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Posts tagged ‘nostalgia’

Heartbreak Hotel Las Vegas

May 4, 2016

Susan Marg


Photo by: Susan Marg

I’m awash in nostalgia, thanks to my local newspaper, the San Diego Union-Tribune. First, it was an article on pay phones, which they called a “relics of a not-so-distant past.” Another article noted Elvis’ decline on the Vegas Strip.

When I was doing research for my book Las Vegas Weddings, I can assure you that Elvis impersonators or, if you prefer, tribute artists were everywhere. On one trip to the City of Lost Wages, my husband and I saw a different Elvis performing five nights in a row – downtown, on the Strip, headlining concerts, and doing stand up in casino lounges. They were all terrific. So, too, were the guys in the wedding chapels.

While the number of tribute artists in town has been constant over the last several years, there’s a lot of competition for fewer gigs. Elvis-themed shows aren’t pulling in the crowds. Viva Elvis, a Cirque du Soleil production, closed in 2012 after two years at the Aria. In comparison, Mystère, the original Cirque du Soleil production, is going strong at Treasure Island two decades after it first opened. “Graceland Presents: Elvis the Exhibition” closed less than a year into a ten-year contract.

It’s not clear what is causing the fallout in fandom. It’s possible that there was not enough Elvis and too many acrobats in the first show mentioned above, and a landlord/tenant dispute disrupted the later at the Westgate Las Vegas. By the way, Westgate was originally the International, where Elvis began his long-running comeback in 1969.

All is not lost, however, unless you’re a runner-up at the three-day Tribute Artist Contest at Sam’s Town on the Boulder Highway this July. Rooms are still available.

© 2016 Susan Marg – All Rights Reserved


Got Change?

April 22, 2016

Susan Marg

I’m so glad that my post on pay phones stirred up some old memories. Here’s a comment, another post, really, from my friend Brian G. Be sure to check out his links, especially the YouTube video on the last visitors to the Mojave phone booth. Once located off the beaten track and miles from any building, Pacific Bell removed it in 2000.

Photo by: Thomas

Photo by: Thomas

Hello, Susan:

When I was a junior and senior in HS, I worked at Al’s French Fries in Essex Junction, Vermont. It was started by Al and Genevieve Rusterholz immediately after WWII. They converted the lower part of their house into a burger joint. Until McDonald’s came to town in the late 60s, they were the only local fast food place outside of Burlington.

Well, we had a phone booth nearby – the type that had the nickel, dime, and quarter coin slots on top. Earlier I learned from a friend that you could get a dime call for a penny dropped in the nickel slot. Immediately after dropping the penny, the trick was to slam the coin return plunger with the palm of your hand. Sometimes it took 3 or 4 tries to get the familiar “Ding-Ding,” but it worked!

That came in handy one night after I closed at 10:00 pm and cashed up. Unfortunately my Dad had fallen asleep and neglected to pick me up and it was now midnight. As I walked across the RR tracks, I found a penny. Shortly thereafter, I made that call and the rest is history.

Thanks for the memory! For a western twist, check out:

Brian G.

PS – The original Coke tabs were a bang-up substitute for dimes in the parking meters. The raw inventory was everywhere. Simply separate the ring from the tab, quick file the corners, and you were good to go for hours and hours…

Can You Spare a Dime?

April 21, 2016

Susan Marg

We all pay for our phones. And, boy, do we pay. But in the not so distant past, there was a special type of phone called a pay phone. These phones were coin-operated: you put your dime or quarter or dimes and quarters in the appropriate slot, and dialed. A telephone card or a credit or debit card worked, too.

Photo by: Mark Mathosian

Photo by: Mark Mathosian

These phones were everywhere – airports, train stations, and bus stops. On street corners they were housed in phone booths, making them the perfect place for Clark Kent to change into Superman.

Well, their time has passed. Yes, they’re still around, but their number is not even close to their peak when there were over two million in service as recently as the turn of the century, that’s this century, sixteen years ago. Today, the number is just a quarter of a million.

An article in the San Diego Union Tribune this past Sunday brought on this nostalgia. When I was at AT&T, a colleague of mine was responsible for creating awareness of pay phones, and I think of her often. Billboards in airports across the country announced their availability. AT&T got out of the business in 2009, canceling their pay phone contracts and disconnecting service.

Thank goodness for cell phones, no matter how much they cost.

© 2016 Susan Marg – All Rights Reserved

I’m Dreaming, or Do I Need a Shovel?

December 7, 2014

Susan Marg

This time of year makes us nostalgic. We prepare our Thanksgiving Day dinner while high school bands march in the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade. We root for an angel to lift James Stewart out of despair in It’s a Wonderful Life. We listen to “White Christmas” again and again and again.

Photo by: Williumbillium

Photo by: Williumbillium

Bing Crosby first sang the Irving Berlin song on his radio show in 1941 and then in the 1942 musical Holiday Inn for which it was written. It topped the charts that October and stayed there for eleven weeks. Over the years its estimated sales are over fifty million copies worldwide.

The over five hundred versions of the song since recorded by various artists around the world account for another fifty million plus copies sold. Before the decade was out Frank Sinatra, Kay Thompson, Jo Stafford, and Perry Como gave the song their own special spin.

In the fifties the Drifters, Eddie Fisher, Johnny Mathis, Dean Martin, and Ella Fitzgerald chimed in. Both Frank Sinatra and Perry Como again recorded the song, but not together. Elvis put the song on his first holiday album in 1957.

There are instrumental versions by Mantovani and His Orchestra (1952) and Kenny G (1994), as well as sing alongs. In 1961 on the cover to his holiday album, Mitch Miller didn’t print the song’s lyrics, but rather this disclaimer: “The publisher assumes everyone knows the lyrics to this song!”

The song knows no genre. Neil Diamond (1992) recorded a doo-wop version. Kenny Rogers and Dolly Parton (1984) harmonized on Once Upon a Christmas. Country and Western singers, Garth Brooks (1992), Martina McBride (1998), Taylor Swift (2007), Blake Shelton (2012), and Kelly Clarkson (2013) among others, have made it part of their holiday repertoire. So, too, did Motown with The Supremes (1965), boy bands, including New Kids on the Block (1989), and female performers from Barbra Streisand (1967) to Diane Krall (2005). Lady Gaga added a verse when she recorded it for A Very Gaga Holiday (2011), which goes like this:

I’m dreaming of a white Snowman

With the carrot nose and charcoal eyes.

And, oh when he cries, I’m gonna tell him

It’s okay,

Because Santa’s on his sleigh and on his way.


Conversely, most recordings drop Berlin’s opening verse:

The sun is shining,

The grass is green,

The orange and palm trees sway.

There’s never been such a day

In Beverly Hills, L.A.


Both California’s La Quinta Hotel and the Arizona Biltmore claim Berlin wrote his popular song while at their resort. It makes sense that only someone sitting poolside misses the snow and cold while the rest of us shovel our driveways so we can make it to Grandma’s for pudding and pumpkin pie.

© 2014 Susan Marg – All Rights Reserved