Monthly Archives: August 2012

The Movie Theater: One Building Elvis Will Never Leave — Part 5

Thirty-five years after his death, Elvis’ connection with movies shows no sign of ending.  As a teenager, Elvis worked as an usher at Loew’s State Theater in downtown Memphis.  In the late 50s, he started his career in movies, and it continued until 1969 for a total of 31 films.  In the 70s, we had the Elvis theatrical documentaries “Elvis on Tour” and “Elvis: That’s the Way It Is.”  In the later years were had movies about Elvis like “Heartbreak Hotel.” “Bubba Ho-Tep,” and “Lonely Street.”

Scene from “Heartbreak Hotel”

 

However, Elvis’ name, image, songs, iconic accessories and famous quotes continue to be found in movies year after year.  These are called Elvis allusions, and John Beifuss, movie critic for the Memphis Commercial Appeal, has chronicled them for seventeen straight years.  He watches every movie that comes to town and makes notes on any allusion to Elvis.  He posts them on the newspaper’s website during Elvis Week each year.  Here are the most significant ones in John Beifuss’ 2012 Elvis Allusions in the Movies.

 

Men in Black lll

As this series gets into even more bizarre science fiction, Agent J (Will Smith) must take a trip into the past in order to save both the future and his partner Agent K (Tommy Lee Jones).  So how does Agent J describe the appearance of his missing partner?  He says K has, “sort of a surly Elvis thing happening with him…”

 

The Vow

Actually, the allusion in this movie is to Scotty Moore and Elvis’ first single.  Channing Tatum plays a music producer who dislikes computer-affected music and cites Elvis early Sun recordings as his ideal:  “The records I like have life and warmth and soul – like the slap-back on Scotty Moore’s guitar on ‘Mystery Train’… Come on, you can’t get the Sun Sessions on your laptop.”

 

The Guard

 

The title character is an Irish cop with a taste for alcohol, drugs, and hookers.  But, he turns out to be a good guy and an Elvis fan.  One line of dialog has him asking, “D’ya know where I’d like to be?  Tupelo.  Birthplace of the King.”

 

The Pirates: Band of Misfits

Aardman Animations, those talented folks who gave us Wallace and Gromit and Chicken Run have come up with another stop-motion winner.  In the movie, there is a competition for the “Pirate of the Year” award.  An interesting group goes after it, including the Pirate King, who wears (what else?) a pirate jumpsuit.

The movie’s website says, “He’s Elvis and a hurricane rolled into one.

 

God Bless America

 

This movie went straight to video, so technically it doesn’t fit the movie theater analogy in this article’s title.  The poster above hints that it’s not a very pleasant story.  In it, the guy teaches the teenage girl to shoot guns by popping a bunch of teddy bears nailed to trees.  He says, “I think Elvis would be proud.”   Well, we know Elvis loved shooting his guns, but I think he would have drawn the line at teddy bears.

 

the Killer Elite

 

The first Elvis reference in this badass action thriller is rather gruesome.  After an assignment, an assassin confirms, “He’s dead.  He’s dead as Elvis.”  The second line is better: “Stop the car.  We gotta be sure Elvis has left the building.”

 

Arthur Christmas

Another Aardman Animations gem, but computer-generated this time.  And, it contains yet another variation of the famous line about Elvis.  On Christmas Eve, an announcement echoes through the North Pole toy factory: “Santa has left the building.”

 

Which brings us back to the theme of this article.  The movie theater is one building Elvis has never left.

 

Note:  If you would like to read more about all the Elvis allusions in the movies for the past five years, click here, here, here, and here.

 

©  2012    Philip R Arnold, Original Elvis Blogmeister    All Rights Reserved    www.ElvisBlog.net

 

Elvis, Elvis Presley, and Graceland are registered trademarks of Elvis Presley Enterprises, Inc.

Elvis’ Fabulous Rings — Part 3

It was a slow process assembling the rings for Part 1 of this series – 13 rings from ten rock and roll memorabilia auctions over a four year period.  Part 2 was a little easier – eleven rings from four auctions plus the website Elvis Moments in Time.  For “Elvis’ Fabulous Rings — Part 3,” they all came from one auction that just ended on August 14.  It was the Ultimate Elvis Auction held in Memphis by Heritage Auctioneers over Elvis Week.  Let’s take take a look at ten more rings Elvis owned and gave away to a girlfriend, music associates, and Memphis Mafia buddies.

 

Diamond Cluster Ring

This 14K yellow gold ring adorned with seven small diamonds (approximate total weight of one carat) sold for $10,000 plus the auction house premium of 25% for a total of $12.500.  Also Included is a Letter of Authenticity (LOA) from Sam Thompson, brother of Linda Thompson, and the King’s personal bodyguard for several years.  Thompson states Elvis was wearing the ring on a 1977 flight to Hawaii, Sam admired the ring, and Elvis simply removed it from his finger and gave it to him.

The appeal of this diamond cluster ring was no doubt enhanced by an accompanying photo showing Elvis in his dragon jumpsuit wearing the ring.

 

Rubellite Ring

This large baguette cut ring brought in a high price, considering that it is a synthetic ruby, not a real one.  Part of the explanation for this is the ring’s history.  As explained in a Certificate of Authenticity (COA) from Joe Esposito, Elvis wore this ring, and then gave it to his girlfriend at the time, Linda Thompson.  According to another COA, years later Thompson sold this and most of the other jewelry Elvis had given her to a Beverly Hills jewelry store.

But, probably the biggest boost to the selling price was the accompanying photo of Elvis in a white jumpsuit from his Elvis on Tour wardrobe wearing the ring.  This 9K gold and 20 carat rubellite ring sold for $6,875.

 

Gold Nugget Ring

Elvis usually pulled rings off his fingers to give them to other people, but sometimes they came right out of his bedroom jewelry box.  Elvis gave this 10K ring with four diamonds to Marty Lacker, his longtime friend, personal aide, and the co-best man at his wedding. . Lacker tells the story in the 2011 signed letter accompanying this ring:

“One night in the 70’s, I was upstairs at Graceland with Elvis and he was going through his jewelry case and he turned around came over to me and said ‘let me see your hand’. I had no idea what he meant so I put my left hand out and he slid this ring on my finger.  I thought it was a good looking ring. I looked at it and started to take it off to give back to him and he said, ‘keep it, it is now yours.’ That was a typical move for Elvis… I have worn it on my left hand every day for the last 40 years.”

The ring sold for $5,250, including the auctioneer’s premium.

 

Tiger Eye Ring

 

Here’s a ring we looked at earlier this year in “Elvis’ Fabulous Rings – Part 2.”  Elvis owned and wore this ring, but gave it to Claude Thompson, who was his choreographer for the ’68 Comeback Special.  The tiger eye stone is mounted on a 14k heavy gold electroplate setting.  Accompanied by a LOA from Thompson, it sold at auction in November 2009 for $4,481.  Now, it was able to command $5,500 plus premium, so the owner made a little over $1,000 on the sale.

 

Gold Coin and Diamond Ring

 

This is an impressive ring, with an 1853 two-and-a half-dollar gold coin surrounded by tiny diamonds and set in a 14K gold mounting.  However, the seller obviously had an inflated sense of its value.  The auction estimate was $35,000, and the minimum bid was half that.  With the premium added, that comes to almost $22,000 opening bid, and no buyers thought it was worth it.

One problem was that there was no photo of Elvis wearing it.  The item description says you can see the ring on his finger in the 1970 documentary Elvis: That’s the Way It Is.  Well, duh.  Why didn’t the seller play the DVD on his computer and do a screen grab?  With some cropping and resizing, he’d have the photo you need to establish Elvis’ ownership.

 

Turquoise Ring

 

This ring cost less originally than most of Elvis’ purchases because it has no gold or diamonds.  There is a large turquoise stone set in silver.  It went for $4,375, including the premium.  This was certainly aided by a color photo of Elvis wearing it.  It also had had two LOAs verifying it as a ring Elvis owned.  He later gave it to J.D Sumner of the Stamps Quartet as part of a gift of a large collection of turquoise jewelry.

 

Gold and Citrine Ring

 

This ring was custom made for Elvis in the early 1970s by Thunderbird Jewelers of Las Vegas.  It has eight citrine stones totaling 25 carats in a gold setting.  It sold for $5,000, the minimum bid plus the premium.

It is another of the rings Elvis gave to Linda Thompson in the 70s that she sold in the 80s.  There was no photo of Elvis wearing it, but Joe Esposito provided an affidavit and a certificate of authenticity.  Seems like it would be better to have these from Linda Thompson.

 

Black Star Sapphire and Diamond Ring

 

The auction web page proudly described this as a massive gold 14K ring with a large number of round brilliant cut diamonds and many black sapphires.  Then they put what would seem like a ridiculously low opening bid of $1,250 on it.  Nine bidders ran the winning price up to $8,750 including the premium.  Elvis gave the ring to Alan Fortas, a member of the Memphis Mafia and one of Elvis’ best friends for almost two decades.  Fortas once said:

“Elvis believed the wearing of sapphire jewelry was supposed to signify generosity, good manners, wisdom and noble thoughts.”

The ring was accompanied by a LOA from Abe Fortas.  I wonder what it might have gone for if there was also a photo of Elvis wearing it.

 

Gold and Diamonds Ring

 

Here is the second ring that failed to generate the minimum bid.  The auction estimated it would bring $30,000 because it is huge – nearly 1-1/4 inches square with 36 diamonds set in 14K gold.  It says EP on one side and TCB on the other.  And, it was accompanied by a color photo of Elvis wearing the ring.  No history of the ring was given.  For some reason, the lot included two framed unused tickets for an August 22, 1977 concert at the Nassau Coliseum in Uniondale, NY, six days after Elvis’ death.  Even with all that, nobody wanted to put out $18,750 (including auction premium) to buy it.

 

Red Coral, Turquoise, and Sterling Silver Ring

 

This is a ring we also looked at in “Elvis’ Fabulous Rings – Part 1”, and the result was better the first time.  In the early 70s, turquoise rings were very popular with Elvis, and he had as many as ten or twelve.  One day Elvis realized he had so many and said to Charlie Hodge, “What am I going to do with so many turquoise rings?”  He solved the problem by giving this ring to Charlie.

In March 2011, Gotta Have Rock and Roll Auctions offered this Native American ring with elaborate silver work accented by turquoise and coral stones.  It was accompanied by a LOA from Charlie Hodge and a picture of Elvis wearing the ring.  It went for $5,000 plus premium, and I commented at the time that it seemed like a hefty price for an Elvis ring with no gold or diamonds in it.

So, now Heritage Auctions has had their shot at this ring.  The LOA from Hodge was included, but not the picture of Elvis wearing it.  Somebody goofed, and the winning bidder had to pay only the minimum bid of $3,000 plus premium.  Yes, it is possible to lose money on high-priced Elvis collectibles.

 

 

©  2012    Philip R Arnold, Original Elvis Blogmeister    All Rights Reserved    www.ElvisBlog.net

 

 

Elvis, Elvis Presley, and Graceland are registered trademarks of Elvis Presley Enterprises, Inc.

 

Turner Classic Movies Delivers an Elvis Bonanza on August 16

If you can’t get to Elvis Week in Memphis this year, there is one other way for fans to get our Elvis fix.  Turner Classic Movies has lined up fourteen Elvis movies for us on Thursday, August 16.

As a public service to help you plan your viewing schedule in advance, ElvisBlog is happy to present the TCM lineup.  In addition, some unusual ranking data will be shown.  It comes from the book Hollywood Rock by Marshall Crenshaw.

The book gives each movie a short review and assigns it up to five stars in three categories – Music, Attitude, and Fun.  Music is self-explanatory.  Attitude is explained as reflecting how well a movie succeeds on its own terms (whatever that means).  Fun is meant to gauge whether the film works as entertainment overall.  Also, for some movies, a special scene or line of dialog (some good, some bad) is noted.

Here is the TCM schedule for August 16:

 

6:00am           It Happened at the World’s Fair

    1. Music  **
    2. Attitude *
    3. Fun  *

Elvis Line: “Calm down, honey.  Racing that sweet little engine of yours on a hot day, that’s bad.”

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8:00am           Kissin’ Cousins

    1. Music  ****
    2. Attitude ****
    3. Fun  *****

Scene : The Army Guys give bikinis (purdy underwear) to the mountain girls as a bribe to win them over.

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9:45am          Girl Happy

    1. Music  ****
    2. Attitude **
    3. Fun  ***

Line by Elvis Friend: (Describing the perfect girl)  “Not much upstairs, but what a staircase.”

Scene : Elvis dresses in drag to escape from jail.

 

11:30am          Harum Scarum

    1. Music  **
    2. Attitude **
    3. Fun  ****

Elvis Line: “I’m in love with your daughter.  How could I assassinate you?”

 

1:00pm           Double Trouble

    1. Music  ***
    2. Attitude **
    3. Fun  **

Line to Elvis by a Friend:  “Must be the maternal instinct you bring out in chicks.  Them mothers can’t live without you.”

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2:45pm           Stay Away Joe

    1. Music  **
    2. Attitude ****
    3. Fun  ***

Elvis Line: “She can chew on my moccasins anytime she wants to.”

Scene: Elvis fights a bunch of guys and totally destroys his family’s house.

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4:30pm           Charro

    1. Music  **
    2. Attitude *
    3. Fun  *

(Ed. note:  How do you give Music two stars when the only song is the title track played over the opening credits?)

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6:15pm           The Trouble with Girls

    1. Music  **
    2. Attitude **
    3. Fun  *

Line to Elvis:  “The cannibals are complaining that their mattresses are too lumpy.”  Elvis Line:  “I told them to quit eating ‘em.”

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8:00pm           Elvis on Tour

Concert Documentary – Not in book

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9:45pm           Jailhouse Rock

    1. Music  ***
    2. Attitude ****
    3. Fun  **

Elvis Line: “That ain’t cheap tactics, honey.  That’s the beast in me.”

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11:30  Viva Las Vegas

    1. Music  ***
    2. Attitude ****
    3. Fun  *****

Scene: Elvis’ performance of “What’d I Say” in a crowded nightclub is both a reverie and a orgy.

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1:00am Speedway

    1. Music  **
    2. Attitude ***
    3. Fun  **

Scene: Elvis’ “love-trap” trailer – equipped with recordings of wild animals, fake radio announcements, and a remote controlled clock to assist him in his merry persuit.

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2:45am           Spinout

    1. Music  *
    2. Attitude *
    3. Fun  *

4:30am           Live A Little, Love A Little

    1. Music  **
    2. Attitude **
    3. Fun  ****

Scene: Elvis’ psychedelic dream in which the dog speaks to him, and where Elvis sings a song with the lyrics, “The girl with the nameless name.”

 

 

So, according to the multiple stars rating system used in the book Hollywood Rocks, the best two Elvis movies to watch on August 16 are Kissin’ Cousins and Viva Las Vegas.   I’ve got no argument with that and plan to watch both.  However, the music of Viva Las Vegas deserves four stars, too.

There is a three-way tie for the next highest rating – Girl Happy, Jailhouse Rock, and Stay Away Joe.  Now that’s just ridiculous.  Stay Away Joe is an embarrassment, depicting Native Americans as irresponsible louts interested in only drinking, fighting, and chasing girls.  It won’t be on my viewing list, but the other two definitely will.  I can’t understand how the reviewer gave Jailhouse Rock only three stars for music.  Come on, there’s six songs by Leiber and Stoller in the movie.

And the film with the dead last stars rating is Speedway.  They got that right.   No wonder it is scheduled for 2:45 in the morning.  The movie that follows it is Live A Little, Love A Little at 4:30am.  I love this one.  It’s just so stupid and bizarre.  Live A Little gets five stars for fun from me, and that’s why I’ll be setting the alarm to be sure I get up to see it.

Hope you all have a fun day watching Elvis movies next Thursday.

 

©  2012    Philip R Arnold, Original Elvis Blogmeister    All Rights Reserved    www.ElvisBlog.net

 

Elvis, Elvis Presley, and Graceland are registered trademarks of Elvis Presley Enterprises, Inc.

 

Impressed Again with Elvis’ Impact on Popular Culture

I live in Greenville, SC, a small city of about 70,000 people with an extended metro-area population of perhaps 400,000.  It is a pleasant, beautiful city, and it has a wealth of cultural opportunities, including five venues that present plays and musical events.

Last year, I wrote about one venue, the Greenville Little Theater, which presented ELVIS: Shake, Rattle, and Roll.  Elvis tribute artist Scot Bruce starred in this presentation, and it ran for eighteen shows over a three-week period.  I was skeptical that our community could support so much Elvis, but the shows were very popular and many were completely sold-out.

Now, a year later, it is obvious that my city can handle even more Elvis than that.  It is also obvious that Elvis’ impact on popular culture is strong and growing.  So strong, in fact, that the coming season at the Greenville Little Theater includes three Elvis-related events.

First, Scot Bruce is back for another extended run of his Shake, Rattle and Roll show, including on one on August 16, the date of Elvis’ death.  So, the big-time Elvis fans in the area won’t have to go to Elvis Week in Memphis to honor the King.  We can do it right here.

Scot Bruce specializes in Elvis’ music from the 50s and 60s.  Last year, he performed 28 songs, split into two segments. He opened with a delightful set of Elvis’ early hits.  I especially liked when he was joined at center stage by just the guitarist and bass player, and they did a tribute to Elvis’ songs from Sun Records.

 

I will be going back again this year to see Scot Bruce perform and I can’t wait.  This is a really fun show.

 

Then, a month later, the theater will present Smokey Joe’s Café, which features thirty-nine rock and roll songs by Jerry Leiber and Mike Stoller.

The show is presented in revue format with no unifying theme or dialogue, just thirty-nine songs performed by the members of the cast in various combinations.  Smokey Joe’s Café has been around since its premiere in Los Angeles in 1994.  It ran on Broadway from 1995 to 2000, a total of 2,036 performances, and now theaters around the country present it for their local audiences.

Leiber and Stoller wrote a bunch of songs for Elvis, and eight are included in the show:

Mike Stoller, Elvis, and jerry Leiber in 1957

 

Finally, the Greenville Little Theatre will present a two-week run of the comedy Elvis Has Left the Building.  The title is appropriate, because in the play Elvis is AWOL on the evening of a big performance in 1970.

The main character is the Colonel, and the plot revolves around his efforts to save the show.   He reaches back to the old hypnotism shtick from his carny days, and somehow comes up with two emergency pseudo-Elvises.

When our local theater director picks the two actors for these roles, I hope he comes up with men that resemble Elvis better than these guys in a Virginia production of the play.

 

There is no denying that Elvis is prominent in the entertainment shows being presented this season in my little city.  I never considered Greenville, SC to be a hotbed of Elvis fans, but two years ago when Elvis on Tour had its one-night showing here, the theater was jam-packed, so maybe we are.

I think the real reason so much Elvis-related entertainment is coming to town is because Elvis, thirty-five years after his death, is ingrained in American popular culture more than ever.  Keep an eye out for Elvis coming to your town in one form or another.

 

©  2012    Philip R Arnold, Original Elvis Blogmeister    All Rights Reserved    www.ElvisBlog.net

 

Elvis, Elvis Presley, and Graceland are registered trademarks of Elvis Presley Enterprises, Inc.