HISTORY SHOWS LAS VEGAS WILL BOUNCE BACK BETTER THAN EVER
Las Vegas has always been a go-go city, from its inception keeping the stars onstage and the lounges filled with millions of visitors. No matter what has happened, it’s always come back, although it wasn’t until recent years that events took a deeper toll.
In its early days, world events had their effect but often worked to Vegas’ advantage somehow. During the ’30s, as the nation went through the Great Depression, Vegas built its rep as a city where gambling was king and divorce was easier than ever (Ria Langham divorced hubby Clark Gable at the end of the decade), but in the ’40s, things really took off. World War II brought soldiers to newly built military bases all over the state, and support businesses boomed; Nevada added 50,000 residents during the decade. Hotels opened not only on Fremont Street, but on Highway 91, which would become the Las Vegas Strip. Soldiers took to the nature of Las Vegas with aplomb, and Liberace played his first show.
Photo: Las Vegas News Bureau
The '50s were even better—starting with the early part of the decade when atomic testing was visible and Vegas guests held overnight parties to watch the bombs go off. Frank Sinatra made his first Vegas appearance; Ronald Reagan played here; Minsky’s Follies danced into the city; and hotel after hotel opened along the Strip. Las Vegas even began its full life as a convention city when the Convention Center opened.
Coming to Vegas to party in the ’60s was a status symbol for many as the Rat Pack performed their first show together. It was a heady decade, with Liberace commanding $50,000 a week and Elvis and Priscilla Presley tying the knot at The Aladdin. Caesars Palace opened and Evel Knievel jumped the fountains there, inspiring countless little children to become at-home daredevils, and Siegfried & Roy began making magic. Elvis opened at the International, surpassing Liberace’s salary with a $125,000 per week residency, twice a year.
The ’70s slowed up a little as the entertainers got older and Atlantic City began drawing away gamblers. Elvis ended his shows at the International and died the year after. But the crowds still flocked to Vegas. It looked rocky in Sin City when the ’80s began, as a pair of deadly hotel fires (at the MGM Grand, and the Las Vegas Hilton) claimed 95 lives and injured hundreds in the first years of the decade. But even those tragic events did not end Vegas’ attraction. National Finals Rodeo held its first Vegas event in 1985, and Steve Wynn opened a swank new megaresort, The Mirage, in 1989.
Siegfried & Roy moved to The Mirage in 1990 and stayed through the decade. Throughout those years, resort after resort opened its porte cocheres—Luxor, New York-New York, The Stratosphere, Monte Carlo, The Orleans, Bellagio, Mandalay Bay, The Venetian and Paris. In 1993, Cirque Du Soleil opened Mystére at the newly opened Treasure Island, starting out an incredible run of successful shows in Vegas. “O” opened in 1998, and enjoyed the same success that Mystére did. Mr. Las Vegas Wayne Newton celebrated a whopping 25,000 shows.
Photo: Denise Truscello
After the events of Sept. 11, 2001, things looked bleak and for a while. Hotel occupancy fell and hard for quite a while (until almost 2007). But Vegas persevered, and in the years following saw headliners such as Celine Dion draw millions to Vegas’ entertainment scene (she began her first residency, A New Day… in 2003 at Caesars Palace). Bette Midler, Cher and Elton John brought in the faithful. Broadway-style shows such as Mamma Mia!, Phantom of the Opera, Jersey Boys and The Lion King spanned the decades into the early 2010s; nightclubs drew huge crowds and DJs earned serious paydays.
And then the housing market crashed, leading to the Great Recession in 2008. Once again, Vegas regrouped and once again rebuilt, drawing back visitors with such entertainers as Terry Fator and Donny & Marie; Dion began her second residency and a third. Nearly 5 million fans ended up seeing her before she retired for good in 2019. These residencies brought the biggest names to Vegas: Britney Spears, Jennifer Lopez, Shania Twain and more. Festivals ruled the day, bringing thousands of fans together to enjoy everything from punk to pop and everything in between.
And then on Oct. 1, 2017, a gunman killed 58 people and injured hundreds more during a country music festival. Vegas reacted in Vegas form: banding together, supporting each other and all the Vegas visitors. Blood drives drew hundreds, giving more than was needed. But tourism dropped a full 4 percent in the first month. And yes, Vegas began its road to recovery again. From 2017 to 2020, residencies included Bruno Mars, Twain, Aerosmith, Billy Idol and many others.
When the COVID-19 crisis caused convention and resort closings, so too went the concerts and live music and live shows. No resort has scheduled anything to be open sooner than April 15, and that remains a tenuous date. But there’s much to look forward to when the curve is flattened and everyone emerges from social distancing and working from home.
Vegas will bounce back from this, and once everyone is ready to return, here’s just a small sample of what they have to look forward to: Kelly Clarkson is one of the newest headliners scheduled for Vegas, and right now the first date to buy tickets for her Invincible residency is July 29; Twain has dates for her Let’s Go shows starting May 20; Lady Gaga’s newest dates begin May 13; Cher is due back July 11; Justin Bieber has a concert scheduled for June 2; and Michael Bublé is set for May 9.
No, we can’t guarantee things won’t change, and yes, it could all change. But we at Las Vegas Magazine do know we’re looking forward to seeing you back again. Yes, Vegas is hurting, as is the nation, but we’re also looking forward to what’s to come when we beat this thing. And beat it we will. Until then, be safe and be healthy.
Courtesy of Las Vegags Magazine