Saturday, February 8, 2014

Elvis Presley

Elvis Presley

Elvis Presley virtually invented celebrity, as we know it.  Unfortunately, he also became its first victim.  Imagine being a shy mama’s boy who never matured past his late teens to early 20s because, at a time when most people are learning who they are from their mistakes, everyone around Elvis told him he was a genius.  He was encouraged to not let people change him, go with your instincts.  Elvis Presley not only became Las Vegas biggest draw but changed the face of music and pop culture forever.  Unfortunately his memory has become bastardized by the myriad of performers who impersonate his talent during the darkest times of his life.  While most don’t do this with malicious intent, fat Elvis has become a common caricature in Vegas representing one of the most amazing, iconic performers of all time. 

There will never be another Elvis Presley the same way you can’t lose your virginity twice.  Elvis invented, inadvertently, modern day celebrity.  Artists of the time and over the years have expressed how important Elvis Presley was in their lives.  Bob Dylan said listing to Elvis for the 1st time was like busting out for jail.  John Lennon said before Elvis Presley, there was nothing.  The fact is Elvis Presley changed everything.  A month before I began writing the piece, Elvis was nothing more than a curiosity to me.  One throwaway visit to Graceland during a weekend visit to Memphis that I thought would be nothing more than a “I’ve been to Graceland” sparked a curiosity that not only inspired me to write this piece but to explore far more about Elvis life and career than I would ever need for a 360 Vintage Vegas segment.  In short, despite all the kitch you have come to know, check out Graceland if you get the chance.  It might just change your perspective of the life and legacy of Elvis Aron Presley.

If you are interested in learning more about Elvis Presley, we would recommend Peter Guralnick's books Last Train to Memphis: the Rise of Elvis Presley & Careless Love: The unmaking of Elvis Presley.

Saturday, September 21, 2013

E Parry Thomas

E Parry Thomas

The man who helped Las Vegas develop into the #1 tourist destination in the world wasn’t a casino owner, a performer, a dealer or an architect.  He didn’t create the Neon Signs, develop any casino standard practices or build any of its properties.  However, without E Parry Thomas, virtually none of the aforementioned would exist.  An argument can be made that no single individual has done more to direct the growth and development of Las Vegas in the last half century than E Parry Thomas.  

Business Week once wrote that “Frank Sinatra Gives Las Vegas It’s Glitter, Parry Thomas gives it its gold.   In a city known for it’s neon lights, flamboyant owners and epic mega resorts, the man who helped make it all happen is virtually unknown to the 39 million people that visit it annually, and that’s the way Parry likes it.

If you are interested in learning more about E. Parry Thomas, check out the book "Quite Kingmaker" by Jack Sheehan

Sunday, July 22, 2012

Wilbur Clark's Desert Inn

Desert Inn

360 Vintage Vegas - The Desert Inn

Unlike the Flamingo and Billy Wilkerson, the Desert Inn was a dream come to fruition for Wilbur Clark.  Years of development, planning and construction made into a reality, even if everything didn’t go exactly to plan.  As with many big dreamers, ambition can sometimes outlast finances, which was the case for Wilbur Clark and his Desert Inn. 

Moe Dalitz was a man with a dream as well, legitimacy.  Las Vegas offered the opportunity to apply his gambling business acumen legally and in public.  When his friend Meyer Lansky informed him of the financial problems the Desert Inn had encountered preventing the project from being completed, he jumped at the opportunity to invest. 

The deal between Wilbur and Moe gave majority ownership to Dalitz but kept Wilbur in place as a partner as well as the legitimate face of the property.  It may be the first and only true partnership between organized crime owners and the legit front man.  In most cases, the guy out front was little more than a bullied puppet with little to no input on operations.  In the case of Wilbur and Moe, the Desert Inn partnership would go on to make them both very rich men.  

If you are interested in more information regarding Wilbur Clark, Moe Dalitz of the Desert, recommended reading would be

Monday, April 23, 2012

How the Mafia came to Vegas

360 Vintage Vegas: How the Mob Came to Vegas

The mafia’s time in Vegas has been romanticized for so long that fact and fiction are often hard to distinguish.  While there is a tremendous amount of information about mafia’s time in Las Vegas, details are hard to find and almost impossible to verify.

As long as business has existed there has been organized crime in one form or another.  It’s hard to argue that prohibition helped to developed and fine tune organized crime into what would become known as “The Mafia”.  It also helped to romanticize the notion of a collection of charismatic business men who operated outside of the law to provide a service and a product that people wanted.  It also developed another belief, that the police and government were the bad guys, always trying to spoil every ones good time. 

To be clear, when we refer to people in the “Mafia”, the “Syndicate”, organized crime or any variation, we aren’t accusing anyone of anything.  We are referring to them as such because that is what they are most commonly believed to be affiliated with.  

We also want to make it clear that a large amount of this information is impossible to confirm.  The research we referenced to bring you this feature are recollections, investigations, stories, allegations & myths.  Unfortunately, it’s also the best collection of information available or that could be found to help tell the real stories regarding this period of time and the events and people involved in them.  This is most likely how it went down.  

If you are interested in more information on the subject, recommended reading would be 

However we do caution, while “When the Mob Ran Vegas” is full of interesting information, a significant amount of it is believed to be exaggerated for entertainment value as well as impossible to verify.  Despite that, it is a fun read.

Monday, December 19, 2011

El Rancho: The 1st Resort on the Strip

360 Vintage Vegas: El Rancho

Isolated gambling clubs existed on Highway 91 before 1941 but the concept of a full scale resort with overnight accommodations, gaming, dining, entertainment and shopping all in one vacation destination wasn’t conceived as something anyone would want in the harsh desert climate.  The El Rancho not only offered something Highway 91 had never seen, it set a precedent by creating a themed vacation destination that would shape what would later become the Las Vegas Strip.  This is the story of the El Rancho Vegas.

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Sunday, November 27, 2011

Billy Wilkerson: Flamingo creator

360 Vintage Vegas: Billy Wilkerson 

Billy Wilkerson

History hasn’t been fair to Billy Wilkerson.  For years, a myth has lived in romantic Hollywood lour that Bugsy Siegel is the father of modern Vegas.  When in truth, it was stolen and ruined by the notorious gangster who caused the project to cost 6 times more than its original projected cost.  When it finally opened, it was a disaster of such catastrophic proportions that his
partners in the mafia had him killed.  Now it is time to set the record straight about the real man behind the Flamingo. 

For more on the Billy Wilkerson...

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