Sin City of 1960 is reborn for CBS drama 'Vegas'
This image released by CBS shows Dennis Quaid, left, and Michael Chiklis in a scene from the new CBS series, "Vegas," premiering Tuesday, Sept. 25, at 10 p.m. ET/PT. (AP Photo/CBS, Monty Brinton)
SANTA CLARITA, Calif. (AP) — Striding through his Las Vegas casino, tough guy Vincent Savino has a beef.
"You went behind my back to Chicago," he growls to the woman beside him. "I thought we had an understanding: You run the count room, I run the casino."
Just another day in 1960 at the Savoy, home base for CBS' new drama "Vegas."
With its Sputnik chandeliers, swooping circular stairway, pleated-fabric walls and shapely cigarette girls, The Savoy is a masterpiece of Googie architecture and Kennedy-era glamour.
And there's more.
If you were to step out its doors, you would seamlessly encounter the Vegas strip, complete with the Golden Nugget, the Tumbleweed Club and, for not-so-heavy hitters, a storefront boasting "All Day! Bingo."
Parked along the curb, of course, are vintage cars from a half-century ago.
All in all, it's an impressive time trip for a visitor to Santa Clarita Studios where, in August 2012, production is cranking up on "Vegas."
Inside Stage 1, the scene is about to be shot again with Michael Chiklis, who plays Savino, as he presides over this casino-full of 1960s-costumed gamers and staff. It's the very first day filming on the 14,000-square-foot Savoy set, which, along with the replica of Fremont Street outside, existed only as blueprints, empty studio space and a slab of parking lot just a few weeks ago.
(The pilot for "Vegas," which airs Tuesday at 10 p.m. EDT, was shot last spring on locations in New Mexico, so this permanent new home won't be seen until the second episode.)
The Strip ends abruptly at a bluff as a hot wind rushes past. But the huge green scrim will allow for CGI effects to extend "Fremont Street" into an illusory distance.
The job called for more than being pretty.
"Everything on the street had to be specially engineered," says the show's production designer, Carey Meyer, standing in the neon-glowing Savoy entrance. "Each pole of those facades goes into the ground 15 feet, because the wind load up here is just tremendous. And there's also the risk of earthquakes."
Inspired by a true story, "Vegas" stars Chiklis as the Chicago mobster sent to run the recently opened Savoy — and who will butt heads with Las Vegas Sheriff Ralph Lamb, a fourth-generation rancher who's intent on keeping growth and corruption from spoiling his town. The real-life Lamb is portrayed, two-fisted and laconic, by Dennis Quaid.
"It's going to be an interesting dance between us," says Chiklis. "You know the end of the story: Vegas grew and Vegas was successful. But how did it get that way, especially when Lamb and my character are so culturally different and diametrically opposed in so many ways?"
Chiklis has brought his own camera to the set on this first day in residence. He shares with a reporter some of the photos he's been snapping between scenes.
"They look like they could have been shot back in the day, right?" he says.
Clearly, Chiklis is pleased with his surroundings. That's fortunate. If "Vegas" clicks with viewers, this could be his hangout for many seasons to come.
But he isn't the only "Vegas" member who's happy with its back-in-time environment.
"It's a hoot," says executive producer Greg Walker, "walking out there and seeing the extras in their outfits, and those cars and the facades. I'm pinching myself. I hadn't anticipated this kind of rush!"