Photo by Anthony Mair
In both dog and casino years, the Hard Rock Hotel is old. This is the property’s 17th year in business; that’s long enough for two major resorts—the Palms and the Cosmopolitan—to court the same young, beautiful audience. By the traditional Vegas logic, the new should knock the old clear off the A-list. But Paul McGuire isn’t about to let that happen.
“The Hard Rock is timeless,” he says, walking purposefully across the Hard Rock’s bustling casino floor. “It’s like MTV, constantly reinventing itself.”
McGuire, vice president of advertising and brand marketing, is just the sort of guy the Cosmopolitan would love to have wandering its casino floor. The Boston native is entering his seventh Las Vegas summer; he was brought to town in 2005 by R&R Partners, where he worked on such unorthodox PR stunts as creating a Maxim magazine cover visible from space. (Do a Google search for “Giant Maxim Cover.”)
McGuire is ruggedly handsome, has a boundless energy reserve, listens to Metallica and Jack Johnson with equal fervor, loves pool parties, and appreciates a good dirty martini.
“Paul’s very much a chill guy,” says Paul V. Pusateri, the Hard Rock Hotel’s chief operating officer. “He’s somewhat of a prankster.” (He adds that McGuire’s gives everyone gangster-like nicknames. Pusateri is “Pauly Two Times,” because, McGuire says, “You never want Pauly P. to have to ask for something two times.”)
But McGuire isn’t looking for another party at another resort. He’s already found one, and as the key player in the Hard Rock’s greatest reinvention effort ever, he’s striving to start the party all over again.
“It’s a lot of heavy lifting to build up awareness of a brand,” McGuire says as he opens the doors to the Hard Rock’s vast pool area.
He was instrumental in the creation of Beachlife, the summer party that takes the Hard Rock’s wildly popular Rehab party, expands it to four days (Friday through Monday) and more than quadruples Rehab’s sexy, full-volume uninhibited fun. With a menu of events that includes an outdoor concert series, an Electric Daisy Carnival-style DJ party and a cheesy summer camp-like party replete with a “Bucky the Beaver” mascot, Beachlife is a franchise visible from orbit. Pool areas once inaccessible to day guests have been opened, and there’s talk of extending the pool hours into the evening and installing an airborne attraction that’s in vogue. (Zzzzzzzip.)
There’s no doubt Beachlife will lure the beautiful people by the zillions—all summer long, the intersection of Paradise and Harmon will run white with SPF 15. And, as McGuire notes, all it took to set up was a rethinking of what the Hard Rock already had.
“Beachlife came from, ‘What do we need to do to fully activate this tremendous asset?’” says McGuire, with a sweep of his hand that takes in the Hard Rock’s entire pool area. Though it’s not quite noon, the sunbathers are out in force, and Daft Punk’s “One More Time” is blasting through a revamped sound system. Imagining this breathtaking pool “fully activated” kind of blows the mind.
“I’m fortunate enough that my office has French doors that open to the pool, so I’m experiencing this every day,” McGuire says. “The upside is a beautiful view of beautiful people having a great time. The downside is that I can’t experience that great time for myself because I’m working.”
The Hard Rock is halfway through an extensive remodel that—while McGuire won’t come out and say it—is intended to slap down its competition. There’s a new 300-seat live entertainment venue that seems poised to take on the Cosmopolitan’s Book & Stage. It’s not too much to infer that the new gastropub, Culinary Dropout, is aimed at taking back diners from the Cosmo’s hip eateries. And several of the Hard Rock’s opening-day amenities—most notably Mr. Lucky’s 24/7, the center bar and the registration desk—are being refreshed and renewed.
And that’s not even counting the other things McGuire has “quarterbacked” these past few months: For starters, there was Mötley Crüe’s much-buzzed-about residency and a relaunch of the hotel’s website. Meanwhile, he’s been helping to create mobile apps, working with the Hard Rock’s partner properties in New Mexico and spearheading other projects that are still secret. Fully a quarter of what McGuire says is punctuated with, “I’m not sure I can talk about this yet.”
“Paul is the quintessential brand guy,” Pusateri says. “It’s his job to make sure we stay true to what is important to us. He’s even created a ‘brand bible’ that tells us what we can and cannot do. He is the brand police. I should make him wear a uniform.
“We want to create an experience that becomes the next trend. Anything short of that is doing our brand a disservice.”
The hard work of making the Hard Rock (once again) the next big thing means many more long days for McGuire. Luckily, he has a decent place to be this summer, where his beloved 50 Cent and Metallica are always booming, and the dirty martinis flow free.
“The bartenders at 35 are really fun. I’ll spend a little bit of time there,” he says of the revamped steak house. “And the Luxe Bar, by the HRH Tower, has a cool vibe. People from all walks of life are here on vacation, and it’s inevitable that you spark up a great story, meet a new friend, hear about another Vegas experience. It makes it all worthwhile.”