Celebrating the Decades: An identity crisis through the Eighties


LAS VEGAS (KLAS) — Before we celebrate the new year of 2020, we continue to look back at the decades, here in Las Vegas. As the 1980s began, Las Vegas was suffering an identity crisis.  

The departure of the mob and its money combined with a struggling economy put a damper on the Strip and downtown. Las Vegas also began to experience a string of tragedies during this decade.

On November 21, 1980, 87 people died, and more than 700 were injured when a fire began in a restaurant on the casino floor of the MGM Grand Hotel. Toxic black smoke and carbon monoxide traveled up the hotel’s floors. Many guests were still in their rooms asleep, not aware of the fire below, because there was no automatic fire alarm system in place.

90 days later, an arsonist started several fires at the Las Vegas Hilton. Eight people died, and more than 200 were injured.

Historian Mark Hall-Patton says as tragic as these fires were, what happened here, changed laws across the nation and internationally.

“Every high-rise had to be sprinklered, had to have smoke detectors, it made Las Vegas one of the safest places to go, with high rise hotels,” Hall-Patton said.

One of the few remaining casino bosses was run out of Las Vegas during the 80s. Someone tried to assassinate Frank Rosenthal in 1982 with a bomb left under his Cadillac in the parking lot at Tony Roma’s.

Ending this decade on a positive note — a record for the largest number of weddings in one day. It happened inside the candlelight wedding chapel on Valentine’s Day, 1989. 425 weddings were performed.

The fashion show mall opened in 1981. That same year, the “Beyond Belief Show” with Siegfried & Roy debuted at the new Frontier Hotel and Casino.

In 1987, “U2” shot the video for “I Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking For” on Fremont Street and the boom of the mega hotels began in 1989 with the Mirage opening.

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