Howard Hughes was well known as an aviator, movie producer, and billionaire. He died April 5, 1976, after 10 years of reclusion in, among other places, a hotel room in the Desert Inn Hotel in Las Vegas.
He produced several films: Scarface, Hells' Angels, Invasion U.S.A. and in 1956 The Conqueror, with John Wayne in the leading role of Genghis Kahn. The Conqueror was shot in the Nevada desert in 1954.
This area was also the ground of the Nevada test sites where in the 1950's more than 100 nuclear tests have been executed. The fall-out of the nuclear tests stretched over large parts of the United States. The dust was ever present, and cast and crew of The Conqueror rolled through the sand during the countless fighting scenes and played with Geiger counters (which reacted). People living in that area (declared 'safe' by the authorities) had parties and pick-nicks in the sand. Howard Hughes shipped 60 tons of Nevada desert sand to a Hollywood studio, to rebuild scenes for extra shooting.
The Nevada Desert is close to Las Vegas, only 150 miles from the Desert Inn Hotel. Hughes, a spider in the political and corporate web, bribed and manipulated several presidents, among them Nixon, to stop nuclear testing on his doorstep.