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News createt: 16-05-2011

The Sahara Hotel closes down

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The Sahara Hotel & Casino in Las Vegas closes its doors for the last time today, ending a 59-year run. Once a hangout for Elvis Presley and the Beatles, the resort was stricken in recent years by the deep recession that has plagued tourism here.

In its heyday, the Sahara was a favorite haunt of the Frank Sinatra-led Rat Pack, featuring Dean Martin and Sammy Davis Jr., who also performed here. The resort even had a cameo in the original "Ocean's Eleven" movie.

In 2007, Los Angeles nightclub impresario Sam Nazarian took over and vowed to reinvigorate the property. But in March, his company, SBE Entertainment, announced that continuing business was "no longer economically viable."

More than 1,000 employees will lose their jobs, including Rick Fidone, a valet who has worked at the Sahara for five years.

Through the front doors, gamblers huddled around $1 blackjack tables or hovered at the penny slots. The overhead chandeliers no longer evoked luxury, but retained a bit of the luster from better times.

Curious tourists snapped photos of the rows of darkened slot machines that led to the NASCAR Cafe. To the chagrin of some who passed by, the still-advertised topless show was already closed.

At the Oasis Bar, Jay Rydell struggled to fill drink orders. The liquor was running low and there was no sense in buying more, he said. Not much wine left either.

A Las Vegas bartender for 32 years, Rydell has been at the Sahara for eight. And to his practiced eye, the clientele here differed from the other hotels on the strip. "No glitz, no glamour - real people as far as I'm concerned," he said with a hint of pride.

Nearby, a gaggle of middle-aged men in swim trunks stared longingly through locked glass doors to the pool, near a black and white photograph of a young Elizabeth Taylor lounging poolside.

At a souvenir shop, the only merchandise left with the Sahara name were playing cards, $1.75 for a deck. Johnny Santia, 38, of San Pedro, bought 12 decks. He'd come to say goodbye to a legend.

"The Sahara has the mystique of the old Vegas," Santia said. "You have to respect your elders."


A coctail-waitress hugged a few coworkers, said goodbye and walked away. A dying spiral of smoke wafted from the cigarette butt, and the slot-machine screen continued flashing the words, "Out of Service. Out of Service."

Source: The L.A. Times