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Howard Stutz

Nevadan At Work: Hear Him, Read Him, See Him: Hilton Executive Loves to Talk About Las Vegas

1 May 2006

LAS VEGAS, Nevada -- Ira David Sternberg says he has revived the old Las Vegas radio talk show format of the Strip's heyday and enhanced it with 21st century technology.

Sternberg, the Las Vegas Hilton's vice president of communications and community relations, hosts "Lunchtime With Ira," a weekly one-hour talk show inside the property's Shimmer Cabaret on Mondays at noon.

The show, aired live on KDWN-AM (720), is also carried nationally on Cable Radio Networks, streamed live and archived on the Las Vegas Hilton's Web site, and filmed by Watchit Television Network for airing on the Hilton's in-room television channel.

With apologies to Howard Stern, Sternberg might be Las Vegas' "King of all Media."

"It's a combination of promoting what's happening at the Las Vegas Hilton as well as what's happening in Las Vegas," said Sternberg, who joined the Las Vegas Hilton in the summer of 2004.

Las Vegas had several AM talk radio shows in the 1970s and 1980s that promoted casino events, along with numerous late-night, locally produced television programs originating from Strip casinos.

"We started the concept as a throwback to other Las Vegas radio shows," Sternberg said. "We have a live audience and we serve lunch to our guests. We don't sell tickets or bus people in. The show is listed in tourist publications and a lot of times, people walk by, see the lights and want to see what's inside."

The radio show is not the first time Sternberg, a member of the Nevada Broadcasters Hall of Fame, has taken an offbeat approach to promoting a business or client.

For several years, he hosted the "Las Vegas Notebook" radio show, a product of his humor-based weekly free e-mail commentary that he continues to distribute separately from the Las Vegas Hilton.

Sternberg spent 11 years overseeing public relations for the Tropicana before opening his own communications business. Sternberg also headed media and public communications for Lt. Gov. Lorraine Hunt before returning to hotel-casino publicity.

His main goal, he said, is to promote the Las Vegas Hilton, one of the city's first "megaresorts" that was once home to Elvis Presley. The property was purchased in 2004 by Colony Capital and operated by Resorts International. Recent remodeling enhancements include the new Tempo lounge, a new look in the casino and a refurbished front lobby and main entrance.

Question: What made you decide to return to casino publicity?

Answer: I was working for the lieutenant governor and I had my own business on the side when (General Manager) Rudy Prieto called me. He said he was coming over to the Las Vegas Hilton.

I worked with Rudy at the Tropicana and I don't think I would have left my position with the lieutenant governor if it had been anyone else.

Question: How is the Las Vegas Hilton different from other hotel-casinos?

Answer: It's really a classic property.

It doesn't have a theme but it is a property with a rich and varied history. Plus, there is the excitement of being involved in the eventual development of the 59 acres the Hilton sits on.

Nothing has been decided for the acreage, but it will be an exciting part of the growth of Las Vegas.

Question: How does the Las Vegas Hilton compare with your previous position at the Tropicana?

Answer: This is a property that needed an influx of new talent and a financial investment. I came here at a very exciting time.

We're reviving a famous and classic resort.

We've kept the Hilton name and (Resorts International) is committing a lot of capital to different areas in order to restore the Hilton.

Question: Is overseeing public relations for a casino different from handling corporate communications?

Answer: I've had the experience on both levels. For me the property public relations is more stimulating because of the number of things that go on during an average day in a hotel-casino.

It could be anything from the announcement of a new show to a restaurant opening to a new personnel appointment.

There is always something going on and I find that exciting.

Question: How did you end up in hotel public relations?

Answer: My background was in all forms of communications. I got involved with the Downtown Progress Association (the group that set the stage for the current Fremont Street Experience).

That was invaluable experience working with a group of casinos in an effort to revive a struggling downtown. You had casinos ranging from the (large) Golden Nugget to the (small) Sassy Sally's and, indirectly, it gave me a flavor of what these entities were all about.

That position led to an interview at the Tropicana two years later.

Question: What are the differences from working in a hotel-casino and having your own business?

Answer: At the Tropicana, I worked for three different administrations over 11 years, so I was ready to do something different.

I started my own company (IDS Creative Services). I worked on projects for clients such as Caesars Palace and New York-New York. It was primarily public relations and publicity.

When you're working out of the house, obviously you have a lot more freedom. You're somewhat removed from the hustle and bustle. I needed a break, but I obviously loved the (casino) business. I just wasn't there on a day-to-day basis.

Question: How did you end up working for Lt. Gov. Lorraine Hunt?

Answer: I've known Lorraine for some time and she called me asking to help her find a new communications director. I thought about it and told her I was interested.

The lieutenant governor is involved with government agencies that I was interested in, tourism and economic development.

I was able to also do my business on the side as long as there wasn't any conflict of interest.

It was a great experience because I wasn't involved on the political side and I was able to assist on the government side in those areas.

Question: What is Las Vegas Notebook?

Answer: It's kind of become my calling card. It's basically some humorous observations about Las Vegas that I e-mail out to clients, friends and the media.

It was also a way to promote a radio show I was doing at the time so people would know what guests we were having. I still send out the notebook for fun.

Question: Where did the idea for "Lunchtime With Ira" originate?

Answer: I've had radio shows for what seems like forever. I had Las Vegas Notebook for several years plus I did a weekly series for the Nevada Commission on Tourism before I joined Lorraine Hunt's staff that talked about traveling through rural Nevada.

We put out the weekly "Las Vegas Hilton Hot Sheet" on e-mail about what's happening here and the radio show kind of became an offshoot of that. It's a way to promote the Las Vegas Hilton, but also offer some publicity about what's happening in Las Vegas.

In a way, it's a throwback to the old radio shows in Las Vegas because we have a live audience. We have about four or five guests for the hour. That allows everyone enough time to get their point across. It's our show.

The Las Vegas Hilton buys the hour.

Question: Has heading public relations of a Strip resort changed much over the years?

Answer: Not really. I'm on call 24 hours and I'm still here sometimes 12 to 14 hours a day.

The Las Vegas Hilton is very much like a little village. There is always a lot happening and it's exciting to be part of returning the Las Vegas Hilton to its once classic stature.