Along with the striking gold-swirled Las Vegas Arena now taking shape on the Strip, downtown’s Keep Memory Alive Event Center, with its landmark undulating, curvilinear design from superstar architect Frank Gehry, exemplifies the face of the “new” Las Vegas. Yet, as the future city takes shape, memories of vintage Vegas are still very much alive.
The most obvious example is the Fremont Street Experience, lined with Glitter Gulch treasures, including the Golden Gate Hotel & Casino (1906) and iconic neon signs like Vegas Vic (1947). At the former Sahara, now SLS Las Vegas, playing cards and celebrity images, including Dean Martin, Raquel Welch and from 1971’s Diamonds Are Forever, Sean Connery and Jill St. John, emblazon the lobby and casino carpeting.
Of course, much of the past is gone, bulldozed, imploded, paved over and rebuilt. Just last month, the Riviera closed after 60 years; April saw the passing of Betty Whitehead Willis, 91, who designed the iconic “Welcome to Fabulous Las Vegas” sign.
Yet, as Las Vegas continues to fashion an ever-bolder 21st century image, groups with a flair for the past still have plenty in store. These include talks from internationally renowned Vegas author and historian Dr. David Schwartz (see “Zoom In” Q&A, this page); visits to the city’s ancient wellspring (see sidebar, this page); and flings at the following diverse vintage gems.
ANDRE’S RESTAURANT, LAS VEGAS
Long before Wolfgang Puck ignited modern celebrity chefdom in Las Vegas, French-born Andre Rochat introduced serious dining to the city, first with Savoy French Bakery (1973) and then in 1980 with his AAA Four Diamond homage to the French country inn, Andre’s. While the original location is no more, the second Andre’s, cigar lounge included, has been at the Monte Carlo Resort & Casino since 1997. Rochat’s other restaurant, Alize, is at the top of the Palms Ivory Tower.