Grace Hayes was one of the earliest Hollywood stars to play in Las Vegas’ early entertainment scene. After arriving in Las Vegas in the 1940s, she began performing at the El Rancho Vegas Hotel. Following her stint at the El Rancho, she opened her own club on what is now known as the Strip. Hayes connections in Hollywood helped Las Vegas build its reputation as the Entertainment Capital of the World.
Born in Springfield, Missouri, Grace Hayes moved to San Francisco by the time of her tenth birthday. At the young age of fourteen, she began singing in nightclubs. She was married at age sixteen to Joseph Lind and three years later they had their only child, Joseph Conrad Lind (better known as Peter Lind Hayes). Hayes celebrity grew through her roles in theatre and cinema during the 1920s through 1950s working with stars including W.C. Fields and Bing Crosby.
Grace Hayes visited Las Vegas in 1939 and returned in 1941 to perform at the El Rancho Vegas Hotel. She performed at several local resorts including the Monte Carlo Club and the El Cortez, earning the nickname “The Sweetheart of Las Vegas.” After her performances at Las Vegas resorts, Hayes decided to open her own club on the growing Las Vegas strip. She bought the Red Rooster nightclub, renamed it the Grace Hayes Lodge and operated it until 1960.
Hayes also made history in Las Vegas politics by running for Constable of the Las Vegas Township against another nightclub owner, Woody Cole, in 1950. She lost the election by eight votes, but made history by becoming the first woman in Clark County to run for law enforcement officer. Hayes lived in Las Vegas and supported local charities until her death in 1989 at the age of 93.
“Looking Back at Nevada Women” presented by Clark County Parks and Recreation, 2001.
Photo courtesy of UNLV Special Collections.
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