As a young teen, I remember sitting in front of the television with a tape recorder watching the movie “Viva Las Vegas” starring two icons in the prime of their lives – Elvis Presley and the often referred to as “sex kitten,” Ann Margret. I loved the movie so much I would record some of the flirtatious banter between the two, especially when they sang together. The movie is about a race car driver meeting a beautiful girl by chance then searching all over Las Vegas to find her. To this day, I think “Viva Las Vegas” is one of the great romantic movies ever about boy meeting girl.
I remember for my 21st birthday my father gave me the choice of cash or a trip to Las Vegas. I took the trip to Las Vegas. I didn’t know at the time (honest, I didn’t), but I stayed at same hotel where the pool scene in “Viva Las Vegas” was filmed, the Tropicana Hotel and Casino. Elvis’ character, in the form of a song, tries to persuade Ann Margret’s character to have dinner with him. The two actually fell in love in real life and if you watch the movie, you’ll see why. Their chemistry together is off the charts.
Years later, I was exhibiting at a travel tradeshow in Sacramento when I struck up a conversation with a fellow exhibitor representing the Hotel San Remo in Las Vegas. She said anytime I wanted a complimentary room at the San Remo to call her. Around the same time, I read that THEE Ann Margret would be performing her stage show at Caesar’s Palace in Las Vegas. I quickly called my friend and asked her if she’d be interested in going. She was. In fact, she knew someone at Caesar’s Palace that might be able to get us tickets close to the stage.
It was Ann Margret’s comeback show. Her first appearance in Las Vegas in two years. Our seats were at a table right on the stage. Sitting across the table from us were a couple huge Ann Margret fans. One of them showed us a large diamond ring with the initials “AM” on it. When Ann Margret came out and performed many of the songs from the movie “Viva Las Vegas,” it was surreal. She had just turned 51 and was as drop dead gorgeous as ever. After one number, she accepted a bouquet of flowers from her mother who was in the audience. Then, not long after, she walked near the part of the stage where I was sitting and reached out and shook my hand. Wow! Her first live show in two years, and I’m the first hand she shakes (coincidence, I know). She’s a born performer, so the show was great. For me, seeing her was amazing and a dream come true.
If you haven’t seen the movie “Viva Las Vegas,” I highly recommend it. I’ll be staying at Caesar’s Palace this summer. While there, I’ll have to take a few minutes to think back to the night one of my favorite movies came to life.