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Chapter 2: Iceberg, Right Ahead

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The James Cameron-directed epic, "Titanic", starring Kate Winslet & Leonardo DiCaprio was a love story centered around the doomed maiden voyage of the famed ship of the same name.  It was released to theatres in December of 1997 and went on to become a massive smash success.  When the film finally closed in October of 1998, it had grossed over $2 BILLION world-wide and, for 12 years, was the highest-grossing film of all time.

 

It grossed a further $995 million when it was released to home video, selling 58 million copies on VHS and Laser Disc in its first 3 months of release and became the first DVD release to sell 1 million copies.

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In addition to being a commercial success, Titanic was a critical success as well. 

 

In the early 1998, the film was nominated for 8 Golden Globe awards of which it won 4 including Best Director & Best Motion Picture-Drama.  It then went on to be nominated for 14 Academy Awards, of which it won 11 - including Best Picture, Best Director and Best Original Song for the Celine Dion hit, "My Heart Will Go On" (which also went on to win 4 Grammy Awards including Record of the Year and Song of the Year).

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Casino owner, professional gambler and entrepreneur, Bob Stupak with his Vegas World resort

Photo Credit: Las Vegas Weekly

Titanic's success had caught the attention of famed casino owner, professional gambler and entrepreneur, Bob Stupak.

Stupak was the brains behind "Bob Stupak's Vegas World", a space-themed resort that he'd opened In 1979 that featured an extensive collection of space memorabilia including rocket sculptures and full-size replicas of an Apollo Lunar Module and astronaut space suit.  Other items on display included a collection of lunar rocks that Stupak claimed to have acquired from the Nicaraguan government and $1 Million in cash that tourists could have their photo taken with.

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Bob Stupak announcing plans for The Stratosphere, 1989

Photo Credit: Las Vegas Magazine

In 1989, Stupak had plans for a new 1000 foot-tall sign tower for Vegas World that would be built on property adjacent to the resort.  The idea eventually evolved to include an elevator leading up to an observation deck at the top of the tower.

Stupak officially revealed plans for the $50 million "Stratosphere Tower" project in February of 1990 and had the project approved by city council in April of that same year.  By October of 1991, the cost of the project had doubled to over $100 Million and Stupak was trying to obtain financing from investors, all while being under investigation for deceptive ad tactics to lure people to his Vegas World resort.

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Groundbreaking for the Stratosphere took place on November 5, 1991 and construction began in February of 1992.  Stupak shut down Vegas World in 1995 to allow for the hotel towers to be renovated and integrated into the Stratosphere project.

Following several setbacks - including a fire on the half-completed tower, issues with crane assembly, financial problems, objections from the FAA over the tower's height, and a motorcycle crash that left Stupak in a coma for 12 days - the Stratosphere was eventually completed, opening with a lavish VIP celebration on April 30, 1996.

Stupak already had his sights set on other projects and just 3 months after the opening of the Stratosphere, amid rumours of disagreements with other board members and issues over the direction the resort was going, Stupak resigned as Chairman of the Stratosphere Corporation.

On March 30, 1999 the Las Vegas Sun reported that Bob Stupak had purchased a 100,000 shares in a company called RMS Titanic Inc, a publicly held corporation that exhibits actual artifacts from the sunken ship.  Later, in a filing with the Security Exchanges Commission, Stupak revealed that he'd met with the company's president to discuss future projects and the intention to "acquire a significant amount of stock in the future, which may be in excess of 5% of the outstanding shares."

In the filing, Stupak said he believed that artifacts recovered from the Titanic have such a meaningful historical value that they shouldn't be made available for private sale and that instead should be " maintained to honor all those who perished and survived aboard the Titanic and all of their descendants."

Stupak said he could make available to the company a traditionally dignified place to display any artifacts.

But what Stupak really had in mind were plans for a Titanic-themed mega-resort.

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Map/layout of the Titanic Resort, Hotel & Casino

Photo Credit: TitanicResort.com

After New York investors gave the cold shoulder to the concept, Stupak planned to finance the resort by selling timeshares in the project.  800 of Titanic's rooms would be offered up for "interval ownership" at a cost of $29,000 each, giving buyers a one week stay in the hotel.  A complete sellout of 40,000 buyers would raise $1.2 Billion - more than enough to build Titanic.

Stupak already owned the land where he planned to build Titanic, but he needed approval for a zoning change to build a hotel in the spot.

Stupak began his presentation with a video, showing the sunken Titanic rising from the ocean and settling into place on the Las Vegas Strip.  The video, narrated by actor/singer Robert Goulet, showed a shot of the proposed resort along with all its amenities.

Residents of the area gave their objections claiming there would be traffic issues, that the resort didn't fit in with the area and that it would lower property values in the neighborhood.

There were also claims of copyright infringement from Allen Rubin, the CEO of Los Angeles-based Titanic Resort, as well as Andrew Marocco who claimed he'd designed a Titanic-based hotel, plans for which he'd shown to several Las Vegans - including Bob Stupak.

In a 5-0 decision, approval for the re-zone was rejected by city council and, much like the real Titanic, Bob Stupak's plans to bring the famed oceanliner to the Vegas strip were sunk.