We present some very creative boats and some very interesting people we’d like you to meet. Our criteria for inclusion was not based upon size or extraordinary furnishings, rather it is a selection of houseboats that represent each individual owner or designers’ idea of excellence. While a few may in fact be at the very highest end of the budget scale, some of these boats represent a higher form of function in their design - not all houseboats spend their days at the dock under the watchful eyes of their owners. Some boats are designed for kids and fun where durability and practicality play a more important role in the design of the boat. We include those boats for their individual merit. We have also included some top of the line rental boats that deserve to be recognized.
HBA: Mike, bring me up to date on Michael Hessling, the basic bio if you would.
MH: I was born in Ohio in 1952, grew up there, went to school there and actually moved out to Las Vegas late 1978 for my first position out here.
HBA: What motivated you to come to Las Vegas?
MH: I was 26 years old, a little bored. I answered a blind ad in the Wall Street Journal and it turned out to be Caesar’s Palace.
HBA: What did you do for them when you went there?
MH: I was their financial planning manager.
HBA: So your degree must have been in finance I would Guess?
MH: I have a Master’s Degree in Finance from the University of Toledo.
HBA: How long did you stay with Caesar’s?
MH: I was there about 4-5 years then I had an opportunity to become the Vice President of Casino Operations at The Dunes, right next door. Then I had a couple of General Manager jobs at a few smaller casinos.
HBA: How many years of that? Track me through the years if you would.
MH: From 1983 to about 1988 I was General Manager of a couple small casinos here an din Reno. Then in 1988, wen tot work for the owners of the Hotel San Remo, which is now being converted to Hooters Casino Hotel.
HBA: What were you doing for the San Remo?
MH: I was the General Manager.
HBA: So I guess you could say the casino business is kind of in your blood or has been for quite a while?
MH: Well, I guess I’m almost a native in Las Vegas because with all the people that move to Vegas, if you’re here three months, you become a native and I’ve been here since ’78.
HBA: It looked a little bit different back then didn’t it?
MH: It was absolutely different. There was about 300,000 people in Las Vegas. Today there’s getting close to 2,000,000. Not sure I’m crazy about the traffic, but that’s why I spend all the time out here on the houseboat.
HBA: Not many casinos back in those days either. It was just mainly the old style casinos if I’m not mistaken.
MH: You’re right. Some of them that are still here—Caesar’s, MGM (which is now Bally’s), and the Hilton, while others are gone like the Sands, Desert Inn, and Frontier. Most of the building boom occurred in Vegas started about 1989.
HBA: What position today do you fulfill for Hooters? Where do you fit within the organization?
MH: Hooters is actually a franchise organization much like most restaurant chains, so the people that are the partners in this casino are the original founders of the Hooters brand, and they operate themselves about 40 of the Hooters restaurants. We as individuals own the casino.
HBA: Tell me about Hooters. It’s a big deal in Las Vegas. First major casino hotel for Hooters, and you’re going to be opening it in February. You’re under construction right now. You’ve got to be excited and probably a little anticipatory, too.
MH: Hooters Casino Hotel is going to be different than anything Vegas has ever seen. We are opening February 2nd. It’s going to be an awesome property. We feature not only the 250 Hooters girls that’ll be serving food and beverages, and a very large Hooters Restaurant, we also have Ban Marino’s Fine Food and Spirits. We also have “13” The Martini Bar—where you might get lucky, the Dam Restaurant, Pete and Shorty’s Town Tavern, Nippers Pool Bar from the Bahamas, and just a whole lot of fun and entertainment.
HBA: It’s a different look. I mean, from what I’ve seen from the portions that are finished, it’s a much different look than any of the other casinos in Vegas.
MH: We want to be a very comfortable, fun, casual place. You go into some of the bigger casinos and frankly they’re all the same. There’s a lot of glitz and glamour, but it’s a little intimidating I think for the average person. Out clientele is going to be people from all over the county that just want to get away, have a good time for a good price. We’re the cure for the common casino—casual and friendly, and you’re going to have a blast when you come here.
HBA: Just a little bit ore relaxed and little bit more self-entertaining.
HBA: Talk to me about the casino, Cynthia.
CH: This is actually the opportunity of a lifetime for someone like me being in human resources. Getting to not only double the work force and work with the Hooters organization to do so, but to completely take the existing property and rebrand it, giving it an all new image. It’s a very exciting time for us.
HBA: It must have been exciting too, doing the talent call to hire 250 Hooters girls. How many girls did you have show up? Walk me through the process.
CH: At our first cast call for Hooters girls, we had over 750 girls show up the first day. Our second call netted another almost 500 girls, and from these 1200 (it’s going to be an ongoing process), we currently have about 105 girls that job offers have been made to.
HBA: What does it take to be a Hooters girl?
CH: Somebody who first of all loves to have fun. Somebody who embodies the Hooters girl, she will be the All-American cheerleader next door. She will be the surfer girl, the cheerleader, somebody that when you walk in the door will greet you and you immediately know this is the place to be in Las Vegas.
HBA: I was kind of surprised to learn today that there are actually a certain number of requirements and restrictions about makeup, hair, clothing, and everything else. Tell be about that.
CH: That’s right. Traditionally the uniform is an athletic fit and the girls, basically can wear no jewelry other that pierced ears and maybe a wedding ring. They have to have their hair done. The makeup needs to be naturally beautiful and subtle. Again, enhancing their natural beauty as opposed to a Vegas showgirl style.
HBA: I guess personality must enter into it, too.
CH: Absolutely. We want girls of character, girls that like to be a little irreverent out on the floor without crossing the line.
HBA: That is a fine line sometimes.
CH: Yes, it is, especially in Las Vegas. Our girls have to have “wow” factors.
HBA: I guess that’s going to be one of the big draws to the hotel.
MH: You know, it’s true. Hooters is such a strong brand. I like to say it’s bigger than Vegas. There’s 400+ Hooters restaurants around the United States and in 16 countries. They draw nearly 65 million customers a year. Vegas draws 37 million, so I like to say Hooters is twice as big as Vegas.
HBA: I did’t realize that. About the hotel, just a couple of fact posts. How many rooms will the hotel have?
MH: About 700.
HBA: It’s going to be pretty substantial. What would be the price ranges of the rooms?
MH: We’re going to be very middle of the road. We’re going to be providing a product that is comfortable for all of America.
HBA: I would imagine that would include from the lower end all the way up to the upper end.
CH: Basically, everybody is going to be welcome. It’s going to be a 24-7 nonstop party, and we invite you to come over and visit yourself.
HBA: What won’t Hooters have?
MH: It won’t have anything boring. If you want to get bored, go to some of the other casinos.
HBA: This is a vision statement?
CH: Vision statement for Hooters Casino Hotel: The relentless pursuit to provide a fun and irreverent experience unlike any other for Hooters family and friends alike. In this case, family is the employees that work there and friends are our customers that come through the door.
MH: The vision statement you’ve got to look at because it’s got all the traditional corporate things, but it’s very different because at the end, our final portion of our mission statement is to provide cold beer.
CH: And don’t forget the cold beer!
HBA: When did your love affair with boating begin?
MH: Well, you know, growing up my dad had boats on lake Erie. They were small boats, 15-16 foot fishing boats. Didn’t get my first boat out here until 1990, when I bought my first 25-foot cruiser.
HBA: So it was pretty much just a cruising boat out here.
MH: Correct. I had actually two cruisers, a 25 and a 27-footer. My first houseboat was on a whim in I think about 2000, maybe it was 1999.
HBA: What motivated you to that whim?
MH: Well, Cynthia and I walked in a boat show. We looked at this Destination Yacht that was sitting on the floor here in Las Vegas and said, “Why Not?” We bought it.
HBA: I wish we all had that decision making power! Tell me about those early experiences houseboating.
MH: Well, I bought the first one, and I think it was a 37-footer, on elf Sheldon’s (Sheldon Graber, owner of Destination Yachts) smaller boats. Really liked it because we found that when we were in the cruiser, we’d go someplace fast, park the boat and stay there, and then we missed all the conveniences. When we saw the houseboat, we thought, “This makes a lot of sense. We don’t need to go anywhere fast. We want some more comfort.” I had that first one I think for six months, and I decided, “Nope, I want a little bit more.” Got a bigger slip, called Sheldon said, “You know I’ve got a 45-foot slip that’s 16-foot wide. Build me a boat to fit it.” He did.
HBA: So you had the first boat for six months—too small. Ordered the bigger boat. What happens then?
MH: I headed out here to this marina in a 45-foot slip here at Lake Mead, and then by chance this particular slip opened up. It was an 80-foot slip, so it got me thinkin’. Last February I called Sheldon and I said, “You know what? I think it’s time.” Sheldon took the other one in trade, and I said, “Build me a bigger one.” So rebuilt me the 65-footer.
HBA: What happens if they develop a hundred-foot slip out here?
MH: Well, they do have some. They’ve got a 96-footer right over there. I don’t think I’d go quite that big. At least not yet.
HBA: This oat has a unique name, and if I’m not mistaken, all three of your boats had a unique names, didn’t they?
MH: Actually, the first houseboat we called Cyn City of Las Vegas for Cynthia. When we went to the second boat, we also made it Can City, and I bought her the little runabout out here and called that Original Cyn. Actually, a good friend of ours is a Catholic priest back in Toledo, and he calls her Original Sin, so we named the little boat Original Can. With this boat, Hooter Patrol V, my partners in the casino have Hooter Patrol I, II, III ad IV down in Florida.
HBA: Now are this houseboats or are they just regular sport boats?
MH: No those are not houseboats. Actually, Hooter Patrol III I believe is a 50-foot main ship, and Hooter Patrol IV has not yet been delivered. That’s a 97-foot Hargrave. Those are all based down in Florida and in the Bahamas. This is the only houseboat in the fleet.
HBA: What do you like about house boating on Lake Mead?
MH: It’s really our form of rest and relaxation. We try to get out here every weekend if we can. We’ve got very hectic schedules with a 24-7 business, particularly now that we’re just a couple months away from the grand opening of Hooters Casino Hotel. We like to come out here as often as we can. Frankly we don’t leave the dock that often. We just like to come out here, relax, barbecue, a lot of friends hereon the dock. It’s our home on the water.
HBA: Is it a social scene down here?
HBA: So you have a lot of good friends down here and you folks just get together and party on the weekends?
MH: We certainly do that. This tends to be the party boat because it’s the biggest and nicest. Out friends right next to us and down the dock, a lot of the people we work with have boats out here. It’s just how we relax.
HBA: What do you enjoy most about Lake Mead?
MH: It’s an awesome lake, even having been out here for 15 years. It’s so large, there’s just so many places we haven’t been yet. You can go someplace different every weekend. You can find a cove. It’s just great, and you can come out here year round. You can be out here in the middle of December. It’s nice and sunny. It’s what, almost 60 degrees today?
HBA: Not many places in the country are 60 degrees in December, Sixty inches of snow maybe, but not 60 degrees.
MH: Last weekend was the Parade of Lights out here. All the houseboats were decorated. There were 50 boats in the parade. We came out of the marina, drove around front. Some of the boats had bands on them—just really, really awesome.
HBA: Will this boat be used for entertaining guests from the casino or is it just exclusively a private houseboat that you two enjoy?
MH: It is out houseboat that we enjoy, but entertaining is big part of what we do. Entertaining casino customers, probably not. Entertaining the people that we work with and out friends, absolutely.
HBA: Cynthia, what do you like most about houseboating? What really turns you on about it?
CH: It’s restful. It’s relaxing. As Mike said, it’s out home on the water, and it has all the conveniences that we’ve come to enjoy.
HBA: Describe the boat for me. How many bedrooms are in it? Give me a little feel for what we’re looking at in the photos.
CH: The boat is 17’ wide by 65’ long. It has a master suite with a restroom. It has two cuddies, which have full size beds in them with a guest restroom. Then a kitchen with a bar that seats eight. Living room and the captain’s chair. Upstairs you have the bride controls. Then we’ve got about an 8-foot bar up here that has our company logo on it and room for about 40 people and a band.
HBA: How often do you and Mike get on the boat? Pretty much every weekend as he described?
CH: We try to come out every weekend, and our city home suffers for it.
HBA: The city home suffers for it because this has become your second home, I guess.
CH: This is it. This is where we like to get out away to when we’re stressed out form work.
HBA: You’re both gone through the progression of going from a small boat to a larger boat. What advice could you give our readers about the transition?
MH: Don’t bother with the small boats. Start out with the big one. Get what you want the first time.
HBA: What features do you really enjoy about the boat?
MH: What really impresses me with this one is frankly the power of the engines, and reverse, and being about to maneuver the thing. It’s got two 115hp Mercury’s, four strokes, outboards. I’m real impressed with it because you can back this thing up in a current; you turn it around, even as large as it is. I feel real confident moving it in tight quarters.
HBA: Besides advice to those buyers about buying a bigger boat, what features do you think are the most important things that people should look for when they’re buying a houseboat?
CH: A cold refrigerator.
MH: We were real concerned about the size of the bed. You want it very comfortable, and on a smaller boat a lot of times you don’t have the space. We wanted the king size bed and room to get around it, so that’s how we designed the main cabin.
CH: A good sound system is great. You want to be able to beach it and have the sound play. The other boat had sound up top, but not off the back lower end, so it’s all been wired. Mike actually designed the boat with Sheldon.
HBA: You have a custom audio-video system in the boat, don’t you?
MH: Yeah, it’s a 42-inch plasma with a surround sound system, which is really nice. Actually, I wasn’t thinking about it, but one thing I really like on this boat is the fact we have the solar panel on the top and the inverters. We can be out in the sunlight and not have to run the generator to power the entire boat, and I just think that’s awesome.
HBA: The solar panels will power the boat?
MH: Yes. It will essentially power everything except the air conditioner, but you keep your sound system, your refrigerators, everything else running.
HBA: It’s kind of nice because you don’t have the sound either, the droning sound of a diesel generator. Do you think you’ll aways be houseboaters?
CH: Yes. We’re spoiled.
HBA: You told me a funny story earlier about when you were building the boat.
MH: When we went back to Montgomery, Indiana to look at the boat while it was under construction, we were looking at the design of the kitchen, and it actually turned out this boat cost me a lot more than I originally planned. After Cynthia saw the kitchen layout in the boat, she decided to was much nicer than the one at home, so it cost me an extra $60,000 to remodel the one at home to be better than the one on the boat.
CH: That makes me sound like a spoiled brat!
MH: Well, if the shoe fits.
HBA: Why Destination Yachts?
MH: The first boat I bought on a whim at a boat show. It was there. I didn’t really think about what it was. I was very, very happy with the boat. When I made a decision to move up, I simply called Sheldon and said, “It’s time for a new one.” He made it a very easy transaction. I told him what I wanted and the next thing I know, I had a boat in the water. When it was time to move up in this one, again, very easy thing to do. I called him, told him how I wanted it built, worked with him. It was the show boat in Reno, and you know, I’ve got a lot of boat here for a very reasonable price.
HBA: Good people to work with?
MH: Oh, absolutely. Sheldon and his crew will bend over backwards to bet you want you want.