When we discuss Las Vegas history, we have the tendency to talk big. We invoke memories of the Sands, the Stardust and other landmarks, and the legendary demolitions that dropped them. But historians Dennis McBride and Lynn M. Zook would like you to keep in mind another Las Vegas: the one where individuals lived, worked and raised households.
“These are places that belonged to our lives when we were younger, like the restaurants we ate in, the drive-ins, the movie theaters, the outlet store. … They played a big part in our regular lives,” McBride says. In “Places That Aren’t There Anymore”– part of Clark County Library’s Las Vegas Stories series– McBride and Zook will show images of these forgotten spots as they were in their heyday, relate a few of their history and allow the audience to fill in the gaps with their own stories.
“It’s not going to be extremely official,” McBride states, laughing. However judging from a partial list of the locations he intends to go over– the Charleston Plaza Mall, Alpine Village Inn, the Blue Onion, the Cinerama, Aku Aku, the Apache Hotel (“still concealed under the façade of Binions,” McBride says) and the original Sears & & Roebuck and JC Penney outlet store, now Backstage Bar & & Billiards and the Emergency situation Arts complex respectively–“Places That Aren’t There Any longer” assures to be a first-rate classic journey.
It’s an enthusiastic journey backward for McBride, who has vibrant memories of riding the wood-encased escalator at that Penney’s and seeing a number of life-altering films at that domed Cinerama, consisting of 2001: A Space Odyssey and My Fair Lady. (Many of McBride’s preferred lost locations are movie theaters: the Red Rock Theater complex, the El Portal on Fremont Street and, naturally, the Huntridge Theater–“still standing there, bereft of love,” he says). Hearing him describe My Fair Lady at the Cinerama, it’s nearly impossible not to swoon: The overture music, the “huge, monstrous screen filled with flowers,” the luxurious seats that rocked backward and forward. “That was a carrying experience for a 9-year-old young boy,” McBride says.
Gladly, some of the locations in the presentation have discovered modern-day reprieve– once unimaginable, during the implosion-crazy 1990s. “A great deal of the buildings on Fremont Street that are now part of the club district– they’re all very old. They have actually been adapted into some new, moneymaking use,” McBride says. “So the building has actually been altered, but it hasn’t been destroyed. But it hasn’t been perfectly protected, either.”
Maybe friendly expeditions like McBride and Zook’s will persuade more people to hang on to Vegas’ vanishing past. For his part, McBride is confident: “I believe individuals have actually gotten a much better concept of what we’ve lost and can never recuperate.”
LAS VEGAS STORIES: PLACES THAT AREN’T THERE ANY LONGER June 7, 7 p.m.; totally free. Clark County Library, 702-507-3400.