For the last couple of years, I have had a new Classic Las Vegas site but have maintained this one as well. As of today-January 20th, 2018, this site will remain but I won't be doing any active posting to it.
As the technology of blogging has improved, the new site offers better ways to post photo galleries and images as well as video clips.
There you will find the same great subject matter, the history of Las Vegas from someone who grew up there and still loves the Las Vegas that was once there (and still is if you know where to look and I do!).
From our house to yours, hoping everyone has a wonderful holiday filled with family, friends and lots of memories!
Remember, if you are starting your holiday shopping this weekend, we recommend our two books on the history of the Classic Las Vegas Strip, including detailed histories from conception to implosion (with a few survival stories) built during those years for that Las Vegas lover in your life:
This Friday evening, Nov. 10th, at the Nevada State Museum, Las Vegas, I will be giving a presentation on my new book, Gambling on a Dream: The Classic Las Vegas Strip 1956-1973.
I'll be talking about hotels built in those years as well as the architecture, the neon, and the efforts to get the mob out of the hotels in the late 1970s. So if you love Classic Las Vegas and Las Vegas History, you should enjoy this presentation.
The reception begins at 6:30 pm with the talk at 7:00 pm.
Hope to see you there!
Go the Book Section of the website for information and links to buy the book.
I truly love the Classic Las Vegas era. Perhaps it has something to do with growing up there during its heyday as the Entertainment Capital of the World. But some of my fondest memories are of the giant neon signs that used to dot the landscape.
From the fabulous Strip to the canyon on neon that was Fremont Street to the various neighborhoods, neon seemed to be everywhere. My family used to go to Lake Mead on weekends to swim and soak up the sun. Driving home, Boulder Highway was ablaze in neon signs. Turning onto Fremont Street, the neon continued as we passed the Sky Ranch motel and all the little motor courts and motels that used to be part of that landscape. The ribbon of neon led up to the canyon of neon that was Fremont Street before that damned canopy was put over the street and the signs and the sight lines were destroyed. Once you crossed Fifth Street back then, it was like being engulfed in neon and flasher bulbs. It was heaven.
The architecture didn't have that sameness to it that too much of it does these days. You'd have been hard pressed to find faux-Tuscan facades. Instead, on the Strip, especially, the properties were set back off the highway (not built out to the curb the way they are today) with elegant porte cocheres inviting you to come in out of the heat and enjoy yourself. Each hotel had it's own charm, separate and distinct from the others. Mid-Century Modern was everywhere-from the Sands to the Riviera to the Tropicana- and not just the architecture but the signage, too.
That aesthetic also was part of the neighborhood I grew up in, Charleston Heights. We had a Momma Mia's Italian restaurant in the shopping center at Decatur and Alta that had a large neon sign-as did the Sprouse Reitz, the Safeway and the W.T. Grant store. There was the Charleston Heights Bowling Alley not far away and a larger one at the corner of Charleston Blvd and Decatur.
It's all changed now as the town grew from the small town into a metropolis with different tastes and more faux-Tuscan architecture than should be allowed. The small family owned businesses that used to dot the landscape have been replaced by large chain drugstores and box stores.
The neon is almost gone as well as more and more of the remaining signs are replaced with LED and video signage. Luckily, more of them are finding a home at the Neon Museum.
I wish I had appreciated it more growing up-isn't that always the case. I wish I had taken a lot more pictures and explored the buildings more (especially the old El Rancho bungalows that were once still there long after the hotel had burned).
But, I do have my memories of it all and that's better than not having experienced at all.
Image courtesy of the Nevada State Museum, Las Vegas
Dear Classic Las Vegas fans! Volume 2 of my Las Vegas history book has just been released - and is available in all e-reader formats!
This multimedia-rich book is a follow up to my previously released Volume 1 book (1930-1955). It continues the historical journey by telling the fascinating story of the Las Vegas Strip hotels built during the turbulent years of cultural and societal change, 1956-1973.
Offering the perspective of those who were there, you will read detailed histories of those hotels from conception to implosion (with a few survival stories) and learn about the visionaries who built them, the entertainers who performed there and from the men and women who worked, entertained and played there.
loaded with multimedia content!
♠️ Nearly 30 VIDEOS that can be played inside the book!
♣️ CUSTOM DESIGNED MAPS showing each hotel's location on the Strip
♥️ TOUCHSCREEN PHOTO GALLERIES of rarely seen historical images
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
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/.
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