The Buildings Elvis Presley Left in Las Vegas

Posted on: January 8, 2023, 02:20h. 

Last updated on: January 18, 2023, 08:56h.

Elvis Presley didn’t put Las Vegas on the map, but he did insert an everlasting “Viva” in front of it. On what would have been the King’s 88th birthday, here’s a list of his favorite places to hold court in Sin City. Though Elvis’ spirit never left these buildings, most have since left us. But not all.

The Westgate

3000 Paradise Road

Westgate showroom stage
Though remodeled extensively to become the 1,600-seat International Theatre, this was once the showroom where Elvis Presley performed more than 600 concerts during his record-breaking seven-year residency. (Image: westgate.com)

On July 31, 1969, Elvis kicked off a seven-year residency at the International Hotel, which in 1971 became the Las Vegas Hilton and is now the Westgate. Elvis performed 636 concerts, two per night, on a showroom stage that still exists.

Elvis earned $125,000 a week – back when tickets started at $15 – and set Vegas attendance records, including the most consecutive sellout performances (58).

During his Las Vegas concerts, Elvis lived in the 30th floor Imperial Suite, a 5,000 square-foot spread where he usually retired with the night’s VIP guests after his midnight performances. (Regulars included fellow singer Tom Jones and actors Jack Lord and Lee Majors.) Here, Elvis indulged his peculiarly dangerous habit of shooting defenseless objects – including TVs, chandeliers, and light switches.

The Imperial Suite was demolished in 1995 to create three VIP “sky villas.” In 2012, the hotel changed hands and became the Las Vegas Hotel, and then in 2014, the Westgate. A statue commemorates the hotel’s Elvis association in the lobby.

In 2015, the Westgate opened “Graceland Presents: The Elvis Presley Experience.” This exhibit included a 30,000 square-foot museum with hundreds of Elvis artifacts, its own wedding chapel, and an Elvis tribute show in the original Elvis showroom. Tours were also given of the former site of the Imperial Suite.

“This is an important building to my family,” declared Elvis’ daughter, Lisa Marie, upon opening exhibit with her mother, Elvis’ ex wife, Priscilla.

Unfortunately, the exhibit was shuttered within a year because of underwhelming attendance.

The New Frontier (former site)

3120 Las Vegas Blvd. South

Elvis at the Frontier
A 21-year-old Elvis Presley performs in 1956 at the New Frontier during his first Las Vegas residency with (left) guitarist Scotty Moore and the Freddie Martin Orchestra. (Image: elvisechoesofthepast.com)

Elvis made his Vegas debut in the Venus Room here, over two weeks in April, 1956. Labeled “the atomic-powered singer” in advertisements, the 21-year-old was third-billed on the marquee to orchestra leader Freddy Martin and Borscht-belt comic Shecky Greene – though he performed last.

Backed by guitarist Scotty Moore, bassist Bill Black, and drummer D.J. Fontana, Elvis performed four songs and was onstage for about 12 minutes a night.

By most accounts, including his own, Elvis bombed. Teens squealed with delight at the Saturday matinee. But the other shows were all met with polite applause. The square Vegas crowds of the time didn’t know what hit them.

“Elvis Presley, coming in on a wing of advance hoopla, doesn’t hit the mark here,” wrote Bill Willard in Variety. “The loud braying of the tunes which rocketed him to the big time is wearing, and the applause comes back edged with a polite sound. For the teenagers, he’s a whiz; for the average Vegas spender, a fizz.”

Recordings have surfaced, apparently from closing night, in which Elvis is heard telling the crowd, “We’ve had a pretty hard time … uh … had a pretty good time while we were here.”

Elvis got paid $15K for the gig, and the Colonel asked for it in cash. “No check is any good,” he said.

The Frontier was demolished on Nov. 13, 2007. to make room for a resort called The Plaza, which never opened. In 2017, the land was purchased by Wynn Resorts for $336 million, but is still vacant.

The Sahara

2535 Las Vegas Blvd. South

 

Elvis Ann-Margret at Flamingo
Elvis serenades Ann-Margret during a scene in 1964’s ‘Viva Las Vegas’ filmed at the Flamingo pool the year before. In real life, Elvis performed for Ann-Margret at The Sahara. (Image: Reddit)

Elvis and his rowdy entourage occupied the top floor of the Alexandria Tower while “Viva Las Vegas” was shot around town in July 1963. It was here that the term “Memphis Mafia” was coined.

It was also here (in room 2542, the Presidential Suite) that Elvis loved the film’s co-star, Ann-Margret, tender. (Neither Elvis nor Ann-Margret ever publicly commented on their relationship.)

Unfortunately, the entire resort was stripped to its bones during its 2014 transformation to the SLS, an ill-fated boutique hotel experiment that lasted only five years.

The Flamingo

3555 Las Vegas Blvd. South

“Viva Las Vegas” opens at a crap table here, where Elvis’ character wins enough money to enter the Las Vegas Grand Prix. Later, at the pool, he serenades Ann-Margret’s character with “The Lady Loves Me” before she pushes him off the diving board. (His winnings go, quite literally, down the drain.)

Today’s Flamingo is not the one built by Bugsy Siegel, however. The last remnants of the original were demolished in 1994. Even the pool has been drastically remodeled.

Jackson 5
Michael Jackson (top, right) and his brothers perform at the MGM Grand in the fall of 1974. (Image: Reddit)

The Horseshoe

3645 South Las Vegas Boulevard

Sometime between Nov. 20 and Dec. 3,  1974, a young Lisa Marie asked her father to take her to see and meet the Jackson 5. They were in town performing at the MGM Grand, the hotel that would later be known as Bally’s, and today, the Horseshoe.

The meeting that transpired backstage here after the Jackson 5 show was wildly historic for two reasons, neither of which its participants could have realized at the time. Not only was it the only time the man dubbed “the king of rock n’ roll” by the press would meet the boy who would grow up to call himself “the king of pop,” it was also the first time Lisa Marie would meet her future second husband. She was six at the time, he 16. They would be married from 1994 to 1996.

Unfortunately, no photos are known to exist of that meeting.

The Riviera (former site)

2901 South Las Vegas Boulevard

Liberace and Elvis jam on stage at the Riviera in 1956.
Liberace and Elvis jam for photographers and reporters backstage at the Riviera in 1956. (Image: Associated Press)

On November 15, 1956, Elvis attended Liberace’s show at the Clover Room in the Riviera Hotel. Following Liberace’s set, the two singers switched coats and instruments, mugged, and played some songs for photographers and reporters backstage. While Elvis reportedly rocked a decent piano, Liberace was an amateur on guitar.

Earlier, Liberace had attended Elvis’ show at the New Frontier, and the bizarre duo performed the same switcheroo photo session in a dressing room there. Liberace had gone at Col. Tom Parker’s request. He asked Liberace – then the highest-paid performer in show business – for any suggestions he might have for Elvis.

“More glitz,” Liberace answered.

By the following spring, Elvis had purchased his gold lamé jacket.

UNLV Barrick Art Museum

4505 S Maryland Pkwy

Barrick Museum UNLV
The Marjorie Barrick Museum of Art at UNLV is the university’s former gym. Here, on the same floor in 1963, Elvis danced with Ann-Margret. (Image: UNLV)

You can still walk the same floor that Elvis danced with Ann-Margret on. Four years after “Viva Las Vegas” was filmed here, UNLV built a new gymnasium, and its old one became the Marjorie Barrick Museum of Art. But the basketball court’s former parquet floor remains.

Elvis wedding
Elvis Presley marries Priscilla Beaulieu on May 1, 1967 at the Aladdin Hotel. (Image: eatervegas.com)

The Aladdin (former site)

3667 Las Vegas Blvd. South

At 9:40 a.m. on May 1, 1967, 32-year-old Elvis Aaron Presley married 21-year-old Priscilla Anne Beaulieu in the second-floor suite of Aladdin Hotel owner Milton Prell.

Originally, they were to wed at Elvis’ Palm Springs pad. But when unruly reporters began gathering there, an 11th-hour plan was hatched to thwart them.

Elvis and Priscilla boarded Frank Sinatra’s Lear jet at 2:30 a.m. and obtained a marriage license an hour later from the Clark County Clerk’s Office. Elvis’s manager Colonel Tom Parker asked Prell, his close friend and Palm Springs neighbor, to plan the wedding.

The private ceremony –  performed by Nevada Supreme Court Justice David Zenoff – lasted 10 minutes, the marriage six years. Following a press conference arranged for selected (friendly) reporters, the newlyweds returned to Palm Springs.

The hotel was imploded in 1998. A larger Aladdin opened on the site in 2000. That resort has been known as Planet Hollywood since 2007.

Piero’s Italian Cuisine

355 Convention Center Drive

The former Villa D’Este was the only Vegas restaurant Elvis patronized during his seven-year International/Hilton run. In the ’70s, the Italian eatery was owned by chef Joe Pignatello, personal Las Vegas-based chef for Frank Sinatra and good friend to reputed mobster Sam Giancana.

Usually, Elvis would have Pignatello up to the Imperial Suite to prepare steak and mashed potatoes. Occasionally, Elvis and his entourage would dine out, occupying the private dining room on top of Piero’s.

Landmark Drugs (former site)

Elvis final Vegas performance
A bloated shell of his former self, Elvis faced his final Las Vegas curtain at the Hilton on Dec. 12, 1976, eight months before dying at Graceland. (Image: YouTube)

252 Convention Center Drive

The pharmacy at the Landmark Hotel provided an unhealthy portion of the prescription narcotics that eventually did Elvis in.

Elvis dropped more than half a million dollars here, according to the 2006 book “Las Vegas Babylon” by Jeff Burbank. He would have a local doctor fill out a prescription, then go down and pick it up. When Elvis was at the Hilton, the drugs were walked across the street to Elvis’ suite. But even when he wasn’t, the Landmark would send them to Graceland or wherever Elvis was.

Mostly the packages contained Valium and a powerful pain reliever called Dilaudid, which Elvis injected in liquid form. (The Landmark also provided syringes.)

The Landmark Hotel was imploded in Nov. 7, 1995. Elvis imploded on Aug. 16, 1977.

Little Church of the West

4617 Las Vegas Blvd. South

Elvis married Ann-Margret here, at least for the “Viva Las Vegas” cameras. Moved three times since, the wooden chapel then stood where it was originally built in 1942: on the grounds of the Frontier.

Harry Reid International Airport

5757 Wayne Newton Blvd.

Elvis preferred driving to Vegas from either Graceland or his houses in Beverly Hills. He didn’t like flying. But when he went back to touring, there was no time for driving.

Beginning in 1969, Elvis always began his Vegas sojourns at then-McCarran Airport’s exclusive Hughes Flights Services terminal for private planes, from which a limo would whisk him to the International. (Built in 1948, this was the airport’s original terminal.)

Elvis statue
This statue honoring Elvis Presley stands inside the lobby of the Westgate. (Image: westgate.com)

In 1975 and 1976, the private plane Elvis disembarked was the Lisa Marie. Named after the King’s seven-year-old daughter, the four-engine Convair 880 was purchased from Delta Airlines for $250,000 and tricked out for three times as much. (Even the bathroom fixtures were gold-plated — down to the soap dishes).

Since Elvis’ Vegas stays were extended, the Lisa Marie – now on permanent display across the street from Graceland – was always flown back to its Memphis hangar to avoid McCarran’s rental fees (perhaps the only money-saving activity Elvis ever engaged in while here.)

The Howard Hughes Terminal was razed in 1995 to build the current Signature Terminal.