Finding Las Vegas?

Is Las Vegas disrespecting its history by forgetting it ever happened? Ira David Sternberg explains how we can look to the future while honoring the past.

Finding Las Vegas?

Rabbi Sanford Akselrad of Congregation Ner Tamid in Henderson, Nevada, read my last column “Losing Las Vegas,” and came up with an idea for my next column on preserving some of the lost history. His suggestion: every new hotel should dedicate one room to its property predecessors. That way, we retain our history and tourists/locals could go from resort to resort down memory lane.

It’s a good idea but getting casino companies to move their eyes from the bottom line to the history book is a major undertaking. Perhaps the answer is to create a virtual history (the one-time cost built into the budget of a property’s web team) that requires no major investment or upkeep. The resort still gives the right salute, but this way it pockets the money that would have gone to archivists, historians, room designers, and antique furniture warehouses.

Since I won’t be asked for advice on this subject from any Las Vegas casino, I present my free suggestions for either dedicating a hyperlink to each hotel’s past or placing a minimal cost “artifact” in the present property’s lobby.

Some examples:

  • Bellagio (formerly the Dunes)

An online magic carpet that whisks you away to the Top of the Dunes and virtual entertainment by the one man left standing from that era: Bob Anderson.

  • Las Vegas Convention Center Parking Lot (formerly the Riviera)

A Steadicam recorded tour of the Riviera lobby and casino, which would bring back fond memories of disorientation when walking through that hotel. To reduce nausea, add a little clip of “Crazy Girls” to distract you. Since there is no property taking the Riviera’s place, let’s also position a kiosk at the parking lot for people to watch online. And another kiosk at the north end to pay homage to the Landmark!

  • Mandalay Bay (formerly the Hacienda)

The Hacienda was known for presenting a nude ice-skating show in the 1970s and would later feature master magician Lance Burton headlining his own show. How about a YouTube video showing a topless Lance making the ice shows disappear?

  • Mirage (formerly the Castaways)

The Castaways was known for its sports book, so what would be more appropriate than showcasing a barrel of betting slips in the lobby?

  • Resorts World (Rosenthal-era Stardust)

Simple link to The Mob Museum website. All done.

  • The Venetian (formerly The Sands)

There should be a place in the sun at The Venetian for a Sands memory. How about a framed photo of casino boss Carl Cohen punching Frank Sinatra?

  • The Wynn and Encore (formerly The Desert Inn)

The Desert Inn was a classy place during the early growth of Las Vegas. Perhaps an audio loop playing in the casino of “Paging Burton Cohen, Mr. Burton Cohen.”

Then there are the historic Las Vegas properties that have not been totally imploded (sounds better than demolished, doesn’t it?). What do you do with a transformed casino that wants to recognize its past? Same solution: avoid expenses and either go virtual or place another artifact in the lobby.


  • The Westgate (formerly the Las Vegas Hilton and International)

The property should be complimented for the ongoing salute to its Elvis history with his statue installed either in the lobby or outside the front entrance. How about adding one more for the king, with “Heartbreak Hotel” for its on hold music?

  • The Park MGM (formerly The Monte Carlo)

Master Magician Lance Burton headlined at The Monte Carlo for a 13-year run. At the least, there should be a tip of the top hat to Lance…a roulette wheel with his face on it.

  • MGM Grand formerly (The Marina)

Instead of imploding The Marina, the MGM Grand was built around it and over it. Rooms are available in the wing that used to be the Marina, so how about a few miniature boats (rowboats) in the hallway as an understated tribute to the old property?

  • Planet Hollywood (formerly The Aladdin)

This one should be easy. A lamp in the lobby would do.

All of these suggestions are designed to prod the Las Vegas gaming industry to recognize history before we forget our past. In a 1948 speech to the House of Commons, Churchill paraphrased Santayana when he said, “Those who fail to learn from history are condemned to repeat it.” To paraphrase Churchill, “Those who fail to learn from Las Vegas history are the first to implode it.”

Articles by Author: Ira David Sternberg

Ira David Sternberg is host of “Talk About Las Vegas With Ira,” a weekly podcast that features engaging conversations with celebrities, entertainers, writers, and personalities. He is a veteran casino publicist with executive experience at the Tropicana and Las Vegas Hilton, as well as a writer and broadcaster. Listen to Ira’s weekly shows at He can be reached at