Iconic Vegas! Las Vegas News Bureau opens a vault on 75 years of photo history

SEE THE LIGHTS

Before there were three television networks, before Ocean’s 11 and long before the internet, there was the Las Vegas News Bureau. Founded in 1947 as a component of the Las Vegas Visitors and Convention Authority, the News Bureau has two jobs: to assist the LVCVA in marketing this city as a destination and to serve as a resource for national and international news organizations in reporting on Vegas. It does this mostly through photography, and over the past 75 years, the News Bureau has captured the sights of this city like no one else. To commemorate the anniversary, it’s opening up a one-of-a-kind photo archive (lvcva.com/who-we-are/75th-anniversary-gallery).

SAHARA SWAN DIVE

The Sahara’s pool buzzes with activity in this promotional photo from June 1953. The city’s tourism slogan at the time was “Fun in the Sun.” And it still is fun to be here, really, even on those days when the sun overdoes it.

HELLDORADO PARADE

The beloved city institution makes its way down Fremont Street on May 15, 1947. This was the Las Vegas News Bureau’s first assignment, and its staffers lassoed it like real buckaroos. (Note the photographer’s shadow in the lower right.)

SHOWGIRL GLITTER

A showgirl takes the stake in Jubilee, a glitzy production show at the former MGM Grand (later Bally’s, soon to become the Horseshoe) in July 1981. Showgirl photos like this one remain a visual shorthand for Las Vegas.

LAS VEGAS CONVENTION CENTER ROTUNDA

The Convention Center rotunda opened in April 1959, and this photo is from June of that year. This 6,300-capacity rotunda hosted concerts, boxing matches featuring Sonny Liston and Muhammad Ali and even a speech by President John F. Kennedy, before it was demolished in 1990. The current Convention Center’s main hall now stands where the rotunda once did.

CAESARS’ GRAND PRIX

The Caesars Palace Grand Prix roars up the Strip on September 25, 1982,The Las Vegas Grand Prix, a Formula One World Championship race, is scheduled to take place on our streets next year—Vegas’ first Grand Prix race in 40-plus years.

FORBIDDEN BLACKJACK

Forbidden Planet’s Robby the Robot tries his luck at the Sands’ blackjack table. The pioneering science fiction film had been in theaters for two months when this promotional shot was taken in May 1956. Robby’s Earthside incursion was done in the name of a great Vegas tradition: the bizarre photo op.

THE JACKSON 5 AT MGM GRAND

It’s true: Michael Jackson and his brothers had what we now call a “residency,” at the original MGM Grand from August 21 to September 3, 1974. This photo is from August 29—Michael’s 16th birthday. His family presented him with a cake offstage.

MGM GRAND FIRE

The deadliest fire in Nevada history, the MGM Grand blaze of November 21, 1980 took 87 lives. This tragedy, along with a less deadly but still destructive fire at the Las Vegas Hilton just three months later, led to strongly upgraded state fire regulations.

SAMMY DAVIS JR. MARRIES

Sammy Davis Jr. weds singer/dancer Loray White at the Sands, January 10, 1958. It was a marriage of necessity for Davis, who was facing racist death threats as a result of his relationship with Vertigo star Kim Novak. Davis and White divorced after only a year.

BLAST WATCH

No, not a sunrise. Reporters and photographers observe a June 24, 1957 above-ground atomic test from “News Nob,” a spot at the edge of Yucca Lake at the Nevada Test Site. The reporters are stationed some 10 miles away from the blast.

VEGAS LOVES THE BEATLES

The Fab Four play to a capacity crowd at the Las Vegas Convention Center, August 20, 1964. A single show had be
en planned for the Sahara’s 700-seat Congo Room, but Beatlemania intervened. The average ticket price for the band’s two Vegas shows: $5.

PACKED HOUSE

The Rat Pack headlines at the Sands on January 20, 1960. The classic heist film Ocean’s 11 came out in August of that year—and this sign had a prominent cameo at the end of the film, when its stars walked up the Strip, sauntering coolly beneath their own names.

FIRE IN PARADISE

While the Mirage’s signature volcano doesn’t look much different today that when this photo was taken in January 1995, it’s good to have a beauty shot of this beloved Strip landmark. Odds are good that once the Hard Rock Hotel takes over this property, this fire is going out.

HANGING WITH LIBERACE

Careful up there, Lee. Liberace dangles above his massive birthday cake in this May 16, 1967 promotional photo. The cake was so large that the extravagant performer needed to be suspended above it in order to cut the top tier.

ROME IS SINKING

Every now and again, the Valley’s monsoon season produces an honest-to-goodness flood, like this one in July 3, 1975. While the News Bureau’s main objective is to promote Las Vegas, it also documents historic events like this one: the day Caesars Palace became Venice.

THAT OLD LOUNGE MAGIC

This is the way it was done. Louis Prima and Keely Smith perform at the Sahara’s Casbar Lounge, where they had a five-year residency, on March 10, 1956. Back in the day, Vegas entertainment was close and intimate.

VEGAS ROYALTY

Siegfried & Roy take a bow at the Stardust on October 2, 1980. The professional partnership of Siegfried Fischbacher and Roy Horn arguably defined an entire era of Vegas entertainment. They have a statue on the Strip, and they deserve it.

PLAZA POOL

Before Oscar’s Steakhouse, the Plaza had a swimming pool overlooking the hotels of “Glitter Gulch.” This promotional shot was taken on August 29, 1972, some 23 years before Fremont Street became a semi-enclosed pedestrian mall.

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Karen J. Simmons

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