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February 1, 2024 49 mins

How did the sleepy Nevada town of Las Vegas become LAS VEGAS? Well, we'll let you know over the course of about 45 minutes. 

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Episode Transcript

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Speaker 1 (00:01):
Welcome to Stuff you should Know, a production of iHeartRadio.

Speaker 2 (00:11):
Hey, and welcome to the podcast. I'm Josh, and there's
Chuck and Jerry's here too, and we're just a trio
of root and tutin bandits on stuff you should know.

Speaker 1 (00:22):
Let's just get better and better.

Speaker 2 (00:25):
Well, I wanted to nod to Las Vegas's Old West
I guess history. So, yeah, you know there were bandits there.
They used words like root and tutin. I presume, of
course they did. So it was that propoem in my take.
I agree, thanks man, I appreciate the support.

Speaker 1 (00:47):
So early history of Las Vegas, the earliest we're starting
out and uh, you know with indigenous tribes, and we're
gonna work our way forward to what like the eighties, sure, seventies, No,
maybe even.

Speaker 2 (01:02):
The early nineties, oh, late eighties, early nineties, the nineteen
nineties even, oh wow, all right, so we are going
to start at the beginning. There seems to have been
evidence of habitation. I saw according to PBS that dates
to fifteen thousand years ago, not too shabby. That's even
pre Clovis. There's I've also seen like about ten thousand

years and then the thing that drew people to Las
Vegas a spring, if you can believe it, that actually
turned the area around Las Vegas as we know it
now into kind of a relatively verdant area in a
desert that didn't erupt until eight thousand years ago. So
there might have been people hanging out in like rock
dwellings and caves around there here or there, but it

wasn't like a place you wanted to stay until that
spring came up.

Speaker 1 (01:50):
Yeah, Like Tiktook was wandering around saying, does anyone know
where Carrot Top is playing?

Speaker 2 (01:56):
That's right, man, that guy has had a residency for
ten years now?

Speaker 1 (02:02):
Is he in Vegas? I was kind of kidding.

Speaker 2 (02:04):
Oh no, he's had a residency for ten years now.

Speaker 1 (02:07):
Oh wow, good for him.

Speaker 2 (02:08):
As a matter of fact, it might be more than that.
It might be eight thousand years that he's been there.

Speaker 1 (02:15):
So we did promise talk of and I guess that's
about where we're going to pick up in with our story.

Speaker 2 (02:19):

Speaker 1 (02:20):
Sure, with the new Wuvi people, which are part of
the Southern Paiute Native American tribe who were kind of
all over the place down there southern California, southern Nevada,
southern Utah, northern Arizona kind of in that little strip, yes,
and that they were there in Las Vegas, like you said,

largely because there was a spring there.

Speaker 2 (02:45):
Right, And they were hunters and gatherers, and they were
known for their really well crafted dice.

Speaker 1 (02:54):
We're just going to have those all over the place
for sure.

Speaker 2 (02:56):
For sure. So they lived there among other people too,
and again they were hunter gatherers, so they I don't
believe they were considered permanent inhabitants of the area, but
they definitely lived around there, So I guess it wasn't
until the eighteen twenties. No, even after that. It wasn't
until the eighteen fifties that the area we know of

as Las Vegas was actually first permanently settled, and even
then it was temporary. If that's not enough of a
mind boggler.

Speaker 1 (03:27):
For you, well, are we gonna spoil who that is
by two minutes?

Speaker 2 (03:33):
Yes? I think we should, because I don't want people
to have to wait for that.

Speaker 1 (03:36):
All right, Well, who is it?

Speaker 2 (03:37):
The Mormons?

Speaker 1 (03:38):
That's right, but pre Mormon, when it was just a
little spring, it did become known. It was part of
Mexico at the time, of course, and it became known
as Las Vegas de Quintana the Meadows in Spanish. And
in eighteen twenty nine is when it first sort of
started just being a thing at all, because it was

a stop on what was called the Old Spanish Trail,
which was a trade route between Las Vegas and Los Angeles,
with the stop in Utah on the way.

Speaker 2 (04:10):
Yeah, and again, the reason why you would stop there
is because there's running water there. That's a rarity in
the area. So that alone drew people from time immemorial.
And I think around the eighteen forty is a guy
named John C. Fremont showed up or Fremont, and he
was a surveyor, but he was like a shadester surveyor.
He was sent by the United States to go see

what the land looked like out there and maybe survey
for the United States. But do it surreptitiously, because again,
all of this area belongs to Mexico. We've just been
thinking about maybe taking it over.

Speaker 1 (04:45):
Yeah, and I want to correct myself real quick. It
does the Old Spanish Trail to connect Vegas to La
but it started in Santa Fe. So we want to
sell them short.

Speaker 2 (04:54):
Oh no, not at all.

Speaker 1 (04:55):
We love our Santa.

Speaker 2 (04:56):
Fans, Santa fe Inian nights in.

Speaker 1 (05:00):
The night ganders right. So the US of Mexico went
to war. This is something that I think we should
cover at some point on an episode. From eighteen forty
six to eighteen forty eight, Mexico lost and under the
Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo everything north of the Rio Grand
basically about half of its territory at the time, was

given up, and Las Vegas Decantana was in there. So
now the US government officially is control, is controlling of
what would end up being the Las Vegas we know,
and some of us love, some of us maybe don't
so much. And this was the year eighteen forty eight,
so that was right before the Gold Rush of forty nine,

so it was already a stopover because of that old
Spanish trail, and it was just more firmly entrenched as
these forty nine ers would head west looking to catch
a show and play little Blackjack, I guess, and spend the.

Speaker 2 (05:54):
Night for sure. And that gold Rush of forty nine
is what really disrupted the pious, kind of generally peaceful
occupation of the area because a lot of people came
westward and passed through Vegas, and some even stayed and
decided to stick a claim there. And in eighteen fifty five,

like I said, the Mormons showed up. Brigham Young said
to William Bringhurst, get thee with thirty of thoused people
to thine Las Vegas area and set up a mission. Basically,
he's like, don't kid yourself. Let's build a fort because
we're not exactly sure how this is going to be received. Now, well,
once you've built a fort, maybe, you know, make friendly

contact with the Piute people, teach them how to farm,
and then baptize them when they're not paying attention.

Speaker 1 (06:44):
That's right. He kind of buried the lead, didn't he. Yeah,
So while they were there, they did put up a fort,
they did baptize I think the number was fifty nine
people of you know, Piute people. And then they did
so thing or they found something that ended up being
really kind of key to why Las Vegas continued to

be a thing, which was or they found lead or
and set up a mine nearby. And as you will see,
mining and finding deposits of all kinds of valuable things
ended up being a very you know, key reason Vegas
became Vegas.

Speaker 2 (07:20):
For sure. And let's imagine like having the knowledge of
just how to set up a mind, could you start
a mind today? How to scratch? I couldn't know. I'd
be like, I don't I don't know what I'm doing.
But that's what they did, and like you said, it
kind of created this this legacy discovery. But they they

ran into a problem that would be a problem for
much for a while longer, and that was that the
intensive agriculture they were trying to create was not sustainable
by the spring that had burst forth eight thousand years before. Yeah, yeah,
it was good. You could raise a little bit of crops.
You could definitely do some hunter gathering. You could get
a nice cool drink and bathe in it. But you

really couldn't do anything major with it. And so Brigham
Young said, get Thoust back to Thine Salt Lake area
and just bring it in. But they left that fort,
and that fort actually is still there today, in part
because a succession of people kind of came along and said,
this is a really handy thing to have.

Speaker 1 (08:23):
Yeah. Absolutely, I mean, you know, there was some other
stuff there. There were some cabins and you know, remnants
of life. So, like you said, when people would pass
through there because it was still a stop on that
trade trail, people would be like, oh great, we can
you know, we can kind of use this stuff. And
that happened with a gentleman named Octavius decatur Gas who

was from that's two s's by the way, and he
was from Ohio and went to California in eighteen fifty
selling prefab homes, which was great timing, yeah, because you
know that that forty nine er gold rush boom. It
was just on the heels of that, and people needed
places to live. They're kind of getting tired of those
canvas tents, I guess. So he had these little prefab

kit houses he was selling, and I think was doing
pretty well for himself doing that. But then he kind
of noticed everything that was going on around him as
far as people getting rich, staking claims and mining, and
he was like, I want to get in on that,
and he staked a claim, well several even, but one
at Eldorado Canyon, about fifty miles away from that original

Mormon fort.

Speaker 2 (09:29):
Yeah, so I saw The Las Vegas Review Journal described
od Gas as the kind of guy where opportunity frequently knocked,
but he was always in the bathtub, And I think
that really kind of gets it across. This guy tried
a lot of stuff, but was I mean, he was
modestly successful, but his ambitions were never were never reached.

But he kind of found his way into, you know,
just enough success, but it would always be relatively short lived.
And that came as far as Las Vegas is con
and when he happened upon that old Mormon fort with
a couple of buddies that he'd made in the mining trade,
and they decided to give up mining for a little

while and take that fort and convert it into a
ranch to make a rest stop for travelers on their
way west. And this was actually a pretty smart move
because again there's water there. But more to the point,
they used some of that water to grow grape vines,
which they turned into wine, which is even harder to
find in the desert than water at this time. And

that made that place a must stop pit stop on
the way out to Los Angeles.

Speaker 1 (10:38):
Yeah, I mean you could stop there and get a drink.
It was like the seeds of early Las Vegas already planted.

Speaker 2 (10:45):
Yeah. The thing is is it was probably red wine
and red wine and like the hot dry desert is
not a good mix.

Speaker 1 (10:53):
No, it certainly as we know, you know how American
wine has grown. Now, it's not an ideal place to
grow wine. But back then I think it was like, okay,
we can grow some grapes that will get you.

Speaker 2 (11:03):
Drunk, right. I think that was the point, which is
very vegacy.

Speaker 1 (11:07):
It's very vegacy. So things start to accumulate there, as
in people and just you know, minors, people kind of
growing the town around him. He obviously is the I
guess sort of founder. Sorry bring him young. Was enjoying power.
You know, he was the first guy there to set

up stakes for real, and so he ended up having
like influence and power. And when the US government said,
you know what we want to do here is we
want to actually redraw these lines and these territory lines,
and we want to actually scoot Nevada over to where
this weird Vegas ranches encompass within Nevada, he was like, no,

like this is Arizona. I'm really upset by this, to
the point where he e he even tried to like
clip off the point of Lincoln count to make a
Las Vegas County, and he wasn't able to because he
had all of a sudden, a bunch of Nevadens, well
they weren't state Nevadens yet, but Nevada territorians removed from

his constituency. So he was sort of left with no sway. No.

Speaker 2 (12:18):
I mean, it's tough to be a politician when you're
not actually representing anybody, because they all moved because they
didn't want to pay the new Nevada taxes. So his
political life kind of petered out. Apparently he was slapped
with a two year tax bill too, and I couldn't
find whether he actually paid it or not. From what
I can tell about him, he probably didn't. But he

set about reinvesting himself into the ranch. He got married,
had a couple of kids, raised them on the ranch too,
and his wife Mary, by the way, the Paiute people
who worked for them called her long Eye because apparently
she was a crack rifle shot. So they're kind of
farming doing the ranch thing, making their way. And I

guess he had borrowed about five thousand dollars from a
guy named Archibald Stuart. He basically mortgaged his ranch for
five grand and he's planning on paying it back with
a bumper crop that he was expecting of pink beans,
which are delicacy in the area. I can't remember what
else he grew, making wine, all that stuff, And apparently

it was a freak weather. There's this terrible weather that
year and his crop got wiped out, and so he
was forced to basically hand over the ranch to Archibald Stuart,
and he and his wife and kids moved to Pomona.

Speaker 1 (13:34):
Yeah, what a great place to end up. Sure, I
love Pomona.

Speaker 2 (13:38):
I've never been.

Speaker 1 (13:40):
I've just been once. I one saw the Shins play
a show in Pomona. Oh wow, what a story. Yeah.
The only thing I remember about that show is Emily
and I were really bugged because the crowd was young
and they weren't like getting into it. You're like, what's
going on here? This is like a great show.

Speaker 2 (13:56):
Yeah, how would you end up at that show if
you weren't into the Shins?

Speaker 1 (14:00):
I don't know. Or maybe they were just just trying
to play cool.

Speaker 2 (14:03):
They were like, play that song from gardens toat Oh God.

Speaker 1 (14:07):
So in the meantime, things are really booming just in
that area of Eldorado Canyon as far as mining goes,
Like copper and lead and gold and silver and everything.
Like people are getting rich out there, it gets a
little rowdy, of course, whenever you know miners are sticking
claims and making a whole lot of money, there's going
to be some lawlessness. But it was a good place

to be if you wanted to mine, if you didn't
mind the heat so much. The one problem was they
didn't have a railroad yeah to get that stuff places.
So their only really route was to use these armed
freight wagons, which were slow and expensive. And they were like,
we need a.

Speaker 2 (14:46):
Railroad, yeah, And the railroad had already been established by
eighteen sixty nine, it just wasn't in Las Vegas because
it was still just kind of a dusty wagon trail town.
Now it was rich and it needed help getting those
riches out of Las Vegas. So the railroads were like, oh, okay,

we'll come over there, and so they started building a railroad.
There was a reason why Las Vegas got a railroad,
and it was actually two dudes, two very wealthy dudes,
butting heads, trying to get control over the railroad in
that area. And I say, we tell their story when
we come back from a break.

Speaker 1 (15:24):
Let's do it learn and stuff with Joshua John stuff.

You shut up, all right. So this is the story
of a sort of a brief little railroad war. That's
hard to say, so I'm not going to say it again.
One guy was William Clark. He was a copper tycoon
from Montana, was also in northern politics. And the other

guy was a guy named E. H. Harriman, and he
was the head of the Union Pacific Railroad. He was
looking for a connection to California. He was shut out
of San Francisco, so he looked south toward Los Angeles.
Clark wanted to get in on this mining boom, and
he said, well, I think we should have a train

there as well, so we can connect this Salt Lake
city to Los Angeles. It can go sort of that
old Spanish trade route actually, and it can go right
here through Las Vegas and I can use it and
it'll be great. He bought a small railroad that ended
in la and started to build a connection. When he
and Harriman started butting.

Speaker 2 (16:58):
Heads, right turned out they finally managed to come to
terms with one another. Because William Clark was really interested
in Vegas and building a town out of Vegas. Whereas
Harriman was more interested in the actual railroad. So I
guess Clark sold his interest to Harriman and started focusing

on building a town around this new railroad line through Vegas.
And what's interesting is William Clark, he was extraordinarily rich,
but his competition in staking and laying out a town
in Las Vegas was an African American land surveyor named J. T.
McWilliams who had heard that William Clark was going to

build this railroad through Las Vegas and started buying up
land around I think the west side of the railroad,
and he started building a town there. And there were
two towns on Vegas on the west side of the tracks,
on the east side of the tracks. The east side
was Clark's and the west side was McWilliams, And those
were like the rival towns when Vegas was first established,

I believe, starting around nineteen oh five.

Speaker 1 (18:07):
Yeah, super interesting little side story there, I love it.
Thanks much forgotten to history, I think. So in nineteen
oh three, he Clark, that is, purchased that ranch Las
Vegas Rancho and that spring from Helen Stewart, who was
the widow of the gentleman who had foreclosed on what's

his name, Bass cas or Gods Gots, so he owned
all this land. Now he subdivided it up into about
twelve hundred lots, started auctioning them off in May nineteen
or sort of late nineteen oh four, and then in
spring nineteen oh five people started building there. And it
was like people were paying pretty good money for these

lots back then, considering you know where it was. And
because all of this, Clark County is named after William Clark.

Speaker 2 (18:59):
To day, that's really funny because Mark Twain called William
Clark like basically the worst human being alive. He had
bribed the Montana legislature to make him a senator. And
we actually have the seventeenth Amendment to the Constitution, which
says that senators are directly elected rather than appointed by
state legislators like they used to because of William Clark.

And I didn't realize that they named the county after him.

Speaker 1 (19:24):
That's interesting, right, So I'm sure everyone's like, when are
you guys going to start talking about gambling and casinos?

Speaker 2 (19:30):
Just give us like twenty minutes.

Speaker 1 (19:33):
No, we're there. So gambling in Vegas, just like much
of the United States was a thing like people have
gambled off and on in the United States since there's
been a thing. They weren't necessarily casinos, but people would
play cards, they would play dice, they would play poker,
all the kind of like good old fashioned, you know,

person to person gambling games. In eighteen sixty one, this
is a few years before statehood, so this is in
eighteen sixty one, the governor said, gambling is a felony.
You can't do it here. You can't do it. Apparently
there was what they call the progressive movement at the
time that wanted to get rid of all kinds of
vices like that. And then eighteen sixty nine, after they

got their statehood about five years later, they legalized it
for geeze about forty years, but then reverse that made
it illegal again in nineteen oh nine. Sure, but in
that time after nineteen oh nine that it was illegal,
they said like, hey, listen, you can have your poker games,
you can have your dice games, you can gamble against

other people and stuff like that, but what you can't
do is what's called wide open gambling, which is gambling
against the house as the bank. Right.

Speaker 2 (20:46):
Then they reversed that too in nineteen thirty one, thanks
to the depression and the local minds kind of falling
on hard times, they Las Vegas or I guess Nevada
passed what's called the Eide Open Gambling Bill, that's what
they called it, and they said, yeah, you can have
a you can become a licensed gambling establishment, and we're

going to regulate you and tax the heck out of you.
But you can gamble. Now, what's funny is the Nevada
still doesn't have a lottery. Like they said, yes you
can gamble, No, you can't have a lottery. And I
think at first it was to protect locals. They started
they legalized gambling to pull tourists in even from the outset.
And then now I think the gaming companies that run

the casinos in Vegas or they just opposed a lottery
anytime it comes up because they don't want to even
have that as competition.

Speaker 1 (21:41):
Like that five dollars that you spend on a scratch off,
we want you to put that into our slot machine.

Speaker 2 (21:47):
Yeah, you could be doing that. You can put it
on roulette, whatever you want to do, as long as
you're betting it with us.

Speaker 1 (21:52):
Yeah, I could totally see that. So they're fighting the
depression in nineteen thirty one by legalizing gambling. Construction the
Hoover Dam started that same year, and all of a
sudden you had people nearby that had a little money
in their pocket, which was they were, I guess happy
to go over to what was you know, sort of

the first area of Vegas to feature casinos was Fremont
Street and things started happening there was there's actually one
of those casinos that opened in nineteen oh six called
the Golden Gate is still in Las Vegas. Yeah, that
I'd looked up pictures. I've never been inside it, but
I'm gonna check it out next time im in Vegas.
It looks super cool in old school.

Speaker 2 (22:34):
It's on the Fremont Street experience.

Speaker 1 (22:35):
Right, I have no idea I think it is. So.

Speaker 2 (22:39):
I don't know if anyone has been to Vegas recently,
but in the nineties they closed off a six block
stretch of Fremont Street that has a lot of these
original casinos and hotels on them and made it just
pedestrian only, and then they covered it with a light
show roof that has forty nine million led lights across it.

Speaker 1 (23:01):

Speaker 2 (23:01):
And so it's it's it's whatever that weird non time
of day is that they always is indoors in Vegas.
They managed to do that on a six block stretch
of street. So it's really something that's called the Fremont
Street experience. And these first casinos and resorts that's what that's.

That was them and some of them are still there.
Like you said, the Golden Gate or the Yeah, the
Golden Gate is it?

Speaker 1 (23:28):
Uh? Is it awesome to like walk under that thing?

Speaker 2 (23:30):
It's pretty cool. It's cool. It's got a lot of
street performers like Man's Chinese Theater, Times Square, but then
it has a lot of history that Neon Museums there,
the mob museums there. Like it's it's pretty well done,
to tell you the truth. Vegas vic that like fifty
foot tall cowboy that is so iconic from Vegas from

the Pioneer Club. Oh he's there. Yeah, it's pretty neat.

Speaker 1 (23:57):
All right, I'll check it out, but just.

Speaker 2 (23:59):
Be where you could. I'm going to make a case
it's a bit of a tourist trap.

Speaker 1 (24:04):
So we recommend are we recommending it officially?

Speaker 2 (24:07):

Speaker 1 (24:08):
All right, go to meol Well first and then go
to that.

Speaker 2 (24:10):
Okay, all right.

Speaker 1 (24:12):
So this was again the nineteen thirties, so there was
illegal gambling going on all over Los Angeles at the time,
and they were like, hey, Vegas is not that far.
Pretty soon there'll be a very cheap and quick Southwest
Airlines flight that goes there four hundred times a day.
But now we can make that drive at least through
the desert, just like Vince Vaughn did, and swingers and

gamble our little hearts away. And one of those guys
was well, he was a guy. His name was Guy.
His name was Guy McAfee, and he was the commander
of the LAPD Vice Squad, which is to say, at
the time he was probably dirty and crooked because he
was swept out along with a lot of the corruption

in the early nineteen thirties and the LAPD one of
their one of the first runs at making the LAPD
straight and narrow. I guess, like, I'm not banging on them.
I think they have a rich history of corruption, right.
I just didn't want to sound too harsh, but we
all know that we've seen the movies. Sure, But he
was known as the Captain and he was at the

time in La married to a madam, a Hollywood madam
who ran a string of gambling houses. They were all
connected to the Mob, of course, and the riding was
on the wall that he needed to get the heck
out of Dodge, which was La and he said, Vegas
seems like kind of the perfect landing spot for me.

Speaker 2 (25:38):
Yeah, And so he showed up and bought the Golden Nugget.
He bought another place called the Pair o Dice Club,
which I read that five times before I got it.
The Paradise Club. Oh, well, I got it, you got
it now.

Speaker 1 (25:52):
I didn't get it the first one.

Speaker 2 (25:53):
Okay, good, I'm glad it wasn't just me.

Speaker 1 (25:54):
I thought you were just confused by a pair of dice.

Speaker 2 (25:57):
No, no, no, no, it was the point I didn't get.

Speaker 1 (25:59):
Yeah, yeah, yeah, I get it now.

Speaker 2 (26:01):
And the reason why I finally got it is because
he set up an area outside of Las Vegas city
limits that he named Paradise Paradise, Nevada. It's technically not
a town, it's unincorporated Clark County, but he named it
after his club, Paro Dice. But he called this area Paradise.
And this is the strip, This is the Las Vegas

Strip still today, everything from the Bellaggio, the Venetian, the
Win the Cosmopolitan, the Staybridge Suites. All of them are
actually outside of Las Vegas city limits in this unincorporated
part of Clark County called Paradise that was set up
in the nineteen thirties by a corrupt LAPD Vice squad

commander named Guy McAfee.

Speaker 1 (26:47):
Nice subnation, thanks. So this is where I mean they
called it the Strip then, and this is where things
really started to boom all this development began. Mind you,
this was still in the nineteen four so they were
still sort of the ranch style, low lying, not you know,
these big high rises that would come later on. We'll
get to that.

Speaker 2 (27:08):
They were like s kicker casino resorts.

Speaker 1 (27:11):
Oh totally. I think everyone knows what you mean, right, Yeah, I.

Speaker 2 (27:14):
Think so, you know, kicking what I said, what I
was gonna say, I'm just kidding.

Speaker 1 (27:23):
So there was a hotel here from California named Thomas Hall.
He opened the first sort of all self contained in
and of itself luxury casino resort in nineteen forty one
called l Rancho Vegas, named after he had other properties
name named Rancho. As the story goes, his car broke
down outside of Vegas, and he was out there burning

up in the heat, and he had like a vision
for to just be in a swimming pool, and so
he was like, that needs to happen out here. So
that's what he did. He opened up the first big
place that had swimming pools and.

Speaker 2 (28:00):
Restaurants, movie stars.

Speaker 1 (28:02):
Movie stars and opera house, had places where you could shop.
It had the casino, of course, like the first what
we think of as a casino was that one. And
he did pretty well with it. They had show girls,
they had the whole nine yards.

Speaker 2 (28:15):
Yeah, they were the first one to have Vegas showgirls.
And I wasn't joking when I said movie stars. Clark
Gable was very famously stationed at El Rancho, Vegas when
Carol Lombard, his wife, died in a plane crash nearby,
I think on Table Mountain on the way to Las Vegas.
And he wasn't the only one. Like this was a

place where stars from La came. And as people from
people in Vegas started building places that like the cream
of the crop of Hollywood stars wanted to hang out,
it gave Vegas like the veneer of glamour that it
originally had. This is when it started the early forties.

Speaker 1 (28:59):
Yeah, and you know things were booming throughout the forties
and then into the fifties is when things even kicked
into a higher gear, like Vegas are just ramping up
more and more through the decades. That's when the Desert
End was built, the El Dorado Club downtown, which would
become Beny Binyon's Horseshoe Club. I think it's now just Binyons. Actually,

I think for a few years now it hasn't been
there at all, but it became Binions. It was famous
because the World Series of Poker was there every year.
In nineteen fifty five, the first high rise opened, which
was the Riviera. It was behind stories and get this,
they paid Liberachi fifty thousand dollars per week in nineteen

fifty five to play there.

Speaker 2 (29:46):
In nineteen fifty five money.

Speaker 1 (29:48):
That's six hundred and thirty one thousand dollars a week. Oh,
westake totally as is our tradition. Fifty eight Stardust opened
and we saw the debuts of a couple of gentlemen
who would be Vegas legends. Wayne Newton and Frank Sinatra
debuted there. And then also in the fifties is when
the first sort of boom and the wedding chapel business started.

Speaker 2 (30:10):
Yeah. And then I saw somewhere I cannot remember where
that no less than ten major casino resorts were built
in the fifties. That is an amazing building boom, Like
this is when Las Vegas became Vegas as we know it,
like it nostalgically, right. I also saw somewhere that I

think eleven were built and of those eleven, ten of
them were either financed by or outright owned by the mafia.
That was when the mafia really got its grip on
Las Vegas in the early fifties and throughout actually even
in the forties, the mid to late forties thanks to
a guy named Bugsy Seagull. But by the fifties, when

the fifties rolled around, like it was just it seemed
like it was reversible, the grip that the mob had
on Las Vegas.

Speaker 1 (31:03):
Yeah, totally.

Speaker 2 (31:05):

Speaker 1 (31:05):
And you said the words, Bugsy Siegel, and that feels
like a great place for a break, learn and stuff

with Joshua John stuff fu shine up.

Speaker 2 (31:45):
Okay, So Chuck, I said, Bugsy Siegel, I'm actually talking
about one Benjamin Siegelbaum, who was born in nineteen oh six,
and by the time he reached his teenage years was
already running protection rackets on poor street push cart pedlars,
because you know, a protection racket means like, I'm going
to protect you from me if you don't give me,
if you give me money. If you don't, then I'm

going to come after you.

Speaker 1 (32:07):
Right yeah.

Speaker 2 (32:08):
This guy was doing this as a teenager. He became
friends with a guy named Meyer Lanski, and the two
of them together started bootlegging in during Prohibition, right.

Speaker 1 (32:20):
Yeah, and this was in New York. They eventually merged
with what was called the Syndicate, which was a nationwide
criminal enterprise, you know, it was the mob and Siegel
then formed a spinoff organization called Murder Inc. I totally
think we should do a whole episode on Murder Inc.

At some point. Sure, so we're not going to get
too into it, but Murder Inc. Was exactly like it sounds.
It was an organization that did contract killings. Apparently between
four hundred and one thousand contract killings took place at
the hand of Murder Inc. Including supposedly about thirty individuals
personally killed by Bugsy Siegull.

Speaker 2 (33:02):
Yeah, if you have a criminal gang called murder Inc. Yeah,
that's going to draw the attention of the authorities. And
that happened very much in New York, and all of
a sudden they tried to crack down on the Murder
Ink gang member. So Bugsy Siegel said, so long New York,
I'm heading out west, and he landed in Los Angeles.
He was staying at the mansion of his girlfriend, Virginia Hill,

who herself was a mafioso. I guess mafiosa. She was
from Alabama but had somehow fallen into the mob. She
was a mafiosa as well. She wasn't just like a mall.
She was a gangster herself.

Speaker 1 (33:42):
Yeah. And she was played by Annette Benning to her
Warren Beatty to her, Warren Baby her husband. And it's
a great movie.

Speaker 2 (33:55):
I've never seen it.

Speaker 1 (33:56):
Ooh, man, Bugsy was awesome. Really yeah, yeah, yeah, it
was really really good. I mean, Warren Beatty didn't make
a bad movie that he directed.

Speaker 2 (34:06):
Oh he directed it, didn't he direct? dISHTAR uh uh?

Speaker 1 (34:10):
I don't think so.

Speaker 2 (34:11):
Oh, Okay, I've never seen his star. I haven't either,
but I was alive at the time. O Ye, enough
that I know it was just a punchline even still
in twenty twenty four.

Speaker 1 (34:22):
Yeah, I'm pretty sure he directed Bugsy, but I'll have
to check that at any rate. Really really good movie.

Speaker 2 (34:27):
Right, Okay, So that's about those two, and really it's
about Bugsy Siegel, and really it's about Bugsy Siegel building
Las Vegas. That is true to an extent in that
he really was the one who brought the mob to Vegas,
and apparently it was through some sort of happenstance. He
was living out in Hollywood and he met a guy

named Billy Wilkerson who was a gambler, a hotelier who
was trying to build like a really class joint out
in Vegas. And he said, Bugsy, why don't you come
in on this. Let me borrow some money from you.
You can have a stake in this hotel we're gonna build.
And Bugsy said, as long as it's not one of
those s kicker, you know, old Western hayseed themed resorts,

I'm in. And she said, no, no, no, that's gonna be
a great place. I don't know what we're gonna call
it yet, and Bugsy said, well, let's call it the
Flamingo because that's my nickname for my girlfriend, Virginia Hill
because she has really long legs. So we're going to
call this place Flamingo is like, you know, a little
wink toward her. And Bugsy was suddenly in the casino
resort building business. And he got in even further when

Billy Wilkerson couldn't pay him back because Bugsy said, well,
I'm going to kill you if you don't give me
this hotel. And that was the exit of Billy Wilkerson
and the real entree of Bugsy Siegel into Las Vegas,
which established the Mafia, the Syndicate, the mob as we
know it, into Vegas. And this was about the mid
nineteen forties.

Speaker 1 (35:56):
Yeah, he really And by the way, Barry Levison directed,
So I was wrong on that, Okay, but it's still
really good. Barry Letts didn't direct many bad movies either.

Speaker 2 (36:05):
Didn't he do Diner?

Speaker 1 (36:07):
Yeah? Great movie? Okay, you didn't like Diner?

Speaker 2 (36:09):
I haven't seen it. I was just I was legitimately
ask I wasn't throwing shaite on Diner.

Speaker 1 (36:14):
No, no, no. But when you said okay, oh, I know that.

Speaker 2 (36:17):
I could read between my own lines, but I didn't
mean to write anything.

Speaker 1 (36:20):
Then, Uh, well, that's a good quote. So he really
got involved in this casino, like the building, the design.
Like he wasn't just like all right, I'm gonna sort
of run this thing now and just let everyone do
their thing. He was involved in like the minutia of
the detail of the design of like picking out the

bedsheets and like you know, the artwork that hung in
the rooms. Like he was really really I think he
kind of found himself, Like he went to La to
try to be an actor. He was no good at that,
Like he always felt like wanted to be something more
than like a two bit mobster, which is what he was.

Speaker 2 (37:00):
Well he no, he wasn't too big. He was like
the wet narcotics importer in the west on the West coast.

Speaker 1 (37:06):
Yeah, yeah, I didn't mean too bit. I just meant
he didn't want to be looked at as the mobster.
That's why he tried to be an actor, gotcha, he tried.
He tried to be a hotel yer, right, hotel yer. Yeah,
but you know, none of that stuff was working out,
including initially at least the Flamingo, because when they opened it,
it was not a big hit right out of the gate.

Much to the chagrin of the syndicate.

Speaker 2 (37:30):
He lost three hundred thousand dollars in one week the
first week it was open, and it was such a
huge loss that he had to shut the place down
so he didn't lose any more money, and he had
to get back to kind of reconfiguring things. Apparently they
didn't have rooms ready when they opened, so all the
gamblers came and then took their money elsewhere. All of

those details that he had personally selected were really expensive.
The original price tag was a million dollars. It ballooned
up to past six million. So yeah, there's a very
widely held belief that Bugsy was in hot water with
the mafia partners including Meyer, Lanski and Lucky Luciano, who
were backing him and his venture into Las Vegas. The

thing is, he supposedly when he reopened out of the
Gate the Flamingo in nineteen forty seven, started to become profitable.
So I've seen people say like, no, he actually wasn't
in hot water with his mafia people. And the reason
why it matters is because six months after it reopened,

or a few months after it reopened in June of
nineteen forty seven, Bugsy Seagull was assassinated hit in his
own home in well, Virginia Hills home in Los Angeles.

Speaker 1 (38:48):
Yeah, hit through the window from behind, kind of sitting
on the couch. It's a great scene in the movie
His You know, the traditional thinking is that Lucky Luciano
and the syndicate was behind it, right Mayer Lansky, who
was his sort of oldest friend throughout this whole thing
because they were buddies back in New York in the

early days. I think just it was sort of seeing
the sad demise of his friend and what was going on.
Ben Kingsley is so so good as Mayor Lansky in
the movie. But not everyone believes it was a mob hit.
There's a guy named Bernie Sendler who was a emissary
for Lansky back in the day, and back then he

was on the record of saying like, I don't like
a lot of this deadn't add up as being a
mob hit. I think it was one of Virginia Hill's brothers,
one of her Marine Corps brothers, that was angry that
she was like wrapped up in all this stuff.

Speaker 2 (39:44):
Yeah, he makes the point. And this guy was literally
here at the time like he was working in Vegas
with Siegull and others at the time, so he knows
what he's talking about. He was saying that Siegel was
legit enough that you would have had to have get
gotten permi directly from Lucky Luciano, or the order would
have come directly from Lucky Luciano to kill Bugsy Seagull.

And then this guy's this guy's opinion, Maya Orlansky never
would have allowed that. He wouldn't have just stepped aside
and let his old friend be murdered hit and again
like he wasn't apparently in hock to the mob in
any way that he couldn't repay. So yeah, this guy,
this guy said it was one of Virginia Hill's brothers. Also,

he's got some pretty good points. One he said that
was not a mob hit. The mob doesn't use M
one carbines and shoot through an open window, Like they
take you on a car ride and the guy seated
behind you in the car shoot you in the head,
so they don't know, Yeah, that's how that's how the
mafia hit you. Right, So he's like it just didn't
add up to a mob hit. So that's a pretty

pretty interesting surprising thing. But if you think about it,
Bugsy was there for just a couple of years. But
the the the gains he made and the the ground
where he laid for the mafia is what led directly
to that huge boom in the control of the mafia
of Las Vegas that just erupted in the fifties.

Speaker 1 (41:11):
Oh yeah, and then you know, into the sixties it
was firmly entrenched as like a mob hangout, obviously, a
place where you could gamble, where you could go and
get married in two seconds or divorced in two seconds,
where sex work was legal. I think in sixty three,
these guys Dick Taylor and Pat Howell wrote a book

called Las Vegas not a colon but a Comma rare
city of sin question mark. And that's where supposedly the
name sin City came around. Really kind of linked up
well with everything that was going on there at the time.

Speaker 2 (41:47):
Great movie too, Sin City. Remember it was like based
on a graphic novel. It's got like Owen and.

Speaker 1 (41:55):
Oh yeah, yeah, man, it's so good. That's Sin City.
That was good. Yeah, like the black and white Yeah, yeah,
really good. And the other big thing that happened in
the early sixties was mccaren Airport opened up in nineteen
sixty two, which, all of a sudden, you know, that
Southwest Airlines flight could start happening, although I don't know
if it happened back then, so don't google that.

Speaker 2 (42:17):
Yeah, so it wasn't just people from La and you know,
Arizona coming to Las Vegas. Now, all of a sudden,
there was people around the world. And apparently by the
seventies the largest population of tourists in Las Vegas were Midwesterners.

Speaker 1 (42:31):

Speaker 2 (42:32):
Yeah, pretty funny. Oh as residents, no, no, no, as tourists
as visitors. Like the airport really really changed things. One
other really big thing that changed things in the sixties
for Vegas was Howard Hughes. So I said before it
looked like the Mob's grip on Las Vegas was irreversible,
and it may have been, and if Howard Hughes hadn't

have shown up. And he did a couple of things.
One he started buying casinos and hotels from the Mob directly. Yeah,
so for I think a little period in the sixties
maybe seventies, he was the single largest casino owner in
the in town. So he just basically took over from
the MOB by buying them out. And then also he

proposed that Las Vegas and Nevada the Gaming Commission changed
their rules about corporate ownership because before, if you were
a corporation and you wanted to own a casino, every
single shareholder had to pass a background check. You could
be talking about thousands of people. It was just untenable.
You couldn't do it. And he said, why don't you

just make it so that the key players, like the
real high up execs who are going to be running
the place, just do backgrounds on them, forget the shareholders.
And the Gaming Commission said, that's a that's a really
good idea. And now all of a sudden, the Mob
had competition from Wall Street and huge corporations that were
coming in and they ended up getting muscled out.

Speaker 1 (43:58):
Yeah, I mean that was that was it. That was
either the beginning of the beginning or the beginning of
the end, depending on which way you want to look
at it. Yeah, but once Wall Street corporations could kind
of stroll in there and just start buying up these
properties that you know, this is in the in the
sixties and seventies, so this is this is still like
a boom time for Vegas. It's a city that's seemingly

always expanding and under construction. Like I don't remember going
to Vegas. I started going there in the I guess
like nineteen ninety one or so was my first trip,
And every time I've been has just struck me as like,
are they ever going to stop developing and building in
this town? And probably not, because it continued all, you know,

all through them. They've had their lulls. I think there
was you know, some years here and there, within decades
that things weren't aren't as robust and where they were,
you know, where the gambling industry and the whole sin
industry sort of took a little bit of a hit,
but not that much.

Speaker 2 (45:03):
Well, it wasn't even necessarily that that it took a hit.
It was that Vegas it just lost its glitz and glamour,
especially starting in the seventies and in through the eighties,
where it just became tacky. That's what everybody thought of
as a tacky. The entertainers who used to like draw
crowds internationally, they weren't there. The people who were performing

in Vegas, their careers were washed up, right, So like
that was great.

Speaker 1 (45:30):
Yeah, nope.

Speaker 2 (45:31):
The food was terrible, like all you can eat prime
rib for like five dollars kind of stuff. This idea
of Vegas in the eighties. It was just decrepit and
a place you went like as a lark or if
you had like a serious gambling problem and liked five
dollars prime rib.

Speaker 1 (45:46):
Right. Yeah.

Speaker 2 (45:49):
And in the same way that Howard Hughes kind of
came along and was like, I'm going to save this town,
Steve Wynn did the same thing at a time when
Vegas was viewed as super tacky and backs and just lame.
He invested hundreds of millions of dollars into the Mirage
and he opened it, gave thirty million dollars to Sigfried

and Roy and completely changed the face of Las Vegas,
completely changed the market who they were trying to attract.
They were suddenly attracting families, like it was okay to
bring your kids to Vegas now, like there was something
for everybody. And he completely saved Las Vegas.

Speaker 1 (46:25):
Yeah, for sure. I think like a place like Caesar's
before that did a lot to sort of raise the
you know, the perception of Vegas is it's but it
wasn't like in the family way, No, in like.

Speaker 2 (46:40):
The fantasy way though, like like that. They definitely started that,
I think, Yeah.

Speaker 1 (46:45):
I mean when they started building casinos with roller coasters
and playgrounds and more family friendly shows, because you know,
at one point Vegas like all those shows were like
topless basically, right, and then all of a sudden, if
you had family friendly stuff going on, it was it
was like, hey, you don't have to just you know,

the gambling addict in your family isn't the only one
that's going to want to come here. Now you can.
You can be that and drag your kids along and
they can go see a kid friendly show.

Speaker 2 (47:16):
Yeah, they're like, definitely, bring the gambling addict in your family,
We want them there. But you guys can come too, right.

Speaker 1 (47:23):
Yeah, And it got a lot more expensive, you mean,
the old Vegas days, even when I first started going there,
you could get a pretty cheap room and a pretty
cheap meal. But that that all changed. Vegas is not
a cheap town, to know it anymore.

Speaker 2 (47:35):
It changed thanks to Steeve whenn in that whole shift,
and now it kind of shifted again to this kind
of like ultra luxury destination and that's where we are
right now. Yeah, well, let's Las Vegas up to basically now.
I know we said we're going to go to late
eighties and nineties, but we took it even further. So
if you didn't like that, sorry, If you want to

know more about Las Vegas, start reading about it, go
visit it. Whatever you want to do. And since I
said whatever you want to do is time for listener may.

Speaker 1 (48:08):
This is gasoline cleaning mystery resolved. We had a few
people write in about that. In the episode The Teleisian
Massacre from December twenty twenty, you discuss how the instigator
and murder at the scene of the crime was in
a state worker named Julian Carlton. While retrieving the gasoline
that caused part of the fire incident and the property,
he told his boss that he was getting the gasoline

to clean a rug. Why do I remember this tiny
detail because at the end of the episode, Josh says
he found Carlton's grave on the website Find a Grave,
and rather innocuously, a pop up bubble on the site,
prompting the viewer to write a moving memory, said what
is one thing you'll always remember about Julian Chuck answered
that question by saying he could really get the stain

out of a rug. And I found that joke absolutely hilarious.
Love the show, guys, can't wait for you to come
back to Cleveland. I'm the manager of the largest site
seeing ship and clean Lynn on Lake Erie and the
Cyoga River, The Good Time three and Chuck. I'm also
a graduate at the University of Akron go zips And
that is from Luke ucbo is how I'm gonna pronounce

that very long?

Speaker 2 (49:14):
I got it right, Luke, Thanks a lot, Luke, eat
your heart out of Good Times one and two. If
you want to be like Luke and tell us how
much we cracked you up. We love hearing that kind
of thing. You can wrap it up, spank it on
the bottom, and send it off to Stuff podcast at
iHeartRadio dot com. Stuff you Should Know is a production

of iHeartRadio.

Speaker 1 (49:36):
For more podcasts my heart Radio, visit the iHeartRadio app,
Apple Podcasts, or wherever you listen to your favorite shows.

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