Tuesday, April 28, 1998 | 11:42 a.m.
After 32 years as a South Strip landmark, the Aladdin hotel-casino ended in a violent crash as the 17-story hotel was imploded at 7:32 p.m
"That was very, very scary," 9-year-old Andrea Zamorano of Las Vegas said just moments after the Aladdin Hotel came crashing down.
Zamorano was one of thousands who watched the spectacular implosion of the hotel Monday evening.
"We wouldn't have missed this for anything," said Marti Zamorano, Andrea's mother.
While many in the crowd heeded the advise of the Nevada Highway Patrol and wore dust masks, goggles and even slickers, low winds kept dust and debris to a minimum.
"We were ready to get dirty, but I'd have to say this was a pretty clean implosion," said Linda Larkin of Las Vegas.
Jack Sommer, chairman of Aladdin Gaming -- the corporation that owns the property and plans a $1.3 billion redeveloped Aladdin Hotel & Casino there -- also thought the implosion went very well.
"This is the kick-off of the new Aladdin, and it will be a wonderful resort," Sommer said. "I've been coming to this town for 30 years and it just gets better and better."
Laura Sommer echoed her husband's remarks.
"I was holding my hand over my heart because I love this old hotel. We've had so many great memories here. But it's so beautiful this evening, with such a blue sky, and the hotel came down so perfectly -- I really good about it."
Others, however, viewed the implosion with a bit of resignation.
"We used to love to go to this hotel. It was a fun place to visit, with great lounge acts, but I guess this is progress," said Diane McClyment of Las Vegas. "It's a shame we can't restore and refurbish our old buildings."
Carol Penuelas, an 18-year-old Las Vegas native, also was saddened.
"It seems that every building that has a history gets imploded," Penuelas said. "I grew up with the old Aladdin. I feel like they just destroyed something that was always in my back yard."
Four Las Vegas hotel-casinos have been imploded in the past five years: the Hacienda on New Year's Eve 1996, the Sands in November 1996, the Landmark in November 1995, and the Dunes in October 1993.
All except the Landmark were destroyed to make room for billion-dollar themed megaresorts.
Lt. Gov. Lonnie Hammargren said it was ironic that the dust from the Aladdin implosion enveloped the hotel's marquee, which was left standing after the blast.
"Through the dust, I could read the neon letters of the sign," Hammargren said. "The sign says, 'Out of the dust Aladdin rises anew.' I tell you it's prophecy."
Themed after the classic "1001 Arabian Nights," the new resort will feature the 2,600-room Aladdin Hotel & Casino as well as a high-limit gaming salon developed by joint venture partner London Clubs International.
Another joint venture partner with Aladdin Gaming is Planet Hollywood International, which plans a $250 million, 1,000-room music-themed property with a 50,000-square-foot casino and a nightclub.
Wrapping around the entire complex will be Desert Passage, a nearly 500,000-square-foot retail, restaurant and entertainment complex that will be managed by TrizecHahn Corp. of San Diego, which owns and manages many shopping centers throughout the nation including the Fashion Show Mall in Las Vegas.
Richard Goeglein, president and chief executive officer of Aladdin Gaming, said the implosion was a "wonderful way to usher out the old, and out of the ashes of the historical Aladdin to build a magnificent new property."
Goeglein had spent much of the day talking to reporters throughout the nation about the implosion.
"As soon as I walked into my office at 8:30 this morning, my secretary told me an ABC commentator from Detroit was on the line," Goeglein said.
In the past three decades the old Aladdin was the scene of more than one national news story.
Elvis Presley and his bride Priscilla were married in the private suite of founder Milton Prell on May 1, 1967.
In the 1960s and 1970s the biggest names in entertainment performed at the Aladdin. Among them were Frank Sinatra and Dean Martin. Sinatra and talk-show host Johnny Carson once each tried to buy the hotel, but failed.
In 1980, entertainer Wayne Newton actually did purchase a stake in the hotel. Two years later, Newton sold his 50-percent share to former Riviera president Ed Torres.
In the late 1970s and early 1980s, organized crime members from the Midwest controlled the hotel. That fact and the resort's South Strip location spelled trouble time and time again for the Aladdin, which always seemed to be in the red.
Both Sommer and Goeglein noted that given the Aladdin's past troubles, they were delighted to end the hotel on a good note.
The implosion anchored an exclusive $250-per-person celebrity and invited guest fund-raiser for the Make-A-Wish Foundation of Southern Nevada.
The 800-person charity, conducted in a tented arena at the southeast corner of the 36-acre Aladdin property, was the largest-ever fund-raiser for the organization.
"What a wonderful way to raise money for a great charity," Sommer said. "Benefitting the Make-A-Wish Foundation was the best thing to come out of the implosion. I hope this encourages everyone to think about donating to charitable causes."
Karla Jacobson, executive director of the Make-A-Wish Foundation of Southern Nevada, said the fund-raiser will pay for many wishes by area children afflicted with serious illnesses.
Jacobson said the implosion of the Aladdin was an appropriate forum for such a fund-raiser.
"Often, before I meet with a child to go over his or her wish, I first stop at the Disney store to purchase a genie doll from the film, 'Aladdin,'" Jacobson said. "And I give the doll to the child and tell the child that the genie will make their wish come true."