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January 21, 2018

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Behind-the-scenes skirmishes on TLC’s new ‘Las Vegas High Rollers’


Erik Kabik/Retna/

Paris Hilton, Michael Boychuck and Alicia Jacobs at his Color salon in Caesars Palace on Aug. 27, 2010.

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2009 Miss Nevada USA Georgina Vaughan and local designer Lana Fuchs in March 2009.

Filming on the new TLC reality TV series “Las Vegas High Rollers” is drawing to a close -- and in its wake a trail of bitter fights, accusations, treachery and fears by the cast that it will be edited to show them and Las Vegas in a bad light.

An exhaustive investigation after my first story Sept. 6 proves that rough-and-tumble incidents will become train-wreck television on TLC. Editing is already underway!

One leading Las Vegas figure told me emphatically: “It’s going to be the ugly city everybody in America believes we are. It’s not going to be the Vegas that shows the charitable, caring, favorable city we really are. It will be a total disgrace if Vegas is denigrated because of the actions of a small, dysfunctional cast who aren’t representative of this fine community.”

Cast members are concerned about reported exaggerated fights, and their lawyers more so. The attorneys have re-examined contracts to ensure that Evolution Media, the producers, stick to their promise not to disparage them and their reputations and images. They’ve also voiced concern about onscreen portrayals damaging businesses and being subject to ridicule.

None of the cast is getting rich out of this. With long filming hours and many weeks of shoots for just eight episodes, it reportedly works out to being paid less than $500 a day. But there are Wicked Whispers & Racy Rumors that some cast members have better salaries than others and that bigger paydays with branded merchandise will arise after the show airs.

One reliable source told me that one of the business owners has misrepresented a company, and the cast has been “forced to perpetrate a lie throughout filming.” “What will they do when the truth comes out later,” my source asked.

In addition to fights, the cast also had to contend with Evolution execs stepping in to ease tensions and worries that caused cast members to ask to be released. More than one person has asked that if the producers threatened strong-armed tactics against cast members, if they walked, would the remaining women tell their stories?

The biggest concern is that the editing will focus on feuds and portray Las Vegas in a bad light. One person close to two cast members told me: “They are worried. They fully expect not to be happy with the final cut. They’ve said their careers and reputations are at stake. There are screaming matches, and some don’t want to get into it, yet the producers encourage them to fight back. The producers want confrontations; some of the cast don’t want to be part of that ugliness.

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Jennifer Harman.

“The truth is that it was a different project that they signed on to, and it has gone in a direction they hoped would never happen. They are totally frustrated. The producers who also shoot ‘Real Housewives’ episodes promised this would be different -- about powerful women who have made it on their own. They know Vegas is a small community where everybody knows everybody involved, not like ‘Real Housewives’ in much bigger cities.

“This was never to be about catfights and women who live off men, which is what we’d expect to see on ‘Real Housewives.’ Stupidly, they believed that, but things have gone on with women screaming and arguing that’s horrible. They’ve lost it completely, and the cameras roll on it all. There’s no good feelings between them. They’ve been in tears, crying from the fighting and being beaten down.

“People joined the show in good faith and put their lives on display, but it’s all backfired. The producers allegedly ordered some of the cast not to discuss certain business matters with other cast members. They even ordered some of the cast to remove their blasts at their co-stars from their social media websites.”

I’ve learned there have been at least four nasty fights with cast members: 1) a stormy scene at the Hard Rock Hotel pool caused by one wealthy woman’s private bodyguards; 2) a violent argument between one husband and wife over a business he bought that she now runs; 3) a strong-arm “intervention” of a cast member over drugs and sex -- betrayed by another cast member -- that became so heated at Firefly on Paradise, producers barred them leaving the shoot so the cameras could keep rolling (“It was an ambush and a total setup,” I was told); and 4) a two-brawl fracas at one Mob attraction tourist spot that wound up with an ambulance being called to take one individual to a hospital and another collapsing while a husband-and-wife scream fest erupted.

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Robin Leach, Holly Madison, Angel Porrino and Rain Andreani at Leach and Michael Boychuck's birthday party at Blush in the Wynn on Sept. 10, 2010.

Additionally, producers wanted to film one of the three-day parties that one couple connected to the show regularly give for other couples. Many people here have heard about the alleged notorious sexual festivities. I understand that producers discovered one of the women had major makeovers from what she looked like several years ago, and that will be in the series.

The scenes of excess, clubbing and fights have offended many professionals. One lawyer with knowledge of the production told me: “It’s one small side of Las Vegas but not really what this city is about. Tourists come here and go crazy, but not the people who live here -- except for most of this group.”

Worrisome is how final editing treats such celebrities as Wayne Newton, Louie Anderson and other Strip stars interviewed by one of the cast. One source told me: “Showbiz reporter Alicia Jacobs is probably the only one who has not gotten into the screaming matches while she’s professionally gone about doing her job.”

I haven’t spoken to Alicia in many months, but she was very enthusiastic before the series began filming in August. Earlier this year, she told me: “The main reason I am doing this show is because nobody has ever depicted the Las Vegas that I grew up in, the Las Vegas that I live in and love. I believe this show will do that.”

Barbara Walters interviews Lana Fuchs

Cast members include Billionaire clothing founder and fashion designer Lana Fuchs and cosmetics company partners Ron and Lori Montoya. Lana is no stranger to controversy and made headlines with her May interview with Barbara Walters on ABC on raising children.

Ron Montoya’s Rain Cosmetics has been an official sponsor of the Miss USA Organization after he ousted founder Rain Andreani from her role. He told me that they have been in a lengthy legal fight. She was barred from telling her side of the story to “High Rollers.”

Others on the show: Amy Hanley, whose father was reputed Mob boss Tom Hanley; poker princess Jennifer Harman; and stunning celebrity hypnotist Kimberly Stevens, who once dated David Hasselhoff and is now married to architect Brad Freidmutter. Oprah Winfrey featured their spectacular October 2010 wedding and Caribbean honeymoon aboard the yacht Kimberly. I was with them recently at the debut Las Vegas Business Academy dinner at Mandalay Bay Beach.

As a TV producer, I believe that “High Rollers” will make for rich ratings, but as a resident now for 12 years, I, too, am concerned that it will depict our city in the wrong way. I am fearful that this will be a TV series that doesn’t get a warm welcome to return for another season. I’m reliably told that “High Rollers” is set to air in December, earlier than planned because of its explosive content.

Robin Leach has been a journalist for more than 50 years and has spent the past decade giving readers the inside scoop on Las Vegas, the world’s premier platinum playground.

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