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Guests pass by an Elvis Presley statue in the lobby of the Westgate in Las Vegas. (Benjamin Hager/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Elvis Lives
Rock ’n’ roll legend remains King-size presence in Vegas
This story first appeared in the Summer 2022 issue of rjmagazine, a quarterly published inside the Las Vegas Review-Journal.

Elvis stands alone in Las Vegas

Elvis stands alone in Las Vegas.

We speak specifically of his famous bronze statue at Westgate Las Vegas’ entrance. The life-size figure shows Elvis onstage, in his familiar jumpsuit, his acoustic guitar outfitted with real strings.

The statue is otherwise famous for the inaccurate message on its plaque, claiming Presley had performed 837 consecutive sold-out shows at the then International and Las Vegas Hilton from 1969 to ’76. The actual number is 636.

Austin Butler as The King in Baz Luhrmann’s “Elvis” biopic, which hits theaters June 24. ...
Austin Butler as The King in Baz Luhrmann’s “Elvis” biopic, which hits theaters June 24. (Warner Bros. Pictures)

The late Colonel Tom Parker reportedly added the extra dates, we expect for effect, and the plaque has often been cited as the official number of Elvis performances.

Here are some other ways Vegas continues its historic affiliation with The King, which is sure to be a hot topic with the June 24 release of Baz Luhrmann’s “Elvis” biopic.

Travis Allen performs as Elvis Presley during "All Shook Up." (Bill Hughes/Las Vegas Review-Jo ...
Travis Allen performs as Elvis Presley during "All Shook Up." (Bill Hughes/Las Vegas Review-Journal)

Elvis, in concert

“All Shook Up,” at Alexis Park’s 112-seat Pegasus Theater, is the only ticketed, full Elvis show being performed in Las Vegas. It features longtime Vegas Elvis tribute artist Travis Allen as the show’s primary Presley, with fellow ETA Harry Shahoian taking several dates. The performers are backed by a three-piece band churning out Elvis’ hits dating to his Sun Records days (“Heartbreak Hotel,” “Hound Dog” and the like) through his residency in Las Vegas (“Suspicious Minds,” “Burning Love”). There is one costume change, from Presley’s gold-lamé jacket to his iconic jumpsuit. Performances are at 6 p.m. daily.

Pete "Big Elvis" Vallee, as seen in this photo, used to perform in Bill's Lounge at Bill's Gamb ...
Pete "Big Elvis" Vallee, as seen in this photo, used to perform in Bill's Lounge at Bill's Gambling Hall on Las Vegas Boulevard. He now performs at the Piano Bar at Harrah’s at 2, 3:30 and 5 p.m. Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays. (Las Vegas Review-Journal)

Elvis, in the lounge

Pete Vallee, known for decades as Big Elvis, continues his series at the Piano Bar at Harrah’s at 2, 3:30 and 5 p.m. Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays. Vallee also hosts a “Blue Hawaii”-themed gig at The Golden Tiki lounge in Chinatown at 3939 W. Spring Mountain Road from 4 to 7 p.m. the first Tuesday of every month. Singing to tracks and wearing a sequined jumpsuit, Vallee has been a favorite at the Piano Bar the past decade. He moved to Las Vegas in 1997 to open his show at the since-closed Roadhouse on Boulder Highway. He went on to perform for Station Casinos, at Barbary Coast (later Bill’s Gamblin’ Hall & Saloon) before landing at Harrah’s in 2012. He has never charged cover.

After 35 years together, Hugo and Sally Knight from Ireland kiss during their wedding ceremony ...
After 35 years together, Hugo and Sally Knight from Ireland kiss during their wedding ceremony as Elvis Presley impersonator Brendan Paul sings at Graceland Wedding Chapel in Las Vegas. (Las Vegas Review-Journal)

Elvis, at the chapel

Graceland Wedding Chapel was the first to ever book an Elvis-themed wedding in 1977. In May, General Manager Rod Musum said 85 percent of his business involves Elvis weddings, totaling about 6,400 King-sized weddings per year. Several other Las Vegas venues have featured “Elvis” officiants over the years but now face a legal challenge from the licensing company that oversees usage of Presley’s name, likeness, and image. So these opportunities may be fading faster than a pair of well-worn blue suede shoes.

The Flying Elvi. (Joanna Matheson)
The Flying Elvi. (Joanna Matheson)

Elvis, in the air

Remember the Flying Elvi sky-jump team from the 1992 comedy “Honeymoon in Vegas”? They are still around. Founder Dick Feeney still has 10 certified skydivers on retainer. The troupe has not been hired for a jump since COVID hit but remains available for such special events as product promotions, casino openings (they are very popular with Native American tribal events), holiday shows (as the Flying Santas), and (of course) weddings. The Flying Elvi most recently performed 21 jumps over three days in Memphis in 2017 for the release of the IMAX movie “America’s Musical Journey.” The Elvi don’t get a lot of calls these days. But Feeney, who produces “MJ Live” at the Tropicana, has kept their memory alive — with a zombie character. One of the undead backing dancers in “Thriller” wears a Flying Elvi jumpsuit.

Elvis, accessorized

As a piece of civic lore, the community at Opportunity Village manufactured the scarves Elvis handed out at the International and Las Vegas Hilton dating to 1969. Members of the Las Vegas nonprofit organization, which serves adults with intellectual and developmental disabilities, continue to make and sell scarves. This ongoing program is to honor Opportunity Village’s history with Elvis. And OV CEO Bob Brown typically ends meetings with a nod to Elvis:“Thankya, thankya very much.”

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