weather icon Clear

Las Vegas landmark Westgate rocks in 50th anniversary

Updated August 4, 2019 - 3:37 pm

The Kats! Bureau at this writing is McCarran International Airport’s D Gates, my favorite Gates after Bill and Melinda. I’m flying out, and up, to Edinburgh Festival Fringe in Scotland, to check out the premiere of “Atomic Saloon Show,” the new Spiegelworld spectacle opening Sept. 8 at The Venetian’s Grand Canal Shoppes.

The Spiegelworld crew, led by founder Ross Mollison, are bubbling over with some very good early feedback about the show and a sellout in its first Saturday night performance. A review from the website CultureFix, which seems to be reviewing all of the major shows at Edinburgh, gave it five stars (out of five stars, which is as many stars allowed in a review).

The review remarked about “Atomic Saloon Show’s” raunchy humor and eye-popping acrobatics, and referred to a song title we can’t cite in a family publication.

Sounds like Spiegelworld is playing to form.

More from this scene, and elsewhere:

A Gated community

Westgate Las Vegas marked its 50th anniversary Saturday night with a multitiered party starting with a cocktail reception, rolling into Ted Torres Martin’s Elvis tribute show (featuring the original Sweet Inspirations) and ending with a VIP event upstairs at the hotel’s Crown Room. The event cast a spotlight on someone who deserves it, hotel General Manager Cami Christensen.

I’ve known Christensen for about 15 years, since in the days when Ferengis were delivering dry-ice drinks at Quarks restaurant and “Menopause the Musical” was selling out Shimmer Cabaret. Christensen knows the hotel’s history, clientele and (especially) staff really well, having arrived at the L.V. Hilton some 18 years ago. She has parked cars (literally, for one shift) and hosted Bill Clinton, among scores of dignitaries, at the hotel.

Hotel owner David Siegel, who promoted Christensen to GM in October, joked during the cocktail reception, “I bought Cami, and the hotel came with her.” Christensen responded, “You couldn’t afford me.”

Christensen was also honored to welcome Las Vegas Mayor Carolyn Goodman to the cocktail reception, saying, “You have been such an inspiration to me,” and later recalling that moment and saying, “I am so humbled to be the president of this majestic place.”

The hotel honored the more than 53 employees who have been with the company for more than 40 years, topped by usher Angel Rosas, who was hired in March 1969 — three months before the hotel opened. Christensen said Rosas had seen 12,000 performances on the property; I’ve mentioned to him he’s led my to my seat in 6,000 of those shows.

Smartly attired in a tux, Rosas repeated Siegel’s wishes, “I say we do this again in 50 years.” Rosas worked Elvis’ opening in July 1969, and has always said the Presley shows “were like New Year’s Eve, every show.”

Torres Martin, an Orlando, Florida, artist who has performed as Elvis for 14 years, performed the seemingly unachievable — a full concert as Elvis actually made you feel as if you were watching the real thing. I’ve caught many ETAs (Elvis Tribute Artists) over the years, and many are good summoning Elvis’ spirit in short segments or in a smaller scale.

But Torres Martin had the moves down, was flawless vocally, and really warmed to the experience of performing on Elvis’ old International Theater stage.

And the Sweet Inspirations sounded great, as original member Estelle Brown simply demanded that the audience sing along to “The Lord’s Prayer.” I had expected the Inspirations, Elvis’ backing vocalists through his seven-year Vegas run, to sing just a couple of numbers during the anniversary show. But they backed Torres Martin for the entire performance. It’s moment we might not see again in VegasVille.

Such Vegas entertainers as Frankie Scinta, whose “Scintas” family act moved to Vegas in 2000 to headline the Shimmer; and Chris Phillips of Zowie Bowie (who drew the short straw as my plus-one) were in the mix. Tableside conversation was centered on the long list of headliners — Elvis, Wayne Newton and Liberace among many superstars — who graced the resort’s showroom.

At the post-party, members of the Westgate family — including Siegel’s wife, Jackie; and right-hand man, Mark Waltrip; and son Richard Siegel— mixed with headliners Jennifer Romas of “Sexxy” and magician Jen Kramer.

Romas, especially, has a history at the hotel, as part of Kristine W’s show at the Shimmer, and also “Monster Circus” rock production in the showroom. Siegel gave Romas the chance to realize her dream of producing her own show, at a time when nobody would have blamed him for shutting down or even imploding the property. It was fitting that Romas’ parents, Judi and John, were VIPs at Saturday’s party and show.

Christensen herself remarked at how dismal the hotel’s fortunes seemed in the days when it was LVH. For two years, the hotel was run by execs at Goldman Sachs, looking to sell the building as Christensen toured suitor after suitor around the hotel.

Today, Westgate is renovated and continuing to rebound. The Superbook, operated by the esteemed Jay Kornegay, has been impressively overhauled with a massive LED layout and food-and-beverage options. The IBar lounge, open at the entrance, stages live music regularly (Phillips himself is bringing an off-shoot show, a trio called “The Cocktail Beat” debuting Aug. 24).

The hotel is still planning to spend upward of $20 million to $30 million on more renovations, including LED screens at IBar.

Yep, video screens in the open lounge at the old Las Vegas Hilton. I’ll be there, and I’ll save a seat for my buddy Angel.


On the topic of Westgate, column fave and fervent Buffalo Bills fan Nina Di Gregorio’s “Femmes of Rock” production performs in Westgate Cabaret at 7:30 p.m. Tuesday through Friday. It’s a blazing experience, with the all-female string players and great arrangements of classic-rock songs. Christina Levi, Carissa Werner and Chandra Meibalane join Di Gregorio in the cast.

Expect a new ’80s-era medley of Van Halen, Motley Crue and Whitesnake. The band is also returning “Kashmir” by Led Zeppelin, and, as Di Gregorio says, “something cool from Queen.”

Di Gregorio and co-producer Brody Dolyniuk (and we go waaaay back to the days of the Railhead at Boulder Station) have assembled something of an empire with this act. Over weekend, the Femmes opened for Ted Nugent at the McHenry County Fair in Woodstock, Ill. About 5,500 fans turned out. I say that billing should have been flipped, but I’m biased …

Michelle to the J

Another column fave, jazz great Michelle Johnson, is back at Myron’s Cabaret Jazz at 8 p.m. Friday with “Salute To The Great Singer-Songwriters.” Jeffrey Neiman is back as Johnson’s music director, with Gret Menzies Gonzales, Jolana Sampson and Jassen Allen on backing vocals. Johnson is also premiering a new song, “I’m All In,” her first songwriting venture in many years.

“I started writing when I was a kid, a child,” says Johnson, commonly known as “Las Vegas’ First Lady of Jazz.” “Then I got away from it, and ‘I’m All In’ is about recapturing that spirit.”

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.

Don't miss the big stories. Like us on Facebook.
Entertainment Videos
Terra Rossa Returns To Red Rock. (Al Mancini/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Terra Rossa at Red Rock Resort is set to open on Aug. 26.
Hubert Keller’s Backyard Kitchen
Chef Hubert Keller of Fleur and Burger Bar shows off his backyard kitchen in Las Vegas. (Al Mancini/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Watermelon Mojitos and Chicken ‘N’ Watermelon ‘N’ Waffles at Yardbird Southern Table & Bar in Las Vegas
Bartender Cassy Leedom and Chef Norberto Ortega make a Watermelon Mojito and Chicken ‘N’ Watermelon ‘N’ Waffles at Yardbird Southern Table & Bar at The Venetian in Las Vegas. Heidi Knapp Rinella/Review-Journal
Juan’s Flaming Fajitas in Las Vegas celebrates National Fajita Day
Cook Ruben Fuentes and general manager Taylor Pulliam of Juan’s Flaming Fajitas in Las Vegas prepare steak and shrimp fajitas with the restaurant’s signature fiery treatment. (Heidi Knapp Rinella/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Pasta Shop Ristorante serves a watermelon-shrimp salad
Pasta Shop Ristorante & Art Gallery in Henderson serves a summer salad that combines watermelon with greens, feta and shrimp. (Heidi Knapp Rinella/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
The Factory Kitchen in Las Vegas makes classic affogato
Jorge Luque, pastry chef at The Factory Kitchen at The Venetian in Las Vegas, makes affogato with two simple ingredients - house-made gelato and fresh espresso. (Heidi Knapp Rinella/Las Vegas Review Journal with image from The Factory Kitchen)
The Cereal Killerz Kitchen serves over 100 cereals
Christopher Burns, owner of The Cereal Killerz Kitchen at Galleria at Sunset mall in Henderson, makes a Milk & Cookies Shake from his more than 100 varieties of cereal. (Heidi Knapp Rinella/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Black Tap Craft Burgers & Beer in Las Vegas makes a State Fair CrazyShake
Bianca Zepeva, a shaker at Black Tap Craft Burgers & Beer at The Venetian in Las Vegas, makes a State Fair CrazyShake with a kettle corn rim, caramel, corn-based ice cream, popcorn brittle, crushed kettle corn, sprinkles and a cherry. (Heidi Knapp Rinella/Review-Journal)
Balboa Pizza Company makes Thai peanut chicken wings
Irma Perez, kitchen manager at Balboa Pizza Company at The District at Green Valley Ranch in Henderson, near Las Vegas, brines chicken wings for 24 hours before roasting and frying them and finishing them in various styles such as Thai peanut. (Heidi Knapp Rinella/Review-Journal)
New Venetian pool deck
Final touches are currently being added to the hotel’s main tower pool deck, which consists of five pools. (Al Mancini/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Who is Vegas Vic? (Jason Bracelin/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Nevada State Museum Director Dennis McBride explains the origins of the Vegas icon.
Slater’s 50/50 in Las Vegas serves a 4-pound Big Island Feast Burger
Cindy Sun, general manager of Slater’s 50/50 in Las Vegas, makes the Big Island Feast Burger with 2 1/2 pounds of the house bacon/beef blend, Napa-cilantro slaw, six slices of American cheese, a can of grilled Spam, six slices of chargrilled pineapple, four fried eggs and a drizzle of teriyaki and serves it with macaroni salad. (Heidi Knapp Rinella/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Get a first look of MSG Sphere construction in Las Vegas
Representatives of The Madison Square Garden Company give the first glimpse of progress Tuesday of the under-construction MSG Sphere — a first-of-its-kind performance venue with high-tech audio and visual capabilities.
Shark Week cupcakes at Freed’s Bakery in Las Vegas
Brittnee Klinger, a cake decorator at Freed’s Bakery in Las Vegas, makes Shark Week cupcakes with ocean-blue buttercream, fondant fins and a blood-red strawberry filling. (Heidi Knapp Rinella/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Fans and friends recall Elvis opening in Las Vegas
Fifty years ago on July 31st 1969, Elvis Presley opened at the International hotel in Las Vegas. He went on to do 837 consecutive sold-out shows at the property.
Hot peach cobbler at Beaumont’s Southern Kitchen at Texas Station
Michael Ross, room chef/pitmaster at Beaumont’s Southern Kitchen at Texas Station in Las Vegas, makes peach cobbler by baking peaches in a cast-iron pan with batter and crumble, then topping with Haagen-Dazs vanilla ice cream and bourbon-caramel sauce. (Heidi Knapp Rinella/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Water Grill opens at The Forum Shops at Caesars in Las Vegas
Water Grill, from a 30-year-old California company opening its first Las Vegas location, specializes is fresh seafood including 16 types of oysters. (Al Mancini/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Cat's Meow comes to Las Vegas
New Orleans-based karaoke chain opens new location in Neonopolis. (Jason Bracelin/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Making the Loco Moco Breakfast Burger at Broken Yolk Cafe in Las Vegas
Manny Menina, line cook at Broken Yolk Cafe in Las Vegas, stacks 8 ounces of beef, 2 strips of bacon, hash browns, caramelized onions and 2 fried eggs on 4 King’s Hawaiian slider buns to make the Loco Moco Breakfast Burger. (Heidi Knapp Rinella/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
SecretBurger at China Poblano at The Cosmopolitan of Las Vegas
Carlos Cruz, executive chef of Jose Andres’ China Poblano at The Cosmopolitan of Las Vegas, makes the SecretBurger off-menu, one-night-only ‘All Quacked Up’ with a kimchi pancake, Peking duck, house-made hoisin sauce, a fried duck egg, pickled micro-vegetables, caviar and gold flakes and serves it with a Stillwater Artisanal Ale. (Heidi Knapp Rinella/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Famous Blue Angel statue commemorated in downtown Las Vegas mural
The 16-foot tall Blue Angel statue that stood above the Blue Angel Motel for six decades is featured in a mural spanning three walls at a downtown Las Vegas building. James Stanford designed the “A Phalanx of Angels Ascending" mural based on his photography, and Cliff Morris painted the mural at 705 Las Vegas Blvd. North, near the Neon Museum. (K.M. Cannon/Las Vegas Review-Journal) @KMCannonPhoto
Making Castle Frites at the new Frites at Excalibur
Tom McGrath, district manager/executive chef at Frites at the Excalibur in Las Vegas, tops his beef-tallow fries like a loaded baked potato - with white and yellow cheddar, sour cream, bacon and chives. (Heidi Knapp Rinella/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Hello Kitty Cafe on Las Vegas Strip - VIDEO
The Hello Kitty Cafe opens Friday, July 12th, 2019, between New York, New York and Park MGM on the Las Vegas Strip. (Mat Luschek / Review-Journal)
Amano Las Vegas' Fat Baby Sandwich
Chef Jason Weber of Amano Las Vegas has created a sandwich stuffed with pasta, and it's a hit. (Mat Luschek / Las Vegas Review-Journal)
A class at Melissa Coppel Chocolate and Pastry School in Las Vegas.
Melissa Coppel, who teaches classes in various countries around the world, attracts students from far and wide to her eponymous school in Las Vegas. (Heidi Knapp Rinella/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Havana Lobster at Boteco in Las Vegas. (Heidi Knapp Rinella/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Marcus Fortunato, co-owner of Boteco in Las Vegas, learned to make Havana Lobster from the chef at El Figaro, a favorite of former Cuban President Fidel Castro.
Chef Gustav Mauler Is retiring
Las Vegas chef Gustav Mauler announces his retirement on Sunday, June 30, 2019.
Bellagio Conservatory unveils Italian summer exhibit
The Bellagio's Conservatory & Botanical Gardens have opened the gates to its summer display. (Mat Luschek / Review-Journal)
A.D. Hopkins on his debut novel
Veteran journalist introduces readers to “The Boys Who Woke Up Early.” (John Przybys/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Seven Magic Mountains restoration complete
Artist Ugo Rondinone’s iconic Seven Magic Mountains receives a complete painting restoration in June 2019.
Jason Aldean announces shows on Las Vegas Strip

Jason Aldean has mused for years about a run in Las Vegas. He’s found his spot at Park Theater on Dec. 6-8 with “Ride All Night.”