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December 20, 2014

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Monday List: 20 at 20, a quick look at The Mirage on a landmark birthday

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Justin M. Bowen

A jogger passes The Mirage on the Las Vegas Strip in the early morning hours.

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Upon the hotel's opening, founder Steve Wynn is interviewed by Charles Gibson on "Good Morning America."

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Mayor Oscar Goodman and Siegfried & Roy, on the event of their lifetime contract announcement at The Mirage in 2001.

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Siegfried & Roy, with holding cubs and sporting smiles.

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Yoko Ono, wearing a Stella McCartney hat and pantsuit, before the gala premiere of "Love" in June 2006.

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Pamela Kovach, who has been with the hotel (the real thing, not the cake) since it opened Nov. 22, 1989.

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Mirage singing ventriloquist headliner Terry Fator and Duggie.

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Danny Gans relaxes earlier this year in his dressing room at the Encore Theatre. Gans, a Las Vegas headliner since 1996, signed on to perform there at Steve Wynn's urging.

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Siegfried Fischbacher, right, and Roy Horn present a birthday cake for their tiger cubs at Siegfried & Roy's Secret Garden at The Mirage.

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Siegfried & Roy, reunited with the big cat Montecore.

Curse the timing, maybe, with CityCenter opening in less than a month and Roy Horn suffering an ill-timed cold that effectively wiped out a 20th birthday celebration. Regardless, yesterday marked the 20th anniversary of the opening of The Mirage, the Steve Wynn-envisioned hotel that is widely credited for starting the boom of mega-resorts on the Strip.

MGM Mirage is being kept busy with the opening of CityCenter -- today’s Mirage, in many ways -- but did roll out a huge Mirage-shaped cake on Friday to at least mark the event with … a big cake, I guess. Hotel President Scott Sibella was joined by such “first-day” employees as box office staffer Pamela Kovach to talk of the event. The result was a Monday List, the Top 20 Little-Known Facts About The Mirage.

Away we go:

20. When Yoko Ono was asked who designed her all-white pantsuit with matching gigantic white hat for the premiere of “Love,” she said, “Stella McCartney,” without a hint of irony that she was wearing an outfit from Paul McCartney’s daughter’s fashion line.

19. During a show in 2001, Siegfried & Roy called a woman onstage to help with an illusion in which a knot was magically slipped across a rope. Six years later, a woman who looked and sounded exactly like that woman was called onstage by Tommy Tune for a dance during his one-man show at UNLV’s Artemus Ham Hall. What a terrific coincidence!

18. The heavy brass mermaid that sat for years in the front lobby has mysteriously vanished and is thought to be in a private home serving as a conversation piece.

17. One of the staff’s favorite VIPs for the opening of Siegfried & Roy’s show in 1990 was Virginia Clinton, mother of then-Arkansas Gov. Bill Clinton. She loved the employees almost as much as she loved betting the ponies.

16. During an unveiling of pixilated visages of John Lennon and George Harrison to help celebrate the one-year anniversary of “Love,” emcee Larry King referred to Harrison as “George Hamilton.” When the audience laughed, he asked, “Why is that funny?”

15. On opening night, the hotel actually ran out of quarter rolls.

14. Tourists are apt to believe you if you tell them you can order any fish from the aquarium behind the registration desk, ask for it to be prepared to your specifications and delivered to you via room service.

13. “Novelle Experience” by Cirque du Soleil made its Las Vegas debut in 1992. This was Cirque’s first toe-hold on the Strip, though hardly anyone imagined at the time there would one day be seven Cirque shows in residence on the Strip, five of which are great, one of which (“Viva Elvis”) is expected to be, and one of which is “Believe.”

12. On opening night, Siegfried wore a ball cap pulled over his eyes and strolled around the hotel, incognito, to gain a feel for the crowd’s response to the new resort.

11. Quoted on Feb. 23, 2001, the eve of the announcement of S&R’s lifetime contract with The Mirage, Siegfried said: "People love the show because the message is timeless. As magicians, it is ultimately gratifying to help restore people's belief in their dreams."

10. The temperature of the fire spewing from the renovated volcano is 900 degrees, making the attraction the hottest show in Las Vegas.

9. Motorists were known to bump fenders entering the hotel while gazing up at the giant Danny Gans marquee, the largest on the Strip.

8. After the gala premiere of “Love,” onstage, a swept-up-in-the-moment Paul McCartney twice kissed Yoko Ono.

7. One of the first significant events at the hotel was the first big title fight, Dec. 7, 1989, when Sugar Ray Leonard decisioned Roberto Duran in “Uno Mas.”

6. Soon after Treasure Island was built, confused motorists were known to park at The Mirage and walk across to T.I. (or vice versa) and forget in which parking garage they’d left their vehicles.

5. The hotel’s most famous former tram operator: Anthony Zuiker.

4. In October 1990, James “Buster” Douglas is knocked out by Evander Holyfield with an uppercut from hell in the third round of their heavyweight title fight. A noticeably out-of-shape Douglas, who weighed in at 241 pounds, was reported to be ordering pizzas into his sauna at The Mirage during training.

3. Comics who have performed at the hotel include Ray Romano, David Spade, Jay Leno, Sarah Silverman and Lewis Black.

2. S&R performed 5,750 shows between February 1990 and October 2003, when Roy was seriously injured by the big cat Montecore.

1. Montecore still resides part time at the hotel, at the Secret Garden, and is frequently visited by Roy.

Follow John Katsilometes on Twitter at twitter.com/JohnnyKats.

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