Monday, January 19, 2009
Halle, we hardly knew ye...
Sitting here watching a highly-edited movie on a Continental flight from Las Vegas, it's painfully clear that Richard Gere cannot act his way out of a paper bag. My condolences to Diane Lane (also in this film), who's been steadily chipping away at her career successes by making worse role choices than Halle Berry. I didn't think that was even possible. I guess I was wrong.
Wow, I don't know what's worse: Watching this dreadful thing or having just eaten the breakfast that Continental serves in their front cabin. Just for the record, I took the Cheerios, otherwise known as the 'healthy option.'
After a week in Las Vegas, I need all the 'healthy options' I can get: The sheer number of eating choices alone is enough to bring a tear to an overactive thyroid. I spent my time at Steve Wynn's new resort, 'Encore,' which is the follow-up to his ridiculously expensive comeback hotel project 'Wynn.' While not as big (or as expensive), this new $2.9 billion hotel was expected to not only be the most luxurious spot in Las Vegas, but one that offered the intimacy and design touches from his property in Macau.
Rooms range from 750-5500 sq ft. Some unique touches at Encore include fresh orchids in ALL rooms, bedside-controlled drapery, lighting and privacy, along with a full range of bath amenities. Some good quality stuff. Nice, gentle lemongrass scent that doesn't make you smell like Zsa Zsa Gabor all day long.
Best beds and bedding in Las Vegas, hands down. 400+ thread count. Multiple layered sheeting and enough pillows to not only keep you in comfort, but allow you to build a pretty formidable fort. Housekeeping will also bring more pillows if you're going for the Great Wall of China effect... Don't ask how I know that.
The plasma televisions are mounted in a unique way: Not only on the wall, but they're also used on 360-degree swivels to separate whole rooms. The color scheme around Encore is absolutely red, in all shades, lambasting you from every angle, but luckily the guest rooms are muted down considerably. Bamboo wall tiles, hounds tooth prints, nicely tailored custom furniture, floor-to-ceiling windows and some of the best designed bathrooms I've ever seen in a hotel make this a pretty damn snazzy spot.
My only real problems with Encore came in their larger suites, where the rooms felt somewhat barren. Lots of empty space, which was initially nice, ended up feeling wasted and gave the room a cold, hard look. It almost felt like the rooms were designed to just be big, but not really well-stocked with anything. For all of the knick-knackery around the common areas of Encore, it's strange that the rooms are so plain.
Beware the mini-bar: It's expensive (even by Vegas standard) and not creatively stocked. Just once I'd like to open one and find a really nice bottle of Swiss Navy. Dare to dream.
The common spaces at Encore are somewhat like Wynn, with the bold color palette of deep reds, purples and yellows, but amped-up even more so. The sheer number of custom and extremely clever chandeliers is stunning: It was one of my favorite elements of the resort. There were nearly 20 different kinds of drop lighting, ranging from over-table size to palatial (and somewhat cartoonish). As I said before, the main color at Encore is a very deep, blood red. While beautiful, it is one of those colors that, in this amount, can be overpowering. Everything from the walls to the blown-glass over the blackjack tables is crimson, giving the entire casino floor a flushed look and perhaps a false feeling of warmth. I'm not sure how popular that will be with guests and those who just come to gamble or gawk. It made me a little antsy.
While I was there, it wasn't overly crowded from an in-house perspective. There were more of the curious just passing through than those who were actually staying. Be prepared for loads of picture taking, large groups of people walking at a snail's pace and the real need for a cattle prod to keep things moving. Also, if you're afraid of butterflies, this isn't your place to stay. Wynn is nuts about the butterflies. All sizes, shapes and colors are built into the decor. Think of it as Wynn's way of doing the 'hidden Mickey' all around his new property.
Smaller pool area, but well-designed and landscaped. Both are open year-round, but not always heated. Poor advance planning sees that sunshine is often blocked out by the larger Wynn Resort next door, so the best times for catching UV are in the morning and just before sunset. A 'European' pool on the far end of the property includes topless tanning, dual-level cabanas, in-water blackjack tables and a view into Encore's nightclub, called 'XS.'
The mindset of Encore is decidedly more hip than Wynn, luring in the kiddos with promises of glamour by ways of overpaying for bottle service at ridiculously small tables. It's easy to spot that Encore's XS is the hottest club in Vegas right now: The sheer amount of implanted silicone and facial fillers waiting in the general admission line is, alone, enough to keep the resort buoyant. As an idea pioneered by Steve Rubell in the days of Studio 54, the real show remains at the door and not inside of the club. I think the real purpose of people watching here is to figure out the difference between bad and worse plastic surgery.
See, there's no such thing as invasive 'natural' looking plastic surgery, hence I say it's all 'bad' work, but to varying degree. The intense, sharp halogen lighting of the Encore lobby does very little to make botoxed foreheads & rhinoplasty look publicly acceptable, so it's almost in the mindset of competitive sport that you can sit and wail away at these people. Self-delusion is dangerous. It's no different than a woman in her '20s thinking that blond hair with black roots is stylish: Only Sarah Jessica Parker can miraculously pull that shit off and frankly, even she's getting a bit long-in-the-tooth.
XS spills out onto the pool area at night, so I imagine that a few ladies & gentleman will end up taking a drunken plunge at some point. Nothing says sexy like wet, chlorinated extensions. On the plus side, it may wash off some of the overdone cologne I was smelling on the guys. Literally, my eyes were watering. Worse than chopping onions. Worse than having to watch Larry King forget who he's interviewing.
A nice, if not a little gimmicky, selection of eateries at Encore:
WaZuZu: Insane design incorporating large, gold pears, '80s style white banquets and a $300k crystal dragon. Serves a combo of Thai and Chinese food with a decided flair for sushi rolls. Small saki selection and an even smaller dining room. Always seemed busy.
Society Cafe: Encore's 24-hour grub spot. Great decor with MC Escher-esque draperies and a few shocking pink chairs throw around. Good service. The menu offers an interesting twist on American comfort foods (ie, kobe meatloaf) and serves one of the best cups of coffee I've ever had in my life. It makes Starbucks look like rat piss.
... Actually, I'd likely prefer rat piss to Starbucks coffee.
Sinatra: Named after Ol' Blue Eyes, this Italian joint borders on shtick with Sinatra playing in the background and pictures of Steve Wynn shaking hands with the man. It was my least favorite of the eateries. Nothing really stood out at me. Just another overdone concept.
Botero: Much like Wynn's original creation at Bellagio (Picasso), this steakhouse features original works by the artist. Great food and service, complimented by outdoor seating if the weather's right.
Switch: By far, the most theatrical dinner I've ever had. The food takes a backseat to the room, which actually changes shape and color several times through the meal. It reminded me of The Animators Palette on Disney Cruiseline. The servers outfits change along with the surroundings as well. Inventive concept, but it comes across as more theme park than upscale experience. I also didn't like that the dining room was designed a bit too stage-like as well, with a very open feeling and putting those inside on constant display. Not my idea of fun.
The buffet concept eludes Encore and is left for those willing to walk the 15 minutes to the Wynn. FYI, your Encore keycard serves as temporary VIP status if you want to bypass the insane lines that form for the Wynn all-you-can-eat-a-thon.
The single most impressive thing about Encore is their spa. At nearly 75,000 sq ft, it's more than double the size of Wynn's facility and scores big points for keeping their price point high, but also the level of service (and overall quality) very high. Business seemed healthy, but thanks to a $40/day facility pass, it wasn't overly crowded. Encore's spa also does a fantastic job of selling itself out-front without needing to constantly tour people through the private areas. That way it remains a quiet, serene and ideal place to relax away from the rest of Las Vegas.
Separate male and female wet areas give the ability to go totally buff. The steamroom was on the fritz (but looked very large) and was said to be back up and running in 10 days or less. There are two massive whirlpools with built-in seating, two cold plunges and a back row of chroma-therapy surround showers and waterfall deluges. It's somewhat exhibitionistic, as all of the main room shower stalls are open to the rest of the room. Kinda hot for me, but for others it might not be as much fun. Luckily, there are completely private showers available too (with Wynn's namesake bath products readily available for use).
Also note, it's VERY gay. I was surprised at the amount of cruising here for such a new spot, but it's definitely on. I didn't see any real action, but I wouldn't be surprised if guys were exchanging info and taking it back to their rooms. Lots of guys showing it off in low-slung towels.
There's a meditation space for some pre-therapy quiet, but the real showstopper at the Encore spa is on the way to the treatment rooms: I can only describe it as jaw-dropping. A series of smooth-stone paths, leading to smaller rooms, decorated by large, lit, India-inspired lanterns. At the end of each of the large rooms are massive (40 ft tall) golden Buddhas, down-lit with LED lighting and flanked by equally as large water features. The effect is stunning. I can't say I've ever experienced a room quite like this and, while not at all relaxing, it makes you realize just how creatively billions of dollars can be spent. The treatment rooms themselves are equally as impressive, with chroma therapy (you can option the whole color of the room), private steam/showers and incredibly comfortable, heated massage tables. The therapists are well-trained, knowledgeable on what products they're using and make you feel comfortable without being too chatty. A nice balance of friendly and warm, but when they get down to business, it's obvious they prefer silence. I like that.
Overall, the Encore has some growing pains to overcome, but it's a strong new contender in the ongoing Las Vegas hotel wars, putting itself in the top-spot and as THE place to beat. Steve Wynn could have easily built this encore hotel as a smaller Wynn clone, but it's nothing of the sort: Encore has the look, layout and feel of something very different. I don't know how well this property will age, as the place is loaded with fabric wall coverings, hand-stenciled public art and lots of ornate, somewhat delicate handles, knobs and bobbles, but if you can make it there in the first year, I'd highly recommend this for a stay.
Just as a warning: Cabbies and random people WILL ask you your opinion on this place if they find out you're a guest. Everyone in Vegas wants to know if Wynn has another winner.
In the spirit of the good ol' days, let's throw in a mini-edition of EYE CANDY. I gotta get through my archives of this stuff before it totally takes over my hard drive... Enjoy!
... And in the spirit of everyone loving gossip as long as it's not about them, here's what I've been hearing across the industry boards. Read em' and weep.
It looks as if this LA hustler is seriously pissing-off the wrong people, which is especially asinine considering he's got a lot more to hide than just his hooking habit. While being whispered about at recent Rentboy events in Las Vegas, it's apparent that this fella has fallen off the wagon, going as far as to offer a friend of 15mm his own special 'blend' of mind-altering substance (at an over-inflated rate we're told). Far be it from us to criticize those who want to sell hard drugs for a living, but when you're continuing to see clients too, you're putting more than just yourself at risk. What really has us worried is hearing that this drugged-out ditz mixes Viagra into most of his party favors, leading 15mm to wonder if this guy even cares what adverse reactions are possible.
A gaggle of gossip from various gay AVN parties paint porn gossip patriarch DAMON KRUEZER as the soon-to-be winner of 'Best Blog' for CyberSocket's yearly awards. While we don't know for sure if this is the truth, 15mm has always been a massive supporter of his site. It's a one-stop-shop for everything happening in the gay adult world.
And as long as we're giving lip-service to really rad bloggers, let's not forget WILLAM BELLI, who continues to demonstrate why LA sometimes feels like a foreign country that we don't need a passport to visit. Hilarious and witty commentary on his life as an always-working actor, with a talk-back section that's entertaining as hell.
Also, a big congrats to singer RANDY ROBERTS for headlining another season at the La Te Da Cabaret in Key West. If you're headed down to South Florida and are looking for a truly spectacular vocal evening, this is the best ticket in town. Head to Randy's website for more info on his upcoming gigs.
Wanna stalk me in real-time? Join the gang, bookmark freely and follow along:
BN ON TWITTER
And for those who haven't yet heard about the whole 'Patti LuPone stopping the show' scandal, here's a link to the info...
But wait, it gets better. Much better: Thanks to the broadway fanboys who get audio on just about every performance out there, the insanity was caught on tape. It's already been remixed and put back out onto YouTube. This is some incredibly funny stuff. I bet LuPone's loving it.
Until we meet again,