December 15, 1952 saw the opening of one of the most iconic hotels in the history of Las Vegas:
The Sands Hotel & Casino
During its heyday, it played host to some of the biggest names in entertainment of the day, most notably the legendary "Rat Pack" featuring Frank Sinatra, Dean Martin & Sammy Davis Jr. And although that might be what the Sands is best known for, there's way more to the story than that - and that's where my guest for this episode steps in.
David Schwartz is the author of "At The Sands", a new book that takes readers on a deep dive into the history of The Sands. Dave and I talked about inspired him to write a book about The Sands, how "mobbed up" the Sands was compared to other Vegas hotels, Frank Sinatra's involvement in the project, Howard Hughes' purchase of the famed resort & his plans for the future, and what led to the eventual downfall of the Sands (both figuratively and literally).
"At The Sands" by David Schwartz is available in both Kindle and Paperback formats on Amazon.
There's no question that the COVID-19 outbreak, lockdown and the subsequent limitations on re-openings have been extremely tough on everyone in Las Vegas. But one of the hardest hit segments are the people involved in the entertainment industry.
After 7 long months, shows are finally starting to re-open along The Strip and my guest for this episode is one of those people who's found himself trying to sort out performing during a pandemic.
Vin A. from The Bronx Wanderers is back to chat with me once again. Since the last time we talked, A LOT has changed. Early in 2020, the band made the move from the Linq to Harrah's and then shortly after that, the world closed down and they were forced to figure out what came next.
Vin & I discussed the various projects he's had the chance to work on during the shutdown as well as how he - and other Vegas performers - adapted to stay busy & stay in front of their audiences. Vin also shared his thoughts on what the future may hold for entertainment in Las Vegas from the business side, the performer side and the audience side.
You can stream Vin A's latest original tracks, "Know Where (To Begin)" and "Mantra" on Apple Music & Spotify and be sure to check out all the videos from his VINDemic sessions on his YouTube Channel - including the incredible video for "Know Where (To Begin)".
As important as it was for me to get the "tourist point of view" on what's been happening in Las Vegas as of late, I felt it was equally as important to get the local's point of view as well.
So, my guest for for this episode is Jake Gallen, the host of a podcast called The Guest List which focuses on the stories of Las Vegas locals. Jake is one of those rare "unicorns" who was both born & raised in Vegas. He's lived in the city his whole life and he's been lucky enough to work at pools & clubs on the Strip as well as be involved in other business ventures.
Jake & I talked about his background & growing up in Las Vegas, the insanity of working at one of the most famous nightclubs in the world and the inspiration behind launching The Guest List.
But my main reason for getting Jake on the podcast was to get his take on what's been happening in Vegas over the past few months; I wanted to know how the locals were handling recent events and if the reported uptick in crime (including shootings, stabbings, fights, etc) was reality or if it was just another case of Social Media "exaggerating" things.
Follow Jake Gallen & The Guest List on Twitter, Instagram and Facebook and make sure you subscribe to the podcast on Apple Podcasts, Spotify or wherever you get your podcasts. You can also watch & subscribe to The Guest List on YouTube.
Needless to say, Las Vegas is going through some very weird times.
We're not really "post-COVID", in that COVID-19 is still "a thing" and a concern in Las Vegas & around the world. However, over the course of the last few months, Vegas has been slowly opening back up to tourists and, as great as it's been to see people going back, the re-opening hasn't been without "hiccups".
The biggest issue that seems to be facing Las Vegas as of late is an increase in crime on the Vegas Strip. There have been multiple reports of shootings, stabbings, fights - both inside & outside casinos - and the infamous "scooter gangs".
But is what's being portrayed in the media & online what's actually happening? And, does it really matter? After all, as the saying goes, "perception is reality" - and if people perceive Vegas as "unsafe", that's the reality in their minds and it's going to hurt tourism.
Since I'm still stuck in Canada & unable to get to Las Vegas, I wanted to talk to someone who's been the city recently and experienced what's going on in Vegas right now.
My guests for this episode are Dave & Michelle, the hosts of "We Work To Visit Vegas" on YouTube. The couple have been regular Vegas visitors for the past few years and have been posting videos since 2017.
I talked to them about the inspiration behind their decision to start vlogging and we chatted about what keeps bringing them back to Las Vegas. Most importantly though, I wanted to hear about their most recent trip to Las Vegas (at the end of September 2020) and how it differed from their previous trips.
Follow We Work To Visit Vegas on Twitter & Instagram and be sure to subscribe to their YouTube Channel.
Currently, as a Canadian, I still can't really travel to Las Vegas. Borders are technically closed and even if I did manage to "sneak down", I'd have to quarantine upon my return home. Not exactly an ideal situation.
One of the things I'm missing the most about going to Vegas is the ability to check out shows and see world class live entertainment. But just because I can't go to Vegas, doesn't mean I can't enjoy a little piece of Las Vegas right here at home.
One of my favourite ways to do that is by sitting down, popping on my headphones and pressing play on one of the many live albums that have been recorded in Las Vegas. And my personal faves are the CLASSIC albums that were recorded in Vegas, so for this episode of the podcast, I thought I'd share some thoughts & opinions about some of those great albums, including:
- Tom Jones - Live In Vegas (Apple Music / Spotify)
- Elvis - Live 1969 (Apple Music / Spotify)
- The Rat Pack: Live At The Sands (Apple Music / Spotify)
And if you're after a few more great live albums recorded in Las Vegas, check out this awesome list from Steve Bornfeld at Las Vegas Magazine.
I have to be honest. This is an episode that I hoped I wouldn't have to record for a very long time - if ever at all.
As you've probably guessed from the title of this episode, I've made the decision to put the podcast on a temporary hiatus. For how long? I'm not exactly sure as of yet. That being said, I thought I owed you - the loyal listeners & supporters of the podcast - an explanation as to why I've made this decision.
I'll still be providing Las Vegas news & travel updates on my various social media channels - including Facebook & Twitter - so I can keep you in the loop on what's happening in the city.
I'm also in the process of launching a new spin-off podcast called Sin City Stories which I invite you to check out & subscribe to (wherever you get your podcasts).
In the meantime, please stay safe & stay healthy.
Fred Hazelton & Seb Gagnon are the hosts of a brand new Las Vegas podcast called The Unofficial Vegas Podcast. Fred is a Vegas veteran who visits annually as part of his gig with The Unofficial Vegas Guide and Seb is his good friend & co-host who's only had the opportunity to visit Vegas a couple of times.
I reached out to the guys to see if they'd be interested in joining me on the podcast to talk about their show as well as share some of their own personal Las Vegas picks, tips and tricks!
If you want to take a listen to The Unofficial Vegas Podcast you can find them on Apple Podcasts and Spotify or check them out on Anchor! And be sure to give the boys a follow on social media...find them on Twitter and Instagram!
Big thanks to Noe Perez from The Noe Perez Pod for having me on his podcast to chat. I had an absolute blast talking to Noe about my time growing up in Canada, working in radio, getting into podcasting and sharing some of my own personal Vegas tips & tricks. Be sure to check out the episode and subscribe to the show!
Sergio Portesan is the creator of the website, Viva Las Value - an awesome site crammed with tons of great tips & tricks on how to do your Las Vegas trip on a budget. Sergio is also my first ever "three-peat" guest on the podcast, with first 2 appearances being among my top 10 most-downloaded episodes of all-time.
I asked Sergio to hop back on the podcast for a couple of reasons...
First, with the Canada/US Border closed, I'm not able to travel down to Las Vegas but Sergio can, so I asked him if he'd be willing to join me for a "trip report by proxy" to share a few reviews from his most recent trek to Sin City.
Secondly, Sergio's trip coincided with the re-opening weekend of Las Vegas following the COVID-19 pandemic shutdown. As such, I wanted to get his thoughts & opinions on how he thought Vegas was doing in welcoming back visitors and - most importantly - whether or not he thought he'd be heading back down for another trip anytime soon.
If you've got Vegas-related questions for Sergio be sure to reach out and follow Viva Las Value on Facebook, Twitter & Instagram
If you've found yourself strolling through The Linq on a recent Las Vegas trip, there's a very good chance you've seen my guest for this episode of the podcast performing.
Justin Michael Rodriguez is one of the performers in the show Extreme Live - a very cool, high energy, interactive show at the Linq.
Justin and I chatted about the time he spent growing up in Las Vegas, scoring a lead in the touring production of a major Broadway show, his brush with boy-band fame and his thoughts on the future of entertainment in Vegas.
If you want to keep up with what Justin is up to, you can follow him on Facebook and Instagram. Also, be sure to follow the Extreme Live Show on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.
One of my favourite things about Las Vegas is the vast array of entertainment options available. One of the most popular types of shows are the "celebrity impersonator" or "tribute shows" - and my special guest for this episode of the podcast is one of the best in the city!
Christina Shaw has been a professional celebrity impersonator for close to 20 years. As Britney Spears, Christina Aguilera, Lady Gaga and a host of other celebs, she's had the opportunity to travel all over the US, Asia and the Caribbean. Christina has been performing in Las Vegas since 2010 and has had the opportunity to headline on The Strip numerous times, including as a part of the iconic Legends In Concert show.
During our conversation, Christina & I talked about growing up with a very entertainment-centered family, how she got started in the world of celebrity impersonation, some of her early gigs in Las Vegas and the process she follows when working on a new impersonation.
If you want to know more about Christina Shaw you can follow her on Facebook, Twitter & Instagram. Christina is also available for special greetings as Taylor Swift or Elsa & Anna from Frozen via her Cameo pages!
My guest for this episode of the podcast is someone I've been trying to connect with for awhile, but up until now our schedules just never clicked. I'm a HUGE fan of hers and anytime I have a chance to see her perform, I know I'm going to have an awesome time!
Sarah Hester Ross is an incredibly talented musical comedian & singer-songwriter. And if you've spent time in any of the duelling piano bars on the Vegas strip, there's a good chance you've seen her play.
Sarah & I talked about her musical background & how she made it to Vegas, some of the shows she's been involved with in her time in the city and how she's been building her online presence with the amazing material she's been posting on her various social media channels.
If you want to see what Sarah is working on make sure to follow her on Twitter, Instagram and Tik-Tok. Also, go subscribe to her YouTube channel and check out her website!
NOTE: I've been made aware of a claim against Sarah Hester Ross surrounding her recording, releasing & monetizing a musical work to which she allegedly did not receive permission or licensing to do so. The interview for this episode of the podcast was recorded approximately 2 weeks prior to release of this episode and any reference to the allegedly infringed upon musical work has been removed from this episode of the podcast.
I made my first visit to Ri Ra Irish Pub in the Shoppes At Mandalay Bay back in June 2019 and reviewed the experience on Episode #24 of the podcast. As I described it at the time, everything about Ri Ra was "authentically Irish". Sitting in this pub in a mall in Las Vegas felt exactly like sitting in the pub in Dublin - and a lot of things helped contribute to that...from the food, to the drinks, to the staff, to the music.
And that's where the people joining me for this episode of the podcast come into play.
My special guests are Dave Rooney and Dave Browne of The Black Donnellys. They're the resident house band at Ri Ra in Mandalay Bay.
I talked to the guys about growing up in Dublin & the band's origins in Ireland, how and why they made the move to Las Vegas, their various Guinness World Records and their brand new documentary film An Irish Story: This Is My Home.
Of course we also talked about the COVID-19 pandemic and how they've been keeping busy through the Vegas shut-down.
If you want to learn more about Dave & Dave and the Black Donnellys, visit their official website - which includes info on where you can watch An Irish Story: This Is My Home. Also make sure to follow the band on Instagram and Facebook - where they've been performing live shows.
And if you want to learn more about the tragic real-life story of The "Black" Donnellys - from which the band took their name - check out the website, Heaven & Hell on Earth - The Massacre of The "Black" Donnellys. On the site, you can read all about the family, the murders and the aftermath - including the TWO trials that followed - as well as look through archival evidence from the events.
A lot has changed in Las Vegas since I released my last regular episode; Hell, a lot has changed in the 3 weeks since I released the last SPECIAL episode.
As such, I thought it might be a good time to jump back on with a brand new episode to provide some news on what's happening in the city & share some of my predictions of what a re-opening of Las Vegas might look like. I also wanted to check in with everyone & let you know what's going on in my life, what's happening with my friends living in Vegas, what the future of the podcast looks like and - most importantly - reach out to everyone to find out how all of YOU are doing.
And don't forget: If you need someone to talk to during these difficult and - frankly - weird times, feel free to reach out and send me a direct message on Facebook, Twitter or Instagram. I'm always here and willing to connect!
I recently had a request from a listener who wanted a few suggestions for planning a "girls vacation" to Las Vegas. Since I'm a 44 year-old married man who usually travels with Vegas either solo or with my wife, I felt I was drastically unqualified to assist - which is why I reached out to my guests for this episode of the podcast...
MJ & Bree are the hosts of the Keeping It Casual Podcast, a sex-positive dating & relationship advice podcast based in Las Vegas. Whenever I'd listen to their show, they'd talk about all the cool spots they were hitting in Vegas so I thought they'd be perfect to help me plan out the Ultimate Girls Trip!
We covered all the important stuff - including hotels, restaurants, clubs and spas - plus we covered how to avoid "drama" on a girls trip and how to keep yourself safe in Sin City.
The ladies also hit me with a few questions they like to ask the guests on their podcast, which was an absolute blast!
If you'd like to check out the Keeping It Casual Podcast you can get it wherever you find your favourite podcasts of visit their website - where you can also get info on live appearances & merchandise. And be sure to connect with both MJ & Bree on social media where you can "slide into their DM's" for Vegas hook-up's:
Follow @MJRadioDiva and @Breemixed on Twitter
My special guest for this episode of the podcast is Vin A. of The Bronx Wanderers...
The Bronx Wanderers have been headlining on the Las Vegas Strip for the last 3 years and at the end of 2019, they celebrated their 1000th Vegas show. Fronted by dad Vinny Adinolfi - a recording industry legend in his own right - the band features sons Nicky & Vin A. as well as several of Vin's high school friends.
Vin and I sat down for a conversation during one of my recent Las Vegas trips. We chatted about the history of the Bronx Wanderers, what it's like performing & touring with family and what life is like in Vegas. Vin also took us "behind the curtain" on the topic of producing a show in Las Vegas & also did a great job explaining the high turnover on shows on the Vegas strip.
For information, tickets and showtimes visit The Bronx Wanderers website. Also, be sure to check out Vin A's podcast "What The Cl#ck?!?". Check it out on Apple Podcasts OR check out the video version!
The topic for this episode of the show comes courtesy of listener, Jacob Kehl from Denmark. Jacob really wanted to me to do an episode featuring tips & tricks for the Vegas Low Roller.
Jacob, your wish is my command!
And joining me to talk about the right way to Low Roll in Las Vegas is friend of the show, making his second appearance on the podcast, Sergio Portesan - the creator of the website Viva Las Value! Sergio and I talked about the best websites to find discount Vegas hook-up's, suggestions for low roller hotels, restaurants & bars and how to make your bankroll last longer when hitting the tables & machines.
For all the details, check out Sergio's website, Viva Las Value and be sure to follow him on Twitter and Facebook! And if you want to learn the story behind the creation of Viva Las Value, go back in the archives and check out EP#14: Viva Las Value.
This episode of the podcast is quite different in tone & tenor from any of the previous episodes I've released; there's no fanfare, no music, no sound effects...and there's a reason for that.
I'm releasing this episode on the eve of the second anniversary of the worst mass shooting in US history - the massacre at the Route 91 Harvest Music Festival on October 1, 2017.
In this episode, I share my thoughts & feelings, talk about how the city of Las Vegas came together in the days & weeks following the tragedy and pay tribute to the 58 people who lost their lives enjoying something they loved.
For almost 3 years, Tenors Of Rock have been headlining on the Las Vegas Strip, performing Classic Rock...with a twist. They made their Vegas debut at Harrah's in January 2017 and have since made the move to Planet Hollywood, performing 7 nights per week.
My special guest for this episode of the podcast is Jimmy Denning, one of the founding members of Tenors Of Rock.
Jimmy and I connected backstage at the Sin City Theater before a show where we chatted about his musical career, the formation & history of Tenors of Rock, life in Las Vegas and some of the side projects he's picked up since moving to Vegas - including his jump into the podcast world. He also shared a random David Hasselhoff anecdote and I made things awkward by telling him that my wife loves him.
If you're headed to Las Vegas, be sure to get your tickets to check out Tenors of Rock LIVE! And if you're a boxing fan, check out Jimmy's podcast Sin City Sluggers and follow the show on Twitter to find out which boxing legend he'll be chatting with next.
For this episode of the podcast, I've put together a little something I'm calling Vegas FAQ.
The concept is pretty simple; I've gathered up all the Vegas-related questions that I see asked most frequently on Twitter & Facebook - and even the ones I personally get asked most often - and I'm going to attempt to answer all of them here in this episode.
I'm going to cover a TON of material here - including questions about money & budgets, getting around Las Vegas, what the weather is like at different times of the year and even those totally subjective questions about hotels, restaurants & shows. And you can't have "Sin City" with the "Sin" so I'm even going to discuss liquor laws, marijuana laws & prostitution laws.
And because there's so much info in this episode, I've made my notes available to you - Click here to download the PDF file!
My guest for this episode of the show is my very good friend & fellow frequent Vegas visitor, Adam West. Adam is the Midday Host & Program Director for Hot 100.5 FM in Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada. Adam & I have been friends for over 20 years now; we worked together - and against each other - in the world of radio, we were temporary roommates at one time and we've even travelled to Las Vegas together.
Adam also has the distinct honour of being the first "repeat guest" on the podcast; he was one of the people I talked to back on Episode #8 of the show where we discussed the topic of bringing kids to Vegas.
Since appearing on the podcast, Adam and his wife took their kids to Las Vegas and I asked him to share the experience with me. We talked about the decision to do Las Vegas as a family vacation, the planning process involved in organizing the trip and he shared some great tips & tricks for attractions, accommodations and budget-friendly meals.
"Opinions are like a**holes...everyone has one."
For this episode of the podcast, I'm playing a little game called Unpopular Vegas Opinions, where I'll share some of my own personal opinions about Las Vegas that other people - LOTS of other people - don't seem to share. The genesis of this episode came from me sharing my thoughts on a well-known restaurant on a Vegas-related Facebook page and getting absolutely crucified for it.
While licking my wounds, I thought to myself, "Hey...this might make a fun podcast episode!" So, here we are!
Hash House A Go Go, tipping, Secret Pizza and resort fees are all targets of my Unpopular Vegas Opinions...enjoy! Plus, I share some of YOUR Unpopular Vegas Opinions as posted on Twitter!
My special guest for this episode is Lisa Marie Smith. Lisa is a Las Vegas-based singer, dancer & model. She's appeared as a headliner in shows on the Vegas strip at the Stratosphere and the Palazzo. In late-2017, she signed her first record deal with Fervor Records and in November 2018, she released her debut self-titled EP featuring her single, "Get Closer To Me". Lisa is currently in the process of launching her new band project, LMS.
Lisa is also one of my closest friends. In the time we've known each other, she's become like a sister to me. I've introduced her to Canadian delicacies like All-Dressed & Ketchup Chips, Buttertarts and Nanaimo Bars and she's taken me and my wife out to some awesome Vegas restaurants, bars and shows. Lisa has been there for me during some very tough times and I've been fortunate enough to be able to do the same for her.
During our podcast conversation we talked about growing up in Las Vegas, touring around the world performing on cruise ships, her charity work, her vocal teaching and we also talked about some of her recent personal physical struggles.
Follow Lisa on Facebook, Twitter & Instagram. Stream her EP on Apple Music and Spotify or download from iTunes.
Here's the scenario: You're walking down the strip with your significant other enjoying the scenery, taking in the sights and sounds just minding your own business when a total stranger approaches you and says, "What a lovely couple! How'd you like free tickets to a show?"
The first-timers and newbies are thinking, "Sure...I'd LOVE free tickets to a show!" meanwhile the Vegas veterans are thinking, "RUN! RUN AS FAST YOU CAN! DON'T ENGAGE! DON'T TALK! JUST RUN!" Nothing in Vegas is free...and the price for those "free tickets" is sitting through the dreaded TIME SHARE PRESENTATION!
To navigate the murky waters of Time Shares, I've enlisted the help of an expert: Lisa Ann Schreier - aka The Time Share Crusader - is a consumer advocate who's been involved in the time share community for over 20 years. She's an author & blogger who works to keep people up to date on the time share industry as well as the questionable companies and practices out there.
My special guest for this episode of the podcast is John Di Domenico. John is a Las Vegas-based actor & performer who specializes in character impersonation. John does this on stage all over the world, on TV, in movies and at corporate events all over the world.
He has an impressive roster of about 30 different characters he portrays but one particular character has been keeping him very VERY busy as of late...
John is recognized as the best Donald Trump impersonator in the world (or as Donald himself might say, "Tremendous"). You've likely seen him as Trump in one of his multiple appearances on Fox News, late night talk shows (including Conan O'Brien) or in his Facebook Watch series, "The Trump Show." John also landed his first Vegas headlining gig in "Esther Goldberg's Totally Outrageous Brunch" at the SLS and recently released an Amazon Prime special, "Fake News: A Trump Story" which is now streaming.
John was kind enough to invite me into his home where we talked about his start in acting & character work, the changing landscape of comedy and his charity work. And of course, when you're talking to the number one Trump impersonator in the world, you're going to talk a bit of politics too.