Last time we were talking about the opening of the Hotel Last Frontier in 1942 and what happened later. It became the New Frontier in 1955 and the Frontier in 1967. And it had quite a life.
The New Frontier changed owners a few times, including heiress Vera Krupp. Doc Bayley, who also had the Hacienda, managed it for several years until his death in 1964. Banker’s Life Insurance soon bought it, but sold it in 1967 to a neighbor across the street: Howard Hughes, then living at the Desert Inn. He changed it from the New Frontier to the Frontier, and significantly increased the number of hotel rooms. Hughes also bought the Silver Slipper from its owners, Shelby and Claudine Williams. They went on to build the Holiday Casino, now Harrah’s, and Claudine Williams became chair of the Harrah company.
When Hughes bought the Frontier, it had just gone through a renovation led by Burton Cohen. He had just come out from Florida, where he had been in the resort industry, and went on to several other major Strip properties, including the Desert Inn. Under Hughes’s ownership, the Frontier hosted a major tennis tournament, a showroom reunion for the stars of the television classic Your Show of Shows, Sid Caesar and Imogene Coca, and the last performance for the Diana Ross and the Supremes. Wayne Newton was one of the mainstays at the Frontier for many years.
After Hughes died, his heirs kept the hotel-casino, along with other Las Vegas properties. A big moment came in 1982, when the Frontier began a new show: Beyond Belief, starring illusionists Siegfried and Roy, who had previously been at the Tropicana and the MGM Grand. The ad campaign announced they were disappearing nightly. Eventually they did disappear from the Frontier, to open the showroom at a new hotel, The Mirage. And in 1988, the Hughes family’s Summa Corporation sold the Frontier and Silver Slipper to Margaret Elardi, who had owned the Pioneer Club in downtown Las Vegas. She tore down the slipper for a parking lot. In 1991, Elardi wouldn’t reach an agreement with the Culinary Union, triggering the longest labor dispute in American history. The Culinary, joined by several other unions, struck for six years.
Finally, Elardi sold to Phil Ruffin, who made a deal with the unions. But the Frontier was now one of the oldest hotels on a Strip that was becoming new, and smaller in an age of megaresorts. Ruffin tried several ideas, and ultimately made a deal for a 64-story project at the back of the property’s land area. His partner’s name is on top—Donald Trump. But Ruffin sold the Frontier in 2007, and the Frontier came down. Plans to build a replica of New York City’s Plaza Hotel fell through. So it’s another anniversary: a decade since the site of the Last Frontier, the New Frontier, and the Frontier became a vacant lot. Here’s hoping that isn’t the final frontier.
You won’t find a paywall here. Come as often as you like — we’re not counting. You’ve found a like-minded tribe that cherishes what a free press stands for. If you can spend another couple of minutes making a pledge of as little as $5, you’ll feel like a superhero defending democracy for less than the cost of a month of Netflix.