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Sahara will live on in hearts of many

The slot machines are gone and the escalators frozen in steely silence. A lone man pushed an empty bellman’s cart toward the door, looking pleased with his prize.

These days, the once-bustling Sahara is a shell of what it once was.

Robin Patterson worked at the Sahara for the past eight years. She was seated at the front desk, a temporary worker hired by National Content Liquidators, which is organizing the sale of the hotel’s property.

People carried items — mirrors, telephones, alarm clocks and the iconic camel lamps — to her window, where she tallied their purchase and ran their credit card.

"It’s kind of sad," she said. "It’s like watching history walk out the door."

Patterson waited for the next person to come along in the near empty registration hall. The frenzied pace of the sale lasted the first two weeks, she said, but now it has slowed down considerably.

The sale is scheduled to continue daily from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. Mondays through Saturdays and noon to 5 p.m. Sundays until all items are sold out.

She said none of the items she was tallying had any special significance for her. When they got to the office equipment, she said, then she might feel a twinge.

The announcement of the property’s closure came as a surprise to other workers but not to her. Why? She worked in the accounting department and saw the money draining away day after day.

"Doing what I did, I had a pretty good idea it’d be closing," she said. "I saw the handwriting on the wall."

Alessander Bustamante was a front desk clerk for the past five years.

"Once SBE (Entertainment) took over, we expected them to make it better," he said. "We had high hopes."

After all, he said, that’s what the new company had promised — new vitality for the aging property. But things kept going downhill, he said. Even so, Bustamante said he enjoyed his job so much, he considered co-workers to be more like family.

The announcement of the hotel closing its doors, he said, was "still a shocker … now, everybody is buying things, but I have memories, pictures … I’m basically my own souvenir."

Valley residents were among the tourists who wandered the near-empty casino.

Gerry Hackney of The Lakes area had been out of town for an extended time and didn’t realize the Sahara was closing. She was there to buy kitchen equipment for the family business.

What does the closing of the Sahara say about Las Vegas?

"That there is no history. I’m sorry they tore down the Bugsy Siegel suite at the Flamingo. I’m sorry they tore down the Moulin Rouge because I love history. … The Sahara, they should have tried to save it," she said.

Former Floridian Jimmie Jones moved to Henderson two years ago. He bought shot glasses and a $3 alarm clock from the Sahara. A race fan, he would bring out-of-town guests to the NASCAR Cafe after big races at the Las Vegas Motor Speedway.

"It’s a sad thing (to close it), they named a road after it," he said. "I thought somebody with a good mind for business could have turned it around, made it into a museum or something," he said.

Phyllis Saloom used to gamble at the Sahara and attended the Greek Food Festival, which the hotel hosted for many years. She called it " ‘the’ place to be" way back when. She came to check things out and said its closure was just another example of o ld Las Vegas going away.

"Now, it’s really scrummy looking, it feels depressed," Saloom said.

Todd Loney pushed a cart through the registration hall, ready to pay for everything. He had numerous items, among them a pole lamp and a table from the guest rooms. He had a special connection to the Sahara, one that goes back to 1989.

"It’s the first hotel I ever stayed at in Vegas," he said.

Now, he’s paying homage to the defunct casino in his own way, using the authentic items he located.

"We’re turning our guest room into the ‘Sahara’ room," he said. "Some people think that’s cool. Some people think we’re crazy."

Maybe the Sahara will live on after all.

Contact Summerlin and Summerlin South View reporter Jan Hogan at jhogan@viewnews.com or 387-2949.

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