Elvis Reign in Las Vegas - Thursday 12th of May 2005

CBS and Channel 8 are taking a look back at the life of Elvis this week. The King ruled the Strip in the 70s. But the high-pressure lifestyle took its toll. Elvis died of a heart attack at just 42. He looked like a god, he sang like an angel, and he danced like the devil. It is this image of the King that many of us remember most -- the white jumpsuits, the long sideburns and the onstage magic that made women melt. But it was actually 14 years earlier in 1956 when a young, unknown Elvis Presley made his Las Vegas debut. Nicknamed the "Hillbilly Cat," a very nervous Presley headlined at the last Frontier hotel before a mostly middle-aged crowd that was not impressed by this sexy, gyrating young man. Jeff Taylor, Elvis Presley fan, said, "And Elvis totally bombed. He was a rock and roll star in a town where the big star was Frank Sinatra.

No one was ready for that kind of music."But while Las Vegas wasn't yet ready for Elvis, Hollywood was, and Elvis Presley spent the next decade and a half making more than 30 feature films around a two-year stint in the army. One of his most popular movies was Viva Las Vegas, released in 1964, in which he co-starred with Ann Margaret. But while Ann Margaret was rumored to be romantically linked off-stage to Elvis, he eventually married child bride Priscilla Anne Beaulieu at the Aladdin hotel in Las Vegas in 1967. In 1969, Elvis signed a long-term contract with the International hotel, which later became the Hilton. Ira Sternberg, with the Las Vegas Hilton, said, "Elvis was a must-see show for any visitor to Las Vegas at that time and it was hard to get a ticket."

Elvis historian, Chris Davidson said, "Elvis loved Las Vegas. He loved the nightlife."The King of Rock and Roll hit the stage live seven nights a week, two shows a night, for a month at a time. Establishing a Las Vegas record that to this day remains unmatched. But boredom, the grind of performing live nightly, and the pressure of living up to the image that was Elvis was eating away at the man -- and so was his addiction to prescription pills. Taylor comments, "He got used to taking downers to sleep and speed to get him up and that cycle got worse and worse and worse."His frustrations spilled out onto the stage one night in 1974, when Elvis lashed out over what he said were rumors about his drug use.

On stage he said, "If I find or hear the individual who said that I will break your ___ neck you son of a ____. I'll put out your ___ tongue by the roots."And after 837 consecutive sold-out shows over an 8-year run, the King of Rock and Rock severed his ties with the Hilton and returned home to Graceland in 1976. Elvis played more than 50 cities in 1977 before his death, but he never performed in Las Vegas again. A sculpted likeness of the King still graces the lobby of the Las Vegas Hilton. It's hard to believe it's been nearly 30 years since Elvis Presley performed live in Las Vegas. But in the hearts and minds of many of his Las Vegas fans, Elvis never will leave the building.

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