Pimpin’ Aint Easy, But it Pays the Bills

CocaineBrooklyn is a prostitute who frequents the bars in the downtown scene on a regular basis, always with a different man on her arm. She is young and brunette, speaks with a distinct New York accent and generally has a smile on her face. But she did not feel comfortable giving an interview. She wasn’t sure her man would like it and she wasn’t sure she’d be comfortable being quoted. So she pointed the way to her pimp “Downtown Brown.”

I met Brown at his condo Friday afternoon. Tall, skinny and muscular at age 37, he met me at the door in a pair of slacks, a tank top undershirt and a do-rag on his head. He welcomed me, told me that Brooklyn had said I was nice and he’d be happy to talk to me for a while. On the counter stacks of twenties stand beside a toaster and a pile of cocaine. We sat across from one another at his kitchen table and talked: first, for a few minutes, about my bar and how long I’d been bartending, before moving into my time at UNLV and his time at college at Fresno State.

Brown came from Minneapolis Minnesota and spent some time in Georgia as well. He went to college in Fresno on a basketball scholarship. He was successful and enjoyed it but in school he was injured and did not garner enough attention to get drafted to the NBA. Instead Brown pursued his dream in the less fashionable way, playing briefly in Japan, before joining the Las Vegas Rattlers, now known as the Aces, of the American Basketball Association.

It was a way to live his dream, but the pay was not good and he lived in a city that whose nightlife demanded attention and a better paycheck. Growing up hustling had always been around Brown’s life. His uncle Billy lived down the block and had been pimping as long as he could remember. His cousin across the street was known as the Prince of Darkness.

Continue reading

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.

VegasElvisContestGroup

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.

 

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.