Daily Archives: March 17, 2012

Al Wertheimer and the Dreaded Tonto Bar

I received an unexpected e-mail this week.  It was from Alfred Wertheimer, the most famous Elvis photographer and an interesting guy.  He sent me a joke.  Not just me.  He had a blast e-mail list of folks he shared the joke with, and I was thrilled he had me on his list.

The message was short:

All:     Time out for a good old fashioned laugh.      A W

And, at that point I realized Al had sent me a joke.  Cool.  Here it is:


Nice little joke.

When I wrote back to Al to thank him, I enclosed a photo I found on the Internet somewhere and asked him if it was one of his.  And, if it was, could I post it as well and comment on it.  Al was not only nice enough to say Yes, he also sent me a better copy of the photo.

Do you know what Elvis is doing here?  If you are familiar with his 1956 TV show appearances, you might recognize this shot from the from the Steve Allen Show.  It is from the same night when Elvis had to wear a tux and sing to a real hound dog.  Allen had Elvis in a skit about cowboys.  Here we see him shooting a dreaded Tonto bar being pulled along the stage on a wire.  The skit was pretty lame, but I always enjoy watching Elvis doing it.

A couple of observations.  How do you like that wide belt Elvis is wearing?  Maybe a forerunner of things to come?  And, what’s with the white shoes, not cowboy boots?  I asked Alfred, and he said the photo was shot during rehersal.  Elvis wore boots for the live broadcast.

Alfred Wertheimer always has plenty of stuff going on — mostly Elvis related.  I keep asking him if I could do another phone interview, this time about his gig as a film photographer at Woodstock, the 1969 three day festival of love and peace.  Al was on the Woodstock staff.  Talk about being in a situation that gives you amazing opportunities for memorable events.  You know Al has to have some good stories to tell.  I’d be very pleased if I can someday write about them.

For the past two years, Alfred has been involved with the Smithsonian Institution‘s touring exhibition “Elvis At Twenty-One.”

“Elvis At twenty-One” features forty of his famous photographs of Elvis, and it opened in January 2010 et the Grammy Museum in Los Angeles.  The exhibition’s three-month run at the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts in Richmond just ended.  Click here for a great review of this exhibit by Troy Yeary at the Mystery Train Elvis Blog.

Alfred Wertheimer Describing One of his Photographs of Elvis Performing in Richmond, VA. July 1956

During April, May and June, “Elvis At Twenty-One” will be presented at the Dwight D Eisenhower Presidential Library and Museum in Abilene, Kansas.  the exhibition tour ends next year in Columbus Ohio, after stops in Memphis and Nashville.

Alfred Wertheimer Signing Copies of His Book “Elvis at 21”

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