Early Las Vegans took their signs seriously!

Oct 29, 2002 4:32 AM

   A couple of weeks ago I was attending the Old Timers Renunion at the Stardust along with my friend Mary Luna, who used to drive a cab on Fremont Street before it became a walking mall.

   It was my seventh reunion, which is set up for residents who’ve been in Las Vegas for at least 30 years. The first one was held at Arizona Charlie’s, I recall, and the surprise guest was Kay Star singing, “The Wheel of Fortune.” The last six have been hosted by the Stardust.

   As I said, we were at the Stardust and I got to thinking about how Tex and I dug the first hole in front of the hotel. At the time, we worked for Young Electric Sign Company (Yesco), and while the hotel was being built, we were erecting the hugest marquee in Las Vegas.

   After building the sign, my job as the marquee changer was to do the lettering. So I put up, “Tony Conero’s Grand Opening of the Staredust” on such and such a day.

   Well, almost immediately his secretary corralled me and said Tony didn’t like his name on the left side of the sign, and would I please change it to the right-hand side!

   In addition to opening the Stardust, Conero at the time owned and operated most of the gambling ships off the coast of California. Needless to say, he was man not to be trifled with, and I complied with his gracious request!

   Up the street at the Flamingo, the third Strip hotel to be built after the original El Rancho and Last Frontier, I was putting up Tony Martin’s name in 24-inch letters, when he came storming out of the casino and demanded that I change the letters to 30-inch.

   But his outrage was quelled when his entourage came to my rescue and explained that the “lesser” performers needed some “mediocre” space on the marquee as well.

   In all the years of posting names on the marquee, I’ve never succumbed to the bribes to alter the printing that occasionally came my way.

   One of my stock replies was that if they gave me “comps” to their show, I would “dust off” their names if the production lasted long enough on the Strip!

   Getting back to the Old Timers Reunion at the Stardust, there must have been nearly 900 people there. Among the guests were Jackie Gaughan, Sonny King, Mayor Oscar Goodman, to name a few.

   In addition to being here 30 years, most old timers have recollections of dining or dancing at the old Silver Slipper, the Landmark, the Sands and Hacienda.

   And you’re a definite old timer if you can recall driving across town in 15 minutes or less! My how times have changed.