Au Revoir, Riviera

Forget for a moment all that you know or don't know about Riviera Las Vegas. Forget the punch lines, the dank casino and the dwindling crowds, the maze to get from point A to point B. Forget the butt statue.

Forget its history. Forget the fact that it was classic Vegas even before there was such a thing. Forget that it opened in 1955 and will close in May, 60 years after its debut. Forget the facade that was added in the 1980s, which most people hate. Just forget all that stuff for a moment and bare with me.

We all know that nothing is permanent in Las Vegas. Landmarks tumble, properties change hands to new corporations, and your favorite show moves from the Strip to Downtown back to the Strip overnight, then it goes dark for good. This is just the nature of Las Vegas. You get used to it. It reminds you that, like the weather in most places other than southern Nevada or California, change is constant, and there's not much you can do about it. Next year, I'll be waxing poetic over how the new Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority building in its place is so cool. Probably.

But I'd like to take a step back and just remember for a moment. Ah, the Riv and the Stardust (also gone) were my first memories of Las Vegas 23 years ago. The Riv was the first hotel my buddy Steve and I stayed at and where we had our first gambling experiences.

I recall sitting down at my first blackjack table, a nervous young man, barely out of college. I had read books about how to win at blackjack, how to pick the best tables, and so on. But in my haste I sat down at a game where the dealer pitched cards to players instead of dealing from a shoe. I had very little idea what I was doing, and it showed. After a few hands, I got up and left to find a table with a shoe, where all I had to do was bet. Back then, we gambled at $2 tables and ate like kings.

The Strip seemed bigger than life. We didn't have a rental car that trip, so we walked everywhere. In July, no less.  It didn't matter. We were young with very little responsibilities or worries at that time. No mortgages. No big car payments. No debt. In fact, I used my credit card for the very first time on that trip.

Fast forward. I've stayed and played in many places in Las Vegas, and they all have something unique, some story to tell. I'll miss the Riv, just like I miss the Stardust. Not for the inexpensive food or low-roller tables. Not for the pool (which is huge!) or the sports book. Not for the butt statue (although like everyone else, I had to put my hand on it). I'll just simply miss the fun that I had while I was there.