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READERS RECALL THE SAHARA ERA

 I was operating a Police Patrol Vehicle for the Metro Police and my partner (Officer Chuck Zinovich) and I spotted a white and tan Cadillac heading east on Sahara Ave, approaching Las Vegas Blvd South.  The driver appeared to be DUI as he was weaving and driving way under the speed limit crossing over the white divider lines several times.  I activated my red light and he pulled over to the right side of the road about 800 feet west of LVBS on Sahara Ave.  My partner and I got out of the patrol vehicle and approached the driver. He immediately started to drive away and proceeded east on Sahara Ave approaching LVBS.

My partner and I re-entered the Patrol vehicle and caught up to the driver and activated my lights and siren, he pulled over to the side and stopped, this time about 100 feet west of the intersection of Sahara and LVBS.  My partner and I exited the Patrol Vehicle and approached the driver, he again started his vehicle forward and proceeded to the intersection, made a right turn, heading south on LVBS and then turned left into the Sahara Hotel Valet parking lane infront of the hotel.

By then my partner and I had re-entered the Patrol vehicle again and had caught up to the driver in front of the Sahara Hotel.  As I exited the Patrol Vehicle for the third time, I told my partner that this is the last time I am doing this, so I ran up to the driver as quickly as I could and applied the department approve headlock on the driver through the open driver window.

With the assistance of my partner we extracted the driver through the window and restrained him on the ground next to his vehicle.  As I was in the process of handcuffing the driver, I noticed that he was yelling very loudly almost to the point of screaming bloody murder and all I was doing was restraining his arms behind his back.

My partner who was assisting me looked at me in bewilderment as to  why the driver was yelling and behaving like his was being tortured or beaten.  And that is when we noticed that the left rear wheel of the driver’s vehicle was on top of the left lower leg of the driver.  Apparently, the driver had not placed the gear shift of his vehicle into park before his was extracted from his vehicle and the vehicle rolled forward slightly and came to a stop on top of the drivers left lower leg. Needless to say it just wasn’t his day or ours as we had to stay with him until medical doctors checked him out and said he had a sprained leg and ankle, besides being very intoxicated.

Everytime I pass the Sahara I think about that day…very fond memories I would say.
— Detective Gordon Martines



After I had worked the Dunes hotel in Las Vegas, with Eleanor Powell, then with Frankie Laine and the Kingston Trio — all for 16 weeks at the Dunes main room — when the Sahara offered me the lounge following Don Rickles who had moved to the main room because he was so popular.

Coincidently we both started in strip joints in Washington DC — I was set to replace him in the Lounge. Opening night, 2 a.m., all the stars in town came in to see the new guy (Vernon Presley, Elvis’s father, came in every night). Well, I went right in the dumper! They were expecting the Rickles humor. I was known then as the Crying Comedian. Well, eventually they all caught on. I ended up working there off and on for about five years.

Because of the Sahara, stars saw me and hired me to be their opening act. People like Patti Page, Judy Garland, Sammy Davis Jr. (who I worked for 5 years) and then the review of "Funny Farm" at the Aladdin Hotel, "Hello America" at the Desert In Hotel, The Rockettes at the Flamingo Hotel, The "Folies Bergere" at the Tropicana hotel and then all of the Harrahs with "Sugar Babies."

My last job at the Sahara was with Charo – She kept calling me "Rape" Taylor (due to her accent).

So it all started at the lounge of the Sahara and it truly was the beginning of a career that is still going — thank you Jesus.
–Rip Taylor, comedian


I moved to Las Vegas (from Seattle) on May 15, 1988 — a record high temperature for May that year. I got a room at the Riviera and bought a newspaper. I called about the first job I saw, as a cigarette girl at the Sahara. I was told to come for an interview and if they liked me, I was hired. They did and I spent my first night in Vegas as a cigarette girl at the Sahara.
— Shellee Renee, former member of "Crazy Girls"


I’m a 42-year resident and wanted to share this: One night in the Casbar theatre an Arab walked in wearing a turban. So Don says; Hello my friend, i know our two countries are at war but just to show no hard feelings, ‘STAND UP AND TAKE A BOW!!" And as soon as the arab complied Don screams  "OPEN FIRE!!!!"  The Sahara was my hangout for years. I first came to Vegas at age 16,  51 years ago.
— Morgan Allen


Almost my entire family worked at the Sahara hotel. My mother Shirley was a Camera-Girl that took pictures in the Congo Showroom in the 1950’s. Then she was in the original “Sahara Girls” chorus line. My sister, Leslie, was a dancer in the revived “Sahara Girls” line in the 1970’s. And my brother, Cory was a chef at the coffee shop. But my father was there for over 30 years and was responsible for such milestones as importing the “Moulin Rouge” production direct from Paris; the Split-Show concept and Johnny Carson’s exclusive contract with the Sahara.
— Ryan Eglash


My first visit to Las Vegas was when my uncle, Bob Crosby and his band were appearing at the Sahara. Also on the bill was Pearl Bailey. She made her entrance on stage modeling a beautiful ankle length mink coat. In her opening dialouge, she said, "when people ask ‘Pearlie Mae, how’d you get that mink coat?’, I tell ’em, ‘the same way the minks got it, honey.’"
–Carolyn Schneider


I was director of security at the Sahara from late 1979 thru 1980. Many memories come to mind related to the needs of entertainers appearing at the Congo showroom. I would travel to the airport in the hotel limo to meet Johnny Carson and escort him to the hotel. I made sure his suite was secure. After his show I would stay nearby until he went upstairs (suite) for the night. A very nice man. Polite.
When Don Rickles was appearing I would try to be nearby while he was getting ready for the show. He always entered the showroom thru the kitchen door. I would escort him to the stage. He and Barbara would stay at a house owned by the hotel and we would secure the house. Truly a gentleman, nice to me and all the security staff.
Johnny Joseph maitre ‘d was taking care of Johnny’s and Don’s needs. Harry Karn was the showroom’s main man. All terrific people.
–Dave Nudelman


My favorite stories from the Sahara:
1). Working with Don Rickles — I would help him get tickets to Don King fights and he would always send me baccarat crystal as a thank you for my efforts with a personal note — he is a champ and one of my faves I have ever worked with and you know that includes Prince, Clooney, Pitt, etc.
2). Meeting Jon Bon Jovi and the band in 1987 because Paul Lowden‘s daughter Jennifer (18 at the time and since then a close friend) wanted to meet them and I worked a deal with them. It has been a long friendship with Bon Jovi since then and redirected my career to what it is today and introduced me to some amazing mentors and heroes in my life.
I took Jon and some of the guys to see Redd Foxx and introduced them. Now that is a pairing you’d never imagine, right?
3). The rock band thing worked so well that I then had all the bands stay there – Alice Cooper, Def Leopard, so many of them – the Sahara was where the rockers stayed, gambled all night, and all that other stuff rock bands of the 80’s were known for – it was very cool and some great memories.
–Laura Herlovich, Las Vegas publicist


 The Sahara Hotel/Casino closes tomorrow, Monday May 16, 2011. How very sad, this is another part of my life that is closing. The Sahara was my first job October,1967, casino cage cashier. I had the best training by staff and cage manager,you had to learn behind the scenes, credit ,chip cutting, looking professional,then you met the public. I loved my job,but had to leave it, March 1970,as I married one of the bosses, and that was a no no, working in the same club.(Went to D.I.). The customers, the many celebrities, Buddy Hacket, Don Rickles, Jerry Lewis and his family, Lainie Kazan, Louie Prima and many more.There are so many more stories to tell. I won’t be there tonight, it would be too painful.
–Ilah Addington


Back in the late 1960’s locals were always sneaking in to use hotel swimming pools. My niece, Linda, and her boyfriend were no exception. They were lounging around the pool when a Sahara Hotel official told them if they were not guests of the hotel; they would have to leave. At that point Don Rickles came over and told the official they were his personal guests, to leave them alone, and serve them anything they wanted (on him). Don Rickles comped them at his show that time and on several visits when he returned to the Sahara. Don Rickles is a "marshmallow."
–Pat Watson


I was married in Las Vegas in January of l960 in the Las Vegas little chappel on the Strip. Afterwards we went to the Louis Prima and Keely Smith show at the Sahara. Their leading act was the Andrew sisters. After, we went to the dining room, Louis and Keely came in shortly and sat at the table next to ours and we had some short contact with them.

I used to play a lot of golf when I moved here in l976. I played a lot at Louis’s golf course; he was out there every day riding his mower. He had a nice clubhouse. The dance floor slide back and exposed a swimming pool underneath.

–Alan Petersen


My name is Dottie Douglas, and I would like to share my story about the Sahara Hotel with you.

I worked there from 1960 through 1965 as a dancer in the Congo Room with the Moro-Landis dancers known as "The Most American Girls in the World." (owner Milton Prell wanted wholesome girls). I had the opportunity to work with a lot of the great celebrities….George Burns, Donald O’Connor, Bobby Darin, Ray Bolger, Victor Borge, Kay Starr, Connie Francis, Pat Boone, Johnny Carson, Steve and Eydie, Johnny Mathis and others. It was then that George Burns first introduced Ann-Margaret as an entertainer. Steve and Eydie were the headliners a September night that the wind blew 90 miles an hour and knocked out the power, and we all did the show with one auxilary spot light. All the celebrities I worked with were so very nice, but I think Donald O’Connor was my favorite.

During those years, in the Casbar Lounge were all the great acts like Louie Prima and Keely Smith, Sam Butera and the Witnesses, Don Rickles, Mary Kaye Trio, The Characters, Freddie Bell and the Bell Boys, Ray Anthony and the Bookends, and Sonny and Cher. Needless to say….those were the good old days.

There were a few times when some of us dancers would stay up all night, and Stan Irwin would take us out to the lake to water ski at the crack of dawn.

I got married in 1965 just before leaving the Sahara, and they were nice enough to let me have my reception there at no cost, and chef Don Anderson provided the cake as a present to me. We had our wedding dinner in the House of Lords, and went back every year for our anniversary until my husband’s passing 5 years ago.

I used to take a lot of publicity pictures for the hotel. One included getting on a live camel out in front of the hotel. That was quite a ride!

Another thing I can credit the hotel with back then was that the coffee shop had the best Monte Cristo sandwich ever.

Well, that is just a small portion of all my wonderful memories of those years that I am so grateful to have, and I have lots of photos to go along with them. So sad to see the Sahara go.
–Dottie Douglas

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