Return Trip to Vegas

Elvis Had Not Left the Building

Tom Zimberoff
10 min readJun 12, 2024

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Enrolled Agents / ©1983 Tom Zimberoff

The “Howdy Pardner” Las Vegas of my childhood there in the 1950s and 60s is best remembered as a mythical ethos, a hip desert oasis made possible by the conflation of mobsters with the invention of air-conditioning when the Rat Pack owned the Strip and the Mormons owned everything east and west of it. After my parents moved us to LA when I was a teenager, I was not eager to return as an adult, not even to visit, despite how much I had railed against leaving in the first place. But what had been a relatively small town and charismatic desert oasis for gamblers (and kids) had become a self-reverential metastasis of vulgarity, an immersive cartoon of a city for hedonists. I was obliged to return more than a few times, however, for photo assignments in the mid-70s and early 80s. But my first time back came only a year after moving away, during my first summer out of high school for a weekend road trip in Barry Bregman’s ’67 Mustang.

With Duke Crosby in the back seat, me riding shotgun, and Barry at the wheel, the three of us left before last call at the Daisy, a private discotheque in Beverly Hills where our underage entrée came thanks to another friend, Terry Hanson, whose father owned the place. We had Creedence Clearwater cranked up all the way on the under-dash eight-track to hear above the hurricane draft of our pony car with…

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