Las Vegas Sun

October 31, 2014

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BERNIE ROTHKOPF: 1918-2007

Las Vegas casino legend Bernie Rothkopf was not one to stand in the way of someone else's success.

In 1978, a virtually unknown magician performing as a preliminary act in the MGM Grand's "Hallelujah Hollywood" approached MGM President Rothkopf and told him he and his partner had a chance to earn $25,000 a week - five times what Rothkopf was paying them.

The young man said he was willing to stay loyal to Rothkopf and honor his contract, but Rothkopf tore up the paper and told the performer, go and make money, Rothkopf's daughter says.

A short time later, that magician, Siegfried Fischbacher, and his partner , Roy Horn , opened as the lead performers of the "Lido de Paris" at the Stardust. Siegfried & Roy went on to become the quintessential Vegas act until their retirement in October 2003.

Bernard J. "Bernie" Rothkopf, a founding partner in the Desert Inn who went on to serve as a top executive for a half-dozen major local resorts, died Wednesday at his Las Vegas home. He was 88.

His family said the cause was cancer.

Services for the Las Vegas resident of 57 years are pending.

"My father revolutionized entertainment in Las Vegas in the 1970s," said Cynthia Rothkopf of Las Vegas. "He brought in a whole new crop of young talent, including Siegfried & Roy, the Jackson 5, Donna Summer ."

She also recalled the parting between her father and Fischbacher.

"Siegfried was one of dad's favorites, but my father felt his act at that time was only worth $5,000 a week and that was all he was going to pay. But Dad also was an upfront guy who was not going to stand in anyone's way. So he let him go."

Rothkopf came to Las Vegas from his native Cleveland in 1950 along with business partners Morris "Moe" Dalitz, Morris Kleinman, Sam Tucker and Tom McGinty to help Wilbur Clark finish building the Desert Inn.

The Cleveland group had purchased a 74 percent interest in the property after Clark ran short of money in 1948.

Las Vegas Sun Publisher Hank Greenspun also had a small financial interest in the Desert Inn, which he sold to help buy the newspaper.

The $6.5 million 300-room resort opened on April 24, 1950.

Rothkopf later held vice presidencies at the Stardust and Showboat and in the late 1960s was managing director of the Sands.

Today, Wynn Las Vegas stands on the site of the Desert Inn. The Venetian stands where the Sands once stood. Vacant lots have replaced the Showboat and Stardust.

In 1971 Rothkopf became a casino executive at Caesars Palace. In the mid-1970s he became president of the old MGM, which now is Bally's.

Born Oct. 7, 1918, Rothkopf was a graduate of Case Western Reserve University in Cleveland and an Army veteran of World War II.

He retired from gaming in the mid-1980s.

He was an avid golfer and traveler during his retirement.

In addition to his daughter, Rothkopf is survived by a sister, Mildred Silverstein of West Palm Beach, Fla., and a granddaughter, Cheyenne Rothkopf of Las Vegas.

He was preceded in death by his wife, Muriel, a son , Christopher , and another daughter , Debra.

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