How Elvis’ lucrative hotel residency invented modern Las Vegas

In December 1976, Elvis Presley took the stage in Las Vegas for the final time. The King was noticeably overweight and bloated. His hair was dyed jet black, a stark contrast to his white sequined jumpsuit. He ran through a series of hits, but appeared nearly immobile, standing statically at the front of the stage, only occasionally giving a half-hearted sway or a leg jiggle.

Elvis Presley promoting movie It Happened at the World's Fair.
Elvis Presley promoting the movie “It Happened at the World’s Fair.”Getty Images

His heart didn’t appear to be in it. Elvis was simply going through the motions.

This unplanned farewell capped a troubling few years as the once-vibrant performer deteriorated before the public’s eyes.

A few months earlier, Elvis, so weak and overweight that he wasn’t able to walk from his dressing room to the theater’s elevator and often required a chair on stage, had to cancel several shows. At other performances, he rambled between songs, often about his love of karate or his 1973 divorce from his wife of…

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