The Neon Dream: The Moulin Rouge

The First Integrated Casino in Las Vegas, Fifty Years Later

Posted by Chuckmonster

Moulin Rouge, translated literally from French is 'red mill.' Oscar-winning extravaganza aside, the most famous moulin rouge in the world is probably the storied Moulin Rouge show club in Paris' Pigal district. Yah... the very same joint where knickers-bearing can-can dancers aroused the national imagination, international fascination as well as that flick y'all have TiVo'd. So, you're probably asking, what the fuck does this have to do with Vegas Chuckmonster? Shit or get off the pot!

The moulin rouge i'm talking about surely isn't housed in the gawd-awful faux-Fronch Rue de le Paix shopping mall at Paris. Nor is it random papier-mache artwork that adorns the backbreaking cobblestone walkways in Paris' peculiarly antiseptic casino floor. And nor is it the old windmill that stood at The Strip's first casino the El Rancho for a coupla dozen years. In fact, it has to do with a small, now dilapidated shell of a building in North Las Vegas on Bonanza Road that, in its short six months of operation, changed Las Vegas, and the cultural landscape of America, forever.

May 1955... Chuck Berry records his first sides for Chess Records including his signature song 'Maybelline'. Actor Sidney Poitier stars in 1950's juvenile delinquent flick 'Blackboard Jungle'. Malcolm X holds Nation of Islam meetings in Lansing, Michigan. Dr. Martin Luther King nears completion of his doctoral program in Systematic Theology at Boston University. The TV Dinner is invented. Somewhere on the 'other side of the train tracks' in North Las Vegas, the first integrated hotel & casino The Moulin Rouge opens.

In 1955, Nevada, like most of the United States was segregated. 91 years prior, Nevada gained statehood in a territorial pawn exchange that would supply pro-Union/anti-Confederacy votes on the 13th Amendment to the Constitution, but not without some public outcry against it. Nevada, and Las Vegas in particular, has held onto its wild west ideals for nearly all of its history, possibly only dissolving in the last 15 years or so, albeit only slightly. In May of 1955, no persons of color were allowed to stay or play in a Strip or downtown casino... and that included Strip showroom superstars Sammy Davis Jr., Pearl Bailey and national treasure Louis Armstrong. Yah... Sammy had to duck out after his Sands engagements and head over to the other side of the tracks to catch a nap.

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