A little village called Goodland nestled in the Ten Thousand Islands on the Florida southwest coast received an unlikely visitor about fifteen years ago. It’s not a quaint and charming seaside village, but a scrappy drinking village with a fishing problem. A sandy road winds through the mangroves to a tiny marina at its town center surrounded by small cottages. There is a general store, one restaurant, and one bar. Most everyone there has a boat, and they cast for mackerel off their docks. The nearest industry is a cat food plant, and feral cats are everywhere.
The unlikely visitor was Donald Trump. The town was so excited to have a celebrity that they all came out to greet him and took pictures of the bar owner with him. He attended a town meeting and had a drink while schmoozing with the populous. Trump had been looking at Cape Romano as a possible place for one of his casinos or a resort. Yes, our sanctuary island could have become Mar-A- Lago.
In the end, the future So Called Ruler of the United States (SCROTUS), decided that there was not enough infrastructure to support his endeavor and it was too expensive to build. We were spared.
There have been Casinos built tho, primarily by the Seminole Indians. They have a special contract with the government and hold rights to the casinos in Florida. I’m not certain how Trump was going to edge into that market. Have one of his cronies change the law I suppose.
Dog racing, Jai-Alai, and card rooms are run by many organizations in Florida. While they bring the Seminoles much revenue, they are nothing compared to the Las Vegas casinos.
We just got back from a trip to Vegas. It was a fun trip and most of my research came via the Lyft and Uber drivers. They are very knowledgeable about their community. There seemed to be a consensus that the mob was a good thing and corporations are bad. See, the mob took care of their own. They only offed other mob members when there were issues, but they treated the general population with respect. They reinvested into the community, building schools, hospitals, and daycare facilities…whereas, the corporations have sharply increased prices, cut wages, and pocket their money.
MGM was the worst. When they moved in and started jacking up costs all the neighboring casinos did the same. There is a Trump Hotel there, but Trump doesn’t own it. He let it go when he was down on his luck and the people who bought it kept his name on it for branding. Little did they know, right?
There is a man by the name of Steve Wynn who has purchased much land and built up a major resort complex in the area. The Wynn and Encore hotels and casinos are the seventh largest in the world. Wynn is a savvy businessman and a major rival of Trump. His two properties collectively hold more Forbes five-star awards than any other resort and casino in the world.
We visited many of the famous places in Vegas along the strip, which is a mere four mile stretch of land, much smaller than the movies project it to be, and smaller than I realized. Our Hilton hotel was connected to the Miracle Mile underground mall home of the famous Halo bar and lounge.
Of course there was a casino there, as there was in every grocery store, restaurant, and hotel as well as the airport. But my favorite place in the mall was Lobster Me, a fast food joint that served the best lobster rolls and chowder west of the state of Maine.
My favorite place of all was dumpy little joint called Ellis Island. It’s lit up with green lights, can be seen from any hotel in Vegas, and boasts a couple of the best, and most affordable, restaurants in town. While Mon Ami Gabi was nice,
overlooking Bellagio Fountain, Ellis Island served us a huge slab of prime rib, mashed potatoes with gravy, and garlic green beans for a tiny sum of $8.00. They have a micro-brewery on-site, a Bar-B-Q pub and a full service restaurant. And, of course, slots. We managed to leave Vegas $2.50 to the good.
Another fun place for me, being the history lover that I am, was the Golden Nugget downtown on Fremont Street. The Golden Nugget was originally built in 1946, making it one of the oldest casinos in the city. Steve Wynn bought a stake in the Nugget, which he increased so that, in 1973, he became the majority shareholder, and the youngest casino owner in Las Vegas.
Fremont Street is Vintage Vegas. It’s the area you see in all the old Vegas movies:
- In the James Bondfilm Diamonds Are Forever (1971), the casino can be continually seen in the police chase scene.
- The casino can be seen in the beginning of the film Smokin’ Aces(2006), in which the antagonist cuts the ribbons for the casino’s grand opening.
- In the film Next(2007), Nicolas Cage is briefly seen entering the Golden Nugget through the Fremont Street entrance.
- The Golden Nuggetfeatures prominently in the poker mockumentary The Grand (2008).
- Alfred Hitchcock Presents1959 episode “Man From The South”, the opening shot shows the Casino and Fremont St.
- The Golden Nugget and Fremont Street are in the opening scene of “The Night Stalker” (1972) with reporter Carl Kolchak investigating a series of vampire murders in Las Vegas.
- Vega$showed exterior shots of The Golden Nugget in the opening and closing slots and in the pilot episode
- The Casino(2004), a Fox reality television series is based on the story of the Golden Nugget’s acquisition by Poster Financial Group.
- In 2010, the casino’s pool and shark aquarium were featured throughout an episode of CSI: Crime Scene Investigation.
- In all Street Fighter IIgames (except HD Remix), Balrog’s (M. Bison in Japanese) stage is set in front of the Golden Nugget. The Golden Nugget sign is clearly seen in the back. In HD Remix, it has been changed to the “Crazy Buffalo”, presumably in reference to the name of Balrog’s original Super Combo.
- The name Golden Nuggetalso designates casino games on Game Boy Advance, Nintendo 64 (known as Golden Nugget 64, and features a slideshow of the hotel and casino as a menu option), Nintendo DS (known as Golden Nugget Casino DS), PlayStation, and personal computers.
- In Fallout: New Vegas, the logo of the “Silver Rush,” formerly a gambling hall, shows a similarity to the logo of the “Golden Nugget.”
The expanded resort is built around two aquariums. The largest faces the swimming pool, and incorporates a slide through the tank containing full grown sharks.
The smaller aquarium is in the lobby of the Rush Tower. A total of five specialty restaurants were added: Vic & Anthony’s steakhouse, Grotto Ristorante, Lillie’s Asian Cuisine, Red Sushi and Chart House. The Chart House has a view of one of the aquariums.
It is along Fremont Street that you’ll find the Mob Museum, and the dozens of little wedding Chapels, Elvis, The Pink Cadlliac and more. There are quite a few jails down there, as well. Despite its glory, the area is a bit ghetto compared to the high-end Miracle Mile. Here is where you’ll witness most of the iconic Vegas signage.
We had a blast with our drivers. One I will always remember was Jacki…with an ‘I’. She was the splitting image of Brandi. I’ve promised her a scene in Book Two of the Naked Eye Series. Quite a character and an encyclopedia of Vegas tips and tricks.
We saw the Cirque du Soleil Beatles Love show and it was fantastic. Made me cry at the end when the National Guard drug all the old hippies off the stage. The fabulous costumes and lights coupled with extraordinary costumes and choreography with audience interaction made for the most spectacular show. The theme would have made John Lennon proud.
Frank Marinos Divas show was right up Brandi’s alley. The impersonators actually looked better than most of the celebrities. The sexy male dancers kept my attention.
All in all, it was a fun and informative trip and I am grateful for having had the experience. A nice place to visit, but I wouldn’t want to live there. Bellagio Fountain was a pretty sight tho.
I think I’ll keep Richard and Brandi in Florida for the most part.