Houston Texas gambler and oilman Jake Freedman, along with partners
Jack Entratter, and Carl Cohen, both wanted to build a new resort on
the Strip. Unable to get a building permit, they purchased La Rue's
Restaurant from ex-Flamingo owner, Billy Wilkerson. The 200 room
hotel and casino amounted to a $5.5 million addition to the old
Bearing the slogan "A Place in the Sun," the Sands opened
on December 15, 1952. Opening night entertainment was provided by
Danny Thomas, Jimmy McHugh, Judy Collins, Chuck Nelson, and the "Copa
Girls", billed as the "Most Beautiful Girls in The World".
The rooms were housed in five two-story Bermuda
modern-style buildings, each named after a famous thoroughbred
racetrack, arranged in a semi-circle around a half-moon shaped
swimming pool. These structures featured a "Vermiculite" tile roof
which was used extensively in the tropics to provide cooler
temperatures. The main building was a great rectangular hall with
the reception desk in one corner, slot machines along one long wall,
and a bar and cocktail lounge, complete with a Latin trio along the
opposite wall. Three wide terrazzo stairs led down into the large
low casino lit by shallow modern chandeliers. The casino was
flat-roofed where warm earth tones predominated and were enhanced by
expensive copper lighting fixtures.
Crowning the Sands was a roadside sign that took a first
step beyond the Strip status of sheet metal signs adorned with neon.
At 56 feet, it was taller than the rest, with the "S" alone standing
35 feet, but its primary distinction was its integration into the
main building's architecture. An eggcrate grill, cantilevered from a
solid anchor pylon, played with the desert light and shadow. In a
bold free script, the neon name "Sands" sprawled across the face of
Talent-wise and contact-rich, Jack Entratter was the
Entertainment Director who became the driving force behind the
hotel's world wide acclaim as the "in" place in Las Vegas. From the
outset he presented the biggest names in entertainment. Entratter
treated the performers appearing at the Sands like royalty and the
biggest stars in show business all played the Sands during his
The Sands was the hotel of the '50s and early '60s.
Entratter brought in Frank Sinatra and his "Rat Pack" which also
included Dean Martin, Peter Lawford, Sammy Davis, Jr., and Joey
Bishop who were staples at the hotel for over two decades. Tallulah
Bankhead, Billy Eckstine, Jane Powell, Danny Thomas, Judy Collins,
Vic Damone, Peggy Lee, Rosemary Clooney, Peter Lind Hayes & Mary
Healy, Lena Horne, Bobby Darin, Jerry Lewis, Pearl Bailey, Myron
Cohen, Nat "King" Cole, Johnnie Ray, Patti Page, Red Skelton, Jerry
Vale, Carol Burnett, Robert Goulet, Johnny Mathis, Count Basie,
George Gobel and Paul Anka were among other stars who also performed
at the Sands.
When the Desert Inn opened its large pool in 1955, the
Last Frontier filled in its old roadside pool and built a heated one
of AAU dimensions with a subsurface observation room at the deep and
a deck-side bar. The Desert Inn then replaced its original pool with
one even bigger. The Sands created a thing of free flow design large
enough to float a cruiser to compete.
In October of 1959, Sands completed a $100,000 remodeling
of her lobby area, and was about to embark on a $1 million project
for the addition of 53 luxury suites.
The Sands was bought by Howard Hughes for $14.6 million on
July 22, 1967. Hughes added a 17-story cylinder tower, containing
777 rooms, topped by a tiara of looped arches ringing the penthouse.
It stood prominently along the still mostly lowrise Strip.
It was during this period that the Sands was considered
the "Queen of the Strip." It was one of the better hotels, with a
strong customer base. The Sands was unique in that it was the only
hotel that the guests could check into the hotel and never see the
casino. It was considered a Class A operation by all.
In 1981, The Summa Corporation was advised to sell
particular properties because the Hughes estate was too widespread.
The Inns of the Americas, Inc., bought the Sands and expanded the
casino, and in 1982, the Sands replaced the Modernist porte cochere
with coruscating mushrooms. The Inns of America then became known as
the Pratt Corporation.
The Pratt Corporation took the Sands over with plans to
go after a specific market, Mexico and Latin America. Neil Smythe,
then an executive at Caesars Palace, was hired to run the property.
Unfortunately, the Mexican economy nosedived, and the
peso was devalued to almost nothing. Sands was left holding bad
markers and the Mexican/Latin American trade dried up to almost
nothing. The Pratts were left in an untenable situation, and in May
of 1983, Summa stepped back in and repossessed the property.
When Summa took the hotel back, a new general manager,
Phil Hannifin was appointed to guide it. The hotel was operated on a
different scale than before because the Pratts had made some
changes, a major one being that they had taken out the showroom
which had to be re-installed.
Kirk Kerkorian purchased the Sands in 1988, making it the
MGM Sands. Kerkorian was only involved with the property for a few
months, as the Interface Group purchased it in April 1988 for $110
million. The sale was finalized in April of 1989. Even though the
plan was to bring the Sands back to the status she once had, this
couldn’t be accomplished. She kept failing. It was finally decided
to implode her.
At precisely 9:00 pm, on November 26, 1996, a crowd
counted ten seconds, then a pull of the main power switch darkened
the main sign and hotel tower lights of the venerable Sands forever.
On May 3, 1999, the $1.5 billion, 3,036 room, 35 story,
The Venetian Resort Hotel Casino opened its doors amid the flutter
of white doves, sounding trumpets and singing gondoliers, with
Academy Award-winning actress Sophia Loren joining The Venetian
Chairman and Owner, Sheldon G. Adelson, in christening the first
gondola. The Venetian opened on 1.7 million square feet of property.
The Venetian is the first all-suites hotel on the Strip. Its guests
enjoy spacious 700 square-foot suites with the finely appointed
accommodations that include a plush private bed chamber featuring
draped canopies, an oversized 130 square-foot bathroom finished in
Italian marble, and a sunken living room area furnished with a
convertible sofa, two upholstered chairs, a desk and game table.
Playing homage to the romance, old-world charm and
festival-like atmosphere of Venice, Italy. The Venetian's opening
celebration was authentically replicated as the striking statuaries,
hand-painted frescoes, and recreated historic Venetian landmarks and
palaces that adorn the megaresort.
The Venetian is the first phase of a two-part master
planned casino resort entertainment project. Upon completion of
Phase II, The Venetian will be the world's largest hotel and
convention complex under one roof - with more then 6,00 lavish
suites. The property boasts approximately 120,000 square feet of
gaming floor; 500,000 square feet of meeting space at The Venetian
Congress Center - which includes the world's largest column-free
ballroom at 85,0000 square feet; and a direct link to the 1.2
million square-foot Sands Expo and Convention Center.
In the summer of 1999, famed Madame Tussaud's Museum
opened at the Venetian. The 30,000 square-foot, two-story Madame
Tussaud's Celebrity Encounter features five highly themed
environments showcasing more than 100 specially crafted wax figures
of some of the most popular film, television, music and sports
celebrities, as well as legendary Las Vegas icons.