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December 11, 2018

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33 years after death, fans remember Elvis Presley at Madame Tussauds

Elvis Anniversary at Madame Tussauds

Steve Marcus

Joe Schaffer of Columbus, Ohio, takes a photo of his wife Charlotte at an Elvis Presley display in the Madame Tussauds Las Vegas wax museum Monday, August 16, 2010. To mark the 33rd anniversary of the King’s death, the museum played Elvis records, hired Elvis impersonators and gave free admission to anyone dressed as Elvis.

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Elvis Anniversary at Madame Tussauds

Elvis Presley impersonator Larry Edwards, left, dances with Sallie Mitchell, center, and Nancy Ledvina, both of Fort Worth, Texas, outside the Madame Tussauds Las Vegas wax museum Monday, August 16, 2010. To mark the 33rd anniversary of the King's death, the museum played Elvis records, hired Elvis impersonators and gave free admission to anyone dressed as Elvis. Launch slideshow »

Madame Tussauds

  • Hours (through Sept. 6): 10 a.m. to 11 p.m. daily
  • Cost: Tickets are $25 for adults, $18 for students and seniors and $15 for children ages 7 to 12. Children 6 and under are free.
  • Location: At the Venetian, 3377 Las Vegas Blvd. South Suite 2001, Las Vegas, NV 89109
  • Contact: (702) 862-7800 or madametussauds.com

The King in Las Vegas

Elvis on stage at the International. Launch slideshow »

Elvis Remembered

Jason Mecier's mosaic portrait of Elvis. Launch slideshow »

Richard Mitchell remembers the shock he felt Aug. 16, 1977, when he first heard Elvis Presley had died unexpectedly. Weeks passed before that reality settled into his mind.

“It was like the president of rock ‘n roll was dead,” he said. “There was a void.”

Mitchell was one of dozens of visitors Monday at Madame Tussauds Las Vegas thinking about the King on the 33rd anniversary of his death.

Madame Tussauds hosted a daylong celebration to honor Elvis’s life and music. Elvis tribute artist Paige Poole performed some of the King's greatest hits and tried to mimic the blues croon while visitors had their pictures taken with a wax likeness of Elvis. Costumed guests received free admission to the museum.

Poole said he had tickets to see Presley, who died at age 42, perform a few days after his death. He, too, recalled a numbing shock when he heard the news.

“He’s a legend. I love his sound,” said Poole, dressed in that radiant suit, fitted with the hairdo. “I think he should be remembered as a giving person. Everybody has a weakness, but he never forgot who he was.”

Crowds gathered at the museum’s entrance to watch Poole perform. Visitors riding the escalators in front of the Venetian’s Grand Canal Shoppes sang along and shook their hips as their own small tributes.

Mitchell explained the significance that Elvis, one of the true American icons, had for his generation.

“Here was a poor country boy that was making it big,” he said. “It was a whole philosophy of getting things done and having fun.”

Carol Gill, visiting from Sydney, Australia, said she remembers a young man with all the desirable attributes.

“He had an incredible voice. His smile. Those moves. He was a king,” said Gill, whose husband, Greg, added that Elvis was “Ten times better than the Beatles.”

Larry Edwards, a local performer trying to follow in the legend’s footsteps, explained the connection between the man and this city.

“When you think of Vegas, you think of Elvis,” said Edwards, outfitted with gold-rimmed sunglasses and signature sideburns. “This is mourning for Vegas.”

Elvis first came to Las Vegas in 1956, where his performance at the New Frontier and was greeted with a critical thrashing and tepid applause. He returned in 1963 for the filming of “Viva Las Vegas” — its titular ballad remains the city’s unofficial theme song, covered by countless imitators — and received a star’s welcome.

He married his wife, Priscilla Ann Beaulieu, at the Aladdin in 1967. And in 1969, at a low point in his career, he took the stage at the International (now the Las Vegas Hilton), sold out 837 consecutive shows for more than 2.5 million people and engraved his name as one of the greatest entertainers in Las Vegas history.

He headlined there for seven years. On Monday afternoon, admirers had adorned Presley’s bronze statue with Hawaiian leis and rose bouquets. Someone left a copy of Robert Frost’s poem, “Nothing Gold Can Stay.”

Long live the King. Elvis would have been 75 this year.

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