Our hotel was the one thousand seven hundred and twenty room Sahara which was a mock Moroccan Palace rising from the desert on the north end of the Las Vegas Strip and was recognisable by tall, colourful towers, which were featured prominently in the classic film Ocean’s 11 and was once a gathering spot for legends like the Rat Pack and Jack Benny and the lobby and the Thirsty Camel Bar (honestly) and others were full of old pictures of stars like Liberace and the Beatles.
It is an interesting fact that the Beatles were paid £15,000, with no percentage of the gross, for their visit to Las Vegas during their 1964 US tour. They performed twice at the Las Vegas convention centre, on a bill with The Righteous Brothers and Jackie De Shannon. Forty years later Paul McCartney and Ringo Starr collaborated on a George Harrison project to stage a Beatles stage show at the Mirage Hotel, which, when it went live netted multiple thousands of dollars.
Las Vegas translates into English as fertile valleys and was named by the Spanish, who used the water in the area while heading north and west along the Old Spanish Trail from Texas. In the 1800s, areas of the Las Vegas Valley contained artesian wells that supported extensive green areas (vegas in Spanish), hence the name Las Vegas.
The city began as a stopover on the pioneer trails to the west and became a popular railroad town in the early 1900s. It was a staging point for all the mines in the surrounding area that shipped their goods out to the rest of the country. With the growth of the railroads, Las Vegas was temporarily by-passed and became less important, but the completion of the nearby Hoover Dam resulted in substantial growth in tourism, which, along with the legalisation of gambling, led to the advent of the casino-hotels, like the Sahara, for which Las Vegas is famous.
The Sahara is at the very northern end of the Strip and was one of the first and therefore quite close to the old downtown area where the madness all started.
Unregulated gambling was common place in the early Nevada mining towns but was outlawed in 1909 as part of a nation-wide anti-gaming crackdown. Due to subsequent declines in mining output and in the agricultural sector during the Great Depression, Nevada re-legalised gambling on March 19th, 1931. At the time, the leading proponents of gambling expected that it would be a short term fix until the state’s economic base widened to include other industries. However, re-outlawing gambling has never been seriously considered since, and the industry has become Nevada’s primary source of revenue today.
What is now downtown Las Vegas became an entertainment centre for the dam workers, with casinos and speakeasies. Eventually, in 1941, the luxurious El Rancho Vegas resort opened on what would later become the Las Vegas Strip. The Flamingo Hotel in 1946, starting the building boom and one-upsmanship that would continue largely unabated for the next fifty years that resulted in monstrous hotels with gargantuan capacity for separating people from their money. In the 1950s organised crime got in on the act and the city was transformed into what we see today.
There was more site seeing to do today and from the our hotel on the juction of Las Vegas Boulevard and Sahara Avenue we walked south along the eight lane Strip that buzzed continuously to visit some of the most amazing hotels you are ever likely to see. Circus Circus needs no describing, it had a Big Top in the lobby; Treasure Island had an amazing pirate ship battle with guns blazing and a final dramatic sinking that is restaged every hour; The Mirage which had a volcano that erupts every fifteen minutes, two thousand slot machines and a Siegfried and Roy habitat for exotic White Tigers; and my favourite the Luxor which is built in the shape of a pyramid and has an internal network of canals and small boats to get guests from one part of the building to another.
There were dozens more of course but these were the highlights and to be honest there are so many hotels and casinos that you can visit without getting tired of it all. I had no desire, or money, for gambling so there was not much else to do but walk from one to the other meeting Elvis on the way, several times, and become increasingly down hearted by the gross obscenity of it all.
There were some other things to see of course and one of them was the amazing wedding chapels. Las Vegas is the wedding capital of the world and to get married is as easy as going to the County Clerk’s Office and applying for a license, presenting valid identification, such as a driver’s license or a passport and handing over the appropriate fee. The Las Vegas Wedding Bureau is open seven days a week, including bank holidays and once you have a marriage license, the wedding ceremony can be performed immediately in the numerous adjacent wedding chapels by any priest, minister, or even an Elvis Presley impersonator. Just think about it, how dangerous is that? One good night out, too much beer, love at first sight and all followed by the biggest mistake you can ever make in your life!
I didn’t enjoy Las Vegas, I left with a severe dose of food poisoning thanks to some dodgy prawns at the Sahara buffet restaurant and I don’t think I would ever rush back even to see the Beatles stage show (£140 per ticket), but looking back it was an experience and I suppose I am glad I have seen it because it provided a car crash contrast to the beautiful places that we passed through on our trip through ten States of America, Minnesota (briefly), South Dakota, Wyoming, Montana, Idaho, Utah, Colorado, New Mexico (also briefly), Arizona and Nevada. This had been the trip of a lifetime.
The postcard images were all originally purchased in 1995 on the Coach Trip. The Promotional leaflet images are also all 1995 originals.