The Neon Dream: The Moulin Rouge

The First Integrated Casino in Las Vegas, Fifty Years Later

Posted by Chuckmonster

Attempts to revive the Rouge have come and gone as often as tourist-filled planes from Pittsburgh. In 1997, the Rouge was purchased by Bart Maybie for a paltry $3 Million Dollars. Three million plus dollars and endless hours of restoration, Maybie announced plans for the re-opening of the Moulin Rouge slated for May 1998. The Moulin Rouge's developer group planned to return the Rouge to its roots, wrapping up its eight to 10 gaming tables and 150 slot machines, and Cajun restaurant in a distinctly jazz flavor - decicisively homey and retro cool. 1998 stretched on into 2001 as work continued on a cement retaining wall between the casino and surrounding properties. Among the features planned, Developers announced the opening of 'Maxine's' restaurant and 'Leroy's Sports Book'. Even Vegas World huckster/Stratosphere visionary Bob Stupak got into the game, mentioning in various interviews that he was interested in joining the Moulin Rouge partnership. Like most Stupak announcements, this proved to be nothing but hot air. Owners floated soft target dates for the new Rouge's debut, each one passing without word of a new opening.

In the middle of 2003, developer Bart Maybe wanted out of the Moulin Rouge, he began discussions with the Moulin Rouge Development Corporation about purchasing his interest in the never-ending restoration project. Suddenly, at 1:20am on Thursday May 29 2003, five days after the Rouge's 48th birthday, a suspicious fire struck and completely destroyed the building, leaving only the front wall and timeless marquee standing. Arson inspectors were dispatched to the scene immediately and began to piece together the events that lead to this devastating fire. Two weeks later, John "Antman" Caver, 29, also known and Fred "Bubba" Ball, 45, were charged with arson.

Like a phoenix snatched back into the smoldering ash, will the Moulin Rouge rise again? You betcha. Early 2004 brought yet another round of development press conferences, attended by Mayor Oscar Goodman no less. Plans for a return of the Rouge have escalated from a $6million re-decoration effort to a full-fledged $200 million dollar extravaganza on Bonanza Road (FYI, the Monte Carlo cost only $350M). Planned features include a Motown Cafe, a cultural center and a Moulin Rouge museum.

In a city where the past never happened, the future has already passed, and the bottom line truly is the bottom line, the chips are stacked against the Moulin Rouge. But this gamble in the desert is wagered on the same hope the Rouge's founders banked on for those short 6 months in 1955. Hope in equality, hope in society, hope in togetherness, where truly all you need to play is a chip and a chair, regardless of the hue of the hands that holds the cards. For this feat alone, The Moulin Rouge Hotel and Casino must be resurrected. A living breathing monument that hope will truly never die, and that the struggle for equality amongst all living beings is a fight that will and must continue until every last battle has been won.

May 24, 2005 will mark the 50th anniversary of the grand opening of the Moulin Rouge. In the 50 years since, Chuck Berry has recorded hundreds of albums, toured the world and is in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. Actor Sidney Potier has won accolades for his defiant, yet elegant performances in some of the greatest films of all time, he's also won the Academy Award for Best Actor, the highest honor bestowed upon a film actor. Malcolm X broke with what he saw as morally bankrupt Nation of Islam, and was felled by an assassin's bullet. Dr. Martin Luther King, graduated from Boston University, and proceeded to change the world through non-violent action, education and dedication, until an assassin's bullet ended his life. The story of the Moulin Rouge runs parallel to each of these life stories. A simple showroom/casino that chose to rise above inequality, transcend an aura of goodness in all people, survive tragic circumstances, and stare down the barrel of an assassin arsonists Molotov cocktail. Will the Moulin Rouge overcome 50 years in casino purgatory, or languish in the despair of perennial bridesmaid devoid of a love of her own? Who knows. Should the Moulin Rouge open? Absolutely.

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