Celebrating the Decades: The seventies and the end of the King’s reign

Vegas NYE

LAS VEGAS (KLAS) — During the 1970s, the MGM Hotel was the grandest of them all, but there was a popular novel that would change the way people think of our growing city. However, it’s the end of the King’s reign that many people will never forget.

It’s the disco era and Las Vegas is one of the epicenters with gambling, tourism and high-end shows drawing in huge crowds from around the world.

High profile casinos were being built in what was once a desolate desert. While Caesars remained the top resort, it was the opening of the MGM Grand in December of 1973 that became the talk of the town.

“This was bigger, with 21 hundred rooms which of course today is less than half the size of the MGM grand that we know along with the Tropicana on the strip,” said UNLV History Professor Dr. Michael Green. “The showrooms included the big-name acts, Dean Martin, Roger Miller, but then you had Don Arden Spectacular with the showgirls.”

Green says the MGM opening was so huge, Cary Grant helped kicked off the red-carpet opening in front of hundreds waiting to get a peek of the latest resort.

It was also the end of a king. After 860 shows at the Las Vegas Hilton headliner Elvis Presley would call it quits.

“His last shows were in 76, and people there said he was starting to slip,” Green said. “He was heavier, he was less into it, but it was still an event.”

The king would die a year later in the bathroom of his Memphis home.

“Whether he would have continued performing here we don’t know. Apparently, there was no contract,” Green said. “It was often done in Las Vegas was done with no contract and just a handshake deal. And maybe he figured that’s enough.”

It was also the decade of fear and loathing in Las Vegas. The popular 1971 novel written by Hunter S. Thompson — a book about two friends’ debauchery filled weekend with drugs, alcohol and gambling. Thompson’s bestseller went on to be one of the most popular books in the 70s and also brought more crows to the bustling desert.

And who could forget the infamous Caesars Palace flood that happened on July 3, 1975.

While McCarran only reported just 7 hundredths of an inch of rain, west Las Vegas got over 3 inches. The runoff from those storms inundated the Caesars parking lot and as many as 700 cars were destroyed by those raging floodwaters.

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