Revisiting Our Greatest Hits and Biggest Disappointments

Illustration by Cierra Pedro

Illustration by Cierra Pedro

For a journalist, there’s only one thing more gratifying than producing a story that strikes a chord with your readers: producing a story that strikes a chord with yourself. That’s because, being the tortured, self-critical souls that we are, the latter doesn’t happen often. So on the occasion of our fifth anniversary—which is really like 60 in publishing years—longtime Vegas Seven staffers were recently asked to reflect on the one piece of literary work that brought them the most pride. Of course, we wouldn’t be journalists if we didn’t also spot a regret or missed opportunity while strolling down memory lane …

Greg Miller (Former Editor)

Hit: With “The Rebel Alliance,” my story about UNLV’s 1989-90 national champion basketball team (March 18, 2010), I had an opportunity to put to words my deep and often conflicted feelings about the team I’ve followed since childhood and the city I call my own. I wound up producing a tale that was part history, part self-interrogation, and, yes, part love letter to this strange and vexing town.

Miss: As editor, I was blessed to work with truly outstanding staffers and freelancers. I always hoped that their insightful work would echo beyond the boundaries of the Valley and change the tenor of national discourse about our city. Alas, the national narrative about “Sin City” is, like sin itself, deathless. To be fair, though, I suppose both our city and our magazine have benefited from that seductive tale.

Xania Woodman (Dining/Nightlife Editor)

Hit: That time I completely winged an interview with Anthony Bourdain … and somehow nailed it (Nov. 21, 2013). I was at Atomic Liquors having a beer, expecting to merely be in the audience for a viewing party/Season 2 retrospective discussion of Bourdain’s CNN show Parts Unknown when the show’s publicist said, “OK, you’ll only get a few minutes with him, cool?” Cool? That’s friggin’ awesome, lady! Only I had nothing prepared, so I opened my notebook to a blank page and pretended to read questions while I recorded the results—I figured it’s what Bourdain would have done!

Miss: I really wish I could have finished my drive on Highway 50, a.k.a. The Loneliest Road in America, all the way to Nevada’s western border (May 12, 2011). We turned off in Austin, Nevada, and found an even lonelier road—27 miles of Route 82, between Belmont and Route 376 en route to Tonopah, to be exact—where my companion Jack Colton and I sat down and unfolded a map right in the middle of the road. Still, I would love to have been able to say I drove it from end to end. Anyone up for a road trip?

Jason Scavone (Associate Editor)

Hit: Fine, it’s a cop-out, but I can’t pick between two pieces, so you make your Sophie’s Choice where you can. “Ted Mikels Will Not Let It Go” (May 17, 2012) gave me the chance to connect with the Ed Wood of Las Vegas—an uncompromising eccentric and grindhouse legend who was still cranking out movies at 83 in defiance of every commercial force in existence telling him he should stop. The other, “Art House Advantage” (Dec. 10, 2013), compared fictional casino earnings, which allowed me to watch a bunch of movies and shows about gambling, and obsess over them.

Miss: I still haven’t worked enough immature dick jokes into the magazine (my recent treatise on Tom Brady’s deflated balls notwithstanding).

Cindi Moon Reed (Arts & Entertainment Editor)

Hit: By the time I had an opportunity to interview Jordan Knight of New Kids on the Block nearly three years ago (March 8, 2012), I had long since graduated from my childhood obsession with the former boy-bander. Right when I was about to pass on the offer, a vision of 8-year-old me appeared. And she was pissed: You have the chance to talk to the Jordan Knight, and you’re turning it down? Before she kicked me in the shins, I decided to take the interview—and it was awesome. Bonus: I asked the creepiest interview “question” of all time: “I used to have the doll of you, and that doll went on dates with my Barbie.” He took it surprisingly well.

Miss: When I volunteered to write about Siegfried & Roy (Sept. 26, 2013) on the 10th anniversary of the fateful night Roy was bitten by his tiger, I had a clear vision of how it would go: The legendary magicians would give me a grand tour of their Jungle Palace and Little Bavaria estates while pouring their hearts into my audio recorder. Except they never granted an interview. Sheer panic led to weeks of intense research, which led to an article I’m proud to have written … which led to a sparkling thank-you letter from the magical duo (but, alas, still no invite to their compound).

David G. Schwartz (Contributing Editor/Gaming)

Hit:The Book That Tried to End Las Vegas” (Sept. 5, 2013), about the 50th anniversary of the muckraking Green Felt Jungle, was a case where everything came together: I got to use my research skills to tell a story that was relevant to today and a crucial (but unappreciated) part of our history. Greg Miller’s editing helped me tell the story that much better, and great art put a bow on the package. But the biggest thrill was when a few old-timers who were here when the book came out told me that I got it right. I honestly don’t think I could have told that story anywhere else.

Miss: I wish I had been able to do a comprehensive interview with Jackie Gaughan, chronicling the casino legend’s decades in Las Vegas. Gaughan’s life story really was the story of how the city, and Downtown Las Vegas specifically, evolved over the second half of the 20th century.

James P. Reza (Regular Contributor/Ask a Native Columnist)

Hit: I’m most proud of my Latest Thought, titled “Embrace This” (April 22, 2010). What began as an angry and very personal essay from the perspective of a Las Vegas native who was exhausted by relentless and very vocal “Vegas Hate” morphed into a piece that many readers (a silent majority, perhaps) could identify with. Maybe more importantly, I like to believe the essay helped enlighten many of those who came to Las Vegas to take advantage of the city without participating in its community, and then complained about a lack of the same.

Miss: It should come as no surprise that my regret would be the execution of my Ask a Native column (Oct. 9, 2014) about offering a ride to a stranger and the second-guessing that came with it. I don’t regret that I addressed the question; rather the criticism lobbed at the piece made me feel that my position was misunderstood. I took that very seriously, as communicating a clear message with integrity is extremely important to any writer.

Geoff Carter (Senior Writer/ editor)

Hit: I’m a terrible judge of my own work, and it pains me to look over my old stuff—all I can see are the mistakes and missed opportunities. That said, I think my state-of-DTLV cover story (“Downtown’s Year of Reckoning,” Dec. 12, 2013) is a decently written essay, one that gives voice to two diametrically opposed factions—those who love the Downtown Project and those who don’t—while maintaining a cool, detached perspective. (Those two factions still exist, by the by, and they’re on my ass daily.) I’m also proud of my old “Sites to See” column—a Seven fixture from the first issue, sharp, funny and so enjoyable to write. Maybe I’ll bring it back someday.

Miss: Cindi Reed will likely disagree with this, but my stint as A&E’s Tour Buzz columnist was God-awful, as are most of the music reviews I’ve filed in these pages. I used to have a real passion for music journalism, but now it’s gone. At least I still love music, even if I can’t tell you why to save my life.

Steve Bornfeld (Senior Writer/ Showstopper Columnist)

Hit: In “A Tale of Two Dreamers” (Nov. 6, 2014), I compared the life/career paths of lounge singer Michael Monge at the Wynn and my late father—the former a late-in-life success as a professional singer, the latter a man who longed to get a break that never came—and the process frightened me. The last thing I wanted to do was write anything that would inadvertently disrespect the memory of a man I loved so deeply. That would have forever haunted me. I wasn’t even sure I had succeeded when I turned in the story. Yet the feedback I received was overwhelmingly positive, with people telling me they were touched by it. I think my dad would have approved. (Love you, Pop.)

Miss: Last summer, I saw Bill Cosby perform at Treasure Island and wrote a Showstopper column praising his ongoing comedy genius (July 24, 2014). Those professional qualities remain admirable. Yet once the sexual assault allegations piled up, my fandom made me queasy. Likely that’s true of many fans when they watch The Cosby Show reruns or remember I Spy or Fat Albert or any of Cosby’s brilliant routines, given the ugliness that now surrounds him and stains his legacy. For the record, he has never been charged with any crime. Still, in hindsight, that column calls to mind that old conundrum: Can you hate the artist and still love the art?

Matt Jacob (Editor)

Hit: As someone whose grandfather had Alzheimer’s disease, I was always curious about the work being done at the Cleveland Clinic Lou Ruvo Center for Brain Health. Yet when I sat down to write the “The Rise of the Ruvo” (April 24, 2014), I was paralyzed with fear, unsure if I could weave together the complex narrative about how the center came to be both an architectural masterpiece (in a city full of them) and a world-renowned brain research facility (in a city that desperately needed one). Within hours of the piece being published, I knew I’d hit the mark when several positive responses started filling my inbox (including a note from Larry Ruvo, who called it “the very best piece of journalism that’s ever been written about the center”).

Miss: As this magazine’s sports-betting columnist since Day One, there have been more “misses” than I could possibly count (cut to bettors who have followed my advice violently nodding in agreement). To this day, though, the one bet I regret most is the first one: laying points with Peyton Manning and the Colts against the Saints in Super Bowl XLIV (Feb. 4, 2010). The only thing more certain than Manning choking in a big game was that the sun would rise the next day.