By Erika Pope Posted August 10, 2009, 7:24 PM EDT
LAS VEGAS For the first time in its six-year history, Niche Media’s Vegas magazine launched a special men’s edition, featuring pop and R&B artist Usher on its cover—the first male to ever assume that spot. To celebrate the occasion, the magazine hosted a reception at the Playboy Club at the Palms Casino Resort on August 7.
“We always aim to have a connection to Las Vegas on our covers,” said Kelli Maruca, vice president of public relations and promotions for Las Vegas’ Greenspun Media Group, of which Niche Media is a subsidiary. “Having Usher on our cover was a perfect fit, because he just finished recording his new album at the Palms’ recording studio.”
In addition to honoring Usher, whose new album, Monster, is set for a September release, the event celebrated individuals designated by the magazine as the “Vegas Aces.” A selection of the city’s so-called “hottest bachelors,” the group included lead male vocalist Josh Strickland from Planet Hollywood’s “Peepshow” production; Nexus 30 director of marketing Jason Demuth; co-founder of Las Vegas’s Rock ‘n’ Roll Wine events company Sonny Barton; and pro-BMX racer Ricardo Laguna. All honorees were featured in photo spreads in the July/August issue.
The world’s only existing Playboy Club seemed a good fit for such a bachelor-ready soiree, being as Maruca described it, “synonymous with the male persuasion.” Perched 52 stories atop the Palms Fantasy Tower, it’s outfitted with two main bar areas, including one offering a panoramic view of the Strip, as well as blackjack and roulette gaming tables featuring Playboy Bunny-costumed dealers.
For Friday’s event, organizers rolled behind-the-scenes footage of Usher’s photo shoot as well as messages from the party’s sponsors on plasma screens covering the venue’s south wall.
The evening began with red carpet arrivals at the elevator entrance to the Palms Fantasy Tower on the resort’s casino level. Guests included The Real Housewives of New York City’s Jill and Bobby Zarin, Playboy playmate Laura Croft, singer/songwriter Matt Goss, magician Nathan Burton, and Pussycat Dolls creator Robin Antin.
After giving interviews and snapping photos on the red carpet, Usher proceeded to the Playboy Club, where he was escorted to a seat reserved for him at Hugh Hefner’s booth. From there, he addressed the high-energy crowd of about 500 Vegas tastemakers, as well as Niche Media founder and C.E.O. Jason Binn and Vegas editor in chief Kate Bennett.
After telling the guests that Vegas is “his new home away from home,” Usher scooped up a key to the Playboy Club that offers him V.I.P. access for life. Additionally, Usher and all the “Vegas Aces” also received personalized Hefner-style black-and-red Playboy smoking jackets.
Guests listened to a mix of Top 40 music (including a healthy dose of Usher’s hits) spun by DJ Quinn and cocktails sponsored by Ketel One vodka. They also sampled passed small bites designed by the N9NE Group (operator of many of the Palms’ nightlife and dining venues) intended to appeal particularly to male palates: mini Kobe burgers with Maytag bleu cheese, steak-and-cheese egg rolls, and twice-baked potatoes with truffle essence.
Finally, all guests were encouraged to continue the revelry into the night: Each attendee was granted V.I.P. entry and front-of-line access for the evening to the Palms’ other nightlife venues, Moon, Ghostbar, and Rain.