Monthly Archives: October 2019

Elvis, Elvira, and Halloween

Over the years, I’ve done several posts that feature Elvis in Halloween themes, but the supply of pictures available for this has been pretty much used up. So, this year, how about an article on someone who made a career out of Halloween themes… and also had a connection with Elvis?

 

Yes, we’re talking about Elvira, Mistress of the Dark, the costumed vamp who hosted a horror movie show on television and went on to great fame.

 

 

Cassandra Peterson created the Elvira persona in 1981. Prior to that, she was a Las Vegas showgirl.

 

 

It was during this period Cassandra Peterson met Elvis.

“I had been patterning my whole life after Ann Margaret in Viva Las Vegas. So, Yeah, luckily, really, I met Elvis, and it was kind of my dream come true because by the time I went to Vegas, and I did meet Elvis, it was like, ‘Oh my God, it’s coming true! The whole movie’s coming true, you know!’ And, so, I did hang out with Elvis for a while, and he was wonderful and charming and nice, very down home, very sweet, innocent kind of person. He was so different than what anybody would ever think. Not like Mr. Show Biz Time, just a nice, really charming, wonderful guy, very funny sense of humor.”

 

 

Cassandra Peterson got started as Elvira in 1981, but back in 1969 she was just a 17 year old, struggling showgirl, when a friend of Cassandra’s managed to get them both invited to a party at Elvis’ penthouse suite in the Las Vegas International Hotel.

 

 

 

Elvis liked to be around showgirls, and on this night he took an interest in Cassandra.

“Elvis singled me out. I sat at the piano and he played songs for me. We were singing together and he said, ‘Oh, you have a good voice. Why don’t you go take some singing lessons, learn how to sing, and get out of here?’ He said, ‘Because this is a real short-lived career, being a showgirl.’ So, next day, I mean, really, the next day, I went out and I signed up for singing lessons, and within just a few months I got a singing part in the show. It really was the thing I needed to kind of get me out of there.”

Later, in a more private setting, they talked all night, and a variety of subjects were broached. Elvis told her he was very spiritual and discussed numerology. He showed her a jewel-encrusted belt buckle — a present from President Richard Nixon.

“It was the biggest, gaudiest things I had ever seen, and he was just so thrilled with it, like he was a little kid.”

She told him she smoked marijuana and that she was a virgin and both revelations had an effect on Elvis. He lectured her on the evils of pot, and marveled that there was actually a showgirl virgin in Las Vegas. After a while, she came to a realization.

“It was clear that he was not going to, like, hit on me. I could kick myself now for telling him. It would have been great to have him as my first lover. If it’s got to be somebody, it might as well be Elvis.”

 

How’s that for an understatement?

 

 

 

 

 

© 2019 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 and the Ed Sullivan Shows

There was some interesting history leading up to Elvis’ appearances with Ed Sullivan, just the kind of stuff that makes a good blog article.

Early in 1956, as Elvis’ career took off, Ed Sullivan was not interested in booking Elvis on his show. Sullivan even stated to the press, “He is not my cup of tea.” So, when Col. Parker offered to book Elvis for $5,000, Sullivan turned it down.

Another reason for Sullivan’s rejection was the famous Bo Diddley incident that turned Sullivan against all rock & rollers. In November of ’55, two of the hottest songs in the country were “Sixteen Tons” by Tennessee Ernie Ford and “Bo Diddley” by Bo Diddley.

 

Sullivan booked both singers on the same show, but Ford had to cancel at the last minute. In a decision that seems totally bizarre, Sullivan thought the song was more important than the artist, and he pressed Bo Diddley to sing “Sixteen Tons” on the live show.

If you remember “Sixteen Tons” and the music of Bo Diddley, you know how ridiculous that notion was. Bo Diddley certainly must have thought so, but he was just starting out and needed the exposure. He didn’t fight with Sullivan’s producer. They printed up cue cards with the lyrics to “Sixteen Tons” for Diddley, and he did the song in rehearsal.

 

However, when it was show time, Diddley performed his own song. This enraged Sullivan, and he vowed to see that Diddley would never appear on TV again. Of course, this did not happen, but he was banned from ever appearing on the Ed Sullivan Show again (as were The Doors and comedian Jackie Mason in the 60s).

 

With Sullivan showing no interest in booking Elvis, Col. Parker cut a deal with Milton Berle for two shows at $5,000 each. Berle was finishing up his eight-year reign as the king of comedy on TV. Elvis’ second appearance on June 5, 1956, was Berle’s last show and, whether he planned it or not, Berle went out with a bang.

 

Elvis’ wild gyrations while singing “Hound Dog” totally freaked out the nation. Teenagers loved it, parents hated it, and newspapers across the nation condemned it with lines like this:

New York Journal American – “primitive physical movement difficult to describe in terms suitable for a family newspaper.”

New York Daily News – Elvis “gave an exhibition that was suggestive and vulgar, tinged with the kind of animalism that should be confined to dives and bordellos.”

San Francisco Chronicle – “in appalling taste.”

No doubt, this just reinforced Ed Sullivan’s determination to never have Elvis on his show. However, by then, Elvis was already signed to appear on The Steve Allen Show on July 1, 1956.

 

This was in the Sunday night slot directly opposite The Ed Sullivan Show. Because of all the outrage over “Hound Dog” three weeks earlier on the Berle show, Steve Allen thought about canceling Elvis’ appearance, but instead had him wear tails and a top hat and sing to a basset hound.

 

So how did Steve Allen with Elvis do in head-to-head competition with Ed Sullivan? Allen clobbered the king of Sunday night TV with 55% of the nation’s viewing audience. The ratings war went to Allen by a 20.2 to 14.8 margin.

 

 

Sullivan threw in the towel and negotiated with Col. Parker to get Elvis on his show. Parker knew he was holding all the cards and muscled $50,000 from Sullivan, an unheard of amount at the time. So, Sullivan who had passed on Elvis when the tab was $5,000, now had to shell out ten times that amount to get him later. At least it was for three shows.

 

Here’s a side thought. Eight months earlier RCA paid Sam Phillips $35,000 for Elvis’ recording contract, and now he was getting $50,000 for three TV shows. Did RCA get a good deal or what?

 

I have read several reviews and commentaries that express how important it was for Elvis’ career for him to appear on The Ed Sullivan Show. I beg to differ. By the date of the first show, Elvis already had three #1 hits. His first album, Elvis Presley, was a million-seller and the first rock & roll album to go to the top of the charts. He was already filming his first movie and was under contract for several more. His live shows were jam-packed with screaming girls, and hardly a day went by without stories and photos of Elvis appearing in newspapers and magazines.

 

For the first show, anyway, I think Ed Sullivan needed Elvis more than Elvis needed him. About all Sullivan did for Elvis was make him more acceptable to the parents of his adoring fans. At the end of Elvis’ third appearance, Sullivan came out and called him “a real fine, decent boy.”

Sullivan closed with, “We’ve never had a pleasanter experience on our show with a big name than we’ve had with you; you’re thoroughly all right.” That may have allowed the parents to breathe easier, but it had no notable impact on Elvis’ career, which was already cruising away in overdrive.

 

This promo and press ticket are from Elvis’ second appearance on the Ed Sullivan Show. Here are the three dates and the songs he performed at each:

Sept. 9, 1956

Don’t Be Cruel
Love Me Tender
Reddy Teddy
Hound Dog

Oct. 28, 1956

Don’t Be Cruel
Love Me Tender
Love Me
Hound Dog

Jan. 6, 1957

Hound Dog
Love me Tender
Heartbreak Hotel
Don’t Be Cruel
Too Much
When My Blue Moon Turns to Gold Again
Peace in the Valley

 

 

If you own this DVD set, you have watched all of Elvis’ performances in sequence. This cleared up the confusion in my mind about whether Ed Sullivan filmed Elvis from the waist up on all three shows or just the last one. Actually, Sullivan allowed full viewing of Elvis on just one song each on the first two shows.

 

The song Elvis performs above was “Ready Teddy,” and it is my favorite when I watch the shows on the video. Scotty rocks out on the instrumental bridge, and we get a full-shot view of Elvis doing some hot footwork. This is the Elvis I tuned in to see back in 1956, and my preference is no different today. I must admit that one of his moves looks like classic James Brown, but I don’t care. Elvis’ dancing was great and I wished it had lasted much longer.

 

The Jordanaires backed Elvis on every song and were constantly visible behind or beside him except for the tight shots of Elvis’ head. That’s fine, but all of the band together was not seen except on two songs. You could tell Scotty, DJ, and Bill were close by, so why the camera didn’t pan to them mystifies me.

I really love the Jordanairs, but I think they should have been off to the side, and the band should have been behind Elvis for more than two songs.

 

Aside from that little bit of quibbling, watching Elvis on the Ed Sullivan shows was a wonderful treat back when I watched them on my family’s 10” B&W TV… and it’s even better on that DVD above. Do yourself a favor and get a copy.

 

 

© 2019 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.

 

The Many Faces of Elvis

These faces of Elvis over the years are pretty much devoid of emotion. However, Elvis did have eyes and mouth that could effectively express a variety of interesting moods. Let’s take a look at the many faces Elvis could make.

 

Like this. Good smirk face, Elvis. Here’s my idea of what could have been going on here.

Elvis has just told his cousin Gene Smith about a wild time he had one night in Las Vegas. Gene’s looking at him saying, “No way, man… Really?” And Elvis is giving Gene this silly smirk and laughing inside.

 

This is Elvis’ grunting face, and he sure does it well. Squinty eyes, curled lips, and bulging veins in his neck. You know if Elvis put that much emotion into every song he sang that night, the fans saw a powerful concert. I wish Elvis’ lip had curled up this much when he did his classic snarl.

 

Contemplative? That seems like a good tag for Elvis’ facial expression in this picture. His hair style would indicate this is toward the end of the movie years. Yet the shading on his face makes Elvis look older.

 

What do we call this look? Bemused? Amazed? If we were to put words to this picture, it might be, “Wow, can you believe all this mail I got.”

 

This is from Elvis’ performance of “Don’t Be Cruel” on the Ed Sullivan Show. I have written several times about the hypnotic effect of Elvis’ eyes at the end of the song. In fact, the pictures in those other posts show it better than this, but I wanted to use this colorized one. So what’s the tag? Intense? Entrancing? Piercing?

 

This is obviously Elvis’ happy look. Enjoying the moment with him is Jan Shepard, who played Elvis’ sister in King Creole. Sure makes you wish you could have have been at that table with them, doesn’t it?

 

Elvis is having fun with a fan here. This is definitely his amused look.

 

Does anyone know anything about this photo? We could call it Elvis’ despondent look. Or, maybe he is just thinking, or resting.

 

This clip from Change of Habit tickled me for several reasons. First, Elvis looks like he is ready to audition for Jim Carey’s part in Dumb and Dumber. Second, that horse over Elvis’ shoulder looks pretty ominous. But not as ominous as that serial killer behind them that’s looking toward Mary Tyler Moore. Anyway, I’ll call this a dumber face, but maybe you can come up something better.

 

This is Elvis giving us his bad-ass teenage rebel look. Like I wrote about years ago, Elvis wore eye makeup on stage. Looks like he has some on here.

 

And we’d have to label this as Elvis’ super-cool look. Sitting in his hotrod looking out the open window at a couple of girls, and thinking, “OK, are you gonna get in the car or stand out there giggling all night.”

 

Somber? Suspicious? Elvis is keeping a serious eye on something. And he sure looks different in Charro than in the other movies. That black leather bracelet got a reprisal on the ’68 Comeback Special.

 

This could be called Elvis’ intense or intimidating face. If a sword had been swapped for the mic, and John Wilkinson was removed, Elvis would look like some sort of Bavarian warrior.

 

This is a photo you all have seen before, but what a great illustration of Elvis’ pained-looking face.

 

I think this face is hilarious. It is a screen grab from G.I.Joe when he and his Army buddies are on a troop train through Germany. If anyone would like to describe what expression this is on Elvis’ face, please give it a go.

 

 

© 2019 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.

World Space Week — Elvis Style

Have you ever heard of World Space Week? Me, neither. Of course, there are days and weeks for all kinds of things, and if you want to look at the list, the URL is at the bottom of this picture. I wonder who gets to pick them.

Anyway, I discovered World Space Week while surfing the net a few days ago. I knew I had to do a post on the connection between Elvis and World Space. That just sounded too good to pass up. So here are some images that work pretty well for me as an exhibit of:

WORLD SPACE ELVIS

 

I think this one nailed it. You’ve got Elvis, the world, and the space. The yellow color in the center is a nice touch. Unfortunately, not all of the pictures are this noble and mesmerizing.

.

This one is such a mess. Elvis is riding through space on a flying guitar case, dragging balloons behind him. He has on a suit, but he is barefoot. And, he has a little Christmas tree sitting on his lap. It looks like he will have to change his direction if he wants to get to that world up ahead. So, it’s a stupid picture, but it covered the three things we’re looking for — Elvis, world, and space.

 

This is the Chalmuns Cantina located in the pirate city of Mos Eisley on the planet Tatooine. We’ve got Elvis and a space theme, but no world. Still, I like it, although the Photoshop work could have been better.

 

This one has two worlds and lots of space. I can’t decide if the floating musical notes are really needed, but they are different. I think the muted image of Elvis works well with the overall tone.

 

Here we have Elvis in name, but no picture. And, we’ll count the word planet the same as world. I showed this T-shirt picture before in an article inspired by this magazine cover.

I think World Space Elvis tops Planet Hillary.

 

I’m getting double usage out of this one, too. Although there’s no world in the picture, we do get a cool guitar that shoots out lightning bolts. Plus, Elvis has shoes on. Great picture.

 

I know I may hear from someone offended by this picture. Sorry. Elvis and space aliens. It looks like the Grand Poohbah is the blue guy on the screen. And they’ve got Marilyn Monroe back there destined to get the same treatment.

 

Back to the good ones. I like the way Elvis has stuck his guitar into the cloud. It’s just floating along beside him.

 

This is Space Dandy and his two loyal sidekicks. He’s wearing a jumpsuit — look at the red cape. And the hair. This is definitely a nod to Elvis.

 

This combines so much, but it’s still a stretch. The space connection is the Star Wars storm trooper outfit on a LEGO figure with an Elvis head on it. That’s a crummy Elvis face, though.

 

Although I rotated and cropped the original, this simple picture does offer everything in Elvis World Space. I don’t get what the message is with Elvis trudging along the top of that world, but I find this image interesting.

 

All it takes is an arm and a white jumpsuit sleeve to understand that it’s Elvis. It’s more difficult to understand what the point of this image is, but the touching fingers seems to be inspired by the art on the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel. I guess we should just enjoy the design and not think about it too much.

 

This was a pretty simple Photoshop job, but I like it. A good one to end with.

 

I hope you enjoyed observing World Space Week — Elvis Style.

 

 

©  2019    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.

 

Some Thoughts on Elvis Caricatures

 

We have all seen caricatures of Elvis. When I started a file of them 14 years ago, the drawings were pretty simplistic and unmemorable, like the ones above. They did, however, meet the definition of a caricature:

Caricatures are images showing the features of its subject in an exaggerated way. Caricatures can be insulting or complimentary.

Don’t worry, none of the nasty ones will ever be put on ElvisBlog.

 

Artist unknown

 

Obviously, caricature artists have a highly developed sense of facial observation. They can look at the features of a face and know which ones could be best exaggerated while still keeping the full image recognizable. Back in January, 2005, a website with a very long name (www.drawing-faces-and-caricatures-made-easy.com)  had an interesting topic:

 

“What Makes Any Face Caricaturable? How About Elvis Presley?”

 

How about him, indeed. When I saw that title, I knew it was going to be an interesting article. An expert was going to analyze Elvis’ face for the benefit of aspiring caricature artists. Cool.

Anyway, the writer explained how he would draw several features of Elvis’ face. Here are the highlights of what he had to say. The first one is the most incredible description of Elvis’ hair that I have ever seen.

HAIR: “Big. Huge. Massive. Larger than life.” All the superlatives you can conjure up for that top-heavy, fifties, bow-of-a-ship, tough dude, frontal assault of a hair-doo.”

Artist unknown

 

The article goes on to state that effectively drawing Elvis’ hair is a challenge.

“The answer is capturing the 3-D mass of it all. How do you do that? Lots of contours and highlights. Elvis also has lots of loose dangling ends of hair that fall across his face. You’ll see that in almost every caricature of Elvis, artists capitalize on this.”

Artist – LockUp Wallace

Now that’s some serious 3-D Elvis hair. But there’s none of the dangling ends like in the first two pictures. If you scroll back up to check them out again, also notice Elvis’ chin.

CHIN: “Elvis has a full rounded chin. About the only thing else I can say about it is when you draw it, think “sphere” or “square” and try to incorporate those shapes into the chin when you draw.”

Sorry, I don’t think it’s possible to incorporate square into anything about Elvis.

Artist – markdraws

 

Here’s another exaggerated Elvis chin. Nice job on the lip snarl, too. The article had little to say about Elvis’ snarl, but it did point out his cheekbones.

CHEEKBONES: “Whereas Arnold Schwarzenegger boasted really hard angles in his face, Elvis is softer edged. He has prominent cheekbones. They may drop low, because they have a mass to them. They also seem to rise high as they roll past the level of the eyes. You’ll see artists grab on that, too.”

Artist – Ron K

Note that Elvis’ eyes are closed in this one.

EYES, EYEBROWS, EYELIDS: “Women just plain love Elvis’ eyes. Even if this is what women find sexy, here’s what I see as the observable deal. It’s the low riding eyelids, almost that sleepy eyed look. You see Jack Nicholson and John Travolta do it. In any case, it’s the confidence and control factor half-mast eyes seem to exude. That’s what I think it is about his eyes women like. Then you couple the low eyelids with the slightly quizzical raised eyebrows, you get that come-on look.”

 

Artist – Bruce Stark

You have to say that this drawing has distinctive eyes, but they are not quite Elvis’ eyes. The legs remind me of Woody from Toy Story.

Artist Gabby Correia

Here’s a great job on Elvis’ eyes. The artist also nailed the big 3D hair. Also, you may notice that Elvis’ mouth is rather small.

MOUTH: “Traveling south down his face, you encounter the cheekbones, then rather full cheeks, then a relatively small maxilla behind the mouth (that’s the bone that holds your upper teeth). This explains why his mouth may seem small compared to Julia Roberts (who has a very broad, flat-at-the-front-where-the-teeth-are type of maxilla.) So, if you relate all that to Mr. Average, you could play up the forehead and cheeks and shrink the mouth.”

Artist – Benjamin Strobel

This drawing captures the small mouth, the high cheekbones, and of course, the big hair.

LIPS: “For a white guy, Elvis has pretty full lips. Even though, as mentioned above, the mouth overall seems on the small side (from corner to corner), the lips — especially the lower one — are very full.”

Artist – Tom Richmond

Here’s another full-lips drawing. This image of Elvis that has grown on me since I first discovered it. I think it is one of the best black and white caricatures of Elvis.

Several of the pictures above show Elvis in jumpsuits, but for some reason, that was not mentioned in the article as a major element for caricatures.

Artist – Zuo Chen

This one is a little puzzling. That’s a 50s Elvis pompadour, but he’s in a 70s jumpsuit. It is also an example of a frequently used caricature device – big head on a small body.

Artist – Carreno

 

NOSE: “You’ll see his nose drawn with a very broad root (where it comes out of the forehead between the eyes), that maintains that width right down to the sharp tip. A tip that has a dimple in it dividing left and right halves.”

I was surprised that the article made no mention of Elvis’ sideburns. Some of the photos above had big ones. Here is another.

Artist – Zack Wallenfang

These count as serious sideburns. This drawing has Elvis’ shades in it, but they are not really exaggerated. Not many of the Elvis caricatures I’ve found featured the glasses. That’s surprising, because they are a distinctive element associated with Elvis.

Here are a few more good drawings with a little comment.

Artist – Dan Adel

Another large Elvis head on a small Elvis body. This one shows young Elvis with a handful of fans up close and personal. Nice concept.

Artist – David O’Keefe

The big hair pictures generally seem to be young Elvis. And yet, here the sideburns are very subdued.

 

Artist – Alberto “Sting” Russo

Here’s a great Elvis caricature featuring his lip snarl. I guess I like the touches of color, but I’d like to see this one without it, too.

 

Artist unknown

I guess this is not technically a caricature because nothing is exaggerated. But I like it a lot, so we’ll end with it.

 

 

© 2019 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.