Saturday, Oct. 15, 2011 | 6:25 p.m.
When recording legend Jimmy Buffett first hit Las Vegas 30 years ago, he was nearly penniless and cashed in his airline ticket for a much cheaper railroad ride. Today, he’s the owner of a new Strip casino. Jimmy not only owns the first-ever Margaritaville gaming salons at the Flamingo, but minutes after the red ribbon was cut yesterday, he also secured a Guinness World Record for the largest margarita.
“I didn’t do so bad,” he smiled as we chatted at one of his new blackjack tables. “I was headed out to Los Angeles for an audition with the New Christy Minstrels to see if I could make it in the music business.
“I cashed in my airline ticket so I’d have a few extra dollars. I stopped in Vegas, got off the train with my last $100 left to get to California. I hit a $50 slot win, got back on the next train, but failed the audition -- thankfully. If I’d joined that group, maybe there would be no Coral Reefer Band, no Margaritaville and no 5’o'clock somewhere in the world slogans.
“It all turned out pretty well -- now we’ve opened our first Margaritaville casino, and the next one is already under construction in Biloxi. We’ll have several of them in gaming centers around the country. I certainly can’t complain about how things turned out after losing my first audition.”
Jimmy, who will be licensed by Nevada Gaming commissioners, sat at one of his new tables and chatted with fans as they played their hands. Wouldn’t you know it! He didn’t play, but everybody beat the dealer, who went bust.
Margaritaville was packed from the get-go, and another 2,000 fans -- many wearing Parrot Head designs from balloons, blenders and burgers -- jammed into the walkway between the Flamingo and O’Sheas for the world record attempt. Thanks to contributing photographers Scott Harrison and Ethan Miller for today’s photo gallery.
Members of the Wounded Warriors Amputee Softball team joined in pouring the last mixes of the recipe, which was then certified by Guinness accountants who flew in from New York. That set off a wild frenzy of confetti guns blasting out tons of colored strips and sparklers.
Just what makes the world’s largest margarita? Well, 2,125 gallons of Jimmy’s Margaritaville Gold Tequila, 708 gallons of Margaritaville Triple Sec, 5,667 gallons of margarita mix and 22,267 limes. The concoction was started four days ago and took 300 hours to fill the two-story, 31-foot-tall drum.
The record 8,500 gallons will serve 181,333 12-ounce glasses to guests during this opening week of the seventh annual street parties between Jimmy’s two concerts tonight and next Saturday at MGM Grand Garden Arena. At 70,000 pounds, its weight is roughly that of six elephants who never forget a good drink.
To tie in with his “5 O’Clock Somewhere,” Jimmy’s celebration began promptly at that time, but his fans had been partying well before that. Rick Mazer, regional president of five Caesars Entertainment resort destinations in Las Vegas, told me: “We removed an entire steak restaurant and a dark hallway to add to existing unused space to create the 15,000 square-foot Margaritaville Casino, which now has 22 gaming tables, 220 slot machines and of course a 5-O’Clock Somewhere Bar.
“We opened Jimmy’s Margaritaville restaurant, one of the busiest in all of America, back in 2004, so it was natural, building on the many years of success, we would expand together our guest experience with his new casino. It’s all Jimmy Buffett music all the time.”
Jimmy shook hands and toasted glasses with each member of the Wounded Warriors Softball Team. “Much appreciation for these great wounded warriors who I’ve worked with for a long time. Gentlemen, thank you for coming out. We’re going to have a good time this weekend. Let the fin begin!”
In addition to the weeklong festivities, Margaritaville also will debut Margaritaville Online at today’s Street Party. Guests can virtually escape to a tropical island getaway in the innovative and humorous social game. Inspired by Jimmy’s laid-back, tropical paradise lifestyle, friends will be able to party and play inside a 3D utopia of adventures and send friends drinks while fending off party pirates. The first booth showcasing the game is located in “Fin City” at the Margaritaville Street Party.
Margaritaville Casino gaming activities operate under Flamingo’s gaming license. Margaritaville has expanded to popular destinations including New Orleans, Orlando, Myrtle Beach, Glendale, Mohegan Sun Casino, Nashville and Jimmy Buffett’s at The Beachcomber in Honolulu, as well the Caribbean, Panama and Canada. His first Margaritaville Beach Hotel in Pensacola, Fla., opened in July 2010.
It all prompted me to ask Jimmy if he was the original Tommy Bahama. “I say it humbly, but I think so. I was certainly first!”
Then after checking out the trash bins in the Flamingo basement containing thousands of empty bottles used to win back the world record, he looked over his new casino and told me: “This is really cool. I came here for the first time all those years ago, won some money that made it possible for me to lose my first audition but find Margaritaville.
“Nobody -- certainly not me -- would have ever guessed it would become all this. That’s one interesting story to contemplate lying back in the hammock at the beach with a good drink.”
Robin Leach has been a journalist for more than 50 years and has spent the past decade giving readers the inside scoop on Las Vegas, the world’s premier platinum playground.
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