Writer John L. Smith wrote a dynamite review for my book, Gambling on a Dream: The Classic Las Vegas Strip 1930-1955:
It was just before Christmas in 1955 when New Orleans sax man Sam Butera received a phone call at home.
It was his old pal and occasional running mate Louis Prima on the line. Prima’s high-energy performances with Keely Smith had made them a must-see act on the Las Vegas Strip.
But the act needed to kick it up a notch. Prima was calling that Christmas Eve with a request for Butera to hop on a flight to Vegas and let that tenor sax rip.
Vegas would have to wait, but only until the day after Christmas. Butera’s decision helped define Las Vegas lounge culture forever.
It’s safe to say those of us who were fortunate enough to interview Butera never tired of hearing the generous spirit tell that story. It figures that Lynn Zook would have that anecdote – along with so many more — in her new multimedia book, “Gambling on a Dream: The Classic Las Vegas Strip 1930-1955.”
Available on Amazon, iTunes, and other sources as a download, the book includes rarely-seen photographs, interviews with Butera and many more great Las Vegas characters from the past, with nearly 40 videos. The design itself is a delight, but if you’re a lover of Las Vegas of a certain age, its the content that will make you want to jump and jive.
The book takes you through the histories of some of the most iconic hotel-casinos in the history of the Strip. They were gambling joints, sure, but between their entertainment policies and their flashy architecture the Boulevard’s best resorts dazzled hip and square alike, offering many dining experiences plus a party atmosphere 24 hours a day.
If that pitch sounds a little like the way most Las Vegas resorts portray themselves in the modern era, it’s because it’s the undeniable formula for success. Check out the clubs and pools on the Strip today – the ones with the party atmosphere are anthills of activity. Only the hairstyles and tattoos have changed.
Zook comes by her love of neon Las Vegas honestly. She moved with her family to Las Vegas on Labor Day in 1961. Her mother took a job as a showroom waitress — a great gig in that era — first in the Sky Room at the Desert Inn, then to the Sahara, and then over to the Stardust. When mom landed a coveted spot at the Circus Maximus at Caesars, it was one of the best duties on the Strip. And there were side benefits.
With a parent working in close proximity to the stage, Lynn was able to see the Smothers Brothers, “Fiddler On the Roof,” “Mame,” “Sweet Charity,” and even Elvis.
“Probably one reason why I have such a love for the town is that I had a very memorable childhood,” says Zook, a Los Angeles resident who works as a digital librarian in the consumer products division of Warner Bros. “I grew up in Las Vegas in the 1960s and 1970s in that mythical era when the city was known as the entertainment capital of the world.”
In the book, the El Rancho, Last Frontier, Flamingo, Thunderbird, and Sands are featured in fine style. And, yes, she’s already planning a followup that will highlight more resorts from the Las Vegas pantheon.
The best way to familiarize yourself with Zook’s Las Vegas love affair is to go to her classiclasvegas.com site, where you’ll be reminded that her devotion is “part of a nearly two-decade long historical preservation project documenting the history of Las Vegas and the stories of the men and women who transformed it from a dusty railroad town into one of the most legendary cities ever built.” Her blog posts are fascinating.
She left Las Vegas in 1977 to attend college in California, but “over the years, going back and forth visiting family I realized the city was changing rapidly and the town I’d grown up with was vanishing from the landscape.
“I wanted to help preserve sort of as many of the stories as I could.
Like Butera and Prima and all the other finger-snapping inhabitants of her new book, Lynn Zook doesn’t miss a beat.
If you still haven't read my book, you can learn more about it at my website Classiclasvegas.com
It's just $4.99!
Special thanks to CDC Gaming Reports: http://www.cdcgamingreports.com/commentaries/a-valentine-to-vegas-past-lynn-zooks-new-book-makes-strip-sparkle-with-nostalgia/
We are thrilled to share this news:
Just wanted to give everyone a heads up-tomorrow evening-Monday, January 30th- is Classic Las Vegas night on Turner Classic Movies (TCM)!
The films they will be showing are a great visual time capsule of what the Las Vegas Strip looked like in its glory days as the Entertainment Capital of the World.
Beginning at 8:00 pm EST/5:00 pm PST, they are showing:
8:00/5:00: Meet Me in Las Vegas (1956) starring Cyd Charisse and Dan Dailey. A ballerina becomes a gambler's lucky charm. Co-stars Agnes Moorehead and Jim Backus.
10:00/7:00 The Las Vegas Story (1952) starring Victor Mature, Jane Russell and Vincent Price. When newlyweds visit Las Vegas, the wife's shady past comes to the surface. Co-stars Hoagy Carmichael and Brad Dexter.
11:45/8:45 Viva Las Vegas (1964) starring Elvis Presley and Ann-Margret. A race-car driver falls for a pretty swimming instructor who wants him to slow down his career. Co-stars Nicky Blair, William Demarest, the Flamingo Hotel, and other Las Vegas landmarks.
1:15 am/10:15 pm Ocean's Eleven (1960) starring Frank, Dean, Sammy, Joey Bishop and Peter Lawford. A group of friends plot to rob a Las Vegas casino. Co-stars Angie Dickinson, Shirley MacLaine, Caesar Romero, the Desert Inn, the Sands, the Sahara, the Riviera and the Flamingo Hotels.
So, pour yourself a cold drink and enjoy the trip back in time!
And if you want to know more about the Classic Las Vegas Strip, you can order my book, Gambling on a Dream: The Classic Las Vegas Strip 1930-1955 by visiting my website: http://classiclasvegas.com/book/.
If you are still making New Year's resolutions, don't forget to add Gambling on a Dream: The Classic Las Vegas Strip 1930-1955 to your reading list!
This entertaining e-book covers the formative years of the Las Vegas Strip with detailed histories of the first ten hotels built on the famed boulevard. From conception to destruction (with the exception of the Flamingo hotel which is still going strong), the book highlights the architecture, the entertainers, the people who worked in the hotels and the men who dreams made it all possible. Without them, the Las Vegas Strip of today would be a very different place.
With rarely seen photographs and video interviews with the men and women who were there, the book is just $4.99. Available on Itunes, Amazon and Nook.
To help motivate you, here is a list of interviews and articles that highlight the book:
And yes, I am hard at work on part 2 which will cover the hotels built between 1956-1973.
So more to come!
In the meantime, enjoy the book!
May everyone have a wonderful holiday season filled with hope, love, family and warmth!
Thanks to all for the continued support!
Thanks to Joel Rosales for permission to use the images!
And if you have not read Gambling on a Dream: The Classic Las Vegas Strip 1930-1955 what better time than now!
As you begin your holiday shopping, please don't forget-Gambling on a Dream: The Classic Las Vegas Strip 1930-1955.
If you love or know someone who also loves Las Vegas history, the Las Vegas Strip and/or the hotels that used to be there, this book makes a perfect gift.
Everyone thinks they know the history of the Las Vegas Strip but the real story is one that many people will be surprised to learn that they know only parts of the story. Want to know what was there before the Bellagio, the Wynn and the Encore, the SLS, the Venetian, or those empty plots of land that look out of place? Why is the Flamingo one of the oldest and most surviving hotels on the boulevard?
A detailed history of each the first ten hotels on the famed boulevard-from conception to what happened to them, this book also has rarely seen images and video clips featuring the men and women who worked there, played there and helped make Las Vegas the Entertainment Capital of the World.
Read the detailed histories of the first ten hotels on the Las Vegas Strip, including the El Rancho Vegas, Hotel Last Frontier, Flamingo, Thunderbird, Wilbur Clark's Desert Inn, Sahara, Sands, Royal Nevada, Riviera and the Dunes. Included in these histories are the architectural designs, the neon signage and how each of the hotels evolved.
The dreamers, who saw the future like few others and who built these hotels, helped turn a five-mile stretch of blacktop highway into the Entertainment Capital of the World.
This is the story of the first twenty-five years of the Classic Las Vegas Strip-how it began, and how it grew.
Available for Mac laptops and iPad users on the iTunes Store, for Kindle and Fire Tablets it's available on Amazon and for Nook readers, it is available on NookPress.
For direct links to the Itunes store, Amazon and NookPress, go here.