Every so often, something happens to remind me how old I am. Like the news a few weeks ago that The Mirage, bought by Hard Rock International, will soon disappear.
What’s replacing it is going to be major cool, I’m sure—they’re building a giant guitar-shaped hotel tower like they have at the Hard Rock in Hollywood, Florida, and there’s nothing like a collection of rock ’n’ roll memorabilia to draw baby boomers like myself like moths to a porch light.
I loved the old Hard Rock Las Vegas, now the Virgin Las Vegas. Here’s hoping the new Hard Rock will be half as cool as that property was back in the day.
But here’s the thing: They’re considering razing the entire
Mirage property to create the new Hard Rock from scratch on its ruins. The famous erupting volcano, the dolphin habitat, the live lions and tigers left there by Siegfried & Roy—all gone. That got me thinking about how Las Vegas periodically erases its history entirely.
When I first arrived in Las Vegas as a gaming writer working for Public Gaming magazine, it was 1984. They had just cleaned the mob out of the old Stardust. I went to places like the Landmark, the Riviera, the Hacienda, the old Showboat, the old Sahara. When I saw Siegfried & Roy, it was at the New Frontier.
As we all know, each of these properties has been wiped completely off the Strip landscape and replaced by something new.
(Well, they made a new Sahara, but they bill it “SAHARA”—all caps, in the clever branding gimmick of the day—and it’s nothing like the old Sahara, which had what is still my all-time favorite Vegas restaurant, Don the Beachcomber.)
Now, all of those old places exist only as signs in the Neon Museum “boneyard.” They were systematically replaced by the new Las Vegas Strip, which began when Steve Wynn unveiled The Mirage in 1989, on the site of the former Castaways. I never visited the Castaways, so there was no weepy nostalgia over its demise. (Unlike when they demolished the Stardust and Westward Ho, two joints I always loved.)
But man, do I remember the debut of The Mirage. In fact, I don’t know how many articles I wrote about landscape architecture and the creation of that volcano by Don Brinkerhoff and his Lifescapes International.
(Soon thereafter, I was writing about any manner of casino supply. I used to be able to tell you who made a certain artificial tree, or casino chair, or ashtray. Pathetically, it looms large in my legend.)
The Mirage guided the path forward for the Las Vegas Strip, setting the stage for all that came after, beginning with Wynn’s second masterpiece, the Bellagio. That one was built on the site of the old Dunes, which debuted in 1955 with the photo opp of Frank Sinatra wearing a turban, seated on a camel. (Everything was a stereotype in the good old days.)
My point, as if I had one, is that the groundbreaking Mirage stuff should be preserved somewhere besides the neon boneyard. MGM Resorts has retained the name, logo and intellectual property of the place, so maybe someday, there will be a new Mirage with all the old attractions.
A nostalgia place for ancient people like me. It would be better than stuffing the tigers and putting them in the boneyard. Heck, the volcano probably wouldn’t even fit there.
Moving on, as you will see with the special section in this issue, crime in casinos has evolved even more than the nature of the casinos themselves. In fact, now you can get pinched for even thinking about a casino crime.
I’m referring to a story from station KWTX in Texas about an arrest just over the border in Oklahoma’s WinStar World casino. According to the story, a Texas man is in jail “accused of planning to rob a jackpot winner from WinStar World, and of planning to sell Xanax at the casino.”
That’s all the story says. We’re left to speculate how police knew the guy was “planning” to do all this stuff. Did he notify security?
“You know, I’m going to take all the money from that jackpot winner, as soon as I sell a few hundred Xanax tablets to those gamblers over there.”
Apparently, you can now be arrested for thinking about misbehaving, like the nuns used to tell us in Catholic school about committing sins. If you thought about it, you were already guilty. (It certainly complicated matters for us all.)
Maybe they’ll put the volcano in WinStar World. Now there, it would fit.