Vegas is the top destination for tourists from L.A., especially around the holidays. Vegas is also a great new CBS series with two top actors, Dennis Quaid and Michael Chiklis, headlining the hit drama. It also has a great supporting cast that includes Jason O’Mara, Carrie Anne Moss, Taylor Handley, and Sarah Jones. But the real star of the show is the setting of Las Vegas in the early 1960s, when the desert town was about to blossom into the casino-saturated Sin City we all knew and loved.
Vegas is based on the real life of a legendary Las Vegas sheriff, and his encounters with some nefarious characters of the ’60s. It was a time when the mob had a grip on most of the desert city’s activities.
Quaid plays Sheriff Ralph Lamb, who has actually been on hand for some of the filming. The production has recreated downtown Las Vegas, circa 1960s, in Santa Clarita. An authentic replica of Fremont Street was built with the Golden Nugget and other original casinos looking like they’re ready for action. Executive producer and showrunner Greg Walker said when he’s standing at the entrance to the Savoy Casino, and looks back at the Golden Nugget and the Strip, “it takes you back 40 years in Vegas time.”
It is a huge set for the drama that has a Western feel to it. The story unfolds as a local rancher, Ralph Lamb takes on the duties of the Sheriff of Clark County. He kept law and order in Vegas when the Chicago mob sent their men, such as Vincent Savino (Michael Chiklis), to run the gambling operations in town.
During Ralph Lamb’s visit to the set he declared, “Yep, that’s the way it was, and he (Quaid) plays me real good.”
Quaid has enjoyed talking with Lamb and said, “Everybody in Vegas knows Ralph. I just try to capture the spirit and try to be respectful. Ralph Lamb is a very interesting character who has had quite a life. You know, that was certainly part of the attraction to play this role. To be the sheriff of Las Vegas for 20 years, and especially this period of time when Vegas became the Vegas we know today. And Ralph had a lot to do with shaping that. He was part of the landscape before all of this happened. He is a fourth-generation rancher.”
Quaid has a fondness for playing the real-life character, and he’s glad that Lamb has been around. “It saves on the research for a role as far as coming up with the character because he’s already there. And it’s wonderful to be able to tap that resource. The way we are playing our stories, he reluctantly came to the job, but he represents the people who really lived in the area of Las Vegas and had been around for generations. And to have these outside forces coming in vis-à-vis the mob and really take over their town is sort of an invasion, and Ralph and the locals really want to keep as much control as they can over their own town.”
Very comfortable in the ’60s era, Quaid said, “It was an era I grew up in. I found it exciting. It’s what America was back then. There was such vibrancy, and there was this optimism and exploration and sexiness. It was just in the air. It was electric back then. I think we all have a fascination with Las Vegas during that time.”
The actor admitted he used to love going to Las Vegas to play blackjack, “and they would take my money,” he said, laughing. “You spend 50 or 60 hours in Las Vegas, and then you should go home.”
Now that the show is underway, Quaid is happy that vintage Vegas has been recreated in Santa Clarita, “because I live in Los Angeles, and I am happy to stay close to home so I can be with my children at night. I like sleeping in my own bed.”