The New Carlton Hotel Brings Back Old New York

When I first started writing this column, one of my primary goals was to give my readers an insider look at some of the industry’s leaders, and how they approach the business. Some of these people are relatively unknown, as they allow the successful properties and brands they’ve created and promoted do all the talking. Most appear occasionally as a bold-faced name in a newspaper or magazine. Peter Chase is a player. He’s the founder of BPC, which develops and manages creative hospitality concepts. His concepts have included: Skybar in Miami Beach, Wunderbar at the W Montreal, MGM Grand Casinos (MGM, Mandalay Bay, Luxor, Borgata) in Las Vegas, Detroit, and Atlantic City, as well as Caesars Palace, Planet Hollywood, and the W San Diego.

When Ian Schrager needed to replace the irreplaceable Rande Gerber back in 2000, he sought out Peter to manage and develop bars at each of his hotels. He has overseen fourteen bars in nine hotels, spanning New York, London, Miami, Los Angeles, and San Francisco. He has also overseen the creation of several new ones.

I spent three hours chatting with him at the Carlton on Madison and 29th the other evening. I could have stayed for eight hours. Peter knows what he’s talking about, and finds himself poised to do even greater things. He is very aware that the ancient, though wonderfully redecorated hotel finds itself between the uber-hot Ganesvoort Park Hotel and the seriously hip Ace Hotel. He’s gearing up to embrace the crowds that will be passing by his door: He understands their needs, and will entertain them. He is one of the unsung heroes of the industry, and today I am singing his song.

Ian Schrager brought you in to replace the irreplaceable Rande Gerber. How did you approach that impossible dream? Ian and Rande had a relationship going back quite some time. I respect what Rande has done, and continues to do, but I think Ian was excited to create outside of that relationship. What we accomplished at the Clift with the Redwood Room, the re-interpretation of the Morgans Bar, and the complete transformation of the Whiskey into the Paramount Bar makes that evident.

Rande and I come from very different backgrounds. Rande was a former model that got into the bar industry, and I am someone that worked within the hospitality industry, and went to Cornell’s School of Hotel Administration. Beyond all of the extraordinary creative aspects of working with Ian, I approached the “impossible dream” from a business perspective. I set out to implement better systems, controls, reporting, and several initiatives to maximize profit from every drink served.

I worked for Ian and Steve Rubell, and learned a great deal. What did you take away from that experience, and how do you apply it nowadays? I know that many of the things that I discounted or infuriated me about their style/personally applied when I had such opportunities. I never got to meet Steve, but I feel like there were several talented people Ian employed to help him create his vision. I learned so much from Ian that it almost seems that I learned nothing. So much of what Ian does can’t help but resonate and change the way you look at bars, restaurants, and hotels, or for that matter, everything. Ian has a way of instilling in you his perspective on service, music, design and style. He often accomplishes this through intense demands, but as the saying goes, “you can’t make diamonds without a lot of pressure.” Eventually, you change (for the better, I might add) and forget what you thought was acceptable before. His vision is his own. Many have tried to replicate it, some with success, but there always remains just one original. I use this valuable resource every day in operating my businesses, and owe a great deal to Ian for teaching me to view things differently. Sometimes the fates bring the right person to the right place and time. The Carlton finds itself on a strip between the new Ganesvoort Park and the highly successful Ace Hotel. What are you doing to exploit this moment? Having lived in the neighborhood for 20 years, I have watched its evolution. Back in 1904, just before the NYC subway opened, the Carlton (then the Seville) Hotel opened and helped turn the neighborhood into one of the city’s most elegant locales. The original bar from the Seville is still intact, and has hosted luminaries such as Frank Sinatra and “Diamond Jim” Brady. A block away lies the remnants of Tin Pan Alley, where much of the world’s greatest music was written and produced. The Breslin Hotel, now the Ace, opened the same year as the Seville, and was part of what was known as the “Avenue of Hotels.” Today, with the renovation of both hotels, and the addition of the Gansevoort, I think that we are seeing a re-awakening of the 29th Street hotel corridor. I have always treated my competitors like neighbors. There is plenty of business for everyone, and if we support one another we all stand a better chance of succeeding. Let the Gansevoort and the Ace do what they do best, I wanted to pay homage to the history of the area, and offer a connection to its storied past through music.

Having spent countless hours in what was originally the Café at Country in the Carlton, I always knew that its center bar needed to be removed and filled with energy, be it through people, or in this case, live music. The Salon as it is now known is the entry point for all things Millesime. It acts as a portal to another time. Upstairs, we have our seafood brasserie, and across a glass bridge, Bar Millie, which will soon open. It will feature burlesque images from the turn of the century, and views looking down onto the stage. Bar Millie will be a place where you can make a reservation for a table, and come and sip cocktails with friends. A lot of places charge a cover, or pack the room to help offset the expenses of the musicians. We work with musicians, and allow them an elegant space in which to showcase their talents.

A phenomenon in the current era is the synergy and possibly the necessity of solid NYC nightlife in hotels. Tell me your take on that. How much is food and beverage driving your hotel, and will that now increase dramatically? I operate bars in W Hotels, and consult for casinos: there are few things as important to a hotel or casino as its food and beverage offering. I do not know if Ian and Steve invented it, but they certainly exploited it to the fullest. When a new hotel opens people are not going to immediately rent a room. They will pop into the bar, or grab a bite in the restaurant, and then promote the property given their experience. This puts heads in beds, and safe guards the real investment: real estate. The press will only write about a hotel when it opens, but they’ll cover any celebrity sightings as long as someone communicates with them, be it the venue itself, a cell phone picture from a customer, or a random tweet. If it is from the venue itself, this can be a double-edged sword. As a policy, we do not actively pursue press regarding our customers unless they are at a function where it is understood that their picture may be taken. Celebrities know this as well, and use certain venues to garner press when it suits their needs. Additionally, restaurants and bars are the perfect locations for movie premieres and charity events. These bring press, cameras and celebrities, which only adds to the properties cache. In the six or so months since we have been open, we have already hosted TV film shoots for Curb Your Enthusiasm, House Wives of New Jersey, an after party for the band Rammstein, listening parties for NE YO and Estelle and the several charity events including one for Artists for Peace and Justice, hosted by Paul Haggis. The word “boutique” in regards to hotels seems to be very last century. Is there a new word? Will most hotels have to go chic to remain relevant and occupied? I agree that the term sounds very outdated, but as a concept it’s still relevant. The problem started when hotel companies and designers started calling something “boutique” but only regurgitated previous design work. Boutique should represent true individuality within its local context. This only happens when passionate people are involved in every detail of development.

Unlike the Gansevoort in the Meatpacking, the Gansevoort Park was designed and pre-engineered with hospitality, food, and beverage in mind. Carlton is a much older property. What steps are you taking to retro-fit protection for your hotel guests against the sounds and such that successful watering holes inevitably bring? At the new Gansevoort Park they have added separate elevators to access the upper bars from the hotel, and seem to have situated the bars away from guest rooms. This means no more intoxicated guests on elevators with families staying at the hotel, and no more non-guests on hotel floors causing safety issues. When they built the Carlton they constructed it in such a way that sound from the bars does not disturb the hotel guests. Bars and clubs can be a tremendous asset to a hotel, but it is vital that veteran operators and professional audio engineers are involved in the design and construction phases, or you can end up with costly renovations, or lost room revenues for decades.

Tell me about Salon Millesime. The idea with the Salon was to create a sophisticated platform for progressive artistry and extraordinary musicianship. My partners and I have handpicked our talent from all ‘walks of life’ including students of the Juilliard School of Music, DJs, and well-regarded, established artists. The Salon is our doorway into the hotel. Everyone works off of their laptops or phones, and they are doing this in coffee shops more and more. People who have been laid-off, or are self-employed, are looking for a place to be able to have a meeting or get work done over a cup of coffee. During the day we offer a relaxing environment to do this and at night, sip wine and listen to our interpretation of Voix de Ville, the voice of the city. The Salon menu features casual French and Mediterranean inspired cuisine by my partner Chef Laurent Manrique. We installed a state-of-the-art Bose sound system for an unparalleled musical experience. Nightly performers include artists from far corners of the globe to nearby neighbors. N’Dea Davenport, Swizz Beatz, Nickodemus, Estelle, Grammy winning rapper Pras, Grammy winning singer Ne-Yo, and Brooklyn songstress and Si*Se have already graced the stage. When not performing live, there is a select roster of DJs like Carol C from the band Si*Se, and DJ Sir Shorty, a veteran of the city. I invite guests to gather and sip artisan cocktails like the French 75, or perhaps the Night & Day—my version of the Manhattan—a portion of whose proceeds supports VH1’s Save the Music.

We wanted to evoke an intimate music venue with hints of the history of the area’s past. The team came from Redhook Brooklyn and was lead by Doug Fanning’s DYAD Studio. Doug chose to transform the space with stylish mix of leather banquets, tiger print chairs, and glossy ebony cocktail tables with bronze inlays reminiscent of the early Café Society interiors. He also custom designed the oversize light shades reminiscent of old Vaudeville stage curtains. Designer William Calvert, a longtime friend, created a luxe cocktail dress for the servers.

How does Millesime and the other food and beverage spots in the hotel interact with each other? We chose to create one iconic name, Millesime, with multiple concepts feeding into it. Since no two guests are alike, we created an offering that appeals to each guest’s unique needs and desires, as well as those of our local community. Beyond the Salon we have the Lobby Bar, a dimly lit saloon where you can “belly up” to a magnificent mahogany bar dating back one hundred plus years to the original hotel. Order a scotch, eat a burger, catch a game on the flat screen TV, or just people watch as hotel guests arrive from near and far. Just around the corner from Millesime, across a 30-foot glass bridge, will be Bar Millie, a reservation cocktail bar. Reminiscent of an old French sitting room, it is an ideal perch for relaxing, chatting and drinking with good friends. Leather-bound chairs, metal screened burlesque images, a handcrafted marble bar, and traces of the past hang in the air like ghosts of prohibition. It’s a nostalgic portal to an era when automobiles had curves, women were dames, men wore hats, and a deal was sealed with a handshake. The room, with its vaulted ceiling and wood panels, is a place that encourages you to linger over drinks and trade glances as music wafts throughout. Seven hard shakes with a cocktail shaker and you’re transported back to the splendor of Broadway, Tin Pan Alley, and luxurious hotel lounges. It’s a trip back to the world of F. Scott Fitzgerald and The Great Gatsby,, and watching William Powell coach the bartender on the proper way to shake a martini in The Thin Man.

The Legend of Vegasmas: Spending Christmas in Sin City

Good ideas are often spontaneous and usually involve booze. Starting a new holiday tradition called Vegasmas was no different. Three days after Thanksgiving, there was still leftover Tofurkey in the fridge and already I was bombarded with imagery from that otherwise miserable holiday called Christmas. A few beers deep, I was on the living room couch watching the Lakers when my girlfriend Kelly came home with what she thought was terrible news. “I have to work Christmas,” she said sorrowfully, as if I was destined to burst into tears. After nine years, I thought she would have known what a terrible person I was because to my ears, this was like getting a free ticket to hear Jimi Hendrix jam with Keith Moon, John Entwistle and Eazy-E. An early Christmas present, if you will. Maybe it was the Pabst Blue Ribbons talking, but I couldn’t pretend to be upset because for twenty-eight years, I had been at the mercy of either my girlfriend or my mother when it came to Christmas. Kelly’s inability to celebrate gave me the courage to stand up to my mom and do what I’d flirted with doing since the day I turned 21: Go to Las Vegas for Christmas.

Like a reliable neighbor with a fully stocked bar always willing to share, Sin City had a track record of making bad times good and good times great. Christmas, I figured, would no different. Instead of decking the halls, I’d be getting hammered at a casino, blowing money on me, not shitty presents no one wanted. Years past I woke to the sounds of children rummaging through boxes, wrapping and bows, but something about the thought of getting up at noon in a strange bed with a hangover and only the sweet sounds of slot machines seemed to fit me much better than watching A Christmas Story while faking a smile when my family asks if I like my Army green sweater.

When I was younger, I’d make the six-hour trek to Vegas without a hotel reservation because when you’re 21, sleeping in your car is a totally viable option, one that saves more money for debauchery. But I had no idea what I was in for regarding Christmas, so like a responsible adult (my two least favorite words) I called ahead and found two nights at the Excalibur for approximately $100. One debit card number later, it was official. I was going to Vegas.

The original plan was to fly solo, but one mention of Vegasmas to my friend Chip — whose girlfriend was flying home to Ohio for the holiday — and he was in. So was our friend Deryck, a Trinidad and Tobago native whose girlfriend was also leaving the state for a few days. I had no qualms about partying by myself, but with these two on board, Vegasmas was transforming from some stupid word I made up to escape Christmas into an actual event that required its own greeting card section at the corner market.

A major curveball nearly derailed Vegasmas before it began, but nothing can stop the proverbial train that is three guys in their late 20s and early 30s who decide they’re going to Vegas. My girlfriend had to recognize this when, on Dec. 15, she told me she got someone to cover her shift so we could spend the day together. That was fine by me, as long as she understood our day together was going to be spent in Nevada, not Long Beach, Calif. She wasn’t thrilled, but similar to the power that Santa gets from all them cookies and milk, Vegasmas was marching along and wouldn’t be denied.

The best part of Vegasmas revealed itself the week prior to that other holiday the rest of the world was celebrating. Every conversation I heard was about people being stressed regarding long lines, parking lot traffic jams, not being able to find the proper gift and insufficient funds. Not me. Because I wasn’t making a familial appearance on December 25, there was no need to buy presents. While the world sweated holiday bullets, I was doing the only thing I’ve ever been good at, which is relaxing.

Deryck and Chip left at 9 a.m. Vegasmas Eve while I stayed in Long Beach with Kelly until noon. My friends traveled lightly and wanted to hit the road to not only avoid traffic, but to take full advantage of the pot of gold that awaited us at the end of the Interstate 15 rainbow. But with a female traveling companion, rolling out of bed and getting behind the wheel wasn’t happening for me. We (i.e., she) had things to do in the morning that prevented us from getting a quick start, even though she packed her bags three days prior. How a woman can be packed for days and still take three hours to get ready on the day of a trip is beyond me, but even with a late start, nothing could stop Vegasmas.

Nothing, that is, except traffic.

Kelly and I were stuck on the State Route 91 and going nowhere fast. We had already been gone for nearly two hours when the Vegasmas spirit caused me to squeeze my Toyota Corolla between two plastic dividers into the 91 Express Lanes, a toll road used to bypass all the schmucks in the congested lanes. A light but steady flow of cars sped past and once I saw an opening in my rearview mirror, I went for it. I careened into the lane and narrowly avoided hitting a Mercedes in the passenger door. The jerk honked, but I deserved it and let it slide. Besides, it was Vegasmas Eve and when you’re starting a new tradition, it’s of the utmost importance to make sure you get the first one absolutely perfect because no one needs the annual car accident as part of their holiday to-do list.

Four hours later, we rolled into Excalibur and I was surprised to see the parking lot at three-quarters capacity. Not since “Seinfeld” introduced the world to Festivus had I felt like maybe I wasn’t alone in my hatred of all things Christmas. I stopped for a beer before checking in, then got another round before getting to our room. After ditching our luggage, Kelly and I met Chip and Deryck at an Excalibur lounge where an ‘80s cover band was playing.

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Two vodka-cranberries later, someone decided we should make the short walk to Bar at Times Square at New York, New York and there was no disagreement from me. During our stumble through the casino, I noticed the family-friendly crowd often found at Excalibur huddled around a man in a Santa suit, but these weren’t the same Midwestern families I was accustomed to seeing at the hotel. I’m no linguist, but I swore I heard Indian, Hebrew and Chinese spoken before we hit the exit. This unusual array of languages didn’t register until we braved the cold rainy night and walked over the bridge to New York, New York, where I overheard an Irish family, a Scottish couple and group of Japanese in their early 20s.

The piano bar was half full when we arrived just after 10 p.m., which was fine by me because that place is absolutely the worst spot in Vegas to get a drink when it’s at capacity. The lack of crowd allowed me and my girlfriend to discuss what I perceived as a trend.

“Have you noticed anything about the people here?” I asked.

“You mean how everyone is from somewhere else?” she replied.

“Yeah, you noticed that too?”

“It’s pretty cool. Like we’re getting some culture with our vacation.” At that moment, I knew Kelly was knee-deep in the Vegasmas spirit and wouldn’t regret leaving our friends and families to get wasted in Sin City.

A group of seven Canadians proudly sporting t-shirts and hats with their country’s flag huddled around us and sang at the top of their lungs to “Purple Rain” while two Asian businessmen in suits stood against the bar, raised their beers and shouted the two-word hook each time the pianists got to that part of the chorus. My front-row view of the United Nations of drunken sing-a-long was interrupted by Chip, who tapped me on the shoulder with important news.

“Dude, look at Deryck,” he said. “Then look at the guy next to him.” I did as I was told and saw that my friend and this stranger were wearing the exact same shirt, so Deryck turned toward the guy and we pretended to take a picture of our friend at the bar. But what we really did was make sure we got both of them in the picture because this magical Vegasmas moment had to be captured on film.

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Unfortunately for me, the fun would not last. Somewhere between the beers at Bar at Times Square and the margaritas at the nearby Gonzalez y Gonzalez, I realized I lost my phone. This was a bummer; thankfully, if not for the Vegasmas cheer, I might have been more upset. Kelly and I looked around the casino for spots where it might have slipped out, but after a half hour of searching, I decided to call it a night. Vegasmas Eve was a party, but I needed something left in my tank for Vegasmas day.

The next morning Kelly suggested I call Excalibur security to ask if they had my phone. This was Sin City and there was no way anyone would find a phone and return it, but I did as she said because that’s what boyfriends do. Five minutes later, we were downstairs retrieving my cell. A Vegasmas miracle!

I celebrated the return of my phone by calling my parents with a mini-hangover to wish them a Merry Christmas. For the first time in longer than I could remember, I actually meant it. Kelly and I bought bagels, then threw on our scarves to walk the ghosttown-esque Strip, where the sole reminder of the holiday was a Christmas tree atop a structure being built at CityCenter. The iconic image didn’t bother me and I understood that, when not hit over the head with people ringing bells outside grocery stores, the pressure of having to explain that what I really want for Christmas is nothing and being subjected to David Bowie and Bing Crosby sing while I’m on a treadmill at the gym, Christmas really ain’t half bad. It’s the idiots who overdo the decorations, the cheesy songs and pressure to be happy all the time who ruin it for me.

Thanks to copious amounts of booze, the remainder of Vegasmas Day is kind of fuzzy, but I’m almost positive it was the best Christmas I ever had.

Neither my girlfriend nor my mother knows this yet, but Vegasmas ‘09 is in the works. With a $50 Christmas brunch featuring five spiced glazed duck, pan roasted Alaskan salmon and warm apple cobbler at DJT at Trump International Hotel Las Vegas, an average nightly rate at Planet Hollywood of approximately $100 that includes a free bottle of booze and two packages at MGM Grand that include access to Studio 54 or Tabu Ultra Lounge and tons of credit, Vegasmas the Sequel is destined to be even better than the original.

‘The Hangover’s’ Todd Phillips: Living in an R-Rated World

When Todd Phillips told me that he had read my piece on his latest film The Hangover, I was surprised that it had found his eyes. “Of course,” he explained. “There is this big machine at Warner Bros., where they send you these media alerts. Even if some fucking fat kid in Tampa writes on his blog, it somehow gets across your desk. It can be very depressing.” But Phillips has no reason to feel down. His raunchy, R-rated comedy is getting the kind of positive press that no Hollywood publicity machine can buy, and rightfully so.

The Hangover is a deliriously naughty trip into the bowels of Vegas bachelor party hedonism, after three friends wake up from a wild night, only to find that they’re missing the groom. Bradley Cooper, Ed Helms, and Zach Galifiankis are already being hailed as breakout stars, before the film has even hit theatres, and Phillips—who directed Old School and Roadtrip, but stumbled with School for Scoundrels—is once again one of Hollywood’s hottest harbingers of comedic swagger.

The movie is being referred to as the sleeper hit of the summer, even before it’s released. Does that put a lot of pressure on you? No, I think it puts a lot of pressure on the studio. They know they have a movie that works, and that’s good—I think that’s probably why you see ads for it every two seconds. But the best ad we have for the movie is the movie. That’s why we keep showing it. We’ve had 300 screenings just showing people, because there’s no better commercial for the movie than the movie itself. When movies work, they work because of word of mouth, because a guy like you will go back to the office and tell everyone they have to watch it. Then they’ll go, because they trust you more than a commercial.

Are you expecting the movie to open big? We don’t expect this movie to open big, honestly. It still doesn’t have Jack Black on the movie poster, or Tom Hanks, or whatever. But we just think we can stick around this summer a little bit. We feel like we are pretty clear up until Bruno. We can really play for a while.

You left Borat because of creative differences with its star. Do you think if things had gone better on the set of Borat, you might have been the director of Bruno right now? Maybe, although I don’t think I would have ever done another one. The thing with Borat is, it’s not a very director-driven film, and I really am a filmmaker, and I think part of our tensions on that movie were very much—and again I’ll take the blame for it—but you want to put your voice on something, but this is something that this genius has already created and inhabited. It’s a very difficult thing to do so, had even I done that I couldn’t imagine I would go do another one.

Is there a part of you that hopes you guys beat Bruno? No, honestly part of me hopes we beat every movie. I hope we beat Land of the Lost, because they open against us. To be honest with you, Bruno doing well just helps me in the long run. It helps everyone who’s directing comedies. Those movies doing well just helps the business. The more movies without those huge stars that can get made and cut through, the better it is for the business.

And then it’s movies like this that make the huge stars. It’s true, it’s like this cannibalizing thing, because then they become big stars, and then you need to get three new guys.

I called Zach Galifiankis “Jack Black with demons.” Does he have the potential to become that kind of marquee name, or is he too much on the fringe? No, because if you remember, Jack was on the fringe. I mean, I saw Tenacious D at the Viper Room a few years ago. You couldn’t be more on the fringe than Jack. Now he’s doing family movies like Kung Fu Panda, so no, I don’t think you’re ever too much on the fringe for Hollywood to take you and water you down into submission.

Have you seen Zach’s Between Two Ferns with Bradley Cooper? Of course, I was there because they were shooting in Vegas. I mean, Zach is one of the most unique comic voices, I think I’ve ever met. By the way, he reminds me of Sacha. They are very different in what they do, but it’s like, “Whoa, this is a true comic voice I am meeting now.” And Zach just continues to blow my mind.

How do you write a character for someone like that? Did he come in and make it his own? We wrote it with Zach in mind. I just thought, okay what is Zach? He’s left- footed, he doesn’t belong, he is an outsider, so let’s make this character a left footed outsider that he can inhabit. That’s why he crushes it so badly. This role is hand-crafted for him from the Franklin Mint.

What about Bradley and Ed? How would you describe their styles of comedy? I think Bradley, for the first time in a movie, really looks like a man. And I also always felt like he’s like a boy in other movies, because he’s kind of playing the spineless, put-upon asshole in the movie. Here he really takes the stage, and he runs shit, and he’s really alpha male. His comedy comes from an alpha male who keeps fucking up. And Ed, his comedy comes from being this henpecked, stuffed-into-a-box kind of guy.

You don’t hold back in this movie. There are holocaust and 9/11 jokes. Were there ever times when you said “Okay, this is too far”? Honestly, you can talk to any of these guys, I think I’m darker than any of them. So there are times when I am like, “Okay, we’re going to jerk off this baby now.” And Zach goes, “We can’t do that. I don’t even know if that’s legal.” By the way, it was Zach’s idea, he did it with a doll as a joke, and I was like, “Oh my god, we have to put that in the movie!” I do a lot of movies that involve a lot of mayhem, and when you’re doing a movie which embraces mayhem, you have to embrace mayhem while making the movie. You can’t be reigning anything in. You come to the set of my movie and you’ll think this is a very disorganized mess, and everybody seems high, and what’s going on? There is a baby over there and he’s not even in a baby seat. But it’s all organized chaos.

A friend of mine saw the movie, and he called it repulsively misogynistic and cited the two female characters as a “ball-cutting bitch and a hooker.” How would you respond to him? The Hangover is The Hangover.

I’m going to tell him this, by the way. He’s probably smarter than me. But what do you mean, repulsively misogynistic? That’s the character! Are you saying that there aren’t characters like that in the world, that there aren’t women like that? That’s who we chose to make the movie about. Does every movie have to have every representation represented? It does not pretend to be a movie about wonderful women and wonderful men. It’s a movie about fucked up shit. Talk about being a ball-cutter, have your friend get some fucking balls. It’s so hard to defend because there is no defense. That’s the movie.

What about Ken Jeong, who plays a villain? Ken is a mad man. He’s one of those guys who’s just fearless. And all you can ask for in a comedy is to work with fearless actors. Your last directorial effort School For Scoundrels was a box office disappointment. Did the old Hollywood adage that ‘you’re only as good as your last film’ trouble you? I certainly hoped it would do better. You’re right, it was a box office disappointment. I don’t think that if you work in Hollywood, that that’s particularly true. Maybe in certain peoples mind you’re only as good, but your career doesn’t end over a movie, and I knew that going in. I learned a lot from that film, like trying to make an edgy comedy PG-13 just doesn’t work. I was born to be a balls-out R-rated person.

There are only a few other directors out there who are doing mainstream R-rated comedies, like Judd Apatow and Adam McKay. Do you feel a kindred spirit with them? Yeah, we’re all friends, we all see each other in movies, and we screen them for each other sometimes.

Why did you choose Caesar’s Palace as the main location for your film? It’s a great hotel, it’s real old school, which is what I like about it for the movie. We wanted the guys to have a real gentleman vibe going to Vegas, not a bunch of twenty year olds going to Planet Hollywood or something.

Where else did you guys shoot in Vegas? We shot all over Vegas. What I love about the movie is that so much of it takes place in the daytime. You don’t really see Vegas a lot during the daytime, because it’s not really that attractive. We went to Pure, and shot there, The Bank at the Bellagio, Spearmint Rhino, all those kinds of establishments.

Could this movie have happened in any other city? No, I think Vegas has something about it. It’s about making bad decisions. You get off the plane and you immediately start making bad decisions. This movie could have been called Bad Decisions. It’s not about a bachelor party. It’s about reconciling the bad decisions you made.

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

New York: Top 10 Celebrity-Owned Hotspots

Scott Weiland’s Snitch is now Citrine, Tim Robbins is no longer behind the Back Room, De Niro’s Ago was critically panned, cholesterol problems await at Justin Timberlake’s Southern Hospitality, and Arnold Schwarzenegger & co.’s Planet Hollywood is a tourist trap, all’s not lost — here’s a list of celeb-owned spots worth looking into.

10. Bowery Wine Company (Bruce Willis) – “All for wine, wine for all” — it’s their philosophy, and we agree. 9. Angels & Kings (Pete Wentz, Travis McCoy) – Not short on cheap thrills; sex in the bathroom is encouraged. 8. Michael Jordan’s The Steak House NYC (Michael Jordan) – Though business may temporally be cooling, it remains the quintessential rich man’s cafeteria. 7. Nobu (Robert De Niro) – We hear it’s a bargain compared to the Nobu’s London outpost. 6. Santos’ Party House (Andrew WK) – Music aficionados looking to pick up oddball scenesters, look no further. 5. Haven (Bershan Shaw) – Like an old rich man’s study cum cigar bar (minus the cigars, but with the scotch), the dimly lit spot is a welcome relief amidst the midtown beer-guzzler bars. 4. The Box (Jude Law, Rachel Weisz, Josh Lucas on the board) – Love it, hate it, or simply grossed out by it — there’s no experience quite like it. 3. Waverly Inn (Graydon Carter) – Given that you basically have to know the Vanity Fair editor to get a table, may we suggest brushing-up on your networking skills to avoid missing-out on a fireside truffle macaroni and cheese dinner? 2. 40/40 Club (Jay-Z) – Cigars, cognac, swinging leather chairs, 50-plus flatscreens, and VIP rooms aplenty — in other words, the swank hip-hop sports bar has Jay-Z written all over it. 1. Cutting Room (Chris Noth) – Sure, the crowd’s not the hottest, and the space could use a facelift, but catching at least one Joan Rivers performance should be considered a Manhattan must.

Las Vegas: Top 5 Party Hotels

imageWhere the fun never stops.

1. Planet Hollywood (Strip: Central) – New bars, new clubs, new restaurants, new rooms: All share the same sleek décor and LA-glam vibe. 2. Hard Rock Hotel (Off-Strip East) – Still the favored hang for rockers and aspiring rockers. Nonstop scene in the bar, perpetual parties by the pool, and concerts in the parking lot. 3. TheHotel (Strip: South) – Mandalay Bay’s in-house boutique hotel is also where House of Blues acts stay: You never know who you’ll meet in the elevator.

4. Golden Nugget (Downtown) – Even without the shark tank pool, the cooler-everyday Fremont St. location means a new party is always within staggering distance. 5. The Palms (Off-Strip West) – Maybe the Palms is just a glorified clubhouse for those wild Maloof boys. A clubhouse with gourmet restos and trendy clubs, where NBA stars and Playboy bunnies to hang out.