LAS VEGAS (KTNV) — On July 1, 1969, the International Hotel opened in Las Vegas. At the time, it was the largest hotel and casino in the world. Thirty days later, it would become home to one of the world’s biggest entertainers — Elvis Presley.
“It was at that time billed as his comeback tour and there was a great buzz about that in Las Vegas,” said Gordon Prouty, Vice President of Public and Community Relations at Westgate Resort Hotel and Casino.
Elvis performed 837 consecutive shows at the International Theatre over seven years with the theater often packed with stars like Cary Grant and Carole Channing. His last show was in December of 1976. Several months later in the summer of 1977, the king of rock and roll was dead.
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Shortly after, Elvis’ friend and fellow Las Vegas performer Wayne Newton got a call from what was then the Las Vegas Hilton.
“I believe he was hesitant about it because it was his friend and it was his friend’s stage but he was encouraged that this was an incredible opportunity and you need to do this so he did,” said Prouty.
A couple of months after Elvis’ death, Newton and his band director created an Elvis medley — a tribute for his late friend.
Before a show one evening he was told by a crew member that the balcony would be closed that night — something performers were made aware of before shows so they wouldn’t acknowledge a crowd that wasn’t there. Mid-show, Newton called for the Elvis medley, the first time he would perform it. While he sang, all of the lights in the theater fell.
Well, all but one, a spotlight on Newton.
“The band kept playing so Wayne kept singing,” said Prouty. “He says that as he’s performing he looks up, he notices the image of a man coming into the balcony. He thought it was strange because he was told specifically there would be no one up there.”
The person in the balcony, Newton said was Elvis.
“He said that he looked at him. Elvis looked down at Wayne. He looked at peace, smiled at him. And when Wayne tells the story, he said it made him feel that Elvis was telling him he was okay and was appreciating the performance,” said Prouty.
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Newton described the experience as one of the best of his life. And while Mr. Las Vegas may be the most famous person to report seeing Elvis on property, he’s far from the only one. Employees and visitors have reportedly seen Elvis’ image on the casino floor, in the long dark hallways of the upper floors and in the Tuscany villa, otherwise known as the Elvis suite.
“The Tuscany actually sits where the Elvis suite was,” said Prouty. “He always had a group of people who traveled with him and they’d all stay with him.”
And many of the people who stay in the villa now have reported feeling Elvis’ presence, seeing his image and even hearing his music drift through the space, even when there’s no radio turned on.
So is Elvis’ spirit really still in the building? And why would he have stayed all these years later?
“His comeback was on this property,” Prouty said. “He did 837 shows. People come from all over the world and visit whether they stay here or just come to see because it was the place where Elvis was. Yeah, I do believe his spirit is still present in this building and when people feel it, there’s a real feeling there.”