Monthly Archives: July 2009

Elvis Returns To Live Concerts

 

History has recorded that Elvis’ return to the stage on July 31, 1969 in Las Vegas was a huge, major success.  It was his first live performance in eight years, and he was outstanding.  We are quickly approaching the 40th anniversary of this epic concert, so I checked out several sources in my Elvis library to find the best description of the event.  The winner, hands down, is from “The Boy Who Dared to Rock” by Paul Lichter.  Lichter was a friend of Elvis who saw many of his performances and now maintains an interesting Elvis website.  Here are a few choice lines from his excellent 1978 biography:

“There was utter pandemonium throughout the Showroom, and the screams grew louder.”

 “His high cheekbones and bronzed face seem to be untouched by the years that have passed.”

“…he flogged himself to near-exhaustion.  He was like a wild man!  He moved with both grace and animal sexuality.”

“He … lifted the audience beyond belief.”

“When he finished his renditions, there could be no denying the Presley magic.”

“Elvis made believers out of all of us who had ever doubted his talents and abilities.  It was a memorable night – a night when Elvis… proved he is still King.”

 

 

International Hotel, Las Vegas, During Elvis’ 1969 Run 

 

Based on what you just read, you would imagine that the entertainment critics for the Las Vegas Sun had written glorious praise about Elvis’ return to live performances.  Not really.  Let’s look at some reviews right after opening night and observe how some of the Sun’s hard-to-please writers didn’t want to say anything too nice about Elvis.

At least, it wasn’t as bad as the hard time they gave Elvis back in 1956, when he last played Las Vegas at the New Frontier Hotel.  The critics blasted him pretty good then, and Elvis considered the whole experience as less than satisfying.  It did not, however, divert him from his upward ascension as the King of Rock & Roll.

 

The International Hotel Showroom

 

Elvis rolled into Las Vegas in July 1969 on top of his game.  The ’68 Comeback Special had recharged his career, as did “In The Ghetto,” his huge Top 10 hit in early 1969.  But, the Sun’s reviewers still wanted to cut Elvis down a bit.

Joe Delaney ended his August I article with pretty blah and generic praises:

“Elvis is very much for real.  Elvis is here to stay.”

However, five lines into his piece, he shifted from Elvis and spent a lot of space talking about Shecky Greene and Sammy Shore.  Mr. Delaney obviously liked these two comedians, and there was a reason to give them brief mention.  Shecky Greene was the head-liner at those early Elvis shows at the Frontier.  Sammy Shore opened for Elvis at the International in 1969. 

Mr. Delaney finally did get back to Elvis by writing:

“We predict that Elvis will have his more enthusiastic followers walking around asking, 'Tom Who' and 'Elgelbert Who' when comparisons are attempted.”

“Streisand’s record at the International will be broken.”

“Elvis represents the finest effort by that master promoter, Col. Tom Parker.”

Did you notice something?  These were positive statements, but nowhere in them (or anywhere else in the review) did Mr. Delany say something good about Elvis’ performance.  No mention of his singing.  Nothing.

 

Elvis and Guitar During July 31, 1969 Performance

Another Sun writer, Ralph Pearl balanced his review with some good, some bad.  His first paragraph said:

“Elvis Presley got a constant, roaring approval from his fans who all but threw themselves into the aisles and out of the balcony as the Pelvis sang his many rock and roll hits while fiercely, almost savagely, turning himself outside in.”

Wow, that sounds like a 1956 review, doesn’t it?  Elvis still had it!  But, Mr. Pearl then joked about being assassinated by Presley fans because of this critical opinion:

“We found the glamorous rock and roll movie hero really cashing in on his reputation and not truly earning the enormous standing ovation at the close of his one hour song session.”

So, Elvis was a wild man moving around with animal sexuality, and the fans were going nuts, but this guy said Elvis was undeserving.  Mr. Pearl could have picked a better subject for sneaking in his prejudice against Elvis.  Of course, he found other things to quibble about:

“There was a noticeable lack of production or showcasing on his many songs.  The lad just got out there, wrapped his lean torso around a guitar and hammered out song after song.”

Ah, gee.  There weren’t any chorus girls.  Just thousands of people thrilled to see Elvis hammer out song after song.  It was a concert, Mr. Pearl, not a Vegas floor show.

 

          

                              Torso Wrapped Around Guitar                         Song after Song    

Elvis played two shows a night (8PM and Midnight) for twenty-eight days.  Then he took a break for five months.  When he returned to Las Vegas in February 1970, Elvis must have finally won over tough critic Joe Delaney, who wrote: 

“Sheer magic throughout… What impresses us is the great aura and attitude that permeates the entire presentation this time in.”

No wonder.  The doubts and worries from the previous July were now gone.  Elvis knew his first run back in Vegas was superb, and had every reason to believe his second appearance would be even better.  Without question, Elvis had this live concert thing well under control.  He would go on to do a total of 837 consecutive sold-out Las Vegas performances in front of 2.5 million fans.

©  2009    Philip R Arnold, Original Elvis Blogmeister    All Rights Reserved    www.ElvisBlog.net

Elvis Will Never Leave the Building

An old high school buddy of mine is also an Elvis fan.  He lives in Indiana and has a background in history education.  So, it was a pleasant surprise when he sent me a copy of the Spring 2008 issue of Traces, the publication of the Indiana Historical Society, with this cover story: “The King’s Last Concert – Elvis Presley in Indianapolis.”

Although Elvis was in poor health in 1977, he still toured extensively. During the first six months, he gave fifty-five concerts all over the country.  In June he embarked on a ten-day tour through seven mid-western states.  He drew almost 18,000 fans to the last stop at The Market Square Arena in Indianapolis on June 26.  Fifty-one days later he was dead.

The article in Traces was written by Rita Rose, former Assistant Entertainment Editor of the morning Indianapolis Star.  Much of her story focused on her original review of the concert and that of Zack Dunkin, the rock music critic of the afternoon Indianapolis News.  He slammed Elvis pretty hard on several counts.  However, I cannot see the sense of this statement:  “When you pay $15 to see Elvis, you should see Elvis for three hours instead of one hour, 20 minutes.”  Come on, Mr. Dunkin, let’s be fair.  How many other concerts did you ever catch that lasted for three hours?  Not any, I’ll bet.  Certainly, none of the fans (who attended the concert) interviewed for the Traces article said anything about believing they were shortchanged.

 

Unused ticket from the Elvis’ last concert, listed on E-bay at $300

Mr. Dunkin also said, “It’s time ardent Presley fans quit protecting their idol and started demanding more.  They know ’the King’ can do better.”  The concert review appeared on the front page of the News, and that created a lot of attention.  For months afterward, Mr. Dunkin was tagged as an Elvis hater, and he received hate mail, even an angry letter from his father.  I love Mr. Dunkin’s later quote:  “What I learned was, you don’t mess with the King.”

Rita Rose’s own review in the Star began by referencing Elvis’ October 1974 concert in Indianapolis.  “The big question was, of course, had he lost weight?  His last concert, nearly two years ago, found Elvis overweight, sick and prone to give a lethargic performance.  As the lights in the Arena were turned down, you could feel a silent plea rippling through the audience:  Please. Elvis, don’t be fat.”

        

Coming on stage

                  
Belting out a high note

 

What Ms. Rose wrote next was far more favorable than that of her counterpart at the other paper.  “And then he appeared, in a gold and white jumpsuit and white boots, bounding onstage with energy that was a relief to everyone.  At 42, Elvis was still carrying around some excess baggage on his midsection, but it didn’t stop him from giving a performance in true Elvis style.”

Booklet from last concert – get one on E-bay for $150

Of course, newspaper reviewers never had the same reactions as the Elvis fans who attended his concerts.  Here’s a great quote by Sheilah Craft from the Traces article:  “I remember when the lights dimmed as he prepared to take the stage.  I gripped the rail in front of me so tightly that my hands were sore.  When the 2001 theme began, my heart skipped a few beats.  But when I saw the top of his hair in the spotlight as he came on stage, my face and arms became numb.  In retrospect, I think I must have been in some kind of shock at just the sight of him.”

The Elvis fans in the area objected loudly when it was announced in 1999 that the Market Square Arena was scheduled for demolition.  They tried to save the building because of its historical significance as the home of Elvis’ last performance.  Their efforts did not prevail, and demolition took place on July 8, 2001.

 

 

However, on June 26, 2002, a granite and bronze Elvis monument was erected on the former site.   It cost $10,000, paid for entirely by donations from Elvis fans.

The monument includes a time capsule to be opened in a hundred years.  Contained inside are fan letters, photos of fans with Elvis, and a scarf given by Elvis to one of the fans at the concert.

Thus, it is no surprise that Ms Rose’s article in Traces starts with:  “Elvis will never leave the building, even if the building – Market Square Arena – is no longer standing.”

©  2009    Philip R Arnold, Original Elvis Blogmeister    All Rights Reserved    www.ElvisBlog.net

 

Elvis Presley vs Michael Jackson: Who Won The Auction?

 

Michael Jackson died on Thursday, June 25, 2009.  Did you know there was an auction containing many Michael Jackson items that closed at midnight that very same day?  Do you think his death might have bumped up the last-minute bidding considerably?  Let’s look at the auction and some of its more notable results.

The auction was called Julien’s Summer Sale, and it originated from the Planet Hollywood in Las Vegas.  It featured hundreds of Hollywood and entertainment collectibles, including about three dozen Elvis items and about a dozen Michael Jackson goodies.

I have been following the auction website for the past two weeks, mostly because I was mad about some of the Elvis stuff they were offering.  Most of the items were provided by Dr. Nick (Dr. George C. Nichopoulos), Elvis’ personal physician at the time of his death.  I just thought it was in very bad taste for him to be selling nine bottles and vials of Elvis’ 1977 prescriptions, particularly in light of his questionable control over Elvis’ medicines toward the end of Elvis’ life.

 

 

At least there were no bottles of narcotic or addictive items for sale.  Do you think they mighy have disappeared from Dr. Nicks’ case early on August 16, 1777?  His empty case brought in a $16,000 top bid.  Pretty sick, if you ask me.

I have never liked Dr. Nick, as is evident in my May 2007 ElvisBolg article titled “Dr. Nick’s Memories of Elvis.”  I was especially hoping one item in the new auction would get no bids.  It is a framed collage of 1981 newspaper headlines saying, “Dr. Nick Found Not Guilty.”  This referred to the decision by the State of Tennessee clearing him of any wrongdoing in Elvis’ death.  Elvis never saw these headlines, so there is no direct connection to Elvis, but some damn fool paid $648 for it.

 

 

Anyway, the Michael Jackson items in this auction were pretty interesting.  There were his hand-written lyrics for the hit song “Bad.”  The original estimate was $500-700, but the high bid was $13,440.  What do you think it would have gone for if Michael hadn’t died the day of the bidding?   Another example is the costume shirt from the Jacksons’ Victory Tour in 1984.    It had what seems like a ridiculously low estimate of $1000-1500, because one side is covered in small pearls and the other side is a combination of pearls and Swarovski crystal.
It sold for $52,500, which seems entirely appropriate.
 

 

I have two favorite Michael Jackson items.  One is a painting he did of Mickey Mouse – a double dose of icons.  It also had an estimate of $1000-1500, but it went for $25,000.  The other is a signed concert poster from his September 7, 2001 performance at Madison Square garden.  With that great picture and Michael’s autograph, I can’t imagine why it did not bring much more than $3520.

               

                    

There were some notable Elvis items, too, and, as always, the big sellers are his jewelry and clothes.  There were two rings Elvis had given to Dr. Nick:  one with a green, cat’s eye stone for $28,125, and one with a large lapis stone for $33,770

               

 

The top Elvis clothing item was a shirt Elvis gave to his buddy Charlie Hodge after wearing it on stage in the mid-70s.  Charlie is gone now, so I guess his estate is sharing a few Elvis mementos with the fans.  It is ivory colored silk with gold, silver and black sequins.  The estimate was stupidly low at $4-6,000, but the winning bid was $38,750.

And, the big Elvis item winner was a TCB necklace Elvis gave to Dr. Nick many years ago. Elvis gave away lots of TCB pendants, but most were just gold.  This one is covered with thirty-two full-cut round diamonds.  It was estimated to go in the same $20-40,000 range as the two rings, but it brought in $117,000

 

                           

So, in answer to the question posed in the title of this article, Michael Jackson probably did win the auction – or, at least, the Michael Jackson collectibles probably outperformed the Elvis items.  However, if the auction had closed one day earlier, we can safely say Elvis would have won in a slam dunk.

There has been a doctor at the center of the Michael Jackson affair.  I certainly hope his medical case and a bunch of Jackson’s pill bottles don’t show up in an auction a few years from now.  We’ve already had more than enough comparisons of Michael Jackson and Elvis.

©  2009    Philip R Arnold, Original Elvis Blogger    All Rights Reserved   www.ElvisBlog.net

 

Happy 4th of July, Elvis

You get to read an extra column this week.  In five years of doing ElvisBlog, I’ve never had such an abundance of articles as right now.  For weeks, I’ve been sitting on a story about Elvis’ last concert, planning to post it this past Sunday, close to the date of the concert, June 26, 1977.  That makes it the 32nd anniversary.  Not a big one, but a good excuse to write the article, anyway.

Then Michael Jackson died, and ElvisBlog just had to do a quick story on Michael and Lisa Marie instead.   But, on the same day as he died, there was a huge auction of Hollywood memorabilia that contained three dozen Elvis items and about a dozen for Michael Jackson.  So, that story had to be covered while it was hot, and it will appear next Sunday, July 5.  Elvis’ last concert had to be pushed back not one week, but two, to the following Sunday, July 12.

Which means — a special Elvis 4th of July tribute has to be posted now.

 

Speaking of Michael Jackson and Lisa Marie, there is one interesting thing to report.  For a few days, ElvisBlog was the #4 ranked site by Google for the search item, “Did Lisa Marie and Michael Jackson have sex?”  I feel kind of weird to be proud of that, but I am.

 

A lot of Photoshop people have come up with clever ideas with patriotic Elvis themes.  If anyone who created one of these picture has a problem with them being seen on ElvisBlog, let me know and I’ll take them off.  Actually, I’m thinking you’ll be proud to have lots of Elvis fans appreciating your art.

 

 

The 4th of July was an important date for Elvis.  In fact, it is the date that his career got started.  On July 4, 1954, at Sam Phillips suggestion, Elvis went over to Scotty Moore’s house and did an impromptu audition.  Bill Black also dropped in, but he and Scotty were not overly impressed.  However, Sam Phillips decided it might be worth another try at the studio.  On July 5, Elvis, Scotty and Bill recorded “That’s All Right,” and the rest is history.

 

Are these Elvis Photoshop artists good, or what?  I really should be giving them credit and a link.  Let me know and I will.

 

I will end this article with a YouTube video.  It is a film showing the demolition of the New Frontier Hotel in Las Vegas on November 13, 2007.  This was where Col. Parker booked Elvis to perform back in May 1956.  It didn’t go so well, and Elvis didn’t come back to Vegas to perform again until 1969.  The 1956 appearance is an interesting story you can read about here.

The cool thing about the YouTube video is that it blends July 4th fireworks with the demolition.  I’ve watched this vide a bunch of times, and as the walls of the Frontier tumble down, I always say “Good bye, Elvis.”
 

 

(Editor's note:  Check out the 2010 salute “Happy Independence Day, Elvis”)

 

©  2009    Philip R Arnold, Original Elvis Blogmeister    All Rights Reserved    www.ElvisBlog.net