Caesars Magical Empire, trumpeted by a press release as “a perilous excursion through dark catacombs near rippling aqueducts,” opened in mid-1996, and was more an excursion through kitsch than peril. Guests entered via the Chamber of Destiny, a faux elevator “descending” into faux catacombs; despite the illusion, the Magical Empire was not underground. Guests were escorted through theatrically designed passages to one of 20 dining rooms, where song, dance, comedy and magic were performed up close by personal “wizards.” If this sounds contrived to you, it was. But it was well received by the new crop of Vegas vacationers, many visiting for the first time. After dinner, one was free to wander the passages and discover various bars and theaters. Caesars Magical Empire disappeared in late 2002, but we can still walk among the ghosts of family-friendly Vegas: The structure was gutted and remade as Pure nightclub.
In the pictures I’ve seen, the Landmark seems like such an iconic Vegas structure. Why didn’t it succeed?
If any Vegas casino (aside from the Aladdin) had a black cloud parked above it, the Landmark did. Perhaps it was location (the northwest corner of Convention Center Drive and Paradise Road, which never became the “second Strip” some thought it would); perhaps it was that the casino and lounges were separated by 31 floors; perhaps it was the eight years it took to build and open. The iconic midcentury tower, topped by a spaceship-like pod, began construction in 1961, but the original developer, Frank Carroll, never christened the joint and unloaded it on Howard Hughes, who opened the doors in 1969. Hughes’ Summa Corp. weathered Landmark losses for about 10 years, then sold it to a buyer who embezzled millions from his own brokerage firm. The next owner used junk bonds to finance a partial renovation of a property in dire need of a full one. The tower closed in 1990 and sat empty for five years until its implosion, one captured on film for the movie Mars Attacks! In the hotel’s short early-’70s prime, socialites danced 31 floors up at the Sky Top Rendezvous, and the hotel hosted performers such as Frank Sinatra, Elvis and Jimmy Dean (in town to film Diamonds Are Forever). The land is now a Convention Center parking lot, albeit one fronted by a renovated Landmark sign.
James Reza wants your questions. AskaNative@WeeklySeven.com.