Jay Sarno made his money with a string of "cabana" motels ranging
from Atlanta to Palo Alto, California. His partner Nate Jacobson had
a bankroll of money from a Baltimore insurance company.
In 1962, using a $10.6 million loan from Teamsters Central
States Pension Fund, Sarno began building a resort on the 34-acres
of property which Kirk Kerkorian owned.
Sarno was the concept and design man, the money was
handled by Jacobson. Ground breaking didn't actually start until
early 1965. The Palo Alto Cabana was the virtual platform prototype
Sarno's hotel was originally going to be called the Cabana
Palace, then Desert Palace, then Caesars Palace, with the emblem of
a chesty female dipping grapes into the waiting mouth of a recumbent
Roman, fitted out in a toga, laurel wreath and phallic dagger.
Sarno thought of everything, from the Roman decor and
name, to the toga-like waitress costumes, the hotel logo, the
parchment-like desk stationary, matchbooks and business cards with
simulated burnt edges. Sarno even had long discussions about the
apostrophe in "Caesar's" - which he banished because the possessive
"would mean that it was the place of only one Caesar". He wanted to
create the feeling that everybody in the hotel was a Caesar.
"Caesars" it became.
Builders hit water while building an underground parking
lot. A series of coverts were built so the water was routed and
building could be resumed. The underground parking plan was
Sarno created Caesars using the usual frontage parking lot
amended by a long axis of fountains marking an entry drive. The
parking lots were pushed to the side for this effect.
Caesars faced the Strip with a royal presence. The wings
that marked the entry were Baroque Rome. At roadside, in front of
the herd of the spraying fountains stands a copy of the Winged
Victory of Samothrace. The main building is set back 135 feet. The
original porte cochere was a flat canopy back by a black-tiled
screen, flanked by reproductions of classical soldier statues in
Sarno asked for proposals from local sign companies for
the sign. Young Electric Sign Company submitted an entry, which
ripped a pediment, architrave, and columns off a Roman temple and
placed them at right angles to the road. Originally two attraction
boards laced through the four Ionic columns, later a single, bigger
board and two freestanding columns for support were added.
YESCO visited a dime store and picked out a few toy
soldiers for scale, they happened to be centurions. Sarno liked them
so much that he insisted that full-scale, full-color figures of
vestal maids and plumed centurions be added to the base of the
At the last moment, YESCO turned down the job because
clients balked at paying half the cost before beginning fabrication.
Ad-Art then stepped in and did the job with no money down for
$350,000. The design was essentially the same as Young's.
Inside Caesars' entry, a vast, low casino dominated the
interior. Its shallow oval-shaped dome hovered over the gaming pit
which Sarno believed was conducive to relaxation. Windowless and
with a blacked-out ceiling, the casino relied on sparkling trim
lights to give it shape. Around this central oval spun a welter of
shops, restaurants, lounges and corridors. Others led to the
sunlight, made more blinding by the dazzling white exterior. One
corridor went to the 1,200 Circus Maximus, the main showroom.
On August 5, 1966, the 14-story, 700 room Caesars Palace
opened with each guest being welcomed by the official greeter, a
blond 40-20-37 Cleopatra. The opening included the stage production
of "Rome Swings" with Andy Williams, and Phil Richards playing the
Of the $25 million spent on the Palace, $1 million went
to a gala three-day long grand opening party that had a guest list
of 1,800. In an attempt to cut costs, the opening invitations were
whittled from 20,000 to 1,400.
Sarno then bought the property from his landlord
Kerkorian in the amount of $5 million.
On December 31, 1967, Caesars played host to Evel
Knievel's unsuccessful, and near-fatal attempt to make it over
On July 15, 1969, executives broke ground for their
proposed 13 story high rise, and buried a time capsule. Just one
week later, they discovered someone had stolen the time capsule.
Cleopatra's Barge, sitting in its own miniature
Mediterranean Sea opened in 1970, during the second expansion of
Caesars which included a 14-story Centurion tower on the north side.
In addition to 1,000 rooms/suites, Caesars contained the
Bacchanal, The Piazza, Ah So Steak House, and Noshorium restaurants.
Caesars Health Club contained tennis courts as well as
whirlpool baths, saunas, steam rooms, exercise and relaxing rooms.
Also on the premises was a beauty salon and barber shop.
On either side of the front doors were marble statutes of
Medici Venus, Canova Venus, Venus de Milo, David, Heve, and Bacchus,
imported from Italy at a cost of $100,000. The Olympic swimming pool
copied the design of ancient Rome's Pompeii baths. More than 8,000
pieces of marble quarried from Carrara, Italy, tile the pool.
Suspended from the ceiling in the Grand Promenade was one
of the largest chandeliers ever built, costing $125,000, it measured
99 by 66 feet and contained more than 100,000 crystals.
Heavyweight Boxing Champion Joe Louis was the hotel's
greeter/host for many years. In a tribute to the champ, a bronze
statue was erected in his honor in one of the casino's alcoves.
In 1973, Caesars contracted Del Webb Corporation to build
a 16 story, 333 room high-rise tower to be completed September of
In 1975, Caesars opened its Palace Court Restaurant. The
restaurant became known for its stained-glass dome, elegant
appointments and exquisite food.
In 1979, Caesars added a 22-story tower.
On September 15, 1980, Gary Wells attempted to leap
across the fountains at Caesars Palace. Gary suffered a ruptured
aorta and fractures of the pelvis, thigh and lower leg from this
In the spring of 1980, the giant-domed 98 speaker movie
and sound attraction Omnimax Theatre premiered.
In 1981, Frank Sinatra was licensed as Vice President of
Entertainment of the resort, after paying $500,000 for his
In 1982, it was noted that the fountains at the resort
held 350,000 gallons of water, 10,000 of which was always shooting
into the air over the reflecting pools.
On February 5, 1984, Caesars erected the four-faced
Brahma Shrine from Mr. and Mrs. Kamphol Vacharaphol and Mr. Yip Hon.
The resort also held the Atari Adventure Center in the
Olympic section. This 2,000 square foot area contained over 60
electronic and video games.
On April 14, 1989, Robby Knievel, son of Evel Knievel,
successfully made the leap over Caesars' fountains.
In 1992, Caesars opened its Forum Shops. This area
contain shops such as Gucci, Bernini, Versace, Guess, Caesars
Exclusively, Magic Masters, and Just for Feet, and restaurants such
as Spago and The Palm.
The resort contained the King Tut Suites which offered
everything from grand pianos to chandeliers, full dining rooms and
bathroom facilities with Jacuzzis.
On July of 1995, Caesars was bought by ITT Sheraton
On June 18, 1996, Caesars opened their Magical Empire
which took two years to build and employed 200 people. The 66,000
square-foot attraction housed 10 Dining Chambers, each seating 24
guests; the Sultan's Palace theater that accommodated 144 people;
the 72-seat Secret Pagoda; a lounge and souvenir/magic store.
On November 7, 1997, Caesars opened its $495 million,
1,134 room Palace Tower with stunning architecture and lavish
furnishings. The king suites feature a 750-square-foot parlor,
his-and-her bathrooms with connecting showers, large walk-in closets
and a vanity counter. Every floor is framed in marble tile around
There are 25 meeting rooms, some equipped for
audio/visual presentation on big screens. The 30,000-square-foot
Palace Ballroom with its 21-foot ceiling seats 2,500 people and is
designed to host a variety of functions from headliner entertainment
to theatrically produced corporate presentations. The tower also
holds a 22,000-square-foot health spa and fitness center on the
In 1997, the Starwood Hotel and Resorts acquired control
of ITT and therefore Caesars.
In late 1997 - early 1998, Starwood put Caesars up for
sale for $3 billion dollars including 10 other Caesars properties in
Las Vegas, Atlantic City, and other locations.
In January 1998 Caesars opened its $35 million 3-D
Atlantis attraction at the far corner of the new expansion at the
Mirage Chairman Steve Wynn tried to buy selected Caesars
assets, including Las Vegas Caesars. On April 27, 1999, Hilton
Hotels Corporation bought the Caesars chain for $3 billion dollars.
On April 21 2000, Caesars famed Palace Court Restaurant
Over the years, and after Andy Williams initiated the
Circus Maximus showroom, the top entertainers in the world performed
on that stage. In addition to Frank Sinatra, Judy Garland, Liberace,
Cher, Freddie Roman, Shirley MacLaine, Freddie Prinz, Petula Clark,
Henny Youngman, Johnny Mathis, Diana Ross, George Burns, Charo,
Julio Iglesias, Bette Midler, Tom Jones, Anthony Newley, Wynonna,
Buddy Hackett, Ann-Margret, Flip Wilson, Dionne Warwick, Burt
Bacharach, Natalie Cole, Harry Belafonte, Peggy Lee, Milton Berle,
Woody Allen, David Copperfield, Eddie Fisher, Tony Bennett and Sammy
Davis Jr. were some of the stars that played in the Circus Maximus
theater. In September 2000, Steve Lawrence & Eydie Gorme were the
last celebrities to entertain at Circus Maximus as it closed to make
way for major changes at the resort.
In March of 2001, Caesars stated that are definite plans
to add a showroom The Colosseum. Caesars has suffered when they
closed the Maximus to provide space for more high-roller suites. The
Colosseum, is part of a master plan to expand the resort. Also on
deck are a 35-story, 800-room hotel tower, which would give the
property more than 3,250 rooms.
With 2,454 rooms now, the expansion would push Caesars on
to the list of the city's 10 largest hotels.
The project comes on top of heavy capital spending at
Caesars in 2000. Park changed the facade on Caesars' older hotel
towers, redesigned 600 hotel rooms and added two restaurants. This
summer, two high-end poolside villas will be completed at a cost of
$24 million, and a high-end gaming salon will be added by year's
In the summer of 2001, it was announced that the
Colosseum will open in March 2003, with a show starring singer
Celine Dion. The 4,000 seat showroom will cost a reported $65
million to build.
In May, 2001, Shadow: A Bar at Caesars Palace opened.
Shadow replaced the Forum Lounge and has seating capacity for about
100 people across its 3,500 square feet.
On June 28, 2001, a propane tank exploded on the roof of
Caesars injuring three people and sending a huge plume of black
smoke into the air over the Strip.
In November 2002, in spite of its success, the Magical
Empire was closed.
In March 2003, "A New Day" starring singer Celine Dion
opened in the newly constructed Colosseum. The 4,000 seat showroom
cost a reported $95 million to build. During her vacation time,
performers including Jerry Seinfeld and Gloria Estefan have filled
in for Dion. In November 2003 it was announced that beginning in
February 2004, during some of Celine's off time, Elton John would
perform in the Colosseum for 75 weeks over the next three years.