Las Vegas is known as “The Entertainment Capital of the World,” and for good reason. The city has claimed residency to some of history’s greatest stars and starlets, some of whom earned their invitation to the Vegas stage and others who saw their popularity skyrocket thanks to city’s exposure. Here are a few of the city’s most legendary performers of past and present:
Liberace was a flamboyant showman who entertained Las Vegas for decades, from his first appearance in 1944 until his last at Caesars Palace in 1986. He described himself as, “the most amazing piano virtuoso of the present day” and a “one-man Disneyland.” Few who watched him perform would disagree. His extravagant acts and exotic costumes fit the personality of the city, and his fans loved him for it.
Elvis’ career had hit a dip before he reintegrated himself into the American consciousness with his 1968 television special, “Elvis.” He then headed to Las Vegas for an incredible run from 1969-76 that included 837 consecutive sellouts. Although the singer had been hesitant to return to the city after having a bad experience there in 1956, his first show back was performed in front of a star-studded audience that gave him several heartfelt standing ovations. Although Elvis performed his final Vegas show in 1976, you can still find Elvis impersonators roaming the city keeping his rock-and-roll spirit alive.
Frank Sinatra had been experiencing a decline in his career in the late 1940s, but found renewed fame when made Las Vegas his home from 1951-94. He brought his own sense of style to Las Vegas and helped its reputation evolve from a Western town to a world class entertainment destination. Numerous Hollywood celebrities headed to Las Vegas to watch his show. Famous actor and fan Gregory Peck said that Sinatra captured the world’s imagination with a “sense of free-floating fun and frolic.”
Wayne Newton and Las Vegas are inseparable in many people’s minds. This is especially true of his famous song, “Danke Schoen.” Mr. Las Vegas performed more than 30,000 shows here, starting in 1959 at the Fremont Hotel with the Newton Brothers. He celebrated his 25,000th performance in Las Vegas in 1996, and his latest act in the city wrapped up in 2010.
Siegfried & Roy are best known for their innovative magic show featuring real lions and tigers. They performed 30,000 spellbinding shows from 1967 to 2003, capturing the imaginations of hundreds of thousands of fans. Anyone who has seen the daring magic show is familiar with the word “SARMOTI,” an acronym that described “Siegfried and Roy, Masters of the Impossible.” They used it on stage in lieu of “abracadabra.”
Penn & Teller is another famous Vegas-based magician duo. These entertainers have been honing their illusionist skills since 1975 and started receiving national acclaim in the late 1980s. The 'Bad Boys of Magic' first performed in Las Vegas in 1993. Fans are pleased to learn that the Penn & Teller Magic Show is still going strong at the Rio All-Suites Hotel and Casino since they made it their home in 2001. This duo’s entertaining act is both elusive and illuminating, as they blow away the smoke and mirrors to reveal the secret behind some of their mind-blowing tricks to the audience.
International superstar, Celine Dion, earned her claim to fame long before she started performing in Las Vegas. She took a three year hiatus from singing at the height of her career and returned to the spotlight when she accepted a five-year residency at Caesars Palace in 2003. Nearly 3 million of her fans enjoyed her live shows during this incredible run that helped start a trend of top stars performing in these types of residency shows in Las Vegas. According to Stephen Brown, the director of the Center for Business and Economic Research in Las Vegas, Dion “definitely” had more of an influence on this city than Elvis, Liberace and Sinatra combined. In 2011, Dion returned to the Colosseum stage at Caesars Palace to perform for adoring fans from around the globe.
Jubilee is a famous burlesque show that started its Vegas run in 1981. Las Vegas has been known for its showgirls since the 1950s, and this production is the most revered of its genre and has earned a reputation as a classic Vegas show. The set is epic, and even includes a 3-ton bull in its “Samson and Delilah” scene and a reenactment of the sinking of the Titanic. This adult show reopened in March 2014 with a reimagined, modernized form described by The Las Vegas Sun as an “acrobatic, athletic animal with a knockout punch.”
Las Vegas has been an entertainment hub since 1944, when Liberace introduced the glitz and glam of the Vegas show to the world. The current generation of these all-time great acts – Celine Dion, Penn & Teller and Jubilee – are earning their place in the history book of iconic Las Vegas performers right next to Sinatra himself.
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