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How to live like James Bond in Las Vegas

Updated October 7, 2021 - 1:09 pm

Vegas. Las Vegas.

When it comes to international destinations associated with James Bond, our fair city isn’t exactly his home base of London. In terms of frequency, it’s a far cry from Jamaica and the former Soviet Union, both of which turn up in the movies nearly as often as impossibly gorgeous women with ridiculous names.

Las Vegas has made its mark on 007, though, serving as the main location of 1971’s “Diamonds Are Forever.” In return, the legendary spy can be celebrated throughout Southern Nevada.

With the opening of “No Time to Die,” the 25th film in the storied franchise, we’ve compiled a James Bond fan’s guide to Las Vegas:

The locations

Many of the sites visited by Sean Connery while filming “Diamonds Are Forever” have been lost to redevelopment. Many, but not all.

You won’t be able to see the Riviera, the Landmark, the Dunes or several of the glimmering downtown casinos Bond and smuggler Tiffany Case (Jill St. John) whizzed past in her red Ford Mustang Mach 1 years before Fremont Street got Experienced.

Production of the James Bond movie "Diamonds Are Forever" starring Sean Connery, center, and Ji ...
Production of the James Bond movie "Diamonds Are Forever" starring Sean Connery, center, and Jill St. John in front of the International Hotel and Casino (later the Las Vegas Hilton, LVH and Westgate) and at a Shell gas station on Thursday, May 20, 1971. (Las Vegas News Bureau)

Among the locations still standing, the International, currently the Westgate, portrayed The Whyte House casino. Bond checked into room 831 at the Tropicana after hearing the hotel was “quite comfortable.” And the Midway at Circus Circus is still in business, along with a version of the water pistol game that was rigged for the movie.

Farther from the resort corridor, the exterior of the Slumber Inc. Mortuary, where Bond is nearly incinerated, was portrayed by Palm Mortuary, 800 S. Boulder Highway in Henderson. The PABCO gypsum plant, 8000 E. Lake Mead Blvd., stood in for Whyte Tectronics, the site of the lunar rover chase.

The collection

There’s plenty of Bond-related nostalgia here that has nothing to do with “Diamonds Are Forever” — if you know where to look.

Florida-based real estate developer Michael Dezer owns one of the world’s largest collections of Bond memorabilia, and he’s showcasing a small selection of it at his Hollywood Cars Museum.

Dezer found one of the Lotus Esprit submarine cars from “The Spy Who Loved Me” in a junkyard in the Bahamas and had it shipped to Las Vegas, where it was restored by Rick Dale on History’s “American Restoration.”

A James Bond film Lotus Espirit Submarine Car is showcased at the Hollywood Cars Museum in Las ...
A James Bond film Lotus Espirit Submarine Car is showcased at the Hollywood Cars Museum in Las Vegas, Thursday, Sept. 30, 2021. (Erik Verduzco / Las Vegas Review-Journal) @Erik_Verduzco

It’s displayed at the museum along with other movie vehicles, including an Osprey 5 hovercraft from “Die Another Day,” a BSA Lightning A65L motorcycle used in “Thunderball,” a Land Rover Defender from the opening scene of “Skyfall,” a Maserati Biturbo 425 from “License to Kill,” a Renault taxi from “A View to a Kill” and an Aston Martin V8 Vantage from “The Living Daylights.” (5115 Dean Martin Drive, No. 905; hollywoodcarsmuseum.com)

The car

Those Aston Martins are nearly as synonymous with Bond as his casual misogyny. You can get behind the wheel of one of the British sports cars starting at $299 for five laps at Las Vegas Motor Speedway (dreamracing.com). If you’re looking to get out and about, you can drive one like you own it, starting at $399 for four hours and $599 for a full 24 (dreamexoticrentalcars.com). Or, depending on your credit rating, you can drive one and actually own it (astonmartinlasvegas.net).

The gun

The Walther PPK has been Bond’s onscreen weapon of choice since the beginning in 1962’s “Dr. No.” (For the sticklers, 007 moved on to the Walther P99 for three movies, starting with “Tomorrow Never Dies,” before bringing it back in “Casino Royale.”)

The German pistol can be hard to come by at Southern Nevada gun ranges, but Adrenaline Mountain in Sloan has a Walther PPK you can rent and pair with two other movie-based guns, including others the likes of which were featured in Bond films, for $135. (adrenalinemountain.com)

The bar

In 1953, author Ian Fleming introduced the Vesper cocktail in “Casino Royale,” the initial Bond novel, and kicked off the whole “shaken, not stirred” phenomenon.

Vesper Bar at The Cosmopolitan of Las Vegas stays true to its 007 roots with an interior design that includes a framed image of Sean Connery in front of The Mint casino, as well as portraits of Roger Moore and Daniel Craig.

Vesper Bar at The Cosmopolitan of Las Vegas stays true to its 007 roots. (The Cosmopolitan of L ...
Vesper Bar at The Cosmopolitan of Las Vegas stays true to its 007 roots. (The Cosmopolitan of Las Vegas)

The bar offers up its own take on the Vesper — Absolut Elyx vodka, Nolet’s Silver gin and Lillet Blanc, instead of the original three measures of Gordon’s gin, one of vodka and half a measure of Kina Lillet — along with The Spy Who Loved Me, a martini featuring Ketel One Botanical Cucumber Mint, Hendrick’s gin, Kina liqueur and Chareau aloe liqueur. They’re $17 each, or pair smaller servings of both for $22.

The casino

You won’t find the Brioni tuxedos or Texas Hold ’em games with $10 million buy-ins like those in the Montenegro resort from “Casino Royale.” In fact, the only poker you’ll find is of the video variety. Our Casino Royale, though, tucked between The Venetian and Harrah’s, boasts James Bond slot machines, and you can pair White Castle sliders with a Bloomin’ Onion from the Outback Steakhouse, so the comparison is pretty much a wash.

The table

Fans of the older James Bond movies — at least the first 17 — can get a unique perspective at Del Frisco’s Double Eagle Steakhouse at 3925 Paradise Road, which is home to a truly one-of-a-kind table. Nearby is a hardback book that contains a special opener that, when pressed, launches the table into action. The top goes up, wings extend, lights go on, the bottles fan out and the strains of “The James Bond Theme” play over the Kenwood speakers and Bose sound system.

Kim Owens, who now owns Main St. Provisions in the Arts District but formerly managed Del Frisco’s for 17 years, said the table was built by a company called Celebrity Cellars for the 1997 Napa Valley wine auction. Presented onstage by famed winemaker Robert Mondavi, it sold for $362,000, which was an auction record at the time.

As it opens, the table reveals 18 magnums of Napa Valley wines, each laser-etched and hand-painted to represent a movie, from “Dr. No” (1963) to “Tomorrow Never Dies” (1997).

“People love it,” Owens said. “Their eyes light up when it opens, because you don’t expect anything to happen.”

She said the table originally was in the cigar lounge at Del Frisco’s Dallas location but was moved to Las Vegas when the restaurant opened in 2000.

“It’s flashy, it’s bright, it’s loud,” she said. “It belongs with us here.”

Contact Christopher Lawrence at clawrence@reviewjournal.com or 702-380-4567. Follow @life_onthecouch on Twitter. Heidi Knapp Rinella contributed to this story.

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