40th Anniversary of Elvis Presley's Comeback in Las Vegas




Last week it was the 40th anniversary of the Moon Landing we celebrated.  This Thursday, it will be the 40th anniversary of Elvis Presley's comeback at the International Hotel (now the Las Vegas Hilton).  Send us your Elvis memories and we'll post them as part of our tribute to the King on Thursday.

In the meantime, our pal Mike Weatherford writes:

In a few weeks, everyone will be remembering Elvis Presley on the day he died, Aug. 16. On Thursday, Las Vegas should pay more attention to the day he was reborn, one that changed things around here for keeps.

Thursday is the 40th anniversary of Elvis' debut at the International Hotel, now the Las Vegas Hilton. If you take Elvis seriously, cue up "Suspicious Minds." If you goof on him, make yourself a peanut butter and banana sandwich. Just don't ignore it.

At the time, the Elvis comeback took a back seat to the lingering euphoria over the moon landing. But this giant step for Vegas-kind still echoes all around town, from wedding chapels to the next big Cirque du Soleil, due at CityCenter in December.

Ken Sharp, a Los Angeles writer and producer, first called me a year and a half ago for contacts on a book about Presley's live comeback in Las Vegas. Last week, he was excited to have received his first copy of "Elvis '69," which has its formal release during "Elvis week" at Graceland next month.

"This was a guy who was able to come home again," Sharp says. And not just because Presley was treated like an oddity during an ill-advised New Frontier showroom run in 1956.

In the bigger picture, Presley had shaken the diminished returns of his movie career with his 1968 comeback TV special. In the recording studio, he regained his credibility with hits such as "If I Can Dream" and "In The Ghetto."

The last component was to sing again in front of a ticket-buying audience. When the curtain went up at the International, "He looked great, was in great shape, energized and confident," Sharp says.

Well, maybe not as confident as he looked. Comedian Sammy Shore was the opening act, and he distinctly remembers a clammy palm when he shook hands with the star backstage.

Elvis won't be back in the building, but Shore -- a Summerlin resident and father of comedian Pauly -- will be at the Hilton on Thursday as part of a fan gathering.

Shore's book, "The Man Who Made Elvis Laugh," generates "e-mails from all around the world," he says. Still, when reminded it has been 40 years, he's a little surprised. "That's amazing."

Cirque is giving the Beatles "Love" treatment to the King with its still untitled Elvis show set for Aria. Cirque's Web site now carries three short promotional videos, revealing it will be the company's first with "acting moments" spoken in English.

In a video clip, director Vincent Paterson notes that after staging tours for Madonna and Michael Jackson, "It seems sort of appropriate that Elvis is next in line."

He says that as though Elvis is still alive. And in Las Vegas, that's probably the way it should be.