In 1951, Frank Sinatra arrived in Las Vegas and launched a tradition in a city reputed to lack them, using a Strip stage to reinvigorate a faltering career. By 1960 Sinatra was again a superstar, and his turn as Danny Ocean in Ocean’s 11 cemented the Rat Pack’s eternal Vegas connection. The film and the extracurricular activities that surrounded it became the source of many Sinatra legends: the “whiskey all night, work all day” stories, the saunas to sweat out the booze, the punching of card dealers, the Sinatra swagger.
But Ocean’s 11 is an ensemble work, all the Rats shining brightly. For my money, Sinatra’s best Vegas moment happened just after his 50th birthday, when he recorded Sinatra at the Sands in the Copa Room with the Count Basie Orchestra conducted by Quincy Jones. This trifecta of performing arts legends accomplished definitive versions of two dozen Sinatra songs, fueled by the kind of off-color stage banter that modern artists either shy away from or poorly imitate.
I’m lucky enough to have scored a near-perfect example of the original vinyl from 11th Street Records. It will be spinning repeatedly on December 12 (Sinatra’s birthday), accompanied by a Jack and Coke and more than a little wistful recollection of Old Vegas. Cheers, Frank.
Another note on Vegas shopping
Following up last week’s overview of local retail, here’s another significant change worth noting: the slow disappearance of 24-hour grocery stores. Recently, two supermarkets closest to my home switched to 6 a.m.-midnight hours. One is a Smith’s, open 24 hours for nearly four decades.
As our city’s population has grown and the city has morphed its tourist corridor to accommodate new kinds of travelers, the city itself is clearly changing. Gone are the days of walking into that very Smith’s at any hour and seeing cocktail waitresses and card dealers in full “costume,” heading to work or home. Today, the cast of Vegas characters is considerably less colorful, while 24-hour supermarkets exist in probably every major city.
The more Las Vegas becomes like other places and the more other places become like Las Vegas, the harder it is to craft a unique selling point for the 40 million who visit us every year. I’m sure the Las Vegas Convention & Visitors Authority has a handle on this stuff, but for this native, it’s a little disconcerting.
Photo by Wikimedia Commons