Saturday, September 26, 2009

Bob Stupak R.I.P 1942 - 2009

Yesterday, Las Vegas lost one of the greatest characters to ever grace its landscape, Bob Stupak. The creator of the Vegas World casino in the 70s which morphed later into the Stratosphere, left a permenant mark on the city's skyline and history. Born in Pittsburgh and self-dubbed the "Polish Maverick," he placed his first bet at age 8.Running craps games in the army, he learned that he could make a nice buck because "people were prepared to gamble a little if they had a chance to win a lot." He bounced around the world for a while developing a PT Barnum-like flair for marketing but always had a love for Las Vegas. He finally moved there in the 70s opening a restaurant, gambling museum then Vegas World in 1979. Here he would begin to truly make his mark on Las Vegas. When he realized the Strip ended at Sahara, a quarter mile south of his casino, he took it upon himself to declare the Strip has "officially" been extended. He went to great lengths to get people into his casino in often classic fashion. Vegas World was known for the utmost in gimmick marketing, sometimes ending him up in hot water with the Gaming Commission. Though things like no-craps craps and late-night TV ads selling vacation packages and dealers wearing old-western bowties that read "He's Bob Stupak. He's Polish!" the casino was like no other.

While living in Australia, he got the idea to build the Stratosphere and never gave up on the dream. He knew people were drawn to tall buildings and set out to build the tallest one west of the Mississippi River. When first proposed; people said he was insane, that planes would crash in it. Persistant as always, Stupak was undeterred. Despite having to take on investors that would eventually drive him out and force the place into bankruptcy, his vision was achieved and Stratosphere remains one of the must-see atrraction in Vegas and an icon that can been seen from anywhere in the Vegas valley.

Stupak's personal life was as colorful as his professional one. He once bet a million dollars on the Super Bowl and was an accomplished poker player if not so much for his skill as his bravado. He would incessantly tempt fellow players at side bets on virtually everything, typically in huckster style. He once bet anyone in the poker room that he could do "between two and three hundred push-ups." Everyone rushed to bet the skinny Polish guy. Once he got on the floor, they quickly realized he never said "between 200 and 300 push-ups." They quickly paid up! He ran for political office on several occasions, though never won and was quite the ladies man. He almost died in 1995 when he wrecked his motorcycle and completely crushed his face. The traffic investigator when he arrived on scene couldn't imagine anyone living through the accident but Bob managed to pulled through. In 1999, he proposed a Titanic themed casino on the Strip with a complete replica of the ship serving as the hotel, sadly the Las Vegas city council shot down the idea. There was also a very charitable side to Stupak with large donations particularly to the neighborhood surrounding the Stratosphere. To say it isn't the best part of town is an understatement and Bob wanted to help the residents. He employed many of them when the Strat first opened and built a community center and park in honor of his father which is a jewel in the middle of a pretty rough neighborhood.

Rest in peace, Bob. You made a legendary place in the history of Las Vegas and your legacy will never be forgotten!

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Friday, September 18, 2009

Monte Carlo Review and Room Pictures

For the final two nights of the trip, I moved over to a Monaco Suite at the Monte Carlo in anticipation of the wife's arrival later that day. I worked it out that after spending 3 nights with Mom, I would fly her back to Orange County to look after our pets as Lisa flew out for the last two nights. I managed to keep them both happy while not having to do it at the same time! It worked out well and I will do it again for my trip in December.

Check-in at the Monte Carlo was painless with only a very short line and I was up to the room in a just a few minutes. Amazingly enough, we weren't looking at a wall for once! Though far from the best view in town being on the 6th floor overlooking valet, anything was better than the previous 3 nights. The Monaco Suite is a really a mini-suite with 1 and a half baths. It wasn't priced much more than a regular room and it was well worth the extra money. Since we enjoy hanging out in the room, having the seating area and extra bath was definitely nice. The room itself was nice enough though hardly 5-star luxury. The furnishings were in good shape and everything was clean except for some of the dirtiest windows I have ever seen. More on that in a second... There was a flat screen TV but bafflingly there wasn't HD programming. I can't fathom the stupidity of spending the money for new Hi-Def TVs then not provide HD! The TV also wasn't really big enough to enjoy from the bed. They made up for it by having a very comfortable couch. The bathrooms, like the room itself, were also in good condition but both toilets were fairly difficult to flush, which was odd. The master had a combo shower/whirlpool tub but we just used the shower.

Overall, we were both very happy with our stay at the Monte Carlo. I have never had a very high opinion of the place since it opened back in the 90's. It was one of just three places on the strip that I have never stayed since there is nothing to really draw you there and the casino has never been very good. However; between the room, a surprisingly fun casino (if you aren't looking for serious gambling) and a decent selection of restaurants, we didn't leave the place all that much the entire time we were there. I sold the Monte Carlo short and it turned out to be a nice mid-budget place that might be a better option than something like Luxor or TI especially once City Center opens next door in Decemeber.

A very interesting incident happened on the first day at the hotel. As I mentioned earlier, the windows were terribly dirty. Lisa was poking around and discovered to both of our surprise that the window fully opened! I don't think I have ever seen a window that opened in a Vegas hotel so we were both shocked. Since it was a smoking room, we decided to leave the window open to air out the room. No more than 10 minutes later, the phone rings and its security telling us that we have to close the window as its obviously a safety hazard. No problem. We close it then as we always do when we leave, hang the "Do Not Disturb" sign on the door as we head down to the pool. We are in the pool for about 30 seconds before lightning rolls through and they close the pool. We head back to the room to find that they ignored the DND sign and busted in to put a stop plate on the window so it didn't open anymore. It was almost as if they were scoping us out and waiting for us to leave to get into the room. The speed at which they acted was breath-taking! I'm sure if I called them for something, they wouldn't have been so speedy. It definitely gave us a good chuckle. It also served as a reminder that we are just "guests" in the hotel and its THEIR room and they will enter as they please.

Click Here for Room Pics

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Tuesday, September 8, 2009

New York-New York Review and Room Pictures

The first night of my stay was at New York-New York. I received an email offer about 3 days before we left for $44 a night. We were supposed to have been in the standard Skyline room but when we checked in at 11:30 PM, the gave us a free "upgrade" to a "Park Ave. Deluxe." The room was located on the 3rd floor near the food court elevators and when we got in the room, I swore the window was a fake. There was not a single ray of light to be seen, even from above. The next morning, we find out it wasn't fake but looked directly at a wall 3 feet away. By far the worst view I have ever gotten in Vegas. We probably would have been happier without the "upgrade!" No big deal though as we were only going to be there 12 hours. Other than the view however, the rest of the room was decent overall. It is an older room that is still in relatively good shape but don't expect a flat screen with HDTV. There wasn't any major stains or burns and all the furniture was good as well. The room is a little on the small size but I guess there wanted to continue the New York theme to the rooms! The bed was comfortable enough with no sagging though the pillows could have been better. The bathroom is very run of the mill with only 1 sink but the combo shower/tub had very good water pressure.

As for the rest of the hotel; the place has a decent collection of restaurants, most of which are quite affordable including a big food court and an ESPN Zone. There are several good bars and clubs including the Times Square Bar which started the whole "Dueling Pianos" rage that every hotel now seems to have. It is definitely entertaining enough, especially while sucking down free drinks and slow-playing video poker at the bar. The location is also very good. Located feet from MGM's front entrance and just across from Excalibur and the tram to Luxor and Mandalay Bay, there are plenty of other options within a short walk. There are a few definite negatives against the place... The casino is pretty terrible as far as good games go. The pool is amongst the smallest in Vegas and as mentioned previously, the rooms are hardly the lap of luxury. All in all, NY-NY serves its niche pretty well. If you are looking for a younger crowd and want to party all weekend and want a room that is a step up from bargain, it is a great choice. If you are looking for a luxurious romantic weekend getaway, there are far better choices in town.

Click Here for Room Pics

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Sunday, September 6, 2009

5 Nights on the Strip

Just back from the End of Summer trip and there is quite a bit to post! I will start getting room pics and maps up tomorrow but I wanted to post a few tidbits from the trip. I would have done it real-time but had remote access issues. Mom and I spent the first night at New York-New York and then moved over to Venetian (actually the Venezia Tower, there is a difference!) for the next two and the luck of the draw as far as the view went couldn't have been worse at both places! At NY-NY, it was hands down the worst view out of a window ever Vegas or otherwise, despite Venetian's best effort to beat them.

New York-New York


I like a decent view and sometimes will even pay a premium for it. However, I'm not that anal about it and generally don't mind whatever I get but being handed this back to back even after mentioning how bad the view was the first night is almost ridiculous! To top it off, in order to provide such an amazing view at the Venetian, we were the furthest point humanly possible from anything! Miles and miles of walking ensued during those 2 nights. The final 2 nights were with Lisa in a suite at Monte Carlo. The view was hardly spectacular but at least it wasn't staring at a wall!

Another nugget of awesome from the trip was a billboard that is along Industrial not far from Trump.

Apparently he is the angry, Old Testament God and not the newer, kinder "Jesus" God! You got to love Vegas. No where else can you see an advertisement looking for budding pornstars a mile away from one condemning all the city's visitors to death, I'm just bummed it's not prominently displayed on the strip or on one of those street blimps! Now that would be priceless. Much more to come in the next few days...

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