Posted by Eve on December 11, 2010
If you have lived in Las Vegas for a few years you no doubt have experienced the implosion of one of our older hotels. There have been many, and each one has caused me, a 38 year resident, a bit of melancholy. The one I want to tell you about now is a hotel that earned a historical reputation by becoming the Strip’s first theme Casino and hosting Elvis Presley’s debut in the city. This gaming hall, opened in 1942 with a cowboy village theme. Later it embraced the space age before returning to its Wild West roots. The hotel closed its doors in July 2007, and there was a lot of sadness among people who had good memories about this property. I was among them! Then the walls came tumbling down on November 13, 2007. This property was purchased by the Elad Group of Israel whose billionaire owner is Yitzhak Tshuva. The plans are to open a hotel themed like the famous Plaza Hotel in New York City, another of Elad’s properties. They had big plans,though the present recession seems to have delayed the plans that were made. But my story is about the hotel that us old timers have their memories of.
In the 80’s I was involved with a drama workshop that was doing things to try to raise funds for their own building. It never happened, but I have great memories of trying. One of the things I created, as a fund raiser was a roast, where we “picked on” local well known figures. This is one of those memories;
The Circus Circus Hotel was a booming success and at the helm of the property was a man who was as flamboyant as the hotel. His name is Mel Larson. He was the ‘originator’ of the Circus Circus “pink everything.” A real charecter, and a great person to roast. Every year, when we did a roast, I was always looking for a room in a hotel where we could have an elegant dinner and then the roast. This time Mel and his crew, headed by John Neeland, Mel’s second in command, helped me. We chose The New Frontier to hold the celebration.
What a night!! Mel has many friends in high places, so because of him on the dias to roast Mel was Oscar winner, Ernest Borgnine, a great actor for lo these many years, one of the stars of “Hee Haw” George (Goober) Lindsey, a popular television series at the time, and Bersini, the master of the Apes, who starred at many of the hotels, in those days. Mel has been involved in car racing for many years of his life, so we had car racers, helicopter owners, (remember the pink helicopter’s) and everybody who was anybody, at the time in our city as paying guests. What a time that was. With all of the movers and shakers of Las Vegas coming to the party, everyone wanted to sit right up front, some I think wanted to sit on Ernest Borgnine’s lap, so I had a hard time making the seating arrangements. I remember a phone call from Mel asking me to move someone else to a better seat then they had originally been assigned. I told him that if the President of the United States called and wanted his seat changed, it wasn’t going to happen and Mel answered, “OK, but if Mr. Bennett wants to come, he can have my seat.” I fell down laughing. Mr. Bennett was the owner of Circus Circus at the time. The event turned out to be one of the biggest social events of the season. The New Frontier Hotel was so cooperative and accomodating. We had beautifully decorated table’s, cloth tablecloths and napkins, and food that was delicious. Those who have lived here for many years, who missed this wonderful evening at the New Frontier, really missed something wonderful. I hope you were there.
Another memory I have of The New Frontier. In 1963 ,I came to Las Vegas to sell wigs to the showgirls. The acrylic hair wigs were just being introduced on the market and I felt that I could save a lot of money for the showgirls, and still make money for myself. Well there is a long story as to why I wasn’t successful in this venture, which I will write about another time. But when I came here with the wigs I owned a beauty salon in Redondo Beach California. My salon had several operators in it and in those days we didn’t rent stations, we paid the stylists a percentage of what they took in and paid for all of the supplies. Well, I had one male operator who worked for me, and he had a big following of gals who were really crazy about him. He had become a stylist so as to meet gals, and it sure worked. Anyway, a gal kept coming in to have him bleach her hair blonde, and then a few weeks later it was dye it back to black, then bleach again. We’ll, our hair can only take so much of that treatment so one day Bill, our hero, was washing the bleach out of her hair, and half the hair went down the drain, along with the bleach. I had a big Swedish gal working there, and she went back to the shampoo area and very loudly said, “Lady, all your hair is going down the sink.” I nearly had a stroke. In those days it was I who would have been sued by the customer. So—when I came to Las Vegas to sell wigs I brought Bill with me, to keep him out of trouble. While we were here Bill met an old friend who asked him to go to Reno to learn to become a dealer. He went, and several years later I walked into the New Frontier Hotel, and at the craps table was my stylist, stylishly dealing craps, and he worked at the New Frontier for many years. What sorrow to see all those memories go up in smoke. But really, as the song goes, “they can’t take that away from me.”