If there was one "silver lining" that came out of the dumpster-fire that was 2020, it was the opportunity to focus on a few projects that I previously hadn't had time to work on.
Sin City Stories was one of those projects.
I'd had this idea in my head to put together "deep dives" into various aspects of Las Vegas history. I wanted to tell the stories of some of the more fascinating, bizarre and tragic events that helped to shape the city - but at the same time, make sure it didn't just sound like I was reading from a Wikipedia page.
I wanted Sin City Stories to be more like a "documentary" or "long-form storytelling" with music, vocal effects and sound effects. I wanted the listener to feel like they were "on a journey" and once they'd finished listening to the podcast, to be able to jump onto the website to read the stories, see photos and watch videos.
Sin City Stories is the most in-depth production I've ever done in my entire podcasting & broadcasting career and I'm incredibly proud of it.
One of the things I've enjoyed the most about doing this podcast has been helping people plan their own trips to Las Vegas, and I've been able to do that in couple of different ways.
Firstly, with my "trip report" episodes; I've loved being able to share my Vegas experiences and provide reviews of hotels, restaurants, shows, attractions and anything else I've gotten up to during my time in the city.
Secondly, through the various conversations I've had with Vegas-related experts who I've recruited to help answer questions on a variety of topics. Over the last couple of years, we've covered tipping etiquette, where to find the best late night eats, how to plan an "epic girls trip" and even what not to do on a Vegas trip.
As you start making plans for potential trips in the coming year, I thought it might be a good idea to re-share some of these tips & tricks.
And if you'd like to listen to the complete episodes, here you go:
EP#16: Classic Vegas Mistakes
EP#53: Girls Gone Vegas
EP#56: Mid-Night Munchies
EP#59: The Tipping Point
One of the most popular topics I cover on the podcast is Las Vegas history. People love hearing about the colorful & interesting past of their favourite city as well as the cast of "characters" who helped to shape it.
I've had the pleasure of speaking with authors, other podcasters and historians on a huge variety of subjects, covering everything from the mob's role in creating Las Vegas to deep dives into the history of some of the most iconic Vegas hotels & casinos and so much more!
I thought it might be fun to hop into my own personal time machine and re-share some of those awesome conversations with you!
And here's the complete episodes featured in this bonus episode:
EP#46: The Full Reveal - The Burlesque Hall Of Fame Museum
EP#62: Howard Hughes - Aviator, Innovator and Las Vegas Legend
EP#71: "Made" In Vegas
EP#78: A Place In The Sun
Over the course of the last year or so, I've had the opportunity to talk gambling and gaming with some very cool guests and cover what I thought were some fun and interesting topics. We talked about everything from how to bet on sports, to apps that help you keep track of table game limits, to when "skill" becomes "cheating" and even superstition as it relates to Las Vegas.
As such, for this bonus "Best Of" episode, I thought it might be fun to take a trip back and listen to some of the highlights of those conversations!
And if you want to check out the full episodes, here they are:
EP#36: Sports Betting For Dummies
EP#51: Cheating The Odds
EP#52: Superstitious Feeling
EP#54: Know The Limits
It's a little-known fact that just over 60 miles away from the glitz & glamour of the Las Vegas Strip, the United States Government used to test atomic weapons.
Just as the Cold War with Russia was beginning to heat up, the US Department of Energy began testing nuclear bombs in the Nevada desert. The blasts lit up the sky and the mushroom clouds could be seen for miles around - including from the rooftops of the hotels in downtown Vegas.
But how did the nuclear age find its way to Las Vegas? And what effect did it have on the city & its culture?
If you want to learn more about nuclear testing in the United States, the Nevada Test Site and atomic culture & tourism, visit the official Sin City Stories website featuring photos, videos, in-depth stories and more!
If you've ever been to Las Vegas, you're well aware of the unique scents of the various casinos & hotels up and down The Strip. In fact, if you ask people what one of their favorite parts of Vegas is, they'll tell you "it's the smell inside the casinos". And it seems that everyone has their own preferred scent - so much so, that there are thousands of posts online from people asking how to either purchase or duplicate their favorite casino scent.
But what's the big deal about smell? Why is the scent of a casino so important that the companies that own them spend MILLIONS of dollars on creating these so-called "signature scents"?
To get the answer, I decided to talk to an expert...
My guest for this episode is Dr. Rachel Herz, a world-renowned expert on the psychological science of smell. Dr. Herz is a cognitive neuroscientist, a TED-X speaker and a published author of both numerous research publications and several books on the topic of the science of smell.
We discussed what piqued her interest in the psychology of scent, the connection between scent and emotion & memory and how businesses use scent to affect customer behavior.
To learn more about the science and psychology of scent, visit Dr. Herz's website or follow her on Twitter. You can also pick up one of her books:
And if you want your home to smell exactly like your favorite Vegas casino, visit Aroma Retail's website and check out their "Resort Collection" which includes scents from the Bellagio, Aria, the Cosmopolitan, Luxor, the Flamingo, Mandalay Bay, Wynn and many others!
December 15, 1952 saw the opening of one of the most iconic hotels in the history of Las Vegas:
The Sands Hotel & Casino
During its heyday, it played host to some of the biggest names in entertainment of the day, most notably the legendary "Rat Pack" featuring Frank Sinatra, Dean Martin & Sammy Davis Jr. And although that might be what the Sands is best known for, there's way more to the story than that - and that's where my guest for this episode steps in.
David Schwartz is the author of "At The Sands", a new book that takes readers on a deep dive into the history of The Sands. Dave and I talked about inspired him to write a book about The Sands, how "mobbed up" the Sands was compared to other Vegas hotels, Frank Sinatra's involvement in the project, Howard Hughes' purchase of the famed resort & his plans for the future, and what led to the eventual downfall of the Sands (both figuratively and literally).
"At The Sands" by David Schwartz is available in both Kindle and Paperback formats on Amazon.
There's no question that the COVID-19 outbreak, lockdown and the subsequent limitations on re-openings have been extremely tough on everyone in Las Vegas. But one of the hardest hit segments are the people involved in the entertainment industry.
After 7 long months, shows are finally starting to re-open along The Strip and my guest for this episode is one of those people who's found himself trying to sort out performing during a pandemic.
Vin A. from The Bronx Wanderers is back to chat with me once again. Since the last time we talked, A LOT has changed. Early in 2020, the band made the move from the Linq to Harrah's and then shortly after that, the world closed down and they were forced to figure out what came next.
Vin & I discussed the various projects he's had the chance to work on during the shutdown as well as how he - and other Vegas performers - adapted to stay busy & stay in front of their audiences. Vin also shared his thoughts on what the future may hold for entertainment in Las Vegas from the business side, the performer side and the audience side.
You can stream Vin A's latest original tracks, "Know Where (To Begin)" and "Mantra" on Apple Music & Spotify and be sure to check out all the videos from his VINDemic sessions on his YouTube Channel - including the incredible video for "Know Where (To Begin)".
When you're headed to Las Vegas, it's important make sure your smartphone is loaded up with all the essential apps - including your casino loyalty apps, rideshare apps and your photo sharing & social media apps to make your friends jealous about your Vegas trip.
There's a brand new app available for use in Vegas that could save you time, the aggravation of waiting in lines and - most importantly during these weird COVID-19 times - help maintain social distancing.
NowCrowd is the first app that provides visitors and locals with up-to-date information on crowd levels & wait times at spots around Las Vegas thanks to real-time user-sourced reports.
My guests for this episode are Tyler Robertson & Jessica Marshall, the founders of NowCrowd. We talked about the inspiration behind the the app, the development process, how the app works and what the future may hold for the app.
Be sure to follow NowCrowd on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram and download the app on the Apple App Store and Google Play Store.
As important as it was for me to get the "tourist point of view" on what's been happening in Las Vegas as of late, I felt it was equally as important to get the local's point of view as well.
So, my guest for for this episode is Jake Gallen, the host of a podcast called The Guest List which focuses on the stories of Las Vegas locals. Jake is one of those rare "unicorns" who was both born & raised in Vegas. He's lived in the city his whole life and he's been lucky enough to work at pools & clubs on the Strip as well as be involved in other business ventures.
Jake & I talked about his background & growing up in Las Vegas, the insanity of working at one of the most famous nightclubs in the world and the inspiration behind launching The Guest List.
But my main reason for getting Jake on the podcast was to get his take on what's been happening in Vegas over the past few months; I wanted to know how the locals were handling recent events and if the reported uptick in crime (including shootings, stabbings, fights, etc) was reality or if it was just another case of Social Media "exaggerating" things.
Follow Jake Gallen & The Guest List on Twitter, Instagram and Facebook and make sure you subscribe to the podcast on Apple Podcasts, Spotify or wherever you get your podcasts. You can also watch & subscribe to The Guest List on YouTube.
Needless to say, Las Vegas is going through some very weird times.
We're not really "post-COVID", in that COVID-19 is still "a thing" and a concern in Las Vegas & around the world. However, over the course of the last few months, Vegas has been slowly opening back up to tourists and, as great as it's been to see people going back, the re-opening hasn't been without "hiccups".
The biggest issue that seems to be facing Las Vegas as of late is an increase in crime on the Vegas Strip. There have been multiple reports of shootings, stabbings, fights - both inside & outside casinos - and the infamous "scooter gangs".
But is what's being portrayed in the media & online what's actually happening? And, does it really matter? After all, as the saying goes, "perception is reality" - and if people perceive Vegas as "unsafe", that's the reality in their minds and it's going to hurt tourism.
Since I'm still stuck in Canada & unable to get to Las Vegas, I wanted to talk to someone who's been the city recently and experienced what's going on in Vegas right now.
My guests for this episode are Dave & Michelle, the hosts of "We Work To Visit Vegas" on YouTube. The couple have been regular Vegas visitors for the past few years and have been posting videos since 2017.
I talked to them about the inspiration behind their decision to start vlogging and we chatted about what keeps bringing them back to Las Vegas. Most importantly though, I wanted to hear about their most recent trip to Las Vegas (at the end of September 2020) and how it differed from their previous trips.
Follow We Work To Visit Vegas on Twitter & Instagram and be sure to subscribe to their YouTube Channel.
Currently, as a Canadian, I still can't really travel to Las Vegas. Borders are technically closed and even if I did manage to "sneak down", I'd have to quarantine upon my return home. Not exactly an ideal situation.
One of the things I'm missing the most about going to Vegas is the ability to check out shows and see world class live entertainment. But just because I can't go to Vegas, doesn't mean I can't enjoy a little piece of Las Vegas right here at home.
One of my favourite ways to do that is by sitting down, popping on my headphones and pressing play on one of the many live albums that have been recorded in Las Vegas. And my personal faves are the CLASSIC albums that were recorded in Vegas, so for this episode of the podcast, I thought I'd share some thoughts & opinions about some of those great albums, including:
- Tom Jones - Live In Vegas (Apple Music / Spotify)
- Elvis - Live 1969 (Apple Music / Spotify)
- The Rat Pack: Live At The Sands (Apple Music / Spotify)
And if you're after a few more great live albums recorded in Las Vegas, check out this awesome list from Steve Bornfeld at Las Vegas Magazine.
The Las Vegas Strip attracts a lot of different types of people. Vacationers, gamblers, foodies, partiers...and daredevils.
And there's one specific spot on the Strip that's been particularly appealing to those who make their living defying death:
The Fountains at Caesars Palace
Since Caesars Palace opened in 1966, this usually-serene spot on an otherwise-busy Las Vegas Boulevard has played host to multiple brave - and crazy - people who've attempted to jump their motorcycles over the famed fountains.
Some have succeeded while others have failed SPECTACULARLY.
If you want to learn more about the famous daredevils who've taken a run at this iconic Vegas landmark, be sure to visit the official Sin City Stories website - featuring photos, in-depth stories, videos and more!
The Las Vegas Strip has its fair share of iconic hotels & resorts, perhaps none of which are more steeped in history and folklore than The Flamingo.
Part of the Vegas landscape since the mid-1940's, it was the brainchild of a Los Angeles-based nightclub owner, restaurant owner and entertainment news editor who wanted to build one of the most luxurious hotels & casinos Las Vegas had ever seen.
But that's not what legend and pop culture would have you believe.
And, as you'll find out in this episode of Sin City Stories, sometimes the truth is WAY more interesting than fiction.
If you want to learn more about the history of The Flamingo, head over to the official Sin City Stories website - featuring in-depth stories, historic photos and more!
I have to be honest. This is an episode that I hoped I wouldn't have to record for a very long time - if ever at all.
As you've probably guessed from the title of this episode, I've made the decision to put the podcast on a temporary hiatus. For how long? I'm not exactly sure as of yet. That being said, I thought I owed you - the loyal listeners & supporters of the podcast - an explanation as to why I've made this decision.
I'll still be providing Las Vegas news & travel updates on my various social media channels - including Facebook & Twitter - so I can keep you in the loop on what's happening in the city.
I'm also in the process of launching a new spin-off podcast called Sin City Stories which I invite you to check out & subscribe to (wherever you get your podcasts).
In the meantime, please stay safe & stay healthy.
"Vegas was better when it was run by The Mob."
Anytime I've been in Las Vegas, I inevitably run into people who loudly & proudly say this. But just how accurate is this statement? My guest for this episode decided to find out for himself - with his own podcast.
Reed Redmond is the host of Mobbed Up: The Fight For Las Vegas, an 11-part true-crime podcast that chronicles the rise and fall of organized crime in Las Vegas.
Reed had the opportunity to get the stories from the people who lived them - including law enforcement officials, journalists, lawyers, judges and even a legit gangster.
If you want to listen to Mobbed Up: The Fight For Las Vegas, you can find it wherever you get podcasts - including Apple Podcasts, Spotify and Google Podcasts - or find it on the Las Vegas Review-Journal website.
Also, be sure to follow Reed on Twitter and Instagram.
Fred Hazelton & Seb Gagnon are the hosts of a brand new Las Vegas podcast called The Unofficial Vegas Podcast. Fred is a Vegas veteran who visits annually as part of his gig with The Unofficial Vegas Guide and Seb is his good friend & co-host who's only had the opportunity to visit Vegas a couple of times.
I reached out to the guys to see if they'd be interested in joining me on the podcast to talk about their show as well as share some of their own personal Las Vegas picks, tips and tricks!
If you want to take a listen to The Unofficial Vegas Podcast you can find them on Apple Podcasts and Spotify or check them out on Anchor! And be sure to give the boys a follow on social media...find them on Twitter and Instagram!
Big thanks to Noe Perez from The Noe Perez Pod for having me on his podcast to chat. I had an absolute blast talking to Noe about my time growing up in Canada, working in radio, getting into podcasting and sharing some of my own personal Vegas tips & tricks. Be sure to check out the episode and subscribe to the show!
I've pumped out brand new episodes for the past 15 weeks straight but I have to tell you something: I'm exhausted. So, I've decided to take a week off for a little R-&-R.
As such, I thought this would be a good opportunity for you guys to get caught up on some of the fun shows that I've put out over the last few months. Plus, you've probably run out of things to binge-watch on Netflix, so why not immerse yourself in the world of podcasts?
In no particular order, here's a few recent episodes to check out for yourself! And, as always, if you have any feedback on these episodes or suggestions for topics to cover on upcoming episodes, please feel free to reach out to me via Twitter, Facebook or Instagram!
Almost 40 years ago, the Las Vegas Strip was the site of what would become the third-worst hotel fire in modern US history and what remains as the worst disaster in the history of the state of Nevada.
On an early morning in November of 1980, a small fire broke out in what was - at the time - the MGM Grand Hotel (now, Bally's). The fire quickly spread, engulfing the casino level and sending thick black smoke & toxic fumes to the upper floors of the hotel. In the end, 85 people were killed and hundreds more were injured.
But what exactly caused the fire and led to such widespread fatalities & injuries? And what changes were made to ensure that something like this could never happen again?
That's what this episode of Sin City Stories is all about, as I take a deep dive into one of the darker moments in Las Vegas's history.
And if you want to learn more about everything I've covered in this special episode of the podcast, head over to the official Sin City Stories website - featuring in-depth stories, links, videos, photos and more!
Sergio Portesan is the creator of the website, Viva Las Value - an awesome site crammed with tons of great tips & tricks on how to do your Las Vegas trip on a budget. Sergio is also my first ever "three-peat" guest on the podcast, with first 2 appearances being among my top 10 most-downloaded episodes of all-time.
I asked Sergio to hop back on the podcast for a couple of reasons...
First, with the Canada/US Border closed, I'm not able to travel down to Las Vegas but Sergio can, so I asked him if he'd be willing to join me for a "trip report by proxy" to share a few reviews from his most recent trek to Sin City.
Secondly, Sergio's trip coincided with the re-opening weekend of Las Vegas following the COVID-19 pandemic shutdown. As such, I wanted to get his thoughts & opinions on how he thought Vegas was doing in welcoming back visitors and - most importantly - whether or not he thought he'd be heading back down for another trip anytime soon.
If you've got Vegas-related questions for Sergio be sure to reach out and follow Viva Las Value on Facebook, Twitter & Instagram
If you've found yourself strolling through The Linq on a recent Las Vegas trip, there's a very good chance you've seen my guest for this episode of the podcast performing.
Justin Michael Rodriguez is one of the performers in the show Extreme Live - a very cool, high energy, interactive show at the Linq.
Justin and I chatted about the time he spent growing up in Las Vegas, scoring a lead in the touring production of a major Broadway show, his brush with boy-band fame and his thoughts on the future of entertainment in Vegas.
If you want to keep up with what Justin is up to, you can follow him on Facebook and Instagram. Also, be sure to follow the Extreme Live Show on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.
One of my favourite things about Las Vegas is the vast array of entertainment options available. One of the most popular types of shows are the "celebrity impersonator" or "tribute shows" - and my special guest for this episode of the podcast is one of the best in the city!
Christina Shaw has been a professional celebrity impersonator for close to 20 years. As Britney Spears, Christina Aguilera, Lady Gaga and a host of other celebs, she's had the opportunity to travel all over the US, Asia and the Caribbean. Christina has been performing in Las Vegas since 2010 and has had the opportunity to headline on The Strip numerous times, including as a part of the iconic Legends In Concert show.
During our conversation, Christina & I talked about growing up with a very entertainment-centered family, how she got started in the world of celebrity impersonation, some of her early gigs in Las Vegas and the process she follows when working on a new impersonation.
If you want to know more about Christina Shaw you can follow her on Facebook, Twitter & Instagram. Christina is also available for special greetings as Taylor Swift or Elsa & Anna from Frozen via her Cameo pages!
My guest for this episode of the podcast is someone I've been trying to connect with for awhile, but up until now our schedules just never clicked. I'm a HUGE fan of hers and anytime I have a chance to see her perform, I know I'm going to have an awesome time!
Sarah Hester Ross is an incredibly talented musical comedian & singer-songwriter. And if you've spent time in any of the duelling piano bars on the Vegas strip, there's a good chance you've seen her play.
Sarah & I talked about her musical background & how she made it to Vegas, some of the shows she's been involved with in her time in the city and how she's been building her online presence with the amazing material she's been posting on her various social media channels.
If you want to see what Sarah is working on make sure to follow her on Twitter, Instagram and Tik-Tok. Also, go subscribe to her YouTube channel and check out her website!
NOTE: I've been made aware of a claim against Sarah Hester Ross surrounding her recording, releasing & monetizing a musical work to which she allegedly did not receive permission or licensing to do so. The interview for this episode of the podcast was recorded approximately 2 weeks prior to release of this episode and any reference to the allegedly infringed upon musical work has been removed from this episode of the podcast.
Las Vegas is a city all about gambling & taking risks...but it's not just the tourists who go there to gamble.
Tens of BILLIONS of dollars have been shelled out over the last 30 years on the construction of mega-resorts, massive hotels and giant attractions all intended to keep the Vegas economy moving forward - and of course to make a tidy profit for the investors behind the scenes.
But in Las Vegas - as in life - not every gamble pays off.
That's what the debut episode of Sin City Stories is all about. I'm taking a deep dive into some Las Vegas history and exploring the stories behind the failures of The St. Regis Residences at the Venetian/Palazzo, the SkyVue Las Vegas Super Wheel, the Harmon Hotel at City Center and the Fontainebleau Las Vegas.
If you want to learn more about everything I've covered in this special episode of the podcast, visit the official Sin City Stories website! I've got photos & videos about all of these failed Las Vegas projects as well as extra info about their development & construction!
It was a little over a year ago that Vegas entertainer & actor, John Di Domenico - who's regarded as the world's best Donald Trump impersonator - invited me to his home to have a conversation for the podcast (check out that interview in Episode #18). During the course of our chat, John dropped into the conversation that at one time Donald Trump actually thought John had died. Apparently, I'm not the journalist I thought I was...because I just moved past that and didn't ask any follow-up questions.
Better late than never, I decided to ask John to come back on the show so I could find out the when, how and why the future President of the United States thought John had passed away.
We also got caught up on what John has been up to over the last year including the voiceover work he's been doing as Trump, his opportunity to meet Alec Baldwin, his dive into the world of Cameo and how he's been keeping busy during the COVID-19 shutdown in Las Vegas.
If you want to keep up with what John has going on, follow him on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. And if you'd like one of John's many characters - including Donald Trump, Dr. Evil, Guy Fieri, Dr. Phil and many MANY others - to send a special message to a co-worker, friend or family member be sure to book him on Cameo!
I made my first visit to Ri Ra Irish Pub in the Shoppes At Mandalay Bay back in June 2019 and reviewed the experience on Episode #24 of the podcast. As I described it at the time, everything about Ri Ra was "authentically Irish". Sitting in this pub in a mall in Las Vegas felt exactly like sitting in the pub in Dublin - and a lot of things helped contribute to that...from the food, to the drinks, to the staff, to the music.
And that's where the people joining me for this episode of the podcast come into play.
My special guests are Dave Rooney and Dave Browne of The Black Donnellys. They're the resident house band at Ri Ra in Mandalay Bay.
I talked to the guys about growing up in Dublin & the band's origins in Ireland, how and why they made the move to Las Vegas, their various Guinness World Records and their brand new documentary film An Irish Story: This Is My Home.
Of course we also talked about the COVID-19 pandemic and how they've been keeping busy through the Vegas shut-down.
If you want to learn more about Dave & Dave and the Black Donnellys, visit their official website - which includes info on where you can watch An Irish Story: This Is My Home. Also make sure to follow the band on Instagram and Facebook - where they've been performing live shows.
And if you want to learn more about the tragic real-life story of The "Black" Donnellys - from which the band took their name - check out the website, Heaven & Hell on Earth - The Massacre of The "Black" Donnellys. On the site, you can read all about the family, the murders and the aftermath - including the TWO trials that followed - as well as look through archival evidence from the events.
In spite of its short history, the city of Las Vegas has some incredibly colourful characters in its past...and for this episode, I want to talk about one of those characters.
Howard Hughes was a billionaire, an inventor, an aviator, movie producer and philanthropist. He was also known to be a little "eccentric."
The stories about Howard Hughes are legendary - from the rumours of him urinating in mason jars & having foot-long fingernails to locking himself in a movie screening room for months on end & buying a Las Vegas hotel because he didn't want to leave. The stories have been around so long and spun in so many different directions, that it's sometimes hard to separate fact from fiction. And that's what my guest is here to do...
Geoff Schumacher is the Vice President of Exhibits and Programs at The Mob Museum in Downtown Las Vegas. Last time Geoff was here, we talked about Las Vegas's mob history...but another one of his favourite topics is Howard Hughes' time in spent in Vegas.
We talked about Hughes' aviation & filmmaking history, what prompted him to move to Nevada in the first place, the rumour that he bought the Silver Slipper Hotel & Casino because "the sign annoyed him", the bizarre reason behind his purchase of a Las Vegas TV station and much more.
Visit Amazon to purchase a copy of Geoff Schumacher's book "Howard Hughes: Power, Paranoia and Palace Intrigue". Also be sure to visit The Mob Museum's website for Virtual Tours and follow them on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram.