Here are the hot historical happenings in Las Vegas in August through the years.
On Aug. 5, 1966 … Friends, Romans, Las Vegas countrymen — and visitors the world over — lend us your party-hearty attitude as Caesars Palace throws open its gates to the public. Built at a cost of $25 million ($192 million in today’s dollars) by developer Jay Sarno, the Palace debuts with 700 rooms over 14 stories. Each guest is hailed to enter by a blond “Cleopatra” greeter, Andy Williams kicks off the entertainment, and cocktail waitresses chirp, “Welcome to Caesars Palace, I am your slave.”
On Aug. 16, 1977 … Sadly, we fly the flags at Heartbreak Hotel at half-staff because the King, Elvis Presley, dies in Memphis at age 42. What does he mean to this city? If we had a Mount Rushmore, he’d be on it, the rhinestones on his white jumpsuit eternally gleaming off the Vegas sun.
On Aug. 20, 1964 … Moptop Mania comes west when The Beatles play the Las Vegas Convention Center. Bedlam, of course, precedes their arrival, when 2,000 ecstatic teenagers surround the Sahara Hotel the day before. When the Fab Four hit the stage, 11,000 screaming fans are treated to two shows. Forty-two years later, Cirque du Soleil brings them back to town in spirit, opening The Beatles Love at the Mirage. Listen, do you want to know a secret? Do you promise not to tell? We’re in love with them (and always will be).
On Aug. 20, 2016 … The Oakland Raiders file a trademark to become the Las Vegas Raiders of the National Football League. And Vegas enters The Bigs.
On Aug. 22, 2014 … SLS Las Vegas debuts where the Sahara hotel-casino once reigned. And will again.
On Aug. 25, 1964 … A rooftop fire erupts at the Sahara mere days after the historic Moptop visit, the flames igniting because of a welder installing an air conditioning unit. Or perhaps The Beatles were just that hot.
On Aug. 25, 2016 … The spot for the brand-spankin’ new home of the Raiders, named Las Vegas Stadium, is finalized by Las Vegas Sands Corp., developers and the team. And The Bigs just keep getting bigger.
On Aug. 28, 2000 … The Desert Inn, the fifth resort constructed on the Strip, closes after a 50-year run, followed by its implosion on Oct. 23, 2001. Today, the Wynn Las Vegas and Encore occupy the acreage where the D.I. once stood. Among its many highlights, the D.I is where Frank Sinatra — destined to lead the storied Rat Pack and turn Vegas into his personal playground — made his debut in this town on Sept. 13, 1951. On Aug. 28, you will even hear a faint echo … “It’s quarter to three, there’s no one in the place except you and me …”
On Aug. 28, 2008 … With a price tag of $250 million, Eastside Cannery cuts the ribbon on opening day, lending a new spark to Boulder Highway as the first new casino to debut there in 14 years. Gaming in Las Vegas is east side, west side, all around this town.
On Aug. 30, 1946 … Hopping into the Way-Back Machine, we witness the grand opening of The Golden Nugget downtown. With a “Hand of Faith” gold nugget (the world’s largest) on display in the lobby, twin aquariums and a $30 million, three-level pool added over the decades, it’s endured for 73 years. You’ve seen it even if you’ve never been in it, featured in movies including the Bond epic Diamonds are Forever and the Elvis classic Viva Las Vegas, and TV shows such as Alfred Hitchcock Presents, Vega$ and CSI: Crime Scene Investigation. Consider it one of the foundational Nuggets of Las Vegas.
– Steve Bornfeld