The original idea for the Flamingo Hotel which opened in 1947 was Hollywood nightclub owner Billy Wilkerson’s, but will ever be associated with his partner/financier, Hollywood gangster, Benjamin “Bugsy” Siegel. Unlike the earlier western-themed El Rancho and Last Frontier resorts, the Flamingo was themed California Modern to appeal to the glamorous Hollywood-types they sought to attract, including Howard Hughes.
After a series of owners and renovations, Kirk Kerkorian purchased the Flamingo in 1967 and had Martin Stern design a new facade which required the demolition of the famous champagne tower. Kerkorian used the Flamingo to train the staff for his new International Hotel, then sold them both to Barron Hilton. Martin Stern did later remodels of the original buildings. Although the original building plans have not survived, Homer Rissman created a set of drawings from an on-site survey of the buildings, when Hilton considered incorporating the original buildings into a later high rise tower phase as a Bugsy Siegel “museum.” The idea was scrapped and the buildings were demolished. The modern high rise towers built in six phases from 1976 to1993 are Rissman’s signature on the Strip skyline. The Flamingo signs have been persistent Strip icons.
Photograph of the Flamingo Hotel's Champagne Tower and marquee, after 1953
Film transparency of the Flamingo Las Vegas lobby, Las Vegas, circa 1950s
Flamingo Hilton, Las Vegas, circa 1975<