A 21 year old Elvis Presley, billed as "The Atomic Powered Singer", took the stage at The New Frontier's Venue Room. The year was 1956 and he already had the rest of the Country in awe not to mention holding the number one hit song "Heartbreak Hotel".
His name should have been shortened to just A BOMB because thats pretty much what happened. Apparently Las Vegas was not ready for Elvis...........yet.
For the next few years Elvis didnt do much, but make movie after movie, produce more number one hits, and become much more popular; Oh yeah and he served his Country for two years after being drafted into the United States Army. Presley's overseas service took place in Germany (October 1, 1958, until March 2, 1960) as a member of the 1st Medium Tank Battalion. He was a member of the Army reserves until discharged in 1964.
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The next time Elvis found himself in Las Vegas he was filming his 15th, and what many people believe to be his most famous movie, "VIVA LAS VEGAS". One things certain, "Viva Las Vegas" brought us the theme to all things SIN CITY. The movie, co-staring Ann Margret, grossed 5 million bucks and cost a mere million to make in 1963. During filming Elvis adopted a fondness for Vegas and in 1966 decided to return to be married, after proposing to Pricilla Anne Beaulieu they married 5 months later at the Aladdin Hotel.
His daughter Lisa Marie was born in Febuary of '68 and during those next few months Elvis came to realize his career wasnt what it once was. With low record sales and no more chart toppers he became depressed and unhappy. Needing to wake his career up he struck a deal with NBC to produce his "68 Comeback Special", and it was a smash. During the following year Elvis re-entered the top of the charts with "In the Ghetto" and Suspicious Minds" to name a few. Offers started pouring in again and in May the new "International Hotel" signed him to the first of a long run for Las Vegas. He signed a four week, 57 show, contract and opened to an audience of celebrities on July 31st. The entire 57 shows proved Las Vegas was now ready for "The King".
For the entire 29 days he performed to a sold out room every night and his ticket sales exceeded 1.5 million dollars, for a show costing only $17.50 (avg) thats not to bad. Elvis impersonators started to pop up at lounges and local spots and the phenomena grew from there. It was said Elvis himself would sneak over to the Stardust to catch one of his favorite impersonators, Brendan Boyer. Elvis then signed a 5 year contract at a million dollars a year to perform just 2 month out of each year. Elvis was so popular during this run that it was estimated he sold over 43.7 million dollars in tickets and performed to more people in Vegas then anywhere else in the world. Doing over 800 shows it was also said that 1 in every 2 adults visiting Vegas saw his show while there.
In December of 1976 Elvis returned to perform another of his mega popular two week engagements, and this time it would be his last trip, as he died 8 months later, on August 16th.
The effect Elvis had on Las Vegas and its tourism is about as large as any celebrity "doing" Vegas today. The money he brought to the Strip and the bodies he put on the casino floors were countless. People still come to Vegas to feel that exuberance he displayed.
Following his death the The Hilton, as it was renamed, dedicated a statue of him and from 1978-2006 the statue was seen in front of the showroom. Since 2006 the statue has been outside at the entrance of the casino, making for an excellent photo op for all fans.
If your planning an Elvis themed tour of Vegas The Hilton should be first stop. Recently renamed LVH, it still has the Elvis statue standing guard out front. Inside Trent Carlini pays a nightly tribute to "The King" in the showroom.
Tributes can be found all over the strip still. For years Pete "Big Elvis" Vallee had a packed lounge act in Bill's Gambling Hall (formerly Barbary Coast) and has recently moved it over to Harrahs, where he still packs em in. Another celebrity tribute show plays at Harrahs, "Legends In Concert" which has Matt Lewis performing Elvis. I even see a guy at Ellis Island do Kareoke almost every night in full Elvis attire as his own tribute to "The King".
There is no shortage of very talented and very good look alike tribute artists (i was told to not call them impersonators) in Las Vegas.
The single most realistic looking Elvis would be at the Madame Tussauds Interactive Wax Attraction at the Venitian. The wax museum, as its known, has been on the strip since 2000. Visitors can snap photos and touch the realistic Elvis all they wish.
Next stop on your "tribute trip" will have to be done quickly, or it will be gone. "VIVA ELVIS" by Cirque du Soleil will be closing at the end of August this year but for now is being held at the super chic Aria resort and casino. A tribute, Cirque style, complete with a timeline of music sung on enormous screens, as performers dance to the songs of "The King".
If you dont make it to Vegas in time to see "Viva Elvis", and assuming they keep it, Aria has their Gold Lounge. This is, as they call it, an Elvis inspired lounge close to the theater where the show takes place. Im not sure what makes it Elvis-ee but experienced Elvis fans might get all shook up over it. The lounge could be on its way out the door along with the show, so it's now or never.
A picture hunt for Elvis items can start at The Riviera where you'll find Elvis Presley's Walk of Fame star. The star was dedicated in 2008 and sits on a stretch of sidewalk in front of The Riviera's front doors. Next, move on to the Hard Rock cafe which proudly shows off gold records, belts, letters, and a smashed guitar. Hard Rock Hotel has some memorabilia as well, a jump suite he wore in the 70's, some apparel and non-smashed guitar are displayed behind glass there.
Last but not least for the truly devoted Elvis Presley couple, no joke intended, it's a Chapel. If you want to do it (quick and easy) Elvis style while your in town there's no better way then The Graceland Wedding Chapel. They've been performing Elvis "I dos" for over 50 years. The Graceland Wedding Chapel has been at the same location for all those years, 619 Las Vegas Blvd. South, just North of a more recent phenomenon known as The Pawn Stars (Gold and Silver Pawn as they're legally named). This little chapel has been a tradition to Elvis fanatics since before his death. If you wish to, you could say you were married at the same, world famous, chapel as Mr. and Mrs. Bon Jovi and Mr. and Mrs. Billy Ray Cyrus. Coincidentally, for a small investment, Im positive you will find some sort of trinket linking Elvis to Las Vegas at that Pawn Shop a block away.
This is the 35th anniversary of "The King's" death, so if your lucky enough to be walking the strip over the next couple of weeks, offer to snap a photo of a couple in front of a statue, star or chapel. You will make their day. Viva Las Vegas! and,
Thank You, Thank you very much.