Widely regarded by his peers as one of the best publicists in Las Vegas, Harvey Diederich had a career in the Nevada resort city for nearly four decades. In his innovative uses of publicity and in his effective collaborations with the staff of the Las Vegas News Bureau, Diederich sought not only to promote his employers' properties, but also the general prosperity of Las Vegas.
Diederich was born in Chicago in 1920. After serving as an Army medic in World War II, he graduated from the University of Southern California in 1950 with a degree in journalism. After a brief stint as a publicist for the YMCA in Los Angeles, Diederich headed the news bureau for Steve Hannagan and Associates in Sun Valley, Idaho, for two years. He took the job of director of publicity at the Hotel Last Frontier in Las Vegas in 1952. Excluding two years when he worked for Hannagan and Associates in the Bahamas and for a New York City publicity agency between 1954 and 1956 and working for a public relations firm in Los Angeles in 1974, Diederich spent his entire career in Las Vegas. He worked for several different hotels after the Last Frontier including the Hacienda, Tropicana, Sahara, Dunes, MGM Grand, and the Union Plaza before retiring in 1988.
Diederich collaborated on almost a daily basis with the photographers of the Las Vegas News Bureau, particularly his long-time friend Don English. He also developed good relationships with the entertainment columnists from across the nation, and when he was in charge of advertising as well as publicity and promotion at the Tropicana, he traveled extensively, cultivating a good relationship with travel agents.
Diederich promoted several sporting events like hydroplaning on nearby Lake Mead, but because he was an avid golfer, his greatest success came in promoting that sport as a tourist attraction, especially when he worked at the Hacienda and the Tropicana. Believing that a good deal of successful publicity revolved around entertainers and shows, Diederich came up with numerous "stunts" to get their photos published across the nation. For example, when singer Abbe Lane was performing at the Hotel Last Frontier, the story spread that she took coffee baths to enhance her complexion. When reporters raised doubts, Diederich arranged for the press to witness her taking a bath in a tub filled with coffee, and that image appeared in many newspapers with a Las Vegas dateline and the name of the hotel.
Diederich's special knack was the "cheesecake" photo or what he called the "creative use of showgirls." Holidays offered perfect opportunities for Diederich to shoot what Las Vegas News Bureau photographer Don English called "cornball" photos that captured the attention of editors across the country. While working at the Tropicana, Diederich asked the chef to carve a large ice sculpture of a turkey for Thanksgiving. He had a showgirl sit on the sculpture and the caption read "Cold Turkey."
Diederich thought that his very best stunt and the one that got the most national exposure involved his effort to promote the new lighted golf course at the Hacienda Hotel. He had an attractive showgirl in the slightest of negligees pose at night on the first hole of the course with the name of the hotel in the background with a caption that read, "Night-Tee-Time."
These creative stunts had an important purpose. The publicists of the 1950s and 1960s sought to saturate the nation with the dateline Las Vegas and with the name of their hotel. They sought to make the town and their property a household name, one that evoked images of fun and entertainment.
At the conclusion of his long career Diederich remained persuaded that publicity was more believable, and therefore more effective, than advertising. Because publicity, no matter how silly, appeared in the news section of papers, Diederich maintained the reading public would be more accepting of it than advertising, which they saw as less objective.
None at this time.