Westgate Las Vegas celebrates its golden jubilee

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It was a party 50 years in the making.

Westgate Las Vegas celebrated its golden jubilee Saturday night with a cocktail reception and dinner party that were warm-up acts for a performance by the King.

The evening played out as a family affair.

“A lot of hotels in Las Vegas intimidate people,” Westgate owner David Siegel told the assembled guests. “We are the friendly hotel. We treat everyone like a high roller.”

Siegel’s hotel opened in July of 1969 as the International. Barbra Streisand and Peggy Lee performed on the new resort’s opening night, but it was another superstar who would become synonymous with the place.

Elvis Presley played his first show at the International on July 31, 1969. That performance led to 636 consecutive sold out shows over a seven-year run.

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The hotel became world famous during its 1971-2012 run as the Las Vegas Hilton. After renovation following a 1981 fire the Hilton grew to 3,174 rooms and was the largest hotel in the world for nine years.

Siegel, whose Westgate Resorts took over the property in 2014, honored 18-year employee Cami Christensen, whom he named general manager last October.

“I bought Cami, and the hotel came with her,” Siegel quipped.

The hotel also recognized more than 50 employees who’ve been with the property for more than four decades.

The Westgate Las Vegas has rebounded from a short run in which it languished under the moniker LVH. Since Siegel took over there have been more than $100 million in renovations with plans for more.

“Can you imagine what this place will look like in another 50 years?” Siegel asked the gathering.

Presley’s run at the International’s showroom was something of a career relaunch for the “King of Rock ’n’ Roll.” On Saturday night, it seemed he’d been reborn.

Ted Torres Martin, who’s been performing as Elvis for 14 years, led the King’s backing band, the Sweet Inspirations, through an evening-capping suite of Presley favorites. Original Sweet Inspirations singer Estelle Brown led the International Theater audience through a rendition of “The Lord’s Prayer.”

Martin leaned heavily on songs from Presley’s 1969 comeback album, “From Elvis in Memphis.” Martin’s performed his “The Soul of the King” tribute set on both Friday and Saturday.

The International Theater is currently home to Barry Manilow, whose Westgate residency was extended in April. Manilow returns to the Las Vegas stage Sept. 19 after a summer engagement on Broadway. 

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About the Author

Ched Whitney

Ched Whitney has been a journalist in Las Vegas since 1994. He worked for the Las Vegas Review-Journal for 18 years, where he was the paper’s art director for 12. Since becoming a freelancer in 2012, his work has appeared at ESPN.com, AOL, The Seattle Times and UNLV Magazine, among others. ​

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