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For many people in the U.S. – and the world – Caesars Palace is the “face” of Las Vegas.
For 50 years it’s played a pivotal role in entertainment on the Strip. Its reach has extended to movies and television – where Caesars has become showbiz shorthand for flashy and over-the-top – but also refined and elegant. It goes both ways.
We thought we’d spend a few minutes exploring the mystique of Caesars with John Katsilometes – on the hotel’s 50 birthday. It’s today.
On his favorite writing spot at Caesars Palace:
“I’ve written from inside the sports book. I’ve written from the food court. I’ve written from Vista the lounge. I’ve written from the Absinthe tent before out on the Roman plaza. It’s appealing. There is a lot of energy. “
What do you like about Caesars?
“There’s just a lot of activity that happens here. It’s a place that has a lot of news coming out of it. A lot of entertainment, a lot of restaurants, a lot of events. So I find myself here incidentally and coincidentally frequently.”
Do you remember the old Caesars Palace?
I don’t recall it before they started redeveloping the towers and building on to it. The Caesars of today is pretty much the Caesars that I know.
Is it the face of Las Vegas?
I think that is accurate in the sense that I still believe that Caesars Palace is maybe the most famous name of a hotel maybe in the world.
It has so much name recognition from all of the events that they’ve had here. I don’t know if it’s the face today but it’s certainly among the most famous brands we have coming out of Las Vegas today.
Why did Caesars theme stick out even though other hotels had been themed in the past?
I think it was because it was so ostentatious. I think it was just because it was so aggressively themed. We had the Golden Gate. Our first hotel to gamble in was San Francisco themed. We had the Sands and the Dunes, which were loosely based on the desert.
I feel like Caesars was really interested in developing its identity based on that Caesars theme. It really went for it. It was the first grandiose – at the time megaresort – to embrace that.
What is your favorite blockbuster event at Caesars Palace?
There’s a couple that stick out. There’s the Hearns/Leonard fight of 1981. That was when boxing was in its golden era still. Two fighters in their prime. Twenty-thousand people in an outdoor venue on the Las Vegas Strip. It was just one of those events that spoke to the spectacle of Las Vegas.
And also the Evel Knievel jump because it was so odd. There is really nothing else like it in Las Vegas you can compare that type of event to. It was one of those things that Las Vegas figured out it could do and they just went for it. It was death-defying. It was crazy and to this day it is still talked about.
Now Las Vegas is all about residencies and Caesars has played a big part in that:
How Caesars really helped change the trajectory of Las Vegas entertainment was when they brought Celine Dion into the Colosseum. They took out the old Circus Maximus showroom, which was a great old classic Strip showroom.
They pulled that out and put in the Colosseum, which is a state-of-the-art 4,000-seat theater and brought in Celine Dion. When they did that and signed her for multiple dates in 4,000-seat room, that changed the attitude of what a residency could look like in Las Vegas and the types of performers who could play here regularly.
On the next themed hotel:
We’re not going to see those major resorts open with a single theme. I go back to what Jim Murren said when The Park opened and when T-Mobile arena opened. And they announced that the Monte Carlo was going to get away from its theme and become the Park at MGM, he said to me that the days of theming hotels in Las Vegas are over and they’re over because Las Vegas itself is an international destination. We’re not going to be naming things after other cities anymore.
John Katsilometes, columnist, Las Vegas Review-Journal