Monday, June 13, 2016

Goodbye, Riviera

I'm not fond of Las Vegas -- perhaps because I've been there too many times. It's a pretty pink showgirl that gets routine after a bit. And it's exhausting!

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.


Mae Travels said...

Las Vegas is my least-favorite place anywhere, I think. Your post at least shows some of the least-worst features!

best... mae at

Marilyn Miller said...

What a nice comment and post for it's final resting of the Riviera. Wishing I was there right now in Vegas, as the World Tea Expo is beginning to gather. It's the friends I always went to Vegas for.

Valerie-Jael said...

I have never been to LA, just seen it on lots of photos and films, so thanks for your great photos and report on the Riviera before it disappears. Looks like you have had a lot of fun times there. Hugs, Valerie

Anne Jeffries said...

I've never visited Vegas. I'd love to, sometime.

Anne Jeffries said...

I've never visited Vegas. I'd love to, sometime.

Lisa from Lisa's Yarns said...

I've never been to Vegas but some work-related conferences tend to happen there so I imagine I'll get there eventually. I don't like to gamble but it would be fun to see some shows!

Barb said...

Your post brought back memories, Jeannie. When Bob was in business he often had a yearly meeting in Las Vegas, and I'd fly to Sin City with him. We really don't gamble, but we liked eating out and going to see some shows - this was over 20 years ago. On our recent trip to the beach, we passed by Vegas and were glad not to have to stop! Love the photos - esp the flamingoes!

My name is Erika. said...

Really interesting blog post today Jeanie. I guess like everything Vegas is changing, still. More to the story. I'm not crazy about Vegas either, but it is an interesting place. Hugs-Erika

Joyful said...

Nice post, Jeanie. So long to the Riv. I too have never visited Vegas though I'd like to some time. I don't gamble but would like to try the one armed bandits (slot machines)while there. Are all the casinos smoke filled? If so, I wouldn't much enjoy them.

Bleubeard and Elizabeth said...

I remember the first time I was in Vegas (late 1980s), I fell in LOVE with the DAM, but not the town. In fact, I spent less than 36 hours there the first time I went. Most of the time I spent walking the very small strip and visiting Hoover Dam.

The second time I was on my way home from LA, and stopped because I had my dog and cat with me, and I wanted to give them some "play" or down time before the final leg of the journey. Needless to say, I didn't gamble, and don't like to gamble, but I did enjoy two wonderful meals that were extremely cheap. That is MORE than inexpensive. They were CHEAP. If I recall, breakfast was about $1.O0 before tip. Back then, the casinos wanted to keep you there, and they went out of their way to accommodate your wishes, which included great meals.

Like the showgirls in the article, I was saddened to see Vegas change so radically the next time I went. I was looking at a graduate program at UNLV, and because I don't gamble, I wasn't worried about anything except it fitting my requirements. I was surprised how the downtown Freemont Street Experience had changed the landscape. I remember staying at the Plaza back when they welcomed my cat and dog. I was surprised to see it was still there when I went to check out the university.

The last time I went, I met friends from other parts of the country and we stayed at the Venetian. I was sadly not impressed, except with the gondola trip I took around the shops. Again, the Dam was the most exciting part of my trip!

Thanks for letting me know about the Riv and how it ended up being on the list of never ending reminders that OLD Las Vegas is now gone. Sad, but true, I think I preferred it back in the late 80s, when I was very young and dumb, and the mob still controlled (or at least had some control on) the city.

Bella Rum said...

I've never been to Vegas. Like you, I'm not much for gambling, but my sister and BIL love it. They won a huge amount at the blackjack table a couple of years ago. I have a friend in MD who won a huge sum, too, at the machines. Vegas has quite a history, doesn't it. I remember Joan Rivers used to say, "The check was never late when the mob ran Vegas." Ha!

Jemma@athomewithjemma said...

Just like you I am not a fan of Vegas.
I have been there numerous times too, and each time I was hoping that I would find the mystic and magic that so many people do.
Gambling is not my "thing," either.
I did find magic in Mystere, David Copperfield and Tom Jones though!
Interesting article, Jeanie!

Castles Crowns and Cottages said...

Good morning, Jeanie! I have never been there, I'm not a gambler, and I don't care for the HEAT! So....I probably won't go. I am a Paris, London, New York kinda gal...but this summer, we are staying HOME and I am loving it so!

Welcome home!

Joanne Huffman said...

Over twenty years ago, we stayed at the Riviera while Dean attended a convention. The girls and I would walk the strip (watching pirates, visiting Sigfried and Roy's zoo, playing at the MGM amusement park, etc) and shop and eat at the theme restaurants while Dean went to his meetings. It was a nice visit, but I haven't felt the need to return. I may go back sometime to see some shows.

~*~Patty S said...

Interesting post Jeanie.
I've never been to Vegas and it is not very high on my list of places I'd like to visit for various reasons.
That said it's always interesting to see different places and you certainly hear it mentioned here and there.
I believe I saw the hotel being imploded on the news the other evening...just a blip and it was gone.
Nothing stays the same I guess.

Friko said...

I think Las Vegas is the place I would least likely go to if I had an unlimited choice of tourist destinations. A place built purely around the idea of getting money out of gamblers pockets doesn’t appeal. Neither does a place which, as far as I can gather, is wholly devoid of nature.

I am saying this because I am also far too old for the noise and bustle and general madness of the place.

Lynne said...

A few visits through the years . . .
Not into gambling and slots but I have seen some great entertainment there . . .
Great post on the Riviera Jeanne . . .

Jann Olson said...

Jeanie, you sound a lot like me. I'm not a big fan of Vegas, but everyone needs to see it at least once. I can gamble for just a tiny while and then I am through. lol! Not about to waste a lot of money on playing games. :) I enjoyed the history that you shared and the photos of you and hubby.

shoreacres said...

Saying everyone needs to see Vegas at least once is like saying everyone should have TB once, just to see what it's like. I've read the reviews, the posts, the histories, and I've seen the pictures. Try as I might, I can't see anything that looks even remotely tempting.

On the other hand, if my only chance to meet you and Rick were in Vegas, I'd go. But just for you. :-)

Daniela said...

What an exciting time I'm sure you had, my lovely friend !

Always so very grateful for what you share I'm sending hugs and more hugs to you

Dany xox

The French Hutch said...

Interesting Jeanie. Time changes everything and in this country so many building are imploded to make room for more modern and bigger. I've never been there, I'm not a gambler and it really not my cup of tea so to speak. I know so many who love it and go at every opportunity. Sounds like you have really fond memories of you and Rick enjoying your time there. That's priceless!
Happy weekend.

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