The El Rey Club, Searchlight, NV

The El Rey Club, Searchlight, NV
The El Rey Resort & Casino, Circa 1957-1962

Meet Willie

The small mining town of Searchlight, NV has had its fair share of noteworthy residents. Located halfway between Needles, CA and Las Vegas, NV, it became a stopping point for road-weary travelers, a respite from the barren desert highways and heat.

Hollywood celebrities Clara Bow and Rex Bell made Searchlight their home. Legendary aviators, John Macready and William Harrell Nellis, and future Senate Majority Leader, Harry Reid, all resided in Searchlight.

However, perhaps the most noteworthy and influential figure in the town’s history remains relatively unknown to this day. 

Willie Martello, the seventh son of a seventh son, went to Searchlight after his service with the U.S. Navy had ended. Having lost so many friends in Pearl Harbor he was something of a lost soul.

His family owned property in Searchlight and two of his brothers, Buddy and Albert, were already living there. Willie was given the advice from his family to go to Searchlight and, "see what you can do." 

What Willie did brought in an estimated two million dollars worth of revenue a year to town that most people couldn’t find on a map.

What was once a town economically struggling from the loss of the once plentiful local silver and gold mine became a thriving oasis, welcoming vacationers wanting the finest food & entertainment.

Willie became the self-appointed Mayor and owner of Searchlight and helped bring in the town’s first telephone lines, swimming pool, even its own airport.

Willie Martello made Searchlight a place where Frank Sinatra, Betty Grable, Martin & Lewis, & Errol Flynn could escape the hustle and bustle of Hollywood and where the directorial debut of one Francis Ford Coppola could be made…well, sort of.

What Willie did changed Searchlight forever.

He opened the El Rey Club.