Las Vegas Sun

July 25, 2021

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Columnist Ruthe Deskin: Proud to be part of KLAS heritage

They say time flies when you are having fun.

My life must have been filled with joyous times as I have reached the status of octogenarian in no time at all.

Recently I received an invitation to help celebrate KLAS-TV's 50th anniversary by honoring three worthy individuals who were contributors to the station's success.

Every year station executives select two or three past staff members to add to the Channel 8 Hall of Fame. It's a nice tradition, and this year's honorees are worthy additions.

Bob Bailey was the first black man to host and produce a live variety show on the West Coast. Sponsored by the recently fire-ravaged Moulin Rouge, the show featured headliners from Strip shows.

Later, Bailey hosted movies and news shows for the station.

Judge Jack Lehman's contribution included a show for children. He called himself Commander Lee and the set was a miniature submarine with 50 or more little "submariners" as guests on each show.

Lehman also anchored newscasts. All of this before he became a district judge and earned national honors for the drug court program he instituted.

Ron Vitto was well known as the station's sports director. He was capable of doing any job, and proved it in stints as sports photographer, reporter and news anchor from 1965 to 1985.

Sometimes confused with his brother, G.L. Vitto, Ron was the consummate sports man, while G.L. was more flamboyant in similar roles.

All three earned the honor of being placed in Channel 8's Hall of Fame. Can it really be 50 years since I wrote shows and copy for KLAS radio and listened to station manager Fred Stoye discuss plans for a TV station in Las Vegas?

The idea was great, but money was scarce until Sun Publisher Hank Greenspun promoted the idea of raising money through a group of merchants who had interests in the new medium. From that nucleus the station was born, and Greenspun eventually became the sole owner.

The rest is history.

One of the Strip's last remaining originals is also celebrating a birthday. In the summer of 1958 the Stardust opened with the declaration, "World's Largest Resort."

On Tuesday guests were treated to a reception to launch a summerlong series of events commending the hotel's 45th anniversary on the Strip scene.

Famous for bringing such extravagant shows as "Lido de Paris" to the Strip, the Stardust was the original base for world-renowned entertainers Siegfried and Roy.

Through the years, the Stardust has been plagued with charges of undisclosed mob interests, which was headline news when a brash, young entrepreneur named Allen Glick came out of nowhere to become a wheeler and dealer on the Strip.

Investigations revealed Glick as a figurehead, and Frank (Lefty) Rosenthal emerged as one of the back-room players with clout.

Other irregularities in the operation of the Stardust cost the reputations of several highly regarded locals.

Through it all, the Stardust persevered to celebrate its 45th birthday under the aegis of the Boyd Gaming Corp.