Tag Archives: Las Vegas

HEART OF A GAMBLER

Audio-book Review
By Chet Yarbrough

(Blog:awalkingdelight)
Website: chetyarbrough.com

Grandissimo: The First Emperor of Las Vegas: How Jay Sarno Won a Casino Empire, Lost It, and Inspired Modern Las VegasGrandissimo

By: David G. Schwartz

Narrated by: Eric Martin

DAVID G. SCHWARTZ (AUTHOR, DIRECTOR OF THE CENTER FOR GAMING RESEARCH AT UNIVERSITY OF NEVADA, LAS VEGAS)
DAVID G. SCHWARTZ (AUTHOR, DIRECTOR OF THE CENTER FOR GAMING RESEARCH AT UNIVERSITY OF NEVADA, LAS VEGAS)

David Schwartz captures the heart of a gambler in Grandissimo. Schwartz introduces Jay Sarno, a man willing to bet everything on an idea.  Schwartz researches 1950’s history to recount Las Vegas’s transition from gambling mecca to bacchanalian resort.  Schwartz suggests that Jay Sarno was the man with the plan.

JAY SARNO (1922-1984)
JAY SARNO (1922-1984)

 

 

 

An apocryphal story of Sarno’s enlistment in the Army Air Corp sets the stage for Schwartz’s opinion of Sarno’s impact on Las Vegas.  Sarno is asked for his middle name at an enlistment station.  Sarno says he has no middle name.  The recruiter insists on being given a middle name.  Sarno invents the name Jackson.  Schwartz speculates that Sarno’s choice of name is a marker for a man obsessed with action; i.e. an “Action Jackson” for the 20th century.

Schwartz is suited to write about Las Vegas’ flash and cash.  Employed by UNLV (University of Nevada, Las Vega), Schwartz became the Director of the Center for Gaming Research in 2001. Grandissimo is about Jay Jackson Sarno, one of the least known casino developers in Las Vegas.  The best known  are Wynn, Adelson, Binion, “Bugsy” Siegel, Kerkorian, and Howard Hughes.  Though not acknowledged by Wynn in Schwarz’s book, Wynn is considered by some to be a protégé of Sarno’s vision of Las Vegas as a resort town.

STEVE WYNN (AMERICAN BUSINESS MAN-LAS VEGAS CASINO MOGUL)
STEVE WYNN (AMERICAN BUSINESS MAN-LAS VEGAS CASINO MOGUL)

(Wynn’s only comment about Sarno in Schwartz’s book is about styrofoam construction material used in Sarno’s first casino, Caesars Palace.)

Ironically, in spite of Sarno’s obscurity, Schwartz’s history suggests Sarno exemplifies what Las Vegas became.  Sarno came to Las Vegas around the time of Bugsy Siegel’s death.

BENJAMIN "BUGSY" SIEGEL
BENJAMIN “BUGSY” SIEGEL

Some suggest Siegel, a Jewish American mobster, created the flash and cash image of Las Vegas.  In Schwartz’s book, Siegel is barely mentioned.  When Sarno comes to town, the idea of Caesars Palace is born and the history of Las Vegas changes; i.e. in the 1950s, Vegas still had a reputation as a mobbed-up gambling town but Sarno added flash and fantasy to the gambler’s paradise.

JAY SARNO'S CAESARS' PALACE
JAY SARNO’S CAESARS’ PALACE

Schwartz shows Sarno as an obsessive compulsive gambler who craved action with a “bet-your-life’ lifestyle” that endears him to fellow gamblers and women admirers, but frightens his investors.CAESARS PALACE OPENING

ROBERT CRAIG "EVEL" KNIEVEL (1938-2007)
ROBERT CRAIG “EVEL” KNIEVEL (1938-2007)

Schwartz notes that one of Sarno’s most intimate friends is Evel Knievel.  Sarno sees Knievel as an alter-ego who not only risks millions of dollars on bets, but wages his life for the thrill of a win, or the ultimate loss.  Sarno and Knievel are two sides of a flipped coin.  Sarno hires Knievel to jump the fountains at Caesars in a death-defying motorcycle ride that nearly ends Knievel’s life.

JIMMY HOFFA (LEADER OF THE TEAMSTERS UNION-PART FINANCIER FOR SARNO'S CAESARS' PALACE)
JIMMY HOFFA (LEADER OF THE TEAMSTERS UNION-PART FINANCIER FOR SARNO’S CAESARS PALACE)

Sarno is characterized as an addict of high stakes gambling with a gift for gab that seduces women and attracts investors to an industry founded on flash and cash.  Sarno shakes the hand of anyone that will lend him money to fulfill his dream; i.e. the biggest and flashiest hotel/casino ever built.  With other people’s money, Sarno opens Caesars Palace in 1962.  Other people’s money is mostly from the Teamsters Central States Pension Fund, controlled by Jimmy Hoffa.  Schwartz notes that Hoffa becomes a close and trusted friend of Jay Sarno.

KIRK KERKORIAN (AMERICAN BUSINESSMAN)
KIRK KERKORIAN (AMERICAN BUSINESSMAN)

Schwartz explains that the land for Sarno’s Caesars development is owned by Kirk Kerkorian.  Without having the cash to meet financial obligations on a lease for the land, Sarno signs a contract with Kerkorian.  This is one of many stories Schwartz recounts that show how addicted Sarno is to action; i.e. making the big bet.

JERRY ZAROWITZ (FINANCE MANAGER & COORDINATOR--POWER BEHIND CONTROL OF SARNO'S CEASARS PALACE)
JERRY ZAROWITZ (FINANCE MANAGER & COORDINATOR–POWER BEHIND CONTROL OF SARNO’S CEASARS PALACE)

In spite of millions lent by the Teamsters, Sarno realizes he needs more money to fulfill his vision for Caesars.  Sarno turns to a money man associated with organized crime–Jerome Zarowitz.  Sarno gets the money he needs but the tradeoff for the loan is Zarowitz is to be hired as the casino’s financial manager.  The inference is that Zarowitz’s role is to systemize skimming of gambling proceeds to satisfy mob-related investors.   Schwartz explains that Sarno always chose action to make his dreams come true; i.e. Sarno sees the dream and is willing to do whatever it takes to make the deal real.

The iconic fountains at the entry to Caesars became a symbol of Las Vegas transition.  Wynn goes on to create The Mirage with a volcano erupting in a lake.  The Bellagio, also built by Wynn, has a water fountain display considered one of the most photographed entertainment events in the world.

OSCAR GOODMAN (FORMER MAYOR OF LAS VEGAS)
OSCAR GOODMAN (FORMER MAYOR OF LAS VEGAS)

Schwartz explains how Sarno loses Caesars but rises again with the idea of Circus Circus.  Sarno envisions family entertainment as a new venue for Las Vegas. Once again, Sarno scrambles for investors.  The teamsters become Sarno’s primary investor.  Unlike Caesars, Circus Circus fails to make enough money, beyond the skim, to be profitable.  Sarno is audited by the IRS for tax discrepancies at Circus Circus.  Sarno and his partner are caught in a federal sting operation at Circus Circus.  They attempt to bribe a tax auditor.  Sarno is defended by Oscar Goodman, a reputed mob lawyer who, much later, becomes a celebrated mayor of Las Vegas.  Sarno and his partner are acquitted.

JAY SARNO'S CIRCUS CIRCUS
JAY SARNO’S CIRCUS CIRCUS

Sarno loses his casino license because of the bribery indictment.  In 1974, Circus Circus is sold to William Bennett and William Pennington with Sarno leasing the land to Bennett and Pennington until his death, from a heart attack, in 1984.  When Sarno recovers his casino license, he has one more dream, a six to eight thousand room casino called Grandissimo.  Apocryphally, Sarno dies in a suite at Caesars, with a woman 30 years his junior, trying to recapture the thrill of life.

One concludes from Schwartz’s biography, despite unethical behavior, thrill-seeking habits, and a high-stakes’ gambling lifestyle, Sarno turned Las Vegas toward the idea of a resort community with adult entertainment and family appeal.  Circus Circus, The Excalibur, and the Luxor offer entertainment for the whole family.  From gambling, to circus acts, to bowling, to non-gaming video parlors, Las Vegas became the world’s playground.  Much of that transition is attributed by Schwartz to Jay Jackson Sarno.

(As a final irony, Schwatz notes Sarno dies owing $1,000,000 in back taxes to the federal government.)

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LAS VEGAS FILM SCHOOL

VERSION OF THIS ARTICLE PUBLISHED IN THE LAS VEGAS REVIEW JOURNAL 10/27/13
VERSION OF THIS ARTICLE PUBLISHED IN THE LAS VEGAS REVIEW JOURNAL                              10/27/13 

http://www.reviewjournal.com/jobs

A NEW BOUTIQUE SCHOOL FOR LAS VEGAS

BY CHET YARBROUGH

Las Vegas leaps into the film and television business in 2013 with its first boutique school.  The new school is the International Academy of Film and Television, a school designed to educate students in the business of film making and acting.

SUZANNE NOEL
SUZANNE NOEL

IAFT is planning its first classes in November 2013.  Suzanne Noel (office 702 454-3469, cell 716 830-0772), a former Director of Admissions at the Art Institute of Las Vegas, is the Senior Admissions Director.  The doors of IAFT are barely open but Noel said, “We are ready for enrollment with our first classes scheduled to begin November 11, 2013.”

Some building modifications are required to accommodate cameras, sound equipment, lights, and digital needs of the school but Noel insists the school will be ready to open in November.

RON HERBES
RON HERBES

The Campus Director, Ron Herbes, said, “My life has been a preparation for starting a school like this.”  Herbes began working in the film industry when his father was Director-VP of Facilities at 20th Century Fox Film Corporation in Ventura, California.  Working at Fox Film Corporation, Universal Studios, Disney and many major Hollywood studios, Herbes lived and learned everything he could about acting, film, and sound production in the movie and television industry.  His lessons in learning-by-doing are the sine qua non of his philosophy for IAFT.

Herbes was involved in every aspect of the film industry from editing to post production supervision.  Though still young, Herbes said, “I have been in the industry for 20 years, working on thousands of films and a number of television series.”  In 2001, Herbes moved to Las Vegas to teach audio and visual media to local studios and schools as a consultant.

FILMS HERBES HAS WORKED ON
FILMS HERBES HAS WORKED ON

Rather than continue as an independent consultant, Herbes was hired by International Academy of Design & Technology to expand their existing Audio Program.  The program grew to be the largest Audio training program in Nevada.  Herbes was promoted to Manager of Community Relations until his departure in September of 2013.

Rumors were spreading that a film making and actor training school was planning entry into Las Vegas.  Herbes called IAFT on August 26th, interviewed on August 28th, and started work September 16, 2013.

The International Academy of Film and Television was founded by Michael Gleissner in 2004 in the Philippines.  After Gleissner’s success with IAFT’s Cebu island school in the Philippines, Gleissner started schools in Miami, Los Angeles, and Hong Kong.

IAFT offers two and four-term programs for filmmaking and acting.  Depending on student interest and performance, the two term program leads to a Certificates of Completion and the four term program leads to a Diploma.  The Cebu school contains “state of the art” equipment according to IAFT’s promotional brochure.

Herbes is the Las Vegas Campus Director.  His plan, which worked well in the past, is to recruit filmmakers and actors that are active in their professions to be teachers.  They will teach interested students the art and administration of filmmaking, screenwriting, and acting based on their personal experience.  The design of classes is based on industry fundamentals with hands-on work in film editing, screen writing, and acting as part of the curriculum.  Herbes will hire active filmmakers and actors that have the time to teach classes based on the school’s curriculum.

Acting and filmmaking are the arts of the movie and television industry.  An aspiring actor or filmmaker needs enthusiasm and talent but training and contacts are the ingredients that create entertainment industry breaks.  Classes with teachers that are actively working in the industry are inherently contact relevant.  Herbes’ management approach to IAFT’s Las Vegas School synergistically reinforces career opportunities.

IAFT offers a unique opportunity for continuing education.  A high school diploma is not enough for most people to succeed in America.  Every industry opportunity is suffused with an element of “who-you-know” and Herbes’ idea of attracting industry experts to teach the crafts of film making and acting offers industry contacts as well as education and experience.

The school will open its doors with 4 full-time employees but will be staffed by part-time industry professionals based on their job experience and the curriculum of IAFT.  As the school grows, more full-time staff will be hired with continued emphasis on teachers that have learned their profession by working in the industry.

There are two ten week terms in the Certificate program and four ten week terms in the Diploma program.  Each term at the school will have 140 classroom hours and 85 lab hours.  Classes will range from screenwriting to film making to financing, marketing, and distribution.  Lab hours will include on job training with everything from acting exercises to film editing to sound production.  The maximum students-to-teacher ratio in class rooms or labs is 12:1.

Classes will be held 4 days or evenings per week with an additional 8 ½ hour lab per week.  The first two terms are the same for the Certificate and Diploma programs.  The Diploma program extends the training of the first two terms but adds documentary film making, financing, marketing & distribution, career development and other advanced classes.

Film making labs will include cameras, microphones, lighting instruments, lighting control equipment, cables, camera, lighting support hardware, and computers.  Acting labs will include costumes, wigs, make-up and props.

The school plans to have a lending library of film making books, magazines and periodicals with the library open to students from 9:00 am to 6:00 pm Monday-Friday, except for holidays.  According to the school catalog, students“…will have access to ‘The Filmmakers Series DVD Collection.  This is IAFT’s customized instructional series featuring essential basic methods on screenwriting, directing and cinematography.”

There are four criteria for graduation.  To receive a Certificate of Completion or Diploma, a student must:

  1. Achieve a minimum cumulative average grade percentage of 70%.
  2. Attend 90% of course hours.
  3. Complete all courses.
  4. Pay tuition in full and be cleared of all financial obligations.

Graduates from IAFT are offered help for job placement after graduation. According to the IAFT catalog, the school will maintain a “…current list of industry job openings and makes this information available to graduates.”  There are no guarantees of job placement but getting a job after graduation is everyone’s goal.  Networking is certainly given a head start by the structure of Herbes’ plan to use industry employees to teach classes.

According to IAFT’s 2013-2014 Catalog, Las Vegas’s IAFT’ school is licensed by the State to “…operate as a private postsecondary institution.”

The United States Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) accredits IAFT and offers a limited number of grants for attendance.  All prospective students must have a high school diploma or GED to apply to IAFT.  Also, the new Las Vegas school will have a limited number of IAFT 50/50 scholarship awards.  Noel provided a scholarship application package that explains there are three criteria for eligibility:

  1. A high level of motivation to train for a career in film or acting
  2. Minimum GPA 2.50 from the last school graduated; and
  3. Household earnings are under $40,000 per year, and a need is determined.

Students will be interviewed by the Admissions Director to confirm student interest and course offerings.  Tuition ranges from $3,990 to $12,990.

IAFT is not the only school in Las Vegas that teaches the business of filmmaking and acting but it is the only school that specializes in those disciplines.  UNLV offers an undergraduate program in the “Department of Film”.  The undergraduate classes include English composition, literature, American history, mathematics, social science, computer science, foreign language, electives, and finally, film classes.  It is a four year program for a generalized education leading to a Bachelor’s Degree.

There are also some acting “schools” in Las Vegas.  There is John Armond “Actor’s Studio” and Brad Garrett’s “Acting Classes”.  John Armond offers class times on Mondays from 6:00 p.m.  To 8:30 p.m. for $125/month and private lessons for $60/hour.  Brad Garrett’s school is taught by Adam Hill, an actor that has worked on and off-Broadway.  Classes for Garrett’s school are $175/month for one class per week or $225/month for two classes per week.

IAFT is a completely different approach to filmmaking and actor training.  It is a boutique school with a singularly focused agenda.

IAFT’s address is 6363 S. Pecos Rd., Suite 103, Las Vegas, NV 89120.  The school is off the main street but is ideal for class study and offers great potential for growth.  Herbes said, “I can see a studio lot being created in the available warehouses behind the school.”

Timing could not be better.  After some cheerleading from Mayor Carolyn Goodman and lobbying by actor Nicolas Cage, Governor Sandoval signed tax incentive legislation for the film and television industry to encourage film making and movie production in Nevada.  Laura Carroll wrote in the Las Vegas Review Journal–“Beginning Jan. 1, productions that shoot at least 60 percent in-state can earn transferable tax credits of 15 percent to 19 percent of their qualified production expenses, including Nevada  cast, crew, labor, gear, rentals, purchases and expenses.”

Las Vegas seems primed for job growth in the film and television industry.  The table is set with Herbes promotion of IAFT and his recruitment of film and television personnel.  With warehouse availability at IAFT’s backdoor, and tax incentives from the State, the plates, silverware, coffee cups and glasses are on the table. The question is whether the film and television industry is willing to dine.

Las Vegas has been a movie-making town since 1960.   Frank Sinatra defined cool in “Ocean’s Eleven”.  Nicholas Cage, in his incredible Academy award-winning performance in “Leaving Las Vegas” defined human tragedy in 1995.Steven Soderbergh, with “Oceans Thirteen”, re-invented slick in 2007, and Galifianakis rocked the house with comedy in “The Hangover”, 2009.

Television shows in Las Vegas date back to 1962 with something called “Teenbeat Club”.  Since then–wildly popular productions like “Married with Children” and “CSI: Crime Investigation” have been set in Las Vegas.  Not all scenes in these movies and television series were filmed in Las Vegas but with a school like IAFT, a potential studio lot, an industry experienced promoter, and the State’s support a lot more jobs in the industry may come to Las Vegas.

Las Vegas is the entertainment capital of the world.  It seems the perfect spot for the training of a new generation of film and television moguls.  IAFT may be a door opener for further Las Vegas industry diversification.

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SKIN IN THE GAME

habitat for humanitySKIN IN THE GAME

By Chet Yarbrough

3/7/13

It’s 6:00 A.M.– getting ready for red-shirt volunteers at a Habitat for Humanity’ construction site.  It is a sunshiny day in September 2009 that will push heat above 100 degrees by 12:30.

The Project Manager prepares a work site for a handful of experienced group leaders that will help future homeowners, their friends, and a dozen inexperienced volunteers build a house for a working family that needs a home but cannot afford a conventional mortgage.   Habitat for Humanity is an international success in the shelter business because every home buyer has “skin in the game”; i.e. every home-built to be sold to a working family is partly built by that family.

At 61 years of age, it’s a dream job with little stress and a work environment that employees feel privileged to experience.  The privilege is in the joy that comes from working with people who need shelter and volunteers that want to do good for others.

Unlike past early mornings, the Project Manager is feeling oddly weak as he opens job boxes, lays out tools, brews a pot of coffee, and sets water out for the day’s work.  After sitting down, the weakness disappears and the day goes on but the Project Manager makes an appointment to see Dr. Feelgood, his general practitioner, to get some advice on what happened earlier.  (Doctor’s names are fictitious and are not meant to either praise or blame any real person.)

Dr. Feelgood gives the Project Manager an examination and refers him to a cardiologist.  The Cardiologist, Dr. Dewit, examines the PM and schedules him for a stress test and electrocardiogram.  Dr. Dewit is new to the PM but is recommended by Dr. Feelgood which gives the PM some confidence in Dr. Dewit’s ability.  In a follow-up appointment, Dr. Dewit recommends an angiogram be done.  This is the second time the PM has met Dr. Dewit.  Dr. Dewit explains the procedure which involves being anesthetized, and injected with a dye that is squirted into a femoral artery in a patient’s groin.  The PM explains to Dr. Dewit that he does not want a stent automatically inserted if blockage is found in an artery.  The PM wants to discuss the results with Dr. Dewit before a stent is installed.  Dr. Dewit reluctantly agrees.

Dr. Dewit reviews x-rays and concludes that a stent is the solution for an apparent blocked artery.  The PM reluctantly agrees. The doctor operates, once again. Dr. Dewit, for the first time in his career, is unable to force the stent through the blocked artery.

The PM recovers from the second trip to the operating room.  Dr. Dewit looks at the x-rays again. He advises the PM that he missed the fact that collateral arteries developed around the occluded artery and were serving that part of the heart that had been served by the diseased artery.  The stent was not necessary.

Revelation #1—Doctors are not wholly good or bad; they, like all human beings, are motivated by money, power, and prestige.  Doctors make mistakes.  Patients make mistakes. Human beings are not immortal and life is ephemeral.  Luck, both good and bad, accompanies good and bad decisions made by both doctors and patients.

The former PM is now a retired, 65-year-old, seeing a new general practitioner and a new cardiologist.  In follow-up examinations, there are some changes in his electrocardiogram with some chest tightening when the PM hikes at higher altitudes.  No stent yet but the new cardiologist wants to do another angiogram with authorization from the PM to implant a stent if further blockage is revealed.  So far, the PM’s decision on another angiogram and possible stent is no.  Stay tuned because Dr. Goodforme, the new cardiologist, wants to see the patient again in 6 weeks.

Life is a gamble but it is a patient’s gamble, not a practitioners’.  Who knows what the proportional motivation is for a practitioner?  A patient’s motivation is health which allows for continued pursuit of money, power, and prestige.  A doctor’s motivation is the same; only diminished or increased by the next willing or un-willing patient, but it is the patient who has skin in the game.

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