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


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