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Elvis’ brother still lives in The King’s Las Vegas hotel. We met him.

David E. Stanley, stepbrother of Elvis Presley, still lives in the  Westgate Las Vegas Resort
David E. Stanley, stepbrother of Elvis Presley, still lives in the Westgate Las Vegas Resort

David E. Stanley grew up with Elvis at Graceland. He still lives in the same Las Vegas hotel where the pair spent nine years working together. He talks about the dark drug years and the moments of joy with Adam Bloodworth.

This’ll get you shook up: Elvis is in the building.

Well, his stepbrother is anyway. David E. Stanley grew up with Elvis from age four, and spent years with The King during his Las Vegas residency in the 1970s when he worked as the singer’s bodyguard and assistant.

Forty seven years after his death, he still stays in the same hotel where he worked so closely with Elvis all those years ago.

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Presley, who died in 1977 from complications to do with drug abuse, lived on the 30th floor of the Las Vegas Hilton where Stanley and he would spend many intimate moments. Between Elvis’ shows the duo would talk about girls and mess about on the rooftop, hitting golf balls towards the mountains.

Stanley was one of the closest confidantes to Presley, and now City A.M. The Magazine is the first publication to peer inside his 29th floor suite, located just metres below the original Elvis Suite where The King’s drug abuse continued to spiral.

Elvis in Las Vegas: the singer spent months in the hotel between 1969 and 1977 as part of his residency, documented in Baz Luhrmann’s Elvis biopic

“Fifty-three years ago I came here when my brother opened it, now I live here representing it. It’s kind of a cool thing. It feels good,” Stanley tells me. “What a full circle.”

Exterior view of Westgate Las Vegas Resort & Casino.
Exterior view of Westgate Las Vegas Resort & Casino.

These days the 67-year-old works as an ambassador for the Westgate Las Vegas Resort & Casino (formerly the Hilton), greeting hotel guests and talking about the history of Elvis. Stanley performs his ‘My Brother Elvis’ show in the International Theater on the same stage where The King strutted in shimmering catsuits for two shows a day between 1969 and 1977.

“There are times I will be sitting in my suite looking out the window and go, ‘God this is so surreal’,” says Stanley. “I was here when it was happening, I lived the history. They look at me at the Westgate as a historical figure who can check what’s real and what’s not. There are people who say a lot of things about Elvis that are just not true.”

Ask nicely and he’ll walk with you to the statue of Elvis in the hotel lobby to take a picture. He also pens screenplays, has written the book, My Brother Elvis, and is writing another about life after the singer’s passing.

“He’s gone but he will never, ever be completely gone,” says Stanley. “The book reveals many truths and facts. I’m not naturally a creative person, but when I’m writing about my life during the Elvis years it all flows well. It makes me feel good to get it on paper.”

How did it all happen? Stanley’s mother Dee married Elvis’s father Vernon Presley in 1960, and when Stanley was four he moved into Graceland. Presley regarded him as a younger brother, spoiling him with gifts and expensive toys.

The suite David stays in when he’s in Las Vegas is 1,200 square feet with views of Downtown Las Vegas and the mountains. Guests can book similar suites for around £550 per night. The original Elvis Suite no longer exists but the Markus Klinko Icons Sky Villa stands where it once did. If you want to sleep where The King did, that villa – with its own private rooftop pool – costs £15,000 per night – for die-hards it’s surely worth the splurge.

The King is having a moment. New films Elvis by Baz Luhrmann and Priscilla by Sofia Coppola have led international film festivals, and Luhrmann’s was nominated for Best Picture at the Oscars. In London there’s a new exhibition featuring his clothes, cars and film posters and an Elvis hologram is to gyrate its eerily realistic hips for thirsty fans in London this year.

Spotify figures from December 2022 show he had more listeners than Cardi B, DaBaby, Jay-Z and Lizzo.

“He would be very humbled,” says Stanley.

“He would just be freaked out if he saw it today, with the movie and the Elvis impersonators. Elvis is as big now as he was when he was alive. He once said: ‘This will never last, they’ll love me for a while but I’ll never be remembered.’ Well he got that wrong because he’ll never be forgotten. He’d probably think it’s funny, the wedding chapels. He’d say: ‘Whatever, people love me I guess.’”

So who was the real Elvis? Restaurants like the Golden Steer steakhouse near the Westgate Resort claim you can eat at ‘Elvis’ table’, and there is much in the city paying homage to the singer, but he wasn’t a party guy.

“I don’t want to use the word ‘boring’ but this was a job,” says Stanley. “People go ‘Oh fascinating, Elvis Presley…’ It was his job, man. It’s what he did for 20 years.

“We’d lay in the sun or go out and hit golf balls off the roof, we’d train in karate ‘cos we were martial artists, me and him and a couple other guys. There was a big floor area where we’d train for an hour or two. On Sundays we’d watch football – we just lived here, like I live here now. He couldn’t go out because he was Elvis Presley.”

The Westgate offers vistas of the Nevada mountains that encircle Las Vegas. It’s a city of constant change, but that view is the one thing that’s remained the same.

“He’d say: ‘They’re beautiful… really beautiful view’, but he didn’t have this massive love affair with Las Vegas.”

With its 68,000 crystals in the chandeliers in the lobby dating to 1969, the Westgate is an antidote to the ever-changing modernity of Las Vegas. A few of the staff worked there during the Elvis years and still push pens at the Westgate today.

There’s a lovely pool where Stanley hangs out in his downtime and, new for this year, there are relaunched rooms and themed accommodation, including the kitsch Plaid Suite, clad in blood-red tartan. It looks like the sort of place you could throw a darn good party.

Stanley saw the best and worst of the bequiffed legend. When he had energy he’d shower Stanley with praise.

“He’d say ‘believe in yourself, eliminate the fear, use your gifts, you’re big, you’re strong, you’re a competitor’.” He’d offer girl advice. “‘Treat her this way, treat like a lady, treat her like she’s the best thing in the world. She’ll hurt you but treat her that way anyway.’ He was very big-brotherish and talked a lot about faith. He believed in Christ, that was his biggest advice: ‘embrace your faith’.” Then there were the dark days.

Stanley has devoted his life to breaking the stigma around Elvis’ drug abuse. “I used to say to him ‘It’s a little much’,” he remembers of the pill popping that would take his life.

“He’d say ‘None of your business, if I want your opinion I’ll give it to you. If you have a problem you can always leave’.”

He was there that day at Graceland when he died; when I ask, he diligently recounts the story, as he must have done hundreds of times before. We’re talking in an ordinary meeting room just off from the hotel’s timeshare sales area. There’s clearly still a rawness to recounting the singer’s final hours; you can feel that it hurts to remember the blow-by-blow of those minutes out loud.

My Brother Elvis is Stanley’s way of shining a light on the abusive relationship Elvis had with drugs, as well as his own.

“I hope that these revelations of my time with Elvis might save others from the pain I suffered during the final years of his life,” he says. “It’s my way of reaching out to those who loved Elvis in the hopes of touching
their lives as much as he touched mine. I felt it was my responsibility to write a book about these realities of Elvis beyond the glitz, glamour and fun. He was human, and his very human frailties and vulnerabilities cost him his life. If addiction could happen to Elvis, it can happen to anyone.”