In less than an hour, Steve Wynn is going to make an extra-special, triple-secret, top-hush "entertainment announcement" via a Wynn Resorts Web-cast. Don't tell anyone but ... he's going to reveal that Garth Brooks will be playing Encore.
Which we know partly because it's been the worst-kept secret on the Strip and even more so because it was announced today in Nashvilleat 7 a.m. Vegas time. But we're all s'posed to pretend that we didn't hear anything and it's all going to be a big-ass surprise and whatnot. Yeah, that's the ticket.
This underscores how ill-tuned the casino industry is to the news business -- and furthermore, how it still hasn't made the adjustment to the global village of online media. People like Wynn (or Jenn Michaels over at MGM Mirage) continue to operate as though the daily newspaper were the only game in town and people's primary source of information.
Sorry, but what happens in Nashville no longer stays in Nashville until the next news cycle. It makes it to Vegas in the blink of a Tweet.
Vintage Vegas/Matt Goss. Both are reviewed by Richard Abowitz, who makes a number of thoughtful observationsre lounge acts in general. He's a bit lenient on both Zowie Bowie and the Gossmeister, IMO. Vintage Vegas is so bad you'll want to see it so you can talk about it at parties. Goss is just bad and in a very uninteresting way. If a yawn could wear a white suit, it'd be Matt Goss.
Since the last S&G upload of Mariah Carey performance footage from The Palms drew an above-average number of page views, here's a sequel. Carey presides with great charm over an onstage marriage proposal during last Saturday's show. There's also a nice bit of va-va-voom 92 seconds into the clip.
Just yesterday I was lamenting the dearth of possible fallback positions for entertainers bounced from this or that casino. Heck, even the formerly volatile V Theater is enjoying its first stable lineup of shows since forever.
Hopefully, somebody else can find a spot for Scarlett and her red bikini. Or she might take a cue from Bobby Slayton, who's literally getting out of town. So might Barry Manilow. However, we ran this down for a Question of the Day last week and the smart money has him taking up residence at the long-empty Paris-Las Vegas showroom. If Manilow can't break the jinx on that theater, nobody can.
I hope WizardOfVegas.com gets my Vintage Vegas review up before the show becomes history, because this Zowie Bowie extravaganza is an act of the so-bad-it's-good variety. It has the potential to go into posterity as one of the great Strip trainwrecks of all time.
Despite not having seen Vintage Vegas, Steve Friesschannels the experience uncannily well: "I missed, for instance, what must have been a pretty disastrous opening night at the Monte Carlo for Zowie Bowie and its Vintage Vegas act ... even our most obsequious of entertainment scribes trashed them ... the idea here is that a major theater on the Strip is now given over to the alleged romance of Old Vegas. When it fails, I wonder, will anyone (else) suggest that maybe it wasn’t the execution that flopped, but the fact that people are bored with the effort to relive a bygone era?"
Having witnessed the completely pointless Rat Pack covers of spicy-as-mayonnaise Matt Goss, I'm inclined to agree. The 'retro' shows that work best -- like Rick Faugno's once-a-month showcase at South Point -- are ones in which the artist takes familiar material and makes his/her own. For Faugno, the songs associated with Frank Sinatra or Fred Astaire are as fresh and vital today as 50 years ago, and it comes through in his performance.
Much the same could be said for the Motown covers of Human Nature, a fantastic act that's literally crimped by management's determination to pack the absolute maximum number of tables into the Imperial Palace showroom. Memo to Rick Mazer: If you take 8-12 tables out, people will actually get up and dance, instead of merely wishing they could.
Speaking of showrooms, is there a smaller, crappier one than that at O'Shea's? You have to feel sorry for the performers who are relegated to this broom closet. Given the general disrepair evident at the Irish-themed casino, my best guess is that Harrah's Entertainment has decided to just let the place to go to hell until such time as they're ready to gut it and make it an anchor of their proposed off-Strip retail/restaurant mall.
It's official: "Pit Bull of Comedy" Bobby Slayton has snarled his last at the Tropicana Las Vegas. Thus endeth a brief, inauspicious reign by Anthony Cools over the Trop's upstairs showroom. A well-placed source advises LVA that Beatles tribute show Penny Lane was pulled after EMI hit it with a cease-and-desist letter. In any event, it left as invisibly as it arrived.
Trop CEO Alex Yemenidjian still has three shows he inherited from predecessor Scott Butera but it's pretty clear that he's going to put his own stamp on the property. As for Cools, well, he'll always have O'Shea's.
Movement at Cosmo. Buried in the Review-Journal (six items deep) is the news that the Cosmopolitan has wooed John Marshall Andrew away from Las Vegas Sands to be its CFO and hired Station Casinos refugee Marshall Andrew as chief information officer. Deutsche Bank looks serious about making that September '10 opening date.
Will the economy have improved sufficiently to have absorbed most of the CityCenter rooms and the Planet Hollywood Westgate ones by then (and maybe, but not very likely, Fontainebleau)? Boyd Gaming is betting otherwise. The Echelon cranes have been seen coming down, marking an additional hiatus in the project, which reportedly will not be resumed until 2012.
Las Vegas Sands: Execs overboard!
Andrew is just the latest exec lured -- or chased -- away from Sheldon Adelson's employ. Former Venetian veep Paul Pusateri (who helped launch Paris-Las Vegas back in the day) was just nominated as president at The Palms and ever-helpful Sands spokeswoman Mindy Eras has gone to Preferred Public Relations. Whether these moves are part of Adelson's promised cost reductions or are a winnowing out of perceived William Weidner loyalists, it must be getting lonely at the top.
In detailing our blogging woes, I forgot to mention that we can't send e-mail today either. So if I owe you a response, I apologize and will get back to you as soon as we're able.
In the meantime, I'm still trying to recover from the ordeal of trying to hear Matt Goss, in his new Palms show. But if you find Justin Timberlake too edgy, Goss is your man. The ladies love him; the air was rife with cougar-esqe pheromones Saturday night. I'm only surprised no panties were flung onstage. As for his singing, I'm not convinced that ex-CIA director Porter Goss wouldn't be an improvement.
Now that our linking capability is back, here is the Strip Podcast episode in which I pinch-hit for an absent co-host. The father of new sensation Elijah Johnson had trouble finding Steve Friess' studio and the show was already on a tight schedule, so we kind of ran through everything else at bullet-train speed. Still, it was fun and I hope you enjoy it.
Yes, Viva Elvis will be the long-awaited, enshrouded-in-secrecy title of the Cirque du Soleil show scheduled to debut this December at CityCenter.* Wow, they must have had to really burn the midnight oil in Montreal to come up with that one ... Speaking of name changes, Scarlett and her Seductive Ladies of Magic (at the Riviera) is now Abra-Ca-Sexy. Well, it's catchier ... The wheels continue to fall off the Riviera train: An Evening with Dean and Friends has closed, as has the dinner buffet (again) ... Lost in the bankruptcy tumult at the Greek Isles was the opening of a new show. Its cumbersome title is Chinaman: A Rock & Roll Comedy Experience. Moving right along ... By the time you read this, Rockstar: The Tribute should have reopened at the Harmon Theater after a disastrously short stint at the Wyrick Entertainment Complex (aka, "the Venue of Death") in Planet Hollywood. However, the Harmon has given it as much advance publicity as an IRS raid on a Vegas nightclub, so that's not a promising start ... In like manner, Beatles tribute Penny Lane tiptoed into the Tropicana without so much as a 'by your leave' ... Back at Planet Ho, Tony 'n Tina's Wedding evidently isn't performing up to expectations. Ticket prices have been reduced 13%-30%, although they're still steep ($63-$143) ... It looks like Deutsche Bank is going to wait a spell and open the Cosmopolitan in Sept.-Oct. 2010. Which, given that the Strip's been strangling on a glut of high-end rooms, is probably the wisest course of action. Wall Street's former Holy Grail, "another wave of megaresort openings," has become a phrase to be dreaded.
Ready for some good news? The most remarkable dancer of the late, lamented Sin City Kitties, Koree Kurkowski, is now part of the ensemble of Bite. The show is kitsch to the nth degree but it's entertaining in its own so-bad-it's-good fashion. The Stratosphere casino floor was pretty dead for a Friday night last weekend, but Bite was definitely packing them in. It's not as good as Sin City Bad Girls (at the Las Vegas Hilton) but way better than forgettable X Burlesque (at the Flamingo).
* -- the Viva Elvis revelation was let slip during last weekend's Michael Jackson festival at The Palms. I learned of it after being invited -- on 75 minutes' notice -- to co-host an episode of Steve Friess' The Strip Podcast, in which I am teased for being "obsessed" with Carmen Electra. I'll link to the edited version once it's available, so you can hear me date myself with a Barbi Benton shout-out.
This isn't Photoshop but an ad clipped from a Michigan newspaper, I kid you not:
The things you can find at the grocery store these days ...
Although an oft-promised loosening of visa restrictions by Peking stubborny refuses to materialize, an air of cautious hopefulness has crept back into Macao now that City of Dreams has opened on schedule -- and it looks dazzling. Aggressive revenue projections have literally reversed the fortunes of co-owner James Packer, whose disastrous venture into the U.S. casino industry is now seen by some as a blessing in disguise.
At $2.4 billion, City of Dreams rivals the cost of Venetian Macao and is hoped to equal or surpass the latter's 20% return on investment. One projection has it leapfrogging Wynn Macau into third place, with 20% of the Macanese market.
It also represents a double-edged sword for Sheldon Adelson's mammoth casino-resort. If it draws more punters to the Cotai Strip™, good. If it dilutes Adelson's customer base, not so good, obviously. In comments to the Wall Street Journal, Adelson seemed at pains to temper some headstrong pronouncements he'd offered to Steve Friess. As expected, an Adelson without the restraining influences of William Weidner and Brad Stone, is a pedal-to-the-metal Sheldon, saying Las Vegas Sands should have gone faster, faster, faster with its Cotai Strip™ projects, not slower. (The mind reels.)
"I just came back from Macau and we have five or six different options that we can pursue, each one of which would solve our liquidity problems," the Venetian's doge proclaimed ... which doesn't sound a lot different from what he's been saying for months. That is, until he contradicted himself by buying up a truckload of LVS stock -- something he wouldn't have done were a major deal in the offing.
Adelson predicts all his suspended Macao projects will be back in gear by year's end. He's on the curve in one respect, suggesting that his aborted St. Regis condo-hotel on the Strip could be revived by Sands' acting as lender to prospective unit buyers. Palms Placejust started doing that very thing.
Sheldon's Commissariat for Optimism never closes, so one tends to grow skeptical of each new variant of "Victory is mine!" Anyway, Adelson was just off the plane from China, so perhaps jet-lag accounts for this reality-challenged assertion: "Our numbers have been going up and the [Macau peninsula] have been going down."
'Fraid not. Scarcely had that Adelsonian utterance made print than Lusa reported May's revenue numbers. If April had seen Wynn Macau falling back toward the pack, with 13% of market share, it returned with a vengeance in May. Steve Wynn's 18% market share -- with far less capacity than Adelson -- put him only three points behind LV Sands and came at the latter's expense. Stanley Ho still leads everybody with 30% -- as much as Galaxy Entertainment, Melco Crown Entertainment and MGM Grand Macau combined.
A few days earlier came news that visitation from Mainland China to Macao had been -43% in April ... hardly propitious conditions for flooring the Cotai Strip™ gas pedal. Ditto a 10% drop in May gambling revenues. Until that much-mooted visa liberalization actually happens, going apeshit with casino-hotel construction makes no sense whatsoever.
Nor did Adelson do his public image any favors with a gratuitous slam against jilted sidekick Weidner. (The latter, given the opportunity to respond, took the high road.) This 'hit 'em when they're down' move will accrue exactly zero sympathy for Adelson -- and it might have some nasty repercussions should it hamper Weidner's attempts to find another job. Then again, he's as rich as Croesus, so he can probably spend the next few decades on the golf course, should he so desire.
There's been no additional movement on the rumored Genting Berhad offer for MGM Grand Macau. However, even in a $13.8 billion/year casino market, the numbers don't look great for MGM. After it splits its 8% market share with partner Pansy Ho, it would have $55 million from which to pay an onerous tax bill, plus operating expenses. (The ROI must be dismal.)
Borgata, in Atlantic City, does $55 million a month -- in a bad month -- and MGM basically cashes a check from Boyd Gaming. So if MGM elects to stay in Macao and vacate Atlantic City, it won't be because the Chinese enclave is contributing more to the bottom line. Who ever thought MGM Grand Macau would function as a glorified "loss leader"?
Steve Wynn has a dragon ... and now Lawrence Ho does, too.
Back home, MGM is going downmarket at The Mirage. And they didn't even have to sell the place to Penn National in order to get there.
Strangely enough ... Penn's recent expression of interest in both Planet Hollywood and Station Casinos passed with scarcely a murmur of comment locally. You'd think that a well-capitalized company like Penn's hanging of a target on Robert Earl's or Frank Fertitta III's back would make headlines -- or maybe Vegas journos have tired of Penn's endless feints and tuned the company out. Well, almost all of them, anyway.
Planet Hollywood, at least, is acting far more aggressively than one would expect from a property that is contemplating a sale. So perhaps Earl is more pursued than pursuer. However, his conversion of Desert(ed) Passage into Miracle Mile appears to have run out of steam -- or money -- at the halfway point. Try as he might, Earl is never going to completely de-Aladdin-ize that place. A magic lantern and three wishes would come in real handy down there.
Also flying under the radar was former Planet Ho boss Michael Mecca's enlistment with Galaxy. Mecca jumped -- or, more likely, was pushed -- from the Planet right when the Omar Siddiqui scandal was at its height. Informed speculation had it that Mecca was thisclose to being tapped to head up James Packer's projected North American gambling empire. Crown Ltd. CEO Rowen Craigiewas noncomittal, though, and Crown's big Cannery Casino Resorts acquisition fell through soon thereafter, leaving Mecca hanging.
Success being the best revenge, Mecca not only landed a prestigious new gig -- it's with one of Packer's direct rivals in Macao. Mecca shoots, he scores!
Which brings us full circle to Macao. That worked out tidily, didn't it?
Morgans' gradual obliteration of the Hard Rock Hotel & Casino continues apace, in this February photo. Actually, this was one of the few flattering angles to be found.
Ever since Morgans Hotel Group plunged into the Las Vegas market, first with Echelon and then the Hard Rock Hotel & Casino, it's been in over its head. Latest case in point: trying to run an ostensibly major concert venue like it's the Suncoast showroom.
Based on what we encountered during Saturday night's attempt to see Supernatural Santana, if you're planning to catch a show at The Joint (sorry, "The Rogue Joint"), better get there super-early and pack a picnic lunch, too. At 15 minutes to curtain time, lines both for ticket purchase and for "Will Call" stretched waaaaaaaaaaaaaaaay back into the new convention area. An understaffed box office of (by our count) two ticket sellers was clearly inadequate to cope with the turnout. Knowing defeat when we saw it, we took our business over to The Palms.
Is anybody else fed up with Morgans' make-it-up-as-you-go-along style? Or what about its conversion of the once-elegant HRH into a scrum of buildings that strongly resembles an office park with some light-industrial facilities out front on Paradise? No? Just me? OK.
Speaking of The Palms, the place was crawling with customers, as always -- including a septet of German lager louts (but that's another story). So who does Station Casinos CEO Frank Fertitta III think he's kidding when he writes off the value of Station's minority stake in George Maloof's place?
Maloof takes offense at this diss of his property and rightly so. Fertitta grossly overvalued Station when he took it private and now looks like he's "stashing" some of that excess valuation via this Palms writedown. As feats of ledger-demain go, this one wouldn't even make it as an afternoon magic act at the Greek Isles.