The History of Las Vegas Strip Hotels
While its official name is now the LVH – Las Vegas Hotel Casino (Westgate), for many it’ll always be the Las Vegas Hilton. Or even the International Hotel. But while its great claim to fame is that Elvis played here, there’s a lot more to this Vegas institution. So here’s a little introduction to one of Las Vegas’ iconic resorts…
LVH Las Vegas
Location of the LVH
For those not familiar with the layout of the Strip, the LVH is actually located off-Strip, a block away from the main action. It sits adjacent to the Las Vegas Convention Center and can be easily reached via the monorail that runs the length of the Strip and stops right outside. However, once inside, you forget that you’re away from the Strip as the hotel is so imposing in size!
When it opened in 1969, the International Hotel was the largest in the world. Barbra Streisand was the opening night performer in the showroom; with Peggy Lee in the lounge. It was renamed the Hilton in 1971 and two additional towers were added: the east tower in 1975 and the north tower in 1978.
Here are a few more facts:
– In 1978, Leon Spinks defeated Muhammad Ali here for the World Heavyweight Championship;
– During the 1970s, the hotel also hosted Liberace, whose $300,000-a-week contract was the highest for an individual performer;
– In 1981, an arsonist named Philip Cline set fire to the hotel, causing the deaths of eight people (a statistic that should have been much higher as the arson attack followed a fire at the MGM Grand that killed 85).
Elvis: The Vegas Years
The Vegas years describe the period of the King’s career spanning 1969 to 1976 when he performed at the International/Hilton. Starting on 31 July 1969 and running until December 1976, Elvis performed a total of 837 consecutive sold-out performances in front of 2.5 million people. During his time here, he lived in the penthouse suite on the 30th floor, performing two shows a night for a month at a time.
He was due to come back in 1978 to celebrate the north towers opening, but we all know what happened a few short months later on 16 August 1977 when Elvis left the building for the very last time. There is now a statue out in front of the LVH to commemorate the entertainer who has been much parodied, ridiculed, and admired, but never bettered.
In the intervening years, the Hilton has attracted some top names. In 1993, it hosted the Vegas version of Andrew Lloyd Webbers Starlight Express; in 2006, Reba McEntire signed an exclusive engagement; and in 2005, Barry Manilow brought his wonderful Ultimate Manilow: The Hits show here for a long-term engagement.
The Hilton became the Las Vegas Hotel Casino in 2012 after its right to use the Hilton name came to an end. The recession caused the hotel to fall behind on some loans and the LVH was sold at a foreclosure auction in October 2012. However, despite its money worries, the party continues inside.
The LVH today
Fortunately, the hotel is still thriving and remains one of the top resorts in Vegas, despite stiff competition from all the new casinos that continue to spring up at an alarming rate. In fact, while it has changed its name and revamped its image over the years, the LVH remains one of the few connections to old Vegas; examples of which can be found throughout the building. You can enjoy Trent Carlini’s tribute to the King each night in the Shimmer Cabaret, or check out a show at the LVH Theater, which has been described at the last great Vegas showroom. Currently, you can find Raiding the Rock Vault, which celebrates the majesty of classic rock!
Forthcoming attractions include Peter Frampton with BB King, a show celebrating the Rat Pack, and the Las Vegas Elvis Festival. Inside the hotel, you’ll also find the usual array of dining, from fancy to casual, shopping, spa facilities, and everything else you’d expect in a top Vegas hotel.
Thank you very much…
There is a bewildering enthusiasm in Las Vegas to tear down any remnant of its history in favor of the new and shiny. Of course, it’s fun to check out the new Las Vegas hotels, and the money men understandably want to keep those greenbacks rolling in, but every time another derelict old hotel/casino is blown up, it’s hard not to feel sad that yet another piece of history has been lost.
That’s why it’s refreshing to see the LVH still going strong. It may not be a true original, but it is one of the few places where you can actually feel the history and know you’ve stood on the same ground as Elvis, Liberace, and the rest. This may no longer be the hippest or most glamorous joint in town, but it sure deserves its place as one of Vegas’ iconic hotels.
So when you’re planning your next, or first, the trip to Vegas, make sure you swing by and say hi to the King!