To cut to the chase: The Stardust hotel tower came down on schedule last night–2:35 a.m. PDT by my watch. The demolition crew did its job well and the 32 stories of concrete and steel folded into itself and plunged to the desert floor. The blasts startled and deafened; the collapse roared; the ground shook when all that mass slammed into the ground. And the throng, such as it was–a smattering of Stardust fans and former employees scattered among a sparse, subdued crowd that had wandered up the Strip for the night’s best free show–scurried toward the bright lights nearby to get away from a roiling cloud of concrete dust that enveloped the neighborhood. In the quick exodus, I actually heard one person say, “It’s like 9/11.”
I landed here about 3:30, got a car at about 4, and drove in very slow traffic up The Strip to see what, if anything, was going on at the Stardust. Nothing was visible from the street, anyway, though I’m sure the demolition crews and pyrotechnics and lighting technicians were busy. This is the Stardust–the shell of the 32-story built in 1991 and a satellite nine-story tower at the right–shot from the car across Las Vegas Boulevard at about 5 p.m. I checked into my hotel, the Platinum, on Flamingo, then walked up the Strip to try to get pictures of the Stardust before sunset. I didn’t make it, but the lighting along the street was wonderful and it turned out to be an advantage to show up while it was getting dark. The lighting crew was experimenting with projecting different colors on the tower. Most passers-by didn’t seem to pay much attention, but some were taking pictures. I asked one woman in a strip mall parking lot whether she was going to watch the show after midnight, and she said she and her husband had, by coincidence, gotten a room in the Riviera with a view across the to the Stardust site. Some luck. I expect the streets will be packed by 2 a.m. The tower is supposed to come down, after four minutes of fireworks and other special effects, at 2:35.