Wednesday, June 15, 2016 | 11 a.m.
Cascading, colorful fireworks that erupted early this morning on the Las Vegas Strip truly were a display of beauty. Moments later, as the 24 stories of Monaco Tower of the Riviera fell to the ground in a perfectly controlled explosion, the choking dust was everywhere like a desert sandstorm.
It was the personification of another one bites the dust! Thrilled eyewitnesses yelled at one another to get inside out of the smoke. It was 2:37 a.m. today as the walls came tumbling down without the trumpets of Jericho.
Sixty years of Las Vegas history and the first high-rise built on the Strip were reduced to rubble. This was the first of two implosions at the property now owned by our Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority. The Monte Carlo Tower is set to be imploded in mid-August.
Our esteemed editor Don Chareunsy was at the Barrymore viewing party in Royal Resort steps away from the excitement:
“This was the first demolition for many attendees, including yours truly. People were turned away from the viewing party all day. It was a site to behold. Another larger party is planned for August.” Don told me that it took 30 minutes to get from the parking lot to Paradise, normally a five-minute drive, post-implosion.
It was a Las Vegas-style send-off with VIP area for showgirls, music and late-night, pre-dawn drinks and snacks. My pal Jeff Kutash, who produced “Splash” at the Riv from 1985 to 2006, was among the guests. High rollers watched from the comfort and safety of helicopters hovering at 3,500 feet to see the pyrotechnics.
The hotel cost $10 million to build in 1955 when Liberace opened it as the first and highest-paid headliner, but the LVCVA paid $182 million to purchase it in February last year. These demolition efforts at the Riviera permit the LVCVA to move forward with the new Las Vegas Convention Center District.
The project includes expansion and renovation of the Las Vegas Convention Center, expected to grow by 1.2 million square feet, including 600,000 square feet of additional exhibit space. Construction of the state-of-the-art facility is expected to generate 7,000 construction jobs and 6,000 full-time jobs.
Our thanks to contributing photographer Tom Donoghue and Las Vegas Sun photographers for their coverage. Just before the tower came down, thousands of “What Happens Here Stays Here” memories and confessions from around the world were sealed in a vault forever in the ultimate “WHHSH” moment.
The vault was placed inside the Riviera before the demolition. With the property was blown to smithereens, the secrets are maintained for eternity.
People submitted hand-written “WHHSH” confessions at the Welcome to Fabulous Las Vegas Sign, Container Park and McCarran Airport, and digital confessions were collected at WHHSH.com. Digital entries were entered into a contest to win a three-day, two-night vacation to create new “WHHSH” memories.
Parts of the Strip and surrounding roads near the Riviera were shut to traffic at 1 a.m. and reopened at 5 a.m. after the dust had settled and was cleared away.
The Convention Center is a proven asset and economic driver for our community, and expansion ensures that Las Vegas is able to keep up with the ever-evolving needs of tradeshow clients and maintain its status as the No. 1 tradeshow destination in North America.
Robin Leach of “Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous” fame has been a journalist for more than 50 years and has spent the past 15 years giving readers the inside scoop on Las Vegas, the world’s premier platinum playground.
Follow Robin Leach on Twitter at Twitter.com/Robin_Leach.
Follow Las Vegas Sun Entertainment + Luxury Senior Editor Don Chareunsy on Twitter at Twitter.com/VDLXEditorDon.
With its glass, star-lit exterior, visitors can't miss the Riviera when driving down the Strip. As the first high-rise to open on the Las Vegas Strip, featuring a nine-story hotel, the Riviera has seen more than 50 years as an entertainment destination in Las Vegas. Top bill acts like Liberace, Dean Martin and the long-running Splash revue (closed in 2006) have graced its showrooms over time.
The Riviera still offers its share of entertainment options with topless revue "Crazy Girls," a comedy club and "Illusions," starring Jan Rouven.
The 100,000-square foot casino has been featured in many films like "Casino," "Austin Powers" and "21." Although the hotel has passed through a long list of owners over the years it has always held on to it's unique theme (for Las Vegas) in that it lacks any particular theme. It also features a William Hill Race & Sports Book walk-up betting window right off the sidewalk on the Strip.
The Riviera has dining options well covered, from seafood and steaks at R Steak and Seafood, a variety of breakfast, lunch and dinner fare at Banana Leaf Café to an international cuisine at the R Buffet.