Tuesday, May 17, 2011


What are you going to do, get all weepy about Louis Prima and Keely Smith?  Or Buddy Hackett, or Johnny Carson, or even The Beatles, for God's sake?  It was just a place where people did some stuff, a piece of a past that can never be recovered.

It's not like it's real history we're talking about here, only show-biz history.  But it's long been part of the peculiar nature of Las Vegas that it preserves its past in amber, or at least an amber-colored (but heavily watered-down) drink.  How else to explain the continued existence of The Sahara Hotel & Casino, which still sat at the north end of the strip like an aging madame, full of stories about the nearly-forgotten greats she used to escort?  (And she'll always refer to her gentlemen friends as escorts, not johns.  What the hell do you think she was, some two-bit hooker?)  The former "Jewel Of The Desert" shut down yesterday, but it had been closing bit by bit through the years, serving as some sort of reminder of the past in a town that barely has a present.

For the pleasures offered by Las Vegas are, by design, fleeting.  Times change, people move on, no one remembers.  Really, why should they?  Oh, so the Sahara was for many years the home base for Jerry Lewis' Labor Day telethon?  That's nice, but so what?

After all, Lewis himself is retiring from that institution after this year.  Though he has yet to find a cure for Muscular Dystrophy, there is no question that Lewis' time in the spotlight is due to end.  He was once as big as anyone, and he and Dean Martin could pack 'em in like nobody's business, but to watch him continue year after year, unwilling and unable to change with the times, diminishing his own reputation every time he referred to the likes of Jann Carl as a "marvelous" talent, abandoned by the few relevant celebrity friends he still has...well, it was a sad, sad spectacle, like watching the suckers being chased out of the Sahara on its closing day, all of them wanting one more chance to play their lousy dollar slots.