End of an era as Sahara shuts

At its peak, the Sahara Hotel and Casino was the “jewel of the desert” at the northern end of the famous Las Vegas Strip.
At its peak, the Sahara Hotel and Casino was the “jewel of the desert” at the northern end of the famous Las Vegas Strip. Contributed

FRANK Sinatra and his Rat Pack not only performed there but also partied hard there as well.

A Who’s Who of show business took to its stage and gang enforcer “Tony the Ant” Spilotro had a last drink at the bar before being lured interstate and “eliminated” over a turf war. The Beatles used it as their digs when they played the Convention Centre in 1964, and the casino robbery scene in the original Ocean’s Eleven was filmed in its vast 7900sq m casino.

At its peak, the Sahara Hotel and Casino was the “jewel of the desert” at the northern end of the famous Las Vegas Strip, a flamboyant throw-back to another time with its Moroccan onion-dome minaret over the porte-cochere, and a magnet for gamblers, gawking tourists, celebrities and con-artists… and members of The Mob who gathered in Las Vegas with seeming impunity.

But last month the Sahara checked-out its last hotel guest, settled its last bets and after nearly six decades, switched-off the longest-burning casino sign on the Strip. Now in place of the gamblers and the gawkers are the liquidators, this week beginning the mammoth task of selling-off 600,000 items that once made the Sahara the place in which to be seen rubbing shoulders with the rich, the famous and the maybe-infamous.

The Sahara opened in 1952, just the sixth resort in town at the time. It soon hired jazzman Louis Prima as its late-night lounge act – one of the first such ventures in Vegas, and a marketing brainwave – and equally soon was hanging the star sign outside the dressing rooms of entertainers as diverse as Abbott and Costello, Marlene Dietrich, Jack Benny, Shirley Bassey, Paul Anka, The Platters, Bill Cosby, Sony and Cher, The Drifters …

Over the years various new owners added extra-somethings to draw the crowds: an additional 27-storey accommodation wing in 1987, a new and even more-flamboyant porte-cochere and minaret in 1997, a roller-coaster a few years later. Then came the GFC and a downturn in tourism to the desert city. The once-glamorous Sahara was caught in the wrong place at the wrong time.

And so now it’s the liquidators at the Sahara. In the massive gaming area, the 1720 guest rooms and the multiple restaurants and bars, everything has a price tag on it: furnishings to fine arts, kitchens to chandeliers, the beds of the rich and the famous, a complete cinema, the bar stools and the gaming tables, many a shirt – or more – was lost on.

Topics:  las vegas travel travelling

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