Elvis may have left the building, but he certainly hasn’t left Las Vegas. The King of Rock and Roll died 33 years ago today, but his legend lives on in the Entertainment Capital of the World.
During his seven-year reign on the Las Vegas Strip from 1969 to 1976, Elvis Presley left behind a legacy fondly referred to as the Vegas Years. But Presley’s start in Sin City certainly didn’t cause fans to flock here. His first gig at age 21 was at the Venus Room at the New Frontier hotel, where he was billed the Atomic Powered Singer. By 1956, he had gained a teen following, but the older crowds of Vegas gave him a cool reception.
While that two-week run may not have captured the hearts of Vegas, the city certainly had an influence on the King. He returned in 1963 to film “Viva Las Vegas” with Ann-Margret, and a theme song was born. His film marriage to his co-star was mirrored four years later when he married Priscilla Anne Beaulieu at Milton Prell’s Aladdin Hotel, now Planet Hollywood Resort.
Then on July 31, 1969, he landed a gig at The International, now the Las Vegas Hilton, in a showroom he would make famous. Over the course of seven years, he performed 837 consecutive sold-out shows for an audience of more than 2.5 million. At that time, nearly one out of every two Vegas visitors saw one of his shows, which sold $43.7 million in tickets. The $17.50 ticket included steak or lobster, while the midnight show included drinks.
Dec. 12, 1976, turned out to be his final performance in Las Vegas. Presley suffered a heart attack on Aug. 16, 1977, at his Graceland mansion in Memphis. His memory lives on though. A year later, the Hilton dedicated a statue of the King that is now on display outside the casino.
You can still find Elvis all over Las Vegas. At Aria at CityCenter, Cirque du Soliel has Viva Elvis, its tribute to the King with that carnival touch. Afterward check out the Gold Lounge, modeled after Elvis’ Graceland mansion, right across the hall from the theater. Look for the life-sized horse-shaped lamp that represents the stables where Presley spent much of his time and monkeys in the black and gold decor. So many people tried to mount the statue that it was moved back by the restrooms, another must-see.
For shows that include Elvis impersonators, look to Legends in Concert at the Imperial Palace or American Superstars at the Stratosphere. At Bill’s Gamblin’ Hall, you can see a free Big Elvis Show. For tonight only, Hooters Casino will present a special show of The King Lives in the Night Owl Showroom to honor Elvis. Pete Willcox, the star of The King Lives, will share some stories about Elvis and added some special songs to the show to honor Elvis.
At the Hard Rock Hotel, you can sip on The Elvistini cocktail, inspired by Elvis’ favorite fried peanut butter and banana sandwich and created with a blend of Baileys, Creme de Banane, Chambord, and Frangelico. The cocktail is served up at Johnny Small’s for $12. Chef Scott Minervini also creates a Peanut Butter and Banana Beignet with Candied Pepper Bacon Fries available for $8. Be sure to wander around the Hard Rock, where you can find the Shooting Star Jumpsuit, made For Elvis Presley in 1972 by designer Bill Belew; a Gibson Dove guitar with ELVIS PRESLEY inlaid in mother of pearl on the fingerboard; and The Elvis Gun, a .357 magnum from Elvis’ personal collection.
And you never know when Elvis might jump out of the sky via the Flying Elvi or walk down the street, especially on the Fremont Street Experience. At last count, there were at least four roaming the streets, and probably more tonight.