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THE LATEST June 19–25, 2014 VEGAS SEVEN
The Man Who Gave Regulation a Good Name How the late Robert Faiss helped shape the gaming landscape in Nevada and beyond
NEVADA’S CASINO REGULATORY SYSTEM is intimidatingly massive. The relevant sections of the Nevada Revised Statutes span more than 83,000 words—more than 150 pages, single-spaced. But that’s just the foundation: The Gaming Control Board and Gaming Commission promulgate regulations, technical specifcations, suitability fndings and control standards, which themselves run to hundreds of pages. In 2014, gaming regulations have the feel of being, like the mountains and desert, part of the timeless geography of Nevada. But that system had human architects. One of the most prominent, attorney Robert Faiss, died June 4 at the age of 79. Faiss shaped the evolution of Nevada’s gaming regulation as an attorney who represented some of the state’s largest casinos, but never lost sight of what he considered truly important: what was best for Nevada. When he joined Lionel Sawyer & Collins in the early 1970s (after service with the state and federal governments, and fnishing a four-year night law degree program in three years), there was no such thing as a “gaming attorney.” Faiss was part of the generation of practitioners that codifed gaming law as its own specialty. In the way Faiss served his clients, he helped shape both our state and the gaming business beyond its borders. He represented Caesars World when, in 1979, it won the right to become the frst Nevada company to operate a casino in a “foreign” jurisdiction, thenburgeoning New Jersey. Had Faiss been unsuccessful then, it’s possible that the international expansion of Las Vegas-based casino operators might have happened quite differently, if at all; in 1985, he successfully argued for Hilton Hotels’ approval to operate a casino in a foreign country (Conrad Jupiters, on Australia’s Gold Coast). Also that year, Faiss client Genji Yasuda became the frst non-American citizen licensed to own and operate a Nevada casino when he bought the bankrupt Aladdin. The language, cultural and administrative barriers that gaming agents crossed while conducting the Yasuda investigation, primarily in Japan, would position the state well as international owners became increasingly interested in Las Vegas. Faiss was also instrumental in drafting the 2001 legislation that opened the door for Nevada to become, more than a decade later, the frst U.S. state to permit Internet gaming, a frontier in its own right. In short, Faiss helped usher Nevada into the global era of gaming, one in which casino ownership and operation transcends borders. Today, as several Las Vegas-based operators earn much of their revenue from Asian operations and a Malaysian company develops the next major Strip casino, it’s easy to see that the Strip would look much different without Faiss. He contributed in smaller ways as well. Originally, all meetings of the Gaming Control Board had, by statute, to take place in Carson City, an encumbrance for the growing Southern Nevada industry. Once, while discussing potential amendments to gaming law with GCB chairman Richard Bunker, Faiss casually asked whether it would be possible to drop that requirement. Bunker was amenable, and as a
THE GLAMOR AND THE BARGAIN
result the Board and Commission now alternate their meetings between the north and south. Yet Faiss’ legacy is more than the sum of his legislative and regulatory work. His most enduring contribution might be the education and encouragement he imparted to future generations. Through his work as the chair of Lionel Sawyer & Collins’ gaming department, he mentored many young attorneys who have themselves gone on to prominence. In a more formal role, Faiss taught at UNLV’s Boyd School of Law beginning in 2001, taking time from a crowded schedule to personally instruct students. In a 2006 interview with the University of Nevada’s Oral History Program, Faiss was characteristically humble. When asked about his proudest accomplishments, he thanked his clients and his colleagues at Lionel Sawyer & Collins. But it wasn’t about individual attainment; it was about working to make the system run better. “As long as I feel I’m making a contribution, and nobody I respect contradicts it, I’m going to keep working,” he said. Over his long career, Faiss contributed more than his share. For decades to come, his work will continue to defne gaming law and regulation in Nevada. David G. Schwartz is the director of UNLV’s Center for Gaming Research.
The Cromwell opened last month, the latest incarnation of what was for many years the Barbary Coast, then Bill’s Gamblin’ Hall & Saloon, then, ever-so-briefly in our imaginations, the Gansevoort. The property is a bona fide high-ender now, rocking a $185 million remake that features the restaurant Giada and Drai’s nightclub. Drai’s is reportedly such a hit that what was supposed to be a self-parking garage may be used exclusively for valet to accommodate the weekend throngs. The irony is that one of the best attributes of the Barbary and Bill’s was the primo parking in that garage. Now you have to park next door at the Flamingo. From the deal-hunter’s perspective, a lot of good things from Barbary and Bill’s are gone, and they don’t figure to show up again at the Cromwell. No more prime rib or breakfast specials in the coffee shop. No more (free) Big Elvis. No more hot dog and beer in the sportsbook. Heck, no more sportsbook! Don’t expect to find a food deal here—there’s only one restaurant, the high-end Giada. No buffet. No snack bar. The center bar, Interlude, is a beaut, but beers are $6-$8. There’s also nothing special in the casino for the deal-seeker, as most blackjack games pay 6-5 on naturals, and video poker schedules are comparable to what you’ll find in the tightest non-casino bars. So, if high-end isn’t your flavor, is there a move? Yes. The move is to move. Exit the door on Flamingo, turn left and walk one block to the Stage Door. If you don’t know the Stage Door by name, you should recognize it as a place you’ve driven by a hundred times. There’s a distinct change in atmosphere from the Cromwell, but you can get a hot dog and a Michelob or a Bud for $3. That’s two beers and two hot dogs for the price of a draft at the Cromwell. Michelob without the dog is just $1. A shot of “cheaps” and a PBR is $2. A shot of Jäger is $2, a shot of Crown is $3 and a shot of Patrón is $4. The Stage Door is kind of a drinking place. The gambling is good, too, at least from 1 to 9 a.m. daily, when royal flushes pay double. Stage Door has the same bad schedules as the Cromwell, so the double-pay isn’t enough to get you over the negative-expectation hump. But playing the best game (6/5 Bonus Poker), the return is 99.15 percent, which is better than anything you’ll find up the street. The age of the high-end casino has its own charms, but sometimes you have to be a little more creative to find a bargain. Anthony Curtis is the publisher of the Las Vegas Advisor and LasVegasAdvisor.com, a newsletter and website dedicated to finding the best deals in town.
James Weidner President of Weidner Lou Trading
Consultant at Huron Consulting Group
THE COUPLE …
“I was born and raised here,” Aiello says, “and James was raised in Las Vegas since he was 13. We met in Mexico through mutual friends when I was 19 years old and he was 25, but we didn’t start dating until three years later. And it turned out that we’d both gone to the Meadows School.” MIXING IT UP …
“I like to add something edgy or trendy to the mix of my more classic pieces and feminine pieces,” Aiello says. “I love shopping at Zara and Barneys—I can get the tailored look and also fun dresses for the weekend, or something more laid-back like jeans and T-shirts.”
18 James: Vanishing Elephant shirt, The Well pants, Neil Barrett jacket, Retrosuperfuture sunglasses, John Varvatos shoes. Alexis: Alexander McQueen dress, Renvy shoes, The Jewelers of Las Vegas necklace.
“Having been in the New York area for graduate school, I like the American classic style,” Weidner says. “But lately I’ve gotten more into Los Angeles urban style, especially because my brother’s involved in the fashion industry there—he just opened The Well in Downtown L.A.” – Jessi C. Acuña
PHOTO BY JON ESTRADA
June 19–25, 2014
FROM CLASSIC TO URBAN …
June 19–25, 2014
it takes one thing to go from outsider to establishment in Las Vegas: success. When Pasquale Rotella’s Insomniac Events frst brought the Electric Daisy Carnival to Las Vegas in 2011, he was a renegade feeing Los Angeles, which had hosted the festival for more than a decade but rolled up the welcome mat amid controversy in 2010. There was a historic parallel to this eastward emigration: Eighty years earlier, Southern California authorities took a dim view of the gambling operations of such entrepreneurs as Guy MacAfee and Tony Corerno, who decided to pack up their chips, head up Highway 91 and set up shop in Las Vegas. That worked out pretty well. EDC seems to be following suit.
Here in the desert, the three-day celebration of electronic dance music and outrageous illumination—which comes to the Las Vegas Motor Speedway June 20-22—has swiftly become an institution, spawning an entire week’s worth of events connected with EDM. There’s even a conference covering the business side of the genre, complete with panel discussions and a keynote speech. In the coming year, Insomniac will bring two more festivals to town— Nocturnal Wonderland and Beyond Wonderland. Las Vegas, it’s fair to say, has been very good to EDC. But for Rotella, EDC in Vegas was anything but a sure bet in 2011. “I wasn’t sure it would catch on,” he says. “I was worried about whether the fans would follow me to Vegas. This was not a destination for festivals or dance-music fans.” Those in charge of the tourist corridor had their doubts as well. Could Las Vegas still proft by allowing what Los Angeles had rejected? The answer is in the numbers. In its inaugural year, EDC generated $136 million for Clark County’s economy, including more than $55 million in income for workers. With the area still recovering from the recession, that number did as much to legitimize the event as the lack of major incidents at the festival. Some feared a horde of raver freaks descending on the Strip, keeping out deeper-pocketed customers. Instead, a group of enthusiasts arrived in Las Vegas for an event, paid for their rooms, dining and entertainment, and left without incident. In 2010, the last year it was held at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum, EDC generated a total of $42 million in economic impacts. Just by moving the event to Las Vegas, Insomniac more than tripled its local economic impact. What had been a stadium event on a crowded calendar became a citywide celebration that reached from EDC’s new home at the speedway to the Strip and Downtown. So there were compelling reasons for both festival organizers and city offcials to want to develop a long-term relationship. “It fuels the culture of the city,” Rotella says. “It’s helped establish Las Vegas as a destination for dance-music lovers.” The carnival’s fnancial footprint kept growing, with a total economic impact of $207 million in 2012, and
$278 million in 2013. In three years, the event’s fnancial contribution to Las Vegas has more than doubled. Interestingly, the event was a sellout in both 2012 and 2013, with 345,000 total tickets sold, but consumer spending rose from $103 million to $137 million. With the same number of attendees, Las Vegas resorts and other businesses found a way to coax an additional $34 million out of EDC visitors last year. That’s the kind of crowd the city loves. Some might grouse that electronicdance-music devotees aren’t known for being big gamblers, which is generally true. In 2013, the average EDC visitor spent about $58 on gambling a day, while the average Las Vegas visitor who gambled spent about $133. But it’s worth mentioning that fewer visitors to Las Vegas are gambling (71 percent in 2013 versus 83 percent in 2009), so EDC guests are not necessarily outliers. You could argue, in fact, that EDC is the template for the future of Vegas visitors. Up until the recession, casino companies grew in Las Vegas by adding slot machines and tables. But the Strip’s two giants, Caesars Entertainment and MGM Resorts International, have chosen to expand in other ways: by dividing hotel towers into smaller boutique operations and adding new restaurants, bars and shopping venues. There’s something almost prideful in the way the big resort companies say that there is no new gambling component in their latest projects. So a light gambling budget isn’t at all a deal-breaker: Big-ticket nightlife developments such as Hakkasan and Drai’s suggest that operators are just as interested in return on investment from night and day clubbers as they are gamblers or conventioneers. In its three years in Las Vegas, EDC’s rising tide has seemingly lifted even the massive ships on Las Vegas Boulevard. “I’ve been told that we have as much an impact on the clubs as a Labor Day or Memorial Day weekend,” Rotella says. “Especially in the dayclubs.” ***** las vegas isn’t big on restraint. We see that just about everywhere. You don’t build a place for guests to grab a quick sandwich; you build a multistation buffet. Want to let guests dance to the latest hits? Construct a
NIGHTLIFE Your city after dark, photos from the week’s hottest parties and the people who bring EDC to life
Markus Schulz and Ferry Corsten team up as New World Punx By Deanna Rilling
TAKE TWO VETERAN SUPERSTAR DJS,
put them in one booth and watch the magic happen as they use their collective talents to blow your mind (and possibly an eardrum, if you’re foolish enough not to protect your hearing). Fresh off his Scream 2 bus tour in support of his latest album, Markus Schulz chatted about what he and Ferry Corsten will be bringing to the masses for the 2014 Electric Daisy Carnival as New World Punx.
How did your collaboration with Ferry Corsten come about? The New World Punx started off as kind of a jam session between Ferry and I, [and then] it just blew up into a big production. For EDC, obviously, we’re going to bring the biggest production to our show that we’ve had. The best way to describe it is: Ferry and I are doing a jam session, but fast and furious, and with probably double the intensity of anything that you’ve heard from us.
June 19–25, 2014
Join the Unicorn Slayer Rebellion
29 VEGAS SEVEN
PHOTO BY TONY TRAN
Markus Schulz and Ferry Corsten at Tao Beach.
them? Meet Insomniac creative director Bunny and his entertainment director sidekick, Jila. Bunny, before Insomniac CEO Pasquale Rotella gave you control over the event’s performance-artist talent in 2008, you played the frst EDC in 1997 with your multimedia electronic-dance-music band Rabbit in the Moon. What was it like? Bunny: Pasquale wanted to do it in the round [with the stage in the center of the audience]; I had to split attention between two opposite sides. But to play in L.A. in 1997 was special. EDM didn’t get going in America until ’93 or ’94. So it’d gotten momentum and was bubbling with excitement. How did you meet Rotella? Bunny: Our frst L.A. show was in 1995, I think. It was a party Pasquale worked on called Big Wig Thumper. He wanted to book us. To be part of the frst Electric Daisy Carnival and see how far it’s come—insane. When did you realize Rotella was someone you wanted to work with? Bunny: Pasquale booked us for Nocturnal Wonderland 1999. He lost his venue, but went door to door on an Indian reservation to fnd people willing to rent land. There was infghting on the reservation. Indians arrived with guns and scared kids away. They fred in the air, scattering everyone. Cops arrived and arrested the gunmen. By any means necessary, the party continued. I realized Pasquale was different in that moment. I have the utmost respect.
One-Name Wonders June 19–25, 2014
Insomniac’s Bunny and Jila on massaging emotions, disco-ball mascot failure and festivals past
By George Peele A MICROBUS FULL OF CLOWNS rolls slowly through a crowd of ecstatic revelers. A fatland BMX rider nails a trick. A bald dude on pogo stilts does a backfip. A man in a suit of mirror shards shines from onstage. A hottie in a gas mask with rabbit ears wields faming fans—you’ve seen them online in trailers. Maybe you’ve even interacted with them in the fesh at
the festival. Electric Daisy Carnival Las Vegas employs more than 500 of these roving and stage performers: Clowns, aerialists, stilters, acrobats, dancers, contortionists, roller girls, puppeteers, mascots, Cyr wheelists, drummers, tumblers and more transform Las Vegas Motor Speedway into one of the world’s largest immersive performance environments. And who wrangles
How often did your band Rabbit in the Moon play Electric Daisy Carnival in those days? Bunny: Nocturnal Wonderland was bigger then; we played that more often. Electric Daisy Carnival didn’t take off until 2006 or 2007. When EDC moved to the L.A. Coliseum, it went crazy. The vibe was incendiary. Jila, you joined Rabbit in the Moon as a fre artist after leaving Zumanity. How did you two characters meet? Jila: Two friends were painting themselves Shiva-blue for a show. They invited me [to join]. “I’m not a blue girl. I’ll do Kali in red,” I said. I had this gold Thai headdress and made pasties with matching spikes. Painted myself red, doused myself in gold glitter and performed. Bunny said later, “You’re the female version of me. That show we did? We do [Rabbit in the Moon] around the world.” “Congratulations,” I said. “Wanna go with us?” he asked. I said, “Hmmm ... Let me check my schedule.” When did Rotella ask for help with costuming and performance? Bunny: In 2007, we played Vegas, and Pasquale was there. We went to Love. He was inspired: “Bunny, what would
it take to do this?” he asked. “Give me a shot,” I said. “I’ll try to do better.” What does your position entail, Bunny? Bunny: Performance ideas and costume design. I also work in the media department, directing and editing trailers. I massage emotions, make people feel something and represent the brand. Nothing compares to going [to an Insomniac event], but we simulate it. How integral are the event trailers to the success of Insomniac’s events? Bunny: Online presence is huge. We tell stories. DJs are important, but we emphasize the whole experience. Not everybody’s in Vegas to experience these shows; [for some] trailers are the closest they’ll get. Is there a method to character conception and costume creation madness? Jila: I used to grab Bunny and a couple of artists, and we’d brainstorm cockamamy things. Bunny’s interesting: He’d often suggest something, and I’d say, “Totally.” Others’ faces would say, “What is he talking about? Does he really think he can do that?” It’s fun to show ourselves—and everyone—that outlandish things are possible. Bunny: Our track record’s good. The only failure I recall was a giant disco-ball mascot costume. It weighed so much that a bodybuilder couldn’t carry it more than 100 yards. We’d expended weeks on it—it was sad. That’s the only failure I remember in six years. That’s batting [almost] 1.000. How did EDC’s migration to Las Vegas change things for you? Jila: I felt slightly overwhelmed. I didn’t know if I could meet demand. “How many would travel to be involved?” [I wondered]. Vegas performers work other shows. It wasn’t this major effort to fnd talent. It’s cool to see them all in a big room, because they’re performing for each other the whole time. What distinguishes Insomniac from other event production companies? Bunny: You’re watching a stage. A stilted clown grabs your hat and highfves you. It breaks the fourth wall. You’re no longer a spectator. What’s the future hold? Jila: It’s magical to be part of something so beautiful. I didn’t ever have a fve-year plan before. It’s an honor to be welcomed back [to the Insomniac team], to be involved as it’s evolved into madness. Bunny: We’re already one of the biggest American festivals, defnitely the biggest American dance fest. I think we’re approaching world’s largest. I don’t think we’re close to [achieving] what’s possible. I don’t see a ceiling.
PHOTO BY JEAN RENARD
Bunny (left) and Jila.
WET REPUBLIC MGM Grand
[ UPCOMING ]
See more photos from this gallery at SPYONVegas.com
PHOTOS BY AMIT DADL ANEY AND JOSH METZ
June 19–25, 2014
June 20 Steve Aoki and Fergie DJ spin June 21 Hardwell and Mark Eteson spin June 22 Tiësto spins
Eulogy for a Brasserie Former Pinot Brasserie employees refect on the 15-year-old restaurant’s closing
June 19–25, 2014
By Al Mancini
PINOT BRASSERIE IN THE VENETIAN served its last meal May 31. James Beard Award-winning chef Joachim Splichal’s Patina Restaurant Group operated the establishment, which had been serving French cuisine in the Venetian since the resort’s opening in 1999. It was the frst place to open on the “restaurant row” that would soon also be home to Emeril’s Delmonico Steakhouse and Piero Selvaggio’s now-shuttered Valentino, and offered a style of French dining and authentic French décor that wasn’t prevalent in Las Vegas at the time. “I don’t want to say it was the frst of its kind,” says Luis De Santos, who
opened the restaurant as its wine director. “But it was a [new] concept,” De Santos says. “It was a classic brasserie with the fair of southern France, taking you outside the hustle and bustle of the Las Vegas casino. All of a sudden, you’re in this area where you have the pommes frites, the carafe of wine and certain things that mesmerized you back into the southern part of France.” Those close to the restaurant say its business never really waned over the years. But it never really got the attention that splashier marquee restaurants such as Thomas Keller’s Bouchon and Mario Batali’s B&B
Ristorante received. “People in Vegas are more focused on the new thing right now,” says Eric Lhuillier, who served as executive chef from 2006 until its closing. “What’s new? What’s the new trend? A restaurant like us that’s been here for a long time—they didn’t forget about us, but it’s not like we were doing anything new. We kept doing what we were doing well.” The restaurant experienced a critical resurgence last spring and summer. Among others, colleagues Grace Bascos and Max Jacobson both praised it in the pages of this
publication, and I wrote about it positively on my blog. “I think friends of friends started looking at it and saying ‘Hey, look at this great food that we’ve missed out on!’” says John Courtney, who served as a sous chef in the restaurant at the time of that resurgence. Still, rumors began to circulate earlier this year that Pinot’s days were numbered. And the recent opening of Daniel Boulud’s DB Brasserie (a similar French concept) directly next door may have been the fnal nail in Pinot’s coffn. So when it fnally closed its doors—quietly and without fanfare—few in the dining community were surprised. (At this point, there’s no word on what will replace the restaurant). Looking back, Lhuillier is proud of what the restaurant accomplished. “It’s a long run,” he says. “Fifteen years in the same hotel, it’s a beautiful thing. It’s an inspiration for a lot of restaurants.” Nonetheless, he admits, “It’s kind of sad to see it go.”
PHOTO COURTESY OF THE VENETIAN L AS VEGAS
If Pinot Brasserie’s walls could talk ...
JEFF BRIDGES & THE ABIDERS
8 p.m. June 20, 7 p.m. June 21, Rocks Lounge at Red Rock Resort, $68-$92, 702-797-7777.
Jeff Bridges abides: (clockwise from top) The Big Lebowski, True Grit and The Contender.
that log cabin [known as Hog Ranch]. It’s really a spectacular movie. I’ve seen it many times, and every time I do I enjoy it more. It came out around the time of MTV and all that fast kind of cutting, and this movie is very leisurely paced. You’ve really got to get into [director] Mike Cimino’s tempo to enjoy it. If you wait for it to get faster, you’re going to miss some stuff. But I think it’s really a masterpiece. And it shows you how powerful the press can be. It got one terrible review, and then everybody fell in line with that so the audience had that in their brain pan. You made your frst screen appearance in The Company She Keeps in 1951 when you were an infant. You’re 64 years old, with a 63-year career. Not tired of showbiz yet? Ha! I was six months old. Being lucky has a lot to do with having this career—and being born into the right bed. I consider myself a product of nepotism. My dad loved showbiz and wanted all his kids to go into it and encouraged us. That’s the toughest thing for an actor, to get their frst break, and that was handed to us.
Does being onstage fulfll you in the same way that acting does? There are a lot of similarities to making movies and making music. It’s like you’re doing a big improv with the audience. You’re working off the audience and they’re working off you, and you’re creating something together. It’s an immediate deal. But also, each performance is a completely different experience. Working with the Abiders, my buddies from Santa Barbara, that’s a completely unique thing. Often my daughter [Jessie] will join us, and she will open for us in Las Vegas. Crazy Heart was a career acting milestone, but was it also a turning point for you as a musician? It was. I’ve been playing music since I was a kid, all through high school, and I had a group of guys I played with, writing songs all that time.
When Crazy Heart came along, it was a great opportunity to work with my music. And when the movie was over, I fgured if there was ever a time to get a band together and get out there, this would be a good time. What triggered your passion for the cause of ending world hunger? About 30 years ago I became aware of the problem of world hunger, why it’s in place, the enormity of it and the reasons for it. It’s not that there isn’t enough food or money or even knowing how to end it; it’s creating the political will. Politicians, they represent us, so it’s creating your own will. I wanted to do something, and not just a gesture of a hundred bucks that scratches your guilt itch. I wanted to do something I could sustain. So I worked it into what I do for a living, which is making movies and entertaining and talking with the media, so I created the End Hunger Network in 1983 for other like-minded folks. That was concerned with international hunger. In the ’80s, we had to shift our focus to our own country, because a lot of the programs weren’t being supported and hunger started to show its head here. The late, legendary critic Pauline Kael once called you “the least self-conscious actor” in Hollywood. Flattering? Ha! I’m glad. But it’s an act; I’m an
actor. That’s one of the things I aspire to, to make it look effortless and natural. It goes with the gig. Not every actor would be pleased to be deeply identifed with one role, but you seem not to mind people thinking of you as The Dude from The Big Lebowski. For a lot of people, it’s one of their favorite movies. It’s certainly one of mine. Even if I wasn’t in it, it would be one of my favorite movies. It’s just so well done. I recently performed with the Abiders at a Lebowski Fest in Los Angeles. I certainly don’t mind the identifcation. It’s great to have people share that with me. Is there one movie you made that you wish more people had seen? Yeah, there’s one called The Amateurs, I think it was on TV recently. That was a lot of fun, there are a lot of great performances. [The 2005 comedy was about small-town folks making an adult flm.] At the other end of the scale, you were in a movie that some in Hollywood consider infamous— 1980’s Heaven’s Gate. Was it fair that it has become synonymous with movie debacles? Making that flm, we had wonderful times. I had [purchased and] lived in that whorehouse from Heaven’s Gate,
Are you satisfed with the range of roles you’ve played, or are there types of characters you’re still eager to tackle? I’m not too ambitious that way. My father, when he had the TV series Sea Hunt, it was a blessing and a curse. It was wonderful for the family fnancially and for his career, but it typecast him as this skin diver. He got a lot of skin-diving scripts. I took that as a cue and early on in my career, I wanted to mix up the kinds of roles I was doing so I wouldn’t be typecast. I didn’t want too strong a persona that I had to break all the time. You’re a six-time Oscar nominee (for The Last Picture Show, Thunderbolt and Lightfoot, Starman, The Contender, True Grit and Crazy Heart). Did you ever think your career would take you to such heights? Ha! Six, is that what it is? That’s pretty great.
TRUE GRIT BY LOREY SEBASTIAN
June 19–25, 2014
President Barack Obama has said that President Jackson Evans, the character you played in the 2000 movie The Contender, is his favorite cinematic president. Ha! That’s terrifc, a great stamp of approval. For that part, I channeled my dad [the late Lloyd Bridges] a bit. My dad was a quite joyous cat. He loved what he did, and the president I played in that flm certainly did, too, much the way Bill Clinton did, just loved being the prez. And my father had that going.
You’ve called your brother Beau a mentor to you. How so? Oh, gosh. One of the tough things for actors to do is fnd an audience. He would rent a fatbed truck, and we’d get some scenes together and pull into a supermarket and stage a fake fght. Our father taught us how to stage fght. People would come around and we’d go, “No we’re just kidding!” And we’d perform our scenes in the back of the truck until the police came, and we’d move on to the next supermarket and play the supermarket circuit that way.
The Immigrant (R) ★★★✩✩
Blended (PG-13) ★★✩✩✩
This prickly period piece about hard times starring Marion Cotillard, Joaquin Phoenix and Jeremy Renner leaves you unsettled. Although it’s far more about survival than love, there is a sense of seduction in director James Gray’s ambitious film. The sepiasaturated scene evokes that vast influx of refugees in the ’20s and ’30s. The theme of compromise as the price of progress in this country is a compelling one. The film is sometimes fraught, but the ideas are so rich, the look so lovely, Ewa’s journey so heartbreakingly real, even the flaws suit it.
Adam Sandler is a bottle of cheap beer that’s lost all its bubbles. So let’s focus on what works in Blended, because he sure doesn’t. Drew Barrymore, in her third pairing with Sandler, still brings energy and conviction to her performance as Lauren, a mother of two thrown together on an African vacation with this lump. Jim, a widower, is raising three emotionally stunted daughters who need a mom. Every setup is an eye-roller. Sandler is aimlessly going through the motions, a character others dismiss as “a buffoon,” “a chubby loser” in need of a fist-bump.
Godzilla (PG-13) ★★★★✩
Chef (R) ★★ ✩✩
Million Dollar Arm (PG) ★★★✩✩
Palo Alto (R) ★★★✩✩
The latest Godzilla, fine and fierce, removes the camp (though it’s not humorless) and smartly doesn’t overexploit its star. The premise cleverly rewrites the Godzilla lore as we know it. What first appears to be a plant meltdown is being caused by the radiation-seeking monster. I find the screenplay’s attempts to make us care about the humans rather touching, which isn’t the same as saying the characters’ crises are dramatically vital. But so much of Godzilla works on a sensory, atmospheric level, the workmanlike material can’t kill it.
In Disney’s Million Dollar Arm, a modest but heartening surprise, Jon Hamm steps into a comfortable leading role, that of a canny sports agent who brings baseball to India and then brings a couple of promising athletes back to California (filmed in Georgia, where director Craig Gillespie shot Million Dollar Arm when he wasn’t on location in India). The film combines factual characters with fictional ones and keeps the sentimental uplift to a refreshing minimum. Like Disney’s Invincible, Million Dollar Arm has a way with corn, but it doesn’t feel like one of “those” Disney movies.
Chef is an hour’s worth of story with a two-hour running time. After a video of an argument with a sour restaurant critic (Oliver Platt) goes viral, a frustrated chef (Jon Favreau) loses his job. Encouraged by his ex-wife (Sofia Vergara), the chef buys an old food truck, and he and his son (Emjay Anthony) embark on a Twitter-fueled marketing experiment: a cross-country jaunt accompanied by the chef’s friend and fellow kitchen master Martin (John Leguizamo). The movie, slick and shallow, is fairly entertaining anyway.
Written and directed by Gia Coppola, Palo Alto is adapted from a collection of short stories by James Franco and conjures a delicate sense of middle-class adolescence, the indeterminate, nascent feelings of the teenage years. Revolving around a group of high school kids, the film follows shy April (Emma Roberts), who falls into an affair with her soccer coach (Franco) as drifting Teddy (Jack Kilmer) pines for her. They bounce aimlessly through school and parties at once debauched but tedious. Coppola transforms weakness into strength, vulnerability into armor.
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Located on The Strip at
RINGLING BROS. AND BARNUM & BAILEY CIRCUS
Eight performances are scheduled from June 19-22 at the Thomas & Mack Center, $13-$83, UNLVTickets.com.
contained and keeping a supple mind, because your show is always changing. It’s a living, breathing thing. You’re dealing with humans, you’re dealing with animals. You have to be really agile, be able to adjust in the event of an accident. You have to, unfortunately, be able to disconnect in those moments. You can’t say, “Oh my God, these are my friends,” as we recently experienced. You have to deal with it with the audience in mind. It’s really a mental thing.
The youngest ringmaster in Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey history on fnding love under the tent, dealing with tragedy and the irrational fear of clowns
How does a kid from New York who sang in the Boys Choir of Harlem end up a circus ringmaster at age 22? By accident. I was studying to be an opera singer at the Hartt School of Music in West Hartford, Connecticut. After I graduated, I happened to audition for a dinner theater whose director also happened to be a director for Ringling Bros. He asked me to audition. I was up against 30 people and, fortunately, I got the part.
So you didn’t always dream of running away and joining the circus? Nobody does. Clowns and trapeze artists are the only people who do. It was never even in my consciousness. Obviously I like it; it’s my 16th year.
June 19–25, 2014
By Zoneil Maharaj
You probably didn’t imagine you’d meet your wife, who was a dancer with Ringling Bros. and now serves as a production manager, at the circus then?
Not at all. I was a swinging bachelor, or was trying to be. I thought: Ringmaster—that’s a great pickup line. But it wasn’t something I ruled out. It was defnitely a possibility—everybody’s exotic around you, everyone’s different and dynamic. You always fall in love with a person’s humanity. … You can’t explain it. You just connect. My wife and I just connect, and it’s sustained us for 13 years. A swinging bachelor? Is the circus a great place to pick up chicks? Let’s be real: I was 22 with new money and a great job that was taking me all over the country. You’re an intricate part of one of the world’s longest-running hit shows. When you’re [living] that, your brain is, Hey, where’s the party? I think it was just an age thing. The only thing I would give myself credit for is that I didn’t do anything stupid. I didn’t do anything that would jeopardize our brand or my image. Just look at the NBA. As long as there are
twenty-somethings with some money and great gigs where girls just swoon, they are going to be [temptations] out there. You just have to be educated enough and raised in a way that whatever you’re into doesn’t overcome you. I think the best decision I made in my life was my wife. Once I connected with her, that was it. Game over. Any close calls with the animals in your 16 years on the job? No. Animals are the most predictable things here. As long as they’re fed and pampered, they’re fne. It’s the twolegged mammals you have to worry about. I have a very safe job. The worst thing that’s happened to me is that I pricked my fnger on my costume with all those rhinestones. So what’s the toughest part of the gig? The job is more emotional. The toughest part is keeping yourself
Are there any acts you’d like to try yourself? No. I’m not crazy. I’m a singer, I’m an orator, I’m an actor. That’s what I do. You won’t get me on a high wire; you won’t even get me to put on clown makeup. There are people who are gifted. That’s their thing, and that’s what works. As an audience you’re guaranteed to get the best of what people have to offer, because when people are operating in their purpose, they’ll give you more than what you’d imagine. That’s why [Ringling Bros. has] been around for 145 years. That’s longer than Coca-Cola, longer than Major League Baseball. Lastly: Why are so many people afraid of clowns? My theory has always been that movie It. Stephen King screwed us up. I’m sure that [clown] phobia’s been around longer than that, though. Clowns are regular people with feelings. They’re friendly, and they don’t bite. Come out to see the show. It’s one of the best ways to get over that fear.
PHOTO COURTESY OF FELD ENTERTAINMENT
Johnathan Lee Iverson
You’re referring to the nine Ringling Bros. performers who were seriously injured in May during the “human chandelier” act. You wrote about the accident in The Huffngton Post. Why was it important to share your side? We haven’t always been good at telling our own story. When people don’t know something they mythologize it, they romanticize. It really in a sense [allowed] me to process it and really understand it. It was therapy for me, and other people needed it, too. We had a worldwide community of concern for the ladies, and I felt it necessary to express what we were going through. It was one of the biggest [accidents] in our history. Being the voice of the show, you are given that responsibility of explaining what things are like here, and what our world is like. It was only right that I express myself.