History of the Stardust
Opened July 2, 1958
Tony Cornero organized the Stardust Company in 1954. He wanted to attract
visitors in masses and decided to charge $5.00 a day for rooms and giving
guests $5.00 for gambling at his resort. Hundreds of stock shares were
sold to the general public. The new resort was to be called "Tony
Cornero envisioned a casino resort that would be the largest in the world
with over 1,000 rooms. The plans called for separate bungalow-type sections
with each section being named after the planets and a super-motor scooter
was to be used to carry guests and tourists around the 40 acre resort.
In July of 1955, Cornero suffered a massive heart attack and died while
gambling at the Desert Inn. The unfinished shell sat empty almost two
years while the asking price came down.
Moe Dalitz, Allard Roen and their Desert Inn associates took over the
Stardust operation for financial backer Jack "The Barber" Factor, with the
owner listed as Rella Factor (Jack's wife), for $4.3 million on January 10,
1958. The architecture of the partially completed hotel was chaotic. No
one was in clear command.
The design was a collection of individual functions without an overall
concept or image. The main building was tilt-up concrete walls, covered
with wood roofs, a favored method for warehouse and industrial buildings,
buildings designed without architects. The two-story motel wings were
post-tensioned concrete slab structures. The already built casino ceiling
did not allow for an attic story for surveillance of the gaming tables.
Stockholders/creditors squabbled over funds in Federal Bankruptcy Court. A
creditor's committee moved in, throwing the corporation into reorganization
proceedings under the National Bankruptcy Act. U.S. District Judge John R.
Ross approved the sale of the Stardust to Rella Factor, wife of Jack Factor.
At 12:00pm on July 2, 1958, Tony Cornero's dream became a $10 million, 1065
room reality with what was architecturally little more than a warehouse,
charging just $6.00 a day. The resort contained the Big Dipper swimming
pool measuring 105 feet in length, a 13,500 square foot lobby, 16,500
square foot casino, and a decor featuring rich red and deep brown colors
and indirect lighting. The attendees of the opening included Governors,
Senators, city and county officials and Hollywood celebrities.
The entertainment registry started with the spectacular French production
"Lido de Paris". Lido was conceived by Pierre-Louis Guerin & Rene Fraday,
and staged by Donn Arden.
The opening night lounge lineup offered, from dusk to dawn, Billy Daniels,
The Happy Jesters, The Vera Cruz Boys and the Jack Martin Quartet. Daniels
became the first entertainer to sign a long-term residency contract in Las
Vegas when he agreed to appear for 40 weeks per year for three years.
The Stardust turned its sign into its architecture establishing an
unconventional, but effective response to the Strip. The Stardust was the
first Strip hotel to not include the prestigious circle drive, spacious
lawn and burbling fountain. Its architecture was a billboard that
advertised nothing less than the universe itself.
The challenge of the Stardust's sign was the night sky and the vast
desert. They could hide a low sprawl of motel wings without a trace. The
sign had to stand out. The Stardust was already partially built when Young
Electric Sign Company was hired to fabricate the sign. Kermit Wayne's
design was selected for both the fašade and the roadside signs. Although
Dalitz said it was from his original plans, the sign was really part of
Cornero's original concept.
The Stardust gave visitors a panorama view of the solar system that
exploded beyond the edges of the building. At the sign's center sat a
plastic earth which was 16 feet in diameter, formed in slices three feet
across, taken from the Sputnik which was off the front pages of the
newspaper. Cosmic rays of neon and electric light bulbs pulled out from
behind the earth in all direction. Three-dimensional plexiglass planets
spun alongside 20 scintillating neon starbursts. Across the universe was a
jagged galaxy of electric lettering spelling out "Stardust". The sign
utilized 7,100 feet of neon tubing with over 11,000 bulbs along its 216
foot front. The "S" alone contained 975 lamps. At night the neon
constellation was reportedly visible 60 miles away.
The roadside sign was freestanding with a circle constraining an amorphous
cloud of cosmic dust circled by an orbit ring and covered in dancing
stars. The hotel's name was nestled in a galactic cloud. Subsidiary
signs marked out the domain of the Stardust at secondary
entrances. Lacking the Desert Inn's lawn and fountain, or the Riviera's
dramatic front drive, the front of the Stardust was a parking lot with a sign.
The Stardust also conveniently held Las Vegas' only first run a drive-in
theatre in the rear of the resort.
The Stardust took over the closed Royal Nevada, and remodeled the showroom
and made it the coliseum,/exhibition/auditorium/convention center. A half
circle was added to the Royal Nevada's roofline but the fountain of neon
tubing marking the entry was saved.
With the addition of the Royal Nevada, the Stardust boasted 1,300
rooms. An impressive archway and an elaborate Polynesian restaurant, Aku
Aku, joined the old Royal Nevada which was called Stardust South.
In 1960, the resort added a new 4,800 square foot screen surface to its
drive-in theatre. They also installed a new speaker system which carried
practically stereophonic type sound.
By 1961, Stardust's management included Credit Manager Hy Goldbaum, listing
seven aliases, had 14 convictions, including one for assault, and had
received a three-year sentence for income tax invasion. Casino Manager and
5% owner Johnny Drew, was a veteran associate of Al Capone and was once
fined for running a crooked dice game at an Elks convention, and Morris
Kleinman who was part of the general management team, had served three
years for tax evasion.
In 1964, the Stardust added a nine-story tower, bringing the room count to
1,470. The Stardust was the leader in rooms until 1969 when the
International opened. At this time it also remodeled its landmark fašade,
expanding out into the parking lot by the highway. The new fašade raised
the Stardust's name, still in electra-jag letters, onto a pole above the
In 1965, a new roadside sign replaced the old circular sign at a cost of
$500,000. Its form was blurred by a scatter of star shapes, a shower of
stardust. At night, incorporating neon and incandescent bulbs in the
animation sequence, light fell from the stars, sprinkling from the top of
the 188 foot tall sign down over the Stardust name, igniting a frenzy and
then snowing down onto the fortunate people below.
In 1966, Howard Hughes attempted to buy the Stardust for $30.5 million but
the antitrust division blocked his takeover on the grounds that his
acquisition of any more gambling resorts might violate the Sherman
In November of 1969, Parvin-Dohrmann Corporation purchased the Stardust
for an undisclosed amount.
In 1977, the Stardust went through another remodeling. The galactic theme
was abandoned, though the roadside sign remained, and the fašade was
covered with animated neon tubing and trimmed with mirrored finish
facets. The new porte cochere sparkled with 1,000 small incandescent
bulbs. The encrustation of bulbs turned solid mass into ethereal form.
In 1984, Nevada Gaming Commission gave the highest fine ever issued in
Nevada with the $3 million fine against the resort for skimming.
Suspicions, accusations and controversy about the Stardust's mob owners
over the years were finally squelched when Sam Boyd purchased the Stardust
in March of 1985.
In 1991, a subdued Helvetica typeface replaced the Stardust sign's
Jetsonian lettering. The oasis accented by fountains of neon has become a
walled city of red, blue, and green tower illuminated by spotlight.
Now the Stardust contains 100,000 square feet of gambling casino including
73 gaming tables, and 1,950 slot, keno and video poker machines.
As the last resort built in the 50s, it has updated itself costing $300
million to include 2,100 guest rooms and two landscaped swimming pools,
golf, and an athletic facilities.
The conference center is now 25,000 square feet and can accommodate
meetings and banquets for groups of 25 to 2,000.
Lido de Paris was replaced in 1992 with Enter the Night which closed in 1999.
In October of 1999, 57 year old Wayne Newton signed the biggest
entertainment deal in Las Vegas history performing exclusively at the
Stardust 40 weeks per year at approximately $25 million per in the 920-seat
Stardust Theater, renamed the Wayne Newton Theater.
The Stardust closed November 1, 2006 and was imploded on March 16, 2007.
More detailed information can be found at www.lvstriphistory.com