Monthly Archives: September 2008

SHAMELESS, OLDFANGLED SHOWMANSHIP

Some of the best titles for ElvisBlog columns have come from the texts of Elvis reviews in the New York Times.  One was “Virtuoso of Hootchie Cootchie,” taken from the Times review of Elvis’ June 5, 1956 appearance on The Milton Berle Show, and there was “Turgid, Juicy, and Flamboyant,” which came from the Times review of the first Elvis movie “Love Me Tender.”  You might remember that the Times columnists slammed Elvis pretty hard in both cases.

Well, there is also the Times review of Elvis’ 1973 worldwide TV special “Elvis – Aloha from Hawaii.”  That’s the source of the above title for this article.  So, what do you think?  Did they slam Elvis once again?  Let’s take a look.

Favorable opinions about Elvis in the New York Times were rare in his early days, but this column by John J. O’Conner stayed fairly balanced.  Perhaps neutral would be a better characterization, as he barely said anything good about Elvis.  The most positive line about “Aloha” was this:  “Smartly produced and directed by Marty Pasetta, the program maintained an effective and attractive fluidity, not easy with ‘live’ concerts on TV.”  That’s not Elvis’ fluidity he’s complementing, it’s the show’s.  Not a word about Elvis’ voice or how he mesmerized the live audience of 6000 folks at the Honolulu International Center.  At least there was mention that the show was broadcast live by satellite to 1.5 billion people in 40 countries.  This was a monumental technological feat back in 1973.

“Shameless, Oldfangled Showmanship” came from the last line of the New York Times review of “Aloha.”  Columnist O’Conner was convinced that under the careful orchestration of Col. Parker, 38-year-old Elvis had evolved into a calculated and calculating showman.  However, Mr. O’Conner was not saying that this was a bad thing. 

He was not at all negative as he presented his ideas why Elvis was pure schmaltz:  “His white jumpsuit costume is adorned, in studded jewels, with American eagles.  His repertory includes a medley of 'Dixie,' 'Battle Hymn of the Republic,”'and 'Hush Little Baby.”'His fingers are clogged with flashy rings.  His act includes tossing scarves, dabbed in sweat from his chest, to aging teeny boppers.”

I love the way Mr. O’Conner summarized what all that meant:  “It is pure showbiz in the style of Radio City Music Hall, reeking of apple pie, or more precisely, peanut butter and jelly, distinctly grape.”  I’ll bet he was really proud of that line.  Reeking of peanut butter and jelly is a good thing, right?

Mr. O’Conner’s most negative statement came in an author aside, when he started a paragraph with the words “Mr. Presley,” but then decided Elvis didn’t deserve the title Mr.  He concluded “… no, that sounds downright silly.”  Well, excuse me, but your attitude sounds downright elitist.  However, Mr. O’Conner tried to recover by saying, “Elvis is a proven entertainment commodity.”  Wow, that was really going out on a limb.

Here is what the article says about Elvis’ career: “Bursting out of country music’s relatively youthful strain of ‘rock-a-billie’ around 1960, he bumped his way to national notoriety with such hits as ‘Hound Dog’ and ‘Blue Suede Shoes.'”  I have to quibble about a few points, here.  Mr. O’Conner shows some ignorance about basic Elvis history.  Both songs he referenced came out in 1956, the year Elvis burst on the national scene, not 1960.

The Times review continues: “Appearing on Ed Sullivan’s TV variety show, he was generally restricted to camera shots not going below the belt.  Those were the television days of innocence and absurdity.”  If Mr. O’Conner wanted to point out the best example of the TV days of innocence, he should have referenced the nation’s mood when Elvis’ performed on the June 5, 1956 Milton Berle Show (camera shots were definitely not restricted to above the belt).  And the absurdity was better illustrated in the tidal wave of protest against Elvis in the press and the pulpits around the country after that wild appearance on the Berle show.

Fortunately, Mr. O’Conner followed that with begrudging acknowledgement of Elvis’ continued success: “But Elvis has survived.  He is still churning out hit records, and his relentlessly unmemorable movies have made millions of dollars.”

Of course Elvis survived.  As he got older he moved away from the wild rebel image and settled nicely into an era of shameless, oldfangled showmanship.  In fact, according to polls, this is the favorite Elvis period for the majority of today’s fans.  That’s fine for them, but I still favor 50’s Elvis, back when he was turgid, juicy and flamboyant.

<?xml:namespace prefix = o ns = “urn:schemas-microsoft-com:office:office” /> 

©  2008   Philip R Arnold, Original Elvis Blogmeister   All rights Reserved   www.ElvisBlog.net

A LOOK AT MORE ELVIS WEBSITES, CIRCA 1997

Two months ago we looked at ten Elvis websites recommended on WashingtonPost.com back in 1997.  Columnist Andrea Basora had organized her selections into four categories: “The Basics,” The Absurdists, “The Truly Weird,” and “The Music, Movies and Memorabilia.”  Well, we’ve already covered weird and absurd, so let’s take a look at the more mainstream blogs she liked.  How many of them were able to thrive and continue on to 2008?

It was not even necessary to click on the links for two of the Basics to see if they still exist.  Of course, www.elvis.com is the official site of Elvis Presley Enterprises, and I check it out often.  I assume you do too, but if not, there is a lot there for you to see if you follow all the links out to the many choices.  I wish we could go back and see what the site was like back in 1997.  It certainly has evolved a great deal since then.  The other no-brainer link in the article was www.rockhall.com, and this one takes you to the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame.  You really should spend some time on this site, as it is full of good stuff.  I recommend you check out the year-by-year lists of new inductees.  You will note that Elvis was in the inaugural class of 1986.  Also be sure to read about Scotty Moore and James Burton who were picked in the Sidemen category back in 2000 and 2001, respectively.

<?xml:namespace prefix = o ns = “urn:schemas-microsoft-com:office:office” /> 

The Sites We Lost Along The Way

 

Elvis Women – Actresses in Elvis Films:  This site didn’t come up when I clicked on the URL, and even Googling the name didn’t work.  I’m surprised this site has bit the bullet, because there are several other sites out there today that cover the subject of the women in Elvis’ movies.

Elvis In Latin:  Clicking on the URl goes nowhere, but a search on Google for “Elvis In Latin” does take you to the site of a Finnish guy who has recorded a CD of Elvis songs in Latin.  His biography indicates that this happened in 1995, so maybe he changed his URL along the way.  Still, I don’t see much there to recommend.  I mean, Elvis songs in Latin – who cares.

The Doghaus Collection / The Hillbilly Cat and Me:  This was actually two websites, but neither exists today.  The Washington Post article summarized them as “Fun stuff for collectors.  Everything from the Elvis Presley Board Game to Love Me Tender Conditioning Shampoo.”  Oh well, you can find Elvis goodies for sale on dozens of other sites today, so these two oldies won’t be missed.

The Elvis Movie Guide:  I really expected this site to pop up when I clicked on the URL, but it didn’t work.  A search of Google led only to several places where the phrase was used in a generic way.  Like the three previous dead ducks, this one is no great loss.  You can find guides to Elvis movies on probably hundreds of websites.

The Third Annual International Conference on Elvis Presley:  This looked like it might be a long shot for survival to 2008, and it was.  It sounds like it might be a bunch of boring academic psychobabble about why Elvis’ popularity endures and so forth.  I wouldn’t read it all even if it came up.  Elvis is fun for me, and this doesn’t sound like much fun.

Elvis Lives In Evil Levis:  Clicking on the link in the article brought up nothing, but Googling that interesting phrase did bring up as the first choice a foreign language site with that title.  However, after I clicked the box to translate it, I couldn’t find anything about Elvis, so I quickly moved on.

  

The Sites That Are Still Around

 

The Original (Unofficial) Elvis Home Page:  I like the justification presented by the WashingtonPost.com for this selection: “… Has the honor of being sued by Elvis Presley Enterprises.”  Indeed, the fine print at the bottom of the home page says, “The Elvis Home Page, as it once was, is unavailable due to legal problems.”  If you are interested, you can read about the squabble with EPE.  It appears that not much new has been added to this site for several years, but it still contains a wealth of content, so you might want to give it a look.

Pelvis:  The Washington Post capsule summary of this site was: “For a more academic view … actually a rather dull site, but worthy of mention due to its place of origin, Princeton. The King is truly ominipresleyent.”  How do you like that fancy word?  I wonder why they would recommend a rather dull site?  If you go to it, you will see that it is just a list if links, most of which do not work.  The one good thing I found was an Elvis quote I had never seen before: “Computers may out-think us one day, but as long as people got feelings, we'll be better than they are.”

Down In The Alley:  A click on this link took me to a site now called Elvex Pages, which surprisingly I had never discovered before.  As in 1997, the best feature of this Dutch site is the lyrics to over 700 Elvis songs.  There are some other sections you might want to explore, particularly the photos of Elvis in various jumpsuits taken at concerts from 1969 to 1977.

Elvis In the Machine:  A click on this link takes you to one section of the Elvis Home Page listed above.  It is supposed to be a collection of virtual Elvis computer stuff, but almost every link I clicked on brought up one of those boxes that give you scary warnings should you continue.  I got out of there pretty quick.

 

So that’s it.  Of the twelve recommended Elvis websites from 1997, only four exist today that are worth checking out.  But, that’s not so bad, really.  In 2008, we now have thousands of websites devoted to Elvis to choose from.

©  2008   Philip R Arnold, Original Elvis Blogmeister   All rights Reserved   www.ElvisBlog.net

ELVIS COMMENTARY MINI-NUGGETS — # 11

<?xml:namespace prefix = o ns = “urn:schemas-microsoft-com:office:office” /> 


The Missing Elvis Star:  There is a website where an aspiring screenwriter can post a synopsis of his script in hope that an agent or movie producer will take an interest in it.  Recently posted on www.newenglandfilm.com was The Missing Elvis Star, by Scott Andrews.  Here is his plot summary:
“Elvis Presley’s Star is stolen off the famous Hollywood Walk of Fame by three French tourists on the 4th of July.  The President issues a state of emergency and makes it a priority for his Presidential legacy to recapture the missing Star.  The Star is found with Elvis Presley alive.  Both are brought back to America with a five-million person parade in D.C. and Hollywood, with 80 year old Elvis replanting his own Star on the Walk of Fame.”
Writer Andrews calls his creation an action, comedy, block-buster hit movie.  Sounds like a long shot to me.  I wonder who could play 80 year old Elvis.

 

Calvin and Hobbes and Elvis:  Hopefully you are familiar with the comic strip “Calvin and Hobbes.”  In an old strip, everyone in Calvin’s class at school was assigned to read and summarize a newspaper article.  What article did Calvin pick?  It was the tabloid classic, “Space Alien Weds Two-Headed Elvis Clone.”  I mentioned this title in Mini-Nuggets – 9, and I never thought it would appear again.  I guess you never know when it comes to Elvis.

 

Minus-Zero on The Elvis Scale:  During the 1992 presidential election, some of the press corps started comparing Bill Clinton to Elvis.  Clinton wore black sunglasses and played “Heartbreak Hotel” on sax on the Arsinio Hall Show, and his campaign plane was nicknamed “Air Elvis.”  One of his opponents in the primary was Massachusetts Senator Paul Tsongas.  Tsongas was a much duller personality than Clinton, and columnist Molly Ivins rated Tsongas “minus-zero on the Elvis scale.”  So, which of today’s candidates do you think rates highest on the Elvis scale?  For my money, it is Sarah Palin.  What do you think?

 

Back When They Were Called Elvis Impersonators:  Now that Graceland has conferred legitimacy on Elvis Tribute Artists, and the best of them are truly fine showmen, there is much more respect given to this growing group of entertainers.  Surprisingly, a recent article in http://entertainment.timesonline.co.uk stated that there were between 37 and 150 working Elvis Impersonators back in 1977 when he died.  Now they say there are over 30,000 ETAs in the US alone.

 

My Pastor Told Me This One:  The Pastor at my church has a great sense of humor, and he often tells jokes.  The other day, he called to tell me he heard a cool answer to the Jeff Foxworthy line: “You know you are a redneck when….”  It was: “when you have an Elvis Jello mold.”  I resisted telling Pastor that I didn’t find that too funny.  However, consider this.  EPE has licensed all sorts of weird Elvis stuff, but I have never seen a Jello mold shaped like Elvis’ face.  I hope I never do.

 

Letterman Top Ten List:  David Letterman has included Elvis in his famous Top Ten Lists at least three times that I am aware of.  Thoughtful reader Arleen Scharf e-mailed me this one:  Top Ten Most Polite Ways to Say Your Zipper is Down.  #6 was “Elvis is leaving the building.”  I like that much more than #1, which was “I always knew you were crazy, but now I can see your nuts.”

 

Pappy and Elvis:  In 1966, Warner Brothers released a Merrie Melodies cartoon titled “The Dixie Fryer.”  Mel Blanc provided the voices of main character Foghorn Leghorn as well as two chicken hawks named Pappy and Elvis.  Foghorn travels to the deep-south and encounters the chicken hawks who crave a delicious chicken dinner.  He needn’t worry.  The chicken hawks are portrayed as ignorant rednecks, and Elvis is a total air-head.  Many years later, the PC police at the Nickelodeon network edited out a scene with a squirrel rifle and another with “dueling pistols.”  I wish they had also changed the idiot chicken hawk’s name to something besides Elvis.

 

Cher Turned Down Elvis?:  Website www.pcpages.com/elvistimes/news.htm recently mentioned an interview in which singer/actress Cher talked about Elvis.  She said she once received a phone call from Elvis, and he expressed how much he admired Cher and her music.  Then he invited her to spend the weekend with him.  Cher said she just didn’t have the nerve to do it and turned Elvis down.  Now, she says she couldn’t believe she did that.  I don’t believe it either.  Cher had a chance to go from Sonny Bono to Elvis, but she turned it down.  No way.

 

(C)  2008   All rights Reserved   Philip R Arnold, Original Elvis Blogmeister   www.ElvisBlog.net