Shortly after billionaire Howard Hughes—whose public feud with Sinatra was well known (Sinatra starred in several movies for Hughes’ doomed RKO pictures, including the flop “Double Dynamite”)—purchased the Sands in 1967, the Chairman’s credit line at the casino was suspended. Drunk and angry, Sinatra left the gaming tables, returning at the helm of a speeding golf cart, which he allegedly smashed through one of the Sands’ plate-glass windows. After this legendary altercation, Sinatra began, in 1968, to headline at Caesars Palace hotel and casino.
In addition to a fresh start, the 1,000-seat Circus Maximus at Caesars offered Sinatra the opportunity to reach a larger audience and to command a bigger salary; it would become the singer’s primary Vegas venue in the latter part of his career. When he played, the Las Vegas Fire Department worked overtime, trying to contain enthusiastic fans that spilled from their seats into the theater’s aisles and stairways. Caesars referred to Sinatra as "The Noblest Roman of them all”— a slogan printed on medallions the casino gave out to guests. When he was headlining, the marquee occasionally read, simply, "Guess Who?" and "He's Here.”
In 1959, Antonio Morelli, the famous orchestra conductor and musical director for the Sands Hotel and Casino, built a dream house for his wife, Helen, on an expensive tract of land known as the Desert Inn Estates. Morelli worked closely with Sinatra and the Rat Pack during their time as Sands headliners, and the troop would often rehearse at his home. A classic example of Las Vegas mid-century modern architecture, the house was relocated to Bridger Avenue and restored as a historical preservation project by the Junior League of Las Vegas in 2001. The Wynn Resort was built on its original site. Private tours of the Morelli House, now listed in Nevada’s national register for historic places, are available through the Junior League’s office.
In 1984, Sinatra and Willie Nelson inaugurated the Golden Nugget’s Theater Ballroom—a comparatively small space Frank supposedly nicknamed “the Dungeon.” For the three years that followed, Sinatra, at the twilight of his career, performed at the resort. The Theater’s intimacy and a recent abdominal surgery couldn’t dampen 71-year-old Sinatra’s spirits in a December 1986 performance, which was released posthumously in 2005 as “Live from Las Vegas." Recorded at the Nugget, it was the artist’s first major live Las Vegas album since 1966’s “Sinatra at the Sands.” Today, the 2,400-room hotel and casino is well known for its famous 200,000-gallon shark aquarium called “the Tank.”
Sure it’s a bit of Vegas kitsch, but Italian chef Theo Schoenegger’s Sinatra restaurant located in Encore at Wynn Las Vegas caters to serious Ol’ Blue Eyes fans. The menu specializes in Italian-American favorites such as hand-rolled spaghetti alla “chitarra” with tomato-basil sauce; chicken saltimbocca; and “Frank’s” clams possilipo, a Neapolitan recipe that was one of Sinatra’s favorite dishes at Patsy’s, his Manhattan retreat. Created in a collaboration with the Sinatra family, the restaurant displays priceless artifacts, including Frank’s Oscar for From Here to Eternity, a Grammy for “Strangers in the Night,” and an Emmy for “Frank Sinatra: A Man and His Music”.
Five Essential Frank Sinatra Tunes to Listen to Before You Go: