Wednesday, July 01, 2009

The Final Frontier ...

Cold Beer and Dirty Girls!

Uh, yeah, if you say so ... :)

This report has been a long time coming, almost two years ... anyway ...

On July 15, 2007, I was lucky enough to be in Las Vegas for the closing of the Frontier Hotel and Casino, sometimes known as the Last Frontier and the New Frontier.

The Frontier began its life in 1942 as the second hotel-casino on what would become the Las Vegas Strip. It was preceded only by the original El Rancho, which was destroyed by fire in 1960. Nope, despite what you heard, Bugsy's Flamingo was not the first hotel-casino on the Strip!

At the time of the closure, the Frontier was the oldest continuously-operating hotel-casino on the Strip.

There's so much written about the Frontier's history. Google a bit if you want to read about it. It's been the home of many headliners, in particular Siegfried and Roy with their Beyond Belief show.

The Frontier was also the location of the longest strike in the history of organized labor, lasting from 1991 to 1998.

Anyway, I arrived at about 7:30pm on the 15th and stayed almost until the very end.

This was also one rare opportunity to photograph the action in a legacy Las Vegas casino with impunity. Many casinos prohibit casino photography entirely. Those that permit it (tolerate it) have quite a few restrictions, and very few ever allow photography of gaming tables in play.

There were many cameras present, thousands of photos being taken right in front of management and security, who did nothing at all to discourage it!

When I arrived, several of the complex's facilities were closed or closing.

Notice the expression on the one guy in the gift shop above! :)

Totally vacant sports book ...

One of the arcade shops going out of business ...

Here we look through the glass in the door of what was Gilley's, a nightclub and saloon which featured such things as mud wrestling and mechanical bull riding. Things I've always wanted to do -- NOT! :)

You can see the partially-removed "Gilley's" logo on the glass.

... and the band played on!

A jazz/swing tribute-to-Frank type band played almost until the very end, somewhat reminiscent of the final hours of the Titanic. Oh well ...

Quite a contrast in style here ...

"Like Frankie said, I did it my way!" :)

... and the people played on!

... almost as if it were just another day in the casino!

The Frontier was the home of one of the few surviving Sigma Derby games, a mechanical horse race game with kind of a cult following.

As of this writing, the only remaining Sigma Derby is at the MGM Grand.

As a souvenir, I wanted a cash-out ticket, but I was afraid that if I waited until midnight, the slot machine would turn into a pumpkin or something, so I cashed out of one I was playing which ran down to $0.01 a couple hours before. :)

I found the following coin on one of the bartops. It was of very light metal, not intended as a casino chip or gaming token.

Various photos on display for the employees and regular players ...

Over the years I've managed to be in a few casinos (Wynn, Red Rock, Encore) on opening day, but never at a casino closing. It was a bittersweet affair, but the mood was festive until the very end. I was watching for any celebrities who might be there, but I didn't see any. Most of the crowd appeared to be employees and friends, regular casino players, visitors who happened to be in town, etc. Nope, Mayor G. wasn't there, but the Frontier (as well as almost all of the Strip) is outside the Las Vegas city limits.

So, what are the plans for the site?

There were several announced plans over the years, including a San Francisco themed resort and a Swiss themed Montreux (/me puts on an old Deep Purple album and cranks it) resort, but the latest plans are to build a Las Vegas version of New York's famed Plaza Hotel.

I guess I should book a room on the tippy-top floor, bring my pet turtle, and phone room service and tell them to "charge it, please!" :) (Nobody seems to get that one.) :)