Las Vegas Odds And Ends

Here are a few Las Vegas tidbits too short for a blog entry individually, but worthy of note.


Here are a few Las Vegas tidbits too short for a blog entry individually, but worthy of note. I saw Elvis yesterday. Creepy.

Helaine saw Michael Jackson. Extremely creepy.

“Which nose stage,” I asked?

“The last one,” she replied. “He was carrying a shopping bag.”

Maybe extremely creepy isn’t creepy enough?



There’s a building just off the strip in City Center. It’s never been occupied. Its windows are gone. Workmen are demolishing it where it stands!

It is under deconstruction.

During the original construction major deficiencies were noticed. Architects redesigned the building with fewer floors. Then more problems. It’s too weak to survive an earthquake Vegas is easily capable of.





antonio and helainePoker has celebrities. Really. Helaine had her picture taken with Antonio Esfandiari.

I said hello to Greg Raymer.

“That’s Jennifer Tilly,” Helaine said as we left a registration area. Sure enough she was on her cellphone sitting on-the-floor behind a large sign at the very corner of a hallway. Unless you came out the door we used she was invisible.

Outside a roped off area with a few tables dozens of gawkers stood and watched Daniel Negreanu, Phil Ivey, Vanessa Selbst, Erick Lindgren and others play in a very high stakes tournament.

There’s live Internet coverage of the action every day and ESPN will broadcast a boatload of highlights.

I currently recognize more poker players than Phillies players!


We’re across from Bellagio. In Fenway terms, we have a partially obstructed view of the fountain show.

Last night about 1:00 AM I was at the room’s desk, typing. I heard some pop, pop, pop and thought it was the fountains.

Then more pops.

I turned to see fireworks going off from the roof of the Cromwell Boutique Hotel. It’s not quite a block away.

No clicky on this trip, so I picked up my point-and-shoot, braced myself and fired off a few shots.

I have no idea why fireworks went off at 1:00 AM on the nose, but they did. Thank you. Two minutes well spent.

Too Much Courtroom Detail For Me

I wonder if our justice system was formulated with the thought this type of criminal act could exist?

I’m not sure my point in writing this. I guess I just want to make sure I’m not alone. Has anyone else heard too many details in the Michael Jackson and Petit Family murder stories?

I was watching CNN two Saturday’s ago. Fredericka Whitfield (WTNH alumni) intro’ed a package on the Petit Family Cheshire home invasion. Because it was a national audience the reporter went into voluminous detail setting up the story.

I didn’t get much more than a minute into the retelling before I changed channels. I couldn’t take any more.

It is still difficult for me to comprehend the horrendously depraved acts that took place that day. I wonder if our justice system was formulated with the thought this type of criminal act could exist?

Two nights ago as I drove home listening to the World Service of the BBC (via Connecticut Public Radio) they presented a story on the Michael Jackson/Conrad Murray trial. I listened to a few seconds of Jackson’s slurred, drugged out voice before looking for some music.

This is what $150,000 per month buys? You get propofol and your physician gives up any claim to having a soul.

I found listening just too painful. It felt as if I was being asked to watch a ‘snuff film.’ No!

I’m a believer in cameras in the courtroom and a free and open press. That doesn’t mean I want to always see what’s going on.

Should I Care About Letterman? I Do

It was obvious the audience was also caught off guard. They didn’t seem to get the drift of what he was saying.

“I’m glad you folks are here tonight, and I’m glad you folks are in such a pleasant mood, because I have a story I’d like to tell you and the home viewers as well.” – David Letterman

letterman-ticket.jpgI rushed home and quickly turned on the TV. I wanted to watch David Letterman’s mea culpa. I am not proud this was must see TV.

A few quick notes. The Letterman extortion story exploded because of the Internet and social media. It wasn’t long after Letterman’s audience exited the Ed Sullivan Theater that the twittering began. Though Letterman was mum the accused perp’s name surfaced by 11:00p and his CBS News affiliation a few minutes later.

Social media led mainstream media by a mile. The Washington Post/CNN’s Howard Kurtz is a perfect example of the new pecking order.

“Weird: I tweeted, Anderson Cooper’s person saw it, seconds later I’m phoning in to CNN on the Letterman affair(s). Talk about Twitter power” – Howard Kurtz via Twitter

I’m a big Letterman fan and have been for nearly 30 years. I watched his confession tonight–that’s what it was.

I knew Dave was a flawed man, but this wasn’t a flaw I’d expected. My assumption was his shortcomings were beyond his control. This decidedly is not.

It was obvious the audience was caught off guard. There was no context so they originally felt Dave was setting up some bit. They didn’t get the drift of what he was saying. More than once there was awkward silence as they grasped to understand what was unfolding. They would have benefited by being pre-tweeted.

I wish I knew if tonight’s revelations would affect my ongoing viewing or even my opinion of Letterman in general. Though disappointing, these affairs of his aren’t at the Polanski level nor what suspect was Michael Jackson’s dysfunctional worst. I still enjoy Woody Allen movies and he’s been pretty skeevy as an adult.

I am conflicted. My opinion will certainly be swayed by the opinions of others.

Why should I care anyway? But I do.

Michael Jackson’s Funeral

I’ve had enough with Michael Jackson’s death/funeral.

I am not at the Peter King point, but I’ve had enough with Michael Jackson’s death/funeral.

Can this please be the end of it–this afternoon? Please.

There’s no doubt he had talent and that he was a deeply flawed human, but he’s been raised to the level of deity. There is no proportion to the coverage.

Michael Jackson

Martin Mull tells a joke about the saddest thing in the world–high school with money. Michael Jackson was that on steroids!

off-the-wall.jpgAs we sat on the couch yesterday afternoon Helaine said, “I’m surprised you haven’t written about Michael Jackson. I checked a few times looking for it. Don’t you remember sitting on that ugly couch in Buffalo watching Thriller?”

I do. It was quite an event. The world gravitated to MTV on December 2, 1983 when the video was premiered. There was as much hype and hoopla as I can remember surrounding a cultural/musical happening. It didn’t disappoint.

This was Michael Jackson’s second pop career. His first was as the front man for the Jackson 5.

When the J5 was at its peak they were being marketed in a way that made them seem unhip to me. It’s only now I appreciate songs like “I Want You Back&#185.”

When I speak to people who’ve only seen Michael as a grotesquely reconfigured weirdo, I point out that he was genuinely cute pre-surgery. It’s tough to believe.

I’m not a psychiatrist, but I still have my theories on what made Michael Jackson the truly strange person he grew up to be. I don’t doubt he enjoyed the time he spent performing. Unfortunately, that time is surrounded by more dedicated time. As a child his life was full of adult responsibility and discipline.

Look who he’s friendly and linked to–other grown child stars. They’re the only people who might have a true understanding of his childhood… or lack thereof.

On top of that, imagine a life where money is truly no object. Martin Mull tells a joke about the saddest thing in the world–high school with money. Michael Jackson was that on steroids!

It’s all really sad. I don’t feel especially bad for the family whose motives have always seemed a little sinister to me. I do feel bad for Michael who never had the ease of life that his level of fame is supposed to provide.

Last night I decided to look and listen to some of Michael’s stuff. That took me to where loads of performances can be seen. Actually, there’s more! I have no idea where it came from, but within youtube are the original Motown tracks for some of the Jackson 5 songs minus the lead vocal. It looks like these were mastered to allow Michael to appear on TV or in person actually singing, but without the expense of the sending a full orchestra (actually the Funk Brothers) and the rest of the family. It’s amazing stuff to hear.

As we change from the vinyl to digital era and radio fades from its glory there may never be another artist capable of aggregating the outlandishly huge fan base Michael got. Mass media is become narrow media which doesn’t play into this kind of over-the-top fame.

Saturday afternoon word came the physician in Michael’s house when he died has ‘lawyered up.’ People will go to jail for this tragic death.

&#185 – The piano glissando in “I Want You Back” has reached iconic status.

All Hell Broke Loose

We had multiple tornado warnings simultaneously. All hell broke loose.

Wow. What an afternoon. Severe weather moved into Connecticut and just kept building. Hail, severe thunderstorms, strong winds with trees down and a little flooding. We had multiple tornado warnings simultaneously. All hell broke loose.

It’s quieter now.

I was going to write something about Michael Jackson–and probably will tomorrow. Right now I’m trying to ramp myself down.

Gordie Brown At Venetian

I’ve seen ads for Gordie Brown for a while here in Las Vegas. It wasn’t until I saw him on Letterman that I decided maybe he’d be fun to see. Tonight was our night.

We caught the monorail (after I spent ten minutes looking for our ten trip pass) and headed to the Harrah’s/Imperial Palace station. It’s still quite a walk to the Venetian.

Why wasn’t the monorail run right down the center of Las Vegas Boulevard, where it would be an instant hit and remove a great deal of the vehicular traffic and congestion? It was poorly placed.

The big act at the Venetian is Blue Man Group. Gordie Brown is almost an afterthought. It’s an excellent show, performed tonight in a room 2/3 empty! That’s embarrassing for a Friday night.

Gordie is a singer/impressionist. Here in Las Vegas, the obvious comparison is Danny Gans. Gordie Brown compares favorably.

It’s obvious this show isn’t getting the same kind of support bigger shows get. There were four piecees in the band, plus Gordie who plays guitar. The staging is stark and modern in a hotel that’s mainly Italian and somewhat over-the-top.

The theater itself is very nice. I would guess around 7-800 seats. We were front row center.

Considering the audience was anywhere from 21 years old to death, Gordie took a lot of chances. Did they know Alanis Morisette? How about Eminem?

When the impressions weren’t 100% on the mark, the material was funny enough to cover. Among his best, Kenny Rogers, Sammy Davis and Michael Jackson.

It was 90 minutes of fun. I’m glad we went.

MTV At 25

Today is MTV’s 25th birthday. It has not been mentioned on MTV! More on that in a second. VH-1 Classic, a digital subchannel with vastly inferior reach, carried the flag with flashbacks to 1981.

By the time MTV came on, I was already in Buffalo, hosting PM Magazine. I was envious, to say the least. Alas, even by then, I was probably too old for MTV.

Today’s MTV isn’t anything like the MTV of 25 years ago. There’s little music on Music Television. Much of the day is spent in MTV’s version of reality.

This was all presaged. I’m sure this wasn’t the first time it was uttered, but Bob Pittman is on the record five years ago, on CNN, saying:

We made a decision not to grow old with our audience. It’s the Peter Pan network.

So, to today’s audience, the MTV of 25 years ago doesn’t exist… or if it does, it’s too closely related to their (unhip) parents to be mentioned. A 25th anniversary of anything isn’t very important when you’re 16.

I remember sitting home with Helaine, in Buffalo, waiting for the premiere of Michael Jackson’s Thriller video. It was a simpler time.

Over the past few years I’ve become increasingly uneasy with the lifestyle portrayals on MTV’s reality shows. I’ve called it soft core porn for teens. Maybe that’s an exaggeration – though not much of one. Certainly I was uneasy when my daughter watched them through high school.

I’d say more, but I don’t want to sound like an old guy railing at youth.

There are no more VJs – no more Martha Quinn or Mark Goodman. I suspect MTV’s still a major incubator of talent. It always has been. It is amazing to look at who’s gone far after leaving MTV.

Meanwhile, if you’re wondering about the originals, here’s a quick rundown from NPR’s Talk of the Nation.

Martha Quinn

After leaving MTV in 1990, Quinn stayed in television, working as both actor and anchor. In 2005, she joined Sirius Satellite Radio, where she hosts a weekly show, Martha Quinn Presents: Gods of the Big ’80s.

J.J. Jackson

Jackson returned to radio in Los Angeles after his stint on MTV. He was host for a number of successful radio programs before he suffered a fatal heart attack in March 2004. He was 62.

Alan Hunter

Since his 1987 departure from MTV, Hunter formed a production company, Hunter Films, with his brother Hugh and co-founded the Sidewalk Moving Picture Festival in Birmingham. He is currently a host on Sirius Satellite Radio’s 80s music channel.

Nina Blackwood


Michael Jackson – What You Missed

I assume most people were away from television sets as the court in Santa Maria waited for Michael Jackson. Here’s one little thing you missed. CNN put a countdown clock on the screen!

It was as if Michael Jackson’s appearance was a sporting event. Would Michael get that three point shot off before the buzzer?

In a trial centered around a very unusual person, this was a very unusual effect.

Happy New Year Dick Clark

It’s a family tradition that we don’t go out on New Year’s Eve. There are a few really simple reasons for this. First, I usually work. Second, we don’t drink.

Years ago, the last time we really went out for New Year’s, a drunk guy started making a pass at my wife. In fact (though we laugh about it now) we almost broke up on our first pre-marriage New Year’s Eve together.

This year, we stayed home with Steffie and watched some of the goings on in Times Square. Helaine said she wasn’t, but I was very worried that some masterstroke terrorist act would take place in Times Square while the World watched.

Though we moved back and forth between Fox, MTV and ABC, we mostly stayed with ABC. Sure, I work for an affiliate, but there is also a tradition with Dick Clark. Again this year, for at least the second year in a row, Dick was inside a warm studio above Times Square. I’m sorry. He needs to be outside. And last night, the weather wasn’t all that bad.

I was also upset at the use of Steve Doocey – who represents Fox News Channel’s morning show – as ‘talent.’ This is not to say Steve isn’t good… he is. But, this is another case of cutting your nose to spite your face. Why would ABC want to shine such a bright spotlight on someone who is trying to eat their lunch? Doesn’t anyone in the company realize that using talent from other networks is the equivalent of dumping the Disneyland live shots for Six Flags or Universal?

There was a pretty tough article on Dick Clark in Newsday recently. I’ve attached it to this link.

Maybe because I knew most of this before, or maybe just because it’s becoming more obvious now, I have trouble finding Dick warm and likable. His interaction with others, especially on ‘tosses’ from live shots, or look live taped pieces, is forced and a little too staged.

On the other hand, I’m not ready to cede New Year’s Eve to Ryan Seacrest or the stable of hosts on MTV (none of whom stick out in my mind).

Happy 2004

Continue reading “Happy New Year Dick Clark”

No One Pleads Innocent

I was going to write about what TV, radio and newspapers do to a defendants court plea… and I will, but I’m pleased to add a twist.

With Michael Jackson, Kobe Bryant, Scott Peterson, Phil Spector and a zillion others charged with crimes, we’re hearing a lot about defendants declaring their indignation at the charges and pleading innocent.

From Reuters:

ALHAMBRA, Calif. (Reuters) – Legendary “Wall of Sound” record producer Phil Spector pleaded innocent on Thursday to murdering B-movie actress Lana Clarkson who was found lying in a pool of blood in February at his Alhambra, California, home.

Way to go Phil… except in the United States you don’t plead innocent. In reality, the proper pleading is “not guilty,” and there’s an immense difference.

My dictionary says of innocent:

Uncorrupted by evil, malice, or wrongdoing; sinless: an innocent child.

Who wants to stand up to that standard? In fact, having done something, but for whatever reason being ‘not guilty” is a much easier defense.

If you’re innocent you are not guilty. However, you can be not guilty without being innocent. There is a distinction and it’s very important.

Until recently the Associated Press had recommended (in its well circulated style manual) using innocent instead of not guilty. The reason actually goes back to the pre-computer days of set type where the “not” might fall off or become detached from the “guilty.” With computers, that can’t happen anymore. So, a few weeks ago, AP did the right thing and began recommending not guilty as the proper term.

It will take a while for everyone to fall into line, so you’ll continue to hear innocent. But you’ll know lots of people walk without being close to innocent.

Who’s Next?

You have to admit, this is a little over the top. Today Michael Jackson gets arrested, Phil Spector gets officially charged with murder, and the prospect of a trail and 15 years in jail looms over Martha Stewart.

First things first. If Michael Jackson would have know there were handcuffs involved, maybe he would have turned himself in sooner. OK – cheap joke. I know.

This story is probably the weirdest. Jackson has been accused of improprieties with young boys before. In fact, California now has a law on the books which can force testimony from a minor. The law is there specifically because it seemed like Michael Jackson bought his way out of the earlier accusation by buying the boy’s silence.

I’m a parent, so let me ask the rhetorical question. What parent in their right mind would let their child do overnights with Jackson? Hell… with any non-related adult?

This leads me to believe there is a backstory here, and Mark Geragos (Jackson’s attorney) will bring it out. But, even if the parent is more wacko than Jacko, that doesn’t take Michael Jackson off the hook in his responsibility to act as an actual adult.

Phil Spector is another story entirely. He is of the last generation. It is possible he is the most creatively talented music producer of the era of recorded music. But, he has been considered more than a little ‘unusual’ for decades.

There were always rumors swirling about drug use and that Phil was reclusive because he was never straight enough to meet the public. I remember seeing him on some televised event years ago and was astonished at the mere fact that he was appearing. I wasn’t there to give him a drug test or Breathalyzer, but I wouldn’t be surprised if he couldn’t have walked a straight line that evening.

if it’s possible to look stoned, he looked stoned.

To me, there are two significant Phil Spector moments. The first is the Ike and Tina Turner version of “River Deep, Mountain High.” This is one of the finest recordings of the rock and roll era. It is the perfect example of Spector’s famous ‘wall of sound.’ Ike and Tina Turner with full orchestration – who would have imagined?

The second is a little more esoteric. In the late sixties, an immense 48 hour, radio documentary called “The History of Rock and Roll” was produced (I think) by Ron Jacobs who worked for Bill Drake, the radio program director. The best segment in “History” was billed as “Phil Spector takes the blindfold test.”

Spector was put in a studio, headphones on, next to an open mike. As his hits from the 50s and 60s were played, he spoke off the cuff about what he was listening to and what went into making it. This was astounding listening. It was a backstage view unavailable in any other forum. It was the precursor of today’s DVD narrations.

I haven’t heard this segment in at least 30 years and wish I knew where to get a copy.

Spector going off the deep end is troubling, but not a major leap for me to buy.

Finally there’s Martha Stewart. I assume it would be easy to get on her case because she so represented what she did as the proper way to do things. Wanting her strung up for that would be vindictive (and though I am not above that emotion, it really isn’t usually warranted… certainly not here).

My bigger problem is, Martha Stewart was fully knowledgeable of the rules. She had been a stock broker. She had brought her company public. She knew what was allowable and what wasn’t.

If she saw that her investment was going bad and decided to save herself some cash, she deserves to be treated as the common criminal she was. We don’t punish enough people who commit what I consider ‘crimes of trust.’ At the moment, crime pays. We have to change that perception.

I hope the three of them are innocent (as opposed to not guilty which you can achieve while still having done something wrong) but it’s more likely prosecutors will be 3 for 3… 4 for 4 if you throw in Robert Blake.