We Were There: The Palazzo's Grand Opening in Vegas
So this is how Something Big opens in Las Vegas: with less than a bang, but more than a whimper.
I just happened to be vacationing in Vegas last week (really, I didn't know this was going on until after I made reservations!) when the new $1.9 billion Palazzo resort premiered on the Strip. It's the first new behemoth to launch since the Wynn resort a few years back, and I was psyched to be on hand for the official opening.
First, the Palazzo is a beaut. I snuck in the evening before the Jan. 17 opening ceremonies -- there'd been a soft opening for a few weeks to iron out any kinks -- to check out the place, and I have no real complaints with the accommodations. And I'm one to complain. (Okay, I thought the casino was rather ugly and spartan, and I'm not convinced the "pool deck" is enough fun-in-the-sun for 3,000-plus rooms. But those rooms? Wow.)
Anyhow, expecting thousands to line the Strip to see resort owner/creepy billionaire Sheldon Adelson flip a switch that illuminated the building and begin a fireworks display on the roof, I was surprised to see only a few hundred -- if that many -- gathered. Robin Leach was the master of ceremonies, and dozens of shirtsleeved workers who were shivering in the desert chill lined steps leading to where he and Adelson stood. I was standing on the sidewalk next to a couple of snarky Palazzo employees who made snide remarks about Adelson the entire time -- before returning to their jobs so he could pay them, that is.
During the fireworks, which looked a whole lot better when I saw a TV clip of them later that evening, bored-looking tourists pushed through the small crowd en route to their next slot machines. How can you ignore a building with fire shooting out of its roof? Actually, the whole thing had sort of a "Towering Inferno" feel.
Afterward, there was a nice, rather sedate media reception in Jay-Z's 40/40 club -- I'm a sucker for fried cheese, okay? -- but the bigger soiree was the one in the Palazzo's mall hosted by Barney's New York.
Celebs (Hillary Swank! Angie Harmon! Jerry O'Connell! Rebecca Romijn! Mandy Moore! That little bald guy from "Sex and the City"!) walked a paparazzi-packed red carpet, as two models preened in the middle of the adjacent fountain. Don't worry, the jets were turned off. Not sure what happened to the "stars," as they seemed to disappear soon after they entered the party. Acrobats clung to giant red banners, and a small orchestra played atop the mall's signature waterfall. I wandered around, ate some cold salmon, downed a glass of champagne and wondered why the hell those models (male and female) were standing around with lampshades on their heads. Usually, I'm the one with a lampshade on my head in Vegas. Around the corner, some crazy guy on springs was literally hitting the ceiling.
By 9 p.m., the party was over and the cleanup was underway. By 11, you'd barely know one was even held there. I left the next day, so I missed the press conference with Mario Batali and Emeril Lagasse, and I wasn't invited to the big Diana Ross gala performance (not that I was asked to attend).
But seeing Robin Leach surrounded by the very rich and the sorta famous? Priceless.
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