Las Vegas Opening: 1 Oak

It’s hard to ignore the delicious irony of opening a second outpost of a nightclub whose acronym stands for “ONE OF A KIND”. But all that is forgotten upon entering 1 Oak Las Vegas, a spectacular, 16,000 square foot stunner in the Mirage Resort & Casino.

Venerable Butter Group nightlife impresarios Richie Akiva, Scott Sartiano, and Ronnie Madra have teamed with Vegas’ premier purveyor of high-style clubbing The Light Group for the Strip’s most extravagant new surefire celeb magnet (Kanye and Fergie have already dropped by). With interiors by Toronto design superstars Munge Leung (massive projection screens, brightly-hued sofas, surreal lighting) and original art by Roy Nachum, it’s as pretty to look at as the people. Another of a One Of A Kind. 

Las Vegas New Year’s Eve: To Dance

Headliners of all stripes and styles are seizing the moment to take stages all around town, and that includes several major hotel performances. Whether they’re opening a hot new nightclub or just partying with old friends, musicians all over the city want to make it a night to remember.

At the Cosmopolitan, the legendary Stevie Wonder is kicking off 2012 at the Chelsea, while a potential heir to the piano crooner throne John Legend will be onstage at The Pearl at the Palms, followed by an afterparty at Moon. Also on piano, Bruno Mars is playing The Bank at the Bellagio, while Chris Brown’s show at Pure at Caesar’s Palace will be set to the backdrop of the Strip’s fireworks show. And throwback alert: Vanessa Williams will be taking the stage at the Riviera, performing her favorite old R&B hits.

The rockers of Guns N’ Roses are finishing off their farewell tour with a two and a half hour set at The Joint at the Hard Rock Hotel—singer/rapper Drake will kick off 2012 with a performance the following day. If you like your rock a little more alt, Franky Perez is playing a set at Rocks Lounge at the Red Rock Hotel; their other venues are hosting DJ BKNY at Lucky Bar, and Latin dance group Toto Zara at Onyx. Turntables more your speed? Steve Angello (the house DJ and one-third of DJ trio Swedish House Mafia will be spinning all night at XS Nightclub at Encore. And if “Party Rock” is your anthem of the year, LMFAO is coming to Haze at Aria for the midnight show.

In clubland, House of Blues at Mandalay Bay goes punk for the evening, with performances by Old Man Markley and NOFX, while producer and rapper B.o.B. takes over LAX at the Luxor. Poptart Fergie opens up the new outpost of 1OAK at the Mirage, while bandmate Will.i.am is spinning at Surrender at Encore with DJ Ammo. And for one of the biggest tickets of the night, R&B goddess Mary J. Blige opens RPM Nightclub at the Tropicana. Many VIP packages have already sold out, but the hotels are planning on making these concerts a party—even the cheap seats are sure to come along with a good time.

If you haven’t had enough (or, let’s face it, are still up the next day) dance out your hangover at Hyde, the new club opening at the Bellagio at 5pm on Jan. 1 with DJ88 spinning, snacks from Circo, and a special show by DJ Paul Oakenfold.

4AM DJ Tour Diary: DJ Phresh Hits Las Vegas

As a manager and partner at 4AM DJs, I’m constantly producing performances, events, and photo shoots around the world. Every day I get reports back from my DJs filled with the kind of wild adventures I rarely get to be a part of as a desk jockey. The people who flock to these stellar international events get to experience the end result of months of prep, but do they really know what a day in the life of a DJ is like? In this column, you’ll hear first-hand accounts of DJ war stories, with photos and videos from the world’s best to show for it. In this 4AM DJ Tour Diary, read about DJ Phresh‘s insane weekend in Vegas. Yours truly, Adam Alpert.

New York, Friday, March 18th, 7:14am: Vegas is a big deal for a lot of American artists and DJs, but at all I could think about was that one extra minute I had planned for on my Blackberry alarm — 7:15am is so much better than 7:14am, especially when it comes down to New York minutes. One of my managers, Arie Deutsch, was calling me in his Diddy-esque “Goin’ Back to Cali” voice to make sure I was up, and my other manager, Adam Alpert, was dually texting and emailing me to make sure I checked out a mention I got in Page Six for the previous night’s insanity. And so the day begins.

Showered, locked, and loaded, I rushed down the stairs of my apartment, Tumi and Incase bags in hand, right into my car, and proceeded to drive through the pothole run that is the route between Williamsburg and JFK Airport. With 10 minutes left before final bag check time, I pulled in at Terminal 5 only to remember that it is the terminal from hell when it comes to parking. I finally found a spot on the top floor of the structure and had to make what felt like a half-mile dash down the corridor leading to check-in. Gotta love it when they turn off the walkways in the morning! The check-in line was ridiculous, and in true New York nightlife fashion, I caught my breath, put on my best, and approached one of the female attendees, who then escorted me past the line and right up to the counter. “Please help this handsome, sweaty man catch his flight.” she said to her coworker. After the usual bag check and inspection of alien devices, later to be described as my DJ needles and equipment, I met up with Adam and Arie in the terminal and got my customary stash of snacks for the flight. After a couple minutes of safety prayers, I threw my iPad new music playlist on, and then it was heels up, and lights out.

Las Vegas, Friday, March 18th, 1:00 pm. Five animal crackers, a sandwich, a four hour nap, one remix, and twenty levels of Angry Birds later, and hello Las Vegas! There’s just something about Vegas that gets me every time. The minute I land it’s like the entire city is screaming “GO IN!”

The crew and I made our way out toward baggage claim, where our driver was waiting with his “love boat” sign. We got our bags and headed to our first stop on my Vegas Spring Break weekend, The Mirage. Light Group had me set up to spin at The Bank at the Bellagio, Jet nightclub at the Mirage, and The Bare Pool at the Mirage. Light Group is one of the major hospitality development and management companies in the States. I was introduced to them initially through Danny A., who cosigned me for my work at Upstairs.

Once we got to the Mirage, Arie and I decided to go check out the Bare Pool and see what the vibe was down there. It was 70 degrees in Vegas, which totally beats NY’s mid 40’s. When I got to Bare, I bumped into Kalika Moquin, who was running the show. She walked us right in and it was everything I expected. The music was on point, the vibe was right, and the crowd was sexy. It definitely took me a lot longer to blink than usual. After that, we decided to stop by BLT Burger and grab a bite before linking up with my homie, DJ Ikon. Ikon just opened up a sick sneaker store called Feature LV and he wanted me to check out all of the progress they had made since my last visit. Not even 5 minutes into my sneaker hunt, and I already had 3 pairs of kicks on the counter waiting for checkout. Once I wrapped up, I took a trip next door to my other good friends DJ Crooked and DJ Neva’s clothing store, KNYEW, which stands for Keeping New York Everywhere. I picked up a few shirts from some up-and-coming brands, and a couple accessories, and headed back to the Mirage for a pre-game nap. image

Friday, March 18th, 10:00 pm. After waking up and retrieving Arie from the sportsbook, we headed over to the Bellagio and had dinner at Yellowtail, one of my personal favorites. It’s also about 50 feet from The Bank. Once dinner was done, we walked over to the club, which was a total scene. It wasn’t even midnight yet, and it was already packed. We were greeted out front by Colin Comer from The Bank and a linebacker-sized security guard, who then proceeded to make an opening through the crowd toward the DJ booth. DJ Karma was opening and had the crowd nice and ready when we got there. I don’t usually drink — unless it’s with the Light Group crew, apparently. Because Jake Saady from Light Group walked into the booth with Karma in the middle of my set and it automatically became Patron time. At that point, I just went into autopilot and went in with all the hits. Vegas is a hits-only kind of town, and that’s one of the things I love about the crowds. They just want to dance. The Bank is a high-end room, and there’s no room for the too-cool-for-school mentality or wallflowers. As a DJ, it’s the perfect stage to exert your crowd motivation and party rocking skills. I stayed on until after 3am, tapped out, and passed the headphones to Karma.

Saturday, March 19th, 5:00am. In a perfect world, at this time of morning I’d be tucked under some high thread covers, dead-to-the-world-asleep, but not in Vegas. We leave The Bank and and somehow got from the Bellagio over to the a bright and modern hotel, whose name I was too drunk to remember, where we met up with some friends for some late night gambling, and then over to a friend’s two-story suite for the after-after party. The rest of this story has been redacted to protect the not-so-innocent and their fuzzy warbles. Bedtime: 10am.

Saturday, March 19th, 4:00pm. So tonight is Jet Nightclub, and a 10pm reservation at Stack. I was supposed to spin the Bare Pool earlier at 3 but the temperature dropped 15 degrees, so it’s not warm enough outside for the pool to be open. It’s a big let down because it would have been my first pool party in Vegas. But there’s always next time. Kalika and the Light Group crew were cool about it too, and let me know that they’d make up next time. So now it’s time to get productive, which means remixes.

Saturday, March 19th, 10:00 pm. I headed down to Stack Restaurant, where Light Group had us set up with an all-you-can-eat dinner for 6. The food was great. I usually don’t enjoy DJing on a full stomach, but I didn’t feel that weighed down or tired after the meal. After dinner, I ran up to the room to find myself real quick, and then came down and met up with JT and security. They took me over to the club through the secret “bat cave” entrance, which led right up to the red carpet. I had a couple shots taken, and then ran inside and hopped on with DJ Ikon.

Jet was insanely packed, and more hip-hop centered than The Bank. At around midnight, I got on with Ikon’s blessing and started to go to work. A short while later, Adam Alpert showed up with a huge crew to support me. Ikon had the “Patron Time” look in his eyes, so we went down that road again. My encore set was even more fun for me, because I actually got to spin house. New York clubs want to leave on a high-energy note, but every now and then you should smooth them out. Once the club finally closed, we decided to go meet up with my good friend and a great DJ, David Christian.

DC does the DJ booking for Light Group. We met over at this local Asian restaurant on Spring Mountain Road that all of the industry people go to. It was pretty packed for that hour of the night, and the food was remarkable. Good times were had, and I got a chance to meet some more of the local Vegas DJs. The camaraderie amongst DJs in Vegas is unrivaled. After failing miserably at downing the mountain of pad thai I ordered, I decided to call it a night and skipped past the sexting part of the night right for the pillows. Overall, the trip was successful and fun, and that’s the best you can ask for — good times with good people, and a whole lot of left-out details, because what happens in Vegas…well, you know the rest.

World’s Largest Bikini Parade in Vegas

imageThursday will mark a great day. It will (hopefully) be the day that Las Vegas sets a Guinness Book World Record for the largest bikini parade in history. This year marks the 50th anniversary of the Las Vegas sign installation, and what better way to celebrate a half-century of sun and sin than a bikini retrospective? Lead by Girl Next Door Holly Madison, the event will kick off by a bikini fashion show featuring retro suits from the 50s, groovy suits from the 60s and 70s, neon tankinis from the 80s, string bikini’s from the 90s, and the latest in bondage bathing suits from this season.

After the show, Las Vegas Boulevard will be shut down so hundreds of ladies can march in the streets in itsy bitsy bikinis. All of this will of course be followed up with pool parties up and down the strip. Mayor Oscar Goodman is celebrating by making an official proclamation that summer starts May 14. The fashion show begins at 10am, and the parade kicks off at the Fashion Show Mall around noon. As far as the pool parties go, there’s a lot going on. At the Mirage, Bare is offering complimentary entry all day for Las Vegas residents. At Mandalay Bay, the first 100 non-guests will get access to the Mandalay Bay Beach, cabanas are on discount by $100 for the first 100 takers, cocktails are running $5, bottles go for $100, and Pacifico is only $3. At both the Monte Carlo and Luxor, the pool will open to the public and drinks will be on special sale from noon-6pm. Over at Planet Hollywood, the pool will be open and there will be drink specials, but here’s the clutch move — the bikini models will be there from noon-6pm. In case you’d like to participate in the bikini march, it looks like there are spots still open; click here for the Craigslist ad

Vegas Casinos Crapping Out on Recession

The crapped-out economy has hit Las Vegas hard. With the city’s industry crashing like casinos were Chryslers, everyone from CEOs to chambermaids is muttering that “It’s never been this bad.” And, well, it hasn’t. Gambling revenues tumbled, with the take on the Strip’s tables dropping 15% in January (compared to January 2008). Moody’s Investors Service has repeatedly downgraded virtually every casino company — MGM Mirage twice in a week! — citing “aggressive and substantial debt-financed development activity and earnings pressure from slowing consumer spending trends that began in fiscal 2008.” In short: Casinos went into massive hock to expand extravagantly. Then everyone got The Fear, and blowing five grand on blackjack and bottle service became less appealing. Well, not less appealing, but more difficult to get away with on a regular basis.

MGM Mirage (MGM Grand, Mirage, Bellagio, Mandalay Bay, etc.) is struggling to complete its sprawling City Center project. The company was forced to sell the Treasure Island casino to a Kansas billionaire when banks refused further construction loans. The complex’s centerpiece was to be the Harmon Hotel, a shimmering boutique tower designed by celebrated architect Lord Norman Foster — which was chopped in half in mid-build, reportedly due to construction problems and evaporating condo sales. Even with cutbacks and postponements, MGM Mirage is scrambling to restructure debt and float this thing until it opens in the fall.

The Fontainebleau — a sister property to the Miami Beach hotel — is believed to have enough cash to complete construction and open in October. But both Moody’s and Standard & Poor’s are going negative, and some wonder whether the high-tech, high-style resort will sell enough of the all-important condo units to survive.

Another project in limbo is Echelon Place, which was to have contained Vegas’ very own Mondrian and Delano Hotels. Boyd Gaming (Sam’s Town, Orleans, Gold Coast, Main Street, etc.) had to suspend the project when a chunk of financing fell through. Man, they better not have torn down the Stardust for nothing.

The Sands Corporation (Venetian, Palazzo) has been ousting executives and cutting costs — but it’s also opening casinos in Singapore and, erm, Pennsylvania. CEO Sheldon Adelson (Forbes’ third-richest man in America — last year) has expressed confidence in thundering tones, but he’s already had to pour a billion dollars of his own money into the company to meet loan requirements, and may be looking to offload some of his interests in Macau.

Station Casinos (Green Valley Ranch, Red Rock, Aliante, Boulder Station, etc.) is scrambling to renegotiate with bondholders as the clock ticks toward an April 15 bankruptcy filing deadline. Boyd Gaming offered to buy most of Station’s properties, but Station’s Fertitta family rejected them. Boyd persists, meaning we may have a good, old-fashioned casino family war between the Boyds and the Feritttas. Station’s plans for a luxe Strip property — Viva — have died quietly.

So, who isn’t putting a poker face on panic? Well, Boyd Gaming has enough cash to buy other casinos, even if they have halted new ones. Hilton announced that it will take over the foreclosed-upon Cosmopolitan Towers project as one of the launching pads for its new Denizen hotels brand. Wynn Corporation seemed to be weathering the tsunami, but Steve Wynn’s just-announced divorce from wife (and longtime boardmember) Elaine Wynn could cause chaos. Both have lawyered up — Elaine with Don Schiller, who got one of the biggest divorce settlements is history for Juanita (Mrs. Michael) Jordan. Nothing like watching billionaires divorce to take everyone’s mind off of their own bottom line.

Vegas Financial Fallout = Cheap Hotel Rates

imageThere’s rumblings of the “B” word in Las Vegas. MGM Mirage, of the Bellagio, Mirage, Mandalay Bay, and MGM Grand, is in danger of defaulting on their debts of $13.5 billion and filing Chapter 11. Other hotels are in similar predicaments, so this is the time to book hotel rooms in Vegas, as rates are dropping to unheard-of numbers at primo properties — like $149 a night at the Four Seasons.

The best way to get these crazy deals is to sign up for the hotels’ newsletters, as they publish their best rates to their biggest fans first. Just as an example: Those on the Mandalay Bay email list were offered an exclusive Four Seasons deal called the “Vegas Escape.” It included rooms for $149 plus a $25 spa credit, with a two-night minimum March 10-May 14, based on availability. If you want to get really ridiculous about it, there are rates as low as $6.25 for rooms outside of town — but who wants to stay on the fringes when the deals in town are so good?

Topless Tanning Returns to Vegas

Pool parties are all the rage in steamy Las Vegas. There’s bikinis and booze — two ingredients that combine to make a perfect Sunday afternoon. And as of March 12, it’s about to get even better when Bare reopens at the Mirage. The Bare Pool Lounge is an “adult venue,” and by that, they mean: titties.

The party postures as something upscale and classy (they’re likening it to European-style sunbathing), but we know that the big draw is the naked knockers that will be flashed all over the place. Other amenities include bookable private daybeds, a DJ spinning fresh beats, and “pitcher” service. As of next weekend, Bare will be open Thursdays through Mondays, 11 a.m.- 6 p.m., with extended hours starting May 1. Admission will cost you $10 for ladies and $20 for men Mondays through Thursdays, $20/$40 Fridays through Sundays. It’s time to get wild! Err, I mean Take a Break.

Industry Insiders: Seth Schorr, Vegas Showgun

Vegas native and owner of the newly opened Lucky Club Hotel & Casino Seth Schorr on the future of Vegas nightclubs, early memories of Steve Wynn, and what’s keeping him at home most nights.

Where do you hang out? My wife and I are homebodies these days. Growing up in Las Vegas, I spent my teenage years and early 20s frequenting every club and bar in town. But when we do get the urge to watch other people get intoxicated and listen to loud music, we visit Tryst or Blush at Wynn Las Vegas.

What openings should we know about? I recently had the opportunity to take a tour of XS at Encore, and it will once again raise the bar for nightlife in Las Vegas. It is quite possibly the most sophisticated club in the world. The club has both an indoor and outdoor experience as the walls around the dance floor open, giving access to the pool. There are outdoor lounges and even a gambling area that is incorporated into the club. Minimalism is an adjective that would not be used to describe anything at Encore, which in my humble opinion, makes this property and its retail outlets stand out amongst its neighboring properties. The bold use of colors and the variety of fabrics used throughout the resort is testament to an army of designers lead by Steve Wynn and his lead designer Roger Thomas. Encore is a “category killer” that will also raise the bar of the Las Vegas resort.

Where do you eat? We are partial to dinners at Wynn Las Vegas and eat with my folks at Stratta or local favorites like Lotus of Siam. Also, the restaurant Tokyo in the underrated and antiquated Commercial Center Plaza. We also recently discovered a new Japanese restaurant that’s off the beaten path called Raku. This 25-seat restaurant has the most authentic Japanese food in town for half the price of food on the Strip. Although they do not serve sushi, one can enjoy grilled robotayaki or tsukune.

Who do you admire in Vegas hospitality? My admiration for Steve Wynn is quite obvious. The fact that this man after 40 years and billions of dollars in earnings still works 6.5 days per week is one of his most admirable qualities. But he is also a no-bullshit type of guy. He demands the most out of his employees. He is short on false sincerity and constant encouragement. However, if you can hold your own, you will have the opportunity to work with the best team in the business.

I admire my father, Marc Schorr. My father has worked for Steve Wynn for 30 years and is responsible for making many of his visions a reality. At the end of the day, someone has to focus on the nuances of the operation and make sure these multi-billion dollar machines run effectively, and every detail is scrutinized.

And Bruce Deifik is a one-in-a-million type of guy, who is not only one of the sharpest and best negotiators around, but more importantly is one of the most honest and likable guys you’ll ever meet.

What’s something you like seeing in Vegas hospitality these days? A lot of people have their hands in the hospitality game in Las Vegas. There is more unknown and mystery today than ever before. There are currently three multi-billion-dollar projects in mid-construction, while another half-dozen more are on the drawing boards. Sure, some will stand above the rest, but there is anticipation and excitement about what good qualities each will have of their own. The consumer will also benefit from the economic conditions we currently live under, as they will be able to enjoy these resorts built for the rich and elite at a value. So come one, come all to Las Vegas, where you can stay in the world’s nicest hotel rooms for a buck fifty nine.

Anything you see that you dislike? I do not understand the concept of the condo-hotel. Personally, I think if one spends millions on a condo, they will ultimately not want others to stay in it. Either buy a condo or stay in a hotel. Don’t try and do both.

What was it like growing up in Vegas? Does it mess a lot of kids up? I think kids who grew up in New York City turn out much more messed up. The best part was the late night munchies that any teenager could afford. The negative was that it was too hot to play outside many months out of the year.

Any early Vegas memories? The path that lead me to owning a casino is a long one, starting in 1984, when I first moved to Las Vegas and moved into the Golden Nugget. I was 7 years old and shared room #1027 for about a year with my little sister. The school bus picked me up under the porte cochere, and nightly dinners were held at the buffet. I had the opportunity of meeting celebrities like Paul Anka and clearly remember taking a schvitz with Alan King at the spa.

I watched my father and Steve Wynn schmooze customers and always talk about design and development of the next project. I have a vivid memory of flying on the Golden Nugget DC-10 to New York around 1986. I loved that there was a large glass bowl filled with peanut M&M’s. Steve Wynn showed us a drawing on a napkin of what soon would be known to the world as the Mirage. The idea of a three-pronged building that shared one elevator shaft was novel, and of course having a “live volcano” in front seemed like an incredible fantasy.

What is something that people might not know about you? I am an amateur photographer and videographer. I edit movies using Final Cut Express. I do all of my own in-house promos for the Lucky Club.

You have a background in art history. Who are your favorite artists? My favorite artists are Modigliani and Vermeer.

Any dreams for the future? Kids! I can’t wait. It’s also a great excuse to have sex on a daily basis.

What are you doing tonight? Working on making those dreams come true. We just got back from the opening of Encore. It never ceases to amaze me to see the masses come in droves to check out a new property for the first time. I saw a lot of jaws drop tonight.

Las Vegas: Top 5 Pool Parties

imageTans, tits, and tequila …

1. “Bare” @ Mirage – Tropical pool complex becomes a Miami-style club. Not enough transformation: How about the glass cover that turns the pool into a dance floor? 2. “Wet Republic” @ MGM Grand – The first pool complex built expressly for partying, with underwater speakers, waterfalls and a built-in ultralounge. 3. Tao Beach (Strip: Central)) – Flatscreen TVs. Celeb DJs. Poolside spa services. Meals delivered from Tao proper. The only reason you’ll get up is to dance.

4. “Ditch Fridays” @ the Palms – Poolside bikini fashion shows, cheap domestic beer and MTV’s DJ Skribble. It’s like spring break, but cooler and with high heels. 5. “Rehab” @ Hard Rock Hotel – Five years after opening, the original Vegas pool party is still drawing LA’s aspiring starlets.