The future of Elvis Presley fans being married by an impersonator in Las Vegas appears to be at risk after the owners of the King’s image told chapels to end the practice.
Authentic Brands Group, which controls Presley’s image rights, wrote to an unknown number of Vegas businesses last month, threatening legal action if they continued to use the trademarked items including “Elvis,” “Elvis Presley” and “The Kind of Rock and Roll.”
While legal experts said Nevada law meant that any lawsuits would be unlikely to succeed, many chapel operators remained in fear that their livelihoods are at stake.
“It would devastate me to have this stop,” impersonator Jesse Garon told the Las Vegas Review-Journal, adding that he was presiding over up to 650 Elvis weddings every year until the pandemic. “I wouldn’t know what to do if I couldn’t perform as Elvis for these couples. It’s at least 80% of my business as Elvis.”
“What you need to realize is, the wedding chapels are 365 days a year, because people love to be married by Elvis,” said impersonator Harry Shahoian. “I did the whole day Sunday, 22 ceremonies. I’ve done more than 30 in one day, 100 in a week, all of those Elvis-themed.”
“Our wedding industry has been struggling through the pandemic and the economic devastation it has caused,” Las Vegas Mayor Carolyn Goodman said, describing the move as an “industry-devastating act.” “These obviously are not people or a company that give a hoot about this community or its people.”
In a statement reported by The Guardian), ABG said it has no intention of trying to end Elvis weddings but that t wanted to “ensure that their use of Elvis’ name, image and likeness are officially licensed and authorized” – suggesting it wants operators to pay for using the name.
However, one such operator, Ben Lehavi, who runs three chapels, said he’s struggled to communicate with the corporation. “I have a lot of rebuttals, that ‘Elvis’ is in with generic terms like ‘aspirin,’ ‘escalator,’ ‘cellophane,’ ‘dry ice’ that are generic terms that used to be trademarked,” he noted. “But we still don’t know what ABG wants to achieve at the end of this process.”
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