Flamingo looks to attract younger guests with edgy makeover

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In another example of the transformation of Las Vegas hotels, the classic Flamingo Las Vegas has introduced new guest rooms, a revamped show lineup, an adjacent tattoo parlor and a topless pool area. 

Occupying a prime plot of Strip real estate directly across from Caesars Palace, the Flamingo, established in 1946, had until recently been considered a faded midmarket property ripe for a turnaround strategy.

Aside from engineering a tropics-themed pool/garden area 14 years ago, hotel management shied away from wholesale modifications, until now. The changes, evident in a recent weekend inspection, are aimed at attracting younger customers. 

"This is not your granddaddy's Flamingo anymore," said Don Marrandino, president of the Flamingo. "We're evolving, and we want to be the hip value property."  

Notwithstanding the significant portion, about 40%, of Flamingo customers who are gamblers, the property's evolution is key to drawing the remaining 60% to fill rooms in its six towers.

Highlighting the makeover are the new Flamingo GO rooms, which are a blend of form and function.

The new pink

The GO room experience begins at check-in, when guests are given a CD with a down-tempo rock compilation specially designed for the resort.

Hallways are painted with stripes in flamingo pink. Patrons entering their room find an edgy look that doesn't compromise comfort.

Room decor, with liberal splashes of pink, is striking and handsome. Call it a fusion of South Beach chic, Los Angeles cool and retro hip.

A frosted-glass wall and door play peek-a-boo with the bathroom, which is bathed in pink light. A stylish, raised sink basin sits on a marble countertop across from a sizeable, all-glass stall shower with jet showerheads. Bath soaps are not scented; other amenities are lightly scented.

White vinyl headboards back the pillow-top mattresses, which are fitted with triple sheets and flanked with chrome LED reading lights. Nonfunctional, white drapery adorns the bedroom walls, a smart look. 

All accommodations feature a full Denon sound system with iPod docking station, a CD/DVD player, electronically controlled window treatments and WiFi Internet connectivity. 

The impressive electronic set-up is completed with a 42-inch, flat-panel TV and a smaller flat-panel TV installed behind the glass of the bathroom mirror.

The lone tacky touch is the room product price list, offering everything from the bathroom glasses to the bed ensemble for sale.

By November, a third of the room renovations at the 3,545-room Flamingo will be completed. The demolition of the property's original garden wing in 1993 made way for the lushly landscaped, 15-acre tropical pool and wildlife habitat. 

Since then, the area has been home to exotic birds, waterfowl, turtles, penguins (now gone) and, of course, flamingos. The latest species introduced is likely to be the most noticed: the topless human female.

In a nod to a trend sweeping Las Vegas, the topless GO pool premiered on May 19. Ladies will be admitted free; men must pay a cover charge ranging from $10 to $20.

Providing even more of an edge is the adjacent Vince Neil Ink tattoo shop, the Strip's first such establishment inside a casino. 

The Motley Crue rocker visits the eponymously named, 1,230-square-foot establishment from time to time to check in and to supplement his personal tattoo collection in the Strip View Room, a fishbowl-style space visible to passersby on the Strip sidewalk.

Nearby, Parrotheads will feel right at home while dining and drinking at the massive, tropics-themed Jimmy Buffett's Margaritaville. The multilevel restaurant and entertainment complex is in constant party mode with stilt walkers, music videos and live performances.

In a Key West-meets-Vegas twist, a bikini-clad woman pops out of a volcano on the hour, then slips down a water slide into a giant green margarita. She's then fished out and proceeds to dance for the adoring throng.

The entertainment

Nighttime entertainment leans toward the sensual, as R&B singer Toni Braxton headlines in the Flamingo showroom with a heavily choreographed set featuring a troupe of sexy dancers.

Braxton is booked through the end of 2007. Marrandino said that the singer is a good fit for the Flamingo, given its new image.

"She's relevant, fashionable, sexy and still has great pipes," he said.

"X Burlesque" is the Flamingo's late-night, topless adult revue, and comedian George Wallace appears at 10 p.m., five nights a week. Wallace's show is a "four-waller," a little-known business arrangement whereby the entertainer essentially bankrolls the production and marketing of his own show while paying rent to the house. 

The typical four-waller entertainer is either a faded celebrity or a B-list performer who cannot secure a traditional fee-based contract.

This arrangement virtually removes financial risk from the hotel while transferring it almost completely to the performer. 

Unfortunately, as in Wallace's case, four-waller performers often devote a sizeable chunk of their show to plugging their CDs, books, DVDs, T-shirts and such, which are conveniently available for sale as patrons exit the showroom.

For more information on the hotel, call (800) 732-2111 or visit www.flamingolasvegas.com.

To contact the reporter who wrote this article, send e-mail to [email protected].

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