Priscilla and Lisa Marie Presley were in Las Vegas on Thursday to launch the new Elvis Presley exhibition, chapel and show at the hotel that Elvis made famous – the former International hotel, now the Westgate Resort and Casino.
“Elvis was beloved here in this town,” Priscilla said. “To bring him back in this way, and to be able to take the journey of him from his humble beginnings… to see more of the inner Elvis… We know him as a musician as an artist, but here you get to take a journey of how it all began.”
The new Elvis Presley exhibit at Westgate, the first permanent Graceland exhibition outside of Memphis, covers 28,000 square feet and features personal items of Elvis that have never been seen before including original artifacts from Presley’s shows in Las Vegas.
“I spent a lot of time in this building… it’s sort of nostalgic,” Lisa Marie said, before she and her mother, Priscilla, cut the blue ribbon signaling the opening of the exhibit.
Many of Elvis’ friends were present for the historic return of Elvis to Las Vegas including Jerry Schilling, Joe Esposito, Wink Martindale and Sandy Ferra (who dated Elvis) and Marian Cocke (Elvis’ former nurse).
Although Lisa Marie Presley was a young child when her father, Elvis Presley, used to perform in Las Vegas, she has vivid memories of attending his concerts.
“It feels really right to bring it [the exhibit] back into this building which was very much a part of his life and mine,” Lisa Marie said. “I spent a lot of time here as a child growing up.”
Lisa Marie, who was accompanied by her husband, musician Michael Lockwood, and son Benjamin said that she was staying in her father’s former penthouse suite at the hotel.
“The exhibition is well put together, a lot of hard work went into it,” Lisa Marie continued. “It feels really right.”
The Westgate has also renovated the showroom re-installing a small number of booths to replicate the way it looked when Elvis performed there. As a result, Priscilla and Lisa Marie were able to sit in the same spot as their original booth that night to watch the debut of the new show called The Elvis Experience.
Priscilla was quick to point out that the singer, Martin Fontaine, was not a tribute artist or impersonator, but an actor. The show features a recreation of the entire TCB band, singers and orchestra that used to perform with Elvis at his shows. The Westgate has also renamed the theater as the Elvis Presley International Showroom.
“Here it is 40 years after the fact,” Priscilla commented about the renaming of the theater. “I think this has been a long time coming.”