Monday, December 3, 2007

We Got Class

What's a Little Plaza Among Friends?

The 1950s were idyllic years. I remember delivering papers when I saw the headline that screen idol James Dean had been killed in while racing his sports car in California. Some time later I remember following the exploits of James Starkweather and his 14-year old girlfriend as they ran from police after murdering hr parents. The third big shock to my tender young idyllic mind was watching the movie, "In Cold Blood," made after Truman Capote's spine tingling story about Kansas killers. For some reason I was so fascinated that the killers were caught in Las Vegas during a routine traffic stop on Fremont Street near the train Depot.

When I first arrived in Las Vegas in the 1960s I remember the Union Pacific railway station at the top of Fremont Street in downtown Glitter Gulch. A circular driveway stood before the entrance of the depot encircling a lawn where both locals and tourists stopped to rest between gambling gambols or enjoying a 25-cent shrimp cocktail in the hotel just across the street. Many is the afternoon that I sat there and imagined how the two killers were captured just a block or two away.

Some time afterward the old train depot was demolished, a precursor to how we deal with our history in Las Vegas. The train depot was moved a block or so to the south and merged with the Greyhound bus depot. In the vacated land was build a brand new hotel called the Union Plaza, preserving part of the Union Pacific name. Inside the hotel was a 50,000 watt radio station as well as a restaurant which overlooked Fremont Street and Glitter Gulch. It was a grand hotel by downtown Las Vegas standards. The hotel was sold to to a local casino owner and re-branded as the Las Vegas Plaza. It has stayed as such for the past couple of decades even though ownership has changed hands.

Fast forward to Las Vegas present. As many easterners have done in the past, Donald Trump has discovered us and has begun to build, as has ex-frau Ivana. Owners of New York's famous Plaza Hotel on Fifth Avenue have also decided to follow Horace Greely's advice and go west. They found a little patch of dirt in Las Vegas that suited them and promptly paid more than one billion (with a B) dollars for land that can only grow crops that are green and made of paper. Then the New Yorkers put forth their planned $ 5 billion resort - the Plaza Las Vegas Resort. Whoops

.A dispute over the name "Plaza" is festering. Unlike the fellow named Howard Johnson who was enjoined by the hotel chain from using his own name on his own planned hotel marquis, Plaza Las Vegas argues that it has had a long and proud history and that the bully boys from the city that began as New Amsterdam (yup, that was the original name of New York) cannot just come in waving their 5 billion smackeroos and demand naming rights. The plan is just too uppity.

Ok, let's face it. The Las Vegas Plaza is.... well, say Roseann Barr with visitors who live in trailers and the New York Plaza is.... ok, say Angelina Jolie but without adopted children. Owners of the New York joint want the case heard in federal court. The locals want it heard locally. But name changes happen all the time - the old Castaways became the Mirage. The Dunes became Bellagio. Sands became Venetian, Desert Inn became Wynn, the Bonanza became MGM Grand then MGM became Bally's, and the Showboat became the Castaways before it was demolished and became a pile of rubble. A little blogging music maestro.... how about a few bars from "What's Your Name?"

Dr. Forgot

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