This is the first article of a series of articles in which our friends / colleagues will be giving you a glimpse of what their life in Vegas is all about.
If you have been following me on here, you know that I love Las Vegas because of the history my family has here. If this is the first post you are reading, WHERE HAVE YOU BEEN!! Well, welcome to the party. This post is the very first of what is going to be a series of interviews with the people that have helped Nocturnal Vegas‘ vision, whether personally or strictly on the business side.
In this series, you will read interviews with DJs, Entertainers, Service Industry Professionals, Limo / Party Bus Drivers, VIP Hosts & More. As you may have noticed, the title of this post is ‘Jerry Waggoner’. Jerry, my Father has been the best Father anyone could have ever asked for. He raised 3 children and helped us all through college, has been married over 50 years to my mom (thanks to 1960s Nevada Southern University aka UNLV), and taught us some of the most important life lessons:
- Be kind to Everyone
- Hard Work pays off
- Follow our own hopes & dreams
- Keep our head up and thing will always get better in time
Now, let’s go back in time to the late, great 1960s where it was possible to drive down Fremont Street, get .49 breakfast, and Elvis was King!!!!
What years did you work in Las Vegas & what jobs did you have?
- I moved to Las Vegas in 1961 after leaving high school in East Texas. I moved in with my parents. It was in July and I thought I must have made a mistake, no one can live in a place this hot.
My first job was at the Nevada Test Site at Area 51. Never did see an alien. Left there after 6 months and back to Las Vegas. Worked at Golden Nugget and the Horseshoe as a busboy. Left downtown and started at the Sahara Hotel in 1963. This turned out to be my work home for the next 16 years. First as busboy, then barboy, next bartender and then asst. Beverage director. Worked the pool bar for 4 summers, this was the best job as bartender
These days, the Nightclub / DJ Scene is huge in Las Vegas. What was the Nightlife Scene like back in the 1960s? Which were your favorite places to go out to?
- Correct, we had no night clubs in Las Vegas (hard to believe) but there was one place for dancing called “Pussy Cat a GoGo” Can you believe this? What my friends and I did for entertainment was to cruise Fremont Street and try to meet the girls. We would wind up at the Blue Onion, have curb service and listen to some rock and roll. Fremont was not covered at that time. The Strip was a place that did not cater to the young crowd. Only 7 hotels, but very classy. If one went to the strip you would need a coat and tie and dresses for the ladies.
What was one of the craziest, most bizarre times you experienced in Las Vegas?
- My craziest time was when the workers went on strike and all the hotels closed down. Since I was a manager I stayed in the hotel until we could check out all of our patrons. It was a mess. It took about 2 weeks for the union to settle with the hotels. But we did get our choice of suites to stay in while on strike.
What about another memorable experience?
- Don Rickles appearing in the Casbar Lounge at Sahara during the 10pm show. The bar I worked was almost on
the stage. I went to storeroom for ice and lo and behold Johnny Carson was there and he borrowed my bar jacket. He got a smaller bucket of ice and went behind the bar and turned his head to hide his face. He started to throw pieces of ice at Don.It brought the house down, had to be there. Don went crazy
What are some of the most significant ways that Vegas has changed since the 1960s?
- The traffic for one thing. We had no traffic to speak of. You could drive down the strip and back in 10 minutes. I think it is an hour now. The strip is now so over crowded with junk stores, people, and actors.
You know what was special, most of the casinos had 49 cent breakfast after midnight. Also all casinos gave their gamblers free cigarettes and cigars. Would not go over today.
- Late 50’s and early 60’s brought some bad times. African Americans were not welcome in the casinos and could not work in the front of the house. Allowed only in the back of house. Even the black entertainers could not be in casino or food areas. When their show was over they had to exit through the kitchen and out the back door. What a horrible time for Las Vegas.
Today, DJ Tiesto, Marshmellow, & Black Coffee are some of the famous people having shows in Las Vegas. Who were the famous people on the strip during the 1960s?
- I had met a lot of entertainers. My favorite was Don Rickles. Johnny Carson was in the Congo Room at the Sahara Hotel. Was always full. No tickets were sold. Wait in line. The early show was $12.00 (included steak dinner) late show was $5.00(included 2 drinks each) At the Sahara we had Cher, Tony Bennett, and Louis Prima. It was fun. One of the best shows was at the International Hotel, Elvis Presley. We were lucky and got tickets to see him. He was the best.
How do you feel about Marijuana being legal in Nevada?
- I think legal marijuana in NV was a great move. Don’t use it, but the taxes are needed.
Did you attend any sporting events?
- Me and Troy’s mom’s entertainment was during basketball season. Nevada Southern Univ. (UNLV) was the best of times. Tickets hard to find so we had to borrow some money to buy from a player. ( Don’t tell anyone)
Anything else that we should know about the great 1960s in Vegas?
- If you wanted to go to a movie the only place to go was downtown on Fremont St.,and clothes shopping was only downtown. (Ronzones, Penneys)
Who was your favorite performer in Las Vegas?
- Definitely Elvis Presley at The International Hotel.
What does ‘Vegas Strong’ mean to you?
- The folks in Vegas who gathered together to help the people that were attacked by that crazy man at Mandalay Bay. Vegas citizens do have a heart & it is strong!!
Jerry & Glenda Waggoner – Wedding Day – Little Chapel of The West