News for the Hospitality Executive
Nobody Asked Me, But... No. 97
One Hundred Years Ago; Hotel History: The Moulin Rouge Hotel & Casino;
By Stanley Turkel, CMHS, ISHC
January 8, 2013
1. One Hundred Years Ago
What a difference a century makes. In 1913, the Progressive Era was at its peak. Strong political efforts were made to improve living and working conditions for working-class Americans. Efforts were also being made to eliminate waste and corruption in government, to break up trusts and regulate private industry. For the first time, citizens tried to improve public health, education and sanitation. There was a concerted effort to conserve the environment and to create the U.S. National Park system. The Organic Act of 1916 created the National Park Service "to conserve the scenery and the natural and historic objects and wildlife therein, and to provide for the enjoyment of the same in such manner and by such means as will leave them unimpaired for the enjoyment of future generations."
Anti-trust legislation was enacted to break up monopolies. The 16th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution was passed to establish a graduated income tax and the 17th Amendment to allow direct election of U.S. Senators by statewide popular vote. The women's suffrage movement gained in strength to finally cause passage of the 19th Amendment in 1920 giving women the right to vote.
Let's hope that 2013 is as productive as 1913.
2. Hotel History: The Moulin Rouge Hotel & Casino
The January 2013 issue of Smithsonian Magazine contains an article entitled "The Vegas Hotspot That Broke All the Rules" by Kevin Cook. The Moulin Rouge which opened in 1955 was America's first interracial casino. It helped end segregation on the Strip and proved that the only color that mattered was green. In its short life, it was popular with many of the black entertainers of the time, who would perform at other Las Vegas hotels and stay at the Moulin Rouge. It was located in West Las Vegas where the black population lived because of segregation.
Developer Will Max Schwartz, investors Louis Rubin and Alexander Bisno, and former heavyweight champion Joe Louis built and opened the Moulin Rouge which they billed as "America's First International Hotel." Until the hotel's opening in May 24, 1955, black entertainers performing in Las Vegas were denied access to casino and hotel dining areas and were forced to seek overnight accommodations in black boarding houses. Black tourism was non-existent. Nevada Assembly bills designed to bar discrimination in public places had failed, the last by only one vote.
The complex itself consisted of two Modernist-style stuccoed buildings that housed the hotel, the casino, and a theater. The exterior had the hotel's name in stylized cursive writing and murals depicting dancing and fancy cars. The sign was designed by Betty Willis, creator of the "Welcome to Las Vegas" sign on the south end of the Strip. The casino opened with the revue "Tropi Cancan," which was inspired by the French Cancan , created in the 19th century by the Moulin Rouge in Paris which starred the first African American star in France, Josephine Baker. Black showgirls performed on a stage before a backdrop of walls featuring scenes of Paris and Toulouse Lautrec-style murals.
When it opened, the Moulin Rouge Las Vegas was fully integrated top to bottom, from employees to patrons to entertainers. The hotel made the June 20, 1955 cover of Life magazine, with a photo of two black showgirls. A veritable "A" list of performers regularly showed up to party until dawn. Great black singers and musicians such as Lena Horne, Sammy Davis Jr., Sarah Vaughan, Nat King Cole, Dorothy Dandridge, Harry Belafonte, Pearl Bailey, and Louis Armstrong would perform often. These artists were banned from gambling or staying at the hotels on the Strip. In addition, white performers, including George Burns, Judy Garland, Jack Benny, and Frank Sinatra, would drop in after their shows to gamble and perform. Eventually management added a 2:30 AM "Third Show" to accommodate the crowds.
In November 1955 the Moulin Rouge closed its doors, and by December 1955, the casino had declared bankruptcy. The short but vibrant life of the Moulin Rouge helped the civil rights movement in Las Vegas. The hotel was the spark needed to bring an end to segregation on the Strip.
In 1960, under threat of a protest march down the Las Vegas Strip against racial discrimination by Las Vegas casinos, a meeting was hurriedly arranged by then-Governor Grant Sawyer between hotel owners, city and state officials, local black leaders, and then- NAACP president Dr. James McMillan. The meeting was held on March 26 at the closed Moulin Rouge. This resulted in an agreement to desegregate all Strip casinos. Las Vegas Sun publisher Hank Greenspun, who would become an important media-figure in the town, mediated the agreement.
In 1992, the building was listed on the National Register of Historic Places and became a symbol of the expanding of black civil rights, and a monument of Las Vegas's racist past. Filmmaker Stan Armstrong who is preparing an upcoming documentary, The Misunderstood Legend of the Las Vegas Moulin Rouge, said "In its one shining movement, the Moulin Rouge brought pride to black Las Vegas. Pride and hope. In that moment, the Rouge changed the world. And then the world moved on."
3. A Record Year for New York Tourism
52 million tourists visited New York City in 2012, a 2.1% increase over 2011. Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg credited the city's cultural institutions and its reputation as the safest major American city for the record. George Fertitta, chief executive of NYC & Company, the City's marketing arm said that one-third of all overseas tourists to the United States come to New York. The mayor projects a goal of 55 million visitors by 2015.
It is interesting to note that the website Hotel Chatter cites the following as the best hotels in New York City:
4. Quote of The Month
In light of the unspeakable massacre in Newtown, Connecticut and the statistic that more Americans were killed with guns between 1979 and 1997 than were killed in battle in all U.S. wars since 1775, don't you think that the U.S. Supreme Court should review its 2008 decision (District of Columbia v. Heller) which ignores the clear reference to the first four words:
"A well regulated militia being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear arms, shall not be infringed".
Second Amendment to the U.S. Constitution
Stanley Turkel, CMHS, ISHC
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