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The Story of Kirk Kerkorian

A Fresno-Armenian Hotel Paperboy's Rise to the Top of Las Vegas

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Photo Courtesy of the 2005 Las Vegas Centennial Committee

Kirk Kerkorian - Born June 6, 1917

"I should like to see any power of the world destroy this race, this small tribe of unimportant people, whose wars
have all been fought and lost, whose structures have crumbled, literature is unread, music is unheard, and prayers
are no more answered. Go ahead, destroy Armenia. See if you can do it. Send them into the desert without bread
and water. Burn their homes and churches. Then see if they will not laugh, sing and pray again. For when two of
them meet anywhere in the world, see if they will not create a new Armenia."
(William Saroyan - 1934 Pulitzer Prize Winning, Fresno Born Author).

Saroyan.

William Saroyan 1908-81

Mr. K.
Photography by Erik Wunstell Copyright © 1977-2010. Kerkorian Photo from the Las Vegas Centennial Committee.

Kerkorian's 1973 MGM Grand (now Ballys). Designed by Martin Stern Jr. The original MGM Grand was
the first Mega-Resort built on the Strip, following Kirk's 1969 opening of his International Hotel on Paradise.

MGM Grand's New Hotel Center.
Photography by Erik Wunstell Copyright © 2010.

Sun-Up at MGM Grand's 2009 City Center.

Kerkorian Now.
Image Alteration by InOldLasVegas.com

Kerkorian in his Nineties.


In the Words of Kirk:

"When you're a self-made man you start very early in life. In my case it was at nine years old when I started bringing
income into the family. You get a drive that's a little different, maybe a little stronger, than somebody who inherited."

"I just lucked into things. I used to think that if I made $50,000 I'd be the happiest guy in the world."


All of Las Vegas Wishes Mr. Kerkorian a:

HAPPY BIRTHDAY !

Armenian Food for Kirk Kerkorian.

June 6th, 2010

   


Videos About Kirk, Famous Armenians & Saroyan's Human Comedy

1. Kerkorian's Donation to UNLV, 2. Famous Armenians, 3. Sexy Young Armenians, 4. MGM Pictures' 1943
Production of William Saroyan's Novel 'The Human Comedy' About WW2 Life in Fresno & Everytown USA.


Unofficial History of Kirk Kerkorian

Kirk Kerkorian was born on June 6, 1917. Besides Jackie Gaughan (the 89 year old former owner of Downtown's El Cortez)
Kirk probably knows the true history of Las Vegas better than any other living person. He's actually lived thru the most
dynamic years of Las Vegas' existence, right in the very center of most every major development since 1955.

Kerkorian's personal memories could fill dozens of books. Yet, being a Gemini (like Donald Trump) his basic character trait is
to always be involved in something new and not spend too much time looking back. This future-thinking trait is good for the
advancement of Las Vegas - but its a shame we can't hear him talk about his life experiences a little more. History will just
have to go without his input, since he is a very quick and busy man. Sort of an non-aging Dorian Grey. What other 93 year old
man, in this current age or any other, can keep going so strong? Since Kirk isn't about to tell his story - I've taken it upon
myself to present a few parts of his tale (in the hopes that someone more capable than me might eventually write a better one).

Kirk's pace has always been almost super-human, from his early boxing days - to his days competing with Howard Hughes
(just 11 years his senior) to Kirk's involvements with Steve Wynn (24 years his junior) which continue to this day.

Yes. Kirk Kerkorian's life story is a king-sized tale which we most likely will never know, except thru small
bits and pieces. This bio presents a different perspective than the norm. Most Kerkorian biographies miss the grade entirely.
This bio will be no better - so why rely on half-facts in trying to tell it? I won't waste time trying. I only intend to show things from
another angle. Its important to see the connections between Kirk and Wynn - since both are the masters of casino development.

Kirk's biographers rarely get the facts right on Kirk. They say he dropped out of school in the eighth grade.
Perhaps that makes his story more interesting by implying that Kirk was an impoverished, junior-high school drop-out.

Yet, my 84 year old mother, who lived just 8 houses away from young Kirk's home (on Ventura Avenue in Fresno's small
Armenian Town) remembers how her and her sisters would watch Kirk on his daily walks to Fresno-Tech High-School. She
also remembers that he attended Fresno State College for awhile (just before he opened Fresno's first automated car-wash).

Armenians, by nature, are very curious people. Especially teen-aged, Armenian girls. So, when my mom describes Kirk walking
to high-school...always at 80 miles an hour... in a variety of brand-new ski-sweaters...and never even giving her or her sisters
a second glance ...I tend to believe her. Especially when she says her red-head sister Queenie used to try flirting with Kirk at
Sooren's Peda Bread Bakery, but he never paid any attention at all...I tend to belive that too...because there is no self-favoring
embellishment or desire to stretch the truth in the answers she gives to the questions I ask her.

When my mother tells me how Kirk's mother and my grandmother walked to the Holy Trinity church together and visited each other's
homes to roll grape-leaves into Armenian Sarma, knead dough into Lahmajoon (Armenian Pizzas) and drink Turkish coffee together to
read the fortune-telling patterns in the sediment left at cup's bottom....I believe that also. Armenians may gossip, but they rarely lie.

And even when my mom says that Kirk went steady with the girl at the dry-cleaner's shop... just beyond Black's Grocery...right next
door to Duke's Bar...across from California Hotel on Inyo...where the four Hagopian Brothers, who owned the 'The Swing Club'
dance-hall on Broadway used to hang out...along with almost every other young Armenian guy in the neighborhood...and that Kirk
later married the pretty dry-cleaner-girl named Eva (even though that early marriage isn't listed in any of Kirk's bios)...well,
I still sort of believe that some parts of her recollections might be half-true (though maybe distorted a bit by the fog of time).

She's easy to believe, because she includes 'telling' details of her Fresno memories...like when she says that 'Junior Touch Ohanian'
(later Mike Conners of Mannix TV fame) wore a deep-blue cashmiere sweater and was actually the handsomest guy on the block...and
had a beautiful sister...and their father was a lawyer...but not richer than the other neighbors...and definitely not as mean and rude as
Johnnie Sarkisian (Cher's dad) who used to push her off the swing-set at Emerson Elementary and tease her outside Arax' Market.

Armenians remember the smallest details of the people around them. It's sort of a learned cultural trait. They ask a lot of questions.
"What happened?". "What did you see?". What did it look like?". "How'd they act?". "What did he say?". Those are the type of things
Armenians always ask each other. They tend to look at everything thru a microscope and keep their eyes wide-open and analyze things.
They have a strong need-to-know. It's a sort of national trait. And can sometimes seem like a miniature inquisition. So. When my
mother gives me one of her highly detailed responses....I usually believe that 75% of them could actually be true. 50% of the time.


Kerkorian - Life in Fresno

Kerkorian's Homeland of Armenia, Showing Mount Ararat.
Armenia Photos Courtesy of Wikipedia Commons

Armenia's Mount Ararat.

To properly understand Kirk Kerkorian's background, a person needs to consider the nature of his nationality.
He's a first generation, Twentieth-Century, American-born Armenian. Let's think about what that means.

Armenia was the first country to adopt Christianity as their state's religion (which they did in the 3rd century AD).
Living on the fertile land surrounding Mount Ararat (the supposed landing spot of Noah's Ark) they lived a life
of high civility and refinement, unmatched among other areas of Persia, further south. With kind and peaceful
natures a part of their national training and evolution, their peacefulness drew forth the wrath of their barbaric
Turkish neighbors - who decided to kick all the Armenians off of their own ancient homeland and claim it
for themselves. They did this thru acts of barbarism, extreme cruelty, rapes, slaughters and starvations.

By 1915, within just 18 months, over 1.5 million Armenians were killed and the rest forced to evacuate.
Which they did by moving to Europe & the Mid-East or by, preferably, catching a refugee boat to the
USA - provided by the compassionate assistance of many caring, English missionaries.

Fresno County Courthouse - Kirk Kerkorians Hometown.
InOldLasVegas.com's Fresno Collection.

The Fresno Courthouse & Park.

In America, these Armenian refugees sought a type of geography similar to their homeland. They found similar
fertile soil and proper temperature in the Central Valley of California. Most specifically in Fresno, California.
It was here where they could start anew, and where they could once-again grow the food they were familiar
with: grapes, tomatoes, cucumbers, green peppers, plums, figs and apricots.

Upon their arrival in California, the escaped Armenians were determined to not look backwards. Although they
would hold firmly onto their cultural heritage and beliefs, the 'escapees' were just as determined to establish
their future solidly in the new land. The first-born American sons and daughters of the Armenian immigrants
were motivated to escape from the stigma of being immigrants - especially wanting to no longer be labeled as
a "poor Armenian" or even worse a "Dee-Pee" (Displaced Person).

Dee-Pee was the slang word used to describe the pitiful looking race of people who arrived in America wearing rags,
with little available support from established American relatives. Unlike the German, Irish or Italian immigrants who
arrived, in spurts, in the U.S. decades earlier (usually having some form of employment pre-arranged by relatives)
the Armenians arrived all at once, in a large exodus of displacement...with no established help available for them.
This is the big distinction that Armenians held. They were the unfortunate members of a race of displaced refugees.

DP, being the shortened version of the Ellis Island term for 'displaced person', had the same meaning used decades
earlier for the Italian immigrants who were labeled as "Wops"...the initials used at the immigration port for Italians who
were labled as W.O.P (With Out Papers). Regardless of the innocent origin of the slang word, the derogatory use
of the term DP, held a harsh meaning for young Armenians who wanted to fit into a society that didn't want them.

"Un-wanted" definitely applied to the American-born Armenians who were coming of age after the 1929 Depression.

The stigma of being 'the dark haired people' in a land filled mainly with blond and brown haired Anglo-Saxons, was
felt strongly. In 1920s' Fresno, Armenians were stuck with the derogatory name of 'Fresno Indians'. Armenian children
were kept segregated to certain schools. In early Fresno this meant Armenians could only attend Emerson Elementary,
Longfellow Junior High, or Fresno Tech High School. Armenians weren't allowed into the prosperous district of
Fresno High School for over two decades after they arrived. So, when it comes to understanding the motivations
of a 13 year old like Kirk Kerkorian (or any member of that first-born generation of Armenian-Americans)
it definitely helps to consider the differences between early 1930s society and what we have now.

When people wonder why Kirk Kerkorian or author William Saroyan are so revered among Armenians it is
because these two men proved to the world that Armenians were capable of modern intellect and business sense.

Fresno's Fulton Street.
InOldLasVegas.com's Fresno Collection.

Downtown Fresno, California looking down the lively section of Fulton Street. Kerkorian's childhood
home was located just six easy-to-walk blocks from this bustling area. It was along this street where
Kirk got his earliest impressions of the success that could come from the hotel industry as he sold
newspapers to tourists who were staying at the six, large tourist hotels used by people traveling
by train north to San Francisco and South to Los Angeles.

California Seal.
InOldLasVegas.com's Fresno Collection.

Mansions Near Kerkorian.
InOldLasVegas.com's Fresno Collection.

The area of Downtown Fresno, where Kerkorian was born in 1917, was called Armenian Town. It was a small,
low-income haven of wooden houses surrounded by hundreds of stately mansions (two seen above) where wealthy
doctors, lawyers and successful businessmen lived. Wherever Kirk walked thru Fresno, whether to school
or to various jobs, these were the mansions-of-the-rich thru which he would pass everyday.


Armenian Town / 1920-1945

Kirk Kerkorian's Fresno Neighborhood & Ventura Avenue.
InOldLasVegas.com's Fresno Collection.

Much like 1905 Las Vegas, Fresno was formed as a railroad-stop in 1885 used by travelers moving up and down
California. Fresno was the mid-way point between SF and LA, much like Las Vegas was the early, mid-way point
between LA and Salt Lake City. In Fresno, there were two major train terminals located in the downtown area.

When Armenians first settled in Fresno, after their 1915 exodus, they took up residence in a specific, low-income,
ethnic section of Fresno that was located nearer to the downtown area than the Anglo-Saxon neighborhoods.
The section where Armenians lived was an enclave known as Little Armenia or Armenian Town.

There were other ethnic neighborhoods known as German Town, Little Italy, and China Town, but Armenian Town
was unique for being located just on the edge of the downtown area between the Sante Fe and Southern Pacific
railroad terminals. In many ways this segregated area would prove helpful to the Armenians by allowing them
to be close to the 'high-action area' filled with commerce, assorted train travelers and the major hotels.

The neighborhood of Little Armenia was filled with early row-house-cottages in the Ventura Street area. The house
(seen above) is still located on the same block where Kerkorian's family lived and is a perfect example of the
life-style of Armenian Town from 1916-1946. This is the exact same six-block area that William Saroyan
(9 years Kirk's senior) grew up in and wrote about in 'My Name is Aram' and 'The Human Comedy'.

Saroyan was the first Fresno-Armenian to achieve national fame. A fact integral to the motivations of
Kirk Kerkorian in his roles as World War Two airplane pilot and future Las Vegas hotel-mogul.

Following World War Two, the Armenian population of Fresno began spreading into other areas of town.
In the 1960s, most of Little Armenia was razed to make way for the Convention Center and freeway on-ramps.

Old Fresno Scenes Near Armenian Town.
InOldLasVegas.com's Fresno Collection.

Fresno landmarks within 3-4 blocks of where Kirk lived in Armenian Town, including the Fresno Warehouse
Courthouse Park's Fountain, the California Lavosh Bakery (less than one block from Kirk's home), Consumer's
Ice House and the U.S. Postal Sub-Station branch for Ventura Street and residents of Little Armenia.

The Old Sun-Maid Raisin Factory in Fresno, Ca.
InOldLasVegas.com's Fresno Collection.

As Monterey had its sardine canning industry, Fresno had its wine-grape and raisin industry. Armenians
would go onto play a big part in the industry due to their knowledge of grape growing back in Armenia,
where the grape-leaf was part of Armenian culture and the main ingredient for Sarma.

The Sun-Maid Raisin Factory was where dried grapes where processed by the California Associated Raisin
Company. The company was founded in 1912 as a cooperative of family farms located within 150 miles of
Fresno. The factory was located 9 blocks from Kirk's home and was Fresno's largest employer of Armenians.

Sun-Maid Raisins Fresno, Ca.
Courtesy of Wikipedia Commons.

The Sun-Maid Raisin Girl, designed in 1916 a year before Kirk was born, like Kerkorian is still going strong.
When the Sun-Maid Company built their new plant it was was recognized as the "finest factory building west
of Detroit" and the company was heralded as one of America's best companies at the 1915 San Francisco
World's Fair, bringing Armenian Town residents a lot of pride in their Hye quality neighborhood product.

The Santa Fe Railroad Station and Terminal in Fresno, California.
InOldLasVegas.com's Fresno Collection.

This Santa Fe Railroad Station was located four blocks north of Kirk's home and
was one of the two main centers of tourist activity for Fresno newspaper-boys.

The Old Southern Pacific Railroad Station and Terminal in Fresno, California.
InOldLasVegas.com's Fresno Collection.

This Southern Pacific Railroad Station was located five blocks south of Kirk's home,
as well, and was the other main center of visitor arrivals for Fresno newspaper-boys.

Water Tower.
Courtesy of Historic Fresno.org

The 116 year old Water Tower, near Kirk's old Fresno Tech High School, is an
Armenian Town landmark, as loved by Fresnans as the Las Vegas Stratosphere


Kirk as Hotel Paperboy

Kirk Kerkorian's Elementary School.
InOldLasVegas.com's Fresno Collection.
Fresno's Emerson Elementary School where Kirk attending Grades
K-6 from 1922-1928 (followed by Longfellow Jr. High).

Kirk Kerkorian's High School.
InOldLasVegas.com's Fresno Collection.
Fresno's Technical High-School where Kirk went to a quasi-segregated,
industrial school, 8 blocks from his 'Armenian Town' Ventura Street home.

Former Hotels in Fresno News Article.
InOldLasVegas.com's Fresno Collection.

Fresno Bee Newspaper article about the once grand nature of Fresno's downtown hotels.

Aerial View of Kerkorian's Fresno Environment.
InOldLasVegas.com's Fresno Collection.

Kerkorian's family-home was located within 90 yards of the yellow-dot (bottom-right).
Six major, Central Valley Hotels (five seen with blue-dots) were within blocks of Kirks house.

The Fresno Republican Newspaper (blue-dot, mid-right) was located two blocks from where Kirk lived
and it was as a news-boy, selling papers at the major hotels, where he got his first taste of hotel-commerce.

Hughes Hotel in Fresno.
InOldLasVegas.com's Fresno Collection.

The Hughes Hotel was located two blocks from the train depot and four city blocks from Kirk's home.

Sequoia Hotel in Fresno.
InOldLasVegas.com's Fresno Collection.

The Sequoia Hotel was located directly across the street from the Fresno Republican Newspaper
where Kerkorian would pick up his batch of morning-papers to sell to guests at the Fresno Hotels.
William Saroyan had worked at the Republican (both as newsboy and copy-checker) a decade earlier.

Hotel Fresno.

The Hotel Fresno was one of the best and was nationally famous and part of the circuit traveled by renowned
vaudeville performers - such as Al Jolson, Eddie Cantor, Bill Bojangles, Fanny Brice, and Buster Keaton -
who performed on the Orpheum Vaudeville Circuit.

Any kid (especially a paper-boy in the late 1920s and early 1930s) would certainly get a huge look at the
glamorous world of big hotels, VIPS, city-action and big-time-entertainment...plus know the feeling of
accumulating nickels, dimes and dollars by understanding how to properly sell to travelers.

Hotel Californian in Fresno.
InOldLasVegas.com's Fresno Collection.

The Hotel Californian opened in 1923, when Kirk was six, just three blocks from his family's home. This hotel
was a big deal and enormously popular and famous. It was located just 120 yards from the Republican
Newspaper building where newsboys would collect their daily supply of papers to sell to hotel guests.

In 1932, the famous hotel-man Tom Hull, took over the operations of the Hotel Californian. Hull (born 1897)
had lots of experience in the hotel industry, having operated the Hollywood Roosevelt, the Mayfair and
Hollywood Plaza hotels in Los Angeles - as well the Hotel Senator in Sacramento.

In 1939 Hull opened the El Rancho Fresno and El Rancho Sacramento motels as 'car oriented architecture'
meant to lure highway travelers in for a rest from their highway travels. Hull later opened El Rancho Motels in
Bakersfield and Indo. In 1941 he extended his El Rancho chain to include Las Vegas in his string of hotels.
Hull's success in the hotel business was something obviously well noted by Kirk Kerkorian who spent many
years nearly living in the shadow of the Hotel Californian, as a boy and young man.

Thomas Hull's El Rancho Fresno.
InOldLasVegas.com's Fresno Collection.

The Californian Hotel's Thomas Hull opened his El Rancho Fresno Motel in 1939. In 1941 he would open his
fifth EL Rancho Motel in Las Vegas. The EL Rancho Vegas would have the same style but included a casino.
Kirk Kerkorian would visit there many times during his stint as an Air Force pilot and after.

Sequoia Lobby.
InOldLasVegas.com's Fresno Collection.

The lobby of the Sequoia Hotel. Though miniscule in comparison to the Grand Lobby at the Hotel Californian,
was just one of the nearby hotels Kirk would see and move thru in his daily life in Fresno.

Being a part of the commerce at these early hotels in the exciting pre-WW2 Downtown Fresno environment
shaped Kerkorian's love for the hotel industry. His formative years were spent with the full awareness that
traveling guests at the major hotels had particular tastes and needs as well as pockets full of dimes.

Just as Steve Wynn grew up involved in the every-day-operations of the gaming business, Kirk likewise spent his
earliest days learning about hotels. Even Kirk's later involvement with investing in the auto-industry had roots
that go back to his early twenties when he developed a unique steam-cleaning business to clean car motors
for used car dealers and his later opening of the first automated car-wash in Fresno (a short-lived
business interrupted by Kirk's enlistment in the WW2 air-force).

Kirk and Cars.
InOldLasVegas.com's Collection.

In his late teens and early twenties Kirk invested in car washing equipment and later moved into the field of the
automated car wash, which could wash a car in minutes. The US Air-Force would soon change his direction.


King John's View

Family Photo - Copyright by Erik Wunstell © 2008

My Grandpa (1894-1956) John Soldorian, like Kerkorian's parents - escaped from the 1915 Armenian Genocide
to make a fresh start in America. He was friends with the younger William Saroyan when Saroyan worked at the
print shop across from the Virginia Hotel. Saroyan later gained worldwide fame from writing about the small
enclave of 'Armenian Town' in Fresno - thru books like 'The Time of Your Life' and 'The Human Comedy'.

'Human Comedy' (a fictionalized story about life in the WW2 homefront of Fresno) was made into a movie in 1943.
It won the Oscar for Best Story & was nominated for Best Actor, Director & Picture. A big deal for Fresnan's.

Older Armenian Fresno men (like my Grandpa and Saroyan) kept close track of the World War Two exploits of the
younger Kirk Kerkorian, whose War-Hero status gave much pride to the members of the small Armenian neighborhood.

Family Photo - Copyright by Erik Wunstell © 2008

My Grandpa was well known in the small Armenian community of Pre-World War Two Fresno. He owned the 11-Hi Bottling
Company. 11-Hi was a humorous Armenian 'play-on-words version' of 7-Up...in that the word 'Hye' means Armenian.

Family Photo - Copyright by Erik Wunstell © 2008

John Soldorian and son Mike at the 11-Hi Bottling Company. John would use any bottle available (even milk bottles)
to bottle his soda-pop. This often invoked the frustration of the Nesbitts' Bottling Company & funny jokes from
Coca-Cola's enforcement agents when Big John and his son kicked them off his property after being cited. Such,
was the early nature of Armenian immigrants, who learned to make do with whatever resources were available.

Armenian Sisters in the 1940s.
Family Photo - Copyright by Erik Wunstell © 2008

Four of the seven Soldorian Sisters, who tried hard to get Kirk's attention as he walked to
High School "80 miles an hour in his ski sweaters". My mother is seen second on the left.


Kirk in the Air Force

Kirk Kerkorian's Near Fatal Plane Crash.

For a short time before World War Two Kirk worked as flew as a crop-duster spraying valley farms. When
the war began he was able to enlist into the Air Force where he learned to fly military planes an air-school in
the Mojave Desert (close to Vegas) and would go on to make major money by delivering Canadian planes to
Scotland. He would earn $10,000 (big money in the 1940s) flying daring & dangerous missions around the world.

Kerkorian's Plane News.
InOldLasVegas.com Collection.

Kirk continued flying even after the end of World War Two. His expolits were big-news to the folks back in Fresno.


Kerkorian in Vegas - The Early Years

Kerkorian's Land 1963.
InOldLasVegas.com Collection.

Kerkorian's early amasing of a large bankroll and his friendship with fellow aviator, Howard Hughes, led Kirk
to post-war Las Vegas where he began investing in property and leading charter flights and junkets into the growing
city. In 1947 he bought the LA Air Service and ran Trans International Airlines for 20 years & then sold it in 1968.

This 1962 view shows one of Kirk's earliest Las Vegas investments in Las Vegas. He purchased the land across from
The Flamingo Hotel (seen on left with billboards). This land would later be leased to Jay Sarno for Caesars Palace.

1963 Kerkorian-Caesars News.
InOldLasVegas.com Collection.

1963 Fresno Bee newspaper report about Kirk's property across from the Flamingo.

Kerkorian's Land.
InOldLasVegas.com Collection.

1965 photo shows Caesars Palace nearing completion on the land Kerkorian was leasing to Jay Sarno.

Kerkorians Land After Caesars Completion in 1966.

1966 photo shows Caesars fountains on the land Kirk was leasing and shows the Flamingo before its 1967 remodeling.

Kerkorian, Las Vegas News Stories.
InOldLasVegas.com Collection.

1967 and 1968 newspaper articles show Kerkorian involved in lots of purchases, starting with his buying
the Flamingo Hotel in 1967 and then the Bonanza Casino in 1968.

Kerkorian, Las Vegas News Stories.

The photo above shows the results of Kerkorian's decision to remodel the Flamingo.He hired architect
Martin Stern Jr. to design the renovation. The main redesign element was to bring have the entrance face
the Strip and to remove the former diagonal side entry and to move the casino entrance closer to the boulevard.

The original 1946 Flamingo had been remodeled in 1953 - when its Champagne Tower was added. During Kirk's
1967 remodeling of the hotel the 17 year old Champagne Tower was demolished to make way for a new covered
driveway (porte cochere) and an 'observartion-styled' restaurant. The large windows of the 2nd floor restaurant
provided patrons with a fantastic view of the new Caesars Palace fountains and hotel across the street.


Kirk's Bonanza Ideas

Architect's Rendition of the 1969 Bonanza Hotel in Las Vegas.
InOldLasVegas.com Collection.

Architectural rendering of the 1969 Kerkorian owned Bonanza Hotel. This hotel was an addition to the
former (1963) Galaxy Motel that was located where Ballys' current south-tower stands. The was the first
Las Vegas Strip hotel to use an Old West theme since the Last Frontier Hotel-Casino opened in 1942.
This was at a time when the Bonanza TV series was in its 10th season of its 14 year run from 1959-73.

Kerkorians Bonanza Hotel Aerial View.
InOldLasVegas.com Collection. Restoration & Enhancement by Camden Communications

Kirk Kerkorian obviously was on a roll and was dreaming of big things during 1967 and 1968. Just one year
after he bought and remodeled the Flamingo, Kirk would go on to purchase the small Bonanza Casino.

.
InOldLasVegas.com Collection. Restoration & Enhancement by Camden Communications

The Bonanza Casino was formerly called the Galaxy Motel. The casino was just a (relatively) small addition
to the former Galaxy Motel's front lobby, plus another small building off to the side.

The reason for Kirk's purchase of the Flamingo and Bonanza was supposedly so that Kirkorian could train employees
for his next big plan to build the World's Largest Hotel on Paradise Road, which some people thought had the potential
to become a New Strip. While Kirk was buying the Bonanza he was also making plans to open his International.

The Cattleman Restaurant Inside the Bonanza Las Vegas Casino.
InOldLasVegas.com Collection. Restoration & Enhancement by Camden Communications

The Old West theme at the Bonanza included the Cattleman Steak-House Restaurant.

Kerkorian's Bonanza Hotel 2.
InOldLasVegas.com Collection. Restoration & Enhancement by Camden Communications

Kirk's purchase of the Bonanza (now the site of Ballys South Tower and the edge of Paris Hotel) also included
the vacant land on south-east corner of Flamingo Road and the Strip. He would end up using that property
for a project he'd envisioned to be even better than his International Hotel.

While Kerkorian was building his International, Howard Hughes was also completing work to get the (long-stalled)
Landmark Hotel-Casino opened across the road from the International. They would both open just two days apart.

Kirk's Bonanza 1.
InOldLasVegas.com Collection. Restoration & Enhancement by Camden Communications

This 1965 photo (looking northward) shows Caesars Palace nearing completion (just beyond the Dunes sign).
The Galaxy Motel can be seen on the right, before it's lobby's front was turned into the Bonanza Casino and
an additional building was added to the side. Just beyond the Galaxy a mostly vacant lot can be seen. This lot
was the the partly occupied by the Three Coins Motel. Kerkorian would have major plans for this property.

In 1969 Kirk also purchased the entire MGM film studio in Los Angeles and owned most of the land that would
later be called Century City. In 1972 Kirk would turn his new vacant Las Vegas lot into the MGM Grand Hotel.


Kirk's First, World's Largest Hotel

Kirk's 1969 International Hotel.
InOldLasVegas.com Collection.

After Kirk's purchase of the Flamingo and the Bonanza he built the International Hotel. At the time it set
the record as being the largest hotel in the United States and in the entire world. Few people then could
ever imagine anything might ever be bigger or better. The International seemed to be the most modern
hotel to ever open. And it was. But not for long. Becasue Kirk had even bigger dreams to achieve.

Kirk's 1969 International Hotel at Night.
InOldLasVegas.com Collection.
In July of 1969, while the Apollo Eleven astronauts were rushing to reach the Moon, Kerkorian and Howard
Hughes were likewise rushing to get their casinos opened.

Howard Hughes' 1969 Landmark Hotel Seen in 1977.
Photography by Erik Wunstell Copyright © 1977-2010.
Both casinos opened two days apart of each other with Kirk's International opening on July 2nd and Hughes'
Landmark on July 4th. Within just a few years time, Kirk would sell his International and start work on building
another World's Biggest Hotel...this time on the Las Vegas Strip.

Kerkorian's International and Howard Hughes' Landmark Hotels in Las Vegas Circa 1969.
InOldLasVegas.com Collection.
View looking east from the Strip shows Kerkorian's International after it was purchased by Hilton. Notice
that the room wings (left) were extended. Howard Hughes' Landmark 'Space Needle' Hotel-Casino is seen (right).


Kirk's First MGM Grand

.
Photography by Erik Wunstell © 1977-2010

In 1973 Kirk again opened a hotel that set the record for being the World's Biggest. When MGM opened, its
driveway entrance was the absolute, most lively and exciting place to ever exist on the Las Vegas Strip.

Daytime View of the MGM Grand in 1977.
Photography by Erik Wunstell © 1977-2010

This photo was taken in 1977 when Las Vegas still basically had that wide-open desert feel to it. Kirk's new,
gigantic hotel definitely stood-out among the low-rise structures of most other major hotels of the time.

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Photography by Erik Wunstell © 1977-2009

In 1973 Kerkorian and his architect, Martin Stern Jr. established the Mega-Hotel style that Steve Wynn would
bring to his Mirage Hotel-Casino 16 years later. This three-wing style would continue to be used for decades.

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InOldLasVegas.com Collection. Restoration & Enhancement by Camden Communications

In 1977 most Strip casinos had plenty of parking lots located in front of their hotels. The little motel
(on left side) would become the Barbary Coast in 1978. Drai's Restaurant is currently located there also.

Compare the size of this motel (left of MGM) and the former Bonanza Motel-Casino (right of MGM) to the size of
the building that Kerkorian built. Kirk's original MGM Grand was felt to be huge in the landscape of 1970s Vegas.

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InOldLasVegas.com Collection. Restoration & Enhancement by Camden Communications

The former Galaxy Motel (and Kerkorian's later Bonanza Casino) can be seen in front of the MGM Grand.

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InOldLasVegas.com Collection. Restoration & Enhancement by Camden Communications

Sunset at Kirk's MGM.

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InOldLasVegas.com Collection. Restoration & Enhancement by Camden Communications

Night at the MGM Grand.

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InOldLasVegas.com Collection. Restoration & Enhancement by Camden Communications

At the time this covered driveway was the largest in Las Vegas.

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InOldLasVegas.com Collection. Restoration & Enhancement by Camden Communications

Kirk's MGM Fountain was famous world-wide.

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Photography by Erik Wunstell © 1977-2009

By 1973 Kirk Kerkorian had already lived a life so full of achievement that few people could imagine.
Kirk has had a hand in Las Vegas development since the late 1940s, up until today. When Steve Wynn
opened his 1993 Treaure Island Hotel, Kirk opened his all-new, 2nd MGM Grand less than 50 days
later. Kirk, again set the record for building the World's Largest Hotel.

In 2000, just two years after Wynn opened his Bellagio hotel, Kirk made him an offer too good to pass-up
and purchased the entire block of Wynn Hotels (Mirage, Treasure Island and Bellagio). With that money,
Wynn was able to purchase the Desert Inn property and turn it into Wynn Las Vegas and Encore.

In 2006 Kirk began building his newest Las Vegas development, the City Center project - taking Las Vegas
into an entire new realm. His skyscraper filled mini-city may send the city into a whole new direction.

Vegas casinos owners have played the game of one-ups-manship since the 1930s. It's plain to see that
Kerkorian and Wynn have long motivated each other thru this friendly-competion that's been going on
since Wynn first arrived in Las Vegas and bought his first piece of Strip property next to Caesars.

Today is Kirk's 93rd Birthday. Maybe he can take a day-off to just enjoy his amazing
longevity...his biggest achievement of all, in my opinion. Happy Birthday Super K.


MGM Grand - Number Two

1975 Marina Hotel in Las Vegas.
InOldLasVegas.com Collection

When the Marina Hotel opened in 1975 it was advertised as being the third largest hotel on the Strip.
Kirk purchased this hotel and turned it into the MGM-Marina Hotel-Casino in 1989. In 1992 it was
basically gutted and was converted into the west-wing of the 1993 MGM Grand.

1976 View of the vegas Strip Looking Northward from Tropicana Road Showing Kerkorian's Future MGM Site.
InOldLasVegas.com Collection

Circa 1975 view of the Las vegas Strip, looking northward from Tropicana Road. The Marina (and future site of
the current west-wing of MGM Grand) is on right. The original 1973 MGM Grand is seeen beyond the Texaco
sign. Monte Carlo would later occupy the area near the Husky sign (right) with City Center just beyond.

1975 AErial of the Strip & Tropicana Location of Kerkorian's 1993 MGM Grand.
InOldLasVegas.com Collection

Circa 1975 view looking east at the Marina Hotel property which Kerkorian would turn into the 1993 MGM Grand.

Marina Hotel Las Vegas Showgirl.
InOldLasVegas.com Collection

1975 showgirl from the Marina Hotel.

1974 Aerial Photo of Kerkorian's Property for the 1993 MGM Grand Showing the Old Marina and Tropicana Golf Course.
InOldLasVegas.com Collection

Circa 1975 aerial photo showing the intersection of Tropicana Road and Las Vegas Boulevard. The Marina
Hotel is seen occupying the property that Kerkorian would use to build his second (1993) MGM Grand Hotel.
The current driveway of the MGM is where the Tropicana Golf Course was formerly located. The Marina Hotel
was converted for use as the MGM's west-wing (the wing now facing the Strip).

The Second MGM Grand in Las Vegas Built By Kirk Kerkorian in 1993.
InOldLasVegas.com Collection

Kirk Kerkorian's second MGM Grand was built on the south-east corner of Tropicana and Las Vegas Boulevard.
It opened on the former site of the Tropicana Golf Course. The land Kerkorian purchased included the Marina
Hotel, which was gutted and turned into the West Wing (the section facing the Strip) of the new hotel.

When the hotel opened on December 17, 1993 it had 5,005 hotel rooms and became the third World's Largest
Hotel that Kirk had opened. In 2009, Kirk Kerkorian and partners opened the largest privately funded
real estate development in North America - called City Center Las Vegas.


Kerkorian & MGM's 2009 City Center

Kerkorian and MGM Grand's City Center Vegas.
Photography by Erik Wunstell Copyright © 2010.

Kirk Kerkorian's newest batch of hotels at City Center.


Kirk Kerkorian - News Clippings

Kerkorian, Las Vegas News 1969.

Lima, Ohio December 1969 news article about Kirk asks: " Guess who - has so many millions he doesn't know how
much he's worth?". " Lives in Sin City but doesn't gamble, drink or go to nudie shows?". "Kirk Kerkorian".

1967 Kirk Kerkorian News Article.

Kirk's hometown newspaper continuing to report on Kirk's success in this 1967 Fresno Bee Newspaper article.


Steve Wynn's Biography - Coming Next Month

Wynn in Vegas.
Photography by Erik Wunstell © 1998-2010

Abstract of Mirage Hotel.
Photography by Erik Wunstell © 2008-2010

A Mid-Eighties Wynn Dream. Building Bali Hai. Dolphins in the Desert & South Seas' Impressionism.


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