Binion (center) rules over an early World Series of Poker tourney
In my spare time (hah!), I like to read up on Las Vegas lore. So when Doug J. Swanson’s biography of the late, great and delightfully despicable casino magnate Benny Benion came out, I was one of the first to nab a preview copy. The book is an exciting, immersive yet thoroughly educational read, and I highly recommend it to anybody who wants to know more about the history of Las Vegas and/or the World Series of Poker. It also has a bonus interest for me because a portion of it takes place in my hometown of Arlington, Texas. Who knew this Dallas suburb used to host quite the gambling racket!
Still not convinced? Or just want to know more before you dive in? Check out my review in Vegas Seven mag:
The Untamed Times of Benny Binion: An intense biography sheds new light on the Las Vegas legend
Right now, it seems like the biggest thing in new Vegas is Old Vegas. From the SLS’ many winks at its Saharan predecessor to the recent revamp of the long-running showgirl revue Jubilee! at Bally’s to the Cosmopolitan’s Liberace exhibit, it seems like glamorizing Vegas’ past has finally replaced imploding it.
Amid this new cultural climate arrives Doug J. Swanson’s compelling biography of a legendary Las Vegas forefather—Blood Aces: The Wild Ride of Benny Binion, the Texas Gangster who Created Vegas Poker (Viking, $28). In it, Swanson combines an investigative reporter’s zeal for research with an author’s love of words. The result is a sweeping history of a lost era and a compulsively readable character study, with some fun turns of phrases to boot: Swanson describes Binion as “an aspiring pasha of vice,” “a rube savant” and a “doughy rural-route cherub, at least until he decided he wanted somebody dead, which had happened with some frequency.” [READ MORE]
Posted in Books, Gambling, Poker
Tagged Benny Binion, Binion's, Blood Aces, Book Review, Doug J. Swanson, Las Vegas, Poker, Vegas Seven, World Series of Poker
No women allowed … except me backstage at Chippendales with Jaymes.
With Jaymes, Rachel and our photographer at Fox 5.
Breaking for lunch at Sammy’s Woodfired Pizza with the Jameses.
In the recording studio with Jaymes and Tanzer.
Comparing the souvenir-cup version of Jaymes with the real thing backstage at Chippendales.
Feeling short in comparison to Jaymes and James.
With all the boys … and one lucky magazine intern.
Sometimes, dreams (and dream assignments) really do come true. Recently, I got to follow around Chippendales’ Jaymes Vaughan (and his Amazing Race partner James Davis) as research for a Vegas Seven profile. The best part was that the guys were super nice. Ever the Southern gentleman, Jaymes would tirelessly pose for pictures with fans and, even better, open the car door for me when we flitted from location to location.
Above are some behind-the-scenes photos (not pictured: me pinching myself to make sure it was really happening). Below is the finished product:
Jaymes Vaughan’s ‘Race’ to the Spotlight: Can the Chippendales host extend his 15 minutes of fame before the time runs out?
It’s Friday night at Chippendales, so the audience of mostly bachelorette parties is rowdy and sloppy-exuberant. The emcee, Jaymes Vaughan—tall, tan, blond, blue-eyed, square-jawed with Indiana Jones regrowth and muscle-y muscles—is basically a human Ken doll with a goofy sense of humor. And I have spent all day following him around in the name of … um, research. Watching Jaymes cavort onstage, I realize the effort I spent politely averting my eyes when he changed clothes throughout the day was wasted. Read more …
I should’ve asked David Copperfield about the fountain of youth. You know, the one that all the Spanish explorers were always traipsing about the New World, enduring all sorts of discomforts in hopes of finding. They never did. Apparently, they weren’t looking hard enough, because a mere 400-odd years later, the world-famous illusionist (claims to have) stumbled across it on one of his 11 private islands.
But during the interview, when I was staring across the hotel desk into Copperfield’s artist eyes—ones that reflected back the secrets of life lived—I knew there ain’t no such thing as a fountain of youth. Sure, he looked great, as the women who catcalled during the show would attest, but finding the fountain of youth is as impossible as walking through the Great Wall of China or making the Statue of Liberty disappear. Oh wait, Copperfield did both. So maybe that’s why, after seeing his show, I wanted to believe just enough to feel a sharp sense of regret for not asking.
Halloween feels reduntant in Las Vegas, a city that plays dress-up 365 days a year. (See above for example of a regular ‘ol day in my fair burg.) But that doesn’t stop us from pulling out all the stops on this very special day. So, I want to wish you a very Happy Halloween! Now I gotta go. It’s nigh time to run around like a chicken with my head cut off, simultaneously trying to complete my Sunday errands and find something fun to do that lives up to the gravity of this day. I think it starts with the Halloween Parade downtown. Will I see you there?
Bobby Berosini & his Orangutans
My close friends and colleagues like to joke that after more than a year in the writing, I no longer had an article about animal trainer Bobby Berosini, but instead an article about writing an article about Bobby Berosini. But after more than a year of writing, I’m so tired that I can’t write another word about this fascinating piece of Las Vegas history. So, you’ll just have to read the article. It was a cover story for Vegas Seven.
Read it HERE
Graphic patterns of eaten chocolate at Bellagio's "Figuratively Speaking" opening reception
You may not know this about me, but I have been passionate about art my entire life. In fact, for the majority of my life I was certain that I would become an artist. (My parents must have been relieved with I chose the much more stable career path of writer.)
This passion was nourished by lots of art supplies and near-religious trips to the art museum throughout my childhood. Growing up in the Dallas area, we had a lot of art museums to choose from (The Kimbell was my favorite and I even had a college internship there). Unfortunately, Vegas is fresh out of traditional art museums (though the Atomic Testing Museum often runs free art exhibits).
In Sin City, when all else fails you can generally find what you’re looking for in a casino. Thus when I attended the opening of the new show at the Bellagio Gallery of Fine Art: “Figuratively Speaking: A Survey of the Human Form,” I was overjoyed to find something akin to the art museums I used to frequent in Texas.
READ MY REVIEW OF THE ART SHOW HERE or read the hard copy in this week’s issue of Vegas Seven.
Posted in Art, Las Vegas
Tagged a survey of the human form, Art, bellagio, figurative art, figuratively speaking, gallery, hockney, Las Vegas, of fine art, picasso
Jersey Boys Anniversary Party (photo by Erik Kabik)
By the powers vested in me as A&E Editor for Vegas Seven, I assigned myself the story about Jersey Boys’ two-year anniversary in Las Vegas. I have to say that this story was truly a joy to write and Jersey Boys ranks as one of my favorite shows in Vegas. Additionally, musician/writer/music producer Bob Gaudio goes down as one of my favorite interviews ever because he was so smart and personable.
Here’s an interesting little tidbit that didn’t go in my article because I didn’t happen to have my recorder on me at the two-year anniversary reception: After having interviewed Gaudio on the phone a few days previously, I chatted with him at the reception and asked him his opinion on the upcoming Michael Jackson-Cirque du Soleil collaboration. Though I can’t remember his first reaction, he launched into this wonderful story about how he had recorded Jackson when Jackson was only 16. Gaudio said that at that age, Jackson was a joy to work with and that all he cared about was the music and he wasn’t yet affected by the trappings of fame. Gaudio then told me about how he was in a meeting with Neil Diamond when he found out that Jackson had passed, explaining that they immediately cancelled the meeting because everybody was so sad.