Stardust-to-dust!

Sep 12, 2006 3:37 AM

It’s official: Boyd Gaming announced the Stardust Resort & Casino will close on November 1 to make way for its planned $4 billion Echelon Place project.

Boyd will begin demolition of the Stardust in the first quarter of 2007, the company said in a statement.

The $4 billion Echelon project includes four hotels, a 140,000-square-foot casino, restaurants, shopping, convention space and various entertainment venues.

The project is expected to be completed in mid-2010.

The Stardust’s closing is actually a little earlier than Boyd expected as many employees have left the hotel for new positions, making operations more difficult.

The Stardust — one of the most colorful and historic of the Strip resorts — opened for business on July 2, 1958 with a 16,500-square-foot pool, spectacular French production, "Lido de Paris," a 105-foot swimming pool and 1,000 guest rooms — contained in two-story wings that stretched to the rear of the 32-acre property like boxcars on railroad tracks.

The hotel was the dream of gambler and casino ship operator Tony Cornero. But he never saw his dream materialize as he died of a massive heart attack while shooting craps at the Desert Inn three years before the hotel was completed.

The project was taken over by experienced casino operators (presumably with mob ties) including Moe Dalitz and Allard Roen, with financial backing from Jack Factor, brother of cosmetics magnate Max Factor.

The $10 million Stardust was the last hotel built in the 1950s, but its opening seemed to fuel a trend away from the more "glamorous" resorts that opened before it — the Desert Inn, Sands and Riviera.

One of the Stardust’s opening features was its $6 a night room rate, which attracted lots of tourists and conventioneers who began flowing into town when the Convention Center opened in 1959.

Besides suspicions of ties to shady figures such as Sam Giancana and Allen Glick, the early managers were "colorful characters," to say the least. Its first credit manager, Hy Goldbaum, listed seven aliases with the Los Angeles Police Department, and had 14 convictions, including one for assault, and a three-year sentence for income tax evasion.

Casino manager and 5 percent owner Johnny Drew was a veteran associate of Al Capone and was once fined in Illinois for running a crooked dice game at an Elks convention. Another member of the management team, Morris Kleinman, had served three years for tax evasion.

The Stardust had several expansions and remodeling over the years, including a nine-story tower in 1964, its 188-foot "starlight" sign in 1965, and extensive renovations in 1977 and the late 1980s — shortly after the property was purchased by Sam Boyd, who included it in his Boyd Gaming Corporation.