When we first started to visit Las Vegas in the 90’s and needed directions to someplace on or near the Strip, they always started out with “From Caesars, you go…” Everyone knew where Caesars Palace was. It was the epicenter of the world here. In some ways, it still is. The Palace that changed Vegas turned fifty years old this week and they celebrated in Grand Caesars Style!
Jay Sarno, the Imagineer of the place, wanted it to be like Disneyland. A place that as you entered it, it psychologically removed you from where you were (a small town in the middle of the desert) and transported you to another world, an imaginary world of Roman Gods, Cleopatra, and where your wildest dreams was their pleasure to fulfill (within reason and your budget).
On land leased from Kirk Kerkorian and with a $10.6 million loan from the Chicago Teamsters fund/Chicago Mafia, his dream came true. On August 5, 1966, the 14-story, 700 room Caesars Palace opened with each guest being welcomed by the official greeter, a blond 40-20-37 Cleopatra. Not only was Jay Sarno setting a new standard of luxury accommodations in the west, he also set the new standard on how a Las Vegas Resort was to be opened.
Gone were the press releases, newsreels, and photo ops near a cactus and a swimming pool with a bathing beauty. Now it was celebrities walking the red carpet, titans of business shaking hands and eating foods fit for a king along with grand festivities that made the world media take note. With the 2 day gala of an opening, Jay Sarno also was resetting how the world saw Las Vegas. No longer a dusty, desert outpost for gambling, divorces and horse rides. Now it was seen as the place you had to go see and where you had to be seen.
Sarno banished the apostrophe in “Caesar’s” as being too passive. He wanted to create the feeling that everybody in the hotel was a Caesar. So he named it “Caesars”
A lot has happened in those fifty years. Owners have come and gone. Top athletic moments occurred on their grounds and the most famous of famous celebrities have graced it stages. From Andy Williams and Frank Sinatra to Muhammad Ali and Joe Frazier. Grand Prix races and daredevils trying to jump their famous fountains to prize fights under the stars. if it happened, it happened at Caesars.
The Palace Turns 50
With the new kings of debt in charge of the old palace, the fiftieth anniversary commenced this past week. The pools filled with ping pong balls as roman dressed goddesses waded in the water. Some of the top entertainment and famous reality stars of the food courts found in the walls of the Palace held the attention of visitors and fans. Chef Gordon Ramsay, Roller Skating ABSINTHE Brother & Sister Act Billy & Emily England, to name a few.
and what Vegas celebration would be complete without Fireworks??
What Are Your Thoughts on Caesars Turning 50??
Photos: Tom Donoghue