Riviera Las Vegas Hotel and Casino
Liberace was being paid $50,000 a week an unheard of sum considering a home at that time cost less than $10,000. Liberace had been paid only $750 a week for his performance at the New Frontier. Tony Zoppi, VP in charge of Entertainment said of Liberace He was the hottest name in show business at the time
Liberace had met Mr. Goldman, one of the original owners on a plane trip to Florida. He told Liberace of their plans to build the tallest Hotel in Las Vegas, but Liberace didnt really believe it. In Las Vegas they were used to hearing a lot of people talk about what they were going to build. Liberace explained they were loyal to the Frontier at which time Mr. Goldman offered them $50,000 a week to perform needless to say they accepted.
The Treniers were chosen to open the Lounge.
The Showroom was not quite ready opening night; there were no dressing rooms so they had to set up makeshift rooms. The paint on the chairs was still wet causing them to get paint on their Tuxedos. The Orchestra was so big that they had to have half the musicians fly in from Los Angeles.
The Rivieras Main Showroom, The Clover Room, sat 523 people for dinner and 700 for the second show. The Clover Room had six separate elevations and a 40x80 foot stage, which was the first to use four large revolving turntables. With 10,000 square feet, the Clover Room was the largest showroom on the strip.
After just a few weeks, on May 1st 1955 The Riviera hosted a live Telecast of Liberace on stage on the Colgate Comedy Hour TV Show.
Throughout the Year the resort showcased the Ames Brothers, Patti Andrews, Milton Berle featuring Bette George, Larry Best, Billy Daniels, Phil Foster, Mickey Rooney, Ray Sinatra and his Orchestra and Kitty Kallen.
In 1956 Dinah Shore, Marie Wilson, Jean Fenn, Helen Wood, the Riviera Girls and Patti Moore were added to the list of Entertainers.
In 1957 the Riviera showcased the Harry Belafonte Show, Damn Yankees, Lou Walters Latin Quartet Revue, Dennis Day, the De Castro Sisters, Spike Jones, Marie Wilson and the Dorothy Dorben dancers.
Lou Walters was the father of Barbara Walters who often talks about her times backstage at Las Vegas shows.
Shecky Greene performed in the Starlight Lounge.
On May 16th 1958 the Riviera presented a new Red Mercedes Benz to Liberace for his Birthday and as a way of saying Thank You to the entertainer. Since he opened in 1955 he had consistently sold out every performance.
Red Skeletons first night at the Hotel August 4th, 1958 it was reported that hundreds and hundreds of anxious fans tried to get in to see the show; they waited even after the show had started in the hopes that the Maitre D would find some available space. During Skeletons 4 week stay he set a new record, Standing room only for every single show.
Also showcased during 1958 were the Ziegfeld Follies and entertainers such as Jack Carter, The Cavanughs, The Classics, George Gobel, Ginger Rogers, Mickey Rooney, Peggy Sands, Dee Dee Wood and many others.
1959 The Clover Room showcased Carla Alberghetti, Harry Belafonte, Red Buttons, Peggy Lee, the Mills Brothers, Jonathon Winters, and many more.
The Starlight Lounge showcased Freddie Bell, Lionel Hampton, Bobby Page and Billy Williams Quartet amongst others.
In July of 1960 the Riviera opened its musical revue Destry Rides Again with Gene Barry and Monique Van Voorhen.
In 1960 the name of the Theater was changed from the Clover Room to the Versailles Theater. It is still called the Versailles Theater and Nick the Maitre D still works there.
The Versailles Theater showcased the Andrew Sisters, Louis Armstrong, Tony Bennett, George Burns, Red Buttons, Sid Caesar, Carol Channing, Cyd Charisse, Vic Damone, Dennis Day, Jack Elliot, Eddie Fisher, Totie Fields, Buddy Hackett, Kittie Kallen, Sammy Lewis, Dean Martin, The Mills Brothers, Patti Page, Paul Reed, Rowan and Martin, Connie Russell, Sarah Vaughan, Earl Wild, Phil Silvers and his all star comedy revue.
During this time the Starlight had Duke Ellington and his Orchestra, Lionel Hampton and his International Orchestra and many more.
August 1961 Kay Stevens recorded her album Ruckus at the Riviera.
Irma La Duce starring Juliet Prowse opened at the Resort in 1961.
Also that same year La Plume De Ma Tante starring Robert Clary showcased in the Versailles Theater. Clary went on to become LeBeau in Hogans Heroes.
1962 Riviera showcased the musical Bye Bye Birdie starring Elaine Dunn, Peter Marshall, Kay Medford, Dick Gautier, Louis Armstrong Marlene Dietrich, Harry Belafonte, Janet Blair and many more.
In March of 1963 Johnny Mathis and Guy Marks opened at the resort the Riviera flew in 50 out of town disc jockeys for the opening. Connie Stevens and Frankie Avalon were amongst those at the opening.
In August of 1963, Louis Armstrong closed to take a two month vacation. That was the first vacation he had taken in half a century. Bob Hope flew in with Jane Russell, Connie Haines and Beryl Davis to catch the show.
During 1963 Barbara Streisand made her Nevada debut when she opened for Liberace.
1965 Ed Sullivan saw the Swinging Lads perform at the Riviera and had them sign a contract to appear on his TV show. The resort hosted Louis Armstrongs 50th year in show business.
Liberace was honored in 1965 by the Hotel for his 25th anniversary in show business.
December of that year the musical Hello Dolly was showcased starring Betty Grable and Max Showalter. While Nelson Sardelli was appearing in the Rivieras Mardi Gras, he also appeared in The Professionals
Before her opening at the Riviera, Ann Margaret, to the delight of the servicemen, previewed her show at Nellis Air Force Base the Riviera decided the do the same with Funny Girl before its December 20th opening.
Shecky Greene who played the lounge night after night was ending a two week run when he was informed that the following day the room was going to be converted into a Keno Parlor. He came out on a cue with a pickax, chopping the stage in to kindling and handing pieces of it to his many fans for souvenirs. The following morning, Ed Torres, completely unaware of what had transpired the night before, called Greene with the good news Guess what Sheck Weve decided to keep the lounge open another month .
Back Then Greene was paid $20,000 a week; he worked in the Starlight Theater 26 weeks of the year for $520,000 for six months work.
He was a heavy gambler; he had a week long losing streak which put him in heavy debt with the Riviera. The Riviera cut off his credit, when Greene discovered this he jumped on a crowded craps table spread eagled and shouted put the whole body on the hard eight The Riviera had to post a security guard to keep an eye on him after that.
Sonny King had to bail him out of jail when, after a night of heaving drinking, he took the Rivieras courtesy car for a joy ride down the strip at 100 mph. He lost control of the Cadillac El Dorado, struck a pole in front of Caesars, flipped the car twice, careened off a retaining wall and came to rest 75ft from the pole. He only ended up with a couple of minor scratches but he was arrested and spent hours in a holding tank until Sonny arrived.
It was rumored that he was on his way to the Hacienda, the only Strip Hotel that would extend him credit. It was noted that Greene was unable to order an alcoholic drink at the Riviera from 1967 on, other Hotels also refused him service, and he said this was down for his own good and his protection. Greenes closest friends were Buddy Hackett and Lenny Bruce.
Bob Hope surprised the audience on New Years Eve when he joined Headliner Totie Field and they performed 15 mins ad lib together. Also, in 1969 Bob Hope introduced John Davidson and Joan Rivers at the Resort.
1969 Dean Martin became a 10% owner of the property with approximately 8,000 shares. Dinos Den was named after him.
That same year the Riviera showcased Dean Martin presents Englebert Humperdink marking Humperdinks debut in Vegas.
May 1970 Mitzi Gaynor banished the old Theater rule of thumb that three minutes must be allowed for an actor to make a change. She changed in 45 seconds. Gaynor also received the Star Entertainer of the Year trophy from Governor Laxalt.
That same year Joe E. Lewis was roasted by 1,300 of the greatest stars in show business honoring him. Dean Martin was the host, co-host was Frank Sinatra (but he failed to appear) the emcee was George Jessel.
In October of 1970, Liza Minelli teamed up with Rex Kramer and his Wire Band for their special edition of Ring Them Bells.
The Versailles room added to its list of Headliners, Burt Bacharach, Elaine Britt, Marty Brill, George Carlin, Vikki Carr, Phyllis Diller, Carol Channing, Vic Damone, John Davidson, Connie Francis, David Frye, Mitzi Gaynor, Englebert Humperdink, Dean Martin, Mitzi Gaynor and Liza Minelli who had to cover for Mike Douglas when he bowed out for unknown reasons in addition to doing her own show.
April 1971, Dean Martins son Dino was married to Olivia Hussey of Romeo and Juliet fame.
The Versailles room added the 5th Dimension, Woody Allen, the Jack Cathcart Orchestra, Suzi Chung, Norm Crosby, David Frost, Melba Moore, Ray Stevens and Libby McGuire to its list of Headliners.
Dean Martin wanted to perform only one show a night, stars usually appeared each night at 8pm and midnight. Martin was known for bringing in more high rollers at the property than any other celebrity on the Strip.
IN 1972 Dean Martin removed himself from ownership of the Hotel. The owners bought back the 10% he owned. Newspapers reported that he removed himself because of having to appear twice nightly. President Ed Torres stated that they decided to retire Martins stock holdings and revert it to other Riviera owners. They said Martin would remain as an entertainment consultant .
In 1974 The Versailles Room added Peter Gordeno, Joey Heatherton, Mills Brothers, the Smothers Brothers, Dionne Warwick, The Spinners and Bill Withers.
1975 Olivia Newton-John performed at the Versailles room.
1976 Versailles room showcased the Carpenters, Jimmie Walker, Petula Clark, Lennon Sisters, Bob Newhart, Tony Orlando and Dawn, Don Rickles, Neil Sedaka, Pointer Sisters, Bobby Vinton, Myron Cohen, Rich Little, Joel Gray and Liza Minnelli.
1977 Bernadette Peters performed in the Versailles Theater.
1979 Steve Martin was showcased at the Riviera.Shirley MacLaine, Pia Zadora ( who was married to the owner Meshulam Riklis) Bob Newhart and David Brenner performed in the Versailles room. Steve and Eydie, Dolly Parton, Rodney Dangerfield and Anne Murray were added. Paul Anka was showcased in the Versailles.
In 1982 the Versailles showcased Larry Gatlin and the Gatlin Brothers, Dottie West, Joan Rivers, David Brenner and the Village People.
1984 the Versailles room showcased Solid Gold.
That same year Opera Star Pavoratti appeared for a limited run in the Versailles Theater.
June 21, 1985 unveiled Splash starring Frank Gorshin, this was a bold step towards offering a new type of entertainment. It was so unique that it captivated audiences and garnered an unprecedented number of awards for best Production Show in Las Vegas. The aquacade of music and dance took place in and around a 20,000 gallon aquarium while featuring numerous performers and specialty acts. Splash continued up until it closed in 2006.
Later in 1985 the Riviera introduced Norbert Alemans An Evening at La Cage in the Mardi Gras Showroom, a Parisian Style revue of female impersonators and cabaret dancers. The star of the show was 20 year old Frank Marino. This show ran up until February 2009. Frank Marino held the title of Las Vegas longest running Headliner. He is now an Entertainment Legend (see Legends on our home page)
In September 21, 1987 the resort installed a basement style comedy club called the Improv and Crazy Girls Fantasie de Paris.
In 1988 Liza Minelli and Pia Zadora appeared in the Versailles Theater.
Frank Sinatra appeared twice at the Resort in 1990 including New Years when he performed to more than 2,000 people in the Superstar Theater. Room 2902 of the Hotels Monte Carlo or Monaco Tower was redesigned to Sinatras specifications so he could enjoy his stay. Also, in 1991 he had 4 day sold out engagement.
In 1995 a new show debuted Las Vegas Original Comedy Showcase comedians were joined by ventriloquists, hypnotists and magicians. The Mardi Gras Plaza showcased Bottoms up, Bottoms Up II, Crazy Girls, An evening at La Cage. The Grand ballroom showcased Disco Party with Sister Sledge and Evelyn Champagne King.
In 1996 the Grand Ballroom showcased Drew Carey, Tammy Wynette, Ricky Van Shelton, the Beach Boys and Billy Ray Cyrus.
On May 10th 2 1997 to celebrate Crazy Girls 10th anniversary, the Riviera revealed the worlds largest lifecast bronze statue. The Sculpture is 6 feet high, 11 feet long and weighs 1,540 lbs.
1997 the Grand Ballroom showcased Air Supply, Dennis Leary, Pauly Shore and Bobby Vinton. Top of the Riv Ballroom showcased Paul Rodriquez.
Prince Albert went to see Crazy Girls in April 2000 he was so taken with them that he treated them to a night on the town drinking champagne and dancing until the wee hours of the morning.
The Versailles showroom is currently host to ICE a skating spectacular. Live Production from Russia features skaters on stilts, acrobatics, clowns, and beautiful dance scenes, all done on ice skates.
The Riviera is now host to many smaller shows;
Jay White A Neil Diamond Tribute Jay White has the Voice, the Look, The Passion that has audiences world wide exclaiming 'That was Neil Diamond'.
Dr. Scott Lewis - Outrageous Comedy Hypnotist
Tom Stevens Starring in Dean & Friends Tom's outstanding performances as the legendary Dean Martin combined with his uncanny tributes to over 100 celebrities such as Frank Sinatra, Sammy Davis Jr., Jerry Lewis, Elvis Presley, Louis Armstrong, Bobby Darin and even Cher, evoke an era when Las Vegas was the capital of cool.
In 2009 Charo in Concert: A Musical Sensation opened Featuring Charo's virtuoso Flamenco guitar, accompanied by a full orchestra performing her biggest hits, complemented by her dancers, lighting and special effects that make for a thrilling spectacle as only Las Vegas can offer.
If you have any information about the history of entertainment at this property please do contact us, we aim to update this section of the site as frequently as possible so that we can ensure as accurate as possible correct historic information.
|Hotel Name :||Riviera Las Vegas Hotel and Casino|
|Address :||2901 Las Vegas Boulevard South|
|City/Region :||Las Vegas|