Lost Vegas: The Decade Since Stardust Fell To Earth


Michael James looks back to the last roll of the dice for the iconic resort …

“Ah, the Stardust”…

At noon sharp on November 1st, 2006, the venerable Stardust closed its doors for the last time. The closure had been announced in early January of 2006, a victim of the booming economy which made many existing properties more valuable as dust than as the buildings they were.

Boyd Gaming had grand plans to build the $4 billion Echelon Place, which would have four separate hotels…kind of like a north Strip version of the announced CityCenter (which no longer brands itself as such, but includes Aria, Vdara, the Veer towers and other buildings).

The demise of the legendary hotel/casino ten years ago ended a legacy that was first dreamed up in 1954 by Tony Cornero. After his 1955 death at the Desert Inn craps table, Stardust finally opened three years later with the motto “Atmospheric luxury at down-to-Earth prices”.

Stardust

The Stardust in its early years…

“Ah, the Stardust”…

Over the years, so much Vegas history occurred on the property… from Atomic Bomb Watch Parties in the late 50s to its purchase by the Argent Corp. It was acquired using teamsters’ pension funds in the mid-70s that brought with it Frank Rosenthal/Anthony Spilotro and mafia skim (as well as the setting for the book and movie Casino).

There was the famous Lido de Paris show which ran for 33 years, leading up to the grand finale of an implosion. Through all that history, the Stardust managed to have its legend grow more than most other shuttered properties. Other iconic Vegas resorts earn wistful sighs, too, be they the Dunes and its great neon sign, the Sands and the Rat Pack vibe, the Riviera and its long history and brilliantly-lit facade to the Desert Inn and its, um, existence.

But there was magic in the Stardust. Wayne Newton played there. So did Don Rickles and Siegfried and Roy. Sure, those guys also played at other places, but this is the Stardust! Even “Showgirls” was set there (not every Las Vegas casino can say that…well, the Riviera can, but still…).

Stardust

The Stardust as seen in the 70s.

“Ah, the Stardust”…

I was one of the lucky ones. I stayed at the Stardust in February, 2006 to attend a Super Bowl party and was able to venerate it before it closed. Though I had a great time with a couple of my buddies, I don’t have any special personal stories. I arrived, ate, gambled, drank, went to bed and repeated the next day. But I can say that I was there.

Stardust

How the old girl looked towards the end…

“Ah, the Stardust”…

Besides a zillion photos on the internet, the views of the unique sign and neon of the hotel tower that stand out in B-roll footage, the donated pieces in the Neon Museum and dozens of people who say “Ah… the Stardust” when the subject comes up, the Stardust will live on well past the opening of Resorts World (if that ever actually happens).

You can’t really blame Boyd Gaming for deciding to close Stardust and build the Echelon Place.  The year 2006 found Las Vegas in the middle of a building boom that – in addition to City Center – gave us Cosmopolitan, the St. Regis Tower at Venetian/Palazzo and the Fontainebleau. Too bad that of the five, only City Center and the Cosmo actually managed to get completed.

Stardust

My Sorta-Sister, Wendy Jo, also shares a manic affinity for the Stardust…

A decade ago, there was money to be made, and the budget-conscious, mid-tier property that the Stardust had become was standing in the way. But oh, those memories.

“Ah… the Stardust”…

 

[Photos: Michael James, InOldLasVegas, EarlyVegas, DesigningDisney]

About the Author

Michael James
Michael James is a true Vegas Nerd. First falling in love after hearing details of an aunt's visit in the '70s, and nurtured when the gambling bug hit as casinos started opening on every street corner across the country in the '90s. When not reading Vegas blogs and message boards, he's a metals buyer by day and a competitive bowler by night in Milwaukee.

11 Comments on "Lost Vegas: The Decade Since Stardust Fell To Earth"

  1. Chris in Nashville | November 1, 2016 at 9:03 am |

    Went for a night of fun back in 2003 with some friends. The blackjack table was very kind to us and we walked away with a few hundred a piece. Then we went to the Andrew Dice Clay show in the showroom. This place was good simple fun. Can’t believe it’s been 10 years.

  2. I have fond memories of the Stardust. As an event planner, I loved the place for their longtime employees who gave excellent service, and for the ample ballrooms which always seemed to have space when I needed it. They had decent room rates (no resort fees!) and their casino had plenty of action at all times of the day. It only needed a small makeover for rooms and some restaurants.
    I’ll bet Boyd is kicking themselves every day for their Echelon fiasco when Stardust could have still been a player.

    • That’s a tough spot for Boyd. In late-2005, the Sky was the Limit. They had a fading property (and lets be honest… if it were still around it would be a lot like the Riviera at the end) and a then-prime location. If I had financing, I might have made the same decision.

      Then again, if I had impeccable 20/20 hindsight…

      But in the end I probably agree with you. If Boyd had avoided the lure of the easy money, then the economy crashed, he probably could have financed improvements to the casino and entertainment (and maybe even added a new tower) for the same money they sunk into the concrete that has been on display for about eight years!

  3. Ahhh I miss the old girl they always had good entertainment a the Star Dust Lounge that was my home from 1980 to 1999 when I switched to downtown, made lots of friends there wish I knew where they all ended up!

  4. One of my favorite buildings in Vegas, sadly, I never got to go inside before they closed. Also, kudos for the top image due to the headliner being George Carlin, did ya know his last live show was at The Orleans?

  5. My first ever visit to Vegas was November 2006, just after it closed! Bad timing! Encore was being built, as was Palazzo, and CityCenter was completely flat ready to be built on. Can’t believe it’s been 10 years!

  6. we stayed at the stardust many times back in the 70/80’s…..great sportbook and a few years they had a sports radio show that was produced at the stardust…..ahhh the good ole days…..

  7. Great story! Never stayed there, but played there from my first trip to Vegas in 2003 until it closed. I loved the gaming chips there so much that I saved two $5 tokens; one of which is attached to my keychain to this day.

  8. Was anyone on here a regular at the Star Dust?

    • I wish! Problem is that after a trip in 1989, I didn’t start coming out regularly until my honeymoon in October 2005. Never had a chance to be regular. Sigh….

Comments are closed.