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March 25-31, 2010

The First 100 Days the $8.5 billion question: is citycenter working?

by david G. Schwartz

plus: the summer style rules, dave navarro joins freak Show and the fight over .vegas


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h a r d ro C k h o T e L & C a S i n o, LV b ow e ry

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C o S Ta m e S a

ZZ Top: Santa Monica, CA photographed by danny Clinch, 2009 Shop online johnvar vatos . com

PHILIPP PLE IN • CRYSTALS Cit y Center L as Vegas


This Week in Your CiTY 13

seVeN days

The highlights of this week. By Susan Stapleton



LocaL Newsroom

The battle for .vegas and the first 100 days for Crystals at CityCenter. Plus: David G. Schwartz’s Green Felt Journal and Michael Green on Politics.



Reports on culture, politics and business from The New York Observer. Plus: The NYO crossword puzzle and the weekly column by personal finance guru Kathy Kristof.

Waking up to the Chumby. By Eric Benderoff

NaTioNaL Newsroom

The LaTesT


91 diNiNg

Earth Hour’s Vegas encore, a $100,000 contest and Swamiji the luxury yogi. Plus: trends, tweets and gossip. By Melissa Arseniuk

Our food critic picks his five favorite restaurants at CityCenter. By Max Jacobson Plus: Max takes his Diner’s Notebook to La Focaccia, a tasty little find.





Todd English’s P.U.B. rocks and a party for real estate professionals on a roll.

Pebble Beach is at its best in early April, with the annual Food & Wine festival. By MJ Elstein




This week’s Look, sage advice from Clinton Kelly and a few choice Enviables.

sporTs & Leisure


Rebels hope bigger equals better next basketball season. By Sean DeFrank Plus: Going for Broke By Matt Jacob

Seven Nights ahead, fabulous parties past and Dave Navarro joins Freak Show.




arTs & eNTerTaiNmeNT

Signs of life at a used-book store, a visual South by Southwest report and Cole Smithey gives love to Greenberg.

seVeN QuesTioNs

Above: Freak Show guest Dave Navarro. Photo by Skam Artist On the cover: CityCenter shot from beneath the tram tracks. Photo by Jimmy Cohrssen

Las Vegas advisor Anthony Curtis talks about being banned from blackjack, his second calling and the best bargain. By Elizabeth Sewell

Feature 30

The firsT 100 days

How CityCenter is dealing with its giant learning curve. By David G. Schwartz March 25-31, 2010 Vegas Seven 9

Vegas seVen Publishers

Ryan T. Doherty | Justin Weniger AssociAte Publisher, Michael Skenandore

Editorial editoriAl director, Phil Hagen AssociAte editor, Melissa Arseniuk News editor, Sean DeFrank A&e editor, Cindi Reed coPY editor, Paul Szydelko coNtributiNg editor, Todd Witcher coNtributiNg writers

Eric Benderoff, MJ Elstein, William L. Fox, Mercia González, Michael Green, Max Jacobson, Jarret Keene, M. Scott Krause, Jaymi Naciri, Matt O’Brien, Jessica Prois, James Reza, Jason Scavone, David Schwartz, Kate Silver, Cole Smithey, Susan Stapleton iNterNs

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art Art director, Lauren Stewart seNior grAPhic desigNer, Marvin Lucas grAPhic desigNer, Thomas Speak stAff PhotogrAPher, Anthony Mair coNtributiNg PhotogrAPhers

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Vegas Seven  March 25-31, 2010


William L. Fox “The Art Works,” Page 35 Fox is director of the Nevada Museum of Art’s Center for Art + Environment in Reno. A 2004 inductee to the Nevada Writers Hall of Fame, he has published 12 books on art, architecture and landscape, including In the Desert of Desire: Las Vegas and the Culture of Spectacle ( University of Nevada Press, 2005), as well as numerous essays in art monographs, magazines and journals. He is the recipient of fellowships from the Guggenheim Foundation, National Endowment for the Humanities and National Science Foundation, and has been a visiting scholar at the Getty Research Institute and National Museum of Australia. Jimmy Cohrssen Cover and “First 100 Days” photography, Page 30 The award-winning, world-traveling photographer specializes in architecture and design. His work, which emphasizes his understanding of the influence of light on creating an image, has appeared in numerous publications, including the covers of Metropolis and Condé Nast Traveler. The heart of his personal vision and style was captured in the book Twilight, which he co-authored with Nicole Blackman. You can check out some of these images on his website,

David G. Schwartz “The First 100 Days,” Page 30 Our weekly Green Felt Journal columnist is the director of the Center for Gaming Research at UNLV. Schwartz has written extensively about gambling and casinos, including the award-winning Roll the Bones: The History of Gambling (Gotham, 2006). His academic interest in the industry grew after working in casino security and surveillance, but it was a youth spent in Atlantic City that planted the seed. “I was born five years before the first casino opened, so I can barely remember life before gaming,” he says. “When I was growing up, hotel implosions and casino construction were just the coolest things imaginable.” He has lived in Las Vegas since 2001.

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Rock Tradition.


Seven DayS The highlights of this week in your city. Compiled by Susan Stapleton

Thur. 25 Give your vocal cords a workout at AFAN’s “funraiser” in Pete’s Dueling Piano Bar at Town Square. Sing with the piano players as they duel and try to remember all the words to “American Pie.” The $10 cover charge goes to Aid for AIDS of Nevada, the state’s oldest and largest AIDS service organization. More than 2,800 people find nutritional assistance, educational programs and services through the group every year. 6 p.m., ages 21+.

Fri. 26 “I hate the way you talk to me, and the way you cut your hair. I hate the way you drive my car. I hate it when you stare. I hate your big dumb combat boots, and the way you read my mind. I hate you so much it makes me sick; it even makes me rhyme.” That poem from 10 Things I Hate About You isn’t exactly Shakespeare, but Shakespeare At Play’s interpretations aren’t exactly verbatim prose, either. (The traveling nonprofit theater group adapts classical Shakespeare productions and performs for underserved and young audiences.) They bring The Taming of the Shrew to Lake Las Vegas this weekend, so grab your lawn chair and take in the free performance at 7 p.m. in front of Sonrisa Grill.

SmackDown photo © 2010 World Wrestling Entertainment, Inc.

Sat. 27 What do you get when you combine more than two dozen bands, professional wrestling, BMX biking and a roller derby? The annual Extreme Thing Sports and Music Festival, of course. The event, now in its 15th year, brings together music and alternative sports at Desert Breeze Skate Park courtesy of the Clark County Parks and Recreation Department. (See page 82 for a preview. 8245 Spring Mountain Road, 11 a.m. to 10 p.m., $17 in advance, $20 day-of, For a more sophisticated take on Saturday, sashay your way to UNLV’s Artemus W. Ham Concert Hall to see the Nevada Ballet Theatre production of Brave New World. The show starts at 8 p.m. but get there 45 minutes early for “Insights,” an insider’s look at the performance, then stay for “Talk Back,” an interactive after-show Q&A with the cast. $10-$75, 895-2787.

Sun. 28 A cleaver, a torch, a salt shaker, a ukulele, a skillet, a fish, an egg, a block of dry ice and a bottle of champagne— these are just some of the objects that the Flying Karamazov Brothers use in their high-flying circus production. The familial troupe of street performers brings a wide range of throwable objects to the Orleans Showroom this weekend, all of which weigh more than an ounce but less than 10 pounds and are smaller than a breadbox. 8 p.m. March 27 and 28, $22-$44, 365-7075.

Mon. 29 If March Madness has the kids going hoop crazy, send them to the March Mayhem Basketball Clinic at the Hollywood Recreation Center. The program teaches kids ages 6-13 to embrace their inner Evan Turner, shoot like Sherron Collins and run a defense like John Wall—and reinforces b-ball basics, too. 1650 S. Hollywood Blvd., 6-8 p.m. March 28 and 29, $20, 455-0566.

Tues. 30 WWE superstars all have good nicknames but the name of the game is coming out on top. See which names tap out and which ones emerge victorious as the stars of World Wrestling Entertainment have it out at SmackDown. Top billing on the card goes to “The Deadman” (The Undertaker) and “The Rated R Superstar” (Edge), who team up to take on Chris Jericho and “The Straight Edge Superstar” (CM Punk). Meanwhile, eight other well-named wrestlers—including “High Flying” Rey Mysterio and “The Big Red Machine” Kane— make up the undercard. Thomas & Mack Center. 6:45 p.m., $15-$70, 739-3267.

Wed. 31 Get ready for April Fools’ Day and check out the Amazing Johnathan’s practical joke primer, Every Trick in the Book (self-published, 2001)—then fill an unsuspecting friend’s showerhead with Jolly Ranchers. The candycoated shower will leave the victim sticky and sweet, and not knowing why—so they’ll go take another shower. Rinse and repeat as needed, thanks to the prankster’s 123-page book. $20 to buy the book, or $72.50-$83.50 for the show at the Harmon Theater, 9 p.m., 836-0838. March 25-31, 2010 Vegas Seven 13

The LaTesT

What’s hip, what’s happening, what’s going on—and what you need to know right now.

Compiled by Melissa Arseniuk

The Ramananda’s In

Elton John has taken his classes and now you can, too, as Swami Ramananda brings his distinct style and yoga expertise to Las Vegas locals within a luxurious setting. Still, you don’t need to have a headlining gig at Caesars Palace to afford a session with the yoga master. “Swamiji,” who has helped a range of celebrity students navigate the mat, recently started giving yoga and guided meditation classes in Mandarin Oriental’s stunning new studio. Although most of Ramananda’s classes focus on relaxation, he also helps students with what he calls “Starbucks yoga”—a reinvigorating breathing exercise that can wake you up like a fresly brewed cup of morning coffee. While Mandarin Oriental is largely regarded as a venue for well-heeled tourists, locals can practice alongside Ramananda at 11 a.m. Wednesdays and Saturdays for $35 per class. When the eccentric yogi isn’t leading a session at Mandarin or spreading the yoga gospel across the world (he has taught in more than 90 countries and counting), he can be found at UNLV, where he holds the title professor emeritus of Indian philosophy, yoga and feng shui. An accomplished scholar, Ramananda is also the author of Bliss Now (Select Books, 2002) and a former student of Mahatama Ghandi’s guru, Sri Sri Anandamayi Ma.

Dita the Tease

Modern day pin-up girl Dita Von Teese was the first celebrity to grace the Crazy Horse Paris stage, and she returns March 31 for a second stint with the legendary burlesque show’s Las Vegas installation. Von Teese first teased Crazy Horse Paris audiences in Paris in 2006 and joined the Las Vegas cast the following year for a string of sold-out performances. Since the voluptuous brunette’s groundbreaking Crazy Horse Paris debut, fellow temptresses Pamela Anderson and Carmen Electra have also lent their considerable assets to the titillating, 59-year-old showcase. March 31 through April 7 (dark April 6), 8 and 10:30 p.m., $75 plus taxes and fees, 891-7777,


Vegas Seven March 25-31, 2010

Yogi Swami “Swamiji” Ramananda brings his zen to Mandarin Oriental. Photo by Anthony Mair.

140 Tweeps, 140 Tweets

It was a night of 140 personalities from across the Twittersphere, 140 characters for them to use, and now, more than 140 reasons to download the video, including “to support relief efforts in Haiti.” The “Night of 140 Tweets,” held March 19 at Hollywood’s UCB Theater, drew a broad section of Twitteratti, including Ben Stiller (@redhourben), Will Ferrell (@funnyordie), Mindy Kaling (@mindykaling) Sarah Silverman (@sarahksilverman), Demi Moore (@ mrskutcher), Ashton Kutcher (@aplusk) Diablo Cody (@diablocody), Shannon Elizabeth (@ ShannonElizab) and Sasha Grey (@sashagrey). The diverse cast took to the stage, read their favorite Twitter post for the crowd, then passed the mike to the next tweep. For those of us who missed the night of peace, love, comedy and Twitter, the 32-minute sequence is available for download on and iTunes. The best part: All funds collected from the $3 download will be used to build schools in Haiti through Artists for Peace. Billed as the world’s first live Twitter stream, the celebrity tweet-a-thon was produced by Red Hour Digital Production in association with Funny or Die.

This week in your ciTy Monster Mash

Vegas unplugged Don’t be surprised when the lights go out on March 27—it’s not a massive power outage; it’s the return of Earth Hour. At 8:30 p.m., many casinos on the Strip (and some off-Strip properties) will flip the switch on their marquees and nonessential exterior lights for one hour. Even the “Welcome to Fabulous Las Vegas” sign will go dark for the annual event, which is designed to raise awareness about energy conservation and climate change. Las Vegas is one of more than 800 cities participating in this year’s event. Locally, all MGM Mirage, Harrah’s and Boyd Gaming properties have signed up to turn their lights off, while the Springs Preserve and Clark County School District will also participate (not that anyone should be in class on Saturday night!). Coast to coast, more than 80 million homes and businesses participated in the World Wildlife Fund-sponsored shutdown last year. The lights dimmed on global icons such as the Eiffel Tower, the Sydney Opera House, the Great Pyramids and, closer to home, the Empire State Building. While turning off the lights has a dramatic effect, it’s not necessarily the most efficient promotion, since it takes considerable power to turn everything back on. The neon glow of Las Vegas isn’t immune to this side effect, of course, yet NV Energy still reported that consumption decreased by 65 megawatts, or about 3 percent, during Earth Hour 2009.

The 11th annual Monster Jam World Finals roars through town on March 26 and 27 and brings two dozen monster trucks and thousands of monster truck fans to Sam Boyd Stadium. The event’s full name—the 2010 Advance Auto Parts NGK Spark Plugs Monster Jam World Finals—is nearly as big as the trucks that compete in it, yet the contest attracted as similarly large, sellout crowd of more than 37,000 people last year. Saturday afternoon’s “Built Ford Tough Party in the Pit” gets under way at noon and is open to everyone attending the show later that night. More than 40 trucks and drivers will take part, giving fans ample time to collect autographs and ogle the oversize rides at close range. Those wanting to hitch a monster-size ride need to pick up a voucher at a Metro PCS store by March 25 ( for locations). “Batman” driver John Seasock will also make an appearance at Ford Country in the Valley Auto Mall (280 N. Gibson Road) on Saturday from noon-4 p.m. As far as the competition is concerned, it will be fierce. Grave Digger comes in on a high note, after collecting several recent wins, yet Dennis Anderson is driving the big dig rig this weekend, not Pablo Huffaker (who was behind the wheel when it won in Wichita, Kan.) or Randy Brown (who drove to victory in Lafayette, La.) so may the better man—or machine—win. Gates at noon, shows at 7 p.m., tickets from $42,

Mac the Book Mac King adds a new title to his résumé this week. Not only is he an award-winning magician and Harrah’s headliner—he’s now an author, too. King’s new book, Mac King’s Campfire Magic ($12.95, Black Dog & Leventhal, 2010), hits stores this week, detailing dozens of magic tricks for kids ages 9-12. The book instructs readers how to do all sorts of camperfriendly tricks, from tying the perfect knot to reading fellow campers’ minds. The 176-page release features a forward by fellow headlining pranksters Penn & Teller and 250 full-color illustrations by cartoonist Bill King. King will mark the release of his book with an in-store signing at the Rainbow Promenade Barnes & Noble (2191 N. Rainbow Blvd.) from noon-2 p.m. March 28 and, as always, performs at Harrah’s Tuesday through Saturday. Shows at 1 and 3 p.m., $25,

$100,000 Hotties

The weather is heating up, which means two things: It’s time to hit the pool and it’s time for SpyOn Vegas’ Hot 100 Contest—which, coincidentally enough, takes place at a pool. The annual competition seeks out the most beautiful women Las Vegas has to offer and rewards them for their god- (or surgeon-) given good looks with cold, hard cash. It’s the third year for the Hot 100 and, like the chests of many of the competitors, it is bigger and better than ever. The so-called “Battle of the Beauties” is set to give out $100,000 in prizes—double the amount that was doled out last year—to the top 20 finalists. First place is awarded $35,000, second gets $20,000 and third fetches $10,000, while finalists four through 20 collect between $6,000 and $1,000. Registration is open on Vegas Seven’s sister site, The competition gets under way April 30 at Wet Republic. Twelve weeks of events, Friday afternoon pool parties and online voting will follow, culminating with the crowning of “hottest female in Las Vegas” on July 23. March 25-31, 2010 Vegas Seven 15

THE LaTEsT THougHT a Tale of Two City Centers

Our new ‘evolutionary destination’ brings to mind another urban experiment the city was high on several years back By Matt O’Brien My short-but-sweet stay at City Center was marked by cheap rent, eccentric neighbors more likely to borrow a smoke than some milk and being shook down by Metro Police outside the complex. Oh, and how could I forget the helicopter-assisted manhunts I watched from the bedroom window? I’m, of course, talking about City Center apartments, on Bridger Avenue between Eighth and Ninth streets, where I lived from 2003 to 2005. Why, is there another City Center in town? While journalists from Beatty to Barcelona flocked to the CityCenter on the south Strip and penned love letters to the “eye-popping” (actual adjective used by a journalist) resort, I headed north. I already had CityCenter fatigue: key numbers memorized (67 acres, $8.5 billion, 12,000 employees); a working knowledge of artist Jenny Holzer; “pocket park” burned into my vocabulary. And Aria hadn’t even opened yet. All the hype drove me back to the old City Center, where the adjectives are more along the lines of “modest,” “understated” and “below-the-radar.” Also, I was curious how this urban experiment had turned out. A joint venture between the city of Las Vegas, the federal government and developer SDA Inc., City Center apartments opened in August 2003. The 300unit middle-income complex sits on 1.5 acres, cost $28 million and employs 12 people. Designed to provide an affordable and convenient place for downtown casino workers to live, it was part of the city’s work-shop-andlive-here push. (Remember that?) It was a piece of the revitalization puzzle and came with its own hype. I believed the hype. And though there was always action on the surrounding streets, City Center apartments proved to be safe and clean. (The coolest thing about living there: When I wanted to know the time or temperature, I simply looked out the window at the sign atop Binion’s.) Entering the building for the first time since moving out, I had several questions. Has it lived up to the hype? What do staff and tenants think about the new CityCenter? Have the apartments been affected by the recession? “We thought the recession would help us, because of all the foreclosed homes and the affordable rent here, but it hasn’t,” said Ray Orchard, general manager of City Center since it opened. “I guess a lot of people that lost their homes moved out of town and people that lived here at the complex lost their jobs and that affected us, too. We’ve gone down to 80 percent [occupancy].” From 2003 to 2007, City Center was at or near 100 percent occupancy and oftentimes had a waiting list 16 Vegas Seven  March 25-31, 2010

On the way out of City Center, I ran into Ricky for one- and two-bedroom apartments, Orchard said. Smith. He told me he’s a construction worker who Things were so flush that SDA was planning to open hasn’t had a steady gig in three years and he’s lived another four-story complex down the street. Like most at the apartments for a year. When I asked about the Las Vegas development projects, it’s on hold. “polished” (another actual adjective) resort, he said he’d MGM Mirage CEO Jim Murren has been quoted never heard of it. as saying the CityCenter resort needs to make $2.5 I gasped, then filled him in. million a day to turn a profit. “What does City Center He shrugged. “Sounds like it was built for rich people. apartments need to make?” I asked Orchard, while If it’s not helping me or the community, I really don’t sitting in his office. “We have a number, but I don’t discuss it,” he said. “We’re breaking even right now.” He added that the complex— which has had an occupancy rate as low as 74 percent—is fliering, advertising and offering referral fees and move-in specials to attract tenants. “Has it fulfilled its promise?” I asked Orchard when he told me the retail space on the first floor was never leased out and now serves as storage. “It’s allowed people to afford a brand-new apartment downtown. We’re within walking distance of the Fremont Street casinos. And about 30 percent of our residents are seniors and probably 30 to 35 percent work downtown.” When asked about “soaring” (actual adjective used by a journalist) CityCenter resort, Orchard cracked a Mona Lisa smile and said SDA should’ve registered the name. But— though complimentary of the resort—he isn’t envious. “Why pay a million and a half dollars for a condo when you can have a nice unit here for $710 a The retail side of downtown’s City Center never materialized. Photo by Anthony Mair month, including utilities?” care about it.” Then he asked me for a smoke. He also noted that the apartments and resort are Perspective restored, I circled the building and unique—but that hasn’t stopped people from confusing approached my car, CityCenter resort’s media materithem. In the lobby of the apartments, leasing agent John als echoing in my head: “urban destination,” “public Mitchell told me he gets one or two calls a day asking, spaces,” “pedestrian corridors,” “diversity of experi“Can you connect me to the hotel?” ences,” “evolutionary destination that aims to transform “Then they’re like, ‘Oh, how do you get away with Las Vegas as a new symbol at its core.” All that—and using their name?’” Mitchell said. “And I’m like, ‘We the name—sounded awfully familiar. were here first!’”

THE LaTEsT Gossip Star-studded parties, celebrity sightings, juicy rumors and other glitter.

Nicky Hilton bought some sweets for her sweetie, David Katzenberg, while the two were in town over the weekend (March 20-21) to celebrate his birthday. But in true Hilton fashion, this was no Blow Pop bouquet. The heiress reportedly spent about $1,000 of her not-so-hard-earned cash on gift baskets at the Sugar Factory. What can we say? A Hilton girl knows a deal when she sees one—in this case, $25 “couture pops.” Still, it seems that all the socialites are sucking on the rhinestone-encrusted lollies these days, from Kendra Wilkinson’s hubby, Hank “Oops, I Just Lost Y’all the Super Bowl” Baskett, to shameless Jersey Shore personality Mike “The Situation” Sorrentino. Sure, the lesser-known Hilton sister is dating the CEO of DreamWorks’ son, but all lifestyles of the rich and notorious aside, he’s still a dude. We can’t help but think she would’ve been smarter reinvesting some of her inheritance on some birthday karate lessons with Chuck Norris. Or a complete run of first series My Little Ponies, for that matter, because even that ranks higher on the Scale of Manliness—which, last we checked, peaks at “Drinking whiskey at 5 a.m. with Lee Marvin” and bottoms out at “$1,000 worth of fashion lollipops.”

Tera-ble Love Connection?

18 Vegas Seven March 25-31, 2010


@abigvictory My NCAA bracket thus far: How the west was none.

It’s pretty safe to say the entire planet breathed a sigh of relief when porn superstar Tera Patrick kicked her talentless freeloader of a husband, Evan Seinfeld, to the curb. (No, the biohazard has-been isn’t even deserving of boldface recognition.) Still, we’re somewhat worried for Ms. P after learning she’s been out and about (and presumably over and under) financially troubled record producer Scott Storch. The pair were spotted at the Palms over the weekend (March 19-20), which, in the world of celebrity dating, is the equivalent of bringing the new guy home to meet the parents (but in this case, Mom happens to work for TMZ and Dad hosts Access Hollywood). The new assumed couple drank at N9NE Steakhouse on Friday and partied together at Ghostbar, then Rain on Saturday. They weren’t seen on Sunday … perhaps they ordered room service. Either way, we’re happy for Patrick, because, let’s face it: It would be a waste of talent if she was left sleeping alone, and seriously, anything would be better than dating Seinfeld. Who cares if Storch apparently mismanaged away a $70 million fortune? He must have some royalties rolling in. And if not, well, we know he at least has talent hiding somewhere behind those shades of his.

@andrewkiraly On page 2,938 of the health care bill, there’s a coupon 4 a free ThighMaster, redeemable @ participating Family Dollar stores.

@ryvance Can’t believe it’s almost baseball season again. Who needs silly spring flowers when you’ve got spring training … and chewing tobacco?

@TFLN (512): It’s 9 a.m. and we’re in an Escalade. I have no shoes and my dress is on backwards. I feel like the morning after a rap video.

@RalstonFlash Fave press release headline of year: “Chad Christensen Calls on Nevada to Declare Healthcare UNCONSTITUTIONAL.” I think he means the bill.

@ChambersUM32 #RanTera Patrick and Scott Storch

Heigl’s Wardrobe Whoopsie You know it’s a good night (or Super Bowl) when a boob is “accidentally” exposed, front and center. That’s exactly what happened at ShoWest on March 18, and the film industry awards show attendees have Katherine Heigl to thank for the surprise peepshow. Heigl was accepting the Female Star of the Year award when a strap on her dress popped, mid-speech. Thankfully for her (and unthankfully for the rest of us), her lightning-fast reflexes—which we can only assume were honed fending off a handsy Jonah Hill on the set of Knocked Up—kept everything in place. Meanwhile, presenter Billy Bush held the strap while she finished her speech. Justin

Nicky Hilton shopping at Sugar Factory.

Tweets of the Week

Timberlake has since denied any and all involvement in the wardrobe malfunction. Also receiving awards at ShoWest were Jerry Bruckheimer, Zach Galifianakis, Vanessa Hudgens and the mummified husks of what used to be the Sex and the City gals. The event also drew Billy Bob Thornton, Robert Downey Jr. and Neil Patrick Harris. Now if only someone could talk the Coen Brothers into directing a musical with those last three. A tightswearing Patrick Harris singing show tunes while prancing alongside Thorton and Downey Jr.? Still manlier than getting $1,000 worth of lollipops for your birthday.

domThought If man evolved from monkeys and apes, then y in da hell do we still have monkeys and apes??

@sween 1. Put chocolate chips in mouth. 2. Put peanut butter in mouth. 3. Chew. 4. Go outside and shriek at the moon because GOD I FEEL SO ALIVE! @badbanana Not sure what bums me out more: That @jetlabels uses my tweets as his own or that, after doing so, he only has 12 followers.

@criss_angel By the way, there are lots of people claiming to be Fake Criss Angel but they are not me. I’m the only real illusion of an illusionist. FCA @MIKESNEDEGAR Overheard at Target “That’s it—I want a divorce!” “Really? I would hate to have a break-up in the toothpaste aisle.”

Photos by Erik Kabik/Retna/

Hilton Showers Her Sweetie with Sugar

Got a juicy tip?


Urban english Celebrity chef Todd English hosted a VIP grand opening party on March 16 for his newest venture, Todd English P.U.B. at Crystals. Guests at the so-called Public Urban Bar’s invite-only reception enjoyed appetizers, the pub-hub’s already buzz-worthy bar games and an impromptu guitar solo when English (above) joined the band onstage.

Photography by Hew Burney

20  Vegas Seven  March 25-31, 2010


Shiny, Bright Spotlight M Resort on March 13 hosted more than 400 commercial real estate professionals during the National Association of Industrial and Office Properties of Southern Nevada’s 13th annual Spotlight Awards. Mayor Oscar Goodman served as master of ceremonies for the gala, which celebrated the best projects undertaken in the last year and the professionals who made them happen.

Photography by Sullivan Charles

22  Vegas Seven  March 25-31, 2010



rock’n amazing

From the Last Emperor himself comes Rock ’n Dreams. Valentino’s follow-up fragrance to the hugely successful Rock ’n Rose with notes of myrrhone (derived from myrrh and iris), peach, cinnamon, woods and vanilla. $65, Neiman Marcus at Fashion Show.

The Look

Photographed by Tomas Muscionico

FArId MAtrAkI, 42 a Brand-new Bag

The rose-gold trend finds its way to eco-friendly handbags thanks to Linda Wong’s Canopy Verde Metallics collection. The Freesia Portfolio, shown here, is adorned with subtle metallic stitching and swathed in rose-gold leather. $169,

Vice president and general manager, Crystals at CityCenter Style icon: Pierce Brosnan. What he’s wearing now: Ermenegildo Zegna suit, shoes and shirt paired with a 42-year-old Yves Saint Laurent vintage tie his father wore the day he was born. Having managed successful retail venues around the globe for more than 20 years, Matraki is continually challenged to keep his wardrobe fresh. “I invest in a few suits a season and continue to complete the look by buying different shirts and ties,” he says. “The most important thing is not to wear the same combinations over and over. A handkerchief is a must—even when you wear a pair of jeans with a blue blazer and a white shirt.”

Bringing Books Back

BookBook is a hardback leather laptop case that looks like a stack of books. The vintage book design disguises what’s being carried and its cheeky style ensures the owner doesn’t blend in. $80, March 25-31, 2010 Vegas Seven 25


Wardrobe Makeover

The Ultimate Countdown to Summer 2010

Two celebrity stylists share their secrets for building a versatile seasonal look, from shoes to sunglasses By MJ Elstein Author and style guru Clinton Kelly, host of the wildly  popular What Not to Wear on  TLC, has made a career out  of helping fashion-starved  people reinvent themselves.  Now Kelly has partnered  with Macy’s for the “Makeover America’’ tour, which  kicked off March 20 in Las  Vegas. Kelly transformed 12  Clinton Kelly normal women into fashion  goddesses and then gave them the opportunity to   strut their stuff on the catwalk at Fashion Show.   Just in time for summer, Kelly will be hosting this  event in seven more cities, with one person winning  an ultimate makeover and shopping spree at Macy’s  in New York. Meantime, Kelly shares seven tips on what to wear  and, of course, what not to wear this summer. 1. Swimwear should never be worn as outerwear.  Repeat: never. There is no excuse for not putting on a  bathing suit cover-up and some shorts after leaving  the pool. This is a tremendous faux pas committed by  many people in Las Vegas. 2. Build your summer wardrobe around a great pair  of well-fitting shorts that works for your body type.  Remember: not too long, not too short and always  age-appropriate. 3. Caged sandals are all the rage this year, but  always make sure to balance delicate summer   dresses with a feminine shoe that makes legs look   long and lean. 4. A lightweight summer suit is always a good investment piece as the pant or skirt can be worn with other  tops and the blazer can go over just about anything.  Women should not be afraid of buying suits. 5. If it doesn’t fit, throw it out. Same goes for any  clothing that cannot be repaired. Holding on to the  past will never get you to the future. If you have gained  a few pounds, seeing clothes in your closet that are size  4 and 6 when you are now an 8 or 10 is only going to  make you feel depressed. 6. Invest in a good tailor. It is a pipe dream to think  that all clothes are ready-to-wear off the rack. Minor  alterations can make all the difference and are a safeguard against ill-fitting attire. This should be observed  for casual summertime gear as well as formal wear. 7. Athletic shoes are not a footwear solution and  should be avoided in the summer—unless you are  working out, of course. There are a number of options  for comfortable and stylish flats. To enter the Makeover America Contest, upload a photo or video at 26  Vegas Seven  March 25-31, 2010

Dolled Up by F.A.N.G. shirt, $29, and Red Rivet shorts,  $20 (above). Rachel Rachel Roy dress, $99 (left).  Caged sandals, $49 to $79. All available at Macy’s.

Hot shades (clockwise from  right): white plastic Prada, $245;  brown plastic Prada, $225;   studded Prada, $330; and metal  Chanel, $350. All available at  ILORI in Wynn and CityCenter.

Jennifer rade

Costume designer Jennifer Rade has styled  celebrities ranging from Angelina Jolie to Amy  Winehouse to Dave Matthews. A frequent TV  and brand spokeswoman—including appearances on Fashion Police and Project Runway—Rade  recently brought her fashion wisdom to Las  Vegas as an ambassador for high-end eyewear  boutique Ilori in Crystals at CityCenter. Here she  shares seven tips for keeping shades fresh and upto-date in a city where fun in the sun mandatory: 1. As a rule of thumb, it is important to take  into consideration facial complexion when  selecting the color of the glasses. Blondes look  good in black, rose and red, for the most part.

2. Plastic and oversize frames are still on  trend for spring and summer 2010. Plastic  sunglasses will do better if you are prone to  using them as a headband. Aviators won’t fair  as well. 3. Buy multiple pairs. Having one is never  enough. The theory is that you won’t lose  sunglasses if you have the proper amount. If  they are of high quality, you will take more  responsibility for the product. I keep two pairs  in my car at all times. 4. This season the devil is in the details, with  bright colors like purples and reds, gaining  popularity. Metallics continue to sell, as well 

as black, soft jewels tones, gradient lenses and  small details like denim and studding. 5. Try on as many pairs as possible. Take a  picture of a couple pairs that look good and  then use the photo to make a decision.  6. Protect the investment. Don’t just drop  sunglasses in your purse without a case. Even  if all you do is take a cloth and cover the lens,  make sure they are sheltered. 7. Marni, Prada, Chanel, Chloe or Balenciaga are all great names to keep an eye on this  season, with small details that reflect the brand  aesthetic—for example, Chanel’s quilting or  pearl accents. 

SpriTz in STylE Beyond the flirty outfit and cool shades, don’t forget to put your best face forward by keeping skin  beautiful and protected. Just in time for Earth Day and the start of pool season, Kiehl’s introduces its  latest environmental initiative. Collaborating with actress Julianne Moore, musician Pharrell Williams,  artist Jeff Koons and pro-surfer Malia Jones, each celeb created a limited-edition label for the Kiehl’s  Açaí Damage-Protecting Toning Mist. The product is part of the first skin-care collection to receive  the gold-standard Cradle to Cradle certification, meaning that it is made with the least amount of  waste from start to finish. The proceeds, estimated to be about $200,000, will benefit the Rainforest  Alliance, dedicated to sustaining biodiversity and ensuring sustainable livelihoods. Kiehl’s, the Forum Shops at Caesars, $26.

March 25-31, 2010  Vegas Seven  27


Seven Very Nice Things 2

Time Warp


New men’s and women’s wrist wear with flare 1. Men’s Breguet Tradition 7047 Fusee Tourbillon Available summer 2010 at Tourbillion,   Crystals at CityCenter, $172,100. 2. Men’s Piaget Polo Available at Piaget, the Shoppes   at the Palazzo, price on request. 3. Women’s Captive de Cartier Available in May at Cartier, Crystals   in CityCenter, $96,500. 4. Women’s Nixon Capulet Available at various location, $130 to $150. 5. Men’s Calibre de Cartier Available in April at Cartier, Crystals  in CityCenter, $6,500. 6. Unisex Alessi Kaj by Karim Rashid Available at Unicahome, $85. 7. Men’s Jaquet Droz Grande Seconde SW Titanium Available late 2010 at Tourbillon,   Crystals at CityCenter, $15,100.



– Compiled by MJ Elstein

5 28  Vegas Seven  March 25-31, 2010



2011 SLS AMG

It has wings for a reason.

925 Auto Show Drive s In The Valley Auto Mall s Henderson, NV 89014 702.485.3000 s

The First 100 Days Gaming industry expert David G. Schwartz examines CityCenter’s giant learning curve Photography by Jimmy Cohrssen

Five and a half years ago, MGM Mirage announced a project designed to “change the way we think about Las Vegas forever.” As CityCenter approaches its 100th day of operation (March 26), the dice are still in the air: It’s still too early to tell if CityCenter is the Big Vegas Boom’s last hurrah or a model for future sustainable development in our desert metropolis. Aria, the centerpiece of the 67-acre mini city, has drawn the most attention simply because it’s the main place that people want to visit, thanks to its restaurants, bars and casino. The Crystals shopping center is only about half full. The Mandarin Oriental, by design, pursues a mere sliver of the luxury market. And Vdara at this point seems like just another finely appointed nongaming hotel—pleasant enough but nothing to inspire a trip to Las Vegas. Right now, Aria defines CityCenter. So the question of the moment is, does Aria work? MGM Mirage executives will tell you the overall project has been an unqualified success. “CityCenter is the single most powerful reason to have hope for a resurgence in our tourist economy,” MGM Mirage chairman and CEO Jim Murren says.

Do the numbers justify this optimism? Most metrics of casino performance aren’t publicly available, but we do know a little bit about Aria: Over its first 15 days of business, it earned $7 million in operating income, or about $466,000 a day. Its successful big sister, Bellagio, by comparison, averaged $430,000 for all of 2009. If projected out for the year, that would make Aria about 8 percent more profitable than Bellagio. But Bellagio only cost $1.6 billion to build. Aria carries the weight of CityCenter, and that’s a $8.5 billion load. There are two ways to spin these numbers. You could argue that with the property just starting to ramp up, these are great results. Or you could say that with two big draws—the opening festivities and New Year’s—they should be much better. Because numbers for Strip casinos aren’t yet available for the same period, it’s hard to call. Either way, the totals for both properties are far below the $841,000 a day in operating income Bellagio was earning in 2007, when CityCenter began to take shape, which is likely closer to the property’s projected income. Nobody in town can touch 2007 numbers these days. Murren concedes that, outside of changing some price points, not much was done to alter the scope of

the project as it became clear that the market it was planned for no longer exists. “We had to be careful not to change too much,” he says. “We would have lost ourselves. We couldn’t compromise on quality. We knew that if we would have finished on time and with quality, ultimately we’d be OK.” That is likely true for the long haul. But in the short term, the project’s Promethean scale may be working against it. “I love Aria,” says Anthony Curtis, editor of the Las Vegas Advisor. “I love it for its ideas, for what it can be. But right now it’s too expensive. It’s not working now because they haven’t adjusted anything outside of the room rates to make it fit into today’s economy.” Room rates confirm that demand for Aria has been moderate. In a recent survey, rates at Aria for the early spring tracked lower than Bellagio, Encore or Caesars’ Augustus tower. That wasn’t part of the plan. “We thought we’d be higher than Bellagio,” City Center president and CEO Bobby Baldwin admits. “But ultimately we don’t price rooms, customers do.” Some who have stayed at the hotel have customer service issues. Several online trip reviews and com-

ments reference unmade beds, long lines at check-in and dirty windows. Those responsible for Aria are taking the criticisms seriously. If you stayed at the hotel or visited the casino and had a problem with your service, Aria president and COO Bill McBeath knows about it. He gets about 10 letters a day with a mix of praise and customer complaints; he scans security reports and front-desk logs; and he reads a weekly digest of TripAdvisor reports. “In the first week, they were 80 percent negative,” McBeath says. “But now they’re 90 percent positive.” McBeath is committed to fixing the causes of those complaints. The spotty cell-phone reception—a beef among customers since Aria opened—has taken about 100 days to resolve (AT&T full service started on March 5, and Verizon was slated for March 22, which is expected to give 98 percent of cell phones complete coverage). The dim casino lighting has been a point of contention, too (see page 38). And those stripedoff spaces you see in the self-park garage represent another work in progress. As far as more general complaints about the level of service, McBeath explains that any new project has a learning curve—especially one as giant as Aria, which

has 4,004 guest rooms in its 61 stories, 16 restaurants, 10 bars and lounges, and 300,000 square feet of convention space. “We’ve got a big challenge,” says McBeath, a Las Vegas native who’s been running casinos since Steve Wynn tapped him to helm Treasure Island at the age of 33. “We’ve had to create a brand awareness for many different elements under CityCenter, all targeting luxury, in this economy.” Aria must do this while the casino’s 10,000 employees find their footing, which involves learning the property—one designed to be like no other. At the start, innovation has had some unforeseen costs. Guests unfamiliar with Aria’s guest-room technology (the advanced system that saves a guest’s temperature, lighting and musical preferences) have flooded the front desk with requests for help, slowing down check-ins. After amping up the in-room tech support, McBeath believes that the front desk is now better able to meet its projected standard, and wait times have improved. Some of the most crucial guests at Aria, though, don’t wait in line at all, and they are already embracing Aria. The high-rollers who fill the SkySuites and

play in the Salon Prive have added substantially to the resort’s bottom line, even if they don’t make a dent in its occupancy rate. With convention-block rooms penciled in for nearly a fifth of the hotel’s occupancy, business travelers are another important piece of the puzzle. Baldwin believes that the property’s LEED-Gold certification helps lure conventions that might not ordinarily come to Las Vegas. Increasingly, Fortune 500 companies prefer facilities that pass environmental muster. Aria’s conference center does, making it a positive addition to the Las Vegas convention market. Recently, Las Vegas Sands unveiled an eco-initiative for its own convention center, so MGM Mirage can rightfully claim to have blazed a trail here. The project, though, was meant to do more than incrementally draw more convention visitors to town. It was conceived, from the start, as something unlike anything that had come before. And this was necessary, Baldwin insists. “There’s been a continuing evolution since I first came here in 1969. CityCenter is the next step. Las Vegas has to continue to reinvent itself.” Baldwin has history on his side. It’s a cliché to say that, in Las Vegas, change is the only constant, but

“It’s a game-changer. The design is so different, this is going to be relevant for a long, long time.” – Aria COO Bill McBeath

32 Vegas Seven March 25-31, 2010

The Urban Vibe

After 100 days, how does CityCenter feel to the local guy? By T.R. Witcher If you look up, the architecture of CityCenter largely succeeds. In the sky, the dramatic curves of both Aria and Vdara anchor the pastiche of glass-and-steel buildings. (Only one building steps out of rhythm: the Harmon, Norman Foster’s boutique hotel, which suffers from being 28 stories instead of the planned 49, thanks to construction defects). On the human level, a different story emerges. Elevated bridges or complex traffic circles joining the buildings preclude pedestrians the feeling of ever being on a street. “Public” space is virtually nonexistent. Yes, 67-acre CityCenter is all private property, but given its intention to be a place where people from all over the world congregate, few places allow visitors who don’t want to eat or gamble to sit down. That is too bad because there are some great moments on the ground, too. A park, enclosed by fences and easy to miss, slopes between the entrance to Vdara and the Bellagio employee parking garage. A trail leads down to the base of the garage. True, there’s not much here, but when you turn back, it’s like you’re catching a city in a garden: The landscape frames Aria and Vdara perfectly. The lack of signage—I doubt even the PR docents have been down here—refreshes, because it feels like it’s a found space. Another little square park lies at the very end of

the convention center. But CityCenter should be stuffed with places like these, serendipitous spaces that give you breathing room from the dynamism while letting you take it all in. (Inexplicably, the only part of the park with benches is itself cut off by two locked gates.) The best space at CityCenter? Aria’s vaulted, soaring lobby. Filled with light, and with long, stone benches, it’s the one space—better even than the nearby “pocket park”—with both movement and repose. Although not exactly a place in which to hang out with a book, the lobby does manage to convey some of the essential energy and occasional grace of real cities. (By contrast, the casino floor itself disappoints, a dark and gloomy space that suggests an uneasy cross between a nightclub and a forest.) CityCenter, of course, was never really going to become a city center for Las Vegans. Too much money is on the line for it to be anything other than what it is—a showpiece resort for tourists and collection center for global businessmen. That’s as it should be. We are better served by thinking of CityCenter simply as an emblem of quality design, and the apotheosis of the Strip’s transformation from Desert Kitsch to Global Sleek. Whether the design sophistication of the new resort will take hold in the city itself remains to be seen.


Henry Moore’s “Reclining Connected Forms.”

Read Vegas Seven cultural commentator James Reza’s critique at And let us know about your CityCenter experience via 2D barcode.

March 25-31, 2010 Vegas Seven  33

CityCenter CEO Bobby Baldwin believes that the property’s LEED-Gold certification helps lure conventions that might not ordinarily come to Las Vegas.

A corridor in Aria leads from retail to restaurants.


Vegas Seven March 25-31, 2010

it’s nevertheless true. The game-changers of Las Vegas history—Caesars Palace, the International, The Mirage, Bellagio—have done much more than add room capacity and slot machines to the city; they’ve put a new twist on what’s already been successful. “We could have designed a new themed hotel or expanded Bellagio south or developed a stand-alone contemporary hotel-casino,” Murren says. “It would have been interesting but predictable, and at the end of the day it would have just cannibalized existing properties. CityCenter is none of that. It appeals to people who already come here, but it also will attract people who had heretofore no interest in Las Vegas, who are worldly, who travel to great cities, recognize superior architecture and design, seek out art galleries, museums and public spaces that have significance.” “It’s a game-changer,” McBeath adds. “The design is so different, this is going to be relevant for a long, long time.” So just how long before the reality matches the expectations? “It usually takes about a year to get all the refinements,” Baldwin says. “But about 80 percent of them are handled in the first 120 days. The last 20 percent are the most difficult, and they take more time.” Many of these “difficult” problems are tied to bigger economic concerns. CityCenter was conceived when Las Vegas seemed to be on an indefinite upswing. With the first towers of Signature at MGM Grand selling out, condo and condo-hotel rooms were hailed as the wave of the future. CityCenter bet big on the trend, planning more than 2,900 luxury rooms that would sell for about $2.5 billion combined. There are now fewer condominium units for sale (the Harmon will no longer offer a residential component), and prices have been lowered by 30 percent. According to MGM Mirage’s latest conference call, it has 400 loan applications—a positive start, perhaps, but not a sign of overwhelming demand. The CityCenter team is banking on easier financing changing that. And the result, someday, will be a CityCenter that’s more than the sum of its parts. “When it’s totally developed,” Baldwin says, “we’ll be hitting on all 12 cylinders.” Until there’s a more robust national economy to support it, however, CityCenter is like a supercharged Lambroghini inching along in a rush-hour traffic jam. It’s a machine that needs the open road to live up to its promise—and its price tag.

The Art Works

CityCenter’s well-curated collection has public value By William L. Fox CityCenter is the only project in Las Vegas that measures up to what’s happening around the world at the forefront of architecture and commercial development, whether it’s retail, entertainment or gambling—as if there were much of a difference anymore. And art is a requisite component. Not the stale plop art of the shopping malls and office complexes of middle America, where large metal abstractions are interchangeable from site to site. CityCenter’s architecture is a collection of works by stellar designers assembled into a cohesive ensemble, and the art is likewise smartly curated. This “fine art collection” isn’t public, per se—it’s a privately owned $40 million investment installed on private land—but it does read as a public amenity. If you enter CityCenter from the west on Harmon Avenue, you’re greeted by the maniacal mash-up of aluminum canoes by Nancy Rubins. “Big Edge” rises above the circular drive and manages to be simultaneously lyrical, funny and threatening, which is a hat trick far more interesting than, say, the volcano at The Mirage. On the other side of the complex and off the circular drive of Aria you can walk right up to Claes Oldenburg and Coosje van Bruggen’s “Typewriter Eraser, Scale X.” Las Vegans who know their “Flashlight” on the UNLV campus will recognize the signature enlargement of a common object, in this case their 1999 version of circular eraser. The curator, Michele Quinn, who also put together the Mandalay Bay’s stellar collection at TheHotel, gives a nod to other public art in the town while capturing an iconic American sculpture at the pedestrian level. That’s a lovely touch of curatorial intelligence. But the best indication of how well Quinn worked with the architects is in the juxtaposition of Maya Lin’s “Silver River,” Henry Moore’s “Reclining Connected Forms” (which dates from 1969-74) and the two fountains in the Aria resort entrance, all four of which are within sight of one another and form a nice dialogue. Moore’s sculpture is a formidable travertine abstraction of

a female form balanced within biomorphic rectangle, a metaphor for how the human body is attached to the world. The 84-footlong representation of the Colorado River by Lin inside the Aria lobby traces a body of water and its connection to the Earth by showing us the underwater contour “Typewriter Eraser, Scale X” lines of the river as shaped by the canyon bed. The human and riverine bodies reflect upon one another, while to the south the laminar water jets of a fountain and a water curtain run through patterned choreographies. The grouping provokes consideration of water as nature and culture, the organic and the geometric, and you’ll find little resonant touches throughout the complex. You have to wince as tourists saunter by the Moore, missing its almost mystical sense of poise, only to hear them ooh and ahh over the fountain, but most Americans aren’t educated to look at art, much less value it. And Quinn, working with the various architects to situate the art seamlessly into the experience of CityCenter, has done such a good job that she runs the risk of you taking the works for granted. CityCenter raises questions, as do all architectural achievements of magnitude. Signage is an issue, for example. But the integration of the buildings and art isn’t one of them. Now the rest of the properties on the Strip have to figure out how to measure up. If the economy allows, it could be an enlightening competition to lure the jet-set of the 21st century.

The hanging light sculpture in Vdara’s concierge lounge was designed by Peter Wegner to encourage dialogue between his “Day for Night, Night for Day” artworks.

March 25-31, 2010 Vegas Seven 35




THe LocaL Newsroom Between a Dot and a Hard Place Competition grows fierce in battle for city’s top-level domain name By Kate Silver In one corner, we have Dot Vegas Inc., backed by the city. In the other corner,, backed by the county. The prize for which they’re fighting? Control over top-level domain .vegas. In the coming months, the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN) is expected to publish rules for registering top-level domain names and begin accepting applications for those names. In the past, applying for a top-level domain name (that’s the name to the right of the dot—com, gov, biz) has been a long, difficult, unpredictable and convoluted process. But now that ICANN is streamlining it, queues are beginning to form in anticipation. Entrepreneurs and established companies in cities throughout the world are clamoring to get their mitts on their own city as a domain name. Which brings us to the .vegas scenario. Jim Trevino says he’s been speaking with city officials about applying for .vegas for the past two years. The CEO and president of Dot Vegas Inc. thinks there’s tremendous marketing and profit potential behind owning that domain. Vegas is, after all, a highly successful brand. In February, the Las Vegas City Council voted 4-3 to support his application to ICANN (which won’t accept applications until it’s done making and publishing the rules, expected to be announced in June). In exchange, Trevino promised the city 75 cents (or 10 percent, whichever is greater) from each .vegas registration. His goal is to get 300,000 to 500,000 to register in the first five years. “Whoever wins in this—and we are obviously hopeful that we will—the city will win in ways that we can’t even measure today,” Trevino says. The county, on the other hand, has put its support behind a different company’s application for .vegas. It’s backing, owned by the Greenspun family (which also owns the Las Vegas Sun, Las Vegas Weekly and a number of other local publications). In return, has offered the county $1.50 per registration (or 10 percent, whichever is greater). No one at was available for comment. While the drama brings up a number of questions—such as, Does .vegas denote the Strip? And if so, the Strip is

Crystals at CityCenter opened in December with 30 stores and will be home to 68 to 72 retailers when it reaches capacity.

crystals Vision

GM sees CityCenter mall as half full; analyst thinks optimism is justified By Kate Silver Although more than 40 percent of Crystals has yet to be leased, General Manager Farid Matraki is optimistic. “I think the first 100 days were very effective,” he says. “I think we’re on track.” Two to three years ago, being at 58 percent capacity would have been seen as a disappointment, Matraki says, but not today. Back then, management had hoped to be at 80 percent capacity after the first three months. But given the economic freefall that Las Vegas has seen, Matraki is pleased with today’s numbers. “We pretty much leased this building at the worst economic time and we were extremely successful doing it,” he says. He attributes that, in part, to the tenants who could see the bigger picture. “You don’t make business decisions based on the economic times that day,” he says. “We all know that the economy was bad last year. You don’t suddenly decide not to expand ... just because

you’ve had one or two bad years.” Despite the many challenges, Matraki says Crystals hasn’t lost a single tenant. “Everybody we were negotiating with we got,” he says. Tenants include Tiffany & Co., Roberto Cavalli, Porsche Design and Tourbillon. The 500,000-square-foot LEED-Goldcertified complex opened in December with 30 stores. In the past 100 days, eight additional stores have opened, with plans for more in coming months, including Miu Miu, Christian Dior, Prada, Gucci and restaurant Social House. Other stores scheduled to open in 2010 include Emilio Pucci, Ermenegildo Zegna, Fendi, Philipp Plein, Versace, Lanvin and Brunello Cucinelli. At its capacity, Matraki says Crystals will be home to 68 to 72 retailers. It’s that continued expansion, says Jeremy Aguero, principal analyst with Applied Analysis, that bodes well for Crystals. “The fact that they’re continuing

to move forward in such a difficult market, the fact that we’re continuing to see improvements in visitor volume, the fact that [MGM Mirage CEO] Jim Murren has come out and indicated that the opening of CityCenter has not caused a negative impact on all of their other properties, you combine all those things and … you have to be encouraged by that,” he says. According to Matraki, some of the numbers seen in individual stores tell a similar story of optimism. He says that retailers Louis Vuitton, Hermes, Tom Ford and Mikimoto have performed particularly well. In fact, Louis Vuitton, which was originally slated to be 19,000 square feet expanded to 24,000, and is the largest of its brand in North America. Prada was originally planned to be 7,000 square feet but has expanded to 21,000 and will be three stories tall when it opens in June. Matraki adds that foot traffic has been on the rise, and locals have had an increasing presence. As more retailers continue to open, he expects to see that trend continue. “We have the best valet, we have the best service, we have the best concierge,” he says. “It’s just a matter of slowly, slowly getting people used to coming back here.”

Continued on page 39 March 25-31, 2010 Vegas Seven

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3/24/10 10:18 AM

The Local Newsroom

Green Felt Journal

Shining a light on Aria—finally By David G. Schwartz

You won’t get any argument from As the centerpiece of CityCenter, the MGM Mirage brass, either. $8.5 billion Strip project that was hailed “I think it’s too dark, too,” CityCenter as transformational before its doors even president and CEO Bobby Baldwin says. opened, Aria may have already been “And we’re taking steps to fix it. We’re subjected to more criticism per square adding several hundred lights to the foot than any casino in history. casino and bringing up the intensity by This is not entirely undeserved, nor about 40 percent.” necessarily a bad thing: With its roster of Baldwin concedes that getting the light all-star architects and designs that fly in level right is part of the bigger opening the face of Vegas tradition, CityCenter shakedown that’s likely to last several was built to make an impression. And months longer (See page 30). Part of the with MGM Mirage CEO Jim Murren problem is the sheer magnitude of Aria. proclaiming the project a “gameWith more than 18 million square feet changer” that would deliver a “vision for to light, designers simply had to make the future” through superior integration their best educated of public spaces, art estimations on how and design, the public to correctly balance expected to be wowed the illumination. from Day One. “A lot of the time, But the thing most lighting is a guess likely to provoke comuntil you turn it on,” ment from casinoBaldwin says. “In adgoers about Aria in dition, we had a few its first three months design changes that hasn’t been Pelli blocked some of the Clarke Pelli’s spacious originally planned design or the cuttinglight sources.” edge technology of Complicating matthe guest rooms. It’s ters, the curvilinear that the casino is a bit casino floor couldn’t on the dark side. be lit by a traditional Pre-opening press straight lighting grid. releases hyped Instead a carefully the airiness of the balanced four-light building: “Soaring system was designed open spaces, ranging to light the games, from Aria’s threenot the players. story lobby to its – Bobby Baldwin, CityCenter “You should have guest rooms, fill with president and CEO light on the layout,” natural light and Aria President Bill McBeath says, indicatevoke breadth and freedom.” It wasn’t ing the felt atop a blackjack table, “not in surprising that guests expected a casino the player’s faces. Too much light washes that looked like an Apple Store lined people out. We wanted the casino to look with slots instead of MacBooks. more romantic, more atmospheric.” That’s not what they got. But with many players complaining “The casino is very nice but very that the casino looked gloomy, not dark,” a visitor from Texas recently alluring, McBeath and Baldwin quickly wrote on Expedia. Others have been made the decision to turn up the lights. even harsher in their assessment of the “We started working on the light the lighting. “It’s way too dark, to the point day of the opening, and we’re still workof being forbidding,” commenter Mike ing on it,” Baldwin says. “We’ll be doing P. said on the RateVegas blog. most of the work over the next 30 days.” While there’s some disagreement So next time you visit Aria, things will about exactly how off-putting the gloom probably be looking much brighter. is, the general consensus up and down the Strip—whether you ask longtime executives or first-time visitors—is that David G. Schwartz is the director of UNLV’s Aria’s casino is too dark. Center for Gaming Research.

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light the day of the opening, and we’re still working on it. We’ll be doing most of the work over the next 30 days.”

38  Vegas Seven March 25-31, 2010

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A Few Shades Short of Green UNLV receives mediocre marks for sustainable practices By Mark Adams Is UNLV really a C student when it comes to environmental studies? Yes, according to the College Sustainability Report Card, a study conducted by the Sustainable Endowments Institute. The SEI rated the 300 schools with the largest endowments in Canada and the United States, including 32 that applied to be included. Each university was graded in nine categories: Administration, Climate Change and Energy, Food and Recycling, Green Building, Student Involvement, Transportation, Endowment Transparency, Investment Priorities and Shareholder Engagement. Breaking it down, UNLV received four B’s, four C’s and one F. “I think we certainly have a lot we can continue to do,” UNLV Sustainability Director Thomas Piechota said. “There’s certainly more we can do in terms of recycling.” The SEI agrees, as one of the C’s UNLV received was in food and recycling. This is an area in which most schools scored well, with 78 percent receiving higher marks than UNLV. The “weakest category” for the participating schools was Shareholder Engagement, according to Lea Lupkin, SEI senior research associate. UNLV joins 41 percent of the schools receiving the lowest mark possible, which means that an institute’s foundation failed when it came to voting procedures on environmental resolutions. The UNLV Foundation failed partly because it has investment managers handle voting details. Schools fare better when they

Greenspun Hall photo courtesy Aaron Mayes/UNLV Photo Services


UNLV was in the 34 percent of schools to receive a C. have shareholder responsibility committees that Thirteen percent earned a D. include students, faculty and alumni. UNLV has implemented green policy in the form of the The Endowment Transparency scores were not too Urban Sustainability Initiative. It outlines comprehensive good overall, either. The SEI looked at how free the flow sustainable standards and practices, including five-, 10of information was from the foundation to the public and 20-year goals for campus sustainability. This policy regarding investment holdings. For this, UNLV got a C. is why UNLV earned a B in the Administration category, The UNLV Foundation does make a list of its holdings which rates schools on green policies and commitments available, but the grade suffered due to the foundation by those at the administrator and trustee level. not making its shareholder voting record public. Greenspun Hall is one example that attests to the The foundation cost the university a high grade school’s B grade in the Green Building category. The for Investment Priorities because it does not invest in building, completed in 2008, may earn a LEED-Gold renewable energy funds. UNLV Foundation Investment rating. UNLV recently mandated a Silver rating committee member and NV Energy president and CEO minimum for future construction. Michael Yackira said the foundation is considering hiring a consultant to look at the portfolio and opportunities for greenenergy investment. “Certainly part of our allocation should be considering sustainability,” Yackira said. “I think you’re going to see more of those kinds of discussions around.” He added that the foundation’s responsibility is also to consider the investment criteria necessary for the endowment to prosper. Only 8 percent of participating schools received an overall A in the study, including Harvard, the University of Colorado and Arizona State. Fortyfive percent of schools received a B, while Greenspun Hall helped UNLV get a B in the Sustainable Endowments Institute’s Green Building category.

By Rob Tornoe

Domain name Continued from page 37

in the county but outside the city limits, so where does that leave us? And should the city, county or both prosper from the use of .vegas? Who gets what ultimately will be decided by ICANN. “The fact that you have two 800-pound elephants fighting in a room ... really does not guarantee that either one of us will win when it comes to ICANN, because ICANN will make the final decision,” Trevino says. The larger question is, well, who cares? Will people and businesses really be clamoring to add a Vegas suffix to their address? In a world where .com rules, despite various attempts to unseat it (from .travel to .mobi), can we expect something like .vegas to convince us to change our www-ways? Only time will tell, of course, but for now Paul D. McGrady Jr. shares some insight. He is a shareholder at Greenberg Traurig and author of McGrady on Domain Names (Lexis Nexis/Matthew Bender; 2007).

The master of domains says ICANN is, indeed, taking a risk to see if there’s a market for these new top-level domain names, but there have been successes with geographic indication top-level domains in the past. “A lot of people don’t know this,” McGrady says, “but after .com the two most successful toplevel domain names are and .de for Germany.” He went on to paint a possible picture of the future, where top-level domains rule and consumers are taught to look to the right side of the dot—.pepsi, .marriott, .vegas, etc.—rather than the left. McGrady says that’s when the tables could really turn, and .com could be seen as “the mom-and-pop, $12-a-year, low-rent area of the Internet.” Should that occur, those top-level domain name holders approved by ICANN could be in luck. “Then, if you are a city dependent on tourism and consumers are looking for the .[city] and they can’t find it,” McGrady says, “that’s going to be sort of a weird spot to be in.”

March 25-31, 2010 Vegas Seven

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The Local Newsroom 

Smoke Screen Incense being misused as legal substitute for pot By Jessica Prois Smoke Depot owner Omar Muwalla describes a friend  wrapping a crumbly, greenish-brown substance between  rolling papers and handing it to him to smoke. Soon,  the linear formations of cigars and shelves of swirly glass  Hookah pipes in his store became a bit hazy. An oafish  feeling took over, his shoulders loosened and his mind  eased. Sound familiar? Think again. The substance, called Black Mamba, is completely legal  and sold commercially as incense throughout the Valley.  Collectively known as “Spice,” sister brands include  K2, Cloud Nine and Green Buddha. All are herbs that  might be laced with a variant of THC, the psychoactive  substance found in marijuana. The canister’s gold-andblack wrapper warns: “Not for human consumption,”  but consumers across the country are smoking Spice like  pot and experiencing similar effects. But since it doesn’t  contain actual THC, Spice isn’t detectable in drug tests. Black Mamba has been the preferred brand throughout Las Vegas over the last few months, according to  numerous shop owners. Muwalla says Cloud Nine also  has been popular at his store. “I can hardly keep them  in stock,” he says. “It goes so fast. And it’s all word of 

mouth.” A gram of Black Mamba costs $20 at his store,  and he’s been selling about 200 grams a week for the  past three months. A number of shops in Las Vegas say  they’ve been selling to anyone, including teenagers. But just because it’s legal doesn’t mean Spice is safe.  In the last two months, a Missouri toxicologist says that  he’s seen more than 30 cases of teens with hallucinations,  elevated heart rates, vomiting and seizures after using K2.  Las Vegas storeowners say customers are starting to  request K2. Spice is still so new that the Nevada Department of Health and Human Services says it hasn’t  seen many reports. “It’s on our radar, but there’s not a  lot known about it,” spokesman Ben Kieckhefer says. Users in Las Vegas are experimenting with Black  Mamba, K2 and Spice Gold more than any other  brands, according to Las Vegas Metropolitan Police  narcotics detective Bruce Gentner, and the results  haven’t been pretty. “We just had a case where two  young men got really sick,” he says. “They bought it at  a local smoke shop here, and within minutes of smoking  it, they were transported to the hospital with hallucinations, vomiting and panic attacks.” Black Mamba comes from a plant called Damiana,  grown regionally. In its natural form, it’s used in tea  and liquor and is a known sleeping aid and aphrodisiac.  Although Black Mamba is typically Damiana treated  with a THC variant called JWH-018, users can’t be  sure what they’re getting, says Gary Boggs, executive  assistant of the Drug Enforcement Administration’s  office of diversion control.

Smoke Depot owner Omar Muwalla, left, helps a customer.   Photo by Anthony Mair

Though prohibited in most of Europe, the main ingredients in most Spice are not regulated in the United States.  The DEA is going through preliminary steps to determine  whether the substances in Spice should be federally  controlled. Then it will collaborate with the Department of  Health and Human Services, a process that could take years. Kansas recently became the first state to ban the  compounds, and two counties in Missouri also have barred  the substance. The Missouri Senate will take a second vote  to send a bill to the House that would ban it statewide and  make possession of Spice a felony. Weber School District in  Utah recently banned Spice from school grounds. 

40  Vegas Seven  March 25-31, 2010

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3/24/10 10:18 AM

The Local Newsroom


Candidate filings: lost in the scrum By Michael Green

The beauty of our system is that anyone who can afford the filing fee can run for political office. Now that the filing period is over, let’s look at a few oddities: • The already strange Republican Senate slate grew stranger. Late entries included Chad Christensen, after several Assembly terms in which he faced attacks over his handling of campaign finances, and Garn Mabey, an ob-gyn (right-wing ob-gyns raise all kinds of questions) who wants to join Sen. John Ensign, a veterinarian in need of neutering. But the best moment for Republicans so far may have been Danny Tarkanian claiming Harry Reid’s “staff, campaign, whatever” is behind the filing of Tea Party hopeful Jon Ashjian because “they know the Armenians are very close” and “will vote for each other.” That may explain why Andre Agassi has been a Reid contributor and Kirk Kerkorian’s MGM Mirage is all out for Reid. Maybe all you need to know about Republican thought in Nevada is that the Las Vegas Review-Journal reportedly closed off reader comments on Landra Reid’s auto accident because of the number of people wishing she had been hurt more severely. • The Republican State Senate caucus figures to get more conservative, which could reduce longtime leader Bill Raggio’s happiness and, more importantly, ability to make deals by delivering votes from his caucus with big tax and reapportionment issues looming. With moderate Mark Amodei out because of term limits, Assemblyman James Settelmeyer, from a longtime rural Nevada ranching family, has a strong chance. Assemblyman Don Gustavson is running to succeed the term-limited Maurice Washington and, granting Washington’s endless list of failings, may be less willing to play follow the leader. Making matters worse for Raggio, another moderate, Randolph Townsend, will leave. Democrats managed not to put up a candidate, and the two GOP frontrunners figure to be Ty Cobb, an assemblyman so far to the right he tips over, and Ben Kieckhefer, who may be more moderate but served as Gov. Jim Gibbons’ press secretary, which suggests his campaign manager is Faust. • According to the old joke, if you want to learn about your family tree, run for

office—your opponents will find out all of the dirt for you. Several candidates who have been through the wringer before are back for more. Barbara Lee Woollen again wants to be lieutenant governor; last time she tried, she wound up accused of leasing film equipment to companies making porn films. Nathan Taylor wants Christensen’s old Assembly seat after being accused of embezzling $25,000 from the Young Republican National Convention in 2005. Former state board of education member Gregory Nance Dagani filed as a Republican for state controller after engaging in some bizarre behavior, including sleeping through meetings and being a bit public about his loving feelings toward his wife, Sharona—who filed as a Democrat for state senate. Politics does make strange bedfellows. • If you run, you get to put your name on the ballot as you want it. The two best nicknames on this year’s ballot are “Mr. Clean” and “Fatjack.” Mr. Clean is running against Reid, which is a reminder that Reid once defeated the greatest name ever seen on a ballot: Almighty God. Really. Meanwhile, Fatjack is running for constable in … Searchlight, Reid’s hometown. • Understandably, Reid and son Rory have received the most attention about families in Nevada politics. In Senate District 10, where Bob Coffin is term-limited (depriving the Legislature of someone who actually understands how screwed up our tax system is), Assemblyman Ruben Kihuen is trying to move up against Dallas Augustine—daughter of Kathy Augustine, the former state controller who was murdered by her husband. Former Regent Nancy Price, whose husband, Bob, was a longtime assemblyman, is running for Dean Heller’s House seat. Victor Koivisto is seeking his term-limited wife Ellen’s old Assembly seat—oddly, against Maggie Carlton, a term-limited state senator. Sallie Bache is seeking the Assembly seat once held by her husband, Doug. It speaks well for them that, with all of their exposure to politics, they are interested in running. Or it raises questions about their sanity. In politics, either is possible. Michael Green is a professor of history at the College of Southern Nevada and author of several books and articles on Nevada history and politics.

42  Vegas Seven March 25-31, 2010

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Entertaining options for a week of nonstop fun and excitement.

Compiled by Melissa Arseniuk

Thur. 25 The weekend starts early with the fourth annual Battle of the Brushes at Blush and Rockhouse’s birthday/belated-grand-opening event. The former involves free appies and bubbly (and half-price beer and cocktails) at a beauty-industry mixer/ pre-game event at Society Café at Encore from 9:30-11 p.m., followed by a make-up showdown next door at Wynn. (Doors at 9 p.m., $30 cover.) Meanwhile, Rockhouse’s party has been dubbed “The First Annual Anniversary of the Late Grand Opening Party from Last Year,” with free Kettle One cocktails and shots for the ladies from 10 p.m. until midnight. In front of Imperial Palace. Party starts at 9 p.m., $10 for guys, $5 for girls.

Fri. 26  Head down to CityCenter and dine, then dance the night away with Jay Sean as he hosts his 27th birthday party at Crystals. The R&B star will have dinner at Beso before heading upstairs to Eve, where the party gets under way. What’s more, the singer will mix a little business with pleasure by performing a few of his hits around 12:30 a.m. Doors at 10, $30 for guys, $20 for girls.

Sat. 27 Pick your J and spark up your Saturday night with Jay-Z, John Mayer or Jet. All three are in town, providing three distinctly different options for your Saturday night concert experience: Jay-Z and Young Jeezy play the Pearl at the Palms (8 p.m., $159-$234) before hosting at Tao (At the Venetian. Doors at 10:30 p.m., $30 for guys, $20 for girls, local ladies free), Mayer and Michael Franti are at Mandalay Bay (8 p.m., $60-$90) and Jet is at Caesars, along with Crash Kings and local heroes Imagine Dragons. The show at Caesars is part of the Rock ’n’ Roll Wine series and will allow ticket-holders the opportunity to sample up to 120 varieties of vino—including Rodney Strong, Mollydooker, Hitching Post and Silver Cap— while taking in the show. (Doors at 8, show at 9, $49.50 in advance, $54.50 at the door.) As if that wasn’t enough, a fourth option awaits at MGM Grand, where DJ Skribble and Dave Navarro join forces at Skribble’s new residency at Studio 54, Freak Show. Doors at 10 p.m., $10 for local ladies, $20 for all others.

SeveN NIghtS Sun. 28 Go down to the Golden Nugget and smell, swirl and sip to your heart’s content over brunch during the final day of the second annual Spring Wine and Jazz Fest. Sample more than 200 wines from 50 wineries while getting your fill of food, too. (11 a.m.-1 p.m., $100, 385-7111.) Or, if you’ve had your fill of wine for the weekend, sleep in, rest up, then go hard at the Hard Rock Hotel as the Sin Sunday crowd welcomes the workweek the only way they know how: with a party. Doors at 10 p.m., $40 for guys, $20 for girls, free for locals.

Mon. 29 Get your week off to a good start by staying out way too late and hitting up Privé during its industry night. DJ Five sets the soundtrack for the night of irresponsibility. At Planet Hollywood. Doors at 10 p.m., $20 guys, $10 girls, all locals and industry free.

Tues. 30 Don’t let your supper ruin your buzz; it can give you one at BarMagic of Las Vegas’s traveling Tuesday night speakeasy. Social Mixology visits Herbs & Rye for a night of innovative and intoxicating bites, sponsored by Sailor Jerry Spiced Rum. The theme of this week’s party is edible cocktails, meaning the wellmixed and well-muddled beverages will offer a little more sustenance than usual. 3713 W. Sahara Ave. 11 p.m.-3 a.m., no cover but visit for the entry password. Meanwhile, the vodka-Red Bull crowd can get their fill at Pure as Thunderheist headlines the night. At Caesars Palace. Doors at 10 p.m., $30 for guys, $20 for girls, local ladies free.

Wed. 31 Be sure to consult your trusty wardrobe adviser before heading to Lavo, where the “Best Dressed 2010” awards will be doled out in high fashion. Honoring the city’s most stylish movers and shakers, the awards recognize fashionistas in six categories: dames, foodies, headliners, hoteliers, nightlife personalities and socialistas. At the Palazzo. Doors at 11 p.m., $20 for guys, $10 for girls, all locals free. March 25-31, 2010 Vegas Seven 45


TrysT | Wynn

Photography by Roman Mendez

Upcoming March 31 | Industry nIght

46 Vegas Seven March 25-31, 2010


Stoney’S | LaS VegaS BouLeVard South

Upcoming March 25 | Ladies night March 26 | Free Beer Friday March 27 | shorts, shots and Longnecks March 28 | UndergroUnd sUndays

48  Vegas Seven March 25-31, 2010

Photography by Hew Burney


Gold lounGe | AriA


50  Vegas Seven March 25-31, 2010

Photography by Hew Burney


Wasted space | Hard rock Hotel

Upcoming March 25 | rock, raw and Paw all-Star adoPt-a-Pet charity event March 27 | USed and eScaPe the Fate live Show March 31 | waSted wedneSday and wild recordS Pre viva Party


Vegas Seven March 25-31, 2010

Photography by Hew Burney

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Dave and the DJ

Navarro and Skribble strip down and mash up hip-hop, rock and Top 40

By Jason Scavone Although they are reluctant to describe what they do together as mash-up work—Skribble prefers to call it “remixing”—the result of whatever it is they do has LL Cool J meeting live Led Zeppelin and Jay-Z sharing the stage with Rage Against the Machine. Essentially, it’s mash-up without quite as much crossfader, laying Godsmack on Gaga. “We get a bunch of different tracks that are either being currently played in the clubs or that are even classics, for that matter, and combine them with some songs … from my world, the rock world,” Navarro explains. “We’ll go to the studio, we’ll strip them apart and we will essentially remix the two tracks together … and then in a live environment I play the rock guitar parts and he will be cutting the dance records.” “I think that it is unusual for a dance club,” he says. “It kind of creates, like, a miniature live concert within a dance environment.” And it works. Navarro—whose other side projects include dabbling in the porn world—says this is largely because Skribble is more of a musician than most DJs out there today. “He is not one of these DJs that, you know, opens up a laptop and hits the space bar,” Navarro says. The mix master quickly returns the compliment, saying he sometimes gets just as caught up in watching Navarro perform live as the fans in the crowd. While both say performing together is “fun,” there’s more to it than that: It’s an amalgamation of two very different worlds that allows both of them to switch things up and challenge themselves as musicians. “I’m a huge fan of electronic movement. However, my strengths are that of a guitar player so I don’t necessarily make electronic music,” Navarro says. “It’s nice to collaborate with someone who is part of that world.” So who’s next on the collaboration hit list? If he had his way, Skribble says he would have his Methods of Mayhem partner DJ Aero and Lee join him and Navarro onstage. “Four turntables … and putting this whole fucking wild crazy show together—that would be my dream,” he says. “I’m totally open to something like that,” Navarro says, adding that working with Lee would be “the next obvious move.” “I’ve played with Tommy many times, with him on drums and me on guitar. In fact, Tommy and I did a live performance with Ludacris not too long ago in Vegas,” he recalls, DJ Skribble (above, left) and Jane’s referencing a 2008 Addiction guitarist Dave Navarro show at The Joint. (left and above, right) perform to“It would certainly gether at Studio 54 on March 27. be a spectacle.” “Yeah,” Skribble concurs. “It would be pretty fucking retarded.” Additional reporting by Melissa Arseniuk. 60 Vegas Seven March 25-31, 2010

Marc Anthony Longwith, 30 Server at Rare 120

Hometown: Las Vegas. Got his start at: Primavera Restaurant at Caesars Palace as a stocker and polisher. Alumnus of: Ruth’s Chris Steak House on

Paradise Road, Emeril’s Fish House at MGM Grand, Todd English’s Olives at Bellagio, Corsa at Wynn and Fix at Bellagio.

Favorite part of the job: Being part of the scene without actually having to go out. Just working at the restaurant I get my nightlife fix; everyone is partying it up and we are right there doing it with them. … Oh, and don’t let me forget all the girls. Favorite tip story: Last summer I served one of

the owners of Vestal, Marty Kish, and a few of his execs. We had good chemistry from the get-go and during our conversation he noticed my shoes—[made by] Creative Recreation. He commented that he knew the owners. I mentioned that they were friends with a couple of our owners as well, Lonnie Moore and Mike Malin, and that they sponsored us with shoes for the entire staff. Being a big fan of Vestal watches, I suggested that he consider sponsoring us as well. We wound up partying together over the weekend. A week or so later, Marty sent us 15 watches for the crew, and a few accessories for myself. Needless to say, we were all super stoked.

Best celebrity to serve: Drew Carey. He is always super chill and low maintenance, as well as very grateful and very generous. It’s been a while; wish he would come around more often. Craziest celeb to party with: I have been out with Chuck Liddell a few times. He is a wild man, definitely knows how to live it up in Vegas.

If he wasn’t serving for a living, he’d be: Teaching and investing full time. I am

co-founder of the investment firm Lights Out LLC and still teach martial arts in my free time. Totally different fields but I am extremely passionate about both.

Signature trait: I have a tendency to give a slight bow when I am confirming the order or leaving the table. My formality must have come from my training in martial arts. My co-workers love to harass me about it; I think I have even caught them emulating me a few times in the back, all in good fun of course.

Navarro photos courtesy of Skam Artist

Dave Navarro excels at two things: Playing guitar and appearing shirtless in public. At least one—OK, let’s face it, probably both—of these talents will be showcased on March 27 as he joins DJ Skribble for a special set at Studio 54. The gig comes about a month into Freak Show, Skribble’s carnival-themed residency at MGM Grand, and is the first of what both promise will be a string of live collaborations. The bar-based show provides a change of scenery and pace for Navarro. “Being from a rock band that is on tour all the time, I rarely get a chance to play in the little clubs anymore—and I love it,” he says by phone from L.A., between recording sessions with Jane’s Addiction. “There’s something about different components creating music that remains inspiring to me,” the guitarist says when asked why he wanted to work with Skribble. “It’s not songwriting and it’s not performing with a band; it’s kind of trying to cram two elements together to make some third hybrid.” Saturday’s show won’t be the first time Navarro and the DJ share the stage. They have been performing together for a few years now, including at The Bank last fall—and it’s all because of their mutual friend, Mr. Lee. Indeed, it was none other than Mötley Crüe’s tattooed (and equally shirtless) drummer Tommy Lee who connected Navarro and Skribble. “Tommy put us together and pretty much said, ‘Hey, you should try to see how this works out,’” Skribble recalls by phone from Austin, Texas. “Dave was at a point where he pretty much had done everything as a musician and I have done pretty much everything I can do as a DJ.” “We wanted to figure out a way to do something unique together,” Navarro says. Still, it isn’t musical Star Trek, going where no musician has ever gone before. “I suppose [this is] unique in a club environment, but at the end of the day it isn’t rocket science,” he says.


Cocktail Culture

Chocolate Strawberry Deluxe As creAted by double Helix mixologist Allison glenn, $14

Story From the Bar Double Helix Wine boutique anD bar Located at the heart of the Shoppes at the Palazzo, Double Helix serves up an extensive selection of wine, beer and cocktails, while providing respite for shoppers and conferencegoers alike. The boutique has a range of wine-related items for those who want to mix shopping with drinking, while the wine bar has an open atmosphere and is a good place to watch all the tourists (or just the afternoon) go by.

JoeL ReGAL, BARTendeR AT GeeBee’S on LAS VeGAS BouLeVARd SouTh “We get a lot of people who are in Vegas that are like, in Vegas—you know, what you do in Vegas stays in Vegas. [one night] there were a bunch of them [in the bar], good looking, six girls and two guys. Then all of a sudden I realized nobody was around. They had a tab, so I investigated a little bit. They were in the ladies’ room—they were all in there—naked, going at it. So, you know, you gotta join the fun sometimes. (laughs) no, I didn’t jump in, but I was like, OK then!” – As told to Melissa Arseniuk

“This is a martini for the liquor-loving sweet tooth,” mixologist Allison Glenn says. “It is a seductive trio of Choc-o-Bloc tawny [port], Grand Marnier and St.-Germain, enveloped by fresh, muddled strawberries and an orange slice. You want another before your first is gone.” Glenn says this aphrodisiac-laced drink is “passionate love in a glass.” 3 ounces Stanley Lambert Choc-o-Bloc tawny port 1½ ounces Grand Marnier 1 ounce St.-Germain elderflower liqueur

¼ cup fresh strawberries (about four), cleaned and quartered ice strawberry and orange slice for garnish

Combine the port, Grand Marnier and St.-Germain in a cocktail shaker, add strawberries and muddle. Add ice and cover, then shake well. Strain into a martini glass, garnish with fruit and serve. – Melissa Arseniuk 64

Vegas Seven  March 25-31, 2010

The NaTioNal Newsroom This week in the New York Observer

Blago’s New York moment

The Return of a Subprime Villain Hubler an icon of the financial crisis By Max Abelson

“I can spin a basketball on all four fingers of my right hand,” Rod Blagojevich said. “The hardest transition is from the little finger to the ring finger because it’s got to go up.” Blagojevich held his hand in the air to demonstrate. Jimmy Breslin sat a few feet away and nodded. It made sense. Blagojevich said he had learned that trick decades ago, growing up in Chicago as a Serbian-American. It was one of the few ball-handling skills you could practice inside a cramped apartment. “Pete Maravich was an inspiration,” said Blagojevich, referring to the NBA All-Star. “One of my many dreams that never came true.” It was around 2 p.m. on March 18, and Blagojevich, the erstwhile governor of Illinois under federal investigation for corruption, and Breslin, the erstwhile chief of New York journalism, were sitting at a table, tucked in the rear of the Back Stage Eatery on Fifth Avenue near 47th Street. Lunch hour was long over, and the place was deserted. Blagojevich was wearing a navy suit. In person, his thick black hair is as arresting as it is on TV—a bristling Through television, Rod Blagojevich hopes Americans let him into their hearts. obsidian ridge that stands out over his sun-deprived kill at the deli. Breslin was resting his chin on the back of his forehead with the ostensible heft of a load-bearing wall. chair and periodically jotting down notes on a pink piece of Blagojevich, 53, was in New York for a 24-hour media blitz. paper folded into rectangles. He had arrived the night before, dropped his bags at the W, and For years, when Blagojevich’s life was going swimmingly, he headed over to Breslin’s apartment near Columbus Circle. Breslin, who is currently working on a book about Blagojevich, served rose through the ranks of Illinois state politics and blissfully ignored most of the television landscape. He never watched poup a home-style dinner. It was a beautiful spring night, and litical news. He didn’t like all the second-guessing. “I watched a Blagojevich felt a touch of nostalgia. He had never lived in New lot of SportsCenter,” Blagojevich said. And most of the TV world York City. But not long ago, he spent an undisclosed duration was happy to ignore him. competing in the NBC reality show, The Celebrity Apprentice—the That changed forever in December 2008, when a team of first episode of which had just aired three nights earlier. FBI agents arrived at his house and arrested him on a series of Blagojevich could imagine someday moving to New York, maybe near Central Park, where he liked to jog. Also, the zoo was charges, including the allegation that Blagojevich had tried to sell the empty U.S. Senate seat vacated by President Obama. great. The perfect place to take his two daughters. When he was Stepping out of his front door in a black Nike tracksuit, Blagoa kid, his parents sometimes took him to Chicago’s Lincoln Park jevich perp-walked into TV infamy. Henceforth, there would Zoo. Years later, as governor, while wrestling with a state budget, be no more ignoring the ravenous cameras. he managed to corral a nice chunk of change for his favorite zoo. On June 3, Blagojevich will begin his criminal trial. The “I’ve spent my whole adult life working for and serving people,” said Blagojevich, who was impeached in January 2009. impeached governor believes he is innocent and that the trial will ultimately clear him in a court of law. Meantime, he is laboring to “Among the many things that are difficult with this wilderness clear his good name. TV—having long since displaced church as period I’m in—I miss that feeling.” the venue for achieving redemption in American public life—plays Earlier that morning, Blagojevich had appeared on The Wendy Williams Show. Afterward, he did an interview with Access a central role in the process. If Americans will let you into their living room, then there’s a chance they’ll let you into their hearts. Hollywood. At 4 p.m., he would talk about health care reform From the moment of his arrest, Blagojevich struggled to with Neil Cavuto on Fox News. Then he would pick up his bags cope with the sudden crush of demand from news bookers and and fly home. In the meantime, he still had a couple hours to

Halfway through this month’s 60 Minutes interview with the financial journalism deity Michael Lewis, a snapshot of a half-grinning banker in a pinstriped suit filled the screen. With a thick neck and soft face, mouth turned tightly upward, the former mortgage bond trader Howie Hubler smiled out unknowingly at 12 million viewers. In his nice New Orleans drawl, Lewis said that this banker lost Morgan Stanley about $9 billion. “More than any single trader has ever lost in the history of Wall Street. And no one knows his name.” They do now. Thanks mostly to that interview and Lewis’ The Big Short: Inside the Doomsday Machine (W. W. Norton & Company, 2010), a kind of recession-era sequel to his classic Liar’s Poker: Rising Through the Wreckage on Wall Street (Penguin, 1990), Howie Hubler has become an unwitting icon of the financial crisis. Even though he made a shrewd bet against subprime loans, he offset it by gambling hugely on slightly better mortgages that turned out to be extraordinarily worthless. Nevertheless, he left the bank with several million dollars, the book says, retiring to New Jersey with an unlisted telephone number. A Wall Street villain’s story line, just like a comic-book bad guy’s, has distinct scenes. There’s the early decency, the sour turn, the grand act, the escape and then the disappearance. But what sometimes comes afterward, a quiet return, can be the most dramatic of all. Hubler was good at what he did, and he was smart. By the end of 2004, he was skeptical of the subprime mortgage business, and craved new ways to bet against it. He found Morgan Stanley customers willing to sell him credit default swaps on pools of subprime mortgage loans, which, though there are many poetic ways of putting this, was like taking out an awesome insurance policy on a house you’ve built in quicksand. But the economy’s fall took a while to begin, which was a problem for Hubler— who in April 2006 was put in charge of his own Morgan Stanley hedge fund, called the Global Proprietary Credit Group. To make up for the millions of dollars that it cost to carry his subprime bets until the

Continued on page 71

Continued on page 70

Reality star and fallen Illinois governor arrives in the Big Apple to clear his name

Rob Kim / Retna Ltd.

By Felix Gillette

March 25-31, 2010 Vegas Seven

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WSJ adds sports beats to take on The Times By John Koblin Yankees reporter and Mike Sielski of the Calkins Media newspaper chain as their Mets reporter, sources said. The Big Lead sports blog reported that Aditi Kinkhabwala of the Record, Scott Cacciola of the Commercial Appeal and Sophia Hollander all have been hired as well. There are no—how do you say—instantly familiar, boldface names in that group. Sam Walker, currently The Journal’s sports editor, will oversee the section, a source said. The sports section that appears in the paper now has remained true to The Journal tradition: It prides itself on smart writing, interesting takes and writing around the edges of a sport or a game. There are no game reports. It’s proudly a companion read, just as The Journal’s editors positioned the newspaper itself for decades. Under Murdoch, the sports coverage in the paper has ratcheted up. Just over two years ago, shortly after Murdoch bought the paper, he told the paper’s top reporters and editors that he wanted to add box scores and sports scores to the daily paper. He said the traveling businessman wanted to know scores. That idea developed into a weekly sports section, which later developed into a daily sports section. Although the sports section in The Journal will be unaffected, there will be a different approach in the New York section: Reporters will now be going to the games. Sources familiar with the plans said that The Journal will not be covering games in the way that, say, the tabloids do. Instead of rehashing what happened the night before, The Yankees are among the New York teams that will get covered by The Wall Street Journal. We can all list some of the well-documented ways that The Wall Street Journal has changed under Rupert Murdoch: More color on the front page! Snappier headlines! A women’s magazine! More politically conservative (maybe)! But this is one we didn’t expect: The Journal is getting sportier! The Journal’s New York sports section will assign beat reporters to the major local sports teams, including the Mets, Yankees, Jets, Giants and Knicks, sources said. They’ll be credentialed for home games, and they’ll travel to road games. In the old days, a young Journal reporter may have dreamed of a day when he landed a Citigroup executive as a source; now, for a portion of the staff, victory is breaking through with the third-base coach. The Journal has hired Jim Baumbach from Newsday as their lead

Villain Continued from page 69

bad times hit, he sold insurance on slightly better mortgages. He wagered on a disaster he clearly saw coming, and then against a worse disaster he was blind to—agreeing to insure the house next door, prettier but in the same sand. And because insuring something that’s less risky is less lucrative, he had to sell several times the amount of swaps that he himself had bought. Before the fall, The Big Short reports, Hubler’s group felt offended when Morgan Stanley’s chief risk officer ordered tests to see what might happen to their bets if defaults caused losses of 10 percent to their subprime pool, which they thought would never happen. The coming drop was four times worse. The New York Times said his

wagers cost Morgan Stanley $10 billion. Bank head John Mack called it “embarrassing for me, for our firm.” Hubler has quietly slipped back into the mortgage business. According to marketing materials, he started a firm with former Morgan Stanley colleagues to advise mortgage lenders whose borrowers are threatening to walk away from homes that are worth less than what’s owed on them. They’re called the Loan Value Group. Last month, the company announced a patent-pending program that promises cash rewards to homeowners if they stay and fully pay off their mortgages. “It is no different from me putting $20,000 in a sack on a kitchen table and saying, ‘This is your money,’” Frank Pallotta, the firm’s execu-

tive vice president, and a former Morgan Stanley banker, said this week. “I can’t talk through numbers. But we’ve signed up many. We’re live and we’re rolling.” Hubler would not speak for this article. “He’s pretty much adamant about not talking about this,” a spokesperson said. Neither would Richard Santulli, the company’s newly appointed chairman, who was CEO of the fractional aircraft ownership company NetJets until last August; nor the board member Michael Goodman, the former CEO of J.G. Wentworth, the lump-sum payment firm that filed for bankruptcy last year. Asked about lenders they’re working with or borrowers who may stay in their underwater homes because of the promise of a reward, he said that customers

want to be anonymous. “I haven’t seen tears,” he said, “but I’ve seen people say, ‘I can’t believe I got this.’” But will struggling homeowners allow themselves to be lured into staying by a company led by former subprime mortgage bond traders? Especially one whose chief executive is being held up as an iconic and imbecilic villain in Lewis’ interviews with Charlie Rose, Maria Bartiromo and Erik Schatzker? “We have no desire, we never did from the beginning, to sell the Loan Value Group name,” Pallotta said. “If you win the lottery, do you care if it’s Scratch and Pay or Scratch and Sniff or New Jersey Lotto? The money’s there.” Besides, he said, “this Michael Lewis thing is very old news.”

Cliff Welch / Icon SMI / Retna Ltd.


Journal sports writers will be looking for news features and interesting stories from within the locker room. That would, of course, fit it nicely in competition with The Times. Whereas the News and the Post continue to cover games as if it were 1998—and God bless them for it!—The Times has changed its focus over the past year. Tom Jolly, The Times’ sports editor, has put more of an emphasis on features and trend stories rather than demanding that beat reporters stay with a team every waking moment. In the past few months, it hasn’t been uncommon for reporters at The Times to blow off an occasional Mets game, a Knicks practice or sessions at the Jets’ training camp. At the tabloids, that would be a fireable offense. “Ten years ago, we had somewhere in the range of a dozen reporters specifically covering local teams,” Jolly said. “You covered a team and wrote about what happened on the field or in play. People picked up the paper to get information about what happened in the game.” And now? “More often, our stories are an analysis of the team or the game. What we put in the paper gives a sense of the trends in the sports world and the issues in the sports world.” With The Times turning more of its writers into narrative feature writers, and even quasi-columnists, the paper has only two dedicated general sports columnists left. The reporters can leave some of the game coverage to the Web, to the announcers and to the cable channels. They’ll write the analysis. There will be added competition both for The Times and The Journal. Though just about everything in the world of newspapers is all about cutting—fewer beat writers, fewer people to travel for the road—it actually looks like we’re set for a little surge of coverage. ESPN is starting its own New York vertical on the Web, and has hired a well-respected editor from the Daily News, Leon Carter. Earlier this week, Adam Rubin, a Mets beat writer for the News, said he’s going to ESPN, and Ian O’Connor, a columnist for the Bergen Record, also will be a writer. All of a sudden, it’s getting more crowded in those press boxes. But that competition aside, how does Jolly feel about The Journal’s new sports section, which is expected to launch in a month? “Personally I think The Journal is going to have a long stretch to catch up to us,” he said.

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reality-show producers. Who were these people? Eventually, Blagojevich hooked up with a publicist specializing in crisis management named Glenn Selig. “Just as I was marching into the abyss, Glenn came into my life and helped me navigate,” Blagojevich said. “Early on, there was a method to the madness, but I don’t think a lot of people understood what was going on,” Selig said. “People thought he was crazy. People thought I was crazy. But there really was a method.” Selig said that from the start, the strategy was to push Blagojevich back into the public eye. “To fight this, people have to understand who he is and what makes him tick,” Selig said. “You don’t do that by hiding in the corner.” At the same time, Blagojevich was facing mounting legal bills and needed money. TV could help with that, too. Selig vetted a handful of potentially lucrative offers. Most were too outrageous to consider. For example, at one point, Dennis Hof, the Nevada bordello operator, approached Blagojevich about joining the long-running HBO series Cathouse, set in Hof’s Moonlite BunnyRanch. Selig didn’t think that working as an understudy pimp at a TV whorehouse was the right positioning for his client. More tempting was a production company interested in an all-access reality show about the Blagojevich family. “Me buttering my daughter’s toast, and all that stuff,” Blagojevich said. “They offered good compensation. But it didn’t feel right to us.” Shortly thereafter, Blagojevich warmed to another idea. The producers of the ABC reality show I’m a Celebrity … Get Me Out of Here!, in which a handful of famous people square off in a series of wilderness competitions, wanted Blagojevich for its second U.S. season. As part of the criminal investigation, Blagojevich, however, had been forced to surrender his passport. He filed an appeal, but the judge turned him down. So the producers came up with an alternative plan. Send your wife! In the end, Patti Blagojevich performed admirably on the series, and a Montana woman even started a Patti fan club—evidence that the media strategy was working. Blagojevich’s reality-show debut came on March 14, with the first episode of The Celebrity Apprentice 3. He appeared in a New York City diner alongside fellow celebrity cast members wearing a “little sous-chef hat,” and serving up $100 hamburgers to the likes of Joan Rivers. The latter event did not go smoothly. Rivers blamed her cold meal on the governor’s lousy service. Video evidence

suggested that Blagojevich’s dereliction of duty was a result of talking too much with other patrons about his own innocence. In the second episode, women on the street mistook Blagojevich for Donny Osmond, and Sharon Osbourne suggested his eyes were set too close together on his face. In terms of the overall PR strategy, this counted as a major win. “I think now, it’s working,” Selig said. “As evidenced by walking down the street. You can come with us and see how people react. What is resonating is who he really is, not what was portrayed at that news conference.” “I do love that he is always in character,” MSNBC anchor and Blago-aficionado Willie Geist said. “The people

To fight this, “people have to understand who he is and what makes him tick. You don’t do that by hiding in the corner.”

– Glenn Selig, publicist for Rod Blagojevich

coming into the diner probably don’t know quite who he is. He introduces himself and says, ‘I’m Rod Blagojevich and I’m innocent of all charges.’” “He’s not Eliot Spitzer, who did these horrible dark things to his wife, and was living a secret life,” Geist added. “He’s just kind of a character and a clown” Back at the deli, Blagojevich’s spirits were high. Vindication, he felt confident, was around the corner. “I would not do any of this if I was guilty. I don’t have that kind of chutzpah.” It was time to head over to Fox News. Back on the street, Blagojevich was in campaign mode. He made eye contact with a fellow in a blue blazer. They shook hands. The man asked what the solution was to state budget deficits. Cutting administrative costs was a part of the answer, Blagojevich said, not raising taxes. Pulling out a camera phone, the man snapped some pictures. Another jeweler approached the governor. What a coincidence. Blagojevich knew his brother. He introduced the jeweler to the man in the blazer. “Tell your brother he’s a mensch,” Blagojevich said. He looked around. “Where’s Jimmy?”

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March 25-31, 2010 Vegas Seven

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It’s That Time of Year Again 1
































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NOTE: This is a rebus puzzle, so you’ll need to draw a certain appropriate squiggle in exactly 13 of the squares. ACROSS 1 Theater prize 5 Work like a wonk 9 Motorist’s plate datum: abbr. 14 “Jeopardy!” clue: abbr. 17 Cooling-off period? 18 Waikiki wiggle 19 Smart as ___ 20 Arkansas city 23 Noted nasal nanny 24 Counter’s cousin 25 “Cover Me” composer 27 “December Bride” star 29 Ferrell’s frequent “SNL” skitmate 30 Simple 31 Easter preceder? 32 Natural drink 35 Tennessee created her 37 Comes up, idea-wise 42 “So ___ heard” 43 Not camera-ready? 44 Comic-page cry 45 Jigger joint 46 “___ pulling thread ...” 48 “Captain from Castile” co-star (1947) 51 Like Humpty Dumpty 53 Penetrating look? 54 Air Force Academy city 58 “Songs in A Minor” artist 59 Chalet settings, freq. 60 Engine-additive target



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By Merl Reagle

61 News you can use 62 Introduction to art? 64 Picked 65 “The Third Man” zitherist Karas 66 High return? 69 Optimistic Pope quote 74 Access ending 75 Hebrew letter 77 Rigging, mostly 78 Qatari VIP 80 Extensive 81 Northern Mariana Islands capital 83 Fun 85 Declines 89 Getting up there, perhaps 91 Country star Hall 92 “Buddy boy” 93 Author Rushdie 94 Maria in “West Side Story” 96 Clock number 97 Buying channel, briefly 100 Sailor’s realm, to the Dutch 101 Service-related: abbr. 102 Cincinnati mayorturned-TV host 104 Winning blackjack pair 106 May gala 109 Wall-E’s love in “Wall-E” 110 ___ me tangere 111 Floor worker 113 Lemmon’s description of Monroe’s walk in “Some Like It Hot” 119 “I Only Want To Be with You” singer

122 James’s “East of Eden” director 123 Letters 124 Asian appetizer 125 Ohio city 126 N.Y. neighbor 127 Saber alternative 128 Land in a Verne tale 129 “Lovergirl” singer ___ Marie 130 Having no loose ends? 131 Uncool one DOWN 1 Children 2 Cutting remark 3 “Now ___ me down to ...” 4 Weather-affecting current 5 Mortification 6 Litter’s littlest 7 Hymn part 8 Watch part 9 “Monster Mash” setting 10 “Know it? ___ it!” 11 Rodeo holding pen 12 Less naughty 13 Phone fig. 14 Satisfied sounds 15 Denier’s words 16 Brosnan role 21 Anise-flavored cookies 22 Furtive type 26 March announcement? 28 Land rover 33 Sly 34 Forum greeting 36 Banks on TV 37 High-flying gazelle

38 Pay less 39 Where Aeneas fought 40 “Coming after the break,” in TV lingo 41 Bruce or Laura 43 Skyline obscurer 47 VIPs with summations 48 Shake awake 49 Less callow 50 Thor’s dad 52 Sex suffix 54 Stops bleeding 55 Aware of 56 Treat one to 57 Electronics giant 59 Bossy comment 60 Luster 63 Lyndon’s VP 64 Political buff ’s channel 65 Liston licker, 5/25/65 66 Croquet setting 67 Grab bag 68 Boon to sleep 70 Slezak of soaps 71 Jack-in-the-boxes do it 72 Big name in chocolate 73 Total: abbr. 76 Bench presser’s pride 79 Bench presser’s unit 81 Rachel Carson book 82 Zenith 83 Write quickly 84 Easy guitar chord: abbr. 86 Mattress type 87 Party cheese 88 Recipe verb 90 Skyline obscurer 91 Shower powder 92 Type of motor 94 Palindromic writer 95 Yeats’s home 97 Tumbling feat 98 Search every inch of 99 Trafalgar victor (1805) 101 He played the older Vito 103 Some petty officers 105 Championship 106 Like beautiful weather, perhaps 107 John of equipment fame 108 Throw out 112 “___ first you don’t ...” 114 Morlock menu candidates 115 Propositional phrase? 116 Neck part 117 More bouncy 118 Husky burden 120 Mutual fund stat: abbr. 121 Forensics focus

!!! VOLUME 16 IS HERE !!! To order Merl’s crossword books, visit www.sunday

3/25/2010 © M. Reagle

The Mega-Deal That Wasn’t MGM is on the block, but nobody seems to care By Richard Siklos In Hot Tub Time Machine, a group of sad-sack pals are transported back to what ought to have been their heyday, with a chance to set things right and rewrite the future. It’s a goofy theme that must have had resonance with the folks trying to sell Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, the once-storied movie studio behind Machine. A few years ago, the sale of MGM would have generated a lot of heat—indeed, that was exactly the case when the studio was sold to a group of private-equity firms and corporate bigs such as Sony and Comcast in 2004. But if there was ever a sign of how times have changed in the movie business, the big story about MGM for weeks now is about who was dropping out of the bidding or how little those who remained are willing to pay for it. On March 22, final bids were submitted by Time Warner, a Russian investor and Lionsgate. The top bid was expected to be about $1.5 billion, a far cry from the $5 billion MGM sold for several years ago, and not brilliant for a company carrying $3.7 billion in debt. The story line here is that normally deal-crazy Hollywood has replaced its mojo with an uncomfortable new wariness. It doesn’t help that MGM has been a husk of its once-mighty self for a long while, the consequence of being sold and resold (often to or by Kirk Kerkorian), and the fact that Ted Turner years ago hived off the best parts of its huge catalog of old movies. And MGM still had a perfectly decent business peddling its library of 4,000-odd films, as well as a lucrative association with the James Bond franchise. MGM embodies a bigger issue vexing Hollywood—that no one knows how much of what’s happening today is due to permanent tectonic changes wrought by the move away from physical to digital copies, and how much is just due to a really crappy recession. Thus, the idea of “once-in-alifetime” assets coming on the market doesn’t hold the appeal it once did. To its credit, MGM did attract Len Blavatnik, the Russian billionaire, as a potential bidder, which at least proves again that there is always a new swimmer willing to dip into the Hollywood shark pond. Lionsgate’s presence in the process is curious, given that the company has its own challenges and is actually smaller than MGM. Plus, Carl Icahn last week made a hostile offer for Lionsgate. No one is interpreting Icahn’s designs on the studio as a sign that investor excitement in Hollywood is about to come screaming back. Icahn is a singular force in business, but his bestknown media investment was in Blockbuster, which last week warned it may file for bankruptcy protection. In a gigantic industry built on making stuff up, there’s just no faking it anymore.

The idea of “‘once-in-a-

lifetime’ assets coming on the market doesn’t hold the appeal it once did.”

Answers found on page 74 72 Vegas Seven March 25-31, 2010

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The National Newsroom

Personal Finance

Time to prepare your will and protect your family By Kathy Kristof, Tribune Media Services

If you’re rich, the best estate planning advice would be to die quickly. If you’re not, the best advice is to either review or rewrite your estate planning documents to make sure your heirs aren’t left high and dry if you die. That’s because estate taxes that could allow Uncle Sam to nab up to 45 percent of your bequeathed assets are currently—and very temporarily—kaput. A decade-long phase-out of the estate tax eliminated the tax completely as of January. The catch: If nothing’s done, estate taxes will boomerang back to historic levels in 2011. That means any bequest of more than $1 million would be hit with a heavy levy on any amount above that limit after December. But estate planning isn’t just about taxes, and it’s not just for the rich. The legal vacuum that was created by the temporary elimination of the estate tax has created potential pitfalls even for people with modest estates. For example, if you were to die this year and had an old “by-pass” trust, the elimination of the estate tax could cause you to accidentally disinherit your spouse, said Clay Stevens, director of strategic planning for Aspiriant, a wealth management firm in Los Angeles. These trusts, aimed at reducing estate taxes, often have boilerplate provisions for bequeathing children an amount equivalent to the estate tax “exclusion.” This year, that exclusion is unlimited, so everything goes to your kids and unintentionally there would be nothing left for a spouse, he said. Then, too, as long as the estate tax is phased out, so is something called the “step-up” that reduced capital gains taxes on your appreciated assets after you died.

Solution to It’s That Time of Year Again by Merl Reagle














You can still get that break if you make a few strategic fixes to your estate plan this year, Stevens said. But, if you do nothing, your heirs could face capital gains taxes on all but a pittance of your appreciated property. “This is the one year when you can’t procrastinate,” said Herbert E. Nass, a New York lawyer and author of 101 Biggest Estate Planning Mistakes (Wiley, 2009). “Absolutely everyone should review their documents.” What if you have no documents? Then get cracking. Studies indicate that the vast majority of Americans don’t have wills, trusts or powers of attorney. That can leave heirs in a rough spot, said Danielle Mayoras, coauthor with her husband, Andy, of Trial & Heirs: Famous Fortune Fights (Wise Circle Books, 2009). Act now, avoid trouble later Ignoring your estate plan can land your children with ill-suited guardians or give them a pile of cash that they’re too young to handle, she said. If you become incapacitated before you die, it can mean that your care could be dictated by a stranger— or even an enemy. And, doing nothing can cause your heirs to bicker and battle in court. “People never think their family is going to end up fighting,” Andy Mayoras said. “But, especially in this economy, families are fighting over money more and more.” Nass contends that neglect of an estate plan may have cost one wealthy New Yorker his life. Wall Street titan Ted Ammon, in the throes of an acrimonious 2001 divorce, was killed by his estranged wife’s boyfriend, Nass said. The boyfriend went to prison, but the estranged wife got the estate because Ammon hadn’t yet changed his will. What do you need? First and foremost you need a will, which distributes your assets at death. Wills can be a few paragraphs or complex. It depends on your wishes and whether you expect to draw up additional documents, such as a trust. If you don’t want a trust, your will should name personal guardians for any minor children, economic guardians who can distribute assets to your children and other heirs, and an executor who will make sure the terms of the will are carried out. Finally, it should include a simple statement about what you own and who should get it. If you’re leaving assets through a will, it’s wise to also execute powers of attorney for both financial and health-care matters, Stevens adds. That will give somebody you trust the ability to pay your bills and make medical decisions for you if you become incapacitated before you die. But if you want your heirs to be able to avoid probate—a time-consuming and costly legal process

that involves a court reviewing the distribution of assets bequeathed through a will—you’d be better off to also create a trust. If you have a trust, your will essentially can be a one-liner: “I want all my nonretirement assets to go into my trust.” A trust would then distribute the assets based on the formula you’d drawn up. Trusts can accommodate difficult issues, such as whether you want to attach a few strings to your bequests as you might if you’re leaving assets to heirs who are not financially or personally responsible. Divide and conquer ... the IRS Trusts also typically contain clauses that dictate who would handle your financial affairs should you become unable to handle them yourself. And many include a “by-pass” or a “two-step” provision that essentially splits the trust in two. Splitting the trust is aimed at saving estate taxes. That’s because husbands and wives can leave each other all their assets without tax consequences, but if they want to leave money to anyone else, any amount over a set threshold is subject to tax. The amount that’s “excluded” from estate taxes has been a moving target for the last 10 years, but is unlimited today and likely to amount to $1 million in 2011. As a result, savvy couples with estates in excess of $1 million (in any year but 2010) would each execute a by-pass trust, leaving the amount of the estate tax exclusion to their kids or other heirs and the rest to their spouse. That would preserve the estate tax exemption for the spouse who is the first to die. In the case of someone with $2 million in assets, that could save heirs a tidy $550,000—or 55 percent of the second $1 million. But the most important thing may be to simply make your wishes known so your heirs know that you’ve thought about them and how you’d like to provide for them when you’re gone. That alone could eliminate a lot of family bickering. Danielle Mayoras adds that entertainer Ray Charles’ estate plan provides a blueprint of how to do it right. He got his 12 children and their nine respective mothers in a room to talk about what he was planning, which was to give most of his money to charity. But everyone was provided for in some way, she said. “The beauty of doing that is that everything is out in the open,” she said. “It gives the family some comfort and the ability to talk about it.”

Ignoring “ your estate

plan can land your children with ill-suited guardians or give them a pile of cash that they’re too young to handle.”

Kathy Kristof’s column is syndicated by Tribune Media Services. She welcomes comments and suggestions but regrets that she cannot respond to each one. E-mail her at

74  Vegas Seven March 25-31, 2010

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Arts & Entertainment

Find culture in Vegas at Michael’s Used Books. Photo by Ryan Weber


The Last of the Bookstores Michael’s Used Books is a happy holdout in a time when the old breed is dying

By Matt O’Brien

The publishing industry is flat—and in some cases, flatlining. Chain stores, and e-books are conspiring to kill each and every used-book store. Add the struggling local economy to the mix and it’s no surprise that “For Lease” signs decorate dark windows in strip malls throughout the Valley. So why is Michael Clark, owner of Michael’s Used Books (3430 E. Tropicana Ave. Suite 9), smiling? Because business is booming. “When the economy got bad, our business got better,” says Clark, a former journalist. “As the economy has gotten worse, our business keeps growing.” In 2009, says Clark, business was up 22 percent from the previous year. And the store sold more than 1,000

items in both January and February of this year, he says, noting that it averaged about 800 items a month in 2007. Clark, who’s lived in Las Vegas since 1987, says several factors have contributed to the store’s success: It’s one of the few used-book stores in southeast Vegas; it also sells CDs, DVDs and vinyl; he’s selective about what he puts on his shelves (The Catcher in the Rye, yes—The South Beach Diet, no); and people are hunting for bargains. “A woman came in the other day looking for a DVD,” he says. “I think it was Mean Girls. She’d seen it at WalMart for $13 and found it here for $5. She got the DVD Continued on page 78 March 25-31, 2010 Vegas Seven 77

Arts & Entertainment


Where Have All the Bookshelves Gone? An insider’s thoughts on the devolution of bookselling By M. Scott Krause

Book purveyor Michael Clark. Photo by Ryan Weber Used Books Continued from page 77

and three paperbacks for the same price it would’ve cost her for the DVD at Wal-Mart.” Michael’s also offers a style of customer service you won’t find at big-box stores. Clark and his staff know many of their customers’ names and tastes. “I’ve come in and they’ve said, ‘Hey, Lenny. We found that Mel Tormé CD you were looking for,’” says Lenny Perry, a customer since 2002. “They had it there waiting for me.” Perry, a stagehand and photographer, says the store—which specializes in nonfiction and literature—is wellorganized, has a rotating selection and the prices are right. First-time customer Marc Dombrosky, who teaches art at UNLV, calls it eclectic. “I’m finding stuff that I wasn’t expecting to,” says Dombrosky, clutching a copy of Joy Harjo’s In Mad Love and War (Wesleyan, 1990), which he read from at a friend’s wedding a few years ago, but has had trouble finding since. “It’s exciting. That’s what I like about used-book stores: the element of surprise.” A native of Wyoming, Clark opened Michael’s Used Books at the southwest corner of Tropicana and Pecos Road in 1995. He moved the store to the northeast corner, which features a Big Lots and Bank of America, in 2000. Despite foreboding industry trends and the increasing popularity of online books, music and movies, he plans to hang around another 15 years. “I’m 61 now,” says Clark, who has slicked-back brown hair and a salt-andpepper mustache. “I’ve been doing this since I was 45. I’ll probably be doing it when I’m 71, maybe even 81. I can’t imagine not getting up in the morning and coming to the store.” For more information on Michael’s Used Books, visit 78

Vegas Seven March 25-31, 2010

When I attended UCLA in the mid-’80s, my neighborhood supported three chains, two independent booksellers and a dealer who sold only antiquarian books. We had a feminist bookstore, a children’s bookstore and a big place that sold only art and architecture books. There was a dark, musty dive devoted to mysteries, and another spot specializing in science fiction and fantasy. The poets had a place to call their own, and so did the anarchists. In those days, communities relied heavily on booksellers, counting on them to stock more than best-sellers and paperbacks. Each shop had its own personality. Clerks were frequently well-read and opinionated, and nobody sold coffee. A good bookstore was an ideal meeting place; a great bookstore gave a neighborhood some flavor and a unique identity. One couple I knew divided their time equally between the big spiritual bookstore in Santa Monica and the comicbook joint across the street. It was an era of specialization, rather than outright competition, with plenty of customers for everyone. By the mid-’90s, big chains such as Borders and Barnes & Noble muscled their way across the map, putting scores of mom-and-pop booksellers out of business. Amazon accomplished the same thing via the Internet, and they stay open 24 hours a day, always have a recommendation and quickly recall the last thing you bought. Good booksellers do that, too, but we like to keep regular business hours and occasionally take a day or two off. In the past, competition from another bookstore made both stores better. Chain stores and online retailers just take the fun out of it. How do you compete when someone else sells the same item for less than your supplier charges? Consequently, fewer bookstores opened. Older, established shops—faced with rising rents and diminishing returns—had a choice: They could shutter their store and sell their inventory online, or they could simply get out of the business altogether. In December Laredo, Texas, became the largest U.S. city without a bookstore, forcing serious readers to San Antonio, 150 miles away. In the days before Oprah, booksellers weren’t just retailers; they were tastemakers. At independent bookstores, displays reflect the interests of the employees; windows and shelves are filled with staff picks and reactions to current events and trends. At chain stores, publishers pay for the choicest real estate; they want their

books prominently placed. More often than not, promotions rather than pure emotions sell books. So where is bookselling going? Based on the rate publishers are dumping their commissioned reps (the folks who actually visit the bookstores, present catalogs and take orders from book buyers), all bets seem to be on e-books. From Amazon’s Kindle to Barnes & Noble’s Nook to Sony’s Reader to Apple’s iPad, the industry’s hope is that readers start downloading novels like Top 40 hits. From there, publishers could market directly to readers, bypassing bookstores altogether. Authors (of all levels) could sell direct too, just like indie bands. What some people fail to realize, however, is that books are finessed throughout the publishing process. Agents act as quality-control gatekeepers, editors play a huge part in shaping manuscripts, and there’s additional input from design, marketing and publicity departments. On the front end, all those now-unemployed book reps provided valuable feedback and opinions based on their visits with book buyers; if booksellers didn’t like a cover or thought a book was priced too high, the rep could deliver the news to the home office. Who will communicate that information now? Or is the future of literature bound to an eternal rough-draft for consumers to hash out? For the time being, everybody seems focused on the novelty of these new digital delivery systems (Look, Ma, I just uploaded a book!), while forgetting about people’s relationship with books and bookstores. I don’t have a problem with digitized music or movies, but I want my books in three dimensions. The fact is, e-books are gaining in popularity. As new generations are raised in an all-digital world, e-books may well dominate the publishing industry. I still visit real bookstores every chance I get, but things just aren’t the same. My neighborhood has a Barnes & Noble, but the Borders is boarded up; the last time I visited my college neighborhood, most of the bookstores I knew had closed for good. Some day all bookstores may be antique stores, but I’ll be there, browsing.

How do you “ compete when

someone else sells the same item for less than your supplier charges? ”

M. Scott Krause is a former bookstore owner who lives in Arizona and remains active in the book industry.

The LIbrarIan Loves ... Selected by Jeanne Goodrich, executive director for the Las Vegas-Clark County Library District. I, Sniper (Simon & Schuster, 2009) is the latest in the Bob Lee Swagger series about a Vietnam-era Marine sniper who gets pulled into amazingly complex and devious situations that require his skill and cunning. Written by award-winning film critic Stephen Hunter, these thrillers have something for everyone: exciting, don’t-see-it-coming plotting; technical detail about guns, gun sights and bullets; and strong character development. If you’re new to this series, start with Point of Impact (Bantam, 1993). The series backtracks in later books to earlier points in Bob Lee’s and his father Earl Swagger lives.

Arts & Entertainment 


First We Take Austin A photo diary of the SXSW music festival by Las Vegas’ Afghan Raiders By Mikey Francis Right: AR’s Vincent “Beans” Campillo and his many wristbands (inset), which are evidence of your attendance of the coolest parties at SXSW. The more on your wrist, the more you’re legit. Below: Nico Turner of VOICEsVOICEs performing indoors at the Epicsauce/Neon Reverb party.

Above: With so many places to be, eating on the go is a must. Hot dog stands (and vans) are scattered all over the streets, feeding hungry, buzzed festival-goers. We consumed an extraordinary amount of veggie dogs throughout the week. Below: This van carried us all the way from Las Vegas to Austin, a 23-hour drive. “Mikey at Synthesizers” photo by Helen Cloots

Above: Me (AR vocalist Mikey Francis) getting the synthesizers ready to roll before taking the stage at the dubFrequency party Saturday afternoon. Below: We were lucky enough to catch one of the best performances of the week on our day off. We’re somewhere in the crowd drinking free beer and listening to Washed Out at The Mohawk.

80 Vegas Seven  March 25-31, 2010

Left: Tiffany from the band Rainbow Arabia singing at the Epicsauce/ Neon Reverb showcase Friday night. Above: The other Beauty Bar— a much greener place—is one of Austin’s many music venues.

Right: AR friend/crew member Josh Audrey. Below: Las Vegas promoter and tastemaker James Woodbridge at the Neon Reverb booth during the Epicsauce/Neon Reverb showcase Friday night at the Music Gym.

Above: Austin’s famous 6th Street. Below: Vegas Seven gave us—the band, our sound guy Joe Garcia-Miranda and friends—disposable cameras so we could document our SXSW experience. Some photos turned out better than others ...

“AR at dubFrequency” photo by Helen Cloots

Above: Birds & Batteries performing at the Epicsauce/Neon Reverb party. Below: The beautiful Texas sunset as seen through the back window of our packed-to-the-brim van.

Above: AR performing with our new drummer, Drew Marcogliese, at the dubFrequency party on Saturday. Despite the weather being icy cold, this was our week’s best performance, and some big industry names witnessed it. March 25-31, 2010  Vegas Seven  81

Arts & Entertainment

Music Soundscraper

Don’t Smoke ’em   if you got ’em By Jarret Keene Extreme Thing Sports & Music Festival is back, providing the 15th annual outlet for Vegas’ suburban youth to rage against the machine. It requires more than savage riffs and melodic vocals to make it in hardcore, though. Apparently it helps to turn your back on tobacco. As part of Extreme Thing, And She Whispered is headlining XPOZ’s Local Band Stage on March 27 at Desert Breeze Skate Park. The still-in-theirteens quartet beat more than 100 acts for the paramount slot during February’s month-long Battle of the Fans contest held at Area 702 skateboarding facility. (Six other Vegas bands will also perform: The Afterparty, The Murder Ballad, Sanity Is Lost, A Fight at Daybreak, Otherwise, and In Shadows Embrace. National headliners on the main stage include The Used and Five Finger Death Punch.) Not every band can play an XPOZ event. Chain-smoking groups needn’t apply. After all, XPOZ is a youth tobacco-prevention program aimed at Southern Nevada teens. Instead of the old scare tactics—say, displaying pictures of charred lungs in high school classrooms—the coalition approaches kids through music and bands. XPOZ program director Malcolm Ahlo insists being smoke-free isn’t a requirement, but it’s strongly encouraged. “We ask [bands] not to use tobacco during the show or in promo pictures,” he says. Why does XPOZ target hardcore kids? According to Ahlo, research tells us that kids who enjoy hardcore music have higher smoking rates than other teen populations.

Apparently, burgers are OK for kids— at least for now. Denver-based “fast-casual” chain Smashburger celebrated its Vegas location’s grand opening on March 20 with a 10:30 a.m. live set by California’s Later Days. Sadly, what was supposed to be a competition for finding Vegas’ best band ended with an emo act from Malibu announced as the winner. Oh well, the cheeseburgers are good, anyway. Speaking of cheese (the awesome ’80s glam-metal kind), Poison frontman (and future Celebrity Apprentice contestant, autobiographer and diabetes survivor) Bret Michaels is playing Star of the Desert Arena at Buffalo Bill’s Resort & Casino on March 27. What songs compel people to flick their Bics? Michaels-penned power ballads such as “Every Rose Has Its Thorn” and “I Won’t Forget You.” Don’t singe my hair, fellow fans! Finally, with all the anti-smoking and lighter talk, I leave you with a few cigarette songs you don’t have to say no to: The Smithereens’ “Cigarette,” The Replacements’ “More Cigarettes,” Patsy Cline’s “Three Cigarettes in an Ashtray,” Otis Redding’s “Cigarettes and Coffee,” Bon Jovi’s “Last Cigarette,” Brownsville Station’s “Smokin’ in the Boys Room,” Rufus Wainwright’s “Cigarettes and Chocolate Milk,” Tex Williams’ “Smoke, Smoke that Cigarette” and Marvelous 3’s “Cigarette Lighter Love Song.” Got an extra Bad Religion ticket for March  26 or 27? Want to know the best local distro  for underground black metal? Contact

From left: Local band/anti-smokers And She Whispered and Bret Michaels’ “poisonous” blue eyes. 82  Vegas Seven  March 25-31, 2010

Arts & Entertainment

Movies off His Chest

Noah Baumbach makes room for the loony in this edgy, insightful rom-com

By Cole Smithey American 21st-century post-traumatic stress and economic desolation gets filtered through the midlife crisis of Ben Stiller’s troubled character Roger Greenberg in this edgy romantic comedy that puts a premium on how we treat one another. There are plenty of laughs to be had—both easy and queasy—as Roger attempts to ease back into society after a stint in a New York mental hospital. With the openly disclosed purpose of “doing nothing,” the medicated Roger house-sits at his brother Phillip’s comfortable Los Angeles home while said brother (Chris Messina) and his wife vacation for six weeks in Vietnam. Riddled with anxiety and OCD behavior, Roger slips into a romantic liaison with his brother’s personal assistant, Florence (uninhibitedly played by impressive newcomer Greta Gerwig of The House of the Devil). The awkward relationship serves as a sounding board for Roger’s constant fears and emotional concerns. It also enables Florence as a force of nature whose self-deprecating needs set up a post-collapse thematic mantra she learned from her singing coach: “hurt people, hurt people.” Indeed, Greenberg is about people in so much pain that they can’t help but lash out with uncontrolled defense mechanisms. Baumbach and wife/ co-story writer Jennifer Jason Leigh have tapped into America’s chasm of disbelief. The film fearlessly stares into a social abyss that threatens to swallow up a country forced into doing nothing. Mentally unstable characters are a staple for director Noah Baumbach, whose films (Margot at the Wedding and The Squid and the Whale) take an empathetic and humorous approach toward abnormal social behavior.

The elephant in the Greenberg room involves the graphicness of Roger’s clumsy seduction of Florence shortly after the two have shared a beer from the same bottle during their first date—in the comfort of her humble living room. In a blink, there’s a kiss and Roger disrobes Florence from her snug sports bra and pants to bury his face in her nether regions while she lackadaisically stares up at the ceiling making an abstract comment about trains. The spontaneous scene of acted-on attraction hits you fast, and opens up the film to an impulsive commentary on post-modern relationships. There’s danger here. It also identifies the characters as sexual beings who do more than talk. Just as quickly as it began, the lovemaking falls apart. Neither Florence nor Roger have the patience to continue. Greenberg spends his time building a house for his brother’s sickly dog Mahler, when he isn’t writing carefully composed complaint letters to companies such as American Airlines about a seat that wouldn’t recline. He’s an impotent critic of society. Coming from a guy who carries the burden of having ruined his college rock band’s shot at the big time 15 years earlier—a defining event in his arrested development—we understand Greenberg’s nagging need to set things right. On his short list is rekindling a friendship with his exgirlfriend, Beth (Leigh), and former bandmate Ivan Schrank (Rhys Ifans). Both Beth and Ivan are married with families. They’ve moved on with their lives. It’s a progression that Greenberg—the aging man-boy—can only approach from his myopic viewpoint. The voices in his head shout so loudly that he isn’t able to hear what the people near him are saying about their relation to him. Greenberg is a meta film that makes its points within the context of a society where everyone is “middle-class” and tragically ignores the desperation that seethes beneath the layers of their iPhone-Facebook-interaction. Roger Greenberg is a tragic character barely able to maintain any kind of relationship. The degree to which an audience sympathizes or empathizes with him is a self-reflexive proposition. You might watch his behavior and think to yourself that you shouldn’t yell at people you care about. You could also watch the film and be inspired to write a 3,000-word letter to your boss about how unfair you’re treated at work. Sure it’ll get you fired, but you’ll have something off your chest. Cole Smithey is the smartest film critic in the world.

Movie TiMes

Scan here for up-to-theminute movie listings delivered directly to your mobile device. Life’s an uphill battle for Ben Stiller’s character, Roger. 84

Vegas Seven March 25-31, 2010

March 25-31, 2010 Vegas Sevenâ&#x20AC;&#x192; 85

Arts & Entertainment


Blackmail Kisses Atom Egoyan turns on the red light with this formulaic sex thriller By Cole Smithey

Amanda Seyfried: From polygamist’s daughter to hottie hooker.

You couldn’t hope for a higher caliber sexploitation movie than Chloe, even if the sex thriller falls flatter than a day-old quiche. Atom Egoyan rekindles his lurking soft-core desires with a tawdry script by Eric Cressida Wilson, whose 2002 film Secretary transcended a cultural movement of sexual identity. Audiences will have no such luck with this formulaic suspense picture about sexual deception. Julianne Moore’s Catherine Stewart is a successful Toronto ob/gyn doctor and wife to her well-liked college professor husband David (Liam Neeson). David is a loyal but inveterate flirt. His failure to make it back to the couple’s palatial modern home in time for his “surprise” birthday party sets Catherine’s teeth on edge believing that he is carrying on an affair with one of his students. Catherine makes the mistake of a lifetime when she hires local call girl Chloe (Amanda Seyfried) to tempt David, to discover if her husband can be provoked into cheating. Catherine’s plan backfires when Chloe accurately reads between the lines of her employer’s intentions and strings Catherine along as her most reliable client. Wilson’s script sets up Chloe as the film’s protagonist-apparent but backpedals around in a game of musical chairs that shifts focus between the hooker, the couple and even their romantically inclined teenaged son, Michael (Max Thieriot). Egoyan wants to titillate his audience, and he achieves his aim with an unexpected

lesbian relationship that builds after Chloe seduces Catherine. Moore and Seyfried steam up the screen in the hottest lesbian coupling since Susan Sarandon and Catherine Deneuve got busy in Tony Scott’s 1983 vampire film The Hunger. The fact that the Moore and Seyfried share several such scenes all but guarantees the film’s eventual cult status in the realm of soft-core celebrity porn. From the moment Chloe describes in detail her first alleged sexual encounter with David—which we objectively witness in flashback—she comprehends Catherine’s sexual obsession as a malleable desire that she, Chloe, can capitalize on from a most intimate position. But by then the story has already shifted focus and relegated Chloe as its cunning antagonist. Chloe’s evocative opening monologue, in which she expounds on her quicksilver ability to fall into any sexual stereotype role her client requires, proves to be a slithering red herring. As such, the film squanders its most valuable narrative asset, Chloe. By focusing on the glass, steel and concrete reality of the Stewarts’ clinically austere family home rather than following Chloe into her own never-viewed personal world, Chloe loses its thematic momentum. The film slips into a predictable dilemma that punishes the audience for its curiosity about the title character. Such blackmail kisses written to cinematic ransom should be less conspicuous and considerably less ambiguous.

Short reviewS

The Bounty Hunter (PG-13)


Short on chemistry, but surprisingly big on violence, Hunter casts Gerard Butler as bounty hunter Milo Boyd, who is thrilled when he’s offered the job of capturing his ex-wife ( Jennifer Aniston). There isn’t a single laugh to be had in this shoddy flick with inflated production costs. Aniston is a caricature of herself, Butler’s accent becomes grating and Screenwriter Sarah Thorp’s (Twisted) script feels like it was farted rather than written. . 86 Vegas Seven March 25-31, 2010

By Cole Smithey

Repo Men (R)


In director Miguel Sapochnik’s bloodand-bullets adaptation of Eric Garcia’s Repossession Mambo, Remy ( Jude Law) and Jake (Forest Whitaker) are medical repo men for a company that sells organs. Carice van Houten piques interest as Remy’s wife before Alice Braga (I Am Legend) takes over dystopian duties. Sapochnik uses every blood-splattering cliché: Like porn, you know it when you see it, and you’ve seen all before.

The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo (NOT RATED) ★★★✩✩

An enigmatic mystery thriller fueled by the intensity of goth heroine Lisbeth Salander (ferociously played by Noomi Rapace) who comes to the aid of Mikael Blomkvist (Michael Nyqvist) to solve a 40-year-old mystery. Although her large back tattoo is never addressed directly, the Asian symbol of primordial vengeance lurks gracefully at the frayed edges of every scene.

The Runaways (R)


The Runaways follows the crash-and-burn experiences of the 1970s manufactured all-girl rock band of the same name. Dakota Fanning delivers her best work as the band’s bisexual vocalist, while Kristen Stewart channels Joan Jett. But Michael Shannon steals the show as their famously eccentric producer. Debut filmmaker Floria Sigismondi is keen on telescoping meta meaning, while Jett and record producer Kenny Laguna executive produced.

Three-Dimensional Rose-Colored Glasses? ShoWest film expo sees a bright future in 3-D movies By Chad Clinton Freeman Although they’ve existed in various forms since 1890, 3-D films have never been taken too seriously. Well, not until 2009, when seven 3-D titles passed the $100 million mark. Topping that list was Avatar, the highest-grossing film of all time. With these successes fresh on everyone’s mind, 3-D films were a hot topic at ShoWest, the convention that brings together movie theater owners and distribution companies (March 15-18 at Bally’s and Paris). The behind-thescenes event is all about discussing current trends and concerns, as well as a way for theater owners to preview upcoming films, products, services and technologies. This year’s main concern was getting movie watchers to leave their computer screens and plop their butts in theater seats. The solution: more than 20 3-D films getting wide releases this year. “This is the seventh time 3-D has been reintroduced to the public since its invention,” says Rhett Adam, director of Look3D, a company promoting designer 3-D glasses at ShowWest. “But now technology has met the demand. It’s exciting times.” The risk-taking Warner Brothers is tossing Clash of the Titans (debuting April 2) on the 3-D bandwagon. The film was shot in 2-D and converted over the course of 10 weeks. Depending on how well it performs, many more 2-D films might be converted to 3-D. Disney’s Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time, which hits screens in May, is a good candidate, as is Warner’s July release Inception, Christopher Nolan’s follow-up to his 2008 IMAX monster The Dark Knight. With fewer than 4,000 digital screens across North America, movie theaters

might need to play catch-up. During his ShoWest convention address, Motion Picture Association of America CEO Dan Glickman said some 2,500 digital screens are set to be installed before the year’s end. But even better news was revealed over the course of the four-day event as Technicolor 3D, SoliDDD and Oculus3D, displayed new systems that allow existing 35mm projectors to show 3-D. Also in full force at ShoWest were companies promoting designer 3-D glasses. MicroVision Optical goes as far as selling 3-D specs that double as sunglasses. They also come in prescription lenses. “3-D is here to stay,” says David Stern of MicroVision. “Not only in filmed entertainment, but the live events are going to be huge as well.” Stern notes that events such as the upcoming NCAA Final Four—which will screen via the innovations of Cinedigm on April 3 and 5 at Rave Motion Pictures—give the crowd experience people can’t get at home. Of course, designer 3-D glasses will also come in handy when 3-D television and 3-D video games become the norm in home entertainment. Once that happens, what will be the next trend at the multiplexes to bring in the crowds? Guy Marcoux says his company D-Box has the answer. His company goes frameby-frame to program seat movements that match the action on screen. In its first year, D-Box has motion coded 14 films (six from Warner Brothers, including Clash of the Titans) and installed seats in 15 theaters across the country, including Galaxy at the Cannery in North Las Vegas.

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New movie-seat technology previewed at ShoWest. Photo by Anthony Mair March 25-31, 2010 Vegas Seven 87

Gadgets & Tech

Wake up to versatile, Web-based Chumby By Eric Benderoff

The Internet has spawned plenty of innovation in a relatively short period of time. One of the more interesting developments—at least from a gadget perspective—is the ongoing push for an Internet that doesn’t need a computer to connect. We’ve seen this trend blossom primarily through mobile phones, but it’s also happening with music players—the iPod touch is practically a pocket computer— and TVs and Blu-ray players that can play content direct from websites such as Pandora and Netflix. Still, there’s another category of connected gadgets that are useful and fun. Devices in this category are sometimes called “Internet appliances” because they can be sprinkled strategically about the house to serve as a minigateway to the Web. Examples of this new generation of Web-enabled appliances include media devices like the Livio Radio ($199) or the family of Internet radio players from Pure (, which use the Web to find thousands of Internet radio stations. Then there are devices such as the Liveboard scoreboard ($199), a single-use gadget for baseball fans. This device is essentially a replica of an old-school ballpark stadium that displays scores from Major League Baseball games and uses its wireless Internet connection to update scores as they come in. Still, none of these connected devices is like either of the two devices Chumby Industries have on the market. Almost identical in function, the Chumby Classic ($150-$200) and the Chumby One

The Chumby Classic has a 3.5-inch touch-screen display and is available in four colors.

88 Vegas Seven  March 25-31, 2010

($120) are versatile Internet appliances. Although they can be used throughout the home—in the bedroom, kitchen, living room, home office, etc.—some people have called the Chumby “an alarm clock on steroids.” You can use a Chumby to wake up in the morning to your favorite Webbased radio station (and create alarms for different days of the week) and when it wakes you up, the Chumby will have last night’s baseball scores, your Google calendar, news headlines or an array of your favorite photos from Flickr ready for you. You choose what you want to see— and there are a lot of choices. My kids love the PandaCam, an app that streams video from a webcam in the Panda habitat at the San Diego Zoo. The original Chumby was released two years ago. Now called the Chumby Classic, it has a soft exterior and is available in four colors. The second generation Chumby One was released last fall with a hard exterior and a dial for volume control but it isn’t as cutelooking. Both models have a 3.5-inch touch-screen display, built-in speakers and a headphone jack, but the Chumby Classic has two USB ports, while the Chumby One has, um, one. There are about 1,500 widgets or apps for the Chumby, according to the company—far short of what you can get on the iPod touch or iPhone, but certainly enough for a device that sits on top of a table. The widgets are displayed one at a time, as if you’re watching the channels change on a tiny TV, and rotate to give the Chumby a fresh face every 30 seconds or so.

The Chumby One features a volume dial.

You can set the widgets to display for longer or shorter periods of time if there’s something you particularly like. Take PandaCam, for example: If the panda is being especially cute one morning, we can tap the app so the kids can watch for as long as they want. Essentially, the Chumby Classic and Chumby One are always-on, alwaysconnected devices that provide as much or as little content as you want. Each widget is a portal to different Web-based activity: Just tap on the Chumby’s touch-screen to open the application, or leave it alone and let the appliance cycle through the widgets you’ve programmed it to display. I put 57 widgets on the Chumby One I have set up in my kitchen. It has been programmed with a recipe widget (if an interesting recipe pops up, I can tap the Chumby One’s screen for more details) and a weather widget, too, that allows me to glance at the day’s forecast while I prepare breakfast in the morning and pack the kids’ lunches for school. There’s also a YouTube widget and ones that stream news headlines from The  New York Times and tech blog TechCrunch, among others. One of my favorite widgets offers the monologue from the previous night’s episode of The  Late Late Show. Although I can rarely stay awake late enough to watch Craig Ferguson, I can tap on my Chumby One the next morning to see his spiel from the night before. Both Chumbys automatically download software upgrades so there’s no worry that either device will become outdated any time soon, but a new Chumby-like device is

about to hit stores and give the devices a run for its—or in this case, consumers’—money. Sony showed off its Chumby-like device, the Dash, at the 2010 Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas in January. At 7 inches, its touchscreen display is twice as big as the Chumby’s. In fact, it looks more like a digital picture frame than a tabletop media machine. Like the Chumby, the Dash offers an array of widgets—but it can display more than one widget at a time, making it potentially more useful. This means the weather can be displayed on part of the screen, next to streaming news headlines, your Twitter feed, and clips from YouTube. If the device sounds familiar, it’s because Sony licensed the Chumby software to operate the Dash—so the Dash is, at its core, a bigger, multitasking Chumby. Sony is expected to release the Dash next month, priced at about $200.

The Sony Dash will be in stores in April.

Chicago-based technolog y columnist Eric  Benderoff writes about consumer electronics and  runs, an editorial services  firm. He frequently discusses tech trends and  new gadgets on various national radio and TV  programs. Follow him on Twitter @ericbendy. March 25-31, 2010  Vegas Seven 89

Dining The Best of CityCenter Our critic narrows down the extensive list of great eats to five favorites

By Max Jacobson With 17 full-fledged restaurants and a sprinkling  of other venues for noshing and nibbling (such as  Jean Philippe Patisserie or Skybar for burgers and  sandwiches), CityCenter positively breaks the mold  for the Las Vegas dining scene. Most casinos rely on a formula that includes  a steak house, an Italian restaurant, a Chinese  restaurant and a buffet, and then riff from there.  CityCenter brings us central Asian, Thai, Spanish, an English carvery (at the complex’s newest  restaurant, Todd English P.U.B. at Crystals) and  several other groundbreaking concepts.

As if this multibillion-dollar make-or-break  project weren’t enough of a gamble.  I’ve eaten at all but one of the 17 venues and  most are very good. But since there isn’t space  enough to describe all of them, I’ve selected my  five favorites—each of which has a different style  of cooking and offers a good bang for the buck.  Silk Road. The stunning design is from Karim  Rashid, who did the sofas, the infinity sculpture  and the gilded walls, in collaboration with the chef,  Martin Heierling. A central-Asian-tinged menu is  as exotic as the Strip can handle, but sparse traffic  Continued on page 92

Eggs, Eggs, Eggs: the signature breakfast dish at Silk Road.

March 25-31, 2010 Vegas Seven  91


Diner’s Notebook CityCenter Continued from page 91

recently forced them to close for dinner. Turkish eggs star at breakfast,  and the kataifi-wrapped shrimp and  terrific kofte meatballs from the lunch  menu dazzle even a jaded palate. In Vdara, 590-7111. Breakfast 7-11:30 a.m.; lunch 11:30-2 p.m. MOzen Bistro. Food at the city’s  most eclectic restaurant includes  sushi made to order by master chef  Shawn Armstrong,  Chinese congee,  Indian-style tandoori meats served  on a grand platter,  and more familiar  fare, such as one of  the best club sandwiches in the city  and wonderful roast  chicken. In between  lunch and dinner,  the restaurant  stays open for light  snacks. The coffee,  free newspapers and good service  make breakfast here a treat, too. In Mandarin Oriental, 590-8882. Breakfast 6:30-11 a.m.; lunch 11:45 a.m.-2 p.m.; light fare 2-6 p.m.; dinner 6-10:30 p.m. Twist. Paris superstar chef  Pierre Gagnaire’s 23rd-floor aerie  resembles a quiet hotel dining  room at an exclusive City of Light  hotel—with food to match. His  cooking here, at this exclusive City  of Lights hotel, is relentlessly creative,  with combinations few of us could ever  imagine. Langoustine Five Ways is a  signature dish. Prices are more than  reasonable for such high-class cuisine.  Whether ordering a la carte or one  of the pricier tasting menus, all the  bells and whistles are included, such  as an array of glorious amuse bouches  and wonderful petit fours for dessert. In Mandarin Oriental, 590-8882. Dinner 6-10 p.m. Tues.-Sat. Julian Serrano. The Frenchtrained chef is known here for his work  at Picasso in Bellagio, but his first love is  the cuisine of his native country, Spain.  At his eponymous restaurant, by two  of the hotel’s most exclusive restaurants  (Sage and Bar Masa), you can eat tapas  such as jamón Ibericó, the world’s most  expensive ham, chicken croquetas and  peppers with Manchego cheese. For a  big splurge, have the city’s best paella,  a rice dish cooked in an iron pan with  meat or seafood. In Aria, 590-7111. Lunch 11 a.m.-5 p.m.; dinner 5-11 p.m. Lemongrass. It’s billed as the  Strip’s first Thai restaurant, and that’s  being modest. Chef Krairit Krairavee  (see page 98), an import from the Man92 Vegas Seven March 25-31, 2010

A great panini find, trendy cocktails and one Krazy deal By Max Jacobson

darin Oriental in Bangkok, prepares  Malaysian-style satay, Vietnamese pho  noodle soup and Chinese Three Cups  Chicken to go with a core menu of  Thai dishes. Try his grilled pork neck,  yam nua yang (Thai beef salad) or any  of the Thai-style curries. In Aria, 5907111. Lunch and dinner, 11 a.m.-2 a.m. 

A CityCenter sampler: a dining room with a view at Twist (top), the eclectic MOzen Bistro (inset) and Julian Serrano’s beautiful Avocado Canelonne (above).

Giacomo Zarcone runs an  authentic Italian bistro (8975  S. Eastern Ave.) called La Focaccia, where he has  made a name for himself  with fine flatbreads, pizza  and hot panini, all done in a  wood-fired oven. Now he has enlarged his restaurant to include a  deli, with the dining room off to one side. You can  buy excellent prepared salads, imported cheeses and  various imported Italian products there. That’s him tossing pastas on the stove, making  sandwiches or putting flatbreads in the oven, behind  a glass partition. The panini are terrific. Try the  Italian combo: salami, mortadella, capicolé, provolone cheese, tomato and a splash of oil and vinegar  on hot homemade focaccia. Zarcone also does a rich version of lasagna in the  oven, using béchamel sauce, Emilia-Romagna style.  “In these challenging times,” Zarcone says, “I felt I  had to come up with something distinguishing.” He  has certainly done so.  If you want to impress your date with a trendy  cocktail, two come to mind. One is the lychee martini, straight up, and the other is a festive new drink  perfect for hot weather, the South Beach Lemonade.  The latter recipe calls for Raspberry and Orange  Smirnoff, fresh lemonade and a Blue Curacao  garnish. Ask for one in the busy bar in Red Square at Mandalay Bay. There are Asian buffets all over town, but many of  them serve warmed-over food laced with MSG. I’m  not much for buffets, but for Krazy Buffet (8095  W. Sahara Ave.) I have to make an exception. Its  $6.99 lunch buffet (less 15 percent for seniors) is the  best value I’ve seen here in Buffet Central. Excellent pot stickers and several types of dim  sum are complemented by made-to-order sushi and  first-rate hot-and-sour or wonton soup. The seafood  selection, considering the price, is incredible. They  always do a salmon dish, usually a white-fleshed   fish, clams in the shell, crayfish and both battered   and sautéed shrimps. Most of the popular Chinese stir-fry dishes are  included in the price—kung pao chicken, sweet-and-sour  pork, and two dozen others. There is even an extensive  dessert buffet. The dinner price jumps to $10.99  because there are crab legs. “How do you make a profit?” I asked the manager.  “We do 700 covers on a good weekday, and over  1,000 on weekends,” he replied.  Call me krazy, but I’m still skeptical. Hungry, yet?  Follow Max Jacobson’s latest epicurean observations, reviews and tips at


Dishing Got a favorite dish? Tell us at

Filet Mignon Fajitas at Agave

Carnitas Burrito at El Picante

This Mexican restaurant has many reasons to keep you coming back for more, but this is our favorite. The authentic fajita, created by executive chef Matthew Silverman, features a filet marinated in a special blend of spices, plus a nice array of vegetables. Since the fajita can be hot and spicy, we suggest a cool Blue Agave margarita to go with it. $16.95, 10820 W. Charleston Blvd., 214-3500.

The burritos here are made right in front of you with your choice of ingredients. A healthful, popular version: In a whole-wheat tortilla, choose lean pork, rice with cilantro, black beans and fresh pico de gallo. It’ll keep you fit and happy! Of course, all the classics on which we love to splurge, such as refried beans and sour cream, are still available. $4.99 (regular), $6.50 (grande), 430 E. Silverado Ranch Blvd., 796-9800.

94  Vegas Seven March 25-31, 2010

Chicken Fried Steak and Eggs at Village Pub This gaming pub, a local chain, serves great breakfasts, and chief among them this caloric feast. A plate stocked with two eggs (your choice), nicely browned toast (try the rye) and golden-brown, cubed home fries is dwarfed by this crunchy giant of a fried steak, accompanied by sausage gravy as thick as brick mortar. Your arteries will harden just thinking of it. $6.99, multiple locations.

Margheritta Pizza at Rao’s This Italian restaurant brings some of New York’s charm to Las Vegas with an indoor patio designed after that city’s Jefferson Park. The new lunch menu, “Pizza in the Park,” complements the atmosphere as diners choose from woodfired pizzas created by executive chef Carla Pellegrino. The delicious pizza shown above is made with Neapolitanstyle tomato sauce (known as pomarolla) mozzarella, fresh tomato and basil. $13, Caesars Palace, 731-7267.


Dishing Got a favorite dish? Tell us at

Kebab Sampler at Origin of India Thinking about diving into the world of Indian cuisine and don’t know where to start? Try this sampler, which will give you a little taste of the highlights. The platter includes tiger prawn shrimp, organic chicken breast, paneer tikka and lamb links served with a dish of Punjabi black lentils. This modern Indian restaurant was featured on Rachael’s Vacation, the show hosted by Food Network star Rachael Ray. $25, 4480 Paradise Road, 734-6342.

96  Vegas Seven March 25-31, 2010

Black Truffle and Comte Cheese Fritters at Jean-Georges Steakhouse If you want a really luxurious side dish, look no further than these orbs of expensive imported cheese and thin shavings of truffles, a soufflé-like creation that is golden crisp on the outside and creamy in the center. Don’t forget to save room for steak. $13. In Aria at CityCenter, 590-8660.

Lasagna at Caffé Dolce

Idaho Trout at Marche Bacchus

Enjoy classic northern Italian lasagna in this delightful atrium courtyard. Owner Giuseppe Bavarese serves one of the city’s best examples of this oftenabused entrée, a layered dish with a veal ragù, not too much cheese and a light béchamel sauce. It is finished in the restaurant’s wood-fired oven and served in a cast-iron pan. $10, 5875 S. Rainbow Blvd., 367-9900.

Locals come to this French Bistro and wine shop in Summerlin to enjoy executive chef Jean-Paul Labadie’s appetizing cuisine and relax along the lake at Desert Shores. Inspired by Labadie’s stay in New Orleans, the rainbow trout is pan-roasted to make the skin crispy and topped with haricot vert (French thin, tender green beans), roasted red and green peppers, balsamic shallots, and crabmeat. $16, 2620 Regatta Dr., No. 106, 804-8008.



Fit to be Thai

Thanks to Lemongrass’ worldly chef, the Strip finally gets a true slice of this tasty cuisine  By Max Jacobson Looking at the modest, bespectacled Krairit Krairavee, you might think the man was the hotel’s accountant, as opposed to the highly trained chef who has finally put Thailand on the Strip’s map. In speaking with him, the first impression is that of quiet resolve, apropos of his first name, which translates roughly as “strength during conflict” in his native Thai. He’s only 33 and has been here only four months, but he seems to be adjusting well, taking in the local culture, going to the gym and improving his idiomatic use of English. But Krairavee is used to adaptation. Trained at the most famous cooking school in Thailand, Bangkok’s deluxe Dusit Thani hotel, he’s already been, at a relatively tender age, a culinary teacher and world traveler. And his English is excellent overall, thanks to a stint in Holland at a Bilderburg Hotel on the outskirts of Amsterdam, as well as in Malaysia, where he opened a Thai restaurant. The success of Lotus of Siam (reviewed in the March 18 issue) has resulted in the birth of many fine Thai restaurants here in Las Vegas, so it was high time a purely Thai restaurant materialized on the Strip. Lemongrass at Aria is just that. Designed to look like a silk factory, the interior captures the Thai aesthetic nicely. Krairavee aims to do that in the kitchen as well, although he’s going about it step by step. At his last job, as a chef in his native Bangkok’s prestigious Mandarin Oriental, he cooked many dishes that aren’t done often in America, such as fermented beans in coconut milk and a sour catfish soup called gang som. 98  Vegas Seven March 25-31, 2010

“I’m finding that people in this country don’t like overly sour or salty flavors,” he says, “and because Thais cut everything they eat with rice, I have had to tone down the intensity to some degree. So I use less of typical Thai condiments such as fish sauce, chili and ginger. If I were cooking for Thais, the taste profile would be different.” Clockwise from top left: Chef Krairavee, his pad thai and the  That doesn’t mean you can’t get spicy food. If you Lemongrass dining room, designed to resemble a silk factory.  ask your server to make it a 10 (on the famous scale  Photography by Anthony Mair starting at one), you’ll be getting something as hot as most people can handle. And the rest of the menu is quite authentic. “It’s very important for me to represent my country and Thai culture,” he says. “So, as a starting point, we have most of the core dishes American movies. The gym. popular in America, such as green He loves action movies, espeHe had a home gym in curry, pad thai noodles and yu m nua cially ones starring Jackie Chan. Bangkok, and he loves to do yang, Thai beef salad.” cardio and weights. That salad is made with prime ribTraveling. eye, red grapes and fresh mint, and it’ll “I’m still trying to find time to Spaghetti carbonara. be the best you’ve ever tasted. visit the Grand Canyon.” He developed a taste for it And there are many other gems while traveling in Italy. on his Lemongrass menu that are Dessert. immutably Thai: homemade fishcakes, He loves tiramisu. Nissan’s Skyline GT-R. Thai crab omelet, grilled pork neck— “What can I say, I’m a car all of which add up to a unique take on The UFC. buff, and there is lots of room Thai food. It reminds him of muay thai, to drive in America.” Thailand couldn’t ask for a more a famously brutal Thai version sincere culinary ambassador. of kickboxing.

Seven Things Krairit Krairavee Can’t Live Without


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Travel a Culinary escape Annual Pebble Beach Food & Wine festival offers a tasty weekend—thanks in part to Las Vegas By MJ Elstein Assembling the nation’s greatest chefs for a respite of cooking, imbibing and golf would be a memorable event no matter the circumstance or locale. Now add in a backdrop as scenic as Northern California’s Pebble Beach and invite a few of Las Vegas’ star chefs (Thomas Keller, Charlie Trotter, Hubert Keller, Wolfgang Puck, Paul Bartolotta), along with 60 more of America’s best chefs and more than 250 wineries, and you have the perfect weekend getaway. A food-lover’s paradise, Pebble Beach Food & Wine, sponsored by American Express Publishing, is April 8-11 and it offers pricing at four levels to meet every chowhound’s budget. Tickets start at $100 for a la carte events, $995 for the Magnum package, $2,000 for the Jeroboam package and $4,750 for the Imperial package—all with varying degrees of access and itineraries. Events will take place in and around the Pebble Beach resorts: The Lodge at Pebble Beach, The Inn at Spanish Bay and the Pebble Beach Golf Links. There also will be dinners, lunches, wine tastings and cooking demos. Here are our suggestions for events not to miss: Thursday, April 8 Recreation: Celebrity Chef and Winemaker Tournament on Pebble Beach Golf Links. The day begins with a Krug champagne toast, and gourmet food, wine and beverages will be available throughout the course as chefs, master sommeliers, winemakers and guests enjoy a spirited game of golf. Dinner: Opening-night reception at The Inn at Spanish Bay. Twenty chefs serve delicacies paired with more than 200 wines as guests stroll the picturesque Inn. Chefs include

Alain Passard of L’Arpège in Paris, Charles Phan of the Slanted Door in San Francisco and Walter Manzke of Church and State in Los Angeles. Friday, April 9 Lunch: Iron Chefs Masaharu Morimoto and Michael Symon come together to prepare a memorable lunch paired with wines from the Washington State Wine Commission. Dinner: “A Study in Classic Composition With Thomas Keller and Charlie Trotter.” Two culinary geniuses unite with Angela Pinkerton of Eleven Madison Park doing desserts. Wines to complement include Oliver Krug presenting a Krug Grand Cuvee, Pio Boffa and his Barolo, and Paul Roberts showing off Bond. Saturday, April 10 Tasting: Laura Werlin hosts ‘’The Magic & Seduction of Cheese & Wine.’’ The author and cheesemonger extraordinaire takes guests on an interactive tutorial of how to get the most out of pairings. Dinner: “Dining With the Top Chef Masters.” Five of the superstar chefs from Bravo TV’s Masters show, including Michael Chiarello, Roy Yamaguchi, Hubert Keller, Tim Love and Jonathan Waxman, will craft a five-course dinner in the ballroom of The Inn at Spanish Bay. Sunday, April 11 Lunch: “Lexus Grand Tasting.” The closing event of the weekend brings together chefs such as Ken Frank of La Toque in Napa and Mark Sullivan of Spruce in San Francisco for a final blowout complete with book-signings and photo sessions. For a complete schedule of events, visit

How to get there Allegiant offers nonstop flights from Las Vegas to the Monterey Peninsula. Fly for as low as $28 each way on Mondays and Fridays. For a more scenic option, fly from Las Vegas to San Francisco on Virgin America, with multiple nonstops per day, starting at $49. (Insiders tip: Upgrade to first-class for $60 when checking in 24 hours in advance). Then drive from SFO to Pebble Beach, which is a 2.5-hour trip. Highlights of the ’09 Pebble Beach fest: wine, food and culinary celebs Tom Colicchio and Gail Simmons. 100 Vegas Seven  March 25-31, 2010

SportS & LeiSure Big plans for rebels Greater height positions UNLV for strong showing in Kruger’s seventh season

By Sean DeFrank

REBELS By thE numBERS 3 – The number of NCAA Tournaments the team has reached in coach Lon Kruger’s six seasons at UNLV. 2 – The number of NCAA Tournament appearances (1998, 2000) the Rebels made in the 12 years between Jerry Tarkanian’s departure and the hiring of Kruger. 9 – The number of Rebels who averaged at least 12 minutes per game this season who are returning to the program. 92 – Percentage of points scored this season by players returning to the team. .732 – Field-goal shooting percentage this season for forward Brice Massamba (60 of 82).

Although the UNLV basketball team’s stay in the NCAA Tournament was a short one, the program is in position for bigger and better things next season—with an emphasis on “bigger.” The Rebels exceeded most expectations this season in what was considered a rebuilding year for coach Lon Kruger after the team lost three of its top four scorers. UNLV won 25 games and gained an at-large bid for the NCAA Tournament. Even the team’s 69-66 first-round loss to No. 9 seed Northern Iowa looks a lot better after the Panthers shocked No. 1 seed Kansas, 69-67, in the second round. With only forward Darris Santee and walk-on guard Steve Jones not returning to the Rebels, Kruger’s seventh season at UNLV could feature his most talented roster. Back will be guards Tre’Von Willis, Oscar Bellfield, Kendall Wallace, Derrick Jasper, Anthony Marshall and Justin Hawkins; and forwards Chace Stanback, Matt Shaw and Brice Massamba, all of whom averaged at least 12 minutes per game this season. Those returning players accounted for 92 percent of scoring, 87 percent of rebounds and 97 percent of assists for the Rebels, who, despite their success this season, were most vulnerable against teams with significant size. UNLV lost twice during Mountain West Conference play to a mediocre Utah team, which used 7-foot-3-inch center David Foster, the MWC Defensive Player of the Year, effectively against the Rebels. And during a three-game losing streak in February against New Mexico, San Diego State and Utah, UNLV was outrebounded by a combined total of 118-81, including an embarrassing 45-23 difference at home against the Lobos. Being at a size disadvantage against most opponents should not be an issue next season, however. Redshirts Carlos Lopez and Quintrell Thomas should give the Rebels a presence in the post they haven’t had since Joel Anthony and Gaston Essengue patrolled the paint during UNLV’s Sweet 16 season of 2006-07. Lopez, a 6-11 freshman from Findlay Prep, and Thomas, a 6-8 sophomore transfer from Kansas, should team with Shaw and Massamba to give Kruger his biggest, most talented front line at UNLV. Just because the Rebels should be better next season, however, doesn’t mean they should have an easier time getting invited to the NCAA Tournament. UNLV was one of four Mountain West teams to receive NCAA berths this season—along with

Freshman guard Anthony Marshall showed great improvement at the end of the season.

New Mexico, BYU and San Diego State—and the league should be stronger next season. The Lobos have four starters, including MWC Player of the Year Darington Hobson, returning next season; sharpshooting guard Jimmer Fredette heads four returning starters for the Cougars; and the Aztecs return four starters who earned at least an All-MWC Honorable Mention nod, including forward Kawhi Leonard, who was named first-team all-conference as a freshman. UNLV still has one scholarship left for next season, and is hopeful that Findlay Prep point guard Cory Joseph will fill that slot. The Rebels did get a commitment earlier this month from 6-6 prep forward Grandy Glaze for the program’s 2011 class. The Rebels’ future also looks brighter with the announcement earlier this month of a proposed $12 million, 38,000-squarefoot basketball practice facility that will be attached to Cox Pavilion and could be completed by next spring.

Just because the pads come off, that doesn’t mean football season has to end. The country’s top teams will be playing in the Metro Competitor Flag Football Union World Championships in Las Vegas from March 26-28, with squads of a variety of skill levels competing. The Las Vegas World Championships will include teams playing in Pro, Competitive, Recreational, and Parks and Rec divisions. Formats consist of 8v8 Eligible, Women, Coed, 7v7 and 5v5. The Pro division features the country’s top 18 flag 102

Vegas Seven March 25-31, 2010

football teams, which travel and compete throughout the year. About 80 teams from at least 12 states, including Nevada, will compete at All American Park, at Buffalo Drive and Oakey Boulevard. The MCFFU is the premier flag football organization in the country, and also stages the Flag Football World Championship Series in Miami each January as part of the USA Flag Football Circuit. – Sean DeFrank For more information, visit

Marshall photo courtesy UNLV

nation’s top flag football teams to compete in World Championships

Going for Broke

Rebound sought after early NCAA air balls By Matt Jacob Will Ferrell has to live with Land of the Lost. Van Halen has to live with the Gary Cherone experiment. And Carrot Top has to live with, well, his entire career. Point is, we’ve all flopped at some point, and boy did I have my crash-and-burn moment with last week’s picks. Seven selections and only two winners? A .286 winning percentage may be acceptable for, say, the UNLV football team, but not me. If that wasn’t bad enough, two of my four “futures” plays from the previous week on teams to win the NCAA Tournament—Wisconsin and UNLV—bowed out quickly. (Note to my editors: Didn’t you get my e-mail telling you to switch Wisconsin to Northern Iowa and UNLV to Cornell? You’re killing me, guys!) That performance lost me another $675 and dropped my bankroll to $5,935. Needless to say, I can sense that monkey they’ve got warming up in the bullpen mocking me. Much like Carrot Top, I better get my act together and fast! $440 (to win $400) on Northern Iowa (+1.5) vs. Michigan State (Friday, March 26): Ali Farokhmanesh. Undoubtedly you still don’t know how to pronounce the name, but surely you’re aware of it by now. Lord knows UNLV and Kansas players will be seeing the mad bomber in their sleep for months. Farokhmanesh drained the 3-point daggers that sent the Rebels and top-ranked Jayhawks home early and moved Northern Iowa from “sleeper” status to legit contender. Of course, there’s more to the Panthers than the baby-faced point guard with the funky name. This is a veteran, fundamentally sound, well-coached team that plays defense as well as any team in the country. Because of that, Northern Iowa has been hanging around the top 25 for much of the last three months (and thus should never have been considered a “sleeper” at all). As for this matchup against Michigan State, the Panthers caught a huge break when Spartans point guard Kalin Lucas suffered a season-ending Achilles’ injury in the first half of their buzzer-beating, second-round win over Maryland. Six weeks ago, Lucas went down with a knee injury early in a game at Wisconsin, and Michigan State got clobbered, 67-49. He missed the ensuing game four days later

at Illinois, and the Spartans lost, 78-73. Lucas returned at less than 100 percent a few days later, and the Spartans suffered a 12-point home loss to Purdue. Given those results, I think it’s safe to say the following: No Lucas, no chance for the Spartans. The pasty white boys from Cedar Falls, Iowa, move on with a comfortable win (by at least seven points). $220 (to win $200) on Ohio State (-5) vs. Tennessee (Friday, March 26): Speaking of catching breaks, how happy do you think Tennessee was to see No. 3 seed Georgetown go down in the first round? Rather than face the athletic, dangerous Hoyas in the second round, Tennessee—after a three-point, opening-round win over San Diego State—got to feast on 14th-seeded Ohio (the Vols rolled to a 15-point victory). No such luck in the Sweet 16, though, as Tennessee runs up against Evan Turner and Ohio State, which has won nine straight games and 18 of 20 (the only two losses were to West Virginia and Purdue—two Sweet 16 entrants— by a total of eight points). After a surprisingly poor performance in a first-round rout of UC Santa Barbara, Turner came to play against Georgia Tech and tallied 24 points, nine rebounds, nine assists and three steals in a nine-point Buckeyes win. You know how much I like Ohio State in this tournament (they were one of my “futures” plays to win it all). And now that they don’t have to go through Kansas, I love the Buckeyes more than Charles Barkley loves butchering the English language. Tennessee easily covered a nine-point spread in its win over Ohio, but is still just 7-12-1 ATS in its last 20 games since mid-January. Not once during this stretch did the Vols cash in consecutive contests. Bonus plays (all $55 to win $50): Take Butler (+7) over Syracuse (March 25); Purdue-Duke UNDER the total of 129.5 (March 26); Suns (-8) over Timberwolves (March 28). Matt Jacob is a former local sports writer who has been in the sports handicapping business for more than four years. For his weekly column, Vegas Seven has granted Matt a “$7,000” bankroll. If he blows it all, we’ll fire him and replace him with a monkey. March 25-31, 2010 Vegas Seven 103

Friday, March 26 Show at 9:00 p.m. Treasure Island Theatre Tickets: 702.894.7722

Seven queStionS Anthony Curtis

The Las Vegas advisor talks about winning, our ‘gimmick’ city and, of course, the best deals

By Elizabeth Sewell

At just 16 years old, Anthony Curtis knew Las Vegas was his kind of town. A self-professed “game player” since birth, he was enamored of the idea of making money by using his head to beat the house. The only holdback was his age. The day he turned 21, he decided there would be no more college. Two months later, he began making frequent trips from Southern California to Las Vegas, where he quickly became one of the world’s best blackjack players. Eventually he became too good even for the casinos, and he was banned from playing. He focused instead on becoming the ultimate Las Vegas advisor. The monthly newsletter bearing that name compiles the city’s best deals. His website, lasvegasadvisor. com, has become one of the go-to sites for tourists and locals alike, and his Huntington Press has published more 70 titles, from books about gambling to politics. It adds up to Curtis being one of the most sought-after authorities on all things Vegas, and he happily distributes tips on ways to get an edge over casinos.

Do you like the chase of gambling or the gratification more? Gratification—I like to win. I love the result when you’re right and you get paid. I like when it’s done and you cash.

a mousetrap, and the cheese “ Vegas was always was the affordability.” ist. You’re only going to have an array of outcomes and people ascribe luck to them, but in the end, if you don’t study you are going to lose at this game. Either do some studying or absolutely treat it like entertainment.

How do you get your gambling fix these days? “Gambling fix” isn’t really the right way to put it because I don’t really care about gambling. Gambling to me isn’t something I do specifically for entertainment. I gamble for profit, so if I’m not allowed to gamble I’ll publish books about gambling.

Will Las Vegas ever be viewed as a great city? No, Vegas will never be one of those kinds of metropolises. It will always be viewed as a redheaded stepchild of a great city. No matter what they do, it will always be viewed as a gimmick because it is. It will never quite get to that arena, but it will continue to grow in measures and it will get closer and closer.

What is your advice for the novice gambler? A beginning gambler should do a little bit of studying. People want to just go and rely on luck. Luck doesn’t ex-

What is the best deal in Las Vegas? In the Las Vegas Advisor we always do a Top 10, and for the past maybe 14 months, No. 1 in the Top 10


Vegas Seven March 25-31, 2010

has been low room rates. It’s just unbelievable. You can stay somewhere just off the Strip for less than you would spend in a Super 8 in Temecula, Calif.—it’s just absolutely crazy. Beyond that, I would go to the $6.95 steak dinner at Ellis Island. So the deal has returned to Las Vegas. It’s all about what Vegas used to be in terms of loss leaders, especially in room prices. Vegas tried to get away from that. Vegas was always a mousetrap, and the cheese was the affordability and the great prices. They went too far and it left the city vulnerable to this downturn that we’ve seen right now, so they’re doing what’s natural and what’s worked in the past—bringing people in with a bargain. Vegas is right back to being one of the best deals. I love it.

Photo by Anthony Mair

If you could go back to playing blackjack, would you? No, blackjack professionally is a really tedious endeavor. It’s a long road and it’s hard. There are a lot of people trying to stop you. There are a lot of people who look at you in the casinos as a cheater even though you’re not cheating. It’s a tough way to go. You’ve got to be pretty thick-skinned to do it and there’s a ceiling. You can only win so much before you’re found out. There’s no ceiling on publishing, so, no, I wouldn’t trade back.

The First 100 Days  

Vegas SEVEN is an innovative weekly publication about life in Las Vegas—news, nightlife, sports, style, A&E and everything in between.

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