Vegas Bids Farewell to the Stardust The space-age Stardust hotel was blown to smithereens this week, wiped from the Las Vegas Strip to make way for a new resort. Once the world's largest resort, the Stardust had been a fixture on the strip for 48 years.
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Vegas Bids Farewell to the Stardust

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Vegas Bids Farewell to the Stardust

Vegas Bids Farewell to the Stardust

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Unidentified Man #1: Where do vacationers have more fun? At the Stardust, the world's largest resort hotel in Las Vegas, Nevada, America's most exciting (unintelligible).

ALEX CHADWICK, host:

The Stardust hotel, the first mega-resort-casino in Las Vegas, had a blow-out goodbye in the wee hours of this morning.

MADELEINE BRAND, host:

The Stardust was imploded, blown up, to make way for a new $4 billion development. The hotel's destruction drew thousands of gawkers and, in grand Vegas tradition, featured a light show and fireworks.

CHADWICK: So we sent pop-cultural historian and DAY TO DAY contributing writer Charles Phoenix to witness the scene, and here is his report.

CHARLES PHOENIX: We have so many things to thank the Stardust for. In 1958 when it opened, it was the world's largest resort hotel. It was also the first hotel resort in Las Vegas to invite the masses with 1,000 rooms starting at $5 a day.

Now, you know, a 48-year-old casino on the Las Vegas strip is definitely yesterday's news, totally out of style and ready for the imploders, and they're here, and they're ready. A crowd has gathered, several of which are celebrating the Stardust - well, the Stardust memories by having a few extra cocktails, but hey, that's Las Vegas, right?

If you had one thing to say thank you to the Stardust for, what would it be?

Unidentified Woman: It gave me my start in Las Vegas. It was my first job the week I moved here. I grew up there. There was everything. I worked in different departments. It was everything for 16 years.

PHOENIX: Another thing about the Stardust is the signage, the classic Las Vegas signage. When it opened in 1958, it had the first, real electric light show in Las Vegas. The roadside sign was spectacular. It was out of this world. In fact, if you want to check it out, you can go on npr.org and see some amazing vintage images of it.

Then the second-generation sign came in 1968, and that was even more incredible, perhaps the most incredible space-age signs ever created in the universe.

Did you work at the Stardust, sir?

Unidentified Man #2: Yes, I work here for 17 years.

PHOENIX: What did you do there?

Unidentified Man #2: I work for the bar back.

PHOENIX: For the what?

Unidentified Man #2: Bar back.

PHOENIX: Oh, bar back.

Unidentified Man #2: Assistant bartender.

PHOENIX: So if you had to say thank you to the Stardust for one thing, what would it be?

Unidentified Man #2: Oh, this is my best job I got in my life, yes. Very, very good. Now, no. Now, I don't have any job now. I make application, but nobody call me now.

PHOENIX: One of the other things we have to thank the Stardust for is the entertainment they provided over the years. First of all, the Lido de Paris show, which opened when - again, when the casino opened in 1958 - was an incredible stage show with waterfalls and ice-skaters and 60 gorgeous girls. The world's most famous tiger-tamers were introduced to us at the Stardust. Yes, Siegfried and Roy started in Vegas at the Stardust. And then the last big headliner here in the late 1990s was none other than Mr. Las Vegas himself, Wayne Newton, you know…

PHOENIX: (Singing) Danke schoen, darling, danke schoen.

PHOENIX: Isn't that how it goes? Is that it? Yes, "Danke Schoen," Stardust, thank you. In any language from around the world, we say thank you and goodbye.

(Soundbite of applause)

PHOENIX: Here it goes.

(Soundbite of fireworks)

Unidentified People: Three, two, one.

(Soundbite of explosion)

PHOENIX: From Stardust to dust. For National Public Radio, I'm Charles Phoenix reporting in Las Vegas.

(Soundbite of song, "Danke Schoen")

CHADWICK: As Charles said, you can find vintage photos of the Stardust at our Web site, npr.org.

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