Save the ‘legends’ for myths, fables

Feb 5, 2002 9:04 AM

By: David Stratton

Among all the hype leading up to the Super Bowl were dozens of articles written by sports analysts, columnists and other hangers-on. I was taken aback by one that cited Terry Bradshaw as the “legendary quarterback” of the Pittsburgh Steelers.

Legendary? What am I missing here? I respect what Bradshaw did as a player (even though he is now nothing more than a clown in the Fox Sports sideshow), but at what point did he become legendary? When did parents begin telling Terry Bradshaw stories to their eager sons and daughters?

Legends, in my humble estimation, are supposed to be larger than life ”” Daniel Boone, Davy Crockett, Johnny Appleseed, St. Thomas Aquinas ”” they’re supposed to be, well, legendary.

So how is it that an aging, balding, borderline celebrity ex-jock like Terry Bradshaw can rise to the rank of legend? Because, heaven help us, he was anointed as such when he was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame.

Athletes shouldn’t be called legends. They should be called winners, or champions or beloved heroes, but save “legends” for those more worthy.

With that said, are you aware there’s a Hall of Fame in Las Vegas? It’s the Casino Legends Hall of Fame, a kind of museum that “pays homage to those who made Las Vegas the gaming and entertainment capital of the world.”

The Hall of Fame also houses “the largest and most unique collection of Nevada gaming memorabilia ever assembled,” and “displays artifacts from casinos that have been closed for decades to the mega-resorts of today.”

Of course, I’m most intrigued by the list of its inductees. Among the museum’s inaugural Headliner Inductees were Frank Sinatra, Dean Martin, Sammy Davis, Joey Bishop, Louis Prima, Keely Smith, Sam Butera, Siegfried & Roy, Shecky Greene and Liberace.

Now, there are some popular performers on the list. The mention of Frank Sinatra’s name still evokes respect if not reverence in this town, Liberace has his own rhinestone-studded museum and Siegfried & Roy attract sold-out crowds nightly for their magic show. But are they legends?

And what about the one entertainer ”” Elvis ”” who had more of a mystique than any of the Hall of Fame inductees. Plus, what happened to Ann-Margret or Wayne Newton? How could they be overlooked?

Now you see the problem. And it’s a problem that parallels the same one we have in the sports world ”” how do you decide who is worthy of being in your Hall of Fame, no matter how frivolous or ill-conceived your Hall of Fame may be?

Here are a few more examples. At its opening, the Casino Legends Hall of Fame also inducted a group of “Builders and Visionaries.” They included Benny Binion, Hank Greenspun, Howard Hughes, LeRoy Neiman, Jay Sarno, Bob Stupak and Lou Walters.

There are some heavyweights on the list, but how many qualify as “visionaries?”

Take Howard Hughes. First of all, no one ever saw the man. And, quite frankly, he never did anything for this city. Hughes slipped in and slipped out of Las Vegas under the cover of darkness, and in between he bought and sold a few hotels. But he never built a thing in this state. He never added anything to this city.

There’s also Bob Stupak. I suppose he could be called a visionary for conceiving the Stratosphere Tower, even though he couldn’t complete the project and had to be bailed out by an out-of-state casino company.

I will give Stupak credit for one thing. His old Vegas World in the ’60s and ’70s was the epitome of a Las Vegas resort. His was the tackiest, the most ghastly, nonsensical property in town. And I loved it. Unlike the modern theme resorts with their movie set architecture and cement-bottom lakes and touch-screen slot machines, Vegas World strayed from reality with its space-walking astronaut tethered to a roulette wheel/space station on one of its outside walls. Another wall had drawings of the lunar surface, Saturn and the other planets.

Inside, Vegas World had astronauts and lunar modules dangling from the casino’s ceiling, and models of Titan and Vanguard missiles perched over the casino floor. Guests could sit and stare at $1 million in cash kept in a glass cage, or they would could the water bubble machines that lined the walls.

Even the guest rooms followed a far out motif ”” plush silver carpets, silver wallpaper, chrome and white furniture, which all combined to give you feeling you were sleeping in Skylab.

Perhaps the Hall of Fame was correct in honoring Bob Stupak as a visionary. After all, his Vegas World took gaudy to new heights ”” beyond the atmosphere and into outer space. More important his was the most unique hotel in town. And quite frankly, that’s something that’s become sadly missing ”” something unique. If not legendary.