Built in 1941, El Cortez Hotel & Casino is one of the few icons of Las Vegas history that’s still standing. Approach its doors today, and the feel of yesteryear speaks through its bones, neon signs signaling a bygone era. Heck, it’s even got coin slots still jingling through the casino floor. After going through various owners, including the likes of Bugsy Siegel and Moe Sedway, local casino legend John D. “Jackie” Gaughan purchased the Downtown property in 1963 for $4 million.
Although Gaughan owned nine casinos, it was El Cortez and Downtown that held his heart. At one point he even controlled 25 percent of the Downtown gaming market. This love carried over to his choice of residency: Starting in 1980, he and his wife, Roberta Mae “Bertie,” moved into a suite on the top floor of the hotel, where they resided until their respective passing—hers in 1996, his in 2014.
Following his death, the current owners, the Epstein family, decided to honor Gaughan by making the suite available for guests and event attendees to experience vintage Vegas (Kenny Epstein purchased El Cortez in 2008). With minor upgrades to the design, the space is still true to Bertie, who made many of the suite’s style selections when they moved in.
Pastel-pink upholstered walls and floors remain, while new retro-style furniture has been added in the 2,700-square-foot suite. Some of the other holdovers include the original kitchen appliances—in mint condition, mind you—hand-carved wooden entryway doors with brass pulls in the shape of “J” and “G” and the intercom entry system, which includes a video camera that gives a sense of its innovation for the era.
The bedroom comprises two and a half rooms serving as a his-and-hers space, along with a central romper room between. Each is outfitted with individual bathrooms and walk-in closets, the highlight being Bertie’s room. Pink marble with gold swan fixtures make up the mirrored washroom and shower area. The romper room has been updated with a wall of framed vintage records and oversize velvet and shag pillows. Local designers Gisela Isabel and Lora Hunsaker took the helm on the additions. The wet bar and the drapes are also original elements from the Gaughan home.
According to the staff, every morning Gaughan would walk the properties in Downtown with his dog, making sure he was up to date on all the happenings. It’s no wonder his legacy continues; recently, the suite was immortalized as the backdrop in a music video—pop musician Ellie Goulding filmed her “On My Mind” video there. Not only is El Cortez the longest continually running hotel and casino in Las Vegas, but on February 13, 2013, the structure was placed on the National Register of Historic Places. –Jessi C. Acuña
For bookings, contact hotel manager John Dorweiler at 702-385-5200.
Go behind the scenes of our spring fashion photo shoot in episode 1 of Trend Report.
Stylist: KRIS KASS, kris-kass.com
Hair & Makeup: John Paul Rivera using Wella Professionals & José Figueroa using MAC Cosmetics for beautymisfits.com
Manicurist: Maria Garay themariagaray.com using Priti NYC in High Hopes
Talent: Mikaela H. & Frederik O. for Two Management; twomanagement.com
Styling assistants: Zauni Tanil & Daphne-Jayne Corrales
Videographer: Kin Lui kinlui.com
Videographer’s assistant: AJ Orio
Location: Jackie Gaughan Suite in El Cortez Hotel & Casino, elcortezhotelcasino.com