Las Vegas News Bureau
Wednesday, March 16, 2011 | 1:40 p.m.
The last time I ever saw the Checkmates perform was at Casbar Lounge at the Sahara. That night, the late Marvin “Sweet Louie” Smith recognized a person in the audience. “Ladies and gentlemen!” he shouted. “Former heavyweight champion of the world, Leon Spinks!” There was a ripple of murmurs in the crowd, some applause, then a long pause. Finally, Sweet Louie said, “Oh! Sorry, ma’am!” It was an old joke by an old lounge master told in an old lounge. A perfect Vegas storm, and it won’t be circling back. The Sahara is closing because it is no longer economically viable to keep the resort open, said Sam Nazarian, CEO of SBE Entertainment Group, which owns the hotel. In short, SBE’s plans to remake the 59-year-old hotel in the spirit of such hip places as the Palms never materialized. The property limped along with promotions like the giant burritos at Nascar Café and the short-and-sweet rollercoaster Speed. Thus, the hotel where such Vegas entertainment luminaries as Jerry Lewis, Buddy Hackett, Tony Bennett, Johnny Carson and Sonny & Cher performed in their prime closes on May 16. Somewhere, Sweet Louie is observing the aftermath, and longing for just one more set at the Casbar.