Drama, Vegas-Style

Let the record show that in mid-July in the year of Our Lord 2011, the city of Los Angeles expected Armageddon, or at least Carmageddon, and instead got a weekend of relatively smooth city driving. The hue and cry was over a two-day closure of a stretch of Interstate 405. Now that the outrage has dwindled to embarrassed giggles, L.A. can get back to dealing with the real End of Days scenario that is everyday life in Southern California. (But it sure is pretty.)

Here in Las Vegas, we’re a little less prone to self-dramatizing panic. After all, we’ve got guests to attend to, and we wouldn’t want them getting all riled up. In the hospitality business, calm and competent wins the day. We can handle Legionella bacteria and Ecstasy-fueled ravers with the same quiet aplomb. (See story, next page.) We greet bad news—and we’ve had a lot of it these last few years—rather the way Harrison Ford greets that swordsman in Raiders of the Lost Arc: Shrug and shoot it down. Or just ignore it. Whatever works.

Nonetheless, the grim tidings have begun to tug at the corners of the Vegas smile. North Las Vegas, long the Valley’s stepchild, spent the early 2000s building itself into an attractive little community. For its efforts, it now has an $8.6 million deficit and may soon become a ward of the state. (You know you’ve got problems when the state of Nevada raps you on the knuckles for fiscal irresponsibility.) And that’s not the only success story gone sour. On July 13, Rosemary’s restaurant—for years the pride of the Vegas epicurean set—closed, provoking a rain of tears on local foodie blogs. This came on the heels of the more predictable July 3 closure of Liberace’s old haunt, Carluccio’s Tivoli Gardens (which promises to rise again on South Eastern Avenue), and the demise of Nora’s Wine Bar & Osteria in Summerlin. If you’re keeping score at home, Rare 120 Steakhouse at the Hard Rock Hotel has also doused its grill (see Page 42). None of this is Armageddon, or even Barmageddon, but after a while you start to wonder when we’ll hit bottom and bounce.

Not yet, apparently. The one thing that’s gone right for Las Vegas during the Great Recession is the maturation of downtown and the Arts District. So much for that: A civic booster can only blush at the slap-fight that broke out in the Arts District on July 17 when a portion of First Friday packed up its paintbrushes for two months (see story, next page). Stiletto whispers have always kept life interesting on the modest gallery blocks around Charleston Boulevard and Casino Center, but now, at the first sign of crisis, the arts “community” publicly turned on itself. The petty-artist scenario played out as if it had been scripted. Who needs solidarity in an arts-averse culture when there’s quality bitching to be done?

Tinseltown would have been proud.

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I’ve always wanted to have a say in how a big poker tournament is structured. I got my chance when the new professional poker league, Epic Poker, asked me to get involved in a tournament it’s running this weekend at the Palms. It’s a satellite to win a seat in a nationally televised $1,500 buy-in Pro/Am event in August that could lead to a $20,000 seat in a main event that will also air nationally. Making that final TV tourney is a long shot, so what’s important now is getting a fair return on the money you pay to enter the satellite, and that’s where “the deal” comes in.



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