Las Vegas News Bureau
Monday, Aug. 1, 2016 | 2 a.m.
Caesars Palace celebrates its 50th birthday on Friday, marking its rich history as the Strip’s first truly “themed” hotel.
To ably celebrate that milestone, we offer this list of 50 reasons to love Caesars Palace. There are doubtless many more than 50, but we’ll wait to uncork those for future anniversaries.
50: The 1996 Oscar de la Hoya-Julio Cesar Chavez boxing match, won by De La Hoya in a four-round TKO (this was my first Las Vegas boxing match).
49: The scene in “Rain Man” in which Tom Cruise and Dustin Hoffman are shown in suits walking to the casino floor, and Hoffman is busted for counting cards.
48: The hot-tub scene in “Rain Man” in the “Rain Man” suite, made possible when communications executive Debbie Munch appeased guests bothered by the noise of the Jacuzzi by inviting them into the shoot to watch the scene being filmed.
47: Circus Maximus headliners Earth Wind & Fire.
46: The Checkmates, who headlined the late, great Nero’s Nook.
45: Santa Fe & The Fat City Horns, who also headlined the late, great Nero’s Nook.
44: Dizzy Gillespie, Mary Kaye Trio and Xavier Cugat, who also headlined the late, great Nero’s Nook.
43: In the hotel’s early years, staffers were required to wear togas to work.
42: In the hotel’s early years, phone messages were delivered in pneumatic tubes.
41: The gnocchi at Rao’s.
40: Occasional sightings at Spago: Siegfried & Roy, with “The Evil Queen” from their stage show, Lynnette Chappel.
39: The night a guy was shadowboxing with the Joe Louis statue at the sports book and, while bobbing and weaving, hit his head on Louis’ right hand and knocked himself out.
38: The years that Louis himself worked as a casino-floor host at the hotel.
37: Larry Ruvo, who was hired as a desk clerk a couple of months after the hotel opened and worked there for about a year and a half (that is where he worked before landing a job as night manager at the Frontier).
36: Circus Maximus headliner Harry Belafonte.
35: The Twitter feed of current Caesars Palace President Gary Selesner (@searcher0731), loaded with informative and interesting restaurant reviews.
34: The horse stampede on the Strip in November 2012 that announced the residency of Shania Twain at the Colosseum.
33: The moment in that show when Shania sang “Still the One” to one of her horses.
32: A great show that nonetheless sailed under the radar: The B-52s at Pure nightclub in July 2009.
31: The number of bones broken, fractured or chipped by Evel Knievel after he crashed during his attempted leap of the Caesars fountains on Dec. 31, 1967 (Knievel was always quick to remind that he actually cleared the fountains, thus executing a successful jump).
30: With a better bike and a more calculated read on the speed and ramp angles required for a safe landing, Robbie Knievel successfully completed a fountain jump in April 1989.
29: The cost of an ice cream soda at Caesars when the hotel opened: 75 cents.
28: Circus Maximus headliner Woody Allen.
27: The "Absinthe" fifth-anniversary party in 2015, when performers dressed as Centurions blaring horns led the cast from the Spiegeltent to the Gossy Room – startling hundreds of gamblers and onlookers.
26: The taping of the “Today” show at Roman Plaza in January, when guest co-host Jenna Bush Hager climbed a light standard to pose for photos.
25: “Today” co-host Hoda Kotb’s comment about walking through the Caesars Palace casino: “Everybody’s a high-five. Everybody’s a hug. Everybody’s a something.”
24: Five original Caesars employees are still on-staff today.
23: Circus Maximus headlining show: “Fiddler on the Roof.”
22: The capacity of Circus Maximus was 800, just slightly larger than Sands Showroom at Venetian today.
21: The capacity of the Colosseum, 4,298.
20: Funny, funny, show: Chris Rock at the Colosseum in November 2007, as part of the Comedy Festival.
19: Another funny, funny show: Zach Galifianakis and Sarah Silverman co-headlining a midnight show in a Caesars ballroom during the Comedy Festival.
18: Highlight of that show: Galifianakis stripping to an Orphan Annie costume during a rendition of “The Sun Will Come Out Tomorrow.”
17: Great one-off at the Colosseum: Steve Martin and Martin Short’s “An Evening You Will Forget For the Rest of Your Life,” on March 6.
16: Seeing superstar chef Gordon Ramsay walking at great pace through the casino so he wouldn’t be recognized.
15: The Alan King Caesars Palace Tennis Classic, staged for 13 years at the hotel.
14: The exhibition NHL game in the summer of 1991 between the New York Rangers and L.A. Kings, when a rink was set up over the hotel’s parking lot and survived 95-degree temperatures (a crowd of 13,000 watched the Kings defeat the Rangers, 5-2).
13: The Caesars Palace Grand Prix, held 1981-’84 on a winding course that incorporated the hotel’s parking lot.
12: Circus Maximus headliner B.B. King.
11: His Gossiness, the esteemed Matt Goss, especially the raging cover of the Eagles’ “Hotel California.”
9: The return of Celine Dion to hundreds of employees and fans at the hotel’s main entrance, in March 2011.
8: The legendary title bout between Sugar Ray Leonard and Tommy Hearns, held outdoors on Sept. 16, 1981, for 23,618 fans and won by Leonard on a 14th-round TKO (Hearns was leading that fight on all three judges’ scorecards).
7: The hotel opened with a single tower in 1966; today, six are standing.
6: Headlining act on opening night, Aug. 6, 1966: Andy Williams.
5: Closing act at Circus Maximus in September 2000: Steve Lawrence and Eydie Gorme.
4: All-time Circus Maximus headliners: Frank, Dean and Sammy.
3: All-time Colosseum headliner: Celine.
2: Shecky Greene’s all-time comment, after he drunkenly navigated his Oldsmobile convertible into the Caesars fountains in 1968, when he told arriving police officers: “No spray wax.”
1: The great Jay Sarno, who founded the hotel and has often been described by such Vegas notables as Oscar Goodman as the true father of Las Vegas.