NYTimes.com Article: New on the Strip: Hipster New York

khare@alumni.caltech.edu khare@alumni.caltech.edu
Sun, 9 Mar 2003 13:47:44 -0500 (EST)

This article from NYTimes.com 
has been sent to you by khare@alumni.caltech.edu.

Vegas, baby!!

It is interesting that they refer to the megatrends of 1) ultramassive casinos/hotels (80's/90's) 2) appropriated class in dining (mid 90's chef raids) 3) appropriated class in performance (cirque & co) and now 4) appropriated class in clubbing.

And yet they don't mention the megatrend of 'return to sin city' from the family image, under the era of a new mob-boss-lawyer-mayor and megabuck stripclubs (also a topic covered in the Times, I believe).

And they don't even mention Drai's. 




New on the Strip: Hipster New York

March 9, 2003


THE celebrities were flown in for the weekend on a private
jet and set up in luxury suites at the Bellagio. But there
was a hitch. Their presence was required at the opening of
Caramel, a lounge in the hotel that is modeled after
exclusive New York City nightspots, with low-slung
furniture and wheat-grass planters - whose only missing
ingredient was paparazzi-worthy stars. 

But not for long. At 10 p.m. on a recent Saturday, when a
photographer appeared at a table where Fred Durst from Limp
Bizkit sat with the actors Luke Wilson and Christian
Slater, all three flashed smiles. When the photographers
wanted Owen Wilson to pose with his arm around the singer
Jewel, his other brother, Andrew Wilson, who was sitting
beside them on a banquette, obliged and slid out of the
way. And after being sweet-talked by a publicist, Bruce
Willis offered himself to a television crew near the bar's

As the stars posed, one of Caramel's co-owners, Chris
Barish, worked the room. (His father, Keith Barish, a film
producer, had wrangled most of the celebrities.) Slapping
Mr. Slater on the back, he said, "Say how much it feels
like New York in here." 

Mr. Slater deadpanned, "You know, I feel like I could be at
a bar in New York City right now." 

Several years ago, the opening of outposts of Manhattan's
expensive culinary meccas, including Aureole, Nobu and Le
Cirque, was the big trend in Las Vegas. Now the move is
toward nightspots with votive candles and apple martinis,
straining for the hipster ambience of the meatpacking
district. Caramel is the latest club to throw up velvet
ropes between hotel souvenir shops and slot machines, its
entrance guarded by clipboard-wielding door dragons. 

"Two years ago there was nothing in Las Vegas for our type
of customer," said David Rabin, an owner of Lotus, on West
14th Street in New York, speaking of the slightly older,
sophisticated clubgoers who don't mind paying $12 for a
mixed drink. Since then, Mr. Rabin and a partner, Will
Regan, have helped to fill the gap with the V Bar, at the
Venetian hotel on the Strip. 

"They brought in Lutèce and Le Cirque for the baby
boomers," said Elizabeth Blau, a hospitality consultant who
counts Kirk Kerkorian's MGM Mirage group of hotels as a
client. "Now the hotels see that there's a whole other
demographic willing to pay for a hip nightlife experience."

And suddenly, there's lots of competition. Mr. Barish and a
partner, Andrew Sasson, have two other New York-style
nightspots: Light at Bellagio and Mist at Treasure Island.
(The partners also own Light in New York City and Jet East
in the Hamptons.) Last week, MGM Grand opened Tabu, billed
as "a chic, cosmopolitan ultra lounge," whatever that might
be. And next week, the hotel Paris Las Vegas is opening
Risqué, a nightclub with daybeds for seating. 

But what happens when hoteliers try to import an elitist
New York attitude to a city best known for its unruly
bachelor parties, business conventions and millions of
tourists with fanny packs? The hint of an answer emerged on
a recent weekend crawl through the New York-style lounges. 

After the Caramel opening, the celebrity entourage moved
across the casino in the Bellagio to Light, the dance club
with a namesake in Midtown Manhattan. On the wrong side of
the velvet ropes, revelers trying to look like Christina
Aguilera and Brad Pitt pleaded with the bouncers. Unlike in
New York, where arty types with exceptional 1980's
hair-do's get special treatment, in Las Vegas everyone
waits in line, except the very famous. 

"We can't be too exclusive," said Alan Feldman, the senior
vice president for public affairs at MGM Mirage, whose
holdings include the Bellagio, MGM Grand, the Mirage and
Treasure Island. "It's our job to make everyone feel
comfortable. The biggest difference between our New
York-style lounges and the real ones in New York City is
we're not going to turn customers away." 

Not that there aren't red-leather V.I.P. booths at Light,
where the art dealer Tony Shafrazi was cozying up to a
woman in a skimpy dress. The actor Stephen Dorff mixed a
drink, and go-go dancers gyrated on podiums. After one too
many Ashanti and Ja Rule duets, Mr. Willis and the Wilson
brothers made a beeline for the door. 

Any Las Vegas cabdriver will tell you that the nightspots
in the Palms hotel are the most happening. (Leonardo
DiCaprio held his birthday party at the hotel last fall,
after the casino sent two planes for him and his friends.)
The lines to get into the two Palms clubs, Rain and
Ghostbar, snaked past the slots and blackjack tables like
airport lines for a spring break flight to Cancún. 

For those who don't like to wait up to an hour to pay a $30
cover charge, there is always the option of booking a
skybox for $1,500. Three stories above the club floor in
Skybox No. 7, a group of women with pneumatic breasts were
entertaining several businessmen in loosened ties. "I'm the
only one famous in here," said one of the women, who
claimed to be a pornographic film star and a model for
Maxim magazine. "You can take my picture but not my
clients'. Their wives would kill them." 

In the corridor, Paul Witherspoon, 27, a businessman from
Grand Junction, Colo., who had evaded security, was racing
through the halls. "I'm a nobody! I'm a hick!" he shouted.
"I have $2,000 in my checking account, but I still got up

Mr. Witherspoon ended up on the main floor of Rain, which
looks as if it could be the set of a Kiss concert crossed
with a 1950's Richard Neutra house. The
midcentury-modern-style sofas and the glass and bamboo
cocktail tables were arranged with an elevated dance floor
surrounded by a moat of dry ice and go-go girls in metal
cages. On the bar, fliers announced an open casting call
for "Temptation Island 3." 

"I've been here seven days and I can't wait to go home,"
said one patron, Tony Colucci, 44, a lawyer from Buffalo,
who was in town for a conference. One of his colleagues
took a swig of beer. "There are grown women in cages over
there," the colleague said. "This is not what I call

The Ghostbar, on the 55th floor of the Palms, offered more
exclusivity. Two women dancing on metallic Eero Saarinen
Tulip chairs tried to attract the eye of Alex Rodriguez,
the Texas Rangers' star shortstop. 

Juwan Howard of the Denver Nuggets basketball team was
celebrating his birthday with buckets of Champagne and an
entourage that included the Chicago Bulls' captain, Jalen
Rose, and Howard Eisley of the Knicks. (Professional
athletes prefer the Palms because the hotel's owners, the
Maloof family, also own the Sacramento Kings basketball
team. Some suites have seven-and-a-half-foot beds.) 

"It feels like a New York party in here," said Mr. Howard's
wife, Jenine, who was squeezed into a leather Roberto
Cavalli dress. "I mean, look at this crowd!" 

Doug Banks, the host of a nationally syndicated R&B radio
show, who had flown in from Dallas for the weekend, agreed.
"I used to come to Vegas just to gamble; now I come to get
my party on," he said. "There's still a lot of polyester
and porn stars here, but they're not in here." 

The most New Yorky of the New York-style lounges is the V
Bar, at the Venetian hotel, which was designed by a
Manhattan firm, Meyer Davis Studio Inc. It has a modern
Asian look with low-slung red banquettes, black Eames
chairs and rice-paper light sculptures. Outside, a bouncer
with a punk haircut and a tattoo kept her eye on the velvet
rope. But despite the effort to be New Yorky, the
red-lighted room was mostly filled with businessmen and
Pamela Anderson look-alikes. 

"You need more than just a cool environment. You also need
the people," said Roberto Angiolucci, 36, the president of
Claudia Ciuti shoes, who had flown in for a shoe
convention. "The women are beautiful, with great bodies,
but they have no class," he complained. "They all look like

But sometimes this city's democratic approach can be more
fun than New York elitism. "Las Vegas is so good at
imitating reality that it's often better than the real
thing," said Hal Rothman, author of "Neon Metropolis: How
Las Vegas Started the 21st Century." "If you go to the
Venetian, you don't have to worry about pigeon droppings,
and when you go to the New York-style clubs, they're not
pretentious and there aren't as many rules." 

Over at Foundation, a Moroccan theme lounge with tapestries
and daybeds on the 43rd floor of the Mandalay Bay hotel, a
group of executives from Bear Stearns were drinking in a
private room that runs $250 a night. "They treat yuppies
like rock stars here," said one executive, Matt, who
declined to give his last name. "It blows New York away." 


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