A big Las Vegas kaboom with hotel-casino implosion

Sin City will see another grand implosion Tuesday

Thanks to some well-rigged dynamite, early Tuesday morning the abandoned husk of the old Clarion hotel and casino just off the Strip joined the likes of such grand old Sin City dames as the Dunes, Stardust and the Aladdin.

With a booming flash of bravado and showmanship, the building imploded, its top floors crumbling into the history books and one heck of a lot of dust.

As in kaboom!

The city’s first hotel implosion in nearly a decade promised to be a less-heralded affair than its predecessors all those decades ago, when national TV showed up to record the event and onlookers held up numbers to rate the crowd appeal of the city’s latest showstopper.

The only thing was, part of the building was left standing: the elevator shaft.  It dropped a few stories and is leaning. But it didn't topple.

Closed since Sept. 1, the Clarion’s 200 hotel rooms have been emptied and big explosives are set to bring down the building between 2 a.m. and 3 a.m. It will be the 13th Las Vegas gambling property to be imploded -- and the first since the New Frontier hotel-casino came crashing down in 2007.

In its heyday, the doomed building was known as the Royal Americana, Paddlewheel, Greek Isles and Debbie Reynolds Hollywood Hotel. The Clarion demolition will be witnessed by owner Lorenzo Duomani and a group of VIP guests on the 6-acre site.

As always, officials made way to accommodate the curious, those willing to stay up late -- or get up early -- to witness the event from a safe distance.

But historians warned not to expect too many more big blasts -- implosions here are going the way of slot machines with side-arm pulls.

"The era of the big boom as performance piece is over," Clark County Museum administrator Mark Hall-Patton recently told the Los Angeles Times. "Implosions became too big — middle-of-the-night spectacles that were just over the top. They were victims of their own success."

The events became so popular that property owners decided they didn't want to worry about crowd control, Hall-Patton said. 

There was a day, in your father’s Las Vegas, when these events were the talk of the town.

And what a show it was.

The vintage hotel-casinos came shuddering down, collapsing amid roiling columns of dust as news cameras recorded the orchestrated events from various angles. First the old Dunes was imploded in 1993 to make way for the Bellagio, with volleys fired from a pirate ship at Treasure Island that appeared to set off the blast.

Two years later, the Landmark toppled as a Hollywood film crew shot scenes for the movie "Mars Attacks!" followed in 1996 by the Sands — preceded by a fireworks display — and later the Hacienda. The Aladdin, where Elvis married Priscilla in 1967, fell in 1998, and two years later, time ran out on the El Rancho.

The Desert Inn, once home to Howard Hughes, tumbled in 2001 to pave way for the Wynn. The Stardust fell in 2007, and among the last implosions was the New Frontier later that year.

"They were events for the nation's evening news," Hall-Patton said. "Crowds watched from lawn chairs, some people holding up numbered cards to rate the display, people saying, 'Well, there goes another piece of Vegas history.' "

john.glionna@latimes.com

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