VIDEO VAULT: Queen of Hearts Hotel served as an example of the American dream at work
LAS VEGAS (KSNV News3LV) —
Every sign in the boneyard of the Neon Museum underwent a journey--usually of several decades--to find a home there. Take for example the one that used to adorn the building where Las Vegas City Hall is today. The story of Ann Meyers Queen of Hearts took many turns, but is in a way, a great example of the American Dream.
“Two and a half years before I bought this hotel I was on food stamps,” Meyers told News-3 in 2004. “So I earned every nickel by myself. I was a single parent with two little girls. So yes, it does mean a lot to me.”
Born in Yugoslavia in 1934, Ann Meyers had spent two years in a concentration camp as a childhood before ending up in Las Vegas and gathering the funds needed to purchase the Casbah in 1978. The Casbah had opened in 1964 as a modest residential hotel at First and Lewis, distinguished by its golden elephants out front.
The dream became tarnished by the time the 1990s rolled around, with the neighborhood going downhill. Undercover surveillance video taken by the Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department showed the Queen of Hearts as a haven for crack cocaine dealers.
“OK, Bro. Thanks, Bro,” said a pair of men to each other in 1996 on grainy black and white video. “See you tomorrow night too.”
At the same time, the Queen of Hearts was dealing with what seemed to be a pattern of neglect and health code issues.
“This is not new,” said the County Health Department’s Felix Havis in 1996. “I mean, we go in, inspect a room, close it. They fix it. They we re-open it. Next time we go in, we find some more in violation.”
With downtown revitalization hopes pinned on the new Fremont Street Experience nearby and police cracking down, Ann Meyers submitted a plan to close the bar between midnight and 8:00 AM to discourage the criminal element, in a proposed deal to keep the hotel open.
“If there are problems in the area, and there may have been problems in the establishment, we've gone a long way toward resolving that,” said Queen of Hearts attorney Mark Ferarrio outside a City Council meeting.
“That deal is still being worked on and may be approved in two weeks,” News-3 reporter Rick Fuentes told viewers. “First Metro officers and council members want to make sure that cleaning up that one corner will ensure safety all over downtown. “
The council seemed satisfied for the moment. But there was more adversity in 2004 in the form of a fire.
“My mom's the maid here,” resident Holly Aldrich told News 3. “We were up in the room and she came in trying to get wet towels to wrap the boys in to bring down. And as soon as she opened the door the house just started pouring in with smoke, because we're on third floor.”
Once more, the property survived a crisis and was barely hanging on. Then later in the decade, the City of Las Vegas started making plans to build a new City Hall, and decided the missing piece was the Queen of Hearts.
“All of these things are like a giant jigsaw puzzle,” said Mayor Oscar Goodman in 2010 as the Queen of Hearts was being demolished. “They all fit together and today is the beginning of it.”
After decades of hard work, Ann Meyers was ready to sell out and move on.
“The most important message for the everyday person this is the land of opportunity and in Las Vegas even more than any place in the country,” she concluded.
The current City Hall opened in 2013. One of the very few remaining visible memories of Ann Meyers Queen of Hearts, is the building’s neon sign which is now on display for visitors to the Neon Museum on Las Vegas Boulevard just north of Bonanza.
For more information, visit NeonMuseum.org.