Archive | January, 2015


10 Jan

Call it the $1.5 million Grand Slam victory — advantage, Las Vegas.

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Tennis champions and Las Vegas residents Andre Agassi and wife Steffi Graf have donated a stunning $1.5 million to the charity Keep Memory Alive that funds the work of the Cleveland Clinic Lou Ruvo Center for Brain Health downtown.

KMA founder Larry Ruvo and Andre have been great friends since both began their charity work, with each supporting the other’s events and fundraisers.

Larry, who is the head of Southern Wines and Spirits here, and his wife, Camille, have hosted Andre and Steffi on their visits to the Ruvos’ Shakespeare Ranch in Lake Tahoe.

The foursome have played tennis together and when the late comedy genius Robin Williams was visiting there.

I know first hand that at every Grand Slam fundraiser for Andre Agassi College Preparatory Academy here, Larry has donated 100 percent of the wines for dinner guests and also made private donations.

Andre made the large and generous donation, which was supposed to remain quiet, on Wednesday. But rumors of his kindness and gift began circulating Friday.

Larry told me: “We are great friends, and this is proof. It is an extraordinary gift by a very wonderful man for our valuable research work to continue for the community.”



9 Jan

Miss Nevada USA turned Miss USA Nia Sanchez is getting ready to do battle against 88 rivals in a bid to claim the title of Miss Universe at the three-hour NBC pageant on Jan. 25.
This week, she flew to Miami for preparations. It’s a whirlwind schedule of hair-and-makeup sessions for pageant interviews and photos in a swimsuit, evening gown and national costume. Nia also takes part in charity events and cooking contests for the world’s most intense and glamorous beauty contest.

Nia is calm and composed in advance of the first preliminary competitions, which start Jan. 21 and lead up to last year’s winner Gabriela Isler of Venezuela turning over her crown.

It’s the biggest month of their lives making their hair and makeup picture perfect. Although it’s mainly about beauty, the judges, including champion boxer Manny Pacquiao, will be looking for brains, too, among the 89 competitors from Britain to Australia and the Ukraine to Russia.

On Friday, all of them will be introduced for the first time together onstage at Doral Park in the city of Doral near Miami. They are staying at pageant prince Donald Trump’s Doral Golf, Spa and Country Club hotel. On Saturday, Nia and her rivals take part in a runway session launching Chinese Laundry’s spring shoe collection. On Saturday night, there’s a salsa dance party with lessons.

Pop artist Romero Britto, who is a big supporter of our Keep Memory Alive galas for the Cleveland Clinic Lou Ruvo Center for Brain Health here in Las Vegas, will welcome Nia and the other ladies to his Miami studio on Sunday. Romero, who donates art pieces to the brain center, plans an interactive painting class with the contestants.

A Parade of Nations festival party with music, dancing, marching bands and luxury cars follows that, and Doral’s restaurants will take part in the festival.

Next week, the pace really speeds up with a golf tournament, Zumba lessons and cooking contest. As Miss USA, Nia joins Miss Universe Gabriela at the international charity Food for the Poor in Coconut Creek, Fla., that feeds millions of hungry people in Latin America and the Caribbean.

Nia also will support the Best Buddies charity, a partner of the Miss Universe Organization. Each contestant brings a “national gift,” and Nia’s brought one to best represent America to donate to a silent auction that raises funds for Best Buddies.

Nia, who holds a black belt in taekwondo, also takes part in the Yamamay swimsuit fashion show. She has one free night over the three weeks on location to party at the Image Skinwear reception.

Her Miss Nevada USA Pageant director Shanna Moakler, Miss USA in 1995, is certain that Nia will make the Top 15 selected from the preliminary pageant and announced at the start of the telecast from Florida International University Arena hosted by Thomas Roberts (MSNC’s “Way Too Early” and “Morning Joe”) and Natalie Morales (NBC’s “Today”).

This is the 63rd annual Miss Universe Pageant, and it’s the first time it has been extended to three hours. Nia is the first Miss USA from Nevada, and Miss Universe will air in 190 countries and territories.

Judging will be based on swimsuit, evening gown and interview for the finalists. Nia knows that the competition is tough. She’s up against her own hotel roommate 22-year-old blonde Australian beauty Tegan Martin.

Tegan is from Newcastle in New South Wales, the same hometown as 2004 Miss Universe Jennifer Hawkins. Tegan, who worked in Paris as a model, won Miss Australia on her third attempt after placing second twice.

Nia, as I have reported from her wins as Miss Nevada USA and Miss USA, has been a model here and in Los Angeles the past seven years after starting out as a princess character at Disney World. She moved to Las Vegas full time more than a year before she won Miss Nevada. She is a big supporter of the women’s shelter Shade Tree here.

“I stayed in a women’s shelter for two months when I was 6 years old and my mom and dad were going through a divorce, so I’ve worked in women’s shelters,” she said. “Children are my passion, so I’ve taught Sunday School and martial arts.

“I can relate to women and children in shelters because when I was 21, I went through a very unhealthy relationship. I was lucky that I got out of it before it got abusive, but it was aggressive.”

Paula Shugart, president of Donald’s Miss Universe Organization, has told me that she would like to see the pageant return to Las Vegas. Donald’s son Eric Trump reconfirmed that in my recent interview with him.

Said Paula: “These contestants are savvy, goal-oriented and aware. The delegates who become part of the Miss Universe Organization display those characteristics in their everyday lives, both as individuals, who compete with hope of advancing their careers, personal and humanitarian goals, and as women who seek to improve the lives of others.”

Miss Nevada USA Nia Sanchez in Baton Rouge
Miss Nevada USA Nia Sanchez in Baton Rouge, La., for the 2014 Miss USA Pageant, which airs Sunday, June 8, 2014, on NBC. Launch slideshow »
2014 Miss Nevada USA Nia Sanchez: Glamour Photos
2014 Miss Nevada USA Nia Sanchez. Launch slideshow »
2014 Miss Nevada USA Nia Sanchez
Miss South Las Vegas USA Nia Sanchez is crowned 2014 Miss Nevada USA during the 2014 Miss Nevada USA Pageant on Sunday, Jan. 12, 2014, at UNLV. Launch slideshow »
It seems that there is always controversy with a Donald Trump pageant. This year is no different with The Miami Herald reporting that residents of Doral are unhappy with a $2.5 million payment to provide support to the show. But the uproar increased when Miss Great Britain Grace Levy showed her national costume on her Facebook.

It’s based on a very short mini-skirt, high-boots version of the Queen’s Royal Guards uniforms at Buckingham Palace. One critic blasted it for being cheap and tacky, urging the Queen to kick Grace out of the country.

In the middle of her jam-packed schedule, I spoke with Nia on Wednesday morning after she had just completed a 30-minute workout in her hotel room with her rival Australian beauty.

First of all, how is your mood?

My mood is good. I’ve actually been thinking about that a lot. I’m just thinking of it as a time to get to know a whole bunch of girls from all over the world and enjoy myself and just do my best.

Is it the same as preparing for Miss USA?

It’s similar to preparing for Miss USA but just a little bit more intense than I want it to be, with more competition and more events and activities. I think mentally that I continue to be prepared because it can be draining being busy for so long every single day, so I just have to prepare myself for that mentally.

What do you do physically to get in shape for this pageant? Has this taken longer than getting in shape for Miss USA?

Not really longer, but it was more intense. Getting in shape for Miss USA, I had four or five meals a day every single day, and getting in shape for Miss Universe, I have six meals a day every single day — full meals. That boosts my metabolism, and I also work out for an hour and a half six days a week.

(Nia works out under the Bombshell Fitness Training System, a mix of clean nutrition, weight training, plyometric workouts, cardiovascular training and 100 percent healthy supplements.)

How do you get your mind set for a pageant of this magnitude? I mean it’s one thing going from Miss Nevada to Miss USA, but it’s a mighty big step then going to take on the world, isn’t it?

It really is. I think to mentally discipline that I personally just put my faith first. I just have to read my daily devotionals, read my Bible. It helps me stay more positive when I do that, and then on the other side of that, when it comes to hanging out with all the girls, I just have fun with the girls and try to be welcoming.

I feel like it’s my job to welcome everybody because I’m the home country — even though I’ve never been to Miami until now. I’m feeling like it’s a brand new place, but I try to make everybody else feel welcome since they’re coming to my country, America.

How are your nerves?

I’m not nervous at all, but I didn’t get nervous at all for Miss USA, either. I just went into it like I’m going to be prepared, and if they want me for the job, I will be the best person for the job. So if they want me, great, and if not then God has something else planned for me. It’s the only way I can do it or else I’m going to freak out.

What have you been doing since you arrived, and what’s your schedule like?

The first two days were super intense. My roommate is Miss Australia, and she’s amazing. We’re doing everything together. We had to do our official head shot, we had to do our official bathing suit shot, we had to do our official gown shot, we had to get fitted for our costumes or outfits that we’re wearing, like bikinis and opening-number dresses.

After that, we had to go do our official photo shoot with Fadil Berisha, who’s the official photographer for Miss Universe.

What’s the film shooting schedule like for the pageant broadcast?

The show this year, the first time ever, Miss Universe is three hours on NBC. We don’t film it ahead of time because it’s a live show. The only things we film ahead of time are the clips and video packages. So that’s being filmed the entire time. We have to be ready to be on camera at all times because if they have a camera out, it can go on international television or on a huge commercial across the U.S.

What’s the experience been like so far for you? Overwhelming or thrilling or … ?

Overwhelming, yes. It’s been really run, run, run. When we started, we were 50 girls, so it was like Miss USA. Now the 88 girls are here, and I’m getting a feel for just how large and awesome this is. It was 51 at Miss USA, and here the numbers have gone up to 88. That makes you stop and think.

And is actor Daniel Booko, your fiance, there to root you on, or have you had to keep him away?

We can’t see anybody. We can’t see Mom, Dad, fiance, boyfriend. So Daniel isn’t coming until the 20th — just before the preliminary pageant.

And any of your family or Nevada people coming in for the big show?

Yes, my teen sister Alexa Taylor, Miss Teen USA last year. My mom, of course. Shanna will be there, and the current Miss Nevada Brittany McGowan will be there, too. I’ve got a crowd of supporters.

Brittany is really nice. Remember when you and I judged her? She’s going to be a really great titleholder for the year. She has the same kind of faith I do. She’s got that really good, well-centered personality.

What’s the next big thing that you’ll be doing down there for the pageant now that you’ve got the photos out of the way?

Now that we’ve got the photos done, we get started with the events. From morning until night, we’re doing different things around the city every day. The next biggest thing is the welcome event Saturday with all of the countries. We each get to wear a beautiful gown and be introduced, and they say a little something about us.

Final question: Does your country costume representing America have any Nevada influence?

Oh, yeah. I can’t tell you what it is, but it’s definitely all Nevada. It’s exciting and I think an extra reason for people from our Silver State to tune in and root for me.FOR MISS NEVADA USA 2_t653


5 Jan

Strange sights will be seen this week in Vegas as the 2015 International Consumer Electronics Show fires up its over 20,000 new products and technological breakthroughs from over 3,500 exhibitors for over 150,000 conventioneers. Geeks will go giddy over the gadgets!

The 1.85 million sq.ft of floor space covers about 15 miles – almost 400 basketball courts in size. This is big business- in fact the US consumer electronics industry is now worth $211.3 billion – 5,000 times more than the largest jackpot ever won in Vegas ($39.7mill).

There will be everything from flying drones to driverless cars! Ten global auto manufacturers will showcase dozens of the driverless vehicles ahead of the upcoming prestigious Detroit Auto Show. Some can even park themselves like the i3 BMW :

Or the Audi A7 that will drop off the driver at the entrance to a garage then navigates to an open space, stops and locks itself. The driver can use a smartwatch app. for it to pick him/her back up !

Mercedez Benz chief Dieter Zetsche plans to arrive on stage for his keynote speech from the back seat of a car driven automatically without a driver. The marriage between electronics and automobiles is huge at CES this year with Ford, Chrysler, GM, Mazda, Toyota, Audi, Hyundai and Volkswagen joining BMW and Mercedes. CES predicts that sales of technology in cars will pass the $11-billion mark this year as the automobile becomes a rolling wi-fi hotspot. The car is becoming an extension of the smartphone and an integral part of ‘the internet of things’.

One auto maker is set to showcase a car where the driver and three passengers can all face one another for conversation, meals or business meetings while moving on down the road! Google which has been testing a fleet of self-driving cars says they are only three years away now from regular use!

Apple with its CarPlay system and Google’s Android Auto will debut the ultimate in infotainment units in several of this years produced cars- and all versions will on display at CES.

Other highlights will be new television sets with extraordinary picture quality and larger home-theater screens. Expect to see everything from PlayStation 3 games to apps controlling your in-home temperature and safety locks to appear on televisions from your smart phones.

Naturally the new craze of smart-watches from Apple’s IWatch to Intel’s marriage with watchmakers Tag Heuer and Fossil will be big attractions. The Goldkey wrist watch will not just monitor health, fitness, and eating habits but will also work as a phone- the original 1962 Jetson predictions of wearable technology have finally arrived!

Gadgets and gizmos coming include handheld drones with video cameras, robots and “smarft home”products including a garden sprinkler system that pulls down weather forecasts to plan its watering controls. There’s a special section at CES called “ The Internet of Things” just for the smart-home developments. Karen Chupka, senior VP of International CES commented: : Its all about the opportunity to connect everyday items like cars, home security sytstrems, kitchen appliances to networked devices like smarphones and Pc’s for greater control and management of our everyday lives.

Even 3D printing has grown to more than 25 manufacturers here in Vegas this week demonstrating how to make everything from customized chocolates to smartphone cases.

Three Las Vegas ‘green projects’   ( Touro University, Green Our Planet and Green Chips) were presented with a total of $100,000 today to continue their work on advancing clean energy and sustainable living.

CES officially opens tomorrow and runs through Friday. Its so huge that every hotel room in town is booked with exhibitors taking up all of the Las Vegas Convention Center , the Sands Convention Center with additional tech exhibits at the Venetian, Palazzo, Westgate and Aria hotel facilities.

We’ll have a rundown of all the celebrities, VIPs and athletes attending CES here tomorrow. They include Nick Cannon who in addition to his CES Ambassador duties will be guest DJ at 1OAK in the Mirage tomorrow (TUES) , Ryan Seacrest, Dr Phil, Curtis “50-Cent’ Jackson , rock icon Neil Young, dj Tiesto, Syfy cable tv actress Tricia Helfer (Ascension and Battlestar Galactiica), Peroject Runway’s Nick Verreos, NBA legends Shaquille O’Neal and Clyde ‘The Glide’ Drexler and volleyball victors Karch Kiraly, Kayla Banwarth and Harmotto Dietzen.

Tech nerds, geeks and professionals are about to have their annual splash with the next generation of technology. Welcome to Vegas – we’re glad to have you here, your home for over 40 years!



5 Jan

get-attachment.aspxWestgate CEO David Siegel was first to his feet last night (SUN) to lead the midnight standing ovation of the entire audience for dancer Jennifer Romas and the cast of her new Sexxy show at his hotel.

“Bravo” he told me. “ She pulled off a great show against all the odds and in the shortest amount of time. I don’t think I’ve ever met such a passionate hard working performer in my life. I had complete faith in her and she proved it. She’s also a really nice person who deserves the greatest of successes.”

David told me not only will he move her 11pm show forward closer towards prime-time but he’s also having her create the cheerleader’s choreography for his Orlando Predators Arena Football League team he owns in Florida. “ You’ll see them here in Las Vegas when they play against Vince Neil’s Las Vegas Outlaws” he laughed.

Jennifer wowed and dazzled the first night audience with her amazing routines on , in and around a bathtub and on a stripper pole. “ She’s the best dancer in Las Vegas and this new show is going to get Best In Las Vegas” one audience member told me. Jeff Antalik added: “ The best pole dance and bathtub routine ever”.

You can read our preview of Sexxy that we posted yesterday (CLICK HERE) with Tom Donoghue’s gallery of photos.

Among the first night audience were Prince tribute artist Jason Teller , Rock of Ages star Mark Shunock, magician Murray Sawchuck, Zowie Bowie’s Chris Phillips with Lydia Ansel and two other beauties from the Bella Strings electronic violin group. Sitting with the Westgate CEO was longtime Vegas producer Jeff Kutash and both confirmed they’re talking about a possible spectacular to go into the large main theater there.

One of the Westgate executives attending also confirmed my earlier December story that the Star Trek exhibit is being replaced by an Elvis Presley attraction. “We’re planning for it to open in the 2nd quarter “he told me.

Singer Gabriella Versace who belts out three of the sexiest songs among the 16 routines in the hi-energy nonstop 70-minute production said her boyfriend , master magician Lance Burton never shows up on her opening nights. “ I just get too nervous so he’ll be here in a week’s time when we’ve settled into a groove” she explained.

Jennifer and her dancers were mobbed by fans after the show and then celebrated with champagne. Said Jennifer: “ I was so stressed and exhausted but this was the most exciting night of my life. It was a dream come true to create my very own show in the entertainment capital of the world. I was crying when I saw the entire audience stand up and cheer.

“It was all done in such a rush and during the holiday season. I’m a perfectionist so now we will polish the show, bring in additional elements we wanted but couldn’t . Our official grand opening will then come towards the end of the month and then you are really going to see Sexxy at its best.”