Transcript of interview with William H. Bailey by Betty Rosenthal, March 16, 1978

Metadata

Digital ID
ohr000171
Title
Transcript of interview with William H. Bailey by Betty Rosenthal, March 16, 1978
Narrator
Material Set
Interviewer
Rosenthal, Betty
Description
Interview with William H. Bailey conducted by Betty Rosenthal on March 16, 1978. Arriving in Las Vegas in 1955, Bailey became an assistant producer and master of ceremonies in the first interracial hotel in Nevada, the Moulin Rouge, and subsequently worked in radio and television. Bailey reflects on the history of discrimination in Las Vegas and its impact on the entertainment industry. Bailey's wife Anna was the first black girl dancer on the Strip in the 1961 production, "Nymphs of the Nile." Appointed by Governor Grant Sawyer to the Nevada State Equal Rights Investigatory Commission in 1961, Bailey served as its chairman and traveled throughout the state holding hearings. He describes his work on the commission and how discrimination in housing personally affected him.
Abstract
William H. "Bob" Bailey was born in 1927 and came to Las Vegas in 1955. He recalls his experiences in the entertainment business. First employed as an assistant producer and master of ceremonies in the first interracial hotel in Nevada, the Moulin Rouge, he describes the impact that hotel had on black entertainers during its brief existence. He tells how the Moulin Rouge's three show policy made the hotel the after hours meeting place for Strip entertainers where black and white entertainers could fraternize. He lists famous black performers who played the Moulin Rouge and declares, "Everybody who was big played here." Bailey says the hotel brought life to the Westside where, in 1955, there were only a few telephones and the streets were largely unpaved. He ascribes the failure of the hotel after only a few months operation to mismanagement. Bailey subsequently became a local radio and television personality and that role, for the most part, allowed him to circulate in the hotels and casinos without difficulty while other Black entertainers and spectators were denied entry. He reminisces about the indignities suffered by such Black stars as: Josephine Baker, the Treniers, Nat King Cole, Billy Eckstein, Sammy Davis, Jr., and Diana Washington. Some Black stars refused to play Las Vegas again because of the embarrassment they suffered. Because of discrimination in booking, Bailey says Blacks rarely were an opening act on the Strip, and it wasn't until 1963 that Blacks were employed in any numbers in Strip lounges, though in the fifties such stars as Sarah Vaughn, Delia [Della] Reese, and the Ink Spots had played the lounges. Black musicians had a particularly hard time finding work, not because they were not good musicians, but because they could not read music. Bailey's wife, Anna Bailey, was the first black girl dancer on the Strip in the 1961 production, "Nymphs of the Nile." Bailey claims responsibility for the descriptive phrase applied to Las Vegas, "the Mississippi of the West." He says the basic tenor of Las Vegas is still one of discrimination. He believes that because most black casino/hotel employees are from the South and conditioned to discrimination and because casino management is reluctant to offend high rollers from the South by equality of treatment, discrimination and de facto segregation continue in Las Vegas. Bailey points out that downtown Las Vegas has rarely employed black acts and appeals to a clientele drawn by country music, thus effectively eliminating blacks from downtown casinos. Additionally, Bailey accuses the Mormon Church Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints of being a strong influence in maintaining discrimination in Las Vegas through its policy of limited participation by blacks in church activities. That church's doctrine and practices, he says, give a certain morality to discriminatory practices. Appointed by Governor Grant Sawyer to the Nevada State Equal Rights Investigatory Commission in 1961, Bailey served as its chairman and traveled throughout the state holding hearings. He tells about his work on the commission and how discrimination in housing personally affected him then. Bailey says the impact of the television production Roots was only temporary, though it did make all people, not just blacks, conscious of their beginnings.
Identified Individuals
Identified Corporate Bodies
Identified Neighborhood
Berkley Square
Neighborhood City / Town
Source
F849.L35 B35
Original Collection
Original Date (interview)
1978-03-16
Subject (FAST)
DC Type
Genre (TGM)
Specific Genre (LCSH)
Language
Rights
This material may be protected by copyright. Personal, including educational and academic, use of this material is without restriction; but acknowledgement of the University of Nevada, Las Vegas, University Libraries is requested whether the use is oral, web or in print. Commercial use of any portion of this material requires permission. For further information please contact Digital Collections: http://digital.library.unlv.edu/contact. This document is an oral history. It is a spoken account of certain events and phenomena recorded at one particular moment and filtered through one individual's life experience, sensibility, and memory. As such, it should be considered a primary source rather than a final, verified, or complete narrative of the events it records.
Digital Publisher
University of Nevada Las Vegas
Digital Collection
Master Extent
2409 x 3206 pixels; 8.0 x 10.7 inches; 23,478,930 bytes; 49 images
Master File Format
Master File Quality
24 bit color; 300 ppi

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