Las Vegas Sun

December 18, 2014

Rat Pack made Sands ‘the place’

In its heyday, the Sands was the place to be on the Las Vegas Strip.

Billed as "A Place in the Sun" when it opened on Dec. 15, 1952, the Sands served as a performing venue and playground for the famed members of the "Rat Pack" -- Dean Martin, Frank Sinatra, Sammy Davis Jr., Peter Lawford and Joey Bishop.

During the 1950s, they drew guests in by the thousands and brought worldwide fame to the Sands.

Nat King Cole, Danny Thomas and Bing Crosby appeared in the hotel's Copa Room, sparking the first period of explosive growth in Las Vegas.

Late at night, guests gathered in the Garden Room hoping to catch glimpses of celebrities.

The Sands opened with just 200 garden rooms and a small casino. But because of its regularly packed showroom, the Sands soon became one of the most popular spots on the Strip, attracting national figures such as Presidents Harry Truman and John F. Kennedy.

In 1965, the 500-room circular tower opened. During the next three decades, the Sands went through a series of owners, including Howard Hughes, the Pratt family, Kirk Kerkorian and Sheldon Adelson, who purchased the property in 1989.

The popularity of the Sands with tourists waned as it was dwarfed by the construction of Strip mega-resorts, beginning with Steve Wynn's Mirage across the street.

Adelson decided to do the same -- rebuild and stay competitive.

The Sands closed its doors June 30.

Jim Chalker, who worked as a bellman at the Sands for 25 years, walked out that day, ordered a personalized license plate -- BYSANDS -- and never looked back. He said he avoids driving by the property because it holds too many memories for him.

He was not one of the thousands who watched the implosion this morning. Most of the Sands' 1,450 employees have gotten on with their lives and have landed jobs at other hotels, he said.

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