The Best Elvis in Las Vegas

Chad Collins Ultimate Elvis

Las Vegas is a mecca for impersonators and tribute artists. Currently tourists can talented performers from around the country portraying many of their favorite artists, from the Rat Pack and Barbara Streisand to the Bee Gees Britney Spears and Michael Jackson. But no star of song or screen is mimicked as often and with such praise as the King, Elvis Presley.

Las Vegas’s love affair with Elvis has been documented and related through television specials on the man himself as well as in movies galore from the Flying Elvi shown in “Honeymoon in Vegas” to the plethora of impersonators used as the backdrop for “3000 Miles to Graceland.”

On May the 4th Annual Las Vegas Ultimate Elvis Tribute Artist Contest was held on Fremont Street in front of thousands of spectators. With twenty contestants performing over two days there were plenty of Elvi representing a number of infamous Elvis looks to choose from.

Over the course of two days these performers sang and shook their hips across the stage for the judges and the applauding crowd. But at the end of the day there was room for only one Elvis to grace the stage as Las Vegas ultimate Elvis impersonator, and that Elvis was Chad Collins.

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Chad currently portrays Elvis at the Little White Wedding Chapel on Las Vegas Boulevard. Although this is his first time performing on stage as Elvis Chad is an old hand at the tribute artist game. He began his career as a performer, impersonating Tim McGraw and made his name performing the character for Legends in Concert throughout the first decade of 2000’s.

As the winner of the Las Vegas leg of the competition The contest serves as a preliminary round for the Ultimate Elvis Tribute Artist Contest which takes place in Memphis during Elvis Week. As the winner of this year’s preliminary round in Las Vegas, Collins will proceed to the semifinals during Elvis Week 2013 in Memphis, Tenn.

Since it was launched in 2013 the Ultimate Elvis contest has become a highlight of  Elvis Week in Memphis, which attracts more than 70,000 fans from across the globe.

Collins will be continuing his gig performing marriages as Elvis on the strip, he will also be seen this month in The Best of Vegas Summer Variety Show, where he will be performing as both Elvis and Tim McGraw in the same show for the first time. He can also be seen singing and playing guitar in his new band Easy 8’s, who recently performed on Fremont Street on the 4th of July.

 

Beat the Heat, Cheap Summer Movies in Vegas

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Las Vegas is Hotter than Hell. Residents of the city may not be surprised to hear this, especially in the midst of this debilitating heat wave that has been encompassing the Southwest the past few weeks. But according to Steven Slivka‘s article for the Las Vegas Review Journal, “Las Vegas’ hottest June ends with a 117-degree high, tying the record,” not only did the final day of June tie the record for the hottest day on record (followed by a night featuring temperatures as high as 111-degrees), but the month set a new record for hottest June in the city’s history.

People have suffered injuries already and the city is reminding people to stay inside, keep water around and stay hydrated. The city is also pushing their plethora of cooling stations, which offer everyone from the families to the homeless a chance to cool off and get wet in the water, as Riley Snyder covers in his article “Cooling Stations Help Those out and about Around the Valley Beat the Heat,” earlier this month in the Las Vegas Sun.

For many people however, even splashing around in the water may not be quite enough to alleviate the soul crushing sun’s rays. Such citizens are in luck as a handful of the valley’s movie theaters are making it easier than ever to hide from the heat for a couple hours at a time.

On the strip AMC theaters at Town Square, formerly Rave, offer $5 movies every weekday before noon as well as normal matinees after.

Most theaters have matinees every weekday where patrons can get tickets for a few dollars off the standard price, but there a couple places where movie goers can get even better values. Regal Cinemas’ locations at Green Valley Ranch and the Colonade on South Eastern both feature $6 Tuesdays for all movies not shown in 3-D or I-Max. The two theaters also offer significant discounts on those special screenings as well.

Across town at the Brendan Theaters inside the Palms Casino, there are variety of deals as customers can enjoy $5 movie Mondays or the 2 for $22 Tuesdays special, which features two tickets, two popcorns and two sodas.

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Of course there is no better value offered on a daily basis than Tropicana Cinemas. Located at the corner of Tropicana and Pecos, the renovated second run theatre shows movies that have recently left most theaters, but have yet to hit DVD on digital big-screens for only $1.50 per a ticket. There patrons get one last chance to catch a flick they may have missed before they are forced to watch on a smaller T.V. screen, or the chance to catch a favorite one more time at a fraction of the price. They even have $1 hot dogs. What more can a moviegoer ask for?

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Hottest Reggae Nightclub in Vegas Lies in the Naked City

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Las Vegas is internationally famous for its bright and bustling Strip. The bright lights and the jumbo screens invite tourists and locals alike inside with the promise of endless parties and sex. Sweaty bodies in their tight shirts and tiny skirts await inside countless cliched nightclubs writhing to tunes spun by DJ’s, some famous across the world and others famous across the city.

Around the city numerous venues have tried for years to establish themselves as competitors in the city’s nightlife market. The vast majority of these places appear with a flash but most are gone as quick as lightening. In his article, “Does Las Vegas Have a Nightclub Bubble?” for Seven Magazine earlier this year, David G. Swartz suggested that such flops could be a problem that soon move from off strip attempts into the heart of Vegas’ nightlife scene itself, on Las Vegas Boulevard.

But not everyone is suffering from such failings. On the edge of the Arts district, just past the Naked City and about halfway between the main Strip and Fremont street, sits the Aruba Hotel. Nestled between two of the city’s most prominent quick hitch wedding chapels and across the street from one of its sleaziest fully nude strip clubs, the Aruba is what now remains of the formerly famous Hotel Thunderbird.

For much of the week the motel is as quiet as the rest of the neighborhood, far from the glitz and glamour of the party city’s hubs. But every Saturday night the Thunderbird Lounge and Club Aruba come alive as DJ Handgun spins the beats for the most continuously successful reggae event the city has seen over the last decade. According to Catherine Nguen, the event, Positive Vibrations’, head promoter, the weekly dance hall party consistently sees between four and five hundred patrons on a weekly basis, with a line frequently out the door.

“I’ve been playing reggae for twenty years,” says DJ Handgun, “I’ve been here at the Aruba Hotel since 2005 and weekly since 2006. Playing dancehall, roots and soca.” When asked how he has been able to keep his event so successful week after week, in an out of the way venue his answer was simple. “Me and my partner, DJ Charlo, we play the best music, we have the best vibes,” he answers. “It’s good people and good times, we draw them in from California, the Caribbean and even Africa … they keep coming back because we play what they are here to hear. No one else does.”

You can hear electronic dance music on almost any block almost anywhere you find crowds in Las Vegas. If you want to hear Reggae, you go the Aruba Hotel.

 

Downtown Las Vegas Exciting the City

Portal to Fremont East

On a Tuesday night on Fremont Street in downtown Las Vegas you see people about in droves. Young men and women bounce from bar to bar, drinking and frolicking until two or three in the morning. Ten years ago this was not the case.

Downtown Las Vegas was not always so friendly. A few decades ago the older casinos in the area were in bad shape, unable to compete with the draw of the sleeker, prettier resort casinos that line the strip further south. Fremont Street was known for rundown businesses, prostitutes and crime. You certainly would not find many people hanging out on East Fremont after midnight that did not have to be there.

Things began to improve in 1995 as 10 casinos lining the five blocks west of Las Vegas Boulevard teamed up to put the light show’s canopy over the street and turned the paved road into a walkway. Ever since the Hotels in the area that used to be known as Glitter Gultch have seen business return far stronger. A few years ago, that renaissance had not yet made its way across the street.

Fremont Street Experience

At the turn of the Century Oscar Goodman became mayor of Las Vegas and the revitalization of downtown and East Fremont was one of his dearest pet projects. Under his direction money and business was brought back to the city’s heart. New restaurants, bars and shops have returned to the area, at first slowly and recently in a flood.

Now it seems all of the hippest establishments are opening within a mile or so from the intersection of Las Vegas Boulevard and Fremont Street.

Zappos has made it the home of their corporate office and has brought their relaxed, to cool attitude with them, including the renovated Gold Spike which has forgone traditional Las Vegas style gaming machines for oversize darts, pool tables and board games to go with their bar.

The Smith Center has brought a home for high-brow performances and touring plays and musicals. The Cleveland Center for Brain Health has made a home only a few blocks away.Commonwealth: Hip Central

East Fremont Street is now an entirely different world. The Beauty Bar may have led the way for hipster bars downtown, but the street is now lined with such places. The Park, Radio City Pizza, Vanguard, Commonwealth and La Comida are all places that have popped up in the last year.

They are also the places to be now, if one is not in love with the loud crowded nightclubs that run the Strip that is.

Facebook and Twitter Have Great Reach and Grave Consequences

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Social networking is double edged sword for journalists, even more so than for the average person. It seems like everyone loves Facebook and Twitter. Both sites have millions of users around the world who use them on a daily basis. On the surface they are a fun and easy way to connect with friends and loved ones or to keep up with celebrities or cultural interests. But they have real world impacts, both positive and negative, that are far more significant.

 

Four years ago Iran’s presidential election ended with incumbent Mahmoud Ahmadinejad declared the victor in a landslide win that was contested by all three of his opponents, as well as thousands of citizens. Over the following weeks protesters filled the streets, despite crackdown by military and police. The media was not allowed to report on any such events, but through Facebook and Twitter the world was shown the truth of what was being done to quell the protesters, as gun fire was broadcast live and in color from people scared for their lives.iPhoneSocialMedia

 

But it’s not all sun shine and roses, as most the time people are focusing on their own lives and interests, perhaps too much. People of all walks of life have seen their careers come to an end due to a lack of discretion on social media. In her article, “13 Controversial Facebook Firings: Palace Guards, Doctors, Teachers and More,” Huffington Post writer Ramona Emerson looks at a number of people who had lost their jobs over comments they made about their boss or their place of business.

 

Not only are journalists no safer from such repercussions than your average employee, but they face even more dangers. Being friends with the wrong person or even failing to report such connections to the right people could bring questions about sources and ethical investigative tactics.

 

Despite all of that, Twitter and Facebook can each be very beneficial tools for reporting the news. As in the case of the aforementioned Iranian Green Revolution, breaking news can be gleamed form twitter, not only from reputable sources, but from trending topics. As Leah Betancourt pointed out in her article “The Journalist’s Guide to Facebook,” social networks can be an invaluable tool for reaching out to communities, groups and sources that one may not otherwise have access to. There’s nothing like knowing exactly how to contact a source one desperately needs to help flush out, or add credibility to, a story.twittermegaphone

 

People in all walks of life must be careful of how much of their private lives they allow the world access to. But these networks have made the world a smaller place, six degrees of separation must be nearly cut in half, and journalists can use these connections to assist their reporting and ability to connect with their audience. However the lure of immediate gratification can be dangerous and journalists must be careful not to let the race to be first impede their responsibility to be right.

 

Breaking a story is enticing and helps a reporter get noticed and notoriety, but blasting incorrect information from a digital megaphone is a quick way to gain notoriety as a bad source and an unreliable “journalist.”

 

Slim, Clean and Professional, Still Hip

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I chose the Journalist design for my Blog. I liked its simplicity in design right off the bat. I take my news at least a little seriously, so I chose to present mine in form that, to me, seemed reminiscent of the clean style of newspapers. The site still allows for widgets and features a few options to play with the on the front page. A main page can be designed or the newest blog can be the focus, the design allows for a bit of personalization, but the focus is on the writing, on the topic.

I love The Daily Show and I think journalism has plenty of room for levity, plenty of room for jokes and irony. But there is also a need for the discussion of important topics to be taken seriously. Not everything has to be hip or cool, funny or controversial. Each page and update has the ability to be presented with eye catching graphics or fonts, but the site as whole I look forward to presenting as a serious page, that with any luck will speak to, and begin discussions when possible, on serious topics.

The script is serious without being old fashioned or stilted. A few fonts are spread around the page, eye catching and noticeable, highlighting separate topics and point. But it all flows well and it all looks intelligent. A good place, I think, for conversations to start and news to be printed.

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In order to customize my Blog more personally, I looked at the article “40 Impressive Dark Websites for Inspiration,” and chose a blog that offered a little visual contrast, with a dark personal picture, a copy of my signature smoke in the dark avatar.

The blog article “Backgrounds in Web Design: Examples and Best Practices,” discusses the evolution of blogs over the last decade, and how far the presentation of these, generally self-designed and self-hosted pages have come. What may have started as digital paper, with a visual image or two followed by copy, has become a plethora of personal windows, when best done offering a glimpse into the author’s mind and the blog’s content, that hopes to draw new viewers, fans or interactions from new visitors.

Versitile Journalism in the Digital Age

image courtesy of Google Creative Commons

image courtesy of Google Creative Commons

It is difficult to be a journalist in the modern world. Print is quickly going out of fashion, and to stay relevant the average journalist must learn to do be a one man production team in order to provide value to their outlet. For all but the most respected and talented journalists it is no longer enough to seek the truth and report it, the reporter should be able to produce digital content with a full report, video, relevant links and twitter references with hash tag friendly titles and phrases.

Though it is still important for any reporter to keep his ear to the ground and stay on top of breaking newsworthy events, to stay competitive in the shrinking job market, the modern journalist must be able to contribute as much or more commercial value. In his article “It’s Hard Out There for a 21st-Century Future Journalist of Tomorrow,” Renay San Miguel describes a few job listings looking for new reporters. Each describes and ideal candidate as someone who not only has skill and instincts as a journalist, but also someone who has knowledge of computers and web design and who can produce their own content for digital media.

But such expectation can be daunting for aspiring journalist and old hands alike. Many in the field have spent their career, or at least their time in school, dreaming of uncovering stories that could change people’s lives, hoping to speak truth to power and make a difference in the world. Finding out that what matters to their prospective employers is page hits and frequency of posts rather than in depth reporting and hard worked quality pieces.

In her article “A tale of two newsrooms,” Amy Kingsley tells the story of the Las Vegas Sun’s foray into digital media. Despite sharing a brand name with the entity that, through in depth research and careful reporting, brought home the first Pulitzer Prize ever awarded to a Las Vegas newspaper, the on-line site, under the tutelage of Rob Curley, quickly switched formats to quick production of constant new content focused on counting those ever important page views and the lowest common denominator. Reporters who had been proud to work for a media outlet that focused on strong, deep reporting recoiled, and many left, when faced with focusing on traffic fatalities and celebrity gossip.

The news industry is a fickle mistress and capturing the attention of consumers is important to the success of any outlet, but the industry is still trying to find its way with new business models replacing traditional subscriptions and guaranteed readers or viewers. It is easy to fall into the pattern of catchy titles and exciting promos just to get that view, but the more versatile quality journalists can themselves, the more they can control the path the modern news reporting follows. It is important that the most dedicated and talented reporters take learn the skill necessary to control the journey, and not just tag along for the ride.

Las Vegas’ Naked City in Need of a Rebound

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Fences line the houses and iron bars protect the windows block after block in the “Naked City,” one area of Las Vegas that failed to benefit from the economic boom of the past four decades.

Downtown Las Vegas has seen a renaissance over the last decade with an influx of big money and support from local government. While Main Street and East Fremont Street have seen new businesses pop up at every turn, one area that has not been so blessed has been the infamous “Naked City.”

The “Naked City” is the name that has long been associated with the area in the heart of Las Vegas that is located just west of Las Vegas Boulevard between the Strip and downtown. Bordered by Sahara on the south, Wyoming on the north, Industrial on the west and Las Vegas Boulevard along the east, the area has long been a home to crime and the destitute.

Naked City home

Rumors abound as to how the area earned its name. According to Cindy, from the Hard Hat Lounge, the most popular explanation is that in the 60’s the area was much nicer and local showgirls and cocktails waitresses, who often lived in the area, and were famous for sunbathing naked.

Block after block homes stand dilapidated and abandoned. For sale and for rent signs hang in succession, street after street. There are almost no businesses within the boundaries, save a plumbing shop, and air conditioning repair shop and a few maintenance equipment stores, though there are a trio of 7-11’s at its edges.

The areas reputation amongst locals and tourists speaks of prostitutes, drug dealers, and violence. According to workers at establishments lining the area, the stories may be a bit overblown.

“I’ve been behind the bar here for six years and have never had any trouble,” said Cindy, a bartender of six years at the Hard Hat Lounge on Industrial. “We get good people. Mostly a blue collar workers, cab drivers from Whittlesea cab drivers.”

At the corner of Oakey and Las Vegas Boulevard stands the former site of White Cross drugs, currently closed and under renovations, and the current site of Tiffany’s Café. Tiffany’s has been a Las Vegas mainstay since the 1960’s serving industry workers, showgirls and lounge stars, of whom many still have pictures lining the walls.

White Cross

White Cross is planning to make a comeback, seeing a niche in the market for downtown shoppers. “They’re reopening in two weeks, on March 15, as White Cross Market, people need a local grocery store,” says Louis, the line cook inside Tiffany’s. “They’ll have to wait six months to get the license for the drug store,” he added.

Many of the houses inside the “Naked City” feature ornate murals, there is no crime or women of the night walking the street at 10:30 p.m. at night on a Wednesday. The local culinary union house is within the areas limits, as is the Stupak Community Center and the new Gateway Art Gallery.

The area has missed out on much of the growth and cultural rebirth that has blessed the rest of downtown Las Vegas, but the future seems brighter than rumor would imply.

East Fremont and the Arts District have helped the entire section of town to blossom, all the way up to Wyoming across the street from the “Naked City” itself. A little prosperity is so close they can taste it, and the inhabitants of the “Naked City” are waiting.

UNLV Receives $12,000 Scholarship for Culinary Students.

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The Venetian and The Palazzo hotels announce $12,000 in new scholarships for UNLV students.

The Venetian and The Palazzo Culinary Arts Scholarship will provide $4000 for a UNLV hospitality major each of the next three years.

The hotels will work with the James Beard Foundation, which will administer the new award in August. “We are thrilled to share this opportunity with deserving students interested in the culinary arts in our local community,” said John Caparella, president and COO of The Venetian, The Palazzo and Sands Expo.

Founded in 1986, The James Beard Foundation today hosts food industry awards, and is involved in culinary scholarships, educational initiatives and publications. The sister properties claim more James Beard Foundation Award winning chefs than any other hotel in the world.

The merit based scholarship will be open to UNLV students majoring in Hospitality, with a concentration in restaurant management, as well as the final group of students in the recently ended Culinary Arts Management major.

“The hotels’ culinary department and the foundation’s scholarship selection committee will work with the foundation’s president Susan Ungero to determine the who gets the award said Dianne Harris Brown, of the James Beard Foundation. “We recognize Las Vegas as a center of fine dining in the U.S. and we are incredibly grateful for the opportunity to assist students who may not otherwise have the chance for formal education.”

“It is an external scholarship, we aren’t an active participant. We do have great appreciation of all awards that might help our students,” said Dan Abdalla, Director of Development for the College of Hotel Administration at UNLV.

The funds for the scholarship were raised at the benefit and gala held for the announcement of the finalists for last year’s James Beard Foundation Awards, touted as “the Oscars of the food world.” Since beginning their scholarship programs in 1991, the foundation has distributed $4.5 million in awards for culinary studies. This year they will be providing $484,000 in financial aid to deserving students.

“I would think more people would apply than actually do,” said Brown. Students who apply for the scholarship will also be eligible for many of the other awards given by the foundation. According to Brown about 1 out of 10 applicants are selected to receive an award.

Although other casinos in the city have provided scholarship opportunities for UNLV students, and the foundation has held other events in Las Vegas on a yearly basis, this is the first time the James Beard Foundation or these two properties have been involved.

“You cannot overestimate our gratitude to the foundation and the Venetian and The Palazzo, this is a lot of money and it’s really going to help our students,” said Pat Moreo, associate dean of the College of Hotel Administration.

The 2013 James Beard Foundation Awards will be held May3 and May 6 in New York City.

Applicants for the scholarship will be judged on grades, work experience, essays and records with a secondary consideration on need. Interested students may apply at http://www.jamesbeard.org/scholarships.

Primary Election Coverage Becomes Bomb Scare, But All Ends Well

2014-07-07 12.10.26Prospective voters who showed up Tuesday evening at the Galleria Mall faced an unexpected obstacle when a suspicious package found outside the building led to a bomb scare and limited access to the polls.

According to Officer Travis Hamlin, at 4:30 p.m. Henderson police received a call reporting a suspicious, unattended bag left around the valet line in the mall parking lot. Within minutes multiple police officers were on the scene taping off nearly the entire south parking lot and all doors in the area. Hundreds of cars were prevented from leaving and dozens looked on as more and more police continued to arrive on the scene with the bomb squad en route.

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