We enjoyed the “Tape Face” show at Harrah’s Las Vegas a lot.
Tape Face came to prominence on “America’s Got Talent,” and his Las Vegas show is inventive, funny and highly recommended.
That’s not an unconditional recommendation given recent revelations, though.
The Tape Face show is a little mime, a little clown, a little audience interaction, a little oven mitt and a lot of offbeat.
We recently learned the Tape Face you’re seeing onstage at Harrah’s may not be the actual Tape Face.
See, the Tape Face who made a splash on “America’s Got Talent” is named Sam Wills.
Now, we hear there’s another Tape Face, referred to by the production as “T2.” An understudy, you might say. Although, that may not be quite the right word for it. Not a “back-up.” Double, maybe? Stand-in?
No matter what you call it, it’s another Tape Face.
When we first heard about this “Face swap” from reviewer Alex Belfield, we thought it sounded very shady. You don’t just get to replace a performer with a similar performer without letting your audience know.
Tape Face, however, or someone Tweeting on behalf of Tape Face (who knows at this point?), had a different take on what it all means and why it’s not shady.
Tape Face asserts Tape Face isn’t a performer, per se. It’s a character. He Tweets, “You do know that Tape Face is a character, yeah? I am sure if Seinfeld was a character who wore a costume with the right training and direction you could absolutely present his comedy. That’s called
We sort of get what he’s going for. He wants Tape Face to be Blue Man Group. Lots of people play the blue man in Blue Man Group, and cast members are often swapped out without the show suffering and nobody feels deceived.
“There is no such thing as a true Tape Face as I believe that we all have a version of Tape Face in us. We are all weird,” Tape Face Tweets.
Not all weird is created equal.
We’re still pretty firmly in the camp that Tape Face isn’t considered a generic character, it’s the guy who was on “America’s Got Talent,” and it’s the guy we saw crush it at Harrah’s. Not another guy with tape on his mouth who knows the routines.
Tape Face respectfully disagrees. “I will have to disagree with you. As a brand, the choice was made to go on ‘AGT’ to advertise the show. Whilst an audience ‘discovers’ the show on a platform, in reality it’s been developed over 15 years to be exactly what it is. A show performed by a character.”
Tape Face goes on to say, “If the performance was bad the audience wouldn’t be happy. It’s one of the reasons we keep the show to my standards and our other Tape Face continues to receive standing ovations from Vegas crowds.”
We totally get that the T2 performance could be as good as the original. Our issue is really with transparency. While Tape Face says the show makes it known the performer onstage might not be Sam Wills, we couldn’t find a mention of that fact on any of the ticket sites we researched. Not even once, anywhere.
The official Harrah’s site is careful to say “Tape Face is the creation of New Zealand comedian Sam Wills,” without specifying he’s the Tape Face in the show.
Tape Face did confirm some performances where a substitution (our word, not his) would occur at Harrah’s.
Pretty sure every Vegas headliner would love to have a clone.
It’s also worth noting Tape Face and his people haven’t exactly hidden the fact there’s a T2. Here’s a Tweet from March 2019.
Question: How does someone who doesn’t follow Tape Face on Twitter know all this?
Given what we know, we aren’t entirely sure what to think about all this.
We can’t really get onboard with Tape Face’s assertion people just magically know this “character” is a brand and not an individual performer.
If the show’s good, the show’s good, but even if that’s the case, we feel like it’s the responsibility of the performer, the production and the venue to clearly communicate to customers who’s going to be onstage.
A “Tape Face, starring…” credit would work. Or maybe the show should be called “Tape Faces.”
As a practical matter, when we recommend a show, we really need to know which show we’re recommending.
The bottom line: Know before you go, and before you buy, verify. Yes, we just made that up.
We’d love to hear your thoughts. Bait-and-switch or non-issue?
It’s expected the “Avengers” renovation project will take several months, so the exhibit should be back online in May 2020.
Next, while the “Avengers” attraction is being retooled, a new “Transformers” attraction will be coming to the same building at T.I. This time, on the first floor.
After upwards of a dozen minutes of sleuthing, we found out both the “Avengers” and “Transformers” attractions are produced by a company called Victory Hill Exhibitions.
Given that the company has previously done an exhibit called “Transformers Autobots Alliance,” that’s our guess for what the new attraction at T.I. will be called. Read more.
Don’t be sad, robot. You’re in an alliance of some sort.
Finally, we’re also hearing about a new “Jurassic World” attraction planned for Las Vegas.
The aforementioned Victory Hill has previously created “Jurassic World” exhibitions in Paris and Madrid. You can see a teaser on the official Victory Hill Web site.
The most likely place the “Jurassic World: The Exhibition Las Vegas” will land is Venetian, from what we’re told.
None of that “don’t move and you’re invisible” stuff with this bad boy, sorry.
Victory Hill Exhibitions recently launched a “Hunger Games” exhibition at MGM Grand. That attraction boasts what’s touted as the world’s biggest digital touchscreen. Learn more.
All these attractions are an opportunity for fans to connect to their favorite movies and characters in a way that’s “engaging, educational and interactive,” according to Victory Hill Exhibitions.
We love the diversity of these offerings, and there’s something for everyone in this mix of exhibits. If “Avengers” aren’t your thing, there’s always “Jurassic World.” We aren’t entirely sure who’s thing “Transformers” is, but there are probably Shia LaBeouf people somewhere.
It’s worth noting these exhibits are all inspired by movies with worldwide appeal, a key requirement for such attractions to succeed financially. Las Vegas has a lot of foreign visitors.
And these licensing fees ain’t cheap.
Look forward to official announcements of all our exclusive scoops soon. Until then, cheers.
There’s something we need to communicate right up front: We are not a karaoke person.
That said, we’re pretty sure the new Cat’s Meow karaoke club at Neonopolis in downtown Las Vegas is going to make a killing.
Karaoke is a Japanese word meaning “Yeah, you did that in public.”
While Cat’s Meow is new to Las Vegas, it’s anything but new. The original location in New Orleans has been going strong for 30 years.
Pick a song and throw caution to the wind. You’re in Vegas. We specialize in caution-throwing.
We popped into Cat’s Meow Las Vegas about three minutes after it opened, and there were already signs this new venue is going to be a winner, despite what has traditionally been a challenging location.
Neonopolis has struggled for years to find the right mix of tenants, but Cat’s Meow seems a perfect fit, both for the shopping complex and Fremont Street.
Cat’s Meow sits atop the International Eatery. It’s fairly important you don’t eat here.
Cat’s Meow is expected to overcome one of the challenges of being in Neonopolis (access) with a shiny new escalator.
Management says the escalator has been approved and will be installed in August. It will deliver guests from Fremont Street directly to the venue’s front door. This is sure to be a godsend for another nightlife business on the second floor, The Nerd, as well.
Who cares about an escalator? Cat’s Meow, that’s who. It’s a trek without one.
Cat’s Meow comes from the owners of the Deja Vu strip club chain, so they know a little about crowd-pleasing entertainment.
Among the many attributes of Cat’s Meow: Two bars.
Cat’s Meow is determined to give your photoreceptors a workout.
A lot of time, money and thought has gone into the interior design of Cat’s Meow, including the restroom, with its unisex washroom area.
Destination restroom right here.
The furniture is plentiful and quirky.
Built for cool, not comfort.
Cat’s Meow is massive, and the karaoke club takes up only a portion of the available space.
Rumors abound a second development phase of the space is in the works, and when we asked if it might be a strip club, we didn’t get a “no.” We trust there will be some hurdles if that’s the plan, but downtown hasn’t seen a strip club since Glitter Gulch was demolished to make way for Circa Las Vegas.
Here’s a security breach of the space that’s still in the works.
Two words: Topless karaoke. Just saying.
But back to the karaoke!
Even minutes into Cat’s Meow being open, the energy was palpable. This probably has to do with the DJs in the booth and the emcee on the stage.
The emcee keeps the flow of the show going, livening up the performances of even the least talented karaoke participants.
There’s a good chance this guy gets Red Bull intravenously.
As with any karaoke venue, you occasionally get singers you suspect must be ringers, but aren’t. They’re just the right kind of singer with the perfect song and liquid courage to spur them on.
From what we can tell, the staff at Cat’s Meow were auditioned for their singing chops, because they frequently jump onstage between songs by guests.
This keeps the overall karaoke quality high, and seeing one’s server onstage belting one out makes the whole experience more fun and interactive.
Cat’s Meow provides a curated song list. This helps the energy level, too, as it prevents unfortunate song choices that can be a buzzkill.
Note the ingenious $50 “cut the line VIP pass.” Pricey, but we get the feeling Cat’s Meow knows its customers and their priorities. When you’re on vacation, time is valuable, so it’s a relatively small price to pay to expedite one’s moment in the spotlight.
Costumes and music props add another level of silliness to the proceedings and help differentiate Cat’s Meow from the competition. Although, in Las Vegas, there’s not a lot of competition. For karaoke on The Strip, it’s Ellis Island. Downtown, it’s pretty much Cat’s Meow.
Choose your warbling accoutrement.
As you might expect, the libations are plentiful at Cat’s Meow. The pours are a little strict, but we suspect bartenders were following the rules closely during the soft opening.
The official grand opening of Cat’s Meow is July 18, 2019.
Our lone criticism of Cat’s Meow is a service charge tacked into drinks. Nuisance charges are a hot button topic in Las Vegas at the moment, so we weren’t thrilled to see this one.
Just a dozen more Captains and diet and we’d have been up on that stage!
To the credit of Cat’s Meow management, we heard back from them immediately about our concerns.
The company says the service charge is, in effect, a bonus for employees. Per Nevada law, service charges must be distributed to employees and can’t be retained by the employer, according to the club rep.
Management also says service charges aren’t subject to Nevada sales tax since they are distributed to employees, thus saving the venue money. Management of Cat’s Meow felt the service charge “would allow employees to share in the success of the business.”
We don’t get it, but we’re also not investing a bajillion dollars in a new business venture. We figure if it’s akin to a 10% auto-gratuity, we’ll adjust our tip accordingly. Management says they’ll be posting signage and training staff to explain the service charge to help avoid confusion.
On the bright side, a specialty cocktail menu is in the works. The Cat’s Meow in New Orleans is famous for its 3-for-1 drink specials, so expect that to be offered during the happy hour at Cat’s Meow Las Vegas.
Overall, Cat’s Meow looks and feels like a concept tailor made for the circus that is Fremont Street.
What happens in Vegas gets streamed live, so fair warning.
The party atmosphere at Cat’s Meow hits all the right notes, giving guests permission to check their inhibitions and unleash their inner Gaga.
Because, as we once said in our incredibly popular Twitter feed, “Las Vegas isn’t just a place to go, it’s a vacation from ourselves.”
Yes, we just quoted us.
If you hit Cat’s Meow karaoke club at Neonopolis, tell us what you think.
It’s time for another installment of the supremely skippable Vital Vegas Podcast.
We cover the whole gamut of Las Vegas news, several gamuts if we’re being completely honest.
We talk about the Caesars and Eldorado merger, of course, including the wild speculation and poorly researched opinions for which we have become so well known among residents of correctional centers.
By the time you listen to this podcast, Caesars Entertainment could be a very different thing.
There’s also talk about Vic & Anthony’s at Golden Nugget, tons of news at SLS (soon to be renamed Sahara), Apex and Kaos at Palms and an upcoming partnership between Virgin Hotel and Mohegan Gaming & Entertainment. See more.
Our listicle of the week floats “10 Great Gifts for People Who Love Las Vegas.” Fair warning: At least one of the gifts can be used as a murder weapon.
Ready to get pumped full of Las Vegas in a fully consensual context? We’ve got this!
There are lots of rumors swirling about an increased tribal presence in Las Vegas at the moment. We know, because we’re the one who’s been swirling them.
Just because a word doesn’t exist doesn’t mean you can’t use it.
From casino purchases to other high-profile investments (give it a couple of weeks and we’ll be sharing more huge tribe-related scoop), it’s clear sovereign tribal nations have their eye on Las Vegas in a big way.
The first big move by a tribe in the Las Vegas market looks to be a partnership between Hard Rock Las Vegas, which is transitioning into Virgin Hotel Las Vegas, and Mohegan Gaming & Entertainment.
Vegas is full of surprises.
We’re told reliably the Mohegan tribe will be managing the casino at Virgin Hotel Las Vegas (technically, Virgin Hotels Las Vegas, but there’s only one planned at the moment, so we’re keeping it singular).
No official announcement has been made about this partnership, but when has that ever stopped us from spilling some tea?
As this news hasn’t been made public yet, there’s no concrete timeline. We do know Hard Rock will close after the Super Bowl (about April 1, 2020) for about four months (through July 2020) as the resort completes its changeover to Virgin Hotel. We trust Mohegan Gaming and Entertainment will be in place managing Virgin’s casino operations by that time (August 2020).
This is a huge partnership both for the Mohegan tribe and the owners of Hard Rock resort, JC Hospitality and Richard Branson’s Virgin Hotels.
Adios, Hard Rock. Hello, Virgin.
This gives the tribe a foothold in Vegas, and gives Virgin Hotel a whole new pool of potential customers who have played at the popular Mohegan Sun resort in Connecticut. Mohegan Gaming & Entertainment manages Mohegan Sun. Read more.
Mohegan Gaming & Entertainment (MGE) owns and manages resorts throughout the U.S., including in Connecticut, Atlantic City, Washington and Louisiana. Oh, and in South Korea. See more.
Interestingly, MGE owns the Connecticut Sun, a WNBA team, and the New England Black Wolves, a professional lacrosse team in the National Lacrosse League. In case you haven’t heard, sports is sort of thing in Las Vegas at the moment, despite our best efforts.
There’s a lot of head-scratching going on regarding the Eldorado and Caesars Entertainment merger. Also, there are still a lot of moving pieces involved, such as rumors we’ve heard certain Caesars-owned resorts—Rio and Planet Hollywood, specifically—are being sold off.
It’s time to say “goodbye” to Rio.
We’ve also seen some signs Caesars Entertainment may shed its Horseshoe brand.
Ah, the glorious drama!
An official announcement of the Eldorado and Caesars merger is expected on June 24, 2019, and we’ll know more about the specifics of the deal, and hopefully what it all means for your Las Vegas experience.
No, that’s not what they’re called officially, but just play along.
Recently, temporary casinos opened at the former sites of the Las Vegas Club and Mermaids in order to meet gaming requirements to extend the licenses associated with these demolished venues.
For exactly eight hours each.
The sites are now part of the construction site of a new resort, Circa Las Vegas, so guests got the chance to be the first to gamble as the new casino. Sort of.
Here’s the temporary casino at the Las Vegas Club, open for a day on June 11, 2019.
No drink service, but charming nonetheless.
Each pop-up casino had exactly 16 video poker machines.
Las Vegas Club and Mermaids closed back in 2016, but the current owners, Greg and Derek Stevens, need to keep the gaming licenses active, so they get to indulge in this fun (but expensive) ritual.
Here’s a look inside the miniature casino at the Las Vegas Club site.
Ever get lost in a Vegas casino? Not this one. You’re looking at the entire thing.
We say “expensive” because these pop-up casinos cost $50,000-$60,000 to set up and operate for a day. Century Gaming is the go-to vendor for such temporary casinos around town. The money wagered in the machines goes to them, not the company that arranges for the pop-up casino.
After the first day, on June 12, 2019, all the machines were moved a few feet away to where Mermaids used to serve its infamous deep fried Oreos. We know, because we had the last one ever served there. We still don’t feel quite right.
Even on a construction site, still cleaner than Mermaids was.
For whatever reason, people don’t tend to flock to these pop-up casinos. The pay tables aren’t great, but they aren’t horrible.
Just five people played on the machines at the first location, and about the same played the second day, reportedly.
Let’s look inside the Mermaids pop-up casino for no good reason other than for posterity.
The easiest way to tell a loose slot machine is to see which one we’re playing.
We love them, however, and have yet to lose when playing at a temporary casino. In fact, at the Mermaids location, we hit two four-of-a-kinds and walked away with $100 in profit.
Construction dust is lucky!
The real question, of course, is were we among the last to play at Mermaids or among the first to play at Circa?
We would be remiss if we didn’t share the latest from the Circa construction site.
Circa is going vertical.
Up above, Fremont Street Experience (where we work in digital marketing as our day job) is in the throes of a $32 million renovation of the Viva Vision video screen. Here’s an update on the progress of that project as well. Don’t you know this blog at all?
The upgraded screen looks bomb, or possibly fleek. See more.
Pop-up casinos are quirky part of Las Vegas casino culture.
While we think they’re sort of dumb and a waste of time and money, we will rarely turn down the chance to gamble outside and stick it to The Man with a win.
Back in the day in Las Vegas, drinks flowed freely. Emphasis on “free.”
You gambled, you drank free. Sometimes, you drank free whether you gambled or not.
Over time, though, casinos realized the cost of free hooch was affecting their profits, so they started paying more attention to whether guests were playing enough to warrant free drinks.
Colorful cocktails are a great way to calm one’s nerves prior to diving into drink monitoring.
Here’s a quick overview of how drink monitoring has evolved.
1) Back in 2015, Mirage began using drink vouchers at its lobby bar. If you put $20 into the machine, you got a free drink. As you played more, you got a voucher which got you more free liquor. The Cosmopolitan’s Chandelier Bar still uses a similar voucher system.
Oh, look, a harbinger. We’re real big on harbinging.
2) In 2016, we dropped the bombshell Caesars Entertainment was rolling out drink monitoring machines at its video poker bars. Again, guests who played a minimum bet (usually $1) at a steady pace got a steady supply of free drinks. The machines took the guesswork out of free, or comped, drinks for bartenders.
Everyone freaked out, including us.
These drink monitoring systems are ubiquitous now and we aren’t just saying that to prove we finally learned how to spell “ubiquitous.”
3) In 2017, we shared drink monitoring would be coming to casino floors. (That’s still in the works, but systems are still being field tested in Laughlin.) In 2018, Westgate implemented drink monitoring on slot machines across the resort, but the program didn’t pan out.
4) Earlier in 2019, we made sort of an awkward prediction based upon discussions with industry insiders. Hold onto something.
Yes, it’s overly dramatic. It’s the Internet. Get used to it.
If you haven’t heard about MGM 2020, it’s an initiative that’s taking a long, hard look at the way MGM Resorts does business with the goal of saving hundreds of millions of dollars. Read more.
We’d seen some red flags related to comp drinks at Park MGM, formerly Monte Carlo. When Park MGM opened, drinks weren’t being comped for video poker players. The casino quickly reversed course on that, thankfully.
Now, though, we think MGM Resorts is putting a new system into place that will fundamentally put quotation marks around “free” in the phrase “free drinks in Las Vegas casinos.”
In Park MGM’s West Bar, patrons are no longer getting comped drinks if they are not members of the MGM Resorts loyalty program, M Life.
Guests still get a drink when they put a minimum of $20 into a video poker machine, but only if they use a player’s club card.
This bar at Park MGM is ground zero for the way free drinks will work in casinos, mainly because “ground zero” sounds pretty badass.
After that first drink, a player must either pay for their drink—yes, even if they’re gambling—or earn 10 session points. A bartender shared the program originally required 25 session points, but customers shared their displeasure, so the number was reduced.
On the bright side, it’s easy to tell how much longer you need to play before your next comped drink. Here’s what’s displayed on the machine.
Even if you can’t pace yourself, this bad boy can.
What we’re seeing is a practice we’re fairly sure is going to become the new normal. Not just at MGM Resorts casinos in Las Vegas, but at all of them.
The era of free drinks in casinos, without limits, is done.
Comped drinks will be closely tied to gambling, as has always been the case, but now play will be tracked more closely and free drinks will have to be earned.
Here’s the thing, though.
Our view of drink monitoring has changed dramatically since the inception of such practices. Our outrage subsided when we realized the threshold for free drinks is still relatively low. Monitoring is really just an attempt to prevent people trying to get something for nothing.
We have no problem with that. Casinos aren’t charities.
Drink monitoring ensures seats at video poker bars are available for people who want to play, as opposed to people who slip a $1 bill into the machine and immediately demand free liquor.
Drink monitoring serves a secondary purpose for casinos, too. It keeps customers from being over-served. The average time between comped drinks is about 20 minutes, or three cocktails an hour.
The long-standing practice of giving away free drinks in Las Vegas casinos is remnant of a time when gambling subsidized everything. Now, as gambling revenue declines and casino stock prices slip, casino companies are faced with the reality giving free liquor costs them millions.
Oh, and if you think the issue of casinos scrutinizing the return on their comped drinks, check out this memo from a casino comptroller at the El Rancho in 1955. Thanks to our friends at Classic Las Vegas for this amazing find.
The more things change, the more bean counters stay the same.
Moving forward, even if your drink is “free,” expect to earn it.
At the bar, in the sports book, at the slots and table games and anywhere else free hooch is served in Las Vegas casinos.
Our advice: Sign up for the loyalty club. always use your card. Find a machine with a decent pay table and have a blast.
The fully upgraded Viva Vision screen is scheduled to debut on Dec. 31, 2019, on New Year’s Eve.
Visitors will get a sneak preview of the newly upgraded canopy during the reveal of a new light show featuring Steve Aoki on June 13, 2019.
The Aoki light show is the second new show in recent weeks. Another, with the music of The Chainsmokers, debuted May 31, 2019.
We weren’t particularly familiar with The Chainsmokers, but have come to love them because their Viva Vision show features a hell-ton of neon.
Because the new canopy be used 24/7, a substantial amount of new content will be created in the months to come intended to make the most of the screen’s dramatically increased resolution.
The Viva Vision renovation is a big deal for downtown, as surveys show most Las Vegas visitors make their way downtown because of Fremont Street Experience and the light shows. Hit the official site for more information.
It’s also worth noting we work at Fremont Street Experience in digital marketing as our day job and we can personally confirm many people visit downtown specifically to buy us a Captain Morgan and diet. Hint, hint.
If this is how it looks during the day, bring on the night.
The Viva Vision screen renovation is moving along at a brisk pace, so stay tuned for more updates.