The San Francisco Examiner. San Francisco, California. Thursday, July 3, 1969.
Kerkorian Opens Huge Resort in Las Vegas
Special to The Examiner
LAS VEGAS ─ Former Bay Area resident Kirk Kerkorian, who has been nudging Howard Hughes for the ranking of number one Nevadan, gave his mightiest push last night by opening a $60 million resort showplace on 41 acres of sand and sagebrush. With the opening of his 30-story, 1500 room Hotel International, Kerkorian brought into being a prediction he made some 18 months ago in an exclusive interview with The Examiner that "a second strip" would be built in Las Vegas. The famed Las Vegas Strip stretches for two miles along Las Vegas Boulevard South and numbers some of the most lavish resort hotels in the world.
Kerkorian's Hotel International was built along Paradise Road, only a block from the Landmark Hotel, which Hughes opened a day earlier. The Landmark, costing $17.3 million, is Hughes' sixth. The International is Kerkorian's second. He also owns the Flamingo on The Strip. But in total number of rooms available, the former San Franciscan is pushing to be first. The debut of the International drew celebrities from government, business and entertainment and jet set personalities from around the globe. Governor Paul A. Laxalt and U.S. Senators Alan Bible and Howard Cannon of Nevada headed the governmental guests. From entertainment came Lucille Ball, Phyllis Diller, Cary Grant, Dale Robertson, Raquel Welch and others.
But perhaps the most unobtrusive personality in attendance at an event that attracted thousands of visitors was Kerkorian himself. The 51-year-old financier made only a "courtesy visit" to what is now the world's largest gambling establishment and hotel. It was his first visit to the site since ground was broken a year and a half ago. "I don't have to count the bricks," he said. "I'll see it when it is built." During the building of the International, Kerkorian merged the Oakland-based Trans International Airlines he had founded with Trans-America Corp. The deal netted him about $90 million.
In December, 1968, he paid $56,925,000 for 1.265,000 shares of capital stock of Western Air Lines, later increased his holdings to achieve more than 30 percent or virtual control. Then, in a marked departure for Nevada gambling enterprises he organized International Leisure Corp., builders of the new hotel, and invited public participation. Seventeen percent of the stock was sold on the market. But Kerkorian retained 83 precent. Kerkorian, born to farming parents in Fresno, said he and his associates were "interested in opportunities both in the United States and abroad." He places particular emphasis on the "South Pacific potential." Kerkorian "reached" for the "No. 1 boxoffice star'' in the country, Barbra Streisand. When she closes her engagement a month hence, Elvis Presley will move into the 2000 seat showroom, the world's largest.
Kirk Kerkorian, Billionaire Investor in Film Studios and Casinos, Dies at 98
June 16, 2015
Kirk Kerkorian, the media-shy investor who became one of the richest Americans by betting his money on ventures like casinos and film studios, died Monday night at his home in Beverly Hills, Calif. He was 98.
Kirk Kerkorian at the construction site of the International Hotel in Las Vegas in 1968. Credit Don English/Las Vegas News Bureau
Fort Worth Star-Telegram. Fort Worth, Texas. 10 Jul., 1969, Thursday.
No Go for Barbra
By Tony Slaughter
LAS VEGAS — Last week two new hotels opened here — the Howard Hughes Landmark and the Kirk Kerkorian Las Vegas International. At least one opening was a disappointment for two nights running the show that is which stars Barbra Streisand at the International.
TONIGHT HUGHES HAS ANOTHER opening. It is "Pzazz" ‘70 and All That Jazz Baby" at Hughes' favorite hotel here, the Desert Inn Hotel and Country Club, where he lives on the ninth floor.
HUGHES HAS SPENT $1 MILLION on production costs for the new musical spectacular. Producer Frank Sennes and director Donn Arden expect it to run a long, long time in fact much longer than Barbra Streisand who's taking home $100.000 a week.
BACK TO MISS STREISAND. NBC panned her show on TV nationwide. A Los Angeles reviewer wrote: "Miss Streisand should stop by and pick up some singing tips from Peggy Lee." Her act was featured at two night openings and she walked off the stage the second night after performing for only 38 minutes. She said she didn't like the audience. A Las Vegas source reported that some of the audience left before she did.
HER OPENING RECEIVED THE WORST press reviews for anyone who ever appeared in Las Vegas, wrote Las Vegas columnist Joe Dulaney. Elvis Presley comes out of hibernation July 31 to Aug 27 to replace her.
I SOME OF THE OTHER OPENINGS scheduled here in July include Paul Anka, July 31, who'll replace Pat Boone at the Flamingo; Dionne Warwick and Rodney Dangerfield, July 30, who'll replace Edye Gorme and Steve Lawrence at the Sands; Roger Miller and Stu Gilliam at the Riviera, July 29, replacing Ed Ames and Scoey Mitchell.
Febr. 26, 1969: Las Vegas International Hotel-Casino President Alex Shoofey, Elvis Presley and Bill Miller tour the International Hotel’s construction site and sign Presley's contract to perform in the hotel.
The San Bernardino County Sun. San Bernardino, California. 17 July, 1969, Thursday.
Elvis Presley, who follows Miss Streisand as Hotel International star (July 31 for four weeks) is doing good business even before he opens 80 per cent of his months' engagement is sold out . . .
Traverse City Record-Eagle. Traverse City, Michigan. 19 July, 1969, Saturday.
FROM PACKAGE TO PACKAGE: Popular British pop singer Tom Jones is walking out on his escalating deal at the Flamingo in Las Vegas for a niftier package right across the street at Caesars Palace. All the little 80-year-old ladies dig him. They're calling him the new mod Elvis Presley.
SPEAKING OF THAT DEPT: The old-mod Elvis, the one and only original, as you know is following Superstar Barbra Streisand into the super-huge Showroom Internationale of Kirk Kerkorian's mammoth new International hotel. Elvis opens on July 31, followed by frail and fragile little Nancy Sinatra Jr., on Aug. 28. The 64-dollar question around this 60-million-dollar epitome of garnishness is — how many one-man or one-woman talents can carry that coldly colossal 2,000- seat Showroom? If Streisand can't, who can? ? ? . . . Sinatra, of course, but he's committed to Caesars Palace Maximus, Gamblersville's second-largest showroom with 1,100 seats. He turns them away. So does Dean Martin at the Riviera and Tom Jones at the Flamingo. But very few can fill even a 1,000-seat showroom (the average in Vegas is 600 to 850 seats) . . . Incidentally, the consensus on Streisand's disappointing letdown has nothing to do with the size of the room: "She thinks she's doing concerts instead of a night-club," as Phil Harris commented. "She lost her audience the minute she said, 'I don't do requests.' "
Honolulu Star-Bulletin. Honolulu, Hawaii. 20 July, 1969, Sunday.
Nancy Sinatra, who follows Elvis Presley at the International Hotel in September, will get $75,000 a week for doing the show.
AFTER READING some of the reviews by critics who caught Barbra Streisand in her debut at the International Hotel, I'm wondering if they were criticizing Barbra, the song stylist, or Barbra, the temperamental actress.
A veteran Los Angeles critic disappointed us because he harped on the fact that "Streisand was lofty and condescending in her act," but failed to say much about her singing. Another great performer, Al Jolson, one of the greatest in the business, was also lofty and condescending. The same critic also suggested in his review that Streisand take singing lessons from Peggy Lee, currently appearing in the International's lounge. The same critic ended her column saying that Barbra was boring. Streisand, a stylist who has been getting standing ovations every night, is anything but boring.
Orlando Evening Star. Orlando, Florida. 23 July, 1969, Wednesday.
ELVIS PRESLEY and Dinah Shore pick the same night, July 31, to open in Las Vegas, he at the International Hotel, she at the Landmark. Which may or may not be a wise decision on his part, bucking such competition. The first time Elvis played the Las Vegas strip, and at the height of his popularity, he did disappointing business. This time, Elvis and his good Colonel Parker are keeping fingers crossed that his fans will be more loyal.
Presley Pulls A Surprise: Give Free Press Interview
By DAN LEWIS
TV Time Staff Writer
LAS VEGAS ─ It is considered one of the small wonders of the world that Elvis Presley played host to a press conference during his current nightclub engagement in this flamboyant city.
Even in Las Vegas, where almost anything goes, if somebody had wagered that Elvis Presley would even consent, let alone volunteer, to a mass interview, the odds against it would have been enormous. Even editors who thought they would be be doing Col. Tom Parker's favorite little moneymaker a supreme favor by interviewing him have discovered that he wouldn't buy the idea. Buy it? No. Sell it? Yes.
A television editor who had been invited to Presley's opening at the new International Hotel here showed some enterprise and expressed an interest in writing a feature story about an Elvis television special for her syndicated column. She wanted only a few minutes with the star.
A note went from New York to California to Las Vegas through regular publicity department channels, finally reaching Col. Parker, without whom Elvis dares not move.
There is no evidence that Parker even bothered to discuss the request for the interview. The only word that came back to the television editor in New York was: "Elvis would be delighted to give you an interview for $10,000." The good Col. Parker used to be a carnival barker, but his bark isn't nearly as loud as his bite.
Somewhere along the line, however, Presley had some second thoughts about seeing the press, and the reason is probably twofold. This was his first nightclub appearance in 10 years. Only a $200,000-a-week-plus offer from the International Hotel had lured him away from the comforts and seclusion of his California estate.
But he had a sensational opening night; he obviously was feeling benevolent towards the world. And undoubtedly he didn't want to repeat Barbra Streisand's mistake. Barbra Streisand's Vegas opening preceded Presley's. A scheduled press conference was cancelled, making some correspondents feel affronted and hostile. She did not have a good opening and most writers were not inclined to be charitable in their reviews.
So Presley, knowing he had a good show and eager for all the favorable publicity he could get, heldd a press conference and talked freely about the show and his coming TV special.
Col. Parker's insides must have been doing flipflops as he looked across the room, shaking his head at the loss of a potential $150,000. That is what his asking price would have been if he'd sold the interviews on an individual basis.
I cannot understand the attitude of performers toward press Interviews. Before a performer has made it, he eagerly seeks publicity. But once the performer has reaped the fruits of the recognition he sought, it becomes the smart thing for him to do to look down on writers. "I don't give interviews," said one young actress several years ago as she started work on her second motion picture. The press obliged, and the public hasn't heard about her since. The last I heard, her career was going so badly she was calling gossip columnists herself trying to plant her own items. A writer from the States was invited to London to do some features on a David Hemmings picture currently in production. The writer was brought to the set, only to discover that Hemmings and the director had banned all interviews that day.
The Springfield News-Leader. Springfield, Missouri. 23 July, 1969, Wednesday.
Elvis Presley rated his 48th Gold Record ─ that's right 48 ─ with his latest "In The Ghetto." He turned down having it presented to him on his opening night at the International Hotel in Vegas on July 31st.
Elvis is the shy type.
The San Francisco Examiner. San Francisco, California. 06 August, 1969, Wednesday.
By Earl Wilson
Elvis Live ─ Will He Make Fans Forget Tom Jones?
LAS VEGAS ─ It was the summer of 1956 ─ which I make to be 13 years ago ─ that we first started hearing about Elvis Presley making pelvic movements on the Jackie Gleason summer replacement show, hosted by Tommy and Jimmy Dorsey. Our columns were filled in those days with a lot of people not with us any more ─ Marilyn Monroe, Jayne Mansfield and, in politics, Adlal Stevenson.
Eight years later came the Beatles and Beatle-maniacs. Could you believe that was five years ago 1964? Where are all those little Beatlemaniacs now who used to write horrid letters to me when I was bold as to predict that Elvis, already a veteran, would outlast them as a team?
Now Elvis has a new breakthrough as a saloon singer at the Las Vegas International Hotel this coming with his hit record "The Ghetto" and a new picture, "Charro." He performed so brilliantly that he will definitely challenge the idolaters of Tom Jones, particularly the adoring females. Comedian Sammy Shore, appearing ahead of Elvis, told the audience that he had been discovered by Col. Tom Parker, when he was a young man working as a boll weevil smasher In Tupelo, Miss. The comedian tried to demonstrate how Elvis mashed a boll weevil with his foot, this reportedly being the birth of his famous pelvic grind.
Signs saying "ELVIS" were an over Las Vegas. Col. Parker, a great promotional wizard, had waited until Barbra Streisand closed her one-month engagement, and then hit the town with 200 radio spot announcements. Parker admitted, "This town has never seen a promoter like me." And he may have been right, because Dinah Shore, Jerry Vale, Jane Powell and Myron Cohen also opened in Las Vegas the same night. The visiting newspaper people all wanted to rush out to see their favorities in the other clubs at midnight. Col. Parker, at the last minute, called a 12:30 a.m. press conference for Elvis. When a reporter asked him, "Why do you dye your hair?" he replied, "Because it's gray.”
The New York Times. July 30, 2019
Elvis Presley Needed a Reboot in July 1969. So Did Las Vegas.
Elvis’ bona fides were in question when he returned to the stage after more than eight years. His ’69 comeback show was a make-or-break gamble.
By Richard Zoglin
The 1960s may have been a wildly transformative decade in the history of popular music, but for Elvis Presley it was something of a black hole.
When he returned from his two-year hitch in the Army in 1960, the king of rock ’n’ roll essentially retired from live performing, confining himself to making movies (which were growing steadily worse) and recording disposable pop songs (that were no longer reaching the charts). A much-praised television comeback special on NBC in December 1968 had put him back on the radar. But when he finally returned to the stage for the first time in more than eight years, for a four-week engagement at Las Vegas’ new International Hotel, there was no guarantee he could still deliver onstage.
Elvis’ Vegas years are mostly recalled as a period of commercial excess and artistic decline: the bombastic shows, the gaudy white jumpsuits, the ballooning weight, the erratic stage behavior, the drugs. “For many,” wrote Dylan Jones in “Elvis Has Left the Building,” “Vegas Elvis was already Dead Elvis.”
But for that 1969 comeback, and at least a year or two after, Elvis was at his peak as a stage performer, and he created a show that not only revitalized his career, but changed the face of Las Vegas entertainment.
The singer and the city had a long relationship. Elvis first appeared in Las Vegas in 1956, when he was just breaking out — he hadn’t appeared on “The Ed Sullivan Show” yet — and found himself booked into the New Frontier Hotel, on a bill with Freddy Martin’s orchestra and the comedian Shecky Greene. The show was pretty much a dud; the middle-aged nightclubbers didn’t know what to make of him. “For the teenagers, he’s a whiz,” wrote Variety’s critic; “for the average Vegas spender, a fizz.”
But Elvis loved Las Vegas, and the city became his favorite getaway.
He came back often: retreating there between movie shoots, seeing shows, picking up showgirls, partying all night with his Memphis pals. He shot his movie “Viva Las Vegas” there in 1963. He married Priscilla at the Aladdin Hotel there in 1967. So when his manager, Colonel Tom Parker, finally decided it was time for a return to the concert stage, Vegas was not as odd a choice as it might have seemed.
Las Vegas also needed a boost. At the beginning of the decade, with Sinatra and the Rat Pack riding high, the town was the white-hot center for live entertainment in America. By the end of the ’60s, however, the golden years were fading fast. The arrival of the Beatles, the rise of the counterculture — all of it was making Vegas look decidedly worn. None of the major rock artists of the era — the Stones, Bob Dylan, Janis Joplin — wanted anything to do with the city. The younger generation was going to arena concerts, not hanging out in the Sands Hotel lounge. So it was fitting that Las Vegas, a town blindsided by the rock revolution, would turn to a megawatt rock ‘n’ roll star as the agent of its reinvention two weeks before Woodstock would take place in upstate New York.
Elvis’ return to the stage in Vegas was a make-or-break career gamble. Colonel Parker had envisioned a traditional Vegas show, with chorus girls and choreography. Elvis wanted something different: a concert to reconnect him with his fans and showcase all the music he loved.
“This was the deprived musician, who had not been able to control his music, either in the recording studio or the movies,” said his longtime friend Jerry Schilling. “And now he was going to satisfy all his musical desires on that stage.”
Elvis handpicked a new backup band (headed by the guitar great James Burton), added two backup singing groups (a male gospel quartet, the Imperials, and a female soul group, the Sweet Inspirations, whose lead singer at the time was Cissy Houston), and filled out the sound with a 40-plus-piece orchestra.
Elvis performs at the International July 31, 1969, in Las Vegas. (photo credit Terry Todd - Las Vegas News Bureau)
The International’s 2,000-seat showroom was twice as large as any other in Vegas, and the sold-out venue was packed on opening night with celebrities and Vegas VIPs, along with dozens of rock journalists and critics, many flown in from New York on the hotel titan Kirk Kerkorian’s private jet. Behind the scenes, Elvis was so nervous he almost had to be pushed out onstage. “I saw in his face the look of terror,” said the comedian Sammy Shore, his opening act. But when Elvis walked out, to a throbbing rhythm intro, grabbed the microphone with a trembling hand, and launched into “Blue Suede Shoes,” the audience went wild.
It was the old Elvis, rocking as hard as ever, on a song he hadn’t done in a decade. He followed with more vintage hits — “All Shook Up,” “Don’t Be Cruel,” “Hound Dog.” He did them faster than in the old days, almost as if he wanted to get through them as quickly as possible, to get to the more mature and varied material he was starting to record. He sang “In the Ghetto,” the social-protest song that had been released in the spring and became a hit. He did covers of songs identified with other artists — Chuck Berry’s “Johnny B. Goode,” Ray Charles’s “I Can’t Stop Loving You,” the Beatles’ “Yesterday.”
The high point of the show was a galvanic, seven-minute version of a song almost no one in the crowd had heard before: “Suspicious Minds,” which would be released during his Vegas run and give him his first No. 1 hit in seven years.
The show lasted an hour and 15 minutes, and Elvis was on fire throughout — prowling the stage like a panther, doing karate kicks, sweating and downing water and Gatorade.
He was huffing and puffing after just a few minutes, but the voice never faltered: richer, more expressive, more powerful than ever. “I never saw anything like it in my life,” said Mac Davis, the singer-songwriter who had written “In the Ghetto” for him and was in the audience that night. “You couldn’t take your eyes off the guy. It was just crazy. Women rushing the stage, people clamoring over each other. I couldn’t wipe the grin off my face the entire time.”
Presley talked to the audience too — nervously, with a few corny jokes and a lot of self-deprecating asides. But that was part of the appeal: this was no slick Vegas performer with polished jokes and programmed patter. Elvis seemed just as awed by the occasion as everyone in the audience.
He played for four solid weeks, seven nights a week, two shows a night — not a single evening off — and every gig was sold out. The critics raved; David Dalton in Rolling Stone called Elvis “supernatural, his own resurrection.” Richard Goldstein, writing in The New York Times, said watching him “felt like getting hit in the face with a bucket of melted ice. He looked so timeless up there, so constant.” The hotel instantly signed him up for five more years.
Elvis brought something new to Las Vegas: not an intimate, Rat Pack-style nightclub show, but a big rock-concert extravaganza. He showed that rock ’n’ roll (and country and R&B too) could work on the big Vegas stage. And he brought in a new kind of audience: not the Vegas regulars and high rollers, but a broader, more middle-American crowd: female fans who had screamed for Elvis as teenagers, families who made Elvis the centerpiece of their summer vacation. It was the same audience that Vegas would discover, over the next couple of decades, as it embarked on its own reinvention — a foretaste of the Vegas we know today, the Vegas of Cirque du Soleil, theme-park hotels, and (more recently) a new generation of pop-star residencies, from Elton John to Lady Gaga.
Elvis soon grew bored with Vegas, and the shows began to deteriorate. But it’s easy to forget what an engaged, dynamic, even inspiring performer he was in 1969. Elvis in the ’50s had been the great divider: the musical artist who split the culture in two — between the adults, who listened to the pop standards and Hit Parade tunes, and the kids, who were listening to a newfangled music called rock ’n’ roll. By the end of the 1960s (a decade in which that divide grew even starker) Elvis was the great uniter: gathering all the music he loved, from rockabilly to operatic ballads, in one great democratic embrace. He didn’t need to be the coolest thing in rock. He wanted to sing to everybody.
He did. And in the process he helped transform a city.
Richard Zoglin is the author of “Elvis in Vegas; How the King Reinvented the Las Vegas Show,” published by Simon & Schuster.