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General Tire Mint 400 Off-Road To Return to Las Vegas!

Plus: The Palazzo Preps for Chinese New Year, Martin Nievera Does Special Performance at Golden Nugget, and more...

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The world-renowned General Tire Mint 400 Off-Road race has been acquired by the Martelli Brothers—partners in the nationally recognized marketing/production group, Mad Media. The brothers immediately signed a multi-year partnership with, Casey Folks, of the “Best in the Desert” off-road racing fame, to manage the event, and also retained the race creator, Norm Johnson (this columnist), as a consultant.

The Mint 400 will now become part of the “Best in the Desert American Off-Road Racing Series,” and will continue to definitely remain open to privateers. Hundreds of race teams have indicated they are looking forward to the return of the Mint 400, and those glorious days of the late ‘60s and ‘70s. The Mint had its first race in April, 1968, and was proclaimed a classic after that race by legendary motorsports commentator/journalist, Chris Economaki. The 2012 Mint 400 will take place the weekend of March 23-25, in Las Vegas, Nevada.

Mint 400 Technical Inspection

The Martelli brothers, Matt and Josh, and Folks, have already begun to improve the event (it was promoted by a Las Vegas organization the last three years), by reinstating popular features from the Mint’s early years: A new 400-mile race course located in Jean, NV. (where some of the original Mint 400 races were held), will feature a high speed passing zone near a dedicated spectator area, as well as rocky washes, silt beds, high-speed graded roads, and even a notorious rock garden. The famous Miss Mint 400 contest has also been re-instated. Technical inspection, which has always been a highlight of the weekend events, will continue to be held on Fremont Street, in Downtown Las Vegas, with added participation by the hotels.

In helping to bring back those memorial events, Mad Media reached out to me for assistance in public relations, and because of my background in off-road racing for more than 14 years, and as a promoter of a few other racing events in Nevada. In 1967, I was the director of advertising and publicity for the Mint Hotel, and that’s when I came up with the idea of an off-road race to promote the hotel’s Annual Deer Hunters promotion. After the first race, I was promoted to another Del Webb property, the Thunderbird Hotel, on the Las Vegas Strip, but remained a consultant on the race for a number of years, working closely with former NASCAR racer, Mel Larson, who was in charge of the race for several years into the ‘70s.

Mint 400 Historic Photo

I’m really excited about working with the new owners, and being back in the sport I truly love any form of auto racing! I believe what Matt and Josh (the Martelli brothers) and Casey have in mind for the revival of the Mint, is absolutely what the race has needed. Casey is a true competitor (having won the motorcycle class in 1973-74), and has proven to be a great promoter of desert racing. He knows the desert and the history of the Mint 400!

“We’ve expanded the reach of the Mint 400 dramatically, by partnering with for live tracking and web coverage during the race,” Joshua Martelli said. “We are determined to elevate the Mint 400 back to being the most important off-road motorsports event in the world, one year at a time.”

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A new kind of visitor arrived at The Palazzo Hotel last night, and will soon make its home in the resort’s Waterfall & Atrium Gardens. As the Year of the Dragon quickly approaches, The Palazzo’s horticulture team has been preparing for the auspicious holiday by transforming the resort into an oriental sanctuary. After arriving in two 18-wheel trucks, the dragon made its way into the resort through an impromptu entrance, and across the casino floor before arriving in the atrium. Once complete, the signature attraction will be suspended 19 feet in the air and measure in at a staggering 128-feet and 8,000 pounds. The Feng Shui-designed zodiac took more than a year to create, utilizing the talents of 50 designers, welders, and painters from across the globe. According to, Peter Lung, with local boutique, World of Feng Shui, it is good luck and will remove obstacles in the New Year to visit the dragon and walk around it three times in a clockwise motion. The red and gold water dragon will be installed over the next weeks, in time for the ceremonial dragon dance at 1 p.m. on Jan. 23, and will breathe fire and smoke at select times the first week of Chinese New Year.

Acclaimed Philippine Super Star and local favorite, Martin Nievera, will be giving a special performance called "An Evening with Martin Nievera" this Sunday, January 15th in the Golden Nugget Hotel's Gordie Brown Showroom at 6:00 p.m. The benefit is to raise money for the Philippines, after typhoon, Sendong, ravaged the southern part of the country, killing more than1500 people and displacing nearly 20,000 families. Tickets to the event are $50 and $75, and are available at the Golden Nugget box office. Purchase online at or by calling 702-386-8100 or toll free 866-946-5336.

Martin Nievera

On Monday, Jan. 30, Gary Anderson & Friends, will pay tribute to the world famous jazz club, The Lighthouse in Hermosa Beach, California, where West Coast "Cool School Jazz" was first played, and where one went if they wanted to hear the best players in the world on a Sunday afternoon. That’s where this writer, after I returned from Korea, could be found every weekend, sipping on a bottle of beer, and just hanging out. The tribute will take place inside the E-String Bar & Grill in Henderson, from 7:00 p.m. to 10:00 p.m. Howard Rumsey, who had been a journeyman bassist for many years, including time on the road with Stan Kenton's first band, and also playing with Charlie Barnet and Barney Bigard, was the key factor in its growth. Being too good of a musician for the club date scene, and not quite good enough for studio work, and tired of road life and being a sideman, Rumsey considered a career outside of music, when he wandered into a small bar in Hermosa Beach, California--

The Lighthouse Hermosa Beach

The Lighthouse Bar at 30 Pier Avenue, in the small beach town just south of Venice Beach, and its artist's enclave. It had been owned by John Levine since 1940, and at the time, Levine was also contemplating a change. Rumsey eventually convinced Levine to begin a new music policy, and the rest, as they say, is history. The club first began showcasing jazz on May 29, 1949, when Levine permitted Howard to start a recurring Sunday jam session on a trial basis. The experiment was a huge success, and before long Rumsey was running the place as club manager. He expanded the jazz policy to seven nights, and put together a house band called the Lighthouse All-Stars. I will expand on this subject again prior to the actual event on Jan. 30th. It’s a great story, and is authenticated in books on jazz, and biographies of those who passed through its front door, and the back door! I didn’t miss many Sundays, and was also there on some evenings during the week.

Well, gang, that’s about it for this week. I’m outa here!


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