Happy Birthday, Frank Sinatra!

"Liberace would fill a hotel, Frank Sinatra filled the town"
                                       -Don Payne, retired manager, Las Vegas News Bureau
As much as the visionaries who built the Las Vegas Strip, Frank Sinatra help put that famed five mile stretch boulevard on the map and in the collective memory of those who still wish the Strip was like it was in the days of Rat Pack when Sinatra ruled the Strip.
From his first appearance at Wilbur Clark's Desert Inn in 1951 of which Sinatra remembered, "Wilbur Clark gave me my first job in Las Vegas. That was 1951. For six bucks, you got a filet mignon dinner and me." to his ring-a-ding days of headlining the Sands Hotel, Sinatra was the top of the pyramid in an era when Las Vegas was known as the Entertainment Capital of the World.
His live album, Sinatra at the Sands with the Count Basis Orchestra is possibly the best album to listen to and understand why Sinatra was such a draw for so long in Las Vegas showrooms
Much has been written the last few days about Sinatra as part of the centennial of his birthday but my favorite Sinatra piece is the one written by Pete Hamill in 1998, Why Frank Sinatra Matters. As the New York Times reviewer noted, "Mr. Hamill traces the essential threads of Sinatra's turbulent life, gracefully knitting them into his own memories of growing up in an era when the singer's yearning voice was always in the background, especially in the middle of the night ''when he tells the bartender that it's a quarter to 3 and there's no one in the place except you and me.''

Hamill wrote a new piece this week, Why Sinatra Still Matters, be sure to check it out while listening to Sinatra music from his years of collaborating with Nelson Riddle. 
That's pure Sinatra and it doesn't get much better than that!

Happy Birthday, Frank and thanks for the memories!

Posted on Sunday, December 13, 2015 at 1:56PM by Registered CommenterLasVegasLynn in | CommentsPost a Comment

Christmas Memories from the Classic Las Vegas era


As the holidays are fast approaching, we thought it would be nice to take a stroll down memory lane and see how Christmas was celebrated back when Las Vegas was a much smaller town, entertainment on the Las Vegas Strip was jumping and jiving and traditions were being made.

How many of these do you remember?

Shopping at Vegas Village was a must! And look, you fill the house with holiday happiness and new furniture!

The hotels got into the holiday spirit:

 Here's the Flamingo from 1954.

And the Sahara from 1954


And the mid-century modern New Frontier from 1957. (Thanks to Joel Rosales for letting us use these images).

Hotel owners also got into the spirit:


You could go to the Convention Center Rotunda (the original Convention Center shaped like a flying saucer) and here famed orchestra leader Antonio Morelli lead a Christmas program:


 Or if you were visiting between Christmas and New Year's Eve in 1963, you could see one of these great acts:



Or if you were a local, you could go downtown to see the Christmas decorations:



Stop in at the Horseshoe for a drink or some of Benny Binion's famous chili:


Or head over to the Green Shack for their famous fried chicken:

And then return to your Huntridge neighborhood to see the decorations:

Happy Holidays!!!!!

Posted on Sunday, December 6, 2015 at 2:26PM by Registered CommenterLasVegasLynn | CommentsPost a Comment

Thirty Five Years Gone: the MGM Grand Fire

                                                       MGM Grand Hotel (now Bally's)

When the original MGM Grand Hotel opened in 1973, it was the most lavish hotel on the Las Vegas Strip.  Every facet of the hotel oozed with class from its casino that was the size of three football fields, to its MGM themed high-end gourmet restaurants such as Gigi's, Barrymores and Tracey's.  Chandeliers were everywhere.  The shopping area, located downstairs from the main casino floor, was filled with high-end stores and at the end, a movie theater that played classic studio era MGM films.  It was a hotel to remember.

But in 1980, an early morning fire changed forever the way we remember that beautiful hotel.  There were, by estimates, 5,000 guests staying the luxury hotel on the morning of the fire.

It was the deadliest hotel fire in Nevada history and the second deadlist in American history.  On November 21, 1980,  early in the morning, a fire, that had started hours earlier, broke through a wall soffit in The Deli and roared into the casino.

The fire had been sparked by wiring inside the soffit.  That wiring powered the refrigeration unit for a nearby food cabinet display.  The vibration of the rotating cabinet had caused the wiring to fray and the wires rubbed together.  The fire began there and burned for a while, undetected.  Had the Deli still been open around the clock like it had been when the hotel originally opened, the fire would likely have been spotted and contained easily.

Unfortunately, the Deli no longer was open 24/7 and the fire began while the Deli was closed for the night.  One of the workers on a marble and tile replacement crew entered the Deli to check for broken tiles and noticed a flickering light.  On closer inspection, he discovered the fire.  He immediately called security and went looking for a fire extinquisher.  He tried to contain the fire but as it grew bigger he realized that not only was his life in danger but casino patrons and other workers were as well. 

He opted to warn as many of them as he could.

Firefighters from nearby stations had arrived and were making their way to the Deli which was now enveloped in black smoke.  They were barely 40 feet inside the hotel when  a fireball  roared out of the Deli and through the casino gaining speed as it raced across the three football fields burning everything in its path. 

Later estimates by the Clark County Fire Department clocked the speed at 15 to 19 feet per second! Many of the elegant touches like the wall paper, the paintings of famous MGM characters, the carpet and more fueled the fire as it raced.

It finally roared out the front doors of the hotel destroying everything from the slot machines inside to the cars parked waiting for the valet.

Seven people were killed inside the casino area.

The fire fueled with toxic smoke had only one place to go and that was up.  Due to faulty smoke dampers, the fire was able to get into the hotel ventilation system.

Don Feldman was a baker on duty that morning.  Along with John Scott and Clarence White, he had stayed behind when word began to spread of a fire.   As he explained at a panel discussion on the subject that I moderated five years ago as part of "Untold Stories", he felt that staying behind to continue working wasn't putting himself in danger because, after all, it was the MGM and surely they would take care of the problem before it got too big.

As the smoke intensified and the lights began to flicker, Feldman realized that staying behind perhaps wasn't the best choice.

The three men sought refuge in the walk-in freezer.  As time passed, Feldman would go out and try to raise someone on the phone to let them know where they were.  The phone line was dead.   Clarence White finally decided to go for help.

While White was gone, Feldman wrote a message on the back of pie liner.  He began to think they might not make it out alive.  When they could take the cold no longer, Feldman and Scott decided to try and find a way out.

As they inched down the dark and smoky hallway, they found White's body.  He had died of a heart attack.

They made their way to the stairs and up to the casino area.  The casino was covered in water and windows were blown out.  Bodies were strewn about.  But, luckily, firefighters saw them and helped them to safety.

Elsewhere, the toxic smoke was making its way through the ventilation system.  Hotel guests were roused by other guests in the hallway or by knocks on the door.  The fire alarms were strangely quiet.

Many guests opted to take the elevators down to the casino.  Of those that did, many died in those elevators.

Others ran towards the stairs and began the descent down.  Many encountered thick black smoke and had to turn back.  While some returned to their rooms (those who had their room keys could, those who left them behind on nightstands and in purses found themselves locked out), others raced up the stairwell for the roof.

As the fire raged on, guests could be seen on balconies and at windows begging for help.  Helicopters from around the valley, including Nellis Air Force Base, helped rescue rooftop guests.  Some 2,000 guests made their way to the rooftop hoping to be rescued.

Fire ladders only went as high as the 9th floor but the hotel was 26 stories tall.  Guests on higher floors screamed for help.  Some jumped. Hotel workers used scaffolding to try and reach and rescue guests on higher floors.

Less than two hours after the alarm was sounded, the firemen had the fire in the casino under control and were busy evacuating people floor by floor.  It became a race against time.

The thick, black smoke, filled with toxins, moved swiftly and quietly throughout the air conditioning and ventilation systems.  Guests who were sleeping through the fire died in their sleep of smoke inhalation.

84 people died on that tragic day with another three dying later of injuries sustained during the fire. 

The MGM Grand fire led to lawsuits and trials.  As the pictures above show, the casino area was destroyed.  Smoke and water damage on the lower level destroyed many of the fabled shops.  The hotel closed and was rebuilt.  But the damage couldn't be repaired to the psyche of the American conscience.  Kirk Kerkorian, the owner of the hotel, sold the hotel to Bally's.

The fire changed the way hotels were built in America.  Now every room is equipped with fire sprinklers, each room comes with a binder that explains evacuation routes in case of fire, elevators are now disabled when the fire alarm sounds.

Much of the original MGM Grand still stands, its lovely bones still there amid all the remodeling that Bally's did.  For more on that, click here.

The Las Vegas Strip is very different today than it was 35 years ago.  But because of the tragedy of the MGM Fire, hotels in Las Vegas and around the country are now safer to stay in.

Posted on Saturday, November 21, 2015 at 11:25AM by Registered CommenterLasVegasLynn | CommentsPost a Comment

Celebrating Casino




Darlene Dalmaceda is working hard to save the Riviera. On Saturday, December 5th at 2:00 the Clark County Library on Flamingo, she will host and celebrate the Riviera with a special 20th anniversary screening of Martin Scorsese's classic mob film, Casino.

As Classic Las Vegas fans know, Casino tells the story of Frank "Lefty" Rosenthal and Tony Spilotro's days on the Las Vegas Strip in the late 1970s-early 1980s. Though the real story took place at the Stardust, when Scorsese was looking for a Strip hotel that still retained its 1970s vibe, the Stardust came up short (too many renovations had killed its Classic Las Vegas vibe) and Scorcese instead filmed at the Riviera.

After the screening there will be a gathering at Piero's.

To RSVP for this event, please visit the Save the Riviera's Facebook Page: https://www.facebook.com/events/1504756079835440/

This Saturday November 7th, the Mob Museum will celebrate the real story behind the story of Casino with a panel discussion that includes attorneys, FBI agents and reporters involved in the investigations of the facts behind the movie as well as Oscar Goodman, Rosenthal’s criminal defense attorney in real life and also in the film.

Journalist Gwen Castaldi who covered the story for local news,

Oscar Goodman, Rosenthal's attorney and the former mayor of Las Vegas, 

Marc Kaspar retired FBI agent,

Deborah Richard, retired undercover FBI agent and

Jeffrey Silver, long-time gaming attorney.

The discussion begins at 7:00 at the Mob Museum and admission is $25.00 with a 10% discount for museum members.

Mob Museum website

It promises to be a great evening of stories, so don't miss it!

Also, for those who were extras and had small parts in the movie, they were interviewed for an article by Leslie Townsend Rogers that appears in Vegas Seven magazine: Vegas Seven article.

Our friend reporter Jane Ann Morrison interviewed Deborah Richard for a series of articles and they can be found here: Part One and Part Two.



Posted on Sunday, November 1, 2015 at 5:13PM by Registered CommenterLasVegasLynn | CommentsPost a Comment

Happy Halloween and Don't Forget....

Wishing everyone a safe and spooky Halloween!




Don't forget, Turn Back Your Clocks tonight before going off to Dreamland!!!!

Posted on Saturday, October 31, 2015 at 11:06AM by Registered CommenterLasVegasLynn | CommentsPost a Comment