Vegas pays tribute to rock royalty
By Shaké Ajamian
Legend. Icon. The King of Rock ’n’ Roll. All fitting words to describe the young man from Tupelo, Miss., who took the world by storm in 1956 with the release of “Heartbreak Hotel,” the first in a long line of hits rocketing him to international fame. Effortlessly blurring the genres of blues, rock, gospel, country, pop and R&B, Elvis Aaron Presley not only influenced the musical scene of his era, but also left an indelible impression for generations to come.
The year 1956 also found him performing at the New Frontier in Las Vegas; seven years later, he filmed Viva Las Vegas in the city with co-star Ann Margret. But it wasn’t until 1969 that Las Vegas truly ignited its love affair with Presley, when he began a seven-year run at The International. When the curtain came down on his last show in late 1976, Presley had sold out 837 consecutive performances and played to 2.5 million audience members.
Aug. 16 marks the 35th anniversary of his death, and Vegas continues to deliver an experience that pays homage to the man who personifies this vibrant city. Although only one can truly reign as rock royalty, many others do a fine job emulating the gyrating hips and seductive lip curl that made The King famous. Harrah’s is home both to Legends in Concert (702.369.5111), with an Elvis impersonator who will have you wondering if reincarnation truly is possible, and to Pete “Big Elvis” Vallee, performing in the Piano Bar.
Madame Tussauds Las Vegas at The Venetian (702.862.7800) houses two wax figures, one of a young Presley clad in black leather and one of an older Presley dressed in his signature jumpsuit, both placed near a retro-style marquee bearing his name in lights. Dress like the late singer on Aug. 16, and you’ll get in free. Inside LVH, the former International, a bronze statue stands in honor of the icon, and in the Hard Rock Hotel (702.693.5000), you’ll find his guitar, gold lamé jacket and other personal items. Also in Hard Rock Hotel, 35 Steaks + Martinis (partially named after Presley’s birth year, 1935) offers The King of Desserts. The dish features Presley’s favorite flavor combination of banana and peanut butter. The chocolate-covered bacon simply takes it over the top.
Providing a light-hearted twist on the icon is Golden Nugget’s Gordie Brown (702.386.8100), whose imitation will leave you in fits of laughter. On Aug. 17-18, the Riviera plays host to The Metal King and The Monsters of Rock (702.734.5110). Putting a fresh spin on classic Presley tunes (and other classic songs) by throwing in a heavy metal twist, this band will have you rocking all night long.
If partying like the star is what you’re after, then check out Gold Boutique Nightclub & Lounge in Aria (702.693.8300). This hot spot, adorned in black and gold, was specially designed as a place in which Presley would have spent time with his extensive entourage. Also in Aria, Viva ELVIS (702.531.2031) is a stunning Cirque du Soleil tribute to the larger-than life icon.
Presley’s burning love for Priscilla Beaulieu was made official on May 1, 1967, at the Aladdin. If it’s now or never for you and your loved one, tie the knot in A Elvis Chapel (702.383.5909) and have Elvis impersonator Kent Ripley walk the bride down the aisle, serenading you both.
Elvis may have left the building, but he never left Vegas.