Graceland brings Elvis back to his Las Vegas home
Feb. 26, 2015
LAS VEGAS (AP) — Graceland will always be home, but Las Vegas is set to be Elvis Presley's home away from home yet again.
The King first played Vegas almost 59 years ago and spent months as a Sin City resident. Now, the Westgate Las Vegas hotel-casino will house a rotating display of Elvis memorabilia and artifacts rarely seen outside his famed Memphis, Tennessee, Graceland mansion.
Feel like getting married? Graceland Vegas will include an Elvis Presley-sanctioned wedding chapel.
Such chapels already dot the Las Vegas landscape and there's been no scarcity of Elvis exhibits and shows, including a short-lived tribute by Cirque du Soleil in 2012. But organizers say this is the real deal.
The very showroom where Presley performed several hundred sold-out shows when the hotel was first known as The International, and later as the Las Vegas Hilton, will be revamped to look much like it did when Elvis shook his hips — complete with semi-circular booths.
The exhibit — all 28,000 square feet — will be the largest Presley display outside Memphis.
Here's a look at some of the memorabilia and memories the exhibit will feature:
BACK IN VEGAS
"We walk into everything with 'what would Elvis want," said Joel Weinshanker, managing partner of the company that has owned a majority of Elvis Presley Enterprises since November 2013. "Absolutely positively, he would want to be back in Vegas."
An actor singing Elvis songs — perhaps "Hound Dog" or "Heartbreak Hotel" — accompanied by backup singers and an orchestra, will perform in the same 1,600-seat showroom.
David Siegel, CEO of Westgate Resorts, said it was destiny that he bought the property in July 2014, decades after seeing Elvis perform there, accompanied by his ex-wife whose godfather happened to be Elvis' manager, Col. Tom Parker.
And when he bought it, he wanted to bring Elvis back.
As luck would have it, Weinshanker wanted the same thing and saw in Siegel someone willing to reinvest in the property where Elvis lived on the 30th floor for months of the year.
"It's really going to be the authentic Elvis experience," he said.
PIECES OF ELVIS
Angie Marchese, Graceland's director of archives, said the exhibit will be the largest Elvis exhibit outside Graceland. The clothing will come straight from Elvis' closet in most cases. Blue Suede Shoes anyone?
Among the items expected to be displayed:
— A wooden sign larger than even Elvis. Parker paid for the 24-foot tall image of Elvis to advertise the singer's first performances in Las Vegas in 1956 at the New Frontier, since demolished.
— The tablecloth contract. To ink the $1 million a year contract to perform at The International, Parker and the hotel's owner Kirk Kerkorian retreated to a nearby coffee shop, signing where there was no dotted line — on the tablecloth itself — complete with coffee cup stains.
— A two-piece black tunic and single-button black suit. For his first performances at The International, Elvis wore two demure outfits — the black tunic during the show and the black suit for the news conference afterward. Neither have felt the Las Vegas air since Elvis wore them July 31, 1969, she said.
MEMORIES OF THE MAN
"Those of us that lived it, Elvis never left the building," said Dominic A. Parisi of the performer's lingering presence.
He won't say how old he is, but he was old enough to ready Elvis' rooms at the casino-hotel with meals (an early evening breakfast of well-done eggs, well-done toast, well-done bacon) and drinks, heavy on the bottled water, from 1972 to 1976 while Elvis performed there.
Now director of the hotel's room service and specialty restaurants, Parisi fondly recalled his encounters and talks with the King.
"He loved the hotel. He loved Vegas," he said.
He loved chatting about everyday things — girls, cars and Las Vegas — Parisi said.
Parisi said he sometimes goes up to the 30th floor to Elvis' old suite, has a glass of wine and reminisces.
"Hopefully he's listening," he said.
"Graceland Presents Elvis: The Exhibition - The Show - The Experience" is slated to open April 23, with the exhibit costing $22; performances start at $49.