Marc Jay
ABOUT MARC JAY
Marc Jay is the man in the middle of the action - the guy with the best table, the most access - living the life that others only dream of. Here you will follow Marc behind the velvet ropes as he mingles and mixes with the most elite in Las Vegas. From nightlife to fashion, from music to events, this is where you'll meet the VIPs who shape Sin City.

Interview with Photographer Tomas Muscionico

posted on 04.30.2010

Today I’m with Tomas Muscionico, one of the most well-known photographers in Las Vegas. Right now he’s doing a cover shoot for 944 Magazine and here I am on set with him, prepared to find out a little bit more about Tomas and how he ended up in Las Vegas.

Marc Jay: I’m at a beautiful location at Tao Beach; tell us what you’re doing here today.

Tomas Muscionico: We’re in this fortunate situation, Marc, to do a cover shoot for 944 with a beautiful bikini model from Los Angeles, Jasmine Dustin, who just finished shooting Iron Man II with Robert Downey Jr., among a couple of other projects. We have an amazing styling and production team, and we’ve got amazing merchandise, worth about $50,000, from the shops at the Palazzo and the Venetian. So far we’re actually good on time. It’s probably the first time in my career that everything has really worked out so well, which speaks less for the photographer, but more for the model. She’s really an amazing mover, very easy-going, no attitude.

Marc Jay: When I think about Las Vegas, I obviously think about Casinos and Nightclubs and nightlife. To my knowledge there aren’t that many artistic people in Vegas. You think of New York and LA for that sort of stuff and forget about Vegas, but you are basically at the top of your field here. In fact, people will say you’re too good for Las Vegas. How did you end up here and how do you have a portfolio of such amazing clients here?

Tomas Muscionico: I came to Las Vegas in an almost stereotypical kind of way. I found myself in a situation living in NYC, being a war photographer for Time magazine, living a very unhealthy lifestyle. Having lost a couple of really dear friends of mine doing what I was doing, I decided I needed a way out. I felt like my luck was running faint and I didn’t enjoy it anymore – kind of like being part of the dark side of just documenting history in the making. I did this job for about 15 years and then I kind of realized that Vegas, being a place which most people oversee, would be a nice change. I happened to come here on a Maxim assignment and people here in this town embraced my attitude, my approach, my talent and they told me that “there is not really anybody like you here with your talent as a photojournalist.” Without really thinking too long, I packed up my studio in NYC about six years ago and came out here, and it’s just been a whirlwind since then. I mean it has just been a really amazing time. I arrived in Vegas when we had new magazines – 944 started, Vegas Magazine started. I was a contributing editor under Glen Albin, who worked with Andy Warhol (INTERVIEW Magazine). I’ve worked with Albin for five years and had an amazing run. We went to Parumph, photographed prostitutes and brothels, all the shows and backstage and I formed an alliance with Cirque du Soleil and now I’m kind of like their photographer. I shot a lot of their programs and PR campaigns here in Las Vegas. It’s an amazing privilege to work with such an amazing brand. America at large goes through such a hardship. Friends of mine get laid off in New York and LA and we’re just having the greatest time here. I’ve been trained by one of the best art schools in Switzerland and Europe and then having had my formal training as a photographer in NYC has really helped change my perspective. I kind of like look at everything I do here from the outside in, versus from the inside out, which makes me understand the level of expertise, how there’s a lot of people who are in very powerful situations and they shouldn’t be. In Vegas, it’s not so much talent, it’s more of who you know, who your friends are. In the beginning I had a very hard time here, but that sounds so cliché.

Marc Jay: Tell us where you’re from and how you’ve come into the world of photography.

Tomas Muscionico: Most Americans know the fairy tale Heidi. They know the little girl who grew up with her grandfather in a log cabin in the Swiss Alps. That is exactly where I grew up in that small village in the Swiss Alps close to the Principality of Liechtenstein, which is a country of just 15 miles. I went to the Kunstgewerbe Schule in Zurich, Switzerland’s premier art school – for four years, when I was 16 – but what I wanted to do was photojournalism. Unfortunately, at that time, you really couldn’t learn that anywhere in Europe. Germany had a program which was very elitist and very clinical but to learn photojournalism you had to come to the US. My dream was always to photograph for Life Magazine and, at one point, I achieved that dream because a friend of mine became director of photography for Life. I shot a couple of covers for them before the publication folded.

Marc Jay: You shot for Time magazine, too, is that correct? You mentioned briefly you went out and shot different wars. That must have been incredible. How did you get that job? What locations did you visit around the world?

Tomas Muscionico: Well, you don’t really think about these things when it happens. I don’t think there are kids, young kids, who watch war movies and say, “That’s cool. I want to do that.” I came from a very privileged background and with the camera, I wanted to make the world a better place. I was thinking about seeking opportunities to document history or reality because I come from such a privileged world and I know that nobody really grows up the way I grew up anymore. About 60% of the world population, they’ve never heard a ringtone; they’re in civil war circumstances. When I came to America, it was right at the time the Berlin wall came down. My agent asked me if I wanted to go to photograph Berlin. I was like, I just came to America and you want to send me back to Europe?

The Berlin wall brought me into the revolution in Czechoslovakia. Czechoslovakia turned into Romania where their communist dictator got executed by the people. That was the first time when I was really in a shitty situation. I mean really, I had a solider covering me because we got sniped at, and he more or less died by covering me. I forced myself to stay focused, and not get bogged down by fear and the craziness around me. So without really realizing it, I started to get hooked on all the craziness, I turned into an Adrenaline junkie. It’s like your drug dealer is offering you amazing blow and you just wanna have more and more and more – yeah I definitely was an Adrenaline Junkie for many years, living very hard in a very dark place, on the edge on a daily basis in terms of drugs, alcohol, lovers…

Marc Jay: There must have been a time when you were going to the countries, where you felt like you were more into entertainment. When did that happen for you and what was your first big job which moved you over to more lifestyle/entertainment photographs?

Tomas Muscionico: I worked with, somebody you’d probably know, somebody who made a household name for themselves in the states, a great, great man known as Michael Rand. Michael was the creative director of The London Sunday Times magazine, and he was probably a friend of your father’s I would imagine!?  He assigned me a couple of stories and portraits but honestly at the time, until I came to Las Vegas, I really didn’t care too much about photographing beautiful women; I didn’t care too much about movie stars and Hollywood. All of it was just too far away from me. I was really like the street photographer who wanted to work with people who were nobodies; I wanted to tell the story of the underdog. Coming here to Las Vegas, of course everything changed really quickly. People liked my portfolio full of war and murder mayhem but they told me that there was no application for that. They wanted me to photograph beautiful people, showgirls and strippers and Cirque du Soleil performers. I embraced that. I just felt like I walked from the dark side into beauty. The great thing with fashion and lifestyle is you can do whatever you want to do. There’s no censoring. When you’re with Nelson Mandela in South Africa, you’re there to photograph history in the making – it’s a very rigorous approach. These days, we’re photographing these girls and I spend five minutes photographing her and then my retoucher spends two days making them beautiful in Photoshop. It’s all a total big lie and fantasy, yet it allows you to create and be artistic about what you do in a way photojournalism never did.

Marc Jay: Do you think taking pictures has become somewhat easier since we’ve come into the digital era? As you know, my dad was a photographer for many years. He shot with multiple cameras throughout his life. In his day, he would spend hours and hours getting the right shots. Has it become easier now or is it just completely different?

Tomas Muscionico: Every good thing has a downside. There’s always a positive and a negative. I totally embrace digital photography. If I think of how many times I’ve risked my life in the past to ship my 35mm roll of film from Rwanda back to my agency in NY, it’s just crazy. Today, you don’t do that. Today you connect your mobile phone to the computer, and the pictures are where you want them to be. As much as I enjoy the possibilities of Photoshop and digital photography, I personally don’t think that it offers very much. My approach is still like old school and retro – just because you can do it, doesn’t mean you should always do it. What I see today, is that a lot of young people buy themselves a camera, and call themselves photographers – and that’s perfectly legitimate, I love that. But, a lot of photographers today have the attitude that you can take a picture and then you make it okay, you polish it in Photoshop. When I think about my early influence, like Richard Avedon and Ansel Adams, these people spent hours conceptualizing a picture. Then they had the negative developed, they’d make a contact sheet, etc. It was a very time consuming and expensive process, yet you’d look at contact sheets of Robert Frank who did the quintessential book “The Americans” in the late 1950s, every frame is a fucking masterpiece. I’ve probably shoot 2,000 pictures so far today. If I have 10 good ones I’m happy, and if it’s not really all coming together in one frame, I have my post-producer take a hand from this picture, cheeks from that picture and the background from another frame – crazy, really if you think about it. Amazing!

Marc Jay: So on today’s shoot you’re going to shoot 2,000 pictures?

Tomas Muscionico: It’s the cover and a minimum of six page stories, so we’re probably going to do eight looks in total. We’re going to have 3-4 cover possibilities and a couple of verticals and a couple of double pages. I’m going to edit this down to probably twenty, thirty images to introduce to the editor so that they have enough material to design a cool six-page layout.

Marc Jay: How do people find your work? Do you have an agent or are you your own agent?

Tomas Muscionico: I used to have Contact Press Images, a small boutique agency in NY, represent me, but that is not the case anymore because I don’t do journalism anymore. Since I’ve been here in Las Vegas, I’m kind of like pimping and representing myself because there are so many people here. We’re shooting this week with ORIBE, one of the most famous hair stylists, who has created the most amazing looks for Avedon, Testino and Irving Penn. He’s coming to town and we’re producing this whole hair show for him. We just did the annual report for the City Center and we’re working of updating PR images of Believe with Kris Angel for Cirque du Soleil. Then a client of mine in NY just assigned us to do a behind the scene with Entourage in LA. I’m very humbled, blessed that my phone rings, that we’re very busy with work that feels much more like having fun than working !

Marc Jay: It seems like your work is so diverse now. A few years ago it was war stuff, and now it’s kind everything – a cross section from fashion, glamour, entertainment, etc. Is there anything you haven’t done yet that you’re looking to do?

Tomas Muscionico: I really think the only downfall to being in Vegas is whenever I show my portfolio to Editors of GQ or Entertainment weekly back in New York, these people look at me like “Why are you in Vegas ? Why do you shoot for 944, you should be shooting for GQ.” But you know I am patient. It will happen. As we all know, Vegas does a little number to you. The lifestyle I have here is very incredible. I live a privileged life and everything is so convenient. We don’t have to drive anywhere, compared to LA, the phone rings all the time, we’re working with really fun and talented people, and that’s kind of the allure to Vegas. For a lot of people, Vegas is it; but me and my fiancée, we know that this town is just a pit stop on our way to bigger and better things . I want to finish my career where I started it in NYC. But the problem with NY is that either you’re 20 years old or you have $20 million in the bank – and neither applies to me. I feel that need to work a few more years in Los Angeles. I want to do work on big Hollywood movies.

Marc Jay: Overall, would you say that working in Vegas has been a good experience for you?

Tomas Muscionico: Absolutely ! - Vegas really gave me a second chance. I’m really the absolute cliché. I came here to reinvent myself and to have fun and what I’ve done here in Vegas, believe me, Marc, would have taken a lifetime anywhere else. I had really a great, great run. We’re having fun, this city has been great to us, but it is not the end of the rainbow.

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Interview with Natasha Meade of Deuce Lounge

posted on 04.23.2010

Marc Jay: I’m sitting in the Aria Hotel and Casino at the City Center in Las Vegas in the new Deuce Lounge with Natasha, the Marketing Executive. She’s going to tell us a little bit more about this place and her role in this beautiful new lounge.

Natasha Meade: Well, it is a high limit gaming lounge, we offer bottles and we also serve a full menu from Union, offering steak, lobster, all that stuff from their menu. We’re open seven days a week from 4 p.m. to 4 a.m. and we showcase basketball games and news during the daytime hours and then afterhours it turns more into an “ultra lounge” with a more intimate feel.

Marc Jay: I hear that Wednesday nights are your “industry nights.” Tell us a bit more about what goes on here on Wednesdays and why this night is so popular.

Natasha Meade: On Wednesday we get a lot of locals. We have a bunch of girls and it’s packed with people buying bottles – a great place to go if you want more of a lounge feel and also a great place to go before you make your way out to go out somewhere else, like if you’re going clubbing.

Marc Jay: So let’s talk a little bit about you. I know you’ve been working for Light Group for almost 5 years, now is that correct? What do you do exactly for the Light Group?

Natasha Meade: I started cocktailing when I was 21 and I cocktailed for about four-and-a-half years. I just started working as a marketing executive.

Marc Jay: As a marketing executive for this beautiful place at just 25 years old, I can imagine many people would be envious and jealous of you. How did you become so successful at such a young age? Is it easy being successful so young?

Natasha Meade: I didn’t really get in with many connections, but I guess it’s just how you are as a person and how you can handle the stress and how you’ve tried to built yourself. I’ve always wanted to succeed. I wanted to stop waitressing at 25, so I did that. So, when they offered me this position, it was right at the perfect time. I just want to be great at whatever I do, whether it’s waitressing or what I am doing now.

Marc Jay: Now I know you show UFC fights, basketball events, all sorts of sporting events here. Tell us a bit about what goes on. How does that programming work? Do you show every fight?

Natasha Meade: Almost every fight. We show most UFC fights, the ones that they’ll play on Pay Per View and they are pretty exclusive. At Aria, they don’t really play it at the sports books, so since we are the only place that shows the fights, we get really packed. We do charge a cover at the front and for bottle service it’s a $500 minimum. That’s not for every single sporting event, but many of them, mostly UFC. We also do black jack tournaments and tournament registration events, charity events, all sorts of events.

Marc Jay: On those sorts of nights do you bring more screens into the space, and if so, how many?

Natasha Meade: Yeah. We actually have four screens on all the time. Four more come in for big events and those are the really big, big wide screen TVs.

Marc Jay: As you’ve told me before, you’re a native to Las Vegas. You were born here, you’ve lived here, and now you’ve been here for 25 years. What is it is like growing up here in Vegas? To me, this place would seem like the weirdest place to go to school. It just seems weird to be a school kid walking by all these casinos. Are you used to all of that now, or did it seem weird to you when you were growing up?

Natasha Meade: It didn’t seem weird, it never really phased me and I guess I’m just used to it. I mean, this is home. It’s grown a lot since I was younger, but I started out partying and going out a lot at a young age so I’m pretty used to all of it. I guess everywhere else would feel very different for me.

Marc Jay: Now if someone would come and try to become a marketing executive, I would imagine having a golden book of contacts is very important. How do you collect all of your information? I know you have $10,000 or $20,000 players and bottle customers, but how have you gathered all of that information over the past five or six years?

Natasha Meade: It starts out by trying to be a good cocktail waitress. If you do your job as a cocktail waitress, you’re meeting all that clientele from the get-go. You’re trying to build your relationships, putting your business card information into your contacts and categorizing it. You just build on your top 100 and then it becomes your top 200 and then those are the top people you can build from.

Marc Jay: So when people think about being a waitress they think it’s just delivering drinks, but it’s certainly more than that. When you’re waitressing it’s the starting ground to being an executive because you’re collecting all this information and building your own list. Is that kind of what you did as a waitress as well?

Natasha Meade: To me, it’s a lot more. I don’t know specifically about every venue, but with Light Group specifically, it’s definitely a lot more work. There’s a lot that goes into it. We have to do a lot of work with data, keep relationships, send email blasts, thank you cards – there’s a lot more than people think. It’s not just a great time; you have to do a great, great job, especially for Light Group.

Marc Jay: I noticed that there are some gaming aspects here and I see a number of blackjack tables. Tell us a bit more about the blackjack. What are the minimums and all the hours of operation, as well?

Natasha Meade: There are six tables and they operate at the same times as the rest of the place, from 4 p.m. to 4 a.m. The minimums fluctuate but tend to range anywhere from $25 to $300 and it’s always really, really packed.

Marc Jay: The great thing about this place is you can come here and have a single cocktail, maybe a little appetizer and gamble all at the same time. I think that’s very unique to Las Vegas because there aren’t very many places where you can do that.

Natasha Meade: Yeah, or some people will buy a bottle of champagne for some girls while they’re playing, come back, mingle and go back to their game. That’s great. It’s a good pregame spot, even if you are going out to Haze later that night, or for a night cap afterwards, or seal-the-deal drink.

Marc Jay: I know Deuce Lounge is famous for its cocktails, it actually just won some award for it. Tell us what that’s all about.

Natasha Meade: We have a bunch of signature cocktails, that’s another thing that we’re known for. One that just got published in the Seven Nightlife magazine is the Deuce-tini. It’s made with Patron Platinum Silver, grapefruit bitters and elderflower liquor. The elderflower is what makes it really good. There’s actually a flower in it.

Marc Jay: Wow. That sounds very unusual, but very nice. Being a non-drinker, I probably wouldn’t try it, but I’m sure it’s very popular. I notice you also have some incredible food available at this venue. Can you tell me a little bit more about where it comes from?

Natasha Meade: Besides our appetizer list, we have the full menu that comes from Union, which is our other Light Group menu. It’s contemporary American cuisine, anywhere from sashimi, to pasta, to steak – pretty much anything you want. Aside from our Deuce specialty cocktail menu, which features signature drinks like the Deuce-tini, we also have a signature appetizer, my favorite dish, the Union Crispy Signature Duck.

Marc Jay: How is that prepared?

Natasha Meade: Basically it’s shredded duck served with mini pancakes, scallions and cucumbers and then drizzled with hoisin sauce. It’s really good.

Marc Jay: So as a marketing executive, I assume you’re here working during the day. Tell us a little bit about your week. What do you actually do from day to day?

Natasha Meade: Mondays I primarily go to the office and I do a lot of my work there, just planning for upcoming events. Basically I’m in the office in the morning at least two days a week, so aside from being in the office and working the four days a week inside of Deuce, I also have my outreach where I go to our other venues, like Jet, and get contacts. I basically meet and greet. I also outreach on Sundays at Bank and do the same over there. At around 1 a.m., I go into Haze and basically gain bottle service customers.

Marc Jay: We’re going to be wrapping up this interview but I know many people want to come experience this club and find out more information. Can you tell us where to find more information on Deuce Lounge?

Natasha Meade: You can go to Lightgroup.com or you can contact me directly.

Marc Jay: I know many people are going to want to come here and experience the VIP treatment. Whether they can book a table or find out about upcoming events, how can they contact you directly?

Natasha Meade: They can contact me via email at NMeade@dueceloungelv.com.

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Exclusive Interview with Marklen Kennedy of Tao Beach

posted on 04.12.2010

Marc Jay: There aren’t many nightlife legends in Las Vegas, but I just happen to be sitting with one right now. Mr. Marklen Kennedy has been here coming on 10 years now and has played all different kinds of roles; but for the past two years he's been based right down here at Tao Beach. I think Tao Beach, itself, is about four years old, but there have been a few changes since last season. Tell us about what’s gone on here and what your role is at Tao Beach.

Marklen Kennedy: Tao Beach has turned into a nightclub without a roof. Since pool parties have come in to this saturated nightclub market, they've kind of become one of the go-to mainstays when people come into town. Four years ago, 70% of the industry in this town, gaming-wise, was being fueled by the gamblers and the money they brought into the casinos. Now, it is reversed and 70% or more of that comes directly off of what we do in the service industry through restaurants, nightclubs, shows that are in town, these kinds of things. I came on to Tao Beach last year. I wanted to bring the same mentality that we have for the nightclubs to the daytime.

Marc Jay: What's new for Tao Beach this season?

Marklen Kennedy: This year, we've added five new cabanas. The DJ booth and the fountain that were here previously were a little disconnected from the party itself, so we took those out and put in three great cabanas and then added two more right behind them. Our size was about 18,000 square feet, so now with the new stuff we’ve gotten, we’ve added another 2,000, maybe 2,500 square feet. We put money into remodeling with new foliage, new bamboo, new trees, new everything; and all the furniture inside the cabanas is going to be new. We’re still going to have air conditioners, refrigerators, game consoles, and televisions in each one so you can watch the World Cup or keep up with your fantasy football. We have wireless internet so you can just link right up for anything you need. We have a movie library if you want to rent movies while you’re here and a game library for X-Box, so you can get all the games that you want.

Marc Jay: Today is actually only a mock service, and for people who aren’t in the industry and don’t know, it’s kind of a friends and family day because we haven’t officially opened. Still, there must be like 900 people here, and they’re all beautiful. For anyone who hasn’t been to Tao Beach before, why should someone come to Tao Beach as opposed to another pool in Las Vegas? What makes Tao Beach different?

Marklen Kennedy: I think what makes Tao Beach is the brand mentality of what “Tao” is – in the nightclub, the restaurant, what Lavo is becoming, and what Tao Beach now is part of. It isn’t about volume or trying to get in as many people as possible. I think it's our DJs, our energy, our attention to detail that sets Tao Beach apart. The cocktail servers that we have at the beach have been trained in the nightclub, so they work at Tao Beach just like they do in the nightclubs. You’ve got a busser, security guard, your cocktail waitresses – the same exact service you'd get in the nightclubs, you’re going to get at Tao Beach.

Marc Jay: Besides the changes with Tao Beach, I know there’s been some changes in your life, as well. You’ve been ordained as a minister – is that somewhat correct? And if so, are you going to be doing weddings out here at Tao Beach?

Marklen Kennedy: This is an idea I’ve been thinking about for probably five years. I've had people say to me – from celebrities, down to a guy out of Iowa – “Hey we’re coming in town, we want to get married.” This has gone as far back as Tara Patrick and Evan Seinfeld. I was working at this restaurant and they came in. They were talking about getting married and I set up the whole thing in a half hour – limos, getting to the little white chapel, telling them how to get their marriage license and everything else. Also, when Nikki Hilton got married out here, I set up the limos for them. I facilitated this stuff. So I started thinking, if they need to go off property, if they’re going away when they are having such a great time, why not just do it myself? So, I did some research, found out a way I could get ordained as a minister and perform weddings legally, and I am now a Reverend. I can perform weddings, baptisms, and abolish your sins (laughs). One of the great things that we are looking at is maybe even doing a confessional booth, bringing it into one of the themes of our weekly parties, like “Confessional Thursdays: nothing that is locked in.” There could be a reality show based around it where people come in and we ask them, “What did you do wrong this week?” They can wipe their slate clean, tell everything they did, then go back without all the guilt and shame. It could also be retail – t-shirts, hats, there’s all kinds of things. I might even run for Mayor.

Marc Jay: So does your business card actually say “Reverend” now, or is it still just going to say your name?

Marklen Kennedy: It will just say “Marklen” at this point – the noun, the verb, the adjective.

Marc Jay: I think I met you about nine years ago, back when I was at Mandalay Bay and you were at Light Group, and as I recall I gave you a little tour of Mandalay Bay and introduced you to some hosts; but the clubs have kind of evolved since then. When the Light Group came in, there weren’t really many clubs and really no bottle service. Now I think we are over-saturated with clubs. Where do you think the nightlife world is going?

Marklen Kennedy: I remember the actual time and date that you brought me over there. I was so impressed at that time because you had an office and a name plate on your door. When I’d go around, no one else had a name plate on their door and people had business cards and so it was just a great thing. We all wanted to be like Marc Jay because he was the first guy I met out here who could actually prove who he was, because a lot of people in the town were talking a big game. And you're right, out here there wasn’t really bottle service per se when we started over at Light. They had had a few places – The Drink was around a bit, Babies was kind of new, Rain was one year old at the most, Voodoo had some bottles going... But I was coming out of the Hamptons and we had a couple of clubs out there. We took the pricing that we had there and brought it here and nobody knew what bottle service was. We didn’t know how to market, we didn’t know who we were going after. When I got here I didn’t have any knowledge of who the people were in this town; I had to meet them bit by bit. So Marc was very influential in making introductions. At the time, RA was one of the premier clubs here. They had some cutting-edge technology, all types of things that nobody knew about yet. So once we got out here I remember going up and down Sahara Boulevard and going into every car dealership (my family’s in the car business). I walked in and said, “Where’s your GM? We’re opening up a nightclub and I want to invite you guys down.” The market was not here yet as far as how we wanted to market it. We got to know the locals and bit by bit it just turned into this. I even remember going into Chili’s, I think, and they had a fishbowl full of business cards that said, “We will give you a free lunch” and I just took all the business cards because we didn’t know anybody at all. Over time, all the different things that we put into place created a type of strategic marketing. Hey, I got to befriend this person, develop a relationship with him, now he’s got the customer. I need to be the conduit between his customer and my venue.

Marc Jay: It’s funny because when you look at nightlife now, the top ten people that run nightlife, you’ve known them, you know, before they even got here, when some of their jobs were kind of obscure and a bit unusual. As far as the people we know in the Light Group, really influential people like Corey McComack, what was their role before that? What were they doing a few years ago?

Marklen Kennedy: I love the stories from Vegas because everybody got here from another place. Larry Murphy at Blush was a meat salesman and I remember he sold beef. Greg Costello was a stock broker. Corey McComack worked at a zoo and he has these great stories about trying to yell at the silverback gorilla and not realizing that this gorilla could have jumped over the small, little moat and rip everyone’s arms off. The only guy that I think didn’t have another jobs is Sean Christie and I think he started doing nightclubs when he was four. But coming from Light Group is an interesting thing because it was such an amazing training ground for the entire town. Every one of the key people I know here in Vegas at some point worked for Light Group. The only person I don’t think ever did was Stevie D. There is Jesse who worked at Light (he was a barback), Corey was a host, Larry was a floor manager, Sean Christie was a host. You go through and everybody in this town, at some point, worked in a facet of Light Group. 

Marc Jay: So getting back to Tao Beach, I know you’ve invented something new called a “beach comber.” Could you tell us what that is?

Marklen Kennedy: Eight years ago, a host was truly a great title to have. If you were a host for a nightclub in Las Vegas, it was like being in Reservoir Dogs when they come walking around the corner in slow motion. They’ve all got the great suits, the sunglasses and just looking right out. They all needed their own theme song. Now, the market has gotten really saturated and everybody is a host – even if they're independent, which means they are not contractually working for a club, or it’s somebody who is calling himself or herself a host and working at a small bar or lounge. I wanted to find a way to not demean people by giving them the title of a “junior host” or a “promoter.” By being up at the beach, I invented this thing called a “beach comber.” they are helping the overall picture of the party.

Marc Jay: Tell us about the programming. What do you have going on throughout the week and over the weekends?

Marklen Kennedy: We are open seven days a week at Tao Beach. On Monday through Thursday, It is more for the hotel guests and people coming into town that want to chill out in a great party atmosphere. We’ve got a full lunch menu that’s catered through our Tao restaurant, so it's still an absolute party, but the big days we push are going to be Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays. Friday is called “Good Fridays.” It is a great push. It is our local industry day for people who work in the service industry, people that are going to be working all week and want to come down to the beach, chill out, have some drinks, get their tan going. On Friday, Saturday or Sunday we’re going to have major, as they say, “world-class DJs.” We’re always going to have recognizable DJs coming in who are going to be a great sell. Everything has got to be able to sell, but not just be great for us. It’s got to be great for the customer. On Sundays we have “Sunset Sessions.” You are one of the people that started it, so a great amount of responsibility and success has been based on you, Marc Jay. This year with the new cabanas and everything else we’re going to put in a large amount of programming with the DJs coming in.

Marc Jay: How would someone contact you if they want to get married or something? What’s your website or email address?

Marklen Kennedy: There are two things we’re going to do on the marriages. One, you can completely have a legitimate wedding where it’s planned out – you can call up to a year in advance for me. You can also do it so it’s a marriage certificate and kind of like a souvenir. You can come down, have a great time and go, “You know what, let’s get married.” It is an amenity, so it's added on, like you wanted to buy sunscreen, sunglasses, flip flops, anything else. So, we're doing it two ways. We're not really stressing the marriage stuff. We might end up, sometime this summer, having a huge celebrity couple get married. It could be a great marketing tool and a lot of fun, but as far as the wedding goes, all you have to do is email me (marklen.kennedy@taogroup.com) or call the Tao office at 702-388-8588.

Click here to follow Marc Jay on Twitter!


LVAC: The Best Place to Get Fit in Las Vegas

posted on 04.02.2010

As we all know, the summer is coming, and pretty soon the pool parties will be in full swing in Vegas. When it comes to this time of year, it’s all about looking good, which is why I’m here with Dustin, a personal trainer at the LVAC (Las Vegas Athletic Clubs). He is going to talk with us about getting in shape and how to work out the right way in Las Vegas.

Marc Jay: I actually know nothing about coming to the gym, as you can probably tell by looking at me, but you are a trainer here. How does it work, are there different programs? How long have you been doing this for?

Dustin Richter: I’ve been training for a little over seven years now here in Las Vegas and I’ve been working in the fitness industry for over 10 years now. There are all different sorts of people with all different sorts of goals, but here in Las Vegas, since it’s such a sunny climate and it’s a pretty aesthetically driven climate, people just want to look better. The majority of them come to me to lose weight, get in shape, get toned and get as muscular as possible. Most of the time everyone wants to lose weight, but some people want to get a little more muscular, a little bit bigger – generally the men. For the most part, people are just looking to get more toned and get that athletic look like they see in the magazines and on the covers and stuff like that.

Marc Jay: The LVAC is open 24 hours a day so people are literally here all times of the day or night?

Dustin Richter: Yes – 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. There are always people in here and it’s unlike any other gym you’ll go to, especially in this town because it’s the least busy in the morning and then gets busier and busier during the day until the night. At other gyms it’s more in the morning or at night, but seeing as Las Vegas is a 24-hour town, everyone is on a different schedule. There are people here all day long and it just gets busier and busier as the day goes on.

Marc Jay: When people sign up and join here they get assigned a trainer. Can they request you? How does that part work?

Dustin Richter: When people get memberships here they have the option to get a trainer once a month. Generally, not to take anything away from them, there are trainers who are looking to get established or be able to train here, whereas the independent trainers that don’t work for the club have already had their clients, put in the time, or brought enough members and when they started here as trainers, didn’t have to work for the club. So, if you want to work with the more experienced trainers, they’re generally going to be the independent, self-employed ones, who are able to pay their bills and stay busy without the help and assistance from the club where they work.

Marc Jay: My understanding is that you must work at multiple times because your clients may want you at 8 in the morning or at midnight. Do you work really crazy hours?

Dustin Richter: Yeah, I’ll start my first client at 4:30 in the morning. It’s generally between 4:45 and 5:00 that I start, but I’ll start as early as 4:30 if I need to and then I’ll finish generally between 7:30 and 8:00 at night and I make myself available all throughout the day and I train people all throughout the day. I’ve gotten people who have requested to train at 3 in the morning or 11 at night, but there are certain hours that I don’t work because I don’t need it that bad at this point, but there are trainers who will be willing to do that if necessary.

Marc Jay: I know you work with most of the cool people in Las Vegas. Tell us about some of the clients you work with here and who you train.

Dustin Richter: The clients I see here are all over the board, but generally it’s your successful business people, entrepreneurs, generally upper-middle class clients who are looking to stay in shape or get in better shape. Then you have a lot of service industry people. We get a lot of them here because they have to look their best in order to make the most money (laughs) because everyone knows you have to look good to be in that industry. Then I’ll get athletes, and some small-time celebrities. I’ve got a professional poker player I’ve trained for six years now. We get celebrities that come in and out all day long, too. Sometimes we’ll get people who are in town visiting because it is one of the best facilities here in Las Vegas, so we’ll get celebrity spottings every once in a while.

Marc Jay: Do any of the acts you see around Vegas, like Cirque du Soleil, come and train here or work out at these gyms?

Dustin Richter: Yes, there are some people from Cirque du Soleil who will come into the gym and train. There are different guys from the Excalibur shows, too. We get a lot of the male revue dancers and stuff from Thunder Down Under or the Chippendales. One of the Chippendales actually trains clients at the gym here, as well. But a lot of the Cirque du Soleil people don’t need a lot of training outside of their routines, but we get a lot of athletes in town, as well, when they’re training for boxing matches and stuff like that. They’ll come in and train here as part of their training camps.

Marc Jay: I watch this show “The Biggest Loser” – I’m a fan of it and I love the show and I just love the way people go from 250 lbs. to like 120 lbs. It’s remarkable. Do you actually see people make that much of a difference in their appearances?

Dustin Richter: Yeah, I’ve helped people lose 60, 70, 80 lbs. and I see people in the gym who will lose 100 lbs. on their own, as well. It takes a very, very disciplined, very motivated and driven person to be able to accomplish that and it’s not easy. That show is not realistic at all because they’re in a controlled environment working out eight hours a day with trainers there. Most trainers aren’t like that. I don’t like the show because the trainers on there are just unrealistic as far as how far they push the people. If you take the average person off the street and do that to them they’d end up in the emergency room and wouldn’t be able to move for a week. Just like all reality TV, it’s unreal.

Marc Jay: Let’s talk about the gym for a minute. It seems almost like a warehouse full of equipment – what is this main room that we’re in right now.

Dustin Richter: The gym that we have here is about 85,000 square feet. It’s got a full cardio room with over 100 pieces of cardio equipment, full TVs, interactive TVs that you can hook your iPod up to and run them through the cardio equipment. We’ve got free weights, machines, and then a full running track around the whole facility which is 1/7th of a mile. We’ve got a swimming pool – which is a lap pool and a regular swimming pool – a sauna, a steam room and a Jacuzzi.

Marc Jay: Wow. There also looks to be a little café/bar here, so I guess you could come here and spend all day here, and I’m sure some people do.

Dustin Richter: Yeah, you can. There are a lot of people who come here even when they’re not working out to get their favorite protein shake or smoothie or salad. They’ve got breakfast sandwiches, everything you could possibly imagine. The one thing you have to remember, though, is that the just because it’s from the juice bar at the gym does not mean it’s healthy.

Marc Jay: We all know that getting in shape isn’t all about going to the gym, it’s also about eating right. Do you also give people advice on what to eat and what not to eat?

Dustin Richter: I do a ton of work with people on nutrition. It’s something that I’ve followed very closely and paid very close attention to and work very, very hard at with my clients because it is a huge part of their success. I can do everything possible in a perfectly controlled environment when you come in to train with me, but then what you do outside of the gym, I have no control over. So, I have to make sure that you know as much as possible and I give you all of the knowledge that I have and give you all the tools necessary to make the right choices and eat properly because if you’re trying to change the way you look, that’s like 75% of your results right there.

Marc Jay: So they have to stop the midnight Krispy Kreme runs?

Dustin Richter: (laughs) Well, it all depends. If that’s something they have to do, then I can work it into their meal plan, too.

Marc Jay: Let’s talk about you. You aren’t originally from Vegas, where are you from?

Dustin Richter: I was originally born in Omaha, Nebraska but I’ve been out here for almost 25 years now.

Marc Jay: And how did you fall into the fitness world?

Dustin Richter: I started lifting weights when I was in the 4th grade, my dad got me into it. Then once I was in my early teens, I realized how much I enjoyed it and wanted to get into training and that’s when I started to do all my studying, reading college textbooks and stuff like that. By the time I got into college and got old enough to become a trainer, I had already been studying it, learning it, doing as much as possible for many years prior to that.

Marc Jay: Now, if people want to use you and contact you as a personal trainer, do they have to come to this facility or would you go to them?

Dustin Richter: Yeah, I visit clients’ homes as well. I’ve had people who have wanted me to train them at their hotels, I can train at different locations, if need be, as long as it works out for the both of us.

Marc Jay: How do we find you? Do you have a website or an email address?

Dustin Richter: Yeah, my website is www.hthpersonaltraining.com, that’s HTH as in “Happiness Through Health” personal training and then my email is hthpersonaltraining@hotmail.com.

Click here to follow Marc Jay on Twitter!


Marc Jay Interviews the Notorious DJ Skribble

posted on 03.26.2010

I’m sitting here with the legend just before he goes on stage at Studio 54. I wouldn’t even call him a DJ, because he’s much more than a DJ – he’s a presenter, he’s the man who made it all happen. I’ve enjoyed listening to him for many years, and here he is, DJ Skribble.

Marc Jay: So, we’re here at Studio 54 which will be your new home in Vegas for a while now. Tell us a little bit about what’s going on.

DJ Skribble: Well, they’re calling it DJ Skribble’s “Freak Show” and it’s going to be just that. It’s going to be a Carnival-type theme, but a twisted Carnival-type theme – a lot of ear care, a lot of eye candy and me DJing and hopefully taking everybody on that musical ride as well as all the visual stuff that’s going to be going on around it. I’m not allowed to really let the details out of the bag because I want everyone to just see it. But it’s pretty cool – it’s not gross, but it’s twisted.

Marc Jay: I love all of your shows because the freaks do come out, hence the name “Freak Show.” Now, you’ve been DJing for many, many years, and I’ve known you for about 10, but what made you decide that you wanted to be a DJ?

DJ Skribble: I was coming home from school one day and I passed the park and they were throwing this Park Jam and this kid was playing music with two turntables and a mixer and I was like, “What the hell is that?” I was 11 years old and I was just drawn to it and watching this crowd just go absolutely nuts to every record he was playing and what he was doing. I was just hooked on it. So I saved up enough money to get turntables and my first set of turntables were SLB-100s with a belt-driven straight arm, you know, couldn’t do anything with them. I would just practice every day after school until the music got too loud in my house and my dad kicked me out into the garage. Then when it was too loud out in the garage, he would just cut the circuit breakers on me and pop me when I was making mix tapes. I kept going, got into college radio and then I became the DJ for the group Young Black Teenagers. That took me around the world for five years with Public Enemy, Anthrax, Sisters of Mercy, Primus, you know, so many different groups. That was like my college. That’s where I learned about the music game and the music business.  Then I did Hot 97 with Dr. Dre and Ed Lover in New York on the morning show and then I started doing Yo! MTV Raps. I did Spring Break for MTV in ’98 and then they asked me to do a show called the Daily Burn which was this exercise show at the Jersey Shore – my first season was at the Jersey Shore, so I was like the original Jersey Shore cast member (laughs). So I was doing the show and my manager was like, “Yeah, they want you to DJ, but you have to do this exercise show,” and I looked at him like he was out of his mind. I thought my career was over, but I did it, and luckily I did, because after that summer I got MTV Jams, Sisqo’s Shakedown, The Grind, and pretty much any TV show that was on MTV at the time, and that took me to the world.

Marc Jay: Most people know you from your MTV days, but how did that all come about? You got to film in different locations and on beaches all around the world, so tell us a bit about that.

DJ Skribble: Global Groove was all around the world. We got to film in Australia, London, Japan, Italy, Spain – we filmed it all over. We actually shot most of it where I was, in New York, but I would send the music out to the different locations and then they would shoot it, and that’s how they did the split-screen, which made it look like it was live.

Marc Jay: Before those days the DJs were always sort of hidden, they were in the back of the scene. You were kind of like the first person to come forward and became everyone’s hero for being a DJ.

DJ Skribble: I’d definitely like to think that I opened up a bunch of doors and definitely put a face on the DJ. I was the first DJ to play live on television and show what we really do up there, not just like a disc jockey at a radio station or a wedding DJ that’s, you know, playing at a wedding – we perform. Guys like myself, Qbert, we were all coming up and finally showing the faces to everybody.

Marc Jay: Now I know you’re based on the East Coast, and you’re a family man now, so tell us a little about your family and your life there.

DJ Skribble: It’s cool. I have two little boys, ages five and three, and it gets a little rough now with the traveling because my son’s always waiting at the door like, “Can I come with you” and “Where are you going today,” but it’s cool because now he gets it. When he sees me on TV or he sees different things he’s like, “That’s my daddy,” so that’s pretty cool. The hardest part is leaving them, obviously, but it’s something that pays the bills. It has to be done. 

Marc Jay: This show, The Jersey Shore, which is obviously a phenomenon all around America at the moment, is sort of like your home; you’re an East Coast boy. Do you watch the show? What do you think of the cast?

DJ Skribble: I think they’re great. They couldn’t have picked a better cast and, you know, it started out to be a bunch of meathead guidos and guidettes but they’ve grown so much as a cast and are doing so many things now. I mean, Pauly was always a DJ and a lot of people are hating on him, but he’s got a lot to learn and he’s still coming out, and he’s getting that experience from the show. It’s like I say in every interview, it’s like being on the farm leagues in baseball and then being put on the Yankees in 24 hours. I mean, that’s kind of the success that they’ve had. You know, I’ve had a steady ascent, but they just shot up like rocket ships. It’s a lot to take in all at once.

Marc Jay: I remember my first time coming to meet you. I was picking up you and your tour manager and we had a limo and a big van. I was like, “Why are there two cars for two people?” I think you came off the plane with 16 bags of records.

DJ Skribble: Yeah, 13 record boxes.

Marc Jay: I was like, “This guy is playing for five or six hours, how does he have so many records?”

DJ Skribble: I was playing house music before it was cool to play house music, so I would have six boxes of hip hop and six boxes of dance music with me at all times. It’s not like now when you have Serato and everything’s on a little hard drive. I mean, I still use the vinyl versions of the programs that I use, but it’s all on the computer now.

Marc Jay: So now you only have to travel with one bag.

DJ Skribble: That’s it. It’s amazing.

Marc Jay: It’s great, but do you ever miss the days of going to the stores and swapping records?

DJ Skribble: Oh, absolutely. When you went to the stores you would always see other DJs there, you would talk, and it was so funny sometimes because some of the records at that time were so hard to get. You know, music is so accessible now because of the internet, but if you didn’t get to the record store when those shipments came in and there were only three or four of that import that was so hot, then you missed it and that was it. Even then there was no CD burning, so it was like you had to be at the record store. It was kind of where everybody congregated and hung out.

Marc Jay: On average, how many shows do you do in a year?

DJ Skribble: Around two and change, something like that.

Marc Jay: What was the most memorable show that you’ve done?

DJ Skribble: The most memorable show, hands down, was when I went to Iraq in November and I was the first DJ to headline a USO tour along with Naughty by Nature and I got to play for the troops. That was the most gratifying, memorable show. I mean, I’ve played everything from the NFL to Disney to the World Series, but that one, to go over and play for them, was incredible. The last show that we did was in Saddam Hussein’s old soccer stadium in his hometown of Tikrit, the one he used to execute people in. We were performing in front of this huge 300-foot American flag and we’re looking around and just seeing all these kids’ faces – and that’s what they are, kids, they’re like 18, 19 years old kids over there for us. It was so gratifying.

Marc Jay: What do you have coming up in the future? And what is your website, where can people find you and track what you’re up to?

DJ Skribble: The new album is out in stores now, Dance Nation, on Thrive/Def Jam and you can obviously come see me every week here in Las Vegas at Studio 54. You could also check me out at DJskribble.com, at DJskribble on Twitter, DJ Skribble on Facebook… what else do I have? Oh, DJskribble.tv. Yeah, I’m a media whore.

Marc Jay: Also, your great agent, Sujit, who I love to pieces, is over at Skam Artist. How long have you been with them now?

DJ Skribble: It was a year in January and it was the best move and decision I’ve made in my entire life.

Marc Jay: He has a team of beautiful ladies who look after you.

DJ Skribble: Yes he does, “Skam Moms” we call them. They take good care of us but we drive them crazy (laughs). Especially me, I know I drive everybody nuts.

Marc Jay: I know you’ve got to rush to the booth now. I appreciate it and I know it’s going to be a crazy night and thank you again.

DJ Skribble: Thanks for having me, man. I’ve been looking forward to this. This has been something that I’ve been gearing up to and I have a home now every week. It’s just awesome. Every Saturday night, Studio 54, MGM Grand, DJ Skribble’s Freak Show. Please come out, you’re not going to be sorry.

Click here to follow Marc Jay on Twitter!

 

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