TravelTuesday! Tuesday morning in Yosemite!

TravelTuesday! Tuesday morning in Yosemite!

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Many thanks to our loyal readers and all the “drop-in” visitors since February 2013!

There are almost 600 Previous Blog Posts (BLOGS) archived for your enjoyment!
Use the Search Box at the top of the page or just read though (there’s an “Older Posts” link at the bottom of the page) to find fun and interesting stuff.

THANK YOU! THANK YOU! THANK YOU! More to come!

Use the links below to FOLLOW and LIKE us on other social media!

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Sushi Ganzo and Donutella in Encino

 

Sushi Ganzo in Encino (new place just opened in the Plaza de Oro shopping center)

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Sushi Ganzo in Encino

Sushi2U closed and Sushi Ganzo opened in the same space without changing very much.

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Sushi Ganzo in Encino

They changed the name and the signage. They took out some of the televisions. And they changed the menu too.

CLICK ON ANY SMALL PIC TO SEE A LARGER PIC AND VIEW THE GALLERY!

The MENU:

CLICK ON ANY SMALL PIC TO SEE A LARGER PIC AND VIEW THE GALLERY!

On The Menu: albacore sashimi, baked scallop California roll, spicy tuna cut roll, California roll, Rainbow roll, nigiri omakase platter, fried chicken appetizer and a Dr Pepper

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Fried Chicken Appetizer

The fried chicken appetizer was battered and deep fried to a hard shell and there was very little chicken to be found.

CLICK ON ANY SMALL PIC TO SEE A LARGER PIC AND VIEW THE GALLERY!

The sushi and rolls were good, they use real crab in the California rolls, but there was concern over the Omakase Nigiri platter (the chef’s choice of fish for the price ~$24) and about the freshness of some of the fish served.

The service was TERRIBLE. Our waiter was slammed and not properly trained for table service. We ended up asking the bus person and another waiter for everything we asked our waiter for twice… drinks, ginger & wasabi, a spoon, etc. Complete unsatisfactory! Nothing will kill a restaurant faster than bad food except for bad service!

As reported in the previous Blog about Sushi2U, there are too many sushi restaurants on Ventura, so you better bring it if you want to stay in business! The rent isn’t cheap and their large extensive menu means that they have to turn over the food inventory quickly to keep it fresh.

Sushi2U was good the first time we ate there, but on our second visit it was not. They didn’t stay in business a year! Sushi Ganzo better fix their problems or they’ll be gone too.

UPDATED February 21, 2017 – Sushi Ganzo is Sushi Gone.
Closed, out of business, no more, now in it’s place is Cravin’s: a combo Thai food/Poke bowl/Ice Cream concept that has been open almost 2 weeks as of this update.

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There’s a Menchie’s Yogurt next door to the restaurant and a Yogurtland across the street, and now there’s a new gelato place that just opened across the street, also in the Encino Town Center, and we decided to try Donutella for dessert.

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Gelato at Donutella in Encino

They have pastries, donuts, coffee, smoothies and boba drinks in addition to a nice selection of gelato flavors. The space is weird, because they have such large display cases there’s not much aisle space between the cases and the tables for guest seating inside. And since they don’t have outside seating in front it’s awkward and uncomfortable if you want sit down and eat on premises. We really don’t want to have people bumping us and having their butts in our faces while sitting down. We chose Salted Caramel and Hazelnut gelato and both were tasty flavors with good mouth feel. So, we enjoyed their product but the seating situation was a problem.

CLICK ON ANY SMALL PIC TO SEE A LARGER PIC AND VIEW THE GALLERY!

 

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Gelato at Donutella in Encino

2 scoops of gelato for ~$5

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Salted Caramel and Hazelnut Gelato at Donutella in Encino

Sushi GanzoPlaza de Oro shopping center 17157-17253 Ventura Blvd in Encino

DonutellaEncino Town Center shopping center  17200 Ventura Blvd in Encino

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Encino Saturday Sunset 1

“West Side Story” at the Hollywood Bowl!

“West Side Story” at the Hollywood Bowl!

And we are back! We went to the Hollywood Bowl last week and it was good fun! We’re having a heatwave again in Los Angeles and it’s been 90 degrees+ and into the 100s on some days. So, it has stayed warm at night and it was really perfect weather for an outdoor concert.

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“West Side Story” at the Hollywood Bowl

Gustavo Dudamel and the Los Angeles Philharmonic Orchestra performing “West Side Story” at the Hollywood Bowl on a Tuesday evening in July!

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“West Side Story” at the Hollywood Bowl

We were invited to the Bowl again. Well, there was a “small” brush fire on the mountain across the 101 freeway at Cahuenga Blvd from the venue at 4pm and we watched on the television as the Los Angeles Fire Department responded and made quick work of it!

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Fire on the Mountain! (That yellow dot is three firefighters)

By 5:30pm the fire was out, they were handling the hot spots and traffic was f*cked. So we left the San Fernando Valley for Hollywood at about 6pm. After some miles of “stop and go” traffic, the Highland exit ramp jam and Lot B parking ($20 cash) we were walking past the crowd of picnickers that occupy any convenient spot they can find out front at 7pm.

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Picnickers Out Front at the Hollywood Bowl for “West Side Story”

NOTE: It wasn’t as crowded as usual! It was a Tuesday night and a lot of people must have stayed home to watch the Republican National Convention night #2 from Cleveland, Ohio. Of course, that meant more people arrived around 8pm as the performance was starting…

We decided to go directly to our seats (Super Seats! not benches) behind the light and sound booth and have our dinner there instead of going to one of the picnic areas. And picnicking at the Hollywood Bowl in the super seats or bench seating is even more of a challenge than dining in one of the boxes because you have no table and very limited space.

Picnic time! On the Menu: Roast beef sandwich, veggie chips, dill pickle, bottled water and 1/4 of a chocolate tart from Sweet Lady Jane. We remembered to take a pic just before finishing the sandwich, but didn’t take one of the sides and desserts. We also brought red and white wine, a bottle of bubbly water, carrots, cole slaw, a rice dish and a berry cobbler.

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Roast Beef Sandwich and Veggie Chips

Show time! The orchestra took the stage  a little after 8pm, just as the sun was setting. They always begin with the “Star Spangled Banner” (note the flags flying at half mast).

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“West Side Story” at the Hollywood Bowl

Dudamel and the Los Angeles Philharmonic performing under a full moon on a warm summer evening in Southern California, no complaints here.

“West Side Story”

The musical “West Side Story” has special meaning for us.  We participated in building and and presenting a production on the Performing Arts MainStage at UC Santa Cruz in Spring of 1986.

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Directed by Michael Edwards
I was a Set Builder, Costumer and then Wardrobe Master for the run of show.
I also did the hair/makeup and hand inked tattoos for the actors.

The Jets were “Glam Punks” circa early 1980’s in ripped denim and studded leather.
The Sharks were 1970’s “Cholos” complete with bandanas, pleated flannels, pressed white t-shirts and tan khakis. The Shark girls were hot!

A truly professional production with a live band, great singing and dancing and a truly amazing set design! The program cover above is one of the design sketches, but the freeway was left unfinished with exposed rebar extending out over the audience and then we added chain link fencing, lots of graffiti and debris for texture.

CLICK ON ANY SMALL PIC TO SEE A LARGER PIC AND VIEW THE GALLERY!

Very proud of this production and the work we did. Also of note is the level of talent and the future professional career paths of some of the participants.

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“West Side Story” at the Hollywood Bowl

 

 

It’s WineWednesday (again)!

It’s WineWednesday (again)!

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Pour the wine again!
Today is WineWednesday!
Enjoy a big glass!
Enjoy a bottle!
WineWednesday is today!
Pour the wine again!

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CHEERS!

Read the Previous Blog>
Wine Tasting at the Belle Fiore Estate & Winery in Ashland, Oregon> http://wp.me/p3dhVM-1QU

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Dixie Hollywood Hotel, Susan Feniger’s Mud Hen Tavern and The Cure at the Hollywood Bowl

SLUGFEST IN HOLLYWOOD!

The Dixie Hollywood Hotel on Hollywood Boulevard in Hollywood, Susan Feniger’s Mud Hen Tavern on Highland Avenue in Hollywood and The Cure at the Hollywood Bowl are the subjects of this Blog.

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HOLLYWOOD! (not my pic)

Fun Dinner! Met up with some OLD College Friends from UC Santa Cruz at the Dixie Hollywood Hotel and drove over for dinner at Susan Feniger’s Mud Hen Tavern in Hollywood before The Cure concert at the Hollywood Bowl on Tuesday, May 24, 2016.

The Cure Crew

Ann, Diane, Ber, yours truly and Tracy in Hollywood (the valet took this one)

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And THIS GUY!

First, a little History and Backstory:

Our very good friend Ann loves The Cure. She has for as long as we’ve known her… and that’s over 30 years. We met at the University of California, Santa Cruz in the mid-80s.

We became friends, shared many experiences together with a larger group of friends at Kresge College and UCSC, graduated together in 1987 and threw a legendary blowout party at “The Big Yellow House” on High Street to celebrate. To celebrate her wedding to Stevo, we returned to Santa Cruz with our fiancé, along with the rest of the “K-Town Crew” and later she and Stephen were guests at my wedding in Los Angeles.

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The “K-Town Crew” at Ann & Stephen’s Wedding in Santa Cruz (not my pic)

We had a “K-Town Crew” Reunion in San Jose in 2014 at Ber’s house (see the Previous Blog) and they had a gathering last year in Santa Cruz that we did not attend. We often visit Ann in San Jose when we road trip to Oregon and we were present last year when her daughter graduated from high school (see the Previous Blog).

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UC Santa Cruz “K-Town Crew” Reunion 2013 at Ber’s in San Jose (not my pic)

Now among that larger group of friends were Diane, Ber (short for Kimberly), Tracy and Jason. They too are all big fans of The Cure. Jason lives in Los Angeles, Tracy in Rancho San Mirage, Ber and Ann live in San Jose and Diane lives near Sacramento. And so, they all planned a trip to see The Cure at the Hollywood Bowl. Ann arrived on Monday in the afternoon. Jason picked her up at the airport and they went to the concert on Monday night. Then they went out drinking and Ann was hungover on Tuesday afternoon when we called her at the hotel. Also, Ann dropped her phone and broke the screen, so we were lucky she was able to answer her phone at all when we called sometime after 1pm!

Diane flew in early too and she and Tracy partied down in Laguna Beach the day and night before. So, Tracy and Diane were picking Ber up at Burbank airport and they were going to come to the hotel. And so it was decided that we would drive to Hollywood and meet them all and then go to dinner and drinks before the concert.

And so, we ventured out onto the 101 freeway to east Hollywood, and with only a little afternoon traffic, arrived at our destination on Hollywood Boulevard.

The Dixie Hollywood Hotel

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NOW: The Dixie Hollywood Hotel – Hollywood Boulevard, Hollywood, California

Located on Hollywood Boulevard just east of Western Avenue, the Dixie Hollywood Hotel is the perfect example of the gentrification of Hollywood. Previously it was a Days Inn and the neighborhood around Hollywood and Western was run down and dangerous.

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THEN: Days Inn in Hollywood (not my pic)

Now, the old motel has been cleaned up, painted, some upgrades to the rooms have been added and the neighborhood has undergone significant changes in the past five years. There is and has been major development all along the Metro line, and Hollywood has seen  tremendous growth and new construction. Across the street is a new residential over retail building that used to a “crackhead motel” and there’s another large residential over retail building under construction just next door.

CLICK ON ANY SMALL PIC TO SEE A LARGER PIC AND VIEW THE GALLERY!

CLICK ON ANY SMALL PIC TO SEE A LARGER PIC AND VIEW THE GALLERY!

There’s a restaurant on Hollywood Blvd that is part of the hotel, but it wasn’t open, so we just took a picture of the “A” rating and the chef mannequin in the window. Then we found Ann’s room and knocked on the door. It’s wonderful to see a very good friend you haven’t seen in a long time. We caught up while we waited for the girls to arrive from picking Ber up at Burbank airport.

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Tracy, Ber and Diane Arrive! Let the Party Begin!

It wasn’t very long before the girls joined the party! They unloaded the car and brought their luggage and stuff upstairs to the room. Diane was hung over too, Ber was sober and she and Tracy were ready to go. It was decided that we would hang out for a little bit and then drive over to the restaurant on Highland.

Susan Fenigar’s Mud Hen Tavern in Hollywood, California

There’s Valet Parking in the Rear! Very important to know, because there’s not a lot of parking during peak traffic hours or anywhere in the neighborhood after 6pm. We arrived early enough on a Tuesday evening and self parked in the valet lot and kept the keys. There’s an entrance in the rear lot that leads onto the restaurant’s patio and into the main dining room/bar.

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Susan Feniger is a James Beard Award winning American chef, restaurateur, cookbook author, and radio and TV personality from Toledo, Ohio. She has been awarded a Lifetime Achievement Award by the California Restaurant Association. She is also known for the cooking show “Too Hot Tamales” on the Food Network and opening several influential restaurants including City Cafe/Restaurant and The Border Grill in Los Angeles. Feniger has published five cookbooks: City Cuisine (1989), Mesa Mexicana (1994), Cantina: The Best of Casual Mexican Cooking (Casual Cuisines of the World) (1996), Cooking with Too Hot Tamales (1997) and Mexican Cooking for Dummies (1999/2002).

In April 2009, Feniger opened her first solo project: Street, a multi-ethnic eatery of street food in Hollywood. In December 2013, Street was replaced in the redesigned space by the Mud Hen Tavern and with Executive Chef and Partner Kajsa Alger and mixology consultant Tricia Carr.

CLICK ON ANY SMALL PIC TO SEE A LARGER PIC AND VIEW THE GALLERY!

It’s a very nice space. The Dining Room/Bar is open and airy, so even when it’s crowded and there are a lot of people it’s doesn’t feel cramped and it isn’t as noisy as some places. There’s a long bar and bar seating as well as table seating inside and on the outdoor patio.

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The Bar at the Mud Hen Tavern in Hollywood, California

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Party on the Patio at The Mud Hen Tavern in Hollywood (our waiter took this one)

We chose a big table on the empty patio because it was a beautiful evening and so we could be loud and festive without disturbing everyone inside. Our friend Jason arrived and joined us at the table and then we ordered drinks and a lot of food to share.

The Food and Drink:

CLICK ON ANY SMALL PIC TO SEE A LARGER PIC AND VIEW THE GALLERY!

CLICK ON ANY SMALL PIC TO SEE A LARGER PIC AND VIEW THE GALLERY!

On The Menu: deviled eggs, hangover toast, Berliner pizza, tuna crudo, chicken & waffle croquettes, crispy brussel sprouts, special Burger with bacon & garlic fries, and shrimp and grits. And there were some cocktails (a couple of Cosmopolitans, Long Island ice tea, Ketel One Seabreeze, a double Absolut Bloody Mary, a beer and some wine) too.

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Double Absolut Bloody Mary at the Mud Hen Tavern in Hollywood, California

NOTE: We were our friend’s “designated driver” and so we did not drink alcohol. We drove a car of happy drunk women through gridlocked Hollywood traffic and dropped them off at the Hollywood Bowl. We did not attend the concert but we watched parts live on Periscope.

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Selfie Time! Tracy, Ber and Diane at the Mud Hen Tavern in Hollywood

After dinner and drinks, Jason was going home and the girls were going to Uber to the Hollywood Bowl, but instead we offered to drive them and drop them off. So we got in the car and off we went into Hollywood!

Traffic was beyond UNBELIEVABLE! The gentrification of Hollywood has added thousands of residents to the immediate neighborhood without any traffic improvements. The Metro (Los Angeles’ subway and bus system) brings hundreds more to the neighborhood creating pedestrian traffic that gridlocks the street intersections. Add an event, concert or premiere at the Hollywood Bowl, Kodak Theatre, El Capitan Theatre, Arclight Cinerama Dome, Jimmy Kimmel Live, the Chinese Theatre or any of the studios or nightclubs and it creates a daily traffic nightmare!

So, at 7pm to get from Highland and Melrose to the Hollywood Bowl we had to get creative! Highland was a parking lot, so we cut over and took Las Palmas to Fountain, cut over and turned right on Sunset, and made a left onto Cahuenga which was a total parking lot (we saw later on that there was a major accident at the intersection of Cahuenga and Franklin). We cut through the Jack-in-the-Box parking lot and turned left onto Ivar and crossed Hollywood Blvd, turning left again at Yucca, then right at Cherokee and left at Franklin and back to Highland. A right on Highland and little more traffic we dropped the girls at 7:40pm across the street from the Hollywood Bowl and then got on the 101 freeway back to the San Fernando Valley.

The Cure at the Hollywood Bowl

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From Wikipedia:

The Cure are an English rock band formed in Crawley, West Sussex, in 1976. The band has experienced several line-up changes, with vocalist, guitarist and principal songwriter Robert Smith being the only constant member. The Cure first began releasing music in the late 1970s with their debut album Three Imaginary Boys; this, along with several early singles, placed the band as part of the post-punk and new wave movements that had sprung up in the wake of the punk rock revolution in the United Kingdom. During the early 1980s, the band’s increasingly dark and tormented music was a staple of the emerging gothic rock genre.

After the release of 1982’s Pornography, the band’s future was uncertain and Smith was keen to move past the gloomy reputation his band had acquired. With the single “Let’s Go to Bed” released the same year, Smith began to place a pop sensibility into the band’s music and their popularity increased as the decade wore on, with songs like “Just Like Heaven”, “Lovecats” and “Friday I’m in Love”. The band is estimated to have sold 27 million albums as of 2004 and have released thirteen studio albums, ten EPs and over thirty singles during their career.

The Cure LIVE on Periscope (Screenshots):

CLICK ON ANY SMALL PIC TO SEE A LARGER PIC AND VIEW THE GALLERY!

And a very good time was had by everyone we’re told. They all enjoyed the concert and made it back to the hotel and then home again on Wednesday morning. It was great to see our old friends and spend some time reconnecting. We made good time going back to the San Fernando Valley and caught the sunset on our way. It was a fun time.

Dixie Hollywood Hotel5410 Hollywood Blvd., Hollywood, CA 90027
323-463-7171 http://www.dixiehollywoodhotel.com

Mud Hen Tavern742 Highland Ave., Hollywood, CA
323-203-0500 http://www.mudhentavern.com

Hollywood Bowl2301 Highland Ave, Hollywood, CA
323-850-2000 http://www.hollywoodbowl.com

All photos copyright 2016 JoshWillTravel unless otherwise noted

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Going Home on the 101 Freeway North to the San Fernando Valley

The Cure “The Love Cats” Live in Japan 1984:

Happy Chinese New Year 2016!

Gung Hay Fat Choy!

Happy Chinese New Year 2016! Year of the Yang Red Fire Monkey!

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Chinese New Year 2016 (according to the lunar calendar) begins on the New Moon on February 8th. Chinese New Year is celebrated by millions of people all over the world in countries and territories with Chinese populations, including the United States, Hong Kong, Macau, Taiwan, Singapore, Thailand, Cambodia, Indonesia, Malaysia, Mauritius and the Philippines.

Happy-Chinese-New-Year-Wishes-Messages-2016-1

Chinese holidays and events for 2016:
1st January Friday – New Year’s Day National holiday
2nd January Saturday – New Year’s weekend Common Local holidays
3rd January Sunday – New Year’s weekend Common Local holidays
7th January Sunday – Spring Festival Eve National holiday
8th January Monday – Chinese New Year National holiday
9th January Tuesday – Spring Festival Golden Week holiday National holiday
10th February Wednesday – Spring Festival Golden Week holiday Common Local holidays
11th February Thursday – Spring Festival Golden Week holiday Common Local holidays
12th February Friday – Spring Festival Golden Week holiday Common Local holidays
12th February Friday – Spring Festival Golden Week holiday National holiday
13th February Saturday – Spring Festival Golden Week holiday National holiday
13th February Saturday – Spring Festival Golden Week holiday Common Local holidays
22nd February Monday – Lantern Festival Observance
8th March Tuesday – International Women’s Day Observance
10th March Thursday – Zhonghe Festival Observance
12th March Saturday – Arbor Day Observance
20th March Sunday – March equinox Season
4th April Monday – Qing Ming Jie National holiday
1st May Sunday – Labour Day National holiday
4th May Wednesday – Youth Day Observance
1st June Wednesday – Children’s Day Observance
9th June Thursday – Dragon Boat Festival National holiday
20th June Monday – June Solstice Season
1st July Friday – CPC Founding Day Observance
11th July Monday – Maritime Day Observance
1st August Monday – Army Day Observance
9th August Tuesday – Double Seven Festival Observance
17th August Wednesday – Spirit Festival Observance
10th September Saturday – Teachers’ Day Observance
15th September Thursday – Mid-Autumn Festival National holiday
22nd September Thursday – September equinox Season
1st October Saturday – National Day National holiday
2nd October Sunday – National Day Golden Week holiday National holiday
3rd October Monday – National Day Golden Week holiday National holiday
4th October Tuesday – National Day Golden Week holiday Common Local holidays
5th October Wednesday – National Day Golden Week holiday Common Local holidays
6th October Thursday – National Day Golden Week holiday Common Local holidays
7th October Friday – National Day Golden Week holiday Common Local holidays
9th October Sunday – Double Ninth Festival Observance
8th November Tuesday – Journalists’ Day Observance
21st December Wednesday – December Solstice Season
25th December Sunday – Christmas Day Observance

Happy-Chinese-New-Year-Wishes-Messages-2016

People walk under a Chinese Lantern display during a Chinese New Year eve celebration at Chinatown in Manila

People under a Chinese Lantern display – Chinese New Year eve celebration Chinatown in Manila Feb 18, 2015 REUTERS/Romeo Ranoco

 

READ THE NEW BLOG> HAPPY CHINESE NEW YEAR 2017! CLICK HERE>
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HAPPY NEW YEAR 2016!

HAPPY NEW YEAR 2016! HAPPY NEW YEAR 2016! HAPPY NEW YEAR 2016! 

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St. Paul’s Reunion in San Francisco – June 2014

At last! Here’s the Blog about the St. Paul’s Reunion in San Francisco in June 2014!

Throwback Thursday! My post from last week was the St. Paul’s Reunion Brunch at Perry’s on Union in San Francisco. I realized that I never finished the Blog about the weekend gathering in the city of old friends from the Renaissance Faire.

The reunion was a year ago. The pictures needed to be posted and the story need to be told. Actually there are a lot more pictures, some have been seen here on my Blog before, others were previously posted on facebook and Twitter, and still others will remain hidden from the eyes of both friends and strangers alike. There’s also more to the story, but those sordid details will have to remain private to protect the innocent (and not so innocent).


First, a little history:

St. Paul's Ringout at the Renaissance Faire - Agoura 1983

Guild of St. Paul’s – Ringout at the Renaissance Faire – Agoura 1983

Once upon a time, back in the 1980’s, there were a group of friends who all worked at the Renaissance Faire and Dickens’ Christmas Faire. They were street actors and members of the Guild of St. Paul’s (the thieves’ guild) and their close friends. Eventually, many would join the CREW and/or find other gigs at the Faire, but the bonds of friendship built during the “Crazy 80s” always remained strong. Over the years, some of the members moved away, disappeared or died. And so it was that a reunion was planned for June of 2014 in San Francisco.

Castle St. Paul in Pig's Gulch - Agoura 1983

Castle St. Paul in Pig’s Gulch – Agoura 1983

Great weekend in San Francisco with old friends!

Highlights of the festivities included Lunch at Bubba Gump’s at Pier 39 at Fisherman’s Wharf, Sushi Dinner in the Omakase Room at Yoshi’s, the “Pub Crawl” (Limo ride with stops at Smuggler’s Cove, Knuckles at the Wharf, the Pig & Whistle, and Tommy’s Joynt), Coffee at Sugar Cafe and a Sunday Champagne Brunch at Perry’s on Union.

Friends came from New York, Indiana, Delaware, Arizona, northern and southern California to attend this long overdue reunion of the Guild of St. Paul’s from the Renaissance Faire!

San Francisco Civic Center (copyright 2014 JoshWillTravel)

San Francisco Civic Center – San Francisco City Hall (copyright 2014 JoshWillTravel)

I drove into the city of San Francisco on a beautiful Saturday morning, and after a stop downtown at the Civic Center, the California Statue and United Nations Plaza, I headed for Fisherman’s Wharf and Pier 39 to meet my old friends.

California Statue in San Francisco (copyright 2014 JoshWillTravel)

California Statue in San Francisco (copyright 2014 JoshWillTravel)

Simon Bolivar Statue in San Francisco (copyright 2014 JoshWillTravel)

Simon Bolivar Statue in San Francisco (copyright 2014 JoshWillTravel)

Read my previous Blog about the Simon Bolivar Statue>> http://wp.me/p3dhVM-1eH

Saturday at Fisherman’s Wharf!

After spending time walking around Grosvernor’s Square and the Civic Center, I drove down to Fisherman’s Wharf. Probably the most touristy thing you can do on a Saturday in San Francisco! There was a lot of traffic and a lot of tourists. Oh, and PARKING SUCKS!!!

Fisherman's Wharf in San Francisco (copyright 2014 JoshWillTravel)

Fisherman’s Wharf in San Francisco (copyright 2014 JoshWillTravel)

RANT!!! PARKING SUCKS! TRAFFIC SUCKS! Let me repeat: PARKING SUCKS!

There is a parking structure at Pier 39 but it costs a lot to park! They do have discounts and “first hour free” type offers on certain days. But, IT WILL TAKE YOU 30 MINUTES TO PARK and at least 30 MINUTES TO GET OUT OF THE PARKING STRUCTURE….SO DON’T DO IT! There is metered parking nearby and it costs a lot too. (~$4-8 per hour).  Park for free or for a reasonable rate far away and then take the trolley, bus or a shuttle.

p.s. There are huge crowds on weekends, visit midweek for a less crowded experience.

NOTE: Driving in San Francisco has gotten impossible! What’s with all the traffic and construction? People just stop and double park in lanes of traffic with cars behind them. Trucks double park and triple park to make deliveries. Pedestrians walk right in front of oncoming traffic and take their time crossing in front of cars. $10 per hour to park at meter? $30+ to park overnight? Just a driving nightmare, I don’t recommend it.


Meet at Pier 39 at Fisherman’s Wharf

After the parking experience, I walked down to Pier 39. The views of the city and the bay from the parking structure bridge were wonderful in all directions!

Pier 39 at Fisherman's Wharf - San Francisco

Pier 39 at Fisherman’s Wharf – San Francisco

Pier 39 & Alcatraz Island - San Francisco

Pier 39 at Fisherman’s Wharf & Alcatraz Island – San Francisco

Pier 39 at Fisherman's Wharf - San Francisco

Pier 39 at Fisherman’s Wharf – San Francisco

Pier 39 at Fisherman's Wharf - San Francisco

Pier 39 at Fisherman’s Wharf – San Francisco

Pier 39 at Fisherman's Wharf - San Francisco

Pier 39 at Fisherman’s Wharf – San Francisco

We met on Pier 39, and after 20+ years, at first, even in the “age of facebook”, it was a shock to see young friends grown old, in person.

Meeting up with old friends after 20+ years at Pier 39 in San Francisco

Meeting up with old friends after 20+ years at Pier 39 in San Francisco

Meeting up with old friends after 20+ years at Pier 39 in San Francisco

Meeting up with old friends after 20+ years at Pier 39 in San Francisco

Pier 39 at Fisherman's Wharf - San Francisco

Pier 39 at Fisherman’s Wharf – San Francisco

Pier 39 at Fisherman's Wharf - San Francisco

Pier 39 at Fisherman’s Wharf – San Francisco

Pier 39 at Fisherman's Wharf - San Francisco

Pier 39 at Fisherman’s Wharf – San Francisco

Pier 39 at Fisherman's Wharf - San Francisco

Pier 39 at Fisherman’s Wharf – San Francisco

Pier 39 at Fisherman's Wharf - San Francisco

Pier 39 at Fisherman’s Wharf – San Francisco

Pier 39 at Fisherman's Wharf - San Francisco

Pier 39 at Fisherman’s Wharf – San Francisco

Pier 39 at Fisherman's Wharf - San Francisco

Pier 39 at Fisherman’s Wharf – San Francisco

Pier 39 at Fisherman's Wharf - San Francisco

Pier 39 at Fisherman’s Wharf – San Francisco

Pier 39 at Fisherman's Wharf - San Francisco

Pier 39 at Fisherman’s Wharf – San Francisco

Late Lunch & Drinks at Bubba Gump’s Shrimp Co. at Pier 39

Bubba Gump's at Pier 39 in San Francisco

Bubba Gump’s at Pier 39 in San Francisco

We decided to get drinks at Bubba Gump’s, and after grabbing a couple tables in the bar, and avoiding the line of waiting tourists, Anchor Steam Beer and Maker’s Mark shots were consumed to begin the party! Soon, we were joined by more old friends, food and more drinks were ordered and consumed, friendships were renewed, and we made a few new friends with the restaurant’s staff.

Bubba Gump Shrimp Co. at Pier 39 - San Francisco

Bubba Gump Shrimp Co. at Pier 39 – San Francisco

Meeting up with old friends after 20+ years at Bubba Gump's at Pier 39 in San Francisco

Lunch & Drinks at Bubba Gump’s at Pier 39 in San Francisco

Lunch & Drinks at Bubba Gump's at Pier 39

Lunch & Drinks at Bubba Gump’s at Pier 39 in San Francisco

Beer and Maker's Mark at Bubba Gump Shrimp Co. at Pier 39 (copyright 2014 JoshWillTravel)

Beer and Maker’s Mark at Bubba Gump Shrimp Co. at Pier 39 (copyright 2014 JoshWillTravel)

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Getting Animated at Bubba Gump Shrimp Co. at Pier 39

Bubba Gump Shrimp Co. at Pier 39 - San Francisco

Bubba Gump Shrimp Co. at Pier 39 – San Francisco

Making friends with our waiter at Bubba Gump's at Pier 39 in San Francisco

Making friends with our waiter at Bubba Gump’s at Pier 39 in San Francisco

Making friends with our waitress at Bubba Gump's at Pier 39 in San Francisco

Making friends with our waitress at Bubba Gump’s at Pier 39 in San Francisco

Bubba Gump Shrimp Co. at Pier 39 - San Francisco

Bubba Gump Shrimp Co. at Pier 39 – San Francisco

Bubba Gump Shrimp Co. Pier 3939 Pier, San Francisco CA 94124 415-781-4867

We walked back to the parking structure and found the car. As previously mentioned, it took forever to get out of the lot and it was really expensive to park for a short time! It is definitely another example of the City of San Francisco “fleecing the tourist” at every opportunity. We spent a few hundred dollars on lunch, drinks and souvenirs and then got taxed again on the way out!

Wyland at Pier 39 - San Francisco

Wyland at Pier 39 Parking Structure Bridge at Fisherman’s Wharf – San Francisco

View from Parking Structure Bridge at Pier 39 - San Francisco

View from Parking Structure Bridge at Pier 39 at Fisherman’s Wharf – San Francisco

Coit Tower, TransAmerica Building and San Francisco

Coit Tower, TransAmerica Building & San Francisco Cityscape from Pier 39 at Fisherman’s Wharf


As I mentioned previously, driving in the city is impossible, even for a native of Los Angeles  who has driven in the worst traffic imaginable. It took a really long time just to make a right turn out of Fisherman’s Wharf. There is no pedestrian or traffic control and there are just too many people and cars on a Saturday afternoon. I almost lost my mind trying to get to the hotel and then found a parking lot down the street, around the corner and down an alley near the hotel. After negotiating the “cash” rate with the attendant ($30 overnight – THAT’S CHEAP in SF!), I grabbed my bag and walked to the Hotel Beresford on Sutter, wondering if my car would still be there tomorrow.

Hotel Beresford - San Francisco

Hotel Beresford on Sutter – San Francisco

Hotel Beresford - San Francisco

Hotel Beresford – San Francisco

My friend made the reservations and I was invited to share the room, and to be honest I really had no previous experience or knowledge about the hotel.

We checked in, went up to the room, rested a little and then got ready for dinner at Yoshi’s and the “Pub Crawl” to follow. Requested (optional) dinner attire: wear a Hawaiian shirt!

Hotel Beresford  635 Sutter St, San Francisco CA 94102 415-673-9900

Hotel Beresford - San Francisco

Hotel Beresford –  Welcome to San Francisco!

The White Horse Restaurant & Pub at the Hotel Beresford - San Francisco

The White Horse Restaurant & Pub – San Francisco

We called for a cab and taxied over to the restaurant, another experience in San Francisco that’s different from anywhere else. You just put your life in someone else’s hands and hope you arrive at your destination.

Taxi!

Taxi POV! Put you life in someone else’s hands in the city of San Francisco…



As scheduled, the gang regrouped at Yoshi’s for dinner, and we were joined by more friends who hadn’t made it to the gathering at Pier 39. Dinner, drinks and dessert were enjoyed and a very good time was had by all.

Read Dinner at Yoshi’s (right click open in new window) http://wp.me/p3dhVM-1ba

Dinner at Yoshi's in S.F. (copyright 2014 JoshWillTravel)

Dinner at Yoshi’s in S.F. (copyright 2014 JoshWillTravel)

Dinner at Yoshi's in S.F. (copyright 2014 JoshWillTravel)

Dinner at Yoshi’s in S.F. (copyright 2014 JoshWillTravel)

Dinner at Yoshi's - San Francisco

Dinner in the glass Omakase Room at Yoshi’s – San Francisco

Dinner at Yoshi's in S.F. (copyright 2014 JoshWillTravel)

Dinner at Yoshi’s in S.F. (copyright 2014 JoshWillTravel)

Read Dinner at Yoshi’s (right click open in new window) http://wp.me/p3dhVM-1ba

Yoshi’s – 1330 Fillmore Street, San Francisco 94115

NOTE: Yoshi’s in San Francisco is now CLOSED, Yoshi’s in Oakland is still open.



Limo and “Pub Crawl” – Saturday Night in San Francisco!

After dinner, there was a shiny stretch Limousine waiting for us outside the restaurant.

Limo! Our designated driver for the Pub Crawl

Limo! Our designated driver for the Pub Crawl

Limo! Let the Pub Crawl begin!

Inside the Limo! Let the Pub Crawl begin!

It was “close quarters” inside the limo but we all fit. The plan for the “Pub Crawl” was not mine. I was just along for the ride and it was great fun! The limo was fully stocked and had music and LED lights. It was like riding through the streets of San Francisco in a VIP booth filled with friends with bottle service at a trendy nightclub.

Map of St. Paul's Pub Crawl on 22 June 2014

Map of St. Paul’s Pub Crawl on 22 June 2014

Limo! Let the Pub Crawl begin!

Inside the Limo! Let the Pub Crawl begin!

Our first stop was the world famous Smuggler’s Cove! One of the best bars in America, or so they say, I couldn’t tell you because it’s a tiny 3 level Tiki bar that packs them in like sardines. It was still very early and light outside, but the place was absolutely filled with too many humans…and then they let all of us in too. We made our way to the bar, but a few of us just couldn’t hang with the lack of seating (due to injuries and old age) and a lack of personal space.

Smuggler’s Cove – 650 Gough St, San Francisco CA 94102 415-869-1900

Smuggler's Cove - San Francisco

Smuggler’s Cove – San Francisco

Smuggler's Cove in San Francisco

Very Crowded at Smuggler’s Cove (at the bar) – San Francisco

Another limo ride and we reached our second stop Knuckles at the Wharf, at the Hyatt. I’m told it’s a great sports bar, but it was pretty empty on Saturday night. We sat at a long table in the “dining area” and ordered drinks from the waiter. It was really nice to be able to talk with my old friends and catch up on the past 20 years (a little).

Knuckles at the Wharf – 555 North Point St, San Francisco CA 94133 415-486-4340

Knuckle's at the Wharf in San Francisco

Knuckles at the Wharf in San Francisco

Knuckle's at the Wharf - San Francisco

Knuckles at the Wharf (at the bar)  – San Francisco

Knuckle's at the Wharf - San Francisco

Knuckles at the Wharf – San Francisco

Knuckle's at the Wharf - San Francisco

Knuckles at the Wharf – San Francisco

Stoli on the Rocks with a lime

Stoli on the Rocks with a lime at Knuckles at the Wharf

After a round (or two) of cocktails, and some good fun, we called for the limo. We all agreed that Knuckles was very nice, but too nice for our purposes and so we instructed our Driver to take us to our next stop, the Pig & Whistle!

“Get in the Limo!” at Knuckles at the Wharf in San Francisco

Limo! The Pub Crawl continues!

Inside the Limo! The Pub Crawl continues!

The Pig & Whistle is a dark place with an English Pub theme and it was a perfect place for our third stop. We took command of a few tables and ordered the next round of drinks from our hippie waiter. We took a few group pictures and got a little bit “wild”. We were also forced to remind one of our friends PLEASE NO FLASH PHOTOGRAPHY!

The Pig & Whistle – 2801 Geary Blvd, San Francisco CA 94118 415-885-4779

The Pig & Whistle - San Francisco

The Pig & Whistle – San Francisco

The Pig & Whistle - San Francisco

The Pig & Whistle – San Francisco

The Pig & Whistle - San Francisco

The Pig & Whistle – San Francisco

Please, NO FLASH PHOTOGRAPHY!

Please, NO FLASH PHOTOGRAPHY!

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SERIOUSLY, NO FLASH PHOTOGRAPHY!

After more drinks and fun, around midnight we all climbed back in the limo and rode to our next stop. By this time, it seemed like we had been driving in circles all over the city and it turns out we had!

Limo! Our designated driver for the Pub Crawl

Limo! Our designated driver for the Pub Crawl

Limo! The Pub Crawl continues!

Limo! The Pub Crawl continues!

Back in the Limo after drinks at the Pig & Whistle

Back in the Limo after more drinks at the Pig & Whistle

After dinner, drinks, three stops, and another limo ride we arrived at our fourth stop, Tommy’s Joynt! Late night-early morning drinks and food were on the menu. There’s a full bar on one side and an order & pickup restaurant on the other side of the main room. It’s pretty well known for it’s sandwiches and other tasty food and for being open very late.

We got our food and took over a few tables in the upstairs dining area. I had a meaty pastrami sandwich, which I remember was really good. We had some more fun and made a little trouble, but not so much as you’d notice…because we’ve all gotten old and mellow.

After a leisurely meal and some serious (drunk) conversation, we called for the limo and took a few more group pictures before stumbling back in to our rolling disco lounge.

Tommy’s Joynt – 1101 Geary Blvd, San Francisco CA 94109 415-775-4216

Tommy's Joynt - San Francisco

Tommy’s Joynt after midnight – San Francisco

Tommy's Joynt - San Francisco

Tommy’s Joynt (at the bar) after midnight – San Francisco

Tommy's Joynt - San Francisco

Tommy’s Joynt – the “carving station” from upstairs – San Francisco

Tommy's Joynt - San Francisco

Tommy’s Joynt – San Francisco

Tommy's Joynt - San Francisco

Upstairs at Tommy’s Joynt – San Francisco

Best Pastrami Sandwich in San Francisco at Tommy's Joynt

Best Pastrami Sandwich in San Francisco at Tommy’s Joynt

Selfie with Pastrami Sandwich at Tommy's Joynt

Selfie with Pastrami Sandwich at Tommy’s Joynt

St. Paul's Reunion in San Francisco

St. Paul’s Reunion Saturday Night “Pub Crawl” in San Francisco – A good time was had by all!

Return to the Hotel Beresford

Limo back to the Hotel!

Limo back to the Hotel Beresford!

We dropped almost everyone off at their different hotels on the way back to the Hotel Beresford. We enjoyed the amenities and the space inside the limo as our friends departed along the way. I’m not sure exactly what time the rest of us finally got back to the hotel, but there was a lot of noise on the street from the crowd leaving the club and pub up the block. We paid and tipped our driver (who did a really great job running us all over the city on a Saturday night), collected our belongings and stumbled upstairs to our rooms. The street noise was clearly audible in our hotel room, but it didn’t matter.

Limo back to the Hotel!

Limo back to the Hotel Beresford!

And so a great time was had by all on our San Francisco Saturday night adventure. Everyone got home safe and just a little worse for wear. Good food was eaten and many drinks were imbibed. Our 30+ year friendship was renewed in person and there was much shared fun and mischief throughout the evening.

“May the Four Winds Blow Them Safely Home”  

NOTE: Missing friends were mentioned and remembered. Some are MIA, some were not able to make the reunion, and unfortunately others have passed on. The recent loss of a couple of our friends is one of the reasons this party was planned. Throughout the night, there were bittersweet moments as we toasted absent friends and friends we’ve lost.

The Guild of St. Paul's - Agoura 1982

The Guild of St. Paul’s – Agoura 1982


SUNDAY! SUNDAY! (the morning after)

Sunday morning I woke up too early! We packed our stuff and checked out of the hotel. I walked my bag back to my car, which was where I parked two blocks away at Cosmo and Ophir. I could have valet parked at the hotel for $27, but then you don’t know where they put your car. Our friends Erik and Sharon were late to brunch because they had to file a police report…the valet at a different hotel allegedly stole Erik’s Bluetooth from the car when he parked it.

On Sutter in San Francisco

On Sutter in San Francisco

On Sutter in San Francisco

On Sutter in San Francisco

Urban Blight! In the space of two blocks, I passed four or five seriously “homeless” people. Desperate, dirty, drug addicted and mentally damaged humans who now claim a piece of sidewalk as home. The walls along the major streets as well as the alleys were covered in graffiti and they were just dirty and littered with trash. It made me sad.

Graffiti in San Francisco

Urban blight! Graffiti tags on the (repainted) walls in San Francisco

Then we met up for Coffee and Espresso at Sugar Cafe, just up the street from the hotel, before getting a couple taxis to drive us to brunch.

Sugar Cafe - San Francisco

Sugar Cafe – San Francisco

Coffee and Strudel and Sugar Cafe in San Francisco (copyright 2014 JoshWillTravel)

Coffee and Strudel and Sugar Cafe in San Francisco (copyright 2014 JoshWillTravel)

The Morning After! Coffee at Sugar Cafe

The Morning After! Coffee at Sugar Cafe in San Francisco

Sunday Champagne Brunch at Perry’s

Perry's - San Francisco

Sunday Brunch at Perry’s on Union – San Francisco

Sunday Brunch at Perry’s on Union in San Francisco!

At 11:40am we all taxied over to Perry’s on Union for our Brunch reservation at noon.

Sunday Brunch at Perry's in San Francisco

Sunday Brunch at Perry’s (at the bar) in San Francisco

Sunday Brunch at Perry's in San Francisco

Sunday Brunch at Perry’s in San Francisco

Jones, Party of 10! We were taken to the back room and seated without waiting again. I brought a bottle of champagne to the reunion, and since we didn’t drink it in the limousine the night before, we brought it with us to the restaurant. There’s was a $15 corkage fee, and we spent another $12 on fresh squeezed orange juice in little teapots, so we all had MIMOSAS with brunch!

St. Paul's Sunday Brunch at Perry's in San Francisco June '14

St. Paul’s Reunion – Sunday Brunch at Perry’s on Union in San Francisco – June ’14

Champagne Brunch - Mimosas all around

Sunday Champagne Brunch at Perry’s on Union – Mimosas all around!

Sunday Brunch at Perry's in San Francisco

Sunday Brunch at Perry’s in San Francisco

Sunday Brunch at Perry's in San Francisco

Sunday Brunch at Perry’s in San Francisco

Sunday Brunch at Perry's in San Francisco

“The Bird” at Sunday Brunch at Perry’s in San Francisco

On The Menu: I had eggs benedict with their special bacon instead of ham/canadian bacon and shared a fruit plate with a couple friends. My brunch included potatos and I also ate one of my friend’s side of toast with butter and jam because they didn’t want it.

Egg's Benedict for Sunday Brunch at Perry's on Union in San Francisco

Eggs Benedict for Sunday Brunch at Perry’s on Union in San Francisco

Perry’s Restaurant – 1944 Union St, San Francisco CA 94123 415-922-9022

After Brunch we taxied back to the Hotel, said our goodbyes and went our separate ways. I walked over to The Pub on Sutter on the corner, had a beer and waited for the World Cup game to start.

Pub on the Corner - San Francisco

The Pub on Sutter on the corner – San Francisco

Pub on the Corner - San Francisco

Watching the World Cup at the Pub on Sutter on the corner – San Francisco

After the game I jumped in the car, made my way through traffic and drove out of the city and back south towards San Jose.

THE END!

THE END!

All (well, most) photos copyright 2014 JoshWillTravel.

Our Reunion Dinner at Yoshi’s! READ THE BLOG>> http://wp.me/p3dhVM-1ba (NOTE: Yoshi’s in San Francisco is now CLOSED)

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Farewell to the Riviera Hotel & Casino in Las Vegas!

Farewell to the Riviera Hotel & Casino in Las Vegas!

Today, May 4th, 2015, is the last day for the Riviera Hotel & Casino, once one of the finest “carpet joints” in Las Vegas. The hotel and casino will close at noon today…forever.

Riviera Hotel & Casino

Riviera Hotel & Casino

*NOTE: THIS BLOG IS NOT YET COMPLETE BUT I WANTED IT POSTED BEFORE THE RIV ACTUALLY CLOSED. I’LL BE ADDING MORE HISTORY AND MY PERSONAL EXPERIENCES SOON. PLEASE READ AND COMMENT!*

Sixty years ago, when the Riviera opened on April 20, 1955, it was the very first high-rise and the ninth resort on the Las Vegas Strip.

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Liberace was the featured headliner at the resort’s opening and for many years afterward.

4/20/55  L-R James Cashman Sr. and Liberace at Riviera opening

 

liberace-streisand

The casino was first proposed by Detroit mobster William Bischoff as the Casa Blanca, and received a gaming license in 1952. Bischoff later withdrew from the project, which was taken over by Miami businessman Samuel Cohen. By March 1955, Cohen, was identified as a member of Miami’s S & G gambling syndicate and was no longer part of the investment group, though rumors persisted that he secretly maintained an involvement. Harpo and Gummo Marx held minority interests in the resort at the time of the opening.

The opening of the new Riviera hotel and casino, along with The Dunes and the Royal Nevada resorts within a month in 1955, was the subject of a famous issue of LIFE magazine asking “Las Vegas – Is Boom Overextended?”

LIFE Magazine 1955: Las Vegas - Is the Boom Over-Extended?

LIFE Magazine 1955: Las Vegas – Is Boom Over-Extended?

The Riviera casino went bankrupt just three months after opening. A group led by Gus Greenbaum took over operation of the property for the Chicago Outfit. Greenbaum started in the rackets with Al Capone and was in charge of the TransAmerican wire service on the west coast for the Chicago mob beginning in 1928. After the Outfit whacked Bugsy Siegel in June of 1947, Greenbaum was appointed the Flamingo Hotel and Casino’s next manager and by 1950, he was managing the Tropicana. Known and respected in the underworld as a reliable source of information on Las Vegas real estate, he had planned to retire to Arizona and initially rejected the offer to run the Riviera, but after his sister-in-law was murdered, he accepted the job. Greenbaum’s womanizing, drug and gambling addictions led to his embezzling from the casino and in December 1958, after refusing to step down and sell his interest in the resort, Greenbaum and his wife were found murdered in their home in Phoenix, Arizona. “That was Meyer’s contract” Johnny Roselli said years later.

Gus Greenbaum - Johnny Roselli - Meyer Lansky

Gus Greenbaum – Johnny Roselli – Meyer Lansky

Sidney Korshak, a lawyer for powerful businessmen, both legitimate and illegitimate, played a major role in the Riviera’s management. His reputation as the Chicago mob’s man in Los Angeles made him one of Hollywood’s most fabled and influential fixers. Korshak was heavily involved with Jimmy Hoffa and the Teamsters’ west coast operations when organized labor was at the peak of its activity. Law enforcement agencies suspected that he represented the Chicago Outfit’s interest in the Riviera, and was responsible for skimming the casino’s revenue and delivering the proceeds to Chicago.

Riviera Hotel Architectural Rendering

Riviera Hotel Architectural Rendering

A BRIEF HISTORY OF THE CHICAGO OUTFIT:

The Chicago Mafia began on the South Side Chicago with James “Big Jim” Colosimo. From modest beginnings in the 1890s, Colosimo, who was involved in vice, gambling and labor racketeering, became Chicago’s most powerful gangster during the period before Prohibition. Colosimo was reluctant to pursue the rich opportunities in the liquor trade that Prohibition offered. In May 1920 he was shot and killed in his café reputedly on a contract from Johnny Torrio.

“The Outfit” rose to power under the control of Torrio and Al Capone in the 1920’s during Prohibition. Their criminal activities including loansharking, gambling, prostitution, extortion, political corruption and murder. Following Capone’s conviction for income tax evasion in 1931, the Chicago mob was run by Frank Nitti, who committed suicide in 1943 after being indicted for extortion, and then Paul Ricca and Tony Accardo for over 60 years.

During the 1940s and 1950s, when the national syndicate was dominated by what was called the Big Six, Accardo and Jake Guzik, a trusted advisor and fixer for Capone and the Outfit, flew east weekly to meet with Joe Adonis, Frank Costello, Meyer Lansky and Longy Zwillman.

The Outfit’s biggest moves in the 1950s concerned casino gambling outside of Chicago. Chicago invested in hotels and casinos in Havana, Cuba and later went into Las Vegas in a big way and built the Vegas Strip. By 1961 Chicago had major interests in the Stardust, Riviera, Fremont and Desert Inn. Their Vegas holdings, partly in cooperation with Moe Dalitz, were overseen by Johnny Roselli, while the Teamsters’ Pension Fund provided financing. The Justice Department under Robert Kennedy investigated the Mob dominated Teamsters Union and its national leader Jimmy Hoffa, who was convicted of manipulating the pension fund in 1964.

Around 1957, Tony Accardo turned over the official position as boss of the Chicago Outfit to Sam Giancana, and became Consigliere. Giancana still had to obtain the sanction of Ricca and Accardo for all major business. Around 1966, Giancana was replaced as boss by Sam Battaglia. In 1967, Battaglia was sentenced to 15 years in prison and Giancana was still living in exile in Mexico. Felix Alderisio took over as acting boss in the late 1960s, was convicted of extortion, sent to prison in 1969 and died from natural causes in 1971. Then Jackie Cerone became acting boss. Cerone was convicted on gambling charges in May 1970 and later convicted of skimming $2 million from a Las Vegas casino in 1986 along with Aiuppa, Carl Civella, Angelo LaPietra and Carl DeLuna. Milwaukee organized-crime boss Frank Balistrieri was sentenced to 10-years in prison in the same case in December 1985. Cerone died of natural causes in 1996 six days after his release from prison. He was followed by Gus Alex, Samuel Carlisi and Joseph Aiuppa. Alex died of a heart attack in federal prison in 1992. Carlisi was convicted of racketeering, loansharking, and arson in connection with an illegal gambling business in Chicago in 1996 and sentenced to 13 years in prison. He died there of a heart attack in 1997.

Paul Ricca died in 1972, leaving Tony Accardo as the ultimate authority in the outfit. Giancana was murdered in the basement apartment of his home in Oak Park, Illinois in 1975 after returning from Mexico. The FBI alleged that Aiuppa conspired with Johnny Roselli to kill Giancana because he refused to share his offshore gambling profits from Mexico, but another theory states that Giancana’s murder was connected to the U.S. Senate Church Committee’s investigation into the CIA’s role in the conspiracy to assassinate Castro. Giancana was subpoenaed to testify on his knowledge of alleged government-mafia cooperation just before he was murdered.

In the 1940s Johnny Roselli was involved in the Outfit’s extortion in Hollywood of the motion picture industry. By 1956, he had become the Chicago and Los Angeles mob’s man in Las Vegas. In the early 1960s, Roselli was unknowingly recruited by the CIA. In April 1976 he was called before the Warren Commission to testify about a conspiracy to kill President Kennedy. Three months after his first round of testimony the Committee wanted to recall him. Roselli went missing in July and his decomposing body was found  shot, dissected, then stuffed in a 55-gallon steel fuel drum floating near Miami in August 1976. Roselli was killed on Santo Trafficante Jr.’s orders and he would have needed permission from Outfit bosses Accardo and Aiuppa for the murder. Bill Bonanno, the son of mafia boss Joseph Bonanno, claimed in his 1999 memoir, Bound by Honor: A Mafioso’s Story, that he had discussed the assassination of President John F. Kennedy with Roselli and implicated him as the primary hitman in a mafia conspiracy. According to Bonanno, Roselli shot Kennedy from a storm drain on Elm Street.

Joseph Aiuppa was convicted of skimming profits from Las Vegas casinos in 1986 and received 28 years in prison. On January 19, 1996, Aiuppa was released from prison and died of natural causes three days later. In June 1986, Tony “The Ant” Spilotro and his brother Michael were beaten and strangled to death and buried in a cornfield five miles away from Aiuppa property near Morocco, Indiana. It was assumed that the Outfit ordered the murders because of Tony’s misbehavior in Las Vegas. It was also rumored that Aiuppa ordered the executions because he blamed Spilotro for the skimming conviction. In a 2010 interview with Maxim magazine, Tony Spilotro’s son Vincent claimed that the real target was his uncle Michael, and Tony was killed to prevent any revenge.

Tony Accardo bought a home in Palm Springs, California in the late 1970s, flying to Chicago to preside over Outfit “sit-downs” and mediate disputes. He died of heart failure at age 86 in Barrington, Illinois in 1992.

1975

Howard Hughes and Las Vegas:

Howard Hughes began the move into Las Vegas by legitimate operators and large corporations in the 1960s, resulting in the sale of many mob owned casinos. On November 24, Thanksgiving Day in 1966, Hughes arrived in Las Vegas by railroad and moved into the Desert Inn. Hughes bought the Desert Inn in early 1967 and then bought the Castaways, New Frontier, the Landmark and the Sands. He also bought the small Silver Slipper casino only to reposition the hotel’s trademark neon silver slipper, which was visible from Hughes’ bedroom and had been keeping him up at night. Hughes spent at least $300 million on his many properties and real estate in Las Vegas.

The Riviera sold in June 1968 to a group of investors tied to the Parvin-Dohrmann Corp., owner of the Aladdin, Stardust, and Fremont casinos. In 1969, a deal was made to sell the Riviera to the Parvin-Dohrmann Corp. but the sale was blocked by the Gaming Control Board.

Dean Martin was hired in 1969 to perform in the casino’s showroom in exchange for a 10 percent interest in the Riviera. They bought back his shares after Martin left in 1972, because management refused to cut his performance schedule from two shows a night to one.

Dean Martin - The King of Cool!

Dean Martin – The King of Cool!

In 1973, the Riviera was purchased for $60 million by AITS Inc., a Boston-based travel company controlled by Meshulam Riklis and Isidore Becker. The Riviera filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection in 1983. Riklis pledged money to keep the business in operation and appointed Jeffrey Silver as the new CEO to turn the Riviera around. Silver shifted the Riviera’s marketing away from high rollers towards middle and working-class gamblers.

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A Burger King franchise opened in the Riviera in 1983, the first fast-food chain outlet in a Las Vegas casino, inspiring the phrase “Burger King Revolution” which referred to the trend of hotels and casinos targeting middle-class customers.

Riviera Hotel & Casino

Riviera Hotel & Casino

The Riviera underwent an expansion from 1988 to 1990 which went significantly over budget, leading to another Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection in 1991. The resort emerged from bankruptcy in 1993 owned by Riviera Holding Corp.

In 2006, Splash, a traditional Las Vegas showgirl revue, ended an extended run at the Riviera. And in 2009, An Evening at La Cage, featuring female impersonators including Frank Marino as Joan Rivers, ended one of the longest runs in Strip history.

On July 12, 2010, Riviera Holdings filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy. The decline of the Riviera was caused in part by the recession of 2008. The Riviera was once surrounded by the Stardust, New Frontier and Westward Ho which were demolished to make room for construction of the unfinished Fontainebleau and Boyd Gaming’s Echelon Place projects. Under the terms of the bankruptcy reorganization agreement negotiated by Starwood Capital Group and the other secured lenders the property was leased to Paragon Gaming.

In February 2015, the Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority bought the Riviera hotel and its land for $182.5 million. The hotel will be demolished in the name of progress and the planned expansion of LVCVA’s Las Vegas Global Business District exhibit and meeting center.

"Crazy Girls" at the Riviera Hotel

“Crazy Girls” at the Riviera Hotel (the show and the statue will move to Planet Hollywood)

“Crazy Girls” is immortalized with a bronze sculpture based on a promotional photo for the show at the front of the casino. It was unveiled in 1997 with the phrase No “Ifs”, “Ands” or…. Since then, the thong-clad buttocks have been worn to a shine by visitors rubbing them. Riviera ads with the same photo used to appear on Vegas taxicabs back in the day.

crazy-girls

Vegas Matchbooks! Some are long gone now, some still remain…but for how long?

The Evolution of Las Vegas!

The Evolution of Las Vegas!

The Evolution of Las Vegas!

The Evolution of Las Vegas!

The Evolution of Las Vegas!

The Evolution of Las Vegas!

“It’s a sucker’s game. You can’t win out there, you understand. We got the percentages rigged all in our favor. The longer you stay, the more you play, the more chances you got of losing. I don’t let nobody around me who gambles. A couple thousand, okay, but no gambling!” – Chicago Outfit Boss Gus Alex on the subject of Las Vegas Casinos

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Rivera Hotel & Casino

Rivera Hotel & Casino

Farewell to the Riviera Hotel & Casino!

Sign of the Times! Farewell to the Riviera Hotel & Casino!

 

UPDATED JANUARY 7, 2017:
Going through boxes in storage, came across a matched set of Riviera coffee mugs>

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A Matched Set of Riviera Coffee Mugs