Monday, March 14, 2011 | noon
The owner of the Sahara hotel-casino on the Las Vegas Strip on March 11 announced plans to close the property on May 16. The 59-year-old casino at the north end of the Las Vegas Strip has a warm spot in the hearts of many Sun readers, and we asked them to share their stories with us. Some of their memories are below, edited for spelling and clarity.
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Map of SLS Las Vegas Hotel & Casino
2535 Las Vegas Blvd. South, Las Vegas
I worked for Western Airlines, which in 1972 had a city ticket office in the Sahara Hotel. We did ticketing for the hotel guest as well as the management and the headlining stars. Some of our favorite customers were Rowan and Martin and Norm Crosby. John Romero and Ed Nigro were always great to work with. The Sahara will always bring fond memories.
-- Bev (Stack) Holden
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I am very sad to see the Sahara go. It was the first casino that I came to the very first time in Vegas, played my very first blackjack table and had a blast.. Everyone was very friendly there.. I am really sad to hear the news about it closing... RIP Sahara ... Yes, I will shed a tear for you ... Thank you for all my memories...
-- Melissa W.
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I am so sad to see this Great Lady go dark. I can only say that I am very glad I had the opportunity to buy that last bottle of Sahara wine. The bottle had been displayed by the spirits and the sports bar area in the wall. I picked it up last December, we also received the wine glasses as well. I will never forget the gracious attention from the staff as we tried to get into the display case. I have a picture of the display, but can not attach to this email. Great memories as I wish she did not have to close. You will be greatly missed. Thanks so much.
-- Terry Geis
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I have some fond memories of the Sahara.
1. Walking out of the buffet on the second floor a couple years ago, my friend stopped in the restroom. She comes out and says "that's the most beautiful bathroom I've ever seen." A friend played live blackjack for the first time at the $1 tables. That was a fun time. 2. Watching Sunday night football in the old sports book (where NASCAR was in later years) many years ago on one of my first trips to Las Vegas.
3. Last November we were driving from the Stratosphere to the Hilton late on our last night in town and I thought, you know we better stop in to the Sahara for a little bit. We hadn't stopped in at all. Since they had a Leroy's sports book, I didn't go in a lot in recent years since those lines were available elsewhere. Knew they were struggling since the buffet had closed and some of the rooms weren't being used. Didn't really think it would end up closing but maybe somehow knew. We played some slots for awhile and took what for me ended up being a final walk through.
-- Brent Heutmaker
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My best friend, Gary, and I met as busboys while working in the Sahara Hotel, Caravan Room coffee shop. We cleared dirty dishes from in front of many patrons, tourists and locals, and then a few of the greatest of entertainers and stars. While nervously serving water and coffee to the stars I managed to stay composed, and so thrilled. That was my situation, working the floor, while Gary, was removed, working behind the counter with the moving belt, carrying dirty dishes back to the dishwashers. I found Duke Ellington to be the most gracious of stars, while Phyllis Diller had a laugh that carried throughout the coffee shop and probably into the casino. Don Rickles had the sharp wit to put us all on edge. Johnny Carson had that certain voice, and a certain coolness, but I don't remember much of him. I didn't know how great he was because I didn't watch his late night show. I worked the graveyard shift. All the stars, Frank Gorshin, Buddy Hackett, Jerry Lewis, Jack Benny and many more came in for an early morning snack or a wind down, or I don't know, maybe prepping for a late night out. Jack Benny was special. He became one of Gary's favorite targets, losing his composure in pursuit of some famous momentos. Gary came out from behind the counter to first, salvage Jack's cantaloupe rind, oh so stinky after a while. Next, he grabbed the Caravan Room paper placemat with the fluted edges that Jack ate on. But, his greatest prize was the un-burnt but sucked on end of Jack's cigar. Oh, that seemed to be Gary's greatest prize. Gary might still have it today. ... There have been so many changes since my days at the Sahara, and none will be quite like what the Sahara sees now. I will miss it, but my memories will still hang on, blowing in the wind.
-- Stewart Freshwater
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Fourteen years ago, my husband, cat and I moved here from New York. We were staying at the Sahara for a week until our house was ready. We snuck the cat in, put "do not disturb" on the door for the whole week so the cat would not sneak out or be discovered. I dyed my hair in the tub on last day, which then backed up with red hair dye. I bet the staff thought we were on most wanted list since we refused access to our room for the whole time. We still laugh about that week, since the beginning of our new life in Las Vegas started at the Sahara.
-- Susan Katz
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I have two favorite memories about the Sahara. My wife and I had our first Thanksgiving as Las Vegas residents in 2007 at the Sahara Buffet. I used to cash my paycheck every two weeks at the Sahara and then save the drink vouchers to use on New Year's Eve. As a Nascar fan I used to love the Nascar store and cafe. They will be missed.
-- Ernie Larios
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My father Sam Kitterman was known as "Mr. Sahara." He opened the hotel in 1952 and worked there for more than 43 years when he had to retire due to illness. The ironic thing is he died of Muscular Dystrophy and the Sahara was the home of the MDA Telethon for many years. I spent most of my childhood rambling the halls of the Sahara, visiting my dad and his co-workers. Everyone knew each other back then and there wasn't a place that my dad couldn't go to that they didn't know his name. I remember my dad telling me that Elvis Presley would come over and take him and a few of the dealers down into the breakroom and show off his karate moves. My dad and Col. Parker became friends and had us as guests at Elvis' show at the Hilton. My heart is very heavy today as one of the last remaining landmarks of my father is now coming to an end. I really feel bad for the other long-time employees who are still employed there.
-- Debbie Kitterman Burgos
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I was a "Sahara Girl" in production shows in the Main Room and in the Casbah Lounge in the early 1980s. I have to thank Jack Eglash (orchestra leader/ entertainment director/show writer) for the fond memories I have of the Sahara Hotel and Casino. We, as performers, were treated as family. I still stay in touch with the Eglash Family. I am saddened to see the Sahara close its doors. Gone but never to be forgotten!
-- Donna Washington
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My husband and I got married in Vegas 35 years ago this July. I loved the Sahara then and we loved it last year when we came back to celebrate. We were actually just sitting down at the computer to make our reservations for June at the Sahara to celebrate our 35th anniversary when how saddened we were it said No Vacancy! So I checked other dates, same thing, and I thought how strange so I called and was told the terrible news. The Sahara is a landmark, the greats have stayed and performed there, it's hard to believe the loss of a great landmark. Thank you for the memories.
-- Kay (declined to submit last name)
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Flew in from Florida with close to a dozen of my best friends. Watched the "Rat Pack is Back," drank free booze and shot craps 'til dawn. I feel like I'm losing a friend. Vegas trips just won't be the same
-- Travis Folmar
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Stayed at sahara in 2001 for my 40th birthday. I liked it so much I have been going back for the last nine years. I booked flights to Vegas for October for my 50th birthday and planned to book at the Sahara next week. Where do I now book to find the same personal service you got at the Sahara? Good luck to all the staff.
-- Nigel Willey
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Like many others sharing their stories, my first trip to Las Vegas included the fabulous Sahara. My favorite memory is a very little one, probably insignificant to stories with the Beatles, Mr. Lewis, the Rat Pack, and Mr. Liberace. My best friend (since kindergarten) and I decided to ride the monorail "just to see where it goes." When we arrived at the Sahara, the escalator looked like it would never end! Once we finally descended, we were welcomed by a loving, friendly staff of folks! We had such a good time that day, I decided to buy a toy camel. When I approached the cashier, he was very pleasant and we began joking. He asked, "Don't you have a husband to buy you this?" I said no and we went on to have at least a ten minute conversation on how my stuffed toy camel would make an excellent pet. Let's face it, this pet didn't need to be house-trained, didn't shed, and never had a temper! That gentleman was such a sweetheart! We went on to talk about how he hated his roommate's cat and should consider a camel for himself. Every time I went to the Sahara (this week included), I always looked for my friend from years ago near the gift shop and camel statue. Years went on, hundreds of photos taken, dollar hot dogs and popcorn consumed, moments of being terrified when the rollercoaster passed overhead, monies lost, monies gained, monies spent on rising costs of monorail passes ... but the staff's personality never changed! I always felt welcomed and that my cash (what little of it I had) was valued. I never attempted to eat the B3 burrito (for obvious reasons), I was not brave enough to ride the rollercoaster, nor was I old enough to see the fabulous acts that once graced the stage, however, the Sahara was also my jewel of the desert. I loved that place and I'm truly saddened to see it go. I had the pleasure of visiting recently, and the folks were as friendly as ever! I'll miss the kind gentleman who worked at the gift shop late at night, the friendly gals who brought us food and drink, and the great table games dealers who seemed disappointed in their games when we lost. I will treasure my little stuffed camel even more over these few days. Thanks so much for the memories, Sahara casino and staff!
-- Meghann Ryann
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I worked at the front desk for 27 years from 1968-1995. The best time was when Del Webb owned the hotel. He came to the front desk and asked to cash a check. A new cashier told him he would have to to go the casino cage to cash it. He told the girl, I think it will all right this time. She said, "What, do you own the hotel?" and he told her, "As a matter of fact, I do." ... When we told her he signed her paycheck, she cashed the check and never forgot who he was. He would take care of the employees at Christmas, Thanksgiving, etc. We got turkeys, wine, bonuses...the first five years I worked there, there was no turnover except when one older desk clerk passed away, Mr. Beasley. She was a grand ole' lady in her day.
-- Darrilynn (declined to submit last name)
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I was recently at a conference in Las Vegas, and although I was at a different hotel, I made a point walking down to the Sahara. It was a goal of mine to play at a real Las Vegas casino ... Not a theme park, but a place that was part of the Rat Pack days. When I arrived, I was sad to hear it was closing, but I consider myself lucky to have seen it.
I was lucky to have gambled there in the last month it was open, playing $1 blackjack and enjoying the pleasant atmosphere of its staff. You couldn't help but let your eyes wander around the casino, and think about how mobsters, celebrities, and the greatest entertainers of all time had been here.
Yes, the area is past a section of unfinished resorts (creating a dead zone between the Sahara and money). Yes, the casino was dated (something I found a part of its charm that night). But for me, I think a lot of people miss the point that I got ... it was stepping into a part of history. If it reopens, I'll make a point of playing there again. If it doesn't, I'll always cherish the dollar chip I kept as a souvenir. The Sahara was the coolest place in the desert, and its a shame if others don't get to see it the way I did.
-- Michael Cross
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Throughout the 1970s my family would vacation in Vegas. The Sahara's atmosphere still exuded the swinging Sixties with beautiful cocktail waitresses and cigar/cigarette girls. My cousin worked in keno. The writers used black ink wells and brushes to mark the numbers. The best buffet in town -- my little sister would not eat anywhere else because of their brownies for dessert. The buffet was upstairs, all glass, with a perfect view of the pool. One summer a duck, the town nicknamed "Donna the Duck" lived there with an arrow sticking through her. She didn't seem to mind and the Sahara allowed her to live there. In the 1990s Wet N' Wild was in the Sahara parking lot. Those summers I spent with my son there are the very best memories I have and I will never forget. The Sahara will forever live in my heart and my memories forever. Thank you very much for the memories.
-- Lisa Young
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My husband and I were married in Vegas in July 2005. After our ceremony we went to the Sahara to the Nascar Cafe and then rode the Speed roller coaster. Each year we have been able to make it back to Vegas we have re-created this memory. We are very saddened that we will not be able to do that this year. The Sunday champagne brunch buffet was a tradition as well. The Sahara will be sorely missed by us.
-- Judy Prine
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My husband and I celebrated my birthday with friends at the House of Lords in the Sahara in July in the mid-1970s. That night Las Vegas experienced one of it its torrential downpours and the hotel lost power just as my friend and I were in the restroom. In pitch blackness it was hard to find our way out. The restaurant had candles on the table and the casino was under low light auxiliary power with the gaming closed.
-- Kathie Slaughter
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My 50th birthday party. We had so much fun there. Staff was so nice to all of us. The pool was so much fun. What a great time we had and what a special memory for me. Thank you Sahara. I loved you because we are the same age, born in the same year... I will also miss Paco's.
-- Mindi Callens
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I will truly miss the Sahara Hotel. My wife and I have been going to the Sahara since the early 1990s, probably three to four times a year. The Sahara was like a second home to us: We live in San Diego and would usually drive over and when we pulled into the garage area we would always comment to each other, "We're home." We will continue to vacation in Vegas, but it will be different without our familiar hotel.
-- Jim Cole
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In May 2010 we were lucky to be bumped to the Beatles suite and it was fantastic. You could feel their presence in the room. The view was beautiful and the room itself was large. I hope they decide to remodel because it is one of the friendliest places to see, also the staff that we have come to know over the past six years are wonderful and whenever a problem arose, the staff took care of it. I have stayed at different hotels on the Strip and this is the place we always come back to...
-- Gina Cope
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I married my fourth wife at the Little Chapel of the Bells in October 1984 and had the limo take us to the Sahara, where we saw Jerry Lewis in the Casbar Lounge. We sat at a table next to the stage and Mr. Lewis saw us in our wedding outfits and made a funny comment to the audience which brought a round of applause.
-- Jim Anderson
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I remember when I got called for an interview as a keno runner. I was so broke! After the interview they called me back and asked, "How would you like to be a pit clerk?" I didn't even know what that was, but I sure found out fast! It was so much fun working in the middle of the pit with all of the gaming excitement going on around me! I eventually moved into the cage as a cashier, then as vault cashier. I remember during the holidays, the company (Del Webb) would give us a turkey and a bottle of champagne. When I worked in the cage, somebody would bring us those little chocolates with liquor in them. We also got a bottle of champagne on New Year's Eve that we would drink all evening long -- couldn't do that now, could we? I met so many stars helping out with the safety deposit boxes. I'll never forget meeting Jerry Lewis: He was very nice, funny and really felt strongly about the telethon and "his kids." I also met Flip Wilson, Red Foxx and Prince Spencer. Oh, and Wayland Flowers! I miss all of the people I worked with, we were one big happy family!
-- Suzan Johnson
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I was in the Las Vegas High class of 1959 and have fond memories of the Sahara. My dad, Leonard Block, treated the family to dinner out once and week and often we ended up in the lounge. When my mother was too tired, dad would take me and everyone thought I was his "niece!" We always got front row seats since dad knew all the bosses. My favorite act was the Goofers, especially the drummer. He wore a gorilla mask and the jowls flapped up and down when he played. I still smile when I think of him! I was underage for the lounge, but no one ever questioned me when I was on the arm of my dad.
-- Gale Blanchard
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My parents came to Las Vegas about every six weeks when we were growing up in the 1950's and 1960's. They would always stay at the Sahara. They had some kind of deal with Herb MacDonald, I never knew what. Anyway, I remember the dinner shows in the Congo Room. Everybody got dressed up, and you had to tip for a good seat. I remember the House of Lords, not where it is now, but up a small elevator. They served lobster on a silver platter, huge lobsters. I remember the free buffet in the lounge everyday at 4 p.m. Little roast beef sandwiches and salads. Sneaking sips of my mother's beer, so cold! We swam all day and went to dinner shows at night. This was only in the summer when school was out. Great memories.
-- Mike Grant
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I sold to the Sahara in the early 1960's. I was looking for a parking place and noticed Buddy Hackett's spot. I knew he was out of town so I started to pull in. A security guard came up and stopped me. "Nobody parks in Buddy's spot for any reason."
-- Del Barry
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I went to work at the Sahara in Don the Beach Combers restaurant in 1963. I was the first female front hostess. Milton Prell was president at that time. Those were the days when stars like Jane Russell, Dean Martin and a multitude of others would walk around the casino and restaurants feeling free and at ease without being hounded by photographers and autograph-seekers.
In 1967, my (now deceased) husband and I owned the barbershop in the hotel. He was known as "Louie the Blade," a name given to him by Buddy Rich, one of our friends and a customer. Louie was known for his razor hair cuts and styling and was the first barber to use a blow dryer on men's hair. He used an open tennis racket-type hairnet to blow through to better control the air flow. Louie's clients included Robert Goulet, Jack Benny, Louie Prima and the list goes on and on. Years later I worked for Joe Rando in the barbershop and again we had another list of stars, such as Buddy Hacket and on and on. I worked with Louie when Alex Shofey gave him the International Hotel/Casino barbershop. He was Elvis' barber. I so many more stories, some you can tell. Ha!!
-- Ruth Maestas
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My Husband use to play in all of the Sahara's Invitational Golf Tournaments with the pros who are now called the Senior Tour. We were treated like royalty, given great gifts, met and became friends with so many of the pro golfers...It was such great fun. Sahara was one of the best back then...only about seven hotels on the Strip during the Rat Pack Days... Yes, we saw them all, plus such wonderful memories!!!! Thanks Sahara Hotel...remembering your glamourous days..
-- Helen Cook Abercrombie
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I've just completed a nonfiction book on old Las Vegas--with 34 chapters on the Sahara, where I was the marketing director for most of 20 years. One chapter is about Herb McDonald, whose promotion work helped make the Sahara and the city world famous. This kind, gentle man deserves a tribute he's never received for his unending dedication to Las Vegas. I profile him in a chapter named, "A Citizen of Las Vegas."
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In the summer of 2008, my fiancee (now my wife) and I stayed at the Sahara for five days. I had a show at House Of Blues in Mandalay Bay, which is where I proposed. It was my wife's first visit ever to Las Vegas and it is also where it was decided that we were going to move to this summer. Everything was just beautiful. The valets, the buffets, room service, poolside jacuzzi, everything was just perfect. I can't wait to permanently move there!
-- Stan Moore
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Our neighbor, Jack Hanley, was the assistant manager of the keno department at the Sahara Hotel in the 1960s. As a teenager I would babysit his children. He always told me that when I turned 21 he would give me a job at the Sahara in the Keno department. When I came home from college for the summer in 1968, having turned 21 in February, he hired me as a keno runner. A few days before I reported for work -- unbeknownst to me -- my mother went to the Sahara to check out the uniforms the girls wore and to talk to Jack about the job. When I came to work the keno writers gave me a hard time about this, but they always looked after me. We were like a family. When the runners got off their shifts in the wee hours of the morning, the keno writers or a security guard would always walk us out to our car.
I ran tickets for some of the top celebrities and headliners of the day as well as many influential people in Las Vegas. The district attorney at the time, George Franklin, often had lunch in the Casaba Theatre with associates and they always played keno. They would always tip 10 percent of their winnings. The executive chief of the hotel and his assistant would play keno when they were off duty. They always tipped 10 percent, and they were very lucky: Both hit 8 of 8 more than once. The ticket they played became known as the "Chief Ticket" and many other regulars would play those numbers. I was not fortunate enough to have carried a big winning ticket for them. However one other special related memory is of the time one of the captains in the Casaba Lounge hit a $25,000 keno ticket I was carrying for him. He stiffed me (no tip). Now you have to know that these guys made their living from tips, and so did the keno runners. Our salary was about $18- $20 a shift. Not tipping a keno runner with a big win was a real bad mistake. Word got around about this and the other dealers and captains all gave him a hard time about the stiffing. They even took up a collection and gave it to me. Like I said, we were family.
One last story: I had friends in town and was able to get them a special seat in a little-used lighting booth high up near the front of the stage. Johnny Carson was the headliner and so when I got off work I slipped up to see the show with my friends. Johnny looked up and saw us sitting there and said, "Mr. and Mrs. Lincoln, I presume." When the laughing stopped, he said, "This joint will do anything to get your money, look a keno runner way up there." You see, I still had my uniform on. I worked at the Sahara for the next three summers while I was in college. It is very sad for me to think it will be closing. I still carry a one dollar chip from there for good luck.
-- Judy Santelman
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My wife and I were tourists, visiting Las Vegas from our then home in San Diego, California. We were here for just a few days, but the Strip was much smaller in those days, late 50s, early 60s. Consequently, it did not take very much effort to reach any of the hotel casinos. At that time, the incentives that were offered in Las Vegas were quite unbelievable, such as 49¢ breakfasts and the Sahara offered a FREE afternoon buffet. For the price of a bottle of beer, which was 35¢ then, you could enjoy a good meal. Consequently, we made it a practice of visiting the Sahara around 2:30 each afternoon. After a couple of visits, we realized this particular man made it his practice also. He was tall and handsome, with a courtly bearing and a slight European accent. Sitting alongside my wife and me, he probably recognized my British accent and introduced himself. He told us he was the maitre de at the Silver Slipper. Perhaps because I have always been a good listener, or more out of loneliness, he related his story to us.
He was a genuine, impoverished nobleman from Austria, a Count, whose family estate, bank accounts; the Nazis took possessions of any nature from them, because they happened to be Jewish. He then showed us photos and newspaper clippings to authenticate his story and stated it was his ambition to own his own club. He was managing to live on $1 per day for food. How was this possible? He had breakfast at one of the 49¢ offerings, then lunch for the price of a 35¢ bottle of beer at the Sahara and dinner was provided free of charge at the Silver Slipper, as were his living accommodations, because he was maitre de. He was saving his entire salary and investing it!
We did see Louis Prima and Keely Smith with Sam Butera in the Casbah Lounge at the Sahara.
-- John O'Hara
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The Sahara Hotel holds a special place in all of Las Vegas's hearts, especially my husband's and mine! My husband retired from the Sahara after 31 years as a laborer and gardener. He remembers taking care of the camels out front and the gardens by the old and the new pools. He has many stories that he has shared with me about guests and stars from over the years. As he puts it, some of the regular guests returned yearly and became a part of the Sahara family.
One was an English woman who loved to sunbathe by the pool. Each visit she always looked for her "family" and talked with my husband as he pruned and cared for the garden pool area. The favorite story my husband came home with was about Charo. Charo apparently had a sweet tooth and is very down to earth even though she is a star! One day as some of the employees were eating lunch in the help hall, Charo walked in. She helped herself to an ice cream cone, sat down, and began to talk with them! What a great surprise! He was so impressed at how nice she was that day. He fondly remembers the Rat Pack days, each owner, and all the changes over the years.
Our Sahara family, especially the Engineer Department, is wished love and luck from the both of us.
-- "Bear" and Norma Booth
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I remember as a Scout troop in the late 1960s going to the coffee shop for hot fudge sundaes. At that time they seemed to be enormous. It seemed like they were almost a meal in themselves. If I remember right they were only a dollar. We went as a reward for earning certain badges or ranks. We always felt special and grownup by being in a hotel. I can still almost taste them to this day.
-- Dennis Olsen
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My ex-husband and I were married in 1957 and shortly after, on the way to California, we stopped in Las Vegas to see Louis Prima, Kelly Smith and Sam Butera and the Witnesses. The people were six deep all around the Casbah lounge. The place was electric. About three years later, my ex, Morgan Thomas, was a "Witness" and stayed with Louis Prima's band for 15 years.
-- Sally Thomas
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It was 1958, I was 18 years old and in Las Vegas for the first time. We went to the Sahara. The men were in suits and the women in fancy evening dresses. It was a great just watching all of the excitement in the casino. We noticed a crowd of people surrounding a blackjack table and went over to see what was going on. We saw two entertainers from the showroom playing there: Stubby Kaye and Dan O'keefe. They were having a great time, making jokes with the dealer and the rest of the players at the table. Then they decided that they wanted to deal. So they asked the dealer to step aside and they begin to deal the cards. And they paid on every hand -- even if you busted. Everyone had a great time . I wonder if that could happen today? After that trip I was hooked on Vegas. My wife and I finally moved here in 1991, and we love it.
-- Herman Gonzalez
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I moved here with my paernts in 1963. My dad found the coffee shop at the Sahara to have the best banana splits ever! Any out-of-town company were treated to one. Also, I bought many school clothes at the dress shop in the hotel. And we can't forget "Don the Beachcomber." Yes, the Sahara has many many memories for this long time Las Vegan.
-- Claudia Paskiet
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Now, I am professor, but back in the day -- 26 years old, single, and full of life -- I was hired as the associate director of publicity at the Sahara in the late 1970s working under the tutelage of the greats Herb Mcdonald and John Romero. That was the tail end of the great old Las Vegas. Smooth, sophisticated high-rollers, and guests sometimes even wore tuxedos like in the old days.
We held some great events at the Sahara during that time: championship pro-am celebrity golf tournaments, started the first blackjack tournament -- I remember inviting Billy Carter when his brother Jimmy was the president. Wow, a 26 year old kid from New England, just out of graduate school, and I was right in the middle of it all.
I used to sit with Tony Bennett after his performances and chat about art history (he's a painter); with Pearl Bailey about literature (she was studyding for a B.A at the time; and used to take insults from Don Rickles and Jerry Lewis).
The fondest memory I have, though, was sitting in the sound booth in the Congo Room each night watching Tony Bennett sing; really it was the only show that I watched, even though we had great stars in the late 1970s there such as Don Rickels, Johnny Carson, Jack Jones, Jerry Lewis...
I learned so much about communications, behavioral analysis, people skills, and mostly how to have fun at the Sahara. All those lessons took me back to graduate school and a Ph.D. in management. Now, as a university professor, no one of my students could ever imagine the stuff I used to do. Eating breakfast with Tony Bennett in the Sahara Coffee Shop at 2 a.m. after the midnight show; trading classic jokes with Don Rickels; accidently bumping into Charo backstage; having George Carlin dial up my younger brother to cheer him up during a long illness. That was some life.
Finally, when I heard that the Sahara was going dark, a part of me felt as if it was going dark as well. I miss those days, but as long as the building stands and there's a chance that it will reopen, I can savor those memories and once in a while smile to myself and bewilder my daughters and her friends with stories and...the photos to back up the wild tales.
Thanks, Sahara... Long live the Sahara.
-- Dan Murteza
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My first visit to Las Vegas was in the mid-1970s when I came from San Francisco to stay with my parents while they were here on a gambling junket at the Sahara. In those days just about everything was comped. Needless to say, I was quite impressed with what I saw. The one thing that has stayed with me all these years is my experience the first time dining at the House of Lords restaurant. I remember there was a nice relish tray that stayed on the table the whole meal. One of my all time favorites was on that tray: nice big green olives. I took an olive and very, what I thought was discreetly, put the pit on my plate. No sooner than that pit touched my plate, these longs tongs came out of nowhere and removed the pit. Every time I ate an olive and placed the pit on my plate, the long tongs appeared and snatched it away. I have been to many very nice restaurants since that time and have never had olive pits removed from my plate. I always wondered if that was something that was done just at the House of Lords. Somehow in all my subsequent visits, I never did get back to the Sahara. Now that I am a local (less than a year), I will definitely stop by the Sahara to say good bye.
-- Sharryl Goldstein
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In the summer of 1987 I stayed at the Sahara for most of a week for a business conference being held there and had my 40th birthday at the same time. I was living in Los Angeles at the time and my wife joined me for the weekend. I had many meals in the excellent coffee shop. My wife and I ate in the House of Lords and saw the show in the showroom. We also enjoyed browsing in the excellent shops in the lobby and had a pleasurable room service breakfast in bed. We stayed on a high floor in one of the towers and enjoyed the view. I have a wonderful memory of my week at the Sahara that year and visited there just last week where my memories were rekindled and I said goodbye to my friend the Sahara!
-- Gary Brooks
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Fond memories of Don Rickles in 1985, in the Copa Room, one of the funniest guys in the world! Fond memories also of Kenny Kerr's 'Boylesque' in the showroom in the late 1980s, early 1990s -- a GREAT show! Recently saw (few years ago) Roseanne Barr in the Copa Room, we sat right up front! Roseanne was wonderful!
-- John Monks
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In the mid-1960s my dad was in the orchestra and used to sneak us in to see performers. One time Phil Silvers was there and he was interacting with the audience. We were in the trumpet section which was a small balcony, the trumpets were for some reason down in the pit. I was about 7 or 8 and my brothers a couple years older. Phil looked up and saw us, and said to the audience member: "If you got a complaint, take it up with them, they're the owners" and the spotlight panned up to my brother and I. Later that night we met Phil and he laughed and said, "Yeah,I saw them up there and decided to use them in the show." He was a very nice guy. We met a lot of people: Irene Ryan (Granny from the "Beverly Hillbillies), she was real nice; Flip Wilson; Della Reese; Don Rickles; and many more... Thanks for the memories Sahara, we'll miss you.
-- Brian D.
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In 1988 I moved to Las Vegas from Athens, Georgia, with the aspiration to become a poker dealer. I remember begging the card room manager to give me a shot, which he did. I remember, like it was yesterday, walking across the overhead walkway that crossed over Paradise into work that first day in my white shirt and maroon bowtie thinking that I was king of the world. I had MADE it, I was a dealer in Las Vegas at the Sahara! I worked there for three years.
Working there was like coming home to Thanksgiving dinner every night. The crew all loved each other; the players and dealers all loved each other. It was a wonderful job. I remember a regular player's daughter was in town from Los Angeles one night and asked if I, a dealer, would escort her daughter to the Rich Little show. My boss let me off that night to go. I felt like royalty.
I remember that during CES there was an adult video convention upstairs. The escalator landed just in front of the poker room that time and I remember watching naked woman after naked woman descend that escalator. I remember dealing to Red Foxx, Flip Wilson, Alice Cooper, Mel Torme, Bernie Allen, and mucking and playing pan with the most wonderful assortment of characters.
Goodbye Sahara! Thanks for the memories.
-- Michael (declined to submit last name)
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A classmate and I spent the summer of 2010 in Las Vegas as part of an internship. During those three months, after visiting every casino on the Strip, it was the Sahara that we kept going back to on the weekends. It was the only place outside of Downtown where we felt like we were experiencing "classic" Vegas.
-- Jim Doughty
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My most exciting memory of the Sahara hotel was when my best friend and I met Michael Jackson in the audience at the Wayland and Madame show there. MJ was very friendly and signed autographs for us. The night was unforgettable!
-- Luigi Mastropietro
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On Saturday, March 12, my son and I attended the Cubs-Reds game at Cashman Field, then went to the Sahara for $1 Miller and hot dogs. The staff was super friendly, and I saw a photo of the Rat Pack I would really like to buy. I'm glad I visited before it closes, truly the end of an era.
-- Kern Barrow
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In the mid-1990s I was living in Los Angeles and my father and brother were both in Chicago. One year we decided to all meet in Las Vegas to spend Christmas together. That year, we spent Christmas week together at the Sahara. We even set up a small 12-inch Christmas tree in our hotel room and put presents beside it to exchange on Christmas Day. We spent most of our week at the Sahara, eating, drinking, gambling and being silly. It was a great time.
-- Rob LaRosa
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I've lived here for over 40 years. I remember when I was a child here, my parents going to the Sahara Hotel lounge all the time, they said it was their second living room. They saw Frank Sinatra there along with Don Rickles.
-- Al Barbagallo
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One late afternoon in the 60s, upon walking into the elevator, standing there was Jack Benny. Those were the days.
-- Dennis Rosen
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I remember my dad taking me to the front parking lot of the Sahara, just South of the main porte cochere, back in I believe 1956, to see Elvis Presley's "1956 Solid Gold Cadillac," as he was playing at the Sahara at the time. My dad worked at the Sahara in the casino and after work one night, he and his peers watched the El Rancho Vegas burn down, from the front perking lot of the Sahara. My dad also dealt craps to the various "Rat Pack" members while "Ocean's 11" was filming at the Sahara, and later at the Sands.
I also watched some of the filming of the "Ocean's 11" movie at the north entrance to the Sahara casino. Can you believe that from the northwest corner of L.V.B.S. and Sahara Avenue to the northeast corner of Sahara Avenue and Paradise Road, running down Paradise Road along the property line, was a parking lot?
In the early 70s, I worked for a vendor and worked on a sound system in the Casbar Lounge and worked from about 9 p.m. to the wee small hours of the morning. After work we would go to breakfast in the coffee shop and it's funny how you remember things, but I LOVED their Spanish omelets.
Believe it or not, I believe I'm accurate in stating that the Sahara had the FIRST high-rise hotel tower on the Las Vegas Strip. The tower is no longer there, but it was about 10 stories high and became the second high-rise hotel in town, along with the Fremont Hotel & Casino in downtown Las Vegas.
At one time in its life, the Sahara was THE place to go for conventions, concerts, MDA Telthon, etc. as there wasn't a room that size in town, other than the Las Vegas Convention Center.
I'm sorry to see the Sahara go, as it has been a key part of our city's history. If Hank Greenspun were still alive, he would be raising hell over its closure. Let's hope someone picks it up in a sale and keeps it alive, with a major remodel.
Thanks for the opportunity to remember "the good ole days."
-- Randy Clark
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1964 AND 1965 Louis Prima, Gia Maione Prima, Sam Buttera. Absolutely the best lounge act EVER...EVER.
-- Bill Pope
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The Sahara was the first hotel I ever stayed at in Las Vegas and it wound up being the place I always made a point of spending time at during my subsequent twenty or so annual Vegas vacations. I felt like I was going back in time to a special place. I just wish I would be able to head back to the Sahara before the closing.
-- Ray Johnson, New Brunswick, New Jersey
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When I found out I was going to be able to visit Vegas (never thought that I would), I immediately set out to find the perfect place to stay. I wanted to stay somewhere that still had some history of the old Vegas days, someplace that the mega stars had been. My journey took me to the Sahara. I wanted to feel like I had the chance to walk in their shoes and maybe experience some of the glory days. I could not have made a better choice, the Sahara was very much that feeling. I know years have passed and we will never again feel the excitement of those times, but they were the great times in this city's history.
The greed that has taken possession of this town has destroyed it. The old has been demolished to make way for the new more modern way of the present. When will we stop and take time to remember, if the past had not happened we would not be where we are today, looking at all of the vacant lots with a promise of something to be that has not. The buildings standing incomplete are such a statement of greed that has taken its toll on this town.
The Sahara will always be my perfect place, not too expensive, has all the amenities we need and is central to all of the attractions this town has to offer. The monorail was a good idea, but yes it may have been more profitable in a better location. Then right down the street from the Sahara is the bus route to take you to Fremont Street. I was commenting to my husband that this property sure is in a great location but needed some TLC.
The House of Lords was an experience not to be missed, the staff was so perfect it was such a pleasure to be treated as if I mattered to them. The food was wonderful and the dessert, well let's just say I could not finish. I am so crushed to see the new owners close this great landmark. I pray they decide to rejuvenate it to the glorious place to what it once was, and try to keep the room rates reasonable. I love this place and am so devastated of the closure.
-- Terry (declined to submit last name)
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I moved to Las Vegas in 1978 with my husband and 4 children ranging in age from 10 to 18. One of the first places we went was the Sahara so we could eat at the buffet. It was fantastic and the first buffet we had ever eaten at. We didn't have a lot of extra money and the food was great and it filled up my three sons for not much money. We went back often. They had a lounge show my husband and I could go to and buy a drink and see some wonderful musicians. I have not been back since seeing the rat pack a number of years ago. I will definitely miss the Sahara Hotel and its friendly staff.
-- Marilyn Morin
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My father, Tony, was the general manager of the Sahara during the Del Webb years, from around 1976 to 1984. I was far to young to appreciate it then, but our family had a great time dining and hanging out at the Sahara. We would eat "comped" at The House of Lords (and everywhere else for that matter), and we had a special booth with a phone so my dad could stay in communication with the pit bosses and the "eye in the sky." When my uncle visited from England, he couldn't believe how great Don the Beachcomber was with their giant and unique Pacific Island cocktails.
High rollers would shower our family with gifts, especially folks from Hawaii. I remember seeing boxes of chocolate covered macadamia nuts stacked in our living room. We even had old blackjack and craps tables in our garage that all the neighborhood kids would play on.
My dad would park his white Cadillac right off The Strip under the marquee, which often had names like Redd Foxx and Don Rickles on it. We would walk into the main entrance, and every valet and bellman knew my name! Every once in a while, I'll meet someone who worked at the Sahara with my father; the story is always the same: "Your father gave me a job when no one else would!"
I would have never believed the place would ever go dark, even today. Las Vegas was a different world back then, and I miss it.
-- Ashton Packe
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After a divorce in 1972, I auditioned for the Skin Show at the Sahara (previously being a June Taylor Dancer). Alas, 32 was too old to keep up with the rest of the line. So, I became a pit clerk instead. It was there that I met the most wonderful man (pit boss) who was later to become my husband. I met Bob Miller in 1972, my hire date at the Hotel Sahara, before women were allowed to deal cards. I spent more than half my life with Bob. We finally married in 2000. He passed in 2008. He spent most of his life as a Sahara Pit Boss. He loved his job, and I loved him. Thank you, Sahara Hotel, for giving us both a fantastic life.
-- DJ Barrett
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My first trip to Las Vegas was in 1968. I had just turned 21. The Great Liza Minnelli was the entertainer at that time. I was swimming in the Sahara pool with her and she was being teased by a comedian that was also on the show events. I still have the show brochure. I enjoyed the great food and drinks.
-- Walker (declined to submit last name)