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It’s Still Happening in Vegas

HarperCollins published my first book, Las Vegas Weddings: A Brief History, Celebrity Gossip, Everything Elvis, and the Complete Chapel Guide, several years ago.  But this book review by Betty Jo Tucker from Author’s Den and Movie Addict Headquarters on blogtalkradio is new!

Thank you, Betty Jo.

bigbooksmlLas Vegas Weddings: Book Review

By Betty Jo Tucker

Author Susan Marg deserves kudos for her impressive research in connection with “Las Vegas Weddings: A Brief History, Celebrity Gossip, Everything Elvis, and the Complete Chapel Guide.” It’s an entertaining read packed with fascinating information about how Vegas weddings intertwine with the history of the town itself.

It’s also fun reading for movie addicts like me, mostly because Marg highlights the nuptials of so many film stars who got hitched in Las Vegas. What a treat to find out the revealing facts behind weddings of such glamorous actors and actresses as Angelina Jolie, Michael Caine, Judy Garland, Paul Newman, Elizabeth Taylor, Rita Hayworth, Janet Leigh, Tony Curtis, Nelson Eddy, Bette Midler, Joan Crawford, Richard Gere, Cary Grant, Clint Eastwood and Elvis Presley!

And speaking of Elvis, Marg includes an entire chapter titled “What’s a Wedding without Elvis”? She writes, “While there is an impersonator for any celebrity…it is the King that couples clamor for.” There are hundreds of Elvis impersonators in Vegas, of course, and it’s no problem to hire a fake Elvis to escort the bride down the aisle and to serenade the newlyweds after the ceremony. The book also features a chapel guide that helps prospective brides and grooms plan their own wedding festivities in Vegas.

It’s no wonder Vegas and Hollywood seem like a perfect match, so I’m pleased that Marg mentions various films about Las Vegas — including Honeymoon in Vegas, Vegas Vacation, Viva Las Vegas, Fools Rush In, and Ocean’s Eleven. She points out that movies like these have played an important role in making Vegas weddings so popular

Despite the massive amount of information in Las Vegas Weddings, it flows seamlessly. Marg has a breezy, appealing style that draws us in and keeps us interested. Her book also presents some rare photographs of celebrities. I especially love the one of Michael Caine and his beautiful bride as well as the photo of Elvis and Ann-Margret dancing together while filming Viva Las Vegas!

I think this book would make a wonderful holiday gift for movie fans.

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View and Review

Book CoverThis review is by John Burroughs for Midwest Book Review and reposted below:

Hollywood or Bust: Movie Stars Dish on Following Their Dreams, Making It Big, and Surviving in Tinseltown collects more than 500 quotes, wisecracks, tell-it-like-it-is tips, and words of wisdom from popular stars and directors, including Ben Affleck to Jackie Chan, George Clooney, Carole Burnett, and many more. Grouped by subject, these vignettes offer a condensed glimpse of the trials and tribulations of the showbiz industry, and are just plain fun for a quick browse anytime. Hollywood or Bust also makes an excellent gift book for anyone who loves TV and movies! “I’d say the cut-off point for leading ladies today is thirty-five to forty whereas half the men in Hollywood get their start then. It’s a terrible double standard.” -Kathleen Turner, actress

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To view the original on the Midwest Book Review Bookwatch – August 2013, scroll down seven categories to Burroughs’ Bookshelf.

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News Flash and Splash

Book CoverCowgirl Jane Press

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

JUST ANNOUNCED:

BEACH BOOK FESTIVAL AWARDS HOLLYWOOD OR BUST.

The 2013 Beach Book Festival announced winners on June 10.  Hollywood or BustMovie Stars Dish on Following their Dreams, Making it Big, and Surviving in Tinseltown placed first in the category Compilations/Anthologies.

Comprised of over five hundred quips, quotes, and off-the-cuff remarks from actors, directors, writers, and others involved in the business, Hollywood or Bust conveys what insiders think about themselves, their lives, their fame, their careers, each other, and the town itself. Even among those who have made it opinions vary as to whether or not the road trip down the yellow brick road to fame and fortune is worth the heartache and hard work.

Author Susan Marg is thrilled with the award.  “The Beach Book Festival seemed like a natural competition for my book.  Hollywood or Bust is a fun, summer read, filled with wit and whimsy.”  She further adds, “I won’t be going to the rewards ceremony, however, as it takes place in New York.”

Hollywood or Bust, ISBN 978-0-578-11882-6, is a 182-page paperback book consisting of seven chapters and twenty original photographs.  Topics cover dreams of success to attending the Oscars.  It lists for $14.95.

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Susan Marg is the author of Las Vegas Weddings: A Brief History, Celebrity Gossip, Everything Elvis, and the Complete Chapel Guide, published by HarperCollins.  Since she has moved her field of focus from the City of Lights to the City of Angels, her interest in popular culture has only intensified.

 

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Hollywood or Bust: The Movie

Illustration by: Viktor Hertz

Illustration by: Viktor Hertz

Paramount’s 1956 Hollywood or Bust is a swingin’ musical travelogue starring Dean Martin and Jerry Lewis in their last movie together.

It begins in New York City where fanatical movie fan Malcolm Smith, Lewis’s character, wins a hot red convertible that he plans to drive to Hollywood to meet actress Anita Ekberg, playing herself, on whom he has the biggest crush.

Dean Martin plays inveterate gambler Steve Wiley, wily as a fox, who convinces Malcolm that he, too, won, although he had stacked the lottery and plans to sell the car to pay his gambling debts.   Malcolm, being a trusting sort, as well as not knowing how to drive, lets Steve take the wheel, and they’re over the bridge and out of the city with Malcolm’s Great Dane, Mr. Bascomb, in the back seat.

“Sound the trumpets strike the cymbals

Boys from Bonwits and girls from Gimbels

Shaking off that old Manhattan dust

To get to Hollywood or bust.”

(From the song “Hollywood or Bust”.)

Traveling along two-lane back roads the pair pass red farmhouses, white picket fences, covered bridges, full service gas stations, golden pastures, and girls, girls, girls, riding a hay wagon, fishing from a rowboat, swimming in a pond, all enjoying the fresh air.

“Oh, there’ nothing as gay as a day in the country…

It’s quite a delightful surprise for a couple of traveling guys.”

(From the song “A Day in the Country”.)

Before reaching Chicago troubles abound.  Malcolm and Steve run out of gas, get held up by a hitchhiker, and meet up with a showgirl, Terry Roberts played by Pat Crowley, on her way to Vegas.  The duo becomes a singing trio plus dog.

“When you cross the Mississippi

Cross the Mississippi

You’re in the wild and wooly west.”

(From the song “The Wild and Wooly West”.)

The three continue to croon, as they pass through “old” Missouri, Oklahoma, and the state of Texas, “the largest in the union”. The song takes them all the way to Las Vegas, where they pass the Sands (where Martin and Lewis are performing), the Algiers, the Thunderbird, the Desert Inn, and El Rancho Vegas, among other luxurious desert resorts and casinos.

There are more sights to see and songs to sing once the group arrives in Hollywood.

“It looks like love

It could be love

But if it’s not it’s so darn wonderful it should be love.”

(From the song “It Looks Like Love”.)

The highlight takes place at Paramount Studios where Steve proposes to Terry during her audition for a part in the first Elvis Presley movie, and Anita decides to cast Mr. Bascomb in her next movie “The Lady and the Great Dane.”  In the grand finale, both couples plus dog walk down the red carpet at its premiere at Grauman’s Chinese Theatre.

It doesn’t get any more Hollywood, except for the songs:

“Land of stardust and land of glamour

Vistavision and cinerama

Everyone considers it a must

To get to Hollywood or bust.”

(From the song “Hollywood or Bust”.)

And that’s why I named my book Hollywood or Bust.  Check it out: HollywoodOrBustTheBook.comOr go straight to Amazon.

© 2013 Susan Marg – All Rights Reserved

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A New Year with Old Traditions

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Happy 2013! Photo by: asterix611

One of the things I like about living on the West Coast is watching the ball drop in Times Square at 9 P.M. on television. For me, that’s when the new year begins, and it’s still early in the evening.  But joining the crowd at the Crossroads of the World, suffering in the cold without a restroom in sight, is on many people’s bucket list.

This past New Year’s Eve an estimated one million folks donned their warmest jackets and most comfortable shoes with a heavy pair of socks, fashion be damned, to come together to watch the illuminated Waterford crystal ball make its descent.  At the last minute, they made their voices heard:  sixty, forty, twenty, ten, nine, eight….

The gathering at what is now called One Times Square first took place in 1904. When the new headquarters of The New York Times was built, Alfred Ochs, the newspaper’s owner, threw a New Year’s Eve celebration there sparing no expense.  Over 200,000 noisy, cheering revelers attended an all-day street festival that culminated in a fireworks display set off from the Times Tower. It was a much different ceremony than the ones that had been held at Trinity Church in lower Manhattan for years before.

When the city banned the fireworks display a few years later, Ochs kept the party going.  He arranged to have an iron and wood ball illuminated with one hundred 25-watt light bulbs lowered from the tower flagpole precisely at midnight to welcome 1908. And a tradition was born.

Seven different versions of the ball have been used, including transforming it into an apple with a green stem as part of the “I l Love New York” marketing campaign in the eighties.

This year the triangles comprising the crystal ball, which can display more than millions of colors and patterns, were imprinted with designs denoting peace, friendship, love, courage, joy, and light. In addition to the hale and hearty (and presumably youthful) on site, another billion people around the world partook in the ritual via satellite technology.  We all apparently want the same thing.

Could this be our year?

© 2013 Susan Marg – All Rights Reserved

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The Rockettes: Kicking Up Their Heels

Photo by: pennstatelive

Photo by: pennstatelive

When I was a young girl I wanted to be a Rockette.  I wasn’t taking tap dance lessons for nothing.  Little did I know that the dancers, proficient in ballet and jazz, as well, were skilled athletes who practiced six hours a day six days a week.

My dreams were embedded in my family’s trips to New York to visit my grandparents.  These usually occurred over winter and spring breaks, when school was closed for the holidays and my father took time off from his business.  As a special treat we went to Radio City Music Hall to see a movie and watch the Christmas Spectacular.

The only movie I remember seeing there is The World of Henry Orient starring Peter Sellers.  I watched it again recently, and it is a delightful coming of age story of two fourteen-year old girls on their adventures following a concert pianist around the city.  I can understand why it has stayed with me all these years.

But the Rockettes.  Oh, my.  They were always mesmerizing: the precision of the kick line; the beauty of the performers; and, the dazzling stage settings.

This year is the 85th anniversary of the Rockettes in New York City.  Inspired by an English dance act called the Tiller Girls, Russell Markert, a choreographer, formed the Missouri Rockets in St. Louis, before relocating the troupe to Manhattan’s Roxy Theater in 1927, and hence calling them the Roxyettes.  With practice, practice, practice, they became headliners at the Music Hall in 1933.

The women from across the United States were required to be 5’3” to 5’6” inches tall.   Today they stand 5’6” to 5’10.5”.  That’s progress, but then as now, the shortest dancers among the thirty-six on stage at any one time were at the ends of the line creating the illusion that they were all the same height.

As always the program this season brings happiness and cheer to the audience.  The dancers appear as reindeer, candy canes, and wooden soldiers in The Parade of the Wooden Soldiers, a favorite for decades.  And if that’s not enough, Santa Claus shows up, in 3-D, no less, to take the audience on a magical mystery tour through Manhattan.

The show ends with “Living Nativity,” a routine, which close to twenty minutes long, has always been way too long in my opinion, but the dancers mix it up with live camels, sheep, and donkeys, much to everyone’s delight.

Kick up your heels with the Rockettes at Radio City Music Hall through December 30th and create joyful memories this holiday season.

My prayers go to the children of Newtown, Connecticut, whose dreams will never materialize, the adults who tried to protect them, and their families who loved them.  May happier memories help mend their broken hearts.

© 2012 Susan Marg – All Rights Reserved

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75 Years Ago on Seventh Avenue

Open-Faced Reuben.   Photo by: bryce_edwards "No one goes back home bragging they had a nice chopped salade." -- The Stage Deli

Open-Faced Reuben. Photo by: bryce_edwards “No one goes back home bragging they had a nice chopped salad.” — The Stage Deli

In 1937 a Russian immigrant opened the Stage Deli on Seventh Avenue just two blocks from Carnegie Hall.   Over the years Broadway celebrities and theater-attending tourists patronized the premises, consuming mounds of hot pastrami and chopped liver, buckets of Matzah ball soup, and plates of kreplach and knishes.  When I was a girl, my family drove from Cleveland to Brooklyn on school breaks to visit my grandparents, making the Stage Deli our first stop in Manhattan.

The restaurant was always crowded; the waiters, middle-aged bald guys, always brusque.  Studying the menu intensely, but ordering the corned beef on rye, I’d wonder about the well known and renown who were honored with sandwiches named after them.  I knew who some of them were, entertainers like Milton Berle, Danny Kaye, Ethel Merman, probably from television, but not much else about them.  Yankee greats Mickey Mantle, Yogi Berra, and Roger Maris were venerated, too.

As times changed, new names were added to the selection. The Alex Rodriguez Triple Decker was made of turkey, chopped liver, lettuce, tomato and onions, while the Derek Jeter came with roast beef, turkey, and muenster cheese

Instead of an Ed Koch, the Rudy Giuliani Hero consisted of corned beef and pastrami and topped with muenster, swiss cheese, cole slaw, and Russian dressing.

But even with Sid’s Caesar Salad going for $15.95 (add chicken or steak for another three bucks) or a Conan O’Brien priced at $22.95, it wasn’t enough to keep the Stage’s doors open.  Citing a downturn in business and rising rent, the current owner closed the restaurant at the end of November.

Five years ago the restaurant put out a poster saying, “ We are all so happy about our 70th anniversary, a waiter almost smiled.”  No one is smiling today.

© 2012 Susan Marg – All Rights Reserved

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Food, Glorious Food

 

Eat dessert first. Photo by: meerbabykat

In the mood for meatballs?  Dying for dim sum? Craving chicken enchiladas? Mouth watering for something sweet?  The new Bacchanal buffet at Caesars Palace has begun serving up a few of your favorite things.

With 500 food items, many prepared to order at nine different kitchens spread out over the 25,000-square foot restaurant, half the size of a football field, it might be difficult to decide where to start.  There’re Mexican, Italian, Chinese, Japanese, and American cuisines, vegetarian, seafood, and grilled meat specialties, as well as designer pizza and gourmet deli.  And save room for dessert.  Oh, heck, life is uncertain: eat dessert first.

All-you-can-eat buffets have been a staple in Las Vegas since the El Rancho Vegas, the original resort casino on the Strip, opened in 1941.  The “Buckaroo Buffet,” so-named in keeping with its Wild West theme, was basically an all-night chuck wagon.  For a dollar or a dollar fifty, a hungry gambler could have his fill of an assortment of cold cuts or a choice of a few hot dishes. Everyone was satisfied, management, especially, as they didn’t have to keep a full staff standing by and good customers never left the premises.

Over time different courses were added to the menu. Steak, lobster, and shrimp have always been popular.  The casino resorts built over the last twenty years, of course, from Atria, Bellagio, and Cosmopolitan to Wynn, have buffets.  None of them are cheap, but they’re all well attended.

Caesars is hoping their new arrangement delivers that something extra exceptional, not just a second, third, or fourth trip for more.  The decor is modern – all glass, wood, and steel.  The view is spectacular; it overlooks the pool complex known as the Garden of the Gods.  And the level of service and quality of the offerings promise to be outstanding. Customers are able to watch their meal being prepared.  Chefs have been trained to relate to the customers and give mini demonstrations of interest to diners.

Shania Twain will be performing in the showroom, but morning, noon, or night, eating is the new entertainment.

© 2012 Susan Marg – All Rights Reserved

 

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If They Build It… You Will Come

Any history of Las Vegas is incomplete without the story of Benjamin Siegel. He was called “Bugsy,” but never to his face because he hated the nickname. He thought it made him sound crazy, dangerous, too, but mostly crazy. He was credited with founding Las Vegas. Some believed he was mayor. Neither was true. He wanted a career in the movies, but had to settle for creating the Las Vegas of the movies.

Standing guard at Caesars Palace. Photo by: Susan Marg

The Flamingo, the casino in the desert named after Bugsy’s girlfriend Virginia Hill’s long, birdlike legs, was his vision, creation, and extravagance. We don’t know whether he was murdered for overspending on its construction or for claiming some of the investors’ monies as his own.  It doesn’t matter. When the Flamingo opened ceremoniously on December 26, 1946, it was obvious that every penny that had gone into the place had been well spent.

Bugsy had replaced the atmosphere of the cowboy casinos found down the road  with an ambience of sophisticated luxury throughout the resort. On the first night and every night thereafter, first class entertainers, such as Jimmy Durante, Xavier Cougat, and Rose Marie, performed in the showroom.

Since that time entertainment has always been a big part of the Las Vegas scene.  Edgar Bergen with sidekick Charlie McCarthy on his lap kicked off the festivities at The Desert Inn in 1950.  Ray Bolger, the famous scarecrow from The Wizard of Oz, launched the Sahara Hotel and Casino in 1952.  Liberace starred in a musical comedy revue that included a “candelabra ballet” at the Hotel Riviera’s gala on opening night in 1955.  And Andy Williams headlined at Caesars Palace’s Circus Maximus in 1966.

For decades Caesars’ 800-seat showroom hosted such celebrities as Judy Garland, Shirley MacLaine, Freddie Prinz, Petula Clark, Diana Ross, George Burns, Julio Iglesias, Tom Jones, Wynonna, Ann-Margret, Natalie Cole, Eddie Fisher, David Copperfield, Tony Bennett, and Sammy Davis Jr., to name a few of the famous names.

When Frank Sinatra left the Sands (drunkenly cursing, fighting and driving a golf cart through a front window after his credit was cut off by new owner Howard Hughes), he signed with Caesars.  In 1981 he was appointed its Vice President of Entertainment.

In 2000 Circus Maximus closed down and reopened as The Colosseum two years later.  The new 4,000-seat showroom reportedly cost $65 million, but like The Flamingo, it was worth every cent.  Sell-out crowds turned out for Celine Dion and later Cher, Bette Midler, and Elton John, before Dion returned for an encore.   In December Shania Twain, “the best-selling female country artist of all time” states the publicity, will take her turn.

If past performances dictate future success, Caesars Palace is “Still the One.”

© 2012 Susan Marg – All Rights Reserved

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Out with the Old; In with the New

Say “I do” with your “Moons over My Hammy.” Photo by: Thomas Hawk

The Candlelight Wedding Chapel once sat on prime real estate on Las Vegas Boulevard.

It was one of an esteemed or, at least, in the eyes of those who married there, beloved group of the town’s renowned freestanding wedding chapels on the Strip.  Michael Caine and Shakira Baksh tied the knot there.  So did Bette Midler and Martin von Haselberg.  Both couples are still together.

In 2004 the property on which the chapel was located was sold out from under it, to be redeveloped into something bigger and better, more glitzy and glamorous. The chapel was abandoned, while the motel and casinos surrounding it were demolished bit by bit.

But now the Candlelight Wedding Chapel is being restored.  In 2007 it was moved to the Clark County Heritage Museum down the road in Henderson.

While Little Church of the West, Wee Kirk Wedding Chapel, and Graceland, among others, still welcome wedding parties, big or small, dressed up or down, with or without an Elvis impersonator, Denny’s apparently felt there was an opportunity to get into the wedding business.

Yes, that Denny’s, the breakfast place, open 24 hours, serving pancakes, eggs, and bacon all day long.

The restaurant chain recently announced it’s building a new Denny’s in the heart of Neonopolis, the indoor mall on Fremont Street downtown to open at the end of the year.  It already has two venues on the Strip.  This one will be different.

The 6,400 square foot facility will be decorated to the hilt with over-the-top Vegas memorabilia. A wedding chapel will be located in the middle of the dining area.

Before (and after) the ceremony the couple, and everyone who happens to be having a happy meal or  late night snack, can imbibe at the full service bar.  To spread the news, the newlyweds can have pictures taken in an interactive photo booth and share them on social media sites.

Grand Slam, anyone?

© 2012 Susan Marg – All Rights Reserved