That evening over 8,000 spectators celebrated with Boogie Nights and the all time great Kool and the Gang. Robert "Kool" Bell, the founder of the band was honored to be part of history. According to Bell, Las Vegas has always been one of his favorite places to entertain. "Las Vegas is the first place I think about when it comes to playing a gig. It's No. 1 and now Kool and the Gang is part of the history of Las Vegas." Kool and the Gang are currently working on a new CD which, are you ready for this, has a country song on the CD. The funky, pulsating rhythm and blues band during their writing just happens to come up with lyrics that called for a country song. The music of Kool and the Gang was truly a celebration with "Ladies Night" and songs such as "Celebration." In fact, it brought old friends together, as it did with photographer, C.J. Cansler, an old friend who sang and played an instrument in Robert's band in high school.
LAS VEGAS HAS HISTORICAL ROOTS
In 1905 there was a little train stop called Clark's Las Vegas Town site (now downtown Las Vegas) which was founded during a busy two day, 100 acre auction held at the corner of Main and Fremont Streets by an old time railroad magnate named William Clark. Clark was one of those characters who once stated "I never bought a man who wasn't for sale." This was the start of the "get rich quick scheme of things." The following year Vegas opened its first gamming table at the Golden
Gate Hotel Casino, but otherwise faded off throughout the years for the next quarter century. At that point in time, twenty four electricity was a decade away and the first real business l5 years after that.
It wasn't until March 19, 1931 that the Nevada Legislature legalized gamming. No longer was law enforcement paid to look the other way. Casino owners would then line up for licenses. It was also the year Nevada introduced the fastest divorce in the United States changing its residence requirement from three months to a mere six weeks.
Just a few miles away from downtown Las Vegas there was the building of the Hoover Dam, the largest Dam in the world. The Hoover Dam where 7 million tons of concrete, 14,800 miles of steel pipe and a massive new reservoir at Lake Mead was completed.
In the middle of nowhere on April 3, 1941, that's sixty four years ago, the Las Vegas Strip then Coyote country was born. The Las Vegas based hotel entrepreneur, Tom Hull, paid a whopping $150 an acre for scrape land at the corner of what is now called Sahara Avenue. Hull opened his Western themed El Rancho Vegas, a 63 room motel with a pool, a couple of blackjack tables and most importantly, air conditioning. Just a few years later, one mile down the road, the Last Frontier opened.
On December 26, 1946, the grand opening of the Flamingo became the reality for underworld figure, turned hotelier, Benjamin "Bugsy" Siegel. Siegel, who grossly over budgeted the building of the Flamingo by six million dollars wasn't able to get immediate results for his backers. Instead flights to Vegas were cancelled because of the weather and many of invited Hollywood notables did not show. For a matter of days &endash; stars like Jimmy Durante performed to nine guests. Six months later, Siegel was killed in his hometown of Los Angeles. A new team takes over the Flamingo which becomes one of he most successful resorts in the country. Between 1950 and 1958, there were 11 major hotel casinos opened in Las Vegas. It was also a time where the midnight chuck wagon buffet was introduced by Beldan Katleman, the owner of the El Rancho. For one dollar, guests would fill their bellies with food and patronize the hotel after the second show which starred such greats as Eartha Kitt.
The history continues to Nick "the Greek" Dandalos who in January of 1949 started a no limit poker game with Johnny Moss of Texas. This game is what put Binions Horseshoe on the map. Benny Binion, the founder of Binion's was the only character who would take the chance and watch the no limit hold 'em go in for five straight months. In the end "the Greek" lost two million dollars before graciously rising from the the table and saying "Mr. Moss, I have to let you go". Twenty one years later Binion founded the World Series Poker where its first champion was Johnny Moss.
During the growth of Las Vegas, the atomic bomb was tested in 1951. During that time the United States Army opened a three million acre gunnery school (now Nellis Air Force Base). At that time the Atomic Energy Commission, just north of Nellis Air Force Base dropped its first nuclear bomb on the neighboring Nevada Test Site. Some 120 mushroom clouds (about one per month) would sprout up in the dessert in the next decade. It however, did not hurt tourism because an "atomic marketing campaign boasted Las Vegas. Visitors would schedule visits to coincide with blasting dates supplied by the Las Vegas Chamber of Commerce. There was the "atomic hairdo," the Miss Atomic Bomb beauty pageant and the atomic cocktail, all of which made Las Vegas even more popular.
It was just a matter of time when the Las Vegas Convention Center was the city's answer to keeping business alive between weekends. In April of 1959, a group of 5,000 delegates from the world of Congress of Flight were the first to hold their conventions in Las Vegas.
In 1960, Frank Sinatra and the "Rat Pack" (Dean Martin, Sammy Davis, Jr., Joey Bishop and Peter Lawford) debuted their "Summit" performance in the Copa Room at the Sands.
History was once again made and the strip began to blossom and Vegas visionary, Jay Sarno opened Caesar's Palace with two tons of filet mignon and 50,000 glasses of champagne and one of the largest orders of Ukrainian caviar ever made. After Sarno, came Howard Hughes who on November 7, 1960, five months before coming to Las Vegas sold Trans World Airlines for $546,549, 771. Hughes bought the Desert Inn and within a few weeks after the owners tried to evict him, bought it for a cool $13 million inquiring "how many more of these toys are available?" Hughes was the first to bring in the corporate policy purchasing the Sands, Castaways and the Frontier within a year. Anti-trust laws prevented him from acquiring the Riviera, Caesar's Palace and the Dunes. A year later was the passing of the Corporate Gamming Act which sanitized the industry allowing publicly traded corporations (i.e., Hilton, Ramada and Holiday Inn to obtain gamming licenses in Las Vegas.
Thirteen years after failing at the Frontier, a wiser and married Elvis Pressley reunited himself with Kirk Kekorian's International Hotel. On November 27, 1966, the same year Englebert Humperdinck Dorsey debuted at the Rivera. This marked the beginning of mega star headliners. The history goes with icon, Steve Wynn developing the Golden Nugget in downtown Las Vegas. Wynn then moved up the strip to the Golden Slipper selling it and building the Mirage with its volcano. Then came Treasure Island with its buccaneer battle which is now the T.I. Sirens and finally the Bellagio. Mega resorts were now a show in themselves, but that wasn't enough for Steve Wynn, he sold his properties to the MGM Mirage group and created the Wynn Resort where the Desert Inn formerly was located. Well, you can still celebrate the history of Las Vegas. On Thursday, June 9th, you can attend "Once Upon One Hundred Weddings" where one 100 couples will be married underneath the Freemont Street Experience.
On Saturday, July 2nd, Las Vegas will continue its celebration with a hugh nationally televised centennial concert thrown by Clear Channel over the July 4th weekend. Perhaps the biggest celebration will be on November 10-12 when one half million people are expected to attend the Nellis Air Force Base air show which will feature military and civilian aircraft. For more information call the Centennial office at (702)229-2005. Until then, celebrate life and remember to keep your visions positive and to have positive people around you.
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