Saturday, December 27, 2008
I was strolling down a busy Vegas Street on boxing day when I spied a jumble of empty boxes adorned with enticing product images of pricey toys once-packed inside - eye-catching promos for top-of-the-line wide-screen TVs, jazzy state-of-the-art designer cell phones, pricey leading edge DVD players - you name it.
Ah, Santa was generous to this family - in spite of a troubled economy in recent months - I thought to myself.
Later in the day, on the heels of a couple of burglaries in Las Vegas neighborhoods, A news anchor at a local TV outlet, issued a warning to residents about engaging in the careless practice I witnessed bright and early that morning.
After all, burglars are inclined to get hip to the obvious.
If an empty box sits in the street waiting for the garbage man to pluck it up to cart away to the city dump, the precious gifts advertised on their face, are just a hop-and-a-skip away inside the house waiting to be scooped up, too!
"It's best to break down the boxes or cut them into small sections. Then, place the cardboard pieces into plastic wrapping bags and garbage bins away from the prying eyes of thieves out on the prowl," one consumer advocate recommended.
On that note, I should also like to point out that it is also a no-no to drop off packages in the front or back seat of the car under the assumption they are "safe", while you head off for a snack with pals or to finish last-minute shopping.
For good reason.
Crafty thieves cruise parking lots for items of value waving in plain view - then, once discovered - break in without remorse and snatch up the spoils of the expensive shopping spree.
But, possessions need not be brand spanking new to prompt a theft.
A case in point.
The other evening I was heading home after a night clubbing, when I noticed a young man sporting a hooded jacket, probing the front seat of my vehicle with a flashlight.
As I hastily approached on foot, he darted off down an alley.
Curious, I ran up to my car to fathom why he was shaking down my property.
Earlier that day, I was practising tunes on my keyboard.
After the painstaking finger exercies, I carelessly left the instrument in sight in the front seat, as I headed off for some Christmas cheer with chums.
Clearly, if I arrived a few seconds later, that young opportunist with the watchful eye would have broken in and made off with my cherished musical sidekick.
In addition to that loss, there may have been a broken lock or a damaged alarm system to repair - or worse yet - a need to replace a costly side window!
It's best not to "tempt" a criminal.
Store gifts, shopping bags and items of value out of harm's way - or a least out of sight in the trunk if you don't lock your vehicle - so you won't have to deal with this kind of downer during the festive season.
By the way, Happy Holidays!
Just as I turned the key in my mailbox and swung the little door open to check for mail, a few feet away - inside the sorting room - I overheard a reassuring announcement from a Supervisor at the West Hollywood Post Office.
"Listen up! For security reasons, I shall be personally turning over these Oscar Ballots in my hand to carriers who have recipients on their route . Please ensure that the envelopes are delivered today, if possible."
Ah, one of the benefits of renting a post office box.
If a box-holder is alert - and keen on eavesdropping - occasionally there is a bit of worthwhile scuttlebutt to lap up.
So, Academy Members, in the event you were in the dark about the ballots - take note that the precious little suckers are not only secure - but are being hand-delivered today for your immediate up-close perusal (provided you're at home to hear the knock on the door).
The Envelope please!
Friday, December 26, 2008
When I strode out of my Hotel this morning bright and early in search of breakies to satisfy a hunger pain in my gut, I was taken aback when I spied a posse of City Workers disassembling the festive Christmas tree which lit up the downtown strip (on Fremont Street) just yesterday!
One day after the Sainted birth of Jesus Christ (Our Lord) and it's already back-to-business as usual in Las Vegas!
I expect that the tree and trimmings were just meant to appease a handful of Christians who popped into town to celebrate the Holy "day".
Now that the sacred moment has passed, time to sweep out the sentiment and get back to making the big bucks, eh?
I guess no one informed Las Vegas City Officials that it is bad luck to take down a Christmas tree before New Years Day.
As the Chinese would say:
"May you live in interesting times."
Wednesday, December 24, 2008
At the stroke of eight, Steve Wynn gave a nod - at which point- a throng of lookie-loos (who had been patiently waiting for about an hour in a line that snaked down the busy Las Vegas strip) surged forward in a crush and swarmed the swankiest new Casino in Sin City, Encore!
Staff beamed and Hotel Management glad-handed guests as smartly-attired Security Staff stood at attention with a keen eye to ensuring there were no mishaps at the gala opening night.
Within minutes, the slots were swamped with anxious players, plugging in bills in a mad frenzy.
There were a lot of oohs and aahs, too.
Encore is a touchy-feeling entry into the Vegas scene.
Blood red chandeliers strategically-placed about the Casino added a festive spirit to the lobby.
A butterfly motif (a Hotel Theme) echoed throughout - from the pristine marble floors - to the exquisite wall reliefs that adorned the foyers, lounges, and gambling rooms about the expansive elegantly-decorated environs.
At the pool lounge guests may loll in the mid-day sun or sip exotic cocktails under a romantic starry night sky.
In spite of the rich decor and obvious appeal to the Uppercrust, there is also a sports bar on the main floor for die-hard fans to catch a pro game and sip a beer.
When I was ushered into a watering hole on the first floor, I immediately caught sight of a striking golden figure of a woman crafted from the trunk of a tree with a crown of branches that were literally awesome to gaze upon.
Young pretty waitresses were squeezed into form-fitting chic party dresses with a smattering of sparkly beads at the bodice.
The eye-catching "uniforms" were short-short, and displayed a lot of generous leg, fellas!
A passion fruit cocktail (non-alcoholic) was a bit pricey at $7.00 - and packed a tad too much with ice - but delicious none-the-less.
The Casino floor was sparked by exquisite one-of-a-kind artifacts such as crystal dragons and a smiling Buddha or two.
When I slipped into the men's room for a whiz, I laughed when I spied artwork hanging gracefully in the toilet stalls!
Sprinkled about the Casino there were a handful of gold-plated telephones resting on marble podiums, for those who need to clear their credit with Hotel Management, I guess.
The swivel chairs at the slot machines - in coral/peach tones and edged in black lacquer with crimson red trim - are an enormous improvement over those cumbersome old dinosaurs that guests were forced to maneuver in-and-out of ad nauseam.
At "Switch" - designers conjured up a lounge that is transformed every twenty minutes or so into a dazzling new eye-catching environ - by virtue of walls that rise and fall magically seemingly at whim.
When I queried staff about the 231 carat diamond - supposedly the crown jewel of Wynn's new property - most were puzzled by my probe and unable to offer up any info on the precious gem.
"Must be for the VIPS only," one staff member quipped.
On that thought, it should be noted that one passer-by in the street wailed that Encore was just another place for rich folks to go.
"I couldn't afford to stay there."
Last night's glittering opening signalled one truism.
You can lead a horse to water, but will he drink?
If the packed house last night was any indication - the answer is a platinum-lined "yes" - at least for the capricious moment.
A day after the exciting high-energy bash, when I trotted inside for a second glance, guests were having difficulty flagging down waitresses for cocktails and when slots went awry it was tough-going getting staff to deal with the problem.
Yes, the workers were less attentive today and there wasn't much magic in the air.
Mr. Wynn, tossing an extravagant party will surely nab a lot of attention and entice the elite jet set into your Casino on the splashy gala opening night.
But, without follow thru on top-notch goods and services, do you think you'll honestly be able to sustain the magic?
I doubt it!
It pays to be computer savvy.
For instance, one smart traveller conducted a Hotel rate search online a couple of weeks ago and managed to secure a room at Binion's Casino in downtown Las Vegas for a remarkable $9.99 a night!
For approximately $40.00 (plus taxes) the guest is partying-it-up in holiday digs right where all the action is during the Yuletide season.
"The room is not only tastefully decorated, but also includes an iron and coffee-maker," the guest gushed to me on the Casino floor.
He also boasts a stunning view of the skyline and a dazzling blitz of night lights reaching all the way up the festive Vegas strip!
On Sunday evening, a walk-in guest also managed to land an inexpensive room on the 21st floor at the Sahara for a mere $25.00 a night plus taxes.
But, as Christmas eve and New Year's approach, bargains like this will be tougher to rustle up on short notice.
However, there are a number of deals out there, if you do the leg work.
After all, it is a "buyers" market right now.
For the first time in years, Las Vegas is no longer one of the fastest growing cities in the country.
And, it doesn't appear that Sin City is at the top of list anymore as a destination vacation spot.
The reasons for this are threefold.
Pay-outs at the slots are at an all-time low, there are fewer incentives and bargains being offered up by the Casinos, and tired old jaded staff at the Hotel Resorts are less-than-hospitable (which is a turn-off to guests).
So, for those who haven't booked yet - or have yet to make holiday plans last-minute - hop onto the Internet.
There are bargains galore worth snatching up at rock-bottom prices!
Monday, December 22, 2008
Planet Hollywood...Planet Nasty falsely accuses guests of wrongdoing then engages in deceitful cover-up to mitigate damages! A plague to avoid...
An ugly incident caused an uproar at the Planet Hollywood Casino last night when Hotel staff falsely accused a guest of engaging in hijacking left-over spoils on their slot machines.
Then emotions heightened to a fever pitch (after-the-fact) when Hotel Security proceeded to victimize the guest and fabricate a web of lies and deceit to cover-up the facts surrounding the incident when it was determined false allegations had been made.
In a nutshell, if you opt not to plunk down on one chair and gamble away all your money at one slot machine - Hotel Security at Planet Hollywood will stalk 'ya down, harass you on the casino floor, and make false statements designed to embarrass, humiliate, and defame you in front of other patrons.
Here is what happened.
A guest secured a replacement Player's card from the Planet Hollywood staff who promptly handed him a ticket to enter a $1,000.00 draw which would be taking place at 6 p.m. on the Casino floor.
Since it was just after five o'clock, the guest proceeded to check out slot machines in the vicinity of the contest to place bets on, as he waited for his chance at the Planet Hollywood jackpot.
After playing various machines for about a half-an-hour - during which time tallies of his game-playing and bets were being "racked" up on his Player's Card - a dykey young woman by the name of "Nicky" (about five foot nothing with a bad attitude) - accosted him on the casino floor and demanded that he fork over his I.D.
You know how some woman are.
Give them a bit of power and they think they've got a big swinging di** between their legs.
The guest was aware that Casinos are private property and management had a right to verify the identity of any high or low roller betting in their gaming house (bad business idea, however) so, the patron did not argue the point.
Understandably, though, he was taken aback.
Why was he being singled out at the Casino and no one else?
The guest expected that once he produced his I.D., the gruff little security guard - who was treating him in a rude and insulting manner - would hand the document back with little ado and that would be the end of the sad scenario.
Imagine his shock when the woman made the following stern demand:
"Come with me to the security desk. I have to "run" a check on you."
The other guests looking on gasped as the "victim" went into an emotional tailspin.
Were they insinuating he was a wanted criminal?
Or, that he had engaged in some wrongful conduct?
The guest walked over to the desk, at which point, the haughty guard picked up the phone and rattled off his name to someone at the end of the telephone.
Judging by the look on her face, a mistake had clearly been made, because she hung up the phone awkwardly and was silent for a moment.
Then, she whispered without so much as an apology or explanation:
"You can go."
At this juncture, the guest asked to speak with the manager.
Now, all the staff got visibly nervous.
A few minutes later, a "goon" in the employ of the Security Staff (an alleged supervisor) appeared and tried to make a lot of flimsy stupid excuses.
"It was a case of mistaken identity," he stammered.
"According to two bartenders, someone matching your description was fraudulently cashing out receipts at the ticket window."
When the guest asked if it was general practice to act improperly and make false accusations against a person on the Casino floor without checking facts first, he meekly responded:
"Well, we didn't have a lot to go and there wasn't much time."
Oh no, they would rather slander and defame a respected (well-known individual) in the Arts community and ask questions later.
When the guest noted he would like to lodge a formal complaint, the tensions rose considerably in the room.
As the guest was filling out the paperwork, the Manager for the Security Office suddenly appeared to deal with the problem.
Mr. Shane Asher was pretty tight-lipped. And, noted he would conduct an investigation.
When the guest noted that the female guard was rude and insulting, he promised to speak with her, as well.
But, no apology. Nor was there any suitable explanation forthcoming.
At this point, as the guest departed, another slot-player noted that the security firm was a separate entity at the Hotel and that perhaps it would be wise to speak with Hotel Management to ensure the issues were addressed and appropriate disciplinary action taken against the staff - who not only acted reprehensibly - but told bold-faced lies to save their sorry butts in the unpleasant aftermath.
Now, the situation got more sinister.
A Casino slots manager (sloppily-dressed and looking like she was coming down off of a bender) sauntered over to hesitantly to deal with the complaint issues.
Suddenly, a woman dressed in black with a name tag on one shoulder strolled over - looked the guest up and down - and lamented in a loud voice which carried across the casino room floor:
"Yes. That's him. I saw him take tickets out of the slot machines and cash them at the window."
What a diabolical allegation!
The guest was only in the casino for about fifty minutes - and at no time during that time frame - did he ever take any ticket to any cashier in the Planet Hollywood casino in exchange for greenbacks.
Surely the video cameras at the cashier booths and scanning the casino floor would be able to verify that?
Notwithstanding - it should be noted that earlier - the "goon" Supervisor from the Security Office stated for the record that the allegation was made by two bartenders.
The woman now pointing an accusing finger - who suddenly appeared "out-of-nowhere" - was certainly not a bartender!
Now, it appeared that the Hotel was changing its story in an underhanded and deceitful attempt to save face - and ultimately - mitigate damages in the event of a lawsuit.
When the guest astutely pointed out to Mr. Asher - that video footage of the casino floor and activity on the Player's Card would verify that he had been playing the slots with his own funds - the security chief was speechless.
In an effort to comprehend how the "misunderstanding" (if that is what it was) occurred, the guest offered up the suggestion that maybe because he "floated" from slot machine to slot machine (losing some pulls here and winning some others there) that his actions were misinterpretted by staff?
Surely - it wasn't Hotel policy that gamblers on slot machines were required to "remain" in one lone seat until they won or lost sums acceptable to Casino Management - before moving on to the next interactive video slot game?
If so, then the Hotel would be required to post a notice to that effect on the Casino property, wouldn't they?
In spite of the fact a handful of relevant arguments were stridently presented to Mr. Asher by the very shaken Hotel Guest, Mr. Asher was unable (or unwilling) to offer up any excuses or apologies!
His angry flippant response was:
"I'll take care of it!"
Bottom line, if Hotel Management is not inclined to permit gamblers to "wander" through the slot machines and play at whim (for some, the slots are a bit of mindless entertainment to savor for a moment or two, after all) then perhaps it is their own fault for "baiting" guests.
As I noted earlier, on the premise that Guests could win up to $1,000.00, Planet Hollywood provided Player card members with tickets to drop into a barrel for inclusion in a "big draw" at specific times throughout the day.
If guests were early for the draw, undoubtedly, many would turn to the slots nearby to while away a bit of time.
In fact - I surmise that is why the draws are held - to lure customers in to Planet Hollywood so they'll play the rigged slot machines sprinkled about the casino-room floor.
And, after-the-fact, if Hotel Security suspects that uncollected spoils at a slot machine are being scooped up by some unwitting player who happens to "luck out" by sitting down at that machine, they'll tar 'n feather the individual pronto!
But, there is another reason why guests may tend to "float" about the casino.
The tired old waitresses (who are under the mistaken impression that they are beauty Queens) are so slow at delivering up drinks that guests often prompted to migrate to to another section so they don't die of thirst!
If all this wasn't disturbing enough, Planet Hollywood also tries to seduce players into various scams around the Hotel which are not only a total waste of time, but a sham.
For instance, every half-hour, Player's Card members are invited to be part of a slot tournament on the Mezzanine floor.
Participants plop down on a seat, tap on the slot-play button as fast as they can for five minutes, and are summarily promised great prizes for top scores.
After witnessing a "competition", I was disgusted.
Most of the slot players I observed pounded away on the machine and - on average - only managed to rack up 2000 to 3000 points.
Want to hear something ludicrous?
If a player managed to score over 8500 points, they were ceremoniously presented with their coveted prize: a cheap little flashlight! (batteries probably not included, I betcha) which any fool could snatch up at the 99 cent store!
Yes, Planet Hollywood is Planet Nasty at its very best!
Notwithstanding, the Casino is run by incompetent mean-spirited sh**s with IQ's of about 2, prone to victimizing Hotel guests at whim without provocation or remorse later when facts determine a mistake has been made.
I say, avoid Planet Hollywood like the plague.
Unless you're a loser, or a masochist, of course!
As P.T. Barnum once said:
"There's a sucker born every minute".
And you are one, if you step into that sleazy joint, and play into their dishonest unscrupulous sleight of hand!
In contrast, Steve Wynn tossed a splashy bash last night at Encore that put PH to shame.
(Post to follow)
Sunday, December 21, 2008
One of the big bones of contention in the stalled contract talks with the Screen Actors Guild and Hollywood producers pertains to profit-sharing over web content and the rich media proliferating in its wake.
In spite of reports flying out of newsrooms around the country that producers are adamant about not yielding on this contract issue, a couple of creators of a Web TV show ignored the call-to-arms and proceeded to sign their actors under a SAG "experimental" contract.
Part of the reason they firmed up the talent this way was due to the uncertainty of the potential to realize a profit online.
"We signed agreements with our actors that stipulate a share in the profits when the series goes into the black."
I laughingly noted to one of the writers when we crossed paths at the upbeat Chalk Rep Theatre launch the other night - that in the old days - "deferred pay" meant "no pay".
Although he and his partner chuckled at the joke, both were dead serious about following through on their commitment to the actors.
The made-for-the-web TV Show has a few episodes in the can in spite of tough financial times the industry has been facing in recent days.
The project - "Welcome to Lost Angeles" - focuses on a young man who moves out to California to pursue his dreams which run afoul when interrupted by unemployment, a troubled relationship, and few unexpected mishaps around the lower mainland along the way.
Of course, the fictionalized storyline appears to be a take-off on the old idea that the West Coast metropolis - once known as the City of Angels - has been relegated to the status of "City of Lost Angels".
Yeah, it's tough-going getting a break in the sprawling third-world city - which I have cynically christened - the "big bad orange".
While the concept of the weekly series seems a bit cliche, I'm holding judgment; especially since the creators are still "tooling" around with ideas for the next season.
Check it out.