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The El Portal Theater was named after a race horse that Mr. Ernie Cragin owned. Ernie Cragin was mayor of Las Vegas for most of the 1940s. I used to work for Cragin Industries back in the late 1960s and early 1970s. Horst Schmidt ran Cragin Industries after Ernie Cragin passed away. Horst passed away in 2004. Lots of good memories working for Horst and Mrs. Cragin.
El Portal lobby in 1970.
How great it is to read about the memories people had at the Red Rock Theaters. My name is Jeff Jones, I graduated from Western High School in 1966 and began working for Horst Schmidt and Mrs. Lucille Cragin that same year.
They owned KRGN FM Radio Station located on east Sahara. I worked there recording music on tape to be played back later on an automatic playback system. Later that same year Horst made me manager of the Red Rock Theater. At that time there was only one theater. Mr. Leon Stephenson was the general manager of both the Red Rock theater and the El Portal theater. Horst and Mrs. Cragin owned the theaters, but Mr. Stephenson was responsible for running of the theaters. Mr. Stephenson was one of the best people I ever worked for. In 1968 I joined the Air Force and went to Vietnam. While in Vietnam I received a letter from Horst saying Mr. Stephenson had passed. I received that letter with great sadness. He died in the lobby of the Red Rock theater when nobody else was there and I believe he was found by Rory O'Conner,our projectionist. Rory was a great little Irishman. He really had
an Irish accent. It was great fun to ride in his Rolls Royce Silver Cloud. I don’t think he would mind if you knew the lady on top of the radiator was sterling silver. When I got out of the Air Force in 1972 I came back and worked at the Red Rock and El Portal theaters. In 1972 we showed The Godfather. We had it in four theaters and the lines went around the theater and crowd control was really a problem. We had a few celebrities show up. One night Tony “The Ant” Spilotro shows up with his wife and bodyguard. He doesn’t want to stand in line like everybody else. So, his bodyguard starts calling me every name in the book. I just want to get him out of the lobby, so I seat his party and as i’m walking away he stuffs a five dollar bill in my pocket. After that incident I started carrying 357 under my jacket. These guys really don’t care about anybody but themselves. The El Portal theater was the oldest theater in Las Vegas. There is a plaque in front of the building where it used to be on Fremont St. It was the first building in Las Vegas to have air conditioning in 1928. I read were Horst passed away in 2004 with great sadness. I enjoyed our talks. He told me what it was like to grow up in Germany during WWII. I left the Red Rock theater in late 1972 and that’s when Boyd Moseley replaced me as manager. I remember the faces of the candy girls and ushers, but it’s hard to remember the names, I’m now almost 70. One of the best times of my life was growing up in the sixty’s in Las Vegas. In 2005 I went to visit my Mom in Las Vegas and I drove past were the Red Rock Theater used to be. There was just a concrete slab – I cried.