What Happens in Vegas Strays From Vegas

Share Button

So, you’re in Vegas and it’s 10 AM and you’re standing in a cloud of second-hand smoke on the casino floor. All around you, Midwesterners in tank tops drag their bloated bodies back and forth from one flashing machine to another, and no one is winning. And no one is smiling. Upstairs, everyone’s hungover or broke. Outside, it’s the same Mandalay Bay-to-Bellagio parade. The possibilities for the day in Vegas seem tired, perverse, and well, shitty. And you have two more days of this?

But here’s the thing: If you have the money and you don’t feel like painting the roulette table for hours, there are newer, better ways to get your rocks off in Sin City. You can actually get your adrenaline going by doing things—gasp—off the strip.

Recently, I was a guest of the Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority, and they put me through the off-the-strip ringer. In three days, I drove a Ferrari 140 mph around a racetrack, shot machine guns inside a garage, piloted a stunt plane at 5 Gs, base jumped at 855 feet, and zip lined the Mojave Desert. My insides were no better off than if I did a three-day bender at Circus Circus, but I have way better photos and stories.

The morning at Dream Racing at Las Vegas Morning Speedway began with a red meat hangover courtesy of MGM’s Craftsteak, an instructional video, and then a turn-for-turn 3D simulation run with a professional racecar driver telling me when to shift, floor it, and stop closing my eyes. Then came the real-deal outfit, the head sock, the helmet, the obligatory Instagram photos, and the slow motion walk to my $250,000 Ferrari F430 GT. Soon, I’m blasting 140 MPH down the stretch, shifting and flooring the pedal, not thinking how the $499 for five laps breaks down per lap, per minute, per second. I just drove a Ferrari for the first time in my life, and I didn’t have to wash and wax it afterwards.

Later in the day we signed our lives away at Guns and Ammo Garage Shooting Experience where I chose a target starring a zombie attacking a woman from behind. I’m not a gun guy. Never have been. Even less so in the past year. So when I was given gun after gun after gun to spray down my zombie in the garage, I did it in hopes that every weapon would be the last. We shot AK-47s and other fire-breathing machine guns, and all I could think about was what the things were really made for. My left-wingedness finally trumped my graciousness, and I said goodbye, thank you, uh huh, so neat, no really, so neat.

But the highlight of the weekend, and the best reason to get you and your bachelor party off the strip, is what’s going on at Sky Combat Ace. After an almost-efficient deal of training, for $999, one can fly like a fighter-stunt pilot for 55 minutes. And by that, I mean, you take the controls and do loops and barrel rolls and hammerheads and tumbles and whatever else the real pilot behind you teaches you to do—literally—on the fly. And then, in the middle of it all, you get to have your very own dog fight where you pull an electronic trigger when the other plane is in your sites, and if you hit him, the bad guy’s aircraft lets off a plume of smoke as if it’s going down. I squared off against another journo, and it was actually up to me to chase him down, taking 5-G turns that made my stomach kiss my throat (and the plane stall in mid-air). Some how, some way, I got out of his range by looping completely upside down like I knew what I was doing. I suddenly found myself behind him, like I was Ice Man or Hollywood or George Dubya dreaming in a bathtub between paintings. I took the shot, smoke plumed, and I won. For ‘Merica, or whatever.

After that, we hit the Stratosphere Casino, Hotel & Tower. I was feeling lucky after kicking ass as an amateur pilot, and if I was going to bet all my chips on black at any moment, this was the time. But we were ushered to the roof in a whole new get-up, and then asked to jump 855 feet—the equivalent of 108 floors—out the window and onto a target. The SkyJump, they call it. The wind was screaming that evening, so much so that they almost pulled the plug for the day, but I stepped into the abyss and closed my eyes. Now, I’ve never jumped higher than the third rung on a ladder, so even though I was connected to a high-speed “descender,” it felt like I was jumping to my doom. For the first five seconds, at least. Then it felt as if I could fly.

The weekend was capped with 1.5 miles of zip lining over the Mojave Desert with FlightLinez, led by a group of goofy-yet-professional guys who strap you in and give you a little shove. From the 3,800-foot summit of Red Mountain, you can see the strip, Lake Mead, and the new Hoover Dam bridge. On the first of four runs, you drop 450 feet in 15 seconds, and from there on out it’s smooth sailing.

So, the next time your cousin or college buddy invites you to Vegas and you start to feel all empty inside, know that there are alternatives to the gambling, the gawker pools, and the creepy mini New York City facades. There are Ferraris to drive and stunt planes to pilot and deserts to zip line over and buildings to jump off. These are much better ways to feel lucky.

Actor Adam Goldberg is the King of Vine, Twitter’s Indie Filmmaker App

Share Button

Two years ago, actor Adam Goldberg sat around with his girlfriend brainstorming what the next new big social media thing would be. Already a man of Tumblr and Twitter (and hesitantly of Instagram), he thought he had it: “It’s sound. It’s got to be sound.”But unless you count the collective groans of boyfriends around the world when Pinterest caught fire, Goldberg was wrong. The next big thing, two years later, is video. More accurately, it’s Vine, an iOS app allowing you to capture six looping seconds with a stop-action camera, helmed by Twitter. Less than two weeks old, the app has seen a deluge of early adopters (and a lot of porn buzz), but what might be the most interesting thing about Vine is that it’s already been won.

Adam Goldberg already somehow owns Vine. His twisted, twitchy feed is downright addictive with videos so dark and mesmerizing they could be spliced right into an American Horror Story credit opening and stand out. Goldberg plays himself—or a version of himself—where he’s a stalking, wig-wearing, cross-dressing, agitated, obsessive-compulsive maniac whose jittery antics trouble his girlfriend Roxanne and her friend Merritt. It’s very meta, where his characters talk about the app itself, and how Goldberg has gone down the wrong rabbit hole with it.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

“It was so obvious to me what it was for,” Goldberg says after messing with Vine for a few days. “It’s a horror app. When you break it down, with its stop-action camera and everything, it’s just perfect for these little horror movies.”

His theme, he says, revolves around the home not always being the safest place to be. And his little soap opera—about a man becoming undone by an iPhone application—plays it up perfectly. There are jump cuts from behind bushes. Disembodied hands holding an SLR camera. Long dark hallways. Self-rocking chairs. And then there are the blond wigs. In over half the videos, Goldberg struggles with wearing—or not wearing—a crazy blond wig like a tweaker pacing the cold medicine aisle.

“The funny thing about those wigs is that I don’t remember where they came from, if they’re mine or my girlfriend’s,” Goldberg confesses. “But I’ve had a blond wig in my life for as long as I can remember. From my teenage years until now. When I was 24, my entire fridge was covered in polaroids with people wearing a blond wig. I don’t know.”

Goldberg laughs humbly about his Vine feed getting so much early attention. “Why do people give a shit about these six-second videos, you know? The other films I’ve made over the years are basically 45-minute Vines, and no one ever gave a shit. My girlfriend and I have been talking about this Vine stuff and trying to break down the excitement over my videos, but I don’t know. Maybe it’s because we have such short attention spans that six seconds works?”

The app, however, is far from perfect. In fact, it’s downright buggy. It eats up your battery. It crashes often. Your videos get lost or never post. Your feed won’t refresh. Or, worst of all, you just can’t fit your brilliant idea into six seconds. It’s a test of patience and will. “My hope for it is that it stays pretty crude,” Goldberg says. “Like Orson Welles said, ‘The absence of limitations is the enemy of art.’ I hope the Vine people don’t cave to demands for filters and stuff. The cruder, more stripped down, the better.”

And his videos keep getting better. What Kelly Oxford and Rob Delaney are to Twitter, Adam Goldberg is to Vine, becoming the feed to watch. The app is built just quirky enough to support his manic compulsion to be creative.

He’s going to be a father very soon. Like, in a manner of weeks. Will he Vine the birth? Will the baby wear a blond wig in its first seconds of life? “I’m such a documenter and a hoarder of media,” Goldberg says. “I mean, I’ve saved every answering machine message I’ve received since 1989. But with the birth, I don’t know. No. I’m going to be pretty hands-on. But we did hire a doula with photography skills.”

Follow Greg Boose on Twitter.

Chicken Fried Bacon & Venison Arrives in Culver City on Monday

Share Button

Husband-wife duo Whitney Flood and Julie Retzlaff are taking a break from the underground dinner scene to open Muddy Leek, a seasonable and sustainable spot in Culver City where everything from the bread to the stock is made from scratch. Lunches here will be hearty and filling with a nice selection of sandwiches and salads, but the real draw here are the eclectic dinner options like the Spicy Chicken Jjigae Soup with kimchi and poached eggs, the Juniper-Venison with foraged mushrooms, and the Chicken Fried Bacon in a lettuce cup with tomato chutney. Opens Monday, Dec. 17th. 

Want to be first? Sign up for BlackBook Happenings now and get the latest openings and events in the city of your choice delivered to your inbox every Monday.

L.A. Openings: Eat Where Fatty Arbuckle Once Lived, Devour Berlin Street Sausages

Share Button

Fatty’s Public House, on the edge of West Hollywood is named after silent-film actor Fatty Arbuckle, who once lived at this exact address. Now, the home is an airy pub with a big old-school "Hollywoodland" mural overhead, and they’re dishing out short-rib pizzas, Guinness bratwurst, burgers, and chicken and waffles. At brunch there’s a DIY Bloody Mary cart rolling around, and after a couple of those – if you squint hard enough up and down the street from the outdoor patio – you can still see old Hollywood just as it once was. But that’s just because you’ve accidentally internalized Instagram filters.

Just opened Downtown, Coco Laurent is a breezy, sun-lit French bistro serving beef Bourgogne, sandwiches, and an impressive by-the-glass red wine list. And Berlin Currywurst also just debuted in Hollywood with a beautiful beer garden and lots of sausages and beers.

Want to be first? Sign up for BlackBook Happenings now and get the latest openings and events in the city of your choice delivered to your inbox every Monday.

Donut Burgers? No Dishes Over 475 Calories? What’s Happening At These New L.A. Spots

Share Button

If you’re one of those people who just won’t shut the hell up about how much you love bacon, no one likes you. Also, no one will believe your bacon-loving words if you haven’t already been pounding on the doors at Slater’s 50/50 in Pasadena that opened his past Friday. The “50/50” means that half of their signature burger is made of ground beef, and the other half is actual ground bacon – sandwiched right on top of the patty. Yep, they go there. This sports pub offers over 100 beers and fried chicken and pancakes. Plus, if you make it to Slater’s on a football Saturday, there’s an off-menu burger served on a donut. Pigs are flying.

Seasons 52 also just opened up in the Westfield Century City Mall, giving holiday shoppers enough freshness to keep their energy high all day, thanks to a menu full of locally-sourced ingredients, herbs grown on site, and no dish over 475 calories. We’re speechless. The end.

Want to be first? Sign up for BlackBook Happenings now and get the latest openings and events in the city of your choice delivered to your inbox every Monday.

Live Jazz, Pig’s Face, & Umami Take-Out Debuts in Los Angeles

Share Button

Home is where the heart is supposed to be, but now in Beverly Hills, a place called H.O.M.E. (House of Music & Entertainment) is where the caviar-chive salmon, the sous vide berkshire pork chop with a pear brandy reduction, the live jazz, and your new favorite wine list is. This premiere live jazz/supper club spot just opened last week, giving those in the industry a new place to rub shoulders, sign on the dotted line, and lean back with some top-shelf scotch to enjoy the smooth stylings of musicians like Bill Cunliffe and Pet Escovedo.

Bestia, a charcuterie haven serving pig’s face and beef heart tartare, opens this Friday in the Art District, and just when you thought the Umami brand was spent and done, here comes U Mini, a tiny take-out version of everyone’s favorite burger joint.

Animal Fetishes at New Los Angeles Hotspots

Share Button

Obama won. Weed won. Women won. Check and mate. Now, you’re either ready to celebrate, or you’re looking to inebriate. Might we suggest The Blind Donkey in Pasadena, the new whiskey haven, for either? From the guys behind The Surly Goat and The Little Bear (Animal fetish, anyone?), The Blind Donkey is a regal little place with brick, dark wood, and a chess board on every table. While you’re there drowning your sorrows or toasting your victory, order the triple-fried fries and consider signing up for the chess league.

Elsewhere, TLT Food has landed in Westwood, dishing out all the favorites they’ve been selling from their popular food truck, and Urban Garden opened its doors in the Fairfax District, warming the neighborhood with shawarma, lemon-herb rotisserie chicken, and some tasty vegan and veggie items.

Lady Gaga’s Favorite New L.A. Hotspot & More

Share Button

Is it really possible that west-siders will crawl through three congested highways to Studio City just for a pretty restaurant/lounge? Maybe. Possibly. Well, probably not. But… XEN Lounge, an inviting and versatile space put together by actor/producer Duane Martin, has everything you want in a West Hollywood or Santa Monica lounge. There’s an elegant private dining room, a glitzy bar, flat screens dedicated to NFL Sunday, and three outdoor spaces that include an intimate rooftop lounge and a rustic backyard spot dominated by a giant Buddha statue. Even if the coast crowd may shy away (they shouldn’t), the stars have already come out in full force. Will Smith, Stevie Wonder, and Lady Gaga have been by for the specialty cocktails and new American comfort food, like the mac and cheese muffins.

Speaking of Lady Gaga, the designer of Sixty-Six, the Thursday- and-Saturday-night only nightclub that opened last week in West Hollywood, has designed videos for the mega pop star – and it shows. Mirrors and golden hues and centrally-located DJ booth, oh my. This is an after-midnight kind of place. And then in Santa Monica, raw-food god Matthew Kenney opens M.A.K.E., a rooftop restaurant promising nothing cooked over 105 degrees.

Want to be first? Sign up for BlackBook Happenings now and get the latest openings and events in the city of your choice delivered to your inbox every Monday.

Los Angeles Openings: Storefront, The Hart and The Hunter

Share Button

Judging by the weather in LA this morning, fall is officially here, and so hearty, comfort food is on our minds. (Aside from the general election and Honey Boo Boo and Danny Devito and Rhea Perlman getting divorced.) In Hollywood, a small neighborhood deli called Storefront just opened, headed by the teams behind Covell and Salt’s Cure, and offering gourmet sandwiches and burgers replete with Salt’s Cure’s infamous bacon. You want a coffee? Great. They serve it black. You want any other coffee drink? Not an option.

Inside the Melrose District’s Palihotel, The Hart and The Hunter has arrived with classic Southern small plates like boiled peanuts, chicken cracklings & hot pepper vinegar, and assorted pickles. But if you’re really hungry, they have a bunch of potted provisions, like ham hock rillette, collard green marmalade, and bay shrimp salad. Eat too much and you can just check in for the night next door.

Want to be first? Sign up for BlackBook Happenings now and get the latest openings and events in the city of your choice delivered to your inbox every Monday.