John Curtas for Mayor

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If nominated, I will run. If elected, I will serve. – John A. Curtas

Yes, it’s true.

I’ve thought long and hard about this. I’ve decided to announce my candidacy for Mayor of Las Vegas. The election may be three years away, but if you know politics, you know it’s never too early to start laying the groundwork for a campaign.

Rest assured constituents, I have given serious thought to this and my platform, and after 40 years in Vegas, I consider myself pretty darned qualified to solve most of the problems plaguing our fine city.

My platform is outlined below, and as with all strongly-held political ideologies, it is the product of deep thought, experience, erudition and introspection, most of which came to me in the usual manner: after my fourth bottle of wine at a three hour lunch.

So here goes….

Fremont Street

Exotic entertainers — whether posing as flaming-ly gay Batman, or Diaperman, or a 77 year old in a slingshot bikini — have made Fremont Street such a pleasant stroll for kids of all ages. I say it’s high time we embrace them as symbols of our resurgent city:

Street performers test limits in Las Vegas, L.A. and New York - South Florida Sun-Sentinel

Downtown Re-gentrification –

Downtown is a rapidly re-gentrifying area where your morning latte or artisanal pizza is often interrupted by a boulevardier either asking for money or doing something far less appetizing.

Somewhere, these flaneurs got the idea that they have the CONSTITUTIONAL RIGHT to intrude on my sight lines when I’m parsing the distinctions between a ‘o9 Nuits-Saint-Georges, and a ’15 Savigny-les-Beaune. (THIS IS UNACCEPTABLE.)

Therefore, I hereby propose the following solution, which some of the hoi polloi might resist, but I’m told could be a handy-dandy remedy:

soylent-green-riot-truck(Get off my lawn!)

Am I a genius or what?

Red Light District

Mormon Missionary Positions — Neil DaCosta(Saved!)

Oscar was all for it and so am I. Prostitution needs to legalized and we need to put our bordellos directly behind the Mormon Church on West Charleston. This will kill two birds with one stone: souls will be saved left and right (see above), and sister-wives will be given another option.

Open Carry

Not only do we have the right to carry high-caliber firearms on our persons at all times, it should also be mandatory. If elected, my first ordinance will be to require all citizens to strap on if they want to reside within the City Limits. This will have many benefits: safety, security, and looking like a badass being primary among them:

Photo credit thetruthaboutguns.com(You? Talking to me?)

Defund the Police

With every citizen being heeled to the max; cops will become as obsolete as drug laws. I for one, am looking forward to citizens of all stripes enforcing zoning ordinances from behind the muzzle of finely-crafted, cold hard steel.

Speaking of drugs…

Free Drugs!

melissa etheridge smoking GIF by #ActionAliens(Dottie’s, here I come!)

Why not? Las Vegas was built on the free cocktail, why shouldn’t some grandma loosing her paycheck at a slot machine be given a toke or complimentary line of crystal meth to keep her going? You think conventioneers spend more when they’re drunk, just give ’em a free hit and watch the gambling drop increase geometrically. (NO ONE DENIES THIS!)

Happy Endings for Everyone!

Think about it. You’ve had a hard day at the office. The wife’s out of town, or you’re conventioneering with 10,000 of your closest Consulting Actuaries friends. After a long day of plotting withdrawal liabilities and DC Retirement Income Options, you decide a little stress relief is at hand.

Lucky for you, there are plenty of ladies out there to lend you one. (“You want me touch you there? You pay twenty dollar more.”) It’s high time we celebrate these hard-working lasses for the public service they perform. If you think it’s easy working night and day, stroking flacid, flocculent, flabby egos over and over and over again until they erupt in a flow of gratitude, try it sometime. (WAIT. WHAT?)

Taxes –

I am totally in favor of taxes, as long as I don’t have to pay them.

Drinking in City Hall –

No longer will it banned; it will now be encouraged. Government workers are the unsung heroes of our nation — dealing with everything from stop signs to skyscrapers to getting cats out of trees. These people need a break, and a drink.

Poverty –

People have told me that poverty exists and this has caused me great distress. Not the poverty, but that people keep telling me about it.

Education –

Let the record show that I am 57% behind public education of your snotty-nosed, imbecilic little rug rats.

Woke Political Correctness –

Will be strictly enforced. Everyone at City Hall will henceforth refer to everyone else as “it.”

In conclusion, my fellow citizens, it is obvious we need new leadership around City Hall. Leadership not afraid to tell the truth about the issues facing us. The truth about war, inequality, pestilence, budgetary constraints, and where to find properly chilled vintage champagne.

More importantly, I will never lie to you. My priorities as your mayor will be up-front and firmly established:

Ego satisfaction

Personal Comfort

Pocket Lining

Self-promotion

So please plan on casting your vote for John A. Curtas for Mayor of Las Vegas when the time comes…and in the meantime, help me find some hardworking, underpaid, illegal immigrant to drive me around in my new ride (paid for by the taxpayers, of course)…

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…preferably someone with big tits.

HUGO’S CELLAR Dweller

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If you really want to get deep in the philosophical weeds sometime, try thinking too much about what constitutes “good taste.” Objectivity, subjectivity, professional norms, expert opinions, philosophical treatises*— they’re all there to dazzle and confuse you.

There is no accounting for taste, the saying goes, and trying to impose your ideas of such on another is a losing proposition. Some people love Mozart; others favor the banjo. You may be anosmic, your wife may be a super-taster. Many upwardly-mobile types crave the furnishings they see in design magazines, while an Italian countess would scoff at such monochromatic dreariness.

Of course, the best tasting things generally could be said to be in good taste, but the converse might not be true. (See, I’m already confusing you.) You might find the sour, aged pungency of classic Roquefort cheese to be exquisite, and ordering it might be thought of as being in the best of “taste,” but it is easy to imagine that others might find such bracing, cultured gaminess repellent — to their palate if not their less-sensory sensibilities.

I could argue that people like big, jammy California wines because they haven’t learned to appreciate the nuances of Pinot Noir (in the same way a music teacher disdains rock and roll in favor of Miles Davis), but to many, the former taste good and the latter do not. Does this mean I have better taste than they do? I would argue yes, but they could argue just the opposite and they would not be wrong.

Good taste is accumulative. Good taste is experiential and highly personal, and at the end of the day, it is not worth the contentiousness to argue otherwise. Which is why one can view the enduring popularity of Hugo’s Cellar only through the lens of those who love it.

Image(Let’s do the Time Warp!)

To love Hugo’s you have to enjoy getting there. And to get there, you have to negotiate the casino floor of the Four Queens — a joint that’s been around since 1966 and has the decor to prove it.

Saying the Four Queens has seen better days is like saying Rudy Giuliani might have a bit of an image problem.

Many have trod here over the decades — locals and tourists alike — strolling to the short stairwell in the middle of the casino which descends to the “cellar” (top of the page).

What they seek when they enter is not “good taste” but, to their minds, something that simply tastes good. To many, this is what Hugo’s is and always has been: a trip down memory lane. This is what “gourmet” was back in the 80s and this is still how it ought to be, right down to the two sides on every plate. Hugo’s revels in its homage to the Seventies — a glorious ode to the kitschy dining of yore. And it does so without apology and with blissful ignorance of how restaurants have evolved.

Almost as fair warning, the menu is posted at the top of the stairs. Being both very long and difficult to read, it serves as a cautionary tale to anyone who thinks there will be cartwheels done in this kitchen. Along the staircase walls you’ll find the awards, most of which are for a wine list that would’ve been pretty impressive in 1992.

At the bottom of the stairs you’ll find a fake fireplace and the kind of brick paneling that was last in fashion when triple-knit leisure suits were all the rage. There is “art” on the walls too (having nothing to do with food), which provides an ersatz sense of hominess. and a low ceiling (and carpet) to enhance the coziness — the whole effect being to remind you of grandma’s rumpus room, circa 1969.

Thankfully, the carpet isn’t shag, although it really should be.

Image(An LBGTQ conundrum: who gets the rose?)

“Always a Touch of Class” is the tag line for the restaurant, and the promo materials offer “romantic and elegant dining with exquisite service in a casual setting.” We’ll leave it to less generous folks to parse the veracity of these assertions, but be forewarned: there is nothing casual going on when it comes to prices.

When it comes to the cooking, there is not a modern thought on the menu. No tweezer food here, no siree! This is protein, starch and veggie territory, gussied up just enough to justify the tariffs.

Here you will find such stalwarts as a table-side salad carte ($22); Fire-Grilled Chicken ($47); a very good Beef Wellington ($69); and a Chateaubriand for Two ($175).  By comparison, the crab cakes ($22) and escargot ($19) seem like relative bargains. By design, the menu lists all pricing in script (as in “Forty-six dollars” for vegetarian, ricotta-Stuffed Jumbo Shells), presumably to soften (or disguise) the sticker shock.

Appetizers arrive without fanfare and without finesse. Calling the crab meat “lump” is a stretch, but it’s is cooked and seasoned well, with a piquant citrus aioli to spice things up. Those nineteen dollars escargot are topped with a little puff pastry hat, no doubt plopped thereon to convey fanciness. After these, the salad carte arrives (beware any noun with a superfluous “e” attached) and things begin to nosedive.

Image(Hail sodden Caesar!)

What may have seemed charming forty years ago, now appears formulaic and metronomic, as the staff** goes through the motions with all the enthusiasm of a mortician embalming his 5,000th body.

At their first “performance” (after bored menu recitations and silverware dropped (literally) on the table), you notice the too-cold lettuce drenched with pre-made dressing (above). Then comes the accoutrements showmanship comprised of the following: “You want anchovies?” Mr. Personality inquires. “Yes, please,” and in they go with all the panache of a cop writing a traffic ticket — all of it to no great effect, other than the oohs and ahhs of other tables. You’re basically at a by-the-numbers salad bar with your own, sullen salad-tosser.

Image(Consider yourself cleansed. Photo courtesy of @VegasSkinny)

At some point a “palate cleanser” shows up in the form of a small scoop of sorbet sitting in one of those sugar cones boasting the structural integrity (and taste) of balsa wood. About the same time, a second bread basket replaces the first and is just as stale.

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Then, your sixty-nine dollar Wellington arrives (above) and the head-scratching begins. “Who is buying this stuff?” you ask yourself. Are the tables of cargo shorts enamored of sixty dollar steaks? Are the nice, 70-something gray-hairs behind you wowed by fifty buck Raspberry Chicken? Perusing the wine list, you see pages of bottles costing hundreds of dollars, and you’d bet your last Bonnes Mares Burgundy there hasn’t been a three-hundred dollar bottle of Bordeaux sold here in this century.

But the crowds come, oh yes they do. All I had to to was put some pics of Hugo’s on my social media platforms and dozens of “I love that place,” and “so romantic” comments came pouring forth.

What do they love, exactly? And in what “good taste” do they trust? This is where you have to get philosophical. What Hugo’s is selling is familiarity. And memories. And consistency in the service of 1970s banality. The very things a food snob might criticize is what keeps the customers coming back.

Image(Sea bass “Béarnaise” + ubiquitous Brussels)

Sure, the twenty-one dollar prosciutto-wrapped shrimp is way too salty. Of course the fifty-five dollar Maple Bourbon Duck is a bit overcooked and none too crispy. But who cares if the seventy-one dollar sea bass is dappled with a sorry excuse for Béarnaise? Nobody here wants to be challenged or dazzled by their food, they just want to be filled up by stuff they wouldn’t cook at home.

And at that level, Hugo’s fills the bill — this kitchen has churned out these dishes this way for so long, they meet the customers’ expectations like an episode of “Murder, She Wrote.”

If dessert you must, then the nineteen dollars Bananas Foster are flamed table-side for your amazement. The seven dollar Dessert Cart (no “e” necessary when you’re charging less than a sawbuck), looks to be straight from 1983, the first time I ever entered this time warp. They also give every female a long-stemmed red rose upon entering, which apparently also amazes the minions. (Pity the poor hostess who has to handle this transaction with the transgender crowd.)

Is any of this in “good taste” by 21st Century restaurant standards?

Absolutely not, and that’s exactly the point.

Dinner for three (three apps, three entrees, with a split dessert) came to $100/pp.)

HUGO’S CELLAR

Four Queens Casino Hotel

202 East Fremont Street

Las Vegas, NV 89101

702.385.4011

>>>>>>><<<<<<<<

*”Subjective universal judgments,” is how Immanuel Kant put it. In Kant’s world (the world of an 18th Century German philosopher – a world without black velvet Elvis “art”), the judgment that something is beautiful or sublime is made with the thought that other people ought to agree with this judgment — a sensus communis if you will — a community of taste, agreed to by a consensus of society. All of which sounds plausible until Slim Jims and Celine Dion are brought into the mix.

**to be fair, our sommelier was charming and helpful. The rest of the staff, when they spoke, acted like they were reciting the Pledge of Allegiance at gunpoint.

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Happy F*cking Thanksgiving

Governor Sisolak signs bill ensuring mail-in voting for Nevadans next election | KSNV(Trust me, I’m the Gubernator)

God I wish there was more to be thankful for this year….but when it comes to being grateful, my toasting cup is almost empty.

For the past 6  years we’ve cooked increasingly elaborate meals for a crowd ranging from 15-20 hungry souls. This year there will be six of us.

Friends as diverse as a 70 year old regular to 40 year old couples to a and healthy-as-a-horse 25 year old Millennial have begged off, citing, “I really don’t feel comfortable going to people’s houses” as the reason.

In other words, boneheaded government and fear-stoking media have done their jobs well(?) — continuing to convince a large segment of the public that this “pandemic” is as dangerous as the Bubonic Plague and Polio rolled into one.

Groupthink and fear are powerful tools. Perspective takes time and thoughtfulness, two things politicians abhor. At this point it will take a mighty strong vise to break the grip of these things on people’s psyches. Or a vaccine.

All we at ELV know is that common sense and logic haven’t worked. Even if a statistically tiny portion of people are getting infected (67 per 100,000 population in Clark County, Nevada at last count), and an even tinier number are actually dying from it, people’s sense of health and safety has been shaken to the core.

We shudder to think how long it will take to return things to normal.

So, rather than giving thanks this year, mostly all we have to give is concern — worrying for the future of so many things we hold dear. But that doesn’t mean we can’t still raise a glass to those who deserve a chorus of huzzahs for all we’ve been through this year. And so, with all the enthusiasm of man being led to the gallows, here they are:

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A toast to Las Vegas! Sin City, the boulevard of broken dreams, now broken. Thirty years of progress reduced to a ghost town in mere months. Now, it is a sad shell of itself — a convention city without conventions, empty and without purpose. Though conventions may be gone, our giant, forlorn hotels still beckon them with empty rooms, unused spaces, and the defeated countenance of twenty vertical Titanics about slip beneath the waves and into the sands of time. (Mix. That. Metaphor!)

Three cheers to all of the restaurant owners and workers who have kept up a game face through one bone-headed shutdown order after another. More than anyone, they have seen and felt the insanity over the past nine months. How any of them can smile about anything at this juncture is beyond me.

Carolyn Goodman is mom before mayor for adopted children | Las Vegas Review-Journal(She’s everything Sisolak isn’t: smart and nice)

Toast GIFs | Tenor

A clink of the martinis to Carolyn Goodman (full disclosure: my client), who got things right back in the Spring and got crucified for it on social media. Las Vegas needed to open up and it did, to none of the plague-like, super-spreader consequences so many were predicting. To all of those who vilified her, we wish nothing more for you than a day of eating crow.

Let us hoist a cup (or three) to the nimrods and know-nothings, to the knuckledraggers and the MAGA hat-wearing, face mask dismissing, rock-hard conservatives who pointedly politicized this Covid crisis by objecting to the government ruining people’s lives (and livelihoods) in the name of keeping them “safe.” Not since the Vietnam logic of “We had to destroy the village in order to save it,” has government stupidity been writ so large before us. Without these noisy conservatives, no one would be calling out these continuing affronts to common sense and human freedom.

A Toast GIFs | Tenor

While we’re at it, let’s pop some corks tomorrow for all the liberals — those folks who really really care about everyone — who want government to do its utmost (at whatever cost) to fight the virus. Every yin needs a yang, and every selfish, libertarian asshole needs the counterpoint of some clueless do-gooder who thinks she can save the world.

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And speaking of cluelessness, let’s bend the elbow for our Gubernator in Chief, Steve Sisolak, who reminds us of a burly bear caught in the headlights of his own contradictions. He hasn’t gotten anything right yet, but dadgummit, he’s still trying to fight Mother Nature with the only tool he has: seating arrangements.

gif movie alfred hitchcock glass apartment toast 1954 james stewart Hitchcock rear window hollywoodmarcia •

Finally, let us drink to 2020, to the death counts, the infection rates, the curve-flattening, the hyperbolic media, and the gullible public. To social media that fanned these flames. To people jogging and driving with masks on. To those huddled in their caves. To the constant stream of fear-mongering that millions swallowed hook, line, and sinker, never thinking to ask, “Why don’t they show us all the people who have recovered from Covid? Or at least mention them?” Here’s to all of this and all of them, for they got exactly what they deserved…even if the rest of us didn’t.

And, because it IS Thanksgiving, we should take stock of how grateful we are for the things that we truly are thankful for. In my life, today, these would include:

A 96 year old mother who is as spry and sharp as she was at 50.

Two wonderful sons who have found two quality women to share their lives with.

Totally adorable grand-kids.

A wife who puts up with me.

A job that is a perfect fit for this time in my life.

A house that I love.

Good friends, both new and old.

All those who follow me on social media, and you who are reading these words right now. Though blogs and blogging have diminished across the board over the past ten years (and Covid will be the death of food writing), I still cherish what few “regs” I have who take the time to read my stuff and reach out to me when they can. G. B. Shaw once said, “There is no love sincerer than the love of food,” and by that token, there are no more fascinating people than those who share a love of good food and drink.

A closet full of decent wine whenever I’m thirsty.

Along those lines: Mail order wine…and food….because the selections in both in this town basically suck harder than a Sisolak presser.

My health.

My wife’s health.

My wife’s body.

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The restaurants of Las Vegas and all who work in them.

And for Las Vegas itself I am thankful — a town with which have have had a 40 year love-hate relationship, but has allowed me to pursue my passion for 25 years, and gain a great deal of notoriety in doing so.

For these and many other things I am eternally beholden for what they bring to my life on a daily basis.

On a sour note, for this year of Covid idiocy, I wish nothing more than a bucket of rancid natural wine, and a salmonella-infected slab of putrid headcheese. Here’s to you, 2020:

Happy F*cking Thanksgiving