Monthly Archives: June 2005


Jerry Lee Lewis is in the news again, so it might be a good time to write about him and Elvis Presley.  Stories about their rivalry persist, although Elvis had been gone from Sun Records for over a year before Jerry Lee burst on the scene.  In some ways The Killer had the better of it in this presumed competition.  For one thing, Jerry Lee had much bigger hits at Sun Records than Elvis did.  The sales of “Whole Lot of Shakin’ Going On” and “Great Balls of Fire” absolutely dwarfed anything achieved by Elvis’ five Sun releases. “Breathless” and “High School Confidential” also made the Top 40, something not achieved by an Elvis song until he went to RCA.  Jerry Lee’s career also shot out of the gates quicker than Elvis’.  His first release “Crazy Arms” went nowhere, but the second, “Whole Lot of Shakin’,” instantly made him a national star.


The supposed feud between Jerry Lee Lewis and Elvis Presley is on pretty shaky ground.  Consider what Elvis said after the famed “Million Dollar Quartet” session, his first musical interaction with Jerry Lee:  “That boy can go. I think he has a great future ahead of him.  He has a different style, and the way he plays piano just gets inside me.”  Jerry Lee wasn’t afraid to put his stamp on Elvis songs.  He has recorded “Good Rockin’ Tonight,” “Jailhouse Rock,” “Hound Dog,” and “Don’t Be Cruel.”   Elvis covered Jerry Lee’s’ “Whole Lot of Shakin,” and a few lesser-known Lewis songs. 


The news about Jerry Lee is not so happy; he has divorced his sixth wife.  They had been married for almost 21 years, probably a marital-longevity record for him.   He will have to pay her $250,000, plus $50,000 a year for 4 years until Jerry Lee Lewis III reaches 22.  Most celebrity divorces cost much more than this, so it sounds like he got off pretty light.  Jerry Lee also gets to keep his ranch south of Memphis in Nesbit, Mississippi, where he has lived for 40 years; and that’s got to be helpful in getting him through yet another difficult time.


Jerry Lee Lewis is a survivor.  He is now 70, which means he will outlive Elvis by at least 28 years.  Unfortunately, he filled a lot of his years with scandals, drug and alcohol problems, and family breakups.  Nine months before Elvis’ death, Jerry Lee was arrested for waving a gun outside the gates of Graceland in the early morning hours, when he was refused permission to see Elvis. I like Jerry Lee Lewis and his music.  He hasn’t led an exemplary life, but I hope somehow he finds a good woman, marries her, treats her right, and lives long enough to set an even greater marital-longevity record.  Have a nice life at the ranch, Jerry Lee.


© 2005  Philip R Arnold



Famed Los Angeles designer Bill Belew created all of the 150 or so jumpsuits worn by Elvis.  He has a great story about the famous “American Eagle” jumpsuit Elvis wore for the Aloha From Hawaii TV special.  Actually, it is about the cape and belt that went with it.  Belew made two cape sizes for Elvis to try:  a mid-length model similar to previous capes Elvis had worn, and a floor-length version. 


Aloha America Eagle  Long Cape


Elvis loved the mid-length.   Belew remembers, “It was a swashbuckling thing, and he just had a way with it.”  However, the day before the concert, Elvis got a little exuberant during dress rehearsal and threw the cape into the audience.  The lucky person who caught it ran out of the hall and couldn’t be found. 

Elvis then tried to work with the full-length cape, but if was so heavy he could hardly stand, let alone roam the stage. 


Elvis American Eagle Long Cape


In addition, Elvis, true to his generous nature, had given away the matching white bejeweled eagle belt to a friend, the wife of Hawaii Five-0 star Jack Lord.  With the cape and belt both missing, Joe Esposito made an emergency call to Bill Belew, and pleaded for replacements within 24 hours.  Belew threw all his resources to the project and got both finished in short order. 


Of course, they still had to get from Los Angeles to Aaho, so Elvis had arrangements made for air travel.  Belew had other commitments and could not make the trip.  Instead, he sent a trusted colleague to personally deliver the cape and belt to Elvis.  The assistant had a first class ticket, but guess where the cape and belt were during the flight?  Right beside the assistant in their own first class seat.  We’ve always known Elvis traveled first class, but who figured his stage costumes did too.


© 2005  Philip R Arnold


How's that for an attention-grabbing headline?  With two-inch high letters, it dominated the front page of the May 16, 2005, issue of the tabloid Weekly World News.  I chuckled when I saw that their 'Political Writer' wrote it.  It seems like it should have been their 'Not-Really-Dead-Rock-Star Writer.


He quickly disposed of the obvious question of Elvis Presley's whereabouts for the last twenty-nine years.  You see, Elvis was shipped out of the country in a crate and ultimately settled in Australia, where he has worked incognito with missionaries for nearly three decades.  Nice touch – Elvis working with missionaries.  Makes you proud of him, doesn't it?


But Elvis thinks politics and government in the US are a mess.  He's unhappy with both parties, and he wants to make things right.


The article is fun to read, and, as the Weekly World News proclaims on the cover, “It's All True.” 


Well, maybe not, if you believe the headline on the June 15, 1993, issue of the same magazine, which proclaimed, “ELVIS DEAD AT 58.”  I’ll bet the publishers didn’t think any Elvis fans would save back issues of the magazine and compare their stories over the years.  Wrong.  I did.  The 1993 story is completely different.  It had Elvis moving around, living in Florida, Arkansas, and Tennessee, before finally succumbing to a diabetic coma. 


For some reason, this article had a small photo of the cover of an early 80's issue, which proclaimed “ELVIS IS ALIVE.”  All three cover pictures were altered photos of Elvis, and they show the Weekly World News is getting much better at doing this.  The early 80's photo had Elvis completely bald on top, with long side hair down over his ears.  It was so bad; he looked more like Larry of the Three Stooges. 


The 1993 photo had Elvis with thinning hair on top, combed down in front, almost in bangs.  Not a good look for him, at all.


The 2005 picture is great.  Elvis has a full head of wavy salt-and-pepper hair, and he looks like a handsome seventy-year-old politician. 




This is a man who could get some votes.  As soon as he gets back from Australia, I’m going to sign up as a volunteer for his campaign.


©  2005   Philip R Arnold   All Rights Reserved


Elvis is such an interesting subject to write about.  Inspiration for many of the ElvisBlog articles comes when I surf the Internet and find obscure sites that contain something different about Elvis.  So, I was delighted to stumble onto the link for the site of Elvis’ Villa Hostel in Bucharest, Romania.


Their web pages don’t mentioned any Elvis Presley themed decor or other connection with The King, so it seems they just chose the name to catch the attention of American and English backpackers, their usual clientele.  Elvis’ Villa certainly has the prices to attract this young, economy-minded crowd.  For $12-15 a night you can get a bed in a co-ed dorm room, if you don’t mind sharing with 5-10 people.  Bathrooms are shared, too, of course.  For $27 you can get a private room for two, but you’ll still have to share a bathroom.


Take a look at the list of freebies you get during each day of your stay at Elvis’ Villa: Romanian beer, two hours of Internet access, breakfast, laundry facilities, and Romanian cigarettes.  For a small fee, on-site massage is available.  Although the hostel’s website stresses they are in a safe part of the city, it also advises you to take a cab back from clubs late at night.  The folks at Elvis’ Villa thought it prudent to provide details on three of the most common scams in Bucharest and how to avoid them.


They also offer tips for travel in Romania, including a list of the allowable items you can bring into the country.  This includes: two rings, one watch, two pendants with chains, two pair of earrings, two bracelets, and two pair of handcuffs.  What would you want the handcuffs for?  Well, lets see.  After you check into Elvis’ Villa, you could take the free beer and cigarettes up to the dorm room and hang out with those co-eds and see what happens.  If I were younger, I might give it a try, but I’d probably need only one pair of handcuffs.


© 2005  Philip R Arnold