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.
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.”
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