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The Sands Hotel was the swingin' place to be in the 1950s and '60s - Dean Martin and Jerry Lewis dropping by to work the craps tables, gorgeous show-girls dancing for the likes of Elvis Presley, the Rat Pack holding court on stage, and Don Rickles slinging insults at everyone but Frank Sinatra.

"You never hassled Frank Sinatra," Rickles recalled recently, "if you wanted to see your family again."Come Sunday the Sands will close. Its glamour days long gone, it's being torn down to make way for a $1.5 billion, 6,000-room megaresort planned by owner Sheldon Adelson. The Sands was unable to compete with the colossal, eye-popping new casino-theme parks that make it look as ordinary as, say, Joey Bishop compared with the rest of the Rat Pack.

The Sands' demise brought a touch of melancholy to Rickles, one of the Rat Pack's favorite comedians.

"I miss most the camaraderie, the friends, the great times, the schmoozing," Rickles said. "Now that's pretty much over."

In the 1950s and '60s, the Sands was among the small number of hotel-casinos dominating the Las Vegas Strip. It opened as a 200-room hotel in 1952, adding a 500-room tower in 1965.

But with the emergence of 3,000- to 5,000-room megahotels beginning in 1989, the Sands found itself competing against resorts shaped like a space needle topped by the world's highest roller coaster, an Egyptian pyramid and a medieval castle, as well as laser extravaganzas, magic acts and swashbuckling pirate shows.

"I'm sorry we have to tear down the Sands, but it's no longer competitive," Adelson said Tuesday. "The closing will be bittersweet."

From its opening Dec. 15, 1952, the giant Sands marquee has featured a who's who in entertainment, including Milton Berle, Lena Horne, Red Buttons, Tallulah Bankhead, Danny Thomas, Nat King Cole, Louis Armstrong, Rosemary Clooney, Johnny Ray, Johnny Mathis, Jerry Lewis, Paul Anka, Red Skelton, Kaye Starr, Wayne Newton, Alan King and Lola Falana.

But it was the Rat Pack - Sinatra, Sammy Davis Jr., Martin, Peter Lawford and Bishop - that generated entertainment electricity when it appeared at the Sands.

"When they were here, the whole world came to see them," said Jeanie Gardner, a cocktail waitress and former Copa Girl at the Sands. "People literally flew in from all over the world just to see them. The Sands was the shining symbol of the world's greatest entertainment."

Rickles was an up-and-coming lounge act in the late 1950s. One time Sinatra had two police officers walk on stage while Rickles was performing at the Sahara, carry him off, and lock him in a room at the Sands.