It's a little-known fact that just over 60 miles away from the glitz & glamour of the Las Vegas Strip, the United States Government used to test atomic weapons.
Just as the Cold War with Russia was beginning to heat up, the US Department of Energy began testing nuclear bombs in the Nevada desert. The blasts lit up the sky and the mushroom clouds could be seen for miles around - including from the rooftops of the hotels in downtown Vegas.
But how did the nuclear age find its way to Las Vegas? And what effect did it have on the city & its culture?
If you want to learn more about nuclear testing in the United States, the Nevada Test Site and atomic culture & tourism, visit the official Sin City Stories website featuring photos, videos, in-depth stories and more!
December 15, 1952 saw the opening of one of the most iconic hotels in the history of Las Vegas:
The Sands Hotel & Casino
During its heyday, it played host to some of the biggest names in entertainment of the day, most notably the legendary "Rat Pack" featuring Frank Sinatra, Dean Martin & Sammy Davis Jr. And although that might be what the Sands is best known for, there's way more to the story than that - and that's where my guest for this episode steps in.
David Schwartz is the author of "At The Sands", a new book that takes readers on a deep dive into the history of The Sands. Dave and I talked about inspired him to write a book about The Sands, how "mobbed up" the Sands was compared to other Vegas hotels, Frank Sinatra's involvement in the project, Howard Hughes' purchase of the famed resort & his plans for the future, and what led to the eventual downfall of the Sands (both figuratively and literally).
"At The Sands" by David Schwartz is available in both Kindle and Paperback formats on Amazon.
Currently, as a Canadian, I still can't really travel to Las Vegas. Borders are technically closed and even if I did manage to "sneak down", I'd have to quarantine upon my return home. Not exactly an ideal situation.
One of the things I'm missing the most about going to Vegas is the ability to check out shows and see world class live entertainment. But just because I can't go to Vegas, doesn't mean I can't enjoy a little piece of Las Vegas right here at home.
One of my favourite ways to do that is by sitting down, popping on my headphones and pressing play on one of the many live albums that have been recorded in Las Vegas. And my personal faves are the CLASSIC albums that were recorded in Vegas, so for this episode of the podcast, I thought I'd share some thoughts & opinions about some of those great albums, including:
- Tom Jones - Live In Vegas (Apple Music / Spotify)
- Elvis - Live 1969 (Apple Music / Spotify)
- The Rat Pack: Live At The Sands (Apple Music / Spotify)
And if you're after a few more great live albums recorded in Las Vegas, check out this awesome list from Steve Bornfeld at Las Vegas Magazine.
The Las Vegas Strip attracts a lot of different types of people. Vacationers, gamblers, foodies, partiers...and daredevils.
And there's one specific spot on the Strip that's been particularly appealing to those who make their living defying death:
The Fountains at Caesars Palace
Since Caesars Palace opened in 1966, this usually-serene spot on an otherwise-busy Las Vegas Boulevard has played host to multiple brave - and crazy - people who've attempted to jump their motorcycles over the famed fountains.
Some have succeeded while others have failed SPECTACULARLY.
If you want to learn more about the famous daredevils who've taken a run at this iconic Vegas landmark, be sure to visit the official Sin City Stories website - featuring photos, in-depth stories, videos and more!
The Las Vegas Strip has its fair share of iconic hotels & resorts, perhaps none of which are more steeped in history and folklore than The Flamingo.
Part of the Vegas landscape since the mid-1940's, it was the brainchild of a Los Angeles-based nightclub owner, restaurant owner and entertainment news editor who wanted to build one of the most luxurious hotels & casinos Las Vegas had ever seen.
But that's not what legend and pop culture would have you believe.
And, as you'll find out in this episode of Sin City Stories, sometimes the truth is WAY more interesting than fiction.
If you want to learn more about the history of The Flamingo, head over to the official Sin City Stories website - featuring in-depth stories, historic photos and more!
I have to be honest. This is an episode that I hoped I wouldn't have to record for a very long time - if ever at all.
As you've probably guessed from the title of this episode, I've made the decision to put the podcast on a temporary hiatus. For how long? I'm not exactly sure as of yet. That being said, I thought I owed you - the loyal listeners & supporters of the podcast - an explanation as to why I've made this decision.
I'll still be providing Las Vegas news & travel updates on my various social media channels - including Facebook & Twitter - so I can keep you in the loop on what's happening in the city.
I'm also in the process of launching a new spin-off podcast called Sin City Stories which I invite you to check out & subscribe to (wherever you get your podcasts).
In the meantime, please stay safe & stay healthy.
"Vegas was better when it was run by The Mob."
Anytime I've been in Las Vegas, I inevitably run into people who loudly & proudly say this. But just how accurate is this statement? My guest for this episode decided to find out for himself - with his own podcast.
Reed Redmond is the host of Mobbed Up: The Fight For Las Vegas, an 11-part true-crime podcast that chronicles the rise and fall of organized crime in Las Vegas.
Reed had the opportunity to get the stories from the people who lived them - including law enforcement officials, journalists, lawyers, judges and even a legit gangster.
If you want to listen to Mobbed Up: The Fight For Las Vegas, you can find it wherever you get podcasts - including Apple Podcasts, Spotify and Google Podcasts - or find it on the Las Vegas Review-Journal website.
Also, be sure to follow Reed on Twitter and Instagram.
I've pumped out brand new episodes for the past 15 weeks straight but I have to tell you something: I'm exhausted. So, I've decided to take a week off for a little R-&-R.
As such, I thought this would be a good opportunity for you guys to get caught up on some of the fun shows that I've put out over the last few months. Plus, you've probably run out of things to binge-watch on Netflix, so why not immerse yourself in the world of podcasts?
In no particular order, here's a few recent episodes to check out for yourself! And, as always, if you have any feedback on these episodes or suggestions for topics to cover on upcoming episodes, please feel free to reach out to me via Twitter, Facebook or Instagram!
Almost 40 years ago, the Las Vegas Strip was the site of what would become the third-worst hotel fire in modern US history and what remains as the worst disaster in the history of the state of Nevada.
On an early morning in November of 1980, a small fire broke out in what was - at the time - the MGM Grand Hotel (now, Bally's). The fire quickly spread, engulfing the casino level and sending thick black smoke & toxic fumes to the upper floors of the hotel. In the end, 85 people were killed and hundreds more were injured.
But what exactly caused the fire and led to such widespread fatalities & injuries? And what changes were made to ensure that something like this could never happen again?
That's what this episode of Sin City Stories is all about, as I take a deep dive into one of the darker moments in Las Vegas's history.
And if you want to learn more about everything I've covered in this special episode of the podcast, head over to the official Sin City Stories website - featuring in-depth stories, links, videos, photos and more!
Las Vegas is a city all about gambling & taking risks...but it's not just the tourists who go there to gamble.
Tens of BILLIONS of dollars have been shelled out over the last 30 years on the construction of mega-resorts, massive hotels and giant attractions all intended to keep the Vegas economy moving forward - and of course to make a tidy profit for the investors behind the scenes.
But in Las Vegas - as in life - not every gamble pays off.
That's what the debut episode of Sin City Stories is all about. I'm taking a deep dive into some Las Vegas history and exploring the stories behind the failures of The St. Regis Residences at the Venetian/Palazzo, the SkyVue Las Vegas Super Wheel, the Harmon Hotel at City Center and the Fontainebleau Las Vegas.
If you want to learn more about everything I've covered in this special episode of the podcast, visit the official Sin City Stories website! I've got photos & videos about all of these failed Las Vegas projects as well as extra info about their development & construction!
In spite of its short history, the city of Las Vegas has some incredibly colourful characters in its past...and for this episode, I want to talk about one of those characters.
Howard Hughes was a billionaire, an inventor, an aviator, movie producer and philanthropist. He was also known to be a little "eccentric."
The stories about Howard Hughes are legendary - from the rumours of him urinating in mason jars & having foot-long fingernails to locking himself in a movie screening room for months on end & buying a Las Vegas hotel because he didn't want to leave. The stories have been around so long and spun in so many different directions, that it's sometimes hard to separate fact from fiction. And that's what my guest is here to do...
Geoff Schumacher is the Vice President of Exhibits and Programs at The Mob Museum in Downtown Las Vegas. Last time Geoff was here, we talked about Las Vegas's mob history...but another one of his favourite topics is Howard Hughes' time in spent in Vegas.
We talked about Hughes' aviation & filmmaking history, what prompted him to move to Nevada in the first place, the rumour that he bought the Silver Slipper Hotel & Casino because "the sign annoyed him", the bizarre reason behind his purchase of a Las Vegas TV station and much more.
Visit Amazon to purchase a copy of Geoff Schumacher's book "Howard Hughes: Power, Paranoia and Palace Intrigue". Also be sure to visit The Mob Museum's website for Virtual Tours and follow them on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram.
When people think of "Burlesque", they usually think of scantily clad - or perhaps even topless - women, titillating & teasing crowds with their seductive dance moves. But there's way more to it than that...as you're about to learn.
My guest for this episode of the podcast is Dustin Wax of The Burlesque Hall of Fame Museum in Las Vegas - which, by the way, is the ONLY burlesque museum in the world. Dustin and I chatted all about the history of the museum, their annual Miss Exotic World Pageant & Burlesque Hall of Fame Weekend as well as the history, evolution and recent resurgence in the popularity of burlesque performances.
If you want information about The Burlesque Hall of Fame Museum, be sure to check out their official website and also follow them on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.
It's a little-known fact that just over 60 miles away from the glitz & glamour of the Las Vegas Strip, the US government used to test Atomic Weapons!
Just as the Cold War was starting to heat up, the US Department of Energy began the testing of Nuclear Bombs in the Nevada desert. The blasts would light up the early morning sky and the mushroom clouds could be seen from miles away on the rooftops of the downtown hotels.
Helping to keep this history alive is one of my favourite attractions, The National Atomic Testing Museum.
My guest on this episode is Michael Hall, the museum's Executive Director. Michael and I discussed the United States' Atomic Testing program, the effects it had on Las Vegas as well as the incredible exhibits on display at the museum.
For tickets and information on The National Atomic Testing Museum visit their website & be sure to check them out on Twitter and Instagram.
July 31, 1969 was a day that changed Las Vegas forever.
It was on that day that Elvis Presley stepped onto the stage at the newly-opened International Hotel to kick off a four-week engagement in their massive new 2000-seat showroom. At the time, Elvis was thought to be "over the hill" and "washed up" but the run of concerts didn't just revive the King of Rock N' Roll's career...it helped revive Las Vegas.
My guest for this episode of the podcast is Richard Zoglin, author of the book Elvis In Vegas: How The King Reinvented The Las Vegas Show.
Richard and I talked about Elvis's first appearance in Las Vegas in 1956, the leisure time Elvis spent in Vegas & the "unlikely" friendships he made along the way, the toll Elvis's Las Vegas performances took on his health and the effect that Elvis had on Las Vegas - from the doors he opened for future entertainers to the presence he still maintains in the city.
If you'd like to order your own copy of Elvis In Vegas: How The King Reinvented The Las Vegas Show head to Richard Zoglin's website or visit your favorite bookseller.
I have a very simple question for you: Do you believe in ghosts?
If your answer is "Yes", then you're going to love this episode. Honestly, even if your answer is "No" you're STILL going to love this episode!
With Las Vegas's shady past, it should come as no surprise that Sin City is blessed with its own share of spookiness. A quick Google search reveals multiple spots both on and off the famous strip that are believed to be haunted by the famous, the infamous and the not-so-famous.
Just in time for Halloween, I'm joined by Josef Kruger of Las Vegas Ghost Tours who's here to share some of the creepiest tales of Las Vegas spooks & spectres.
For example...Which hotel was ravaged by a fire that killed 85 of its guests, some of whom haven't quite "checked out"? What resort is haunted by its infamous mobster former owner? And where can you go in Las Vegas to hang out with the ghost of a murdered rap superstar?
For the answers to these - and other - terrifying questions start listening now!
And for tickets to join Las Vegas Ghost Tours, visit their website or start following them on Facebook.
One of the things Las Vegas is perhaps most famous for are the bright neon lights of the World Famous Vegas Strip. But as resorts close down or signs are replaced with massive HD LED video screens, what happens to those iconic neon signs?
Amanda Riley of the Neon Museum Las Vegas joins me on this episode to answer that question!
We talked about museum's mission to preserve Las Vegas' history, some of the unique & interesting signs in the museum's collection, their plans for future expansion and a very special exhibit/collaboration involving a major Hollywood director.
For tickets and information on the Neon Museum Las Vegas you can visit their website. Also, be sure to follow the Neon Museum on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram.
This episode of the podcast is quite different in tone & tenor from any of the previous episodes I've released; there's no fanfare, no music, no sound effects...and there's a reason for that.
I'm releasing this episode on the eve of the second anniversary of the worst mass shooting in US history - the massacre at the Route 91 Harvest Music Festival on October 1, 2017.
In this episode, I share my thoughts & feelings, talk about how the city of Las Vegas came together in the days & weeks following the tragedy and pay tribute to the 58 people who lost their lives enjoying something they loved.
It's no secret that Las Vegas has a somewhat shady past...and that can pretty much 100% be attributed to the Mob's history in Las Vegas.
There are a lot of myths & legends surrounding Vegas' association with the world of organized crime and I wanted to get to the bottom of it all, so I turned to the experts.
The Mob Museum is one of my favorite Las Vegas attractions. It's the definitive authority on Mob history, not just in Las Vegas but all across the US & around the world. The Mob Museum is always on my to-do list when I'm in town and it's always one of my top recommendations for people travelling to Las Vegas.
My guest on this episode of the podcast is Geoff Schumacher, the Senior Director of Content for The Mob Museum. We talked about Las Vegas' humble history as a stop on the railway line, the growth of gambling & the connection to organized crime and Geoff helped to separate fact from fiction when it comes to some of those legendary stories of the mob's involvement in the building of Las Vegas.
Keep up with the Mob Museum by following them on Facebook, Twitter & Instagram. Get your tickets to visit the Mob Museum here.