The Cincinnati Enquirer from Cincinnati, Ohio on November 22, 1980 · Page 3
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The Cincinnati Enquirer from Cincinnati, Ohio · Page 3

Cincinnati, Ohio
Issue Date:
Saturday, November 22, 1980
Page 3
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THE CINCINNATI ENQUIRERSaturday, November 22, 1980 MGM Was Grandest At Opening In 1 973 Copters Puli Guests Off Roof To Saf etv 5r v v-' Risky Venture Very Profitable 1980, THE LOS ANGELES TIMES LAS VEGAS, Nev.-It was grand indeed: 26 floors, more than 600 chandeliers, marble columns and statues carved in Italy. . until Friday. Then fire roared through the MGM Grand Hotel in Las Vegas, spreading death and destruction. When the $120-million structure opened its doors amid much fanfare in December, 1973, it was the largest resort hotel in the world. It towered above the glittering Las Vegas Strip, which is dotted with luxury hotel-casinos. ; It included 1,845 rooms that went . for $55 to $77 a nieht. 225 suites that rented for $116 to $207 a day, plus six 1 "luxury suites," a spokesman said. A bronze replica of Lorenzo , Giambologna's 16th-century statue of Neptune and the Sirens that . stands in the Bologna Central piaz-- za formed a fountain at the hotel's "pnt.ranpp In th t00 Italian . 1. k . wyiiu wcic icui uusv lur twu vecus makine marble statues for the Grand. ITS GROUND floor casino was an liers containing tons of crystal lined the 140-yard casino length. A gambler's paradise, the casino boasted within its 50,000 square feet 970 slot machines, nine roulette tables, 74 "21" tables, 14 poker tables, two pan tables, 10 crap games, three baccarat games and two "Big 6" tables, as well as a 200-seat keno lounge. ' The Grand was, in effect, a self-contained resort community with 40 stores, two swimming pools, 10 ten nis courts, extensive convention ra-cilities, a 250-seat movie theater, a 2,100-seat Jai lai fronton, a lounge and six dining spots. The Grand employed approximately 4,500 persons full-time. Celebrities like Dean Martin drew crowds to the 1,200-seat Celebrity Room. More than 5 million persons watched the musical revue "Hallelujah Hollywood" during its nearly seven-year run in the hotel's other show room, the 1,000-seat Ziegfeld Room. That show, closed in October to make way for a new musical revue, "Jubilee," which had been scheduled to open during the Christmas holiday season. WHEN THE fire struck, the hotel was in the process of adding 780 additional guest rooms, another square feet of convention facilities, which would have again made it the largest hotel in the world. The Hilton International Hotel, also in the Las Vegas Strip area, has iuu iuuic luuuu in an biic uiaiiu. The MGM Grand in Reno, Nev., has 1,015 rooms with a 980-room addition under construction there. The architect for both the Las Vegas and Reno Grands was Martin : Stern Jr., of Beverly Hills, Calif., a firm spokesperson said. " A call to Stern Friday was turned 2 Reds Players, Wives Get Out Of Hotel Safely BY BILL FORD Sports Reporter .The voice outside the hotel room early Friday morning was loud, and Tom Hume awakened quite startled. "I heard this guy in the hall hollering, 'Fire! Fire!"' the Cincinnati Reds pitcher told teammate Paul Moskau by telephone. ; Immediately, Hume awakened his wife Susan. He grabbed Jeans, a shirt and his wallet, she Jogging pants and her purse. Quickly, the couple rapped on the door across the hall, awakening teammate Bill Bonham and his wife Dona. Twenty-four floors above the famed Las Vegas strip, the Humes and the Bonhams saw the dark smoke and knew the MGM Grand Hotel-Casino was on fire. "WE WALKED down the stairwell to the 16th floor, could get no farther and went up on the roof," Hume told Moskau. "We saw the helicopters. They took women and children first, then the elderly. Then we were evacuated. We're all right now, but tired. My pants are black from the smoke, I guess, and so is my shirt. But we're safe." Hume, Bonham and Moskau are pitchers for the Cincinnati Reds. The threesome had a Sunday date on a Tucson, Ariz., golf course where Moskau was assisting in a promotion for the March of Dimes. En route, the Humes and Bonhams planned a few days in Las Vegas. . . "They checked in last night (Thursday), but I did not see them,' Gary Nolan told The Enquirer in a telephone Interview. Nolan, a teenage sensation when he Joined the Reds in 1967, pitched for the club Until 1977. Troubled by arm miseries, Nolan had a brief trial last spring with the San Diego Padres, failed it, then returned full time to the Casino Room of the MGM Grand Hotel, where he had been employed as a card dealer for several years. "I WORKED last night, and usually on Fridays I go in at 8:30-9 o'clock in the morning," Nolan con away with the reply. "He can't be disturbed today." The Las Vegas Grand was the idea of Kirk Kerkorian, a financier now involved in a battle for control of Columbia Pictures. KERKORIAN, THE son of an Immigrant Armenian farmer, grew up in California's farm belt, San Joaquin Valley. He became a pilot, ferrying planes overseas. He later parlayed a charter airline into control of Western Airlines. He bought the Flamingo Hotel-Casino in Las Vegas and formed International Leisure Corp. to hold his Las Vegas properties. Kerkorian then acquired controlling interest in MGM, but a declining stock market forced him to sell the Las Vegas International Hotel, which he had built, to Hilton Hotels Corp. At MGM, he showed less Interest in film production and distribution than in building the Las Vegas Grand. The hotel takes its name from a 1932 hit MGM movie, "Grand Hotel," starring Greta Garbo and John Barrymore. Construction on the Las Vegas hotel began In 1972, and it opened on Dec. 4, 1973. In May, 1978, the $131-million MGM Grand in Reno opened. DURING THE Las Vegas Grand's first full year of operation in 1974, it contributed $22 million to MGM's $28.6 million net Income. Earlier this year, MGM was split into two companies, with the hotel operations becoming part of MGM Grand Hotels Inc. and the moviemaking going to Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Film Corp. MGM Grand Hotels Inc.'s 1980 annual report listed its revenues for the fiscal year that ended Aug. 31 at $307.1 million with net income after taxes of $33.9 million. Both figures were records for the company, the report said. Trading of Grand Hotels stock was suspended temporarily on the New York Stock Exchange Friday after the fire erupted. The stock had closed Thursday at 13. When trading resumed, it fell to 10. The company has branched out from its Nevada hotel-casino base and is now developing an Atlantic City hotel-casino in conjunction with Hilton Hotels Corp. Construction on the 1,100 room hotel and 70,000 square foot casino was expected to commence in late December with completion projected in late summer of 1982, the annual report said. Even before the fire Friday, there had been some clouds hovering over the company. A lagging economy and rising airfares were blamed for a declining number of visitors to both Las Vegas and Reno during the past summer. The annual report noted that the occupancy rate during the first eight months of 1980 had been 92.5, compared to a 1979 rate of 94.2. However, when the fire began Friday, the hotel was 99 occupied, a spokesman said, adding that the damage was fully covered by insurance. tinued in the interview. "But I didn't go in today because I'm Just starting vacation. "No, I have made no attempt to go back to town. We live about 10 miles away. There's enough confusion. We've been watching on television. The scene is unbelievable, terrible. But I can assure you the Humes and the Bonhams are safe." Evacuees were taken to the Las Vegas Convention Center. "Tom first called me from there," Moskau told The Enquirer from Tucson. "He said he had trouble from the smoke and was coughing. A little later, he called and said he, his wife and the Bonhams had moved into a private residence. "He sounded tired more than anything. He said he would wait until morning (today) before deciding whether they'd come on to Tucson. He said they'd been told there might be a chance they could go back to the hotel and see whether they could retrieve any of their clothing. "All they had were the clothes on their back, and they were going out to do some shopping for a a few things." SUSAN HUME is the daughter of Mayor and Mrs. Toby Holland of Palmetto, Fla. The two Hume children were left with their grandparents while Tom and Susan vacationed. "I was a little panicky for a while," Mrs. Holland told The Enquirer. "I'd heard on the radio about the fire at about 11 o'clock (EST). But Susan called her father about a half an hour later and said they were all right. So I guess they were among the first to be evacuated. "I talked to her later, but she didn't have much time. Everybody wanted to use the telephone. She said she had only a nightgown and a Jogging suit, and Tom had shorts or something like that, and they were going out shopping. "I saw them both on television later. A camera was in the Convention Center. Tom had a blanket wrapped around him. "Nothing else matters: they got out safely." i . V - . H AP Laserphoto CHOPPER RESCUE: A military helicopter lifts a hotel guest from the burning MGM Grand Hotel and Casino in Las Vegas Friday morning, after the hotel became engulfed in flames. Many guests were stranded on the top floors and had to be rescued by helicopter. o It vvyfi, n 5 - ' 1 2" H "M Ms . I x, ' I - I 4 U 1 K v V till ."TL 'm.. i, t at : " 'Li iA1 1W. I j i j If 1980, THE LOS ANGELES TIMES LAS VEGAS, Nev.-Slicing through the smoke and confusion of a deadly fire, a dozen Air Force, police and civilian helicopters plucked hundreds of men, women and children to safety from the roof and upper floors of the MGM Grand Hotel Friday. One battle-hardened Air Force veteran likened it to the evacuation five years ago of the U.S. Embassy in Saigon as enemy troops captured the Vietnamese city. "There were people piling on all the choppers," said Lt. Col. Mike Wallace. Air Force pilots, he said, "took off 200, maybe 300, and the civilian craft took hundreds more. We don't know for sure; nobody kept count." WALLACE SAID three twin-engined Air Force CH-3s, the Jolly Green Giants of Vietnam fame, hovered low over the roof of the burning 26-story building. Smaller Las Vegas police choppers swarmed nearby, directing the pilots of CH-3s through the smoke to balconies of rooms on the upper floors where hotel guests waited for rescue. "There was a lot of confusion and noise," Wallace said. "The people were on the balconies of their rooms, hollering and screaming." There was one Immediate problem. CH-3 pilots, hovering next to the building, had to stay beyond the range of the propeller blades, which are 31 feet long. So the three non-commissioned officers riding at the end of 100-foot long hoist-slings had to find a way to swing themselves out from directly under the choppers onto the balconies. The solution came from Master Sgt. James W. Connett, an Air Force reservist from Phoenix, Ariz., who was on a training mission at Nellis Air Force Base near here when the emergency call came. HE SWUNG from the end of a hoist cable, one end of a cargo strap hitched to his body. Hanging in the air, Connett threw the other end to a stranded hotel guest on the balcony. " . u Tim 1? l-rnrii COT 3D .,-fj ft ll Hi . ' i 4u AJR ' The guest pulled Connett In, and the rescue mission began. "Once on the balcony, I got off and strapped the people in," s&iu Connett "Several of them, especially the older women, wouldn't budge. We were 200 feet up and they said they were afraid of heights. I told them it was the only way out and they moved." Swinging like dead weights at the end of a pendulum, the hotel guests one and two at a time-were slowly winched up into the CH-3s. They were quiet at first the early screams of panic had given way to shock. "The first person in (the CH-3) went straight to a corner, huddled there, and started to cry," said Capt. David T. Ellis, another Phoenix Air Force reservist. "Then we pulled up the second and the third, and they were hugging each other." "They kissed each other, and then they kissed us (the four-man crews of the Green Giants)," said Ellis, one of the chopper pilots. TIME AND time again, directed by terse radio orders from the smaller police helicopters, the CH-3s swept down along the sides of the building, their rotor blades dlspers- ' lng the smoke that poured out of the upper floors. "I rode the hoist down and was ' barely onto the balcony when this pregnant lady Jumped right on and grabbed me around the neck," said Tech. Sgt. Daniel R. Jaramlllo, ' another Phoenix-based reservist. "She almost choked me to death., It wasn't that she was scared she was Just glad to see me and wanted off that balcony." The CH-3s flew to the roof, where smaller helicopters not equipped with hoists and held in reservelanded and took off, shuttling survivors to the ground. Not everyone made it. One CH-3 crew worked frantically to save a man, hoisted comatose, into the chopper. For 15 minutes, the Arizona Air Force reservists tried desperately, alternating with each other, pumping air into his lungs with mouth-to-mouth resuscitation. The man never regained consciousness. J FIRE'S AFTERMATH: Fireman, above, sifts through debris of the MGM Grand's casino after a fire raced through it and the lower portion of the hotel. At left, firemen remove the remains of one of the victims. i 1 y AP Laser photos

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