January milestones

On Jan. 3, 1997 … Where can you get the Statue of Liberty, the Gotham skyline, a Coney Island-style rollercoaster, Central Park, Rockefeller Center, Wall Street, an Empire State Building (granted, all in miniature), subway facades, Little Italy/Chinatown/Lower East Side-style eateries — plus 2,035 rooms? It’s a steal at a mere $460 million when New York-New York Hotel-Casino opens. It’s a city that never sleeps inside a city that never sleeps. And depending on how you do at the gaming tables, you can be King of the Hill/Top of the Heap.

On Jan. 4, 1998 … Geek/Nerd Heaven! Star Trek: The Experience premieres at the Las Vegas Hilton (now the Westgate), with its attractions featuring Klingons, Ferengi and Borg — oh my! And for those who don’t want their food served from a replicator, there was Quark’s Bar and Restaurant, featuring such mouth-watering delicacies as “Ferengi Flatbread,” “Holy (Onion) Rings of Betazoid,” “Smorgas-Borg,” “Flaming Ribs of Targ” and “Seven of Nine Seafood Collective.” Alas, this Enterprise is decommissioned after a decade, warping into retirement in 2008.

On Jan. 4, 2012 … Bellagio hotel-casino finishes a $70 million renovation of 2,568 rooms in the hotel’s main tower. All the better to see those mega-spritzy fountains with, my dear.

On Jan. 10, 1957 … A new level of naughtiness comes to the Las Vegas Strip as the first topless production show, Minsky’s Follies, opens at the Dunes. Despite expressed disapproval from the state Legislature, the show sets an attendance record of 16,000 curious customers in one week. Finally, Vegas goes hubba-hubba.

On Jan. 13, 2011 … The Stratosphere hotel-casino unveils a $20 million renovation. Though the resort’s colorful developer, Bob Stupak, had died two years earlier, the presence of the “Polish Maverick” — one of the city’s true characters — is felt in every dollar spent.

On Jan. 15, 1990 … Las Vegas, can you samba? Now you can as the off-Strip, Brazilian-flavored Rio hotel-casino opens as a locals casino, with debut headliner Sergio Mendes welcoming crowds to the showroom inside its striking, red-and-blue-glass exterior. Among the features: a wine cellar with 50,000-plus bottles, and, in 1997, the introduction of the Masquerade Village and the bead-tossing/booty-shaking/airborne freebie production, Masquerade Show in the Sky … cha-cha-cha.   

On Jan. 17, 2008 … Just in time for the financial crisis, the Palazzo hotel-casino opens at a cost of — wait for it — $1.9 billion. Combined with sister property The Venetian, the resort twins offer more than 7,000 rooms. Success in the midst of an economic meltdown? Let’s just say that unlike the auto industry, the Palazzo did not require a government bailout.

On Jan. 26, 1993 … A moment of silence, please, for the famed Dunes hotel-casino, which closes after its sale to Steve Wynn. Nine months later it is imploded, and its location at the corner of Flamingo Avenue and Las Vegas Boulevard now belongs to the Bellagio hotel-casino. But oh, the memories from the Arabian-themed, sultan statue-fronted hotel dubbed “The Miracle in the Desert.” Sinatra, Dino, Liberace and Garland prowled its stages, making it a Vegas icon for the ages.

On Jan. 27, 1951 … The Nevada Test site conducts its first nuclear weapons test, a mere 65 miles from downtown Las Vegas. Welcome to the Atomic Age, Vegas-style, and the veritable cottage industry that springs from it: hotel-sponsored watch parties, poolside atomic hairdo contests, atomic-themed cocktails, and the Las Vegas News Bureau’s famous Miss Atomic Bomb photo, which remains in high demand to this day. Because nothing spurs pop-culture mania like a good A-bomb.

On Jan. 31, 1979 …  A winter storm gifts the Las Vegas Valley with 7.4 inches of that odd, white, chilly compound. We’re not sure what to make of it, but we’re told that back East, they call it “snow.”

— Steve Bornfeld

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