A picture Jimi Hendrix drew while on acid. Ringo Starr’s bright-green, rhinestone-emblazoned Nudie Cohn suit. Britney Spears’ iconic schoolgirl outfit from her “...Baby One More Time” video. After nearly 25 years of music and revelry, the Hard Rock Hotel is saying goodbye to Las Vegas the best way it knows how: with a rock ’n’ roll exhibit.
As the Hard Rock makes room for the new Virgin Hotel Las Vegas, HRH has put some of its most cherished artifacts on display—inside the space previously occupied by John Varvatos—to celebrate the hotel’s cultural impact. Hard Rock exhibition coordinator Beau Dobney sifted through hundreds of artifacts that were in storage at the “magic warehouse,” an office nestled away inside the casino tower.
“It’s a big undertaking,” Dobney says of curating the exhibit, on display through January 31. “For me, it was about fitting a timeline and having enough staples [from] the history of rock ’n’ roll. … There are certain things that made more sense than others. There were some that were no-brainers and some that were a toss-up. There’s also a great opportunity to keep flipping as we’re moving along. Over the months that this will run, a lot of things will be changing out.”
Famous for displaying pop culture artifacts throughout its hotels, the Hard Rock procured its Vegas mementos in various ways. Some were acquired through auctions, while others are on loan direct from the artists themselves. “No two deals are the same, I can tell you that much,” Dobney says. “I’ve worked a lot with getting things on loan from artists, because it removes all doubt about [the item] being authentic. This is the [real] thing, because they want it back.”
Some of Dobney’s favorite artifacts include the original sequined Dodgers romper Bob Mackie designed for Elton John in 1975; Johnny Cash’s black button-up shirt with embroidered patches at the shoulders; and a Sid Avery artist proof of the original Ocean’s 11 cast. Toward the back, there’s a stage area with bearded ZZ Top mannequins—dressed in leopard blazers and cowboy hats—from the band’s 1992 Greatest Hits album cover. “I’ve got some stuff in the works,” Dobney says, hinting that there might be an opportunity for some in-store performances on that stage in the future.
At the front of the exhibit, there’s a wall dedicated to artifacts from the Hard Rock’s 1995 opening, along with early hotel design concepts and renderings by Alan Aldridge, the late British graphic designer who created artwork for The Beatles and The Who. “That’s the kind of thought that went into this [hotel],” Dobney says.
While it’s uncertain what will happen to the artifacts after the Hard Rock property rebrands as Virgin (“We are not ready to simply part ways with the memorabilia once the exhibition closes,” HRH CEO Richard “Boz” Bosworth tells the Weekly), Dobney says curating the exhibitions for one of Vegas’ most memorable hotels has been a dream come true. “This is me gathering as much stuff as I can into one room to tell a story, to pay homage to the goodwill that was the Hard Rock, and all the people that knew of this place as a beacon of cool,” he says. “This has been the coolest opportunity I’ve ever had in my life.”
Hard Rock Hotel & Casino Memorabilia Exhibition Through January 31, daily, 11 a.m.- 8 p.m., free. Hard Rock Hotel, 702-693-5000.