Best in Show
Business Traveler US|August 2023
How star residencies in Las Vegas became a billion-dollar business
Michael Shulman
Best in Show

THE LAS VEGAS RESIDENCY show is not a new phenomenon. Its origins trace back almost eight decades to 1944, when Liberace debuted in The Ramona Room at the Hotel Last Frontier, where he’d been hired for $750 a week. Following the wildly positive response on opening night, the Last Frontier’s entertainment director, Maxine Lewis, famously called the 25-year-old pianist to her office, where she canceled the old contract and presented him with a new one for $1,500 a week (raised a couple of years later to $2,000 a week). Adjusted for inflation, that’s nearly $26,000 per week.

“Entertainment has always been a part of Las Vegas,” explains historian, author and UNLV professor David Schwartz, “going back to the ’40s, ’50s and especially the ’60s. Since they all offered pretty much the same games, the casinos really used entertainment to differentiate themselves.”

In 1952, Jack Entratter, the former managing partner of New York’s Copacabana nightclub, became the manager of the newly opened Las Vegas Sands, where he designed the Copa Room with the intent of hosting the cream of the entertainment crop. The following season, Frank Sinatra made his debut at the Sands, where he would perform a few times each year. In 1960, during the filming of Ocean’s 11, the film’s stars—Sinatra, Sammy Davis, Jr., Dean Martin, Joey Bishop and Peter Lawford—appeared together at the Copa Room in performances billed as the Summit at the Sands, which became the unofficial launch of what we know as the Rat Pack.

This story is from the August 2023 edition of Business Traveler US.

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This story is from the August 2023 edition of Business Traveler US.

Start your 7-day Magzter GOLD free trial to access thousands of curated premium stories, and 9,000+ magazines and newspapers.