Desert Inn

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This article is about the hotel and casino in Las Vegas. For the hotel in Yeehaw Junction, Florida, see Desert Inn and Restaurant. For the song of the same name by Yello, see Stella (album).
Desert Inn Hotel and Casino
Desert Inn.JPG
The Desert Inn in its last years (1997-2000)
Location Paradise, Nevada
Address 3145 Las Vegas Blvd South
Las Vegas, NV 89109
Opening date April 24, 1950
Closing date August 28, 2000
Theme Desert oasis
Number of rooms 715
Total gaming space 35,000 sq ft (3,300 m2)
Casino type Land
Owner 1964-1967 Moe Dalitz
1967-1988 Howard Hughes
1988-1993 Kirk Kerkorian
1993-1998 ITT / Sheraton
1998-2000 Starwood Hotels & Resorts Worldwide, Inc.
2000 Steve Wynn[1]
Previous names Wilbur Clark's Desert Inn, Sheraton Desert Inn

The Desert Inn was a Paradise, Nevada, hotel/casino that operated from April 24, 1950, to August 28, 2000. Designed by noted New York architect Jac Lessman,[2] it was the fifth resort to open on the Las Vegas Strip. The property included an 18-hole golf course. Locals nicknamed the resort "The D.I." or just "D.I.". Today, Wynn stands where the Desert Inn once stood.


The Desert Inn facade circa 1970

The original name was Wilbur Clark's Desert Inn. Wilbur Clark originally began building the resort, but when he ran out of money, the Cleveland mob led by Moe Dalitz took over the construction. Clark became the public frontman of the resort while Dalitz remained quietly in the background as the principal owner. Much of the financing came from the American National Insurance Company (ANICO), which at the time had indirect ties to the Cleveland crime syndicate and the Maceo crime syndicate in Galveston, Texas.[3] The resort would eventually be renamed Desert Inn, and was affectionately called the "DI" by Las Vegas locals and regular guests. The St. Andrews Tower was completed in 1963.

The Desert Inn’s most famous guest, businessman Howard Hughes, arrived on Thanksgiving Day 1966, renting the hotel's entire top two floors. After staying past his initial ten-day reservation, he was asked to leave in December so that the resort could accommodate the high rollers who had been promised those suites. Instead of leaving, Hughes decided to start negotiations to buy the Desert Inn. On March 1, 1967, Hughes purchased the resort from Dalitz for around $13 million. This purchase was the first of many Las Vegas resort purchases by Hughes. The Augusta Tower, which was the Desert Inn's main tower, was completed in 1978.

Almost every major star of the last fifty years played at the Desert Inn. Its famous "crystal showroom" hosted Patti Page, Liberace, Frank Sinatra, Noël Coward, Ted Lewis, Joe E. Lewis, Bobby Darin, Dean Martin, Tony Bennett, Paul Anka, Neil Sedaka, Dionne Warwick, Louise Mandrell, Wayne Newton, Barry Manilow, Cher, Tina Turner, and more. Comics and variety acts like Myron Cohen, Pat Cooper, Martin and Lewis, Bob Newhart, Don Rickles, The Smothers Brothers, Roseanne Barr, Brian Evans, Garry Shandling, Buddy Hackett, and Rich Little all worked the Desert Inn along with thousands of others.

Refurbishment and modern history[edit]

Desert Inn Hotel and Casino

In 1997, the Desert Inn went through a $200 million renovation and expansion, giving it a new exterior with white stucco and clay tile roofs. Its previous major renovation occurred during the mid-1970s. Unlike other expansions, the 821 rooms were reduced to 715 to provide extra accommodations. Steelman Partners was the architect and designers. The Palms Tower was also completed in 1997 and the lagoon-style pool was also added. The seven-story lobby with a vaulted ceiling and large windows was also a major part of the renovation. The hotel was owned by Starwood Hotels & Resorts Worldwide until 1998 and, during their ownership, the hotel became known as the Sheraton Desert Inn. It was also owned for a time by MGM Grand Inc. in the late 1980s.

On April 24, 2000, the Desert Inn turned 50 years old and celebrated with a full week of activities. There was a celebrity golf tournament with Susan Anton, Robert Loggia, Chris O'Donnell, Robert Urich, Vincent Van Patten, Tony Curtis, Rip Taylor, and various local dignitaries, celebrities, and media. A time capsule was buried in a custom-designed granite burial chamber on April 25, 2000, to be opened on April 25, 2050. Three days later, on April 27, 2000, the resort was purchased for $270 million by Steve Wynn, who closed it several months later.

On October 23, 2001, the Augusta Tower was imploded to make room for a mega resort that Wynn planned to build. Originally intended to be named Le Rêve, the new project opened as Wynn Las Vegas. The remaining towers, the Palms Tower and the St. Andrews Tower, were used as a small museum to display some of Wynn's art collection and as offices for Wynn Resorts. Both towers closed due to poor ticket sales.

On November 16, 2004, the Palms Tower and the St. Andrews Tower were both imploded. The Palms Tower was only seven years old at its implosion, while the St. Andrews tower was at 41 years old to its implosion

Desert Inn Road, an east-west Las Vegas Valley roadway, still exists. It is the only major east-west surface street on the Strip that does not connect to Las Vegas Boulevard. As of 2008, there are no plans to rename the roadway.

Prior to completion of Wynn Las Vegas, the Desert Inn was the last Strip hotel with its own golf course. In fact, the Desert Inn had its own country club. When the hotel underwent a major renovation during the mid-1970s and reopened in 1978, the property was renamed the Desert Inn and Country Club. It featured full country club amenities open to guests of the hotel including a club house and tennis courts. People owned homes on the far end of the golf course. The large white Desert Inn and Country Club sign on The Las Vegas Strip which welcomed guests and players to the property was shown regularly on the ABC television program Vega$. Shortly after the show was cancelled, the sign was changed from white to red and only said Desert Inn - and Country Club was removed. The DI's country club's golf course became part of Wynn Las Vegas, after a rebuilding associated with the new resort's opening.

Film and TV history[edit]

The 1960 film version of Ocean's 11 was shot at the Desert Inn. It is one of the five Las Vegas hotels robbed on New Year's Eve by the characters played by Frank Sinatra, Dean Martin and others in the film.

Louis Prima and Keely Smith recorded their 1960 Dot Records LP On Stage live at the Desert Inn.

Bobby Darin's famous album Live! At the Desert Inn was recorded at the D.I. in 1971.

Orson Welles' film F for Fake covers, among other topics, the scandal of a fake biography of Howard Hughes, and the billionaire's Desert Inn residence is illustrated by Welles.

Only one artist, Brian Evans, ever recorded a live concert CD "Live at the Desert Inn" in the history of the venue.

The hotel served as the primary backdrop for the TV show Vega$ which aired on ABC from 1978 to 1981. The lead character, Dan Tanna, portrayed by Robert Urich, lived in the D.I.'s theatrical warehouse which was actually located on the opposite side of the Strip, about 1/4 mile down the street behind Circus Circus Hotel & Casino and a local branch of the Bank of Nevada. Early episodes of the series show Dan turning off of the Strip, and following the road that went between Circus Circus and the bank, ending at the warehouse.

The 1980s Aaron Spelling soap opera Dynasty uses outside shots of The Desert Inn as the hotel the main characters use while spending time in Las Vegas.

The hit 1980s NBC TV series, Remington Steele, filmed their Las Vegas episode at the D.I. where both the exterior and interior are shown regularly throughout the episode.

In the 1985 film Lost in America, Julie Hagerty's character Linda Howard loses the couple's "nest egg" at the Desert Inn, leading to a memorable scene in which Albert Brooks' character David Howard tries to convince the Casino manager (Garry Marshall) to give them their money back. David, an ad man, proposes a campaign centered around the generosity of the casino in his case, replete with a jingle: "The Desert Inn has heart... The Desert Inn has heart."

The opening scene to the 1993 film Sister Act 2: Back in the Habit took place in the Grand Ballroom of the Hotel.

The Desert Inn saw its last commercial use in the 2001 film Rush Hour 2. It was converted into the "Red Dragon", an Asian-themed casino set.


  1. ^ "Wynn Buys Desert Inn as Gift for Wife". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved 2013-06-10. 
  2. ^ "Jac Lessman 85, Dies; Hotel-Resort Developer". New York Times, November 8, 1990. Accessed September 14, 2008
  3. ^ Rothman, Hal (2003). Neon metropolis: how Las Vegas started the twenty-first century. Routledge. p. 16. 

Coordinates: 36°07′43″N 115°09′59″W / 36.1287°N 115.1664°W / 36.1287; -115.1664