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Sahara’s passing evokes no sadness

Watch me jump over this plant!”

But in his attempt to impress women, Joey Cheezhee — an L.A. performer whose lounge spoof was later adapted by the better-known Richard Cheese — did not clear one of the huge potted plants decorating the overhead walkway over Paradise Road, which linked the Sahara hotel to its parking lot.

He landed right in the pot. And split it in half.

I knew we should turn around and head for the car. But the need to see Cook E. Jarr overwhelmed all intuitive fears of eyes in the sky. “Maybe they didn’t see it.”

They did. Security guards nabbed the broad jumper and hustled him away. By the time Cook E. was reached for help, Joey already had been shaken dow — er, generously allowed to correct the misdeed without police involvement, for a mere $100.

Ah, those Sahara memories.

In the early ’90s, the Sahara was not yet a property that could be mostly ignored, as it was for the past decade or so before its closing set for Monday. Jarr’s overflow lounge crowds — you had to wait in line — preserved the Louis Prima tradition of the Casbar lounge overshadowing its showroom in the ’50s.

The Congo Room had stronger years in the ’60s and ’70s, and older-timers get to recall Buddy Hackett and Johnny Carson. But for my era of reviewing casino shows, it was Steve Wyrick, the topless country revue “Buck Wild” and the surreal-bad “Raw Talent Live.”

Honestly, the Sahara has been a ghost of itself for years. The turn from fun seedy to charmless bland was probably the 1999 death of the old Congo, after a decade of midline fare such as “Boy-lesque,” and comedians who went on to be more famous (Jeff Dunham) or less so (Judy Tenuta). The old room at least had atmosphere, compared to the coldly industrial, uninviting theater that replaced it in 2000 for Wyrick’s magic.

The new theater, part of a schizo remodeling to add a roller coaster and arcade games, seemed absolutely cursed. Even a musical version of “Saturday Night Fever,” which fared well elsewhere, died there.

If the 860 seats from that theater are put up for sale, I recommend those from the balcony, which have never been touched by a butt. Not for shows such as “Tropical Passions” or “Wohscigam.”

Perhaps this long, downhill slide is why the Sahara’s closing comes without real pangs of remorse from this old-Vegas buff. No physical history remained in the way the Stardust lovingly preserved its old pool area.

Maybe the place will reopen and they’ll do it right. If not, savor your memories of the annual porn convention, where I had a wonderful chat with cult director Russ Meyer.

But the Sahara turned the convention area into a buffet. So we do not mourn.

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

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