Famously, Robert De Niro once asked, “You talkin’ to me?” Who else could have uttered those immortal words? We nominate Ira David Sternberg — because just about everyone’s talked to this radio interviewer extraordinaire.
You’d be hard-pressed to find a local celebrity, entertainer, writer or overall luminary who hasn’t dished with Sternberg. His show, Talk About Las Vegas with Ira, is a must-visit for everyone who’s anyone, and it’s those interviewing chops over the decades that earned him entry into the Nevada Broadcasters Hall of Fame in 1998.
As a public relations, communications and marketing specialist, he’s applied his skills at executive positions at the Tropicana hotel-casino and the former Las Vegas Hilton (now the Westgate Las Vegas), as well as the Downtown Progress Association, and for ex-Lt. Gov. Lorraine Hunt-Bono, for whom he served as deputy chief of staff.
Oh, and by his own description, Sternberg is a “dreadful punster.” But is he? Well, judge for yourself.
Idon’t know how to surf in the real world, but I’ve been surfing the waves of Las Vegas for 40 years. Of course, Las Vegas is in the middle of a desert, so surfing would be improbable. I’m clearly mixing reality and metaphor, and, therefore, an explanation is in order.
There’s no getting around it — Las Vegas is unique. It offers a series of one-of-a-kind experiences, events that constantly change for both locals and visitors. It’s a breadth of encounters that cannot be found anywhere else.
Before expanding on the surfing analogy, some personal history. I moved from Los Angeles to Las Vegas in the late ’70s, when I encountered the end of the classic Las Vegas — when the town was relatively small and you were accepted pretty quickly into the social and political sphere. An exception would be the business world, where many companies (aside from the casinos) would be reluctant to hire you until you could prove you were committed to staying in Las Vegas. Six months was usually the time period before you would get a decent position.
My background was in broadcasting and writing, and I started experiencing Las Vegas as it changed from that small town to a growing city. I worked at newspapers and radio stations, was director of marketing for the Downtown Progress Association (predecessor to the Fremont Street Experience), and went on to become a public relations executive at the Tropicana resort and casino and vice president of communications and community relations for the Las Vegas Hilton.
On a volunteer basis, I chaired the National Tourism Week for the Las Vegas Chamber of Commerce and the Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority for three years.
Throughout much of the time, I hosted a weekly radio talk show, talking with the celebrities, entertainers, writers and personalities who make Las Vegas the most exciting city in the world. Still do.
Now that you have a sense of my background, it’s on to the surfing allegory of Las Vegas. Not only does Las Vegas offer an array of experiences, but, to paraphrase the Greek philosopher Heraclitus, “The only thing that is constant in Las Vegas is change.”
To state the obvious, Las Vegas reinvents itself, but not on a scheduled basis. It is an organic, market-driven response to local, national and global demand. Not enough hotel rooms? More are built. Not enough theme hotels? Here they come. Demographics changing? New entertainment and gaming venues pop up. Not enough shopping? Presto, high-end retail is here. Few dining options? Celebrity chefs arrive in droves. A dearth of professional sports? Behold the Stanley Cup Finalist Vegas Golden Knights.
What does this have to do with surfing? As transformations occur in Las Vegas — daily, weekly, through the years and over the decades — I have observed and participated in many of them. But I see it from a unique perspective: surfing the waves of change and landing on a new beach of gaming, entertainment, special events, and more importantly, people.
The people who live and work here are unique, and Las Vegas remains a welcoming metropolitan city (far from the small town it once was). By engaging with old-timers and newcomers, I learn something new every day; and by interacting with visitors from around the world, I gain new perspectives on language and culture.
My experiences living and working in Las Vegas over the decades include connecting with showgirls and Sinatra; mob guys and magicians; chefs and champagne; comedy and culture; fantasy and fireworks; and most of all, that never-ending change. It all washes ashore with those metaphorical waves that transform Las Vegas.
Unlike a real surfer, I don’t get sunburned, sand in my hair or an occasional knock on my head from a board. But the surfing I do in Las Vegas is incomparable in value.
Voices of Vegas features guest columnists from all walks of public life in Las Vegas. With columns touching on local cultural, historical, social, civic, educational and humanitarian topics, among others, they weave a tapestry of perspectives that emphasize the dynamism, depth and benefits of the Southern Nevada tourism industry.