By Gary Pepper

(Originally published in ?? )

After each of Elvis’ performances in the beautiful showroom at The International Hotel in Las Vegas there couldn’t have been any “Suspicious Minds” as to whether Elvis is still the number one entertainer in the world. It’s been said that “only the strong Survive” and Elvis proves that… as he recaptures his old fans who grew up with him with these performances. Not only has he done that, but with these personal appearances he has been able to show the fans who were only six or seven years old in 1956 what he was really like when he first started his career.

I received a letter from a girl aged seventeen who said “These years of wishing I was in the same group as Elvis, I now know how it felt in 1956/57 when Elvis was on stage and it makes me so happy.” Yes! Elvis has returned just as he was ten or twelve years ago, so far as his singing, stage presence, etc,. is concerned. I have always though Elvis was ahead of his time and now time is catching up with him in that what he was doing now is the same Elvis he was in 1956 when he introduced r&b or rock n’ roll music. As in the 1950’s Elvis is the trend-setter for the 1960’s. The old Elvis sound is the new sound of today.

The timing is right- and as he says he was getting bored with doing only movies and recordings and he wanted for several years to appear to a live audience again… he has returned on the scene with a bang- You better believe it!

Mom and I had reservations to see the August 7th dinner show. (My dad was unable to go with us due to expense of flying etc., for the three of us.)  Mom and I flew from Memphis to Las Vegas on August 6th. Mom’s sister, Mrs. Rebecca Tate who lives in Long Beach, California, met us at Las Vegas airport and took us to the International Hotel where we had reservations for two nights.Moms sister had driven from Long Beach to meet us, and she and her three grandchildren who are great Elvis fans with her , namely Becky Deeble, Johnny Debble and Bryan Tate. We really had a ball with them. She and her grandchildren also had reservations to see the 6 o’clock dinner show with us on August 7th. We finally got assigned to our rooms at the International Hotel.

The rooms were just too much- just beautiful, with every comfort afforded us. The hotel isn’t only the largest resort hotel in Las Vegas, but it is also the largest resort in the world. It towers 365ft. in the air, and is 30 stories high. It covers five acres under one roof so we were told, but enough about the hotel and on with more about Elvis and his great shows. After looking over the hotel and the gambling casino, where I lost a little money on the slot machines, we decided to return to our rooms for some much-needed rest. We got a good night’s sleep and spent the following day looking over the hotel and talking with people in general.

The atmosphere in the hotel was like one big Elvis family. We met some of our friends who are loyal Elvis fans from Anaheim, California- their names are Mr. and Mrs. Tom Dumovich and his sister Miss Mary Dumovich, also a great Elvis fan and a great guy, Doug. Arnold from Philadelphia, also a wonderful elderly lady and one of the most loyal fans you could ever meet, a sweet person whom we had looked forward to meeting for a long time, Mrs. Aurille Bolle of Anaheim, California. She had reservations to see four shows. We also saw and talked with Mr. Tom Diskin for a few minutes. We didn’t see Colonel Parker as he was so busy. Mr. Diskin said he was in a business meeting with some people from New York. We were sorry with not being able to talk with him.

We decided to take a picture of the large Elvis appearance at The International Hotel sign outside in front of the hotel. The temperature outside was 112 degrees, and mom pushed out to the sign in my wheelchair, and we almost burned up before we got back inside the hotel.

As the say wore on we saw and talked with Elvis’ dad several times. He was so nice and friendly and handsome as ever. Of course we saw Dee and the boys Billy, Rickey and David with Mr. Presley. We saw Lamar Fike too. (incidentally, Lamar’s job was to operate the spotlights on Elvis during the show.) As usual Lamar has something funny to say, he said “Gary, everything’s happening so fast that everything is just ricocheting off the walls,” You could tell Lamar was just in orbit, he seemed to be having a ball operating the lights for the big boss man Elvis!

Finally mom and I and mom’s sister and our party got all dressed up and headed for the 6 o’clock dinner show. We were lucky in getting seated right at the stage. There was 2,000 people, leaving standing room only for the show. The showroom was beautifully decorated in light blue. The stage was just beautiful with a gold curtain. Our party enjoyed a very fine meal and finally the show started at 8 pm with an off-stage voice saying, “The International Hotel is proud to present The Elvis Presley Show.” Then they announced the  No.3 comedian in the country – Mr. Sammy shore who did a great monologue for about twenty minutes. Next The Sweet Inspirations were introduced and they sang two songs. After them the curtain closed and while the thirty-piece house orchestra directed by Bobby Morris was playing, Elvis’ combo began throbbing out a strong beat over the house band, then the lights dimmed  and the curtains parted and from the right side of the stage out popped Elvis.

He sauntered out very nonchalantly in front of his combo carrying his guitar with his name in mother-of-pearl on it and he signaled the band to stop with a nod of his head, and stood in the center of the stage in front of the mike for a second and then he grabbed the mike with his hand and said, “one for the money, two for the show, three to get ready now go, cat go”- then he brought the house down with Blue Suede Shoes. Believe me, it really brought back memories of yesteryear.

He was dressed all in black, wearing black bell bottom trousers with green pleats inserted in the outside of the bell bottoms, and a black shirt opened down the front with a green Apache scarf and a wide fancy gold belt worn outside his shirt. He really looked sharp. He is real slim and trim right now. After Blue Suede Shoes he followed up with I Got A Woman. After he sang this he stood in the center of the stage before the mike and said “Friends, this is my first personal appearance in nine years and it might be my last,  ha! and before I have finished I’ll make a complete fool of myself tonight!” Then he said seriously, “Folks, I hope you will enjoy yourselves tonight. I’m glad to be here in this beautiful showroom at the International Hotel,” Then he said, “I’d like to call your attention to the angles hanging on the wall on both sides of the stage. This is the last time you’ll see angles in that position,” and laughed. (The angels were gold cut-out figures which appeared to be hanging upside down on the walls.)

Before he had finished singing All Shook Up and started yelling “yeah, yeah,” Elvis, he walked up and down the stage near where I was seated and said, “Hi Gary” real quick like and kept right on signing . After All Shook Up he sang Love Me Tender and you could hear a pin drop. When he finished the audience applauded loud and long. Then he said, “Ladies and gentlemen, I’d like to introduce the boys in the band. They are all a bunch of good boys and I enjoy working with them, first we have James Burton and John Wilkinson guitars: Jerry Scheff on electric bass, Ronnie Tutt on drums and Larry Muhobera on piano, and last, but not least, is my good buddy, Charlie Hodge.” He said he met Charlie while he was in the army in Germany and he’d been working with him ever since.

Then he said, “I’d like for you to give a big hand to The Sweet Inspirations and they’re just that, they and the Imperials Quartet are doing a great job backing me up! Last, but not least, I’d like a big hand for Bobby Morris and his orchestra who, I’m sure you will agree, are doing a wonderful job.” Of course Elvis was kidding all through the show…even so, after he walked over to the piano and took a drink of water from a glass he had sitting on the piano, he said, “You know, I drink lots of water” … and he does too. Most of the time Charlie handed a glass to him- spilling water on the floor. Elvis joked with Charlie quite a lot about it too. By the way, Charlie and the boys in the combo were wearing sharp shirts and slacks. Charlie’s job on the stage was also to hand Elvis his guitar when he asked for it. At one point Elvis was sitting on a stool he said, “contrary to some reports about whether I can play the guitar on not I would like to accompany myself on an old Jimmy Reed r&b song titled Baby what you want me to do” which he performed right there and then, he is one of the greatest r&b artists of all time.

Elvis then gave a brief resumé of his career telling how he got started in the business and about his stint in the army etc., and how he was bored with only making movies and recordings. He also told of how he wanted to do personal appearances again, and how great he felt about this opportunity to do so, (At this point he received another standing ovation.) He then continued to sing one song after the other. Besides the others I have mentioned, he sang, in this order, a melody of four songs- Jailhouse Rock, Don’t Be Cruel, Heartbreak Hotel and Hound Dog. Next came Memories, Mystery Train, Tiger Man, Runaway, Are You Lonesome Tonight, Yesterday, Hey Jude, In The Ghetto, Suspicious Minds, What’d I say and Can’t Help Falling In Love. All in all, he sang nineteen songs.

When he sang Suspicious Minds, he announced that this was his new single and would be released in a week or so backed with You’ll Think Of Me  which, I think, is just beautiful. He really knocked himself out with Suspicious Minds to everyone’s delight. In the middle of the song where it slows down real slow he got down on his knees with the mike and sang his heart out, then he stood up and paced up and down the stage keeping time with the beat by patting his right leg. (When he was finished he was given another standing ovation.) This record has now been released and DJ’s are raving over it, in fact it’s already No.1 record in Memphis. It’s been reported that Elvis did a live LP album during the show. By the way, during the show, as I said before, Elvis joked quite a lot and mentioned Memphis at least eight or ten times. He cracked a joke about the fact that he would like to see Mr. Howard Hughes and the owner of the International hotel Mr. Kirkorian in a big crap game and he said he could just imagine Mr. Hughes saying “I bet the state of Texas” and Mr Kirkorian saying “I bet the state of Nevada,” and Elvis said he would be right in the middle saying “I bet Memphis! I bet Memphis”…… all the big and important people who are connected with the hotel let up a roar of laughter. It seemed to go over real big as it was intended to be an inside joke. Elvis laughed too and said, “I think they’re gonna just put me away” and kept muttering to himself about “yeah they’re coming to get me” ….then he gave a big grin and everyone just loved every minute of what he was saying and doing, and he enjoyed it too because he sensed the audience was with him all the way.

He kept up a very fast pace all through the show. Sometimes standing in front of the mike singing and sometimes unattaching the mike from the stand and walking with it in his hand. He walked back and forth from one end of the stage to the other. Especially when he sang Hey Jude fans neat the stage went wild when he began shaking hands and kissin’ some of the fans as he walked along the edge of the stage. He kept singing it over and over again and the fans were getting so enthusiastic that several ran up onto the stage and grabbed his apache scarf from his neck. (He usually throws his scarf into the crowd to whoever was lucky enough to catch it.)

While singing What’d I say after knocking himself and the audience almost out he finally took a bow  and left the stage. Everyone began shouting “more Elvis” and he returned to the stage and as an encore he sang Can’t Help Falling In Love. At one point he got so emotionally involved singing with the Sweet Inspirations and the Imperials Quartet backing him up on Can’t Help Falling In Love as they were singing real loud and harmonizing so well that he raised his hand towards then and said “beautiful!” Then as he left the stage the entire audience gave him a standing ovation.

After the show was over my mom and I and our party decided to go over to our rooms to rest for a while and freshen up a little. At around 2 a.m. we decided to go down to the lobby of the hotel ad watch the crowd as they came out from attending Elvis’ midnight show. It was really something to see-people were just raving over Elvis and how great he was, old and young alike. I never saw so many excited people. About 4 a.m. we retired to our rooms again as we had to get some sleep before checking-out time which was 1 p.m on August 8th. We checked out  and checked our luggage, and since the weather was so stormy- lightening and thundering etc, outside and hot as the dickens! We decided to stay around the hotel until late afternoon before leaving with my aunt and her grandchildren for their home in Long Beach. Was I glad we didn’t leave the hotel? Because around 2 o’clock that afternoon Elvis’ dad paged my mom and when she answered the phone Mr. Presley said, “Mrs. Pepper, Elvis wants you and Gary to be his guests for the midnight show tonight.” You can just imagine how excited we were. Mom thanked him and he said it was their pleasure. Elvis’ dad is a wonderful man, he is so kind and considerate to everyone, and he is always Elvis’ main support wherever he is. Elvis always  knows his dad is right there giving him moral support and his love and devotion.

Mr. Presley said to mom while talking to her on the phone, “Well, Mrs. Pepper, we will see you and Gary at the midnight show.” We will always be grateful to Elvis and his wonderful dad for this fine gesture on their part.

Around 11.30 p.m that night we saw and talked with Mr. Presley, Dee and the boys as they were also going to the show. Later in we talked with Priscilla, Patsy and Joanie Esposito. They all looked just adorable. Priscilla said she was awfully proud of Elvis. We raved to her on what a fantastic job Elvis was doing and she was so pleased about it all. Shes a livin’ doll.

The midnight show was about the same as the 6 o’clock dinner show. Elvis sang the same songs in the same order as he did earlier, the only difference being that naturally the 6 o’clock show served meals and the midnight show only served mixed drinks, which made the dinner show last from 6 until 10 o’clock and the midnight show lasted only about two hours. Elvis wore a similar kind of outfit as he wore at the 6 o’clock show except the pleats in his slacks and apache scarf were red. We were told that we could visit Elvis backstage after the show was over, but as my aunt and children were waiting to take us home we felt we shouldn’t keep them waiting any longer.

After the show was over at 2 a.m., my aunt Rebecca and her grandchildren, mom and I got out luggage loaded into the car, ate a bite to eat and headed out from Las Vegas to Long Beach, arriving at my aunts home at 9 a.m. dog tired as we hadn’t had any sleep for twenty-four hours . As soon as we got in and unpacked our luggage we hit the hay and slept until 9 o’clock that night; then we had a 10 o’clock  dinner and a long talking session about our wonderful trip to Las Vegas and seeing Elvis’ shows.

We enjoyed our ten-day visit in the home of my aunt’s daughter and her husband, Mr. and Mrs. Bill Deeble and seeing all our relations in and around Long Beach and Las Vegas. Before we left my aunt drove us to Beverly Hills to see Elvis’ beautiful home there. There was no one there except the maids and the cooks. Mom took a picture of me standing by the car at the entrance of Elvis’ home, and one of his house and grounds.

We returned home by plane on August 21st. We had a wonderful vacation and we were glad to be home again with our dad and our poodles….yeah! After all, there’s no place like home and Memphis to us.

Mother had a long chat with Dee today, September 1st and she said Elvis, Priscilla, Lisa Marie and Mr. Presley should be home in a few days. She came home ahead of Mr. Presley in order to get her sons, Rickey, Billy and David registered and ready for school. She said Billy and Rickey will be in Harding Academy, a fine school for boys ,this year , and she said Elvis was real proud of them because they signed up for Varsity football. Dee is a wonderful mother and wife. She is also real happy and proud of Elvis’ successful engagement in Las Vegas.