Elvis | The Las Vegas International Hotel (Part One)

1967 was the beginning of when Elvis Presley and a future build hotel in Las Vegas would start the path to what would be an Elvis performance revival and a revolutionary change for the hotel-casino industry in the desert. Of course to Elvis and the future hotel owner, Kirk Kerkorian, none of this was yet to be known.

Elvis was filming his movie "Speedway" in the summer of 1967 and had come to point in his career that the continually poor scripts and soundtrack options had left him eager to leave the movie industry and return to a more music enriching career. At the same time Kirk Kerkorian, who had owned land on the strip across from the Flamingo had turned that investment into a purchase of 82 acres of land on Paradise Road that was previously the ill-fated site of the Las Vegas racetrack. That land purchase would be the start of the creation of the largest hotel resort in the world.

Kerkorian would then call on Martin Stern Jr. as architect of the building. Stern's design was groundbreaking and pivotal in the development of hotel casinos in the future. The International was designed in a triform or "Y" shape that Stern deduced was the best way to give each room an improved and pleasant views. This design set the pace for the transformation of low-rise motels, clubs and parking lots to the metropolis Las Vegas sees today. The International Hotel would rise to 30 floors with 1,568 rooms and 30,000 square foot of casino floor which was the largest at the time. This design provided the model for for the Bellagio, Treasure Island, Mirage and other hotels. Other projects like Harrah's and MGM Grand were essentially the triform shape augmented with a forth tower, giving the building a "X" or cross shape.





During this time period Kerkorian purchased the Flamingo Hotel mostly as a training platform for his potential employees of the International. He hired Alex Shoofey to run the Flamingo and eventually the International Hotel. Shoofey has been part of hotel management since joining Club Bingo in 1952 which was the predecessor to the Sahara. He was an innovator that every department of the hotel make a profit, not just the casino and took the Flamingo in 1967 that was $25 million in the red and within the next year showed the resort $15 million profit.

Click to view the letter from Alex Shoofey to Colonel Parker requested Elvis for concert performances.

The hotel had its groundbreaking ceremony on February 2, 1968 while just the day prior Elvis was at Baptist Memorial Hospital in Memphis as Priscilla was giving birth to their daughter Lisa Marie. Elvis life was changing, now a father and his movie career coming to a conclusion Elvis would begin taping in the summer of 1968 for his upcoming return to television with his special simply called "Elvis" to be broadcast on NBC later that year. The TV special aired on December 3rd and was the #1 rated show for the season. At the same time the International Hotel construction was well underway as the tower structure now began to take shape into the new look skyline. Alex Shoofey had now connected with Elvis' manager, Colonel Tom Parker with the arrangements to have Elvis open the new 2,000 seat International Showroom. Elvis was looking to return to the concert stage, and although his debut in Las Vegas in 1956 was deemed a failure this time the hopes for a successful engagement were more promising. Elvis initial Las Vegas concert performance at the New Frontier in 1956 was attended by the older Las Vegas crowd who did not connect with his performance and was not the typical teenage fans that had screamed and caused pandemonium at most of his concerts. 

Initially proposed as a potential September 1969 engagement Elvis was schedule to perform the opening. Colonel Parker was not willing to have Elvis open the new showroom with concerns of potential technical difficulties and wanting to be assured of a smooth concert return for Elvis. Elvis was then rescheduled for a July 31 opening and in the mean time Shoofey would then look to Barbra Streisand to open the showroom in the beginning of July. Elvis visited the hotel construction site on February 26, 1969 and with media in attendance signed a stage contract agreement with Alex Shoofey and Bill Miller. The actual contract agreement was not officially signed until April 15th of that year.  In the spring of 1969 Elvis would go on to film his final movie "Change of Habit" as part of the agreement with NBC for his "Elvis" TV Special.

The International Hotel was not only going to have the largest casino space but it would also have multiple entertainment venues along with the main showroom. Other attractions included a "Youth Hotel" which was a day care center operating on a summer camp concept which offered families tours to nearby attractions such as Lake Mead. The International also focused on international dining with various items available at the Cafe Continental along with other dining choices such as bavarian, japanese, mexican and italian foods.

CAFE CONTINENTAL MENU - Las Vegas International Hotel  


Barbra Streisand opened her performances on July 2, 1969 with a four week engagement in the International Showroom. The showroom held 2,000 people with the room layout consisting of tables and booths. Peggy Lee played in the 500 seat Casino Theatre while other entertainment venues were still not open. During her engagement two of her shows were recorded. A segment of the one concert was recorded for the Ed Sullivan show that premiered on September 26, 1969. The remaining concert portions have never been fully released. Elvis would attend Barbra's final show on July 30th with Priscilla as he would open the following evening and perform for the first time in nine years.