350px IMAGE 4Before billboards for Tiesto and Steve Aoki lined Interstate 15, Elvis Presley, the King of Rock and Roll, ruled over Las Vegas. In fact, for most of us over the age of 35, Las Vegas and Elvis Presley are as common a combination as burgers and fries or peanut butter and jelly (although, the King did prefer peanut butter and bananas). The 1992 film Honeymoon in Vegas, starring James Caan and Nicholas Cage, certainly played up the ubiquitousness of Elvis in the city of lights, featuring Elvises of every size, shape, and ethnic background.

“I’m Larry Bird in the fourth quarter.”

Steve Connolly has been an Elvis impersonator in Las Vegas since 1996. He performs his show, The Spirit of the King, five times a week at the Four Queens Hotel, and there is absolutely no cheesiness to his act. He looks and sounds the part, and even has moves on stage that most men his age could only dream of doing.

The Elvis act was not Connolly’s idea. Back in his native Boston, someone who was blown away seeing him perform Jailhouse Rock with his band suggested that he take on the persona of the King. Even the idea of moving to Vegas was not really his idea. He tried to pursue a career as a storyboard artist in Los Angeles, but opted for the more lucrative world of Elvis in the Nevada desert.

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The Four Queens Hotel on Fremont Street

During the early days of his career in Las Vegas, he performed his Elvis act for four years at the MGM, including a million dollar show on the Strip. In his first year alone, he performed as the King 1500 times! An art school graduate, he’s also harnessed his talents to create paintings paying homage to Elvis, as well as civil rights leaders John F. Kennedy and Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

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Besides his Elvis career, Steve Connolly is a talented artist who sells his paintings of the King to fans.

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Connolly draws inspiration from Celtics legend Larry Bird.

When asked about what still keeps him going after a storied 22-year career playing the King of Rock and Roll, Connolly explains that it is his competitiveness. He also draws inspiration from another legend, who played forward for his hometown Celtics: Larry Bird. When he gets on stage, he explains, “I’m Larry Bird in the fourth quarter.”

When he gets into costume, he has the sole objective of delivering the best performance for his audience. And he certainly succeeds, connecting with them with his charm and humor. He always considers the fact that attendees of his show could have chosen over 65 other performances in Las Vegas on that evening, but opted for The Spirit of the King. Therefore, he gives them the most unforgettable Elvis performance of their lives. It would be difficult to argue that fact, given the number of followers that he has on his social media pages, from as far away as the U.K., Germany and Australia.

When I asked him if the decline in Elvis shows in Las Vegas made him nervous, he explained that, much like Coca-Cola or Apple, the King is one of the most recognizable names in the world. And because of that, people from far out reaches want to have the Elvis experience, especially in Las Vegas. The King will always have an association with this city. Music may have evolved over the years, but the name “Elvis” is synonymous with rock and roll and Las Vegas.

As he aptly says in the closing lines of his show, “Elvis has not left the building.”

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