It’s been almost 40 years since Elvis left the building, but the King—or at least his songs, suits and story—has returned to the site of his Las Vegas triumphs. On April 22, the Westgate Resort and Casino launched Elvis: The Exhibition, the Show, the Experience with Presley’s former wife Priscilla and his daughter Lisa Marie present to cut the ribbon and bestow the official Graceland blessing.
“Elvis has brought a lot of people together in this town. His spirit and soul still lives here,” Priscilla says. Vegas loved Elvis and the feeling was mutual. “This was also his playground. He loved playing blackjack, he loved going to lounge acts. Fats Domino was a lounge act. We saw Ike and Tina Turner here,” she recalls. “He just loved being around entertainers and the nightlife. He loved being able to go anywhere at night and get anything he wanted.”
Priscilla has her own vivid Vegas memories. “I had no idea as a young girl what Las Vegas was and that’s where he wanted to take me. I remember him hiring makeup artists, they dressed me and made me look older so I could get into the casinos,” she laughs. “I had no idea you had to be 21 to get in—I had just turned 17.”
Lisa Marie Presley was even younger when she first came to the Westgate—back when it was the International Hotel, and Elvis was headlining. “This was like a second home for [my father] and thus for me. I spent so much time here. … It was a lot like an Eloise situation in a way,” she recalls, adding, “When this project came up, it felt very right that this be here and his presence should be here.”
Why does Elvis still resonate with people after all these years? “He was so authentic. He came on the scene just doing what he loved to do, being who he was, moving to his music and, yes, he changed the music culture,” Priscilla says. “He was criticized quite a bit when he was younger coming on the scene, people didn’t understand him—‘Who is this creature?’” She adds, “There’s nothing fake about him. I think that people recognize that.”
The Westgate also features a tribute show and wedding chapel, but the King’s relics are the heart of the experience: his cars, jewelry and, of course, those jumpsuits. Which one was Priscilla’s favorite? “Oh, they’re all so beautiful. I think the American Eagle … I remember him walking out onstage in that one, holding out the cape and turning around.” She extends her arms and smiles. “Even though you can’t bring Elvis Presley back, you certainly can bring the experience back and we’re doing that.”