The Entertainment Capital of the World

By Jim Perlowski  (June 5th, 2009)

You can blame Lyle Okata and Virgil Foss for this article. He is the one who posted that Mint matchbook having a picture of a smiling young lady on its cover. I would venture a guess no one knows who that young lady is or why she is on the Mint matchbook. But you are correct, I’m eventually going to tell you who she is.

The story goes back to a period in time when Las Vegas was truly known as the “Entertainment Capital of The world”. All one had to do was take a ride down Las Vegas boulevard and look at the neon signs in front of the various hotel/casinos. Buddy Hackett was at the Sahara, Don Rickles at the Riv a little further up...Mack Davis was at Bally’s and Ann Margaret was at Caesars. You get the idea. Almost every hotel/casino had a name brand entertainer appearing in their showroom. More importantly, almost every hotel/casino had a lounge. Some even had more than one lounge. In the lounge would be a quality appearing act. For example, Paul Revere and The Raiders were at the Flamingo, The Checkmates at the Silver Bird, and the “Goofers” at the Frontier. Downtown had Kenny Rodgers at the old Golden Nugget, Vic Damone at the Mint and Donna Fargo at the Four Queens.

The main showrooms had dinner shows. There was also a midnight show that served drinks only. The shows were priced reasonably. It was a grand ole time! I am perhaps writing about the 1970’s, a period that lives only in the memories of old goats like me. But what a beautiful period it was. The locals, that included my wife and me, would after a hard day of work go to a hotel/casino that had a lounge that we could hang out in.

We would often go to the Frontier on the strip or the Mint downtown. We liked the Frontier lounge because it was located right in the middle of the casino. It was called the Horseshoe lounge and it was surrounded by slot machines. Video poker had not as yet made its presence so noise was prevalent with all types of coins hitting their respective metal slot trays. We also liked their coffee shop. The Frontier coffee shop, in my opinion, served the best chocolate fudge cake ever made. They also had fresh squeezed orange juice. You know, not like that junk made from concentrate. In the Horseshoe lounge various acts would appear depending upon the day of the week. The cost to see the lounge show was nothing. If you wanted a drink it was $4.95 within the confines of the Horseshoe area but if you didn’t, you could still see the show without paying anything.

Guests would grab the few tables in front of the ground level stage with the remaining customers standing next to the bank of slots that surrounded the area. The various bank of slots that surrounded the lounge demonstrated to all who actually thought about it...gambling was the prime reason the hotel/casino existed, entertainment was provided as a by product to break up the gambling sessions.

One of the acts we saw every week was Billy Kay (e) and associate. You guessed it; the associate was the girl on the Mint match book. Billy was a comic and his associate would provide the “straights” for his act. At the end of Billy’s show he would introduce his associate. Her name was Pam Petfarken. Billy would then do another five minute routine about Pam and her goals in the entertainment industry and the show would end.

As time went on, the management of the Frontier decided it was time to remodel. After all, some parts of the casino were at least five minutes old. The decision was made to do away with the Horseshoe lounge and remodel the main show room that was then called the Music Hall. The remodel was justified to everyone because Siegfried and Roy were bringing their show to the Frontier. A new lounge was to be built, but I don’t know if it ever was. For you see we never returned to the Frontier to find out. Billy Kay (e) and Pam, as well as the other lounge acts dispersed throughout the valley to other hotel/casinos.

One day, while killing time at a very crowded Binion’s Horseshoe drinking 50 cent Heineken beer I decided to check out the Mint. I was right, the place was almost empty. The Mint never seemed to develop a clientele that was strictly their own. The Mint would always seem to get the overflow tourists and locals from the Horseshoe. Back in those days I smoked like a Turk and never seemed to have a match. I asked the change girl where I could get a match, she reached into her apron and handed me a book of matches with Pam Petfarken’s face on the cover. I inquired as to why was this lady’s picture on the book of Mint matches. She told me Pam was the new lounge singer. I asked about Billy but she didn’t seem to know anything about him.

I must confess we never saw Pam’s show at the Mint. She obviously was not too successful because she didn’t last very long. Neither did the matches with her face on them. Anyway, there were much better shows to see in town like B.J. Thomas at the Golden Nugget.