August 11, 1969
Dressed in a chic black tunic and bell bottoms that matched his long but neatly combed black-tinted hair. Elvis Presley stepped onstage last week at the International Hotel in Las Vegas and launched into the driving beat of ‘Blue Suede Shoes’. The audience of 2,000, most of them over 30, roared and squealed in nostalgic appreciation. In spite of his updated look, Elvis hadn’t changed at all in the nearly nine years since his last personal appearance.
Shaking, gyrating and quivering, he again proved himself worthy of his nickname, The Pelvis. Through nervousness caused him to sing ‘Love my, me tender’ for Love Me Tender, the pasty-faced enchanter quickly settled down to work his oleaginous charms, backed by a 30-piece orchestra, a five-man combo and a chorus of seven. Oozing the sullen sexuality that threw the America into a state of shock in the 50’s, he groaned and swiveled through a medley of Jailhouse Rock, Don’t Be Cruel, Heartbreak Hotel, All Shook Up and Hound Dog. It was hard to believe he was 34 and no longer 19 years old.
In fact, there are several unbelievable things about Elvis, but the most incredible is his staying power in a world where meteoric careers fade like shooting stars, Presley shot to the top in 1956 with Heartbreak Hotel and has stayed in the uppermost tax bracket ever since. Forty-seven of his singles have sold more than a million copies. He has made 32 movies, currently turning them out at a rate of four year and raking in a cool million plus half the profits for each.
Glows: Presley’s income is estimated at $5 million a year and he spends it freely. Among his purchases are an antebellum mansion called Graceland near Memphis (the house is painted luminous blue and gold and glows in the dark) vast quantities of stuffed animals, and a succession of cars including a gold Cadillac. No ones knows how much the boy from Memphis is being paid for his four week Las Vegas stand but, according to Presley associate, “Coming in on the heels of Barbra Streisand, you know that it’s over a million.”
Credit for the successful maintenance of the Presley image goes largely to his canny manager, ‘Colonel’ Thomas Andrew Parker, who for almost fifteen years has kept the price up and the live exposure down. When, during a news conference after the opening, a British entrepreneur offered Elvis a million pounds sterling for one appearance in London, it was Parker who answered: “Bring me a deposit tomorrow.” Presley doesn’t seem to mind letting Parker run interference, for he likes privacy and spends his free time holed up at one of his houses with his wife, his infant daughter and a group of buddy-bodyguards sometimes called the ‘Memphis Mafia’.
Elvis arrived in Las Vegas a week before the show and immediately began rehearsing five hours a day-losing 10 pounds in the process. “He’s really working on this one”, said a stagehand. “He doesn’t know if he can still cut it.” Presley magic were his loyal fans, women and teen-age girls, who lined the corridor outside his suite. “He’s better than ever”, claimed one girl. “His latest songs have been groovy.”
Only celebrities and big spenders were there opening night to hear Presley sing a lot of oldies and one new song, with a new message aimed at the black rock market. In The Ghetto chronicles the evils of poverty in a Chicago slum and could signal the birth of a social conscience for Presley. Another recent record release, If I Can Dream, proclaims brotherhood according to the gospel of Martin Luther King, but did not appear on the Vegas program.
When asked if these songs marked a new direction he might take, Elvis answered, “I go by the material. When I got In The Ghetto, I couldn’t turn it down. It was too big.” It’s selling big, too – more than a million to date.
Presley’s plans include other personal appearances, through no dates have been specified, and more movie roles. “I’m going after more serious material”, he said. “I’m tired of playing a guy who gets into a fight, then starts singing to the guy he’s just beat up.” And of course, the granddaddy of rock will continue trying to catch up with the times, sensing that he can’t trade on the power of nostalgia forever. “There are a lot of new records out now that have the same sound I started. But they’re better”, he admitted, “I mean, you can’t compare a song like Yesterday with Hound Dog can you?”
– Courtesy of elvisconcerts.com