Desert Shipwreck

senator.jpgMarooned in the Mojave, Las Vegas still can’t get enough of Titanic.

Historically, Nevada’s links to Titanic are slim, though Las Vegas remains fascinated. No Nevadans made the journey. One survivor, Swedish-born Edvin Lundström, died while on a carpentry job in Las Vegas in 1942. Otherwise, the strongest tie is Nevada Sen. Francis G. Newlands. A member of the Senate subcommittee investigating the disaster, Newlands, upon learning of the tragedy, took a train from Washington, D.C., to New York. Awaiting the rescue ship Carpathia, he wanted to make sure that J. Bruce Ismay, chairman of the White Star Line—after sneaking into a lifeboat ahead of more than 1,500 soon-to-die paying customers—would remain in the U.S. to testify.

Finding similarities between boom years Las Vegas and Titanic is easy until the comparison makes an ironic loop-de-loop. Each embraced excess without apology. Each catered to dreams, defying the gods of modesty. One, symbolically speaking, reached too high and sank to the depths. The other, however, escaped the symmetry of that metaphor, surviving the financial ice field of the Great Recession and having the good judgment to dodge bad karma in the late-’90s when zoning obstacles torpedoed a proposed hotel patterned on Titanic.

Envisioned by the late Bob Stupak, it would have featured 1,200 rooms and an 1,800-seat theater housed in an “iceberg.” An artist’s rendering even depicted water pouring from the bottom of the ship-shaped resort.

We remain enamored of our cosmic connection, though. Witness our lingering tethers to Titanic via the artifacts exhibit at the Luxor, where a candlelight vigil will be held April 10; via Jubilee! at Bally’s, where the grand old gal has been sinking nightly for 30 years; and via tributes such as the weekly Titanic-themed meals at Lake Las Vegas’ Bernard’s Bistro, which hosts a special anniversary dinner and cruise on April 14. And, of course, there’s the ever-present Celine Dion, belter of that ever-present tune about surviving tickers.

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The ninth floor of the new $127 million North Las Vegas City Hall offers a sweeping view of low-rise sprawl, and from up there the city looks neat and orderly, stretching away nearly to the mountains with Las Vegas Boulevard pointing the way northeast along a corridor of commerce and activity.