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Amid COVID concerns, Derek Stevens says, ‘You have to show hope’

Updated July 26, 2020 - 5:12 pm

As Derek Stevens glanced skyward at his just-completed Circa sign in downtown Las Vegas, he talked of his own high-wire act. Stevens can bring the celebration anytime, anywhere, including, 7 a.m. on Main Street in the middle of a pandemic.

Stevens is resolutely advancing his staged events. Thursday’s placing of Circa’s 34-foot “C” was the most recent. But during COVID-19, the Circa CEO and marketing maverick is tempering the ceremonial messaging.

“The reality is, we’re all very cognizant of these case numbers, we’re cognizant of the number of people who are hospitalized, and unfortunately the number of people who have sadly passed,” the smartly suited Stevens said Thursday morning, just after the crane had finished its Circa spelling assignment. “But at the same time, I think it is important to show progress, in various areas. Our health is one of them, but progress in our the economy is also one of them.”

Stevens mentioned that Ford has just unveiled the prototype for its Mach-E Mustang electric car. He also gave a heads-up for the upcoming announcement for the Circa lounge on the hotel’s top floor (his company has since teased the CL-branded nightspot on social media).

“You look at these things happening and know that you have to be able to put projects out there,” Stevens said. “There are moments where you still have to show hope, you know? There are a lot of great things around the corner.”

Stevens is continually facing questions about his occupancy rates — and they are sagging at the D and Golden Gate — and how customers are adapting to his hotels’ safety measures. He toggles between the health crisis, business challenges and his buoyant vision for the future.

“It’s a delicate balance, yes,” the resort exec said. “But you can’t walk around with your head down saying ‘Woe is us’ all the time.” As Stevens finished the chat, he pulled on his official Circa Las Vegas face guard, which is now part of his suit and part of the message.

The accidental ‘Dot’

Circa’s cosmetic flaw known as MoDot is indeed a construction mishap. I had suspiciously asked Stevens if he didn’t actually orchestrate that mix-up of window panes to generate some buzz about the property.

“I will not tell a lie. This is absolutely, without question, an accident,” he said. “There was no forethought on that.”

Named for Circa project engineer Mo Pierce, MoDot is only the latest quirky news event to emanate from Stevens’ empire. Five years ago, a hotel guest made off with the Blarney Stone on exhibit at the D.

The display, which is a piece of rock from the wall of Blarney Castle in County Cork, Ireland, went missing from the casino late one night. It was returned the following morning, by a guy who hauled it away after having a few tequila shots. There was no forethought about that, either.

The missing Blarney Stone was nonetheless a popular topic for about 36 hours.

“If I was a smart guy, we would’ve had someone steal it two years earlier,” Stevens said.”It got much more valuable after somebody stole it.”

As for MoDot, Stevens compares the flaw to a birthmark.

“It’s something that personalizes the building,” he said. “Look at Cindy Crawford. She has a special element that makes her so beautiful, a beauty mark. This is our beauty mark.”

Goodman’s natal date

Saying, “I’m 81, but I feel 21,” former Las Vegas Mayor Oscar Goodman celebrated his birthday Sunday with a family luncheon at Las Vegas Country Club. Goodman plans a bigger party down the line at his eponymous steakhouse at the Plaza, and hotel CEO Jonathan Jossel stopped by the Goodman event.

In a phone chat during the event, Goodman was swilling his favorite drink, the Bombay Sapphire martini.

“I’ve had five already,” he said. “I think I’ll have a couple more. Goodman said he fielded more than 100 calls during the day.

“I feel great,” Goodman said. “This is like my second bar mitzvah.”

Who’s Zoomin’ who?

Britney Spears’ conservatorship hearings are being held on Zoom meetings during COVID-19. The most recent last week was “Zoombarded” by a group of digital interlopers. As TMZ originally reported, Spears’ case was being reviewed in a publicly available Zoom hearing, then the judge closed the session to discuss confidential matters with those legally involved in Spears’ conservatorship.

But several individuals with no legal involvement, who were on the original call, refused to close out. After two hours of these unauthorized folks hanging out, the session was postponed. The status of Spears’ conservatorship, under which her father, Jamie, is in charge of her business affairs, remains unchanged.

Cirque’s return

“Joya” has reopened its second show during COVID-19, in Riviera Maya on Mexico’s northeastern Yucatan Peninsula. The show plays to a masked, socially distant crowd capped at 200 in a 650-seat theater. “Joya” joins “X: The Land of Fantasy” in Hangzhou, China, as the only Cirque shows running internationally.

“Joya” employs 30 artists and 280 technicians in a theater customized for the production. During the lockdown from March through June, almost all of Joya’s artists, from 15 different countries, were quarantined in Mexico.

John Katsilometes’ column runs daily in the A section. His PodKats! podcast can be found at reviewjournal.com/podcasts. Contact him at jkatsilometes@reviewjournal.com. Follow @johnnykats on Twitter, @JohnnyKats1 on Instagram.

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