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But the room wasn't an immediate hit. By the Converse Red Shoes time Olympics visitors finished their days watching competitions, explained longtime Harrah's employee John Packer, they were too tired to trek to South Lake for more entertainment. And the shows drew disappointing numbers.
"He hired Don Rickles when a lot of people thought he was too insulting," Packer said. "On opening night, Rickles just nailed him . But Harrah fell over laughing," Packer recalled from stories passed down to him. "When he booked Willie Nelson, the outlaw country thing Converse Laces
So the South Shore Room has found its niche in bringing legacy acts and those who can comfortably fill up a theater of its size. And marking the room's 50th anniversary is an unusually heavy schedule that's been running since January with some names from the past and some from the present. Filling out the spring schedule are Los Lobos on Saturday, G. Love on March 14, Tower of Power on March 20 21, War on March 28, Neil Sedaka on April 4, The Hold Steady on April 14, the Family Stone Project on April 18, Glen Campbell on April 25, Sammy Hagar on May 1 2, Betty LaVette on May 9, Joan Rivers on May 16, Buddy Guy on May 24, Rick Springfield on May 30, Bob Newhart on June 6, George Thorogood on June 13 and the Smothers Brothers on June 19 20.
But Harrah did take chances on who he booked, Packer said.
Unfazed, Bill Harrah continued to book top entertainers and build his audience. In those days, entertainers were booked for one or two weeks, and they did two shows each night a dinner show and a cocktail show. Harrah attended most of the opening nights, and took notes on all of them, Packer Converse Kids White
Opened in December 1959, the South Shore Room was rushed to open in time for the 1960 Winter Olympics at Squaw Valley. Top entertainers were booked in hopes of building a Las Vegas style showroom experience, and Red Skelton, Liberace, Victor Borge and Nat King Cole were on the bill Converse Suede Hi Tops
said, who has worked at Harrah's since 1978.
was going on, and it was a real departure (for Harrah's)."
Fifty years ago, Bill Harrah built a showroom that was part of his dream of bringing top notch entertainment to the South Shore, where, just a few years earlier, he had started his Harrah's empire in Stateline. This year, Harrah's South Shore Room is marking its beginnings with a schedule heavy on legacy and up and coming entertainers.
In 2006, the room underwent a multimillion dollar renovation that included a new sound system and top to bottom upgrades.
Along with the way people dress, some other things have changed in the South Shore Room. The 850 seat theater generally can only book entertainers for a night or two, rather than weeklong runs, as that's how the business has evolved. And entertainers charge a lot more to perform now, which translates to higher ticket prices. Dinner shows are a thing of the past.
Over the years, entertainers including Frank Sinatra, Jack Benny, Judy Garland, Barbra Streisand, Bob Dylan, Robin Williams, Harry Belafonte the list goes on and on performed in the South Shore Room. One of the artists that Harrah never was able to get, though, was Elvis Presley, who performed at nearby competitor The Horizon.
Harrah's South Shore Room marks 50 years
Packer said the room will slow down as its sister venue, Harveys Outdoor Amphitheater, ramps up its summer schedule, but will return for the fall with a finale.
Harrah died in 1978, but throughout the 1970s, people dressed up for the Harrah's shows.
in the first few months.
"The type of showroom we have clearly isn't big enough to do Sinatra and John Denver on the same bill like we did in the 1970s," Packer said.
"In the Captains Room, we kept 50 or so sport jackets," that were available for loan, Packer said.
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