Las Vegas love chapels that use Elvis Presley’s likeness could become Heartbreak hotels.
The licensing company that controls the name and likeness of “The King” is ordering Sin City Chapel operators to stop using Elvis at themed ceremonies, the Las Vegas Review-Journal reported Monday. Authentic Brands Group sent cease and desist letters in early May to several chapels, which should now be in compliance.
With Elvis so closely tied to the Vegas wedding industry, some say the move could decimate their businesses.
“We’re a family business, and now we hang out with the big dogs,” said Kayla Collins, who operates LasVegasElvisWeddingChapel.com and Little Hearts Chapel with her husband. “It’s our bread and butter. I don’t understand. We were just picking up our pace thanks to COVID and then it happens.
Clark County Clerk Lynn Goya, who ran a marketing campaign promoting Las Vegas as a wedding destination, said the order for chapels to stop using Elvis couldn’t come to a worse time for the sector.
The city’s wedding industry generates $2 billion a year, and officials say Elvis-themed weddings account for a significant number of ceremonies performed.
“It could destroy part of our wedding industry. A number of people could lose their livelihoods,” Goya said.
Last weekend, a chapel saw its Elvis impersonator change into a leather jacket, jeans and fedora for a ‘rock ‘n’ roll-themed ceremony, the Review-Journal reported.
Graceland Wedding Chapel, which hosts 6,400 Elvis-themed weddings a year, has yet to receive a warning, according to director Rod Musum.
In the cease and desist letter, the company said it would end the unauthorized use of Presley’s “name, likeness, vocal image, and other elements of Presley’s personality. Elvis Presley in advertisements, merchandise and more”. The letter also stated that “Elvis”, “Elvis Presley”” and “The King of Rock and Roll” are protected marks.
In a statement Wednesday, Authentic Brands Group said it has strong relationships with Elvis tribute artists and fan festivals. There is “no intention of closing chapels that offer Elvis Las Vegas packages.”
“We seek to partner with each of these small businesses to ensure that their use of Elvis’s name, image and likeness is officially authorized and licensed by the estate, so that they can continue in business.” , said Authentic Brands Group. “Elvis is woven into the fabric of Las Vegas history.”
The licensing company oversees the estates of big names like movie star Marilyn Monroe and boxer Muhammad Ali and 50 consumer brands.
The order should not result in legal action against Elvis-themed stage shows in Las Vegas such as “All Shook Up” because impersonating someone for live performances such as shows is considered an exception under Nevada’s publicity rights law, according to Mark Tratos, a local attorney who helped draft the statute.
“An Elvis show is a performer who basically entertains others by recreating that person on stage,” Tratos said.
Presley became indelibly linked to Sin City in the 60s and 70s. His 1964 film, “Viva Las Vegas”, produced a title track that became the city’s unofficial theme. In July 1969, Presley redefined Vegas residency with his return to the stage at the Las Vegas International Hotel. What started as a four-week gig grew into over 600 shows and lasted until December 1976.
Presley himself married in Las Vegas in 1967 to his wife Priscilla, cementing his association with Vegas weddings.
Kent Ripley, whose business is called Elvis Weddings, said he had never had this problem in 25 years of performing as Elvis.
“They want to protect the Elvis brand. But what are they protecting by keeping Elvis away from the public? Ripley asked.