It would be tempting to say Las Vegas lost a piece of its history when Bob Maheu died last night at age 91. Maheu was for years Howard Hughes’ right-hand man and alter-ego during the years Hughes was holed up on the top floor of the Desert Inn, which Hughes eventually purchased so he wouldn’t have to leave (and so he could shed some annoying tax problems). But what we lost was a historic figure; Maheu was always ready to share his vivid memories of Old Vegas and his years with Hughes.
I interviewed him a few times, most recently for this story, which appeared months ago about the Mob in Vegas, which ran in Las Vegas Weekly. I also talked to him in April 2000 for a story in the Las Vegas Sun centering on the 50th anniversary of the Desert Inn. At the time, Steve Wynn was only rumored to be purchasing the hotel. I went back and read that story and it is one of my favorites, largely because of Maheu’s willingness to talk about those times and his remarkably keen memory.
In that story, Maheu, a former FBI agent, relates that in 13 years serving Hughes, he saw the billionaire exactly twice: "One was that night in 1966, by accident," Maheu said. "The other was in 1957, in the Bahamas. I saw him and some of his staff through a hotel lobby. Everything was done through phone calls and memos, hand-written memos on legal-sized yellow paper with lines."
Bob Maheu was Vegas to the core. Rest well, sir.