Tag Archives: The Movable Buffet: Dispatches from Las Vegas by Richard Abowitz

Movable Buffet: Final entry

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photo by Sarah Gerke
photo by Sarah Gerke

The following post is the last entry from LA Times’ blogger Richard Abowitz whose daily blog (The Movable Buffet) the LasVegasBuffetClub has used as a valuable source of information time and again. Thanks Richard for your excellent reporting.

“In a very Vegas way, I got lucky.”

“In October 2005, I was hired by L.A. Times editors who had found my Vegas writing online. I became one of the first bloggers in the history of the L.A. Times. Vegas was booming in those years, and tourists from California were pouring into town, many buying investment homes. The idea of a blog that documented daily the happenings and entertainments that drew so many to Vegas made sense on a lot of levels. Obviously, much has changed since then, and I am sad to report the Movable Buffet blog is being discontinued.”

“The Vegas news and events that were covered here you will now find covered by other L.A. Times blogs in entertainment and travel. For those of you who enjoy my Vegas coverage for the Los Angeles Times, my print column continues to run in Sunday Calendar (along with photos from Sarah Gerke). I also hope to blog about Vegas again soon, and so please keep an eye out.”

“I have to thank Sarah, the Buffet’s loyal photographer, above all others. She was on board with this blog from Day 1. She shot Vegas out of pure joy. Thank you, Sarah. Your photos, as so many readers have commented, have always been incredible. I also need to thank the fantastic staff of the L.A. Times, who for four straight years has hosted this blog, edited its entries and made suggestions that have made me a better writer, reporter and even person.”

“But most of all, I want to thank those of you who have read me daily or even once. I hope I wrote something you enjoyed. I am very grateful to all. Thank you. Be well.”

— Richard Abowitz

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“Who knows beauty: Rush Limbaugh or Perez Hilton?” Story is from LA Times’ Richard Abowitz.

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LA Times Planet Hollywood
LA Times' Planet Hollywood
photo by Sarah Gerke

The following story is a repost from (The LA Times) Richard Abowitz’s Movable Buffet.

“Does it say anything that the Miss USA pageant picks Perez Hilton as a celebrity judge and Miss America goes another way?”

“This press release today from the Miss America organization:”

“The Miss America Organization (MAO) announced today that Rush Limbaugh has been named as one of the national judges for the 2010 Miss America Pageant, which will be held at Planet Hollywood Resort & Casino in Las Vegas on Saturday, January 30 and broadcast live on TLC.”

“I admit Rush Limbaugh is not my image of a beauty judge. On the other hand Perez Hilton single-handedly made the Miss USA pageant at Planet Hollywood back in April a national news story. I don’t think Limbaugh has that kind of cheek. But we will see.”

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“Joel Stein enjoys the hard times in Vegas,” republished from The Movable Feast

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Photo: Sarah Gerke
Photo: Sarah Gerke, LA TIMES

The following post is from (the LA Times’) Richard Abowitz’s Movable Feast, August 20, 2009 | 4:09 pm.

“For an out-of-town reporter, Joel Stein has been a Vegas regular. He covered the Vegas boom in an earlier cover story for Time. He also profiled Steve Wynn for Time. But his current cover story for Time on Vegas has generated a lot of local hand-wringing over his portrayal of the desperate and negative times the city is going through combined with the lack of easy answers to the problems plaguing Vegas. Well, there is an easy answer — people start coming in far greater numbers and start spending far more than they ever have before. That used to happen year after year, and many people here still believe that process has been only temporarily interrupted for going on 18 months or so. Stein’s story suggests that Vegas is in many ways engaged in an elaborate bluff with its future not yet realizing or accepting just how long the Strip will remain the bargain destination it has once again become.”

[Abowitz continues:] Full disclosure: I have known Stein for years (having met him when he interviewed me on an earlier Vegas assignment), and he wrote for Los Angeles Times.

Abowitz: So, was it immediately obvious on this trip that things were different for Vegas than during your previous visits?

Stein: The weird thing was showing up at the Hotel (at Mandalay Bay). I had talked to a bunch of people and everyone confirmed the place was decimated. And I had seen photos of Echelon. And so I was expecting the worst. But when I showed up at the Hotel my room was messed up. And so I assumed that there must be 8,000 other rooms and so whatever. But the place was literally full. I walked out to the pool and it was packed. So, I guess the price cutting really worked and so the obvious things I was looking for were not there.

Abowitz: How obvious was the price cutting?

Stein: I signed up for lists and so I get all these e-mails like “$100 at the Wynn with a $50 dining coupon.” It is the same with MGM. The deals are out there.

Abowitz: Well, the hotels are doing whatever it takes to not be empty. Your experience seems to suggest it is working.

Stein: It is working. And, it is awesome if you are looking for a cheap vacation. They fill the place up.

Abowitz: So, when did you notice the recession hidden amidst the bustle?
read the rest of the story…

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“Vandals deface ‘Welcome to Fabulous Las Vegas’ icon” – “Mayor recommends: Off with their heads”

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Photo credit: Sarah Gerke, LA Times
Photo credit: Sarah Gerke, LA Times

This article is from” (LA Times Online) The Movable Buffet: Dispatches from Las Vegas by Richard Abowitz.

“If terms like “street art” seem a little disingenuous, I have to admit graffiti was never an issue that has really upset me much. But some jerks going at the iconic “Welcome to Fabulous Las Vegas” sign Monday really upset me and a lot of people I have spoken to about this vandalism. Like many cities, we have graffiti everywhere, but no one has ever vandalized the welcome sign before in the memory of anyone I reached, and it seems likely that this may not have ever happened before. Take that in for a moment: Since the sign was first created to greet tourists in 1959, no one has put graffiti on it despite the countless alcohol-soaked tourists who must have posed with the welcome sign over the years. I don’t even think a fraternity has ever stolen it as a prank. This is one bit of Las Vegas history that no one has suggested replacing or taking to the Neon Boneyard (though it gets moved south occasionally to keep pace with the growth of the Strip). The welcome sign is the one link with old Vegas that remains totally relevant in 2009.”

“I guess my surprise is that kids don’t scribble their initials on the sign more often, because it is so accessible and popular. But until Monday, the Betty Willis design has received nothing but respect from tourists and locals. I always smile when I drive past it going to and from work. Buffet photographer Sarah Gerke was out there this morning, and most of the scribbled initials left by the vandals had already been removed. But there is still some graffiti you can see in the lower left corner of the photo. A cleaning crew should finish restoring the sign today, according to the Review-Journal, which also has a shot of the more extensive graffiti, since removed, placed on the sign.” finish this article from The Movable Buffet: Dispatches from Las Vegas by Richard Abowitz

Here’s another perspective from Las Vegas’ Review Journal:
“Vandals deface iconic ‘Welcome to Las Vegas’ sign.” “Mayor recommends: ‘Off with their heads”

“The famous diamond-shaped “Welcome to Fabulous Las Vegas, Nevada” sign received an unwelcome addition this weekend — a series of initials scribbled with a red marker.” read more from MIKE BLASKY –

click for full image - click – Photo by John Gurzinski

“Arizona tourists Joseph Harris, left, Laura Massengale and Emily Viramontes pose Monday in front of the graffiti-blemished Welcome to Fabulous Las Vegas, Nevada sign that greets visitors on the south end of Las Vegas Boulevard.”

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Silk Purse In A Sow’s Ear: El Cortez Cabana Suites – Downtown Las Vegas

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Photo by Sarah Gerke, LA Times

Although I used the “Silk Purse” phrase (in it’s original form) in the previous post, I had to reuse it here (rearranged) just because it was necessary: a boutique hotel next to The El Cortez, unheard of! (The El Cortez has always been on the edge of the fringe, located in a downtown area that is a bit rough, close to a very rough area.) LA Times’ Richard Abowitz (The Movable Buffet: Dispatches from Las Vegas by Richard Abowitz) has heard of it and he’s written about it. Here’s a “reprint” of Mr. A’s post.

“South Beach style replaces downtown dirt”

“I approached the El Cortez Cabana Suites with great trepidation. Of all the downtown resorts few are more storied than the El Cortez, and few have I seen more rundown. And, these tough times for the Strip, are brutal for downtown. The Lady Luck seems to have just vanished. The expensive redevelopment project meant to attract tourists, the mostly empty Neonopolis, recently lost one of its few remaining major tenants, a movie theater. And classic property Binion’s is feuding with some landlords for its very survival. So who would expect that El Cortez has never looked better?”

“Dating back to the ’40s, El Cortez may be the most storied downtown casino if by storied you mean old Vegas mob glamor. Bugsy Siegel, Meyer Lansky, Gus Greenbaum and Moe Sedway all at one time owned part of the property. There are photos of those characters around the executive offices. And the last time I was there a few years ago, it seemed you could still smell their cigarette and cigar smoke in the air at the casino.”

“But this time as I headed to the executive suites the smell was some sort of perfume. In addition to an updated air filtration system, General Manager Mike Nolan tells me the casino is experimenting with scents in the air. It isn’t exactly a pleasant smell, but it does mask any lingering scent of smoke and wear and tear that used to define the property. Plus, while there are older sections of the casino, much of the property has been extensively redesigned and redeveloped. Among the redone areas: The coffee shop is nice, and a bathroom is not disgusting (actually quite decent).”

“But the most visible change is next door, at overflow property Ogden House at 651 E. Ogden Ave., between 6th and 7th streets. Built around 1975 and changed little, if the El Cortez was rundown, consider Ogden House’s condition. In fact, virtually everything but the walls has been redone. After spending more than $7 million, the casino barracks has been transformed into a South Beach-style boutique-hotel called El Cortez Cabana Suites.”

“This is probably one of those ideas, like so many of the new resorts seeking financing for completion on the Strip right now, that made a lot of sense when it was planned in 2007 and seems downright odd in 2009.”

“Who would want a boutique hotel in downtown Vegas? Perhaps some high-end tourists truly value the proximity to easily available street dealers and hookers and grifters? Don’t get me wrong. El Cortez Cabana Suites are the nicest rooms in downtown Vegas, even nicer than the ones I’ve seen at the Golden Nugget. But who goes to downtown for the boutique hotel experience? Downtown has always been the place for extreme bargains. And here is a gorgeous and stylish hotel thought out down to the I-pod docking station and a concierge who assists with guests, offers security, and finally works as the hotel’s new media specialist keeping the property a constant and responsive presence on social networking sites. All this in a neighborhood that still has as many empty fronts as going concerns.”

“Still, the over $7 million that the El Cortez Cabana Suites cost would not fund even a study to build a resort on the Strip. And that is one of the advantages of building downtown. The cognitive dissonance is caused by this boutique hotel being built to be part of an urban hipster population that was to come with a downtown renaissance of clubs and condominium towers that did not fully materialize.”

“Nolan points to some nearby empty buildings that he hopes will be clubs and stores pending financing. A blue tarp is placed in the parking lot ground for a VIP event later that night. The hope is this parking lot will eventually be the pool for the Cabana Suites, one day, when economy bounces back.”

“Anyway, I am working on the Buffet print column for May 17 about the El Cortez and its new offspring, Cabana Suites. But for sure if you want to explore old Las Vegas on your visit but not sacrifice a nice room like the ones on the Strip, El Cortez Cabana Suites is a new alternative that allows you to see the the dirty urban origins of Vegas without having to take a cut in the contemporary Vegas luxury experience.”
Story by Richard Abowitz

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