Don Samuels, owner of the Spotlight Las Vegas, passed away on Sept. 24, 2019. Samuels was born Feb. 21, 1933 and was a veteran of the U.S. Air Force. He owned the Hollywood Spotlight bar on Cahuenga Boulevard and Selma Avenue but sold it in 2010.
He and several friends had attempted to open the Spotlight Las Vegas in the late 1990s but Samuels couldn’t get licensed by the Nevada Gaming Authority.
“I had met Don, when he and three friends planned to open the Spotlight Lounge in Las Vegas,” explained Las Vegas Spectrum Publisher Rob Schlegel. “As I recall him explaining, sometime in the 1950s, Don was arrested when he asked an undercover police officer for a (cigarette) light. Asking for a light was a gay pickup line in those days, and that was all it took to get busted for deviant behavior. That arrest was just one of the excuses the Nevada Gaming Authority used to deny licenses to anyone wanting to run a gay bar in the not-so-distant past.
“Eventually, Don purchased the building where his friends had opened the Spotlight Las Vegas and he was licensed as their landlord.
“Times changed and a few years later, Samuels was able to obtain his own gaming license and he took over the business, circa 2012.
“Hopefully, I have that correct,” Schlegel explained. “It was hard to find anyone who knew all the details about Don.”
A celebration of life was held at the Spotlight Las Vegas on Oct. 13.