50 Years Ago Today

“But the world all stopped to watch it, yeah, on that July afternoon,

They watched a man named Armstrong walk upon the moon"  John Stewart, "Armstrong"


Has it really been fifty years?  It doesn't seem that long ago.  But the calendar and the television specials all say that fifty years have passed since that fateful day on July 20th.

On May 25th, 1961, President Kennedy had said "First, I believe that this nation should commit itself to achieving the goal, before this decade is out, of landing a man on the Moon and returning him safely to the Earth. No single space project in this period will be more impressive to mankind, or more important for the long-range exploration of space; and none will be so difficult or expensive to accomplish."

America rolled up its sleeves and got out its slide rules.  We had put Alan Shepard into space and John Glenn was slated to go next.  The Mercury Astronauts caught not only the imagination of the country but of the world.  Every little boy and girl it seemed wanted to either be the Beatles or an astronaut.

I wanted to be an astronaut but slide-rules and math confounded the crap out of me.  And they still do.

We rolled out of bed in the early, early hours of the morning to watch the launches, breaths held as the countdown went down to zero and the button was pushed.

Televisions were rolled into schoolrooms around the country, including Las Vegas, so that we could track their progress.

The Mercury astronauts gave way to the Gemini Project and Ed Whitebecame the first American to walk in space.

Each step brought us closer to the goal of going to the moon.  All of this during a decade of turmoil and conflict the likes of which this country hadn't seen in a hundred years.  The Civil Rights movement, the loss of JFK, the Vietnam War, the youth movement, free speech, the anti-war movement, the silent majority are part of our history of the 1960s.

But through it all, even in the dark days (and we had our share of dark, dark days back then), the resolve to complete JFK's dream of putting a man on the moon by the end of the decade stayed strong. 

We lost Mercury astronaut Virgil "Gus" Grissom, the beloved Ed White and Roger Chaffee on the launch pad in the  Apollo One fire in 1967 and for a brief moment our resolve wavered.  But instead of scraping the idea, NASA and the country moved forward determined to solve the problems and hold the course.

In December of 1968, Apollo Eight with Frank Borman, Jim Lovell and Williams Anders became, not only the first Americans, but the first ever to orbit the moon.  That Christmas Eve they read Bible passages to the world from outer space.

As the 1960s were coming to a close, the decade seemed to be imploding on itself.  What had once seemed like a shining, optimistic beacon had become the very opposite.  Death, violence and drugs had taken over and the decade seemed like it was spiraling out of control.

But on a July afternoon in 1969, that shining optimism was recaptured and reborn as the Lunar Module with Neil Armstrong and "Buzz" Aldrin landed on the moon.

Around the world, people stopped what they were doing to watch history being made.

In Las Vegas, it was a Sunday afternoon/early evening..  At our house in Charleston Heights, we stopped and watched.

In the casinos on Fremont Street and on the Las Vegas Strip, gamblers were doing what they do best, gambling away.

Televisions had been set up around the casinos on both Fremont Street and the Strip so that patrons could watch if they wanted to.

Growing up in Las Vegas, we all know how difficult it is to get gamblers away from the tables and we know the stories of how it is next to impossible to get people to leave slot machines.

But on the Sunday up and down Fremont Street and up and down the Strip, they did just that. 

They stopped gambling to watch Neil Armstrong descend from the lunar module and "take one small step for man, one giant leap for mankind" before erupting in applause and tears.

It was a shared historic moment felt the world over and that included Las Vegas. Over a half million people shared the moment.

I know what you're thinking.  They could have gone upstairs to their rooms and watched.

But it was one of those moments in history when you wanted to be with other people and share the experience.

The Space Race which had begun twelve years earlier with the launch ofSputnik One by the Russians ended with Americans landing on the moon.

We had completed the dream that President Kennedy had set forth eight years earlier with slide rules, mainframe computers and American ingenuity.

And the world held their breath and then cheered with delight as Neil Armstrong set foot upon the moon, July 20th 1969.

The 1960s would all but officially come to a close two and half weeks later with the Manson Family killing spree in Los Angeles.

But, for a brief shining moment on that fateful July afternoon/early evening,, we reminded ourselves and the world of what the best of America could be.

Credit: Airboyd and NASA

Request for photos and info on the Pussycat A-Go-Go

This is an old post from our original blog and one of our readers asked if I could post it here:

Any photos and history. I was a bass player with Don Corey and the Camps in 1966 at this club.

August 1, 2013 | Bob Ruppell 8/1/2013

The Pussycat A Go Go was opened in 1964 by Garwood Van, a
longtime musician and bandleader on the strip. The Pussycat (had NOTHING to with the Pussycat dolls!)was the first live rock and roll dance club on the strip. It featured two stages, a back-bar stage, for smaller musical groups and/or Go Go Dancers that alternated with the larger bandstand on the dance floor. The club wouldn't really start kicking till after 2:00 AM, when the dancers, showgirls, musicians and those who worked the strip would arrive. By 1965, the Pussycat had earned its reputation as "THE" place to go for dancing and socializing. It was not unusual to find many of the strip headliners such as Johnny Carson, among many others, bumping and grinding on the dance floor. The Pussycat was also the hottest place in town to hear and see the newest, up and coming groups and artist, such as Sly and The Family Stone( who played the Pussycat beginning in 1967 as a six piece group) The Checkmates LTD ( with Bobby Stevens ) played their first Las Vegas gigs at the Pussycat. The Pussycat started the trend of dance clubs the major hotels now enjoy. The success of the Pussycat was quickly copied by other venues elsewhere on the strip as well as downtown, but none captured, then or now, the excitement of the Pussycat.
The Pussycat also featured a small restaurant and a tiny casino, 2 or 3 Blackjack tables and a couple of dozen slots. The Pussycat survived until the late '60's. The Wynn properties now occupy the area where the Pussycat and the Colonial House ( with it's Pussycat-style club) once stood. The Pussycat A Go Go was truly the first, and some would say the hottest, dance club Las Vegas ever had. Anyone who had the experience of visiting the Pussycat in it's heyday, would agree. (Ask Sonny Charles, he was there!)

October 21, 2013 | Basse B

Nice article Basie B. My band, Stark Naked and the Car Thieves began playing at the Pussycat in 1966. Very improbably, we got an audition for Caesars to open Nero's Nook lounge, along with Checkmates, Ltd. only at the last moment they changed our name to "The Big Spenders" to help promote Sweet Charity that started a little after we did. There was a certain amount of controversy over all that and we returned to the Cat to play with bands like Sly Stone, Gary Pucket & the Union Gap, Six the Hardway, Fifth Cavalry, Tom Chase's great horn band. Jim Morrison had driven over from Orange County, Ca, to see us the night he got so badly beaten there, Unfortunately, it was our night off so we were no help. We were also there when Sly was chased off the stage and out of town. We went on to play the Flamingo Skyroom and the International Hotel's Crown Room, the second time Elvis was there and occupying the 17 bedroom suite next door. I'd enjoy talking with anyone who has information or memories of these days, especially as it relates to the band. I'm working on a memoir of the years between 1965 and 1971 called THINGS WE LOST IN THE NIGHT. You can see more about it athttp://larryjdunlap.com. Please contact me through the site. Best wishes to all.

June 8, 2014 | Larry J Dunlap

Hi Larry. I also played at the 'Cat' with our group The Orange Colored Sky in 68-69 three times I think.We had Morrison forced on us by the entertainment director Jack I think his name was (short guy bad toupe) Jim was so drunk (as usual) I had to hold him up on stage by the scruff of his jacket while he tried to sing a song. I remember thinking to my self at the time, that Im holding a dead man here.

May 26, 2016 | Tony Barry

The Poor Boy's played the Pussycat 1965. A great dance club and was packed all of the time. Loved playing there!

May 20, 2017 | Bob Allen

The entertainment director at the Pussycat in the mid-late 1960's was Jack Turner. (This was in his pre-toupee days)! Have often wondered what became of Mr. Turner, as well as another headliner (and Lana Turners last husband) Dr Ron Dante/ Ron Pellar, who played the Pussycat in 1966/67.

August 26, 2017 | Tony Barry

Hi stagemates!
I appeared at the "CAT" the summer of 1964 or 65 (can't recall) with a group out of Saginaw, MI called The "Estyles." The other group was, of course, the Checkmates. I wonder whatever became of them??
I remember Lana Turner and especially. Dr. Dante who taught me a lot about Hypnotism (a whole book could be written about what I did with that info.😄
I know that Dante was for real cos he put my close friend Danny under and made him do a bunch of stuff totally out of character for Danny. In case you ever wondered,it was 4 real!!!
Anyway,good to reminisce after all these years. Interestingly,that Devil's music--R&R-- Helped pay my way to a law practice now in its 41st year.the bass player became a PhD in Psychology and guitar player/lead singer a Civil Engineer. Much more in music accomplished, but solid careers backed it all.

Best,Richard. (State Bar of Michigan #P-27181)

September 30, 2017 | Richard Dumas

My band, The Estyles played the Pussy Cat in 1996. The Checkmates were the house band and we were a traveling band out of Saginaw, Michigan. We met a lot of movie stars as we played. Guys like Bobby Darin sat in with us. Dr Dante did a great intermission show. That was the hottest club on the strip. Since we played until 6 am in the morning, the entertainers came to dance to our music after their performances were over. It was a great club and we had a great time playing there.

April 17, 2018 | Dr Don Steele

Gambling on a Dream Presentation and Book Signing: Dec. 8th

Book image.jpeg

If you live in Las Vegas or visiting there, I am happy to announce that I will be doing a presentation and book signing for my newly published book, Gambling on a Dream: The Classic Las Vegas Strip 1930-1955 on Saturday, December 8th at the Nevada State Museum (at the Springs Preserve).

I’ll be talking about the early days of the Las Vegas Strip when it was better known as a pot-holed. two-lane highway that connected the small town to southern California, how it began and how it grew.

It all begins at 2:00 pm and I hope to see you there!