On Friday, October 28, I’ll be taking part in the Mob Museum’s Nevada Day festivities, signing books in the bookstore (where else) from 3-4 PM. Here is more info about the event: Nevada Day at the Mob Museum.
They say it’s a book signing, but in full disclosure I’ll sign just about anything you want to bring. I’ll talk, too. To be honest I have pretty bad handwriting so the actual signing will probably not be the best thing about the event. If I don’t get people to talk with, I’ll have to stare at that creepy Henry Hill portrait for an hour, so stop by if you are in the neighborhood.
In this week’s Vegas Seven, I have a cover story on the frustrating summer of 1955–a year that has plenty to teach Las Vegas 2015:
Lanza’s no-show aside, opening night at the New Frontier was regarded as a success. One of the Strip’s first resorts had reinvented itself for the Atomic Age, bigger and better. It whet the appetite for what was to come.
This was a story that I’ve been wanting to write for a long time. Thanks to Matt Jacob and Greg Miller I have.
First, it’s got the story behind the openings (and subsequent struggles) of the New Frontier, Royal Nevada, Riviera, Dunes, and Moulin Rouge. It also talks about lesser-known failures like the Desert Spa.
For today’s readers who are interested in more than “just history,” 1955 has clear parallels to the recession, and the pivot Las Vegas did in the years after 1955–chiefly, moving towards conventions and investing significantly in them–has lessons for today.
I’m really excited to be a part of this. Tomorrow night I get to present a live commentary track for the movie Casino along with Oscar Goodman:
This Wednesday, September 10, at Inspire, DTLV.com and Vegas Seven are bringing some of your favorite Las Vegas films together with some of those deep thinkers. The Seven Essential Vegas Movies series begins with a screening of Martin Scorcese’s 1995 classic “Casino,” featuring live commentary by David Schwartz, Director of the Center of Gaming Research at UNLV and author of Roll the Bones: The History of Gambling, and Oscar Goodman, former Mayor of the City of Las Vegas and, y’know, kind of the king of all he surveys. Hell, he’s actually in “Casino,” playing himself. You can’t get any closer to the story of “Casino” than actually being a part of it.
It was a nice chance to talk about Grandissimo for a national audience, and I’ve got to say that Peter is one of the best interviewers I’ve encountered. Totally conversational, but always moving the show ahead, talking with him on air is just great. I also talk candidly about my past career as Mr. Peanut, among other things.
For the latest stop on the Grandissimo global media tour, I had a wonderful conversation with Ira David Sternberg for his show Talk about Las Vegas with Ira, which is broadcast on KUNV and is available for online listening as well.
Although this has just been released, it’s one of the first interviews I did for the book, and it was a great chance to discuss the book with someone who knows and ins and outs of Las Vegas past and present.
My view is that it’s a great read and a warts-and-all portrayal of Sarno, a dreamer (and a scoundrel) who was the visionary behind Caesars Palace, which reached out to high rollers, and Circus Circus, which went for the mass market, the yin and yang of Las Vegas gaming.
There’s much more than that, and I encourage you to read the entire column.
And you now have one more data point about Grandissimo—it is a good book to read on a flight to China.
Seriously, it’s gratifying that the book has had such a positive critical reception. I worked very hard to write a book that did three things: accurately reflected Sarno’s life and career; recreated the feel of Las Vegas in the 1960s to 1980s; and was written in such a way that people actually enjoyed reading it. I love that several of the Amazon reviews have variations on the theme of “I couldn’t put it down.” I’m really glad that I was able to relate Sarno’s story in a way that is accessible and engaging.
Author David G. Schwartz summarizes chapter 15, “A Clockwork Volcano: Las Vegas Strikes Back,” of Roll the Bones: The History of Gambling (Casino Edition).
This chapter starts by discussing some of the technological changes that made possible the rise of slot machines, like the introduction of video poker and wide area progressive games like Megabucks. It then talks about The Mirage, which opened in 1989 and kicked off the 1990s boom for Las Vegas. Although it completely changed the Las Vegas Strip, before it opened, many were skeptical that it would succeed.
We then learn about other important companies like MGM Mirage and the Mandalay Resort Group, which, through a series of mergers (including one with Mirage Resorts) became MGM Resorts. Las Vegas Sands, which owns the Venetian and Palazzo, is also profiled.
This chapter covers the changes that tranformed Las Vegas in the 1980s. First, it deals with the forces that led to the mob’s decline and eventual exit from the ownership of casinos in Las Vegas. Then, it discusses the trends that led to a crisis for Las Vegas in the early 1980s, and how Las Vegas rebounded by remaking itself to appeal to mass-market and family vacationers.
Some casinos discussed include the Stardust, Riviera, Circus Circus, and Tropicana.
Author David G. Schwartz summarizes chapter 11, “The Sky’s the Limit: Las Vegas reaches for the stars,” of Roll the Bones: The History of Gambling (Casino Edition).
This chapter starts with the arrival of Jay Sarno, a true casino visionary who built Caesars Palace and Circus Circus. It then covers the impact on Las Vegas of an even more eccentric figure, Howard Hughes. From there, it discuses the corporate gaming acts, Kirk Kerkorian, the origins of the World Series of Poker, and several personalities who came to prominence in Downtown Las Vegas, including Steve Wynn, Jackie Gaughan, and Sam Boyd.
One of the most important figures in 1940s Las Vegas gambling got his start on the right side of the law, crossed over to the wrong side, and then came back. Guy McAfee was a vice squad commander in the Los Angeles Police Department, who, it was discovered, had ownership interests in several illegal casinos. Resigning rather than facing corruption charges, he moved to Las Vegas, where he was involved with several legal casinos. He’s best known as the founder of the Golden Nugget.