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Flamingo Las Vegas Turns A Stylish 70

Last updated: August 17, 2017 at 9:10 am. Posted by in Flamingo Las Vegas, Las Vegas Casinos, Las Vegas Hotels. 11 Comments on Flamingo Las Vegas Turns A Stylish 70.

Happy Birthday Vegas! Wait.. what? Yes, you read that right. Seventy years ago, the resort that gave birth to modern Las Vegas and its iconic Strip opened its doors. The Las Vegas hotel, Flamingo Las Vegas has turned 70.

The Flamingo was not the first nor even the second resort to open on what would become the Las Vegas Strip. That honor goes to the El Rancho (1941) and Hotel Last Frontier (1942).

While it was the third Las Vegas Strip hotel (opening on Dec. 26, 1946), the Flamingo Las Vegas would be the only Strip hotel from this era that would last into the new millennium.

 

It is the resort that created the blueprint for modern Las Vegas with amenities in 1946  that read like a 21st-century hotel website:

While the El Rancho, Last Frontier and even downtown Las Vegas (which celebrated its 100th birthday in 2005) featured Western-themed dude ranch style, the Flamingo boasted a sophisticated blend of Monte Carlo casino with Los Angeles – Miami – Caribbean resort. Western was out. Excess was in.

“It ushered in a new era of splendor and opulence that would set the standard for all future Strip establishments,” said newspaper publisher Hank Greenspun in 1972’s “Learning from Las Vegas.”

 

The brainchild of Billy Wilkerson, owner of the Hollywood Reporter and nightclubs on the Sunset Strip, the Flamingo would open under the management of mobster Benjamin “Bugsy” Siegel. Siegel (and his syndicate “partners”) invested in the property when Wilkerson ran out of money creating his dream resort.

It would eventually cost $6 million to build the Flamingo, but despite the major investment and luxury style, the grand opening was a flop.

Comedian Jimmy Durante, headlining in the showroom with music by Cuban band leader Xavier Cugat, was a success but unfinished hotel rooms and incomplete amenities plus bad weather that deterred many invited Hollywood celebrities proved fatal to the celebration. Within the first two weeks, the casino lost an estimated $300,000.

The decision was made to close the resort and complete construction. Finally on March 1, 1947 the now Fabulous Flamingo Hotel reopened. By May, the resort was making a profit and on its way to becoming an icon, featured in movies, television, literature and inspiring a new kind of Las Vegas hotel and resort.

It wasn’t enough to save Siegel. Plagued by the resort’s cost overruns, besieged by rumors of skimming by himself and and his girlfriend Virginia Hill, Siegel was gunned down on June 20 while sitting in Hill’s Beverly Hills home.

It may have been a tumultuous start, but with 70 memorable years behind it the Flamingo proves that its approach to a complete resort experience in the desert was a vision of Las Vegas’ future.

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THEN AND NOW

As the Flamingo Las Vegas  marks its 70th  birthday we compare the hotel of the late 1940s and early 1950s with the resort of today. All historical photos courtesy of the Las Vegas News Bureau.

DIVE IN

A requirement for all luxury Las Vegas resorts, a spectacular pool.

Show us your flair

Sideburns were popular in 1950 and today. A cocktail mixing competition in 1950 at Santa Anita Turf & Bar at the Flamingo (left) and a flair bartender at Margaritaville Las Vegas at the Flamingo (right).

Party with your friends

It doesn’t matter if it’s the 1940s or 2010s, in Vegas it’s always about having fun with friends.

Buffet of Buffets

Sure you had prime rib in the 1950s, but where’s the made-to-order crepe station?

RELAX IN A stylish ROOM

Room amenities have changed just a bit between 1952 (left) and today (right). Though we’re digging the pattern on those curtains from the 1950s.

 

LADY LUCK

Can someone point the way to the Megabucks machine?

Let’s all meet in the lobby

It’s 2016 and we’ve got way more computers (and marble) in the lobby.

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About The Author

I'm one of a rare breed of folks, a native Las Vegan. Being born in Las Vegas has endowed me with crazy Sin City skills - must be all the exposure to neon. I'm a human casino GPS, celebrity locator (You never know who you'll meet in a casino elevator, right Richard Branson?) and insider tip encyclopedia. I learned probability and statistics with casino dice. When I walk through a hotel, tourists think I work there. Maybe it's my smile, my purposeful walk or my friendly answers. Maybe it's just the black suit. But whatever the reason, I get the chance to exercise my Vegas super powers every day. Now if I could just predict when Megabucks would hit...

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11 Responses

  1. WOW What a change!!! Incredible article!! 70 years congrats!!! Be nice if they do something special to celebrate their 70 years not as elaborate as Caesar’s 50th Anniversary but just something special maybe. Love the before and after pictures!!

  2. Alton

    I love it !!!

  3. Alec

    Great article! Though first resort casino in LV was actually The Meadows built by Tony Cornero in 1931. Didn’t last long though.

    Happy Birthday to the Flamingo.

  4. Glenn Karns

    Wanted to ask about a military discount to see Donny and Marie at your casino. I am military retired. Thx!

  5. Hi Glenn, Donny & Marie have an ongoing offering for veterans and active military members with a valid ID for 50 percent off balcony seats. You can purchase these discount tickets at the box office. You can also get year round military discounts on hotel rooms. Here are the details: https://www.caesars.com/deals/military-discounts

  6. Margaret Zawisa

    We have going to Las Vegas Flamingo, for over 20 years, never had the chance to say, alway was booked , but we did Gamble there every time, hopefully we will be able to stay this time, we are more flexible this time, Congratulations on your 70th….

  7. Natalie Perren

    Happy 70th Birthday Flamingo Hotel! Love the before and after pix! We stayed with you 3 years ago for our first overseas holiday and loved it and now we are heading over later this year (from Australia) in your 70th Birthday year and hope to stay with you again! See you then!

    Cheers,

    Natalie and family. ?

  8. Caryn

    I’ve been going to LV since the late 50’s. The Flamingo is one of my favorite places (and I only have 3) in LV. I’ve seen ALL the changes over the years. Happy “B Day”, so happy you’ve stayed around. Cheers to the future. I’ll be back soon!

  9. Corinne Ingraham

    Love the Flamingo. Been going to LV for years stayed at several places, last ten or more at Flamingo. Twice a year stay there. Would not stay anywhere else . Great rooms, wonderful staff and terrific hosts. Love the Flamingo, it’s the best!

  10. Pat Martinez

    My husband & I have been staying at the Flamingo almost every year of our 40 married years. We always have a strip view room to take in the neon, walkers & fountains. It’s always like coming home ? for us. We love the center strip location. So many food, slot machine, shopping & show options close by. The rooms are very nice ? & comfortable. I like the Flamingo go rooms that have a TV ? in the bathroom mirror. We are a little older now ???(40 years married) so the room is important for extra sleep!?Bus service on the strip is a great way to get to each hotel if you’re not into long distance walking. The Flamingo staff is very nice/friendly. We LOVE ❤️ this place & look forward to being there in May for our joint Birthdays! ✈️??

  11. Eze,&Blanca Padilla

    Flamingo is our #1 choice and favorite resort to celebrate our birthdays,and anniversary (43 years of happy marriage) for the last 15 years plus family vacation spot for sons and grandkids we love the pools the buffet by the water falls the elegant rooms and shows. We’ll buy a red brick to engrave our names and wedding aniversary’s date to place it by the waterfall.
    Flamingo hotel we’ll see you in March to celebrate my lovely wife Blanca!