Elvis fan among Riviera suitors

Jan 24, 2006 3:52 AM

Can you see the Riviera one day being renamed Heartbreak Hotel?

Now there’s a question that did not appear to be worth pondering until now, but the man who bought Elvis Presley is part of a group that is now eyeing the Riviera.

That’s Robert Sillerman, the same Sillerman who plunked down $100 in December 2004 million to buy Elvis Presley Enterprises and is reportedly shopping a concept for an Elvis show at one of the Strip’s major properties.

One news report described Sillerman as nursing ambitions that include being the "Sam Walton of pop music." His SFX Entertainment is the largest of concert promoters.

Which definitely makes him the kind of ego who can feel very much at home in Las Vegas, a city where egos with big visions have had the chance to do some serious muscle flexing.

The Riviera still makes news even a half-century after it opened as the Las Vegas Strip’s big new "high-rise."

That legacy could continue, thank-you-very-much.

Panel welcomed
to World Series

The way poker professional Daniel Negreanu sees it, "The World Series of Poker was beginning to look more like the world series of hold ”˜em."

That’s why Negreanu applauds Harrah’s Entertainment for its willingness to appoint an advisory committee of players that includes himself and other high profile pros such as Chris Ferguson.

Ferguson is one of poker’s most successful tournament players but may also be one of its most recognizable faces, what with the long hair, dark glasses and western hat that makes him look more like a guitar player in a rock-n-roll band than the Ph.D with a degree in computer design that he is.

Both Ferguson and Negreanu promise an effort to see other forms of poker get the same sort of careful handling that has been given Texas hold ”˜em, a game that old timers will tell you was on its death bed until television exposure suddenly made it the game everyone wants to play.

Dunes staffers keep
memories alive

It’s been more than a dozen years since Steve Wynn imploded the Dunes in a fiery spectacle that made it all the way to national television.

It seems like a long time ago, in a far distant galaxy, but it was October 1993, the night Treasure Island opened. A lot of other casinos have fallen since then before the rush to bigger and more appealing places: the Desert Inn, Sands, the Hacienda and Aladdin, to name a few of the properties that once had front line status.

Wynn’s idea on the magical night in question was that the pirate ship parked in front of his new hotel would loft a cannon shot that would ignite, so to speak, all the explosives professional demolition people had spent days putting in all the right places at the Dunes.

The image that came to mind was of a man standing before a firing squad.

What an evening and in a few short seconds the Dunes was history.

But the memories didn’t die.

The Dunes has retained, well, let’s call it a durability of sorts that it seldom showed during the decades when a gaggle of owners were often struggling to keep it afloat.

Memories of the Dunes continue to occupy special places in the hearts and minds of Las Vegans who worked there, some of them for decades. They assemble periodically, most recently about a week ago to remember the way it used to be during smaller, seemingly simpler times on the Strip.

Funny the way nostalgia can filter memories. The moments that once caused stomachs to churn are now worth a chuckle.

There was the time former owner Morris Shenker called employees together to discuss an assortment of issues that loomed large in a lot of minds.

The casino’s health insurance program was on shaky ground, or perhaps it was non -existent.

Barney Vinson, a Dunes dealer and floorman for some 21 years, remembers a guy in the back of the crowd piping up to say, ”˜Mr. Shenker, could you tell us when we’re going to get our insurance back?’"

Not missing a beat, Shenker, who was once a lawyer for former Teamster boss Jimmy Hoffa, gives the man a look and said, ”˜Why does it matter to you? You no longer work here.’"

Was Shenker serious or just kidding?

It doesn’t matter now, but the response certainly put a lid on other difficult questions.

Other employees could remember those days in the early 1980s when many employees grabbed their paychecks and dashed across the street to Michael Gaughan’s Barbary Coast to cash them as quickly as possible.

Like the man was saying, it was the best of times and it was the worst of times.