April 8, 2012

What almost happened in Las Vegas

Great story -- I have seen the Fremont light show and believe me, this would have been a lot better. From designer Gary Goddard:
In 1992 downtown Las Vegas had become a distant second to the Las Vegas Strip. Where at one time, downtown Las Vegas was the center of the action, the increasing magnitude of the Las Vegas Strip, with the expansion of Caesar�s Palace, the Mirage having opened, and with more and more mega resorts on the way, 80% of the Las Vegas market was now on the Strip, leaving only 20% for the downtown casinos and hotels. The loss of business was turning the downtown area into a �ghost town� and something needed to be done quickly. The city needed an attraction � something of enough size and power to bring the people back to the downtown area.

They put the word out and a number of ideas were considered, with only two of the concepts getting down to the finals. One was �THE FREMONT EXPERIENCE�; and the other was �THE STARSHIP ENTERPRISE�. THE STARSHIP ENTERPRISE was created and designed by Gary Goddard and his team of designers at Landmark � Designer: Chuck Canciller; Illustrator: Greg Pro; Planner: Mac MacElrevey.

The competition called for something that would �become an attraction of such magnitude that it would draw people from the strip,� and ideally it was to also provide �a destination attraction� that would �re-establish the downtown core as the center of the action in Las Vegas.� A major task � one that would be almost impossible to achieve. The other catch was it could not be a hotel or a casino because the other hotels and casinos in the area were going to be paying for this attraction to bring people to THEIR places of business, not to have another competitor down the street.

My concept was to do something so large and so epic, it would fire the imaginations of people around the world. After looking at how difficult it would be to bring people to the downtown core (from the Strip), I knew we had to have something really exciting, dynamic, and without equal. We kicked around a few ideas, and then I came up with something really unique. I went to Chuck Canciller, my lead designer then � and a genius as well � and said, �What if we built the STARSHIP ENTERPRISE � FULL SCALE � on the land at the end of the street. Imagine that�� Chuck looked at me as if I had lost my mind, but by that time he also knew I was serious about big ideas like this. He immediately started working on some ideas.
And it fell to one man:
The Las Vegas downtown redevelopment committee had made its decision, along with Mayor Jan Jones. I was called to a meeting and told, privately, that THE STARSHIP ENTERPRISE was the choice of the committee, but they wanted confirmation that Paramount would indeed approve the deal. While Paramount Licensing loved it, and Sherry Lansing (then President of the Studio) loved it, it was made clear to us that a decision of this magnitude would need to have the approval of the Studio CEO who, at that time was Stanley Jaffe.

To make a long story short, Paramount (Licensing) and the redevelopment committee negotiated a basic deal, subject to the approval of the Studio Chairman. The Mayor of Las Vegas was involved and had also approved the basic deal. So everything came down to a major presentation at Paramount Studios on one weekday afternoon.

The Mayor flew in on a private jet along with the representatives from the downtown redevelopment committee. Sherry Lansing was there, the Paramount Studios licensing group executives were there, several key executives at Paramount were there, and of course, Stanley Jaffe, the decision maker. To be clear, EVERYONE loved the project up to this point � the entire Vegas downtown redevelopment committee loved the concept, the Mayor loved it, the Paramount Studios Vice President of Licensing and the entire licensing department loved it, as did Sherry Lansing. Everyone loved it � but now it was up to one man. Stanley Jaffe.

And I will never forget this meeting.
Needless to say, Jaffe waffled and said no. Now just who is Stanley R. Jaffe? From the Wikipedia article (in italics), he is connected (He is the son of Leo Jaffe, film executive and "Hollywood Deal Maker.) He produced a couple good movies (Goodbye Columbus), he was in 1970 appointed executive vice president and chief operations officer of Paramount Pictures. He worked independently for a bunch of years, went over to Columbia for a while and then: In 1991, he was named president and chief operating officer of Paramount Communications. When Viacom purchased Paramount in 1994, Jaffe was forced out and filed a lawsuit against Paramount for $20 million in a stock option dispute. The case was dismissed by the court in 1995. So the guy was CEO for three years and he blew off this incredible idea. In business, there is the Peter Principle:
In a hierarchy every employee tends to rise to his level of incompetence. Members are promoted so long as they work competently. Sooner or later they are promoted to a position at which they are no longer competent, and there they remain. In time, every post tends to be occupied by an employee who is incompetent to carry out his duties. Work is accomplished by those employees who have not yet reached their level of incompetence.
Mr. Stanley R. Jaffe is a perfect example of the Peter Principle... Posted by DaveH at April 8, 2012 7:05 PM
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