As neo-soul chart-rocker Cee Lo Green prepares for his Red Bull Soundclash bout with The Ting Tings in Las Vegas on Saturday, we take a look at those who’ve made a big splash in Sin City…
Few artists are as synonymous with Nevada’s gambling capital as The King. Las Vegas featured prominently throughout Presley’s chequered life – he made a poorly reviewed residency there in 1956 (which one Newsweek critic described as sounding “like a jug of corn liquor at a champagne party"), he got married to Priscilla there in 1967 and, of course, he immortalized the city in celluloid with the film Viva Las Vegas – but it wasn’t until after his ’68 Comeback Special that the fates of icon and city became forever intertwined. Following 57 shows at the International Hotel, where he sweated in a rhinestone-encrusted jumpsuit, Elvis defied the critics who saw his residency as a bad move as he opened the floodgates to countless other major acts who saw a stint in the Bright Light City as a great way to increase their kudos (and make some serious moolah).
While many acts flood to Vegas for their moment in the spotlight, few are born and bred there. Fewer still are gifted with the talent to be heard above the fruit machines, but then The Killers are one in a million. In 2001, after lead singer Brandon Flowers was abandoned by his first band (a synthpop band known as Blush Response), he decided he wanted to be in a rock band and began searching for a guitar player. He eventually came across an ad posted in a Vegas newspaper by guitarist Dave Keuning. The pair began practising and writing together and, by the end of 2001, they had recorded a demo tape (which featured the early versions of Mr. Brightside and Under The Gun) with the help of Dell Star on bass and drummer Matt Norcross. The rest, as they say, is history, as a debut album, which took its name from Sam's Town Hotel and Gambling Hall in Las Vegas, launched them into the stratosphere – and we don’t mean the hotel on the Strip with the rollercoaster on the roof.
When it comes to boxing venues, they don’t come any bigger or more prestigious than Vegas. And when it comes to boxing legends, few can hold a chewed ear to Mike Tyson. So it’s perhaps unsurprising that the two go so well together. Beginning with a title defence against James Smith in 1987 and continuing with numerous successful fights, a wedding and a hilarious cameo in The Hangover, Tyson won’t be severing his ties with Sin City any time soon.
Originally a group of actors originally who orbited around Humphrey Bogart, it wasn’t until the mid-1960s when it was used by the Press to describe Frank Sinatra and friends that the term Rat Pack became synonymous with Las Vegas. Variously calling themselves “The Summit" or "The Clan", Sinatra, Dean Martin, Sammy Davis, Jr., Peter Lawford, Joey Bishop and various other members earned a reputation for hard-drinking and fast-living in the Nevada sunshine, all the while defining an era that Vegas is still trying to recapture today. While the filmic likes of Ocean’s Eleven and Robin And The Seven Hoods failed to capture the public's imagination, the same can’t be said for their legendary live shows and even more iconic after-party shenanigans.
What The Rat Pack did for smoking, drinking and fornicating in The Entertainment Capital Of The World, Hunter S. Thompson did for copious drug usage. A famous proponent of Gonzo journalism and a regular dabbler in illicit substances, he made the Capital Of Second Chances come to psychedelic life with his mind-bending novel, Fear And Loathing In Las Vegas – later adapted into a cracking film starring Johnny Depp and directed by Terry Gilliam. While we strongly advise against following in Thompson’s addled footsteps, there are few people who have seen Sin City in such a unique light.
While Evel Knievel will always be known as the first daredevil to fly over the Strip without wings, Australian stuntman Robbie Madison is undoubtedly the greatest record breaker. On December 31, 2007 – on the 40th anniversary of Knievel jumping the fountains at Caesar’s Palace – Maddison smashed the world motorcycle jumping record as he travelled 98.34 meters on his motorbike. In fact, he did it twice to be sure and was remarkably not injured in either jump. Then, two years later Robbie returned to Vegas to complete his most audacious stunt yet, as he successfully flew 29.26 meters up onto the Arc de Triomphe in front of the Paris Las Vegas hotel and then descended an 80-foot drop off the monument to return safely to ground level. With a pair of aces like that up his sleeve, it’s little wonder Robbie is a Vegas icon.