By Judy Thorburn
Owner/Editor in Chief/writer - Las Vegas Round The Clock
Entertainment Reporter/Film Critic - Las Vegas Tribune
Owner/Editor in Chief/writer - The Flick Chicks
Director of Communications - Nevada Film Alliance
Spectacular CITYCENTER Debuts with Grand Openings of Vdara Hotel and Spa, Crystals, and Mandarin Oriental
Last week Las Vegas experienced a milestone with the highly anticipated opening of City Center, MGM/Mirage and project partner Dubai World’s $8.5 billion, spectacular urban resort destination that encompasses 60+ acres on the Las Vegas strip. After five years of dedicated and ambitious planning, the first phase of the massive development finally debuted. Created as an urban gathering place for both residents and tourists, CityCenter opens a new era of resort experiences that will refine and redefine Las Vegas.
The first completed project to opens its doors was Vdara Hotel and Spa which will put 12,000 employees to work in Las Vegas. The unveiling of the 57 story, 1,495-room boutique hotel took place on Tuesday, December 1 and began with a morning press conference with company executives and local dignitaries followed by a ceremonial ribbon cutting before invited guests and the media entered the hotel and were given a tour.
Vdara Hotel & Spa, located between the Bellagio and ARIA Resort and Casino, is for those who love the excitement of Las Vegas but prefer to stay in a non-gaming, non-smoking environment. The luxurious new property features all-suite rooms decorated in color schemes of dark browns and greens as a representation of City Center’s “green” commitment. Suites come in one- or two-bedroom variations, ranging from 500 square feet to 2,000 square feet, with 250 corner suites offering panoramic views of the Strip and each featuring full kitchen complete with kitchen table, microwave and convention oven, dishwasher and a stackable washer and dryer. Other hotel amenities include a 2 story 18,000 sq. foot Spa and Salon, the Silk Road Restaurant, serving Mediterranean cuisine around the clock, and 110,000-square feet of meeting space.
During the press event, Jim Murren, Chairman and CEO of MGM MIRAGE, stated, “We are incredibly proud to offer the world this first taste of all that CityCenter will bring to the Las Vegas Strip. Travelers will finally find in Las Vegas what they find in other great cities around the world – spectacular architecture, culturally significant art, great public spaces, sophisticated hotels, unique restaurants and incredible amenities. We look forward to unveiling all of this and more as the month unfolds.”
Later in the evening, Vanity Fair partnered with Vdara to throw a star-studded, grand opening party for invited guests. Arriving on the red carpet was singer Josh Strickland, one of the featured performers of Peep Show, followed by the event’s host, famed photographer/adventurer and environmental advocate Sebastian Copeland who shares Vdara’s commitment to sustainability, which garnered the resort a LEED Gold certification by the U.S. Green Building Council. Joining Copeland were actors Orlando Bloom and Rosario Dawson.
Photos credit: Stephen Thorburn
Bobby Baldwin President CEO City Center
Angela Lester, General Manager of Vdara City Center
Sebastian Copeland Rosario Dawson Orlando Bloom
Mathieu Schreyer and Donovan Leitch
Tiffany’s is just one of the luxury retail shops featured at Crystals. Other exclusive retailers include Louis Vuitton, Tom Ford and Versace among others as well as high-end dining establishments including Eva Longoria Parker's Beso Restaurant, famed Mastro’s Ocean Club, and two new concepts by Wolfgang Puck.
An invite-only shopping event began at noon for thousands of Las Vegas residents and a portion of the proceeds were donated to local charities including Nevada Cancer Institute, Keep Memory Alive, Nevada Ballet Theatre and The Smith Center for The Performing Arts.
Crystals is unique in that it offers an interactive family friendly playground for visiting guests that will forever redefine the retail shopping experience. The bold exterior architecture, made to stand out among the outdoor structures, was conceived by Studio Daniel Libeskind and features a multi-faceted, brilliant glass canopy that allows natural light to come through the stunning three-level environment.
The interior offers a strong contrast created by David Rockwell and Rockwell Group that is soft and welcoming. Designed as an abstract 21st century park, the environment celebrates nature and the seasons and features “changeable artwork” in the way of tall totem pole-like ice sculptures with changing carvings, hanging gardens and a colorful flower carpet. There is also a staircase of colorful steps leading to the second level that is made of agate stone representing the Spanish steps in Rome.
Frank Visconti, president of retail for CityCenter stated, “In Crystals we have coupled stunning architecture and interior design with one-of-a-kind offerings from the fashion industry’s most celebrated brands to create a premier social and cultural environment in the heart of the city. Here, Las Vegas visitors have a unique place to discover the finer things in life.”
Thursday, December 3, Mandarin Oriental, one of the world’s most the prestigious hotel brands celebrated its grand opening with a ribbon cutting event and ceremony on the hotel port-cochere. The elegant and sophisticated property is the second nongaming hotel to open at the CityCenter complex and has 392 rooms and suites as well as 227 apartments and condominiums with a separate entrance from the hotel.
Feng Shui Master David Cho conducted a harmonizing ceremony in which he offered “gratitude and the life force known as Chi to drive away spirits that disrupt hearth and home and as a signal to the Gods of fortune and love that the coast is clear for their arrival.” Following the ceremony there was a traditional lion dance and the ribbon cutting before guests made their way through the doors and up to the hotel’s signature 23rd Floor Sky Lobby, the reservation desk and public area that separates the below hotel rooms from the above residential units.
Each guestroom is equipped with technological enhancements, including keyless door locks and automated control panels allowing guests to manage the lighting, room temperature and entertainment systems at the touch of a button.The top floor features three elegant presidential suites measuring over 3,200 square feet each.
The Sky Lobby offers panoramic views of the strip and was the setting for a champagne reception and preview tours of the floor including the Mandarin Bar, a sneak peak inside celebrated French Chef Pietre Gagnaire’s restaurant, “Twist” which serves classic French cuisine with a modern spin, and a chance to relax and enjoy some hot beverages in the classy and intimate and Tea Lounge.
Tony Sacca Previews His New Las Vegas Rocks Café
Tony Sacca and Josette LeBlond
Tony Sacca and Terry Ritter
Last but not least, for dessert, servers passed around a sinful dish of 'Craps Suzette', which is a unique crepe sauteed with orange juice and topped with a scoop of vanilla ice cream. Other food selections on the menu include 'Newton's Nuggets', 'Rat Pack Anitpasto', 'The Topless Dancer', 'Chicken Jubilee', Liberace's Linguini', 'The Lance Burton' and many more. Even the drink menu features some theme items like 'Rita Rudner's Margarita' and the 'Dean Martini'.
Hours of operation for Las Vegas Rocks Café is Lunch - Tuesday - Friday: 11:00am - 3:00pm and Dinner: Tuesday - Saturday: 5:30pm - 10:00pm.
Live music is Every Wednesday, Friday & Saturday.
Additional recent and upcoming “happenings” in and around Las Vegas include:
The official Las Vegas Christmas tree will be on display at the Fremont Street Experience through the Christmas holiday.
Mayor Oscar Goodman, along with Santa Claus, Mayor Pro Tem Gary Reese and Fremont Street Experience President, Jeff Victor and friends, pose in front of the Fremont Street Experience Christmas tree moments after flipping the switch.
The College of Southern Nevada Foundation and Tim Chambers, CSN’s athletic director and baseball coach, held the second CSN Golf Classic fundraiser at DragonRidge Golf Club, on Tuesday, Nov. 24. The event raised more than $72,000 to benefit the men’s baseball and women’s softball teams and help with scholarship programs, travel expenses to games, equipment and salaries. With Chambers attracting their participation, 132 players (33 teams) and featured five current and former professional baseball players lending their celebrity support. Included in the tournament were San Francisco Giants centerfielder Aaron Rowand, New York Yankees pitcher Mike Dunn, who played at CSN, and former Major Leaguers Steve Garvey – LA Dodgers, Tyler Houston – Chicago Cubs, and Marty Barrett – Boston Red Sox.
The Firefighters of Southern Nevada Burn Foundation kicked off its 8th annual “Fill the Truck” Toy Drive on Friday, November 27, from 4 to 11 a.m. at various Walmart locations across the valley. The first day of the toy drive was a success as the organization collected more than 2,500 toys, $1,700 in donations and 100 gift cards.
United Way of Southern Nevada awarded Goodwill a $77,000 grant to help build its second career facility in Las Vegas. Located inside the Goodwill store on Tropicana, The Career Connections facility opened on Dec. 7 and is located inside the Goodwill store on Tropicana. The facility offers free job placement services to Valley residents and provides local businesses with motivated and qualified employees. This past year, Goodwill has served 2518 job seekers and has placed over 800 individuals in jobs.
Tuesday night, Dec. 1, Cher and her talented team celebrated their 100th show at The Colosseum at Caesars Palace. After the performance, the cast and crew kicked back to be entertained by the Pussycat Dolls at a private event inside the Pussycat Dolls Lounge in PURE Nightclub at Caesars Palace. Along with lots of food and drink, a Cher-logo-inspired cake was served in honor of their milestone.
The Pellegrino family of the world-renowned Rao’s Restaurant at Caesars Palace defeated Bobby Flay of Mesa Grill fame on The Food Network’s “Throwdown with Bobby Flay”. The holiday throwdown challenge entailed who could prepare the best Feast of Seven Fishes, the Italian holiday tradition where families gather and share a delicious multi-course meal of fish. The episode re-aired Saturday, Dec. 5 at 12 p.m. EST/PST on The Food Network.
On December 7, Nurture – The Spa debuted at the Luxor with a new name - Nurture Spa and Salon. The salon offers everything from skillful cuts and styles, to image-transforming color and highlights to make-up services, plus a complete nail care menu.
After ending his five year run at the Las Vegas Hilton on December 30, legendary singer-songwriter Barry Manilow will be moving over to Paris Las Vegas where he will be opening his new show beginning March 5, 2010. Manilow has signed a 2 year contract with the property that will have him performing 78 shows each year inside the 1,500 seat Paris Theatre. The reimagined stage show produced by AEG Live in conjunction with Paris Las Vegas will be directed by renowned stage and film choreographer and director Jeffrey Hornaday (Flashdance, A Chorus Line, High School Musical. Tickets for performances March 5 through July 18, 2010 are now on sale.
“Lance Burton: Master Magician” at the Monte Carlo Resort & Casino will be closed from Dec. 13-25. He will re-open the day after Christmas from Dec. 26-30 at 7 p.m. nightly. New Year’s Eve will be dark. The show returns to its normal schedule New Year’s Day.
In the festive holiday tradition Burton will bring his talented friends to entertain the children at the Variety School, Miller School, Variety Day Home and the Zelzah Shrine Temple the week before Christmas.
To kick-off the holiday season and raise awareness about conservation of polar bears, on December 9, The Palazzo will host the unveiling of an Arctic-inspired winter décor display anchored by a special Arctic visitor: a 16-foot tall polar bear mother and 6-foot tall polar bear baby, made entirely of a specially-developed white poinsettia named “Polar Bear.” The event will take place at 5 p.m. in The Palazzo Waterfall Atrium. The general public is welcome to join in the celebration.
Saturday, Dec.12 at 6 p.m. and Sunday, Dec. 13 at noon, Fiesta Rancho will be hosting its Annual Holiday Celebration on Ice featuring 110 of the best local skaters ranging in age from 3 to 70. The SoBe Ice Arena will be transformed with backdrops and scenery from a family holiday dinner. All ages are invited to share in this magical experience. The cost is $8 per person and tickets can be purchased at the SoBe Ice Arena. Guests who bring in three or more canned food items receive $2 off per ticket. Donations go to the Salvation Army.
In recognition of AIDS Awareness Month, BODIES… The Exhibition and Aid for AIDS of Nevada (AFAN) have joined forces to raise awareness and funds with the local charity. Jennifer Morss, AFAN’s Executive Director, speaks at BODIES… The Wellness Series December 13 at 9:30 a.m. on a range of topics including HIV, current local statistics, an overview of AFAN and its fundraising activities. As an added bonus, the Exhibition is donating ten percent of all ticket sales that day to AFAN. Lecture guests will not only leave with a new understanding of how HIV impacts Nevada, but also feeling good about helping out such a vital charity.
The much anticipated independent feature film comedy "Running 4 President" (R4P) by Las Vegas filmmaker Marko Sakren will have its World Premiere the evening of December 15 at Rave Motion Pictures in Town Square (off Las Vegas Boulevard and the 215). R4P is a family-friendly political comedy that has yet been rated. General Admission tickets are $10 and go on sale at 6:00 PM prior to the screening in the lobby of Rave. Screening starts at 7:00 PM. Advance sales are available online at www.r4pmovie.com. Following the screening at Rave, there will be an after party at one of Town Square's newest eateries, Anthony's Coal Fired Pizza, featuring food and drink specials and a chance to mingle with cast and crew for members of the audience.
Following a quick sell-out of Lada Gaga’s upcoming show on December 18 inside the Pearl Theatre at the Palms, a second show has been added which will take place on Thursday, December 17. Special guests Kid Cudi and Semi Precious Weapons will perform at both Thursday and Friday shows which start at 7:30 p.m.
Top student spellers from the Clark County School District (CCSD) are set to compete in the CCSD Spelling Bee finals this month that will be broadcast on Friday, Dec. 18 at 4:30 p.m. on Vegas PBS Channel 10 and 10.1. The “2010 CCSD Spelling Bee” broadcast will showcase the top spellers in Clark County from the sixth, seventh and eighth grades. Students will “spell down” until a champion and runner-up remain from each grade with both students advancing to the Nevada State Spelling Bee. The program will repeat on Sunday, Dec. 20 at 7:30 a.m.
After performing around the world for more than 25 years, Untamed Illusions led by the Fercos Brothers, Tony and Ferdinand, brings its 90-minute family-friendly magic show to Las Vegas from December 22 - January 3 at Planet Hollywood Hotel and Casino. Untamed Illusions offers a dynamic magical spectacle features awe-inspiring illusions including levitation, locked boxes, flaming torches, instantaneous transformations plus rare and exotic animals, talented dancers and thrilling specialty acts. In 2002 The Fercos Brothers won the International Magicians Society's coveted Merlin Award for "Most Original Magicians of the Year".
Sunday night November 19, Pop sensation Matt Goss and creator of the world famous Pussycat Dolls Robin Antin named two lucky ladies Miss Playboy Club November and Miss Playboy Club December 2009 at Playboy Club inside Palms Casino Resort . Las Vegas local Brittani Cal-Williamson was chosen as Miss Playboy Club November, while actress/model from California Raven “Alexis” Armenta was announced as Miss Playboy Club December.
Brittani Cal-Williamson, Alison Waite and aven “Alexis” Armenta
Photo credit Shane O'Neal
At a VIP table with Goss and Antin was Julie Brown, actress and former MTV VJ better known as "Downtown" Julie Brown as well as Playboy Playmate (May 2006) Alison Waite.
Robin Antin, Matt Goss and Alison Waite
Photo credit Shane O'Neal
"Downtown" Julie Brown and Robin Antin
Photo credit Shane O'Neal
Tuesday, December 1, NASCAR superstar Kurt Busch partnered with Golden Gaming, Inc., owners and operators of PT’s and Sierra Gold, for a charity golf tournament at DragonRidge Country Club to benefit the Kurt Busch Foundation. More than 140 golfers, including Busch and Larry McReynolds, racing analyst for FOX Sports, raised $25,000 for the Kurt Busch Foundation.
Pop rock musician Ryan Cabrera, accompanied by a party of eight, was seen at Moon Nightclub inside Palms Casino Resort.
Mac King celebrated his 50th birthday today with a surprise birthday party held at Jimmy Buffet’s Margaritaville at the Flamingo Hotel. The party was thrown by Mac’s longtime business partner and manager, Bill Voelkner of Voelkner Productions. The party included Lance Burton, Jeff Hobson and Vinnie Favorito as guests, in addition to Mac receiving a lap dance from a Cher drag queen.
Wednesday, December 2, WWE star Melina Perez and a female friend was spotted at LAVO.
Thursday, December 3, Kevin Federline was spotted at TAO’s Worship Thursday with girlfriend Victoria Prince. The couple was joined by several friends to celebrate Victoria’s 27th birthday.
Friday, December 4…
Sammy Hagar celebrated the grand opening of his Cabo Wabo Cantina at Miracle Mile inside Planet Hollywood Resort and Casino with a party for fans and invited guests. Long-time friend Kenny Chesney stopped by for a surprise performance with Sammy, which had been kept a secret to Sammy by family and friends. After singing their own rendition of "I Fall in Love Again," other musicians joined Hagar on stage, including Red Hot Chili Peppers drummer Chad Smith, Van Halen guitarrist Michael Anthony, and Pantera drummer Vinnie Paul.
Kenny Chesney and Sammy Haggar
Michael Anthony and Chad Smith
Skateboard legend Tony Hawk (with his wife Lhotse), Hero's Masi Oka and My Name Is Earl's Nadine Velazquez dined in the restaurant before heading up to LAVO Nightclub where Samantha Ronson was spinning.
American Idol judge Kara DioGuardi arrived with her new hubby Mike McCuddy.
Also present was Aubrey O'Day, fresh off her performance at Peep Show.
At Rain Nightclub, artists Tash and E-Swift of the hip hop group The Alkaholiks took the stage for an impromptu performance with resident DJ Z-Trip during his weekly party for the people Z-Trip’s Revolution.
Saturday, Dec. 5…
NASCAR driver and off-road racer Robby Gordon and friends were spotted having fun at Wasted Space inside a Hard Rock Hotel & Casino.
UFC President Dana White and a party of nine dined at N9NE Steakhouse inside Palms Casino Resort.
Also at N9NE Steakhouse was New York Yankee Mark Teixeira who was accompanied by his wife.
At Moon Nightclub, actor Vince Colosimo partied with a small group of friends.
Actor Gary Dourdan, mostly recently with the TV show CSI was spotted in at TAO.
Heroes star Masi Oka dined at TAO before hitting the nightclub as did actress Nadine Velazquez and a girlfriend.
Dining at LAVO was actress Missi Pyle and two girlfriends.
UFC fighters Jon “Bones” Jones, Brendan Schaub and Shane Carwin attended an Ultimate Fighter® Heavyweights Finale post-fight party inside Hawaiian Tropic Zone at Miracle Mile Shops.
Sunday night, December 6, up and coming Las Vegas singer / songwriter Sean Heyl, along with his band Ocean City Defined, opened for musician Donavon Frankenreiter inside Wasted Space at Hard Rock Hotel & Casino.