‘No Work and All Play,’ memories of Las Vegas

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Gaming executive Roger Wagner tells it like it was in “No Work and All Play,” his just published memories of Las Vegas during those years when the gaming business was skipping through a wild and slightly wacky adolescence and operators were far more casual about so much.

Wagner spent years in the trenches and executive offices at resorts operated by owners whose instincts took them into, well . . . interesting territories. He labored at the top levels of Jack Binion’s Horseshoe organization and in his younger years worked at resorts such as the Dunes and Sands, both of which would eventually be razed to make way for the Bellagio and Venetian, respectively.

Wagner was at the Sands’ front desk during a prolonged 1976 strike by the Culinary Union when the late Walter Kane’s bodyguard called down asking for help. Kane was a senior assistant to Howard Hughes with duties that included booking entertainment for all the Hughes hotels. He was residing in a penthouse suite at the Sands on the day Wagner received a frantic call from Kane’s bodyguard.

When Wagner arrived in the suite the bodyguard had a “terrified look on his face” and Wagner was afraid Kane had died. It turned out Kane was away for the day and the bodyguard (Jim) had been practicing a “quick draw” while facing a mirror in the penthouse living room.

“Accidently,” Wagner writes, “Jim had discharged the gun, shattering the mirror with the bullet ending up in the concrete wall behind the mirror.”

Jim’s worst fear was that Kane would find out, and who knew what his reaction might be. Wagner told Jim not to worry and called for a replacement mirror. The normal procedure would have been to have the mirror installed by one of the Sands employees. But they were all on strike, so Wagner decided to do the work himself. He installed the new mirror over the bullet hole in the wall and cleaned up the damage, throwing everything in a dumpster.

“To my knowledge, the mirror was still in place with the hole in the wall behind it many years later when the Sands was imploded to make way for the Venetian.”

Sometimes these things do stay in Las Vegas.

 

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