Howard Hughes and the Silver Slipper

Another of the most iconic signs in Las Vegas belonged to the Silver Slipper Gambling Hall. Originally opened in 1950 on the Last Frontier property, it was called Golden Slipper because the name Silver Slipper was already in use, but shortly after its opening, Silver Slipper was folded and the name moved to its new home on the Las Vegas Strip. . The Silver Slipper was never a big casino, but due to its central location on the Strip and its proximity to Last Frontier, it was very popular with families and offered the best 49-cent breakfast buffet in town.

I find it interesting from a marketing perspective that most Strip hotels will use desert or pioneer themes for their casinos: Hacienda, Sands, Aladdin, Dunes, Frontier, Sahara, Desert Inn, Stardust, El Rancho Vegas, and Bonanza. Some hotels even referenced their Cuban and South Florida roots: Flamingo, Tropicana, and Riviera.

Considering that hotels and casinos on the Strip didn’t start popping up until the late 1940s with El Rancho Vegas and Bugsy Siegel’s Flamingo, it’s interesting that they all chose to stay within a particular set of themes, but again, the mob never have. they have been known for their creativity or risk-taking, unless such risk-taking involves a new and improved style of murder or extortion. I guess they were less concerned with design awards and more interested in skimming.

Following the sale of his Trans World Airways for $ 546,549,171, Howard Hughes arrived in Las Vegas with an eye to the future and a large amount of cash, but Hughes was not convinced that Las Vegas was the place where he wanted to settle. After two years of back and forth between the East Coast and Las Vegas, and a careful study of Las Vegas’ financial potential, Hughes decided to stay and moved to the top two floors of the Desert Inn determined to remodel Las Vegas. scenery. Why? Who knows, but Howard Hughes found enough intrigue to keep him an active participant in Sin City’s growth and with a billion dollar budget, he was an instant force. In fact, his name was so big that the Nevada Gaming Commission practically turned around when it came time to review his application to own a casino. Something that took most prospective homeowners months and years to complete, with Howard Hughes, the ink was dry before his assistants left the audience.

So what does Silver Slipper have to do with Howard Hughes? It seems fair to say that when Hughes moved to Las Vegas, his apparent bipolar behavior and accompanying paranoia were well established. Hughes moved into the Desert Inn with the express agreement that he would not be staying for more than 2 months. This arrangement was fine with the property, but the penthouse suites on the top two floors were intended for the hotel stable of high rollers who came to gamble over the Christmas holidays, and the Hughes staff, who were all Mormons, not gamblers. They, no – drinkers, and just didn’t spend money at the casino or at the bar. Hughes was asked to leave and when things got tough, Hughes wrote a check for $ 13.2 million, took over ownership of the Desert Inn, and launched a spending spree like never before seen Las Vegas.

But Hughes was not satisfied and his neurosis and paranoia grew. Memories of McCarthy’s anti-communist audience also began to weigh on his psyche. This was amplified by the fact that his suite overlooked the Silver Slipper game room across the street and the spinning shoe that spun on the Strip marquee reflected the light into his room. Not only did she wake him up at night, but he got the idea that hidden in the toe of his shoe were cameras with the sole intention of photographing the Desert Inn, his suite, and the hotel entrance, all in an effort to record his comings and goings. comings. . Then, outraged by the sign, Howard Hughes telegrammed his senior assistant, “I want you to buy that place, that damn sign is driving me crazy, it goes around and around and around.” On April 30, 1968, Howard Hughes purchased the Silver Slipper Gambling Hall for $ 5.36 billion, and it is rumored that his first edict was to stop the spinning Silver Slipper and fill it with cement. Surveillance cameras or not, Howard Hughes would finally get a good night’s sleep. Maybe.

The Hughes Corporation owned Silver Slipper until June 1988, when it was purchased by Margaret Elardi, owner of the Frontier Hotel and Casino, next door. The Silver Slipper was demolished shortly after with plans to expand the Border, but a union strike and tough economic times put an end to that.

Today, the iconic Silver Slipper is perched on Las Vegas Boulevard at the Neon Museum, north of downtown Las Vegas. The sneaker is available to view 24/7, but the museum is only open by appointment. Go to their website for more information on their tours and costs. For anyone reveling in “Old Vegas” nostalgia, a visit to the museum is well worth it.

Howard Hughes moved to Las Vegas on November 24, 1966 and died on April 5, 1976 at the age of 70. Its impact on Las Vegas in the 1960s and ’70s is monumental and came at a time when Mafia interests were on the wane and Wall Street corporate interest was on the rise. We will discuss this fascinating moment in Las Vegas history in future posts.

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