Las Vegas has had its share of characters, from the great, to the sketchy, to the downright criminal. There are thousands of people who over the years have made Sin City what it is today, we’ve come up with a list of ten famous (or in some cases infamous) characters in Vegas history. In no particular order, and by no means a complete list:
Bugsy Siegel – He was sent to Las Vegas by is New York mob bosses and is credited with changing the face of Las Vegas Casinos, turning them from often run-down gambling holes, to the luxurious resorts they are today.
He opened the Flamingo in 1946 and the Strip hasn’t been the same since. He didn’t like his knick name, it coming from what his acquaintances said of his personality, “crazy as a bedbug.” He was whacked in LA only 6 months after Flamingo was opened.
Frank Sinatra – You can’t talk about Vegas history for any amount of time without Frank Sinatra’s name popping up. His debut was at the Desert Inn in 1951, after that he and the Rat Pack were a staple of Vegas life for a long time to come. It was said he brought “sophistication and class” to Vegas where before most would consider it a “Western” town.
Hank Greenspun – A true old school newsman who challenged the good old boys when it came to how the news should be run. He is credited with giving Las Vegas a Newspaper and two broadcast stations. He was also a huge part of the community with several places named in his honor including the UNLV Greenspun School of Communications.
Elvis Presley – The King of Rock n Roll was also the King of Vegas, at least for a time. More than the person though, his memorabilia (and hordes of impersonators) did and still are to this day adding massively both to the Vegas image and economy. In fact, the months after his death saw greater sales of Vegas/Elvis trinkets, records, and memorabilia than at any time in his life.
Kirk Kerkorian – A daredevil pilot and daredevil business man, he is the father of the “mega resort” building the original MGM Grand in 1973. He has been responsible for building “the largest hotel in the world” three separate times now, is the 41st richest person in America, and at the top of MGM/Mirage today, which owns half of the casinos on the Las Vegas Strip.
Steve Wynn – Regarded in most circles as the most visionary casino builder alive, he redesigned the Golden Nugget bringing Downtown back to life in a large sense. He has also built the two most expensive casinos on the Strip, Bellagio and the Wynn. He is responsible for many others like Mirage, T.I., Encore, and is currently working on a $3 billion urban village.
Harry Reid – Regardless of your politics, if you don’t like what Reid’s done for Vegas it’s only because you don’t know what Reid’s done for Vegas. Remember when driving from north Vegas to the Strip was like NY rush hour? Remember when the courthouse was a giant hole in the ground? Since his involvement in Nevada politics, and despite early assassination attempts on his and his family’s life, he’s finished projects other Senators and Representatives had been sitting on for years. The son of a hard-rock minor, he’s pushed through pro-Nevada and Vegas projects like City Center and the Spaghetti Bowl staying steady as a rock and regardless of political implications. Vegas would look much different without Harry Reid’s influence.
John C. Fremont – Not the first scout or adventurer to come to Sin City by any means, he is credited though with pointing many travelers to the Vegas Valley. Fremont Street is the second most known Vegas attraction next to the Strip and is named after him. While he is credited by some with putting Vegas on the map, he is better known for starting a war, running for president, and “freeing slaves before Abraham Lincoln did.”
Jim Cashman – Cashman is a well known name in Vegas, “Big Jim” Cashman the senior of the Cashman clan, had his hand in a number of Vegas firsts from the first car dealership to the first highway to Las Vegas. Several spots in Vegas are named in his honor including Cashman field.
William Clark – Way back when Vegas was a dusty village, and nothing more than a stopping point from Salt Lake to L.A., William Clark chose it as the halfway spot for a new railway. This was the first of many Las Vegas booms.