Chapter 1: The MGM Grand Hotel
Postcard of the original MGM Grand Hotel, Las Vegas
Photo Credit: Pinterest
December 5, 1973 marked the beginning of a new era in Las Vegas: Hollywood had come to town with the opening of the brand new MGM Grand Hotel.
Built by Kirk Kerkorian, who at the time owned the iconic MGM Film Studios, the MGM Grand Hotel was the largest hotel in the world, built at a then-staggering cost of over $100 Million (roughly $600 Million by today's standards). At opening the resort featured 2200 guest rooms & suites, 5 restaurants, 2 showrooms, a movie theater for showing classic MGM films, a shopping promenade with high-end jewellery & clothing stores and even an arena for live Jai Alai games.
Artist concept of the Jai-Alai arena at the MGM Grand Hotel, Las Vegas
Photo Credit: @ClassicLasVegas Twitter
Modelled after the 1932 MGM film, "Grand Hotel", starring Greta Garbo, John Barrymore and Joan Crawford, Kerkorian sought to bring a new level of elegance to the Vegas Strip...and it was "mission accomplished." The MGM Grand Hotel featured special touches like crystal chandeliers, mirrored walls and massive portraits of MGM stars as well as impeccably dressed bellmen, valets & doormen.
Opening weekend at the MGM Grand Hotel looked like a tinseltown red carpet gala with the likes of Cary Grant, Barbara Eden, Gregory Peck & Shirley MacLaine in attendance as well as Rat Pack legend Dean Martin on hand to open the Celebrity Room Showroom.
The Celebrity Room Showroom would go on to host almost every top name in entertainment and be the home of the famed "Dean Martin Celebrity Roast" TV series.
The MGM Grand Hotel was also home to the Ziegfeld Theater, which regularly featured productions from long-time Vegas choreographer, Donn Arden - who's credited with creating the famed Las Vegas Showgirl image. Arden was the man behind shows like "Hallelujah for Hollywood" and the famed "Jubilee", which opened in July of 1981 and went on to be the longest-running production show in Las Vegas when it closed in February of 2016.
Artwork, program cover, Donn Arden's Jubilee, MGM Grand Hotel Las Vegas
Photo Credit: Amazon
The Ziegfeld Theater also served as the filming location (and venue) for Rocky IV's epic match between American Hero Apollo Creed & Russian Villain Ivan Drago. During Creed's ring entrance sequence - featuring the late James Brown singing the hit, "Living In America" - dancers from Jubilee can be seen performing.
MGM Grand Hotel marquee featuring the match between Apollo Creed & Ivan Drago
Photo Credit: Total Rocky
With the MGM Grand Hotel, Kerkorian not only matched but EXCEEDED the opulence of the famed Caesars Palace and advanced the appeal of the Las Vegas Strip to both American & international tourists as well as celebrities & high rollers looking to make Sin City their playground.