Thursday, Jan. 1, 2009 | 3:29 p.m.
Oh, what a night.
New Year's Eve is the biggest party night of the year and despite a shaky economy, New Year's Eve 2008 was an action-packed, alcohol-fueled evening of Vegas-style fun and revelry.
While the Strip hosted a handful of VIP-studded parties, two death-defying daredevils and a fireworks display, the Palms also saw its fair share of celebrities and NYE shenanigans.
The Palms is often referred to as the place to party by both young Hollywood types and party-loving common folk, and New Year's Eve is – and was – no exception.
7:30 p.m.: The Palms casino floor was abuzz with bets and bettors on New Year's Eve.
The night got off to a slow start but still managed to finish strong.
The casino floor was surprisingly calm throughout the day and into the early evening. As the clock struck 5 p.m. it was hard to imagine the high-energy parties that were just hours away as gamblers sat quietly and methodically plunked quarters into slot machines.
Two hours later, however, the anticipation was building. Well-dressed crowds of people gathered to play cards and congregating at the craps tables. The casino floor was alive with dice, cards and chips of all colors.
7:45 p.m.: Playboy Club floor supervisor Jeff Dwyer enjoys the relative calm of the Palms casino floor before heading up to the mayhem of his work environment.
As floor supervisor at Playboy Club he knew he had a long night ahead of him.
"We have a lot of fun, a lot of special guests like to make it to Playboy Club on New Year's Eve," he said. "It gets pretty crazy around midnight."
As he prepared for his 8 p.m. shift, the crowds of party people he would be corralling later that night were also just getting started.
8 p.m.: People lined up on Dec. 31 to get their fill of New Year's Eve eats at the Palms' Bistro Buffet.
Las Vegas residents Octaviano and Agenlica Moreno brought their daughter, Giselle, to the buffet for a special New Year's Eve dinner. While the family wasn't planning on staying at the Palms until the clock struck 12, Giselle didn't seem to mind. The youngster was all smiles and cute as can be as she tucked into a slice of chocolate cake while wearing a cute party dress and "happy new year" tiara.
8:05 p.m.: Hungry revelers served (themselves) up plates of prime party-fueling fare and got their fill of New Year's Eve eats at the Palms' Bistro Buffet.
Bellies were being filled with party fuel across the Palms properties -- with pan-Asian specialties from the Little Buddha, contemporary American cuisine from Simon, upscale Italian from Nove Italiano, and Mexican fiesta-fuel from Gardunos, among others - in preparation for the long night ahead.
8:50 p.m.: Four mothers, no children: These women left their nine kids at home and flew to Las Vegas with their husbands to ring in the new year at the Palms.
Cyndi Johnston, Cyndee Fiorillo, Kristine Richter and Renee Johnston (l-r) agreed that New Year's Eve is a night for adults.
Between the four of them they have nine children between the ages of four and 16 years old - yet none of the women appeared to be suffering from any separation anxiety as the group made their way to their table at Gardunos.
Instead, the women said their only regret was that a fifth friend had to stay back home in Minnesota with her four kids while her husband accompanied the others on the trip to Sin City.
9:30 p.m.: Andrew Moss, left and Tracey Martin, right, flew to Las Vegas from West Yorkshire, England, to celebrate New Year's Eve at the Playboy Club. They lined up early to ensure they made the most of the party.
"We both worked last year so this year we wanted to do something a bit special," Moss said.
He and Martin both work as police officers back home.
They booked their two-week getaway online and plan to do a lot while in town. In addition to New Year's Eve at the Palms and a handful of shows, the pair also have planned a trip to the Grand Canyon.
10:40 p.m.: Kid Rock fans line the boundary railing at the Pearl as they wait for the notorious Motor City rocker to take to the stage.
Further down the railing Pam Fernandes waited anxiously for Rock to rock out.
The 42-year-old received tickets to see the Detroit rocker, who is her favorite musician by far, for her birthday.
While she has seen Rock perform several times, she said this was her first time seeing Sin City.
"I've never been to Vegas, this is all brand new," she said.
She and her husband, John Fernandes, traveled from Birmingham, Ala. to see the show.
"I've never been this far ... Texas is as far as I've been," she said. "This is cool."
11:40 p.m.: Hart and Huntington tattoo artist Josh Sutcliffe has a coworker add some color to his knee cap on New Year's Eve.
The 24-year-old already had 17 tattoos but he figured one more wouldn't hurt. He chose the logo of his favorite rock band, the Red Hot Chili Peppers, as the design.
While the motif was a contrast from the mostly Asian-inspired ink Sutcliffe already had (he has a thing for koi fish, apparently) he thought the design was appropriate.
"That's my favorite band," he said. "I'm super influenced by them."
11:55 p.m.: Kale Durocher, left, and Cassi Carington, right, came to Las Vegas from sun-drenched Hawaii to celebrate New Year's Eve together at Rain. Both said they are "huge" fans of Perfecto DJ Paul Oakenfold.
"It was a surprise Christmas present for me to come to Vegas," Carington said. "(And) he loved Paul Oakenfold so I said let's go."
12:30 a.m.: A pair of partiers is surprised by a Perfecto performer at Rain on New Year's Eve.
Performers are just part of the creative and unique experience that is Perfecto. Go-go dancers in glow-in-the-dark clothing, impressively flexible aerialists, costumed characters on stilts, and playful people dangling from the ceiling are just a few of the spectacles that can be seen as Paul Oakenfold hosts what is arguably the best Euro house party in the city. Meanwhile, lasers shoot across the room and clouds of fog, then bubbles, then confetti fill the air.
Perfecto may be different things to different people, but it's never boring -- and New Year's Eve 2008 was no exception.
1 a.m.: Chef Kerry Simon, left, enjoys a glass of champagne and shares some chocolate-peppermint mousse cake with the director of public relations for Palms Hotel and Casino, Larry Fink, after a hectic New Year's Eve at his namesake restaurant at Palms Place, Simon.
"New Year's Eve is a nutty night," Simon said. "It's pretty crazy."
A slough of stars were spotted wining and dining at the restaurant. Eight-time Olympic gold medalist Michael Phelps, Good Charlotte guitarist Benji Madden, Indy racer Marco Andretti, Brody Jenner of "The Hills," and his girlfriend, 2008 Playmate of the Year, Jayde Nicole, were all on site for the big night.
They enjoyed a range of Simon's signature contemporary American food, including citrus braised
short ribs and charred edamame, and snacked on the chef's signature "junkfood platter" as well.
"We had a very great night; it actually feels like a great night for Las Vegas," Simon said as his night finally came to a close. "People were out and you haven't seen that since before the election."
Though he has another restaurant on the Strip, Simon said the Palms is the place to be on New Year's Eve.
"It was just a great vibe, you've got Michael Phelps running around, you've got Kid Rock playing (at the Pearl)."
He said this year was quite different from last year.
As 2007 came to a close, he was busy with the grand opening of his other restaurant, Cathouse, across town at the Luxor.
Simon said New Year's Eve '08 was quite different compared to last year. He said it lacked the scandal of NYE '07 -- not that that's a bad thing.
He lamented about how a year ago he was caught battling silly rumors that certain celebrities, including a one that Paris Hilton had been banned from his restaurant (not true), and amidst a scandal and resulting fallout from Mischa Barton's DWI (she had agreed to host at Cathouse prior to receiving her DWI but after charges were laid it became somewhat of a PR nightmare.)
He seemed to enjoy welcoming 2009 with a glass of champagne instead of a headache.
The year seemed to be off to a very different start.
"It's just a different vibe," he said as his gaze swept across the sleek and modern surrounds of the restaurant and out through the floor-to-ceiling windows to the turquoise pool outside.
In effort to start the New Year off right, Simon will begin offering a special pajamas party brunch on Sundays from 10 a.m. until 4 p.m.
The chef, meanwhile, also hopes to make a few changes in the new year. His resolution, he said, will be "to be as healthy as possible and get some free time ... because I really haven't for a long time."
2:20 a.m.: Palms founder and president George Maloof smiles from his perch atop Kid Rock's private party table at Playboy nightclub on New Year's Eve.
Rock freestyled a few verses from the club's DJ booth before retiring to his table to take in the curvaceous scene.
While Maloof has welcomed the new year at his resort before, he noted one major difference this year compared to last.
"I don't have a girlfriend this year, which is good," he joked.
2:40 a.m.: Kid Rock and his entourage left a wake of mostly-empty bottles and a pair of pretty blondes after the Detroit rocker left the New Year's Eve party at Playboy Club.
The rock n' roll cowboy attracted quite the crowd as the venue filled with revelers who paid upward of $200 apiece to party with him.
Once he entered the bunny-branded nightspot fans jostled for position in front of his VIP booth and struggled to catch a glimpse of the star as he celebrated 2009 with a group of friends that included Palms owner George Maloof.
The crowd didn't clear until after Rock left the club around 2:30 a.m.
2:50 a.m.: Two Playboy Club patrons show that the bar's famed bunnies aren't the only ones lacking inhibition as they shake it for the onlooking crowd.
The bunny suited staff at Playboy Club always give partiers plenty to look at and of course New Year's Eve was no different. Stunning and svelte servers and dealers were at their bunny best, donning the ceremonial ears and cuffs but not a whole lot else.
4:30 a.m.: Will Rodriguez, left, and Christina Rowe, right, met on the Palms casino floor and got to know each other over an early New Year's Eve breakfast at the casino's 24/7 Cafe.
"My friends went to bed and want to sleep in," Rowe explained.
The pair met while playing the slots but later took their chances on roulette before cashing in for the night.
"I saw her at the slot machines and I told her, 'I'm going to play roulette'," Rodriguez said.
"I said bet fours and fives," Rowe said. "He didn't listen to me -- but he should have."
"I bet on sevens, I think, and I lost," Rodriguez said.
But all was not lost at the roulette tables, as Rodriguez won himself a casual breakfast date.
Rowe ordered the country fried steak and eggs while Rodriguez opted for the three egg breakfast, scrambled, with hashbrowns.
The new pair agreed said breakfast was just what the doctor ordered after a long night of partying at the Palms.
Rowe spent the night at Moon while Rodriguez rang in 2009 at Rain.
"It absorbs all the alcohol," Rowe said with a laugh. "And it's already late so it's close to the morning time."
As it tuned out, she and Rodriguez were lucky to enjoy their eggs when they did: When the rest of the hotel's guests awoke to the first morning of the year a few short hours later, crowds of hungry partiers converged upon the popular breakfast spot.
And while grumbling stomachs were forced to wait in line, Rowe and Rodriguez didn't have to worry since breakfast was already taken care of.