ELVIS IS BACK IN THE BUILDING ...AFTER 40 YEARS
By Frank Ariveso
The Elvis Experience attraction: April 23 at Westgate Las Vegas.
On July 26, 1969, Elvis performed his first live show in almost eight years at the International Hotel in Las Vegas, Nevada. The response was fabulous. Elvis broke all the attendance records for that first engagement. He grossed more than a million dollars in twenty-eight days for the International Showroom alone, not including the revenue he helped bring to the gambling tables. Elvis was amazed at the crowd’s enthusiasm and hysteria.
Millions of guests at the International Hotel and the Hilton, now known as the Westgate, saw Elvis perform at the sold-out shows during his record-breaking 600-show seven-year stint from 1969 through 1976. David Siegel, CEO of Westgate Resorts, announced: “Elvis is synonymous with Las Vegas, and it’s a true honor to join forces with Elvis Presley’s Graceland to bring Elvis back in the building.”
“ Man, I really like Vegas.” —Elvis
“Graceland Presents ELVIS: The Exhibition-The Show-The Experience” will include 28,000 square feet of space, containing hundreds of artifacts never before displayed outside his Graceland home in Memphis. Some of the artifacts include Elvis’ high school yearbooks, first gold album, 1957 Harley Davidson motorcycle, 1962 Lincoln Continental, 1971 Stutz Blackhawk, jewelry and stage wear, including the outfit worn onstage for his first concert at the International in 1969. Select artifacts will be rotated regularly to keep the exhibit fresh, and will be open seven days a week from 10 a.m. to 10 p.m. Tickets are priced at $22 plus taxes and fees.
“The Elvis Experience” is a large-scale show production replicating one of Elvis’ legendary Las Vegas shows (on the very stage where Elvis performed) and will open with the exhibition on April 23, 2015, with performances on Tuesdays through Thursdays at 7:30 p.m. and Fridays and Saturdays at 8 p.m inside the newly named Elvis Presley International Showroom. Ticket prices start at $49.
“Elvis Presley’s Graceland Wedding Chapel” is another exciting feature that will be the first-ever wedding chapel to be operated by Elvis Presley Enterprises.
The grand opening of having Elvis back in the building will be marked on April 23rd, 2015, with a star-studded celebration with Priscilla Presley joining other VIPs and celebrities on the red carpet. The ‘King of Rock and Roll’ is truly back in the city he always loved, for the first time in 40 years.
“ I’d just like to be treated like a regular customer.” —Elvis
David Siegel concluded: “We still have employees here who have happy, wonderful memories of meeting and serving Elvis — the waiters who waited on him, the chefs in Benihana who served him. He liked to eat with the employees in their dining room. One of our original cocktail waitresses is still here from day one. She might be 82 now, but she’s full of energy and life. We’re making a video of all of them retelling their memories with the King.”
“We do two shows a night for five weeks. A lotta times we’ll go upstairs and sing until daylight—gospel songs. We grew up with it... It more or less puts your mind at ease. It does mine.” —Elvis
ELVIS…Intimate & Rare
Memories & Photos from the Personal Collection of JOE ESPOSITO
Joe Esposito is universally recognized as the most credible source on Elvis Presley. He first met Presley while serving in the military in 1958. They both went through basic training at Fort Hood, Texas, but did not meet face to face until a year later when they were both stationed in West Germany, where they quickly became lifelong friends. Esposito became Elvis’ road manager and bodyguard beginning in 1960.
For the next 17 years, until his death in 1977, Joe saw to every detail of Elvis’ life, (both professionally—as well as personally). Joe was part of the Memphis Mafia and was given the nickname, “Diamond Joe,” by Elvis, who also gave him his martial arts nickname, “Lion.” Joe had many varied jobs, such as playing guitar or percussion on several of Elvis recordings. Joe also served as Elvis’ best man at his wedding on May 1, 1967. Joe’s wife Joan was Priscilla’s Matron of Honor. Joe and Joan Esposito were both on the receiving end of Elvis’ generosity, as he bought both of them Cadillac convertibles. It was that very car that Joe drove to the hospital the day Lisa Marie was born. And, it was Joe who performed CPR on Elvis on August 16, 1977, until the paramedics arrived.
After Elvis’ death in 1977, Esposito went to work for Jerry Weintraub, becoming the road manager for other musical greats, including Michael Jackson, The Bee Gees, Karen Carpenter and John Denver.
“ Man, I was tame compared to what they do now. Are you kidding? I didn’t do anything but just jiggle.” —Elvis
In remembering the man they called ‘The King,’ Esposito offers an educated guess as to Presley’s continuing popularity: “Twenty-seven years later, he still has new fans that love his music and love his looks. People love his music and it makes them feel good. If they feel depressed, they put on an Elvis record and they feel better. That’s it, right there. Elvis had a real special gift. He just loved to sing for people.”
“Elvis wasn’t the kind of guy who you would expect to wait for an apology,” Esposito said. “If he made a mistake, he wouldn’t say he was wrong, but he would just buy you something, and the buying could be extravagant. He showed up in my apartment one day and looked at my two girls, who were little at the time, and said: ‘Hey, you need a house.’ Elvis proceeded to find one they all liked and just said: ‘OK, it’s yours.’ Esposito explained that, although he liked it, he couldn’t afford the payment. Elvis told him not to worry about it, and then gave him a pay raise so he would be able to afford it.
“Elvis Presley took the talents that God gave him and shared them with the world, gave us his time and did so with grace. These are lessons that all of us can learn from and celebrate, from generation to generation.”
—Jeffrey Schrembs, Elvis Presley historian, expert and collector