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August 29, 2014

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Cosmopolitan’s Rose. Rabbit. Lie. is to be Hip. Retro. Mysterious.

Image

Steve Marcus

John Unwin, CEO of Cosmopolitan Las Vegas, poses at the resort Monday, Oct. 22, 2012.

What’s the name Rose. Rabbit. Lie. mean, really?

Tomorrow Never Knows.

Beatles fans, and also those who follow this analogy, will get this comparison between one of the band’s greatest innovations and the new club set to open New Year’s Eve at the Cosmopolitan. “Tomorrow Never Knows” was a song whose lyrics were inspired by the “Tibetan Book of the Dead,” focusing on transcendental meditation. The music incorporated a sitar, recordings of seagulls wailing, a guitar solo played backward and a vocal filter that a critic once likened to “God shouting into a coffee can.”

Not feeling a literal title, such as “The Sitar-Seagull, Book of the Dead, Backward Guitar Music Experience” was a good idea for the song, John Lennon named it “Tomorrow Never Knows” because it was something Ringo Starr liked to say. It was a throwaway title, something that mattered far less than the psychedelic vibe of the song itself.

Similarly, Rose. Rabbit. Lie. is being used as the title of the new social club and cabaret theater at the Cosmopolitan, where the Spiegelworld multicanto performance showcase “Vegas Nocturne” also debuts on NYE.

Presented with “Tomorrow Never Knows” comparison, Cosmo Chief Executive Officer John Unwin says: “That’s a pretty good analogy. Yep, that’s a pretty good way to put it.”

Groovy.

Rose. Rabbit. Lie. does have a back story, but those seated in 15th-floor room in the hotel’s East Tower when that name was approved in August are not saying why it was chosen. Rob Weakley of Coastal Luxury Management of Monterey, Calif., operating the new club along with his stylish business partner David Bernahl, cryptically says, “The reason why it came to be cannot be shared.”

Unwin expands upon the very point of the project.

“The Cosmopolitan has become known as a place that provides unexpected, provocative and evocative things. We always try to take a point of view, and so I think it means different things to different people,” he says. “It’s meant to be unexpected. Part of the idea is, you can experience Rose. Rabbit. Lie. in a number of different ways. We tried not to be prescriptive but rather let you experience the way you want to.”

The specifics about what happens are maddeningly concealed – maddeningly for anyone with a vigorous curiosity about what is being built at the Cosmo, at least. But some basics that can be imparted from this new amoeba of entertainment:

• “Vegas Nocturne” is a seamless show performed in three cantos (or, segments, or acts, or stages) at 8 p.m., 10 p.m. and midnight. Spiegelworld, founded by self-appointed impresario Ross Mollison and the co-producer of “Absinthe” at Caesars Palace, is the producer of “Vegas Nocturne.” The show, and the club itself, will have a host and will feature flexible, comedic, magical and musical acts throughout. Tickets for the shows are separate from dinner, and the age restriction for anyone entering the club is 21-and-older.

• Dinner is served at Rose. Rabbit. Lie. beginning at 6 p.m. each night. The menu is designed by the Coastal Management team and features what Bernahl describes as, “Classics reinspired, served in a social-sharing way.” This includes a red king crab for two and small plates for one. The restaurant’s executive chef is Wesley Holton, formerly of Daniel Boulud Brasserie at Wynn Las Vegas.

• Drinks and ice are paramount at Rose. Rabbit. Lie. Expect signature cocktails, served similarly to a draft beer, to be unveiled on New Year’s Eve. Expect, also, a 300-pound block of ice to be chiseled for six different types of ice chunks. This is believed to be the city’s most significant investment of time and resources in frozen water and the distribution of such.

• Rose. Rabbit. Lie. sits directly beneath the new Chelsea theater, its entrance just across from Wicked Spoon buffet. Entrusted with the design is AvroKO, which executed the layout at Lavo at Palazzo and also Social House at Crystals. There is reportedly a lot of walnut wood, many doors, and a VIP enclave known as the Study, at Rose. Rabbit. Lie.

• The waitstaff entertains at Rose. Rabbit. Lie. The cast of “Vegas Nocturne” is bolstered by waiters and waitresses who know how to entertain, off-the-cuff or otherwise, informally. There are 40 cast members and 200 employees, total, and everyone hired was sought in part because they could perform sleight-of-hand, juggle, break dance, tell a joke, sing a little or otherwise amuse patrons. As Weakley says, “This is not about dinner and a show. It’s dinner in a show. We didn’t hire robots.”

And that is a major measure of inspiration for Rose. Rabbit. Lie. For those who remember “I Love Lucy,” the show’s co-lead character, Ricky Ricardo, once held court at a little nightspot he owned, the famous Club Babalu, which was a haven of frivolity.

“The idea was really that it’s definitely a club, and it’s definitely a place people want to belong to. But it has a host, it has a personality, it has live performance,” Unwin says. “But the performance is not exactly the same every night. It will go on for some period of time, and then it will go off.”

This strategy does make sense.

“You can watch the performance – if you remember, in (“I Love Lucy”) they used to sit around a kind of cocktail cabaret tables and order Champagne and maybe some hors d'oeuvres, watch the performance and maybe re-engage in their conversation,” Unwin says. “It’s a little bit of a mash-up between Club Babalu, Ed Sullivan-Johnny Carson, ‘America’s Got Talent,’ the Copacabana Club.”

There are a pair of videos in circulation that explain, in a way, what Unwin is talking about. One is on the Cosmopolitan website, of a pretty woman carrying a cat who lithely strides through the club’s assorted passages. Another was produced for Unwin so he could sell the concept of Rose. Rabbit. Lie. to the hotel’s board of directors, appointed by Cosmo owner Deutsche Bank. The clip shows a series of fast edits, cut-ins of classic films and actors in gowns and tuxes, musicians playing horns, flashing lights, Fred Astaire dancing and Lenny Bruce glowering. It shows what Rose. Rabbit. Lie. will feel like to anyone arriving on New Year’s Eve.

Unwin projects himself into that scene.

“One of the kind of seminal scenes, for me, is that scene from ‘Goodfellas,’ where Ray Liotta is bringing his girlfriend in through the kitchen in the Copacabana, and the maitre d' kind of sees them coming and gives them the nod, calls them over and waves to the busboy, who carries a white-tablecloth table down to the front, and now he’s in the front row,” Unwin says. “A lot of that is like some of the showrooms in Las Vegas used to be 20-plus years ago, the same kind of feeling you might get – you pick the place, whether it was at the Flamingo, Circus Maximus at Caesars or wherever it might be … when it was pre-corporate takeover, if you will, and you could name all the guys in Vegas. Bugsy, Lefty, any of those guys.”

Those guys all went away “probably for all kinds of good reasons” as Unwin says, but the feeling of that era of Las Vegas is at the center of Rose. Rabbit. Lie.

“We want to try to bring back some of that personality, the maitre d' who recognized Ray Liotta, the waiters who are very entertaining,” Unwin says, “and we have some great personalities who do that.”

And as this performance unspools, the guests won’t care much about what it’s called. It's just a feel thing.

Follow John Katsilometes on Twitter at Twitter.com/JohnnyKats. Also, follow “Kats With the Dish” at Twitter.com/KatsWiththeDish.

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