The Stardust Hotel/Casino opened on July 2, 1958 north of The New Frontier. It paved the way for many firsts in Las Vegas, including the first extravagant topless revue, Lido de Paris, which later introduced the world to Siegfried and Roy. The Stardust property also provided the first drive-in theater to the Las Vegas valley. The street sign conveyed the overall theme of the small resort as futuristic and space-age.
In 1959 the neighboring casino to the south, The Royal Nevada, was acquired by the Stardust and turned into their convention center and VIP guest area. This hotel area also housed the Lido showgirls. The next year, the Polynesian restaurant Aku Aku opened between the two main buildings. The Aku Aku was the first of it's kind in the valley, offering a menu of exotic foods and cocktails. It's entrance was marked by a giant stone Tiki head. The Stardust's sports book also grew into the sports book after which all future ones would be modeled.
The Royal Nevada Hotel & Casino
The Aku Aku Polynesian Restaurant
In 1964, a 9 story hotel tower was built, making the Stardust the largest hotel in Las Vegas until the International (Now the Las Vegas Hilton) opened in 1969. A year later, in 1965, the circular sign was replaced by the famous Stardust sign which is synonymous with Las Vegas. A small Porte cohere was constructed and the facade of the casino heightened dramatically with the globe raised on a small tower.
The new hotel tower and sign.
In 1977 the resort was completely remodeled. The facade abandoned the space-age theme and adopted a more contemporary theme. The building was lined with red and blue neon as well a shiny trim to match. The Porte cohere was enlarged and given a bright new finish with thousands of light bulbs that sparkled in the expanse of the desert. All through the 1960's and the 1970's, the Stardust was the poster child for mob activity. The management was made up of career criminals and crooked gamblers. Skimming, shake-downs, and murder lurked beneath the resorts shiny surface. Being such a prime example of mobster mentality and having such a dramatic story, the story of the Stardust in this stage of it's life was immortalized in the 1995 movie CASINO, with the names of the key players and casino being changed, but the stories and circumstances very true to life. In 1980 the Aku Aku restaurant closed and was absorbed into the casino's expansion.
After the resort was fined $3 million by the Nevada Gaming Commission for skimming, the mobster heads weeded out, and the property purchased by Boyd Gaming in 1985, the resort continued to thrive and grow. Over the course of the 80's, a new Porte cohere was constructed approximately where the Aku Aku had stood, and the old one enclosed and absorbed into the casino. In 1991 a new 32-story tower was built to the west of the 1964 tower, and the jagged lettering on the sign and remaining facade was replaced with block lettering. Lido de Paris was replaced with Enter The Night in 1992 and the show ran until 1999, being replaced by Wayne Newton.
The west tower under construction in 1991
The Stardust underwent one last face-lift which did away with the bright red and blue neon, and upgraded with a much more subdued white exterior with gold accents. Overall, a very modern and classy look was given to the resort.
In 2006, the decision was made by Boyd Gaming to replace the Stardust with a new mega-resort called Echelon Place to compete with MGM/Mirage's City Center project on the other end of the strip. On November 1, 2006 the Stardust closed it's doors forever. All furniture, fittings, and memorabilia were auctioned off in the following weeks, and demolition commenced at the end of the month.
Demolition of the property took a mere 3 months with the two towers being completely gutted. The casino and low level buildings of the resort were bulldozed from north to south. The sign was dismantled and taken to the Neon Boneyard in downtown Las Vegas, with plans to restore and display it in the Neon Museum.
Scroll over the images above to see before/after shots
On March 13, 2007 at 2:30 a.m. the east and west towers were imploded with great fanfare. A three minute fireworks show preceded the anti-climactic collapse of both towers, shrouded in darkness, at 2:33 a.m.
The Stardust leaves behind a legacy of classic Las Vegas as well as outstanding customer service, friendly staff, and loyal patrons.