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November 20, 2017

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SLS opening draws some real players; Jewelers of Las Vegas accessorizes Fred Segal


Erik Kabik / Retna /

Arash Azarbarzin, president, SBE Hotel Group; Rob Oseland, president and COO, SLS Las Vegas; Sam Nazarian, founder, chairman and CEO, SBE; designer Philippe Starck; and Sam Bakhshandehpour, president, SBE, at the grand opening of SLS Las Vegas on Friday, Aug. 22, 2014, on the Strip.

SLS Las Vegas Grand Opening

The grand opening of SLS Las Vegas on Friday, Aug. 22, 2014, on the Strip. Launch slideshow »

SLS Las Vegas Opens With Fireworks

Fireworks explode during the grand opening of SLS Las Vegas, formerly the Sahara, in the early hours of Saturday, Aug. 23, 2014. Launch slideshow »

SLS Las Vegas Press Conference

Sam Nazarian speaks during a press conference at SLS Las Vegas on Friday, Aug. 22, 2014. Launch slideshow »

The Kats Report Bureau is once more ensconced at SLS Las Vegas, at Umami Burger, Beer Garden and Sports Book (William Hill’s). Sort of an odd fit, this sports book-restaurant design. A guy with some sort of betting interest just shouted at high volume at a screen showing an otherwise meaningless preseason game between the Cardinals and Bengals.

This startled a few diners who did not understand what all the fuss was about. Put a C-note on an NFL exhibition game, and you’ll know why, folks.

The fury of Friday night’s grand opening has subsided, when guests began waiting in line for as long as four hours before the requisite fireworks, ribbon cutting and flooding of the casino floor at midnight.

An invited VIP crowd populated the hotel before the rush and crush of guests at the official opening, including a high number of famous names from the city’s rich casino history.

Heidi Sarno Strauss (daughter of Caesars Palace and Circus Circus founder Jay Sarno) and her husband, David A. Strauss, were seated at a roulette table (not yet in commission, for the midnight official casino opening) with Bill and Lynn Weidner standing nearby. Bill Weidner helped plan and develop the Venetian and for years was a top exec in Sands Corp. Also standing nearby was former U.S. Sen. (and current Las Vegas veterinarian) John Ensign.

Padding around the casino was Palms founder George Maloof with ex-Sahara executive Scott Menke and Nevada Stupak, son of casino legend Bob Stupak (who opened the Stratosphere, and before that Vegas World, just across Sahara Avenue). Menke spent much of Friday night and Saturday afternoon showing the group where old Sahara amenities such as Casbar Lounge, NASCAR Cafe and the House of Lords steakhouse once stood.

Asked what he thought of the new resort, Menke said that his opinion wasn’t particularly important (I would disagree, given his strong ties to the hotel’s history), but he did hope for success at SLS.

More scene creeping from SLS and elsewhere in VegasVille.

• The one external partnership of Fred Segal at SLS is with The Jewelers of Las Vegas, which is operating under the Fred Segal brand. This is still a Fred Segal store, but this is one instance where the management of an SLS partner outlet has been outsourced. Jewelers, headed by the esteemed Mordechai Yerushalmi, has been a Las Vegas institution for nearly 40 years.

The company also operates Rocks at Hard Rock Hotel and Red Rock Resort, Venetzia at the Venetian and Palazzo and Vicci at the Forum Shops. Mordechai, as is his handle even today, has sold jewelry to celebs of all ilk since 1976 (including Elvis) and was once interviewed by a student at UNLV on the university’s then-new radio station, KUNV 91.5-FM. Kid’s name was Jimmy Kimmel, who invited Mordechai on to Kimmel’s radio show before station officials became weary of Kimmel making fun of his guests and pulled the plug.

Somehow, this all relates to $10,000 Rolexes on sale at Fred Segal Jewelry at the old Sahara.

• “About 80 former Sahara staffers are among the 3,500 working at SLS,” says SLS President Rob Oseland. There remains a sense of the old place all around the property. The Sahara sign is shown on the carpeting as you walk in from the Paradise Road valet entrance.

One note about the chandelier made of “S”-shaped door handles, which SBE CEO Sam Nazarian mentioned in an interview for Las Vegas Weekly’s current cover story. It was said to be hanging inside The Sayers Club, or near the entrance, but I cannot find this chandelier anywhere. I’ve even asked Oseland about it, and he doesn’t know where it would be hanging. It’s like taking part in an Easter egg hunt trying to find this “S” spectacular.

• A serious hashtag-power gathering was on hand during the commemorative bell-ringing ceremony, which will be a fixture in any SBE opening around the world. The super-VIP group included Nazarian’s family, expressly his beaming father, Younes, who helped ring the bell to signal the hotel’s opening. Also, Larry and Camille Ruvo, Don and Dee Snyder and County Commissioners Steve Sisolak and Larry Brown were among those toasting champagne in what was once the Sahara Congo Room and now the SLS Congo Ballroom.

One nugget offered by venerable Las Vegas producer and manager Bernie Yuman, who took in the event with Emilio Estefan, is that the musical “On Your Feet!” has set a launch date and venue for a run on Broadway: Oct. 15, 2015, at Marquis Theater in New York.

This is the project backed by Yuman that spins the tale of Gloria and Emilio Estefan. Most of us remember Gloria Estefan breaking through in the ’80s with Miami Sound Machine and surviving an accident in her tour bus in 1990 that nearly killed her. She suffered a fractured vertebra and underwent a year of painful rehabilitation to return to form.

“On Your Feet!” draws from her personal message of recovery. The musical will be staged in previews in Chicago from July 2-5, 2015. Once reported to be headed for the Tropicana, the show features such Estefan hits as “Rhythm Is Gonna Get You,” “Conga” and “1-2-3.” This has been a project of the Estefans and Yuman for about five years, at least, and they finally delivered it to Broadway.

• While walking into SLS late Friday night, I ran into Cheaza, who is finished with her her run as a singer in “Jubilee” at Bally’s and heads out for her rock-and-roll gig in Shenzhen, China, this week.

Stepping into “Jubilee” as a featured singer is Anne Martinez of BBR and, prior, “Pin Up” at Stratosphere and “Dancing Queen” at Planet Hollywood. Martinez is so good. How good, Johnny? She is maybe 3 inches shorter than “Jubilee’s” 5-foot-8 height requirement for women appearing in the legendary production but has been cast anyway.

Martinez and the BBR ensemble is back in action Tuesday night at Sunset Station, bringing its “Alice — A Steampunk Rock Opera Fantasy” to Club Madrid. Doors are at 10 p.m.; the show starts at 11 p.m.; cover is $5; no height requirement.

• Lenny Kravitz’s business and personal partnership with the team at SBE and SLS Las Vegas does not preclude him from appearing or performing at competing resorts. Kravitz designed a few of the hotel’s new high-end suites under his Kravitz Design Co. brand. Calling the partnership with the SLS team “like a family,” Kravitz performed at a VIP party in The Sayers Club on opening night. If you saw him there, you were truly one of The Chosen Few. Otherwise, Kravitz is cleared to perform at other venues in Las Vegas.

• On the topic of high-end rock played in cozy confines, Zowie Bowie is undergoing another of his reinvention projects. The latest from Chris Phillips is his band Devil Deluxe, which cranks 1980s-era numbers (hits and deep cuts from Depeche Mode, David Bowie, Elvis Costello and the like). Phillips burned up T Spot at Tuscany on Saturday night. I’ve not seen Phillips have more fun, and that is no small statement, folks.

• A chance meeting at the Foxtail pool at SLS on Friday night during the extraordinarily pointless set by Iggy Azalea. I was introduced to a person named “Willie,” one of the VIP guests.

“Willie used to play pro football,” I was told.

Turning to Willie, I asked, “Anyone I’ve heard of?”

“The Bears and the Raiders,” he said.

“Oh!” I said, matching this person with a famous player — Super Bowl champ, too. “You are Willie Gault!”

He told me that he worked at valet at a Las Vegas resort. I don’t believe that, but I do believe that he can run a 40 under five seconds.

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