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Newspaper Articles from different sources

Aladdin Theater ends with a rumble

Geoff Carter

Wednesday, Nov. 26, 1997 | 10:09 a.m.

 

A rumble, yes. But no explosion.

 

 

For a while though, it seemed like the Aladdin Theater for the Performing Arts might crumble from the intense, subsonic rumble that Motley Crue and fans produced for two solid hours. The rumble had to be halted once to rescue guitarist Mick Mars from a crazed fan, yet the show went on.

 

But in the end, the venue remained intact, and will continue standing after its adjoining hotel-casino is imploded in February.

 

"What a great hall. You really forget you're in a casino when you're inside," said Danny Zelisko, head of Evening Star productions.

 

His organization has been booking shows at the Aladdin since April Fool's Day 1983, when he began an ongoing relationship with the venue with a double bill of KISS and ... Motley Crue.

 

"When I told them that they would play the last show before the hotel closed, they said, 'We have to do this,'" Zelisko said. "It's great that they've come back like this. It's a party in there."

 

The Aladdin Theater is pretty much the only venue of its kind in Las Vegas. While fairly large at 7,000 seats, the Aladdin Theater offers an intimacy that one wouldn't expect for such a large venue. The theater's widely celebrated acoustics and dynamic sight lines have drawn everyone from Pearl Jam to the Bolshoi Ballet to perform.

 

It's that reputation that bought the theater the promise of an extensive remodeling job, while the hotel-casino that spawned it will be imploded and rebuilt.

 

The majority of Motley Crue's standing-room-only crowd seemed pretty much oblivious to the venue's life or death possibilities, preferring to focus their attentions on the newly resurgent hard-rock outfit.

 

Women climbed onstage and flashed before a video camera held by drummer Tommy Lee. Halfway through the band's 1991 hit "Primal Scream," the stage was mobbed by fans and an unidentified male assaulted guitarist Mick Mars, knocking him down and slamming his head against the stage.

 

The show was temporarily halted, while security personnel restrained Mars and the offending fan was taken backstage. This morning, Metro Police had no record of an arrest.

 

"We'll take care of this (expletive), and we'll be back," promised Lee.

 

It's hard to imagine what the Aladdin Theater's backstage area has seen over the years. According to Radar, a lighting technician and member of the Aladdin's backstage crew for the past six years, some things are better off unsaid.

 

"Don't do this, man," he laughed. "Hard work, no life."

 

At least part of the reason Radar became a "roadie" can be traced back to the Aladdin Theater, and a fateful night 16 years ago.

 

"I saw my first concert here when I was 15 years old," he smiled. "Rush, back in 1981. I was still in high school at the time."

 

Radar stays on the road for the most part, but has always returned to the Aladdin.

 

"(The Aladdin's) pretty much been my home for the past six years. I walked out earlier to look at the marquee when they shut it off. That's when it really sunk in; it was over." He gestured in the direction of the stage. "Six years."

 

"I still can't believe they're killing this hotel," said Lisa Shaw, an Albuquerque, N.M., resident who specifically came to Las Vegas to attend the last two shows at the Aladdin -- last night's Crue show and the Jane's Addiction gig that took place Monday. "I've seen maybe 15, 20 shows here. I've never had a bad time in this theater.

 

"And after the Jane's Addiction show (Monday night), I won 50 bucks," she smiled. "I don't know any other theater where you can come outside after the show and maybe win back the price of your tickets."

 

The Crue returned several minutes after the tackling episode and played several more songs, ending the show with a thunderous version of "Kickstart My Heart." The band took their bows, said their goodbyes and left, leaving the crowd to file out of the venue for possibly the last time. The hotel was already closed.

 

"Tear down the Aladdin," someone cried out in the theater lobby. A few signs were ripped down, but for the most part the crowd filed out amiably, respectful of the theater that had granted so many fond memories and good times.

 

And amazingly enough, considering the explosive rhythms Motley Crue had pitched, the Aladdin's tower was still standing -- awaiting an entirely different kind of wrecking "crue."

Elvis Presley A love affair

For better or worse, Elvis Presley and Las Vegas formed a bond — in business and in pleasure — that endures

 

By Steve Kanigher

Sunday, Feb. 14, 2010 | 2 a.m.

 

Las Vegas love affairs are notoriously short-lived, making the one that is in its 47th year all the more special.

 

It started with an initial rejection, but the young, determined suitor didn’t give up. He kept trying to impress in ever bigger and better ways. After he made a movie about us — built around what would wind up being “our song” — we fell hard for each other. It was sealed with a hotel suite ceremony, and we wound up making a lot of money together.

 

We grew apart later, when his drug addiction came between us. But still we couldn’t let go. And with the passing of time, we memorialize more what we once had.

 

The latest symbol of Las Vegas’ love affair with Elvis is “Viva Elvis,” the Cirque du Soleil production at the Aria’s Elvis Theater.

 

Indeed, for all the Elvis slot machines and all the Flying Elvi and all those Elvis impersonators, we still can’t seem to get enough.

 

The courtship began awkwardly, as so many do — a hip-gyrating 21-year-old rock ’n’ roll singer trying to woo a much older, reserved audience that favored polished crooners and big band jazz.

 

Elvis, billed as the “Atomic Powered Singer,” was panned in his Las Vegas premier in April 1956, opening in the New Frontier’s Venus Room for comedian Shecky Greene and the Freddy Martin orchestra. He mustered only polite applause. At a Saturday matinee, on the other hand, teens screamed with delight. Although the concert proceeds financed lights for a baseball park — the first of many gifts he gave the city — Las Vegas preferred suitors who appealed to big spenders. Teens couldn’t gamble.

 

“For the teenagers, the long, tall Memphis lad is a whiz; for the average Vegas spender or showgoer, a bore,” Las Vegas Sun reviewer Bill Willard wrote at the time. “His musical sound with a combo of three is uncouth, matching to a great extent the lyric content of his nonsensical songs.”

 

Greene remembers the Elvis of those first shows as a nice, lovable kid who simply wasn’t in his element with the dressed-up nightclub crowd.

 

Wearing “a baseball jacket,” Presley looked like he had just wandered in “from the parking lot,” Greene recalls. Greene told Presley’s manager, Col. Tom Parker, that Elvis needed to dress to impress Las Vegas.

 

Greene even made fun of his opening act, drawing loud laughter from the audience. Presley laughed along with them.

 

But not everyone who saw the show thought Elvis was joke fodder.

 

“Bing Crosby was in the audience, and he told me Elvis would be the biggest star in show business,” Greene says. “Evidently, he saw something I didn’t see.”

 

And although Las Vegas didn’t see much in him yet either, Elvis reaped substantial benefits from that first date. During breaks, he and his band caught another Strip lounge act, Freddie Bell and the Bellboys, who performed the song “Hound Dog.” Within weeks of leaving town Elvis had incorporated the song into his own live act and it became one of his biggest hits.

 

Although not known as a gambler, he enjoyed the city’s night life, and he befriended Liberace and other big-name entertainers while developing relations with casino executives such as Milton Prell, who owned the Sahara and Aladdin. They would make him feel at home during his frequent trips to Las Vegas.

 

Former Army buddy Joe Esposito, who was Presley’s road manager for 17 years and is a retired Wynn Las Vegas casino host, says Presley and his posse would stay up all night and hit the shows, often going backstage. And they were constantly surrounded by showgirls.

 

“He enjoyed Vegas tremendously because this was the only town you could do 24 hours a day,” Esposito says. “But he was always concerned about whether Vegas would ever like him.”

 

It wasn’t until the 1963 filming of “Viva Las Vegas” that the entire city began to fully embrace Elvis. The cast and crew were everywhere — the UNLV gymnasium, the Flamingo swimming pool, the Tropicana skeet range.

 

“The big turnaround for Elvis in Vegas started with ‘Viva Las Vegas’ because tourism increased tremendously after he made the movie,” Esposito says. “He felt good because he was respected.”

 

The film was capped off by the title song, in which Presley serenaded the “bright light city gonna set my soul, gonna set my soul on fire.”

 

His link with the city was cemented when he exchanged wedding rings with Priscilla Ann Beaulieu in Prell’s suite at the Aladdin in May 1967.

 

“They chose Vegas because it was an easy place to get married quick,” says Esposito, who served as best man. “It was discreet.”

 

After the Elvis-Priscilla honeymoon came his much longer honeymoon with Las Vegas — a historic seven-year run at the International-turned-Las Vegas Hilton from 1969 to 1976. The shows revived Presley’s career as a live performer while injecting new life into a city that had been searching for the next great act after the breakup of the Rat Pack.

 

Elvis was more than ready to appear before a live audience in Las Vegas for the first time in 13 years, even if he didn’t realize it at the time.

 

“He was very excited that people came out to see him but he was a nervous wreck when he first walked onstage,” Esposito says. “He had been so concerned about being accepted again, and he had tears in his eyes when he was accepted.”

 

International owner Kirk Kerkorian inked the deal with an initial $100,000-a-week contract, and Presley’s image was plastered on billboards and bus placards all over town. Elvis, wearing his trademark jumpsuits, sold out 837 consecutive shows over the seven years after opening in July 1969. Performing two shows a night for two months each year, he sold more than $164 million worth of tickets in today’s dollars to 2.5 million fans, engraving rock ’n’ roll into the city’s landscape and proving that a casino showroom could make money.

 

Elvis gave back to local charities, allowing them to share in the proceeds of souvenirs that were sold in the hotel lobby.

 

This transformation, from unappreciated Las Vegas performer in 1956 to beloved superstar, had everything to do with the fact that Elvis had become about the same age as his audience and had developed a persona befitting a showroom, College of Southern Nevada history professor Michael Green says.

 

“When he came back in ’69 he came back with glitz, and that’s what Las Vegas entertainment is all about,” Green says. “He was also in his 30s by the time he came back to the International and much closer to the age group of the people who came to see his show.”

 

Presley’s affair with the city began to sour a little toward the end, even as fans continued to jam the 2,000-seat theater. Rumors began circulating about his increasing reliance on painkillers, amphetamines and other drugs. In his penthouse suite, he had whipped out a handgun and shot at the television and the chandelier.

 

His rapid weight gain became noticeable. He looked tired and the quality of his stage performances began slipping. He canceled some of his Hilton engagements because of health issues.

 

On Aug. 16, 1977, barely eight months after Elvis left the Hilton building for good, he died at his Graceland mansion in Memphis, Tenn. He was only 42.

 

About 150 mourners gathered outside a Las Vegas mortuary to pay their respects at a service that featured Presley’s music played through large speakers. One fan complained that she could find no expressions of sorrow from Strip hotels.

 

But when the city adopted its “What happens in Vegas” mantra, Las Vegas again embraced Elvis.

 

“He is a good way to reach back to the old days to someone who was naughty in his youth, to someone they couldn’t show from the hips down on TV,” Green says. “It fits in with Vegas being naughty.”

 

 

The tourists who want to share in Las Vegas love affair with Elvis usually make several stops around town.

 

A visit to the eight-home street of Elvis Presley Court doesn’t usually rank high on the list. He never lived there. But Elvis has a star on the Strip’s Las Vegas Walk of Stars, made possible through a $15,000 contribution from the Viva Las Vegas! Elvis Presley Fan Club.

 

Fans may lament the closing of the Elvis-O-Rama museum a few years ago, but the Imperial Palace has the King’s Ransom Museum, featuring his jewelry, stage and film wardrobe and his 1977 Lincoln Continental. Elvis in black leather lives in wax at Madame Tussauds at the Venetian.

The Mecca, though, is the Las Vegas Hilton, where guests are greeted by a life-size bronze statue of The King. The hotel is planning an Elvis fan festival for July.

 

“It has been a steady flow of people who want to see where Elvis performed,” Hilton marketing and entertainment boss Rick White explains. “They want to look at the stage, and they come in all age groups.”

 

And then there are the Elvis knock-offs, performing at the “Legends in Concert” show at Harrah’s Las Vegas, the “American Superstars” at the Stratosphere or as Big Elvis at Bill’s Gamblin’ Hall & Saloon.

 

Elvis impersonators are so ubiquitous that they have come to symbolize Las Vegas.

 

The Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority, which promotes the city’s tourism business globally, used Elvis impersonators as ambassadors at trade shows and other events more than 40 times over the past two years.

 

“We’re the entertainment capital of the world and he’s an iconic figure whose brand has been sustained,” authority spokesman Vince Alberta says.

And impersonators are mainstays at Las Vegas wedding chapels, performing their renditions of “Love Me Tender,” “Can’t Help Falling in Love,” “I Want You, I Need You, I Love You” and other romantic Presley tunes.

 

“Elvis made it hip to get married in Las Vegas,” says Brian Mills, a Presley impersonator and manager of the Viva Las Vegas Wedding Chapel.

 

The owner of A Little White Wedding Chapel, Charolette Richards, says her ties to Elvis go back to her preparation of the flower arrangements for Presley’s wedding. Her chapel has been conducting Elvis-themed weddings since the early 1970s. Richards estimates she has hired more than 100 Elvis impersonators over the years.

 

One of them gave the full Elvis treatment recently at the wedding of Neil Cawkwell and Lynn Hassell. After the ceremony, the three of them rode down the Strip in a pink Cadillac DeVille convertible.

 

“Elvis-Vegas, it works,” Cawkwell says. “Elvis took Vegas into his heart, and Vegas has really taken Elvis into its heart.”

 

Wayne Newton owned the Strip

 

 

‘Mr. Las Vegas’ will go down as entertainer, but also owned the Aladdin

 

By Ed Koch

Thursday, May 15, 2008 | 3 a.m.

 

 

 

In 1980, Wayne Newton, affectionately known as “Mr. Las Vegas,” got a taste of what Frank Sinatra had experienced for much of his life — accusations of mob association.

 

For Ol’ Blue Eyes, who readily posed for snapshots with shady-looking people who — surprise, surprise — turned out to be mobsters, such rumors only added to his tough guy legend. But similar allegations had the opposite effect on Newton, tainting his clean image.

 

After all, Newton was the fresh-faced kid who had won America’s hearts in 1963 with his swinging rendition of the syrupy pop song "Danke Schoen." How could someone so wholesome know any gangsters?

 

But in October 1980, an NBC News report said that Newton allegedly had ties to the mob, putting his life and potential gaming career in grave jeopardy.

 

Newton admitted that years earlier he had known Guido Penosi, a reputed member of the Carlo Gambino crime family of New York. However, Newton insisted that he did not know Penosi had alleged mob ties.

 

“It was ridiculous. I'm an Indian boy from Virginia, What do I know about the Mafia?" Newton told the Sun for an Aug. 18, 2000 story.

 

After that TV news report, the floodgates opened and stories surfaced that Newton, who co-owned the Aladdin (now Planet Hollywood), was the “front man” for the mob.

 

Even worse, some reports said that Newton was spilling the beans about the Mafia to law enforcement officials.

 

That gave Newton a new basketful of problems, including death threats because, as he put it, “the mobsters didn't know that I didn't know anything about them.”

 

When Newton arrived in Las Vegas after a performance in Los Angeles, FBI agents met him at McCarran International Airport and showed him a list they had obtained from an informant. It had five names – Newton’s and those of four slain men.

 

That was the last straw.

 

Newton sued NBC and won a $19 million defamation judgment. An appeals court later ruled that although the NBC report was inaccurate, there was no malice, therefore Newton, a public figure, could not collect damages.

 

"It was not about money, it was about clearing my name," Newton told the Sun. "And I did."

 

To date, Newton, has performed more than 30,000 shows in Las Vegas at several venues, most recently the Flamingo. From 2000 to 2005, he performed at the Stardust, where the showroom was named for him, and the Las Vegas Hilton.

 

In the 1970s, Newton worked at the Desert Inn, Frontier and Sands. In the 1980s it was Bally’s, Caesars Palace and the Las Vegas Hilton. In the 1990s, Newton headlined at the MGM Grand and, like many veteran Vegas performers, worked in Branson, Mo.

 

Newton, who performs worldwide, has served as chairman of the USO Celebrity Circle in recent years.

 

In September 2006, he was inducted into the Nevada Entertainer/Artist Hall of Fame at UNLV's Artemus Ham Hall.

 

Although Newton will be remembered as one of the top-drawing performers in Las Vegas history, it was his brief stint as a casino owner that showed the world a different side of the entertainer: that of a pretty good businessman.

 

Newton bought the Aladdin at a difficult time in Las Vegas’ history. It was a period in which the federal government was cracking down on the mob and corporate ownership of gaming properties was in its infancy.

 

In March 1979, four Aladdin officials were convicted in Detroit of allowing mobsters there to run the resort. In August 1979, the state closed the Aladdin, but federal Judge Harry Claiborne ordered it reopened immediately. Eleven months later, gaming officials closed it again.

 

At one point, the Nevada Gaming Commission created the post of receiver to run the Aladdin, even though there was nothing in the state law to provide for receivership.

 

In September 1980, Newton and Ed Torres, a former chief executive of the Riviera and Newton’s longtime friend, bought the Aladdin for $85 million and reopened it the next month.

 

Newton said he decided to take the plunge into casino ownership because his life at that time needed change. For 14 years he had performed at hotels of the Summa Corp., then the gaming arm of Howard Hughes’ empire. Also at that time, his booking agent, Walter Kane, who was like a father to Newton, died, leaving a void in his life.

 

"I wanted to own a casino — not operate one,” Newton told the Sun in the 2000 interview. “I didn't want people coming to me because the toilets are backed up.

 

“I saw the changes going on in this town with many places doing away with dinner shows. It was different from when I first performed here when I was 15."

 

Indeed, Las Vegas had come a long way since the days when the teen heartthrob with wide-eyed innocence first graced a downtown stage.

 

Born Carson Wayne Newton on April 3, 1942, in Roanoke, Va., his father and mother were both half American Indian.

 

Newton developed an early interest in music, learning to play the piano and guitar by age 6. He often appeared with his older brother, Jerry, on the Grand Ole Opry road shows.

 

Because the future Las Vegas superstar had asthma, his family moved to the drier climate of Phoenix in 1952.

 

Six years later, Newton, then a junior in high school, was

 

performing with his brother on a local TV show when a booking agent saw them and signed them to a two-week engagement at the Fremont Hotel in downtown Las Vegas.

 

That was where Wayne Newton met hotelier Torres, who took a liking to the boys and boosted their careers. He kept the Newton brothers at the downtown venue for five years, doing six 45-minute sets per night in the lounge. Although Jerry eventually left show business, Wayne’s Las Vegas entertainment career was off like a rocket.

 

Fast-forward a quarter century to major star Newton looking for help in buying a gaming property. He had invested in the Shenandoah casino in Las Vegas that never got off the ground, toured a Laughlin casino, discussed building a casino in Carson City and considered buying the Riviera before targeting the Aladdin.

 

To buy one of the really big places, Newton needed a partner and Torres seemed to be the perfect choice.

 

But after 21 months of running the Aladdin together, Torres and Newton split amid reports that they were constantly fighting. In July 1982, Torres bought out Newton for $8.5 million.

 

Among the things they did not see eye to eye on were employee cutbacks, which Newton opposed. Another tiff was over the size of the shot glasses in their bars.

 

But the straw that broke the camel’s back was a dispute over the purchase of a nearby service station on Las Vegas Boulevard that would have to be leveled to give the Aladdin much better access to and from the Strip. Newton was willing to pay the station owner’s price of $16 million for the prime Strip property. Torres wouldn’t pay more than $4 million.

 

In the end, that small parcel was not purchased by Newton and Torres, and the Aladdin never reached its potential.

 

The property had a few other owners along the way — Sinatra was interested in buying it in 1990, but that deal did not materialize. It was finally imploded in 1998.

 

The Aladdin was rebuilt at a cost of $1.4 billion and reopened August 2000 but did not live up to its new owners’ expectations. It was sold to its current owners in 2003 and became Planet Hollywood in April 2007.

 

Newton said owning the Aladdin “was one of the great learning experiences of my life. And I'm one of the few people who owned the Aladdin who can say we made money."

 

Newton also made a lot of money and achieved a measure of fame in the recording industry, on TV and in films. His other hit recordings included "Daddy Don't You Walk So Fast" (1972) and "Years" (1980).

 

Newton has appeared on several television shows including “Full House,” “The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air,” “That ’70s Show” and “Las Vegas.”

 

And Newton, despite his clean-as-a-whistle image, is not afraid to play villains or spoof himself as an evil version of Wayne Newton. In the 1989 James Bond film “License to Kill,” Newton played a phony, villainous TV evangelist. In the 1997 movie “National Lampoon's Vegas Vacation” he played a lecherous Wayne Newton who tried to seduce Ellen Griswold (Beverly D’Angelo) and steal her away from her husband Clark (Chevy Chase).

 

In recent years, Newton has branched out into other genres, including reality television with his cable TV show “The Entertainer,” where young performers vied for a spot in Newton’s act and got their own stage show.

 

In 2007, Newton sang “Viva Las Vegas” at the NBA All-Star game in Las Vegas and later in the year was a losing contestant on the network show “Dancing With the Stars.”

 

Newton was married in 1968 to Elaine Okamura, and had one daughter. They divorced in 1985. Nine years later, Newton married Kathleen McCrone, an Ohio attorney. Their daughter was born in 2002.

 

In 1992, Newton, who was in debt about $20 million, filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection but turned things around before the decade was over.

 

Newton has long lived on his Shenandoah Ranch in the southeast part of the Las Vegas Valley, where he raises prized Arabian horses.

 

A street near McCarran International Airport is named Wayne Newton Boulevard in his honor.

Aladdin’s history dotted with troubled owners

Bob Shemeligian

Friday, April 24, 1998 | 9:51 a.m.

 

The history of the Aladdin hotel is replete with glorious wishes and broken dreams.

 

 

In 1978, the hotel was the site of the world's first slot machine with a jackpot of $1 million.

 

Two years earlier, the Aladdin Theatre for the Performing Arts was constructed at the resort, and over the next two decades the theatre would host performances of the Bolshoi Ballet, rock concerts by the likes of Kenny Loggins and Sade, and even the Miss Universe pageant.

 

But it seemed that no promotion or event could save the Aladdin.

 

The 1,100-room hotel had originally opened in 1963 as the Tally Ho, a non-gaming hideaway catering to rich tourists. But the hotel failed and bankruptcy followed.

 

In late 1965, a group headed by Las Vegas gaming pioneer Milton Prell, developer of the Sahara, bought the Tally Ho and on April 1, 1966, Prell re-opened his new property as the Aladdin hotel-casino.

 

Three years later, after Prell started developing health problems, a series of management teams ran the property -- and usually in the red.

 

Among the early Aladdin executives were Las Vegas promoters Jack Melvin and Al Garbian. Another partner, Al Parvin, was a principal in Recrion Corp., which operated the Stardust before Allen Glick and Frank Rosenthal, two executives profiled in the film, "Casino."

 

In late 1971, a Midwest group purchased the Aladdin from Recrion. They included St. Louis attorney Richard Daly, St. Louis deputy license collector Peter Webbe, Detroit residents Charles Goldfarb and George George, and then-Las Vegas casino operator Sam Diamond.

 

The only problem was that all of the owners were denied gaming licenses because of questions about their past business dealings. Finally in 1976, Mae Ellen George, the widow of George George, was licensed by the Nevada Gaming Commission over the strenuous objections of the Gaming Control Board.

 

Two years later, Aladdin general manager James G. Abraham was named in an indictment that charged several Aladdin executives with running a skimming operation for reputed Detroit underworld boss Vito Giacalone. Abraham and several others were later convicted in a federal trial in Detroit.

 

Finally, in 1979 the Nevada Gaming Commission seized control of the Aladdin and ordered the property to be sold.

 

Over the next several years, several parties, including entertainer Johnny Carson, attempted to purchase the Aladdin, but the deals fell through. Also during that time, Wayne Newton owned the hotel for a brief time.

 

In 1986 Japanese businessman Ginji Yasuda purchased the Aladdin for $54 million. The first Japanese citizen ever licensed to operate a Nevada casino, Yasuda's stewardship of the resort was wrought with financial hardships. After spending $35 million to refurbish the property, Yasuda was removed as the Aladdin's operator by state regulators September 1988 and the resort was placed in Chapter 11 bankruptcy. Yasuda died three months later.

 

The hotel was purchased by Bell Atlantic-Tricon Leasing Corp. of Paramus, N.J., in 1991, but within a few months the Aladdin was again on the block.

 

In 1994, Jack Sommer, developer of the 630-acre Mountain Spa resort community in northwest Las Vegas, purchased the hotel. Today, the Sommer Family Trust is the principal shareholder in Aladdin Gaming, the company planning the $1.3 billion casino, entertainment and retail complex.