Waking Up Downtown

The Strip seems always to get all the publicity and all the "ooohs" and "aaahs" from visitors, which makes it more than a little tough for downtown Las Vegas to compete. But that doesn’t mean it’s throwing in the towel, at least not without a fight. Sure, Lady Luck is closed down and who knows when the hell it will reopen, if ever, as a hotel-casino. And yeah, Binion’s is a shadow of its former glory.

But the Gold Spike has just been sold and the new owners have some interesting plans for the joint and they have a good track record of turning dumps into "happening" places. Then there’s the Golden Nugget, whose new owners have spent around $100 million renovating and adding and making sure it keeps its status as the King of Downtown. To tell the truth, I never saw anything wrong with the place, but everything they’ve done has been an improvement, from the pool to the restaurants and theatre. Class place.

The Fremont Street Experience, despite its critics, still is the biggest draw downtown and now it’s adding more free entertainment options with the addition of the Real Action Stunt Stage. Located at the 1st Street intersection near the Golden Nugget and Binion’s, the stage features live action performances nightly to include the Russian Bar, cube balancing and a flying silk act. These acts are unique and will garner their share of all those "ooohs" and "aaahs" I talked about earlier.

Just so you get an idea of what you’ll see, the Russian Bar is a gymnastic act that combines the elements of balance, aerial and acrobatic techniques. A thin, flexible bar, suspended between the shoulders of two sturdy holders, is used to propel a flyer high into the air. Executing a series of flips, twists and somersaults, the flyer then lands in perfect balance—back on the bar. They asked me to try it, but I asked for a rain check, citing a sprained back.

The cube balancing consists of an artist working with an enormous metal cube to create these incredible visuals. Spinning and propelling the cube around his head, body and the palm of his hand, the artist’s dexterity is not to be believed as the cube itself catches the light and transforms into a shimmering whirlwind of rainbow colors. Great stuff.

A flying silk act finds the aerialist suspended from the 90-foot Viva Vision canopy. Soaring in graceful circles, high above the heads of the crowd, the aerialist and the silk blend together in a series of beautiful twists and turns. All of the above are going to be crowd pleasers and will add a lot to the whole downtown experience.

Lisa Robinson, director of marketing for the Fremont Street Experience hit it on the head when she said, "We want to give our visitors an experience that’s on par with what they expect of Las Vegas. A night out in Vegas should be dazzling, exciting and one-of-a-kind—and the Real Action Stunt Stage definitely plays a big part in that."

If you want to see these entertainers, they perform nightly at 8:15 and 10:15. Riders of the Thunderdome perform Thursday through Saturday at 9:15 p.m. and 11:15 p.m. Live bands perform from the 3rd Street stage seven nights a week, times vary. Nightly shows on the Viva Vision screen appear at 8:30, 9, 10, 11 and midnight through August 18. Beginning August 19, the first show will be at 8 pm. All shows and performances at the Fremont Street Experience are free and open to the public. If you need to park, there’s the Fremont Street Experience parking garage at the corner of Carson and 4th Streets or you can got to any of the downtown casinos.

IMPROV CAMP

Want to hone your comedic skills or just want to see what it’s like to do comedy, the Second City is offering teenagers the opportunity to learn improvisational and sketch comedy at the 2007 Second City Teen Camp! The camp will run August 7-10 from 10 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. Ages 13 through 18 may attend. The cost of the camp is $325.

Here’s what you can learn. Improvisation from 10 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. explores the fundamentals of improvisation as taught and performed at Second City. It will help you develop skills like creative thinking, self-confidence, listening, brainstorming, team building, empathy and communication while having loads of fun and laughs. Sounds like something many of our teens should learn.

From 1 p.m. to 3:30 p.m. you can learn the basics of sketch comedy scenes. You’ll study classic Second City scenes, use improvisation to develop scenes and write original sketches. If you want to register, call (702) 697-2653. The class is held at Threshold Dance Theater located at 4780 W. Harmon Ste 10, near Decatur.

TICKLING THE IVORIES

If you like music, and in particular the piano, you’re in for a real treat. On August 12, September 9 and 16, the Liberace Foundation is presenting its Liberace Piano Competition. All of the events are open to the public, where you will be able to watch and listen to a showcase of music and showmanship performed by amateur and professional pianists.

The pianists will even be able to play on Liberace’s rhinestone-covered Baldwin, but not for the competition. The first leg of the competition is set for Sunday, August 12, with live piano auditions starting at noon. Sunday, September 9 will feature the Competitor’s Showcase. Both events will be held at the Liberace Museum, 1775 E. Tropicana Ave. (at Spencer). Admission is free.

The Liberace Piano Competition Finals will be held Sunday, September 16 at the Community Lutheran Church auditorium, 3720 E. Tropicana Ave. Cost of admission to the finals event is $10 per person and $5 for children ages 12 and under. Proceeds from the competition admission will benefit the Liberace Foundation Scholarship Fund, the Liberace Adopt the Collection Fund, and Family Promise.

For more information about the 2007 Piano Competition or to enter the competition, call the Liberace Museum at (702) 798-5595, ext. 16, and ask for Shirley Swift, or email sswift@liberace.org

GRAND CLOSING

Listen up all you clubbers. One of the hottest spots on the Strip for the past three years will soon be no more, at least for a while. Tangerine Lounge & Nightclub at TI will close its doors with a star-studded Labor Day weekend party (Saturday, Sept. 1) hosted by rock star Dave Navarro.

"We have enjoyed an amazing three years with Tangerine at TI," said Pure Management Group managing partner Robert Frey. "While we are sad to say goodbye, we are very excited about the transformation that will begin shortly." The club, which opened July 4, 2004, will close its doors for a major renovation during which the venue will be expanded, redesigned and reborn on New Year’s Eve 2007 as an entirely new, top-tier nightlife escape. Til the closing, however, the action continues.

Good luck and I’ll see you on the Strip. And don’t forget to check out www.valleyblogs.com. If you have a question or a Las Vegas experience you would like to share with my readers, please e-mail me at lennylv@cox.net. Please include your full name and the city or town where you live.

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