“I beg your pardon…I never promised you a rose garden. Along with the sunshine there’s gotta be a little rain sometimes”. – Joe South
Alrighty, dear Vegas 411 readers…if you’ve reached this far into our “Best of/Worst of” series, you’re probably prepared for almost anything. But the final “Winners” in the concluding chapter might STILL catch a few of you off guard (click here if you missed “Worst Of” Part One). Shall we begin?
BIGGEST LIE – “Vegas Is A 24/7 City”
Yes, I know. You’re already blaming COVID-19 and nationwide staffing issues. Well, you can put that excuse into your carry-on and take it home with you. The lie of a 24/7 Vegas was in full effect long before any pandemic. Penny-pinching casinos started their cutbacks years ago, trimming the workforce, consolidating services, eliminating amenities, and downsizing anything they considered to be expendable. That included room service, bar service, guest service counters, and restaurant hours.
This trend became most obvious with the elimination of once-popular around-the-clock coffee shops and diners. You know, the places that helped put Vegas on the map with their late night steak-and-eggs specials. Who doesn’t have memories of staggering through a casino at 4 am, plunking down in a booth with your friends, and ordering some strong coffee and a “hangover burger”? Good luck finding a place like that now.
I recently checked into a Vegas hotel for a little “staycation”, as us locals call it. Despite the fact that it was only 5 pm, the only remaining restaurant had closed at 2 pm. Their buffet, steak house, and taco bar had been permanently shut down, and the casino bar that still served hot dogs and such wasn’t open, either. A bartender on duty at the sportsbook bar told me that he hears bitching all day and night from customers who want to grab a bite. “They tell us to refer you to DoorDash“. Seriously?
An overnight stay on Fremont Street earlier in the year yielded the same scenario. Not one single food outlet was available at the massive Golden Nugget after 11 pm. Magnolia’s Veranda at Four Queens was shuttered, and Circa had one deli open (offering $22 sandwiches and a side of potato salad for $5 extra….hard pass!). Lanai Express at Fremont Hotel had a line out the door. Of course, it did…people want to eat after an evening of fun! Nevertheless, there were only two employees to face the dozens of angry, hungry, belligerent, and tipsy customers.
In recent weeks, I’ve noticed that many casino restaurants are only open on weekends, and the same goes for live shows. Want to see OPIUM or ATOMIC SALOON SHOW mid-week? Too damned bad. The Beatles LOVE on a Sunday or Monday? Nope. Lots of bars and nightclubs that used to open nightly are weekends-only now, and places that were once 24-hours have trimmed back to limited hours. Now, combine those truths with the reality of COVID-19 staffing, lower your expectations, and make advance reservations to do almost ANYTHING in the new Las Vegas of 2022.
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WORST TREND – Invasion of the Drag Queens
Our contributing writer Clay Bushes was totally on target when she proclaimed “Too much of a good thing spoils the fun for everyone”. Of course, she was referring to the irritating swarm of drag queens that have taken over the city like an infection. Head to a hamburger joint…a drag queen might wait on you. Go to a stripper show…a drag queen will most likely be the host(ess). From The Garden to Senor Frog’s, Flamingo‘s historic showroom to off-Strip country bars, men in dresses and tacky make-up have appropriated the entertainment and service industries.
While there’s definitely a place for female impersonation in live entertainment (Faaabulous! The Show, DIVAS, and Legends In Concert come to mind), the sideshow freaks that have spewed from RuPaul‘s over-exposed ass have bastardized a once-respected art form. Drag has been reduced to a cheap and nauseating way for desperately-untalented men to snatch dollars from the hands of bewildered Vegas tourists. These “queens” are like costumed beggars on the sidewalk, but you can’t avoid them by looking away. They’re taking your order at Chipotle.
For more insight on this volatile and touchy subject, check out the full essay here.
SADDEST NON-RETURN – The 35 Cinema
Visitors are often surprised to learn that Las Vegas is not only a hotbed for avid moviegoing, but it’s also a mini-Hollywood of sorts. Dozens of films and television shows are shot here, and our population is overflowing with talented performers who do wonderfully on the silver screen when not onstage.
Along with a few dozen chains, Sin City boasts several independent movie theaters such as West Wind 6 Drive-in, downtown’s The Art Houz, and most exciting of them all…The 35 Cinema. This unique concept is truly retro, projecting beloved classics on actual film reels using vintage projectors. They also whip up the best hot popcorn in Las Vegas.
Sadly, The 35 Cinema‘s first location on Fremont Street fell victim to a number of challenges that left owner John Lohmann struggling to find a new home. Targeted reopening dates at an expanded venue inside Sahara’s Commercial Center have come and gone. Let’s keep our fingers crossed that the magic of the movies can return once again in all its original glory. Are you listening, John?
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BIGGEST LETDOWN – Resorts World
As our attention spans have gotten shorter, we’re continually inundated with hype. “Newer! Bigger! Better!!!!” Both CIRCA and Virgin Hotels Las Vegas laid the hyperbole on super-thick, and neither lived up to expectations. Would the third time be a charm with Resorts World? In two words – “Hell, no!” Almost a decade of work and $4.3 billion later, Resorts World turned out to be one of the most boring hotel casinos in the entire city. It’s poorly designed, bland, lifeless, empty, horribly spread out, and offering NOTHING that you can’t get elsewhere in a more appealing atmosphere. Don’t waste your time, money, or that ten-mile walk to check it out. Trust us on this one. Full review here.
WORST SCANDAL – ‘The Conga Room”
Our newest journalist Gunnar McDixie recently raised the roof over his scorching tell-all on a tawdry dinner theater he called “The Conga Room”. While the name was changed for legal purposes, the place itself is very real. Those in the know have applauded Gunnar’s efforts to expose the sleazy goings-on at this eastside establishment. Ethical violations, workplace toxicity, embezzled funds, unpaid workers, health code/fire/safety/liquor control board violations, and ties to mysterious “investors” abound in this little house of horrors.
Emails continue to pour in from hard-working individuals who are owed thousands in back payments from the “Teflon Trio”. They’re the owners of “The Conga Room” who somehow seem to slide out of every sticky situation. Guess what, guys….even nonstick frying pans eventually burn up in the heat. Gunnar McDixie isn’t through with you yet.
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MOST UNWELCOME CAREER EXPANSION – Criss Angel
In today’s culture, the more repulsive a human being is, the more likely he/she is to become rich and famous. Lying, cheating, adultery, theft, an illegitimate child or two, and nauseating arrogance….perfect ingredients for rock stardom, political power, or a headlining gig on the Las Vegas Strip. Christopher Nicholas Sarantakos falls into the third category. Changing his name to “Criss Angel”, this swaggering snot rode the fame train to a massive mansion in the hills, albeit on the back of one of his many custom-built motorcycles. The fact that he’s despised by nearly every human being who’s ever met him hasn’t slowed down this reprobate’s career in the slightest. Sign of the times, baby.
Last year, while you and I were rationing toilet paper and eating canned soup, this rotten excuse for a human being applied for AND RECEIVED eleven million dollars in no-obligation government aid (read my expose here). Before you could say “abracadabra”, the diminutive Moira Rose knock-off was opening a Schitt’s Creek-style diner in the middle of the desert. Then came news of an expensive new spin-off show at Planet Hollywood. Let’s hope that his next enterprise isn’t a rundown motor inn…we already have the Clown Motel in Tonopah. Grow up, Miss Criss, and retire the sunglasses-at-night bullshit already. You look like an ass.
BIGGEST FARCE – City-Wide Road Work
The next time you’re out and about, head down to the world-famous “Welcome to Fabulous Las Vegas” sign. Actually, the challenge will be to physically get there. The biggest landmark in the city is an absolute clusterfuck of closed lanes. heavy equipment, barriers, and trenches. That’s what visitors are greeted by upon their arrival.
It doesn’t matter where you are or where you are headed….you’ll be dealing with road construction all along the way. Every single section of the Las Vegas valley is simultaneously undergoing road work. The Strip, Downtown, the Arts District, the interstates, residential neighborhoods, and business districts…it’s freaking EVERYWHERE! The biggest question is “WTF are they actually doing?”. You’ll witness cones and barrels going up, with three or four lanes being brought down to one. Traffic snarls make thousands of people late every day, but good luck trying to identify any actual progress or improvements. The guys just stand around smoking and talking. Then after a few months, they redirect traffic to the once-closed lanes and start the farce all over again.
You’ll notice that I’ve avoided using the term “road improvements” because NOTHING is actually ever improved. 2020 would have been the perfect time for vital infrastructure to undergo necessary maintenance. But apparently, road crews were locked in their homes along with everyone else. As soon as businesses and casinos began to reopen, roads started to close. Millions upon millions of dollars are going into these projects with no discernible purpose. It’s our money, but we’re the ones paying for major inconvenience.
HAPPY NEW YEAR, everyone. May 2022 be prosperous, healthy, and full of Sin City joy!