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Memories of Elvis — By His High School Classmates, Part 2

It looks like we’ll all be self isolating for a while longer, so I’m happy to repost old ElvisBlog articles for your reading enjoyment.

 

This is the second installment of Elvis memories by his classmates at Humes High School in Memphis.  As I stated last week, these quotes were excerpted from the excellent website www.humeshighclassof53.com, which was created in 2003 as Elvis’ graduating class approached its 50th reunion.  Many members of the class of ’53 contributed their memories and thirty-six of these contained mention of Elvis.  I found them fascinating to read, and hope you will too.

Class of ’53 Reunion Cake Decorated in Memory of Elvis

 

 

Lillian Jenne

“When Elvis first started to Humes, he was really poor.  The office sent a letter home about a classmate who couldn’t come to school when the weather was bad because he had holes in his shoes, had no warm coat and needed a haircut.  It didn’t name him, but we all knew who it was.  My mom gave me a whole dollar (WOW!) and a jacket she had bought for my brother Bill.  I was so proud to take the jacket and the money to the office.”

Marilyn Wade

“I don’t have too many memories of Elvis, but I do have his signature in my yearbook.  I remember him at the Annual Minstrel Show.   I invited my boyfriend, Jim Simpson, who was pretty bored until Elvis walked out on the stage with a chair in one hand and his guitar in the other; then he got interested.  Elvis put his foot on the chair and started playing.  The PA system was poor and we couldn’t hear his voice very clearly, but we were impressed.  Jim likes to claim that he made some comment like, “That boy will go far.   “My sister once double-dated with Elvis and his girlfriend. They went to the Fairgrounds to ride the roller coaster. Elvis borrowed 25 cents from my sister for one of the rides.  After he became famous we used to tease her about writing him and asking for interest on her loan”

 

Larry Holmes

“At school I didn’t have much contact with Elvis, mainly passing in the hall.  He lived upstairs at Lauderdale Courts and I visited a family downstairs in the same building frequently.  I remember him in the talent shows.  The most vivid experience I remember was at an English class party.  Elvis sang and the first time he twitched and moved, the bunch broke out laughing.  We had never seen it before and did not expect it.”

Carolyn Woodward

“I was in Miss Mildred Scrivener’s 12th grade home room with Elvis.  He never had any school supplies.  He borrowed paper from someone every day.  He looked so different from the other boys who had crew cuts and blue jeans.  He wore black pants and his hair always hung down in his face.  He was always very polite.”

Elvis’ Diploma from Humes High School

 

 

Fannie Mae Crowder

“I would go with Carolyn and Rosemary to a dance club in East Memphis.  Carolyn was an excellent dancer.  The person who taught Carolyn to dance was Elvis Presley.  I think he had a crush on her for a while.  He would find us in the hall and at lunch and various other places.  He always wanted to talk to Carolyn, so I made myself scarce.   Sometimes I had to walk to my sister’s apartment when my mother had to work late.  Elvis and I would walk along together since he lived close by.  We were both fairly quiet and did not say much.   I found Elvis to be a nice boy who was a little shy.”

 

Robert Wayne Millican

“I knew Elvis about as well as anyone in the class, having met him in 1948 when he moved to Memphis from Tupelo, Mississippi.  His family settled in the Lauderdale Courts area and he enrolled at Humes.  Later we attended church together at the First Assembly of God Church on McLemore Ave.

“In the eleventh grade Elvis and I were in Miss Thompson’s Civics class.  He was a class clown and in the middle of our mid-term exams with everyone concentrating on the test, he called from the back of the room in a loud voice “Miss Thompson, Miss Thompson,”  “What Elvis?” she answered.  Then he asked “Why did the chicken cross the road?”  The whole class broke up laughing except, of course, Miss Thompson.  She quickly replied “See me after class, Elvis!”

Jean Johnson

“Elvis dated my cousin, Jonell Johnson, a few times while they were both at Humes.  (She was younger than he).  Once when he went over to her house, they used her dad’s car for a date.  When they got home, her dad checked the mileage and they were both in hot water for a while.  Elvis brought my brother home on his motorcycle once.  He was really a thoughtful guy.”

 

Lena Langley

“I had study hall with Elvis and a couple of his friends.  He was very shy.  We had English together in our senior year.  I remember we acted out a Shakespearean play “Julius Caesar”, I think.  Elvis was assigned the biggest part because of his deep, rich voice.”

 

Elvis at a Diner After School

 

 

George Grimes

“I am an eye witness to the fact that Elvis would make those moves (that only he could make) when he was walking down the halls of dear old Humes.  He complimented me on a solo I sang for the Honor Society.  We were in a talent show together and I liked to brag that I shared the same stage with him and didn’t have to pay to see him perform.  Billy Wooley, Dwight Malone, Sydney McKinney and I were a quartet. Everyone in the talent show got to make a trip to the University of Mississippi. I saw a bunch of students hassling Elvis about his hair and odd clothes and I didn’t take up for him. I always felt guilty about that. I wonder if those kids remembered that incident after Elvis became the most famous entertainer of our time. He was and is unique.”

 

Juanita Richardson

“Since Elvis lived nearby, I did see him quite a bit, but we weren’t close friends.  We were in the same homeroom and had a class together in the 12th grade.  I remember one funny story.  We were invited to a wiener roast at Mattie’s house. I rode with Elvis and his friends because they didn’t know where she lived.  When we arrived, Mattie’s dad was “supervising” the festivities.  When Elvis  got out of the car and started, well, being his usual nutty self by taking off a silly floppy hat and slapping it against his leg and dancing around to the music, Mattie‘s dad was not terribly amused.  He was sure that Elvis was drunk.  We convinced “Dad” that Elvis wasn’t under the influence; he was just “normally” that way!

“After Elvis became well known, I saw him in Lowenstein’s Department Store.  I didn’t want to bother him (I figured that enough people were doing that already) so I walked on by. Then I heard him say “What! Aren’t you speaking these days?”  I turned and said “Sure- I just figured you wouldn’t want to be spoken to!”  He laughed and said “My friends will ALWAYS be my friends.”  We had a nice chat, right there in the middle of the store.  It was nice to catch up.”

 

Carolyn Jones

“I never thought much about Elvis.  He was just a classmate I didn’t know very well.  But now the attention I get when people discover that I went to school with “Elvis” is fantastic!  It is instant celebrity status.”

 

 

Vernon Graham

“One year, I think it was the 10th grade, he sat in front of me in the big study hall.  His hair was extra long.  We were talking and I asked him why he didn’t get a haircut.  He said he had nothing to get one with.  I walked around with the cigar box that pencils were stored in and collected enough for him to go to the barber shop.   The next day when he sat down in front of me, I asked him why he didn’t get his haircut with the money.  He said he did.  He only had it trimmed. That was Elvis!”

 

©  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.

 

I’m Glad They Say Bandannas Work Against the Virus

“Especially since I never could get those N95 masks, anyway.”

Memories of Elvis — By His High School Classmates, Part 1

This is the time of the year when seniors are graduating from high school all over the country.  Fifty-nine years ago, Elvis graduated from Humes High School in Memphis.

Humes High School

When the Humes High class of ’53 approached their 50th reunion in 2003, a few of alumni created a website called www.humeshighclassof53.com.   Classmates were contacted and encouraged to send in memories of their high school years, and these were posted on the site. (Editor’s note:  The website no longer exists.)

About half of these memories included some mention of Elvis, from one sentence to several paragraphs.  These stories revealed new information about what Elvis was like as a teenager.  I found them fascinating to read, and so will you.  Here is Part 1 of Elvis memories by his high school classmates.

 

Virginia Eddleman

Virginia Eddleman

“I had study hall with Elvis Presley (the flirt).  He would blow kisses across the room at me.  Once I thumbed my nose at him and said some smart remark back.  Everyone knows how Elvis loved “GOSPEL MUSIC.”  At Ellis Auditorium, the Statesmen Quartet felt sorry for him because he couldn’t afford a ticket and let him in the back door.  My brother Jerry, my sister Darlene and I were called “The Eddleman Trio.”   We started singing acappella at ages 7, 8 and 11.  After Elvis became famous, it occurred to me that “we” were singing on the stage while Elvis was sneaking in the back door.  He later sang on the same stage at benefit concerts.”

 

Bobbie Horne

“Elvis Presley and I were good friends and he liked to come over to my house because my mother would make him toasted cheese sandwiches and his beloved peanut butter and banana sandwiches.

After graduation, when Elvis was beginning to make a name for himself as a singer, I received a phone call from Miss Ginny Allensworth asking me to come over to Humes and help Elvis with his English because he had been invited to sing on the Ed Sullivan Show.  I laughed and said, “Miss Ginny, Elvis wouldn’t listen to me when we were in school and I doubt if he would listen to me now.”  I did meet Elvis at Humes and he agreed to let me coach him.  After talking for a while, he said, “Well, if you are so intent on helping me, why don’t you come to New York, too, to be sure I do it right.”  I ended up backstage at the Ed Sullivan Show and got to see Elvis perform.”

 

Donald Morris

“Elvis and I weren’t buddies outside school hours, but we did have a few good moments at school.  In Miss Allensworth’s 12th grade English class we had assigned roles in one of the ever popular Shakespearean plays.  Elvis, who sat behind me, and I, when our speaking parts came up, would pour it on with exaggerated southern accents.  Miss Allensworth warned us once, but being the showmen we were, we couldn’t resist doing it again.  She sent us out into the HALL for the rest of the period.  Being sent in the HALL during class without an excuse was like being sent to purgatory – and if Mr. Brindley happened by – well watch out.  Fortunately, it was close to the end of the period and we escaped unscathed.  This was probably an early example of Elvis at his showmanship best.”

Montage for 50th Reunion

 

Betty Jean Moore

“My cousin, Dorothy Jackson, and I were monitors stationed outside the entrance to the library to make sure that students checked out their books properly and to maintain order in the hall between classes.  Whenever Elvis Presley walked by we would look at each other and laugh and giggle. (We both had a crush on him.)

One day he walked up to Dorothy and asked her why we laughed when he walked by. She was so dumbfounded that she blurted out “It’s because we think you are so good-looking.” I guess he was surprised also; he just broke into a grin and walked away. I was just sitting there with the reddest face that a girl could ever have.  From then on whenever I would see Elvis coming down the hall, I would stick my face into a book and not look up.

Elvis and I were in Miss Alexander’s homeroom in the 11th grade.  She taught music, so the classroom was a music room.  She divided our class into an “L” shape with boys on one side and girls on the other side.  Elvis sat in the front row next to a guy sporting a Mohawk haircut.  I sat in the second row of girls so I could see him very well and I often stared at him because there was something about him that I really liked.  He didn’t dress or act like the rest of the boys.  He always had a lock of hair hanging to the side of his face.

He had a serious expression most of the time during the beginning of the school year.  But, later in the year, he surprised us by playing his guitar before school several mornings.  He didn’t sing; he just played.   We really enjoyed the impromptu jam sessions.  Elvis was very polite and respectful to all the teachers.  He always addressed them as “Maam” and “Sir”.  He seemed very shy and I identified with him since I was shy, too.

I remember him driving a maroon convertible; I believe it was a Lincoln.  Sometimes he wore dark colored pants with a stripe down the sides.  I found out later that they were part of his movie usher uniform.”

 

George Carros

“I met Elvis at Humes but I knew him better at the cafe.  He was a very polite young man who neither looked nor acted like the rest of the guys.  He would come into the cafe with a bunch of young girls from Lauderdale Courts and play the juke box, eat chips and drink cokes.  His hair hung down in his face and he was often dressed in very bright colored pants.  The girls liked him even then.  He always called me “Champ”.  The last time I saw him was right after his mother died.  We ran into each other on Beale Street.  We had a nice chat, shook hands and he said “Bye, Champ” and got into his waiting limo.”

 

Carolyn Woodward

“I was in Miss Mildred Scrivener’s 12th grade home room with Elvis.  He never had any school supplies.  He borrowed paper from someone every day.  He looked so different from the other boys who had crew cuts and blue jeans.  He wore black pants and his hair always hung down in his face.  He was always very polite.”

 

George Blancett (No Photo)

“Larry Curle and I had Miss Moss’ 5th period American Problems class together with Elvis Presley.  One day Miss Moss got so fed up with Larry and me she told us to take the rest of the day off and go to the athletic room.  She allowed Elvis to tag along.  The three of us went riding in Larry’s red 1940 Studebaker that didn’t have a reverse gear.  During our ride around town, we went somewhere to get Elvis’ guitar; he sat in the backseat playing and singing.  Larry and I were both impressed with his songs.  We talked about the upcoming talent show where Larry and I were appearing with several boys doing gymnastic things.  Elvis said, “I’ll warm them up for you.”   When that night came, he did warm them up!  After a couple of his scheduled songs, the audience response demanded he sit on the apron and sing a few more.  The show really finished when Elvis did, but we went on and performed our act without much distinction.”

 

Betty Diepholz

“I was President of the History Club in Miss Scrivener’s 12th grade class.  She assigned me the task of getting Elvis to sing at our class party at Overton Park. He did and we all enjoyed the party and the singing.  A few of us, including Elvis, climbed into L.D. Ledbetter’s car and went downtown to enjoy the Cotton Carnival.  We rode the rides and hung out on the steps of the downtown library to listen to Elvis sing again.  This attracted a crowd – the police came along and dispersed the crowd and we went home.  Later, when we were signing yearbooks, we laughed about that night.  Elvis wrote in my book ‘Remember Me – Elvis’.”

 

Ed (Rob) Robinson

“I have in my office right now a magazine rack that Elvis and I made together in woodshop.”

Auditorium at Humes High School

 

Carole Kimbrell

“Virginia Eddleman’s family had beautiful voices and sang gospel music. She took me to hear them once when Elvis was singing on the same program. Soon after that my sister June and I ran into Elvis at the Suzore #1. He sat down beside me and after a while I felt his arm slide across my shoulder. I was so scared that we moved to another row. One night he was singing at the Humes Talent Show. My friend Rose left me to watch the white elephant booth while she went up and checked out the talent.  Elvis sang while I was taking care of the booth so I never did hear him sing at Humes.”

 

Dwight Malone

“Elvis was different.  Most boys had crew cuts and wore tee shirts and blue jeans.  Elvis would appear at school in a pink jacket and yellow pants and a duck tail haircut.  He was quiet, very courteous and largely stayed to himself.  I did play touch football with him on the triangle at Lauderdale Courts.  He was not fast, but he had very quick movements.  He had those swivel hips even then.  When he caught the ball, he was difficult to tag.  He could swivel out of reach in a moment.  To tag him, a player had to grab him and hold on until he could apply the tag.

Elvis and Warren Gregory were close friends.  During the summer months Elvis and Warren would sit on the street curb, strumming their guitars and singing country songs.  Frankly, in their early attempts, they were not that good.  It was at the Humes Talent Show in April, 1953 that I realized that Elvis could really sing.  There were no swivel hips.  His props were a chair, a guitar and a loud costume.  He put one foot on the chair, strummed the guitar and sang his heart out.  To me, that was when rock and roll was born.  The ovation was thunderous and long.”

 

Georgia Avgeris

“Elvis Presley was our neighbor in Lauderdale Courts for many years.  He really liked my mother’s homemade hot Greek bread, and ate more of it than I did.  Mama liked him, but did not understand the way he dressed.  Elvis worked at Loew’s State and I worked at the Malco, so we exchanged free tickets.  We had a lot of fun with that.  He made sure I got the best seat available.  We had several classes together and in our senior year, we were in the same homeroom.  He sat behind me and threw gum wrappers at me to get my attention.”

 

©  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.

 

EQUILIBRIUM

A reader named Ernie asked me to publish this:

 

Today is the date that Elvis will have been dead for as many days as he was alive. By my calculations that would have been 15,562 days.

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I assume this is accurate, but feel free to check it yourself if you are looking for something to do.
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Thank you, Ernie.

 

A Novel Approach to Social Distancing

Happy Wiping

I’m curious if any of you readers were so frustrated by empty shelves in the stores that you had to raid your Elvis toilet paper collectibles.

 

 

 

These last two seem to be available for $2.40 per roll at etsy.com

I hope you enjoyed a little fun after a week of dreadful news.

 

Phil

 

Elvis’ Great, Great, Great, Great, Great, Great, Great, Great Grandfather

I was going to wait for the weekend to post this one, but decided to do it earlier. If you are like me and self isolating, you could use something  to take your mind off all the scary news for a few minutes.

How about a repost of an April 2008 ElvisBlog article?  Like last week, it has no pictures, but I think you’ll find it very interesting reading.  My original title was “A Voyage of Suffering … to the Land of Promise,” which I took from the third chapter of a wonderful study about Elvis’ family history: The Rhineland to Graceland, by Donald W. Presley and Edwin C. Dunn.  Here is an excerpt.

 

The more recent Elvis genealogy charts reveal that his surname changed from the Germanic Pressler to the anglicized Presley several centuries ago. In fact, if you go back through nine generations of Elvis’ family, you can pinpoint his Pressler ancestor who crossed the Atlantic in 1710 to start the whole bloodline here in America. His name was Johann Valentine Pressler.

Elvis Presley Bloodline

 

Johann Valentine Pressler                           1669 — About 1742

     Andreas Pressler (Andrew Presley)       1701 — About 1759

         Andrew Presley Jr.                                1733 — ?

             John Presley                                      About 1748 — ?

                 Dunnen Presley                             About 1780 — ?

                     Dunnen Presley Jr.                   1827 — 1900

                         Rosella Presley                     1862 — 1924

                             Jesse Dee Presley             1896 — 1973

                                 Vernon Elvis Presley     1916 — 1979

                                     Elvis Aron Presley     1935 — 1977

 

Valentine Pressler was Elvis’ Great, Great, Great, Great, Great, Great, Great, Great Grandfather. He was a vineyard worker in the Palatinate region of the Rhineland in southern Germany. With his wife Anna and five children, he left the vineyards and sailed off to America with hopes of new freedom and opportunities.

What he found was not what he hoped, but it was far better than the situation he was fleeing from back in Germany. Life in The Rhineland was abysmal in 1709. For the previous three generations, the countryside had endured the passage of marching armies and the destruction they left behind. There had been decades of warfare between France and Germany for the control of nearby Alsace. Troops from one side or the other were always moving toward battle through the area where Valentine lived, trampling, looting, and burning everything as they went. Famine, pain, pestilence, and death were left in their place.

That wasn’t all. The German rulers subjected their subjects to extremely heavy taxation. The Black Plague was so bad that the population was decreasing. And starting in October of 1709, the area experienced the most severe winter cold in more than a century. With the destruction of the precious grapevines, Valentine Pressler began to consider making a change so his family could survive. He was forty years old.

Meanwhile, the English governors in America needed workers to make their lands profitable, so pamphlets and small books were produced to entice the Germans to escape their wretched existence and find a new life in America. Free land and no taxes were promised. Valentine and thousands of other Germans made the decision to go to America and see what opportunities might open up for them there.

On December 21, 1709, Valentine Pressler agreed to a covenant with the British Crown. In exchange for passage to America, plus settlement and support, the Germans would be, in effect, indentured servants to the British government – for an unspecified time. They would be assigned to the Governor of New York and would be employed in the manufacture of naval stores (tar, pitch, resin). When the Governor judged their obligations met, each German man was to receive a grant of forty acres of land.

By December 29, 1709, the Pressler family started their trek down the Rhine River on a flat-bottomed boat. Each night, it would dock on the shore, where the Presslers would cook their food and sleep on the ground. They had to contend with rapids in the 38-mile long Rhine Gorge. There were delays due to adverse weather, and they were repeatedly stopped and required to pay tolls charged by a never-ending succession of feudal lords along the river. The trip down the Rhine to Rotterdam in The Netherlands lasted approximately four-to-six weeks.

The next part of the trip, a voyage from Rotterdam to London, was short and uneventful.

Within a week after arriving in London, Valentine and his family boarded their last ship – the one that would take them to America. They had no way of knowing they would be imprisoned in it for the next six months.   They were part of a ten-ship convoy that was supposed to be escorted by Royal Navy ships. When the Navy refused, confusion reigned. The ships couldn’t stay tied up in the harbor on the Thames and block other traffic, so they slowly sailed along the southern coast of England for three months, occasionally docking at Portsmouth and Plymouth. It took until April 10, 1710, to get things settled and finally set sail to America.

All the Germans were jammed into cargo holds only 5 feet high. There were no provisions for light or fresh air. Food served to them was cold, and the drinking water was dirty. Typhus broke out and slowly decimated the passengers. Fortunately, Valentine and his family were spared the disease, and around July 1, 1710, they landed in New York Harbor. Happy times, but there were more frustrations for the Presslers to endure.

The city government did not want all these sick immigrants to come into their city. They decided to send the Germans to Nutten Island (now Governor’s Island). Huts and tents were quickly constructed, and sufficient foodstuffs were provided.   As the Germans came back to good health, they were moved upstate to settlements along the Hudson River to begin their required work in naval stores production. For some reason, Valentine stayed in New York City. Authors Presley and Dunn speculate that he found work in the Governor’s gardens or the gardens of some of the wealthier citizens.

Over the next two decades, Valentine and his family moved several times.  His final place of residence was in Prince George’s Parish (County), Maryland, where he lived with, or near, his oldest son Andrew. Valentine’s name last surfaced in an election petition in 1742. He was 73-years-old, an advanced age for this time. Although he did not achieve his dream of land ownership, he may have lived long enough to see his son Andrew purchase 100 acres in 1745.

Authors Presley and Dunn, ended their chapters on Valentine Pressler as follows: “If his goal in America was land ownership, then he was perhaps less than successful, but if freedom and opportunity for his children was his goal, then he was indeed a great success. He had established the family bloodline in the New World.”

Nine generations later, that lineage led to Elvis Presley.

 

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

 

I intend to keep reposting old ElvisBlog articles.  My blog platform is paid up for the year, and it takes very little time to repost compared to creating new ones.  And I’m having lots of fun reading through the old ones looking for the best to use again.

Turgid, Juicy and Flamboyant

When I started looking in the archives for special articles to repost, I assumed they would be only ones with pictures. It wasn’t until 2008 that I learned how to post photos, but I found one from 2006 with a title so good I had to share it with you.  It will give you great insight into how entertainment critics treated Elvis back in the 50s.

 

The New York Times published its review of Elvis’ first movie “Love Me Tender” on November 16, 1956. Just the title was enough to tell me there was no way the review would be positive:

Culture Takes A Holiday

 

When I read that, I knew Elvis was going to get clobbered.

His acting début was at the mercy of the Times film critic, Bosley Crowther, generally considered America’s foremost movie critic from the early 1940s to the late 1960s. How do you like that name? — Bosley Crowther. Sure sounds like a stuffed shirt who couldn’t stand Rock & Roll, doesn’t it?

Well, old Bosley held back from being nasty for one paragraph, and then he started slamming Elvis:

“The picture itself is a slight case of horse opera with the heaves.”

A well crafted line, to be sure, but nasty. Then it got nastier:

“Mr. Presley’s dramatic contribution is not a great deal more impressive than that of one of the slavering nags.”

OK, that’s pretty mean. Bosley Crowther rated Elvis’ acting ability just slightly higher than a horse. So, what do you think he said about Elvis’ singing ability? How about:

“Mr. Presley’s farm-boy does some grotesque singing before he is done – and it isn’t good.”

OK, to summarize: Bosley compared the movie to barfing horse, Elvis’ acting was little better than the horses in the movie, and his singing was grotesque. What else could Bosley find to knock? How about Elvis voice?

“A lot of noise… It is a sort of frenzied puffing of throaty and none too melodic tones that heave out of Mr. Presley’s system.”

Wow. “Frenzied puffing.” And the heaves again. Bosley gets minus points here. Can’t use a nifty word twice in the same story.

Then came something that might be taken as complimentary. Describing Elvis’ performance in his singing scenes, Bosley wrote,

“It is frantic and vaguely orgiastic.”

Bosley would flip if he could see today’s music videos. Nothing vague about them.

Next Bosley described Elvis’ acting as follows:

“As for the characterization of a jealous farm-boy that Mr. Presley gives, it is turgid, juicy and flamboyant.”

To my mind, that was real praise. I liked the change in direction. Bosley went on to say:

“With his childish face, puffy lips and wild hair, he might be convincing as a kid with a load of resentment in his system.”

My spirits were up after reading these words of modest praise. Elvis did go on to play several roles like that. Then Bosley turned black-hearted again and said:

“But, he’s not much more than a singing ‘heavy’ in this film.”

And finally, Bosley praised Elvis a little while hammering his co-stars, Richard Egan and Debra Paget:

“He certainly goes at this job with a great deal more zeal and assurance than the rest of the actors show.”

Of course, it didn’t really matter what Bosley Crowther thought or wrote. With Elvis’ legions of young fans, there was a built-in audience for the film “Love Me Tender.” I have always thought Elvis did a credible job in the role.

Bosley Crowther’s movie review was such a hoot to read fifty years later. It wasn’t all negative, and it gave origin to the strangest title to ever appear in ElvisBlog:

“Turgid, Juicy and Flamboyant.”

As Dave Barry would say, that would make a good name for a rock band. Come to think of it, so would “Vaguely Orgiastic,” “ Frenzied Puffing,” and “Slavering Nags.”

 

© 2006 Philip R Arnold All Rights Reserved www.elvisblog.net

 

I hope you enjoyed this repost from 2006.  Even without any pictures, this was fun to read.

Al Wertheimer Reflects on Photographing “The Kiss”

Two weeks ago I reposted an article from the ElvisBlog archives.  It took about 10 minutes to do, compared to 6-8 hours to create a new one.  I chose it partly because it contained content that never showed up on any other Elvis websites.

I have other old posts that also contain exclusive material, so let’s dust them off.  Today’s post appeared back in August 2011.  As you read on, you will see why these comments from Al Wertheimer are so unique.  I think you will really enjoy this.

 

No matter what network you watch the news on, you probably saw a feature two weeks ago about the newly revealed identity of the girl in “The Kiss,” Alfred Wertheimer’s iconic Elvis photo. She is Charleston, SC resident Barbara (Bobbi) Gray, who is now 75. “The Kiss” was photographed in 1956, so it took 55 years for her identity to be revealed.

Al Wertheimer Holding The Kiss

Al Wertheimer Holding “The Kiss”

 

If you would like to read the whole story, there is a lengthy article on Vanity Fair.com by noted author Alanna Nash.

  

Five years ago, I did six hours of phone interviews with Al Wertheimer as research for an article I wrote for Elvis International magazine. The article was a 50th anniversary look at the time Al spent with Elvis in 1956 and all those images he took of the future King of Rock. The interview was preserved on tape, and a short portion of it dealt with the history of “The Kiss” photo. Alfred has kindly given me permission to reproduce his recollections here.

First, a little history.  From June 29 to July 4, 1956, Alfred Wertheimer spent nearly every waking moment around Elvis.  Colonel Parker had not yet clamped down on the media with strictly limited access to his star.  Wertheimer was with Elvis for the Steve Allen Show rehearsal and telecast, two concerts in Richmond, a major recording session at RCA Victor (“Hound dog,” “Don’t Be Cruel”) three long train rides, an afternoon with Elvis’ family at their home, and a big holiday concert in Memphis.

Wertheimer took photographs almost constantly and finished with 2500 ‘commercially viable’ (his words) photographs.   After he teamed up with EPE, his Elvis photographs have adorned calendars, coffee mugs, T-shirts, and dozens of other collectibles.

“The Kiss” was photographed between shows at the Mosque Theater in Richmond, VA on June 29.   Wertheimer took all shots in black-and-white, and he used only natural light, no flash bulbs. This enabled him to be as inconspicuous as possible, and Elvis mostly paid him no attention as he clicked away.

 

 Al Wertheimer Reflects on the Snapping of “The Kiss”

 

We were between shows. I’m down at stage level, and I look down this long narrow passage and I see these two figures at the end. There is still light enough [to take photographs] because there is a small window at the far end. It’s probably around 6PM, so there’s still a certain amount of light left. There’s a 50 watt bulb over their heads.

It was like, “Leave me alone, give me some privacy, this is what I want to do, stay away.”

But, I’m thinking, “A true journalist wants to get the story. And, the story is right there. A very stark hallway, a little light, two silhouettes… ” So, I decide to be a human tripod and lean up against the wall. There’s a railing going back.

She’s on her tippy-toes, and even on her tippy-toes, she only reached Elvis’ chin, so she must have been around all of 4 foot 10. With her 3 inch heels and whatever she finally gets up to his chin area. Elvis is about 6 feet.

I squeeze a few frames off and then I say, “Well, I think I’ll take a chance. However, (You know, this is all going on in my mind) if Elvis doesn’t like it, he may ask me to leave. Well, that would cut my story short and I wouldn’t want that to happen.” But, then I say, “But he wouldn’t do that. (You know, I’m playing all the characters in my mind) He’s involved with the girl. He wouldn’t do that. Take a chance, Al”

I move in three or four feet, I take another shot. And then I go Hollywood. I say, “Well, this is not too good an angle. I can get a better angle than that.” So, I climb up on the handrail, and now I’m three feet away from them. Elvis is up against the wall while she is sort of in his arms.

And now I’m clicking away and they still don’t see me. Totally oblivious to me. I now get courage, so now I’m doing like acrobatics with my legs, leaning forward. I’m practically on top of their heads.

I’m shooting another couple of clicks, or like the British would say, knocking off a couple more snaps. “

So, then I just sort of got everything I could get from that particular point of view, and I kind of back off six or seven feet. I’m having a conference with myself, and I’m saying, “The real angle is past them on the landing slightly below where they are standing.” It’s like two steps down and there’s a landing going down.

So, I decide to be like the building superintendant. I kind of walk up to them and say, “Excuse me. I’m coming through,” in like a very official maintenance man tone. I finally settle myself comfortably on that landing area that’s about eight or ten feet beyond them. Now, the light is coming over my shoulder into their faces, so I’m getting front light rather than back light. And the 50 watt bulb is still over their heads.

And then she finally puts her pocketbook down. Elvis has been trying to kiss this lady for a while. He’s tried everything. She now was feeling like well maybe she might give in. So she puts her pocketbook down and they are cuddling real tight.

She says, “Elvis, I’ll bet you can’t kiss me.” So, she sticks out her tongue, you know, sort-of maybe half way.

He says in a very cool manner, “I’ll bet I can.” So, he sticks out his tongue and first he moves too fast. He moves in too fast and bends her nose. So, then he backs up like nothing ever happened. Backs up and comes in a second time, and barely touches the tip of her tongue.

This is really like something two ten-year-olds would do. [laughs]

And, I’ve been accused of taking the most erotic kiss ever!!

So, anyway, the kiss takes place. I said to myself, “I’ve got the story. That’s it. I can’t do better than that. So, why don’t I take on my maintenance man’s attitude again and come by them once more and go out to the stage area.

“Excuse me. Coming through.” [Laughs]

 

From a photographer’s standpoint, Alfred truly did get the story. He never dreamed there would be a second story 55 years later, about the girl in “The Kiss.” And, I think his recollection of how the image came about is another really good story.

 

© 2011   Philip R Arnold, Original Elvis Blogmeister   All Rights Reserved   www.ElvisBlog.net

 

I hope you enjoyed this visit to the ElvisBlog archives as much as I did.  Al Wertheimer was the subject of seven other posts, and there may be more exclusive stuff in some of them.  If so, I’ll repost them sometime this year.

Elvis… The Movie Kisses — Part 2

Before I continue this pictorial essay on Elvis kissing his leading ladies, I’d like to share a slight change in the plan to end ElvisBlog. Last week I mentioned how I am going to miss posting articles on the blog. Stopping cold-turkey looked tough for me to do.

Also last week, when Rod Blagojevitch was all over the news, I reposted an article about him from 2011. Not only was it timely, it also was unique because no other Elvis website had dug deep like I did to get the news and photos of Blago’s life-size statue of Elvis.

That prompted me to find out how many old ElvisBlog posts were special like that and worthy of repeating. I found quite a few.

So, because my blog platform and URL are paid up until the end of the year, I will occasionally repost some of the best of ElvisBlog. This includes posts on Humes High School, Al Wertheimer and several other good topics dating back 8-10 years, so many of you probably missed them the first time.

 

Now, here’s the rest of my collection of photos of Elvis kissing his leading ladies.

Girl Happy

 

Mary Ann Mobley

Shelley Fabares

 

Tickle Me

 


Jocelyn Lane

 

Harum Scarum

 

Fran Jeffres

Mary Ann Mobley

 

Frankie and Johnny

 

Donna Douglas

 

Paradise, Hawaiian Style

 

Susanna Leigh

 

Spinout

 

Deborah Walley

Diane McBain

Shelley Fabares

 

Easy Come, Easy Go

 

Dodie Marshall

 

Double Trouble

 

Annette Day

 

Clambake

 

Shelley Fabares

 

Stay Away Joe

 

Quentin Dean

 

Speedway

 

Nancy Sinatra

 

Live A Little, Love A Little

 

Celeste Yarnall

Michelle Carey

 

Charro

 

Ina Balin

 

The Trouble With Girls

 

Marilyn Mason

 

Change of Habit

 

Mary Tyler Moore (This is as close as they got to kissing)

 

I don’t know that any other Elvis website has done a pictorial on this subject. And I’m glad there are some other unique posts in the ElvisBlog archives for me to share with you throughout the rest of the year.

 

©  2020    Philip R Arnold, Original Elvis Blogmeister    All Rights Reserved    www.ElvisBlog.net

 

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