News from around town is that the Moulin Rouge may be rising from the ashes. Dale Scott, President and CEO of the Moulin Rouge Development Corp, says that within the next 60 days he will begin demolishing the burnt-out and dilapidated buildings on Bonanza Road. He will also be submitting new plans for a new casino/hotel to the Las Vegas Planning Commission by the end of the year.
The Moulin Rouge was the first integrated hotel in Las Vegas. It was located on the Westside and catered to the black performers who could not stay on the Strip. It had a chorus and dance troupe from the famed Cotton Club in Harlem that was highlighted with a cover story in Life Magazine. For the short while it was open, was the place where Frank Sinatra, Dean Martin and other performers from the Strip would head to at the end of their Late Show. Once there, they would jam with African-American musicians and singers who were performing at the Moulin Rouge. It was an incredibly popular after-hours joint filled with some of the finest talent in the country at the time. However, due to financial irregularities, the Moulin Rouge was forced to close its doors less than a year after opening.
Over the years, other groups have tried to revive the Moulin Rouge but with little luck. In 2003, the main building fell victim to a fire of suspicious nature and was burned almost to the ground. All that really remains is the massive but beautiful scroll-lettering neon sign that was designed by Betty Willis (who also designed the Fabulous Las Vegas and Blue Angel signs).
Scott, a retired Air Force Master Sergeant, has big plans for the property. (We hope those plans include keeping that sign). Those plans include a 750 room hotel, 100,000 square foot casino and upscale amenities to attract locals and tourists alike.
It won't be easy. The Moulin Rouge sits on West Bonanza Road. It is not a walkable distance from Fremont Street. The area around the Moulin Rouge is run-down. Ahern Rentals, which rents cranes and cherry pickers and the Las Vegas Review Journal are the two main businesses on that part of Bonanza Road and neither cater to tourists.
Alan Glover, the Marketing Director for the Moulin Rouge Development Corp, says that the new hotel will be an updated version of its original self. (Perhaps with those wonderful murals that used to be in the showroom and the bar?).
This is the second revival that Scott and company have tried with the Moulin Rouge. In 2004, Scott and company took over the buildings in the wake of the devasting fire. They had plans at that time for rebuilding that included a 400 room hotel, a 50,000 square foot casino, a Motown Cafe and a community center. Those plans were scaled back later that year.
The property is now behind decorative fencing with razor wire at the top. The building's structure is supported by huge girders as the signage is all that really remains intact.
Local Westside historians, preservationists and collectors have all viewed the site over the years and most agree that the location is the hardest stumbling block to overcome.
It will be worth watching to see if the Moulin Rouge has one more life in her. Stay tuned......
Moulin Rouge in the early 1960s
A picture of one of the famous murals
In the beginning
And today, all that really remains is Betty Willis's beautiful signage.
Special thanks to Anna Bailey, UNLV's Special Collections and RoadsidePictures for allowing us to use these photos.