Saturday, January 22, 2011

What Happens in Sin City Doesn't Stay Here

Here's a twist -- and exactly the type of news the public relations machine behind Vegas doesn't like to see.

Still, it's tough to keep this one off the front pages, after a New York college student, according to a report in the New York Daily News, sued a Las Vegas escort service claiming the prostitute he hired did not stay with him for the agreed-upon amount of time.

Hubert Blackman would like his $275 back, plus an additional $1.8 million for his trouble and damages for what he has called a "tragic event."

Blackman claims in his suit against Las Vegas Exclusive Personals that, during a vacation to Las Vegas last December, he paid $155 for a stripper to visit his room at the Stratosphere Hotel and paid an additional $120 to have her perform a sex act on him, the News reported. She did a strip dance and performed a sex act, but left after 30 minutes.

Upon his arrival home in New York City, he filed his suit in Manhattan Federal Court claiming that “an escort did an illegal sexual act on me during her paid service to me” and “I almost had gotten arrested.”He's also claiming he now needs medical treatment for a mental condition related to the incident.

But Blackman, in his suit, said he paid the woman to stay with him for an hour. The problem arose when she left after just 30 minutes. So he called the escort company and requested his money back. When they refused to give him a refund, he then called Las Vegas Metro Police, only to have officers threaten him with arrest because prostitution is illegal in the city.

It may be illegal in the city, but it's overlooked in hotel rooms, where hotel staff are very much aware of the comings and goings of high-priced escorts and paying visits to guests' hotel rooms. It's a lucrative business, and an old one, in Strip and downtown hotels. The phone books and online directories are full of so-called escort service companies.

Blackman, who said the woman suggested the sex act, claims he was unaware of the law.

Sunday, January 09, 2011

AC360° Cold Case: 'Mystery still surrounds rappers' deaths'

Credit: Wikipedia Commons
By Cathy Scott

A couple weeks ago, I sat down with CNN's anchor/reporter Ted Rowlands and producer Michael Cary to talk about the Tupac Shakur and Biggie Smalls murders. Here is Anderson Cooper's resulting blog post.

Ted Rowlands and Michael Cary
Reprinted from CNN's AC360 Blogs
Los Angeles, California (CNN) - In the late '90s, two of hip hop’s biggest stars—Tupac Shakur and Christopher Wallace (aka Biggie Smalls, Notorious B.I.G.) were gunned down six months apart in eerily similar fashions.

According to witnesses, both were passengers in vehicles, stopped at busy intersections, but police never received solid leads to arrest a suspect for either of the seemingly targeted shootings.

On September 7, 1996, Marion “Suge” Knight, then head of Death Row Records, was driving Tupac Shakur, his multi-platinum recording artist, to a party in Las Vegas after attending the Mike Tyson-Bruce Sheldon boxing match. Their security team was in separate vehicles. While stopped at a busy intersection just off the Las Vegas Strip, witnesses say a white Cadillac pulled alongside, and a gunman in the backseat fired multiple rounds from a semiautomatic gun into Knight’s vehicle.

With Shakur bleeding in the passenger seat, Knight made a U-turn, driving over a street median, and ultimately coming to a stop blocks away.

Las Vegas bicycle police nearby, who heard the shooting, followed Knight’s vehicle. The white Cadillac sped away.

Cathy Scott, who was one of the first reporters on the scene and author of The Killing of Tupac Shakur, tells CNN the failure to secure the actual scene of the shooting and interview witnesses immediately doomed the investigation. Las Vegas police said witnesses were not forthcoming with detailed information.

There are several possible motives for the murder.

One theory is that the shooting was payback for a fight caught on casino surveillance video three hours before the shooting. The man who was beaten that night, Orlando Anderson, told CNN a year later that he had nothing to do with the crime. Eight months after that interview, Anderson was killed in what police described as a gang shoot-out in Los Angeles.
Another theory focuses on the “gangsta” lifestyle of the hip hop world at the time and a publicized East Coast-West Coast rap war between Knight’s Death Row Records in Los Angeles and Bad Boy Entertainment in New York, which represented rapper Biggie Smalls. Shakur and Smalls had been embroiled in verbal sparring through their music.

Six months after Shakur’s shooting, Smalls came to California to promote an upcoming album entitled  “Life After Death” and told a San Francisco radio station that he wanted to “squash” rumors of the East Coast-West Coast battle.

Four days later, on March 9, 1997, when leaving a music industry party at the Petersen Automotive Museum in Los Angeles, Smalls was shot and killed. Los Angeles police said a lone gunmen pulled alongside the suburban and opened fire on Smalls, who was in the passenger seat.

The main theory behind Smalls’ shooting: payback for the slaying of Shakur six months earlier.

Retired Los Angeles Police Detective Russell Poole, who worked on the Smalls’ case, tells CNN that he believes Suge Knight was behind the murder, even though the Death Row Records’ boss was serving time on a probation violation at the time.
“Suge Knight ordered the hit,” Poole says, adding that he believes it was arranged by Reggie Wright Jr., who headed security for Death Row Records.
Poole goes even further, stating that he believes Knight was behind the shooting of Tupac Shakur as well. Poole says Shakur’s bodyguards told him that the rapper planned to sever ties with Knight’s Death Row Records which could have cost the company millions of dollars.

Reggie Wright Jr. told CNN he had nothing to do with either murder, and Suge Knight has repeatedly said he had nothing to do with the crime.
But two months after Shakur’s killing, Knight talked to ABC News and one quote seems to follow the former record company executive: “If you knew who killed Tupac, would you tell police?” To which Knight responded: “Absolutely not. It’s not my job. I don’t get paid to solve homicides. I don’t get paid to tell on people.”

Both the Los Angeles and Las Vegas police departments say the investigations are still open.

Sunday, January 02, 2011

The Cool 'Big Book of Social Media'

By Cathy Scott

Adriel Hampton's review of The Big Book of Social Media: Case Studies, Stories, Perspectives is now out on Creating Government 2.0 and Social Media site -- and it's a good one.

The many contributors who make up the anthology, Hampton says, are "the product of 20 media conferences."

Indeed. I spoke at three of those conferences and loved every minute of them. But little did I know that a book would follow. A big book.

I learned about Bob Fine's first Twitter conference, beginning mid-2009, when my sister, Cordelia Mendoza, spoke at the first Cool Twitter Conference, held at Croce's Restaurant & Jazz Bar in the heart of downtown San Diego's Gaslamp Quarter. How cool was that, to have the conference at Croce's? The energy in the room, Cordelia tweeted, "was contagious." I was more than curious. So I contacted Bob and signed on for the next conference.

Bob Fine and Cordelia Mendoza
I met him for the first time at the House of Blues in West Hollywood, where my friend, attorney Vickie Pynchon, also spoke. I was hooked. What else would Bob come up with? First, Croce's, and now, the House of Blues.

Well, when he invited me to speak at the CTC conference at The Playwright Tavern in New York City's Theatre District, I couldn't resist. I was going to be in the city just before the conference, so I added a couple of days to my trip to attend. Again, how cool was that? Bob had an uncanny knack of being able to land hip venues-for-a-day as the conferences winded their way from city to city.

I spoke again at the Orange County, California, conference on the continuing tour from coast to coast, as well as internationally. Cordelia was the official Twitter coordinator, gathering tons of steam and followers as she tweeted, quoting speakers live from The O.C. And while the venues were awesome, so were the presenters, who were fired up to share their passion for getting out the word via social media.

A few months after the Cool Twitter Conferences had finished its run, Bob invited me to contribute to his Big Book of Social Media.

Nothing Bob Fine does is small, including this book, so it shouldn't have come as a surprise that he had a big, ambitious idea to incorporate many of the people who had spoken at his conferences -- tweeters, Facebookers and social media hounds from all walks of life who were successfully using new media in a variety of ways. As an author, I know what it takes to put together a book. My sister, too, was invited to write a chapter for the book about how she uses social media to help spur sales at Cottage Antiques, her shop in Ocean Beach, a coastal town in San Diego. With so many contributors, would it actually happen?

But Bob, just like he had with the conferences, pulled it off, and The Big Book, as Hampton writes in his review, "collects the best thoughts of an amazing cast, from marketers to true-crime novelists to activists and small business owners."

Hampton quotes from my sister's chapter, which is titled Something Old, Something New: "Antique store owner Cordelia Mendoza writes of 'broadening the market for antiques through social engagement,' going far beyond the typical listing of for-sale items to photograph, blog and tweet changes in displays, unusual inventory and visits by prominent customers."

Combine 42 of the best-of-the-best who spoke at the Cool Twitter Conferences, as well as at the Cool Gravity Summit last year, roll them into The Big Book of Social Media, and it's a star combination

Thanks, Bob, for a great run of better-than-cool conferences and an even cooler Big Book of Social Media. I'm proud to be a part of it.