FLASHBACKS: LEON SPINKS SHOCKS ALI AND ‘VIVA ELVIS’ FAILS TO FIND FOOTING
February 15, 1978: Underdog Leon Spinks stuns Muhammad Ali in a 15-round split decision at the Las Vegas Hilton to become the world heavyweight boxing champion. Seven months later Ali wins the rematch to regain his crown.
February 16, 1954: The day after Ronald Reagan starts a two-week engagement at the Frontier Hotel, telling jokes and stories in his only appearance as a Las Vegas headliner, management tells him to shorten the show and do no encores. The bosses want customers back in the casino sooner.
February 17, 2001: Andrew “Six Heads” Lewis knocks out James Page at the MGM Grand to win the WBA welterweight title. The nickname is from an earlier bout when a dazed opponent told his corner, “He’s got six heads.” In 2006 he loses a fight when he runs out of the ring for an urgent potty break.
February 18, 2007: UNLV’s Thomas and Mack Center hosts the first NBA All-Star Game held in a city without an NBA team. The Western Conference defeats the Eastern Conference, 153-132, and Kobe Bryant is named Most Valuable Player.
February 19, 2010: Viva Elvis, the 10th Cirque du Soleil show in Las Vegas, opens at the Aria, with 77 singers, dancers and acrobats paying spectacular tribute to the King. But reviews and business are unspectacular, and the show ends in August 2012 – the first Cirque show in Vegas to make an undignified exit.
February 20, 1981: Dolly Parton makes her Las Vegas debut at the Riviera. She tells the enthusiastic audience, “If you go through the roof, I’ll pay for the shingles.” The two-week engagement is cut short by a throat ailment, but she returns often as a popular headliner.
February 21, 1956: Meet Me in Las Vegas, a corny musical comedy about a cowboy (Dan Dailey) whose gambling luck improves when he holds the hand of a pretty dancer (Cyd Charisse), has its world premiere in Las Vegas. It’s best remembered today as a window into how the city looked in the mid-‘50s.
—Researched and written by Mike Precker