Democratic Party will make his life much tougher, too, as will having a Latina Democrat, Lucy Flores, running for lieutenant governor. • Senators Harry Reid and Dean Heller will have one noteworthy public blowup, probably when the allegedly bipartisan Republican again casts his lot with the Tea Party fringe. They also will have one noteworthy public battle on behalf of Nevada in which they will act like they really get along. Bet on the possibility of testing drones in Nevada to be what frst unites them and then divides them. • The most interesting campaign will be for sheriff. Former Sheriffs Jerry Keller and Bill Young each have a candidate in the race (Larry Burns and Joe Lombardo, respectively). But a well-respected wild card who is considering running—sorry, no names for now— would totally upset the applecart. And the campaign will bring some of the scandalous ghosts haunting Metro out of hiding. • Speaking of scandalous, K-12 test scores will remain poor, and a few more people will point out the evils of teaching to the test and destroying teacher morale and pay, but not enough to make a difference. Meanwhile, a real scandal, involving real public money, will emerge from higher education—and the business community will rally behind a signifcant push for change.
If January is any indication, it’s gonna be a good year for The Deal. For starters, O’Sheas, newly opened at the Linq, is courting the value-conscious crowd. At any of its three bars (two inside and one out), draft Miller Light, Coors Light, Blue Moon and Redd’s Apple Cider are $3, and Jager and fireball shots are $6. There’s a foosball table on the floor that’s free to play. It’s not championship quality, but is a distinct notch above the tables at the Cosmopolitan. Daily beer pong tournaments run at 3 p.m., there’s live music from 4 to 11 p.m. and then DJs till 3 nightly. The casino is also touting $5 table-games minimums, which is low for the Strip. But careful here— the blackjack rules are poor. After coming out of the box slowly, the Downtown Grand picks it up this month with a juicy half-off dining offer for locals. Get 50 percent off food (no alcohol) at Stewart + Ogden, the Spread, Red Mansion and the Commissary. You have to be a member of the players club, but nothing I’ve seen indicates that you need to redeem points to get this deal. The Grand has also been running a program where it matches a room offer from another casino. This one is unadvertised, so the details are a bit fuzzy, but if you or outof-town friends normally get mailed room offers from other casinos, take the invitation down to the front desk of the Downtown Grand and see what they’ll give you. While Downtown, pop into Binion’s to take advantage of an ongoing free slot-spin promotion in which everyone seems to win $5 or $10 in free play. The machine is set up near Benny’s Bullpen, and you’re allowed to play it only once, but it’s a total free roll. Get 2-for-1 buffets at Aliante on Wednesdays and Silverton on Thursdays. Both deals run through the end of January and require only that you show a players card. This month, Silverton is also running its $20-dining-comp deal for earning 500 points ($500 coin-in) Tuesdays through Fridays, and a 500-point deal with prizes that include cash and free play on Saturdays. These are good mini-comps for quarter players. Just up the road, M Resort is running comedy nights in Ravello Lounge every Friday this month. Shows start at 9 p.m., with no cover and a two-drink minimum. Also this month only: Nevada residents 21 and over can get a free Stratosphere Tower pass on Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays. And while Wynn Las Vegas is a heck of a resort, there aren’t many opportunities to get it into this column. Here’s one: The Italian restaurant Allegro has a weekend happy hour from 3 to 5:30 p.m., with all-you-candrink Stella Artois or Blue Moon for $25. Oh yeah, there’s a discount on pizzas, too.
Michael Green is a professor of history at the College of Southern Nevada.
Anthony Curtis is the publisher of the Las Vegas Advisor and LasVegasAdvisor.com.
January 9–15, 2014
As the 2014 election cycle heats up, our fearless pundit reads the tea (party) leaves
IF HISTORIANS COULD predict the future, we’d all be in the stock market or playing baccarat. But here are a few political matters to bet on in 2014: • Much of the media will focus on the horse races, but voters will focus more on ballot initiatives, which will help drive turnout in an off-year election. The mining industry will outspend everybody to block its tax hike—probably more than businesses will spend to stop the education initiative/margins tax. In fact, when all the fgures come out, mining will have spent more money opposing the tax hike than it would pay in higher taxes. Mining will lose. The businesses will win. • In the wake of the state Judicial Discipline Commission’s action against Family Court Judge Steve Jones—and the death of the prosecutor with whom he had a relationship—scrutiny of the judiciary will intensify. More scandals will emerge from Family Court, where some injudicious and un-judicial behavior will cause further disciplinary action. In turn, reformers will present their annual argument for changing our system of choosing judges. They will make a great deal of sense, but two things will happen: Someone will remind them of how there is no foolproof system for fnding good judges (Google Clarence Thomas), and their efforts will lead nowhere. • Local journalism will be even more topsy-turvy than usual with a new CEO for the Las Vegas
Review-Journal’s parent company and the Greenspun family winding up in court over the fate of the Las Vegas Sun. The Sun will survive in some form, and the R-J will endure another round of budget and staffing cuts. But the election year will bring out more of the worst in the R-J, unfortunately. • In the meantime, expect more attacks on Governor Brian Sandoval from the Republican far right—attacks that will receive more attention than they probably deserve, in large part because Democrats haven’t managed to offer a legitimate critique of the governor, and have not yet rallied behind a viable candidate to oppose him. If Democrats do fnally cast their lot with a solid candidate, it’s likely to be County Commissioner Steve Sisolak or state Senator Tick Segerblom. And as soon as a viable opponent appears, the far right will suddenly fnd Sandoval acceptable. • If Representative Joe Heck is re-elected, it will be by a narrow margin. In his contest with Erin Bilbray, Heck will continue to try to maintain a balancing act between appealing to traditional conservatives and playing to the far right. Meanwhile, the national Democratic emphasis on economic issues will haunt him. Having a female opponent with long roots in the
January 9–15, 2014
OMG!!! Why do big media companies sound like teenagers on Twitter? By Kara Bloomgarden-Smoke, The New York Observer
“OMG @OneDirectiOn’s new song leaked!” might sound like something a giddy tween would tweet, but it was actually tweeted by the New York Daily News’ offcial account. Then there was this gem: “Teacher fred after taking teens for penis piercings. There’s a picture of him going all: ¯\_( )_/¯” And this one, too: “Is this _really_ why @TaylorSwift13 said STFU at the VMAs?” Like, OMG! If that doesn’t sound exactly how a 93-yearold newspaper ought to talk, the struggle to fnd a Twitter voice is not unique to @nydailynews. Confronted with data that confrms what we all know— that Twitter’s news junkies skew young—media organizations are trying to fnd a balance between playing to the youngsters while not sounding juvenile. They don’t always succeed. Consider this tweet, from the lefty bible Mother Jones: “Cool new conservative meme: Obama is like such a terrible manager, amirite? Totes worst ever, probably.” Or, like, this one, also from @ MotherJones: “Happy election day! Go vote! But, like, only once. Don’t vote multiple times. You’re not allowed to do that.” Duh! A report by Pew Research Center released in November reveals that nearly half of U.S. adults who get news through Twitter are 18 to 29. The overall percentage of Americans who use Twitter as a news source is still relatively small— only 8 percent—but they skew younger than those who get news from Facebook. Someone’s got to keep them amused. Although it’s hard to fnd recent data on Twitter tone, according to Ellyn Angelotti, who teaches digital trends and social media at Poynter Institute, there is anecdotal evidence that suggests conversational, handwritten tweets are more effective than the alternative.
A 2011 study by SocialFlow found that people were likelier to click on “conversational, handcrafted tweets.” The Wall Street Journal’s experience confrms that. After the @WSJ account became human in early 2010, “the metrics went up considerably and almost immediately,” Zach Seward, then the social media editor at The Journal, told Poynter. “The nature of Twitter is that people want to have a conversation with other people,” Angelotti told The Observer. Since 2011, slang-laced tweets have become accepted practice, as news organizations embrace Twitter feeds that mirror the way a young person talks. “You want the Twitter feed to sound as human as possible and sound like a reader, so we
Times on his cellphone, not as an offcial arm of the publication. Readers began following the feed, and Times management eventually took it over. “Without Health Benefts, a Good Life Turns Fragile” was @NYTimes frst tweet, almost seven years ago. Other publications automatically tweeted headlines, often stopping mid-sentence or even mid-word, followed by links to stories. “Gotti Trial Moved to New York: Round 1 of Game 4 goes to John Gotti Jr. A federal judge in Tampa, …” @NYPost frst tweeted, fve years ago. “Thank Bernanke: More than Obama, more than Geithner, more than anyone, it is the once-maligned Federal Reserve c..” @NYMag tweeted as late as four years ago.
nearly four years to catch up to the newswire. In May 2011, the paper of record began to experiment with handwriting tweets during business hours instead of mostly auto-tweeting headlines, as the feed had in the past. Although The Times still tweets out headlines, the tone has continued to evolve to become more playful and
“The percenTage of americans who use TwiTTer as a news source is sTill relaTively small— only 8 percenT—buT They skew younger Than Those who geT news from facebook.” tweet the way that a reader would tweet,” said Taylor Lorenz, the social media editor for the Daily Mail. Twitterspeak wasn’t always thus. When the microblogging site launched in 2006, few knew quite how to use it. The concept gradually morphed from a way to stalk your friends into “a service for people to talk about what was going on around them, to share news and information,” as New York Times tech reporter Nick Bilton recently wrote in an excerpt from his book on the origins of Twitter. The New York Times’ Twitter feed happened almost by accident. It was set up in 2007 by Jake Harris, a newsroom engineer who wanted to follow The
The Associated Press was the only news organization that seemed to get Twitter pretty much out of the gate. After frst using the offcial account to gin up followers for topicspecifc feeds (@APStyleBook for style standards, @AP_Images for photography, etc.), the offcial AP account quickly pivoted to cover breaking news. “Join AP as we track developments in Haiti and interact with you while providing fast, reliable coverage on the stricken island nation,” @AP wrote in January 2010. “We’re focusing on the earthquake now, but we plan to expand our Facebook and Twitter accounts to include other news stories and events,” the news outlet followed up. It took The New York Times
human. “We’ve made some robots that can walk, some that can talk and some that can do ‘Gangnam Style,’” @NYTimes tweeted recently. Like other offcial Twitter accounts, @NYTimes also retweets its reporters, editors and vertical Twitter feeds, and pulls out quotes from articles to tease the stories. Like the disproportionate number of kids who get their news from Twitter, the human voice behind the offcial Twitter feed is most often a twenty-something, or at least someone attempting to sound like one. The social media editor, once a job under the umbrella of the marketing department, has been given unprecedented latitude as the voice of the publication.
The Daily News’ Twitter feed refects the sensibility of its author, social media manager Brad Gerick, more than the tabloid itself. The 26-year-old Maryland native took over the News’ Twitter feed almost seven months ago after 3½ years at Patch, AOL’s hyperlocal project. “A lot of the voice you’re hearing is Brad’s voice,” Lauren Johnston, the News’ digital editorial director, told The Observer. “OK, who _hasn’t_ eaten cereal while driving?” the News tweeted recently, with a link to a story about a video of a British driver eating cornfakes behind the wheel. “LOL j/k, everyone,” read another tweet from the News’ feed, linking to an earlier News tweet about the odds for Philadelphia’s long-shot NBA team. “Twitter users as a whole have gotten a lot better,” said Gerick, who explained that individual accounts and publications have evolved as social media users have gotten savvier at using the platform. Similarly informal is The New Republic’s Twitter feed, which earlier this year offered this: “OMG! @HillaryClinton joined Twitter and DC can’t stop gushing! on.tnr.com/1930bOw #EveryoneRelax.” Such communiqués would have once been inconceivable from a 99-year-old magazine devoted to social and political commentary. But someone will inevitably write the same thing 99 years from now. And as Twitter went public in November, it was surprising that not one social media editor wrote: IPOmigod!
The Palazzo [ UPCOMING ]
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PHOTOS BY POWERS IMAGERY
January 9–15, 2014
Jan. 18 Kirill Was Here Las Rageous Takeover Feb. 1 Rep Your Team Feb. 15 Rep Your Country
THE BANK Bellagio
[ UPCOMING ]
January 9–15, 2014
Jan. 16 Kinkbomb.com girls celebrate AVN Jan. 17 Official AVN After-Party Jan. 19 Team Sunday’s Industry Homecoming
32 See more photos from this gallery at SPYONVegas.com
More anticipated than the NFL draft, more Googled than the Academy Awards nominations: It’s the first of the 2014 resident DJ rosters! Well, maybe it’s not that ubiquitous, but here in Las Vegas, which DJ plays which nightclub is so discussed, so scrutinized and so passed around Facebook, you’d think we were placing bets on it. So, what’s the first big announcement to quicken clubbers’ pulses? We got our vodka-Red Bull-stained hands on the 2014 Hakkasan lineup before the venue has even made the official announcement: Jumping ship from other Las Vegas venues, the British trio known for epic sing-alongs and connecting with their audience in real-time on-screen messages, Above & Beyond, will now call Hakkasan home. There’ll be a lot of synchronized house-music head-bobbing when Sunnery James & Ryan Marciano also make the move to Hakkasan, as will another Dutch duo, W&W. Even Grammy winner Afrojack will now jump into the booth at Hakkasan. Returning for their sophomore year are fan favorites Calvin Harris (celebrating his birthday at the megaclub on Jan. 17), Tiësto and his “Club Life” party (Jan. 18) and the world’s No. 1 DJ, according to the DJ Mag top 100, Hardwell. Additional featured artists at Hakkasan include familiar faces Steve Aoki, Danny Avila, Bingo Players, Dada Life, Mark Eteson, Fergie (DJ), Nervo, R3hab, Eva Shaw (formerly known as Bambi) and Michael Woods. “Where’s Deadmau5?” your mau5-ear-wearing friends might be screaming. Fans should have noticed his quick departure only a little while after Hakkasan opened last year amid rumors he got out of his contract and/ or the venue wasn’t happy with the sound he was bringing to the club. So it’s not surprising he’s absent for 2014. But what we’re really planning to cram ourselves in front of the booth for is another special gig by Moby, slated for February 8. Select artists will also pull double-duty at Wet Republic when pool season gets going. Sadly there don’t appear to be any new DJ/ producers to add to the Las Vegas scene (yet; this is only the first roster to come to light). However, we predict there will still be plenty of dancing shoes worn thin in 2014. – Deanna Rilling
PHOTOS BY TONY TRAN
BEHOLD: THE OFFICIAL HAKKASAN 2014 RESIDENT DJ ROSTER
NIGHTLIFE January 9–15, 2014 VEGAS SEVEN
Behind the scenes, Luca “Digital Boy” Pretolesi is mixing his way from local DJ to Grammy nominee By Deanna Rilling
SOME OF TODAY’S biggest sounds are being mixed underground—underground at Wynn that is. The Studio at Wynn/Encore, run by Studio DMI (Digital Music Innovation), is the canvas of Italianborn Luca Pretolesi, a.k.a. Digital Boy. If you’ve been in the house-music scene for longer than just the past couple of years—when everyone jumped on the electronicdance-music bandwagon— you’re probably familiar with Pretolesi, an industry veteran who has become the go-to guy for mastering club bangers, adding those important fnal touches. Unlike the many mixers who have a background in rock or pop, “I’m pretty much an EDM mixer,” he says, which can be an entirely different process. “Because I’m not a traditional mixing engineer, it’s very personal.” And big producers appreciate his knowledge—many even send their demos to Pretolesi just to get his feedback. Quite often, the bigger DJ/ producers simply don’t have time to put those fnishing touches on the music, what with touring, residencies and all. “I feel sometimes that I’m a producer of the producers,” he says. “I’m a DJ myself, so when I hear a song, I listen and part of my brain as a DJ thinks, ‘If I’m buying this record on Beatport, what do I feel is missing? Oh, it’s not punchy enough, or the kickdrum isn’t coming through the mix enough, the drop is not loud enough and the breakdown is not open enough.’ Then, as a mixing engineer, I know how to fx it,” he says. “My mix technique is two ways: A pure enhancement to improve whatever the producer did, or an artistic way where I really try to be creative when something is missing, bring some energy to the track and bring stuff up in the mix,” he says. Pretolesi, who has been perfecting his sound since attending sound engineering school at the age of 16 in his native Italy, meets with EDM’s heavy hitters at the Studio before or after they
perform at Wynn nightclubs. From the electronic camp, Pretolesi has worked with the likes of Tiësto, Diplo/ Major Lazer, Calvin Harris, Gareth Emery, Morgan Page, Skrillex and Black Boots. But non-EDM artists have also come calling on Pretolesi to take a song to the next level, including Pharrell Williams, 2 Chainz, Macklemore and Ryan Lewis and even Las Vegas’ own Imagine Dragons. To accommodate that ambitious schedule, Pretolesi has put his own DJ career on the backburner. But it’s paying off. Projects on which he’s worked, such as Steve Aoki’s Wonderland and Snoop Lion’s Reincarnation, have garnered Grammy nominations. But to be clear, Pretolesi isn’t recording the songs and letting someone else slap their names on them. “I’m not ghostwriting for people—I don’t,” he says. “Most of the time something is already there. I take something that’s in the box, I’ll take it out of the box and use a lot of technology. I have a hybrid setup with vintage gear, new gear and a great monitor system. So I’m a new pair of ears that are fresh and detached from the song. “One of the main problems for most producers is this: Even if they’re decent mixers, the time it takes you from start to fnish, you are tired of your own song. If you do a painting, you need to have other people’s opinion,” he says. The same goes for a track. Situated mere minutes from where the big producers spin, the DJ-designed Studio at Wynn isn’t only convenient for the visiting artists, but it also holds an advantage for Pretolesi: He can simply run upstairs to Surrender nightclub and test tracks on a proper club sound system to experience what the clubbers will be hearing. Liking what you’ve been hearing at the club these days? Pretolesi may have been the one to give it that extra ‘untz.’ For more on Pretolesi and Studio DMI, visit StudioDMI.com.
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PHOTOS BY SEAN AKARI AND BOBBY JAMEIDAR
January 9–15, 2014
Bellagio [ UPCOMING ]
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PHOTOS BY TONY TRAN
January 9–15, 2014
Jan. 10 Shaun O’Neale spins Jan. 12 Lily Loves Locals Industry Night
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PHOTOS BY TEDDY FUJIMOTO AND TOBY ACUNA
January 9–15, 2014
[ UPCOMING ]
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PHOTOS BY EMILIO GONZALES
January 9–15, 2014
Jan. 9 DJ Ikon spins Jan. 11 Jermaine Dupri spins Jan. 16 DJ Direct spins
DRINKING [ THE BEER NUT ]
January 9–15, 2014
A Cocktail Fit for a Princess VEGAS SEVEN
“IT’S IMPORTANT to have a goal in mind before you begin creating a cocktail,” says Ricardo Murcia, Bellagio’s assistant director of beverage and property mixologist. Murcia’s goal was to fnd a home on his new propertywide menus for Amaro Montenegro. This complex, herbal Italian amaro (bitter) liqueur does exquisite things for an afternoon espresso taken while watching the bustle of a piazza from the shadow of a cathedral. Las Vegas being short of piazze and cathedrals, Bellagio’s Petrossian Bar is a more-than-suitable replacement, where you can observe the activity of the lobby, drinking cocktails that, as Murcia puts it, “people want to be seen drinking.” Named for Princess Elena of Montenegro (later Queen of Italy—what is the spirits industry if not romantic?), Murcia’s Elena cocktail ($16) combines Montenegro with Tanqueray Rangpur gin, hand-squeezed lime juice, house-made ginger extract, cane syrup and a top of soda water over crushed ice—a sort of elevated Italian gin Rickey. But “Elena” just sounds so much more regal than “Rickey.” Get the Elena recipe at VegasSeven.com/CocktailCulture. Learn more about Murcia, and meet four other Las Vegas property mixologists on Page 55.
Anthony Esparza’s “ah-ha” moment came when he discovered the breadth of Italian beers beyond Peroni and Moretti. “There was this whole world of Italian craft beers that I had no idea about!” he says. When he was the general manager at Fiamma in MGM Grand, Esparza immersed himself—almost literally—in Italian beer. “It went from 10 beers I’d like to have [on the menu] to 30 I’d love to have.” By the time he departed Fiamma to join the team at Comme Ça (698-7910) in the Cosmopolitan in August, he’d created an awardwinning Italian craft-beer program with 23 beers. So it comes as no surprise that since Day One at Comme Ça, Esparza he’s had a twinkle in his eye when asked if he’s working on a French and Belgian beer program—with Esparza, that typically means you can bet your saucisson sec he is. “It’s been in the back of my mind,” he says. Naturally, France and the many French-speaking countries open up more options than Italian: How about Swiss beers? Or Canadian? What about the French Caribbean, or even parts of Africa? Esparza says he isn’t ruling anything out (OK, maybe it’s more my dream to chase a Biere Niger with a Dieu du Ciel Péché Mortel), but for now, his European-style beer list is focused on France (specifically Paris and as close to it as possible), the French-Swiss border and Belgium, plus, he says, “some French-Italian flair.” One Italian brewer has even proposed a Franco-Italian collaboration beer just for Comme Ça. It’s not impossible—unlike distillers, who closely guard their recipes and ingredients, brewers just naturally love to learn, share and collaborate. On a recent trip to Italy, Esparza says he witnessed firsthand how the idea of cultivating local yeast spread from one to a handful of Italian breweries. “I’d love to see a French IPA. That beer’s getting more reach, and there’s some versatility, whether they’re dryhopping or continuously hopping,” Esparza says. His aim is to launch the new menu in mid-February with a mix of styles from sweetish ciders to strong brown ales and Belgian trippels, beers with old-world sensibility but which embrace new technology and local/regional ingredients such as gentian, an herb typically found in digestifs. However, unlike Italian craft beer—for which Esparza has a hookup in Massimo D’Arrigo of Bevi Beverages, distributor of B United International’s killer Italian beer portfolio— Esparza says most of what he wants from France and Belgium is not currently available in the U.S. Also, Comme Ça has only five draft lines, which are currently pouring Kronenbourg Blanc 1664, Guinness, Pabst Blue Ribbon, Sierra Nevada Pale Ale and Rince Cochon. So some adjustments—as well as some light construction— might be in order before we’re seeing a panoply of brews. But it’s not just about drinking. He’s also looking forward to the food-pairing possibilities, especially with the bouillabaisse, chef Brian Howard’s seasonal menu and the signature Comme Ça burger. “The toughest pairing? Finding the perfect beer for that perfect burger,” Esparza says. “Because it really is perfect.” In other local craft-beer news, Banger Brewing (4562739, BangerBrewing.com) fired up its kettles and started cooking on December 6; the microbrewery opened Downtown at Neonopolis on December 27. The opening brew lineup includes El Heffe Jalapeño Hefeweizen, Perfect 10 American Pale Ale, DTB Brown Ale, Hops Anonymous IPA, Session Blonde, Simply Stout and Sandia Watermelon Wheat, available by the pint ($5-$7) or in a tasting flight. Live bands start January 23, growler fills in four weeks and tours by the end of the month. That oughta tide you over till Esparza brings on the Belgian. — X.W.
PHOTO BY JON ESTRADA
FROM LE BIRRE TO LES BIÈRES: A CRAFT-BEER MENU IS BREWING AT COMME ÇA
January 9–15, 2014
snide admiration, that “Hallelujah Hollywood! is everything old Hollywood has come to represent—glitter, gaudiness, glamour—turned out with that special perversity only Vegas can provide.” After the MGM Grand fre in 1980, Hallelujah Hollywood! was reworked by Arden into Jubilee!, debuting in 1981 at the rebuilt resort, which became Bally’s in 1985. Today, Jubilee! is the longest-running Vegas production show and the last true vestige of the Strip’s once-dominant showgirl aesthetic. Many of the Hallelujah Hollywood! cast segued to the new show, including, briefy, Ligon, who retired in 1982. Snapshots of glam gals in their feathered, bejeweled and elaborately headdress-clad prime line the gallery walls in tribute to each production and the black dancers who made milestones of both shows. Names such as “Hot Dawn” Lovett, REFLECTIONS “Lovely Lanya” Love OF THE EBONY and “Sassy Janis” GUYS, DOLLS Conedy—and, of & TECHS course, Ligon—are among the many 9 a.m.-7 p.m. women featured, as Wed-Fri, 9 well as behind-thea.m.-6 p.m. scenes tech men. Sat, through Marquee perJan. 25, West formers including Las Vegas Sammy Davis Jr., Arts Center Siegfried FischCommunity bacher, Paul Anka Gallery, 947 and David LetterW. Lake Mead man are captured Blvd., free, schmoozing with 229-4800. the ladies, who are also seen collaborating with legendary costumer Bob Mackie and choreographer Winston Hemsley. Sprinkled amid the posed and candid shots are collages of old magazine stories and program covers for Hallelujah Hollywood! and Jubilee! “Before us, they had [black showgirls] at Moulin Rouge, which wasn’t on the Strip, and they had dancers of color on the Strip, but they were very fair[skinned] and mixed in,” says Ligon, who aced her audition but balked at Arden’s job offer. “I didn’t want to go topless. I had worked too hard in a classically trained background, and now they wanted me to take my clothes off. Donn Arden told me I 60 was living in the dark ages, but I said, ‘No thank you.’ But I received a call from Donn three weeks later. He changed his mind and was going to put together an all-black line, and
Photos from 40 years ago celebrate the Strip’s first all-black line of showgirls in an exhibit at the West Las Vegas Arts Center.
none of us had to go topless, so I came back.” Soon afterward, she hoofed into Vegas history. “We became a specialty group—Bob Mackie loved us, Donn Arden loved us, and there came a time when others in the cast wanted to be a part of our group,” Ligon says, adding that the cast camaraderie was largely color-blind. “Being able to work in the entertainment feld is totally different from any other line of work. This is where you’re more inclined to feel comfortable,
cases of Champagne to the whole cast.” Among those who witnessed the subtle and sometimes unsubtle racial tensions was backstage pioneer B.J. Thomas. Employed as a projectionist, electrician and spotlight operator for Hallelujah Hollywood!, as well as shows at the Flamingo, Dunes, Riviera and Caesars Palace, among others, Thomas began working on the Strip in 1972, after arriving from San Francisco. “At the time, there was one
out to do their numbers, you had to assist them with their costumes. Some white guys didn’t like that. An AfricanAmerican working as a projectionist was in a booth, out of sight and out of mind.” Some departments were still solidly white. “They didn’t have African-Americans in the wardrobe department,” Ligon says, “and I remember one of the [costume] tags said, ‘Colored girls.’” More blatant and egregious were the occasional reactions
“THERE WAS STILL THAT OLD THING OF NOT WANTING BLACK STAGEHANDS ONSTAGE. THEY DIDN’T WANT YOU AROUND THE WHITE GIRLS.” — B.J. Thomas and I felt comfortable. We got along well in the show as a unit.” Yet reminders of the racial divide remained, even though it was the more tolerant 1970s, rather than the segregated Vegas (and America) of the 1950s and ’60s. “Sammy Davis was one of the people [who] recognized some of the diffculties we were having,” Ligon says of the legendary entertainer who was a key fgure in the evolution of civil rights for black Vegas performers. “He spoke to the line a few times and was very enlightening to the group. And he delivered
African-American working in the stagehand business, but they had the consent decree [to end discrimination against black workers], so they were trying to integrate the Strip in all phases of work,” says Thomas, now retired at age 78. “They were trying to handpick certain people they felt could ft in, so I was sponsored by whites and they were always nice to me. But there was still that old thing of not wanting black stagehands onstage. They didn’t want you around the white girls. When they’d go
from casino patrons and some in the community. Routinely, the Hallelujah Hollywood! showgirls, including those on the all-black line, would mingle with guests in the casinos and the coffee shop in full makeup in between performances, spreading goodwill and doling out autographs. “Some people who had been working in the hotels for years, they couldn’t get accustomed to seeing us,” Ligon says. “Once, someone came to the stage door and reported me as a hooker. I was appalled.” Yet that was probably pref-
erable to being felt up, which happened when Ligon and the ladies emerged into the crowd after a show. “One guy comes up and grabs my boobs and twists. I spun him around and … BOOM!” she says, demonstrating a swift kick to the jewels, and not the ones shimmering on her costume. “I thought it had to do with being black. I don’t know if they would have done that to a white girl.” One memory of Ligon’s stands above the rest for both its hostility and generosity, dating back to her frst day of rehearsal for Hallelujah Hollywood! Seeking a babysitter for her young son, she thought she’d found one after her apartment management had arranged it for her. “The lady opened the door and saw I was black and said, ‘I can’t babysit for you; my husband wouldn’t let me do that,’ and slammed the door in my face. I was so upset I cried,” says Ligon, who then shared the story with a fellow dancer. “She said, ‘Bring him over, we have a sitter over here.’ When I went, there was Joe Williams and Bill Cosby. They were getting ready for a jam session. They babysat for me that frst day. I couldn’t believe it. When I picked him up, they had fed him and changed his diaper. And Bill Cosby said, ‘You better not tell a soul!’” Finding a diaper-duty helper in the ex-I Spy star—who became the frst black co-star of a TV drama series a decade earlier— was a stroke of historical karma. One trailblazer deserves another.
Ratting out: Stephen Pearcy plays Count’s Vamp’d on Jan. 11.
January 9–15, 2014
Vegan grindcore, ratt bastards, nerdcore rap
When i’M not at concerts, you’ll fnd me on the couch watching Netfix and studying up on my history. If you’re a rock-geek like me, here are some cool rockumentaries you should check out: Big Star: Nothing Can Hurt Me, about the ’70s-era Memphis power-pop underdogs who went on to infuence everyone from R.E.M. to Teenage Fanclub; A Band Called Death, about the obscure early-’70s proto-punk group Death, formed by three African-American brothers in Detroit after they caught a set by Iggy and the Stooges; and fnally, Punk in Africa, about the explosion of alternative music post-apartheid. Can’t recommend these enough. Enough streaming scholarship. Here are my picks for this week’s top underground shows. There’s only one touring band on God’s broken earth that flls my heart with fear, revulsion and anticipation—Cattle Decapitation. The San Diego-based vegan-deathgrind band is an entity of horror and highly technical musical chops, especially on 2012’s Monolith of Inhumanity. This is grotesque and blistering punk-metal, from the guitar-riffng fusillade of “Projectile Ovulation” to the acid-bathing drumkit assault of “A Living, Breathing Piece of Defecating Meat.” Put aside, for the moment, the fact that Cattle Decap is responsible for the most revolting music video ever released by any band—ever. (Please don’t type the song title “Forced Gender Reassignment” into your YouTube search bar.) Standing at the front of the stage when this band is performing is akin to staring into the propeller of a WWI-era Fokker Eindecker—with its synchronized machine gun blast-
ing at you through whirring blades. Cattle Decap will prod you into the killing chute at 10 p.m. January 10 at Cheyenne Saloon. I mentioned Netfix-streaming music docs earlier. Have you seen Foo Fighter frontman Dave Grohl’s directorial debut? It’s called Sound City, about the history of the recording studio in Van Nuys, California, where Nirvana’s Nevermind was made—along with landmark records by Fleetwood Mac, Neil Young, Tom Petty and Ratt’s stone-cold classic Out of the Cellar. I’m watching the flm and spinning Cellar on vinyl as I write this in expectation of a show by Ratt singer Stephen Pearcy at Count’s Vamp’d at 10 p.m. January 11. Pearcy’s pumped to play hits (“Round and Round,” “Way Cool Jr.”) by his vintage ’80s glam band, as well as songs from his most recent solo album, 2011’s Suckerpunch, featuring hard-rock tunes such as “Don’t Wanna Talk About.” But if he doesn’t deliver Ratt rocker “Lack of Communication,” I’ll be sad. Here’s a show for all of you underground hip-hop enthusiasts. Nerdcore artists Adam WarRock (pop-culture rapper), Schaffer the Darklord (comedic horrorcore rapmetalhead) and Tribe One (comics rapper)—all of whom comprise the current Group Therapy tour—will ignite the stage inside Bar 702 at 8 p.m. January 16. If you’re a Xena-gazing geek who loves rhyme-spittin’, you won’t want to miss this way-off-theradar show. Local dork-punk trio 3D6 opens, specializing in “songs about Dungeons & Dragons, video games, comics, sci-f and all things nerdy.” Your Vegas band releasing a CD soon? Email Jarret_Keene@Yahoo.com.
By M P T M S
INSIDE LLEWYN DAVIS takes place in winter 1961, just before Bob Dylan makes the scene. The scene is the Greenwich Village folk music universe, a few ﬁnite blocks of an island that, in the hands of cinematographer Bruno Delbonnel, looks and feels like a beautiful, long-ago smudge in motion. Crashing here and there, on couches uptown and downtown, Llewyn has a guitar, a voice and some talent. Thanks to Oscar Isaac’s extraordinarily subtle and shrewd performance, the surly protagonist of Joel and Ethan Coen also comes equipped with the kind of sardonic charisma
that compensates for a lot, including his own defeatism. Llewyn doesn’t want to “sell out,” though to pay for an abortion—Carey Mulligan plays the seething Jean, his sometime folkie lover—he cuts a quickand-dirty Sputnik-era novelty record, “Please Mr. Kennedy,” one of the ﬁlm year’s musical and cinematic highlights. His partners in the studio are Jean’s husband, played by Justin Timberlake, and a self-styled cowboy played by Adam Driver. Here, behind the microphone, Llewyn morphs into his better self. Inside Llewyn Davis draws its sardonic comic mileage on presenting
pals, the Gorfeins, played with wide-eyed optimism by Ethan Phillips and Robin Bartlett. Llewyn, who locks himself out of the Gorfeins’ apartment along with their cat, travels with the feline downtown by subway. The point-of-view shots of the cat watching the signage whiz by are things of casual genius. The cat runs away, eventually, and as much as it’s about a particular personality type, and as much as it owes to Dave Von Ronk’s Village memoir The Mayor of MacDougal Street, Inside Llewyn Davis is about how one man keeps losing one cat. Death is all over the story. Llewyn’s merchant marine father is near the end. The climactic scene with his decrepit old man ﬁnds Llewyn managing to redeem himself in song. Llewyn’s former musical partner has recently committed suicide, leaving Llewyn to wonder if he has the stuff to be a solo act. F. Murray Abraham plays a ﬁctional version of Bud Grossman, in the Chicago Gate of Horn scene, one of the ﬁlm’s best. This is Llewyn’s chance, and when the verdict comes, it’s the only one that
makes sense for this ﬁlm, this performer, this world. Folk standards such “500 Miles,” “The Death of Queen Jane” and “Dink’s Song” infuse the movie, and as in the Coens’ O Brother, Where Art Thou? T Bone Burnett has done ﬁrst-rate work supervising the musical landscape. The ﬁlm falls just below the Coens’ best work, which lies inside A Serious Man and Fargo. The script starts and ﬁnishes with an implicit question, one acknowledged by the Coens in the production notes. What would cause anyone to beat up a folk singer? This is how the movie begins, in an alley, behind a club. Something in the ﬁlm’s ending frustrates; it’s meant as a melancholy fadeout, but the real ending, I think, lies a little earlier, with Llewyn in the car, wondering if he should take the Ohio turnoff in order to check up on a unread chapter in his sorry life. Anyway. Some quibbles. But it’s well worth seeing. Isaac isn’t playing Bud Grossman’s idea of a star, yet he may well become one thanks to Inside Llewyn Davis. Inside Llewyn Davis (R) ++++,
January 9–15, 2014
The Coen Brothers delve into the troubled psyche of a Greenwich Village musician
these and other heavenly musical sequences in contrast to all the aggravation accumulating around Llewyn, across a busy, blurry week in his life. As a fond imagining of a distinct locale at a speciﬁc time, the ﬁlm is remarkable. As much as they’re besotted by the Village circa ’61, the Coens are Midwesterners, and in the Midwest road trip section of the movie, you know from whence they came. Pinning his hopes on an audition at Chicago’s Gate of Horn nightclub, Llewyn has grabbed a ride out of Manhattan with a heroin-addicted jazzbo, played by John Goodman, and his sidekick (Garrett Hedlund). They stop at a Paul Harvey Oasis restaurant hanging over some nowhere section of interstate highway, in the middle of the night. Every detail in production designer Jess Gonchor’s work is inspired—a little sad, a little eerie, completely attuned to a story that, at heart, is a lament for the man Llewyn will never become. This being the Coens, the movie happens also to be funny. The real star of the ﬁlm is the cat belonging to Llewyn’s Columbia University academic
65 VEGAS SEVEN
New Classic Folk Tale
Oscar Isaac may gain stardom from playing this anti-star.
siri-ously Good Spike Jonze ofers a delicate future love story with a distinctive voice By Michael Phillips Tribune Media Services
delicate, droll masterwork,
writer-director Spike Jonze’s Her sticks its neck out, all the way out, asserting that what the world needs now and evermore is love, sweet love. Preferably between humans, but you can’t have everything all the time. It tells a love story about a forlorn writer, whose frm— BeautifulHandwrittenLetters. com—provides busy, digitally preoccupied customers with personalized correspondence crafted by professionals such as Theodore Twombly, played by refreshingly rage-free and wholly inspired Joaquin Phoenix. Theodore is smarting from a marital breakup he’s not ready to process, legally or emotionally. He has a flmmaker friend, played by Amy Adams, living in his building in a Los Angeles of the very near future, perhaps 30 years from now. This is a city whose interiors are dominated by reds and pinks and salmon tones, as if the entire culture had taken an oath to view itself through rose-colored glasses.
Theodore buys the latest new gadget, the iPhone of its day. It is an advanced “operating system” that is simply a voice. Not a face. Not a body. Not a person, but a carefully rendered collection of so much intelligence, so many programmed human traits and quirks and speech patterns and interests and desires that, well, why not? Why not call her your girlfriend and take it from there? No grief; no apparent emotional neediness; no accusing glances, like the ones we see in beautifully rendered fashback, showing Theodore’s life and times with his wife, portrayed by Rooney Mara. I love this flm, and I’m one of the most technophobic and least gadget-centric people on the planet. It’s unusually witty science fction and it’s unfashionably sincere, as well as a work of such casual visual inspiration that a second viewing of Her feels more like a frst. This is the fourth feature from Jonze, and the frst in which he directs his own script. Jonze has learned well from his
Future love: A man (Phoenix) and his operating system (voiced by Johansson, not pictured).
earlier work. He met his poetic screwball match in screenwriter Charlie Kaufman for Being John Malkovich and Adaptation, and his more recent and fercely divisive Where the Wild Things Are sent half the audience into emotional shock and the other half into emotional shock followed by immense gratitude. Her is a more even-toned work, but not in a blanded-out way. The high-waisted beltless pants of the future alone make this flm worth seeing. Jonze works with some creatively fabulous designers, among them production designer K.K. Barrett and cinematographer Hoyte Van Hoytema, creating a futuristic L.A. where everyone seems a little calmer but a little more isolated. The earbuds in so
many ears may as well be space dividers. Theodore’s path to Samantha, the operating system with the voice of Scarlett Johansson, involves a blind date with a gorgeous but touchy and insecure woman (Olivia Wilde, mercurial and striking) and a lot of blissfully easygoing debriefng with Theodore’s platonic-ish soul mate, the Adams character, rendered with unusual emotional transparency and the lightest of touches. Phoenix is remarkable as Theodore; he never rolls over for an obvious laugh. Sitting alone in his apartment, playing the latest immersive video game, he paws the air like a chipmunk as his gaming avatar burrows into tunnels. It’s a sad but truly funny image, and the flm’s full
January 9–15, 2014
Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom (PG-13) ★★★✩✩
It is the incendiary work of British actors Idris Elba and Naomie Harris as the couple in question that elevates our involvement in this authorized film version of Nelson Mandela’s autobiography. That, and the astonishing course of Mandela’s life. It’s not just the trajectory that took Mandela from 27 years in prison to the presidency of South Africa that make this story so dramatic. It’s the remarkable psychological journey that went along with it. This may be a familiar story, but it is one worth experiencing again and again.
American Hustle (R) ★★★★✩
My cinematic moment this year comes early in David O. Russell’s American Hustle. Christian Bale plays con man Irving Rosenfeld, and Jennifer Lawrence is formidably, unpredictably volatile as Rosenfeld’s wife. Coming off The Fighter and Silver Linings Playbook, director and co-writer Russell treats the 1970s Abscam sting operation, and the schlump at its center, as a pivot point for a spacious ensemble comedy—tone-funny and atmosphere-funny, not punch line-funny. It’s the false fronts and neuroses and insecurities that keep these peacocks interesting, and make this one of the year’s slyest entertainments.
The Secret Life of Walter Mitty (PG) ★★✩✩✩
In director Ben Stiller’s earnest-but-screwy go at The Secret Life of Walter Mitty, Stiller himself takes the role of the daydreaming, “Yes, dear” fellow introduced in a wee-but-hardy 1939 James Thurber short story. Mitty is the center of an easygoing self-actualization travelogue in which the title character, here conceived as a photo archivist for a dying Life magazine, lurches from Greenland to Afghanistan, searching for a photojournalist played by Sean Penn. The film has a persistent and careful sheen. If this sounds like faint praise, I’m afraid it is.
of such double-sided gems. Where does the love story take Theodore and his new thrill? Better you fnd out for yourself. Jonze’s truisms sometimes have a somewhat predigested ring to them (“The heart expands in size the more you love”), but as Theodore and Samantha reach a relationship crossroads, the flm becomes more and more amazing in its high-wire act. It is a small flm made by enormous talents working in harmony. Jonze’s frst solo script is topical in the right ways, and forward-thinking in the right ways. We’re living in this enticingly lonely world, more or less, already. But does Siri really understand your needs? Her (R) ★★★★✩
[ by tribune media services ]
Anchorman 2: The Legend Continues (PG-13) ★★✩✩✩
Louder and crasser than the 2004 original, though God knows the first one had its share of jokes ending with phrases such as “massive erection” and “smelly pirate hooker,” director and co-writer Adam McKay’s sequel nonetheless offers a fair number of idiotic rewards. In Anchorman 2, Will Ferrell plays with variations on the unctuous, clueless, preening Burgundy persona. Now and then, Anchorman 2 takes a stab at satiric commentary about the state of cable news. Anchorman 2 isn’t much, compared with the more compact and nimble original.
Wolf of Wall Street (R) ★★✩✩✩
The BBC series Walking With Dinosaurs gets the kid-friendly big-screen treatment, complete with cutesy story and dino-poop jokes, in Walking With Dinosaurs 3D. The story might be too childish for anybody older than 12, but the research behind it and effort to pass that knowledge on to young dinosaur fans make Walking With Dinosaurs 3D as at home in the classroom as it is in theaters. But again, let’s keep that between us. No reason the kids need to know it might be good for them.
In the waning years of the last century at Stratton Oakmont, the Wall Street brokerage house run like a coked-up 24-hour bacchanal by Jordan Belfort, the customer wasn’t king. Belfort’s various illegalities and near-death experiences were lovingly self-chronicled in his memoirs. Now director Martin Scorsese has made a three-hour picture about the man and his pleasure missions. Although Leonardo DiCaprio is never less than engaged, I wonder if the comfort level between actor and director has begun to work against both artists.
Grudge Match (PG-13) ★★✩✩✩
Out of the Furnace (R) ★★★✩✩
Frozen (PG) ★★★✩✩
Black Nativity (PG-13) ★★★✩✩
Robert De Niro and Sylvester Stallone square off as aged boxers brought back by a desperate fight promoter (Kevin Hart). Grudge borrows plot points from Stallone’s Rocky Balboa back in 2006, with a viral video of the guys mixing it up at the video-game recording studio putting them back in the news. It’s a shame the banter isn’t sharper. A few one-liners, a feeble touch of romance with Basinger, a smart-mouthed kid—as formulas go, this one feels gassed.
Big, bright and often beautiful, Frozen comes from Walt Disney Animation Studios. While crediting the Hans Christian Andersen’s The Snow Queen as inspiration, the movie owes more to Broadway’s Wicked. It’s a tale of two sisters. Elsa (voiced by Idina Menzel) has been blessed/cursed with the 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.
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 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.
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 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.
January 9–15, 2014
67 VEGAS SEVEN
Walking with Dinosaurs 3D (PG)
Remember: Some of those things you see on TV, those people have been working out for months or years. You’ve been with the UNLV athletic training staff since 1984. In your 30 years on the job, what’s been the most important change in your feld? One of the biggest things is improvement in surgical procedures. The very frst surgery I saw was somebody who had torn cartilage in his knee, and they had to make an 8-inch incision, open up the knee, go in and take the entire cartilage out and stitch him up. Then they put his full leg in a plaster-ofparis cast, he’s on crutches for a month, and it took us three or four months to get him back just from cartilage surgery. Now they have a scope; it’s like a little camera that’s the size of a pencil that you put right into the knee, and the inside of the knee is enlarged on a big fat-screen TV in the operating room. Those people are recovered and back to running in maybe three or four weeks.
UNLV’s head athletic trainer on the value of stretching, the physicality of soccer (really!) and a Rebel coaches race for the ages
January 9–15, 2014
By Matt Jacob
What’s the true breakfast of champions? Just the basics—cereal, fruit, pancakes, lots of carbohydrates. … We try to get our athletes just to eat breakfast. A lot of times they’re in the dorms or in apartments, so we’re just trying to get them up and get something to eat—get calories in them before they go to school or
have workouts. A lot of times they’ll have morning workouts, so the strength and conditioning staff will give them some carbohydrate supplements in the morning. More important: diet or exercise? I think exercise. Obviously, both are important, but you could eat very healthy food, but
going frst before stretching. If you try to stretch the very frst thing, your muscles are still a little stiff or cold. That’s why our teams will do a lap around the feld or run up and down the court or run around the bases, then get a little stretch in.
Everyone knows that it’s crucial to stretch before and even after workouts, but many skip it because it’s so tedious. Are there any shortcuts to stretching? Well, you just have to incorporate it as part of your daily routine. It’s one of the things you need to do before practice or a workout, and defnitely afterward. Afterward, you’re already warmed up, so your muscles get a little better stretch. Also, you want to do something cardio-wise to get a little sweat
Quickie workouts are all the rage now—20-minute this, 30-minute that. Do they really work? I think they do. You just have to be careful that you don’t do too much, too fast, too soon. Any exercise is good, but just like anything else, you can overdo it. So if you haven’t been doing any exercises at all, and then all of a sudden you’re trying to go 20 or 30 minutes straight really, really fast, you can cause soreness and might aggravate an old injury.
UNLV football coach Bobby Hauck and basketball coach Dave Rice line up for a 40-yard dash. Who’s your money on? I’d have to go with Coach Hauck in a shorter distance, but I think Dave might beat him in at a [longer] distance. Being a basketball player and having to run for Tark [former UNLV basketball coach Jerry Tarkanian] all those years, I think Dave is in pretty good shape. I don’t know what Coach Hauck’s endurance level would be after 40 yards, but I’d go with him up to 40. But it’d be close.
PHOTO BY JON ESTRADA
if you’re not exercising—you know, your heart’s a muscle, and you have to exercise that. Maybe you can get by with doing more exercises and not eating as healthy—you can burn off some extra calories and still sort of maintain your weight.
Outside of football, what’s the sport where you see the most injuries? I’d probably say soccer— and probably more women’s soccer than the guys. They’re very competitive—just as much, if not more so, than the guys. You used to think, “Oh, [soccer’s] not really a contact sport,” but you go out there and they’re running into each other; they’re going down to make a tackle for the ball; they’re going up trying to hit the ball with their head and they hit heads. So you have a lot of concussions and a lot of knee injuries in soccer.