The Sahara Hotel closes tomorrow, Monday, May 16th at 2:00 pm. With just a skeletal staff at work, people have been coming in to say good-bye to the Grand Dame of the north Strip.
The Sahara has a colorful history and it was here the Beatles stayed when they played the Convention Center back in 1964. It was here that Louie Prima, Keely Smith and Sam Butera and the Witnesses revolutionized the Las Vegas lounge scene in the mid-1950s. The Casbar Lounge was the jumpingest place in town and everyone from Frank Sinatra to Judy Garland were in the audience to hear the that group.
As Sam Butera told me in an interview I did with him in 2004, "We were the hottest group in the world."
The House of Lords and Don the Beachcomber restaurants, the Space Center convention space that hosted the Jerry Lewis Telethon for many, many years, the beautiful neon pylon, these are all memories now.
Club Bingo prior to becoming the Sahara
When the Sahara opened in 1952, the Las Vegas Strip was much different from today. The El Rancho was across the street, the Hotel Last Frontier and the Flamingo were further down the two lane highway. Owner Milton Prell called it, "a jewel in the desert." He brought in comedian Stan Irwin as entertainment director and comics like Don Rickles and Buddy Hackett rotated the Casbar Lounge with Louie, Keely and Sam.
It was a mythical era in Las Vegas history and the Sahara had a major role in that mythology.
King Louie Prima
The Sahara as she originally looked in the 1950s
Don the Beachcomber menu
Sahara Love In Halloween, 1967
The Camels that used to be out front
Sahara letters in the Neon Boneyard
The Sahara in-house newsletter
The Sahara in the 1990s
Sahara Showgirl Cheryl Thompson
The Sahara in the 1970s
To learn more about the Sahara's colorful history, take a look here: http://classiclasvegas.squarespace.com/a-brief-history-of-the-strip/2008/1/22/the-swinging-sahara-hotel-history-1950s.html