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A final look: The Riviera shuts its doors after 60 years on the Strip

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Las Vegas Sun archives

Liberace and Elvis Presley trade jackets and instruments in an impromptu jam session Nov. 14, 1956, at the Riviera.

Mon, May 4, 2015 (10:29 a.m.)

Another one bites the dust.

At high noon today, the doors to the renowned Riviera shut tight, and the life of a 60-year legendary icon comes to a bittersweet end.

It truly is the end of an era, and it goes out with an ironic bang raking in all-time record room rates with sold-out occupancy because of the Floyd Mayweather Jr.-Manny Pacquiao fight.

The 2,000-room building, which was the Strip’s first high-rise property, will officially die when it’s imploded this summer to make way for the new $2.3 billion Convention Center business district facility.

Our Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority purchased the property for $190 million in February. It was built in 1955 for $10 million.

For six decades, the Riviera has hosted everybody from the star-studded ribbon cutting with Joan Crawford and Liberace in 1955 to the filming of some of Hollywood’s biggest films, including Martin Scorsese’s “Casino” (1995), “The Hangover” (2009), “Austin Powers: International Man of Mystery” (1997) and “Ocean’s Eleven” (1960).

There were record-breaking performances from Elvis Presley, Mickey Rooney, Debbie Reynolds, Loretta Lynn, Herb Alpert, Louis Armstrong, Tony Bennett, Woody Allen, Jonathan Winters, Engelbert Humperdinck, Dolly Parton, Barbra Streisand and Dean Martin, who once owned a minority stake in the property.

The entertainment history of the Riviera is one of the richest in Las Vegas, and The Rat Pack of Dean, Frank Sinatra, Sammy Davis Jr and Peter Lawford hung out there in the late 1960s and early ’70s. Singer Pia Zadora, who was married to one-time Riv owner Meshulam Riklis, also performed there and was set to eat a final breakfast there this morning for old time’s sake.

“It’s sad to say goodbye, but it’s over — a old part of Las Vegas best left to happy memories held in our heart. It’s the end of a Vintage Vegas classic era,” she said. “All great things come to an end.”

And Las Vegas will never forget the first topless adult cabaret show on the Strip with “Crazy Girls,” who on Friday night hung up their sequined bras and G-strings for the final time there after 28 nonstop years before they move to Planet Hollywood mid-month.

“The Sopranos” star Steve Schirripa was a maitre-d there before becoming the hotel’s comedy director until he found fame on the small screen, and Frank Marino, who is still going strong at the Linq Hotel, opened his first female impersonators show there in the fall of 1985.

The Riviera was the ninth casino to be built on the Las Vegas Strip, and it was often honored as one of our city’s top entertainment destinations. As the “Crazy Girls” would say, there are “No ifs, ands or …” about that fact.

Robin Leach of “Lifestyles of the Rich & Famous” fame has been a journalist for more than 50 years and has spent the past 15 years giving readers the inside scoop on Las Vegas, the world’s premier platinum playground.

Follow Robin Leach on Twitter at Twitter.com/Robin_Leach.

Follow Sun A&E Senior Editor Don Chareunsy on Twitter at Twitter.com/VDLXEditorDon.

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