Elvis | The Las Vegas International Hotel (Part Two)

The day had finally come for Elvis after nearly nine years since performing in front of a live audience he has now left the silver screen behind him for the concert stage. This first performance would not come without reservation however Elvis performed in Las Vegas in 1956 at the New Frontier Hotel if front of an older crowd audience and his performance was not well received.  Essentially Elvis had bombed as his audience should have been the teenagers of those in the crowd not their parents. The Colonel had miscalculated this step but he did schedule a concert in Las Vegas for teenagers and Elvis in this performance was back to hearing the screams of the audience. 

There was not a place at the International Hotel that did not have a flag, poster or marquee with Elvis name on it. Opening night audience included celebrities from Las Vegas and Los Angelas including Angie Dickenson, Wayne Newton, Shirley Bassey, Burt Bacharach, Dick Clark, Fats Domino, Pat Boone, Paul Anka, Ann Margret, Henri Mancini and the list went on. Celebrities were interviewed regarding Elvis opening night but unfortunately the opening concerts were neither filmed or recorded. 



Elvis dressed in a black tunic, was greeted by the roar of 2,000 audience members as he launched into a straight-ahead rock version of the Carl Perkins' hit "Blue Suede Shoes." The hits kept coming, as he performed from his catalog like "All Shook Up," "Love Me Tender," "Jailhouse Rock" and "Don’t Be Cruel" – as well as covers of songs made popular by Del Shannon ("Runaway") and Ray Charles ("I Got a Woman").

Midway through the set, Elvis addressed the crowd and discusses his career, movies and his eventual return to live performances. The first recording of Elvis return was recorded on August 3, 1969 and he reiterates this same story in this performance which you can hear below.

Elvis would end his performance to a standing ovation and the crowd wanting more. In the early morning of August 1, 1969 Elvis would hold a press conference in the International Hotel ballroom filled with media and many of the celebrities that attended the concert. Various questions were asked regarding his career including his movies, the Hollywood scene and why he dyes his hair black. A person even offered a large sum of money for Elvis to perform in London in which Elvis points to the Colonel for the response in which the Colonel answered "Just put down the deposit". As we all know Elvis performing outside the U.S. never occurred after this point.

Colonel Parker and hotel executives ironically renegotiated Elvis contract while in the coffee shop of the hotel and marked information directly on the tablecloth. Elvis would perform two engagements a year with each engagement being 29 days in length. Elvis would receive $500,000 per engagement, signing bonuses for a total of over $5 million over the next five years. Elvis would perform 57 concerts during this first engagement concluding on August 23, 1969.  Elvis would return the following year on January 26, 1970 with 115 concerts concluding on February 23, 1970. For his 1970 summer engagement MGM studios would film an concert documentary "Elvis: That's The Way It Is" and record Elvis during rehearsals, backstage and concert performances.



In 1970, the International showcased many top celebrities including Louis Armstrong, Eddy Arnold, Tony Bennett, James Brown, John Byner, Glen Campbell, Johnny Cash, Perry Como, Bill Cosby, Bobby Darin, Dom De Luise, Lola Falana Redd Foxx, Aretha Franklin, George Hamilton,Tom Jones, Gene Kelly, Frankie Lane, Liberace, Juliet Prowse, Nipsey Russell, Sammy Shore, Red Skelton, and Barbra Streisand. The Maitre d' at the International Showroom was Emilio Muscelli.

Also in 1970 hotel owner Kirk Kerkorian would begin negotiations with the Hilton group to purchase the International Hotel as well as the Flamingo. Kerkorian was looking to sell these hotels in order to construct the larger MGM Grand Hotel utilizing Martin Stern Jr. as the architect as he had done with the International. This was would be the Hilton's first venture into Nevada gambling and the resort business. Tracy Investment Company, the holding corporation owned by Kerkorian agreed to sell 37.5% in International Leisure Corp. which operates both the International and Flamingo. Kerkorian still remained International's biggest stockholder with 2.96 million shares or 44.8%. The company was slated to have five directors - two to represent Hilton, two designated by Kerkorian, and one chosen by the two dominant holders. Hilton agreed to handle rooms, food and bar management of both resorts. The takeover was due to take place in July of 1970. Hyatt Corp. and Gulf Western were originally interested in the buyout, but didn't want to part with all the cash required by Kerkorian. Kerkorian received $5.5 million cash from the dividends of International Leisure in June of 1970.

The hotel transition saw the hotel name change to the Las Vegas Hilton - International Hotel until Hilton Corporation owned majority stake at which time the hotel was just know as the Las Vegas Hilton. The Flamingo Hotel would eventually change names to the Flamingo Hilton. Elvis was still the top performer in Las Vegas performing two engagements in 1971 from January 26th to February 23rd and then again from August 9th to September 6th. By this time Elvis had a permanent suite on the 30th floor of the Hotel utilizing the location during his engagement or while in Las Vegas. 





Thanks to those club members that provided photos and information regarding their experiences seeing Elvis in Las Vegas.

"It was absolutely thrilling! I was on the edge of my seat the entire show and totally mesmerized"
- Ruth T. club member while seeing Elvis August 9, 1971

"My parents took me to see Elvis at the International for my 10th birthday in 1969. We were seated in the balcony and I never took the binoculars from my face. He was just so so very beautiful"
- Laura P. club member while seeing Elvis in 1969.