– Oana Mihalache
They’re very few those who remember or read about the personalities and professionals from various fields, who helped promote the image of Vegas in the world and came with innovations that now pertain to what we can name ”the no. 1 destination of global gambling”. Two of these names are Maxwell and Laura Bell Kelch, who not only set up a radio channel at a moment when Vegas had none, but they also promoted brands connected to Vegas, such as „SIN CITY”. Their actions stand as proof for the fact that sustained passion for a city like Las Vegas can inspire and lead to innovations that are meant to last for decades.
In 1940, the two were founding the KENO radio station in Vegas, after the only station at that time stopped transmission, without any competition on the market. They thus have the merit of maintaining radio transmission in the city during hard historical time – moreover as news about the war were live on KENO, in the context of an imminent threat of a Japanese invasion on the West Coast. Maxwell previously worked for another radio station during high school, as an engineer, and his interest for this field lasted as he graduated with a bachelor’s and then a master’s degree in physics. The station founded by the Kelch husbands functioned as an affiliated station of ABC, and among the shows that used to run on it we mention „Listen Ladies” and „Peggy Maxwell”.
Consistent efforts to promote Las Vegas as a tourism destination have later been implemented, after 1944, when Maxwell became president of the Chamber of Commerce in Vegas. From this position, he conducted lobby activities among businessmen, in order to promote the city, even launching a funding account for this – called „Live Wire” – through which he collected $84.000, money used for touristic promotion activities. Accordingly, the city shortly became a destination visited by tourists from around the world, especially by those keen on gambling activities and an active nightlife.
Basically, the Kelch family helped establish the „Sin City” brand, through their consistent PR efforts for the touristic promotion of Las Vegas after the Second World War, and before the famous slogan Flower Power emerged among the US youth – which was correlated with a peaceful rebellion attitude among the population and especially among young people. This movement’s roots can be traced in the opposition actions towards the Vietnam War. “If we were to historically analyze the efforts to promote Vegas as a touristic destination, Max Kelch would be the founding father”, according to Michael Green, history professor at Community College in Nevada. His name is also connected to another “brand” of Vegas, namely the famous mascot of Vegas Vic, a cowboy that is in the front of The Pioneer Club since 1951. Very few people know that Maxwell was the men who invested money in the sound station for this club, after he sold the KENO radio station, thus giving a voice to this mascot.
The actions of the Kelch family were not only dedicated to PR and tourism. Laura had an important role in convincing american militaries to maintain opened the military base Nellis Air Force after the Second World War. Many military schools have been built there, close to an operational center for aerial activities.
The cultural and historical heritance of the Kelch family did not remain connected only to the two husbands whatsoever. Their name was also promoted in the cinematographic industry, through their nephew Matthew Gray Gubler, who starred in the TV series „Criminal Minds”, that could be watched on AXN. The innovations left by Maxwell and Laura left an important brand for both Vegas and the global gambling, but especially for those willing to discover top destinations of this kind. Everything was in the name of entertainment – this is what we could retain as the main slogan that drove the entire activity of the Kelch family.