Stardust Resort & Casino in Las Vegas

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The Stardust Resort & Casino was a casino resort located on 63 acre along the Las Vegas Strip in Winchester, Nevada.

The Stardust opened in 1958, although most of the modern casino complex (including the main 32-story tower) was built in 1991. At its March 13, 2007 demolition it was the youngest undamaged high-rise building to ever be demolished.

The Stardust officially closed at 12:00 p.m. (Pacific Time) on November 1, 2006 after operating continuously for 48 years. It was imploded on March 13, 2007, around 2:33 A.M. In 2007, construction began on Echelon Place, which was planned to replace The Stardust. Construction on the Echelon development was suspended in 2008, and remains suspended as of November 2011.


The famed Stardust sign became a symbol of Las Vegas. Young Electric Sign Company was hired to fabricate the sign. Kermit Wayne's design was selected for both the façade and the roadside signs. Although Moe Dalitz, who took over from original developer Tony Cornero upon his death, said it was from his original plans, the sign was really part of Cornero's original concept.

The Stardust sign gave visitors a panoramic view of the solar system. At the sign's center sat a 16 ft diameter plastic model of the Earth. Cosmic rays of neon and electric light bulbs beamed from behind the model earth in all direction. Three-dimensional acrylic glass planets spun alongside 20 scintillating neon starbursts. Across the universe was a jagged galaxy of electric lettering spelling out "Stardust". The sign utilized 7100 ft of neon tubing with over 11,000 bulbs along its 216 ft front. The "S" alone contained 975 lamps. At night the neon constellation was reportedly visible 60 mi away.

The roadside sign was freestanding with a circle constraining an amorphous cloud of cosmic dust circled by an orbit ring and covered in dancing stars. The hotel's name was nestled in a galactic cloud.

In 1967, the old circular sign was replaced by a new $500,000 roadside sign. The new sign's form was blurred by a scatter of star shapes, a shower of stardust. At night, incorporating neon and incandescent bulbs in the animation sequence, light fell from the stars, sprinkling from the top of the 188 ft tall sign down over the Stardust name.

In 1991, the Stardust sign's Googie lettering was replaced with a subdued Futura typeface.


The resort was conceived and built by Tony Cornero, who died in 1955 before construction was completed. The resort was bought out and completed by John Factor (aka Jake the Barber), half-brother of cosmetics seller Max Factor, Sr.. John Factor leased the casino out to a company controlled by Moe Dalitz. When the hotel opened, it had the largest casino in Nevada, the largest swimming pool in Nevada and the largest hotel in the Las Vegas area.

The Stardust opened at 12:00 noon on July 2, 1958. The attendees of the opening included governors, senators, city and county officials and Hollywood celebrities.

The entertainment registry started with the spectacular French production show Lido de Paris. Lido was conceived by Pierre-Louis Guerin and Rene Fraday, and staged by Donn Arden.

The opening night lounge lineup offered, from dusk to dawn, Billy Daniels, The Happy Jesters, The Vera Cruz Boys and the Jack Martin Quartet. Daniels became the first entertainer to sign a long-term residency contract in Metropolitan Las Vegas when he agreed to appear for 40 weeks per year for three years.

Tony Cornero's dream became a $10 million 1,065 room reality, charging just $6.00 a day. The resort featured the 105 ft long Big Dipper swimming pool, a 13500 sqft lobby, a 16500 sqft casino, and a decor featuring rich red and deep brown colors and indirect lighting.

The Stardust also conveniently held Las Vegas Strip's only first run drive-in theatre in the rear of the resort.

The Stardust took over the closed Royal Nevada hotel-casino, remodeled the showroom, and converted it into a convention center and high-roller suite. From 1959 to 1964, this wing was occupied by the Stardust's "high roller" guests and The Stardust showgirls.

This Olympic size pool area was opened to the general public with the 1964 addition of the 9 story Stardust Tower that replaced half of the bungalow rooms.

In 1960, the resort added a new 4800 sqft screen surface to its drive-in theatre. The same year, the Aku Aku Polynesian Restaurant was opened, complete with a Tiki Bar, and a large stone Tiki head marking the entrance from the outside.

By 1961, Stardust's management included Credit Manager Hyman Goldbaum, a career criminal with seven known aliases, fourteen criminal convictions including an assault conviction, and a three year prison sentence for income tax evasion. Casino Manager and 5% owner Johnny Drew, was a veteran associate of Al Capone and was once fined for running a crooked dice game at an Elks convention, and general manager Morris Kleinman had served three years for tax evasion.

In 1964, with the addition of the nine-story tower (later called the East Tower), the room count increased to 1,470. For the next 5 years The Stardust was the leader in rooms until 1969 when The International opened. In 1964 the landmark façade was updated, expanding out into the parking lot by the highway. The new façade raised the Stardust's name, still in electra-jag letters, onto a pole above the exploding universe.

From 1965 until 1970, the hotel operated the Stardust International Raceway in Spring Valley. The track drew the Can-Am and USAC Championship Car series, including drivers such as Mario Andretti, Dan Gurney, Bruce McLaren, Mark Donohue, and Jackie Stewart.

In 1966, Howard Hughes attempted to buy the Stardust for $30.5 million but was thwarted by government officials on the grounds that his acquisition of any more gambling resorts might violate the Sherman Antitrust Act.

In November 1969, Parvin-Dohrmann Corporation purchased the Stardust for an undisclosed amount. The resort was bought by Argent Corporation in 1974 using loans from the Teamsters Central States Pension Fund. Argent was owned by Allen Glick, but the casino was believed to be controlled by various organized crime families from the Midwest.

In the 1970s Argent Corporation had siphoned off between $7 and $15 million dollars using rigged scales. When exposed by the FBI, this skimming operation was the largest ever exposed. A number of organized crime figures were convicted as a result of the skimming. The story of the skimming was featured in the book Casino by Nicholas Pileggi.

In 1977, the Stardust went through another remodeling. The bombastic galactic theme was abandoned, though the roadside sign remained, and the façade was covered with animated neon tubing and trimmed with mirrored finish facets. The new porte cochere sparkled with 1,000 small incandescent bulbs. The encrustation of bulbs turned solid mass into ethereal form.

In 1980, the Aku Aku Polynesian Restaurant closed. The giant stone Tiki head that marked the entrance was later moved to an island in an artificial lake at Sunset Park in Winchester, Nevada.

After Argent Corporation was forced out of the gaming business in the late 1970s, the casino was sold to Al Sachs and Herb Tobman. However, the gaming authorities found that skimming was still going on. In 1984, the Nevada Gaming Commission levied a $3 million fine against the resort for skimming, the highest fine ever issued by the commission. Suspicions, accusations and controversy about the Stardust's hidden ownership over the years was finally squelched when Sam Boyd's locally-based, squeaky-clean gaming company purchased the Stardust in March 1985.

The Stardust was a gold mine to the Chicago Outfit, the skim being absolutely fabulous. When it was taken over by the reputable Boyd family, they were surprised by its huge profits, with every penny of income recorded. Ex-FBI agent William F. Roemer Jr., longtime senior agent of the FBI's organized-crime squad in Chicago and an expert in Las Vegas doings, said, "The amount of skim had been so heavy that the profit and loss statement did not present a true picture of the gold mine that the Stardust was."

In 1991, a 32-story West Tower was added to the resort, overshadowing the older East Tower and bringing the total room count to 1,500. Two landscaped swimming pools, a golf course, and athletic facilities were also built. The renovation project totaled $300 million. The bungalow rooms had been demolished, leaving the room count at 1,500.

At its peak size, the Stardust contained 100000 sqft of gambling casino including 73 gaming tables, and 1,950 slot, keno and video poker machines. The conference center was 25000 sqft and could accommodate meetings and banquets for groups of 25 to 2,000.

Lido de Paris was replaced in 1992 with Enter the Night, which closed in 1999.

Siegfried & Roy got their Strip start at the Stardust with the help of mob associate Frank Rosenthal after he gave them Allen Glick's Rolls Royce.

Wayne Newton signed a ten-year deal, negotiated by Jack Wishna, with the Stardust in 1999, for a reported $25 million per year, the largest entertainment contract in the Las Vegas region at the time. After five and half years, Newton ended his run in late April 2005, and George Carlin moved into his theater. Magician Rick Thomas premiered at the hotel on March 25, 2005.

In 2002, comedian Andrew Dice Clay had a regular show at the Stardust.

During the Stardust Theater's last month of operation, legendary stars including George Carlin, Tim Conway and Harvey Korman gave performances; singer Lawrence Leritz performed for the Ex-Playboy Bunny Reunion. The last act to perform in The Stardust Theater was Steve Lawrence and Eydie Gorme; the theater formally closed on October 28, 2006.

The casino hosted an annual international pool tournament, the Jansco Brothers' Stardust Open, which attracted most of the top professional players of the era. For many years, its one-pocket division was the premier event in that discipline.

Royal Nevada

The Royal Nevada was the previous hotel on part of the Stardust site.

The Royal Nevada opened north of the New Frontier on April 19, 1955, as the Showplace of Showtown, U.S.A. The resort's crowning glory was the crown which sat on top of the resort.

The night before the opening, 'atomic soldiers' were treated to a pre-opening party.

The Royal Nevada was plagued with financial problems from the start.

While this resort seemed to "disappear completely", swallowed in 1959 by the Stardust becoming the Stardust's Convention Center, portions of the two story bungalow style Royal Nevada wing and pool remained in use up until 2006.

Final day

The Stardust permanently closed its doors to the public on November 1, 2006. The last dice thrown at a Stardust craps table was by tourist Jimmy Kumihiro of Hawaii. Slot machine betting was officially halted at 7:30 a.m. Just before the casino was officially closed at noon, the Bobbie Howard Band led the customers out the doors for the last time (in a conga line) to the tune of "When the Saints Go Marching In", and the hotel/casino complex closed after a 48 year run of continuous 24 hour operation. Outside, the loudspeakers were playing the John Lennon song "Nobody Told Me", which contains the line Nobody told me there'd be days like these / Strange days indeed.

At the time of its closing, the Stardust Showroom starred The Magic of Rick Thomas, the most successful daytime show in the Strip's history.


On Tuesday March 13, 2007 at 2:33 a.m. (Pacific Time), the Stardust Resort was imploded in a grand ceremony which included fireworks prior to the East and West Towers' tumble.


  • 25000 sqft Convention Center
  • Car rental—onsite
  • Dining—9 places to choose from
  • Fitness Center
  • Pavilion/Exhibit Center—40500 sqft
  • Race and sports book
  • Shopping
  • Spa
  • Swimming pools
  • Wedding chapel

Cultural references

In literature

  • The book Casino: Love and Honor in Las Vegas, written by Nicholas Pileggi and Larry Shandling, chronicles the days when The Stardust Hotel and Casino - and two other casinos from the area - were run by professional gambler and bookie, Frank 'Lefty' Rosenthal and a soldier in the Chicago Outfit named Anthony 'The Ant' Spilotro, on behalf of the Chicago and Kansas City Mafia during the 1970s and early 1980s. Rosenthal was denied a gaming license in 1981 and placed in the Nevada Gaming Control Board's black book by the early 1990s. Spilotro and his brother, while under federal indictment, were found beaten to death in an isolated corn field in rural Indiana.
  • The book The Odds: One Season, Three Gamblers and the Death of Their Las Vegas, by Chad Millman, chronicled a year in the lives of Stardust race & sports book manager Joe Lupo and assistant manager Bob Scucci, as well as professional sports bettor Alan Boston and wannabe sports bettor Rodney Bosnich. The Stardust was chosen due to its status at the time as the "home of the opening line".
  • The book, The Stardust of Yesterday: Reflections on a Las Vegas Legend written by Heidi Knapp Rinella, edited by Mike Weatherford and foreword by Siegfried and Roy, is a complete history of the hotel and casino. Rinella and Weatherford are both staff writers for the Las Vegas Review-Journal. In the book, Siegfried & Roy, who debuted at the Stardust in the 1970s, tell of their many memories.


  • The Aflac television commercial was shown from 2003, when Wayne Newton was singing there.
  • The large neon sign can be seen in the film Austin Powers
  • In Casino (1995), Martin Scorsese's film adaptation of Pileggi's book, Sam "Ace" Rothstein (portrayed by Robert De Niro) was largely based on Frank "Lefty" Rosenthal and Nicholas "Nicky" Santoro (portrayed by Joe Pesci) was based on Anthony "Tony the Ant" Spilotro. The casino's name was changed for legal purposes, from the Stardust to the "Tangiers Hotel and Casino", and the site was portrayed as being across the street from the Dunes, several blocks away from the actual site of the Stardust. However, snippets of the Hoagy Carmichael song, Stardust, can be heard on the soundtrack, giving a subtle hint as to the casino's true identity.
  • The sign is seen in several scenes in the movie Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas
  • The sign can be seen in the movie Mars Attacks!, wherein it is damaged by the Martians.
  • In 1994, the movie ' was filmed at the Stardust Resort and Casino.
  • The film Showgirls was partly filmed on location and set in the Stardust Resort and Casino. The films revolves around the battles to be the top Stardust showgirl.
  • The film Swingers (1996) had scenes set in the Stardust Resort and Casino. Exterior shots were the actual Stardust, but interior casino scenes were shot at the Fremont Hotel and Casino.



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