Monthly Archives: May 2008

ELVIS COMMENTARY MINI-NUGGETS — # 9

That Guy Looks Familiar:  There is an interesting story about how Elvis hooked up with Ed Parker, his long time Karate instructor.  Parker and several advanced students were giving a Karate demonstration at the Beverly Wilshire Health Club.  Elvis, who was staying at a nearby hotel, heard about it and came over to the demonstration.  Elvis walked up to Parker and said: “Hi, my name is Elvis Presley and I wondered if you would mind if I watched your demonstration.”  This story really tickles me.  Here is Elvis, probably the most recognized man in the world, and he says, “My name is Elvis Presley.”  Can there be any doubt how humble and unassuming Elvis was – in spite of his immense fame.

 

Elvis’ Favorite TV Shows:  A few weeks ago, I was looking through Priscilla Presley’s old book “Elvis and Me” for some background on the dancing lessons she took as a young lady.  In one chapter, she talked about all the TV shows she and Elvis watched (because they were his favorites, of course).  Here’s the list.

            Laugh-In

            The Untouchables

            The Wild, Wild West

            The Tonight Show

            Road Runner

I watched them all, too.  How about you?

 

Elvis’ Favorite Classic Movies:  Priscilla also mentioned several old movies that Elvis loved:

            Wuthering Heights

            It’s A Wonderful Life

            Miracle on 34th Street

The Way of All Flesh

Mr. Skeffington

Les Miserables

Letter From An Unknown Woman

 

“Eh-hulla havva huh baluuuuuuue kariss muss:  This is what the idiots at Spinner.com think the first line of Elvis’ “Blue Christmas” sounds like.   They call it the best example of the King’s signature breathalizing – whatever that is.  On a more positive note, Spinner.com rates “Blue Christmas” as the #3 best Christmas song.  Good call, but there’s an even better Elvis song of the season.  ElvisBlog.net rates “Santa Claus Is Back In Town” as the best Christmas song ever.

 

Would Elvis Really Eat at This Place:  The Third Avenue Café in Louisville, KY has a thing about Elvis.  Their website has a caricature of Elvis seated at the table, knife in one hand, fork in the other, ready to go.  They also have a mannequin suited up as the white-caped Elvis that sits at a window seat (or in the outside seats during the summer).  That may not seem so interesting — until you realize that the restaurant specializes in vegan and vegetarian food.  Seems strange that they would want to connect with a person who ate meatloaf at every supper for two years and ate a pound of bacon at breakfast most of his life.

 

Well, Maybe Not:  If you have ever seen video of Elvis performing “Polk Salad Annie” on stage, you know he gives it quite a workout.  In 1971, he said this about the song: “If you ever have a weight problem, just do this a couple of times a night.”  Maybe, but we know that doing it once a night didn’t get the job done.

 

Two-Headed Elvis Clone:  Titles like that used to be limited to the supermarket tabloids, but the Internet has changed all that.  If you Google “Two-Headed Elvis Clone,” they come up with 156 references.  Here are my three favorites:

Space Alien Weds Two-Headed Elvis Clone

            Two-Headed Elvis Clone Marries Ghost of Marilyn

            Jennifer Aniston Weds Two-Headed Space Alien Elvis Clone

There is also a blogger on LiveJournal.com who says in his bio that he is the child of a two-headed Elvis clone and a Martian.  If you think that’s bad, try Googling “Elvis’ Two-Headed Alien Love Child.”  There are even five entries for that one.

 

Elvis Reincarnated As A Tree Branch?:  American Forests is a sensible, conservation organization that cares about trees.  On their website, they have a section called “The Trees With Soul – Highlighting Historic Trees.”  Here’s what they report about the day of Elvis’ funeral.  “Inside the house [Graceland]… a private funeral was held.  Afterward, as the coffin was being carried out the door, a limb from one of the big oak trees out front snapped and fell, barely missing the funeral party.  Elvis’ friend Lamar Fike didn’t miss a beat.  ‘We knew you’d be back,’ he wisecracked. ‘Just not this soon.’”

 

Elvis told This Story, So It Must Be True:  In 1975, Elvis went to a football game.  While he was in the bathroom, a woman came up to one of his friends and said, “I hear Elvis Presley’s here at the football game.”  The friend said, “Yeah.”  She said, “I hear he’s in the bathroom.”  He said, “Yeah.”  She replied, very seriously, “I didn’t think he did that.”

 

©  2008   Philip R Arnold   All Rights Reserved   www.ElvisBlog.net

Hello, My Name Is…

You are probably familiar with the way Johnny Cash opened his concerts.  He would walk out on stage, go to the mike, and say, “Hello, my name is Johnny Cash.”  Elvis Presley was obviously aware of this mannerism, because he opened several of his live shows a very similar way.  That’s right.  Elvis walked on stage and announced, “Good evening, ladies and gentlemen.  I’m Johnny Cash.”  I guess he found it a good way to break the ice and get beyond pre-show jitters.

 

The following information in this column was gleaned from the wonderful book, “ELVIS: Word for Word” by Jerry Osborne, which contains over 300 verifiable quotes by Elvis.  While there are many sources of Elvis quotes in books and on the web, but I don’t know of any other reference containing Elvis’ stage chatter during concerts.  Osborne and his staff listened to audiotapes of more than 100 Elvis’ performances.  However, Elvis did about 700 live shows from 1969 to 1977, so there were probably many other funky introductions by Elvis we will never know about.

 

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The first time “ELVIS: Word for Word” notes him using the Johnny Cash line was on August 19, 1970, and the book shows Elvis used that intro again a total of at least eleven times. The last time was June 3, 1975, in Tuscaloosa, Alabama.

 

Elvis must have enjoyed using the Johnny Cash theme, because he embellished it over the years.  At different times while performing at the International Hotel in Las Vegas, he had double fun by welcoming the guests to other Vegas hotel/casinos, the Golden Nugget and the Frontier, as well as the Lake Tahoe International in another city.  While performing in Portland, Oregon, Elvis said, “My name is Johnny Cash.  It’s a pleasure to be here in Oakland.”  In Seattle, he said, “I did a movie here in 1912 I think it was…It Happened at the World’s Fair.”  My favorite variation came just two days after Elvis first used the Johnny Cash line.  He said, “I’m Johnny Cash.  I used to be Fats Domino, but I lost weight.”

 

Prior to starting the Johnny Cash theme, Elvis had a good bit of practice fooling around with the audience. On August 28, 1969, early in his return to live concerts, Elvis said he wanted to introduce the members of the band.  After he did so, he said, “Now that they know each other, we can go on with the show.”  A few months later, he amused himself with the names of drummer Ronnie Tutt and bassist Jerry Scheff during the introductions: “So that’s Tutt and that’s Scheff.  That’s Tutt Scheff, any way you look at it, boy.”  (Think about that one for a minute.)

 

One night, he had fun with James Burton, who he introduced as Lightnin’ Hopkins, and Charlie Hodge, who he introduced as Willie Booger.  Another time, Elvis introduced James as Chuck Berry and piano player Glen D. Hardin as Steve Allen.  Elvis got Charlie Hodge again in 1971 during band introductions.  Elvis went through the sequence, “On guitar, James Burton,” “On rhythm guitar, John Wilkinson,” and so on.  Elvis finished with, “On alcohol, Charlie Hodge.”

 

After using the Johnny Cash line successfully, Elvis branched out and started introducing himself as other performers.  There was Glen Campbell in 1970, and Jerry Lee Lewis, Frankie Avalon, and Johnny Rivers in 1971.  However, the novelty must have worn off, because the book notes no more trick introductions by Elvis until 1974.

 

On February 6 of that year, he came on stage at the Las Vegas Hilton and used the name of another Vegas legend, “My name is Wayne Newton.  I just work here.”  Three months later, it was, “My name is Wayne Newton.  I’ve got a brother named fig.”  In September, Elvis said, “Good evening.  You think I’m Elvis Presley… I’m Wayne Newton.  You came to the wrong place.”  In April 1975, at a concert in Jacksonville, it was, “My name is Wayne Newton.  I’d like to tell you it’s a pleasure to be here in Tampa.”  The last time Elvis introduced himself as Wayne Newton was on June 21, 1977, bringing the total to at least twelve.  It was the last recorded Elvis trick introduction on stage.

 

As far as is known, only one other performer received more than two mentions by Elvis. His friend Tom Jones inspired at least four funky introductions.  On August 28, 1974, Elvis introduced Jones who was sitting in the audience at the Vegas Hilton.  Elvis told everyone to catch Jones’ show opening at Caesar's Palace the next night.  The ones who did, received a special treat when Elvis surprised Jones and came out on stage, too.  For the next three nights, Elvis opened his own show by saying, “Good evening, ladies and gentlemen.  My name is Tom Jones.  You came to the wrong place.”  Near the end of 1975, Elvis said, “Welcome to the show.  You know who you are…and I think you know who I am…Tom Jones, you’re right.”

 

Elvis introduced himself as several other singers and one bird in 1974:  Pat Boone, Sammy Davis, Little Richard, and the NBC Peacock.  Of course, that comment was inspired by the jumpsuit he wore that night.

 

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 Comedians also got the Elvis intro treatment.  Flip Wilson in 1976 was one.  Bill Cosby got it twice in 1974, including, “My name is Bill Cosby.  Elvis closed last night.”  And there was even one non-entertainer:  “I’m Jimmy Carter’s smarter brother.”

 

Jerry Osborne’s book “ELVIS: Word for Word” has been an invaluable help in writing this blog column.  For years I have been aware of his many books directed to rock fans and historians and to rock and roll record and memorabilia collectors.  I met him backstage last year at an Elvis Week concert.  He’s a nice guy.  I think it’s interesting that Jerry Osborne's book includes five quotes where Elvis mentioned him.  For some reason, he left out the one where Elvis introduced him as Donnie Osmond. (Only kidding.)

 

©  2008   Philip R Arnold   All Rights Reserved   www.ElvisBlog.net

BUBBA HO-TEP IS ALIVE AND WELL

When Bubba Ho-Tep was released back in 2003, I did not watch it in a movie theater.  As an independent film made on a shoestring budget, its run was mostly limited to the film festival circuit.  However, it received much critical praise, and by the time the Bubba Ho-Tep came out on VHS, there was enough buzz to make it a ‘must have’ for me.  I loved it.  Because it was about Elvis, I was predisposed to like it, but this film won me over on its merits.

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For those of you not familiar with Bubba Ho-Tep, let me fill you in.  This is the short version, so we will skip the involved set-up and back-story.  Two men in their seventies discover that their retirement home is under siege – by an ancient Egyptian mummy.  One man is Elvis, who the staff and residents think is a former Elvis impersonator named Sebastian Haff.  The other is a black man who believes he is John F. Kennedy (and who the staff and residents think is nuts).
 
The mummy, nicknamed Bubba Ho-Tep by Elvis, has been on a killing spree at the rest home, sucking the souls of elderly men and women through various orifices.  This doesn’t sit well with Elvis and JFK, and they decide to rid their retirement home of this menace.  Their brave efforts provide Elvis with the opportunity to spout wonderful gritty lines like “Let’s take care of business.  We’re gonna kill us a mummy.” and “Never, never f… with the King.”
 
The lead roles in the film were Bruce Campbell as Elvis and Ossie Davis as Jack Kennedy, and both gave touching, funny and eccentric performances.  The director was Don Coscarelli, who is known primarily for his Phantasm and Beastmaster series.  I have never watched a movie about Elvis where the actor truly convinced me he was the King, but this is different.  At no point did I ever see Bruce Campbell as anything other than a geriatric Elvis.
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Bruce Campbell as Elvis
Bubba Ho-Tep has gained even more popularity over the years, and now is thought by some to have achieved cult status.  The DVD was re-released last year as a limited “Collector’s Edition” with a new cover and special packaging.  You can see in the photo below that the DVD now comes inside a cool mini-jumpsuit.
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“Collector's Edition” DVD Cover and Packaging
Of course, I had to have one of these.  The other bonus was all the extra features on the DVD.  If you ever buy or rent it, be sure to watch the version of the movie with the sound turned off and replaced by audio commentary by director Coscarelli and Elvis actor Campbell.  They have such a fun time talking about the movie and telling stories about making it.  There is also another audio commentary by Campbell alone in character as Elvis.  This suffers a bit without the interplay with Coscarelli, but it is definitely worth a watch.
 
I had no doubt that Bubba Ho-Tep had achieved bona fide cult classic status when I discovered there are collectible action figures based on the movie.  For $14 each you can purchase Bubba Ho-Tep and Elvis.  The manufacturer was clever to call the figurine Sebastian Haff, not Elvis, and thus avoid any hassle with Graceland.  I’m pretty sure EPE can’t be too happy seeing an old Elvis with a walker out there in the market place.  However, if they did embrace the concept, they could promote it as the first collectible Elvis Inaction Figure.  They’ve licensed stranger things.
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You may be wondering what type of movie Bubba Ho-Tep is.  There are certain elements of horror in it, but they are rather limited.  You won’t have to cover your eyes to be spared watching a lot of blood and gore.  Comedy is an unexpected bonus in this film, but at its heart, this is a buddy movie.  Elvis and Jack are languishing in death’s waiting room until Bubba arrives.  He gives them something to care about, something with a purpose.  It is wonderful to see these two old geezers come alive and embark on their mission.  Unlike the Elvis movies of the 60s, this time Elvis is a genuine hero.   Elvis fans will swell with pride at his display of courage.  He may be 70-something and using a walker, but you know Bubba Ho-Tep is in for big trouble when Elvis declares, “Come on and get it, you undead sack of shit.”
 
©   2008   Philip R Arnold   All Rights reserved   www.ElvisBlog.net

6000 KIDS CHEER ELVIS' FRANTIC SEX SHOW

Over the years, we’ve had fun on ElvisBlog a few times critiquing the press reviews of Elvis’ early concerts, TV appearances, and movies.  Recently I found another gem at the Los Angeles Times website. In a December 2007 blog by Larry Harnisch, he takes a look back at a 52-year-old column by LA Mirror-News entertainment editor Dick Williams.  Williams used the above title on his review of Elvis’ first live concert appearance in Los Angeles on October 28, 1957.  With a tease like that, it’s hard to imagine that any of the paper’s readers would skip by without reading it.

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Mr. Williams’ attitude toward Elvis is completely evident with his first line:

 

“Sexibitionist Elvis Presley has come at last in person to a visibly palpitating, adolescent female Los Angeles to give all the little girls’ libidos the jolt of their lives.”

 

I doubt Dick Williams was the first writer to coin the word Sexibitionist, and I assume other writers have used it since.  However, a half-century later, Spellcheck still doesn’t recognize it.  Visibly palpitating, adolescent females is a good phrase, but this classic is my favorite: give all the little girls’ libidos the jolt of their lives.

 

That’s all the praise Mr. Williams will get from me for his review – kudos for some well-crafted phrases.  This next line would be fairly good if the sentiment wasn’t so outrageous:

 

“The whole panorama … looked like one of those screeching uninhibited party rallies which the Nazis used to hold for Hitler.

 

He compared Elvis to Hitler.  Now that’s just stupid, but it wasn’t the only brainless statement he made:

 

“It (the concert) started out with ‘Heartbreak Hotel’ and wound its way through all his popular record hits from ‘Hound Dog’ to ‘Don’t Be Cruel.’  There is but scant difference in any of them.  Only the wild abandon varies.”          

 

Actually, Mr. Williams, only your idiotic statements vary.  No one can say there is scant difference between “Heartbreak Hotel” and “Hound Dog.” They are totally different songs.  It gets worse.  Williams wasn’t satisfied to just give a bad review; he made up horrible stuff about Elvis.  For some reason, he had an ax to grind.  Here are some sorry examples:

 

“He wiggled, bounced, shook and ground in the style which stripteasers … have been using at stag shows since Grandpa was a boy.”

 

“He played up to the mike stand like it was a girl in a gesture which is expressly forbidden by the police department in every burlesque show in Los Angeles County.”

 

And finally, the worst lie of all:

 

“The madness reached its peak at the finish of “Hound Dog.”  Elvis writhed in complete abandon, hair hanging down over his face.  He got down on the floor with a huge replica of the RCA singing dog and made love to it as if it were a girl.”

 

 

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Now, that’s a bunch of crap.  How do I know?  My friend Alan Hanson is an Elvis historian who hosts http://www.elvis-history-blog.com/.   He has thoroughly researched this concert for his book  “Elvis ’57: The Final Fifties Tours.”  In fact, he wrote a whole chapter about it.  Alan says Dick Williams had been a long-time critic of Elvis in his column, and believes he planned to blast Elvis even before he went to the concert.  Gordon Stoker of the Jordanaires replied in an e-mail to Alan that all of this was false.  Gordon was on stage that night and said that all Elvis did was to grab Nipper and sing to him.  Other LA columnists Wally George and Hedda Hopper wrote reviews of the concert and never mentioned any sexually suggestive acts by Elvis. 

 

The short L.A. Times blog commentary that precedes the 1957 Dick Williams column says that the LAPD vice squad filmed Elvis’ performance the next night for possible legal action.  Think about this: If Elvis was doing anything really raunchy, that film would have surfaced by now and sold for big bucks.

 

If Mr. Williams had chosen to tell the truth, he certainly could have used his skills to write about an outstanding event.  Here’s what 25-year-old journalist Wally George had to say about the concert:

 

“The impression upon walking through the audience was that of being on the edge of a volcano from which emitted an ominously growing cloud of smoke.  At any moment, you felt you might be overrun by the eruption.”

 

I sure wish I had been in the audience that night.  Bring on the eruption.

 

©  2008   Philip R Arnold    All Rights Reserved    www.ElvisBlog.net