It’s too bad Steve Friess isn’t here to write this next story, because it’s right up his alley. What do you do if your big-name headliner badmouths your casino and CEO on opening night? You re-hire him, what else? Like a battered wife returning to her abuser, Tropicana Las Vegas CEO Alex Yemenidjian has signed Paul Rodriguez to be the face of in-house comedy club Laugh Factory, starting May 23. There is only one possible reaction to this stupefying announcement:
As you recall, Rodriguez’s withering, anti-Yemenidjian blasts and other passive-aggressive japes inspired — quite understandably — an immediate reaction along the lines of “He’ll never work this town again.” Well, he did … albeit at the lowly Riviera. But for the Trop to re-engage him suggests desperation underlaid with masochism.
Every so often, I’m asked, “What’s wrong over at the Tropicana” and have been stumped for an answer. But I’ve reached the conclusion that it’s simple ineptitude and a low learning curve. The bungling that accompanied the Dancing with the Stars opening closed the case. There’s no reason that show shouldn’t succeed on the Las Vegas Strip, but if any property could kill it, it’s the Trop. At least periodic guest stints by professional dancers from the TV show (May 24-28: “Tina Sparkle,” er, Kym Johnson, left) are giving it intermittent infusions of fresh publicity.
By the way, it’s not the “Tropicana” anymore. According to lingo spatchcocked into recent PR blasts — sometimes in mismatched font and point size — it’s the “New Tropicana Las Vegas.” Here’s the deal, guys: Call Yesco and put up some “New” signage. Until then, it’s still plain old “Trop.”
“Casinos? What casinos? Oh, those casinos.” Yesterday, when New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie (R) finked out of an appearance at the East Coast Gaming Conference, S&G hesitated to attribute his vanishing act to his vice-presidential aspirations. Others are less hesitant, especially since Christie is waffling on his support for sports betting, not to mention his (more equivocal) backing of intrastate Internet gambling. Some of this may be advance pandering to the Religious Right but pressing concerns include the I-gaming’s deep unpopularity with Jersey voters and, more importantly still, appeasement of GOP sugar daddy Sheldon “Tex” Adelson.
Tex, who’s been mighty voluble of late on matters electoral, crawled under the furniture when the Philadelphia Inquirer came calling. Instead, the mighty Adelson sent unfortunate spokesman Ron Reese out with the preposterous statement that “Mr. Adelson does not comment on his political activities.” Yeah, and I am The Walrus. As for Christie, his non-denial denial re: stalling yet again on Internet wagering is, “he wants to make sure we get it right” … preferably sometime well after he’s either safely ensconced in Washington, D.C., and it’s someone else’s problem or he finds he’s stuck in Trenton. Christie’s gone from standing tall in defense of Atlantic City to running for the tall grass. It’s probably just a matter of time before he’s telling Fox News that he’s shocked — shocked! — to learn that gambling is going on in the Garden State.
Big Brother is watching. How good is the Las Vegas Convention & Visitors Authority’s “What happens here, stays here” meme? So persuasive that even people who are paid to be astute fall for it. The latest such dupe is former Cuyahoga County Commissioner Jimmy Dimora (left). Putting the “dim” in “Dimora,” the erstwhile public servant failed to realize that what happens here is recorded by every casino in town. Then again, the presence of surveillance cameras at a topless pool raises some interesting invasion-of-privacy questions. If he avoids a date with the Big House, Dimora will now be able to do his gambling closer to home, thanks to this week’s Horseshoe Cleveland opening.
When your company’s in the crapper and you’re spending tens of millions of dollars on luxury real estate — as certain Station Casinos insiders infamously did shortly before the company went bankrupt — it’s news. When you’re riding high, like Steve Wynn, maybe not so much … although a $70 million aerie on Central Park that would turn Donald Trump deep ochre with envy is probably worth a headline. If Wynn can afford high-eight-figure living quarters, perhaps he will put a lid on those quarterly kvetch monologues about how he’s being taxed into the poorhouse. One can always hope.
Finally, one very rarely sees top-level casino executives checking out the competition. (And, no, an MGM Grand exec attending a show at The Mirage doesn’t count.) One refreshing exception to this tendency is Riv CEO Andy Choy, recently spotted both at DWTS and Plaza Las Vegas‘ Best Little Whorehouse in Texas. And why not? He’s still trying to find a way to monetize the Riv’s vacant Versailles Theater and the El Cheapo Whorehouse must have left him feeling, “Well, we can certainly do better than that.”