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Rebranded and redefined, the Las Vegas Hotel & Casino bridges nostalgia and new.
Words such as “luxurious” and “world-class” get thrown around a lot in Las Vegas, especially in casino marketing. And the Las Vegas Hotel & Casino, or LVH—as it was renamed earlier this year—is definitely both, as I discovered during a stay there this summer.
But before you roll your eyes and think this is a story about another swanky Las Vegas hotel lacking history and tradition, think again. This unique property, which stands tall between the Strip and old downtown Las Vegas, has a fascinating story to tell.
The hotel burst on the scene on July 2, 1969 as the International, boasting 1,568 rooms and a 30,000-square-foot casino (both the world’s largest at the time). The property’s oceanic pool was enthusiastically promoted as the largest body of water in Southern Nevada next to Lake Mead.
Barbra Streisand christened the International showroom stage, but her musical-inspired act was not well received. That paved the way for a reenergized Elvis Presley, looking to resurrect his career, who made his highly anticipated debut on July 31, 1969. “The Elvis who strode onstage at the International…was an all-around entertainer fronting a rock band polished and magnified by horns and strings…,” wrote Mike Weatherford in the February 1995 Nevada Magazine feature story. “The show was galvanizing.” The 2,000-seat showroom was the largest ever built in Las Vegas, and Elvis would go on to perform 826 sold-out shows there until his last on December 12, 1976.
During our July media familiarization tour, we were escorted backstage to the dressing rooms where the likes of Alabama, Brooks & Dunn, and Kenny Chesney still have nameplates marking the generations of performances there over the years. The walls are also adorned with band posters and autographed pictures of hundreds of stars who have graced the casino-resort’s stage.
At the height of Elvis’ reign, in 1972, the property became the Las Vegas Hilton, which it remained for the next four decades. The hotel’s 30th-floor Imperial Suite—meant to be a retreat for all of its performers—became known as The Elvis Suite. The famous suite has been restored and resurrected as The Tuscany Sky Villa, which opened along with The Conrad Sky Villa and The Verona in the mid-1990s.
“Elvis slept here,” remarks tour leader and LVH Vice President of Hotel Operations Cami Christensen, pointing to The Tuscany Sky Villa fireplace, roughly the spot where The King of Rock ’n’ Roll kept his bed. “Elvis was constantly surrounded by his entourage, and life in the Hilton penthouse was a strange mixture of hedonism and hominess,” Weatherford writes. Singer Barry Manilow called the Conrad home during his Hilton show residency from 2005-09.
For a cool $15,000 a night, any of the three grandiose villas can be yours. Also on the 30th floor are 43 more reasonably priced rooms that complete the Classic Suites Collection, if you’re looking to splurge. Otherwise, you’ll have to make friends with well-to-do groups such as “the rancheros,” who reportedly occupy all three rooms each year during December’s National Finals Rodeo. If these LVH walls could talk…
Fortunately, at the property’s Benihana restaurant, “Chef Elvis” does the talking—and singing—for you. A chef at the restaurant for 37 years, going back to the Hilton’s early days, Toy Tomme has served Elvis, Paris Hilton, and Michael Jackson to name a few.
After our appetites were sated by the Benihana Special—Hibachi Steak with Cold Water Lobster Tail—the energetic and exuberant Tomme, now head chef, told us members of the media how he once spilled food on a young Hilton, and how Hilton still talks about it as if it was one of the more traumatic events of her life. He told more humorous stories—for instance, calling the King of Pop’s longhaired son “she”—in between strumming his acoustic guitar and belting out classic Elvis tunes such as “Blue Suede Shoes” and “His Latest Flame.”
After enjoying our meal and the entertainment at Benihana, we were treated to live music and a private cabana at the “Old School by the Pool” party, held every Friday from 7 to 10 p.m. on the third-floor pool deck during the summer months.
These are a few of the highlights of my stay, but LVH can satisfy a broad range of travelers’ interests. Its proximity to the Las Vegas Convention Center and its designation as a Las Vegas Monorail station appeal to convention-goers as well as tourists. The Race and Sports Superbook, the largest in the world with a seating capacity of almost 400, is nearly as spacious as the main casino. The property also features a pool and spa, tennis courts, two shopping promenades, a hair salon, and a car rental and business center.
ELVIS HASN’T LEFT THE BUILDING
Impersonator Trent Carlini (above) stars as The King nightly (dark Tuesday) at LVH in a show that takes a retrospective look at the famous musician’s career.
COMING SOON TO LVH
The Doobie Brothers, Nov. 9-10
Rodeo Central, Dec. 6-15
LeAnn Rimes, Dec. 13-15
New Year’s Eve Celebration, Dec. 31
LAS VEGAS HOTEL & CASINO
Through the Years
July 2, 1969 — Property opens as the International
July 31, 1969 — Elvis Presley’s debut show
1972 — International becomes Las Vegas Hilton
Dec. 12, 1976 — Elvis’ final show
Summer 1978 — North Tower opens
1981 — North Tower expansion (400 rooms)
Fall 1986 — Race & Sports Superbook opens
Sept. 1993 — “Starlight Express” opens in Showroom
1995 — Sky Villas on 30th floor open to public
1997 — “Starlight Express” closes
Jan. 4, 1998 — Star Trek: The Experience opens
July 15, 2004 — Las Vegas Monorail opens
Feb. 23, 2005 — Barry Manilow begins four-year residency
Sept. 2008 — Star Trek theme park closes
Jan. 3, 2012 — Hotel is renamed LVH
FOR MORE INFORMATION
LVH - Las Vegas Hotel & Casino
3000 Paradise Rd., Las Vegas, NV 89109