Vegas Matchbooks, Part 3 (Disco Sucks)

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When I pulled a matchbook for Bob Stupak’s Vegas World out of a bag of assorted matchbooks for Las Vegas casinos, I immediately thought “Disco!” I might go on about the 80s sometimes, but I remember the tail end of the 70s, too. And the tail end of the 70s was all about disco: the Bee Gees, the Village People, Donna Summer, and all the rest of it. It was a strange time, looking back all these years later.

But Bob Stupak had a dream, and he had plans for a casino in Las Vegas. It was off the Strip, and away from the more established places like the Sands and the Stardust. But he had the idea that “the sky’s the limit” and in the years following Star Wars, he seemed to be onto something. So you build a casino, you get all the promotional stuff together, you pick a date for the grand opening, and life is good, right?

Well, not exactly. The opening of Bob Stupak’s Vegas World Hotel and Casino was set for Friday, July 13, 1979. It takes a certain amount of chutzpah to open anything on a Friday the 13th. But literally the night before the casino opened, Steve Dahl and a radio promotion in Chicago cut the head off the disco behemoth. It’s now known as the day Disco died, and the following day, Bob Stupak’s Vegas World opened its doors.

Steve Dahl may have killed off disco, but the casino itself survived and did very well. In fact, it lasted until 1995, when it shut down to make way for Bob Stupak’s towering achievement: The Stratosphere. Yes, the tallest observation tower in the United States was built by the man who said that the sky’s the limit. It appears that he was right about that, too.

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