Entries in las vegas strip (14)

Las Vegas Memory Lane

                   Fremont Street with just a sliver of the park that once was in front of the Train Depot


Fremont Street looking west towards the Train Depot


The wonderful Fox Theater in the original Charleston Plaza Mall.

It was a great theater, big, comfortable seats, big screen with a red curtain and air conditioning.


Fremont Street looking east towards the El Cortez


Glitter Gulch


Fremont Street looking west towards the Train Depot


Robbie the Robot plays blackjack




"Boylesque" Star Kenny Kerr has died

                The pioneering Kenny Kerr


Before Frank Marino flourished in drag on the famed Las Vegas Strip, that journey had been pioneered by the one and only Kenny Kerr. Back in 1977, he brought drag shows out of the shadows and made them  accessible and popular on the famed Strip. The flashy Boylesque marquee as part of the Silver Slipper sign signaled to tourists and locals alike that it was okay to come in, have a drink and enjoy a night of comedy that you couldn't find anywhere else on the famed boulevard. He held court at the tiny Silver Slipper for eleven years.

Kenny Kerr passed away earlier today.

From Mike Weatherford at the Las Vegas Review Journal:

Kenny Kerr, the bad girl that Las Vegas fell hard for in the ’70s, died Sunday. He was 60.

The star of “Boy-lesque” was the Strip’s first must-see female impersonator, pulling a locals-heavy audience into a tiny casino called the Silver Slipper for 11 years with his deadpan stare, cutthroat wit and killer gowns.

“It’s now to the point where there are three things you have to see: Lake Mead, Hoover Dam and ‘Boy-lesque,’” Kerr said in 1988, when the show wrapped its long era at the Silver Slipper in anticipation of the casino’s eventual closure and demolition.

Kerr’s impressions of Cher and Barbra Streisand were matched by his comedic skills as the show’s saucy host.

Drag was still somewhat taboo when Kerr came to town in 1977, but by then, he had already been impersonating Streisand for years.

Growing up in Blue Anchor, N.J., he was 16 when a couple who saw him shopping at a mall noted his resemblance to Streisand. They soon had him riding the bus into Philadelphia to perform at night while he was still attending high school.

“These people had a show of the sort I do now and asked me if I wanted to work in it,” he recalled in 1982. They talked a lot of money. ... Most of my contemporaries had jobs for minimum wage or less.”

Going out on his own a few years later, Kerr and his original cast showcased their act for free at the Sahara and caught the attention of Herb Kaufman, the owner of Wonder World discount stores.

The Slipper show quickly became a low-cost novelty for locals to take out-of-town visitors. But it arrived fresh on the heels of Anita Bryant’s anti-gay crusade, and for years Kerr said the question “Are you gay?” was one he had to dance around.

“It’s a question I can’t win by answering,” he said in 1982. “If I said I am gay, there are an awful lot of narrow-minded people out there. And If I said I’m heterosexual, a lot of people wouldn’t believe me.”

Kerr kept working after the Silver Slipper era, with long runs at the Sahara and Plaza followed by smaller casinos and gradually diminishing returns, as the rival “La Cage” revue proved fierce competition and the shock value faded over the years.

For more click here.


Kenny Kerr photo courtesy of Eventful.com

Posted on Monday, April 29, 2013 at 7:41PM by Registered CommenterLasVegasLynn in , , , | Comments1 Comment

Saying good-bye to the Sahara Hotel


It was one of the first hotels on the famed Las Vegas Strip. With Bill Miller and Stan Irwin helming the Entertainment duties, it quickly moved to the forefront.

As it's popularity grew, so grew the hotel. Stan Irwin arranged for The Beatles to come to Las Vegas but quickly realized that the Sahara showroom would be too small. He arranged for the English mop-tops to stay at the hotel and they played the old Convention Center in 1964.

Louis Prima, Keely Smith and Sam Butera and the Witnesses created the Las Vegas lounge scene when they started playing the Casbah shortly before Christmas in 1954. Buddy Hackett, Shecky Greene and Don Rickles were the comedians they rotated with.

Johnny Carson graced the stage of the Congo Room (and was part owner of our independent televsion station, KVVU-5 that broadcast out on Boulder Highway).

Jerry Lewis brought his MDS Labor Day telethon (and many a star) from New York to the Sahara Space Center in the late 1960s.

The Sahara was home to fine dining at the House of Lords and you could have a mid-century modern dining experience at Don the Beachcomber.

For more on the history of the Sahara: http://classiclasvegas.squarespace.com/a-brief-history-of-the-strip/2008/1/22/the-swinging-sahara-hotel-history-1950s.html

The original camels and signage at the Sahara Hotel


Menu from Don the Beachcomber at the Sahara


It's really the House of Lords at the Sahara Hotel


Original rendering for the main lobby of the Sahara


The Congo Room at the Sahara Hotel


Aerial view of the Sahara Hotel before the Nascar and roller coaster were added to the front.


The original pylon sign for the Sahara


A blast from the past, the Halloween Love-In in 1967


Letters from the Sahara's pylon sign at the Neon Museum

We will miss the Sahara and her swinging history. How about you, share your memories of the "swingingest" hotel on the Strip!


New episode of Vegas-Our REVIEW

Thanks again for your patience!!



Solid Citizens  Vegas 1.4

Last week, Vince Savino and Mr. Fowler, the Mormon banker based on real life Vegas banker, Parry Thomas,  circled one another. This week, they became business partners. Also, dropped into the conversation, Mrs. Savino was to arrive within a few hours.

The Stern and Nahm casino looked like it was supposed to resemble the old Northern Hotel and Casino where back in 1931, owner Mamie Stoecker got the first gaming license issued in Nevada.

As Savino waited for his wife to arrive and looked out over Downtown/Strip (all thrown into the stew of just being Las Vegas), there was a glimpse of the upper floor façade of the what the Apache Hotel used to look a bit like before it became Benny Binion’s Horseshoe Club. And I still maintain,  a character modeled after Benny (and his buddy Dobie Doc and his chauffer Gold Dollar and Florence Murphy and etc, etc) would have added some much needed characterization and color to this show. Call me crazy. This show could use some characters and some color.

Laura Savino was a looker and though she said she’s impressed with Las Vegas she didn't sell it very well. Once inside, she did like the swankiness. She was introduced to Mia who offered to show her around town.  That could be interesting.

Meanwhile Katherine and Dixon were trying to figure out what happened to Danny Cornero by going through boxes of arrest records. Don’t ask. It just allows a brief respite of what passes for levity on this show as Ralph, Katherine, Dixon and Jack trade bad one-liners before the mayor arrived to save us all.

The mayor was happy with the job that Ralph was doing and wanted him to run for the office of Sheriff. At least they got the part about the Elk’s Lodge being a political player back then right.

Cool mid-century modern home that was owned by Greg Parkman (sorry, that ‘s his character on Heroes), Milt Larson, a happily married highway contractor who was a gaming commission officer (casinos need his vote to get a license)whose son was just kidnapped while his wife tried to chase the car down the street. The kid left his hula hoop behind so we would know that it’s 1960.

Ralph and Jack were on the case in a really great looking MCM modern neighborhood that’s not in Las Vegas. They found the car that the kid was in but it exploded into flames as Jack kept Ralph from burning himself to death by rushing into the burning car. (Sorry, I know you had images in your head).

A title card told us the phone was ringing in Milwaukee while the soundtrack played “Smoke Gets in Your Eyes” while a cigarette burned in an ashtray for all of us wondering where the smokers have been hiding for four episodes. A guy, looking like Willem Dafoe in Mississippi Burning answered the phone, identified himself as Jones and appeared to be a fixer of some kind. He said he was on his way to Vegas.

Meanwhile, Ralph was checking out the burned out car and trying to make sure that the kid was not in the trunk of the smoldering car. He told Dixon to call for man-power despite the fact that he has an entire department at his disposal. He coacheed Jack to talk to the parents and not to use past tense when talking about the kid. Because Jack, despite being an adult, must not be much of thinker despite the number of times we have seen him use his brain instead of his brawn.

The Savinos were in their suite. Vince was telling the missus about what he had planned for the evening (no, not that, this isn't HBO), including dinner at the Cadallic room at the Flamingo (what, they couldn't get the name of the gourmet room at the Flamingo right??????)and Sammy’s second show (that would be the late show at 1:00 am) and tomorrow they’d been invited to the Country Club by the banker and his wife.  Mrs. Savino wasn’t quite sure what to make of all this. She mentioned “the girls” (again, this isn't HBO so don't go there) and Savino in a piece of expository dialog informs us that ‘the girls’ are in boarding school and he wants Mrs. S to move to Vegas. She balked, that’s not “their arrangement”.  “It’s what I want”, he told her.

He reminded her that he promised her the straight life and now “it’s right in front of us” (Yeah, right, then there wouldn’t be a show unless this show is going to be about Savino trying to go straight.).  “Just think about it”.

The scene cut to Ralph talking to the Larsons and trying to keep their hope up. “You have something that they want and they don’t have it. Which means Tim is alive” Ralph told them with a grim look on his face. Parkman Larson promised to cooperate, he just wanted his boy back.  (Hmmm, which  hotel owner could need something favorable from the gaming commission. They want us to think it’s Vincent but that seems rather obvious).

The extra man power that Ralph asked for was the Indian tracker/ranch hand that we haven’t seen since the first episode. He was going over the car pointing out clues to Dixon.

Speaking of Savino, Ralph went to The Savoy to ask Savino which one of his mob friends might have done the kidnapping. Ralph got paternal and then reminded Savino that he’ll need the Gaming Commission’s permission to take over the Tumbleweed. Savino reminded Ralph that in the long run a “suitcase full of cash” would probably work better than kidnapping the kid. Ralph’s not happy. (Imagine that).

Another phone call, Jones from Milwaukee had arrived and Savino was not happy (Imagine that). He went downstairs to welcome him. Jones was in town looking for Davey. Savino said the heat was on Davey and maybe he split town. Jones wssn’t buying it (imagine that). And he doesn’t drink. Savino was not happy (imagine that) that Jones was there because whenever he shows up “bodies start dropping” and that wouldn’t  look good with the missus in town.

Mrs. Larson was a crying mess and Jack was trying to reassure her that everything was going to be okay. We were about 15 minutes into the show and the drama felt really flat. The phone rang (the motif of the week) and with the call being traced, the kidnappers demanded $80k and ‘to keep the law out of this. Cross us and it’s the last time you hear his voice.” (Yes, every cliché of every kidnapping drama since television began is checked off).

Back at the Sheriff’s Office, we learned that the call had been traced to Eastland Heights. We had a lot of subdivisions in Las Vegas back then, but Eastland Heights wasn’t one of them. That’s one of the big problems I have with this show is the fact that they don’t even try to get the details, big or small, right. Don, the tracker,  showed up and showed Ralph a lighter with a military insignia that he found and that started the fire. Ralph was fired up.

Meanwhile, Mrs. Savino and Mia were having cosmos and talking. Mrs. Savino told us how she met Savino (imagine ever mob drama since television began and you get the picture).

Jones interrupted a couple making whoopee. He was, of course, looking for the sandwich (the drop) that didn’t make it to Milwaukee when Davey went missing. Jones said the envelope felt light. The woman promised to pay it back. The woman dropped the sheet hoping she can square the deal right then and there. If Jones doesn’t drink, he probably isn’t going for that.

The Lambs were still trying to find the Larson boy. They headed to the Kings Motel out off of Cypress (again, how hard would it be to get it right). Jack and Ralph butted heads over Dixon. Jack reminded Ralph that while Ralph was in the army, Jack was running the ranch  and raising Dixon. Ralph just got mad. Ralph only seems to have two emotions, mad and not so mad.

A shoot out at the Kings Motel (nice art and set direction) commenced with Jack pinned down because despite the whole Sheriff’s office, Ralph only ever seems to bring his brother, son and Don with him for back up. The guy they were looking for was killed in the shoot out.

They showed pictures of the dead man to the Larson family. They didn’t recognize him. Since Tim wasn’t rescued, Parkman Larson was afraid it would get his son killed. Mrs. Larson recognized the kidnapper as “the floor man who worked for my father”. The Lambs got kicked off the case. As they walked out, the two brothers talked about the brief case they saw (because everything about this show is better told to us than shown) and how the Larsons must have been planning to handle this on their own. Ralph, of course, won’t let that happen.

I wonder if the MCM neighborhood they shot the Larson home in is the Eichler neighborhood in Woodland Hills because it’s a great looking neighborhood.

Savino and friends discover that Jones had killed the girl in the sheet and Savino’s fears of his dinner at the country club with his wife and the Fowlers was going up in smoke. He wanted it taken care of.

While they waited for the car, Mrs S mentioned that Vince was nervous. She told him to believe in himself.  When she got in the car, she noticed a bullet has grazed the interior. She wanted to feign sickness but Vince wouldn't let her. He grasped her hand tightly. (Because this is Television 101).

Ralph and the Mayor had a go-around.  Ralph was in over dramatic mode (How can you tell from his other modes???). It would be  nice if Quaid had some actual material to work with. Ralph blamed coming to the job every day and “how it changes a man and the people it brings with him”.  Well, Crime Story told a similar story with more verve, more characterization and better scripts and didn’t have to hammer us over the head in episode 4 about it.

“This city needs you” the Mayor told Ralph.

Katherine and Ralph interrogated Wade Wilson who gave the kidnapper $20k. Ralph threatened to reach up inside of the guy and pull it out. The story gets convoluted. Long story short, the guy who loaned the kidnapper the money wanted his money back (Are you surprised????). The payback was supposed to take place tomorrow.

After the commercial break, we were back in Ralph’s office with Ralph, Jack, Milt Larson and his brother. Ralph strong armed the brother and reminded him that a kid’s life was at stake. (Now remember, we haven’t seen this kid since the top of the show so any empathy we might have for him is all based on exposition instead of drama).

Parkman Larson realized his brother screwed him over and was responsible for his son being kidnapped. Ralph was now even more unhappy and even angrier (if that's possible).

So, at this point we had a kidnapping, Jones in town looking for Davey and Mrs. Savino in town with Vince trying to convince her to move to this desert oasis.

Ralph dressed up as Larson and did the drop. Luckily the kidnappers were as dumb as rocks.  Jack took out one of the bad guys and Ralph fought the other and threatened to shoot the guy into being a paraplegic the rest of his life. (Imagine that, the bad guy gave up the kid's location. I'm stunned.)

Ralph went to save the kid. (Would it be any other way???) and found him in a basement. The soundtrack was a modern song by Ryan Bingham. The family was reunited. Larson apologied for doubting Ralph. Mother and son had a reunion without the help of Paul Simon.

Jones found Davey’s car at the Mojave Airport, oops McCarran Airport. It was a set up. (You’re stunned, right?)  Seems Savino set up the red herring of the car.

With Dino singing “You’re Nobody”, we found out the details of the set up. Jones had left town for the City of Angels in his futile search for Davey.

Vince told us that everything went well with Fowler at dinner and the Tumbleweed is essentially his. He was thrilled Mrs. Savino had decided to move west but she had a hitch. (You’re stunned, right?) Vince has to be completely honest going forward. (Raise your hands if you see this being an epic fail.)

Katherine and Dixon were still trying to track Davey. They, too, knew he didn’t make it back to Milwaukee. Dixon said there was corn shaft in the undercarriage of Davey’s car. There was some talk about the corn but my DVR messed up for a few seconds so I didn’t get all the details of the Anthony Spilitro like death that befell Davey.

Dixon wasn’t happy being chained to a desk. He and Ralph butted heads. Ralph thought Dixon shouldn’t be in the line of fire and wanted him to stay out of the Savino business. (Raise your hands if you think that will stick.)

Ralph and Savino met way out of town. Ralph invited him out to the boonies. “You crossed a line.” Ralph told him. “Secrets don’t stay buried, neither do bodies.”

Vince told him “We all end up in the ground some day”

"It matters how we got there” Ralph retorts. “Chew on that.”

As Savino drove away, I guess we will have to chew on our cheeks because next week is pre-empted due to being Election Night.

I’m thinking there is a drinking game in this show (especially every time Ralph grimaces). By the time the show returns in two weeks, I should have that figured out.

In the meantime, I’ll be posting in the days ahead about what I think works and doesn’t work on “CBS’s #1 new show”.

How about you?  Hit the comments and tell us what you think of this week's show!!!

All That Glitters, Vegas episode 1.3

A young boxer, just back from the Olympics, is found dead. Ralph investigates. In the larger story, the owner of the Savoy, Angelo and his first lieutenant, Johnny Rizzo, arrive in town and chaos ensues.

“One federal witness , two federal agents and the last Sheriff of Clark County” Jack Lamb in reciting the ways Savino has broken the law since coming to town.

Side note and quibble- Ralph Lamb was the sheriff of Clark County, not Las Vegas. Clark County begins at Sahara (San Francisco Street back in the day) but this show takes place, almost exclusively, downtown where Ralph didn’t have any jurisdiction. Metro (the combining of the City Police Dept with the County Sheriff's Dept) didn't happen until the 1970s.

Well, things could be looking up, Jonathan Banks joins the cast. Been a fan since his days on Wiseguy (first William Russ, now Jonathan Banks and loved him as Mike on Breaking Bad). As the owner of the Savoy, he brings some menace.

Mia (Sarah Jones) is the daughter of Johnny Rizzo (Michael Wiseman), the man who brings the big money in and seems to be Angelo's favorite.

A dead body (the boxer) on Fremont Street.  Why can I see portions of the Sahara sign and the original Stardust sign next to the Savoy?  WTF???  The Savoy is not on the Strip. As I mentioned last week, you can see the Golden Nugget from his office. The Savoy is on Fremont Street. The geography is all over the map and not in a good way.

Don’t get me wrong, I love seeing these recreations of the signs and casino fronts but how hard is it to at least distinguish between the Strip and downtown. It was only 50 years ago and there are plenty of photos, news articles, film footage (from the Las Vegas News Bureau archives as well as network news archives like CBS) and postcards that show what hotels were where.

Fremont Street


And no one who has seen them would believe that Fremont Street and the Strip were on the same County block.

Courtesy of LeavingLV.net- Fremont Street 1960s


Courtesy of LeavingLV.net- The Stardust from the era of the show

On the show, Johnny Rizzo is in the black book. If he’s in the black book, he not only can’t be on the gaming floor he can't stay in the hotel. It’s what got Sinatra’s license pulled when he owned a portion of the Cal-Neva Lodge in Lake Tahoe. He hosted Sam “Momo” Giancana and the Gaming Commission found out. Sinatra had to give up his points in the Sands as well.

Talking about skimming from the boss in his own hotel. That takes cojones. Too bad there's no weight in the words.

A gourmet restaurant, women’s clothing stores, in 1960s these are novel ideas? Every hotel on the Strip had them. These are not novel ideas for the era. No matter where the damn hotel is supposed to be located. The sawdust joints downtown had gourmet restaurants but space was valuable on Fremont Street so women’s shops, etc not necessary because the whole street had them (Ronzoni’s, Fanny’s, Chic Hecht’s, CH Baker Shoes) and women only had to walk a block to them vs on the Strip where you had to drive a half mile or more to get to the next property.

It’s stuff like this that takes me out of enjoying the show.  Well, that and the lack of character and story development.

Ralph vs Rizzo on the floor of the Savoy conjures up memories of Ralph vs Lefty Rosenthal. But Ralph had more gravitas. Or at least the stories do. These are still archetypes not real characters so no one’s words carry any weight.

The original wiseguys were smart enough to keep the violence to the outskirts of town, not the floors of the casinos and while they may not have liked Lamb, they likely didn’t entertain the idea of whacking him.

Rizzo advocates for the removal of Lamb, the more violent the better. He takes his case to Angelo and Savino must defend the idea of letting Lamb live because the bottom line is, killing him is bad for tourism. “If we take him out, best case scenario the feds don’t come after us, they don’t revoke our gaming  license but we still have two dead sheriffs in less than a month. What man is going to take his wife to a city without any law? Without tourism, there’s no money, there’s no suitcases coming home. Whatever we think of Ralph Lamb, we need him alive, for now. Otherwise we have another wasted opportunity, another Havana in the desert.”

Angelo sides with Savino which only serves to make Rizzo mad and you can tell by the commercial break, the bad blood between Rizzo and Savino just got worse.

The scene of Chiklis delivering the above speech is the best acting we’ve seen so far by any of the characters. The main cast is trying hard but they need a story that is about these characters and not about archetypes.

The idea to kill Lamb felt more like a Rosenthal and Tony the Ant move than a Moe Dalitz move . But Lefty and Tony were almost 20 years later than the era the show is set in. You can’t just trade one era for the other.

Well, maybe you can. CBS is touting the show as its “#1 new drama”.

No show next week as the presidential debate takes place.

See you in two weeks!