The Night Of Endless Delights!


In this morning’s post, we shared the story of Jay Sarno. Sarno was a Strip visionary and creator, at the time, of the Strip’s most luxurious and exquisite hotel and casino, Caesars Palace. This historic place opened on August 5, 1966, almost fifty years ago.

Today, it is still one of the most well known and iconic places in Las Vegas. We thought it interesting and important to share a little bit about the opening night of Caesars Palace.

Those that know their Vegas history may remember that as anticipated and ground breaking as the opening of the Flamingo was, it was an embarrassing failure. On December 26, 1946, Bugsy Siegel decided to open the property months before it was ready and he paid dearly for it.

Two weeks after the opening, it closed and wouldn’t reopen until March 1st, over two months later. Two months after that, Bugsy was assassinated by his mob friends for stealing from the mob.

Jay Sarno fared much better than Bugsy, but not without some major glitches. There was a series of those little problems like would occur with almost anything new. On opening night, of course, everything was new and untried and some things did not please Sarno. These kept him frantic and worried.

Sarno was excited, stressed, and on edge that night as he furiously tried to ensure that every detail of the evening was perfect. When it was time for the show to begin, for example, he thought the lighting was way too bright so he screamed at an employee to fix it. Sarno had him unscrew some bulbs and this brought the lights down to an acceptable level.

During the evening, crews were still installing some of the furniture. This caused some problems. One lady checked in and entered the elevator to go up to her room. She commented on the lovely sofa being taken up. She discovered this sofa was going to her room.

Things like these kept Sarno alert and constantly trying to fix every imperfection. Overall, he did a good job. Nothing visibly disastrous occurred. But, something bad this way was coming.

This was a night when world famous dignitaries including those from Hollywood, Politics, and labor would fill the Palace. Sarno could not take a chance on any of these being dissappointed. This was a night that promised endless delights to those who were lucky enough to have an invitation.

Among the Hollywood greats were Maureen O’Hara, Steve Lawrence, Eydie Gorme, Gregory Peck, John Wayne, and Ed Sullivan. The Governor of Nevada was there and the infamous Jimmy Hoffa, who supplied Teamster money for the hotel’s construction.

Andy Williams was the headliner that night. The endless flow of booze, entertainment, and spectacular sights within Caesars Palace made the event most memorable for the 2,000 guests who made it inside the doors. However, before it was over it almost became a nightmare for Sarno.

The real challenge and potential disaster concerned the gamblers. They were playing big and winning big. They were hundreds of thousands of dollars ahead of the house at one point. In fact, if the winners were to cash in, they couldn’t be paid. There was not enough reserve on hand.

This would quickly prompt the arrival of the Gaming Commission and they would shut the doors of the just hours-old Caesars Palace. Long story short, the tide did change in time and Caesars Palace ended up in the deep black by the end of the first opening days.

Jay Sarno survived to live another day and go on to build another great casino, a totally different type of casino, Circus Circus.


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