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Magician seeing history repeat

Rick Thomas isn’t superstitious. And he doesn’t want you going around thinking he is a curse to vintage-Vegas casinos.

“Remember when the Luxor opened?” the magician recalls. After a couple of flop production shows (“Imagine,” “Winds of the Gods”), peopled started saying the place was cursed. “All these crazy things,” he recalls with a laugh.

“I kept saying, ‘If it’s good entertainment, it will draw.’ ”

The Blue Man Group came along and proved him right. “They just needed a good show in there.”

Nice try, Rick. We won’t be distracted by your historical sleight-of-hand. This is the magician who left a solid afternoon berth at the Tropicana in 2005 because he feared it would close (these fears admittedly were grounded by management’s unwillingness to offer him more than a month-to-month contract).

So he went to the Stardust, which closed instead.

It wasn’t reported this way in 2006, but Thomas says now he was told going into the Stardust, “You know we’re imploding in two years.” It was the right decision for the time, he maintains.

“The room had some wonderful history. Those (classic casinos) are important parts of people’s lives.”

And now, history will repeat itself when the Sahara closes May 16. Thomas and his white tigers are once again in search of a new home.

At least this time, fans of the old Vegas casino cling to hope that the economy is too bad to blow up the Sahara and start over. Or even to change its name.

Finally, perhaps, a long-branded name will mean more than a new one, breaking the losing streak of Sands vs. Venetian and Stardust vs. Echelon.

But for all we know, Thomas may write the final page in an entertainment history that brought Don Rickles to Las Vegas in 1959.

The Sahara still may be best remembered for the Casbar Lounge, which became a mystique as well as a geographic ground zero for all-night tumult in the hands of Louis Prima and Keely Smith, Rickles and The Characters.

Thomas hopes to ride this legacy to the end of the trail. “I’ve been blessed. I’ve been in Vegas now for 15 years. But anybody who gets two months in Vegas should count their blessings,” he says with a laugh about his remaining weeks there.

“Oh there’s stress. There’s always stress,” he says of trying to move the magic show yet again before its peak summer season. “But it’s not the bad news, it’s how you react to it. … I will land on my feet as I have before.”

Just don’t let him near the Riviera.

Contact reporter Mike Weatherford at mweatherford@reviewjournal.com or 702-383-0288.

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