I believe it's a place everyone should go once because it's just so -- Las Vegas. But if you aren't a gambler -- and I'm not, really -- once you've seen it, you've seen it.
So, why so many trips? Rick's annual national trade show is held at the convention center there and for a number of years I helped out at the booth.
We always stayed at the Riviera. It wasn't the most exciting hotel in Vegas, or the one with the most attractions (like, pretty much, anything), but the rooms were clean and the location -- a short walk to the convention center (short walk Vegas-style, that is) was perfect.
|Rick at work in our room at the Riviera|
When Rick went last year, he couldn't stay there -- it was closed, soon to be imploded for an extension to the convention center.
That implosion is happening this month. A recent article in the Daily Beast told of its storied history. And I wanted to share a few tidbits from John L. Smith's article. I recommend clicking on the Daily Beast link HERE if you're interested -- it's a nice article with lots of good history.
I didn't realize that it was the first towering building on the strip at nine floors. Later, an additional and taller tower was added, but the Riv was the leader. It was (not surprisingly) built with big mob investments out of Chicago, including those from the gangs of Tony Accardo and Meyer Lansky.
|Every year the Riviera set up a Christmas tree made of poinsettias. It was simple and elegant.|
The Riv was home to hundreds of star turns in its day, the kinds of stars that had one name -- Liberace (who opened the place in 1955), Dean, Sammy, Frank, Tony, Barbra -- and dozens more. Comedians like Shecky Greene, Rodney Dangerfield, Phyllis Diller and Richard Pryor, along with the top singers of the day performed in its show room.
If you saw Martin Scorsese's film "Casino," you'll recognize the Riviera as the "Tangier." (Piero's restaurant, on Convention Boulevard a very short walk from the Riv, also is featured in the film -- and it's a wonderful restaurant.)
|On the roof overlooking Circus Circus. Lots of construction in the background. We took this one during a fire alarm at about six a.m.|
As action on the strip moved south and the theme hotels like Bellagio, Caesar's Palace, Treasure Island (TI), Mirage, Venetian and Paris evolved, business for the Riv slacked off. The stars played the new showrooms and the average tourist didn't make it down to the Riv which had no photo-perfect attractions, like fountains, volcanoes, flamingoes or sinking pirate ships and no trendy stores, like the higher end shops down the way.
And, as Smith writes in his article, "drug addiction and the pressures of having murderers for bosses took their toll. Accardo’s men retired (Gus) Greenbaum and wife Bess in 1958 in Phoenix by cutting their throats with a butcher knife. Future managers were more careful."
|Considering it was a real fire alarm (though not a real fire), there were precious few people on the second floor roof at 6 a.m. when someone accidentally pulled the fire alarm! The rest were probably in the casino!|
But with the Star Policy in the nightclubs, the Riv thrived and was very profitable. The accommodations were good and the entertainment even better, making it one of the classiest of the Vegas hotels until the strip began to expand. Like some of the other hotels -- the Dunes, Aladdin, Frontier, the Sands and Stardust, to name a few -- the Riviera didn't keep up with the times. Las Vegas had changed from a "dress-up" town to a family vacation destination.
|Before we discovered the Riviera we stayed at the Stardust across the street. That one is long gone, too.|
Smith's article follows two vintage showgirls who took a last stroll through the Riveria prior to its closing in 2015. Their memories alone make the article worth reading.
|Rick trying his luck.|
The Riviera dealt with bankruptcy several times and eventually the gambling was cleaned up. But the entertainment had moved south and now the Riviera was known for its "Crazy Girls" (a showgirl act), drag shows and its comedy club, which no longer had the top names performing but ongoing acts. They weren't bad, just not famous.
And famous sells.
|The not-so-famous getting ready to head out on the town for dinner.|
For some time, the Riv held its own. They expanded with a convention facility (where we saw dozens of cowboys walk about as part of a Sharpshooters convention), it built another hotel tower and drew a good crowd for those attending events at the nearby convention center.
|These guests at the Riviera for the Sharpshooters Convention were happy to pose for us in full dress!|
But that wasn't enough. June 14 brought the first of two implosions to level the facility for the convention center expansion. The Las Vegas Convention Center is planning to make the area a "district" with expanded facilities and a focus on World Trade. This PAGE has more about their plans.
|Restaurant recommendation -- the Peppermill, next to the Riviera. Wonderful (huge) omelets -- big enough for two!|
So, goodbye, Riviera. We'll miss walking across the parking lot to the wonderful Peppermill and their terrific omelets, catching the bus right outside to go downtown to the light show and classic Vegas...
|Downtown Vegas -- the light show at the Tremont Street Experience|
... and going South to the casinos like Bellagio with its amazing concervatory and fountains, the Venetian with its ongoing entertainment in the "plaza," and more that have all the attractions you couldn't pull off but made it easy to get to.
|The Bellagio fountain show.|
And down the road, the flamingoes will remain!
|The flamongoes in the wildlife habitat at The Flamingo.|
We won't much miss a smoky casino and the endless din of machines -- but they're fun now and then.
We had a lot of fun memories there. And you couldn't beat the location for what we were there to do. Who knows what another visit will bring? I guess we'll just have to see.