The Las Vegas Hilton, which opened as the International on July 2, 1969 is celebrating its 40th anniversary with a special day for employees, special promotions, commemorative gaming chips and a 24/7 happy hour.
It’s been about 10 years since I met William Barron Hilton, co-chairman of the Hilton Hotels chain, paternal grandfather of Paris. For me, The Las Vegas Hilton has been one of my preferred places for celebrity interviews, which include my interviews with Dennis Miller, Nancy Wilson, Wayne Newton, Bob Parker and late James Brown “The Godfather of Soul,” to name a few.
The resort is celebrating the anniversary with a salute to the 19 employees who are still working at the Hilton from the day the property opened as the International, with a day-long celebration in the employee dining room with music from 1969, a 1969 costume contest, and raffle prizes. Two special $5 commemorative gaming chips, one bearing the likeness of Elvis and the other of Barbra Streisand (and a picture of the Hilton marquee from that period on the other) are available for sale at the cage. They are also offering free 40th anniversary t-shirts to players who earn one reward dollar playing tables or slots. The front of the t-shirt reads “Where Were You in ’69?”
The Hilton, which transformed itself over the last five years into a modern resort under the ownership of Colony Resorts, has a rich Las Vegas history. The International was designed to be the world’s largest hotel at that time. Barbra Streisand opened the 1,568-room property, but it was Elvis who made the International an instant Las Vegas landmark. Elvis debuted at the International on July 31, 1969, performing 837 consecutive sold-out shows and performing before 2.5 million people. His final show was December 12, 1976.
During several decades, the Hilton (the International became the Las Vegas Hilton in March 1971) was home to superstar entertainment, major conventions, a great race and sports book (the SuperBook), and big boxing events. Then, for several years, the property languished. When Colony Resorts purchased the Hilton in 2004, it committed to a $100 million transformation of the property, including bringing back the glory of the legendary SuperBook and launching a strong entertainment policy.
Barry Manilow debuted as the Hilton’s resident headliner on February 23, 2005. The superstar continues to perform in the Hilton Theater through 2009. Other big-name entertainers joined the Hilton: Michael Buble made his Las Vegas debut at the Las Vegas Hilton in February 2006, followed by Diana Krall in June 2007. The Hilton became home to Tony Bennett, Johnny Mathis, Reba McEntire, the Doobie Brothers, Heart, and Brooks & Dunn. Today, the Las Vegas Hilton looks to a bright future, welcoming conventions, players and leisure travelers. Certainly the Hilton name will remain a bright light to all Las Vegas and the world.
There are still memorable moments; one of which was last month when Julio Iglesias performed. This was a wonderful moment when the audience and Iglesias bonded together. I would be remised if I didn’t mention the Hilton’sTempo Lounge and The Shimmer Showroom that now features Voices Starring Earl Turner and Lani Misalucha, Sin City Heat, and Sin City Bad Girls. That was one of the great things about Las Vegas and still remains that way at Las Vegas Hilton.