When George Maloof opened the Palms Casino Resort in Las Vegas in late 2001, the world was still reeling from the 9/11 terrorist attacks. Tourism was way down, the hotels on the Strip had laid off as many as 12,000 workers and there were those in Vegas who cautioned Maloof not to open.
Las Vegas was also struggling with an identity crisis, having just cast aside an ill-conceived strategy to promote itself as a family destination and return to its adult-themed roots. But larger resorts on the Strip were still coming to terms with the adults-only demographic.
Then the Palms opened, and the road was laid bare.
First, Maloof welcomed Hollywood back to Vegas. When he heard that MTV was scouting locations for its popular "Real World" series, Maloof persuaded the network to take a chance on his new casino hotel by investing $1 million to convert seven rooms on the hotel's 28th floor into a luxury, over-the-top suite.
Then he gave the show's producers permission to film anywhere, anytime.
He brought Paris Hilton as his date for the hotel's grand opening, a star-studded event welcoming stars such as Matt Dillon, Samuel L. Jackson and Tara Reid.
The cameras were everywhere. The press coverage was priceless.
Finally, Maloof joined forces with nightlife gurus the N9NE Group and opened two of the hottest nightclubs in Las Vegas. Suddenly the "What Happens" in the new Las Vegas mantra "What Happens in Vegas, Stays in Vegas" was happening at the Palms.
Maloof had birthed a celebrity playground, and he made sure that everybody knew about it.
The Palms attracted a younger demographic, the MTV generation. Gambling became an afterthought, just another vice in a city of many vices.
The new Las Vegas had arrived, and other hotels soon followed suit.
The second coming
The new Palms Place Hotel & Spa, a condo-hotel sister property to Maloof's original Palms Casino Resort, doesn't stray an inch from the Vegas casino resort impresario's successful, celebrity-fueled marketing strategy.
Connected via a moving walkway, the "SkyTube," to the resort's signature hotel and casino, the 47-story, 599-unit Palms Place is a celebrity home away from home. It's no secret that a number of famous names reportedly landed lavish condos at the resort, including Jessica Simpson, Hulk Hogan and Eminem.
Palms Place units range from 600-square-foot studios and 1,200-square-foot one-bedroom suites to lavish penthouses ranging from 2,000 to 7,000 square feet.
All rooms come complete with fully stocked gourmet kitchens; two 42-inch plasma TVs; LCD flat-screen TVs in bathrooms; expansive showers with multijet massage showerheads and large rainfall showerheads; jetted bathtubs; hardwood and marble flooring; nine-foot ceilings; king-size beds and additional queen-size sleeper sofas.
One-bedroom suites boast multiple balconies, a living room with a fireplace, and a laundry closet with a washer and dryer. Penthouse suites add outdoor whirlpool spas cantilevered out over the edge of the building.
No self-respecting celebrity would dare set foot in a Las Vegas property that didn't sport a resident celebrity chef, and at Palms Place that role is filled by longtime Las Vegas luminary Kerry Simon.
The hotel's only eatery, Simon at Palms Place, breaks new ground in restaurant design, set amid lush gardens and skirting one half of the resort's 50,000-square-foot swimming pool and outdoor fire pit.
Simon's menu includes fashionable favorites like spicy yellowtail roll; wood oven-baked pizzas; and 20-ounce, bone-in ribeye steaks.
Maloof and company set out to redefine the traditional Las Vegas lobby bar with the Rojo Lounge, a swanky alcove off the main lobby serving classic cocktails with sophisticated twists.
Favorite cocktails include the Raspberry Rojo, the French Quarter and the Mandarin Mojave.
Finally, Maloof hasn't forgotten that guests will want a massage, a killer tan and a new hairdo to complement their stay at Palms Place.
The property's Drift Spa boasts the only hammam (Turkish bath) in Las Vegas, a co-ed retreat where ambient heat and steam intermingle to lower your stress quotient. The two-story spa also offers indoor, hot and cold soaking pools; steam and sauna pods; private outdoor garden lounges; and an extensive treatment menu.
The spa's full-service Primp Salon is helmed by celebrity color specialist Michael Boychuck, stylist to stars such as Nicky and Paris Hilton, Kirsten Dunst, Josie Bissett and Donna D'Errico.
To keep tans in top shape, Maloof has drawn from his long-running association with reality TV programming and recruited Sunset Tan, a Los Angeles tanning facility featured on a reality series on the E cable network, to open its first location outside of California on site.
So while Palms Place can't promise to make guests into instant celebrities, they may find themselves sharing an elevator with rock 'n' roll or reality TV royalty.
And the hotel's A-list suites and amenities can certainly ready them for their close-ups.