FLASHBACKS: HAPPY 25 BIRTHDAY MGM GRAND; MICHAEL JACKSON’S SURPRISE ARRIVAL
December 17, 2008: A stunt at illusionist David Copperfield’s MGM Grand show goes awry when one of his assistants suffers a broken arm. Copperfield is supposed to walk through a large spinning fan and disappear in a puff of smoke, but the assistant gets his arm caught in the fan.
December 18, 1993: Kirk Kerkorian opens the new MGM Grand, the city’s first billion-dollar hotel and the largest hotel in the country, with 5,005 rooms. The casinos take up more space than the playing field at Yankee Stadium.
December 19, 2005: Actress Keiko Agena, best known for her role as Lane Kim in Gilmore Girls, marries Shin Kawasaki in a helicopter hovering over Las Vegas. They renew their vows five years later the same way.
December 20, 1948: Alamo Airport, which had been bought by the county to become Las Vegas’ main air hub, is renamed McCarran Field after Nevada Sen. Pat McCarran. Why Alamo? It was founded by aviator George Crockett, a descendant of Davy Crockett, who died in the famed Texas battle.
December 21, 2006: Katie Rees, just two months into her reign as Miss Nevada, is stripped of the title after photos surface of her drinking and fooling around while not completely dressed in a Florida bar. Morality icon Donald Trump decides the Vegas blonde is not fit to compete in his upcoming Miss USA pageant.
December 22, 2008: Encore Las Vegas, a $2.3 billion luxury resort that mirrors the Wynn Las Vegas next door, opens to huge crowds despite a chilly night. Owner Steve Wynn tries to book Michael Jackson for the opening, but the Gloved One turns him down.
December 23, 2006: In a world exclusive by Norm Clarke, it was reported Michael Jackson and his children land in Las Vegas after an 18-month self-imposed exile in Ireland and Dubai, hoping to re-launch his career. He rents a million-dollar suburban home and stays there for six months. He returns to the city off and on until his death in 2009.
December 24, 1973: The MGM Grand, the largest and most expensive hotel in the world at the time, opens to the public after a VIP gala the night before hosted by Dean Martin. The hotel, site of a tragic fire in 1980, becomes Bally’s in 1986 and a new MGM Grand opens in 1993.
—Researched and written by Mike Precker