May milestones

On May 1, 1967: Swivel Hips gets hitched as Elvis Presley trades vows with Priscilla Beaulieu at the Aladdin hotel-casino about three weeks shy of her 22nd birthday. Elvis was 32 at the time. Daughter Lisa Marie was born Feb. 1, 1968 — precisely nine months after the wedding night. Clearly, The Aladdin was anything but a Heartbreak Hotel.

On May 1, 2009: A Vegas superstar is gone as impressionist Danny Gans dies at age 52.  As The New York Times explained in its obituary, Gans “treated audiences to a carefully calibrated mixture of song and comedy, delivering, like a human iPod, as many as 60 vocal impersonations of singers as varied as Frank Sinatra, Rod Stewart and Anita Baker.” He is missed to this day.

On May 3, 1999: The Venetian opens, bringing gondola rides to the desert. 

On May 4, 2015: After six decades as an icon of The Strip, the Riviera hotel-casino closes at noon, after being purchased by the Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority (which produces Las Vegas Newswire) to make way for the Las Vegas Convention Center District renovation and expansion project. How iconic was The Riviera destined to be when it debuted in April 1955? The opening headliner was Liberace. Now THAT’S Vegas, baby.

On May 6, 2015: Pop songbird Mariah Carey opens her Caesars Palace residency. Somehow, the Colosseum roof does not shatter when she hits those high-higher-highest notes in “Emotions.” But we suspect that dogs throughout Vegas lined up at the box office to buy tickets.

On May 7, 1974: Mary Wilson of the Supremes marries businessman Pedro Ferrer at the Riviera. They divorce in 1981, four years after the bust-up of the Supremes. Baby, baby, where did everyone’s love go?

On May 8, 1967: The Bye Bye Birdie gal says hello to happiness as Ann-Margret weds actor/producer/writer Roger Smith at the Riviera. They remain married for 50 years, until his death in 2017.  What happens in Vegas stays solid for half a century.

On May 10, 1955: Joan Crawford marries soft-drink kingpin Alfred Steele at the Flamingo hotel-casino. We assume her wedding dress was not placed on a wire hanger.

On May 13, 2008: It takes a lickin’ and keeps on singin’: The United States Postal Service releases a Frank Sinatra commemorative stamp in front of Bellagio.

On May 14, 1998: Frank Sinatra dies of a heart attack at age 82. The world loses a legend. And in a very real way, Las Vegas entertainment loses a founding father.

On May 15, 1998: Lights dim along the Las Vegas Strip in honor of Frank Sinatra. Fly me to the moon and let me play among the stars …

On May 15, 1905: The City of Las Vegas is founded when U.S. Sen. William Andrews Clark auctions off 600 plots of land. He must have thought we had potential.

On May 16, 1990: Sammy Davis Jr. dies of throat cancer at age 64. His signature song was “I Gotta Be Me.” We — particularly here in Las Vegas — couldn’t have been more grateful that he was. Goodbye, Mr. Bojangles. And thank you.

On May 18: 1990: Lights dim along the Las Vegas Strip in honor of Sammy Davis Jr. I want to live, not merely survive, and I won’t give up this dream of life that keeps me alive … 

On May 18, 1956: The 12-story Fremont Hotel opens, becoming the tallest building downtown. Thanks to some ambitious Vegas developers, our resorts have since gotten slightly taller.

On May 18, 1987: Wed’n’Wild opens on the Strip. Truth in advertising: It is indeed wild. Also, wet.

On May 19, 2017: The old Riviera sign is installed and illuminated at the Neon Museum in its expanded outdoor exhibit space. Resorts come and go but neon reminders are forever.

On May 20, 1964: With hot-to-trotters Elvis Presley and Ann-Margret topping the bill, Viva Las Vegas is released. And a movie theme song becomes a city’s anthem to the world. Bright light city gonna set my soul, gonna set my soul on fire … 

On May 21: It’s National Wait Staff Day. So your Tip of the Day is … LEAVE A BIG TIP!

On May 21, 2010: The Cleveland Clinic Lou Ruvo Center for Brain Health opens. Long-term prognosis? Alzheimer’s disease doesn’t stand a chance. And with its debut came increased recognition of Las Vegas as a destination city for medical conferences and conventions.  

On May 23, 1955: The Dunes opens as the 10th Strip hotel.  This is where our first topless revue — 1957’s Minsky’s Follies — strutted its stuff. Of course, the state Legislature opposed the production. Of course, it set a single-week attendance record, drawing 16,000 oglers. Today, the Bellagio stands on this hallowed ground, with people ogling at water spritzing into the sky and splashing into a lake.

On May 24, 1955: Moulin Rouge debuts as the first racially integrated hotel in the city. Progress, thy name is Vegas.

On May 24, 1957: The famous Miss Atomic Bomb photo is released. Taken by photographer Don English of the Las Vegas News Bureau (a department of the Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority, which produces Las Vegas Newswire), it becomes iconic, featuring Copa Room showgirl Lee Merlin in a mushroom cloud swimsuit. Its popularity and impact? Explosive.    

On May 28, 1954: Kirk Douglas marries Anne Buydens in Vegas. The now-100-year-old Buydens has been married to the now-102-year-old Douglas for 65 years. What happens in Vegas stays solid FOREVER.

Steve Bornfeld

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