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Midmarket nightlife impresario Jonathan Fine has built a career that would make his illustrious grandfather, Hank Greenspun, proud MANY LOCALS DON’T FEEL quite at home on the Las Vegas Strip; unless accompanying a visitor, they usually stay away, preferring the homier neighborhood and Downtown casinos. But when it comes to local business owners, the Strip—despite its domination by global companies—can be a land of opportunity. Jonathan Fine is a case in point. Fine—who operates some of the Strip’s hottest midmarket nightspots—comes from one of the most illustrious families in Las Vegas: His grandfather, Hank Greenspun, founder of the Las Vegas Sun, was one of the community’s pre-eminent leaders. His father, developer Mark Fine, was instrumental in the growth of Green Valley and Summerlin. And his brother, Jeffrey, is involved in numerous enterprises, including Fifth Street Gaming, operator of the recently opened Downtown Grand and other gaming locations. That kind of pedigree can open doors, but it also means that Fine, 37, has a lot to live up to, which might be why he’s not been content to ride a single wave. Fine started working in hospitality when he was 15, bussing tables at La Salsa and folding clothes at Beyond the Beach. That’s not the most glamorous introduction to the business, but it gave Fine a sense of how things work at the ground level. “It showed me how important quality and service are,” Fine says. “At La Salsa, my manager Bryan O’Shields [now vice president of food and beverage at Caesars Entertainment] emphasized both of them. And it really taught me how to engage with people.” After graduating from the University of Arizona in 1999, Fine worked for The Firm, a Los Angeles talent management company, and Maxim magazine before returning to Las Vegas to start Sting Alarm, a security company geared toward the hospitality industry. Running the company provided Fine with perspective on the problems that bar owners faced. He helped them fnd solutions to a variety of problems from employee theft to credit-card chargebacks, and soon he became an expert on how good bars run. So it wasn’t such a stretch for him to open one himself. In 2007, he partnered with Jeff Beacher to open Beacher’s Rockhouse at the Imperial Palace. After splitting with Beacher, Fine and his partners in Fine Entertainment continued to run the Rockhouse until May 2012, when Quad-making renovations forced


its closure. He quickly reopened the venue at the Venetian. In 2009, Fine Entertainment opened PBR Rock Bar and Grill at Miracle Mile Shops, a venue featuring bull-riding, beer pong and a party atmosphere. “We want to give people an opportunity to let loose,” he says, “to live the movie for a night.” This year, when he wasn’t busy relocating Rockhouse, Fine was keeping his other businesses—including PBR Rock Bar and Sting Alarm— running smoothly. Fine believes his enterprises differ fundamentally from those run by out-of-town companies, and not just because of his focus on listening to customers. “You have some groups that bring in well-known brands from outside,”

he says, “and often they don’t get involved in the community here.” That’s at odds with Fine’s commitment to giving back. “My grandfather told me, ‘Take care of the community, and they’ll take care of you,’” he says. That might be why Fine has been an energetic supporter of many local charities, including the Public Education Foundation, Opportunity Village and the local chapters of both Susan G. Komen and Reggie Jackson’s Mr. October Foundation for Kids, which encourages science, technology, engineering and math education. And Fine is just getting started. His mind is already on a number of new ventures, including social media and gaming patents, outdoor media and an interactive marketing service. It appears that he’s discovered the secret to making it in Las Vegas: keeping his ears tuned to the customers and his eyes on where the market is going.

At long last, the Downtown Grand is open. It’s being touted as the area’s first new hotel-casino in 30 years; it’s also the first major opening in the Valley since the Cosmopolitan in December 2010. Many have eagerly awaited this moment, mostly because of what has morphed into an almost cult-like attachment to the Grand’s predecessor, the Lady Luck. But don’t expect a nostalgia rush when you walk through the doors—there’s not much of the old lady left. For eats, there’s the Stewart + Ogden bistro, an Asian restaurant and a sportsbook deli called The Spread, where you can get fresh made-toorder sandwiches (including monster breakfast selections) starting at $8 (see DTGrandEats). Across Third Street, Pizza Rock offers more pizza styles than I’ve ever seen in one place, including Napoletana, Romana, Sicilian, Classic Italian, New York, New Haven and Chicago, with different variations of each. It’s a cool place to eat while you watch a game, but you can also nab a slice up front—cheese is $3.78, pepperoni is $4.05 and combos are $5.41. Next door, the Triple George has always been good for its steaks under $40 and a stellar potroast plate for lunch. The Grand has multiple bars, including the Art Bar with replicas of famous paintings hung upside down on the ceiling. Draft beer throughout is $5, or hit Pizza Rock, where you can get a pint of Moretti or Stone Ruination, among several other draft selections, for just a buck more. The casino opened with some good video-poker schedules, but if you blinked you missed ’em, as someone apparently thought better of that plan and dropped the return percentages within the first week. The best-returning schedule is now 9/6 Triple Double Bonus, with a 98.15 percent return. It’s available only for dollars and higher, so quarter players will have to make due with a best play of 6/5 Bonus Poker (96.87 percent). But sign up for the My Points players club: New members get $5 in free-play after earning 1,000 points ($667 coin-in), along with a mystery bonus of $3-$1,000. I’ve seen good value in room prices. Granted, this is the bargain month, but rooms are as low as $39 per night. There’s also an added $11 resort fee, but this is one you shouldn’t mind paying, as it comes with a $10 match play worth $4.70, at least three free drinks worth $15 and another $5-$15 in food discounts, yielding $35 in value for the 11 bucks. In the spring, the 35,000-square-foot grasscovered pool complex, Picnic, will open on the roof, and I’m told there will be a gaming area outside where players can partake in a game of “street craps.” That sounds like fun.

David G. Schwartz is the director of UNLV’s Center for Gaming Research.

Anthony Curtis is the publisher of the Las Vegas Advisor and


THE LATEST December 19–25, 2013 VEGAS SEVEN


A Local Kid on the Strip

says Clark County Commissioner Larry Brown, who became the agency’s frst Carson City staff member in 1991. “That was a critical time, when we had to start thinking about living in the most arid city in the country with an increasing growth rate. Pat was not only the face of the authority, but also behind the scenes driving policy.” Mulroy was motivated both by the development community, which wanted to get bulldozers rolling on the developments whose will-serves had been put on hold, and by the other Colorado River states. They wouldn’t entertain requests for more river water until they were convinced SNWA had secured all of its available in-state resources. Under Mulroy’s direction, SNWA’s Carson City team went to work on legislation that would allow it to acquire unclaimed water wherever engineers could fnd it. Their search would lead environmental writer Jenkins, writing in High Country News, to describe the team as “experts at digging change out of the couch.” It would also lead to the case where Mulroy’s determination bled into hubris: the socalled “water grab” from the basin and range land in central and eastern Nevada.

December 19–25, 2013




in 1989, mulroy filed applications for water rights to some 800,000 acre-feet of water in aquifers under the verdant area encompassing Cave, Lake, Delamar, Dry Lake, Spring and Snake valleys. Terrifed that they would end up like residents of California’s Owens Valley—a farming community that dried up in the early 1900s after the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power pumped its groundwater and shipped it to the growing metropolis via the L.A. Aqueduct—thousands of environmentalists, farmers, outdoor recreation enthusiasts and other concerned citizens lodged protests. The water pipeline, which SNWA calls its Groundwater Development Project, has been the source of near-constant controversy ever since, but under Mulroy’s direction, the water authority has pushed ahead, plowing through or maneu-

vering around administrative, environmental, legal and even physical obstacles. It has spent billions of dollars acquiring land (including the ranches mentioned above), buying water rights, studying the hydrology and formulating plans, not to mention defending itself against legal assaults on the project. The SNWA estimates the project will cost around $3 billion, but critics put the number closer to $15 billion. Still, the highest cost may end up being to Mulroy’s reputation. Generous detractors portray her as the gradeschool bully shaking down the puny kid for his lunch money; to the less charitable, she’s an imperialist feeding a reckless extraction economy. “I think one thing that characterizes [Mulroy’s] management style is her big presence, and her strong ego,” says environmental attorney Simeon Herskovits, who represents the Great Basin Water Network, as well as several local governments, irrigation companies, ranch owners and nonprofts that oppose the water pipeline. “She’s a little single-minded and insular in her thinking once she sees her credibility invested. I don’t personally have any animus toward her at all; my brief encounters with her in hearings affrm that she’s smart, politically smooth and savvy, and probably not devoid of merits and virtues. But on this issue, she’s been arrogant and dishonest and untrustworthy toward the rural communities.” Residents of these communities openly express their scorn for Mulroy, citing her public statements about their insignifcance relative to Southern Nevada, the state’s economic engine. They believe that, contrary to SNWA’s assurances, if the pipeline opens, Las Vegas will suck every last drop of water from under their feet. And even if the plan never goes forward, some say irreparable damage has already been done to their way of life. Potential businesses, investors, residents and visitors will stay away, perceiving towns such as Baker and Ely as endangered—on the brink of losing their water. The woman who once dreamed of a career in the Foreign Service has been able

Mulroy at a Southern Nevada Public Land Management Act presentation at the Las Vegas Springs Preserve in 2008; breaking ground at the Springs Preserve in 2005.



THE ICE RINK The Cosmopolitan [ UPCOMING ]



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December 19–25, 2013

Dec. 19 Throwback Thursday Dec. 23 Date Skate Dec. 25 Wednesday Industry Skate




Mandalay Bay [ UPCOMING ]



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December 19–25, 2013

Dec. 20 Stellar spins Dec. 21 Carl Kennedy spins Dec. 25 Andy Caldwell spins



VIEW BAR The Palms




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December 19–25, 2013

Dec. 20 Hookah Hookup Dec. 27 Final Fridays Art Show Dec. 31 The Moonshiners perform






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December 19–25, 2013

1501 W. Sahara




Caesars Palace [ UPCOMING ]



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December 19–25, 2013

Dec. 30 The Weeknd performs Dec. 31 Ne-Yo performs







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December 19–25, 2013

Dec. 19 Moose-A-Claus Sexy Miss Santa Search Dec. 20 DJ Loczi spins Dec. 21 DJ E-Rock spins


Morning wakeup meets global shakeup for this hopeful local startup


By Al Mancini

➧ WALKING INTO Owen Carver’s

Summerlin home on a Thursday morning, the scent of freshly brewed coffee permeates the air. Considering that the house doubles as headquarters for his Web design company, All In Web Pro, where a staff of four are frantically toiling

over laptops, that’s not surprising. A glance into the kitchen, however, confrms that coffee isn’t simply a caffeine supply for this team. Alongside a sparkling new coffeemaker sit a half-dozen or so premium coffees. In front of them is a stack of grading sheets, allowing for

each to be judged on fragrance, favor, aftertaste, acidity and mouth feel, with 12-25 descriptive choices in each category. These people are clearly serious about coffee, and they should be. They’re about to go into the coffee business—with aspirations much greater than simply

place, my heart’s not behind it.” Carver believes he can achieve his mission by buying his beans directly from Montans. The horrendous living and working conditions of many coffee workers are well documented. To avoid complicity in their suffering, Carver wants to personally know and trust the person from whom he’s buying his beans, and see frsthand the working conditions on their farm. For every pound of coffee Carver sells, he plans to donate $1 to a pair of education funds, one in Brazil, the other in Las Vegas (he hasn’t yet selected the local cause). The coffee’s biodegradable packaging will feature stories about locals who are changing the world in a positive way. His ultimate goal: “Lead a new social movement in the U.S. that makes everyone realize they personally have the power to change the world and solve our biggest problems by voting with their dollars for sustainable, transparent companies, and by becoming a local hero in their community by organizing projects and events that make a positive impact and inspire others to do the same.” The longer Carver speaks about the project, the more he comes up with ideas on how to use the company as an engine of good. Those ideas are built into his business plan, he says, “to make this the most sustainable, ethical, environmentally friendly coffee out there.” That’s almost impressive enough to convince me to start drinking coffee.


Uncommon Ground

making a great cup of joe. On December 19, Carver was set to start shipping online orders of Café do Paraíso, Vegas’ own boutique coffee company ( The beans are imported directly from his friend Gisele Montans, whose family owns a coffee farm in Brazil. And he recently took a fve-day roasting course in Upland, California, taught by Klatch’s Mike Perry one of the top 10 roasters in the U.S., in order to roast the beans himself. (He’s hoping to join a small local fraternity of commercial coffee roasters that also includes Sunrise Coffee House’s Mother Ship Coffee, Chieti Coffee, Colorado River Coffee Roasters and Frankly Good Coffee.) The initial rollout is small, with only 1,300 12-ounce bags expected to be produced between now and February. That’s because Carver doesn’t own his own roaster yet (he’s hoping to have one by February), so for now he has to drive small batches to Upland, California, roast them with Perry’s team, and drive them back. Given all that effort, you would expect Carver to be a coffee fanatic. But he’s not. It’s a means to an end, but not a fnancially centric one. While he’s determined to create amazing coffee and run a proftable business, what drives him is something much more important: “Coffee was an opportunity to make a business,” he explains. “And that’s nice. But if the business I’m working in isn’t explicitly, in its mission, making the world a better

December 19–25, 2013

Budding bean-roaster Owen Carver and Cafe do Paraíso.



December 19–25, 2013

Grey’s Anatomy



GREY GOOSE IS the darling of the nightclub, the belle of the disco ball, the life of every bottle service ritual. But don’t dismiss her from the mixology party. The brand’s latest campaign asks you to “Fly Beyond,” to look past the pop-song name drops and sparkler parades. Beset by bartenders who insist that the French vodka’s gentle sweetness must come from additives, Grey Goose is taking it back to the basics, focusing on François Thibault (the Cognac maker who realized founder Sidney Frank’s vision) and the ingredients: just soft Picardy winter wheat, limestone-fltered spring water and fresh fruit. ¶ The brand went so far as to invite San Francisco mixologists the Bon Vivants to witness Grey Goose’s provenance frsthand. In addition to all those VIP tables and booths, you can fnd Grey Goose and its four favors (Le Citron, L’Orange, La Poire and Cherry Noir) in sophisticated, mixology-minded bars up and down the Strip. At SHe by Morton’s in Crystals, bartenders combine Grey Goose L’Orange with Fruit Lab hibiscus liquor for the simple, delicious Orange Hibiscus She-Tini. The price is $15, but drops to $9 during happy hour, 5-7 p.m. daily. You know, in case you want to fy beyond paying full price, too. Find the recipe at

Watching Rose.Rabbit.Lie. come together is something of a cliffhanger, and I’m sure my nails aren’t the only to suffer. The Cosmopolitan’s next act is a supper club/social club concept opening December 30, a collaboration between the resort, Coastal Luxury Management (of Pebble Beach Food & Wine fame) and Spiegelworld (creators of Absinthe). But there are other players in this so-called “social experiment,” where guests will dine, drink, dance and, presumably, be delighted by live performances. I attended a private cocktail tasting with Coastal Luxury Management co-founders David Alan Bernahl II and Robert Weakley on December 11, to meet one of those other players. Bartender/mixologist Marshall Altier comes to us from New York, most recently by way of Tokyo, where he was finishing up a consulting gig. He’s a smart, thoughtful and careful bartender with a sure hand, or so it seemed considering that he didn’t know 24 hours prior that we’d be crammed into a service bar behind Rose.Rabbit.Lie’s headquarters in the Cosmo’s Overlook Grill. Altier gave us a quick overview of his cocktail program— including some that will be kept on draft, others served in 9- and 17-ounce glass flasks—for the venue’s multiple spaces. Among these are the Anteroom, something Bernahl intriguingly refers to as the Swimming Pool, and the Ballroom, where Spiegelworld’s entertainers will perform cantos (70-minutes each at 8 and 10 p.m., and then ongoing after midnight). But the Study is where Ohio-born Altier can stretch his mixology muscles. “I’m holding my cards close about the Study,” Altier says with a mischievous smirk. “That’s going to be the place where, if I have my druthers, you’ll have that bespoke cocktail experience, where you’ll say ‘I want something brown and stirred,’ and the bartender seems to read your mind.” We started with his New Moon, a play on the typically gin-based Blue Moon, with Absolut’s new luxury vodka, Elyx, violette liqueur, lemon and orange cream citrate. For the tasting, Altier used hulking cubes, but in practice, Kold Draft cubes will be the standard, with ice hand-chipped from 300-pound blocks for drinks served on the rocks. And the heavy, cut-crystal glass has a little nipple at the bottom that allows it to spin on the smooth bartop, as one imagines Jay Gatsby might have idly done whilst staring wistfully across the bay in the direction of his beloved. But I digress. Bottom line: killer ice, cool glassware! Next up was a pretty standard Jack Rose, with apple brandy, pomegranate nectar and citrus. Then the 1940s-era Airmail, adapted from the Esquire Handbook for Hosts, using Denizen rum (of which Altier is a partner), honey, lime and Champagne. Altier got cute with the Floradora Imperial, another gin cocktail he said previously “bored” him, and with which he upped the interest with black pu erh tea-infused D’Usse Cognac, raspberry, lime and more Champagne. (Incidentally, Rose.Rabbit.Lie. will have a 300-plus-label Champagne list, as well as a robust caviar program—how about a kilo of it in a hand-carved ice jewelry box?—and a $50,000, 385-glass Champagne tower. Start saving up.) I’d suggest that Altier has something against gin, but for his delicious and exotic spin on the 1920s Monkey Gland, with Tanqueray Malaca, pomegranate nectar, lime and an absinthe-orange foam. An incredible top-shelf Brandy Alexander II followed, officially establishing Altier as one of the crusaders for history’s forgotten and dismissed drinks. In addition to the new faces, familiar ones will abound, as Rose.Rabbit.Lie. has cherry-picked a number of excellent bartenders from all over the city, including Juyoung Kang of the Laundry Room and Comme Ça, Mandarin Oriental’s Priscilla Young and the Cosmopolitan’s Mike Doyle. — X.W.



December 19–25, 2013




us to Disneyland every year during the holidays. They could do this because, back in the ’80s and early ’90s, Disneyland’s Christmas was somewhat muted in tone. Back then, they observed the holiday with a 60-foot-tall tree and by hanging garland on Main Street USA, plus a holiday parade and candlelight processional that were easy enough to miss. Once you got past the big tree, there was little evidence of Christmas at Disneyland at all. But as we kids used to say

as we smoked behind the Kingdom Hall, you can’t keep a good pagan holiday down. Today, Christmas at Disneyland is a major big deal. The decorations have spread past Main Street, to New Orleans Square, to Frontierland and to the adjacent Disney California Adventure Park. Holiday music is piped in over hidden speakers. And three of my favorite rides—the Jungle Cruise, It’s a Small World and, most regrettably, the Haunted Mansion—receive obnoxious holiday overlays

that begin before Halloween and continue through the frst of January. There’s a season of joy going on, goddammit, and Disney is gonna make sure you know it. Anyway, I’ll go out on a limb here and say that all those childhood Disneyland trips instilled in me a love of tourist-friendly built environments, one which Las Vegas continues to satiate year after year just by being itself. I can’t get enough of the phony spaces most locals generally avoid. I visit the Fo-

rum Shops and Miracle Mile to turn my brain off—to get that mid-1980s Disneyland/ Epcot Center feeling. What can I say? I’m a sucker for a trompe l’oeil ceiling, and I appreciate that these places are always what they are, no matter the time of year. That’s all of Las Vegas, really. Even on December 25, it’s possible to drink at the Wynn and pretend that it’s July. This town has its annual holiday traditions—the Holiday Cactus Lighting at Ethel M, the Christmas display in

the Bellagio Conservatory, the ice rink at the Cosmopolitan—but they’re all relatively self-contained. They don’t try to get in your face. If you’re not in the mood to look at holiday stuff, you can simply avoid them. In fact, I’ll venture to say that Las Vegas is more sensitive to the needs of a Christmas-conficted soul than Disneyland ever was. Go out on the Strip and look around: The holiday décor is subtle enough as to barely exist. No one bothers to hang Christmas lights on the Flamingo or to stick green-and-red lights under the Bellagio fountains, because there’s no point in throwing lights and tinsel on a pagan symbol that’s already bright enough as to be visible from space. Las Vegas wants everybody who comes here to be happy, even if it means scaling back our natural, patriotic urge to celebrate the living crap out of the holidays. Although I know that there are no-duh practical reasons that we barely decorate the Strip at Christmastime, I choose to believe it’s because Las Vegas is really Disneyland as it was: It tries to be all things to all people, even if those people follow some weird-assed religion. As long as their credit holds, we’re good. I know this is too good to last. It’s probably only a matter of time before they slap lights on top of lights and cover the Strip in fake snow, as they now do at Town Square … and at Disneyland every night of the holiday season. (Don’t eat the falling snow at Disneyland; it’s actually soap bubbles.) But I’d like to relish these last few moments of Vegas treating Christmas as Disneyland once did: as something you get as a bonus when you pay a wintertime visit. I like Christmas OK, but I’d like to keep it in the background, as I always have. Vegas still enables me to do that. I celebrate Christmas now, by the way. I buy the gifts; I tolerate the songs; I put up the dead tree. But frankly, I’d rather spend December 25 on Space Mountain, or getting drunk at Caesars Palace. That’s not the lapsed Jehovah’s Witness in me doing the talking. It’s the longtime Las Vegan, who’s spoiled by a place that ignores both the clock and calendar. Christmas-wise, this truly is the happiest place on Earth.



Holiday on holiday: Disneyland’s Main Street, USA and the Bellagio’s product-placement Conservatory display (below).

Gastro Fare. Nurtured Ales. Jukebox Gold.


Punk band U.S. Bombs explodes at LVCS on Dec. 19.

December 19–25, 2013

caMaro skits, texas slots, punk detonations



Mark your holiday calendar, because it’s offcial. The musical extravaganza known as Black Camaro Variety Show III is on like Reindeer Kong. The guys in psyche-rock band Black Camaro like to describe their seasonal effort as a “Bob Hope Christmas Special on mushrooms.” But it’s more like a good time shot through with quirky cheer. Hosted by Vegas singersongwriter Ryan Pardey, the hourlong, skit-heavy and scripted variety segment kicks off at Triple B at 10 p.m. on New Year’s Eve. I’m told Black Camaro will “seamlessly transition” into a live set. The band was kind enough to let me sneak a peek at their show synopsis, and I must say I’m looking forward to the strip-Uno skit as well as the Navajo New Year public service announcement. Ekoh and the Beau Hodges Band perform at this free show, too. Another nugget: In 2012, I wrote an article about the guy who mixed the music for the Michael Jackson King of Pop slot-machine game chair. Well, Bally is at it again with a slot-seater called ZZ Top: Live from Texas. This one’s designed in Arizona, but expect to see it in Vegas casinos next year. The game includes all the “safe” hits—“Sharp Dressed Man,” “Cheap Sunglasses,” “Just Got Paid,” “Legs” and “Gimme All Your Lovin’.” Sadly, no “Pearl Necklace,” “Tube Snake Boogie,” “Tush” or “Velcro Fly.” OK, now for two live shows you should defnitely check out this week. Classic-punk disciples U.S.

Bombs (fronted by pro skater Duane Peters) detonate LVCS at 9 p.m. December 19. If you haven’t experienced the Bombs yet (well, shame on you, because the band’s been around since the ’90s), imagine a Southern California take on The Clash and you get the basic idea. It ain’t pretty, but compared to the mascara and gloss of what passes for punk music these days, this show should do the trick. (The Bombs’ “We Are the Problem” remains one of my alltime favorite rock songs.) Also on the bill: Battle Born, Lambs to Lions, Brutal Resistance, IDFI and SFT. Ex-Ozzy Osbourne guitarist Jake E. Lee (who played on Bark at the Moon and The Ultimate Sin) lives in Vegas and has a new band called Red Dragon Cartel. Haven’t seen ’em yet, so I’m hotly anticipating Lee’s performance at Count’s Vamp’d at 7 p.m. December 20. This show is one of a few West Coast gigs preceding the release of a self-titled debut disc in January on the Frontier label. Recorded at the Hideout studio here in town and executively produced by Ozzy engineer Kevin Churko, the album boasts guest spots by Cheap Trick singer Robin Zander, original Iron Maiden vocalist Paul Di’Anno, Kill Devil Hill/Pantera bassist Rex Brown and Todd Kearns from Sin City Sinners. Still, I want to witness Lee burn up his fretboard. Shred the halls, I say. Your Vegas band releasing a CD soon? Email


Album REViEWs By Pj Perez FOlk

Glen Hansard Drive All Night EP

(Anti- Records) Fans of Once star and former Swell Season member Hansard’s heart-wrenching voice will have to wait a little while longer for a full new album, but until then, they have this four-song EP to tide them over. The title track is a sweetened cover of the Bruce Springsteen original, featuring contributions by Eddie Vedder, Joe Henry and Jake Clemons, nephew of late E Street Band saxophonist Clarence Clemons. The rest of the disc is rounded out by three new originals, including the quiet, cello-accented “Pennies in the Fountain,” the soulful, Van Morrison-esque “Renata,” and the a capella closer, “Step Out of the Shadows.” ★★★★✩ INdIe

Daytona Self-titled (Ernest Jenning Record Co.)

Daytona opens its self-titled debut with “The Road,” featuring a lilting guitar melody, island rhythms and chanted lyrics, setting the stage for the ensuing nine songs. Indeed, the North Carolina-via-New York City trio roll out one jaunty tune after the other, awash in rich vocal harmonies that will surely make their way into the background music of hipster wedding videos everywhere. The sweet, reverb-drenched guitar lines of Hunter Simpson and Christopher Lauderdale’s shuffling, country-inspired drums are ever-present throughout innocuous numbers that pleasantly roll by like gentle waves, barely leaving a mark once the mild tide subsides. ★★★✩✩ lO-FI POP

Upcoming on Pj’s radar ... JAN. 7: Former Pavement frontman Stephen Malkmus releases his sixth solo album with his band the Jicks, Wig Out at Jagbags. JAN. 21: Big week for fresh sounds, including Against Me!’s Transgender Dysphoria Blues—the band’s first album since lead singer Laura Jane Grace came out as a transgender woman—and albums from two of today’s most interesting post-rock bands, Mogwai’s Rave Tapes and Thee Silver Mt. Zion Memorial Orchestra’s Fuck Off Get Free We Pour Light On Everything.


Disc scAn

December 19–25, 2013

The Last Astronaut Self-titled (Chill Mega Chill) The Last Astronaut doesn’t as much toss its influences into a blender as it does gently stir them. Over the course of 11 songs, the duo demonstrates strong pop songwriting sensibilities, but with more than a few Modest Mouse soundalikes, including “Save Yourself” and “The Breaks.” Much like that Seattle-area band, The Last Astronaut is adept at combining somewhat serious subject matters (depression, fatherhood, death) with punchy rhythms and soaring melodies. When members X and Z (no, really) do deviate from lo-fi indie pop, it’s for more minimalist, electronic numbers such as the shuffling groove of “All Your Dark Arts,” and the Postal Service-like “Glorianna.” ★★★✩✩



Mornings in the Park with Sean Strolls through Wetlands Park inspired artist’s latest work

December 19–25, 2013

By Steve Bornfeld



MAKE NO MISTAKE—the dude’s an artist from tip to tail. Yet he’s so refreshingly … unartist-y. “Painting is just mark-making, you’re making marks,” says 34-year-old Sean Russell, nearly shrugging out the simplest explanation of the artistic process since cavemen scrawled on the walls of their extremely retro man caves. Expecting profound explanations of the glorious agony of being an artist? Go elsewhere. Probe for intellectual insight into his exhibit, Unanimous Decision, at the Winchester Cultural Center Gallery, and you get this: “There are no amazing stories behind these,” Russell says, gesturing toward the pieces curving around the intimate gallery walls. “They are just paintings of the complexities of plants.” That’s that … well, not really.

Unafraid to tackle topical, incendiary subjects—some of his recent work addressed Obamacare, Syria’s chemical weapons, the government shutdown, drone strikes and NSA spying—Russell turned from news to nature for inspiration this time. “In the mornings I’ve been going to Wetlands Park, around 5, before the sun is up, and I do a little walk to clear my head,” says Russell, who teaches art appreciation at the College of Southern Nevada and lives a mile north of the park. “Mostly I lecture, so I go through it in my head. No one else is there; you see all the animals, the beavers and rabbits and coots and ducks. You don’t care about Obamacare anymore. You don’t care about drone strikes.” Presto. An exhibit is born. Animals are prevalent during

his strolls, but not in these oil paintings—only a lone coot makes an appearance in one of the eight pieces. And except for “Henderson Horizon”—which depicts the city coated in a gauzy glow as the light takes over from the night—the exhibit focuses on the intertwining plants and their entangled branches that fourish at the park. Once again, simplicity rules. “It’s a series of branches and sticks and random fora; there’s no idea behind it,” Russell says. “It was part of a photograph I took that I found interesting, and it allowed me to make the marks I like to make. I would walk around, see them from a different angle, or the way a tree has fallen over, the way the lines are, I fnd that interesting.” Gentility and positivity emanate from these pieces,

a departure from his eclectic up to create an exhibit for the oeuvre that swings thematiWinchester Gallery before Wetcally from bar signs and skulls lands Park became his muse. to Edward Snowden and Solution? Paint every canvas an windbag senators launching atrocious neon color. obstructive flibusters. Only “I needed a problem to one, “Invasive Species,” adsolve—paint over the neon. I dresses malevolence, depictwould go into the studio and ing the saltcedar, a deceptively say, ‘God, these are so trashy,’ pretty tree with long, slender neon blue and neon purple branches and deep-pink fowand it was my challenge to ers that wreaks havoc on its cover that up. A sculptor beshrubby neighbors. gins with a block of marble and “They’re rampant through carves it away. I started with a the wash area,” Russell exblock of neon and had to get plains. “I had a 15-foot-tall one rid of it. A white canvas is too in my backyard. I got a letter easy. But little bits of the neon from my HOA, which inspired peek through, which I like.” me. It said, ‘This is an invasive What about that inscrutable species, not native, please title, Unanimous Decision? get rid of it.’ The leaves are Trace it back to the proposal flled with salt. It salts the area letter he wrote that led to his around it, and your grass does selection as the latest artist to not like salt. It’s a terrible tree.” exhibit at Winchester. Essentially, that’s it—you “At the end of my letter, I gaze upon nature wrote, ‘I don’t know via paint and canvas, what I wanna make, UNANIMOUS sharing the simple but I want it to be DECISION appreciation that titled Unanimous DeciRussell renews every sion,’ which I thought 10 a.m.-8 morning before was funny because p.m. Tue-Fri, dawn. No complex I didn’t know what I 9 a.m.-6 p.m. theses on the artwas going to make, Sat through ist’s “process.” Well, so there wasn’t any Jan. 10, Winmaybe one. unanimous decision. chester Cul“I sort of had Sometimes I just hear tural Center writer’s block, I didn’t words and phrases Gallery, 3130 know what I was going and they stick in my S. McLeod Dr., to paint at frst,” he head.” free, 455-7340. remembers of gearing Simple as that.


Organic art: Sean Russell in his studio, “Unanimous Decision Invasive” (above) and “Decision Intertwine.”



Feral Carols

Ten Christmas songs that don’t grate By Jason Scavone

a stalkery novelty song now, you’d either get accused of far-too-obvious ironic mockery, or else the NSA would tap your phone to try to head off a Selena incident. But the screaming, earnest love letter to the King brings a metric ton of holiday cheer if you’re the kind of person who ever cut a celebrity’s face out of a magazine, taped it to a life-size doll and practiced your makeout moves. Not, uh, that I’d relate to that or anything. “Dead Christmas” by Monster Magnet. Fun fact: Monster Magnet taped the video for their biggest jam, 1998’s “Space Lord,” outside the Plaza. Even more fun fact for the purposes of this column: Three years earlier they recorded this smoky, steady murder-at-Christmas jam (or possibly break up-at-Christmas jam—Dave Wyndorf’s lyrics are borderline inscrutable). It’s essentially the polar opposite of “I Wanna Spend Christmas With Elvis.” “David Christmas” by Fucked Up. The Canadian hardcore punk outft may have won the “Best Vegas Show Attended by Tragically Few People” award for 2013 when they did everything shy of set Triple B on fre on October 16. Even more impressive, they can rock the hell out of the holidays with this ancillary cut to the 2011 rock opera David Comes to Life. “Call It Christmas” by The Supersuckers. Eddie Spaghetti and the Supersuckers are good for at least two Vegas shows a year, and sadly, I’ve never heard them do this number from an otherwise uninspiring Redeye 2008 Holiday Sampler. Too bad, because it’s the ’Suckers in full-on Greatest Rock ’n’ Roll Band in the World mode, cut through with Spaghetti’s trademark sardonicism unleashed on the Great December Present Stampede. Call it your new Black Friday anthem.

THE LOVE LETTER TO THE KING BRINGS HOLIDAY CHEER IF YOU’RE THE TYPE WHO EVER TAPED A PHOTO OF A CELEBRITY’S FACE TO A DOLL AND PRACTICED YOUR MAKE-OUT MOVES. “God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen” by The Legendary Shack*Shakers. Staying on the rockabilly-adjacent tip for a moment, this might be the hands-down best version of “God Rest” I’ve ever heard. A shambling, lurching, drunken stumble through this classic sounds like something Tom Waits would have done if he tamped down his deliberately obscurantist instincts for half a second. “Christmas at Ground Zero” by “Weird” Al Yankovic. OK, so this isn’t the most arcane track on the list, but it’s impossible to leave off if we want to Vegasify our playlists as much as possible. It’s too perfect a ft given our atomic past, it’s got a legitimately awesome sax hook, and if you can’t dance around to lyrics like We can dodge debris while we trim the tree underneath a mushroom cloud, then there’s

no hope for you as a sentient human being with any kind of capacity for joy. Happy holidays, you monster. “Stanley” by Jimenem. Fine, a parody of the overwrought Eminem track “Stan” is 12 years too late at this point, but this Jimmy Kimmel joint was timely when it came out on the KROQ sampler Kevin & Bean’s The Real Slim Santa in 2000. More important, it still plays as completely hilarious to anyone who was dodging Dido vocals on every radio dial back in the day. “Millie Pulled a Pistol on Santa” by De La Soul. This might be De La producer Prince Paul’s masterpiece (though I might be just saying

that because of my crippling Christmas music addiction). The track has more hooks than a pirate hospital while it tells the oh-so-uplifting tale of a girl, molested by her father, who shoots him down in the middle of his shift as a department-store Santa. “Shake Hands With Santa Claus” by Louis Prima. Prima only recorded a handful of Christmas songs, tragically. If you could wrangle the giddy exuberance of the season into a dapper suit and stick it in front of a sevenpiece band, you’d get Louis Prima. First-ballot Hall of Famer among people you’d want to invite to your Christmas party, and this song shows you why.

Complete your Christmas playlist with Scavone’s 2012 picks by visiting


“I Wanna Spend Christmas With Elvis” by Marlene Paul. You could get away with this kind of thing in 1956. If you tried to record

December 19–25, 2013


“Pastramikah” by The Objex. This celebratory ode to P Moss’ annual saltedmeat holiday extravaganza turned up on the legendary Merry X-mas Dammit From the Double Down Saloon compilation in 2007. It’s not, technically, a Christmas song (although we suppose you could make some sort of non-canonical argument for Santa enjoying deli cuts), but it does sum up the spirit of the holiday season. This time of year is about giving. Giving brined beef, sure. But giving, nonetheless.


THERE’S A GUY, Christopher Golub, whose job is to program all the music for every Chipotle in America. That’s his gig. He mixtapes a new list of about 500 songs every month, and that’s what you’ll hear while you’re waiting for the one jerk in front of you ordering for the whole offce to collect his 30 burritos. I am going to launch a competing service, run it only during the holidays, and charge every mall worker in America for the mix, plus instructions on how to sneak it into their store’s PA system. I am going to make Scrooge McDuck money, and I’m going to pretend I never knew any of you. I will insist everything I eat frst be wrapped in gold leaf— even on 4 a.m. Roberto’s runs. I will have chauffeur service for my dogs. Also, I will need to buy dogs. In the meantime, though, I’m going to do you all a solid. I’m going to give you a Christmas playlist for 2013 full of semi-obscure jams, so you won’t have to buy that John Travolta-Olivia Newton John holiday album and pretend like that’s OK because you used to do “Summer Nights” at karaoke. It’s not OK. Stop it.



Disney (Hanks) and Travers (Thompson) are friendlier on film than they were in life.

Disney Gets the Disney Treatment The origin story of the Mary Poppins flm adaptation has a few extra spoonfuls of sugar

December 19–25, 2013

By Michael Phillips Tribune Media Services



NO FEATHERS, ANIMATED or otherwise, will be ruffed by Saving Mr. Banks, director John Lee Hancock’s genial fctionalized account of how Walt Disney seduced Mary Poppins author P.L. Travers into allowing, for 5 percent of the gross, the supernatural caregiver to become a shiny Disney version of herself. Mainly the flm is a testament to Emma Thompson. She’s swell as Travers, the Australianborn resident of London who travels to Los Angeles in 1961 for a couple of contentious weeks in the pre-production life of the flm released three years later. There are other fne actors onscreen, among them Tom Hanks

as Disney and, in a fabricated role of a limo driver and hornrimmed sounding board, Paul Giamatti. But Thompson’s the show. Each withering put-down, every jaundiced utterance, lands with a little ping. Then she makes you cry, by gum. If Thompson wins an Academy Award for Saving Mr. Banks, well, sometimes these Oscars go to elevator operators—performers who lift routine material to a higher foor. Travers went into Disney negotiations for her stories’ flm rights with certain rules in mind. No animation of any kind. An all-English cast. As little overt sentiment as possible. She had script approval

and, though the movie fudges this, her own script treatment in development. But Disney won out. The songs, in part, won her over. Travers left L.A. with wildly mixed emotions but pleased with the fnancial prospects, and Mary Poppins became a monster hit. With diagrammatic purpose, Saving Mr. Banks breaks down its hard-shell protagonist’s exterior with a series of interlaced fashbacks, revealing how, and why, young Georgia Goff became Pamela Travers. Saddled with a charming but alcoholic father (Colin Farrell) and a despondent, suicidal mother (Ruth Wilson), the Goff girls

living in the remote turn-ofthe-century Australian outback were saved by the presence of their stern but loving aunt (Rachel Griffths). This was the Poppins prototype, the savior fgure in the young Travers’ life. Saving Mr. Banks turns Disney into a Chicago-born version of Sigmund Freud, doggedly solving the riddle of his reluctant author’s unhappiness to secure her legal approval to shoot Mary Poppins the Disney way. The writing scenes make for some rich high comedy. As Disney house songwriters Richard and Robert Sherman, Jason Schwartzman and B.J. Novak act as puppy dog foils. Screenwriters Kelly Marcel and Sue

Smith treat everyone gently and with the utmost respect. The sharper edges of the Disney/Travers relationship, well-documented by various sources, have been rounded off, but the actors suggest what they can, where they can. Travers’ personal life is not dealt with. There’s a single oblique reference to her own son. Some of this relates to streamlined storytelling; some of it, I think, has more to do with avoiding potential ruffed feathers. This is, after all, a Disney flm, in large part about Walt Disney, to whom Hanks lends gravity, sincerity and high, true motivations for getting at Travers’ secrets. Director Hancock knows a few things about directing crowd-pleasing heartwarmers, having made The Blind Side. This one wouldn’t work without Thompson. Happily, she and Julie Andrews have something in common as performers: a sparkle, and a wizardly combination of wiles and ease. Saving Mr. Banks (PG-13) ★★★✩✩



‘the hobbit’ habit The second installment of this fantasy franchise will grow on audiences By Michael Phillips Tribune Media Services

one year and several hundred flms later, I confess my mind isn’t over-full of vivid memories of director Peter Jackson’s frst Hobbit. It did the job, in its leisurely, fll-out-the-trilogy fashion, albeit looking like clinically detailed crud when viewed in 48 frames-per-second digital projection. Maybe my eyes will catch up to the glories of this alleged improvement. Maybe not. Format aside: Why so much Hobbit, when the book itself supplies just enough story for one, maybe two movies? Here’s a bit from last year’s review. “Turning the relatively slim 1937 volume The Hobbit into a trilogy, peddling seven or eight hours of cine-mythology, suggests a better deal for the producers than for audiences. When, in Jackson’s flm, someone describes a character’s ‘love of gold’ as having become ‘too ferce,’ you wonder if the warning might apply to The Hobbit in other ways.” Now we have the sequel. And you know? It’s livelier and better than its predecessor. The frst movie’s harrumphing throat-clearing has given way

to a swift, imposing adventure boasting several wing-ding action sequences. My favorite is the bit where the dwarves do battle with a near-endless supply of enemies, while speeding down a raging river atop their stolen barrels. It’s exciting, improbable, funny in its derring-do and a reminder that Jackson, as a flmmaker, can do many things, including fnding the precise way to send arrow after arrow through skull after skull, while tossing in a few beheadings, and yet somehow maintain a PG-13 rating. And the right spirit. At its best, Hobbit 2, which carries the subtitle The Desolation of Smaug, invites comparisons to Jackson’s Lord of the Rings threesome. Bilbo Baggins, again played by Martin Freeman, is sidelined a bit in this middle chapter. The script interpolates sections of “The Quest of Erebor,” one of J.R.R. Tolkien’s so-called Unfnished Tales, setting up an alliance between Thorin Oakenshield (Richard Armitage) and our old pal Gandalf (top-billed, not yet visibly bored Ian McKel-

Martin Freeman is back as the indefatigable hobbit Bilbo Baggins.

len). The dwarves want their kingdom back, and Smaug is the dragon in the way. Benedict Cumberbatch, who now rules the world, provides the voice of Smaug. Whatever one’s personal investment in the Tolkien mythology, the dragon onscreen is one hell of a dragon. Smaug’s frst close-up fnds the beast asleep beneath

mountains of gold coins, and when we see one eye open, it’s a wonderful, awful sight. Elsewhere there’s a truly scary giant-spider sequence, a little long—everything’s a little long in Smaug—but more than enough to give younger viewers some fairly bad dreams. Much of Part 2 unfolds in the coastal burg of Lake-town,

December 19–25, 2013

short reviews



Out of the Furnace (R) ★★★✩✩

Christian Bale and Casey Affleck play brothers (one just out of prison, one back from a tour of duty in Iraq) trying to adjust to adjust to new versions of their old lives. Affleck’s character tries to work off his gambling debts by bare-knuckle boxing in the realm of a vicious New Jersey backwoods gang headed up by Woody Harrelson. In the first hour especially, the film’s many moving parts keep a sprawling ensemble cast busy and engaged. The film is heavy-handed in some spots, but the fine acting makes up for it.

Frozen (PG) ★★★✩✩

Big, bright and often beautiful, Frozen comes from Walt Disney Animation Studios. While crediting the Hans Christian Andersen fairy tale The Snow Queen as inspiration, the movie owes a lot more to Broadway’s Wicked. It’s a tale of two sisters. Elsa (voiced by Idina Menzel) has been blessed/cursed with the emotion-triggered ability to whip up ice and snow in threatening amounts. Anna (Kristen Bell), the heroine, is a shrewd mixture of assertiveness and relatability. Following Disney tradition, Frozen works magic in its nonhuman characters—Sven the reindeer and Olaf the snowman.

Black Nativity (PG-13) ★★★✩✩

Writer-director Kasi Lemmons struggles with uneven success to find a cinematic home for the 1961 Langston Hughes “gospel song-play” setting of the Nativity story. A Baltimore teenager (Jacob Latimore) is sent by his cash-strapped mother (Jennifer Hudson) to spend the holidays with the boy’s estranged grandparents (Forest Whitaker and Angela Bassett). Their relationship with their daughter is a fraught and weighty affair, which must be righted right around the time Black Nativity gets to the Christmas Eve church service, complete with Mary J. Blige as an angel.

which has fallen on hard times since Smaug took over Lonely Mountain, or Lonesome Valley, or Honorary Dragon Way, or whatever Tolkien called it. We’re left with the threatened decimation of Lake-town. Part 3 opens December 17, 2014. Hobbit 2: The Desolation of Smaug ★★★✩✩

[ by tribune media services ]

Homefront (R) ★★✩✩✩

A bloody bore featuring Jason Statham wasting piles of rednecks in small-town Louisiana, Homefront tries to be a modern Western but ends up being a swampy, derivative action film. Sylvester Stallone wrote the script, adapting Chuck Logan’s crime novel. For a time the picture was being shaped as a Rambo film, to star Stallone. Instead it became a Statham revenge outing, in which he plays a DEA cop who infiltrates a nest of drug dealers, survives a bust gone bad and relocates to bayou country with his preteen daughter. James Franco provides a bit of color as the local meth kingpin.


Nebraska (R) ★★★✩✩

The Hunger Games: Catching Fire (PG-13) ★★★✩✩

Consider Catching Fire an example of successful franchise installment delivery, on time and in sturdy condition. Heroine Katniss Everdeen begins this second Hunger Games movie fulfilling a PR tour as penance for her killer—literally, killer—popularity. The movie is part treatise on the hardships of notoriety, part blood sport revisited, the games this time played by an all-star cadre of past winners. The violence can get rough, but the reason these movies work relates to our ability to take the carnage seriously.

Delivery Man (PG-13) ★★✩✩✩

This wry comic ballad observes ordinary lives. A lot of Alexander Payne’s film is funny, in a gently sardonic way. Some of Nebraska feels thin, but Payne elevates the material with images of paradoxically ordinary beauty. Bruce Dern won the Best Actor prize at the Cannes Film Festival this year for his portrayal of a man who believes himself to be the lucky winner of a milliondollar sweepstakes and is determined to travel from his home in Billings, Mont., to Lincoln, Neb., to collect the prize.

A meat truck-delivery driver (Vince Vaughn) going nowhere in his life learns that as a young man, his rampant sperm donations led to 500-plus women being impregnated. More than a hundred of his offspring are suing the errant sperm bank to learn their father’s identity. The film isn’t terrible, but it’s all sort of unseemly. Vaughn’s character has no defining traits other than a mysterious, heal-all lovability.

The Best Man Holiday (R) ★★★✩✩

The Armstrong Lie (R) ★★★✩✩

This sequel follows in the footsteps of writer-director Malcolm D. Lee’s successful 1999 comedy The Best Man. The Best Man Holiday is a far more Tyler Perry-ish mixture of comedy and tragedy than the easygoing Best Man. Still, some of the writing is pungently funny, as when Nia Long’s new squeeze Eddie Cibrian is described by one of the characters as “a tall vanilla swagga latte,” and the movie, while nothing visually special, earns its queen-size dose of pathos honestly.

Documentary filmmaker Alex Gibney initially set out to make a movie called The Road Back, a look at cyclist Lance Armstrong’s comeback. How could he lose? But then Armstrong, the subject of investigation, caved under the weight of the “one big lie” (his phrase). The Armstrong Lie is pretty good when Gibney is able to focus on the 2009 Tour de France itself, a race fraught with old rivalries and backstage dramas. It’s the movie he set out to make, after all. But getting there is tough going.

December 19–25, 2013

This American remake of a 2003 Korean revenge drama stars Josh Brolin as the victim of a kidnapping and 20-year imprisonment. Upon his release, he must determine who did this to him and why he’s being framed for his wife’s murder. His ally is a social worker played by Elizabeth Olsen. By the time everyone onscreen realizes who’s who, the audience may be more in a “Why? Why?” mood. The sleek lines of the original have been replaced by Spike Lee’s wobbly directorial signature. Oldboy is neither sweet nor sour; it’s just drab.


Oldboy (R) ★✩✩✩✩


Did those words sting? They hurt personally, because as commissioners we take pride in the work that we do. And there’s more work to be done. Why it stung at that point was because I had just become chairman, and I had started working on some of the issues that we face in the MMA world. And to know the effort we were putting in to resolve some of these issues, it was heartbreaking to hear those comments However, it’s important to note that in order to be successful, we must continue to work together. Dana realizes that, and we have a working relationship. We’re not always going to do what the UFC wants us to do, but we’re going to make MMA the best sport possible.

The attorney and Nevada Athletic Commission chairman on working for Mr. and Mrs. Andre Agassi, repairing our education system and the “F”-word he hates to hear By Matt Jacob

December 19–25, 2013

THERE’S NOTHING AT ALL intimidating about the very soft-spoken, very humble Francisco Aguilar … until you get a glimpse of his résumé. He was student body president at the University of Arizona, where he concurrently earned a law degree and an MBA. His mentor and frst boss was Jim Rogers, the multimillionaire broadcasting mogul who brought Aguilar to Las Vegas full time in 2004. In his frst three years here, he served as counsel for Nevada First Bank and KSNV-TV—both owned by Rogers—as well as the Nevada System of Higher Education and Southwest Gas. His current bosses? None other than Andre Agassi and Steff Graf, for whom Aguilar is general counsel for Agassi Graf Holdings and the Andre Agassi Foundation for Education. His side gig? He’s served on the Nevada Athletic Commission since 2009, and was named chairman of the fve-member board six weeks ago. All this by the age of 36.



Safe to say it’s been a memorable frst decade of your career? It’s been phenomenal. But it goes back to luck and hard work. Jim [Rogers] would always say there’s a part of luck that helps you be successful, but ultimately it’s the hard work that you invest. And I’d like to think that I’m a hard worker, but I’ve also been fortunate to have mentors and leaders like Andre to give me opportunities that wouldn’t necessarily come about under normal circumstances. Were you career-driven even as a kid? I considered myself a young entrepreneur. I was always

fguring out ways to make money around the neighborhood. It’s a funny story, but we had a community pool in our neighborhood in Tucson, and when I was in ffth or sixth grade, I opened up kind of a snack/soda shop. When the kids wanted to get snacks, they would come to the door and tell me what they wanted, and I would deliver the product to the pool. My brother was a lifeguard at the time, and I think there were days where I made more money than he did! I think the motivation was to be able to buy what I wanted when I wanted it, and in order to have that extra cash, I had to work for it. It was great business.

What was it about working for Andre and Steff that appealed to you? Agassi Prep. If you visit that school and you see the students who are there, and the feeling of opportunity, it’s exciting. … The last six years, I’ve been able to watch the kids come in as kindergartners and then grow throughout the years. And to see their progress from the time they were in kindergarten, when they were happy, young little kids, to still being happy older kids maturing through an education system, has been incredible. Working closely with Agassi Prep and the Nevada System of Higher Education, you’ve

Shortly after you were named Nevada Athletic Commission chairman, there was a controversial decision in a marquee UFC fght, after which UFC boss Dana White blasted the commission, calling it “the weakest in the country.”

Andre Agassi has always been a pretty private guy. What’s one thing the public doesn’t know about him that it should? He has tremendous compassion and emotion for those who don’t have a voice, and he is constantly fghting on their behalf. And he holds us accountable to ensure we’re doing what’s right all the time for those individuals. … The easy thing for him to do would be to slap his name on a product or a project and walk away. But he is intimately involved in everything, because he knows he ultimately shoulders the responsibility for the fnal outcome.

Who wins an Agassi-Graf tennis match today? And what’s the one boxing match Aguilar wants to see in Nevada? Read the full interview at


Francisco Aguilar

obviously familiarized yourself with the state’s educational challenges. What needs to be done to repair our broken system? There are a lot of ingredients that go into making something successful, but education is tough, because it’s not like a business, where you have a singular objective with one constituency. In education, you have students, who are most important; you have parents; you have teachers; you have the administrators; and you have the community. So to get those fve inputs and try to make something work takes a lot of massaging, a lot of patience and a lot of direction to each individual group as to what the ultimate goal is. And until we decide as a community what we want from our education system, we’re not going to get to that point of success.

The public frequently questions the competence of Nevada’s boxing and MMA judges, with fans and critics even going so far as to use the dreaded F-word: fxed. How infuriating is that? It’s extremely infuriating, because my fellow commissioners and I are honest people, and all we want to do is serve the sport well. To hear that word gets me fred up a bit. But I also understand the duty and obligation we have to ensure that the best judges and refs are in place for the best fghts. It’s a process. We are also public fgures, so sometimes we do have to accept criticism and look at what we can do to be better.

The Water Boss | Vegas Seven Magazine | Dec. 19-Dec. 25  

After 25 years on the job, will Pat Mulroy be remembered as our Valley's savior or as the masterful enabler of desert sprawl? Plus: Vegas,...

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