The Moulin Rouge Hotel Casino opened on May 24, 1955 as the first luxury interracial gaming establishment in Las Vegas. It closed in October of the same year. That five month period proved to be the heyday of the historic landmark.
Will Max Schwartz, Louis Ruben, Alexander Bismo and a group of partners owned the Rouge and built it just beyond the boundaries of the original Westside community at 900 West Bonanza. Joe Louis served as host welcoming crowds that included Hollywood royalty – Tallulah Bankhead, Harry Belafonte, Gregory Peck, Dorothy Lamour, Sammy Davis, Jr., Dean Martin, Jack Benny, Frank Sinatra, and Peter Lawford. The first line of black dancers, under the direction of Clarence Robinson, appeared nightly and graced the cover of Life Magazine. William (Bob) Bailey, master of ceremonies, had entertained all over the world and declared the entertainment the best in the city. The Moulin Rouge became well known for the third show staged at 2:15 in the morning. This early morning performance pulled customers from the resorts on the Strip and is rumored to be one of the reasons for the closure. The resort went into receivership in October for the nonpayment of various goods and services.
The Moulin Rouge reopened and closed several times over the years. It gained further significance in March 1960 as the location of the meeting that integrated the Strip and downtown hotel casinos. Black leaders who threatened a march on the Strip sat down with the governor, mayor, and other officials and agreed that blacks could become customers in city and county gaming establishments. In the late 1980s, Sarann Knight Preddy and her family owned the business. Later The Moulin Rouge Development Corporation held ownership. In 2003, the famed Moulin Rouge burned to the ground. Only the iconic sign is left and can be viewed at the Neon Museum. Fortunately, the property was listed on the National Register of Historic Places.
Claytee D. White, Dir. of Oral History Research Center