Dwight Yoakam & Eric Church: Dwight Ruled the Night

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Eric Church may have been the headlining act at LA’s Staples Center on January 23, but Dwight Yoakam roped that baby calf with undeniable ease and rode away with the trophy. Regardless of the fact that today’s youth seem to view anyone over 40 as completely insignificant, Dwight has been honing his craft over the past 30 years, which yields a powerful performance highlighted by an understated confidence, knowing that he doesn’t have to prove a damn thing to anybody. He’s been there, done that and he just wants to play his music for you. Oh and do a little boot scootin’ and twistin’ here and there in those oh so well fitting tight jeans of his.

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Dwight has deservedly earned his title of reigning king of contemporary Honky Tonk music. With 21 albums under his belt, 12 of which are Gold, and a staggering 25 million records sold, this wrangler ain’t no one-hit wonder. Outfitted in a sequined jacket and his signature low-riding, wide-brimmed cowboy hat, Dwight simply sparkles inside and out. He has that one of a kind appeal that youth or money just can’t buy.

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Although his set was sadly shorter than I had hoped, he gifted us with his iconic “Little Sister,” a beefy rendition of the Johnny Cash hit “Ring of Fire,” his twang filled “Honky Tonk Man,” yodel-icious “Little Ways,” the always crowd pleasing “Guitars, Cadillacs,” and my personal all time favorite, “A Thousand Miles From Nowhere.” His music is raw, unfiltered and sincerely genuine. He oozes talent and he lets his hillbilly star shine for all to see. He doesn’t have to TELL YOU he’s an outlaw or a bad ass. He just IS his own unique person. Period. Love it. Love Dwight Yoakam. Always have. Always will. He put on a phenomenal show.

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Which leads me to Eric Church. I will start by saying that I saw him open for Kenny Chesney two summers ago at Angels Stadium in Anaheim and he put on a totally outstanding show. He really did, and I was a solid fan from that point forward. However, watching him headline this show nearly two year later, I couldn’t help but feel as though his bad boy attitude is somewhat contrived and unnatural. It struck me as over the top and dare I say, egomaniacal. This photograph is a perfect example of the level of self-adoration I’m speaking about.

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I struggle to connect with people anywhere who are obviously going out of their way to impress others and show everyone what an anti-establishment rebel they are. Over-self promotion tends to grate on my nerves and I was unable to escape the feeling that Eric Church purposefully makes a point to prove to his audience what a renegade bad ass he is. Frankly, I find that kind of attitude to be yawn-worthy and quickly lost interest in the show. Undoubtedly, he has his own style and is a talented singer and played some of his cooler songs like “Talladega,” a banjo-pickin’ “Give Me Back My Hometown,” “Creepin,” and a far out version of a “Bruce Springsteen/I’m on Fire” mix, I can’t help but be a little turned off by his seemingly obsessive self-love.

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I dig his music, and I honestly hope that Eric Church will grow out of this phase and into a more unpretentious and humble performer as he progresses in age and experience. With all that being said, this is just my two cents worth. You can take it or you can leave it. Music is my passion and being the passionate and animated individual that I am, I like to call the shots as I see and feel them. Nothing more. Nothing less. And on that note… Happy trails to you, until we meet again.

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Peppermill Fireside Lounge: Now THIS is a Lounge

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Here, securely tucked away in an unassuming spot along Las Vegas Boulevard, you will find the mother ship of all 70’s lounges. The Fireside Lounge, located inside of the Peppermill Restaurant, is the epitome of a classic disco-era bar. Time may be flying by just outside the front door, but once you step inside, you can ease back and get your groove on with no concept of time whatsoever. Just imagine that when the Peppermill opened on December 26 1972, it stood across the street from the still dazzling Stardust Casino and Hotel as well as the Folies Bergère (hmmmm this could be one reason for the sensually tantalizing vibe) with customers such as Dean Martin and Jerry Lewis! Yes, a lot has changed since then but this poster child of time-warp hero coffee shops and lounges is still standing proud and thriving. Walking through the doors of The Peppermill and you are lovingly enveloped into the breezy freewheeling world of yesteryear dining. Spacious booths, fake ficus trees, marble walls, mirror-ceiling and a fabulously old school counter. Hello Classic Vegas! A small wall of vintage photos can be found just outside the door to the Fireside Lounge. Check it out! Note to self: savor the full meal experience here next time! Unfortunately I had no idea the level of awesomeness I was about to encounter or I would have shown up on an empty stomach.

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Continue through the doors to the lounge and you have entered a swanky dimly-lit world of red velvet, secluded cushioned seating and of course, what else, a fire pit. This neon lust-filled room is warm, inviting and seductive with a groovalicious variety of tunes playing and plasma video screens to compliment. Sitting there, soaking in the energy while listening to Michael McDonald and James Ingram sing “Yah Mo B There,” equals perfection in my book.

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Friendly cocktail waitresses decked out in black floor-length, low cut gowns gracefully glide their way through the lounge and will kindly offer suggestions if you’re having a hard time deciding what to imbibe. And my waitress picked a winner indeed! The Chocolate Chip Cookie. Vodka, ice cream, chocolate sauce and maybe even a touch of Sin City fairy dust. Deeeeeelishhhhh! Look how sexy my cocktail looks under the red lights!

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I’m not sure I could pick a more ideal lounge for myself or anyone else. Laid back. Smooth tunes. Low lights. Fire pit. Stiff and tasty cocktails. Finger lickin’ good late night snacks. Fast and friendly 24-hour service. Easy parking. Comfy seating. I think I’m in love. Peppermill Fireside Lounge Las Vegas. Can ya dig it? Right on!

Fremont Street Las Vegas: The Strip’s Older Sassier Sister

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It is almost impossible to think about how many times I’ve been to Vegas and the countless attempts to get downtown to check out the Fremont Street experience before I actually did it!  The new additions, activities and attractions in this part of town have really helped to magically revitalize and restore what had at one time become a rather run down and undesirable part of Las Vegas, into a bustling and edgier flip side to The Strip.  

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Snap away on your iphone as you pass the countless tantalizing vintage neon signs, stop in at one of the oodles of souvenir shops to buy a trinket or two, take a moment to watch the talents of the unusual street performers, and be sure to grab some takeout from the best Thai food around at Le Thai to fuel up as you continue on down the yellow brick road. Before making a U-turn, be sure to check out Container Park (an incredibly cool and unique outdoor entertainment, dining & shopping complex made out of massive repurposed shipping containers!!) and the giant fire shooting preying mantis out front… I could watch that thing all night long!

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Give a wave, a shout out and a roll of the dice at any of the old school classic casinos such as: Las Vegas’ first ever major hotel/casino resort El Cortez (1941), Binions (of Benny Binion fame, 1951), Fremont Hotel and Casino (1956), 4 Queens (1966), and of course the infamous Golden Nugget (1946) which is looking GOOD these days, before gathering around for the main event… a Viva Vision Light Show.

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These 6 minute shows run every hour on the hour generally from 6pm to 1am and you can look up from just about anywhere and savor this experience for yourself on the 1500 foot long screen that is angled 90 feet above the ground with over 12 million lights making up this artistic collage of melting and pulsating designs that are set to the rhythm of the songs. The sound system is other worldly. The colors are deep and vivid. Totally mesmerizing.

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If you have never experienced this, OH ARE YOU IN FOR A PSYCHEDELIC TREAT and if you have, just remember there are a handful of different light (and song) shows each night to completely satisfy your eyes, ears and musical soul such as The Doors, The Who, Heart, Bon Jovi to name a few. So far my favorites are The Who and The Doors. “People Are Strange” will BLOW YOUR MIND.  And one last note to those thrill seekers in the crowd, you can buckle up and take a wild ride on the SlotZilla Zip Line and zoom THROUGH the light show itself. What a trip this place is! Gotta love it! VIVA LAS VEGA$$!

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La Quinta Inn & Suites Las Vegas Airport South: My Not-So-Dirty Little Las Vegas Secret

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It is my belief that not every Las Vegas hotel stay needs to be at a luxury 5 Star hotel on The Strip. And I’m perfectly at peace with that. It just makes those stays all the more special. However, when planning most of my (seemingly quite frequent) jaunts to Sin City my priorities are: clean, safe, friendly, affordable, user friendly, close enough to the action and welcomes dogs like my little man Elliott. I feel so fortunate to have found all of these and more at the La Quinta Inn & Suites Las Vegas Airport South. I consider it somewhat of a hidden gem!

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Located just south of McCarran Airport, on a quiet street in a totally acceptable and safe neighborhood with abundant complimentary parking, a pleasing exterior and a simply lovely albeit petite lobby. Rooms and bathrooms are always sparkling clean and are furnished with a small fridge, microwave and even a Keurig Coffee/Tea maker with a small stock of K-cups to select from. What a nice touch! The pool area is very appealing and both the pool & hot tub are very clean and well kept. Same goes for the workout room. You will find it very sufficient should you ever feel the need to pump iron or run the treadmill while you are in Las Vegas?

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Let’s see… what else can I tell you? Easy breezy check-in with no lines. They will even text you when your room is ready! Seriously! They are incredibly flexible with late check-outs and in most cases they will allow you to stay as late as 1pm, no problem. The bed is such a comfy NEST, and of course the rooms are equipped with blackout curtains for your sleeping ease. There are vintage framed photos on the hallway walls which are always interesting to look at and imagine what Vegas really would have been like way back when.

Getting out and about to nightlife and attractions from the La Quinta is a breeze and nothing is more than about 15 minutes away. I’ve stayed here for shows all over The Strip and random sight-seeing and it has never created a problem for me coming or going.  In fact, sometimes it feels kind of nice to get away from the madness and come back to my little hideaway hotel where I can get to my room within a few steps of the lobby without having to navigate my way through miles of casino to get there.

Katlyn and the other young ladies at the front desk are consistently helpful, kind & personable.
And last but not least, their free breakfast with a decent array of tasty foods is available until 10am on the weekends. With so many goodies to choose from I still go straight for the do-it-yourself Belgian waffle drowned in maple syrup! Can’t help it! Everything is just so uncomplicated and trouble-free, it’s impossible not to love this place. Thank you La Quinta for always doing your part in making my weekend getaways to Las Vegas fabulous!

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Penn and Teller: A Night of Mind Bending Fun and Magic in Las Vegas

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When I told people I was going to see Penn and Teller last Saturday night at the Rio in Las Vegas most were very positive saying I would have a great time. Of course, as always, there are the weirdos and haters out there who will tell you why they don’t make the cut or how this trick was fake and that one was fixed. Come on people, lighten up… this is a fantastic show! It is what it is. Entertainment, humor, wit, mind benders, jokes, and some super cool illusions and tricks.

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I LOVED all the audience involvement and never knew what was going to happen next. What about the CELL FISH? Or Teller inside the helium balloon? I totally lucked out and was chosen to be a part of one of the tricks and I was SO PSYCHED. And I am NOT a “plant”, I assure you. My friend and I were completely absorbed and having a blast.
What a pair these two guys are and they sure know how to keep a crowd engaged for their 90-minute show. They have been performing together as business partners since the late 1970’s and their on stage presence is very well orchestrated. While Penn is the host and raconteur, Teller “speaks” volumes in an almost mime-like fashion. Brilliant! How about Teller the Little Teapot? That was ADORABLE and HILARIOUS! Sawing the girl in half was totally scream-worthy and the bullet act was even better through binoculars!  I am not a fan of trying to ruin the fun by figuring out the tricks. Don’t ruin your own night by being one of those people. Just go with the flow, enjoy dinner before the show and have a cocktail or two (we ate dinner at the Royal India Bistro inside the Rio and it was DELICIOUS!), then watch Penn and Teller put on a sensational show and enjoy your evening! They aim to amuse you and they do a damn good job of it!

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How many performers are cool enough to come out after the show and host a meet and greet selfie party for every single person who wants one? Every single person?? I am really pleased that their network show “Fool Us,” has brought about a resurgence of interest in them and magic as well. And now of course, next time I’m near Hollylwood Boulevard, I will be searching for their well deserved star on the Walk of Fame!
I would DEFINITELY recommend seeing this show and would see it again without hesitation!

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Red Rock Canyon National Conservation Area: Fresh Air is Nature’s Best Cure for a Hangover

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Sunday afternoon, January 25 2015 in Las Vegas. 68 degrees and deep blue skies without one whisper of a cloud. I’m pretty sure today is a perfect day for taking in some natural beauty, don’t you? Well apparently many other people had that exact same thought, but thankfully, 306 square miles was more than enough space to comfortably accommodate all of us… and then some! Just 17 miles west of The Strip near the area of Summerlin, you enter into a completely different world of the Mojave Desert, untouched. One of fresh air, open space and spell bounding rock formations where you can walk, hike, picnic, bike, bird watch, photograph, meditate, horseback ride, rock climb, or anything else (legal) you so desire. Very well marked hiking trails of varying degrees of distance and difficulty are all laid out on the handy dandy brochure you get when you pay a nominal $7 entrance fee to enter the park. The road running through the park is a 13-mile scenic drive with a leisurely speed limit of 35 mph in order to let everyone enjoy the beauty around them sans road rage. An utterly picture perfect few hours were spent here and my dog Elliott was loving every minute of it. Smelling every single rock and clump of dirt.

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Just feels SO GOOD to take a deep breath in and just CHILL OUT once in a while. But to do that surrounded by nature makes that deep breath all the better. LIsten to the birds chirping and the light breeze blowing through your hair. So cleansing for the body, mind and soul. I think that a visit to Red Rock Canyon is the ideal balancing activity for whatever you may have indulged in the night before across town. Absolutely lovely.

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Whiskey Pete’s: Gettin’ Even Before Leavin’

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I generally know better than to leave wherever I am for the weekend before 6pm or so on a Sunday, but for some reason found myself heading back to Los Angeles yesterday with the masses around 4pm. Traffic was stopped bumper to bumper and there were signs warning drivers of “very heavy traffic due to construction”. Oh gooody! Just what I want to do, spend 6 hours driving back to LA on a Sunday. After checking my Waze app to see that traffic would be pretty insane all the way back, I quickly decided this was not going to be an acceptable end to another fabulous weekend in Las Vegas. So I threw caution to the wind and stopped at Whiskey Pete’s (opened in 1977) at the State Line town of Primm to pass the time and allow the hoardes to make their way back through to Cali. I was so happily surprised by how it all turned out! What a treat! After receiving a tip from a like-minded fellow road tripper while I was buying a few postcards in the gift shop, I spent the next hour or so perusing the Bonnie & Clyde and mob exhibit in the casino. How have I not heard about this before? Two cars on display RIGHT IN THE CASINO. Mobster Dutch Shultz’s 1931 Lincoln that was later owned by Al Capone and his gang and THE “DEATH CAR” of THE infamous BONNIE AND CLYDE. Bullet holes, blown out windows, the whole works, seemingly totally untouched, behind glass for all to admire right there in Whiskey Pete’s! In addition to the cars were artifacts, news clippings, photographs and a very cool Las Vegas Mob time line along the back wall.

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Mobster Dutch Shultz’ 1931 Lincoln, which was then owned by Al Capone and his gang. Check out the bullet-proof, lead-filled doors and inch thick glass on this puppy!

 

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Bonnie and Clyde’s “DEATH CAR”. Check out the shattered glass and bullet holes. Ambushed and killed by Louisiana police on May 23, 1934.

 

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An original photo of Bonnie & Clyde’s DEATH CAR.

The casino’s namesake, Pete MacIntyre apparently owned a gas station on this land back in the 1920’s and struggling to make ends meet, resorted to…you guessed it, bootlegging. He died in 1933 and years later his body was found in an unmaraked grave as construction crews were building the bridge that connects Whiskey Pete’s to Buffalo Bill’s across the highway.Legend has it, his body was moved to a nearby cave where it is said he brewed his moonshine. INTERESTING! I was so impressed with this exhibit of Las Vegas/Mob history, but also in awe that these items are hidden away here at Whiskey Pete’s and many people may never get the chance to see them. They need to advertise! From what I learned, the exhibit has moved around the area somewhat and finally made its way back to Whiskey Pete’s as of summer 2011.

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Certified as authentic, this is the shirt Clyde was wearing on the day Louisiana police shot and killed he and Bonnie in May 1934.

 

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Generously donated by Clyde Barrow’s sister, Marie.

 

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One of history’s most notorius duo’s in love and crime. Bonnie Parker and Clyde Barrow. Only 23 and 25 years old respectivey at their time of death.

Everyone should make a stop here on their way out of town for a look-see. Hey, you can fill up your gas tank, get a bite to eat at IHOP, McDonalds, Qdoba or Subway and play the slots in hopes of “gettin’ even before leavin!” as the sign out front says. Very low key casino with really friendly and helpful employees, like the blond German woman who we chatted with and suggested we take the tram and go check out Buffalo Bill’s while we were there. I spent a few minutes discussing the exhibits with two different and very cool truck drivers (one whose name was SALLY JANE!). I can’t speak to the hotel rooms themselves, but would I stop in again? MOST DEFINITELY! Thanks Whiskey Pete’s for making the end of my Vegas weekend so excellent! And just in case you’re still wondering if I made the right decision to stop, I cruised back to my pad in only 3 hours and 15 minutes after hanging out in Primm for a few fun-filled hours. Totally worth it! LADY LUCK was definitely on my side yesterday!

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