Caesars Palace Turns 50

Caesars Palaces 50th birthday bash pool party

Fifty years ago, Jay Sarno opened Caesars Palace and the Las Vegas Strip was changed forever. When Sarno, a motel operator, builder, and designer, visited Las Vegas for the first time, he was underwhelmed. "Las Vegas hotels at that time just oozed mediocrity," he reportedly said.

Sarno set out to change that, envisioning an extravagant resort where every guest would be treated like the famed Roman Emperor. He was successful beyond his wildest dreams. Caesars Palace ushered in an era of over-the-top luxury and excess that is the central cog in the town's business model to this day.

And it started from day one of the resort's existence. Of the $25 million spent building Caesars, $1 million was spent on the grand opening party that included a stage production of "Rome Swings," with Andy Williams.

So the bar was set high for Caesars Entertainment when the organization celebrated the resort's 50th anniversary last month. How do you mark a milestone for an iconic resort and reinforce its much-storied brand promise? In the case of Caesars Palace, you throw a party for 3,000 of your closest VIP colleagues where the focus is on lavish excess, and, of course, history.
 

Golden Birthday Blast
Jay Sarno would have been pleased. The weekend celebration kicked off with a Friday- night pool party at the picturesque Garden of the Gods, hosted by award-winning chef Gordon Ramsay, with a five-tier cake, champagne toast, and fireworks extravaganza that lit up the already illuminated sky.

The poolside party ended with the winner of the 50th-anniversary nationwide cocktail competition being announced. J.R. Starkus, district manager, brand development and resorts mixology, at Southern Glazers Wine and Spirits of Nevada in Las Vegas, created the Lazy Stroll -- made with Plymouth gin, Cointreau, chamomile-infused honey syrup, fresh lemon juice, and egg white, garnished with dried chamomile flowers. This winning cocktail will be served in select bars at Caesars Palace throughout the rest of the year.

A grand gala event was held on Saturday night, celebrating Caesars' 50-year legacy. The night kicked off with red-carpet photo ops with Liberace, Evel Knievel, Cher, and Muhammad Ali impersonators.

Tony Bennett, the second performer to ever appear at the Circus Maximus Showroom in 1966, headlined the evening, belting out his classics in a fashion that belied his 90 years. Bennett launched his first string of Caesars shows 20 days after the resort opened and was the first and only entertainer ever offered a lifetime contract to perform at Caesars Palace.

Comedian and actor Howie Mandel served as the evening's master of ceremonies and appearances included those by Donny and Marie Osmond; the Righteous Brothers, Jennifer Lopez, Matt Goss (who has been performing at Caesars Palace for the past six years), Calvin Harris, and Mr. Las Vegas himself, Wayne Newton. Throughout the evening, many icons who have made significant contributions to the colorful history and shaped the legacy of Caesars Palace were recognized, including Gordon Ramsay, the Jay Sarno family, and the Knievel family. International Boxing Hall of Famer Thomas "Hitman" Hearns presented an Icon Award to Rasheda Ali in honor of her father Muhammad Ali.

Banquet employee Pete George, at Caesars Palace since day one, was honored for his service, along with four other 50-year employees.

Another honoree was Dr. Kenneth Mattox with the American College of Surgeons whose Trauma, Critical Care & Acute Care Surgery conference has been gathering at Caesars Palace for 49 years, making it the longest-standing convention at the resort.

Caesars will celebrate its 50th anniversary all year long. Special packages have been created that include meals in its celebrity chef restaurants, treatments in the 50,000-square-foot Qua Baths & Spa, and admission into the new 75,000-square-foot Omnia Nightclub. Even the spa is getting in on the celebration with Cleopatra Golden Goddess Facials that utilize 24-karat gold masks.
A Walk Through Time
To commemorate the resort's golden anniversary, a historic self-guided walking tour was created for the VIP party guests to enjoy complete with floor decals to identify 10 photo-worthy locations throughout the 85-acre property.  Features of the tour included the lobby, featured in the movie The Hangover; the iconic fountains that have been the backdrop for some of boxing's best title fights and daredevil jumps by Evel Knievel and his son Robbie; and Bacchanal Buffet, the resort's original restaurant that offered a elaborate multicourse Roman feast. Today, Bacchanal Buffet offers nine live cooking kitchens serving more than 500 dishes daily.

"Since opening in 1966, Caesars Palace has set the standard for the Las Vegas experience," says Mark Frissora, CEO of Caesars Entertainment. "Caesars Palace became an iconic brand by continually transforming its hospitality, entertainment, and gaming products. Our focus on innovation continues as we look ahead to the next 50 years of industry leadership."

The resort is also an innovator. Take The Forum Shops that opened in the 1990s, boasting some of the world's most distinctive fashion brands as well as Wolfgang Puck's Spago, perhaps the first true celebrity chef-driven restaurant. Spago energized the fine dining scene in Las Vegas by breaking the stereotype of buffets and midnight specials, and the city is now ranked among the top culinary towns in the world. Today, the 85-acre resort consists of six hotel towers with 3,980 rooms and 630 suites and villas, 300,000 square feet of meeting space, 25 diverse dining options including restaurants by Gordon Ramsay, Bobby Flay, Nobu Matsuhisa, and Guy Savoy.

The resort is widely credited with introducing the concept of the resident headliner. Frank Sinatra, Sammy Davis Jr., and Cher graced the stage at the Circus Maximus through the 1980s. Specially constructed for Celine Dion's "A New Day" show, The Colosseum at Caesars Palace opened in March 2003. Dion still headlines here, along with Elton John, Reba McEntire, Mariah Carey, and Jerry Seinfeld, among others.

The world's first Nobu Hotel made its debut at Caesars Palace in February 2013, anchored by a 12,775-square-foot restaurant. Serenity is emphasized in the 181-room hotel-within-a-hotel, a welcome respite from the hustle and bustle outside, with natural materials and Nobu's signature Japanese elegance throughout.

"With our portfolio of entertainment superstars and celebrity chefs, the recent room enhancements and new restaurant offerings, Caesars Palace is well poised for the next 50 years," says Frissora.   



Questions or comments? Email [email protected]



This article appears in the September 2016 issue of Successful Meetings.

Why Caesar's Palace?
Plenty of rulers have lived lavish lifestyles -- here's what made Caesar so special


In the early 1960s, the time period when Caesars Palace was in development, America was captivated by everything Greco-Roman. Ben Hur and Cleopatra were huge box office successes and A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum was a Broadway hit.

The popular view of the Roman Empire was that it was a culture that enjoyed excess and knew how to do it right.

That was just what Las Vegas hotel developer Jay Sarno was looking for. "If this is going to be a Roman hotel, it's going to be the most Roman hotel in the world. Every aspect of it," Sarno was quoted as saying.

Baroque Roman architecture, greeters dressed as gladiators, and waitresses in Cleopatra outfits welcomed guests as it swung open its doors on Aug. 5, 1966. The 14-story hotel tower featured some of the most lavish accoutrements found on the Las Vegas Strip including whirlpool tubs, floor-to-ceiling windows, colorful shag carpeting, circular beds, grand pianos, two-story suites, marble sculpture, and colorful fountains.

At the time, the opulent 14-story, 680-room hotel was the most expensive casino ever constructed.

And the rest, as they say, is history.


A Walk Through Time
To commemorate the resort's golden anniversary, a historic self-guided walking tour was created for the VIP party guests to enjoy complete with floor decals to identify 10 photo-worthy locations throughout the 85-acre property.  Features of the tour included the lobby, featured in the movie The Hangover; the iconic fountains that have been the backdrop for some of boxing's best title fights and daredevil jumps by Evel Knievel and his son Robbie; and Bacchanal Buffet, the resort's original restaurant that offered a elaborate multicourse Roman feast. Today, Bacchanal Buffet offers nine live cooking kitchens serving more than 500 dishes daily.

"Since opening in 1966, Caesars Palace has set the standard for the Las Vegas experience," says Mark Frissora, CEO of Caesars Entertainment. "Caesars Palace became an iconic brand by continually transforming its hospitality, entertainment, and gaming products. Our focus on innovation continues as we look ahead to the next 50 years of industry leadership."

The resort is also an innovator. Take The Forum Shops that opened in the 1990s, boasting some of the world's most distinctive fashion brands as well as Wolfgang Puck's Spago, perhaps the first true celebrity chef-driven restaurant. Spago energized the fine dining scene in Las Vegas by breaking the stereotype of buffets and midnight specials, and the city is now ranked among the top culinary towns in the world. Today, the 85-acre resort consists of six hotel towers with 3,980 rooms and 630 suites and villas, 300,000 square feet of meeting space, 25 diverse dining options including restaurants by Gordon Ramsay, Bobby Flay, Nobu Matsuhisa, and Guy Savoy.

The resort is widely credited with introducing the concept of the resident headliner. Frank Sinatra, Sammy Davis Jr., and Cher graced the stage at the Circus Maximus through the 1980s. Specially constructed for Celine Dion's "A New Day" show, The Colosseum at Caesars Palace opened in March 2003. Dion still headlines here, along with Elton John, Reba McEntire, Mariah Carey, and Jerry Seinfeld, among others.

The world's first Nobu Hotel made its debut at Caesars Palace in February 2013, anchored by a 12,775-square-foot restaurant. Serenity is emphasized in the 181-room hotel-within-a-hotel, a welcome respite from the hustle and bustle outside, with natural materials and Nobu's signature Japanese elegance throughout.

"With our portfolio of entertainment superstars and celebrity chefs, the recent room enhancements and new restaurant offerings, Caesars Palace is well poised for the next 50 years," says Frissora.   



Questions or comments? Email [email protected]



This article appears in the September 2016 issue of Successful Meetings.