Colegrove Photography
Colegrovian Empire
Las Vegas Casinos

Circus Circus

I was watching a large woman pumping a dollar slot machine one day at Circus Circus when a huge roach fell out into the pay out tray along with a few dollars. I could see it scrambling to get out. All hell broke loose when she reached in to pull out her winnings. The roach got away.

There is no doubt about Circus Circus. It is a blue collar palace. Stick the kids upstairs at the tacky midway, stuff yourself at the cheap buffet and lose the trailer payment at the tables. I have stock but I stay away.

I like the Mandalay Bay Group's other resorts, LuxorExcalibur, and Mandalay Bay a bit more but not much more. They also have resorts in Reno.


Half of the Horseshoe in downtown Las Vegas used to be Del Webb's Mint. I liked the old swooping animated facade on the Mint. The Horseshoe bought it out so now the whole block looks the same. The cool stuff to see at the Horseshoe is the one million dollars in $10,000 bills and the fiber optic designs imbedded in the sidewalk outside. The Horseshoe is known for having no betting limit. Several times people have bet a million dollars on one hand of craps.

1/12/01 Update
The cool stuff to see is gone. The million dollars was sold to a currency collector and the sidewalk is back to normal.

6/10/04 Update
The place went bust and was sold to Harrah's. Rumor has it that Harrah's will build a Horseshoe theme hotel on the strip. The downtown Horseshoe is still open.

El Cortez

The El Cortez is an old hotel in downtown. I stayed there one week during COMDEX. My room was behind the neon hotel that spells out El Cor-tez over and over. The sign buzzes, El Cor-tez, El Cor-tez, buzz-buzz-buzz, buzz-buzz-buzz for a week of nights. It drove me nuts.

The El Cortez is cool only when you consider that all the other old hotels are being blown up or remodeled to death. My only gripe is that they packed so many slots into the El Cortez that it is hard to move around.

The El Cortez is old but it is much better than the Lee Motel a few blocks away. I got stuck there one night when I got to Las Vegas a day too early for my reservation at the El Cortez. The Lee has hot and cold running fungus in bathroom and, for entertainment, screaming in Spanish in the next room. I barricaded by door with my luggage and swore I'd be more careful about reservations in the future.

The first hotel I ever stayed at in Las Vegas was the Orbit Inn. I hit town and the cab driver talked me into the place. It was a dump but clean enough. I liked it like I like old furniture. Also, the blackjack dealer was incompetent. I kept seeing his hole card as he dealt. I hit 18's when he had 19 and cleaned up. The Orbit Inn is not there anymore. I think it was remodeled into a chain hotel.


Excalibur is a Disneyesque castle that was one of the first new theme hotels after the Mirage. It was different enough when they built it but it lacks the detail design needed to make it more than a barn with turrets. The buffet is very good. I think it is about even with the new Sahara buffet. The food is not fancy but it is what I like, particularly the carved turkey. Circus Circus held a naming contest during construction. The most frequent entry was Circus Circus' Castle Castle, which would have been a more memorable if not very original name.

1/12/01 Update:
The price of the buffet is up over $10 for dinner.


Luxor was an ambitious design that works on the outside. It is a giant black glass pyramid. Lately, two wings rectangular wings were added and the powerful searchlight beacon at the top of the pyramid was turned down to prevent blinding aircraft. When they first fired up the beacon it was really something. The inside is a twisty maze. I understand that the slanted exterior gathers desert dust at such a high rate they have to employ a full time window cleaning crew.

Mandalay Bay

Outside the Red Square Russian restaurant at Mandalay Bay stands a larger than life size headless statue of Lenin, in a heroic social realist pose, worker's cloth cap in hand. His head is in the vodka freezer.

MGM Grand

The MGM Grand is a Kirk Kirkorian project, like the previous MGM Grand Hotel that is now Bally's. It is a big and confusing jumble of casinos and shopping areas. It is that way in part because the old Marina hotel tower was incorporated into the building.


I went to a meeting at the MGM Grand Convention Center, which is the largest hotel convention center I think I have ever been in. They did not skimp on the decoration and the rooms each have their own LED display panel indicating who is meeting where. The curved panels and spotlights on the ceiling were cool too.

The Sahara Hotel

I've stayed at the Sahara hotel more than at any other place in Las Vegas. The first time I stayed there I was in the old low rise motel section that was where the new parking structure is now. Imbedded in the sidewalk outside the doorway, was a brass plaque that said "Del Webb Construction 1956". I hope somebody saved that when they tore down the motel rooms.

In 1987 I bought a thousand dollars worth of Sahara Limited Partnership shares. I think they are worth about $28 total today. Only the general manager, who was not a very good manager, made out on the deal. As a limited partner I did get a Sahara VIP Gold card which gets me invited to stay at a low casino rate. Each year at COMDEX I try to gamble only at the Sahara to keep getting invited back. It saved IBM about $400 on my room last year, helping me justify my trips to COMDEX.

A few years ago the Sahara was taken over by the guy who used to run Circus Circus. He remodeled the place and put in a new buffet. I liked the old one because it was '50's Las Vegas linoleum and lamps. The new buffet is New Vegas carpet and drywall. The new casino is nice because it is closer to the room elevators but it is very brightly lit.

Across Las Vegas Boulevard from the Sahara is Bonanza Gifts, the place I shop for postcards and souvenir crap in Las Vegas.

I went to see The Rat Pack is Back at the Sahara. The show room was behind the buffet and it was obviously just a convention style ballroom outfitted with risers for seats, like a high school production. The performers did a good job of immitating the originals, with the Joey Bishop style comedian doing the best.


A most impressive architectural achievement in Las Vegas are the Toilettes of Paris. They had real solid wood doors with substantial door latches that indicated occupancy like on airplanes. The floor was large cobble like quarry tile. I was impressed. Most modern construction tends toward maintainability, not style, in public facilities. 

The Venetian

I was not impressed by the Venetian. It seems half finished and it looks like it was made from Plaster of Paris. The shopping mall is a pale imitation of the mall at Caesars and the ceiling of the Casino is so low it felt like being in Trump's dumpy Taj Mahal in A.C. The giant ornate clock out front was eight minutes slow.


The small Las Vegas casino history musem in the Tropicana was worth the time. It is mostly old casino chips and other ephemera from old Nevada casinos. The photographs of Las Vegas in the 50's were interesting. The Flamingo, Dunes, Sands, and Sahara were clusters of two story buildings with lots of desert between them. I also liked the movie on mobsters in the casinos which showed that the ownership of Nevada by the mob was cracked when investigators found the Tropicana's daily casino recipt numbers on pieces of paper in a mobster's pocket. They emphasized ". . . of the Tropicanca. The same hotel you are now in!"