As a Las Vegas virgin, I was enthralled to visit there last week (02.09.01). I arrived in the early afternoon, fully expecting a weekend of gambling, drinking, and of course, shameless elvis worship.

I was shocked! Not an Elvis in sight! I had been on the ground for an entire 15 minutes, and I had yet to even see someone with a rhinestone cape! Sure, there were enough slot machines to fill a sizable chunk of the Grand Canyon, but no Elvii!

This simply would not do.

After waiting for my friends to get their bags from the merry-go-round of doom (always, always carry-on!), we went to go hail a cab. I thought it would be a certain thing to at least find an Elvis cab driver. Instead we had some sort of cowboy / deranged lunatic / rainman figure who mumbled all the way to our hotel.

This was beginning to get grim, friends.

Upon our arrival to the hotel, I found a little solace... Elvis slot machines! Surely I would find the King here!

Alas, there were none. However, I did happen to meet a pig farmer named Wayne from Wyoming who was, oddly enough, peach scented.

But I digress... It had been a full six hours now, and there were no sexy elvii, cloned elvii, no Flying Elvii, nothing.

However, in some deli below the Tropicana hotel, I was able to drown myself in an Elvis sandwich; peanut butter, bananas, and all.

I feel so let down, even a little silly, because I just went to Vegas to have Elvises lovechild.

In the end, after 72 hours of drinking and gambling, I finally saw an Elvis. Not a bad one either. The problem was that he was surrounded by a throng of tourists, who all had evidently come for the king. I couldn't get within 2 yards of him.

The Elvis population in Las Vegas hit its peak in the years immediately following the King's death in 1977. In 1978 and '79, it seemed to my young self that you couldn't swing a cat in that town without hitting a gyrating, bespangled singer sporting vast sideburns, bell-bottomed pants, and a single name shouted from the glittering marquees - Live On Stage: ALAN!

Once the Elvis impersonator became a cliche, the numbers began to dwindle. But the real death knell for the Vegas Elvis, I think, began when these hapless entertainers became icons of postmodern irony and tongue-in-cheek hipness. Suddenly, we all wanted Elvis. We wanted to see Elvis, hear Elvis, watch Elvis jump out of a plane, be wed by an Elvis minister! C'mon, dance for us! Do the sneering thing! Suddenly the audience wasn't laughing with the impersonator anymore, but at him. Worse yet, they were laughing at Elvis himself.

Now Elvis Presley is once again revered in Las Vegas as that same generation comes to realize that the grotesque behemoth they remember from childhood was actually a brilliant, talented performer. One still sees Elvis impersonators walking the streets once in a while, but their day is done and a new era of Elvisity reigns. But who knows? A new movie in which a gang of Elvii rob a casino is coming out soon, and may invigorate the breed and cast them in a whole new light.

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