Monthly Archives: June 2006

ELVIS and JOHNNY BAGO

It would be a real long shot if any of you have heard of Johnny Bago.  He was the title character in a TV show that ran for just eight episodes back in 1993.  It was a comedy about a goof-ball named Johnny who was on the run from the mob and his ex-wife.  His get-away vehicle on the first episode was a Winnebago, and he traveled with it to each subsequent adventure.  Episode #4 was “Spotting Elvis,” and for some reason, I pushed in a VCR tape and recorded it.  Sometimes, you just get lucky.  I feel confident there are not many copies of this show preserved on tape, but I’ve got one.

 

The first episode of Johnny Bago was directed by Academy Award winner Robert Zemeckis (“Back To The Future,” “Forest Gump,” “The Polar Express”), so there must have been some hope initially for a quality product.  However, things obviously spiraled down quickly.  The “Spotting Elvis” episode was directed by Oz Scott.  Ever heard of him?

 

The plot line of the Johnny Bago and Elvis saga is so stupid it’s funny.  Let us just say an older and fatter Elvis lives in a mobile home in Mystery Trees RV Park, deep in the woods next to a national forest.  Johnny Bago parks next to him, and the action starts.  Johnny tries to impress Erica, an eco-warrior leading protests to stop local logging.  One of the tactics taken by her group is to chain themselves to large trees.  Johnny pretends to be a photographer.  He poses a stuffed owl in various natural surroundings and snaps photos.  The resulting pictures are supposed to show that no trees can be cut because they are in an endangered species habitat.  Johnny thinks this is just what he needs to score with Erica.

 

Johnny gets in trouble when the strings he used to simulate the owl in flight are plainly visible in the photos, and Elvis has to bail him out.  Elvis, the hero.  I like that.  We are also treated to a rendition of “Heartbreak Hotel” by the past-middle-age Elvis, and he actually does a credible job.  He gets the eco-freaks and the loggers dancing together, and soon good karma comes over everyone.  Elvis the peacemaker.  At the times when Elvis isn’t being a peacemaker or hero, he’s portrayed as a decent, down-to-earth, next-door neighbor type.  I like this Elvis a lot.

 

There’s an interesting sub-plot that sort of rings true.  Erica’s ex-boyfriend calls a tabloid, The National Tattletale, and tries to make a quick $100,000 for revealing Elvis’ location.

 

I have mixed feelings about one thing in the show.  When we cut to a scene of Elvis asleep in front of the TV, we see a beer can sitting unattended on his substantial belly, rising and lowering as he snores.  When I first watched that scene, I hated to see Elvis depicted like that, but it was so funny.

 

Now, thirteen years later, I can do the beer can trick on my own belly, and it isn’t nearly so funny.

 

©   2006   Philip R Arnold   www.elvisblog.net

ELVIS DEPARTS FOR GERMANY

When Elvis was drafted into the Army in 1958, the press reported he would be treated just like any other GI.  Perhaps he was during basic training in Texas, but when it was time for him and 6,000 other soldiers to board a troop ship in New York Harbor, strange things happened.  Col. Parker made sure Elvis’ send-off was a big event.

 

For one thing, it was estimated that 250 reporters, photographers, and cameramen were on the scene.  One of them was Alfred Wertheimer, who had taken thousands of photos of Elvis back in 1956.  This time, he did not have an exclusive, but he got plenty of good pictures.  He was also in position to see the master marketer, Col. Tom Parker, in action.

 

Wertheimer didn’t know if the official Army Band was present at all major troop deployments, but they were there the day Elvis shipped off.  Perhaps Col. Parker arranged for their appearance, perhaps not, but he still engineered a first in Army history.  He printed up copies of the music to several Elvis songs and passed them out to all the musicians.  Songs they played that day included “That’s All Right,”  “Hound Dog,”  “Don’t be Cruel,” and others that Wertheimer can’t remember.  No John Phillip Sousa marches to mark this occasion.  Dressed in full Army parade uniforms, the band played Elvis rock & roll.

 

Elvis held forth with a half-hour press conference.  Who but Col. Parker could have arranged this?  He probably worked out a deal with the Army brass, because Elvis stood in front of big “Join the Army” posters. There was one Army General who would not leave Elvis’ side.  He enjoyed being in the spotlight so much that he hovered around Elvis the entire time.

 

The hoards of photographers and cameramen wanted to get film of Elvis going up the ramp from the dock to the second deck of the ship.  Five soldiers were selected to join Elvis in the shot to make it look natural.  Of course, Elvis was carrying going-away presents as well as his duffel bag.  He was also in his dress uniform, while the other guys were in fatigues.  When one cameraman flubbed the shot, he asked them to repeat the trek up the ramp.  Wertheimer couldn’t believe it when they actually complied.

 

The ship had four decks and soon Elvis appeared on the top one – along with Col. Parker.  Wertheimer wondered to himself, “What is Parker doing on a troop ship?”  To give something to Elvis, it turned out.  Elvis opened a box from Parker, and guess what it contained?  Dozens of playing-card-sized autographed photos of Elvis.  Then, Elvis flipped then one-by-one over the railing, and they fluttered down to lucky fans standing on the dock four decks below as the band played “Hound Dog.”  Just your average troop deployment.

 

Many thanks to Al Wertheimer for sharing this story with me.  It wasn’t used in my Elvis International article about him, because the focus there was his 1956 experience with Elvis.  However, it was a good story I hadn’t heard before, and it deserved to be shared on this blog with other Elvis fans.

 

©  2006   Philip R Arnold   www.elvisblog.net

ELVISBLOG NEWS 6/18/06

The first blog devoted to Elvis has reached a new milestone.  Last Sunday, the 100th article was posted on Elvisblog.  There has been a total of 76 weekly stories posted to the site, one each Sunday since February 1, 2005.  The Elvisblog Archives contain 22 longer articles reprinted from Elvis International, The Magazine.  And, there are two fiction short stories about Elvis.  Writers are always concerned about ‘word count,’ so someday I will add up all the words used in this body of work.  It ought to be pretty close to the numbers my writer buddies have in those novels they are working on.

 

Speaking of word count, the story I wrote about photographer Al Wertheimer came to 2,200 words.  It will be in the 29th Anniversary issue of Elvis International, The Magazine that comes off the presses in about a month.  Look for this story of Wertheimer’s photo-taking odyssey with Elvis in 1956 to show up in the Elvisblog Archives shortly after that.  The thousands of pictures he took of Elvis are his claim to fame, but the seven days he spent with Elvis are a remarkable story.

 

The first line in this news section contains the words blog and Elvis.  I am making a determined effort to use them in every article, hopefully to improve my Google search rankings.  If someone types elvisblog in the search box, the results are loaded with different links to this Elvisblog.  However, if you type in Elvis blog, the results are full of such junk that you would think no true blog about Elvis exists.  Google merely lists the popularity of sites with the words “Elvis” and “blog” in their text, so I’m going to get them in my articles one way or another (four times in this article, so far).

 

Somehow, many more people have discovered Elvisblog the past month.  When the web address changed and the automatic forwarding to the new URL stopped in February, there was a distinct drop in visitors to the site.  March was the low point, but each month since has seen nice increases.   Thanks for checking out Elvisblog regularly.  It is the Elvis blog (did it again) written by a fan for the enjoyment of other fans.  Glad you like it.

 

©  2006   Philip R Arnold   www.elvisblog.net

WATCHING ELVIS MOVIES ON TV

One website I return to frequently is TVNow.  I have bookmarked the link to their monthly list of Elvis shows on television, which I use to make my Elvis movie watching plans.  Of course, I have all of his films on tape and could watch them any time I want, but I prefer to catch them when are broadcast.  I feel like I’m connected to all the other Elvis fans across the country who are watching the same Elvis movie.

 

In the period from June 4 to July 1, there are six Elvis movies on five cable TV stations:  “Clambake” on Showtime, “Easy Come, Easy Go” on Cinemax, “King Creole” and “Roustabout” on HBO Signature, “Love Me Tender” on Fox Movie Channel,and “Speedway” on Turner Classic Movies.  The big cable networks seem to like showing Elvis films, so a little advance planning can really pay off.

 

Fortunately, the networks give you from two to five showings of almost every Elvis movie they run, and one option is usually in prime time or during the day on weekends.  I hate it when an Elvis movie is on just once — at 2AM, but a 5AM showing is perfect for me.  I get up a little early and watch a whole Elvis movie before going to work.  Great way to start the day.

 

Six Elvis movies in a month on all the cable channels is actually a pretty low total.  Usually there are eight to ten.  This month’s viewing choices also includes “Heartbreak Hotel”, a movie about Elvis starring Brian Keith and Tuesday Weld.  I could write a whole blog article on this movie, and probably will after I watch it again in two weeks.  For now, let’s just say this is one you should see.  It has a good plot and excellent Elvis music with a harder rock edge to it.  Plus, the mature Tuesday Weld looks better than she did with Elvis in “Wild In the Country” twenty-five years earlier.  Check out “Heartbreak Hotel” and the other offerings at http://www.tv-now.com/stars/elvis.html

 

TVNow also lists other types of programming that contain something about Elvis.  This month we get VH1’s “100 Most Shocking Moments in Rock & Roll.”  I’ll have to wade through a bunch of other stuff to see where they place Elvis in the ranking.  Elvis doing “Hound Dog’ on the second Milton Berle Show should rank very high as a shocking moment.  It caused the press to slam Elvis so bad, saying he was turning America’s teenagers into juvenile delinquents.  Hopefully, VH1 knows what they are doing and don’t cite the filming of Elvis from the waist up on the Ed Sullivan Show.  That was so lame compared to the Elvis’ stunning appearance on the Berle show.  It sounds like another probable blog subject, doesn’t it?

 

More on Al Wertheimer next week.  Still working on the Elvis International Magazine 50th Anniversary story about him and his 1956 photos of Elvis.

 

©  2006   Philip R Arnold   www.elvisblog.net

THE AL WERTHEIMER INTERVIEW

To my surprise and relief, it has not been hard to come up with a new article for this Elvis blog every week.  There are frequent items about Elvis in the news, and I bump into lots of good things while exploring Elvis links on the internet.  However, Friday night I had a wonderful Elvis experience – on the telephone.

 

It was a 3-1/2 hour interview with Al Wertheimer.  I hope you all know about the great black-and-white photos he took of Elvis in 1956.  The interview was for a 50th Anniversary article I’m doing for Elvis International, The Magazine, and the deadline is less than a week a way. 

 

My usual Elvisblog time has been spent working on that, and we had weekend family guests.  It is now 6:30 Sunday night, and I need a quick blog.  So, let me tell you about some of the things I learned during the interview.

 

Alfred Wertheimer is a 76-year-old New Yorker who seems different from Elvis in many ways.  Yet for seven days in 1956, Al tagged along with Elvis and took pictures.  In no time Elvis trusted him, and soon Elvis didn’t even seem to notice him.  Al was able to capture a huge cache of Elvis photos during casual, off-stage moments.  He had access to Elvis that no later photographers would get, because Col. Parker shortly took the reigns on every aspect of Elvis’ career and installed lots of new rules.

 

During Al Wertheimer’s odyssey, Elvis performed two live concerts, he rehearsed and did two live TV shows, and he recorded Hound Dog” and “Don’t Be Cruel.”   Elvis moved around between three states:  New York, Virginia, New York, and Tennessee.  There was nearly fifty hours of train travel linking it all together, none of which Al had to share with any other photographers.

 

Legend has it that he took almost 4000 pictures of Elvis, but Al admits that figure is too high.  After culling out unusable ones (too dark, out of focus, etc.), he actually has 2053 to use for new projects.  In the 28 years since Elvis died, Al has made a nice living finding nifty ways to utilize his photographs.

 

My article about Alfred Wertheimer has a subtitle:  “7 Days with Elvis, 4000 Photos, 50 Years Ago.”  With so much raw material from the interview, this one will be long.  If I can relate all the interesting little stories as well as Al told them, it will be an enjoyable read.  Check out the 29th Anniversary edition of Elvis International, the Magazine.  It will be out in July and offered for sale during “Elvis Week.”

 

Sorry about this post being so late in the day.  The good news is that I’ve got enough stuff from the interview to write a couple more Al Wertheimer blog articles.  They will be posted early Sunday mornings like normal, so please check back.

 

©  2006   Philip R Arnold   www.elvisblog.net