Thursday, July 15, 1999 | 9:54 a.m.
Joe Preddy worked hard with his wife, Sarann Knight Preddy, and her son, James Walker, to try to revive the Moulin Rouge, the city's first integrated hotel-casino.
Taking over the financially plagued and dilapidated landmark in 1985, the Preddys secured liquor and gaming licenses, brought in live entertainment and offered Cajun/American fare -- all in an effort to draw crowds reminiscent of its glory days.
However, like many owners of the Moulin Rouge before them, they failed to overcome insurmountable odds and closed the property two years ago.
But the Preddys and Walker succeeded in perhaps a more significant and certainly more noble cause in 1992 when the Moulin Rouge was placed on the National Registry of Historic Places -- a monument to a people's struggle to attain equality.
Joe L. Preddy, who worked behind the scenes while his wife took the spotlight in their efforts to return the Moulin Rouge to its mid-1950s splendor, died of heart failure Friday at Valley Hospital. He was 63. He had suffered from a heart condition for several years, his family said.
Visitation for the Las Vegas resident of 40 years will be 9 a.m.-7 p.m. Friday at Palm Mortuary Downtown. Services will be 11 a.m. Saturday at Zion Methodist Church. Interment will be in Palm Memorial Park.
"My grandfather was the backbone of the business," said Stacye Walker. "The work he did was in the background. For instance, he loved to buy the food for the Moulin Rouge (kitchen), whether it was at warehouses or in the grocery stores."
In a statement Wednesday, Sarann Preddy said: "Joe was a loving, caring, giving individual who didn't mind going that extra mile for someone in need. ... He had a unique style and a special charisma that radiated and touched many."
Born July 2, 1936, in Wilmar, Ark., Preddy graduated from Drew High School in Monticello, Ark., and came to Las Vegas in 1959. It was a time when Las Vegas was called "The Mississippi of the West" because of its policies banning blacks from Strip casinos and its efforts to keep blacks confined to run-down West Las Vegas.
Four years before Joe's arrival, the Moulin Rouge had earned a place in Las Vegas history as the first Las Vegas gaming property to cater to an interracial crowd.
When the 88,900-square-foot club opened May 24, 1955, it made the cover of Life magazine and became a hot spot that attracted big-name entertainers like Frank Sinatra, Sammy Davis Jr. and Harry Belafonte. Former heavyweight champion Joe Louis was the casino's host and Sarann regularly frequented the establishment.
The club's original owners -- Louis Rubin, a restaurateur from New York, and Alexander Bisno, a real estate entrepreneur from Beverly Hills -- closed the Moulin Rouge six months after it opened because of money problems.
Although a long list of subsequent owners failed to revive the Moulin Rouge, it gained further historical significance on March 26, 1960, when it became the site of the signing of the agreement that abolished segregation policies on the Strip.
By the time the Preddys and Walker took over the establishment at 900 W. Bonanza Road, it had fallen into such decay that few thought it was possible to revive it. For a while, however, the club made somewhat of a comeback. In the early 1990s, its adjacent 110-room, $300-a-month residential hotel was at capacity.
Liquor and gaming returned to the club -- by 1993, there were 15 slots and three gaming tables -- and the Preddys boasted that they were the only blacks ever to own the Moulin Rouge while maintaining a non-restricted gaming license for the property.
But the Preddys' dreams of restoring the establishment to a first-class nightclub died after plans for a $10 million-plus renovation fell through in the mid-1990s.
The Preddys also owned the People's Choice restaurant and casino in Las Vegas.
In addition to his wife, Joe Preddy is survived by a son, Avree Joey Walker of Las Vegas; a daughter, Ashley Nicole Walker of Las Vegas; three brothers, James Otis Lyles, of Waukegan, Ill., Paul Preddy of Kansas City, Mo., and Eddie Preddy of Detroit, Mich.; two sisters, Pattie Dailey of Wilmar, Ark., and Vickie Preddy of Kansas City, Mo; and seven grandchildren.
The family suggests that donations be made in Joe Preddy's memory to the West Las Vegas Pioneers Inc. Jackson Street Development Project at the Enterprise Community Federal Credit Union, 1951 Stella Lake St.