Don’t feel bad if you’ve never heard of Searchlight, Nevada. It’s the proverbial black spot on a map. It’s an unincorporated town 13 miles square somehow holding 500 hearty souls. To be fair, ah, well, it’s a dot, that’s all.
Really, if you are accidentally in Needles or Blyth, California, you might drift off towards US 95, but more likely, you already found Laughlin and did some gambling. That’s cool, but if Las Vegas calls, you need to backtrack to US 95 and take a 100-mile trip where you’ll pass nothing but sand and sage and other cars. This is unless you miss the stoplight in Searchlight. Bummer.
And, as you roll through town you’ll see that the Searchlight Nugget just closed after 40 years. Double bummer! Of course, there used to be an even more famous place – Willie Martello’s El Rey Club and Bordello, which had opened in 1946, but a fire ended that fun run in 1962.
Along the way, Willie tried his best to grow the club and make a dream in the desert come true, no matter the cost or the consequences. By that, I mean sure, there were prostitutes, and yes, he did get his gambling license revoked, but that happens to all small club owners, right? Maybe not.
At any rate, while Willie wasn’t the man who actually started the club, he was the man who made it as the King of Casinos in the tiny town (unincorporated, yes) of Searchlight. To learn more about Willie, you need to read Andy Martello’s book, The King of Casinos, which is available in paperback from Amazon and other places.
Believe me, this is a great read. Don’t believe me? The book has 64 reviews at Amazon and 95% of them are 5-star. That’s amazing. So’s the story Andy tells.
Thanks for reading – Al W Moe