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CONCERT DATE: March 18 - April 1, 1975. Las Vegas, NV.

Living Up To The Hilton
by Bob Considine
The Times Bulletin
Saturday, April 12, 1975

LAS VEGAS - This small emblazoned gulch in a valley that doesn't look unlike a fissure on the face of the moon is, indeed, "The Entertainment Capital of the World." During the Easter holiday just about every top name in show biz was playing at the big hotel-casinos. They strutted their stuff for kings' ransoms in jammed ballrooms. The eager patrons, who might have paid $100 a ticket (scalped), gathered in lobby lines a half-mile long for hours in advance.

But it was apparently a rewarding experience for the customers, particularly those who assembled in droves on the occasion of Elvis Presley's last night at the Las Vegas Hilton." The LVH is the largest resort hotel in the world, and just as well, when Presley is on stage with what seems like a cast of thousands, the premises have to be huge.

My wife and I had never seen Elvis in the flesh before, and therefore didn't expect so much flesh. Nor so much blood, sweat, tears, adoration and fertility rites. Incredible.

"Look at me. Elvis!" a middle-aged dame cried out from the towering gallery, which is reserved for hunks of those who had purchased tickets but could find no seats in the huge restaurant proper. "Look at me!" she screamed again and again through the darkness and cigaret smog. Elvis silenced her with a look of patient wrath She had interrupted one of his dervish incantations whose lyrics only his most faithful disciples (they are legion, of course) can possibly translate into English.

Elvis' couturier dresses him about somewhere between Liberace, who is submerged in sequins, and Johnny Cash, who comes on garbed like the house mourner at Forest Lawn Cemetery. Elvis is open-necked, whiteshirted, black-trousered with a wide seam of sequins, the better to sparkle his leg vibrations when he goes into his orthopedic orgy. Every three minutes of what seemed like an 18-hour show, he went back to what amounted to his corner on the huge crowded stage, drank a glass or two of water, had his handler mop his face of perspiration with a fresh white scarf, put it around his neck, and came on strong again toward the footlights.

The lights were rimmed with young and old ladies imploring recognition with outstretched arms, or holding up gifts for him, a flower lei, a basket of posies, mash notes and what not. They all threatened to pull him down into the pit, where he would have been stabbed to death among the broken Shirley Temple cocktail glasses. But whenever he selected a female who was fit in his mind to be anointed, Elvis threw his moist scarf around her neck, pulled her to him as he stooped over the lights, and gave her a kiss, and the towel.

During his endless and ecstatic performance, his keeper, a rough old Chautauqua type, Colonel Tom Parker, came by Barron Hilton's table to give cigars to the men folks and dry Elvis Presley scarfs to the ladies. He said sure, his boy was a little fat these days but not nearly as lardy as some of those rotten newspaper jerks allowed he was. He'll be in the pink very soon, the colonel swore, and fat or not who packs them in better? And who does more for charity, without publicity, like raising $72,000 to help build the marble memorial over the battleship Arizona, sunken during the attack on Pearl Harbor?

We took in Johnny Cash when he opened at the Hilton the next night. That, too, was something to behold. The fever quotient on the part of the crowded room was somewhat lower than that generated by Elvis. But it was still impressive. Cash is to entertainment what corn is to muffins. He makes squaredom into a form of sainthood. He had me in tears with his song about his dear old mother's ear lobes. Then there was the sequence with twin screens for twin projectors of a train that took him off to San Quentin on a dope rap. Then a close-up of prison bars, and the recognition of God and the flag.

The climax came when Johnny brought on his wife, a delightful singer, and his dear old mother-in-law, who plays a small upright zither. Uptight.

Johnny has dropped his old warning from the stage that there were 15 minutes left of his performance, and they'd be devoted to the Lord. "If anybody wants to leave now, let him leave," he'd say. About half his audience would scramble for the exits. "I'm not spending 50 bucks to hear about the Lord," one patron once said. "I can hear about Him on Sunday at church, for a buck."

Elvis and Johnny made several hundred thousand dollars during their short stays at the Hilton. But they made money for the Hilton, too, over and above the money their worshippers dropped at the casino. But that is not necessarily true everywhere in Las Vegas, Man who drove us to the airport said, "Take that there hotel," he said, pointing at the Landmark, once, owned by the Teamsters Union and later by Howard Hughes. "All its profits were in the loss column."

Courtesy of Francesc Lopez