Mercia Fiore never dreamed her stint as a secretary would catapult her into the limelight. The Elmwood Park resident recounts her experiences as part of Elvis Presley's 1957 East Coast summer tour in her latest book, What Elvis Never Knew.
That summer, Fiore was working in the office of Chicago talent booking agent, Al Devoin [note EN: shouldn't that be Dvorin?].
"I was a secretary, and on this particular day, we got a phone call about needing a change in the opening act," Fiore said. "Mr. Devoin had heard that I could sing, so he asked me to sing right then and there. The office was absolutely chaotic, but I sang "Mr. Wonderful," a song that was very popular at the time. Al told me I did great, so I got the job" as the opening act for Presley's 1957 concert. I had to catch the train the following morning," she continued, "but before that, I had to purchase gowns and gather some musical arrangements.
"I was on Cloud 9 when I landed in Georgia that next day."
Presley's reputation as a wild one was cause for concern -- at first.
"My mom and dad told me to stay away from Elvis," Fiore said. "He had that reputation. And I promised I would."
Keeping that promise proved rather easy for Fiore for two reasons.
"The (producer) told the girls not to get close to (Presley)," Fiore said. "Otherwise we could lose our jobs. Elvis wanted to teach me how to dance, but I kept staying away. I didn't want to get fired."
Reason number two was waiting back at home.
"I was dating Frank (Fiore) at the time," she said. "I couldn't wait to get home, get back to Frank, and get married."
In her book Fiore recalls Presley as a "very shy, polite young man" even when hounded by girls who, swept up in the moment, would rip his clothes and pull out pieces of his hair. As a memento of the tour, Fiore walked away with an autographed photo of Presley that read, "To Mercia, love ya hon, enjoyed having you in the show."
What Elvis Never Knew is Fiore's fourth book.
"I've been writing since I was 7," she said. "My dad played baseball. He pitched to Babe Ruth. I wanted the whole world to know. I rewrote that book every year, and it ended up becoming Life is a Baseball Game.
Her first book -- self-published -- was a fictionalized version of the life of Emma Lazarus, the woman who wrote the poem, The New Colossus, a portion of which is inscribed on the base of the Statue of Liberty.
"It was around the time of the rededication of the statue," Fiore said. "There was precious little information here, so I wrote to places overseas."
"I had six months to get the book put together before the dedication. Frank helped, and I ended up selling 5,000 copies at the statue."
In October 1986 she received a note from Frank Sinatra thanking her for sending him a copy of the "lady." Fiore said she then decided she needed a publisher.
"I finally found one -- PublishAmerica. "Now we're looking for a producer," Frank said, adding his wife's latest book "would make a great movie."
Mercia Fiore also wrote a book about the struggles her parents had later in life.
"They're my heroes," she said. "All the things they went through, all the struggles. Dad had a hemorrhagic stroke, and Mom took care of him. It truly is a love story."