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Vegas: New Strip Club Offers Smorgasbord of Adult Fun

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New strip club offers smorgasbord of adult fun

The mainstreaming of Las Vegas strippers is ratcheting up again. Many hotels bring strippers to pools, plus stripper-like dancers to casinos.

Now a strip club called the Playground is ushering in another new paradigm -- the one-stop shopping multiplex: Strippers in one room. A rock club and sushi bar in another room. A dance club in a third room. A hookah lounge in a fourth room. And a video game suite in VIP.

More notable: Famous rockers Jerry Cantrell (of Alice in Chains), Scotty Ian (of Anthrax) and other rockers have formed a supergroup called Dead Man's Band that will play as the rock room's house band. Their band logo has already been designed by renowned street artist Shepard Fairey.

"They're trying to make it a Viper Room of Las Vegas," says David Pappas, vice president of marketing. (The Viper Room: Johnny Depp's Sunset Strip club, where celebrities have partied and, incidentally, where River Phoenix overdosed.)

Dead Man's Band's residency would not be unlike Santana's at the Hard Rock. And starting in late August or shortly after, Dead Man's Band will inaugurate the room (called Dead Man's Hand), hoping to make it a flagship rock club that could be duplicated in cities around America, House of Blues-style.

"Their goal is to put that brand on the map" in Vegas and nationally, says Gino LoPinto, who oversees entertainment at the club.

It's not clear yet how often the band will play. Other groups are already performing rock, indie-rock, reggae, hip-hop and acoustic jams there.

Pappas says the supergroup is serious and sober. Some band member who toured the locale has famously been through rehab, he says, laughs and adds:

"They were all drinking Diet Coke."

Let me just remind you: This is a strip club we're talking about. It sits three blocks west of Mandalay Bay on Russell Road. It used to be Penthouse gentlemen's club. But the owner's group changed the name several weeks ago. The Penthouse-licensed name apparently didn't make it a go-to hot spot.

So now the topless club inside the Playground multiplex is named Crazy Horse III. It is not affiliated with Crazy Horse Too, the very popular strip club that went out of business after becoming the focal point of corruption and racketeering.

Although, renowned and reputed Vinny Faraci, who did time after the fall of Crazy Horse Too, has hosting duties at Crazy Horse III.

In an extraordinary sign of the economic times, the Playground is catering heavily to locals and industry workers, offering free limo rides, free admission, and at times (3-9 p.m. weekdays) even free cocktails with drink tickets. ("We don't want people getting hammered," Pappas says.)

The motto is "fun, fair and affordable," Pappas says.

Six weeks ago, Pappas -- the former Dean's List captain of the UNLV football team in the late 1980s -- quit his career as vice president of West Coast Operations at MGM-Mirage (after his MGM stocks value dropped from $1 million to basically zero), and he moved to the Playground.

At MGM, he persuaded high rollers to fly to Vegas, and he helped turned the Mirage's Revolution Lounge into a stage for local and national indie-band acts.

He gets sort of worked up, positioning the Playground as an antidote to hotel nightclubs that have been heavily criticized for charging customers thousands of dollars to enter and buy bottle service.

"I don't want all your money in one night. I want you to be a lifetime customer and give us money over a period of time," Pappas says.

At the Playground, he boasts, men and women can sit at chairs and booths and drink beer, without being hassled by hosts to drop more cash on bottles. And if a customer comes in wanting to spend big money on a bottle table, beer-drinking customers won't be tossed from their tables to make room, he claims.

Co-owner Nando Sostilio helped set up Penthouse, then went home to Boston, but came back to manage Playground. He says Playground's approach "has a lot to do with the economy," and it's good business to please locals and industry workers, "who drive the tourist business, too."

"If every bell desk and concierge in town likes coming here, they'll send people here," Sostilio says. "I'll never get rid of the locals program."

The multiplex has yet other renovations coming to the strippers' portion. And the hookah lounge is up and running, but looks spare for now and will get fancied-up. What's most striking about even the non-stripper nests of Playground is their vibe: comfortably, darkly lighted with a blissful lack of TVs.

A potential challenge: Not a lot of locals are familiar with this Russell neighborhood, two blocks east of I-15.

But LoPinto, who used to be at Spearmint Rhino, says that just takes time:

"Now, people say Spearmint Rhino is a good location. But back then" -- when it opened -- "no one knew where it is."

Both Sostilio and Pappas claim to have been turned off by Vegas' transition to "New York City prices" for hotel rooms, restaurants and clubs. Pappas says when a tourist leaves Vegas, he leaves with a story, and for too long that story has been how expensive the city became, and how unfriendly door workers got.

"Give me back my city," Pappas says, seeming quite riled up. "Give me back the love. Give me back what makes it great."

With so many elements in play at the club -- a stripper multiplex, rock stars and the Crazy Horse III name -- it will be interesting to see what the eventual story of the Playground will be.

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