Cool Nights and Indecent Proposals at Las Vegas’ Glass Pool Inn
The Glass Pool Inn is much as it sounds — a two-story motel at the southernmost end of the Las Vegas Strip whose most striking feature is an above-ground swimming pool with seven enormous portholes. When the hotel opened in 1952 — it was called the Mirage, back then — its kidney-shaped, 54,000-gallon signature attraction was pure crystal-blue persuasion for drivers who’d just spent the better part of six hours crossing the Mojave Desert. Those portholes blasted the pool’s restorative benefits louder than a stack of Marshall Amplifiers.
I wish I could take you there, but the Glass Pool Inn was closed in 2003 and demolished in 2004. It lives now only in movies, reruns and daydreams. You can visit it in “Casino,” “Indecent Proposal,” “Leaving Las Vegas” and “Las Vegas Shakedown.” You can catch an otherworldly glimpse of it in music videos: ZZ Top’s “Viva Las Vegas,” Robert Plant’s “Big Log” and, oddly, The Killers’ “Bones,” made after the Glass Pool was leveled. (Director Tim Burton used CGI to recreate it.) And you can ride along with Dan Tanna as he busts a teenage prostitution ring operating out of one of the Glass Pool’s rooms in tonight’s very special episode of “VEGA$.”
In July 2000, shortly after the Glass Pool was sold to the investor who would ultimately destroy it, I had the good fortune to speak with Allen Rosoff, the hotel’s owner from 1953 to 1999, and Christopher Vandervliet, a “very amateur” musician who served as the motel’s entire maintenance team from the mid-1970s to the day it closed. Though they knew they were part of something special, neither one seemed altogether convinced that they were dwelling in the blue light of a Vegas legend.
“The pool has convinced me that I would never own a swimming pool,” said Vandervliet, “unless I was enough of a man of means to hire someone else to do it for me. It’s a lot of work.”
“Once we opened the lounge, it became 28 years of 24/7,” agreed Rosoff. “(My wife and I) absolutely got burned out. It was too big to run as a mama/papa, and too small to hire a staff. It was right in the middle, a real backbreaker.
“Also, it’s old hat,” Rossoff said. “Today, when you drive up and down the Strip, you’ve got all these themed resorts. That’s the future.”
This is not to say that my desire to write a feature story on the Glass Pool Inn particularly surprised him. Those cool, blue circular windows sent a signal that was every bit as strong in 2000 as it was in 1953.
“In those days, it was a two-lane highway from LA, and a lot of people didn’t have air conditioned cars and swimming pools at home,” said Rosoff. “Drivers would come off that hot desert, without air, and look through our windows and see the blue water… It was a magnet. That’s how it was designed.”
At the very least, it was plainly a magnet for Hollywood. When film crews came to put the Glass Pool in pictures, Rosoff came to depend on Vandervliet, a longtime stagehand who he worked in cooperation with Vegas’ Local 720. One particular Adrian Lyne picture may have come out very differently had Vandervliet not been on the job.
“The ‘Indecent Proposal’ crew hired anybody who walked by on the street,” said Vandervliet. “They put everybody to work.”
Vandervliet and Rossoff helped to tear down a wall between two hotel rooms on the south deck, removed one of the walls between them and extended the room over the balcony, to make it appear larger and to accommodate “Proposal’s” cameras and crew. Then Lyne decided the room needed a waterbed.
“I had to explain to him that I designed that balcony for normal traffic; I wasn’t expecting a film crew, heavy equipment and a waterbed,” said Rosoff. “We rented some shoring — I’m a registered engineer — and we shored up the balcony for the filming. When they were done, they put both rooms back together as if they were never there.”
Non-Hollywood issues required an altogether different touch. Vandervliet once discovered two suicide victims — one from an overdose, one from a shotgun blast — and had to clean up after them.
“And you wouldn’t believe what people leave behind in dresser drawers, between mattresses…” Vandervliet shook his head, grinning. “I’ll just leave it to your imagination.”
Rosoff had more than his share of messes to tend to, as well. During the Patty Hearst affair, a pair of Symbionese Liberation Army operatives holed up in the motel while the FBI shadowed them. And in keeping with the Glass Pool’s high profile, another crew used the motel for real-life indecent proposals.
“(The Las Vegas Metropolitan Police) set up a sting, which they didn’t tell us about,” said Rosoff. “They had one of their own police officers dressed in a real tight leather miniskirt and blouse; she was a really good-looking girl. She walked up and down in front of the motel: she was flagging down the johns, and then taking them over to a room Metro had rented out where, of course, they were arrested.
“My wife called Metro the next day and chewed them out: ‘If you’re going to do this, let us know. If you want to know where the hookers are in the neighborhood, we’ll tell you.’ They said, ‘No, we’re not after the hookers, we’re after the johns.’ We went round and round on this, and I said, ‘Listen, next time, let the johns rent another room first and then arrest ‘em, so we can at least get some more business out of it.'”
“Never thought much about it until a few months later,” Rosoff continued, “when a woman was checking in at the desk with my daughter. We usually asked people how they found us, and she said, ‘We saw you on TV.’
“My daughter got excited: ‘Really? Which show? We’ve been on a lot.’
Rosoff chuckled. “It was ‘Cops.’ They showed that sting on ‘Cops.'”
But all that fun was long past on the hot July 2000 day when I visited the Glass Pool Inn. Rosoff, having taken two huge paydays – he’d sold the hotel for $5 million, and a decade before he’d sold the “Mirage” name to casino mogul Steve Wynn for a kingly sum – was sentimental, but pragmatic. He said to me flat out, “The Glass Pool has a tremendous history, but it’s really time to bulldoze it.”
“The buildings are old and the rooms are too small,” he continued. “You can’t compete; you need 150, 300 rooms to do anything. It’s time for something else on what’s probably the best part of the Strip. The Glass Pool was great in its heyday, but now, it should be just a photograph and a memory somewhere.”
And so it is. The Glass Pool, along with the two motels on either side of it, was purchased by an investor who’d hoped to build a mega-resort on the property. The last time I had the heart to drive that part of the Strip, the Glass Pool was an empty, uninviting dirt lot.
But it lives on in my daydreams, and I’m glad for it. I think of the long, hot summer of 1999, when local bands played at poolside. They’d play their sets and then, after the instruments were packed away, the musicians would leap in the pool and peer out the windows. Even at the very end of its operational life, the Glass Pool was doing the job it was designed to do.
Portions of this piece originally appeared on Vegas.com.