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CELEBRATING 65 YEARS: A look back at KTNV's history

Posted: 3:06 PM, May 04, 2021
Updated: 2021-05-31 15:49:55-04
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PART 1: The (K)SHO begins in Las Vegas
PART 2: Remembering Bob Bailey and how he changed Las Vegas television
PART 3: 13 Belongs - how KTNV covered Las Vegas during the 1970s
PART 4: Remembering Steve Schorr's news coverage, love for Las Vegas community
PART 5: 'Inside Las Vegas' in the 1990s
PART 6: KTNV news coverage during early 2000s
PART 7 : KTNV news coverage during 2010s
PART 8: 2020 -- The year that changed everything, including news

THE (K)SHO BEGINS IN LAS VEGAS

The late 1950s were a groundbreaking time with Elvis' first show at the New Frontier, the first class at UNLV, the grand openings of the Tropicana and the Stardust hotel-casinos and the first signal from “Lucky 13!"

As we celebrate 65 years in Las Vegas, we're taking a look back at the very early days of KTNV-TV.

“We marketed ourselves as cowboys and Indians. Howdy, partner, the old west. Well, that changed in the 50s and 60s,” says Robert Stoldal."

"From the air, Vegas looks like the small town that it is. 35,000 permanent population. 7 million is the temporary population. 7 million tourists that annual pull in by bus train and plane and leave $122 million dollars gross.”

“The Sands Hotel, the Dunes Hotel, the Last Frontier became the New Frontier Hotel, the Sahara. So we dropped that cowboy and Indian marketing and image. And that's really when channel 13 was born, as Las Vegas was moving into more of a modern perspective," says Stodal.

"Lucky 13” or KSHO-TV took to the airwaves on May 4, 1956, broadcasting from an antenna on top of the brand-new Fremont Hotel."

"13 started in its first year or so as a movie station. It showed films. Sometimes the same film would be seen in the morning, the afternoon and evening. So the different working shifts would be able to see the see that film,” according to Stoldal.

The station was started by a newspaper publisher Morris Zenoff. He ran the Boulder City News and Henderson Home News.

MORRIS ZENOFF

"In the late 1940s, he saw an opportunity in television. He seemed like just a person that believed in in in Southern Nevada, the community of Las Vegas and Henderson, and was a positive part of the community. He brought that positive energy. I don't care what you're doing, if you're going to start a television station in the early 1960s, you have to have a lot of energy and a lot of belief that you see the future,” says Stoldal.

Stoldal started his career in television at "Lucky 13" in 1964. As a fill-in sportscaster and weather anchor. He says Zenoff sold the station shortly after he established it in 1956 and it switched hands between a colorful group of owners for several years. Stoldall says it was purchased by business people who saw opportunities for advertising.

Looking back at the early days of KTNV 65 years later

Eventually, it was sold to Television Corporation of America for $200,00 and the station moved to the El Rancho Hotel. But, in one year, the company cashed out and left the station to three familiar Las Vegas names — Nathan Adelson, Mervyn Adelson and Irwin Molasky. They were able to buy it for just $70,000.

Stoldal says the Molasky family was primarily into real estate and development but saw the TV station as an opportunity. The Adelsons and Molasky sold it though just two years later and the station’s finances took a dive.

It filed for bankruptcy in the early 60s. On top of that, the FCC pulled KSHO-TV’s license. But, in an effort to keep “Lucky 13” on-air the commission opened the door for another “only in Vegas” cast of characters to run the station temporarily.

Comedienne Phyllis Diller was one of those who applied to own the station but was denied.

The new group of owners moved KSHO-TV into what used to be an old refrigeration warehouse near Valley View Boulevard and Desert Inn Road and the changes kept coming.

“The town is in a constant state of change and development. So you can always remember yesterday and yesterday was something different in Las Vegas than it is today and and will be tomorrow. That's part of the excitement of Las Vegas,” according to Stoldal.

REMEMBERING BOB BAILEY AND HOW HE CHANGED LAS VEGAS TELEVISION

Back in the day, Dr. William H. Bailey was a civil rights activist and a loving father and husband. But he was perhaps best known as the emcee at the historic Moulin Rouge and the host of the "Bob Bailey Show," one of the first Black-hosted television shows in the country. It aired right here on what was then "Lucky 13."

Bailey got his start in Sin City in 1955 as the star singer for Count Bassie at the Moulin Rouge.

The Moulin Rouge was the first integrated hotel-casino in the United States. His wife Anna was one of the casino's legendary dancers.

"They could tell when we went down to Fremont Street, that we're the girls from the Rouge though. I guess it was the way we walked, the way we carried ourselves," said Anna Bailey.

65 years of KTNV: taking a look back at the early days

They saw the oasis in the desert and that was the Moulin Rouge. So he just explained it as it was, just so beautiful," said Kim Bailey, Bob and Anna's daughter. She says after the Moulin Rouge shut down just 6 months after opening, her father saw an opportunity to take his talents and his message to television.

The show started on KLAS under owner Hank Greenspun. But in 1957 after the station went under new ownership, Bailey moved to "Lucky 13" under our former call letters KSHO. It was a variety show with music and laughs from the likes of Redd Foxx.

Bailey's daughter Kim says she remembers being there to see her dad in action. He used to take her on set as a little girl and she even made some memorable cameos on the show!

"Sometimes he would put me in one of the shots right beside him. And I was only maybe 5 or 6 and I was chewing gum and pulling my gum out and right in the camera lens," said Kim.

Kim says her dad's legacy at Channel 13 is his sense of community and inclusivity.

"I think he opened the door for that embrace between media positive representation of all people. And because so often now you hear people say, oh, the media, there's the media that but it was very different here for us because it was fair. It's authentic and fair. And I think that Channel 13 is definitely a representation of that," says Kim Bailey.

Bob Bailey went on to be the Equal Rights Commissioner in Nevada. Throughout the years he also helped countless minority businesses in Las Vegas get off the ground. Bob Bailey also has a local elementary school named after him.

13 BELONGS -- HOW KTNV COVERED LAS VEGAS DURING THE 1970S

The 1970s were "dy-no-mite," but Las Vegas was seeing a different type of explosion. The population was growing rapidly, the mob was in control, and "Saturday Night Fever" was rocking the valley!

"It was a different town, a much different town, and it was a much smaller town,” said Tom Letizia, who started his career as a salesman at KSHO-TV in the early 1970s. "TV was a very small medium. Radio was very big back in those days and newspaper was the number one source for information."

1970's 13 Belongs Promo - KTNV-TV Las Vegas

Mitch Fox also started his career at Channel 13 as a reporter.

"It was really an interesting time to be in the news business in Las Vegas because, keep in mind, the UNLV Running Rebels were really at the height,” Fox said. “It was a glory period that they were really doing great things in collegiate basketball. There was a lot of mob activity going on at that time," Fox said.

One of the valley's most famous mobsters, Frank "Lefty" Rosenthal, brought some of his activities to the small screen. The "Frank Rosenthal Show" premiered on KSHO-TV in 1977. It was filmed live from the Stardust. The show featured big names like Frank Sinatra, Siegfried and Roy, and Muhammad Ali.

Frank Rosenthal Show image with Frank Sinatra
Frank Sinatra appears on the Frank Rosenthal Show August 27, 1977, being filmed at the Stardust in Las Vegas. (Wolf Wergin/Las Vegas News Bureau)

"We were running the TV show that Frank Rosenthal TV show. And of course, that was the show you see in the movie "Casino." Frank "Lefty" Rosenthal, who was known as Ace in the movie, and of course, Tony Spilotro. Those guys were all over Vegas. Every day you'd see a story in the news about Spilotro and Rosenthal," Letitiza said.

As the mob dominated the headlines, Fox says that covering their stories were not only challenging, but frightening at times.

"So much was hidden from all forms of the media. In those days. I look back on what that those the guys, the wise guys got away with in the 1970s and what was not reported on," Fox said. "People were dying, you know, and there was skimming going on. There was lawlessness going on. And so the trick was actually to see what elected officials or what law enforcement officials were kind of cozying up to those mob influences, that that was the trick and challenge."

Celebrating how KTNV did journalism in the 1970s

The mob wasn't the only headline at the time, Las Vegas had a spell of "Saturday Night Fever." Discos were popping up all over the valley and Mitch says he was there to cover most of the openings.

"I would cover the amount of tourists and locals that were coming out finding all this nightlife in Las Vegas. Trust me, it wasn't anything like it is today," Fox said.

Our station at the time was also nothing like it is today.

"KSHO at the time that I started, there was an old barn that we all worked out of,” said Marla Letizia, who started at Channel 13 as a director. She was one of the first female directors in Nevada. She eventually made her way on air as a talk show host and then transitioned to reporting the weather.

Blast from the KTNV-TV past: Marla R. Letiza presents the weather

Fox also remembers the early days of KSHO-TV. "You almost like feel like you were in the infancy stages of broadcast journalism, then I guess you were! The biggest hindrance that we found was the equipment, because it was the transition between film to tape."

"TV was very small back in the early 70s. I mean, it was it was an afterthought for a lot of the advertisers." Tom Letizia says selling television in those days was a different type of challenge. "We were selling seven dollar commercials. I can remember the package. I could give 50 spots for $350. Plus, we'd bring out the remote truck and we'd shoot the commercial. But stations were turning over because owners couldn't continue to sustain because they just didn't make money."

Marla Letizia says it was in the late 1970s when all of the stations, including Channel 13, changed ownership, forging the way into the future of Las Vegas television news.

"Arthur Williams owned Channel 13, Howard Hughes owned Channel 8, Johnny Carson owned Channel 5, and DonRey owned Channel 3. Those properties were owned by those groups for many, many years. And then all of a sudden within, let's say I think like in 1978 within a 15-month time frame -- Channel 3 sold for $3 million, Channel 5 sold for $5 million, Channel 8 sold for $8 million, and Channel 13 sold for $13 million. Channel 13 was the last one to go."

The station was sold to the Milwaukee Journal Company, which remained the owner for several decades.

REMEMBERING STEVE SCHORR'S NEWS COVERAGE, LOVE FOR LAS VEGAS COMMUNITY

Steve Schorr spent decades reporting Las Vegas news at multiple stations, but he started at KTNV.

Schorr not only changed KTNV but the Las Vegas community he loved so much and the people he was able to help every day.

His son Darrin says his father and mother Holly moved the family out to Las Vegas in the early 1970s.

A broadcaster already, Schorr landed his first gig at KTNV.

At KTNV, Schorr reported on some of the biggest stories of the 80s, including the deadly fires at the MGM Grand and Hilton.

STEVE SCHORR

“He did a mix of everything. He was anything with the community, anything where he can get involved in and get out there and meet people,” Darrin said.

Schorr also anchored at the local NBC and CBS channels but his true passion came when he left the anchor desk and served the valley that became his home.

Anchor commercial for Channel 13 in 1980s

"He was he always trying to help people from everybody before himself. It's just one bit one of the ways that he was special," Darrin said.

After his time in the news, Schorr went on to become the Vice President of Government Affairs for Prime Cable, which later became Cox Cable.

He was also a key founder of Nevada Child Seekers, a nonprofit that helps families of missing children.

"He was always looking at any way he could to better the community and keep this community moving forward. Children were his passion," Darrin said.

Schorr was also a big advocate of children's education. Darrin says one of the biggest honors of his father's life was when the Clark County School District named an elementary school after him.

“He was so, so proud of having that happen," Darrin said.

Schorr's most recent role before he died in November 2020 was Executive Vice President of Government Affairs at Fierro Communications.

RELATED: Former Las Vegas news anchor, community leader Steve Schorr passes away

Darrin says his dad will be remembered as a broadcaster, a family man, a child advocate and a true community partner.

Out with the old and in with the new "Golden Age" of Las Vegas. In the 1990s, the valley saw growth like it had never seen before and stories that are still talked to this day.

"We had an increase in everything in the 1990s," says Kim Sherwood-Schofield, a former reporter and anchor at KTNV-TV. "Everywhere I turned, there was building construction everywhere I looked. And I drove down the Strip and there were cranes and energy and lots of people. You had new development, you had neighborhoods that were popping up in the middle of nowhere. You had dirt lots that all of a sudden were becoming Summerlin, you had Green Valley being developed and planned. You had North Las Vegas starting to sprawl."

'Inside Las Vegas' in the 1990s

Former anchor and managing editor John Daly says he was one of thousands of people that moved here each month. "It was it was like the perfect economic storm," Daly says.

With more people coming in at such a fast rate, Sherwood-Schofield says the growth also had its problems. "You'd have the challenges of road construction going on everywhere. You had crime on the increase. Sadly, you had the more demands for all of the utilities," Sherwood-Schofield says.

At the time, KTNV-TV was also growing. John Daly started in 1990 and says as the city started to grow, the station brought in more people to help cover the flourishing community.

Cathy Ray says when her agent called her and told her about an opportunity in Las Vegas, she wasn't interested. "They said, 'You know, John is the co-anchor out there and everything's growing and, you know, you should think about it,'" Ray says. "So we figured, well, you know what? We've never been out to Vegas and never been west of Milwaukee. Let's go!" Cathy started on the anchor desk of KTNV-TV in 1994.

Deborah Clayton started at KTNV-TV in 1992 as a producer and assignment editor. "The interesting thing about Las Vegas was that almost every national story always had a local angle. And it was just a matter of time for us to," Clayton says.

One of the biggest national stories at the time was the Rodney King beating. John Daly remembers watching the riots break out on the streets of Los Angeles live, "I finished the six o'clock newscast and I came off the set and I was at the feed monitor. The monitor was for the national feed in the Los Angeles feed was right as I came off the set. So, I just happened to look at it and I'm seeing the rioting, all the rioting happening."

The OJ Simpson trial out of Los Angeles also took over TV screens across the country. Cathy Ray says Las Vegas viewers were no exception. "Every night, we would have, you know, our experts come in and we followed it very closely," Ray says.

On the other hand, there were Las Vegas stories that caught national attention, including the kidnapping of Steve Wynn's daughter Kevyn in 1993 and the shooting of hip hop start Tupac Shakur and record producer Marion "Suge" Knight.

"What we really thrived on was great live coverage. So, when something happened, if something bad happened on the Strip or something that, you know, an accident or a storm or something going on, we really made sure we were the best at it." John Daly says.

"We were thoroughly engaged in trying to cover the news of the day and make sure that it represented exactly what was going on and gave the citizens of Las Vegas in Clark County the news that they needed to know because this was such an unusual time for a city," Kim Sherwood-Schofield says.

KTNV NEWS COVERAGE DURING EARLY 2000s

CELEBRATING 65 YEARS: KTNV news coverage during early 2000s

The new millennium brought new challenges and growth to Las Vegas.

During this time, the population continued to grow at a record pace and the valley dealt with fear and the aftermath of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks. Also, outlandish court cases took over TV screens and the decade ended in a big decline -- the recession hitting Las Vegas harder than many cities across the United States.

13 Action News General Manager Chris Way says he moved to the valley during its big boom in the early 2000s.

"You had the sense, the streets are paved with gold, and it was just the land of opportunity. It's like the gold rush, you know, people moving west all over again," Way said.

"It was still a town that where everybody knew everybody," said 13 Action News anchor Tricia Kean, who moved to Las Vegas in 2001. She started just one week before the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks and says it was a frightening time for the valley.

"Las Vegas was vacant on the Strip and I never thought I would see that. They weren't shut down like for the pandemic; there were just no tourists coming here," Kean said. "The concern back then was that Las Vegas would be a target. And there was talk that they wanted to fly planes into the hotels at the time. So, we were on high alert."

Another series of stories that dominated the headlines in the early 2000s was the dramatic trial proceedings of three significant cases in Las Vegas.

Margaret Rudin was on trial accused of killing her husband, Ron, after a few years on the run from authorities.

Sandy Murphy and her boyfriend Rick Tabish were convicted of murdering casino mogul Ted Binion in 2000, but the duo was granted a retrial in 2004 and eventually acquitted.

13 Action News chief photographer Jason Harvey covered all of these trials, but the one story that sticks in his memory is the Jessica Williams case.

"I got the call. They knew where I was going. Hey, can you fly? Five kids were killed along the I-15 Speedway at that point. You know, you have to stop what you're doing and realize what the nature of the event is," Harvey said.

Williams' case received national attention as the crash shined a spotlight on marijuana, ecstasy and how these substances impair someone's ability to drive. She was found guilty and sentenced to 18 to 48 years in prison. Williams was released on parole in 2019 and a federal judge found Williams was wrongfully convicted of DUI. Instead, she plead guilty to involuntary manslaughter.

Another big story of the decade was the rise and fall of the Las Vegas housing market.

Dayna Roselli, a former 13 Action News anchor, says when she moved to the valley in 2004 there was a housing boom.

"I mean, people were literally lining up to get a house here. It was competitive," Roselli said.

Then the crash happened with the recession in 2008.

"People were losing their homes, getting foreclosed and people couldn't stay in them anymore and didn't have an option of refinancing," Roselli said.

Housing wasn't the only thing impacted. Businesses, including news stations, were having to make tough decisions.

"Across the board, you know, businesses were cutting back and we were not immune to that, laying people off with significant cutbacks in 2008. So, it was a scary time," Way said.

However, Las Vegas always finds a way to recover, and luckily we are currently seeing that again amid the pandemic.

"If you study the history of Las Vegas, whether it's things that cause a drop in tourism like 9/11, other stock market crashes and bubbles, that Las Vegas always seems to come back stronger," Way said.

KTNV NEWS COVERAGE DURING 2010s

In 65 years, we've had our share of complex stories; but 2017 brought one of the most challenging stories we've ever covered -- the 1 October shooting.

KTNV 65 Years: News coverage during 2010s

"This business is not for the faint of heart. It's not easy. It's a lot of work. A lot of times, we have to cover stories that are hard to watch," said Chris Way, vice president and general manager of KTNV.

Former Good Morning Las Vegas anchor Dayna Roselli says she remembers waking up to alerts from the newsroom on her phone.

"Something big is going on, but I had no idea the magnitude of what had happened," Roselli said. "I remember not clearly knowing what had happened. I had walked down to the lobby of my high-rise building and people were coming in. There was someone that I saw and he said, 'Look, I'm okay. I'm okay, but it was horrible.' He was showing me this video of him running away and you can see people running and hearing shots, and I went, 'Oh my goodness, this is huge.'"

KTNV evening anchor Todd Quinones was on Good Morning Las Vegas during that time in 2017. He says the experience was unnerving as a human being.

"Every time sheriff Lombardo would come out and give an update, yes, we got more information, but unfortunately, the death toll would rise. And so, it was like this strange moment of wanting more information, but realizing every time the sheriff was speaking, we were going to have to deliver some more terrible news. And that was probably the biggest challenge of my career for sure," Quinones said.

"Who would have ever thought that somebody would bring all those weapons up to a room and open up a window and shoot down on people enjoying a concert?" said Tricia Kean, who has been anchoring at KTN since 2001.

She covered the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks but said this tragedy was the most difficult. However, watching the community heal helped her heal, and Kean says one thing that banded the valley together very quickly was the Vegas Golden Knight's historic inaugural season.

"Seeing how they embraced the community, how they honored the victims inscribing their names under the ice, retiring jersey in the number of people that passed away; that said a lot about the heart of that team. And I think Las Vegas really responded to that and got behind the Knights. And so, for that, they represent strength. They represent triumph over tragedy to me. And I think a lot of people here in Southern Nevada."

2020: THE YEAR THAT CHANGED EVERYTHING, INCLUDING NEWS AND KTNV

2020 was the year that changed everything, and the news business was no exception. However, our mission stayed the same -- give light to our viewers so that they can find their way during these challenging times.

"There was no playbook for us," said Chris Way, vice president and general manager of KTNV. "We're an organization that we can't go off the air. Our newscasts happened live."

KTNV 65 Years: 2020 news coverage review

Way says the station had to pivot as an organization to get people out of the building and find a way to put on newscasts remotely.

"It was challenging, and you know, the big concern for me was people's health and safety. While trying to maintain a business, we're trying to do our mission, serving our audience. But, first and foremost, we've got to keep people safe," Way said.

One of the ways KTNV kept employees safe was by moving anchors out of the studio and building remote studios in their homes.

"It was challenging, but I got a lot more confidence. I started as a one-person band in the business, and then I became a one-person band 30 years later broadcasting from home," said evening anchor Tricia Kean.

Evening anchor Todd Quinones said the new work environment wasn't the only challenging thing about 2020; the pandemic was a difficult story to cover.

"It is a slow-moving tragedy. When you think of where we stand now, 560,000 Americans are dead. You know, if that happened in a single incident, I think it would galvanize the country and the world around a singular focus and purpose, much like maybe after 1 October or after 9/11. But because this has been so slow-moving, it has also opened the door for so many different viewpoints and misinformation to sort of creep into the narrative," Quinones said.

Kean says the impacts of the pandemic shutdowns were equally frightening. Thousands of people were put out of work in the span of a month and there were not enough resources ready to help them.

"I was getting a lot of messages when the CARES Act passed, and people were expecting money. I mean, when you shut down the Strip and so much of our economy and the workers are all in one area, thousands of people needed money and they needed it fast; you can't shut a state down without having a plan in place. And our plan was broken. I knew I had to get involved and step up and do whatever I could do," Kean said.

Kean says she helped one man who was afraid he wouldn't be able to feed his daughter. He eventually got his unemployment insurance backpay worth up to $12,000.

"He emailed me and said, 'You saved my life,'" Kean said.

Despite these challenges, Quinones says our role has remained the same.

"It's to be a voice of integrity, a voice of honesty and a voice of accountability in all forms and fashion. And I think if you hold true to that, no matter the tragedy, no matter the victories that we go through as a community, we'll be here. And that's our focus and that's our whole purpose," Quinones said.