And I mean that with the greatest possible respect. I know people usually throw "fanboy" around as a pejorative, but to me the idea of someone who is so into whatever it is they're into--whether it's Star Trek, or cartoons, or craps--that they have a childlike enthusiasm about it is quite positive. After the jump, I talk a little about what Stevens' fanboy status means.
At long last, all those hours spent on TV Tropes pay off. While I was part of the Vegas Gang panel interviewing Golden Gate co-owner and The D owner Derek Stevens at the most recent Vegas Internet Mafia Family Picnic, a thought occurred to me: Stevens is a bona fide promoted fanboy. And that's a good thing.
TV Tropes describes a promoted fanboy this way: "Some fans have all the luck. Somehow they've managed to be a part of the very industry--or even sometimes the exact show--that they're a fan of."
There are plenty of real life examples. David Tennant, for example, who played the Tenth Doctor, grew up as a fan of the show, and most of the writers and producers connected with Doctor Who's post-2005 relaunch also started out as fanboys (and fangirls).
Listening to Stevens describe his first experience in Las Vegas, playing roulette at the Dunes and paying $15 a night for a room, I realized that this guy is really a fan of Las Vegas who's living the dream. A lot of people who visit here and get captivated by the casino lifestyle end up moving here and working in the industry, but it's a small group that end up running the show. A few other famous promoted fanboys are Steve Wynn, who was a big fan of Las Vegas before moving out here as part owner/slot manager of the Frontier, and George Maloof, who spent the hours after football practice and before class hanging out in casinos, trying to see what made them tick.
There's not really a hard and fast line separating the promoted fanboys from the people like me who grew up in a casino town and got drawn into the industry, but I think there's a difference. On one hand, you've got people whose first experience with a casino is the magic of being a guest, where everything is possible. On the other, you grow up with them looming over you, as places where neat stuff might happen, but it usually happens to other people.
In any event, those who come at the industry from the fanboy perspective have, I think, a different way of approaching it than those who got into it because it was a good career transition or because it promised better ROIC than buying a shopping center in suburban Denver. For the more plugged-in fans of Vegas (in other words, the people who read stuff like this), I think there's an emotional connection with the owner that just isn't there for places owned by private equity firms or companies like Landry's, which moved into gaming from restaurants. That's not to say that neither of those can't do excellent projects: Landry's in particular has done great work in both Las Vegas and Atlantic City. But I think there's an immediacy with the promoted fanboys that you don't find elsewhere. It was obvious from the interview that Stevens really, really likes spending time on the casino floor, being very visible. That's got to have an impact on how he makes decisions as an owner; he gets a different view from an owner who is absent or prefers the office.
It's a credit to VIMFP that it gave Stevens a chance to talk to other Vegas fans, and to reveal that he himself attended Vegas Podcast-a-palooza 2010, anonymously hanging out in the audience. I'm guessing that Stevens made a lot of fans that night. I've read many articles about Stevens and even interviewed him a few times, but never heard him open up about his past the way he did in front of the VIMFPers.
I guess as a fan, he felt more comfortable talking to a room of fans--which is why being a fan--or a fanboy--isn't a bad thing.