Posted by: Jerry Garrett | December 13, 2011

Elvis Leaving Las Vegas’ Heartbreak Hotel

"Viva Elvis" means Elvis lives...but not so much in Vegas anymore.


What is the shelf life for dead celebrities?

In the case of Elvis Presley, who in 2012 will have been dead for 35 years, the expiration date is nigh upon us. At least that’s the case in one notable instance: MGM Resorts International is asking Cirque du Soleil to euthanize its “Viva Elvis” show.

The show, which made its debut at the swish new Aria casino in 2009, must leave the building by the end of 2012. What its replacement will be has not been announced, although Cirque du Soleil is apparently still going to be the producer for whatever it is. The search must be on for newer dead celebs. Viva Mel Torme, anyone?

The indie publication Las Vegas Weekly says the show’s ticket sales have been Return to Sender, and the quality of the show has been Heartbreak Hotel. But they don’t exactly offer a lot of stats to back that up. Some may beg to differ.

In fact, 42 percent of Vegas show survey respondents on TripAdvisor rated Viva Elvis “excellent”.

The Cirque du Soleil Vegas show everybody loves to hate seems to be “Believe” at the Luxor. Only seven percent rated “Believe” excellent; while 61 percent rated it “terrible”! (Viva Elvis only got a 14 percent terrible rating, btw).

But “Believe” soldiers on at the Luxor because, I guess, expectations are lower at the Luxor. Its theme, of course, is dead pharaohs – who have been dead for millenniums longer than Elvis.

The termination notice for Viva Elvis is the first one the high-flying Cirque du Soleil troupe has ever received.

So the question can appropriately be asked: Is Cirque wearing out its Vegas welcome? That’s one theory; they do have more than a few shows in production around town, including a Beatles tribute. They can seem spread thinner than a Vegas buffet prime rib.

But could it also be that Aria – a part of the financially precarious CityCenter resort, a Heartbreak Hotel that barely got built – is gambling its appeal on the youth market. And Viva Elvis is just not the right fit; after all, it’s an homage to a celebrity who died in 1977 – well before most of Generation X, Y, or Z was ever born.

“Attendance levels have not been meeting expectations,” said MGM, in a terse statement about Elvis’ rumored demise.

This is not the first death notice for Elvis and his attractions in Vegas. Elvis-a-Rama Museum, which combined collections of several Presley fans when it opened in 1999, closed in 2006; most of its fixtures and memorabilia have since been liquidated. A plan, announced at that time, was to re-group and come back with a new “world class” Elvis attraction in Vegas; those plans appear to have been still-born. No further word has been heard from the principals. (Relax, Elvis is still performing marriages at the Graceland Chapel here.)

Elvis isn’t the only dead celebrity to suffer indignities at the hands of forgetful Vegas patrons. The Liberace Museum closed last year “indefinitely, but not forever”, its directors announced. And Liberace, the fey pianist, has only been dead, by comparison, 25 years.

But Elvis is still a featured performer in the “Legends in Concert” show, now at Harrah’s (It began in 1983 at the former Imperial Palace).

And Vegas still can be counted on to keep its head firmly in the past, with the 2011 opening of Cirque’s “Michael Jackson: The Immortal World Tour”.

Let the countdown begin on the staying power of MJ’s ghost.

Jerry Garrett

December 13, 2011


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