ELVIS ALMANAC: A Flashback of Memorable Elvis International Issues

From:  26th Anniversary Issue, August 2003

 

by Phil Arnold

 

 

“ELVIS”, a.k.a. The ’68 Comeback Special  

 

“Elvis International” featured The ’68 Comeback Special in our first year, and again ten years later in the Winter 1998 issue.  In the more recent coverage, Donna Deen personalized this turning point in Elvis’s career by describing some of her own feelings as she watched the show.

 

“… Elvis was in the prime of his professional and personal life, singing with an urgency and rawness that couldn’t help but reach out and grab me.  In the ’68 Comeback Special, Elvis looked a bit dangerous, maybe a little too good-looking, and he dripped with attitude – not one of arrogance, necessarily, but certainly one that shouted, ‘so don’t you mess around with me.’  There were precious moments, though, when his vulnerability, humor and sheer love of performing shined through loud and clear.”

           

Later in the article, Donna pointed out some of the special moments during the live set where Elvis wore that famous black leather outfit.  “Remember the fan with the ELVIS button on her dress who sat ringside and gave Elvis a hanky to wipe his sweat?  Or the lady who carefully placed a piece of lint from Elvis’ face in her purse after Charlie Hodge presented it to her?”

           

Two other features on the ’68 Comeback Special round out the coverage in the Winter 1998 Elvis International, one of our most popular issues ever.  Fortunately, good quantities of this back issue are available for those wishing to read more.

 

ELVIS!   “You’re In The Army Now!”

 

In the fall of 1995, “Elvis International” found a unique way to feature The Army Years.  We reprinted the entire Associated Press article describing Elvis’ first day of military processing, including all 13 accompanying photographs.  The 37 year-old flashback began:

 

“ARKANSAS, (AP) Fort Chaffee, Tuesday, March 25, 1958   Elvis Presley arrived at Fort Chaffee, Monday night wearing a gray plaid jacket and black and pink socks.  21 other recruits from Memphis accompanied the rock ‘n roll star.”

 

The article goes on to describe in minute detail all sorts of interesting tidbits, such as what Elvis ate for breakfast (eggs, toast, and cereal), and what he washed it down with (milk, not coffee).

 

Perhaps not so surprisingly, the AP writer got long-winded when describing Elvis’ Army haircut.

“The sideburns went first, next the back and then the top.  Elvis shortly had a regulation haircut, one inch long, high in the front, tapering in the back and no sideburns.  Presley smiled for photographers as the haircut progressed.  He blew locks of the hair off  the palm of his hand for the benefit of the cameras.  Before the hair could be dumped in the trash, several photographers and Chaffee soldiers scooped it off the floor.”

 

The Fall 1995 issue of “Elvis International” is full of additional Elvis Army photographs.  For those fans who would like to read more about this significant period, there are a limited number of back issues available.

 

NIGHTMARE IN MEMPHIS    August 16, 1977

 

The 20th anniversary of Elvis’ untimely death came during the tenth year of “Elvis International.”  Of course, a tribute issue was in order, but how do you present such a heart-wrenching story?

 

The answer was to share the poignant memories of a true fan who actually went to Elvis’ viewing in Graceland.  Judy Kuniba heard on the Today Show that the Presley family had decided to allow fans to view Elvis one last time, and she knew she had to go to Memphis – immediately.

 

Her fascinating story touches the emotions on several levels, as shown in the following paragraph:  “As I walked through the door into Graceland, I felt dazed and unsure of my senses.  Images of a crystal chandelier and mirror seemed to hurl themselves at me.  Everything seemed to reflect red, and I was conscious of people in adjoining rooms and children on the steps.  Then, I saw HIM and nothing else.  He was all in white with a light blue shirt, and my first thought was that he looked like a real Southern gentlemen, the master of this fine old home.  Then, he suddenly reminded me of Vernon Presley as he had never done before, something in the set of his jaw and expression.  His hair was very black, which accented the paleness of his face.  He seemed to be sleeping.  It was so unreal to me.”

 

Very heavy stuff, Judy.  Very moving for all of the readers of the Summer 1997 issue of “Elvis International.”  Limited quantities of back issues available.

 

The Las Vegas Years

 

Our very first issue in 1988 featured the Las Vegas years, and we have come back to this wonderful subject many times.  Especially in one of the best Elvis International issues ever:  Spring 1996. 

 

Although thousands of people saw Elvis perform in Las Vegas, not very many got invited to the after-show parties at his suite atop the International Hotel.  Well, two of the lucky fans who did told their remarkable stories in this same issue.

 

Luck really had nothing to do with it.  Commitment to a dream, and determination to carry it out, were far more responsible for the success of Kathie (Kitten) Spehar and Robin Rosaaen.  One year, Kathie went to both Elvis shows every night for two weeks.  Robin logged in an impressive total of 72 Elvis performances in Las Vegas and California.

 

Kathie had the thrill of being invited to Elvis’ suite a few times, and she chose to write about her experience helping a good friend get invited for the first time.  It took four days of serious effort to pull it off.  Kathie kept after Red West with three phone calls and one visit in the lobby, before success was achieved.

 

Here are Kathie’s words as Elvis walked into that party.  “All of a sudden, we heard Elvis’ voice and he came into the living room area and he looked absolutely gorgeous!  Tight black pants, a blue print shirt with the collar up in back, black boots, black and silver belt, everything about him was perfect!”

 

When Robin saw her first Elvis concert in 1970, it started what she called “a six and a half year affair of the heart with the King of Rock ‘n Roll.  With each new concert attendance, I became a little more educated in methods of obtaining closer proximity to the object of my desire.”

 

Once she became a front row regular, Robin came up with a unique idea to get Elvis’ attention.  “I worked for European Health Spa.  One of our promotions at the time included a slogan which read “I Want Your Body.”  I had numerous opportunities to offer buttons, T-shirts, etc. to Elvis with this suggestive phrase written prominently upon them.  In turn, I was rewarded with scarves and kisses, until one evening in February of 1974 …”  You’ll have to read the Spring, 1996 issue to find out what happened, and fortunately there are fair supplies of back copies available.

 

© 2003  Philip R Arnold

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