Best of Las Vegas honors old, new

Holly Madison has just won the Las Vegas trifecta, and we couldn't be happier for her.

It's not that easy, you know. She worked hard for it. First, in "Peepshow" at Planet Hollywood Resort -- a show on the fabulous Las Vegas Strip. Then, in "Holly's World" on E! -- a reality show on TV. And, now, in Best of Las Vegas -- a handsome certificate from us.

We're guessing she appreciates this latest symbol of her success, maybe will hang it up on the wall. (And we don't feel so optimistic about some other winners, say, Bette Midler. Probably no room on her wall for us.)

The thing is, Madison seems to embrace her Las Vegas experience. She mingles. She tweets. She sells her show on the Strip like it's a sexy, sparkly, fun thing -- remember when Las Vegas looked at itself that way?

Review-Journal readers sure do, and we're thinking that's why they chose Madison as their Favorite Female Las Vegan in the 30th annual Best of Las Vegas poll.

We hit a new high in reader participation this year, as 17,548 ballots were cast on paper and online, an increase of 13.1 percent over the year before. Readers could vote on 195 people, places and things in three ballots spread over three weeks in January.

Madison isn't the only new, young presence in Best of Las Vegas this year. We added five clubbing choices to the Entertainment category. Among the reader picks here are Wet Republic at MGM Grand for Best Day Club, Tabu at MGM Grand for Best Ultralounge, DJ Vice as Best Nightclub DJ, the Playboy Club at the Palms for Nightclub with the Best VIP Service and Tao at The Venetian for Nightclub with the Best Mixologists.

The Eat & Drink category has three new options, based on culinary trends: Best Food Truck (reader pick: Slidin' Thru), Best Cupcakes (The Cupcakery) and Best Tapas (Firefly).

Three new subcategories grace the Hotels ballot: Best Casino Mascot (MGM Grand lion), Best Cocktails (South Point) and Best Parking (Wynn Las Vegas). And in Shopping, there are two new decisions: Best Internet Provider (Cox Communications) and Best Tanning Salon (Body Heat).

But the 30th anniversary edition of Best of Las Vegas includes a lot of the familiar as well. In fact, the biggest Best of Las Vegas winner isn't in Las Vegas at all, it's Red Rock Canyon National Conservation Area (Best Picnic Spot, Best Place to Spot Wildlife, Best Place to Take Out-of-Town Visitors, Best Place to Hike, Best Place to Ride a Bike and Best Place to Walk or Jog.)

You won't give up on Andre Agassi for Best Local Athlete although he hung up his racket years ago (he also picks up wins in the more timeless areas of Best Celebrity Resident and Most Generous Las Vegan). You offer another round of applause to Mayor Oscar Goodman as he faces his last year in office (Best Local Politician, Favorite Male Las Vegan and Most Colorful Character).

A difficult category for us each year is Favorite Dead Las Vegan. As readers stick with Elvis Presley, we choose to honor former Gov. Kenny Guinn, that now rare politician who made the practical choice to get things done even if it meant irritating his own party. Our other top candidates: actor/artist Tony Curtis, who boosted the community as enthusiastically as Holly Madison, and the Rev. Jesse Scott, who spent a lifetime fighting for civil rights.

A phenomenon that seems to grow stronger with each year of Best of Las Vegas is the love 'em-hate 'em combination. For instance, Paris Hilton and Kim Kardashian are first and second respectively in the Best Celebrity Tourist and Worst Celebrity Tourist categories.

And Wayne Newton continues his presence in Best of Las Vegas, though it seems to be in a downward spiral. While once at the top of reader picks, this year he finishes second among readers for Best Celebrity Resident, but "wins" Entertainer Who Needs a New Act and Las Vegan You're Tired of Hearing About in the Best of the Worst category.

But no matter what winners and what categories come and go in our little unscientific poll, there is one thing readers never tire of, and that is our lovely prizes. And here are the winners:

Bill Beckmyer of North Las Vegas, a night on the town, including dinner, a show and an overnight stay at a local hotel; Mary Everett of Las Vegas, lunch for two at Triple George Grill; Peter Kambiss of Henderson, dinner for two at Todd's Unique Dining; Tanya Mahar of Henderson, dinner for two at Michael's at South Point; Diane R. Nunez of Las Vegas, a gift certificate to Fashion Show mall; Ruth Ann Salvati of Las Vegas, two tickets to see Terry Fator; and Alan Will of Las Vegas, two tickets to see "Jersey Boys."

Contact Patricia Morgan at pmorgan@reviewjournal. com or 702-383-0267.