SHOOTING STARS: Real-life Las Vegas in reality spotlight

  From glitzy to gritty, the reality TV spotlight often shines on Las Vegas extremes.
  But MTV’s Latin-flavored channel, MTV Tr3s, focuses on family — and tradition — in an episode of its series “Quiero Mis Quinces” shooting through Wednesday.
  The show’s title translates as “I Want My Quinceañera” and details behind-the-scenes preparations for the traditional coming-of-age bash — in this case, preparations for 14-year-old Las Vegan Viridiana Vayona’s upcoming 15th-birthday celebration.
  “We have a casting team” who, “through different contacts and vendors,” tracks down prospects for the show, explains executive producer Lily Neumeyer.
  And the Vayona family’s Las Vegas base proved a definite draw, she adds.
  “We never have done any episode there,” Neumeyer says. “This is the real Las Vegas, showing a real family.” (Both parents work at casinos; Viridiana’s father is a bartender, her mother a cocktail waitress.)
  In addition, young Viridiana “had to fight for her life at a young age,” because “she was born prematurely,” according to the executive producer — which makes the coming celebration even more meaningful.
  Return deal: GSN’s “High Stakes Poker” returns for a fifth season — right back where it started from.
  After seasons at the Palms and South Point, “High Stakes Poker” tapes its fifth season Friday, Saturday and Sunday at the Nugget, where the show’s first season took place.
  But today’s Nugget isn’t quite the same as the one that hosted the show’s inaugural season, observes executive producer Mori Eskandani of Las Vegas-based Poker PROductions.
  Planned renovations at the downtown landmark “were the main reason we left” in the first place, Eskandani notes. Now that the revamp is complete, “we’re coming back to the first host.”
  The setting isn’t the only thing that’s changed at “High Stakes Poker,” however.
  In previous seasons, players had to make a minimum cash buy-in of $100,000.
  This time around, the minimum buy-in is $200,000 — and Eskandani expects many players to pony up between $300,000 and the maximum $500,000 to take part.
  “Every poker show has a buy-in,” he notes, “but this one, you need to have a U-Haul” to transport the cash.
  Little wonder, then, that the players include poker stars Phil Hellmuth, pictured at right, Doyle Brunson and Eli Elezra, along with such “High Stakes” newcomers as Tom Dwan and reigning World Champion Peter Eastgate, plus recreational players including “Simpsons” co-creator Sam Simon and director Nick Cassavetes.
  Vegas bound: Plenty of tourists bring cameras to capture memories of their Las Vegas visits.
For about a hundred residents of Cransfill Gap, Texas (population 380), however, their Vegas visit will wind up on the air in commercials touting Las Vegas as the perfect place to “Take a Break.” The new marketing campaign for the Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority launches in January.
  Located deep in the heart of Texas, near Waco, Cransfill Gap “represents a nice cross-section of middle America,” explains Alicia Malone, the convention authority’s public relations manager.
  A camera crew spent about a week in Cransfill Gap gathering footage before the Vegas-bound visitors (who were scheduled to arrive Saturday) hit Glitter City. They’re scheduled to stay through Wednesday, exploring attractions from the Strip to Glitter Gulch.
  Beginning of the end: Production on the comedy pilot “Vegas Schmegas” winds down this weekend, with reshoots and pick-up shots planned before post-production begins, reports producer-director Kelly Schwarze of Las Vegas-based Vision Dynamics Entertainment.
  The sketch comedy format spoofs a variety of Vegas clichés, from crabby cabbies to showgirls who never appear out of costume.
  It’s the first extended project Vision Dynamics has produced since the 2004 comedy “The Indie-Pendant,” which satirized independent filmmaking. Between then and now, Vision Dynamics has concentrated on its online viral videos, Smidgits, five-minute video snippets that pop up on YouTube — and at www.smidgits.com.
  But distributors were always telling them, “ ‘Bring us something that has to do with Vegas,’ ” Schwarze recalls.
  “Vegas is a sellable commodity” because of its international allure, but “it’s been like the big elephant in the room,” he acknowledges. “Does it always have to be about Vegas?”
  With “Vegas Schmegas,” of course, it’s nothing but Vegas.
  “We decided to go strictly local with this,” Schwarze says, promising to leave no Vegas cliché unturned.

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