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Party in Vegas, or Beirut? One man is building a bridge

I’m sure they put in some long days over at the Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority. But where would you rather promote tourism and further a party culture? Las Vegas or Beirut?

Roy Azzi is here, but he is getting ready to go back there to do the latter. Azzi is a 27-year-old who started out as a teen DJ booking himself, R.O.Y, in Beirut — “I jump, I dance, I go crazy on the decks,” he will have you know — and now has his own special events company, Tarte aux Poires.

His firm worked with the Ministry of Tourism to create a new campaign and website, “Live Love Lebanon.”

“It’s about the young who party a lot, the people who love life actually, who travel a lot, who are the creative people, who are designers on the street,” he says. “This is the vibe, what it’s about.”

“We have a lot of cultural clashes, but we as the young generation … want to get back to the parties and the beaches” Lebanon was known for before the war. “And we are getting there.”

And where better to study how to “somehow switch the perception” — to “reflect us as youngsters and festival lovers, wine lovers, culture lovers” — than Las Vegas?

Azzi is about to wrap up a three-month stint with the International School of Hospitality, which he says taught him how to be more practical and technical in his event planning. The school got him into a concierge gathering and a technology startup conference and farmed him out to firms such as the lighting and design company Earth Water Sky.

But while he was here, suicide bombers in Beirut killed dozens and injured hundreds in the worst attack to strike the city in years. They were overshadowed by the attacks in Paris the next day.

Media outlets such as The New York Times wrote about the perceptual difference: the outpouring of anguish for Paris, versus most Americans thinking of Beirut as synonymous with violence, thanks to its civil war of the 1980s.

“This is why I’m here to make a change,” Azzi says. “I’m very much involved in the alternative scene in Beirut.” Azzi was in town for this year’s Life is Beautiful festival, but only the scale and organizational finesse of it came as a shock to him.

“Beirut was full of festivals last summer. We do have this alternative community, this cultural community aside from all the bad things happening in town.”

For a restaurant opening “on a street in Beirut which used to be the border between the Muslims and the Christians,” he created “The Art of Peace” and a logo with a tank shooting a stream of flowers.

I ask Azzi what kind of mood he expects to find the city in when he returns this month. “It’s sad to say that people got used to bad stuff happening in town,” he replies. “However, they did somehow. Because we had this sad war, they all express themselves in different ways. You will find a lot of artists around town.”

His next goal: “How can I drive students from there to here, expose them to American culture? Perhaps this is where it all starts. After all I’ve seen here, I can say in Lebanon it is limited and I do want people to see the overall picture.” …

As reported online last week, it appears the leadership of the Las Vegas Musicians Union will quietly change hands in a few weeks, as only one candidate for president appears on the ballot. He is Jack Gaughan, a music director and contractor whose Las Vegas credits include “Phantom,” “Mamma Mia!” and “Chicago.”

Longtime president Frank Leone also was nominated in a recent meeting but apparently was found ineligible to run again by the union’s elections committee, as part of the contentious issues that forced him to step down.

But the players union with more than 600 members might still see divisiveness surface in its Dec. 19 election. Candidates for its board of trustees include Bill Callanan, the Circus Circus musician who lodged the complaint with the parent union that Leone mishandled the contract representing him.

This all comes as the union loses jobs for the full orchestra that backed Bob Anderson’s “Frank — The Man. The Music,” closing this weekend at the Palazzo.

Read more from Mike Weatherford at reviewjournal.com. Contact him at mweatherford@reviewjournal.com and follow @Mikeweatherford on Twitter.

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