This year marks the fiftieth anniversary of Elvis Presley’s marriage to Priscilla Beaulieu. And it happened in Las Vegas.
It was May 1, 1967. Elvis was thirty-two. Priscilla was twenty-one. They had met eight years before. He was in the army in Germany, and her father was stationed on a military base there. Eventually, she moved into Graceland. Elvis proposed just before Christmas 1966.
Then the planning began. They wanted the wedding to be private, and it was. But this was Elvis Presley, and his manager was Tom Parker. There was bound to be some glitz.
Early the morning of May 1, Elvis, Priscilla, and the wedding party went from Palm Springs to Las Vegas. And just to give it an extra Las Vegas connection, they borrowed Frank Sinatra’s private jet for the trip. They arrived in Nevada and got their marriage license at about 3:30 a.m. They went to the Aladdin Hotel, owned by Milton Prell, and one of his private suites. Prell had been part of the group that built the Club Bingo and turned the property into the Sahara. Elvis used to hang out there. Prell also had a place in Palm Springs, near Tom Parker.
At 10 a.m., Nevada Supreme Court Justice David Zenoff performed the ceremony. Prell and Zenoff knew each other, as just about everybody in Las Vegas did in those days. They also had been active together in the Jewish community. The best men were Joe Esposito and Marty Lacker, members in good standing of the Memphis Mafia, Elvis’s entourage. The maid of honor was Priscilla’s sister Michelle. It was a small wedding party, and it included a Las Vegas lounge legend: comedian Redd Foxx.
Only two photographers were in the room. Parker brought them into the ceremony and hit one of them over the head with his cane when he tried to move. Then came the inevitable press conference, followed by a reception featuring … get ready … a five-foot, six-tiered wedding cake of yellow sponge filled with apricot marmalade and Bavarian cream. They had a simple buffet: champagne, eggs Minnette, southern fried chicken, salmon, oysters Rockefeller, roast suckling pig, and ham. Hungry yet? The buffet cost an estimated ten thousand dollars to put on.
At the time, Elvis was a big star, yes, but you might say he was in-between times. His records and movies weren’t doing THAT great. But two years later, he would make his big Las Vegas showroom entrance at the new International Hotel, and sell out more than eight hundred straight performances. By 1973, he was one of the biggest stars in Las Vegas … and the marriage was over. It produced Lisa Marie, Elvis’s only child, born nine months after the wedding.
Milton Prell died a year after that, in 1974, after having sold the Aladdin. Prell suffered from assorted health problems in his later years. The Aladdin would have other kinds of problems, including gangsters tied to the Detroit and St. Louis mobs. Later, Wayne Newton would own it … Las Vegas entertainment legends fit into that hotel’s history, for sure. The Aladdin would be imploded in 1998 to be replaced by a new Aladdin, now Planet Hollywood. Elvis never performed at the Aladdin, and as various modern accounts point out, there were no impersonators at his wedding … or performing the wedding, for that matter.