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‘Hangover’ movies have been a PR bonanza for Caesars, Vegas

“Did Caesar live here?”

Those four words, uttered by Zach Galifianakis’ Alan upon arriving at Caesars Palace in 2009’s “The Hangover,” have helped redefine the hotel.

They adorn T-shirts, just one of the movie tie-ins including bobbleheads, glassware and can coolers whose sales in the resort’s gift shop number in the tens of thousands.

And they continue to greet the front desk staff.

“It is still happening,” Caesars Entertainment Regional President Gary Selesner says. “People are still quoting lines from that movie.”

The other mainstay at check-in is asking, as Alan does, whether the hotel is “pager-friendly.”

“Or (security will) catch people trying to sneak up onto the roof,” says Todd Phillips, the director and co-writer of the “Hangover” movies, the latest of which hits theaters tonight. “They wanna go on the roof to have a toast to start their night. It’s crazy.”

Guests still ask to stay in the “Hangover” suite, Selesner says, even though it doesn’t exist. Set designers created that cavernous space on a soundstage, but they based it on aspects of other Caesars suites. Others continue to seek out Suite 2452, the room number from the movie.

“There’s a financial impact,” Selesner admits, “but I think it’s more about the notoriety that the movie brought back to Caesars Palace.”

The legacy of “The Hangover,” though, hangs over more than just Caesars.

IGT’s movie-themed slot machines can be found in more than 55 properties throughout the valley.

The Strip even has upward of a half-dozen Alan impersonators, including Thaddeus Kalinoski, who worked as a stand-in on “The Hangover Part III,” and Brian Petre, who quit his job as a Cirque du Soleil welder in August to appear at conventions, parties and weddings with a sunglasses-wearing baby doll strapped to his chest.

“There’s a Filipino guy who wears a wig and a fake beard and stuff like that,” Petre says of his competition. “He’s never even seen the movie.”

Seemingly everyone else has.

“You’d be surprised what people ask us through the (lasvegas.com) website,” says Rob Dondero, executive vice president of R&R Partners, which handles advertising and public relations for the Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority. “ ‘Can I actually do this? Where do I get the tiger?’ There are people out there that just want to re-create certain scenes.”

“The Hangover” did such a thorough job of presenting the city as the ultimate guys’ getaway, you could be forgiven for thinking the movie was all just one big, elaborate promotion by the visitors authority.

Except for the gunfire at the wedding chapel. And the stolen squad car. The taser-happy police. The buck-naked Ken Jeong humping Bradley Cooper’s face in an empty lot near Mandalay Bay. Galifianakis pretending to help a baby masturbate at the Caesars pool. Galifianakis being orally serviced in a Caesars elevator. And, well, you get the idea.

“There was a little reluctance,” Selesner admits of the hotel’s attitude about getting involved in such a risque project.

He credits Debbie Munch, who heads up the company’s efforts to attract film and television production, with championing “The Hangover.” Selesner says she pointed out some of the script’s more outrageous elements, then he ran them by Caesars Entertainment’s chief marketing officer.

“But, quickly, we kind of recognized that there was a great fit between this movie and Caesars Palace,” Selesner says. “Caesars Palace was obviously a character in the movie.”

He describes a “give and take” with Phillips over their concerns. But, considering all the debauchery in the script, Caesars’ only official request was that Alan not buy the blackout-inducing drugs from the casino’s gift shop.

“They, very rightfully so, said that that couldn’t happen on their property, because it would never happen,” Phillips says. The transaction ultimately took place in a liquor store.

“The elevator you could argue is not Caesars’ elevator, by the way,” Phillips adds of the infamously graphic photos of Galifianakis that accompany the closing credits. “If you were to look at the elevator, we never said that that’s Caesars Palace.”

“The Hangover Part III” finds the Wolf Pack (Cooper’s Phil, Galifianakis’ Alan and Ed Helms’ Stu) searching for gangster Mr. Chow (Jeong) throughout Las Vegas. He’s ultimately found in a penthouse suite just beneath the Caesars Palace sign.

But while this suite really exists — the scenes were filmed in the Constantine Villa in the Octavius Tower — you still can’t rent it for the night. It’s only available to invited guests. Presumably ones who, unlike Chow, will leave their hookers, drugs and guns at home.

“There was maybe one or two things that Debbie brought to me where we had an adjustment or two, but it was much, much less” than on the first movie, Selesner says of their concerns.

Still, “The Hangover Part III’s” credits include a disclaimer not seen in the original: “The scenes at Caesars Palace in the film are fictitious and not all activities depicted therein are authorized or endorsed by Caesars.”

“Their whole thing here, any uptightness with them, was only ever about drugs. And I fully understand that,” Phillips says, although he couldn’t specify what led to the disclaimer.

“From the very beginning,” Selesner says, “there was a very good partnership between us and Todd Phillips … to talk about how to present Caesars Palace in, let’s say, an exciting and flattering light and the city of Las Vegas in a way that I think has proven to be good to the city.”

Dondero agrees. “There’s a huge intangible value” in having two of the “Hangover” movies set here. As for the actual value generated by the first one, he says, “in PR and publicity alone, I mean, it was in the tens of millions of dollars, if not more.”

Now that both Caesars Palace and Las Vegas are once again ready for their close-ups, Selesner says he’s “thrilled” with “The Hangover Part III.”

“I think it’s going to be good for business for the entire city because I think people are going to want to feel a part of the attitude that the movie projects.”

Contact Christopher Lawrence at clawrence@
reviewjournal.com or 702-380-4567.

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