Until this week I hadn’t been in Las Vegas for almost five years. I’m here for a client franchise convention and while I like to sit and play a little blackjack and even stand at a crap table for a while I am far from and never have been what you’d call a gambler. Yet I have been coming to Las Vegas for more than forty years. Yes I know that makes me – old, it gives me perspective as I also have been to Vegas twenty times. Several of those Las Vegas visits occurred before I was twenty-one years old.
What would a ten year old kid do in Las Vegas back in the early 1970’s? My sister and I loved being among the only kids in the Sands hotel (‘A place in the sun’) and we found the city to be – fun. That one word can still be used to describe Las Vegas and it is the cornerstone of the Las Vegas brand. I know so many people that don’t like to gamble and yet really enjoy Las Vegas. It used to be a pure gambler’s city but today less than 35% of Las Vegas’ total revenues are derived from gambling.
I remember the early 1970’s Las Vegas being a somewhat elegant place (being a kid, I was not allowed to see the seediness for good reason). People were well-dressed and movie stars and entertainers would be seen walking around the hotel in a matter of fact manner. I distinctly recall hearing ‘Mr. Sinatra, Mr. Frank Sinatra, please pick up a white courtesy phone) while at the Sands hotel. Even then I knew that was cool I even played tennis (ok for like 5 minutes when some guy named Stan had to go to the bathroom) with Don Rickles and Bob Newhart who in their eighties, remain good friends to this day.
Food options Las Vegas in the 1970’s were mostly comprised of hotel buffets with few top-notch restaurants. It was all about casinos and shows. For a time I thought I would love a career as a lounge jazz pianist (the hotel would allow me to sit in the casino in the lounge to listen and I took a liking to the great Bob Sims), but upon repeated visits I noticed Mr. Sims’ skills and his health deteriorated and it did not look like a job I’d want to do for very long. Today there are few lounge acts and I have not seen one in a long time.
The Las Vegas brand went through some rough times in the 1980’sand lost its mojo and became – less fun and even a bit cheesy and the brand was in need of a refresh. In the 1990’s hotels like the Bellagio, The Mirage, and the revamped Caesars Palace brought different kinds of glamour back to Sin City. The Las Vegas brand was back and again it was all about fun.
I’ve written about the lack of fun in Macau casinos. Las Vegas remains for me and for many people a fun place to go and it is no longer referred to only as an ‘Adult Disneyland’ but that’s pretty good company to be in compared to when talking about a brand being fun.
I’ve got so many stories about one of my favorite cities – how about you?