By Mathieu Minacapelli

(Attended seven shows between August 12 and August 25)
Published in the book “The Elvis Files” vol.5 – detailed photos provided by Mathieu.

This is the story of four French people – Marie-Chantal, Marius, Jean-Marc and me – who decided, early in 1969, to cross the Atlantic Ocean, travel to Las Vegas and see the King back on-stage. We didn’t know how we would make it happen, but we had to go.

We left Paris for the United States on 5th August, travelled by bus from New York to Memphis – of course, a visit to Graceland was a must for us – and eventually arrived in Vegas six days later at three in the morning. We went straight to the International Hotel and had the chance to visit the showroom: we wanted to be sure that we had reached the place where Elvis would perform.

On 12th August, we were first to queue and get precious tickets for that evenings dinner show. It was certainly our lucky day as we contacted Tom Diskin, the well-known right-hand-man of Colonel Parker, who proposed to meet us later that day.

At four o’clock, we were with Tom in a cafeteria at the International Hotel. He thanked us for coming from so far away. During the one hour that we had with him, we talked about Elvis’ career, his movies, the 68′ TV show and many other things. At the end of our conversation, Tom declared: “Be sure you won’t be disappointed with the show tonight.” But before he could leave, we asked him if it would be possible to meet Elvis. “Very difficult, you know”, he replied, “but I’ll try.”

At eight o’clock, we attended the dinner show. After eating, the first part of the entertainment began with the Sweet Inspirations who were followed by Sammy Shore. During the short break before Elvis appeared, we saw Colonel Parker coming towards us. When he was beside us he said: “Hi! You’re the Frenchmen? I’m gonna try to make you meet with Elvis.” And then he left. A few minutes later, The Colonel returned and instructed us: “At the end of Elvis’ show, stay in your seats and don’t move. Someone wants to see you.” Incredible!

When the show had ended with Can’t Help Falling In Love, and with many members of the audience leaving the showroom, none of us moved. After minutes that seemed like hours had passed, Colonel Parker came to collect us. We followed him until we came to Elvis’ dressing-room where a lot of people we waiting. We felt very excited and full of emotions. When a guest left the dressing-room, through the half-opened door we caught a glimpse of The King joking with someone.

Finally, we were invited to enter the room. Elvis came over to us and shook our hands with a large smile on his face. Elvis’ father, Vernon, was also there as was The Colonel. The King thanked us for having made the trip from France just to see him.  What a fascinating personality. Believe it or not, but after a few moments we were standing there all relaxed in front of Elvis Presley who was just simply talking to us. It was amazing to see how he made people feel comfortable. Elvis was in a class of his own and , furthermore, he looked in great shape.

Elvis asked is if we had liked the show (you can guess what our answer was) and if we planned to attend another concert during our stay. We confirmed that we would definitely be in the audience again. He then wanted to know how long we were planning to stay in Las Vegas. When we answered “Until we’re broke!”, Elvis burst out laughing. We asked him of he remembered Paris from his visits  to the city during his military service. “Of course”, he said, adding “nice stay – beautiful city.”

When we questioned Elvis about his movies, we quickly realised that this was not a topic he wanted to address. His return to performing live concerts was evidently the most important thing to him now. We therefore asked Elvis if he would like to come and sing in Europe. He clearly said that, although this was what he wanted to do, it would not be possible for the time being.

Elvis then said that Marie-Chantal, Marius and I didn’t look French, “It’s because their parents are Italian”, Marius explained. “But I am from Corsica”, he added. Elvis was puzzled: “Corsica? What is it?” Marius replied: “An island between France and Italy.” This didn’t seem to clarify matters until we said that Corsica was the birthplace of Napoleon. Elvis started laughing and said that Napoleon meant something to him.

It was now time to collect autographs from Elvis. He gave me a large picture from the NBC-TV Special and wrote “To Matthew from Elvis Presley” on it. Marie-Chantal, the only one of us with a camera, took pictures of this magical moment.

  
 

Fifteen minutes had passed since we had entered Elvis’ dressing-room and it was now time for us to leave. Before doing so, Elvis again shook each of us in turn by the hand and told us that he wanted to give us tickets for the second show that night. We then said goodbye to Colonel Parker and Elvis’ father. 

For us, these minutes were the happiest moments that we had enjoyed in our young lives. 

The seats given to us by Elvis for the midnight show were located in the first row. We were so close to the stage, in fact, that Elvis recognized us and suddenly shook his legs as he had done in 1956. 

We stayed in Las Vegas until the 25th August and attended a total of seven shows. On 17th August, we approached Elvis again during an autograph session in the International Hotel lobby and he said hello to us.

Today when I think back, I remember that while I was watching one of the concerts I said to myself: “It’s real. I’m here in Vegas and I’m watching him singing in stage!”