Wednesday, 22 August 2012

The Big USA Comedown pt 3, Vegas Baby!

Hello dear '99ers,
This time I thought a quick return would be better, not drag it out another week!
Vegas, bam!

What a place indeed. It's fast, it's flashy, it reeks of riches, poores (? I like made up words..), obsessives, sweat and cigarettes. It's up it's down it's high it's low it's loud it's light it's a sensual explosion! (I'm pushing the rules of grammar in that sentence aren't I? Oh well, freestyle writing you know... :S)
Anyway, its a pretty spectacular place if you 'do it' right.
Did I?
Well, if doing it right means coming down with a group and a big ass budget which is there just to blow at the casinos, the bars, the clubs and the strippers with hazy memories of what happened the next morning (or 2 days later if you throw some fun tablets into the mix, hey, we're all adults here right?), then no.
But I did certainly do it in my own way, would you expect any different my dear friends? Haha ;)
The outlets, the outlets, everyone said, you have to go to the outlets. We shall get to this.
I arrived in the mid morning, temperature.. 36, like standing in front of the hand dryers in a public bathroom but all over your body. I had't experienced heat like that in a long time, though it was kinda nice, not wet at all thank god, (that's NYC of course).
The shuttle system had become my friend in both prior cities, so naturally I went for it again; a great way to see the outline of a city on a budget if you have the time and patience, and why not? haha...
The Palms, owned by Real Housewives of Beverly Hills' star Adrienne Maloof and family, is on W. Flamingo rd, about 7 minutes taxi off The Strip, on the 'better' side of town.
What I love about the Vegas hotels, and aren't they clever, is that a fabulous room is sooo cheap compared to what it would be elsewhere; spend your money in the casino please! I had a room, but it was unneccesarily big, huge in fact, for about $80 a night (ok, hidden $20 resort fee aside, why??).

They say that tourists should never leave the strip by foot for fear of mugging, kidnapping, its a tough crowd out there. I heeded this advice, taxi-ing everywhere (apart from walking the strip of course), but strayed once. It was scary but I survived, more on that later, or rather now.. Sick of the buffet/fast food fare inside the hotels (luxury restaurants aside), I asked my Taiwanese taxi driver where there was some good Asian food. Seems it was a block walk from my hotel, in the 'good' direction. He was right, I ate a fabulous Pho and Summer rolls at the best Vietnamese in town, Victoria Street eat your heart out (though I did tip, damn American employers not paying their staff correctly!). There was a moment where a couple of guys trailed me on their bikes but only rang their bells as they were right at my shoulder, I jumped, but didn't yelp fortunately, though I really thought I would. Anyway, no harm done haha!
Enjoy my view, it wasn't bad.

So my fabulous taxi driver whose name I believe was Sharon; tall, robust lady with a long blond plait tucked into the adjuster of her cap, told me I should do one side of the strip one day, and the other side the next. That way I'd see everything, as it's hard to cross over Las Vegas boulevard. Well not hard, just irritating as you have to use the bridges. Well you don't have to, but Sharon wanted to run down people who stopped traffic, she was a character indeed. Not as much as the guy who told me Steve Jobs should go to hell for all the money he has made keeping Chinese workers as slaves (I really don't think he knew..) sheesh.. :S
But I did it this way, and I discovered a number of things.
There are two companies who 'own' Vegas, with very few independents around.
MGM Resorts has one side; Excalibur, New York New York, Bellagio, MGM Grand, Mandalay Bay, Aria, Luxor and The Mirage amongst others. The other side; Flamingo, Bally's Harrah's, Caesars Palace and Planet Hollywood, are owned by Caesars Entertainment. Now I don't want to offend anyone, and please beg to differ, but MGM kicks 'ass' over Caesars. Its' properties are modern, clean, sparkly, glitzy, all over more well designed and simply look more new! The competition is 'tired', it's aged, there is no lustre, the design of the casinos, colours, surfaces, decoration etc, it's all a little sad :(. Discuss.
Funnily enough, my absolutely favourite two casinos are owned by neither duopoly; Wynn and Encore. Also funny is that they are on the aforementioned 'sad' side of the Strip, so on average, is it the better side of the strip? Who knows!
Ok well, MGM bought over the company that used to own Treasure Island (where Miss Congeniality 2 was filmed, ooo), Bellagio and The Mirage. Steve Wynn (research shows, Weinberg, fabulous..), then used this money to build Wynn, the finest and most expensive casino in Vegas. Then he built Encore in 2008. Enough business drivel. I enjoyed much time perousing the shops in what for me was the best luxury shopping centre in Vegas, and there are many, I think I counted maybe 5 Chanel boutiques all up, don't quote me on that though. Anyway, its open, its grand, and it doesn't have the kitsch factor that most of the other hotels do. Chanel, Oscar D, Hermes, a shop whose name escapes me but which stocked Roland Mouret, Bouddica, Carolina Herrera, Jason Wu and many more, with a very nice sales guy who really wanted his commission, (no menswear of course).
Add to that a fabulous manmade lake (well everything in Vegas is manmade, its quite amazing and perplexing at the same time) with waterfalls and a lovely bar called Parasol Up/Down (down being outside downstairs..), where decorated parasols slowly go up and down on their ropes. Entertaining indeed. Maybe only because from 10am one seems to have a need to drink in Vegas. Rum slushy, morning cocktail, whatever you like. That's what this city seems to do. It draws out these strange behaviours in what I would hope are generally normal people, I know I am, I think. Well I did return to the buffet 5 times in one sitting, ate McDonalds for the first time in many years, drank wine in litre sized glasses, ridiculous... :S.
I was also a bit cringy when I realised most of the pokie machines are created by an Australian company. Is that one of our legacies to the world? Lighten up Yahav, have a good time, drink for free (I had 10 glasses of wine on $1 on one machine, don't worry, I didn't win, there was a flashier machine a couple of rows down, it got me, it guzzled my $20 faster than I could push the big round button..).
A good thing of course that there was a cinema at the Palms. I saw TED and Magic Mike (its a Soderbergh film after all, keep telling yourself that), and I loved how vocal Americans are at the movies, the audience is like a show onto itself! Do yourselves a favour and go there at least once, for two days with lots of money and no hesitations. If like me you think 5 days is a good time, it's not. Do yourselves another favour and spend the extra three days in New York City!! Enjoy my photos, a small selection of all I actually took...


Tuesday, 21 August 2012

Jean Paul Gaultier San Francisco (watch out Melbourne, it is diii-vvvviiiinne)!

Hello my dear Paris '99ians!
Welcome to part two of USA 2012 a la Paris '99. Los Angeles was, as you saw, a most fabulous experience; food, fashion, champagne, what more could you want?!
Well, perhaps one the highest of highlights of the entire trip, THE Jean Paul Gaultier exhibition for which I had been itching for months! to see. (Please read my post regarding the arrival of the book for this show, which shows just how truly excited I was to actually be able to see it.)
For this, a few days in San Francisco; city of Alcatraz, clam chowder, Harvey Milk, fine food and much much more!

I arrived in the bay city on Saturday afternoon, where the city was in the midst of preparations for the annual Pride March, down Market St towards the Castro. Colourful people of alsorts were hovering around. It was nice to see trams, though  of course I really didn't miss these yet, well, ever, not even when I haven't used them at home, myki, what? :S
My first night I had a real craving for Asian, something that had mostly eluded me in L.A, as the nearest 'authentic' eatery was 21km away from my whereabouts, and as much as I like dumplings, they probs ain't worth that cab ride (tarifs are way high haha)!
But there it was , Chinatown, just 10 minutes walk from my hotel. This one, not the snappiest hotel in town I must say. Everything old, no air conditioning (and contrary to the rumour this was a cooler city, the mercury didn't drop below 28 while I was there,) and no lift! Try lugging a 20kg suitcase up 5 flights of almost Amsterdam style stairs, 'tis no fun at all!
But I survived, and I knew my cushiest hotel experiences were yet to come (see next parts of the story...).
Anyway, Chinatown (dodgy image seen below.. ;)).

Of course by now I had discovered just how useful a tool Yelp is in the US, type in anything, someone will have reviewed it, fantastic. I looked up a couple of places that had been in guide websites, eh, who needs those. They looked, for lack of a better word, too 'white', and not that I speak a word of Mandarin or Cantonese, but I like a place where there's only one of me and I don't really understand what's going on. For me, that's a guarantee it's going to be good!
Along comes my place, and even though I am 3 minutes past closing time I guess I smiled nicely so they gave me table, hooray :). Basically I got greedy; 'soup' dumplings, pork and chive dumplings, broccoli oyster sauce and some other spicy thing that was really nice. And then! As a palette cleanser, they give a free orange, whole orange all ready to eat, amazing! Take not Shanghai Village (even though I don't go there, too white.. hahaha).

San Francisco Pride. Wow, I caught up with my friend who had been living in Berkeley on the Sunday. She had overheard a couple of drag queens saying on the train that the parade would start at 11 and go for an hour and a half. Well, I think it might have gone for about...7 hours at least, was stilling going just as the sun was coming down after we had stuffed ourselves full of yummy food samples at the building right on the water looking up at the Bay Bridge. I enjoyed the tasty salted pig parts, my friend, a vegetarian, did not.

So they say LA is impossible to walk, I did it, mostly, and yes, it is very time consuming indeed (well, its impossible to walk some parts of the hills as the footpath disappears rather suddenly, there you go..), but, San Francisco isn't easy to walk either, its so hilly! But the hilly walks are so more than worth it when you finally reach the top; the views are just spectacular, and rolling, rolling, the hills, the sea, in the distance the taller buildings of the city centre, and of course the bridges, all stunning!
The only thing was, as lovely and picturesque as it all was, I felt it all to be just slightly elusive. I found it hard to connect entirely with the vibe of the city. Maybe it was because the expectations were so high, really, EVERYbody said how amazing it is, how much I'd love it, the food, the buildings (these were truly lovely though, don't get me wrong..), everything! And yes I really tried, but I felt like it was all dangling in front of me and beckoning me, but then just pulling away when I tried to get closer. Poignant I know :S :P...

One thing that did not disappoint, and in fact smashed away all expectations, and was really the main reason for my San Fran visit, was the exhibition.
Which one? Well, remember my post a few months ago about The Fashion World of Jean Paul Gaultier book, arriving and thrilling me with its pull out striped cover which made different images. That one. That exibition.
My word of advice (even though it is now over), go early. I arrived at 10am, half an hour after the museum opened. Good choice Yahav. It was as if the gallery was almost my own, and I was free to go right up close with an unobstructed view, which allowed for some pretty ok photos if I may say so myself!
Like the book, the exhibition explored the themes of Gaultier's large and extremely impressive (just a small fan here duh..) oeuvre. The sailor and the sea, the boudoir and the corset, leading into overt bondage and S&M and fetish wear, done ever so chic of course.
The urban jungle, a whole host of interpretations and inspiration drawn from a multitude of ethnic references; Africa, India, China, Spain, Russia, Mexico, Iceland and of course the infamous Rabbi Chic collection, my favourite! Jungle, pieces made from the most beautiful furs, leathers, skins, hides, pelts, in ways you'd just never imagine.
Shark skin stitched on the lightest stretch mesh, ponyskin laser cut into the finest fernlike fronds, a fabulously cut pinstriped suit made entirely of dyed mink, and two of the most incredibly constructed crocodile skin pieces I've ever seen, a laced corset where the gradating sizes of the scales were used symmetrically as decoration, and a jacket with a raw edged back which is simply beyond words, worn with a fur turban to boot! (see picture further down).
Punk, the military, Paris, all done with knowing cheekiness, high camp and humour, but executed with the finest hands in Paris, workmanship that shows the capabilities of people in the highest echelons of fashion's technical know how. I actually had to sit and catch my breath on more than one occasion, and also watch my hands!
Some of you might know, fashion exhibition vexes me to no end; clothes are fabric, fabric needs to be touched to truly connect. It's one big tease. Of course I understand that a piece in a museum loses its 'usability' and becomes artefact. I know that if we all touched the dresses they would cease to exist, oils and all. But please excuse me painters, sculptors and your ilk; one doesn't HAVE to touch a painting, a statue or even a piece of decorative furniture in order to REALLY interact with it, so do forgive my angst regarding the matter. In any case, I was good, not one garment was illegally touched, pats on the back for me haha!
So yes. I got to the end of the exhibition, Ruby Rod's outfit from The 5th Element, one of my favourite movies, in the section looking at Gaultier's contribution to cinema, working with everyone from Luc Besson, to Almodovar and Edina and Patsy, and as there were no passouts or re-entry, I turned sharply on my heel, walked back to the beginning of the show, and did it all again! From a full phone battery to 10% and almost 400 photos later, I left the exhibition, fighting my way through the crowds this time, and enjoyed a post fashgasmic coffee and tart at the cafe in the park where the museum is housed.
Then I flew to Vegas!