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Colonel Tom Parker angled to bring Celine Dion to Las Vegas

Despite his larger-than-life persona, Colonel Tom Parker rarely gave interviews and largely remained out of the spotlight following the death of his star client, Elvis Presley.

That doesn’t mean he didn’t keep a hand in the Las Vegas entertainment scene.

Like the time he landed George Strait, whom he’d see during his frequent performances at the Las Vegas Hilton, the starring role in 1992’s “Pure Country” through his longtime friend, producer Jerry Weintraub.

Or when he tried to bring a young Celine Dion to the Strip nearly a decade before she’d open the Colosseum in 2003.

Rene Angelil, Dion’s late husband and manager, came to Las Vegas in 1987 to see Wayne Newton’s tribute to Presley and met Parker during one of the tours of the Hilton’s Elvis suite. Flash-forward to 1994, when Dion started closing her shows with a new take on Presley’s “Can’t Help Falling in Love.” Parker called as soon as he heard it.

“He says, ‘I’ve heard that song so many times since Elvis died, and I never heard it like that,’ ” Angelil told Time magazine. “ ‘I’m a consultant for the Hilton, and she’s never played Las Vegas. I want her at the Hilton.’ ”

Angelil had to demur, saying his client was still new to American audiences and wasn’t yet ready. Dion did, however, dedicate the song to Parker when he was in the audience that summer during her Las Vegas debut, opening for Michael Bolton at the Thomas & Mack Center.

Parker’s efforts didn’t stop there. In the 2002 documentary “The Definitive Elvis: Elvis and the Colonel,” Steve Wynn says Parker routinely called him with advice, including that he should sign the young Dion.

“ ‘Now this girl’s from Canada. She’s got a voice the size of the Empire State Building. She’s gonna be a giant star,’ ” Wynn recalls Parker advising him. “ ‘You figure out how to make a connection and get this girl to work at The Mirage.’

“I never could quite convince him,” Wynn says, “that I had Siegfried & Roy there, that I couldn’t just push them out.”

Contact Christopher Lawrence at clawrence@reviewjournal.com or 702-380-4567. Follow @life_onthecouch on Twitter.

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