Mob Vegas: 11 Ways to See the Sin City of the '60s & '70s... Today
Sin City has a history of destroying its past… usually by blowing it up... but don't worry, you can still experience the Vegas of the '60s and '70s -- when Frank, Deano, and even less savory characters ruled the Strip -- today. Here're 11 ways...
Then: The Golden Steer opened in 1958 in the shadow of the Sahara casino and became a favorite hangout for Frank Sinatra, Sammy Davis Jr., and despite not having peanut butter and banana sandwiches on the menu, Elvis Presley.
Now: Despite growing in size and building a bigger bar over the years, it’s easy to miss the Golden Steer when driving by because of the strip mall that has grown around it. But the joint still draws fans of the prime rib, and you can call in advance to book the same booth that was once reserved for the Rat Pack.
Then: It was first known as Binion’s Horseshoe back in the early '50s and was the first casino to have a carpet and a $500 limit for the craps tables. It would also eventually absorb The Mint hotel... one of the spots where Hunter S. Thompson binged, as documented in Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas.
Now: The hotel floors have closed, although the casino and lobby remain busy for those looking to play the slots and get parking validated. You can also check out the Top of Binion’s Steakhouse for martinis, charbroiled ribeyes, and a view of Downtown from the 24th floor.
Then: In 1960, The Sands was the coolest spot in Vegas with Frank, Sammy, Dean, and the rest of the Rat Pack hitting the stage at the Copa Room in between filming scenes for the original Ocean’s 11.
Now: The Venetian and Palazzo have taken over the location and aside from offering a taste of Italy with canals, gondola rides, and restaurants from big name chefs like Mario Batali and Buddy Valastro, there is also FRANK The Man. The Music. It features Bob Anderson doing a spot-on take of Old Blue Eyes with a 32-piece orchestra in pretty much the same spot where the old Copa Room used to be.
Then: This authentic desert ranch used to be in the middle of nowhere, well North of the Strip, but it was worth the drive to eat the thick cuts of mesquite grilled steaks (not to mention a few rounds of skeet shooting) while spending some time away from wives, girlfriends, or anyone else you might want to avoid for a little while.
Now: Civilization eventually spread with homes, shops, and the 215 beltway developing around the oldest restaurant still operating in Las Vegas. But the menu is pretty much the same and dessert is on the house if you can finish the 32oz New York cut.
Then: The classic neon marquees that made Las Vegas famous could be found throughout the Strip and Downtown, including Fremont Street when it was still open to traffic.
Now: Those same signs can be found in the Boneyard exhibit at The Neon Museum, preserving some history in a city that’s often a little too eager to forget its past.
Then: In addition to being known for gambling and wild behavior, Las Vegas has long been the place to find showgirls flaunting more than a little bit of skin. Jubilee has been around for more than three decades to entertain those 18 years of age and older.
Now: The show recently underwent a massive makeover from the choreographer behind Beyonce’s “Single Ladies” video. The new look could give it a modern edge, but also make it more difficult to stand out from the other adults-only shows in Sin City.
Then: The Italian restaurant built a loyal following over the years, with a reputation built on homemade lasagna and veal Parmesan, thanks to notable fans like Elvis, Clint Eastwood, and Betty Grable.
Now: It sits quietly in the shadows of new attractions like The LINQ and The Cromwell, but the menu is pretty much the same and still includes all-you-can-drink wine with dinner.
Then: The Lady Luck was one of the most popular casinos in the golden era of Las Vegas, but it eventually turned into an eyesore during the Downtown resurgence.
Now: The spot has been turned into a boutique hotel called the Downtown Grand. In addition to offering some of the tastiest breakfast bites around at Stewart + Ogden, it’s once again probably the best place to spend the night on or near Fremont Street.
Then: The stout concrete building used to be the federal courthouse where punishment was handed out to some of the most notorious mobsters in Sin City... unless Oscar Goodman, the defense attorney who would go on to be mayor, could help it.
Now: It’s the Mob Museum, home to exhibits celebrating Las Vegas’s gritty legacy of criminal activity... in the exact same spot where prosecutors tried to do away with it.
Then: After Sinatra left The Sands behind in 1968, he was the biggest draw in Vegas for the next two decades at the Circus Maximus showroom at Caesars Palace.
Now: The Circus Maximus is long gone and the top headliners at Caesars play the Colosseum. Not interested? You can always skip the shows, head upstairs to one of the suites and pretend you’re starring in your own remake of The Hangover.
Then: When it first opened more than 30 years ago, Piero’s only had seven entrée on the menu and just one side dish (eggplant), but it would go on to host members of the Rat Pack, The Rolling Stones, and at least two US presidents.
Now: Piero’s has expanded the menu, moved to a location near the Convention Center and has Pia Zadora performing in the lounge on weekends. Really.
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