Monday, October 11, 2021 | 2 a.m
Alonzo Langstaff was pushing a luggage cart through the Old International Hotel on the way to the property’s elevator that day in the 1970s.
When the door opened, Langstaff saw none other than Elvis Presley already inside. Langstaff this week marks 50 years of working at the property, now called Westgate Las Vegas, and can proudly rehash stories of run-ins with Elvis and Liberace.
Yes, it’s been a crazy hunting career, especially that night meeting the “Memphis Flash”.
“I saw him in the corner (of the elevator) with that white outfit,” Langstaff said. “He was thin back then and he had his guys with him. I started backing up, but he said I had to get in right away. He told me he was going to have a hot dog and that I was working, and he didn’t want to stop me from doing my job. So Presley moved to make room for the luggage cart.
“We went down to the same floor and then we went in opposite directions and that was it,” Langstaff said. “At the time, artists were more accessible. Elvis was very nice. Artists today, some don’t even want you to watch them. I have met a lot of artists over the years.
Langstaff, 71, started at the resort on October 12, 1971 and has seen it undergo numerous ownership changes and renovations. And he’s not the only employee celebrating the 50-year milestone this week, as close friend and fellow hunter Earl Manson started two days later on October 14.
“It’s still something I have to hear about,” Manson said with a laugh as he stood by the main entrance to Westgate last week. “When you’re 50, what’s two days? I don’t envy him.
Resort officials said the couple were so popular with customers that some repeat customers had asked one or the other to handle their bags for years.
More than 60 employees have worked at the property for at least 40 years, a testament to the management of the complex, Langstaff said.
Langstaff said one of the main reasons is the bond between employees and management. They treat everyone like family and let the employees do their jobs, he said.
“They have treated me very well here over the years; there was never a reason for me to leave, ”Langstaff said. “Property is property. This has changed over the years. We started out as International, then we were the Las Vegas Hilton and the Las Vegas Hotel. Management is good here. We have probably the best president we have ever had. “
It would be Cami Christensen, who started at the resort as a hotel front desk clerk two decades ago and worked his way up the property management ladder. She became President and CEO of Westgate three years ago.
Perhaps that’s in part because all three are from rural states – Christensen from Iowa, Langstaff from Arkansas, and Manson from Louisiana – or maybe they all just clicked, but the three speak tenderly to each other.
When Manson came over to take care of some business on one of his recent days off, Christensen didn’t hesitate before greeting him at first glance with a warm hug.
“We saw (Christensen) rise through the ranks,” said Manson, who is affectionately known as “Pops” in the complex. “She has always admired what we do and praised us. She has never forgotten us.
Christensen said it has always been important for Westgate management to foster a family atmosphere.
“In today’s age, no one thinks of committing for 50 years to one place, but that’s what Pops and Alonzo did,” she said. “It’s quite astonishing. There is something special here which is why I stayed for so long.
This longevity has led to some memorable encounters.
Elvis, Liberace, Barbara Streisand and Wayne Newton were all regular performers at different times at the property’s International Theater. Barry Manilow still plays there. Langstaff once drove Liberace home after a show.
And for two years in the 1970s, it was Manson’s job to take Presley’s concert outfits to the cleaner every day. These uniforms, he said, were usually drenched in sweat.
“Nobody wanted to do it because he worked so hard on stage, those uniforms stank,” Manson said. ” I said that I’ll do it. At that time, these uniforms were heavy; they could have weighed about 25 pounds.
Manson has been single since his wife’s death in 1978, which makes his working family particularly important to him. They gave her a lot of advice on raising her three adult children.
“I saw people. I love talking to people and hearing their stories, ”Manson said. “I will do this job until my body tells me I can’t.”
Like Manson, Langstaff said he didn’t know how much longer he would work. He knows it won’t be forever, but 50 years later, he’s not planning his retirement party anytime soon.
“I’ve always been a working man, I never wanted to wear a suit and tie,” Langstaff said. “I’ve had the opportunity to become a manager over the years, but it wasn’t for me. I prefer to work eight hours and then go home. When the Lord tells me that I no longer need to enter, I will stop entering. Otherwise, I’ll be there.