Even amidst a global pandemic, Clark County’s Las Vegas has persevered. The lights are on, the slot reels are spinning, and profits continue to climb (a blip in May notwithstanding).
Las Vegas is the land of novelty. With its celebrity resident shows, gambling galore, and casinos that still allow smoking, Vegas has maintained itself as a relic and dome of serotonin for any visitor.
However, one iconic Vegas feature could be on the verge of disappearing: Its Elvis-themed wedding chapels.
Will Rock Live On?
Being married by Elvis in Las Vegas has become an American tradition that has spread around the world. But now, it appears this pillar of Vegas culture is at risk.
Two Las Vegas chapels – Vegas Weddings and Viva Las Vegas Weddings – have been sent cease-and-desist letters by Authentic Brands Group (ABG).
ABG is a brand-management company whose clientele includes Elvis Presley Enterprises, the current owners of The King’s likeness.
The two chapels shared their cease-and-desist letters from ABG with CNN. In the letter, ABG claims these chapels are violating its client’s intellectual property rights. Specifically, it says that they give:
…the false impression that Elvis Presley Enterprises has approved, endorsed, or sponsored the Infringing Chapel. The Infringing Chapel is clearly trading off the Elvis Presley intellectual property rights, image, name and likeness without the consent of Elvis Presley Enterprises.
It does seem bizarre that this issue has never come up before. After all, the Vegas chapel industry has openly used Elvis themes and Elvis impersonators for almost half a century.
ABG has partially backpedaled on its demands. On June 2, CNN also reported:
Authentic Brands Group apologized for causing “confusion and concern” with their recent communication with some Las Vegas chapels. ‘That was never our intention,’ ABG said. ‘We are working with the chapels to ensure that the usage of Elvis’ name, image and likeness are in keeping with his legacy.’
Chapel Manager Explains ABG’s Demands
However, in a follow-up interview with NPR on June 5, Vegas Weddings chapel manager Sarah Lester made ABG’s intentions clearer. Though ABG isn’t outright banning Elvis’s likeness from being involved in the ritual union of lives, it does appear they want a cut of the spoils.
Lester explained ABG wanted licensing agreement. The cost of licensing was not immediately made clear, which may have contributed to the controversy. It turns out ABG has simply requested “a few hundred dollars per year” from chapels in exchange for the right to use the singer’s name and likeness.
ABG’s prior statement of “working with chapels” may not have accurately conveyed the sort of relationship it was hoping for.
Who Initiated The Complaint?
That still leaves the question of why now, after 50 years, there’d be a sudden move to crack down on unauthorized Elvis impersonators, specifically those involved in matrimonial proceedings. Surely there cannot be a sudden shortage of interest in Elvis merchandise. COVID-19 could not have hit Graceland this hard.
Priscilla Presley, Elvis’s former wife, commented to TMZ that it was not her decision:
That has nothing to do with me.
Did something else cause ABG to become more zealous in protecting the King’s likeness?
Baz Luhrmann recently released a two-and-a-half hour-long feature film simply titled Elvis. It’s based on The King’s life and features his time in Vegas. The film has received positive reviews but has it rekindled greater interest in this old Las Vegas wedding tradition? Who knows.
One way or another, it’s a strange twist on an already strange tradition. Hopefully, ABG and the chapels can come to an agreement, as Vegas wouldn’t quite be Vegas without it.