After 60 years, the Riviera will close its doors for good on Monday.
The money-losing property was purchased for almost $191 million recently by the Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority.
Plans call for the historic Las Vegas landmark to be torn down to make way for the expansion of the Las Vegas Convention Center.
Veteran Las Vegas Review-Journal photojournalist Jeff Scheid spent several days photographing the property and created a series capturing the last days of the aging resort.
“When I go into an old casino, especially the Riviera I look at the lights,” Scheid said, “To me, it’s like the Sistine Chapel of casinos.”
It is not just the lights that decorate the casino but the people working in the soon-to-be-closed property that are the focus of his pictures.
One photograph features a pit boss watching a 21 dealer, who seems to be struggling. It is the forlorn look on his face that catches the viewers’ attention.
“Probably frustrated and thinking about how his days are numbered but he has to be focused on his work,” Scheid said.
He remembers photographing boxing matches at the resort when he first came here in the 80s and talking to legendary comedian George Burns, who was making a comeback on the Strip.
Vegas Seven magazine columnist James Reza grew up in Las Vegas and remembers going with his family to the showroom brunch at the Riv, as locals like to call it.
The Sunday brunch turned the showroom into a dining experience complete with ice sculptures, champagne fountains and a carving cart.
“It was a Vegas experience that kids growing up here got a chance to experience,” Reza said.
Reza said the Riviera was the first high-rise hotel on the Strip and was ultimately a jump forward for the whole city.
“It took Las Vegas into the modern era,” Reza said, “The Riviera vaulted us in to the 20th Century.”
While it brought something to the city, its departure takes something away.
“Every time a casino dies a little bit of Las Vegas dies with it,” Reza said. “Vegas is the future. You can’t look back. You can only look to the future”
When the doors close, 1,000 employees at the property will lose their jobs. One of them is Susanna Loli, who is a house-person runner.
Loli said they heard rumors almost every day that the resort was being sold, so when the latest one started to circulate they dismissed it.
“I worked 19 years almost every day we heard rumors,” Loli said.
Saturday will be her last day, which is something that is still surprising to her.
“We’re still in shock. We can’t believe it,” Loli said. “Riviera is my second home. I feel sad.”
Scott Roeben is the editor of VitalVegas.com, a Las Vegas focused website. He said the workers he spoke to are a lot more positive than you would think.
“The people in the casino industry are very resilient because you never know one moment to the next where you’ll be. You just go with the flow,” Roeben said.
Roeben answered one of the biggest questions surrounding the resort: where will the brass statue of the Crazy Girls butts being going?
The statue features the perfectly sculpted butts of performers from the Crazy Girls topless show at the resort. It is modeled after the famous “no ‘ifs’, ‘ands’ or ‘butts’” advertising campaign for the show.
“The producers get to take it,” Roeben said.
Roeben said there was a dispute about whether the hotel would get it, but in the end the producer will take the statue.
In an email to KNPR's State of Nevada on Thursday, Roeben said the "Crazy Girls" show is "going to Planet Hollywood."
“This could be the last place on the Strip with neon,” Scheid said. “You start heading south and there’s no neon.”
Jeff Scheid, photographer, Las Vegas Review-Journal; James Reza, columnist, Vegas Seven magazine; Scott Roeben, editor VitalVegas.com; and Susanna Loli, house-person runner, Riviera Hotel & Casino.
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