Every year, thousands of tourists visiting Las Vegas have recourse to them: look-alikes of Elvis Presley who carry out express marriages, uniting the lovebirds of a day or a lifetime in more or less kitsch “chapels”. But the company that manages the rights of the late “King” is not feeling and has ordered chapels with the theme of Elvis and his imagery to cease their activities or to comply.
Authentic Brands Group (ABG), which took control of Elvis Presley’s estate rights in 2013 – as well as those of Marilyn Monroe and Muhammad Ali – sent letters of formal notice last month, prompting outcry from lookalikes, chapel owners and the mayor of Las Vegas himself.
“Elvis Presley has long made Las Vegas his home and his name has become synonymous with Las Vegas marriage,” Jason Whaley, president of the city’s Marriage Chamber, which represents the thriving industry, told AFP. “The Vegas Marriage Chamber shares the concerns of many chapels and look-alikes whose survival is at stake, especially as many are still trying to recover financially from the hardships caused by the Covid-related closures,” he explains.
ABG on Thursday apologized for the move, saying the group supports Elvis fans. “We are sorry that recent communication with a small number of chapels has created confusion and concern. This was never our intention,” the company said in a statement to AFP. Artists taking up his works, look-alikes, chapels and fan clubs, “every one of his bands helps keep Elvis in tune with new generations of fans”she continues.
On Wednesday, the Las Vegas Review-Journal site indicated that the ABG company had proposed to the chapels concerned to continue their activities within the framework of “partnerships” financial, such as annual deductibles. “Their solution is to pay $20,000 a year to continue doing what we’ve been doing for nine years,” says Kayla Collins, co-owner of LasVegasElvis WeddingChapel.com and Little Chapel of the Hearts. “It wasn’t on the table a few days ago. Frankly, I think bringing the matter to the public square made them think,” she believes.
Weddings with an Elvis theme or celebrated by look-alikes of the singer have been a very lucrative business in Las Vegas since the 1970s. For example, it costs up to $1,600 for a “formula” allowing the happy couple to be united by Elvis in the “Viva Las Vegas” chapel aboard a 1964 pink Cadillac convertible. According to the Las Vegas Marriage Chamber, the industry has annual sales of $2.5 billion.
Harry Shahoian, one of dozens of Las Vegas-based Elvis lookalikes, told the Las Vegas Review-Journal that he officiated “all day Sunday, 22 ceremonies”.