Vegas pioneer: Frontier's days end
Arnold M. Knightly, Las Vegas Gaming Wire
VEGAS, Nevada -- Amid tears and hugs, the New Frontier
closed its doors for good at 12:01 a.m. today.
hate to say bye but I must say bye," said Helen Madison,
a casino porter for 34 years, with tears in her eyes.
hotel estimated that 3,000 people were on the property at
11 p.m. Sunday, an hour before it was to close.
1,000 continued to mingle at 12:01 a.m. today, when an alarm
sounded signaling the end of the Frontier.
longtime employees and customers, mixed with curious onlookers,
shared the final minutes as another old Strip property shut
its doors to make way for another multibillion-dollar development.
lounge legend Norman Kaye stopped by to take a final look
at a property he first played at in 1947.
thought I'd come and say goodbye," said Kaye, who was
a vocalist and bassist in the Mary Kaye Trio.
sang two songs with the Dry Martini Orchestra in front of
a crowd of about 1,000 people. He said it was his first
Las Legas performance since 1966.
with such notables as Ronald Reagan and Judy Garland, Kaye
said the Mary Kaye Trio was a mainstay on the Strip.
started the whole damn thing here," said Kaye, who
was named Nevada's poet laureate emeritus in April. "We
would start at midnight and play until 6 a.m. taking 15-minute
breaks every hour."
said the trio, which included sister Mary Kaye (who died
in February) and Frank Ross (who died in 1995), was the
first true lounge act on the Strip.
105-room Hotel Last Frontier opened in 1942, the second
hotel-casino on the now famous Strip.
property grew under various ownerships, most notably Howard
Hughes who bought it in 1967 for $14 million.
latest owner, Kansas-based businessman Phil Ruffin, sold
the 34.5-acre property in May for $1.2 billion to New York-based
development group, which is controlled by Israeli billionaire
Yitzhak Tshuva, plans to spend $5 billion to construct a
mixed-use development modeled after New York's Plaza Hotel.
Neil Bush and Ed Phelan helped close the sports book at
6 p.m. by serenading the four customers and various passers-by
with karaoke renditions of Frank Sinatra and Joe Cocker.
were out last night 'til the sun came up," said Bush,
dressed in a tuxedo with cocktail in hand, explaining Phelan's
off-key interpretation of Cocker's classic cover "With
a Little Help From My Friends."
a little hoarse today," Bush said.
West, a regular customer since 1966, said she has so many
friends at the hotel-casino that her house was used to host
Frontier Christmas parties over the years.
is a lot of good people here," said West, who counts
20 current employees as good friends. "It's the last
place, if you think about it, where families could afford
to stay on the Strip."
said seeing Siegfried & Roy eight times during their
seven-year run at the New Frontier is among her fondest
preferred them here," said West, who saw them only
once at The Mirage. "They got too mechanical. It wasn't
as good (at The Mirage)."
Crees, a cocktail waitress at the hotel-casino for 21 years,
said the closing is more than losing a longtime job.
have a lot of friends and a lot of customers who are more
like a family," Crees said. "A lot of customers
like it here because it is like a family. It's been like
said she plans to take a three-month vacation, but is worried
she is too old to find another cocktail waitress job on
was absent for the final night, scheduled to return to Las
Vegas on Wednesday, according to general manager Najam Khan.
paid $167 million for the property in October 1997 ending
a six-year worker's strike four months later.
and his team have until Aug. 7 to clean out the property
before handing over the keys to El-Ad.
on-site auction scheduled for July 26 is being handled by
the Great American Group.
Johnson, a security guard for 21 1/2 years, said the hardest
part is severing the relationships formed during the years.
might see them from time to time in passing," said
Johnson, who has an orientation Wednesday to start a similar
position at the MGM Grand. "It's not like I know you're
going to be here so I'm going to see you and that's the
said he was scheduled to work until 2:30 a.m., making sure
everyone gets out of the hotel.