A Very Human Event: Riviera’s Last Night On Earth Part 2


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 Demise

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.

Riviera Demise

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.

Riviera Demise

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.

Riviera Demise

Riviera Demise

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.

Riviera Demise

Riviera Demise

But the most wonderful one, at least to me, was of the man himself, standing in front of the stripped-down facade.

Riviera Demise

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.

Riviera Demise

Riviera Demise

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.

Riviera Demise

Riviera Demise

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.

Riviera Demise

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.

Riviera Demise

Riviera Demise

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!!!

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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.]

About the Author

sammasseur
A fitness buff and Vegas fan. Sam enjoys shows, bargains, and cheap healthy eats.

7 Comments on "A Very Human Event: Riviera’s Last Night On Earth Part 2"

  1. What an amazing read. I loved the Riviera. This two-part article is a celebration and eulogy, so eloquently written! Thank you so much.

  2. well done MR. Sam.

  3. greg garrett | August 31, 2016 at 7:20 pm |

    I loved the article, As well as the riv. It to was my favorite place to stay. I am coming to town in a month and it will be weird to see it with nothing there. the rtc website shows street cams but that doesn’t do it any justice. Thank’s sam for the great read. Greg in Oregon.

  4. You made me feel like I was there. What a beautifully written piece that helps to share in her final farewell. A great final tribute. Well Done!

  5. I also miss Riviera, probably not the same way you did but it was a nice air-conditioned short cut on the way down the North Strip to the Sahara. Although not quite as cool as we liked it as those were some warm neon lights at the South Entrance and some warm lights in the casino. Used to make this walk from across the street from another now dirt lot (New Frontier). New Frontier and Riviera’s pool shapes were similar so I am conjecturing they had the same designer at one time….could be wrong….I think only Bally’s has anything like that now in their pool…most places have increased the size of the entrance/exit steps to serve double duty now.

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