Emergency Arts offers smorgasbord of galleries and a different First Friday experience

Photo courtesy of Lil’ Art Bodega

First Friday, the downtown Las Vegas arts festival occurring on the first Friday of each month, is a great showcase for local artists, musicians and performers, but there are many who haven’t yet experienced the street party because they may fear the crowds or worry that it’s less about appreciating art than drinking and carousing.

Jennifer Kleven, owner of Kleven Contemporary, understands that apprehension, but she has a solution.

“I think people assume that First Friday is only in the 18B Arts District, but it’s not,” she said. “Emergency Arts is a great alternative. We are centrally located next to bars and restaurants, and all of the galleries are inside one building.”

The former Fremont Medical Center building opened last May as a collection of galleries, studio spaces and even a café for artists and the artistically-minded to gather, work and sell their works.The venue is located on the northwest corner of Sixth and Fremont streets. First Friday pulls all these tenants together to showcase the best of the building.

“One big advantage (of First Friday) is that every gallery is open, whereas during the week we may have different hours,” said Joy Snyder, co-owner of Sporadica Designs, which focuses on found object and recycled material art.

“Every First Friday is (a chance for visitors to) experience new concepts of art and my creative juices are shown,” Tanya Walter, owner of Lil’ Art Bodega (L A B) said. “It makes people want to come back see what else that I came up with every month. How cool is that?”

Kleven offered an alternative for those still leery about the crowds at First Friday.
“Most galleries offer a Preview Thursday so potential customers can see what Friday’s exhibits will be ahead of the crowds,” she said.

While some may feel that collecting art is a hobby for the rich, this is a notion Snyder disagreed with.

“We like to make our work affordable for all,” Snyder said. “It’s nice to have new collectors and homeowners looking for pieces for their homes.”

She and partner Kathryn Gilbert typically price their pieces from $75 up to $500.

“Customers do not have to be well off to afford art work,” Kleven said. “You just have to have a passion for it. You have to want to live with art. I have yet to have any artwork go over $575.”

When it comes to starting a collection, Snyder offers this advice: “Always buy what you like, not what’s in vogue or what matches or what someone else thinks you should have. My husband and I have collected for over forty years and still love the pieces we bought as newlyweds.”

Walter, whose eclectic offerings include everything from graffiti to fine art, agreed.
“Make sure the artwork you purchase is something you want to look at every day and it’s a conversation piece,” Walter said.

“Purchase work that offers a little more than meets the eye and contact the artist,” Kleven advised. “Most local galleries will give you the artist’s email. Nothing feels better than hearing how much someone enjoys your work.”

The Emergency Arts building is located at 520 Fremont Street. Metered parking is available on the surrounding streets and the El Cortez hotel offers a free parking garage on Ogden Avenue, between Seventh and Eighth streets.

Published on BestOfLasVegas.com

Blu-ray - Casablanca

  As time goes by, there are few movies as enduring or beloved as Casablanca. Whether it’s the epic love story, the Academy Award-nominated performances or the thrilling adventure, the film is as well-known for its lines as its actors. This year, Casablanca has reached another milestone, celebrated by the Casablanca 70th Anniversary 3-Disc Blu-ray + DVD Combo Edition limited release (Warner Bros. Home Entertainment Group, MSRP: $64.99).

Most fans are familiar with the story of Rick (Humphrey Bogart), Ilsa (Ingrid Bergman) and Laszlo (Paul Henreid)—in a nutshell, Ilsa and her husband, Laszlo, are on the run from the Nazis and seek the enigmatic Rick, expatriate owner of Rick’s Café Americain, for help getting out of Morocco. Rick and Ilsa, it turns out, share a romantic past, and her feelings for the nightclub owner are still evident. Rick, who “never sticks his neck out for nobody,” decides to make the ultimate sacrifice in the name of the greater good (bringing down the Nazis). Rick and Ilsa will always have Paris, and viewers will always be heartbroken at the end.

The package is impressive even before opening the double-wide gift box. Nothing says “collector’s item” like an all-white case—it practically screams “handle with care!”—and inside are a few other gems that were created specifically for this release: a reproduction of the original movie poster; a 60-page production art book with never-before-seen photos, personal memos and archival documents about the production; and, strangely, a set of collectible drink coasters from Rick’s Café Americain in their own keepsake box. Collectors should move quickly if they want to own this set, as only 81,000 copies were made.

Then there’s the actual disc package, itself a beautiful fold-over presentation, with the massive list of special features outlined right on the inside cover. The first Blu-ray should probably weigh a few pounds considering all that was packed onto it. Aside from a stunningly crisp copy of the original film (with the optional “Introduction by Lauren Bacall”), there are several short features. The first two, “Casablanca: An Unlikely Classic” and “Michael Curtiz: The Greatest Director You Never Heard Of,” aren’t included on any other Casablanca collection, and follow similar formats. In “An Unlikely Classic,” movie industry insiders such as Steven Spielberg and William Friedkin (The French Connection, The Exorcist) speculate on what made this film, which was merely one of hundreds churned out by the early studio system, such an enduring classic.

Even those who don’t follow film history have probably heard of Casablanca, White Christmas and Yankee Doodle Dandy. What isn’t so well-known is that the same director helmed all three—plus 170 others, a feat made even more astounding by the fact that the Hungarian immigrant didn’t start directing until he was 26. “Michael Curtiz: The Greatest Director You Never Heard Of” introduces viewers to an accomplished director whose work everyone knows, yet whose name is largely unremembered.

Two sets of commentary tracks are also included on the disc, one by film critic Roger Ebert, the other by film historian Rudy Behlmer. Both offer interesting tidbits about the actors, production and the film’s impact on cinematic history, but Ebert is definitely the more entertaining of the two. His seems more conversational, as if he were actually just sitting with the viewer, watching along, and offering perspective of a true fan. Behlmer’s commentary, while offering much more in-depth analysis, feels like a classroom lesson (and one likely to be napped through, at that).

Included on many classic offerings from Warner Bros., “Warner Night at the Movies” gives 21st century audiences the experience of watching a film in a 1940s movie theater. First, the trailer for Bette Davis’ Now, Voyager plays, followed by an authentic newsreel, a short documentary on the “Vaudeville Days,” then three Merrie Melodies cartoons (“The Bird Came C.O.D.,” “The Squawkin' Hawk” and “The Dover Boys at Pimento University or The Rivals of Roquefort Hall”) that should evoke a sense of nostalgia in those over 30 who recall waking up on a Saturday morning to their rousing orchestral theme. Finally, Casablanca begins.

Could anyone ever know the great Humphrey Bogart better than his family? In “Great Performances: Bacall on Bogart,” frequent costar (and widow) Bacall takes viewers on a tour of the softer side of the hard-boiled image (for instance, that his first brush with fame wasn’t onstage but in print, drawn by his mother, Maud Humphrey, a commercial illustrator, as the face of Mellins Baby Food). Son Stephen Bogart and Bergman’s daughter, Pia Lindström, then offer their perspectives in “As Time Goes By: The Children Remember.”

“You Must Remember This: A Tribute to Casablanca,” narrated by Bacall, was produced in 1992 and, essentially, is the CliffsNotes version of all the preceding special features. Illustrated with clips from the film and featuring interviews of scholarly types on high stools, the tribute seems more instructional than entertaining.

DVD releases typically include deleted scenes and outtakes, but these are special because, while the film exists, the audio tracks have been lost. The two deleted scenes feature subtitles drawn from the shooting script, where the outtakes are pretty much left to the viewer
s imagination.

Also included is Warner Bros. Television’s “Who Holds Tomorrow?,” a sort of prequel based on the characters in Casablanca, featuring Rick and Captain Renault (played by Charles McGraw and Marcel Dailo, respectively), and “Carrotblanca,” a vintage cartoon featuring Bugs Bunny and the WB constellation of characters (Tweety Bird does a great Peter Lorre).

Trailers for the original release and the re-release are also included.

If all the video proves exhausting, there are also a number of purely audio features, including the 1943 Lady Esther Screen Guild Theater and 1947 Vox Pop radio broadcasts (both shortened audio versions of the film) and the scoring sessions.

The second Blu-ray disc is composed of three feature-length documentaries. You Must Remember This: The Warner Bros. Story, narrated by Clint Eastwood, gives a peek behind the screens of one of Hollywood’s most powerful film studios.

The 2008 documentary The Brothers Warner and 1993’s Jack L. Warner: The Last Mogul both discuss the famous family behind the name. The Last Mogul is more revealing than The Brothers Warner, which has a more neutral tone, but both offer fascinating insights into some of Hollywood’s founding fathers.

The final disc is the DVD copy of the movie.

Serious collectors who already own the previous DVD and Blu-ray offerings will only find about 45 minutes of new material on this set, but the extra goodies in the box and the limited nature of the offering make this a must-own for those whose hearts will ever be left on that landing strip in Morocco.

The Casablanca 70th Anniversary 3-Disc Blu-ray + DVD Combo Edition is now available.

Published on LifeInLA.com


Tuesday 13 - Frank Marino


 It would be easy to say that being Frank Marino is a real drag, but the evidence certainly proves otherwise. Las Vegas’ longest-running Strip performer has outlasted many flash-in-the-pan acts, as well as glitzy production shows, high-profile entertainers and even a few Sin City staples to become nearly as legendary as the celebrities portrayed in his show every night. And he’s done it all in heels.
Throughout his career, the queen of Las Vegas has racked up some impressive honors: a street named after him, the key to the city, his own day (Feb. 1) and not one but two stars on the Las Vegas walk of fame. Just weeks after receiving his latest honor, a themed gaming table at the Imperial Palace, Marino talked with the Best of Las Vegas about the Strip’s evolution, his dream home and why the “Millionaire Matchmaker” may have revitalized his career.

Best of Las Vegas: You’ve been headlining on the strip for nearly 28 years, first in “An Evening at La Cage,” now in “Divas Las Vegas” at Imperial Palace. What are the biggest changes you’ve seen come to Las Vegas and the Strip since 1985?

Frank Marino: The biggest change I’ve seen has been in the audience itself. I remember, when I first opened in the ’80s, when women would come in beautiful evening gowns and mink coats, and men would be in suits. Nowadays, it’s changed so much that people come in fanny packs and flip flops! That’s a change that I really don’t like. I also saw the town go from the end of what I call the Mafia Era to the beginning of the Corporate Era, and I’ve got to say, I kind of like the Mafia Era better. It was a more personal, one-on-one experience, where a high roller could walk into a hotel and they’d go, “Mr. Smith, how are you, sir?” Now, you could drop a million dollars at a table and people wouldn’t know who you are. The other thing I’ve seen change, as far as shows go, is that when I first started, you would get a salary to come to Vegas and be in a show and headline, whereas now it’s more of a four-wall deal, where you rent the room as a vendor and cross your fingers and hope people will want to see you.

BOLV: What’s the biggest misconception people have about your show?

FM: That it’s a gay show. They think it’s just a bunch of gay men running around in dresses when it’s nothing of the sort. It’s a very big production show that rivals all the big shows on the Strip. I don’t think they realize how many people are in my show. We have a cast of 25 people, we’re the only tribute show that does 17 characters per show. Most others do like four or five. It’s a show for all ages, everyone from kids to senior citizens.

With six shows a week, how do you keep up your physical and creative energy?

FM: Well, besides diet and exercise, which I’m very strict with, I also get a B12 shot every day. Also, now that I’ve been doing it every day for so long, this is my new key: to pace myself. Don’t do everything in one day. Pace myself so that when I go to the show, I have my energy.

BOLV: Three years ago, you purchased the land for your dream home. How is that coming?

I haven’t built the home yet, but I have the architect working on it. The reason it hasn’t been built yet is because right after I bought it, that’s when my show I had for 24 years closed. Then we opened the new show, “Divas,” where I am the producer. So now I’m like Barbara, I produce it, I direct it, I star in it, I do it all. But we are going to build the house. We have the architect working on it now, we plan on starting it in September and I can’t wait. In fact, it’s not going to be a house, it’s going to be a palace, like every queen should have.

BOLV: Spill – How much room is dedicated to closet space?

FM: My closets, I can guarantee you, will be huge. I’ve seen many huge closets in many mansions before, but I can guarantee you this closet will be huge!

BOLV: You were recently featured on an episode of Bravo’s “Millionaire Matchmaker.” Though you didn’t make a love connection, has dating been harder or easier since appearing on the show?

FM: Dating hasn’t been harder or easier, but I’ll tell you a little funny anecdote. After working for so many years on the Strip under the mask of the makeup, for the first time I did a television show as a man, as myself, without being in costume, and it was overnight fame. I went to Hawaii the next week and got recognized all over the place, I went to New York and got recognized, I went to Paris and got noticed, all off of “Millionaire Matchmaker.” And I was like, whoa! I need to get me a TV show! That worked out quite well, because they really portrayed me in a nice light. I was kind of nervous, because you never know with reality TV, how you’re going to be portrayed in the editing. Patti (Stanger) and I hit it off. I know sometimes she’s bitchy in the episodes, but she was wonderful to me and I’m going to tell you, it gave an energy boost to my career. It was a really, really good experience.

BOLV: Speaking of “Millionaire Matchmaker,” you did a great impersonation of the show’s star (Patti Stanger.) Are there any other newsworthy females you’d consider impersonating?

FM: I am the only female impersonator in the world who hates impersonating famous people. I’d rather just be Frank Marino, the comedian, the way RuPaul is the singer, and have my femme-fatale created look. I did Patti for the show, because it warranted it. I’ve been on talk shows and impersonated the talk show host, and of course, I use my staple, Joan Rivers, in the beginning of my show, but it’s really such a small part that I just open with it, then I just do myself for the rest of the show, doing the crazy looks that I’ve created for myself over the years in drag.

BOLV: Your website proclaims that you’re America’s favorite male actress. What movie, TV or stage projects would you like to take on in the future?

I think after doing “Millionaire Matchmaker,” I really want to focus on doing my own reality show, and it doesn’t even really have to be my show, I’d just love to be a part of a show or an ensemble. I did quite a few movies, quite a few TV shows, so now I just want people to get to know me, and if they get to know me, they might like me, like they did on “Millionaire Matchmaker.” And want to come and see our “Divas” show at the Imperial Palace.

BOLV: Do you prefer portraying a version of yourself, or entirely new characters?

FM: I like portraying a version of myself. Onstage, I like to be myself in the costume, femme fatale telling my own jokes. On TV, I’d rather be myself on a reality show than in a sitcom portraying somebody else.

BOLV: What haven’t you done that you’d like to attempt?

FM: I say in my book, “His Majesty, The Queen,” my autobiography, the best and worst thing in my life is that I think I’ve done everything I want to do, that there’s nothing left I want to do. But after I wrote the book, I realized there’s one more goal I have. I mean, I’ve had a street named after me in Vegas, the city gave me a day, I’ve got two stars on Las Vegas Boulevard (the only entertainer to have that,) all those crazy things. The only thing I can think of, as far as show business goes, is to have my own wax figure in Madame Tussauds. They have a Vegas room, where they have Lance Burton, so I feel they should have the longest-running Las Vegas headliner. Number two, they have RuPaul in New York and they have Dame Edna in London, so it’s not like I’d be their first drag queen. I’ve been wanting this for over 10 years, I’ve campaigned from every angle possible, and there’s always a new reason why we can’t do it. If it doesn’t happen, I’m going to make it known right now that I’m going to make my own and have it right in my living room, so that when people visit me, it will be right there. Better yet, when I’ve built my new home, I’ll put it right out front in a glass case, so when they do the tour of the movie stars’ homes, they can say, “…and here’s Frank Marino. He couldn’t have a wax figure in a museum, so he put it in his yard.”

BOLV: You’ve undergone a number of plastic surgery procedures. What’s the one thing you wish you hadn’t done?

There’s nothing I wish I hadn’t done. Actually, the one surgery I wish I hadn’t done is the hysterectomy.

BOLV: There is a lot of attention being focused on bullying right now. How much of that did you endure when you were younger?

FM: I did endure a lot of bullying when I was young, probably for not being the most macho of men. Gym class was kind of rough. I don’t remember anything specific, but fortunately, I took all that knowledge and instead of learning not to do it, I kind of created it into my act, because my act is based on bullying. I only bully bigshots, I don’t bully the little person in the audience, I bully the celebrities who can afford to be knocked down a few pegs because they’re superstars. Actually, I feel like I get more bullied now, as an adult, in the media by what newspapers say about me sometimes, then as a kid when people did mean things. Bullying has actually benefitted me, because it gave me the strong skin to be able to go into entertainment. This is not a job for sissies.

BOLV: What fact about Frank Marino, male or female version, would be surprising for readers to learn?

FM: One thing nobody knows is, if you came to my house, you probably wouldn’t be able to tell what I do for a living. There’s not one gown, one eyelash, one false fingernail, no makeup, no wigs, nothing I use in the show. I leave it all at the office, except maybe for a poster or painting, there’s nothing in my office that would say “oh this is Frank Marino’s house.” I keep it all separate. Drag is what I do for a living, it’s not who I am.

Frank Marino’s “Divas Las Vegas” performs Saturday through Thursday at 10 p.m. at the Imperial Palace. Tickets start at $39, and are available at the box office, online at www.imperialpalace.com or by calling (888) 777-7664. For more information on Frank Marino, visit www.frankmarino.com.

Published on BestofLasVegas.com