Saturday, June 08, 2013

Las Vegas Casinos, May 1960

It's time for some vintage Vegas, from a group of stereo slides. Ring-a-ding-ding!

The Golden Nugget had one of the biggest and most elaborate signs back in 1960. At some point even more lights were added to make it dazzling, but it looks pretty neat here, especially in contrast to the relatively modest buildings. No gigantic hotels here. And this scene at night? Fugetaboutit! 

Here's another classic Vegas landmark, The Dunes! With its 35 foot tall fiberglass sultan, it was hard to miss. Supposedly it struggled for its first few years due to being located at the far end of the strip. A topless show (the first one in Vegas) turned its fortunes around! The Bellagio is now located on this spot.

The Showboat Hotel and Casino opened in 1954; instead of aiming for luxury, its claim to fame was the 49-cent breakfast specials and a world-class bowling alley. While it continued to expand, it also struggled, eventually becoming The Castaways in 2000.  

The Stardust opened in 1958 with this wonderful sign, which Wikipedia describes thusly: The... sign gave visitors a panoramic view of the solar system. At the sign's center sat a 16-foot (4.9 m) plastic model of the Earth. Cosmic rays of neon and electric lightbulbs beamed from behind the model Earth in all directions. Three-dimensional acrylic glass planets spun along side 20 scintillating neon starbursts. Across the universe was a jagged galaxy of electric lettering spelling out "Stardust". The sign utilized 7,100 ft (2,200 m) of neon tubing with over 11,000 bulbs along its 216 ft (66 m) front. The "S" alone contained 975 lamps. At night the neon constellation was reportedly visible 60 miles (97 km) away.  Wowee! The Stardust was imploded in March of 2007.

I hope you have enjoyed your visit to Las Vegas!


Nanook said...

WOW-! Sin City in all of its pre-crazy expansion loveliness. Is it safe to assume that's "Tex" Ritter headlining at the Showboat-?

And is that a two-tone, 1957 Dodge I spy parked in front of the Dunes Hotel-?

I also love 'scintillating neon starbursts'.

Thanks, Major.

Major Pepperidge said...

Nanook, it was actually Tex's magalomaniacal brother Lex Ritter. And I will take your word for the '57 Dodge, since I certainly have no clue!

Anonymous said...

I have a Dean Martin album, "Live At The Sands", where, during one of the interludes, he urges the audience to go with him down to the Stardust " steal some bulbs!"

Major, these are simply wonderful. Particularly the shot of the Nugget and Fremont Street. I still have my Gold Nugget ashtray.


Diane said...

Very cool-- wish Vegas still looked like that.

K. Martinez said...

When Vegas looked cool! I love it. The Starburst pic reminds me of the Jetsons episode "Las Venus".

Nancy said...

Very cool....wish I could have seen it then

Thanks for these great photos, looking forward to more!

K. Martinez said...

Starburst? I meant Stardust.

TokyoMagic! said...

Yeah, so Vegas is just as bad as Disney when it comes to destroying things. I'll take the "old Vegas" over the "new Vegas" any day! Newer and bigger doesn't always equal better.

Major Pepperidge said...

JG, any idea when that "Live at the Sands" album was recorded? Love the line about stealing bulbs!

Diane, me too.

K. Martinez, mmmmm, Starburst! Was the Jetsons episode you refer to from the original series?

Nancy, I have more Las Vegas images, though not from this particular photographer.

TokyoMagic!, when you think of the amount of money those giant behemoths bring in these days, it was probably a good business decision to tear down the old, smaller casinos. But I miss their mid-century charm for sure.

Anonymous said...

That mid-century charm was the equal of today, if not more. I'm happy to have lived to see the difference. And I'm only 62! What a change it has been. Incredible.

Melissa said...

I assumed "Ex Ritter" was Tex Ritter's first wife.

Connie Moreno said...

That was AWESOME!

JG said...

Major, Dean Martin's "Live at the Sands" was recorded on February 8, 1964. Here is the link to AllMusic >>

From the review: "...drunk as he might have appeared to be, his timing was never off, much of the same material was repeated in the same way from one show to another. ...the act really was an act. The performance captured here is typical, full of bawdy humor and references to Martin's celebrity friends, the songs mostly tossed off. If you want to hear him sing straight, Martin says , buy an album (carefully mispronouncing "album" the same way every time). Martin's most brilliant creation.


Major Pepperidge said...

JG, I always wondered if Martin's drunk act really WAS an act or not. Maybe it could be a little of both? If not, he was brilliant at being snockered.

Chiana_Chat said...

Major, JG's right, at least until the later 80s. Not that he didn't drink at all, he did, perhaps a bit on stage. It was common. But working while really drunk, never ever. He's most vital up to the point the Dean Martin Show ended around 1973-74, after that he took it easier and began coasting slowly downhill. His act stopped changing at that time and he recorded only a couple times after. His son's death in the 80s was a blow he never recovered from. After that, age and health and personal problems would get the better of him and he would drink too much sometimes. In the 50s, 60s and into the '70s though, he was on the ball. :)

For his more serious singing I suggest Capitol Collectors Series CD and the albums This Time I'm Swingin', Sleep Warm, A Winter Romance and Dream with Dean as his best.

Major Pepperidge said...

Chiana, thanks for all the Dino info! What was it about performers from that era? They just seemed to have a "magic" that most of today's stars lack. Maybe it's just hindsight.

Thanks for the album recommendations too!

Unknown said...

Thanks for the great Vegas pics! Yeah, I suppose from a strictly money-making standpoint it was inevitable that Vegas would change, and all the Mid-Century Modern would be lost. But I'll still take the Old Vegas over the new, "any day of the week, and twice on Sunday" (as a grandmother of mine used to say)!

The Stardust... well, what can you say? The zenith of the whole era. Campy space-age fun; it's no wonder it reminds folks of "The Jetsons". The mid-Sixties street-side sign with the glittering 50's era stars and the cool "electra-jag" font letters will always be my all-time fav. I was angry when I visited and that lettering had been changed to some boring "standard" font.

I liked the Dunes of this era; again, sorta campy, what with the bedoin tent look and the giant sultan. But the 1965 version is simply the best in architecture! The tower was an absolute classic; the Dome of the Sea, and the 2nd-best street sign of all-time -- the Dune minaret! Though they had mucked it up by the late 80's, I still hated to see it imploded. Darn you, Steve Wynn!

Oh, for another terrific live Las Vegas recording, try Nat King Cole's "Nat King Cole Live at the Sands". According to the sleeve, it was recorded January 14, 1960 to a late-night audience that included celebrities then performing in Vegas. I've never been a big fan of Dean Martin's singing, but I could listen to Nat King Cole all day (or all night!).

Major Pepperidge said...

I am definitely more of a Nat King Cole fan… I own several CDs by him, and none by Dino (though I still like some of his stuff). I'll have to find that "Live at the Sands" CD, I'm sure I'll like it.