in Henderson. The couple, married nearly 30 years, was excited: They were going to visit someone who, they thought, could help slow the accelerating march of Nina’s progressive multiple sclerosis, which had recently begun to make her legs feel like two-ton dead weights. The source of their hope was not a pediatrician, however; it was Alfred Sapse, owner of a business called StemCell Pharma, who was marketing and selling what he described as a revolutionary cure for several diseases, including MS. Nina’s aunt had discovered Sapse on the Internet. “Nina, you don’t have to go to Europe for the stem-cell treatment, after all!” she had shouted through the phone earlier that day. “They’re doing it right down the street from you!” Nina called Sapse, and he told her to come right over. The reason she and her husband were going to a pediatrician’s office is that Sapse wasn’t licensed to practice medicine in Nevada — or anywhere in the U.S. Although he claimed to be the scientist behind the procedure Nina sought, he needed a licensed physician to actually perform it. Enter Ralph Conti, owner of Foothills Pediatrics and a phenomenally popular doctor throughout the valley, where he operated five other locations, in addition to the one in Henderson.

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There, after the pediatrics practice had closed for the day, the Dibbses met Sapse, a gangly 80-year-old who spor ted a f ull head of white hair and glasses as thick as his Romanian accent. His pitch on the wonders of stem-cell implants gave Nina pause, making her think: “He’s a smooth little talker.” But it didn’t matter; she’d decided before the drive over that she was going to have the procedure done. “Tell you what,” she recalls Sapse saying. “I can get you in right away. You just need to give me $5,000. I need two different checks, each for $2,500. I want you to meet Dr. Conti. He will Dr. Conti was a popular be doing it. This is his office.” A rather short, pediatrician. Left, he dark-haired man with soft eyes and a friendappears on a magazine ly smile introduced himself, immediately cover. Right, an outtake putting the Dibbses at ease. Conti was the from a photo shoot. caring, reassuring counterweight to Sapse’s hard-sell. When Nina and Lawrence returned the next day with their positive effects on her MS. She contacted Sapse to see about getmoney, Conti and an assistant took them into an exam room. ting a second procedure. He agreed, but said it would cost her Nina lay on a table with Lawrence at her side, while the doctor another $5,000. Reluctant to pay a second time for something cleaned an area on her abdomen, numbed it, made an incision that might not work, the Dibbses declined. When Conti heard about an inch long and inserted, into a tunnel-like opening he’d about the exchange, he offered to do a second implant free of burrowed under the skin, a one-inch strip of tissue that resemcharge. She accepted. bled a small piece of linguine. The tissue had come from the plaSapse and Conti’s stem-cell implant wasn’t the miracle Nina centa of a recently delivered newborn. Conti closed the incision had hoped for. The second procedure was no more effective and gave the Dibbses a prescription for antibiotics. The whole than the first. Today, despite trying many other treatments, she thing took about 15 minutes, Nina estimates. needs a walker to get around the house. But she’s determined Back in the reception area, Sapse gave the couple a bottle of not to let MS stop her from living her life. Sitting at the dining Gerovital H3, a drug for Nina to take in order to activate the table of a spotless Anthem home, prettily dressed and coiffed, stem cells she now hosted. According to Sapse’s explanation, the with a pot of spaghetti sauce simmering on the stove, she says, cells would travel throughout her body, scouting out problems “I still do everything around here.” and correcting them with their superhero powers of differentiaSimilar resolve drew more than 30 people — suffering from tion and regeneration — the ability to mimic and multiply. cerebral palsy, lupus, Parkinson’s and other debilitating diseas“I wanted to get the miracle!” Nina says now, widening her es — from around the country to Las Vegas in 2006 for Sapse round brown eyes for emphasis. “I wanted to walk. Think about and Conti’s treatment. The pair’s services, in turn, would lead it: You’re in the prime of your life, and then, one day, you have to them to be investigated by the Food and Drug Administration, go in a wheelchair to leave the house. You’ll do anything.” charged with criminal conspiracy and fraud by the U.S. AttorShe and Lawrence were excited after the procedure. They got ney and convicted by a local jury in November 2012. Sapse now on the phone with members of their big, close family to share sits in Terminal Island federal prison in San Pedro, California, the experience. Their two daughters came over to see mom’s serving a 17-and-a-half year sentence. Conti, however, died unincision. Conti began dropping by on his way to work to check der murky circumstances shortly after the conviction, leaving on Nina and change her bandage. The doctor would give her pep behind a wife and young son. talks to keep her spirits high. Several people involved suggest Sapse got what he deserved Within a month, though, Nina and Lawrence began to give up (a few come right out and say it). But Conti … when it comes to hope. Although her incision healed fine, Nina wasn’t feeling any him, most wonder what happened. In the space of a couple years,


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he went from celebrated local physician to criminal convict to decedent. How? It’s more than just a mystery to be solved. Embedded in the story of Ralph Conti are questions of medical ethics and government regulation that will only get thornier and more numerous as stem cells make their way into the mainstream. In Turin, Italy, prosecutors are trying to stop a company called Stamina Foundation from offering its controversial stem cell therapy to patients, dozens of whom have taken to the streets in protest, swearing that their well-being depends on the very treatments regulators say could harm them. Back in the U.S., meanwhile, one need look no further than this year’s Oscars and their nod to the Dallas Buyers Club, about a 1980s black market for unapproved AIDS therapies, to find examples of FDA opposition to drugs that patients believe could save their lives. The Las Vegas stem-cell scheme illustrates how far dying people will go to find cures for their diseases, how vulnerable this makes them to exploitation and how slowly the bureaucracy moves that is supposed to protect them. And yet, at the heart of this tangle of medical policy issues is the very human question of a beloved doctor’s motivation. “Dr. Conti had everything going for him,” Dibbs says. “He was a great doctor, he had a son, he had a wife, he had a great practice.” Conti was 51 when he died. He had half his life in front of him, plenty of room for a comeback. One friend said Conti was a millionaire. Another described him as the rock star of pediatricians. Almost no one who knew him personally believes that his motivation could have been anything other than to help people. Is it possible that, in delivering Sapse’s “miracle,” Conti was actually doing something good — or at least thought he was? And if not, then why did he do it?

c o n t i b i c yc l e p h oto b y a a r o n m ay e s

was it To help his patients? Barely touching her ice water, dark, sharp-eyed Isela Stellato looks out of place among the afternoon drinkers and gamblers haunting the Lodge at Tenaya off Ann Road and the 95. She’s asked to meet there because it’s down the street from the middle school where she teaches math, and her daughter, Tristan, is trying out for cheerleading while her mom reminisces about the family doctor. As a 24-year-old, Stellato had been told she may never get pregnant, so when she did, years later, she was extra careful. She took a parenting class at the public library, and during a guest presentation, Ralph Conti impressed her with his knowledge and charisma. She and her husband picked him from a slate of interviewees, and the pediatrician saw all three of their children, all their lives, until he died two years ago. No one in the family was involved in the experimental implants or even knew about them until the trial, and they’ve been trying to put together the puzzle pieces of Conti’s downfall ever since. “I have a master’s degree,��� Stellato says. “Now, my husband and I are really healthy. We’re trying to go fast food-free and teach our children the difference between manmade food and natural food. In our education about nutrition, we’ve learned a lot.” For instance, they’ve learned that third-party companies

hired to certify the health and safety of the things we put into our bodies don’t always act in the public interest. Rather, sometimes, they are motivated by profit. “Our government doesn’t always do everything it can to protect us,” she says. Plenty of people believe the FDA, like any bureaucracy, is inadequate and slow. Those who mistrust government agencies in general go further, asserting that the official arbiter of safe, effective medicine is in bed with big pharma, prone to scuttle any product that threatens the bottom lines of corporations such as Pfizer and GlaxoSmithKline. (The team that defended Conti in his criminal case espoused this theory.) Stellato is more measured, both recognizing the risks of Sapse and Conti’s stemcell implant procedure and leaving the door open for a Robin Hood-like altruism. “Maybe I rationalized it, because I cared for him, and he cared for my family, but I thought whatever he was doing, he was doing it to help people,” Stellato says. This belief, widely held among Conti supporters, is understandable given his reputation. After graduating from Rutgers' Robert Wood Johnson Medical School in Piscataway, New Jersey, Conti did his internship and residencies at Stanford University School of Medicine in Palo Alto, Calif., and Kaiser Permanente Medical Center in San Francisco. He finished in 1990, then moved to Las Vegas to begin private practice. In 2000, he founded Foothills PediatMaybe I rationalized rics, a Henderson-based business it, because I cared that fanned across Las Vegas over for him, and he the subsequent decade. By 2011, it operated six offices and employed cared for my family, eight physicians along with 50 other but I thought staff. That same year, Conti made whatever he was Las Vegas Life magazine’s annual doing, he was doing Top Docs list, an honor that had already landed him on the cover of the it to help people. magazine in 2000. — Isela Stellato At the heart of Conti’s success were his compassion for and skill in treating children. He was known for making house calls, leaving evening functions to attend to patients in need and even providing transportation to his clinics for children who lacked it. Tears in her eyes, Stellato recalls: “Yesterday, I had to take Tristan to Foothills, and it wasn’t Dr. Conti, and I got really emotional. You expect to hear the whistle. He would whistle all the time … and he would have these things in his pocket that had lights. He would pull them out and say, ‘Blow out the light,’ to the kids and when they blew, he would turn it out. Meanwhile, he would be listening to their heart or looking in their ears.” These qualities make his fans believe he did the experimental stem cell implants for the right reasons. His patients were the reason Conti gave for getting involved with Sapse. During follow-up visits with Nina Dibbs, she says, he told her that he was hoping the treatment would help children, like those he saw in his practice, with debilitating diseases. Dibbs remembers him saying, “How are you feeling, Nina? Come on, we want this to work!”

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was it For the greater good? Sapse and Conti came together through a midwife named Lydi Owen, whom Conti described during trial testimony as “the grandmother of all midwives” and a personal friend of his. Owen learned of the two men’s shared interest in stem cells and introduced them in the summer of 2005. Over the next several months, they met frequently at the Starbucks inside Vons supermarket on Maryland Parkway and Twain Avenue. Conti described these meetings as mentoring affairs, in which Sapse would give him books and journal articles and drop knowledge picked up through his 50-year career in science and medicine. “You know, it just got me excited about stem cells and regenerative medicine,” Conti would say on the stand. In other words, he didn’t perform the stem-cell implants just to help specific patients — very sick children — he also believed he was helping to advance the field of stem-cell study. When he talked to people about the procedure, he framed it in terms of “research.” Stem cells do show great promise for treating diseases, due to their capacity to differentiate and regenerate. They start out unspecialized and can self-renew through cell division; under certain circumstances, they can also be induced to become specific cells with special functions. Not all stem cells are created equal. A very young embryo contains the stem cells that will comprise the entire body, meaning they’re very versatile, or “potent” in industry lingo. Stem cells are found in some adult tissues, such as bone marrow, and researchers have figured out how to create others. But none is as potent as embryonic stem cells, dubbed “the gold standard” by Science’s Gretchen Vogel in 2008. Trouble is, harvesting embryonic stem cells entails destroying the embryo, and nobody wants to do that. Placental stem cells offer one solution. The stem cells located in the layer called the amnion are relatively potent, and harvesting them doesn’t require sacrificing anything other than the placenta itself. In 2005, around the time Conti and Sapse were meeting at Starbucks, this news was making headlines in scientific The purpose of all journals. this intimidation is Amniotic stem cells have some to prevent ... a drug pa rticula r at tributes that ma ke them attractive to researchers, says to treat Alzheimer's development a l genet icist Joh n that might threaten G ea rha r t , who direct s t he Un isome very large versity of Pennsylvania's Institute financial interests. for Regenerative Medicine. They are less likely to be rejected by the — Alfred Sapse body’s immune system as a foreign intruder, and there’s no question they circulate in the blood system. Some interesting findings have emerged from the exchange of stem cells between mother and baby, Gearhart says, giving the example of a mom with thyroid disease whose baby’s stem cells found their way to her thyroid and repaired damaged tissue. But it’s a far cry from that, which has been demonstrated in carefully monitored circumstances, to taking one person’s placental stem cells, inserting them in someone else’s body and


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expecting them to repair any existing pathology in that body. Reacting to this idea, the premise of Sapse’s StemCell Pharma, Gearhart says, “Oh, boy. That’s far-fetched!” There are still many dots to connect between what stem cells might be able to do, and what scientists can actually do with them now. As an example of the latter, consider results of two separate but similar studies published in scientific journals in April of this year. By devising a way to clone human embryos, the researchers moved the ball another yard closer to the goal of harvesting stem cells in a noncontroversial way and personalizing them to respond to specific pathologies in adult humans. For instance, a person with Type 1 diabetes might someday receive stem cells from one of these cloned embryos that could help his pancreas develop the insulin-producing cells it lacks. This is where the field of regenerative medicine is in 2014. Gearhart, who contributed to the pioneering work that paved the way for what’s happening today, says the bottom line is this: No stem cells, placental or otherwise, are used clinically in the United States yet; so, despite Conti's references to "research," they were highly unlikely to be in the clinical-trial phase eight years ago. Besides, he adds, the FDA would never approve a study done the way Conti and Sapse operated. The agency requires researchers working with regulated items — including human cells, tissues and tissue-based products — to take certain steps that ensure public safety, and Sapse and Conti followed few, if any, of them. For starters, the FDA wants to know where the regulated items come from. Sapse and Conti got their placentas from two sources. One was St. Rose Dominican’s labor and delivery department, where Conti said he would pick them up from new parents. (One such woman, Deanna Wise, told the Review-Journal in October 2011 that she had given the pediatrician permission to take hers, because he told her it was for research. Contacted for this story, the hospital confirmed that its policy at the time was not to release placentas to anyone other than the birth mothers, and that it had not released any to Conti.) The second source was Owen, who would save them after births in which she assisted. As for the safety of the source tissue, placentas provided by Owen were from vaginal deliveries. This became a key point in the government’s criminal case against Sapse, since he told clients that only placentas from C-sections ­­— which didn’t pass through the birth canal, where they could pick up the mother’s pathogens — were safe and used in his procedure. And although Conti and Owen said they consulted charts and bloodwork to screen placenta donors, they didn't keep records of donations. The FDA also monitors storage. To prepare their placentas for the implant procedure, Conti and Owen washed them in saline solution, separated the amnion and stored pieces of it in a hydrogen peroxide mixture. Gearhart finds the process counterintuitive: “We’ve done a lot of work with umbilical cord blood and placental tissue, and you do all you can to keep them in the purest state. You want them dense and con-

A 2006 photo of Dr. Conti performing the procedure became evidence.

tioned above, you could very well be stepping into a mine field, and that may be made to intimidate you (sic). The purpose of all this intimidation … is to prevent the world at large to know that there is a drug to treat Alzheimer’s that might threaten some very large financial interests.”

centrated … and hydrogen peroxide? What is that? That stuff is so toxic.” Even assuming some stem cells survived the preparation, there’s the further problem of implanting them in humans. The FDA expects to see computer models and results of animal testing prior to clinical trials. Sapse could produce no such work. During the criminal trial, and in a letter to Desert Companion, he provided a lengthy curriculum vitae citing his medical education in Romania, academic fellowships in Europe and the U.S., and published papers and speaking engagements around the world … none of which appears to be preliminary work on the procedure in question. For that, he says, he relied on medical training he received in Eastern Europe and Russia in the 1960s, scientific literature on studies done by others and conference sessions. He had no wet lab, no way to conduct biological experiments himself. Even if Sapse had done the proper build-up to a clinical trial, he didn’t do the paperwork required to document the experiment’s progress once it began. Patients of Sapse and Conti did report receiving post-procedure phone calls, and Conti followed up with Nina Dibbs at her home, but any notes they took weren’t stored or organized formally for future reference, such as in a database or spreadsheet. When investigators searched Sapse’s apartment, they were shocked to find he didn’t own a computer. Conti described himself, during trial, as being more or less computer illiterate in 2005, when his research into stem cells began. Of course, if you believed the FDA had no authority over you or, worse yet, would use its power to hamper your work — work that stood to help millions of people around the world — then you probably wouldn’t follow its protocols anyway. During the criminal trial, the government fought back repeated efforts by Conti’s attorneys to introduce FDA politics as part of his defense. Sapse’s attorney recounted his client’s previous attempt to bring a beneficial drug to market, which was thwarted by the federal agency. And in a letter from prison, Sapse wrote: “My dear Ms. Kyser, I would like to forewarn you that if you should decide to get deeper into the events men-

The entire criminal stem-cell case, he later told me on the phone, was a “smoke screen” engineered by the government and big pharma to prevent him from marketing his latest discovery, a cure for Alzheimer’s, to the public. Such conspiracy theories enrage Gearhart. A cancer survivor, he recalls overhearing fellow patients in treatment say things such as, “The government has the cure, you know. They just won’t give it to us.” “Those arguments sell well to the public, because people want to believe someone’s making money or having their palms greased,” he says. “Drug companies don’t own the FDA. I know these people. I’ve worked with them for years. They’re there to make sure things are done in a way that is safe for patients.” That, he says, is the ultimate goal of making researchers jump through so many hoops — to prevent someone like Sapse from profiting off a product that doesn’t work, and may even cause harm. After receiving complaints about the implant procedure, the Nevada attorney general’s office determined Sapse wasn’t licensed to practice medicine in the state and kicked the case up the jurisdictional ladder. The FDA conducted its investigation and concluded: Apart from a handful of minor improvements that could mostly be chalked up to the placebo effect, Sapse’s procedure, performed by Conti, benefitted few people and actually gave several infections. Worse, the investigators found, Sapse and Conti deceived patients about the source of certain placental tissue, their chances of seeing results and other details. That, in essence, was the crux of the U.S. Attorney’s case for conspiracy and fraud. In the end, it was less about using human tissue without FDA approval, and more about lying to desperate, dying people, promising them relief under false pretenses — and taking their money.



n 2012, federal judge Kent Dawson heard most of his cases in courtroom 6D, on the sixth floor of the Lloyd George building at the corner of Las Vegas Boulevard and Clark Avenue. There, the solemnity of the bar, prominently displayed government seal and bench set on a moderate overlook is offset by the warmth of cherry wood, azure carpet

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Roberts: Okay. What’s medicine like practiced every day? Conti: It’s being in the moment. It’s knowing why the patient is there. Sometimes the ­­— the reason that they are there is not the stated complaint. Uh, they may be in for a stated complaint of a cough, “my child has a cough,” but really they want to talk about their breast cancer. Um, it’s — it’s making a bond with the child and making sure the mom understands or the dad understands why they are there: Um, how did my child get this? What does he have? How — how did it get it? How are we gonna treat it? And when should I call you back? If I can answer those four questions in a sick visit, I consider it an effective interaction. Conti laid out the whole story for those in the courtroom to hear. He talked about how he’d been interested in stem-cell research before meeting Alfred Sapse, because he believed it could provide a cure for his cerebral palsy patients, kids who would never “ride a bicycle or throw a baseball or be fed through anything but a tube in (their) stomach.” He said he met Sapse through Lydi Owen, a respected midwife whose grandchildren he treated, and who knew the two shared an interest in stem-cell research. He spent months listening to the elderly scientist, reading books and articles Sapse gave him, and becoming more and more convinced of stem cells’ medical promise. He hid nothing about the procedure itself, explaining how he’d get the placentas when he was on call at St. Rose by asking shift nurses in the maternal child unit to let him know of scheduled C-sections for which he’d be assigned the babies. He’d fill out generic hospital permission forms for the parents to sign, and then take the placentas in sterile containers to his nearby office, where he’d prepare them with saline and hydrogen peroxide. He described how Owen taught him to separate the amnion from the rest of the placenta, like separating two pieces of wet Saran Wrap. Conti also noted that he’d met with his business attorney in January or February 2006 to get an informed-consent release for the stem-cell procedure, which he began doing soon after. He said he asked all the patients he saw for the procedure to sign one, indicating that they knew it might or might not work. Sapse gave him patients’ medical records, he said, so he could familiarize himself with their conditions. He emphasized that some patients reported improvements in their conditions, such as the ability


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to urinate on their own, which kept him motivated. He recalled how, in July of that year, after 20 or so of the procedures had been done, St. Rose’s medical director, Stephen Jones, called him to his office and told him he’d have to complete a thick stack of paperwork if he wanted to continue taking the placentas. Conti handed the forms off to Sapse, but they began using placentas supplied by Owen instead. Around the same time, Conti said, an FDA officer paid him a three-day visit, asked lots of questions about the procedure and even dug through his files. The officer said he’d send an official warning, with which Conti would have 15 days to comply. But the notice didn’t come until Thanksgiving, Conti said — about four months and a dozen procedures later. He did only one more after that, well within the 15 days. Sapse, he added, claimed all along to be keeping records and taking care of FDA compliance. Once Conti saw FDA requirements hadn’t really been met, he refused to do any more procedures. (Sapse subsequently moved his business to Mexico, where a doctor named Omar Gonzales did some 100 more procedures.) Throughout the morning and afternoon, Conti filled in this reasonable-sounding narrative with details. The defense produced exhibits to back up his story. Then, late in the afternoon, Assistant U.S. Attorney Crane Pomerantz began his cross-examination and the tide turned quickly. Conti’s confidence wavered, and contradictions in his story emerged. He had claimed to be in the top three of his class at Stanford, yet he was unclear on the basics of HIPAA (the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act), a well-known law for protecting patient privacy. He said he didn’t know what an affidavit was, yet he’d been through two bankruptcies by that time (a point to which we’ll return). He said his scientific knowledge was based on specific articles, yet in those articles, authors both followed the processes he ignored and noted that further lab work was needed before clinical trials could be undertaken. He said he had an ethical dilemma about doing the procedure after receiving the FDA warning, but did it anyway because the

c o u r t r o o m s k e tc h e s c o u r t e s y d av i d s t r o u d / r e v i e w - j o u r n a l

and a squareness to the 60-by-40-foot space that draws everyone close to the center. On Tuesday, November 20, 2012, the four rows of benches on either side of a wide aisle at the back of courtroom 6D were packed. Supporters of Ralph Conti were there, alongside reporters and government suits. All were on the edge of their seats — today would be the day they’d hear from Conti himself. At around 10 minutes after 9 a.m., the doctor took the stand. For nearly five hours he answered questions asked by one of his two defense attorneys, Dennis Roberts. Things seemed to be going well; even looking back today, in the black-and-white of court transcripts, one can read Conti’s charm:

patients needed it; yet the consent form clearly indicated the procedure was elective. Perhaps worse, certain omissions suggested someone who was either arrogant or careless. Conti admitted to not having consulted with any previous patients of Sapse’s, other scientists or fellow physicians about the procedure. He said he didn’t take so much as blood pressure or temperature from fragile patients with terminal illnesses, some of whom had traveled from as far away as the East Coast, before operating on them, because he could tell how people were doing by simply looking at them. And then there was this: Pomerantz: You didn’t ask Mr. Sapse to see tissue-handling protocols? Conti: Uh, I did not ask to see tissue-handling protocols. No. I —­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­ I mean, it was one of those procedures where you’re kind of makin’ it up as you go along. It’s a shot in the dark. Um, this was brand new stuff. I mean — and, you know, there weren’t many experts in stem cells. Such a statement vexes the byzantine arguments that the prosecution and defense constructed through countless hours of research and thousands of pages of court documents. In the case file, one can read them duking it out over details such as the title Conti used to sign a confession-like affidavit, the difference between “amnion” and “placenta,” and what constitutes an expert witness. All this legal wrangling boiled down to determining whether Conti was trying to help people or deceive them, doing it for research or profit, and as an employee of StemCell Pharma or in cahoots with Sapse. If the subject in question is simply making it up as he goes along, then his intent seems up for grabs. And motive is key in a criminal act such as fraud: Did he mean to delude victims in order to profit? In courtroom 6D that November 20, and almost every other day of the trial, were two men who were certain they had the answer to that question. Neither the former FDA agent sitting with the prosecution, Dr. Conti, left, nor the paralegal at the defense team’s and Sapse, right, table ever freely had their say at trial, went on trial in but both believe they know why Conti November 2012. did what he did.

was it For the money? Retired FDA criminal investigator Douglas Loveland asks me to hold a minute while his dog chases a deer in the back yard of his home outside Arlington, Virginia. When he comes back to the phone, he jumps right into the story. Sapse came to Loveland’s attention when Loveland was still active in the FDA. Another agent, who had taken his class on medical research fraud, thought of him when Sapse’s case hit her desk. The regulatory side of the agency passes cases on to the criminal side when violators fail to comply after warnings. Loveland was in the division that investigates biological processes, and cases such as this were his specialty. “It was a long investigation,” he says. “We opened it in October 2007, and Sapse wasn’t indicted until 2010. There were hundreds of patients all over the world we had to track down and interview. … Through Interpol, we went to where he got his degree in Romania and found he had a Ph.D. in public health. He wasn’t Conti might be a a medical doctor. But, as is often the great pediatrician, case in medical fraud, he faked his crebut ... he played dentials.” In Loveland’s opinion, the stem-cell procedure was just the latest a role that's in a long line of Sapse scams. “There’s well-documented newspaper reporting on him going all in criminal history. the way back to 1980,” he says. He further dismisses the idea that — Douglas Loveland there was any real scientific inquiry involved. “Some people blame the FDA for not allowing stem-cell technology to be used on patients, but the reality was, nobody had figured out what stem cells could actually do at that point,” he says. “I knew more about stem cells than Alfred Sapse did.” How could a smart, successful guy like Ralph Conti fall for such a charlatan? Two words, Loveland says: willing dupe. “Conti might be a great pediatrician, but in this case, he played a role that’s well-documented in criminal history. Con men pick people who are bright and have access to the flock of sheep they’re trying to shear. … Someone as warm and personable as Ralph Conti — I could see immediately why people liked and trusted him.” Still, that explains Sapse’s motivation more than Conti’s. Pressed on that — and reminded of Conti’s own professed desire to help kids with cerebral palsy — Loveland says the doctor might have believed that at first, but after a while he had to have figured out the operation wasn’t legitimate. Then, Loveland believes, “he kept doing it for the money.” During 2006, Conti made approximately $60,000 for doing the stem-cell implants. His salary from the pediatrics practice, he estimated at trial, was between $500,000 and $600,000. To many observers, it makes no sense that a man who had millions in assets would risk his reputation on a venture that earned him 10 percent of his annual income. To Loveland, it makes perfect sense. That’s because Sapse paid Conti in cash, off the books, and, Loveland says, the pediatrician liked to gamble. This allegation came up during trial and, as with all the questions he was asked, Conti answered candidly:

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Yes, at one time, he’d had a $70,000 debt with a bookie. But that, he said, was in 2008, two years after his involvement with Sapse ended, and he paid it off in full before he was indicted in 2011. As evidence of Conti’s dishonesty, Loveland points to a 2006 affidavit that Conti signed after the FDA investigator visited his office. In it, Conti says he was paid $200 or less per procedure. He later admitted it was closer to $2,000. There were other signs that all was not well in Conti’s finances. In 2002, Foothills Pediatrics filed a Chapter 7 bankruptcy for debt relief; it didn’t close until 2007. Then again, in 2011, Foothills filed a Chapter 11 case to block former business partner Michael Rosenman’s efforts to collect $362,000 in a business dispute. Rosenman won a judgment first by an arbitrator, then by a bankruptcy judge, but not before garnishing Foothills’ insurance companies for his due. This case was winding down just as Conti was indicted on the criminal charges. And then, there’s the question that Assistant U.S. Attorney Crane Pomerantz asked after the trial was all over: “Conti said he was never doing (the procedure) for the money. If that was the case, then why didn’t he do it for free?”

was he simply naïve? Larry Olstad prefers not to speak ill of a former client’s fellow defendant, but if Alfred Sapse did have criminal intentions, Olstad posits, then there’s no way Conti knew it. For two men who plainly dislike each other, Loveland and Olstad, a key member of Conti’s legal defense team, have surprisingly similar theories as to why a successful pediatrician would get mixed up in a federal crime: because he was duped. But where Loveland sees a willing dupe — in it for the money — Olstad sees a well-meaning one, someone who assumed good faith Ralph had a quality on the part of others and was blinded to misdeeds by his determination of innocence about to make a positive difference. him. He went to pri“Ralph had a quality of innocence vate schools all his about him,” Olstad says. “He went to life. He came from private schools all his life. He came from money. … He was not streetwise.” money. ... He was A former attorney, Olstad is now a not streetwise. Portland-based paralegal. Although — Larry Olstad he never spoke on record during the trial, Olstad is present throughout the transcripts. Dennis Roberts and Conti’s other defense attorney, Nancy Lord, consulted with Olstad frequently, repeatedly voicing concerns that the paralegal raised. At one point, during a heated exchange, Judge Dawson tells Roberts, “I can see that your paralegal is arguing with me through you, but the objection is sustained.” Olstad’s passion is partly personality-driven. As he talks, he frequently raises his voice, chortles and scoffs. But in the Conti case, it was also a matter of affinity. The two had met through mutual friends at a Grateful Dead concert and quickly bonded. When Conti told Olstad about his legal troubles, his fellow Deadhead was glad to lend a hand. Olstad helped Conti assemble his legal team, then worked tirelessly on the pediatrician’s defense.


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They made the case that Conti saw Sapse as a brilliant, if eccentric, researcher. When the two met, Sapse showed Conti a photo of himself at a conference with famous scientists Jonas Salk and Linus Pauling. Sapse talked the language, so Conti never questioned his background. Doctors don’t go around asking other doctors to see their credentials, but even if Conti had, Sapse could have produced them, as he did during the trial, Olstad says. He firmly believes Conti was interested in finding a cure for cerebral palsy in children. The doctor was tired, Olstad says, of seeing babies born limp and pale, and having to tell their mothers and fathers they were facing a lifetime of physical therapy and surgeries that could do no more than forestall the inevitable. It was traumatizing, he says, for someone as sensitive as his friend. What’s more, according to Olstad, Conti was doing something completely within his professional purview. As the defense frequently asserted in its case, physicians have the right to experiment with therapies on their patients, and the FDA doesn’t have the right to regulate the practice of medicine. Indeed, the medical community has long grappled with the line between patient care and patient study, and some passages of the World Medical Association’s Declaration of Helsinki, the last word on ethical principals for medical research on human subjects, are open to interpretation: Physicians must consider the ethical, legal and regulatory norms and standards for research involving human subjects in their own countries, as well as applicable international norms and standards. … Physicians who combine medical research with medical care should involve their patients in research only to the extent that this is justified by its potential preventive, diagnostic or therapeutic value and if the physician has good reason to believe that participation in the research study will not adversely affect the health of the patients who serve as research subjects. Where would medicine be, Olstad adds, if doctors were constrained by a strict set of rules telling them they can only use certain devices and products in the prescribed ways? History is filled with examples of cures and treatments found through the creative or intuitive application of remedies. One technical term for this practice is off-label drug use. An accepted practice in U.S. medicine, it allows a licensed physician to prescribe medication for something other than its approved application. The problem is, the legal exception for off-label drug use applies to drugs and treatments that are already FDA-approved; stem cells were not. Nor had Sapse submitted an application for a new drug that would have started that ball rolling. And if he had, relevant American Medical Association guidelines would have exhorted him to carry out the research with the appropriate oversight and monitoring — in this case, by the FDA. Those who claim FDA overreach into medicine frequently argue that state medical boards have the last word in governing doctors. In June 2008, Conti received his first warning from the Nevada State Board of Medical Examiners, which accused him of performing an “experimental procedure” involving the implantation of human tissue in 18 patients. An accompanying records request also

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alleged substandard care, based on his failure to examine the patients, take their medical histories or conduct follow-ups. Conti didn’t provide the records requested then, or after a formal complaint was filed in 2010. In 2011 he was fined nearly $8,000. His license was never suspended, and he continued practicing pediatric medicine until he died. Olstad believes the federal government wanted to make an example of Conti, a high-profile physician who circumvented their authority. The feds' interest in keeping stem cells out of the hands of independent researchers has put us far behind other countries in the field, Olstad says, and Sapse knew this from his previous work in Europe. He believes that by the time Conti was visited by the FDA, he was already invested in the stem-cell work, vulnerable to Sapse’s reassurance that he was handling matters “in Washington,” as he said. And a sense of being above reproach might have fed Conti’s offhanded dishonesty with the investigator about the amount of money he was paid for procedures and other details. “He should have been more careful about what he was doing,” Olstad says. “He should have said, ‘You need to make an appointment with me if you want to talk,’ and his lawyer should have been there. The problem with being the best there is, is that you get impatient with the restrictions put on lesser beings, because they’re not as good as you are.” When the FDA’s November warning came, Olstad says, Sapse prevailed on Conti to continue for the sake of the clients; that — not the money — was why the doctor did one last procedure before parting ways with Sapse for good.



he trial of Alfred Sapse and Ralph Conti lasted 15 days. The jury deliberated for three hours and 50 minutes before returning its verdict. Both men were found guilty of conspiracy. Five counts of mail and wire fraud had been dismissed, due to relevant victims dying in the interim; Conti and Sapse were found guilty of all

the remaining counts in which each was charged, four for Conti, 18 for Sapse. Throughout the trial, and in the months leading up to it, Conti had suffered from severe neck pain. He’d considered having surgery to fix the problem sooner, but decided to wait so his recovery wouldn’t interfere with his defense. Two weeks after his conviction, as he awaited sentencing, Conti got the surgery at Desert Springs Hospital. The surgery went fine. He awoke from anesthesia and spoke to his wife, Carol. She went home, where she later got the call that he’d died. Carol Conti wouldn’t talk about her husband, but she allowed her attorney, Bruce Shapiro, to speak on her behalf. “She went through a tough time during the trial, during his death, after his death,” Shapiro says of his client. “Obviously, she was devastated after his death, but because of her son, she worked through it. She’s done an unbelievable job getting over it. I think she’s moved on.” Carol Conti isn’t the only one keeping mum about Ralph Conti’s death. P. Michael Murphy, the Clark County coroner, denied both informal and formal requests to see his investigation, which is technically public record. He would only confirm that Conti was a 51-year-

I wanted to get the miracle! I wanted to walk. ... You'll do anything. — Nina Dibbs old Caucasian male and Henderson resident who died at 2:08 p.m. on December 16, 2012, at Desert Springs Hospital. (The hospital also declined to provide any further information.) The cause of death is undetermined. This, according to Murphy, rules out other official causes, such as accident and suicide. Shapiro says Carol Conti naturally had questions that remain unanswered, but if the possibility of malpractice had existed, he believes she would have pursued it, and she didn’t. Sapse is not so circumspect. In his letter to Desert Companion, he writes that Love-


On May 29, more than 220 guests attended Desert Companion’s ‘Focus on Nevada’ photo exhibit and celebration at Trifecta Gallery inside the Arts Factory. Attendees enjoyed festive bites from El Segundo Sol, a selection of wine and a colorful array of photography served up in a beautiful setting. Our talented winners took home prizes courtesy of B&C Camera and Canon. More images at

land’s “extreme measures to get the technology of the drug … pushed Dr. Conti into suicide.” On the phone, he reiterated his view that Conti somehow killed himself. Others involved hinted at the possibility without directly advancing the theory. It’s difficult to imagine someone engineering his own death under the careful watch of a post-operative team, although a physician would certainly have a better chance of pulling it off than someone with no knowledge of medicine. The coroner did look for foul play, though, and found none, a fact revealed in a form that made its way into the criminal case file. Further undermining the notion that Conti committed suicide, attorney Dennis Roberts filed a motion for a new trial on Conti’s behalf four days before he died. Olstad says his friend was looking forward to an appeal because he firmly believed his conviction would be overturned. Instead, it was expunged from his record. That’s what happens when someone dies before sentencing — almost as if he were innocent all along. Throughout the trial, Isela Stellato continued to take her children to Conti, as did Shapiro and the Dibbs’ daughter, who’d been referred to the pediatrician by her mother a couple years after her two failed implant surgeries. They all believe the best way to determine Conti’s guilt or innocence is by looking at the rest of his life, which he devoted to taking care of others. From his very different perspective, Pomerantz agrees: Look at what the doctor did, he says, and judge for yourself. Funera l ser v ices were held at St. Francis of Assisi Catholic Church in Henderson on December 21, 2012. Hundreds of people packed the church and stood outside, among them Nina Dibbs, who says it was a “beautiful service, just beautiful.” Expressions of grief poured onto the Facebook Page "Support Dr. Ralph Conti" from its 1,300 followers. Few spoke of the criminal trial; the day was for remembering better times. The Review-Journal ran Conti’s obituary with this request: “In lieu of f lowers, please honor his passion for continued stem-cell research with a donation in his name.”


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Advertising Section



Chefand Restaurant Profiles

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T w i n C r e e k s s t e a k h o u s e - s i lv e r t o n c a s i n o


Chefand Restaurant Profiles

S pecial A d ve r tisin g S ection

Table 34 Las Vegas Celebrates 10th Anniversary

Chef Wes Kendrick Creates Special Menu To Commemorate Milestone An off-Strip locals favorite, Table 34 Las Vegas has enjoyed a successful 10-year run by keeping a simple focus on quality, even in tough times. Chef Wes Kendrick and his sister, Laurie, opened Table 34 in 2004. “Table 34 is proud to celebrate our 10-year anniversary of  serving the Las Vegas community,” said the chef. “We are humbled and grateful for the support of so many wonderful patrons and friends in this amazing city." To celebrate, Kendrick has created a $39 three-course menu showcasing some of his most popular dishes. Each month a different charity will benefit, including Opportunity Village, Nevada Childhood Cancer Foundation, Three Square and others. Table 34 Las Vegas has been Zagat rated since its first year, with reviewers hailing it as clean, elegant and having comfort food with gourmet flair that is both understated and fairly priced. The restaurant also has been awarded by Trip Advisor, USA Today and Best Chefs America. Kendrick, who learned the culinary arts under the careful mentoring of some of the best chefs in his native Redlands, Calif., took the concept of the American neighborhood bistro and infused French and Italian culinary elements to bring creative, yet down-to-earth, dishes that have delighted locals and the tourists alike. Table 34 has stayed relevant because of its creativity and consistency, while leaning on Kendrick’s knack for flavoring. It is one of only a few true “scratch” kitchens in Las Vegas, where even dressings, bases and sauces are made from scratch daily. The Table 34 chef is progressive and innovative, regularly offering new specials and responding to guest requests. He is launching a vegan menu this summer. Kendrick recently launched his own product line, Sweet Patty’s, named after his wife, Patricia. Sweet Patty’s pickles and glaze products are available at Table 34 Las Vegas, as well as other local retailers. Visit Table 34 Las Vegas on Facebook and Twitter. A Table 34 app is also available. Table 34 is located at 600 E. Warm Springs Road, southeast of the famous Las Vegas Strip. For more information, call  702-263-0034 or visit ,

eggworks and the egg & i

Brad Burdsall is the admired Chief Eggineer at The Egg & I and the Egg Works restaurants in Las Vegas. After earning his Bachelor’s Degree in Hotel Restaurant Administration from University of Nevada, Las Vegas, Brad bought his first restaurant, The Egg & I in 1998. Since then he has opened Egg Works, Egg Works 2, Egg Works 3 and Egg Works 4. He recently opened his sixth restaurant, Egg Works 5, in Summerlin. Brad’s restaurants have been Zagat rated since 1999 and have been featured in USA Today and Food Network’s Rachael’s Vacation. In addition to bringing Egg Works to new parts of the valley, Brad has been working on his own production lines, Habla Diablo and Fog Fields. Under the Habla Diablo label you can find his hot sauces, salsas, and seasonings. However, his biggest hit of all has been his own Habla Diablo Bloody Mary and Michelada mix. The Fog Fields production line consists of salad dressings, country gravy mix, and Hollandaise sauce. These items are currently available at all his restaurants. Brad’s recipe for success and growth in the restaurant industry is a solid business foundation accompanied by a passion for food, excellent service and happy employees. Egg & I/Egg Works 4533 W. Sahara Ave. 9355 W. Flamingo Road 2490 E. Sunset Road 6960 S. Rainbow Blvd. 10839 S. Eastern Ave. 2025 Village Center Cir. 702.485.5585


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TWIN CREEKS Executive Chef Chris Fearnow moved to Las Vegas in 1976 and graduated Clark High School in 1979. He developed his love for food at an early age helping his parents out at a coffee and sandwich shop they owned. He went to the Nate Hart Cooking School at Caesars Palace, where he studied




the years he’s worked at Larry’s Old Ranch House, the Stardust, the Mirage, Bellagio, Mandalay Bay, the Resort at Summerlin, Texas Station and Green Valley Ranch. He was on American Casino, the Discovery Channel reality show, and the Food Network’s Meat on the Bone, as well as a judge on Hell’s Kitchen and hosted Rahman “Rock” Harper at Terra Verde inside Green Valley Ranch after he won season three of the show. Now he’s the executive chef of Silverton Casino, where he’s “making guests happy with food, whether with a 99-cent hot dog or a nine-course chef’s tasting menu at $300 per guest.” Chef Chris is creating new menu items every week for Twin Creeks and all of the other venues within Silverton Casino. Stop in and say ‘hi’ to Chef Chris and his team and let us know what you thought of your experience.

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Strip Quality Dining at Stripped Down Prices. Featuring 1855® cuts of premium beef, delectable seafood dishes and classic entrées.

Extensive and affordable wine list from $24/bottle.

Happy Hour offered in the lounge is 50% off the bar menu, including specialty drinks, house wine and non-premium craft beer from 5pm–6pm and 9pm–10pm.

Prime Rib Dinner is offered every Sunday for $29.99 and includes choice of side dish and soup or salad.

Open Table Diners’ Choice Award Winner for Steakhouse






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6131 S. Rainbow Blvd. Las Vegas, NV 89118

Rojan Lyn Cell: 702-581-7957

1333 N. Buffalo Dr. #19 Las Vegas, NV 89128

©2014 WJ Bradley Mortgage Capital, LLC. 6465 Greenwood Plaza Blvd, Suite 500, Centennial, CO 80111 Phone #303.825.5670 NMLS ID 3233. Trade/service marks are the property of WJ Bradley Mortgage Capital, LLC. This is not a commitment to lend. Restrictions apply. All rights reserved. Some products may not be available in all states. WJB is not acting on behalf of or at the direction of HUD/FHA or the federal government.

reserved. Some products may not be available in all states. WJB is not acting on behalf of or at the direction of HUD/FHA or the federal government.



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your Arts+Entertainment calendar for july

8 3 Linda Alterwitz Trifecta Gallery “In these photographs,” the artist says of her exhibit, In-Sight, “I weave together images of the human body derived from repurposed medical imaging with images of landscapes, revealing ethereal figures in a raw and vulnerable state. The mind, wrestling with sadness, fear and hope, retreats to a safe refuge. Through these pieces, I hope to bring insight to the struggles and the resulting withdrawal of the inner mind.” Through July 27, reception July 3,

26 Boston and Cheap Trick Hard Rock Hotel You’re all, Boston and Cheap Trick are old dudes, dude, and we’re like, Yeah, but at least one of those bands can still bring the noise, and then, after a brief pause, we all spontaneously break out into, Mommy’s all right, daddy’s all right, they just seem a little weird … Might as well surrender. 8 p.m., $49.50 and up,

Coming soon!

Bob Miller booksigning Clark County Library Come hear a perspective on Nevada’s history from a man who will go down in it. You can’t say the former governor didn’t have a good seat for the vaudeville show that is modern Nevada. 7 p.m., Clark County Library, free,

homeless mammoths

11 NBA Summer League Thomas & Mack Center Hey, until July 25, Las Vegas has 24 home teams! Tickets start at $20,

art square theatre Technically, this happens in August, but we want you to mark your calendars early. It’s a production of Madeline George’s play Seven Homeless Mammoths Wander New England. One reviewer describes it thusly: “a hilarious satire on present-day academia and the current generation of college students, a playfully irreverent depiction of lesbian relationships, a profound meditation on selfishness, spirituality and mortality …” Aug. 13-24, Cockroach Theatre in Art Square, $25,

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Fashion items utilizing sustainable or environmentally friendly materials. The exhibit also includes photos of each piece, shot with models on location at the Springs. Free with paid general admission.

Big Springs Gallery at the Springs Preserve

LITTLE GREEN MEN Through July 14

Mon-Thu, 7a-5:30p. The artists in this exhibit were asked to explore a subject that relates to life on other planets or in other galaxies, space travel, UFO sightings and the famous Area 51 in the middle of the Nevada desert, as well as any other phenomena that centers on any of these topics. Free. Las Vegas City Hall

Chamber Gallery, 702-229-1012


Mon-Fri, 9a-4p; Sat, 10a-2p. A solo exhibit of digitally manipulated photographs, video and animation by Kate Shannon, The Ohio State University Mansfield’s Assistant Professor of Art. Free. CSN Fine Arts

WHY, MASTERWORKS? Through Aug. 23

Artists in this invitational exhibit will select one or more elements and principles of art, the tools or building blocks the artist sometimes intuitively employs to make a unified piece of artwork. The artists will be asked to make a piece of artwork that explores and defines the particular element and principle chosen. Free. Mayor’s

Gallery at the Fifth Street School. Call for appointment, 702-229-3515

JEFF FULMER: POSTS Through Sept. 6

Wed-Fri, 12:30-9p; Sat, 10a-6p. Fulmer studied sculpture, art theory and graphic design, receiving his Master’s in Fine Arts from UNLV in 2000. He has taught at UNLV, Wabash College, Herron School of Art and most recently at CSN. Free.

Charleston Heights Arts Center, 800 S. Brush St.,


Tue-Fri 12-5p; Sat, 10a-3p. The exhibition will feature African statues, masks, musical instruments, baskets, cloth and various other artifacts. Also featuring paintings by internationally known artist, Calvin B. Jones.

Free. Left of Center Art Gallery, 2207 W. Gowan Road,



Artist reception July 10, 6-8p. A group exhibition by the fine arts students of CSN, featuring new works that make use of a variety of printmaking techniques.

Free. CSN Artspace Gallery, gallery


Beyond the breaking news, away from the glare of television cameras, daily life continues in Egypt much as it has for eons – carefully, cautiously, steadily. In this photography exhibit, Thomas attempts to depict the duality of contemporary Egypt, a nation caught between stability and change, tradition and modernity, history and progress. Free. West Las Vegas

Library Art Gallery,


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5-11p. While First Friday is officially taking a hiatus this month, the art will go on, 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.


Southern Nevada residents age 50 or better entered their original works in this juried event. The Winners Circle exhibit features the award-winning pieces in six media categories, along with one Best of Show award. City Hall Chamber Gallery,

developing ideas and an exploration of feelings about the duality of masculine and feminine. City Hall Grand Gallery,


East and west collide gloriously as Japanese artist Sush Machida Gaikotsu blends traditions to fashion his own brand of stylized art, which is revered in fine art circles and commercial endeavors such as Burton Snowboards. Free with paid general

admission. Springs Preserve DANCE


7-10:15p. Presented by USA Dance Las Vegas Chapter #4038, a local chapter of the national nonprofit volunteer organization that is dedicated to the promotion of ballroom dancing. $10 non-members;

$5 members. Charleston Heights Arts Center, 800 S. Brush St.,


11p. A multi-dimensional show combining neo-burlesque, cabaret and the art of magic, twisting it all together to entertain, amaze and tease you. Music, magic, drama, comedy, talent, oh yes, and glitter! $15.

Onyx Theatre, MUSIC


8:30p; July 6, 2p. The acclaimed singer named Las Vegas Entertainer of the Year three times, Singer of the Year four times and awarded the Sammy Davis Jr. Foundation award, performs a spellbinding evening of music that’s both live and alive. $36-$46.

Cabaret Jazz at The Smith Center



Reception July 24, 5-7p. Artist Yaffa Cary’s work is inspired by “Shiva Lingam,” a sacred icon of the divine manifestation. This collection represents a journey of

7p. A tribute show that covers music from the late 1960s through the disco era by this historically significant musical powerhouse. $15 residents, $18 non-residents.

Starbright Theatre, suncity-summerlin. com/starbrighttheatre.htm

and to get a good seat. $10 at the door.



7:30p. This show will benefit the local charity Shade Tree, which assists victims of domestic violence and their pets to find safe shelter. Expect the jazz with rock twist that Ashton is best known for, along with special guest artists. $35-$49. Cab-

8p. Love improv but want to do more than just watch? In this show, the audience is part of the action. $10. The Sci Fi Center,

July 12

aret Jazz at The Smith Center


7p. Showman Tony Sacca presents a captivating musical journey featuring a 10-piece ensemble with strings, rhythm section and horns, along with two female singers. His riveting personal song exploration will be sprinkled with his hometown sounds of Philly, tributes to Barry Manilow, The Four Seasons, doo-wop, his original Vegas songs and a touch of Broadway. $35-$45. Cabaret Jazz at

The Smith Center


The Sci Fi Center, 600 E. Sahara Ave. #13,

July 2, 16 and 30

600 E. Sahara Ave. #13, happyhourimprov

IMPROV KINGDOM July 7, 14, 21 and 28

8p. The Las Vegas comedy show featuring both short and long form improv from some of the valley’s most experienced improv actors. Wine and concessions available. Come at 6p for drop-in class with Paul Mattingly. $10 show, $15 for

both drop-in and show. Baobab Stage Theatre, 6587 Las Vegas Blvd. S.,


July 8 and 22 8p. Long-form improv in an intimate setting, so close to the Strip you can taste it! Come early to participate in improv games


Thu-Sat, 7p; Sun, 2p. Rosie, the sassiest kid on her block of Brooklyn’s Avenue P, entertains herself and her friends by acting out show biz fantasies, notably directing and starring in an Oscar-winning movie. Music by Carole King, based on the book by Maurice Sendak. $25. Las Vegas

Little Theatre,


July 18-Aug. 3 Thu-Sat, 8p; Sun, 2p. Welcome to the infamous Kit Kat Klub, where emcee Sally Bowles and a raucous ensemble take the stage nightly to tantalize the crowd and to leave their troubles outside. But as life in pre-WWII Germany grows more and more uncertain, will the decadent allure of Berlin nightlife be enough to get them through their dangerous times?

$24, $19 seniors/military/students. Onyx Theatre,

July 20

3p. Griffin is considered one of the finest lyric baritones in the country. He will be joined by the extraordinary vocal stylings of Jeneane Marie, Elisa Furr, Gabriella Versace and Naomi Mauro, as well as the Mistinguett Showgirls and Michael Delano. $15 residents, $20 non-resi-

dents. Starbright Theatre, suncity-sum


Kicks Up A Storm

July 26

8p. This Las Vegas-based, all original, 12-piece super-band masterfully blends soul, R&B, jazz, funk, pop and classical styles to create an exciting and inspiring musical experience for all ages. $49-$59. Cabaret Jazz

Join Ms. Frizzle™ for a journey into the wonders of weather, it’s Wild Ride Certified! Learn how heat, water and air interact to create sun and make a storm at the Weather Mixing Dashboard, report the latest weather at the Frizzle News Station and much more.  This hands-on traveling exhibit is based on the best-selling Scholastic books and the ever-popular television series now available on Netflix.

at The Smith Center THEATER


Tue-Sun, 6:30p; Sat-Sun, 2p. From South Park creators Trey Parker and Matt Stone, this religious parody tells the story of two young missionaries sent to a remote village in Uganda where a brutal warlord is threatening the local population. They try to share their scriptures - which only one of them has read - but have trouble connecting with the locals. $39-$150. Reynolds

Hall at The Smith Center

KM XB KLUC KXTE KXST KXNT FM /AM Scholastic’s The Magic School Bus Kicks Up A Storm exhibit was created by The Children’s Museum of Houston with cooperation from Scholastic Entertainment Inc. with major funding from the National Science Foundation; and in consultation with The National Weather Service, The American Meteorological Society, and the Oklahoma Climatological Survey.” TM & © Scholastic Inc. Based on the Magic School Bus book series. © Joanna Cole and Bruce Degen. All Rights Reserved.

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7p. From musical improv to crazy games, you will enjoy being part of the action as you help create what goes on the stage. Clean-burning, interactive fun that is safe for the whole family. $10 at the door, kids

free. American Heritage Academy, 6126 S. Sandhill Road, LECTURES, SPEAKERS AND PANELS


7p. In this talk, Miller will take the audience through the history of Las Vegas from his perspective, starting with the early years of the city to its current incarnation and the industries that keep our city growing. Book signing and reception follow the presentation. Free. Jewel Box Theater at

Clark County Library,


2p. Join David G. Schwartz, director of the Center for Gaming Research at UNLV, who will discuss a brief history of casino gaming along the famous Las Vegas Strip and Fremont Street. Books will be available for purchase and signing after the program. Free. Main Theater

at Clark County Library, FAMILY & FESTIVALS

FORE! THE PLANET Through Sept. 1

10a-6p. Eighteen holes of serious indoor fun. Explore a tropical rainforest, navigate a polluted waterway and learn how to make a wildlife refuge in your own backyard, all while playing a game of indoor miniature golf. Free with

paid general admission. Springs Preserve


11a and 1p. The real animals in Vegas come out at night. Some are freaky, some are sneaky and some are downright creepy. You’ll uncover the Mojave Desert’s nocturnal animals including geckoes, centipedes, nightsnakes and more “hidden nightlife” that creeps out while you sleep. Free with

paid general admission. Big Springs Theater at the Springs Preserve


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9a. Featuring more than 70 entries, including marching bands, floats, giant Macy’s-style inflatable balloons and children’s favorite storybook and cartoon characters. The parade travels along flag-lined streets from Hillpointe Road and Hills Center, then south on Hills Center Drive, concluding on Trailwood Drive at the entrance of the Trails Village Shopping Center. Free.


July 9, 7p and July 10, 10:30a Re-purposed percussion that includes urban rhythm à la Blue Man Group or Stomp. High-energy music specifically for young people. $3. July 9, Charleston Heights

Arts Center, 800 S. Brush St.; July 10, Fifth Street School, 401 S. Fourth St.,


July 16, 7p and July 17, 10:30a Sketch comedy musical performed by professional actors and musicians. The show is based entirely on the imaginative stories of children, and part of the show is made up on the spot when the Story Pirates interact with the kids in the audience. $3. July 16, Charleston

Heights Arts Center, 800 S. Brush St.; July 17, Fifth Street School, 401 S. Fourth St.,


July 24, 7p and July 25, 10:30a This energetic, bilingual, pop music show is an outstanding experience for families and their young kids. $3. July 24, Charles-

ton Heights Arts Center, 800 S. Brush St.; July 25, Fifth Street School, 401 S. Fourth St.,



shows, games, balloon animals, arts and crafts, costumed characters and so much more! Adults will enjoy the entertainment, food and amazing raffle prizes. Benefits Las Vegas families of children diagnosed with rare, life-limiting and complex medical conditions. Free. Town Square

Center Park,


An evening of strictly musical theatre with you at the mic and a live accompanist at the piano, complete with theatrical lighting and sound. Your donation includes one free drink and a video of your performance. Proceeds benefit the upcoming season for Off Strip Productions. $10.

Onyx Theatre,


All day. To kick off Hunger Action Month, Three Square Food Bank, in partnership with Feeding America, encourages Southern Nevadans to wear orange, update social media pages with orange backgrounds and profile photos, while businesses can get involved by promoting orange products (cocktails, food items, fashion). Last year, several hotel-casinos along the Las Vegas Strip and throughout the valley changed their marquees orange as part of the effort. FIREWORKS


Following the Bees game. Traditional postgame fireworks show plus all the American traditions of baseball, including hot dogs and $1 beer. ID and wristband required for beer garden. Tickets $15-$35. Cashman


July 4

7a. Register by July 3. Easy terrain for all levels of runners to enjoy. A portion of the registration funds will help support Three Square Food Bank, ONE DROP, The Gay and Lesbian Community Center of Southern Nevada, and Boys and Girls Club of Southern Nevada. $50. Start/Finish at

Hogs & Heifers and Downtown 3rd, 201 N. Third St.,


Children will enjoy face-painting, magic


7a-10:30p; fireworks at 9p. Featuring a pancake breakfast, parade, legendary water fight, games, booths and concession stands. $10 parking. Bicentennial Park,

1100 Colorado St.,


Channel 10

July 4

6-9p. Fireworks at 9pm. Live concert with Zowie Bowie and fun by the pool with added cabana specials that last well into the night. The 10-minute display will launch from the top of the north parking garage and will be visible throughout the valley. Must be 21 to attend the pool party. $10. Level 8 at

the Stratosphere Tower,


6-9:15p. Fireworks at 9p. Pack your favorite blanket and enjoy a night of family fun and concessions. Local high school clubs and groups will be selling hot dogs, hamburgers, snow-cones and ice cream, with all proceeds benefiting the school. Free. Mission Hills

Masterpiece Mystery!

Endeavour, Season 2 Sundays at 9 p.m., beginning June 29

Time Scanners Tuesdays at 8 p.m., beginning July 1

Park, 551 E. Mission Drive,


6-9:30p. Pyrotecnico’s 10-minute show is expected to incorporate a variety of multi-colored, patterned, color-changing and special effects shells and barrages, all choreographed to the music of popular patriotic songs. The festival will feature live music, contests, an ice cream giveaway, food vendors, sponsor booths and an array of fun activities for the entire family. Free.

A Capitol Fourth 2014 Friday, July 4 at 8 p.m. and 9:30 p.m.

Broadway: The American Musical Fridays at 9 p.m., beginning July 11

Knickerbocker Park in Providence Master Planned Community, 10695 Dorrell Lane,


9p. This nine-minute show will feature fireworks exploding simultaneously over five of the Stations properties including Aliante Station, Green Valley Ranch, Fiesta Rancho, Texas Station and Red Rock Resort.

My Wild Affair Wednesdays at 8 p.m., beginning July 16


9:15p. Fireworks by Grucci blaze out of the hotel’s Roman Tower. The best views are from the Strip near the fountains – so get there early. Free. Caesars Palace,

History Detectives Special Investigations:

Who Killed Jimmy Hoffa? Tuesday, July 22 at 9 p.m.

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

702.799.1010 J U LY 2 0 1 4



Notes from My dinner at Guy Fieri’s

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B y A n d r e w K i r a ly

Editor’s note: This is real. Preamble

"Welcome to Flavortown," the server says. She delivers Guy Fieri's signature phrase in rote, employee-handbook fashion, a mild disappointment at first, but I later reflect that, yes, there's almost a note of self-aware but not totally serious funereal finality to it, like a mockgrim farewell before a rite of initiation that entails barely controlled crisis. But that wasn't until dessert. 1. Appetizer: Guy-talian fondue dippers

For this light starter, six foot-long crispy breadsticks are wrapped in pepperoni and served with a bowl of sausage-infused provolone cheese sauce. The best way to eat them is to take one from the bundle, attempt to break it in half, but then stop, because I feel like I'm being unduly fastidious and fey in the presence of such unapologetically bro-tastic food — and besides, I also realize I can't break the dipper without the carefully constructed pepperoni sleeve awkwardly coming off, ruining the almost touchingly childish and offhand aesthetic impact of the dish — imagine the emotional-culinary equivalent of a cardboard castle in an elementary-school play — and my nunnish pragmatism revealing itself would just sort of violate the spirit of the place, and I'm not a killjoy, am I? I'm not. So instead, I take an entire breadstick in my hand like a javelin, jab one end in the cheese lagoon and try with as much aplomb as possible to nibble-drink the salty fondue concoction off the tip. "Guilty pleasure" doesn't properly reflect the instantaneous, multisensory pummel of the meat-cheese-bread nexus. It's something more akin to a juvenile crime spree taking place in my mouth. It proposes a pivotal, Goofus-or-Gallant gateway moment: Do you nip this bad behavior in the bud, or do you wash it down with a Crazy Hagar? I choose the path of the Crazy Hagar, a mojito infused, apparently, with devil horns and guitar solos. 2. Entree: Mac-N-Cheese Bacon Burger

Before I even consider the burger itself, the first thing I actually notice is the straining tendon in the crook of the server's elbow as he


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brings the burger to the table on its cutting board — an indirect but unmistakable suggestion of grave, consequential weight. The MacN-Cheese Bacon Burger is less a burger than a sort of weaponized, self-sustaining meal biosphere, with six-cheese mac, applewood bacon, a bale of shredded lettuce and a muscular raft of meat held together in a toasted brioche chassis. It is the first burger I've ever eaten in which I first have to spend several moments considering angles of attack, the possibilities of entry amid the burger's various exhaust ports and infrastructure trenches — developing an inchoate respect for the burger as a rival, conscious entity, almost. The burger's so tall — and some hidden hydraulic system resists my attempts to accordion it down in my hands to conventionally edible dimensions — that I end up plowing into its protective topshell with my frontal incisors, and, in response, the Mac-N-Cheese Bacon Burger executes some sort of defensive self-destruct code sequence, exploding itself into a hamburger salad debris field that is, gotta say, pretty tasty. 3. Dessert: Guy's Cheesecake Challenge

I've heard dining critics talk about certain dishes being so insistently, so uniquely themselves that you can sense the personality of the chef behind them, as though the food wasn't so much food as a preverbal, nutritive medium of communication — at once primal and sophisticated, sensuous yet spiritual. Never quite got what they were talking about. Until the Cheesecake Challenge arrived. It is half a cheesecake studded with pretzels and potato chips, then zigzagged with a drizzle of hot fudge. But the telling, crucial detail is how the half-cheesecake is presented. Instead of sitting flat — commonsense, quotidian, even jejune — the cheesecake is set on its edge like a wheel, so it presents itself as a sort of runaway half of a dirty and broken Thundarr the Barbarian moon that's been ripped out of orbit by cosmic forces beyond our reckoning. And, by now calorie-drunk, swooning with surfeit, I imagined Guy Fieri straddling that ragged crescent cake-moon like a motorcycle, riding into a cold and inscrutable universe, crying for an answer, a connection, somebody, anybody, with his painted flames and chocolate-sauced potato chips, his pepperoni armor and outsized burgers: Is anybody out there? I've got cheesecaaaaake!

Tickets from $50


Visit or call 866-439-9272 and mention summer.

*Offer valid for select performances through August 31, 2014. Subject to availability. Price does not include tax or fees. Valid for select seating areas. Cannot be combined with any other offer or discount. Offer is not valid for previously purchased tickets or gift certificates. Management reserves all rights. Certain blackout dates apply which may include holidays. Offer excludes “O� and Michael Jackson ONE.



The Mesa Park

Desert Companion - July 2014