Dante did not write in the age of malls, but he would have recognized Las Vegas, in any age, for what it is: a religion, a disease, a nightmare, a paradise for the misbegotten
Nick Tosches, writer (intro to the book “Literary Las Vegas”)
The Stardust Hotel is no more. The famed hotel closed its doors yesterday. The hotel opened its doors at noon July 2, 1958, according to the Los Angeles Times. It was the largest resort in the world, at the time, boasting 1,065 rooms. A portion of the casino’s history is written about by Nicholas Pileggi in the book Casino and dramatized in the movie “Casino” staring Robert De Niro.
I have a soft spot for the casino because my friend’s father was a professional gambler who made his bread and butter wages dealing at the card clubs in Gardena, but made his big bucks in Las Vegas. He arranged for his son and me to go to Las Vegas compliments of the Stardust. We got a mini-suite and gambling money.
I was 20 and had gone to the DMV, told them I lost my license and then received a temporary one that said I was 21, which worked in those days. That was a trip of many firsts. We were having a steak dinner and his dad ordered me a whiskey sour, which was my drink for a number of years; I learned to play craps; I learned how to bet baseball games; I saw my first topless show – the Lido de Paris from the front row, and then his dad gave us each $50 told us to get a hooker and be sure to use a condom. I, being the big chicken, opted to save my money, but my friend was already negotiating for us. No need to go into details, but once my friend started arguing that he wanted his money back; I thought a pimp was going to come in and kill us. Once that adventure was over, I being a bit of a germ nut threw all the linens into the hallway and had housekeeping replace everything.
I believe I did come home with money winning from both craps and the sports book.
We went back again with a group of guys, but I ran out of money and didn’t care that everything else was comp’ed, I needed to go home to study and my girlfriend, who eventually became Daughter’s mother was waiting for me. The group finally drove me to the airport and I had to run all the way to the gate, down the ramp (no terrorist threats in those days) and the jet (PSA) was pulling out. I placed my hands together in a prayer position and the pilot stopped the jet, pulled it forward, and allowed me to board.
The Las Vegas trips with On The Mark (stories for another post) started several years later and generally took place at the Desert Inn, which is also gone and is now the location of the Wynn hotel. I am confident most of my adventures in Las Vegas will stay in Vegas because I can no longer remember all the stuff, and the hotels are demolished.