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VIMFP- Sharing that Vegas Love

I wasn’t sure what to expect. Riding The Deuce (public bus that travels the strip from Mandalay Bay to Downtown Las Vegas), I found myself trying to explain the Vegas Internet Mafia Family Picnic again. This time, it was to a Virgin Atlantic Flight Attendant. After helping her figure out how the buses worked, we took seats next to each other and chatted about our current Vegas trips and, after she asked why I was in town, I began talking about VIMFP. “It seems to be like a comic book convention but instead of talking about and celebrating comic books, we just love Las Vegas,” I said as we took the long Deuce ride down the strip. While the Deuce is a great value at $8 for a 24 hour pass, it can take over an hour to travel from the south end of the strip to Freemont Street. But, I wasn’t in a rush and I was enjoying my conversation with the British woman who was in her 50’s and was a frequent Vegas visitor. I watched the daylight fade from my bus window as we passed the lights of the Aria, the fountains of the Bellagio, the grandeur of the Wynn, the gaudiness of Circus, Circus  and I finally stepped off the bus on Freemont Street, took a deep breath in the night sky and was ready to meet the good people of VIMFP.

Walking through The D, the VIMFP host site, I hoped to recognize some of the people I had connected with via social media. I didn’t anticipate the confusion and awkwardness of trying to identify people via their profile and posted pictures. I wandered the casino, played some video poker, had a few drinks, signed up for a player’s card, and anxiously anticipated the start of the World Series of Satin Casino Jackets. I stumbled upon a large group of people who were unquestionably part of VIMFP.

Five Hundy

Tim and Michelle of Five Hundy by Midnight

The first person I met was Michelle from Five Hundy By Midnight which was a great introduction to the world of VIMFP. She had such a kind and welcoming demeanor and, sporting her blue casino jacket and pink umbrella, introduced me to a few others. As over 20 participants registered for the competition, one contestant really stood out. Derek Stevens, the CEO of The D, wore a custom made jacket embroidered with the twitter names of the organizers, Our Lady Peace (the featured concert) and the name of the event, #vimfp . I shook his hand, introduced myself, and told him that he was awesome. By the end of the weekend, I didn’t just think that Derek Stevens was a very nice man, I thought he embodied what I try to teach in my leadership classes.

As the event started, I realized what was happening. The contestants were lined up in the Vintage Casino (2nd floor of The D) and riding the elevator down to the Long Bar located in the main casino. I raced down to the Long Bar and as I approached the bar, I felt like I had finally arrived. What was probably 30 or 40 guys and gals wearing random Vegas apparel standing in front of the bar overwhelmed me. A large human with a scraggly brown and gray goatee stood in front of them all screaming through a megaphone introducing each of the contestants. @chuckmosnter (no, I don’t know his real name) who is one of the primary organizers of VIMFP and one of the men behind Vegastripping.com called down the contestants as they twirled and showcased their vintage and sometimes bedazzled jackets.  As this was happening, I was still trying to figure out who everyone was. Fortunately, I connected with @dentondallasb, or Roux, who took the time to introduce me to the majority of vimfp’ers and bought a round of Coronas. Great hanging out with Roux who helped me acclimate to the world of VIMFP. Thanks to Roux, I had a great conversation with Hunter (@hunter) about his work with his @vegasmate app, Dr. David Schwartz (@unlvgaming) about his book Grandissimo and Tim (@fivehundy) about he and Michelle’s podcast. Talking to Tim, I was interested in hearing from him about how most of Las Vegas hasn’t figured out how to engage the Vegas bloggers. He shared with me his thoughts that most PR departments are so used to people looking for comps and free rides that they don’t know what to do with a group that has a genuine interest in reporting Vegas developments and lending authentic opinions and reviews of Vegas. In speaking with him, I learned more of Derek Stevens’ relationship with members of VIMFP. Not only does he pay attention to this group, which he certainly considers stake holders in his success, but he engages us. He immerses himself in the community because, he too is passionate about his work and his town.

DStevens

DStevens

My first night ended with a few more drinks, a few more conversations and a long ride on the bus back to the Luxor.

In the morning, after playing some slots at the Luxor and enjoying an iced coffee, I made my way back to the bus stop and hopped on for another long ride to The D which took longer than I anticipated. I arrived right before The Main Event started and sat in the back next to a very kind man named Bill.  I was the first to purchase Grandissimo at VIMFP according to Dr. Schwartz. Sitting with a rum and diet coke, the Vegas Gang and Five Hundy live shows began. What was most interesting is how much celebrity they enjoy amongst this community and rightfully so. They represent so much of what Vegas enthusiasts, such as myself, enjoy. It isn’t just spending a few nights in a resort, having a few drinks, playing some games, enjoying a show and soaking in some sun by the pool. We love everything that makes Vegas unique including its history, past and current characters, continued developments and the politics behind it all. I really believe that @misnoper (no, I don’t know his real name) said it best. “We can easily be into model trains but we’re not. We’re into Vegas. Everything about Vegas…the minutia of Vegas. Everything,” @misnoper.

VIMFP Proclamation

Proclamation

Sarno Proclamation

Sarno Proclamation

The Vegas Gang interviewed Zach Conine , Vice President of Development for Fifth Street Gaming about the new Downtown Grand as well as Derek Stevens about his purchase of the old courthouse. Five Hundy by Midnight followed them. Tim and Michelle are a fascinating couple. Listening to them every week, you get to know them a little. Watching them interact live and host their show, you realize just how much chemistry they have as a couple, team and Vegas enthusiasts. My wife and I share a love for Vegas that I thought few couples could match. Well, Tim and Michelle got us beat. As much as I enjoy listening to their reports and respect their thoughts, I believe that what ultimately makes them successful is their chemistry and, dare I say, love. Corny, maybe but completely true. What was, arguably, the most touching moment of the entire event was celebrating the contributions of Jay Sarno through Dr. Schwartz’s  book launch. I believe that most of the room was surprised and in awe when Freddy Sarno, the son of the late Jay Sarno, thanked not only the author but everyone in the room for acknowledging his father’s work. I think that’s what I ultimately felt in the room. VIMFP is more of a party celebrating Vegas as much as it is convention discussing Vegas but it is ultimately a group of 200 or so Vegas geeks sharing their love of Vegas with each other.

Maybe no one embodied this more than Derek Stevens. He participated in all aspects of VIMFP. He’s a throwback to the days of Benny Binion when the guy in charge would get to know his patrons, his staff, their names and just talk to them. Derek, and his wife, Nicole did more than they needed to and I’m sure I don’t know everything they donated and contributed but I noticed a few things and made a few assumptions as an event planner. The event was free to attend so I’m going to assume that The D donated the showroom which also included bartenders and waitresses. The D’s staff helped coordinate the World Series of Casino Jacket competition by clearing traffic as well as the VIMFPtuckey Derby. The D donated prizes including a comped stay and dinner for two to the winner of the VT Match Game. I have to believe that Derek Stevens had something to do with the Mayor issuing proclamations for both VIMFP Weekend and Jay Sarno- Grandissmo day. And, he obviously coordinated the Our Lady Peace Concert. As much as it pains me to say this, I’m not a fan of downtown Vegas or Freemont Street but I’m a huge Derek Stevens fan. I see what he’s trying to accomplish and I believe that, because of his work and efforts, eventually he will attract a broader clientele.

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Later that evening, Derek Stevens introduced Our Lady Peace which was the final “act” of VIMFP weekend. As Derek left the stage, the band began to play and the canopy over Freemont Street streamed videos of the band and, most impressively, scrolled the twitter names of the VIMFP organizers. Looking around, I could see Tim, Michelle, Hunter and Chuck all stare in awe as their names scrolled continuously across the canopy. As Tim said via twitter, ” Mind-blowing to see @fivehundy scrolling on the @FSELV canopy as @OurLadyPeace plays. Unreal. #VIMFP,” @fivehundy . Our Lady Peace was amazing and I enjoyed standing in the VIP section (thanks once again to The D) for the show.

Me and Derek Stevens

Me and Derek Stevens

As the show ended and VIMFP came to a close for me, I wanted to thank Derek one more time. I saw him in the casino, tapped him on the shoulder, and said, “I’ve been here for the last few days with VIMFP and I just want to thank you as well for everything you’ve done.” I asked him if I could take a quick picture to which he agreed and said, “I came. I saw. I Vegased! I love your shirt.” Yeah, I’m sending him a shirt.

As I walked in front of The D one last time to make my way to the bus stop, I said goodbye to some of the great people I met and saw Tim and Michelle walking down Freemont Street, holding hands, in love with Vegas. The way it should be.

Getting Ready for #VIMFP

The Vegas Pre-Game Series- Preparing for #vimfp

Tomorrow, I’ll be traveling to the Vegas Internet Mafia Family Picnic. Yes, this is a real thing. If you don’t believe me, visit http://www.vegastripping.com/picnic/ . While I haven’t experienced the magic that is #vimfp, I have spend the past two months preparing for this weekend.  First, I needed to learn a little bit more of what this whole thing actually was. I’ve likened this completely free event to a comic book convention for Vegas geeks, like myself, to gather and celebrate the fabulous city of Vegas. Bloggers, podcasters, webmasters, app creators, and Vegas geeks will gather to drink, celebrate and be merry all in the name of Vegas. Podcasters will do live shows. Authors of Vegas books will speak and be spoken to. There will be a parade of Vegas geeks competing in the World Series of Satin Casino Jackets. And, I’m assuming, there will be a lot of happy Vegas love.

jacket

jacket

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

In preparation, I skipped my traditional Vegas rituals of watching the Oceans and Hangover movies, cashing in my bottles and cans, and researching which shows and restaurants I would go to. Instead, I worked on rebranding my website, listened to past Five Hundy by Midnight and Vegas Gang podcasts http://www.fivehundybymidnight.com/fhbm/ , http://www.vegasgangpodcast.com/ connected with #vimfp’ers and created new business cards and t-shirts.

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To say I’m excited about this weekend is an understatement. I’m always amped for my Vegas trips. But, this time, I’m going to be surrounded by my Vegas brethren. I’m passionate about some things in my life. I’ve sat with some of the smartest Student Affairs professional in the country at conferences and had intellectual discourse about student development theory, higher education and the “millennials.” I love to be surrounded by Pearl Jam fans (the Jamily) and screaming the lyrics to “Given to Fly” with my brother, Melo, sitting in the seat next to me. I’ve lost my mind watching the Bills beat the Patriots at the Ralph a few years ago while sitting next to my friends Bob and Pisci who are die-hard Patriot fans. I’ve sung “New York, New York” with my wife after watching the Yankees win a play-off game in Yankee Stadium.

But, this is different. I’m looking forward to having a drink in hand, meeting some of the biggest Vegas fans in the world, geeking out about Vegas and laughing at what are sure to be some antics only fit for the greatest city on the planet.

I’m ready.

(Special thanks to my wife for supporting my Vegas obsession. Wish she were coming but as I always say, teachers teach: that’s just what they do.)

Introducing Veni.Vidi.Vegas!

vegasBusinessCard

As much as I have enjoyed the moniker, “The Vegas Expert” and the website “theVegasExpert.net,” I started to feel as though this seemed a bit pretentious.  Through the web and social media, I discovered a community of Vegas enthusiasts, such as myself, who are experts in their own right. For the past several months, I’ve been searching, making lists, reading, talking to friends, colleagues and other bloggers about their thoughts on a new direction to express my love and obsession with Las Vegas. I narrowed down my list to a few concepts. I asked myself what I wanted to communicate to others about Las Vegas. I’ve always wanted to provide my personal stories of Vegas geekery, reviews and opinions from myself and others, and maybe, most importantly, tips and advice on how to have the absolute best Vegas experience possible. I wanted something catchy, different and authentic.

I started playing with words and concepts and one night I was playing with some alliteration using the word “Vegas” and it just happened. During a text conversation with my good friend and colleague, Eric LaCharity, it all clicked. Veni, Vidi, Vici or “I came. I saw. I conquered” which really speaks to what I want to say about Vegas. Go to Vegas; See Vegas; Conquer, or win, in Vegas. Winning just doesn’t refer to gaming but also in having the best experience possible. The further I explored these ideas, the more I thought about my personal experiences of Vegas which are filled with over-the-top and sometimes gaudy entertainment, the gluttonous meals and spirits, the freedom to be unnecessarily excessive and the fun and sometimes brutal world of gaming.  Vegas feels strangely like a place that reflects the stories of ancient Roman times existing in our modern world.

With that, Veni. Vidi. Vegas! was born.

Since that day, I’ve been working to incorporate this brand/concept into the website and into a new business venture that I hope to start.

I am happy to introduce the NEW VeniVidiVegas.net!

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Most of theVegasExpert.net still remains with a few new additions.

Facebook Group- For those interested in connecting with me and with other Vegas enthusiasts on Facebook, join the group https://www.facebook.com/groups/venividivegas/ .

Twitter- I will continue to tweet primarily from @salvegas24 which will not only include Vegas related content but also the musings from my daily life. For Vegas related information only, please follow @veniVidiVegas .  Tweets are much more seldom from this account.

Shop for cool Vegas stuff- I am most excited about this new venture! I’ve opened a new Vegas shop utilizing Etsy.com. The first item is the official Veni. Vidi. Vegas! T-shirt “I came. I saw. I Vegased!” which is available for $19.99 or $18.99 if you don’t mind adorning venividivegas.net on your back to help promote the site.

Click here to visit the shop.

vegas front and back tshirt

 

 

 

 

VIMFP- I am looking forward to attending my first Vegas Internet Mafia Family Picnic http://www.vegastripping.com/picnic/ in two weeks. Knowing that so many other Vegas enthusiasts will be gathering to celebrate their love of Vegas, share their experiences and network is part of the reason I wanted to make some changes.

Thanks- I would be remiss if I didn’t thank some people that humored my obsession and helped me develop this concept. Thank you to my friends, colleagues, brain trust, or “Rizza’s 11-7.”

The Professional- Ray Bendici, an accomplished author, editor and blogger (http://www.damnedct.com/.

The Professor- Andrew Marvin, an incredibly intelligent professor, writer and blogger (http://andrewmarvin.net/ ) .

The Realist- Chris Piscitelli, a realistic and grounded professional, caterer and owner of Grill 145. (http://grill145.com/Home_Page.html )

The Ideas Guy- Eric LaCharity, a talented graphic designer and creative mastermind.

The Better Half- Anne Rizza, the best school teacher and composition professor in the world. She’s also married to this guy who is obsessed with Vegas and not only humors his obsession but supports his frequent trips and daily Vegas ramblings. She is an awesome wife, fellow Vegas enthusiast, friend and my official partner in Vegas and in life.

 

The Vegas Pre-Game Series- Vegas Viewing

The Vegas Pre-Game Series

Athletes, actors, performers and teachers all have rituals that they have before big games, performances or major lessons. So do Vegas geeks like myself.  I’m pretty sure that many of us all have our own ways to mentally, financially, strategically and spiritually prepare for the next trip to the “motherland.”  Some of our ritualistic behavior may have to do with superstition, habit or just the act of getting as amped up as possible to fully enjoy the greatest place on the planet.  In The Vegas Pre-Game Series, I will share the ways I prepare for my Vegas vacations. This series will be in no particular order or sequence. While some of the pre-game series will be absolutely ridiculous (like listening to Las Vegas radio stations for weeks before the trip) some will be practical advice (like researching where conventions/conferences will be in Vegas to avoid long waits at restaurants). I hope this series offers a bit of entertainment and advice and helps you find your own pre-game ritual.

Happy Vegas-ing!

Vegas Viewing: The Top Five Movies You MUST Watch Before Vegas!

I’m a sucker for any movie or TV show that even mentions Las Vegas. Whether it is a shot of the strip (Oceans 11), scene in a casino (Swingers) or Vegas related antics (The Hangover) watching a few Vegas themed flicks is a great way to get into the spirit. Below, I’ve listed the top five movies to watch before your trip. As a film buff, I’ll be the first to say that the movies below are NOT the best quality films about Vegas but movies that will help you get in the right mindset regardless of what type of Vegas trip you’re going on.

5. Casino- Arguably the best film ever made about or featuring Las Vegas, Casino (1995), directed by Martin Scorsese and featuring dynamic performances by Robert Deniro and Joe Pesci, is not-so loosely based on real life gangsters Frank Rosenthal and Anthony Spilotro. This outstanding film offers an inside look of the era when organized crime ruled Las Vegas and some of the principle players and stories associated with that time period. The reason I like this film is that it highlights some of the events immediately preceding the mega resort era of the very late 80’s and 90’s. Watch this film before the others if possible! (Accompany viewing of this film by reading the book Super Casino, if possible and/or reading a little bit about the history of Las Vegas- http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/History_of_Las_Vegas#1970-Late_2000s:_explosive_growth ) (Vegas sites featured- The Riviera Hotel and Casino)

Scene- Everybody Watches Everbody, http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aIPmu6bYZOs

4. National Lampoon’s Vegas Vacation- I believe that prior to every trip my wife and I have taken to Las Vegas, we’ve watched Clark Griswold and his family be seduced by the sins of Sin City.  Initially, I think it was just coincidence and then we started making a habit of it and now we watch it the week we are leaving. As much as this isn’t a great movie, it is absolutely enjoyable. The movie is a bit dated and Vegas has changed a LOT since 1997 but Clark’s Black Jack scenes, the music and the feel of the entire movie are still pretty relevant. I specifically recommend watching this if you plan on visiting the Hoover Dam.  (Vegas sites featured- The Mirage, The Hoover Dam)

Scene- The Blackjack Dealer,  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lvDu3IysKiM

3. Swingers- The entire extent of Vegas in this 1996 indie hit lasts maybe 15 minutes as Trent (Vince Vaughn) and Mike (Jon Favreau) take an impromptu overnight trip to “Vegas, baby!” But within their brief foray into Vegas and throughout the rest of the film, this movie lives, breathes and screams Vegas. Some great Vegas quotes from “Vegas, baby, Vegas” “they’re gonna give Daddy the Rainman suite,” and “we’re gonna be up five hundy by midnight” all come from Swingers. I specifically recommend watching Swingers with your buddies if you’re taking a guy trip to Vegas and I dare you not to say, “you’re so money,” while you’re walking the strip.

Scene- Vegas, Baby, Vegas! http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dV1HSscPYSY

2. The Hangover­- In 2009 when this incredibly popular comedy debuted, myself and a group of very fun and spirited guys and gals planned a trip to Vegas.  A few weeks before our trip, most of us went to watch The Hangover together in the theatre and it set the tone for our trip. While none of us were kidnapped, drugged or married a stripper while we were in Vegas, we definitely had a few very fun and memorable (for most of us) nights.  The Hangover does the best job of showcasing the “night out” in Vegas. And although it is a completely ludicrous plot, it isn’t as farfetched as you may think. Additionally, The Hangover also does a great job featuring some of Vegas’ celebrities, performers and socialites. As you walk the strip, you will find numerous characters from The Hangover hanging out with Batman, Superman, Homer Simpson and other superheroes, cartoon and movie characters. And yes, it is a lot of fun to go up to the front desk at Caesars and ask if “the real Caesar lived here.” I did it and the staff member I spoke to didn’t seemed pleased. (Vegas sites featured- Caesars Palace)

Scene- Did Caesar live here? http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YX73FP1ks20

1. Oceans 11 AND Oceans 13– If you’re going to watch just one movie, I’d recommend Oceans 11 and I would watch it as close to your trip as possible. If you can fit two movies in, add Oceans 13 or The Hangover depending on what you’re in the mood for. The Oceans movies do the best job of capturing the casinos, strip and feel of Vegas. While the other movies may get you all hyped for the partying and gambling, these movies do the best job with making Las Vegas another character in the film. The film’s director, the incredibly talented Steven Soderbergh, does a particularly great job with making the Bellagio look warm, luxurious and irresistible. Most of the shots in the movie at the Bellagio are by the Petrossian Bar located off of the main lobby. However, the layout of the lobby has changed significantly since 2001 but you still get a great sense of the Bellagio. There is something magical in the scene where all of Danny Ocean’s 11 are standing against the railing watching the Bellagio fountain show. After watching Oceans 11, you’ll be ready for the lights and action of Vegas and hoping for that one perfect hand where “you bet, and you bet big and then you take the house.” (Vegas sites featured- The Bellagio)

Scene- Reeling in Reuben, http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1mJf24luhuo

Happy viewing and Happy Vegas-ing!

The Chubby White Guy Rides Again: A Review of Absinthe

The Chubby White Guy Rides Again: A Review of Absinthe

August 11th

Attended on August 7th

For the 2nd time in my Vegas life, I was pulled on stage to participate in a Vegas show. At this point, I’m calling myself a featured Vegas performer. This time, I was in the show “Absinthe,” which shows in the large tent outside of Caesars Palace. Before I regale you all with the details of my performance allow me to tell you a little bit of how great this show was (and not just because I was featured).

My wife and I debated which show we wanted to attend. I’ve wanted to see Terry Fator for a few years now but I read such good reviews of “Absinthe” that I had to see it not to mention that the gorgeous Angel Porrino was also in the cast…or should I say, my cast, and I loved her in Peep Show and was looking forward to peeping her again. We bought tickets from Tix 4 Tonight for $90 a piece (34 percent off…always buy from T4T unless you can find a better deal). We got the VIP tickets and sat in the 3rd row. Everything about the show experience was cool. The door for our entrance was a green telephone booth; the place is decorated like an old-school circus tent with antique looking sofas in the back, high top tables around the perimeter, wooden chairs around the “theatre in the round” stage and the ushers wearing porkpie hats and suspenders.

Absinthe is a Spiegelworld production which features a combination of burlesque acts, acrobatics, feats of strength, cabaret singers and raunchy comedy. The premise of Absinthe is that the Master of Ceremonies, known as the Gazzillionaire, is putting on this large variety show. He cracks jokes at the expense of audience members, his cast and even himself. He and his assistant, Penny  Pibbetts, introduce the acts with their especially raunchy and off-color humor. This IS NOT a show for kids. In fact, this isn’t a show for some adults and if you’re a right-wing Republican, I’d caution you as much of the political humor is often directed at the conservative GOP.

Regardless of where you sit in the house, you are incredibly close to the very small and round stage located at the center of the tent. As the New York Times reviewed, “You’re close enough to see the sweat and grimaces needed to produce graceful, gravity defying stunts.” While the Cirque Du Soleil shows have higher production values, the proximity to the stage, the intimacy of the venue and the value of the tickets don’t compare. That isn’t to say that “Absinthe” is the best show in Vegas but, I feel strongly that Absinthe is the perfect Vegas show. We laughed as heartily as we did at Carrot Top but not quite as hard as we did at Jerry Seinfeld. We watched in awe at the feats of strength performed by two Polish men, the speed and daring of a roller skating couple whirling around a tiny stage relying on physics and gravity to prevent them from propelling into the audience, high wire acts, trapeze artists, the lovely singer Melody Sweets and, of course, the Peep Show diva and local celebrity, Angel Porrino who bounced inside a large bubble. Every moment of the 90 minute show was entertaining. Of course, I believe that my segment was the most entertaining.

Prior to the last act as they were setting up the high wire act, the Gazzillionaire surveyed the audience and saw me “raising the roof” from my seat. He called on me to join him on stage. I nearly trampled the women sitting next to me to get to the stage as I feared that he may change his mind. My moment had come again! While I was featured in Mystere’, I did so from my seat and never actually made it to the stage. This time, I would be center stage in Vegas. I was bigger than Wayne Newton (literally), funnier than Carrot Top (introspectively) and more dazzling than Penn and Teller combined (with my New Balance sneakers and plaid shirt). The Gazzillionaire introduced me to the audience as “the white guy” who had taken a break from “world of war craft” to watch the show. He cracked jokes about my New Balance, my plaid shirt and my huskiness. He may have called me a whale.

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(The Gazzillionaire, Asian woman, myself and the handsome black man.)

He then asked a “handsome black man” to join me on stage. He continued to joke by pointing out our obvious differences and told us we were going to compete. Finally, he turned back to the audience and invited a pretty Asian woman to join us. He sat her in front of us and said, “Ok, now you’re going to do their nails.” After continuing to play on our ethnic, racial and physical differences which included referring to the “handsome black man’s ‘huge penis ‘”and the Asian woman’s math abilities, he finally told us our task. The “handsome black man” and “the dorky, chubby white guy” were going to compete in a lap dance competition. MY TIME HAD COME! I was ready to rock this. He immediately told the “handsome black man” that if he lost to me his “black card” would be revoked. The Gazzillionaire asked me to step off the stage and wait for my music. I quickly thought of several scenarios and routines I could do. I was looking to see if a stripper pole had dropped to the stage, which it hadn’t. I thought about ripping my shirt off Hulk Hogan style but thought that would be too shocking. My mind raced and two images would not leave my mind. The first was that of Kevin James, as Doug, on “The King of Queens” dancing for Carrie during an episode in which he purchases stripper lessons for Carrie and discovers she is terrible. In the end, Doug dances his heart out for Carrie in what might be the funniest “King of Queens” scene ever. The 2nd was something that my wife had said to me a few days prior. At the end of an episode of “How I Met Your Mother,” one of the Bro Code rules was “A Bro never dances with his hands over his head.” And for some reason, that’s all I could think of doing. As “Save a Horse, Ride a Cowboy” hit, I grooved myself onto the stage, hands in the air. I circled this poor woman like a shark, gyrating and waving my posterior around. The crowd cheered me on as I circled to around to her lap right, hopped over her legs, straddled her, shook my groove than and pretended to take my shirt off. The crowd roared. I had a chance, I thought. I took my bow and stood to the side of the stage as the “handsome black man” danced to Montel Jordan’s “This is How We Do It.” He was good but I…I was a god amongst men. I think if the crowd chose the winner, I would have hands down been the chosen one but the Gazzillionaire asked the Asian woman to grab the crotch of the winner. Sadly, my crotch was not touched and I walked off the stage happy but chubby white guy loser.

The rest of the show was fantastic and so many members of the audience congratulated me including a senior citizen who said, “I thought you were a wonderful dancer.” I thanked her but really wanted to say, “we all know I’m a fabulous dancer.” (Vince Vaughn, “The Wedding Crashers) As we exited the theatre, I received countless accolades from my new fans. As my good friend Ben McNamee said via twitter, “that’s just another Wednesday night in the life of Sal Vegas.”

Needless to say, I highly recommend the show.

 

BurGR

My wife and I love good burgers. We thought we wouldn’t find a better burger or shake than the Burger Bar in Mandalay Bay. Well, Gordon Ramsey’s BurGR is damn close if not better. First, the service was great. The Parmesan truffle fries were some of the best fried I’ve ever had and the onion rings WERE the best I’ve ever had. 

My wife had the Hell’s Kitchen Burger and I had the Farm Burger. We both were blown away by how good our burgers were. Outstanding. I ended my meal with a coffee shake which was very good. 

So, as compared to Burger Bar, the sides were far better at BurGR. Shake was better at BB. Burgers are so close I could flip a coin. 

Only small criticism was the cost. We spent $100 on 2 burgers, two drinks, three sides& a shake. Not ridiculous but a little pricey. 

But, worth every penny. We will be back!

What Atlantic City Can Learn From Las Vegas

It may not be fair to compare any gaming city in the world to Las Vegas let alone Atlantic City. They don’t have the lights, shows, mega-resorts or attractions that bring tourists to Sin City. However, after three trips to Atlantic City, I realized that this gaming destination could be MUCH better but suffers from a community that seems to care very little or understand that their success relies on gamblers, vacationers and tourists. Over the past five years I’ve taken tree trips to Atlantic City (2009, 2010 and 2013) and it seems with each visit either my expectations increase OR every person including casino dealers, restaurant servers, hotel staff and retail shop owners have stopped caring.

While I cannot draw an exact connection between service and revenue, I did find some interesting data on gaming revenues. According to the UNLV Center for Gaming Research (http://gaming.unlv.edu/reports.html ), the Las Vegas Strip is slowly recovering from their recession while Atlantic City continues to decline. From 2006 to 2011, Atlantic City has shown a decrease in its gaming revenue of 37% while, during the same period of time, the Las Vegas Strip has show a decrease of only %10. The Las Vegas Strip is now surpassing their totals from 2006 as Atlantic City continues to decline. Without a full analysis of number of tourists, the socio-economic class of gamblers, the impact of new casinos on the east coast (Pennsylvania, Connecticut, New York, etc…), the continued development and improvements in Las Vegas as compared to Atlantic City these statistics may lack some context. But, as I live only an hour away from Mohegan Sun and Foxwoods, two relatively small casinos continue to expand, grow and succeed and Atlantic City fails. The differences between Mohegan Sun, Foxwoods and Atlantic City are minimal. In fact, Atlantic City has advantages that other gaming destinations don’t have. Atlantic City was the primary destination for gaming in the northeast for decades, marquee names, ocean views and history. But it is Connecticut and Pennsylvania casinos that are expanding their entertainment, dining and shopping options and are becoming known as a great weekend destination for anything from anniversary celebrations, bachelor parties or just a relaxing getaway.  Every new venture in Atlantic City seems to fails miserably (Read this.)

This article is less of an exercise in bashing Atlantic City and more of an ode to Las Vegas and the success of other casino destinations. The reason Atlantic City is failing has as much to do with their service and treatment of their guests as it does with their failure to invest in itself. My experiences in Atlantic City speak volumes to their failures as a tourist destination. While Macau (which seems to have become the premier gaming destination in the world) and Las Vegas are the “major league” of gaming destinations, Atlantic City is worse than the “minor leagues.” Connecticut, Mississippi and Pennsylvania casinos can be considered the Triple A affiliates of Las Vegas and Macau. But, Atlantic City is sometimes like a dying Division III football program (think the Mud Dogs from Adam Sandler’s “Waterboy”) or even worse, dare I say, the WBNA.

I will spare anyone who is actually reading this of a day-by-day account of each one of my trips but I’d like to share some terrible moments that just DON’T happen in a quality tourist destination and will also offer a few positive experiences I have had.

Hotel Horror- While staying at The Tropicana with a large group, we had a simple request of moving two of our guest rooms to a different floor from the other guests. After 45 minutes of being rerouted to various hotel staff members because we “came on a bus,” our request was finally granted with the words, “this better be the last change…”  I don’t think Circus Circus would even treat their guests in this manner.

While I was walking to my room, I noticed a room service tray in the hallway. I didn’t think much of it later that night as I figured whoever was staying next door to me must have ordered room service again. However, the next morning, when the odor was more noticeable, I reported it to the front desk to which they responded that they didn’t have room service after 6pm on Sunday so it wouldn’t be taken care of until Wednesday.

Cha Ching- I lost. I gambled even more than I normally do and everywhere I played, I lost. I know of a few people that did ok on the slots but no Vegas-esque stories. Tables are fine. Variety of limits with the same type of odds. If anything, the casinos aren’t terrible. The casino at Caesars is very nice but, overall, most are equivalent to TI or Bally’s.

Can I Get a Drink?- I’m a fan of good drink service in casinos as I’m sure many people are. It is something that makes a difference to me. While playing in the high rollers room and losing a good deal of money for over an hour, only once did someone ask if we wanted a drink. I was shocked. On the penny and quarter machines, the drink service was fast and continual but served in skimpy little plastic cups with a pretty raunchy attitude.

The Boardwalk- Atlantic City has the great opportunity to build a beautiful strip for tourists to walk down. But, rather than nice shops, restaurants and some type of attractions along the boardwalk, it is littered with crappy souvenir shops, shady massage parlors and unappealing food stands. With a view of the ocean and a seaside appeal, this area could be a major attraction.

Attitudes Suck- I’ve already mentioned the hotel staff above but from servers who don’t understand how to cater to a tourist when their order is wrong or the retail shop staff being curt or the dealers looking bored and unengaged, it just seems that everyone HATES what they do.  I’m sure that the buffet servers at the Seasons Buffet in Mohegan Sun, cab drivers on the strip or every black jack dealer on a $5 table at crappy casinos don’t love their jobs but most people employed in gaming destinations, especially Vegas, realize that their jobs revolve around the tourism industry. This is the major reason why I believe Atlantic City suffers. (Shout-out to the Starbucks staff at the outlets who were, by far, the nicest people in AC.)

Where Shows Go to Die- I saw Steve Wyreck in Vegas. It was the worst Vegas decision I ever made. His show was a featured house show in Atlantic City. This seems to be the overall theme of Atlantic City. I’m going to be easy on Atlantic City here as I haven’t seen any of their shows but with Legends, Beetlemania and an I Love Lucy; Live on Stage show, being the only consistently running house shows I doubt any of these shows compares to any Cirque show, Peep Show or even George Wallace.

Pay to Park- Self explanatory.

Some Good Stuff- I’ve stayed in The Tropicana twice because the rooms are actually not bad, the rates are great and they have a nice selection of games, restaurants and the location is convenient. The comps are great and I like enough about it to stay there…when it is free or close to it. My stay at the Taj Mahal was mediocre. They were nowhere near as awful as my stay at the Imperial Palace but they weren’t as good as any of my stays in Vegas including TI.

Some of the restaurants are incredibly good. I had an amazing dining experience at Michael Mina’s Seablue in The Borgotta.

The Tanger Outlets, which are across the street from the strip of casinos, is a nice shopping complex with a variety of stores.

Philadelphia is only 3o minutes away.

Caesar’s Palace is very nice. The casino feels like a Vegas casino. The shops feel like a mini version of the Forum Shops and if you head to the third floor of the shops, you can sit in beach chairs and relax in a comfortable environment with a drink or coffee with an amazing view of the ocean.

The comps pay well. After spending two nights at The Tropicana and playing as I would in Vegas, I earned over $50 in express comps, free meals and offers to return with two free nights, meals and free slot play. I can’t speak to the rewards at the other casinos.

Minor Leagues

Las Vegas was built in a dessert. Mohegan Sun and Foxwoods stand in the middle of rural Connecticut. Macau is barely 15 years old as a gaming destination. Atlantic City is wasting away its potential. This once vibrant and attractive destination continues to deteriorate. It can’t be that the northeast is short on gamblers or people looking for a fun place to spend a weekend as Pennsylvania and Connecticut are doing very well. As someone who enjoys the casino atmosphere, I wonder if Atlantic City will ever take a look at what Las Vegas or its nearby competitors have done the last ten years and invest in itself.

Read http://money.msn.com/now/post.aspx?post=93d5f57f-be2a-48e1-8591-3201172aa0c8 .

 

And the winner is…Vegas! Award Season 2013

Awards Seasos: Vegas Edition

January 27th, 2013

By Sal Rizza,

The Oscars, Golden Globes, Emmys, Grammys and, of course, the Vegas Trippies. It is awards season and Vegas awards are no exception. The people’s choice awards for Las Vegas go through VegasTripping.com where readers and Vegas fans vote, each year, on the best and worst of Vegas.  As opposed to critics, writers or columnists awards, the “trippies” are truly the people’s choice awards. Before I comment on some of the trippies’ winners, I’d like to offer some unique awards of my own.

The First Annual Vegas Expert Awards

Best TV Show, Vegas Strip- While some may select the CBS period drama “Vegas” or the History Channel’s “Pawn Stars” or “Counting Cars,” I’m going to go with the documentary style show, “Vegas Strip” on TruTV,  which  follows real Las Vegas police officers on duty addressing all kinds of crazy Vegas antics. They chase college kids after they jump into Lake Bellagio, arrest hookers with warrants and deal with many, many drunks. My favorite was a tourist from England who was completely blitzed, walking around in his underwear the morning after a major bender, and begged to be arrested because he feared the cops would jump him like he had seen on American TV.  All they wanted to do was help him get to his room.  Great Vegas entertainment!

Best Street Character, Alan from The Hangover- I love a good drunk Mickey Mouse as much as the next guy. I’ve never seen as many street characters in one place and that includes in LA and NY. The collection of Hello Kitty, Elmo, Freddy Krueger, fat Elvis’s, transformers and random super heroes annoys some and entertains others.  My favorite, by far, are the Alan Garner impersonators. I swear, I think one was Zach Galifianakis just playing games.  

Most Interesting Panhandler Sign- Let me preface this by saying that homelessness is not something to find funny nor to be made fun of. However, some of the signs that these individuals come up with can be hilarious. Some great signs include, “Why lie? I just want a beer” or “Kick me in my balls! $20!” are creative and entertaining.  My favorite is the guy I’ve seen for at least two years, in his early twenties, on different bridges (Bellagio, MGM Grand and Palazzo) with a sign that reads “I’m trying to get back home to Boston.” I just think that by now he should have been able to afford a bus ticket. If I see him in April, I may offer to buy him one. If he accepts, I’ll actually feel really good that I’ve helped him. If he refuses, I’ll recommend he get a new sign.

Best Celebrity- Steve Wynn, Andre Agassi, Carrot Top, Celine Dion, Holly Madison or Vince Neil…NO! I’m going to go with Austin Russell, otherwise known as Chumlee from Pawn Stars. This was a close call between him and Pete Rose who is always set up in the sports store at the Forum Shops. I’m going with Chumlee because he’s actually from Vegas and what you see is really what you get. I met him in October when he was signing autographs at the Gold & Silver after a taping. When I was waiting for a bus to take me back, I was talking to a guy that was also at the shop. The guy told me that he asked Chumlee to autograph a t-shirt for his father in-law who was dying of cancer. He showed me the autograph Chumlee signed which read, “To Dawn…” His father in-law’s name was Don. Gotta love Chumlee.

Worst Vegas Feeling- Hangovers suck. Losing money blows. Waiting in line for the buffet is annoying. Making the mistake of attending a timeshare presentation is excruciating. And, the cab ride back to McCarran indicating the end of another Vegas vacation is depressing. However, nothing reminds you that you’re old and uncool like being ignored by the nicely dressed, incredibly good looking, young people handing out cards to clubs like Pure, Haze and XS. It definitely feels like you’re in middle school again and you were just picked last in dodgeball (which has happened to me on several occasions) except, you don’t even get picked. Then, you walk away and tell yourself some lies like “well, maybe I’m not dressed for it,” or “maybe they didn’t see me” while you turn around and see them tracking down young guys in fedoras and fancy shoes begging them to take a card. “Not like I wanted to go anyway,” we tell ourselves.

The Trippies

Now that I’ve provided some of my own awards, here are my thoughts on some of the trippie awards…

(For a full listing, visit http://www.vegastripping.com/trippies2012/ )

Best Overall on the Strip, The Cosmopolitan– Admittedly, I haven’t spent a great deal of time in The Cosmopolitan but I have had a great meal in Scott Conant’s Scarpetta, played a slot machine for a little while, toured the casino and shops, and tried to enjoy the atmosphere. From the Chandelier Bar to the big pink shoe, the place seems like it is still searching for an identity. Does it want to be a classy place for martinis or a place for twenty-somethings to party?  I’m not sure. With The Cosmopolitan receiving nine awards, people obviously love it and critics are raving.  For an overall Vegas experience, I prefer the Bellagio.

Worst Overall on the Strip, Hooters- Well, this is tough to argue but I have to go with Circus, Circus. Both are pretty awful and the only reason I ever step foot in either is to see if they are still as bad as I recall. And, yes, they are. As opposed to Casino Royale and the Imperial Palace which, at least, have great locations both Hooters and Circus, Circus has no redeeming qualities. Where is the dynamite?

Best Buffet, The Bellagio- This year, I’ve had the opportunity to have three meals at the Bellagio Buffet and three meals at The Aria Buffet. I’m baffled as to why The Aria has revamped their buffet. The selection was great, the atmosphere was bright yet relaxing, the food was fresh and the service was outstanding. I honestly cannot say the same for The Bellagio. Granted, The Bellagio may have had more gourmet items but the service wasn’t as good, the atmosphere was a bit dark, the venue is outdated and the food didn’t seem as fresh to me.  I truly hope The Aria hasn’t changed their buffet too much but I’ll find out in April.

Best and Worst Bars- The Chandelier Bar was voted by the readers as the best bar in Vegas while the editors chose The Mandarin Bar. I completely agree with the editors on this. The view is awesome. The drinks, while pricey, are creative and incredibly good and the overall experience is quiet and classy. The readers selected Dick’s Last Resort in The Excalibur as the worst bar. Yes. Nailed it!

Best Act, Cirque Du Soleil Love at the Mirage- I could not agree with this more. As many shows as I have seen and enjoyed, I still have yet to enjoy an experience as much as this show. Good job readers!

Best App, Vegasmate- This is absolutely true without question. Great reviews, advice and information.

Best on the Web- This year, best blog, podcast, twitter, etc. went to different bloggers/social networkers who do some great things but I have to give Michelle and Tim from Minnesota credit. They do a great job and have the absolute best Vegas web name, “Five Hundy by Midnight.”  Congratulations on your awards and keep it up!

An “Imperial” Introduction to Las Vegas: The Story of our First Trip

An “Imperial” Introduction to Las Vegas: The Story of our First Trip 

(Twelve years ago today, Anne and I spent our first night in Las Vegas.)

                We landed in Las Vegas at 11pm on New Year’s Eve.  An hour later, Anne and I stared out of the windows at McCarran airport and watched the fireworks sparkle over the strip. We stood silently watching in what seemed to be complete solitude admiring the Luxor, MGM Grand and other resorts as we waited for the streets to re-open and allow shuttles and taxis access to the hotels so we could rest our heads after an exhausting couple of days.

Less than 24 hours prior, Anne and I stood at an alter and exchanged wedding rings surrounded by our bravest friends and family members as a blizzard whipped above the church and through Connecticut. Our groomsmen shoveled the steps at the church so that our guests could safely make it to their cars and so that we could squint through a picture with our wedding party in front of the church doors. Our robust guest list dwindled with each flake that fell but I barely noticed in the midst of celebrating with those brazen enough to trek through several feet of snow. Shortly after the reception, we learned that our flight to Vegas for later that night was cancelled and the earliest departure was in the early evening on the 31st. With so much wedding planning, we never gave much thought to a honeymoon until a few months prior to our big day. After speaking with a travel agent (they were relevant at one point) and explaining that we were looking for a good New Year’s Holiday get-a-way, she suggested Vegas. I had always wanted to go and Anne obliged.

As the final sparkles burned out over the strip, Anne and I dragged our suitcases to the shuttle stand. While it was just shy of 1am in Las Vegas, it felt like 4am to us because, well, it was in Connecticut. We didn’t expect to be stranded at the airport until then. When we landed, we were both excited to grab our bags, get to the hotel, grab a bite, shower and get some sleep. Instead, we sat in an airport Burger King and scarfed down Whoppers and fries and now, we were once again waiting for a shuttle to take us to our hotel.

I don’t remember our first ride onto the strip. I don’t remember seeing the streets lined with crazy party goers and drunk tourists. My first memory of the Vegas strip was being dropped off at the Imperial Palace (we’ll get to that later), trying to make it through a casino that was too loud, bumping into people that drank too much, checked into the hotel with a staff member that was too rude, and standing by the elevators for too, too, too long waiting to get to our room. When we FINALLY made it to our room, it was approaching 2am. We didn’t expect to walk into a room that had clearly not been renovated since the 70’s featuring a heart shaped tub, see through shower stall and zenith TV that didn’t work. It was only missing the coin operated vibrating option on the bed. But, we were exhausted and just wanted to shower and sleep. After settling in for a few minutes, Anne headed to the shower first, turned on the water and screeched.

“What happened,” I asked as I walked over.

“The shower head attached me,” she replied.

“What?”

“The shower head popped off and
just missed smacking me in my face!”

I called the front desk to report the issue. They said they would be up as soon as they could. The Imperial Palace wasn’t really a choice as much as a recommendation. Our travel agent said, “it’s in a great location but a little old,” in her Fran Drescher voice. “Look, it isn’t the nicest hotel on the strip but you’re getting a great price and you’ll barely spend any time in the hotel.” Anne and I sat in the room, fighting off sleep, staring at the clock, hoping with each minute that the repair man would knock on our door and swoop us away to a magical suite with fresh fruit, tall windows with a magnificent strip view instead of a view of cement, a big screen TV, a lavish shower, free vouchers for an exquisite breakfast and a bag of casino chips. After all, this was Vegas and this is what is supposed to happen. Right?

“Can you call again,” Anne asked stirring me from my Vegas fantasy.

“Yes.”

When I finally got someone on the line, I explained our situation and said, “we are exhausted! We’re on our honeymoon. We got married in a blizzard yesterday. We just want to take showers and go to bed. Please!”

The response, “look, it is New Year’s Eve. We’re kind of busy. What did you expect?” crushed me to the point that I gave up. We decided that it would be better if they could just fix it in the morning. At 4am with the noise of raucous partiers outside, next door, in the halls and all around, we finally fell asleep.

A loud knock on the door jarred me from my sleep. I forced my eyes open.

“MAINTENANCE!” a man shouted at the door.

Anne and I looked over at me. “You’ve got to be kidding.”

“Hold on,” I called out as I turned and looked at the clock. “9am? Did we even sleep?”

A large man with a thick salt and pepper mustache entered our room.

“You got a problem with your shower?”  he said.

“Ummm…yeah,” Anne replied. “The shower head flew off and almost hit me in the face.”

“Wow! You must have partied pretty hard last night, huh?”

“What…no…we checked in late last night and just wanted to shower…” Anne replied.

We explained what our night was like. He seemed more interested in the story than our misery. He said he needed to grab a part and would be back. We decided to grab a bite to eat and then shower. We went to the Imperial Palace Emperor’s Buffet for breakfast and hoped that the shower would be fixed by the time we returned to our room.  As I browsed the very limited selection, I felt like Vegas Vacation’s Clark Griswold choosing between yellow or gray mush at the buffet Cousin Eddie treated him to .* After choking down a mixture of yellow and  gray mush and sludgy coffee, Anne and I returned to the room to find the shower and TV working. I honestly didn’t know how much more she could take. I’m pretty patient. Anne, on the other hand, has a low tolerance for ineptitude, rudeness, disorganization and unprofessionalism. At any moment, I was sure she was going to have our bags packed and a taxi waiting for us to go back to the airport.

Fortunately, as I finished showering, I was happy to find Anne had pulled herself together and was keeping a positive attitude. If our first night was so terrible, I was afraid of what the rest of Vegas had in store for us. We grabbed our camera and other tourist items and happily headed out of the hotel. But first, we had to make a pit stop at the front desk. Over the years, my wife has honed her skills as one of the world’s best complainers. I believe it was our first night at the Imperial Palace in which her tyranny on the world of bad customer service began. She eviscerated the front desk, managers and I believe a valet is still walking funny because of her tirade. I don’t recall how we reconciled our terrible evening but I’m positive it wasn’t with more yellow or gray mush.

Moments later, we stepped into the sunlight for the first time, I felt like we hadn’t seen daylight in years. The early afternoon sun fell warmly on my freshly shaven cheeks, the palm trees were flowing, the Mirage across the street gleamed, and the strip had a calm about it that I have only experienced in Vegas one other time when I walked to a business meeting before 7am many years later. It took me a moment to understand it. New Year’s Day is serene in Vegas. All of the New Year’s Eve debauchery gives way to a peaceful respite for a few brief hours while the partiers are either heading home or are nursing hangovers in their hotel rooms. For a city known for the lights, noise, parties, and its moniker “sin city,” my first happy memory in Las Vegas was the moment Anne and I touched hands and quietly began walking along the strip.

For the next few days we visited most of the resorts, had dinner at Emeril’s New Orleans Fish House, won $100 on an Elvis machine in MGM Grand, watched countless Bellagio Fountain shows, the Mirage volcano explode, toured Siegfried and Roy’s Magical Garden, dealt with the Imperial Palace and as our time in Vegas began to wind down, we even decided to extend our vacation an extra day. We began to understand the rhythm of Vegas and in a few short days, learned to navigate it. I’m not sure what would have happened if we spent all of New Year’s Eve in Las Vegas. Maybe the craziness of the night would have driven us home early. Perhaps we would have become the zombies that seek shelter in the darkness of their rooms on New Year’s Day. It is even probable that I would love Las Vegas as much as I do now. However, I know this; I will never forget our first night in Las Vegas and I’ll always remember my first walk down the strip with my wife.

*If you google, “vegas vacation movie disgusting buffet” the first result will be a Yelp Review of the Emperor’s Buffet.

Meeting the Faces behind the Bellagio Facebook

July 2012

My wife and I were having a late dinner at Café Bellagio on our last night in Vegas. As we waited for our Cobb salads, I checked my twitter, again, as I often do, obsessively. Earlier, I tweeted to the Bellagio (@bellagioLV) because my wife was intrigued by the hospitality crew’s cleaning supplies.

I tweeted, “Only my wife @y_anne_kees goes to #vegas & wants tips on cleaning products from @BellagioLV hospitality.”

I wasn’t surprised to see the following response so quickly-

“@salvegas24 you have to get tips from the experts! She should speak with Mr. & Mrs. Green Thumb in our Conservatory daily at 10am.”

Over the past few weeks, I tweeted to the Bellagio from several of my accounts. They always seem to respond very quickly. Impressed, I relayed my gratitude and compliments to the Bellagio via tweet and mentioned that I would love to stop by and meet them. Moments later, I received a direct message that read, “We’re located in the Hotel Sales & Marketing offices and would love to say hello!” 

The following day, Anne and I checked out of the hotel and decided on having our last meal in Vegas at the Aria Buffet. She encouraged me to accept their invitation and stop by the Sales and Marketing office. She appreciates and shares my love of Vegas. While she might not be quite as obsessed as I am, she knew that the idea of meeting the faces behind the Bellagio social networks would be a “big deal” to me and it certainly was.

We exited the Aria Express tram to the Bellagio and had no clue as to where the Sales and Marketing Office was. We wondered through a good portion of the convention center which included beautiful artwork and some really comfortable looking sitting areas. After walking through, what seemed like, the entire convention center, we came upon the Sales and Marketing Office. 

Entering the reception area, I was greeted by a lovely young brunette woman who looked a few years out of college. 

“Hi,” I said as I began to explain my bizarre visit to the office, “My name is Sal Rizza. I tweeted to the Bellagio yesterday and asked if I could stop by to say hello.” I rambled on about how impressed I was with the responses I received and how excited I was to meet the “faces behind the account.” In other words, I couldn’t be dorkier. 

She sent a message to Patricia the Director of Marketing to let her know I was in the front and if she had a few moments to meet with me. I was impressed by the Bellagio on a number of levels and shouldn’t have been surprised by the professionalism in the office. The secretary offered me water and asked if I could wait a few minutes for Patricia.  

 After a few moments, she made her way from her office and greeted me warmly.

 “Hello,” she said shaking my hand as her curly brunette hair fell slightly over her shoulder as she greeted me, “I’m Patricia Goodman, Interactive Marketing Manager, thanks for stopping by. I recognize you from your twitter picture!” I smiled awkwardly like a teenage girl meeting Justin Bieber or some other Teen Beat cover boy.

 I thanked her for taking time from her busy schedule to spend a few minutes with me. Patricia is more than just the woman who runs the twitter account, which I assumed, but I was surprised to learn that she is responsible for the entire branding and marketing for the Bellagio Hotel. (The casino has their own department). She, along with a staff of four, manages the social network sights, email promotion and campaigns, website, signage within the resort, and overall branding of the Bellagio name and image. What was most interesting is that she works with such a small staff that seems to manage so much. The Bellagio, arguably, has the most distinctive and recognizable brand in Las Vegas and for years, has become symbolic of the current Vegas era.

As fascinated as I was with everything Patricia offered, I was most interested in how they coordinate the social network sites and how they mange the Bellagio brand through social networking. I asked how they seem to respond at all hours of the night and it as expectation. While she didn’t detail a precise plan, I got the impression that between Patricia and her staff, they were expected to monitor the sites almost continuously and respond to messages that required responses as well as keep the conversation going. While several of my tweets to the Bellagio were in regards to being excited about my vacation or interesting observations, at a closer look at the resort’s twitter account activity, the staff is continually responding the questions and/or concerns regarding early check-ins, reserving specific colors or just thanking guests for comments. As an avid “tweeter” that manages 11 accounts and an obsessive Vegas fan, I’ve been most impressed with the Bellagio’s social networking staff. While other resorts respond to tweets or Facebook comments, Patricia and her staff seem to be a bit more sincere and genuinely interested in their guests. I asked Patricia if she as always “on duty” to which she explained that unless she’s away on vacation or inaccessible she’s dedicated to responding to questions and to comment on interesting observations or retweet pictures and posts. They have developed a strong web presence that includes an informative website, Facebook, Twitter and Foursquare pages and continue to provide web resources to their guests. 

This was the overarching theme of staying at the Bellagio. While I am unable to find the Bellagio Mission statement on-line, the feeling that staying in the resort promotes is that they are truly committed to creating a guest-first experience in all that they do. This was evident in each and every interaction I had with a staff member during my four-night stay. Everyone including the black jack dealers, concierge, hospitably staff, bell desk & restaurant staffs seem to genuinely care about every guest’s experience. This is certainly how I felt while speaking with Patricia.

 Our informative conversation ended with Patricia answering some of my random questions including where the scenes in Oceans 11 were shot. Many were filmed at the Petrossian Piano Bar off the main lobby. The scene (one of my favorites) of Tess, played by Julia Reports, descending the stairs was shot near the concierge desk. However, the stairs were removed to expand the resort and add a new tower. The scene of Danny, played by George Clooney, and Tess having a drink was filmed in the Picasso restaurant. The scenes of Terry Benedict, played by Andy Garcia, in his office were filmed in the Bellagio chairman’s office. 

While I could have annoyed Patricia and her staff for hours with my never ending Vegas curiosity, I thanked her incessantly for her time. She provided me with her card and invited me and my wife to take site tour when we return. In true Bellagio fashion, Patricia and her staff demonstrated great class and kindness in meeting with an obsessive and awkward guest.