Sammasseur Concludes His Two-Part Impressions Of An Iconic Casino’s Demise
It was down to the final five hours of Riviera‘s last night on Earth. I was returning to my top-floor room at nearby Royal Resort after walking around the demolition site. The lobby and hallways were buzzing with excited activity as people arrived for parties that were underway throughout my floor. I left my door propped open, as our VegasBright photographer Greg C. would be arriving soon to set up his equipment.
Riviera’s Final Sunset….Forever…
Standing out on the balcony, I uploaded several photos from my phone to our VegasBright Facebook page. It wasn’t long before our editor Michael was texting me about them. Our pal Scott Roeben of VitalVegas.com was similarly entrenched at the parking garage of Circus Circus, directly across the Strip from Riviera. Apparently, he’d spotted my pics on FB and wanted to know who on our team was taking them.
Scott agreed that a north-facing angle would give a better view of the entire demolition and wanted to know if he could join us. “The more, the merrier” was my take…as long as Greg got priority use of the balcony. By that time, Greg had arrived and was already lugging his equipment in. There was plenty to carry, and it was hot outside….really hot. But nothing slowed Greg down…I think implosions are the Red Bull that drives him forward.
As it got closer to midnight, the temperature began to drop…a relief since the balcony doors had been open throughout the scorching evening. Strangers would occasionally pop into the room, introducing themselves and sharing what they were up to. It was clear that this was an evening to remember. What we were doing was a memorable bonding experience…not just a demolition.
Once Greg was satisfied that his army of cameras was trained precisely on the points that he wanted to capture, it was time to relax and allow the next few hours to pass. We’d occasionally hang out on the balcony, waving to fellow enthusiasts and snapping photos of the police activities and growing crowds below.
I continued to upload updates to our Facebook page, which caught the attention of a reader who happened to be down the hall from us. He said that his wife had already fallen asleep, but he was too excited to nap himself. I waved in his direction, not sure if he could see me from that distance. But once again I got this sensation that we were part of something significant.
Eventually, Greg’s friend Dawn arrived and they decided to do what I’d done earlier…take a final stroll down around the perimeter. Greg snapped several of his own farewell pics, which were naturally much better than my own. I’d used a smartphone for my collection, but like a true professional, Greg left nothing to chance. The results were glorious and sad in their eerie beauty.
But the most wonderful one, at least to me, was of the man himself, standing in front of the stripped-down facade.
The spotlights had been shining on the target zone for quite some time, but only in the final hour did the searchlights start to send their weaving beacons into the sky. Helicopters were positioning overhead, no doubt supplied by local television stations. Greg spotted a couple of drones zipping about and wondered if one of them belonged to Scott Roeben (who never ended up joining us). Whether or not there were fireworks ahead, it already felt like a big Hollywood premiere.
At last, shortly before 2:30 am, the warning horns went off, and we all jumped into position. The crowd counted down the last ten seconds, prompted by someone or something that I could not see. Three…two…one….BOOM!!!!! An array of bright orange explosions zipped back and forth across the width of the Monte Carlo tower. There was the slightest pause, then came a series of louder impacts before the entire tower started to sag right-to-left….before tumbling slightly forward and into the Earth.
The wave of collapse continued across an open gap and brought down the South Tower and glossy Strip-side facade, which crumbled into itself (safely away from Las Vegas Boulevard). The entire sequence was a beautifully choreographed spectacle, right down to the shimmer of glass as the shock wave traveled east to west.
It took a second or two for the shock wave to hit our building. I felt the floor rise and fall under my feet as if I was standing on a surfboard at the ocean. This happened simultaneously to the collapse of the buildings. The sensory overload, combined with the emotional shock of seeing one of my favorite resorts disappearing before my eyes, was numbing and stimulating at the same time.
As the debris cloud headed in our direction, people scattered from the sidewalks below. A chorus of car alarms replaced the cheering and clapping from just a moment before. And as suddenly as it had begun, the corner of Las Vegas Boulevard and Riviera Boulevard fell silent.
Fortunately, the wind shifted and blew the potentially hazardous debris cloud to the east. That allowed Greg to quietly gather his equipment without rushing. None of us spoke much…we just solemnly said goodbye before I jumped into bed to catch a few hours sleep.
I’d flown to Vegas specifically to witness the implosion, and my return trip to Oregon was in the morning. That meant a 7 am wake-up alarm. I shuffled over to the curtains and pulled them back to reveal the oddest of sights – heavy machinery clearing the debris piles. It was as if the property on which the Riviera once stood was desperately needed. Like, right NOW!!!
I gazed to the left, examining the shell of Echelon Place, a failed construction project which brought down the much-loved Stardust Hotel several years ago. Further to the left was an empty lot where New Frontier Hotel once stood. Immediately in front of me was a mostly-vacant space with nothing but a rundown apartment building and indoor skydive attraction nearby. It baffled me that an important piece of Las Vegas history had just been obliterated to create yet another empty lot.
As the bulldozers scraped away the last of the Riviera‘s concrete and glass, I shook my head in dismay. Without realizing it, I’d spoken out loud…”What a waste”.
Greg’s final, multi-angle edit of Riviera implosion footage…
Photos: [Sammasseur, Greg C.]