The Copa Connection
The Sands Copa Connection Program Series along with its specially produced commemorative scrapbook for audiences celebrated the “start of something big” in Las Vegas history: the legendary Copa Room of the Sands Hotel. The four-part public history series captured the “Vintage Vegas” glamour and excitement of the Copa Room and its undisputed impact on the development of the city. What began in this showroom, featuring America’s top entertainers and the beautiful Copa Girls, set the city on a new path to becoming the “Entertainment Capital of the World” when other casinos followed suit after seeing the Copa Room’s success in attracting high rolling gamblers, the Hollywood crowd, and national attention through movies and television.
Each of the four programs offered audiences fascinating cultural insight as well as pure entertainment as they traveled back in time to the Sands Hotel and the Copa Room of the l950s and 60s. The Sands and the Copa Room-Commemorative Scrapbook told the story about what happened at the Copa Room; its management, famous entertainers, Copa Girls, Orchestra, and the front-of-the-house operation through photos, essays by historians, and recollections by individuals who were connected with the Copa Room at the time. The commemorative scrapbook publication was made possible, in part, by a grant from Nevada Humanities, a state agency of the National Endowment for the Humanities.
April 9, 2007: Public Debut of the Morelli House and Alan Hess Lecture
As the kick-off event of Architecture Week of the Las Vegas and Nevada Chapters of the American Institute of Architects, the Junior League of Las Vegas premiered its Morelli House preservation project to the public on April 9, 2007. Nearly 300 people attended this benchmark event which featured a lecture by architectural historian, Alan Hess, and a dedication ceremony conducted by Mayor Oscar Goodman and Congresswoman Shelley Berkeley. This grand opening event signaled the beginning of the Morelli House Public Program which would offer tours and education about the house and the mid century history of Las Vegas to the general public for years to come.
November 3, 2007: Post Reception for Vegas Valley Book Festival Closing
Keynote lecture by Sarah Vowell
On November 3, 2007, 7 the Morelli House hosted a post-lecture reception for the Vegas Valley Book Festival’s closing keynote event, “An Evening with Sarah Vowell” that was held at the Las Vegas Academy High School located down the street from the House. During the reception, 150 guests gathered for guided tours of the Morelli House by the Junior League’s Morelli House docents dressed in mid century attire and were treated an array of autumnal pies and refreshments. Participation with the Vegas Valley Book Festival and the City of Las Vegas Cultural Affairs Division demonstrated the Junior League’s commitment for the Morelli House to become a cultural venue for the community.
November 10, 2007: First Morelli Open House and Vintage Mid-Century Clothing Exhibit
On Saturday, November 10, 2007 from 1:00-4:00 PM the Junior League held its first public open house event that featured newly developed guided tours of the House by the Morelli House Docent Committee and a fall vintage clothing exhibit from the collection of Diane Bush and Steven Baskin, avid local mid-century vintage collectors. Junior League members modeled mid century outfits that had been donated to the League and served as greeters for the open house event that was free and open to the general public. Setting the general tour format for years to come, the new guided tours included explanations about the architectural features of the house, the life and times of Antonio and Helen Morelli, and the interesting story of the historical preservation project itself. The fall vintage clothing exhibit featured seasonal colors and textures of women’s and men’s clothing from the late 1950’s during the time that the Morelli House was originally built. Sak’s Fifth Avenue generously loaned mannequins for the exhibit.
January 31, 2008: Reception and Book Signing Event for Vladimir Kagan co-sponsored with the World Market Center and HD Design Magazine
On January 31, 2008, the Junior League hosted a book signing and reception at the Morelli House honoring Vladimir Kagan, internationally recognized modern furniture designer, for his contribution of furniture and participation in the Morelli House Preservation Project. The event was arranged in collaboration with The World Market Center of Las Vegas and H/D Home and Design Magazine published by the Greenspun Group. Mr. Kagan’s autobiography, “The Complete Kagan” was offered for sale at the reception signed by the author himself. Las Vegas locals and market attendees at the January 2008 Furniture Market were invited. Shuttle busses to the Morelli House from the World Market Center were provided. Mr. Kagan was also presented the Las Vegas World Market Center’s first Design Icon Award during the exposition at the World Market.
December 6, 2008: Very Merry Morelli Open House and Mid-Century Holiday Display
On Saturday, Dec 6, 2008, the Junior League recreated the spirit of the mid century holidays as it held a “Very Merry Morelli Open House Exhibit” that featured vintage mid century holiday decorations as part of the Las Vegas Downtown Cultural Corridor’s “December to Remember” series of events. The special exhibit, which required months to plan and assemble, utilized authentic vintage holiday decorations loaned by Junior League members and others in the community. The exhibit not only included decorations throughout the interior where each major area featured a different artistic and color scheme, it also included an outdoor display as well complete with a vintage Mustang Convertible parked in the driveway with Santa behind the wheel. Junior League members welcomed the public in festive mid century attire and served mid century holiday refreshments. As an added bonus for its efforts, the Junior League was awarded third prize in the 2008 Holiday Decorating Contest “Best Interior Display” category by the Las Vegas Review Journal.
February 20, 2009: Reception for Nevada Humanities
The Morelli House hosted a reception to introduce the new executive director of Nevada Humanities, Christina Barr, to the Southern Nevada arts and cultural community. The event was held in appreciation for Nevada Humanities’ grant support for the research and development of the Morelli House Public Program’s interpretive materials and programs.
April 2, 2009: “Morelli and His Music” Public Program Event
On April 2, 2009, the Junior League of Las Vegas presented a public community interest program at the Las Vegas Academy High School Auditorium entitled, “Morelli and His Music” about the musical career of Antonio Morelli during his tenure as the musical director and orchestra leader at the former Sand’s Resort Copa Room Showroom from 1954 until 1971. Junior League presented this educational and entertaining event as part of its Morelli House interpretive program’s mission to educate the public about the Morelli House and the mid century period in Las Vegas history. The program was funded, in part, by a grant from Nevada Humanities, a state program of the National Endowment for the Humanities and from generous cash and inkind contributions from the community.
The “Morelli and His Music” Program was a collaborative effort about the community, by the community, for the community. The League enlisted the help of several co-producing partners including the UNLV Oral History Center; the UNLV Arnold Shaw Center for Popular Music; UNLV TV; KUNV (UNLV Jazz Radio); Musicians Union Local 369 AFM; the Las Vegas Jazz Society; the Las Vegas Academy High School; the Ferraro Media Group; and the Venetian Foundation. The “Morelli and His Music” program brought together scholars, musicians, historical preservation and community supporters across the Las Vegas Valley who offered their talents, resources and support to produce an educational and entertaining event about the history of Las Vegas entertainment that was enthusiastically attended by over 500 people.
At the program, Dr. Claytee White of the UNLV Oral History Center moderated a panel discussion by six former musicians who played in Morelli’s Orchestra. Orchestral selections of the Sand’s Copa Room repertoire were performed by the Las Vegas Academy High School Jazz band that featured solo segments by the panelists. Pete Barbutti, longtime Las Vegas comedian and entertainer emceed the program. A multi-media presentation of historical photos from Morelli’s long career provided the backdrop for the staging and a specially prepared CD of Morelli’s actual orchestral music and a recording of a l976 oral history interview by Helen Morelli was distributed to each member of the audience. The “Morelli and His Music” program was videotaped live and edited by UNLV-TV for two broadcasts on Las Vegas PBS later in the year and for the historical archives at the University of Las Vegas. Following the program, the audience was invited to a post reception at the Morelli House for tours, refreshments and entertainment by Frank Sinatra and Dean Martin tribute artists backed by musicians funded by the Musician’s Union.
This multi-faceted historical program brought Las Vegas mid -century entertainment history to life—as the Las Vegas “Entertainment Capitol of the World” found Antonio Morelli at its epicenter.
May 9, 2009: Morelli Open House Celebrating Nevada History Day
In celebration of the community’s Archeology and History Day, the Morelli House Public Program Committee held an Open House event on the afternoon of May 9 following its participation with the History Fair held that morning at the Springs Preserve. The Junior League joined with other history related institutions in the City’s Cultural Corridor that also offered tours of their facilities spotlighting the historical resources available in the City of Las Vegas.
October 22, 2009: Morelli House hosts lecture, “The Genius of Mark Twain” by Dr. Elliot Engel for the Vegas Valley Book Festival
As a pre-event for the 2009 Vegas Valley Book Festival, on October 22 at 7 PM the Junior League presented “The Genius of Mark Twain”, a literary program presented by Dr. Elliot Engel. The event, which was a collaborative effort with the City of Las Vegas Cultural Arts Division, was held at the City of Las Vegas Downtown Senior Services Center Auditorium located across the street from the Morelli House. Following the lecture, the audience was invited to a reception, tours and a book signing by Dr. Engel at the Morelli House. The event attended by nearly 150 people was free and open to the public and was funded in part by a grant from Nevada Humanities.
Oct. 24, 2009: Morelli House Golden Anniversary Open House and “Las Vegas: Circa 1959” Exhibit
As part of its year-long celebration the 50th anniversary of the building of the Morelli House in l959, the Junior League held a public open house on Saturday, October 24, 2009 that featured a specially created exhibit entitled, “Las Vegas: Circa 1959”. Authentic vintage memorabilia and
artifacts from l959 were gathered from the community and were cleverly displayed throughout the house creating a true time capsule for visitors. The comprehensive exhibit included kitchen ceramics and appliances, foods introduced in 1959, popular books published in l959, games, toys, men and women’s’ fashions, and jewelry in addition to photos from the archives of the Las Vegas News Bureau and a 1959 Ford Mustang convertible that was parked in the circular driveway. Videos of television shows and movies that were premiered in 1959 were played on the Morelli’s TV in the breakfast room and musical recordings from l959 provided background music in the rest of the house. The Morelli House docents and Junior League Actives modeled vintage mid century fashions as they explained the historical significance of the house and the exhibit. A display ad in the Las Vegas Review Journal inviting the public to the event was funded by a Centennial Grant from the City of Las Vegas Historic Preservation Commission.
May 8, 2010: Morelli Open House and Hat’s Off to Volunteers” Event
In celebration of Nevada’s History month and in keeping with the Junior League’s mission to promote voluntarism, the League held its annual spring public open house and a special program at the Morelli House entitled, “Hats Off to Volunteers” at its historic Morelli House on Saturday, May 8, 1:00-3:00 PM. A special promotional targeted effort was made to encourage other volunteer groups and individuals to visit the house during this event so that they could informally network with other community volunteers in attendance and be recognized and thanked for their efforts on behalf of the community. About 50 people attended. In addition to tours, a special vintage mid century hat display was created with over 100 hats loaned by Junior League members for the exhibit. The event was free and open to the public.
October 22, 2010: Opening Reception for Mid Mod Marvel Convention
On Friday, October 22, The opening reception for the “Mid Mod Marvel Convention” about mid-century Las Vegas architecture sponsored by the Architectural and Design Society (ADAS) and The Friends of Classic Las Vegas Organization was held at the Morelli House. About 60 people attended. At the gathering, Alan Hess, a featured speaker at the convention, addressed the group about the significance of the Morelli House, its architectural features and the importance of its preservation by the Junior League. Morelli House Public Program committee members were on hand to answer questions about the house and to assist with the event.
October 24, 2010: Morelli Open House featuring “Remains of the Day” photo exhibit and The Morelli Models
On Sunday, October 24, the annual Fall Morelli Open House event was held that included a special early bus stop tour for Mid Mod Marvel Convention attendees followed by a public open house attended by locals and by attendees at another mid-century convention, “Mondo Lounge”, being held in Las Vegas during the same weekend. In total, about 150 people attended. Ten Morelli House docents were on hand to give guided tours and five Morelli Models wearing mid-century outfits from the Morelli vintage clothing collection circulated throughout the day.
In keeping with the Las Vegas Mid-Century focus of the weekend, the Morelli Public Program Committee arranged for a special photo exhibit that was provided by the Nevada State Museum at Las Vegas entitled “Remains of the Day”. The exhibit displayed photos of buildings built in Las Vegas during the 50’s and 60’s that had escaped the wrecking ball and still stand as a reminder of our city’s rich mid-century architectural history. Many of the photos in the collection were taken renowned photographer, Jay Florian Mitchell. Mitchell moved to Las Vegas from New York in the mid 1950’s and for the following 25 years carefully documented the growth and architecture of his adopted home.
The promotion and advertising for the open house was extensive and successful due to the support of the Junior League’s Communications Committee, funding from the City Historic Preservation Commission and pro bono publicity by the Vegas Seven Magazine.
May 15, 2011: Public Open House and Art Fair: “An Afternoon at the Morelli House—Where the Arts and History Meet”
The Junior League greeted over 150 visitors at its historic mid-century Morelli House on Sunday, May 15 during its annual Spring Open House event entitled, “An Afternoon at the Morelli House-Where the Arts and History Meet.” The event was partially funded by a grant from the City of Las Vegas Historic Preservation Commission. The free, public, family-oriented event was a flurry of activities that featured guided tours inside the House and an art fair in the backyard that spotlighted visual and theatrical art revolving around the history of Southern Nevada. The event was an unqualified success in spite of the 40 mph winds and was enjoyed by all who attended.
Four collections of paintings and art work related to Nevada history and landscapes were exhibited. Members from the Nevada Watercolor Society showcased paintings that depicted Southern Nevada landscapes and historic buildings from their “Las Vegas Centennial Collection” in addition to a live painting demonstration by David Mazur, a member of the Watercolor Society. Paintings by the late Cliff Segarblom loaned by his family were also displayed and Donna and Gail Andress were on hand to relate stories about their friendship with the late Mr. Segerblom. Becky Crowe, the art teacher at the Las Vegas Day School, developed the third art exhibit that featured art about Las Vegas history by 189 of her elementary students. Each five grade levels were given a range of topics to choose from and the children’s interpretations were as artistic as they were engaging. The fourth exhibit featured a special interpretive mid-century fashion photography exhibit entitled, “Morelli House”, that was photographed at the Morelli House in April by photography students from the College of Southern Nevada and UNLV.
Dr. Linda Miller, as Helen J. Stewart, presented a Chautauqua performance at 1:30 to a capacity audience of 50 people. Brandon Tulley, a music student at Las Vegas Academy High School, provided guitar music that added to the relaxed Sunday afternoon ambiance of the outside art event. Junior League hostesses provided guided tours inside the house and served complementary lemonade and cookies.
OCT 11, 2012: National Register of Historic Places Plaque Unveiling Ceremony and Reception
One hundred forty invited guests attended this benchmark event in the history of the Morelli House Preservation Project for the ceremony of the unveiling of the bronze plaque proclaiming the listing of the Morelli House on the National Register of Historic Places. Historian, Dr. Michael Green officiated and Senator Richard Bryan and Sara Fogelquist of the State Historical Preservation Office were featured speakers. At the end of the ceremony, Mayor Carolyn Goodman unveiled the plaque followed by champagne and a special Morelli House cake that was created for the occasion.
APRIL 20, 2013: “Helen and Her Friends” Vintage Fashion Show Open House Event
At its Spring Open House the Morelli Public Program presented two performances of a specially written fashion show the featured Junior League members modeling outfits for its mid-century vintage fashion collection while the audience learned about Helen Morelli’s and her husband, Antonio’s life and times in Las Vegas during the l950’s and 60’s. The Morelli House docents also conducted tours of the house for attendees.
APRIL 5, 2013 – October 25, 2014: The Copa Connection Program Series
The Copa Connection Program Series was made possible by a grant from the Commission for the Las Vegas Centennial. It consisted of four separate events highlighting the contributions of the Sands to the culture of Las Vegas. The first event spotlighted the beautiful show girls from the Sands’ Copa Lounge. The second event featured music by Antonio Morelli performed by students of the Las Vegas Academy. The third event provided an evening of Sinatra and the final event opened a special Sands exhibit at the Las Vegas Museum with four guest speakers.