The quintessential Vegas icon, made his Las Vegas debut at the Desert Inn in September of 1951. He recorded a live album "Sinatra at the Sands", and was recorded between January and February 1966 at the Sands Hotel and Casino on the Strip. He was one of the most famous members of the famous "Rat Pack", a clan of musicians and entertainers who always hung out together and performed together. When a show featured one of the members of the Rat Pack, (which included famous performers such as Dean Martin, Sammy Davis Jr, and Peter Lawford) oftentimes other members of the Rat Pack would arrive and perform an impromptu show, causing the crowds to go wild with excitement. He also performed at the Caesar's Palace in 1971, and returned in 1979 to receive a Grammy Award, again at Caesar's Palace. He also finally acheived recognition for his many years of association with Las Vegas, and was inducted into the illustrious Gaming Hall of Fame in 1997. He was such a big part of Las Vegas' history that the night after his death on May 14, 1998 the lights on the Las Vegas Strip were dimmed for 10 minutes in his honor. A restaurant was dedicated to his memory at Wynn Resorts in December of 2008 named "Sinatra Las Vegas".
Another famous member of the Rat Pack, Dean Martin was an American singer, actor and comedian. Like Frank Sinatra, Dean Martin had a deep connection in Las Vegas, becoming the one of the city's most popular performers. Dean Martin was known as a great singer, and one of the smoothest comics around. Las Vegas Strip hotels loved Dean Martin (along with the Rat Pack) as hotels where they performed were able to charge a premium just for their presence. Visitors were even known to be found sleeping in hotel lobbies and their cars, just to get a chance to see the Rat Pack together. Dean Martin passed away on Christmas morning in 1995 of acute respiratory failure as a result of emphysema at the age of 78. Like Frank Sinatra, the lights of the Las Vegas Strip were dimmed in his honor. Also in his honor, the city of Las Vegas renamed Industrial Road as Dean Martin Drive.
Sammy Davis Jr.
Sammy Davis Jr was a black famous dancer, singer, and actor. He was well-known for his performances in Las Vegas. He was born into a family of professional dancers: his mother Elvera "Baby" Sanchez was a tap dancer and his father was the lead dancer in Will Mastin's "Holiday in Dixieland". While he was world-renowned for his multi-faceted performing skills, he was revered as probably the biggest popularizer of tap dance in history. He was so worshipped for his tap dance skills that famous black actor Gregory Hines, after a tap dance solo performed at the Sammy Davis Jr. 60th Anniversary Show in 1990, called Sammy Davis Jr. onto the stage and, after a tap dance duo, kneeled on the ground and kissed Davis' feet. Davis died soon after that.
His history in Las Vegas, however, revealed a darker side of Vegas that few remember today. While they were allowed to entertain crowds and thus bring revenue to the casinos, they were not allowed to stay in the hotels. They had to stay in boarding rooms on the west side of the city. They were not given dressing rooms, they were not allowed to gamble, dine or drink in the hotels they performed at neither. Later on Davis would refuse to work in places which practiced racial segregation.
It should be noted that many consider the diverse ethnic backgrounds of the Rat Pack members to be the main contributing factor leading to the integration of Las Vegas. Sinatra and Martin steadfastly refused to appear anywhere that barred Davis, which forced casinos (who could charge a premium on rooms simply because the Rat Pack was performing there) to accept black entertainers and patrons. Sammy Davis Jr. justly took pride in his contribution to the desegration of Las Vegas.
Sammy Davis Junior died on May 16, 1990 due to complications from throat cancer. Like Dean Martin and Frank Sinatra (before them actually) the glamorous lights of the the world-famous Las Vegas Strip were darkened for 10 minutes as tribute to his life and contributions.