The Dunes Hotel and Casino Records are comprised of administrative, publicity, and entertainment materials documenting the history of the Dunes Hotel and Casino in Las Vegas, Nevada from the years 1954 to 1992. Included are correspondence, contracts, photographs, hotel budgets, and an early aerial photograph of the property. The material provides a significant amount of historical documentation of the hotel that was long known to tourists and residents as the "the Miracle in the Desert."
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Scope and Contents Note
The Dunes Hotel and Casino Records are comprised of administrative, publicity, and entertainment materials documenting the history of the Dunes Hotel and Casino in Las Vegas, Nevada from the years 1954 to 1992. Included are correspondence, contracts, personnel information, programs, photographs, and budgets on the hotel's elaborate production show, Casino de Paris, as well as other entertainers who performed at the Dunes. The hotel's promotional activities involving golf tournaments, casino junkets, travel packages, and special events are documented with correspondence, memos, photographs, newspaper clippings, and scrapbooks. The collection also contains material on the hotel's gourmet restaurants, the Sultan's Table and Dome of the Sea, and an early aerial photograph of the property. The collection provides historical documentation on the famed Strip hotel that was known to tourists and residents as the "The Miracle in the Desert."
Collection is open for research.
Materials in this collection may be protected by copyrights and other rights. See Reproductions and Use on the UNLV Special Collections and Archives website for more information about reproductions and permissions to publish.
These records are organized into five series:
Series I. General Records, 1954-1991;
Series II. Employee Files, 1970s-1980s;
Series III. Entertainment Records, 1954-1991;
Series IV. Promotional Materials, 1955-1990;
Series V. 2010 Addition, 1954-1992.
Biographical / Historical Note
The Dunes Hotel and Casino was one of three resorts that opened on the Las Vegas Strip in 1955. The hotel, constructed at a cost of $3.5 million, was designed by Robert Dorr Jr. and architectural engineer John Replogle. The exterior was distinguished by a giant fiberglass figure of a sultan that stood thirty feet high on the front of the hotel's roof. In later years it was moved to the rear of the property where it faced the I-15 freeway. Despite its early success, the original owners of the hotel lacked gaming experience and as a result, the Dunes went into decline. Wanting to save their investment, the hotel's owners hired the Sands Hotel management team to help them run the Dunes in 1956. Despite promotions, which involved the Sands Hotel's top entertainer, Frank Sinatra, and complimentary services offered to visitors, nothing seemed to help the fledgling hotel, and for a short time, the Dunes was reduced to operating as a motel. In late 1956, Major Arteburn Riddle, the General Manager, introduced a number of significant innovations that proved instrumental in bringing the Dunes stability.
Riddle was successful in hiring high quality entertainment for the hotel. In 1957, he booked Minsky's Follies, the first topless show on the Strip, which ran for over four years. Riddle then hired producer Frederic Apcar to stage Vive Les Girls, a mini revue which brought all the spectacle and costumes of a large production show into the intimate atmosphere of the Persian Lounge.
Other innovations introduced by Riddle included the opening of the Sultan's Table in March 1961 as one of the first gourmet restaurants in Las Vegas. Riddle also built Nevada's largest golf course, with 18 holes and a 72 par layout that was located directly behind the hotel. In July 1965, the hotel opened a twenty-four story high-rise, which provided two hundred and fifty additional rooms, a shopping arcade, and two additional gourmet restaurants. The Top-o-the-Strip featured dinner and dancing with the Russ Morgan Orchestra, and the Dome of the Sea featured a floor-to-ceiling aquarium and was Las Vegas' first seafood restaurant. The new Dunes sign, designed by the Federal Sign Company, was 185 feet high, which made it the largest free standing sign in the world at the time.
On December 27, 1963, Apcar brought the Parisian production spectacular Casino de Paris to the Dunes showroom. The noted French singer Line Renaud was one of many artists who performed on stage, surrounded by dozens of dancers and showgirls clothed in the creations of designer Jose Luis Vinas.
Like the successful Lido de Paris at the Stardust, the show introduced many stage effects that Las Vegas had not seen before, including the imposing "octuramic" stage that projected out into the audience.
In the 1970s and 1980s, the Dunes experienced several changes in ownership and struggled with financial difficulties throughout the 1980s. The closing of the Casino de Paris show in 1981 diminished the hotel's attraction to tourists. In 1992 Steve Wynn, owner of the newly opened Mirage Hotel and Casino, purchased the Dunes and announced plans to build a large and spectacular new resort on the site. In October 1993 much of the Dunes and its towering neon sign was destroyed in a spectacular implosion that was viewed by thousands on the Strip. After several years of construction, Wynn's Bellagio Hotel and Casino opened in October 1998 on the site of the hotel that was once known as the "Miracle in the Desert."
"Dunes Hotel." Online Nevada Encyclopedia. Accessed December 14, 2018. http://www.onlinenevada.org/articles/dunes-hotel
Dunes Hotel and Casino Records, 1954-1992. MS-00328. Special Collections and Archives, University Libraries, University of Nevada, Las Vegas. Las Vegas, Nevada.
Materials were donated in 1992 by Al Gottesman and in 1993 by Mirage Resorts, Incorporated; accession numbers 92-22 and 93-8. Additional material was donated in 2010 by the Las Vegas News Bureau; accession number 2010-14.
Collection was processed in 1998 by Joyce Marshall. In 2016, Joyce Moore added an additional accession. In 2018, Sarah Jones revised the collection description to bring it into compliance with current professional standards.