Las Vegas Sun

January 26, 2022

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Columnist Joe Delaney: The saga of the MGM MIRAGE entertainment scene

Starting after World War II with an air-cargo service, Kerkorian bought property on the Strip ... He sold that property to its present tenant, Caesars Palace, for a reported $25 million, then acquired the Flamingo and used it as a staging area to build the International Hotel near the end of the 1960s, then sold both properties to Hilton Hotels.

Alex Shoofey was recruited from Sahara to head the Kerkorian team for the pre-Hilton period ... Al Benedict and Bernie Rothkopf joined Kerkorian in the early 1970s to build the first MGM Grand, later sold to and renamed Bally's ... This was followed by the construction of the present MGM Grand ... Bob Maxey was one of the top executives for this Kerkorian project.

All four men mentioned above retired after their duties were completed ... During this period Kerkorian acquired MGM's studios and film library and was a major stockholder in Chrysler Corp. ... Other acquisitions included the Primm Resorts and New York-New York before he became the owner of the Wynn properties in Las Vegas and its land holdings in Atlantic City.

Wynn came here first to check the possibilities for bingo; became the manager of Southern Wine & Spirits of Nevada; and acquired a piece of Strip land and used the funds from its sale to acquire the Golden Nugget and make that property equal to the finest Strip hotels ... He was a major moving force in the continuing effort to rebuild downtown, the Casino Center area.

Under Wynn's aegis, The Mirage, Treasure Island and Bellagio followed in that order ... He was a presence in Atlantic City with the Golden Nugget in that city, which he sold then, later, acquired land upon which the Boyd Group is building a luxury hotel as a companion effort with MGM MIRAGE ... Wynn has acquired the Desert Inn property for a multi-hotel development.

Kerkorian and Wynn have always been entertainment oriented ... The Flamingo had a main showroom plus a very active upscale lounge area ... The International, now the LV Hilton, had a two-level, star-policy showroom and a large lounge that featured Peggy Lee, the Duke Ellington Orchestra and B.B. King, and was a home base for pre-"Sanford and Son" Redd Foxx.

The first MGM Grand, now Bally's, had two main showrooms, one for star-policy and the other for a Donn Arden-produced spectacular, plus a lounge and a jai alai fronton which became a special events area ... The present MGM Grand has the Hollywood Theatre, the EFX Theatre, the La Femme Theatre and the Grand Garden Arena, a sports and entertainment venue.

MGM MIRAGE also has expanded its entertainment at New York-New York, signing Rita Rudner to a new three-year deal in the Cabaret Theatre, while "Lord of the Dance" continues doing strong business in its Broadway Theatre ... MGM MIRAGE also has an equity in the Monte Carlo, where magician Lance Burton is at the midway point in an 11-year agreement.

Wynn sent Siegfried & Roy off to Japan and a world tour while he built a theater to their specifications at The Mirage ... He brought Cirque du Soleil to Las Vegas in a tent on The Mirage grounds, which led to the creation of "Mystere" and "O" for Treasure Island and Bellagio, respectively ... Wynn then built a second Mirage theater for impressionist Danny Gans.

The Golden Nugget once had an intimate theater on ground level that featured top headliners including Paul Anka, Alan King, Willie Nelson and Frank Sinatra ... Tony Orlando starts a 13-week stand in the reconfigured ballroom Tuesday, doing early shows with the Amazing Johnathan at 10 p.m.

Cirque du Soleil's Franco Dragone is also involved in creating a production to be part of Celine Dion's multiweek, multiyear deal with Caesars Palace, and is also reputed to be creating an attraction for Wynn.

Entertainment is still a major factor, and both Kerkorian and Wynn have been consistent contributors to quality entertainment and in building performer and show identification with their hotels through the years ... Next Thursday we shall start with Park Place Entertainment.

We did have a nice note from good friend Tom Bruny, Luxor director of marketing, pointing out that "Midnight Fantasy" is doing four 8:30 p.m. shows and five 10:30 p.m. shows weekly in the Pharaoh's Theatre, thus negating my suggestion of a possible Bill Acosta return.

Star-policy rundown

It's "Honky Tonk Angels" (Gold Coast); Amazing Johnathan (Golden Nugget); Mac King, afternoons, and Clint Holmes, evenings (Harrah's); Blue Man Group (Luxor); Tom Jones, plus Rick Springfield starring in "EFX Alive" (MGM Grand); Siegfried & Roy and Gans in separate theaters (Mirage); and Burton (Monte Carlo).

Plus Rudner (New York-New York); Frankie Avalon and Bobby Rydell (Orleans); Earth Wind & Fire (Paris Las Vegas); Ronn Lucas, afternoons, Scintas, evenings, plus Louie Anderson (Rio); Ladies of Rock 'n' Roll (Stardust); Orleans (Suncoast); Rick Thomas (Tropicana); and Melinda, the First Lady of Magic, 7 p.m., and Charo in "Bravo," 9 p.m. (Venetian) ... Catch Marv Koral's All-Stars with Carl Fontana, 7:30 tonight (Jazzed Cafe) ... See you Friday.