North Tahoe casino makes ‘history’ |

North Tahoe casino makes ‘history’

A photo of Marilyn Monroe hangs in the Cal Neva Lodge.

Decades after Frank Sinatra last escorted mobsters, starlets and entertainment’s elite through the underground tunnels of the historic Cal Neva Lodge, a History Channel film crew is following his footsteps.

Host Don Wildman, of the History Channel show “Cities of the Underworld,” was at the Crystal Bay facility Thursday, Friday and Saturday, filming a segment for a future episode.

“Sinatra was a phenomenon of the 20th century, and he didn’t have to be as self conscious about his image because the tabloids and Internet weren’t as present, which made him more of a fun subject for the show,” Wildman said.

He said Sinatra’s guests and hard partying lifestyle capture a period in time when stars could get away with much more.

“A lot of history happened here; some very high profile people came for the beauty and escape of it,” he said.

Wildman and the “Cities” crew were at the Cal Neva to shoot a segment for an episode about Nevada’s history as it ties to gaming and organized crime. The episode will take the viewer through the origins of gaming in the state to ties to Mafia and the entertainers who made the whole idea work.

He said the study of Sinatra’s underground city ” a network of underground hallways meant to keep The Chairman’s criminal guests off the casino floor ” was “amazing.”

“You have all of these interesting stories here, from mobsters like Sam Giancana hanging around to the setting, which is incredible; this is a place where people came for the beauty and escape of it all,” Wildman said. “You know, I get to go into Marilyn Monroe’s cabin and show people where a tunnel left from underneath her closet, it’s an honor to be here.”

The episode will air in December or January, Wildman said, as part of the show’s third season.

It will run in a series of episodes which take Wildman to locales such as Okinawa, Japan; Rome; Jerusalem; and Vietnam, exploring the underground works of man.

He said doing shows in the U.S., at places such as the Cal Neva, or in others in Chicago and Las Vegas, always draw higher ratings and are fun to produce.

“The domestic shows attract Americans because they like to hear American stories, but it’s more of a challenge as a storyteller, which is what I am as a host, because everything is much newer. The show is much more idea-oriented than some of the very old places we travel to, like Rome, where you can see thousands of years of history right before you,” Wildman said. “I’m sure it will be a highly rated show.”

He said the show’s producers will work to deconstruct the tunnel system through 3D graphics, showing the tunnels leading from the Cal Neva’s showroom to Sinatra’s cabin and the backdoor tunnels to the pool area.

To keep up with the show’s production you can visit and check out the link to “Cities of the Underworld,” where the exact run date of the episode will appear, along with a video diary by Wildman of his travels.

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