Tuesday, July 1, 2008

A Vegas Icon

On the way home from our daughter's HS Graduation, we were chatting in the car and my Dad brought up a little known fact about my Grandfather's brother who lived in Las Vegas, NV for many years. . . . . He was a Vegas Icon!!!!

Here's what my Dad emailed about him:

"Well, Grandpa Ellsworth's brother, Elmo, was at various times employed by most of the hotels. He went to Las Vegas when it was still the Flamingo and Fremont Street. He knew all the players, so the hotels would hire him to be a greeter and see that the high rollers were taken care of. Meanwhile aunt Charlotte ran reservations at the Flamingo for many, many years, then moved over to manage hotel operations for the Frontier, and finally take the same position in Reno at the new MGM when it opened. . . .
When air service started, Elmo found a horse and rode out to the plane to greet the passenger's to Las Vegas and get them in a festive mood. Getting the horse to rear on its hind legs was a signature thing he did. As with all the boys, they grew up on horses and it was no big thing for him. Later when the city had grown, he worked for the Chamber of Commerce and lobbied government and the hotels to get them to build a convention center. He never pulled it off, but the idea hung around and it finally happened.
Elmo was a jovial, friendly guy. I always liked being with Elmo and Charlotte because they were both so nice, and because we always ate at one of the hotels and I could order anything I wanted and nobody paid. They just charged it to whatever comp account they had. On my way to the Mission Home in Salt Lake City, we stopped and Charlotte got us in to see Steve Lawrence and Edie Gourmet (I don't think that's how he spells it)."
Here are a couple other quotes I found:
"My Las Vegas included vintage Tailhook airplanes taxiing down the strip to the Thunderbird parking lot. It was climbing the narrow stairway from the casino to the lounge at the Landmark. It was Fred Glass ringside at the convention center on fight night or sighting Elmo Ellsworth's big white Stetson working its way through a packed house at the Riviera. And it was watching Ralph Lamb make his rounds on Friday afternoon, stopping every three feet to chat with someone. " (This Is Not My Las Vegas, Ted Finneran, Las Vegas )
Elmo H. Ellsworth, an Early Las Vegas Visionary By Jane Ellsworth Olive, Las Vegas
My father, Elmo H. Ellsworth, began to work for the Las Vegas Chamber of Commerce in 1947. His personality and selling skills were so effective that he became the prototype for the famous "Vegas Vic."
A year later, when Ellsworth was made Director of Membership and Conventions, he set a goal that Las Vegas would become the convention center of the West. There were no conventions in Vegas when he began his work, but six years later, his dream of a great convention center was fulfilled, and Las Vegas was already one of the top 12 convention cities in the nation.
My father worked for six years as manager of the Convention Bureau and then moved on to the Hotel Riviera in 1957. In 1963 he became its Vice-President of Sales, and then Assistant to the President. I believe the Riviera was the first hotel to build its own convention facilities, and my father was the first administrator of that enterprise.
Always forward looking, Elmo Ellsworth saw great possibilities for a tradeshow industry in Las Vegas. Toward this end, he and friends organized J.E.E. and Associates. They were actively promoting this business when my father passed away from cancer on December 13, 1971.
Because I was his daughter, I got to travel with Elmo Ellsworth throughout the Western states as he met with executives of convention facilities from Spokane to Los Angeles. He wanted to know everything necessary about building a functional and successful structure. When he began his efforts, Las Vegas was full of visitors on the weekends and nearly empty during the other five days of the week. That all changed when the convention center was completed.
My father always told me there would be lights from mountain to mountain in this valley. This was his dream for the place he considered the most wonderful on earth. He promoted that dream, not himself. There is a popular picture of an unidentified horseman on a rearing palomino greeting the first United Airlines flight into McCarran Field. That man is Elmo H. Ellsworth.
At the time of his death, Ruth Deskin wrote, "We will remember him as a man devoted to his family and community. When a monument is erected to the real builders of Las Vegas, Elmo Ellsworth's name should be inscribed near the top." (Las Vegas Sun, December 14, 1971)

First 100 Person Who Shaped Southern Nevada:
So for any of you that used to see the cowboy sign downtown big and in lights, that was my Great Uncle!

I found this picture at the airport on Sunday night when we went to pick Lauren up. I need to get a better picture. But there's that unmistakable Ellsworth profile!

1 comment:

Rebecca said...

I'm so glad you included quotes and info on Elmo. Thanks for sharing.