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Elvis’s Love Affair With Hawaii

By Burl Burlingame Honolulu Star-Bulletin , November 12, 2002 | Book
Elvis’s love affair with Hawaii - Jerry Hopkins explores Presley’s lasting effect on the islands.

A quarter-century ago, the King died, and the world was plunged into grief-stricken mourning. Well, OK, maybe that's overstating it a bit, but when Elvis was found dead in the bathroom at Graceland, bless my soul, we were all shook up.

At the time, Aug. 16, 1977, the only book about Elvis was Jerry Hopkin's authoritative biography, the first to chronicle a rock star's life with the same kind of scholarship afforded, well, given to kings. And now, 25 years later, the latest Elvis book is "Elvis in Hawaii," also by Hopkins.

We called Hopkins at his home in Thailand, and he answered, "Christ, do you know what time it is? It's dark out!" And so we tried a few hours later and found the king of King biographers somewhat well-rested.

The book, published by Bess Press and due in stores Friday, is an interesting keepsake, filled with photographs and memorabilia. Hopkins not only chronicles Elvis's time in Hawaii, and his three Hawaiian movies, but also the lasting effect Presley has had on Hawaii -- and the effect Hawaii had on Presley.

"I actually started to work on some of this in the early '90s, but abandoned it about the time I moved to Asia," said Hopkins. "But I still had all my files. Then I was in Hawaii last December and I was talking to my friend Buddy Bess and he remembered the project, and said he was interested in reviving it, as long as we could get it into stores by this December.

"That's not a long time to prepare and print a book, but in the last nine years, a little something called the Internet emerged. That made it possible to both do the research and contact Elvis fans all around the world. It turned out there's even a young fellow in Holland who has an ElvisIn Hawaii.com Web site! He fell all over himself helping with details. And so the 20,000 words came pretty easily, and we were able to get pictures and snapshots too.

"When I did my first Elvis book, I interviewed 200 people and took hundreds of pages of notes and had to travel to different cities just to find out basic information. With the Internet, if I need to know the cast list and a synopsis of an Elvis movie, the information is available in seconds. I don't waste my time and can concentrate on actually writing."

Hopkins says "Elvis in Hawaii" is a kind of "extended footnote" to his earlier books on Presley, neither of which spent much ink on the singer's love affair with the islands. "And that wasn't quite fair, because Elvis' relationship with Hawaii was an important one in his life. He did three movies and a live concert broadcast from Hawaii, raised money for the Arizona Memorial and vacationed in Hawaii whenever he could.

"In fact, his last vacation, just a few months before he died, was in Hawaii. Everyone who knew him says there were only two places Elvis felt at home, and they were Memphis and Hawaii."

Although Hawaii did a lot for Elvis, and laid-back local folk respected his space, Elvis also did a lot for Hawaii, Hopkins maintains.

"Elvis helped create Hawaii's modern image as a tourist destination. Whatever you think of his three movies in Hawaii -- 'Blue Hawaii,' 'Girls! Girls! Girls!' and 'Paradise Hawaiian Style' -- they're wonderful postcards about Hawaii.

"I'm pleased with the book for what it means to Elvis fans, but it's also a snapshot of Hawaii's recent history. Dreams come true in blue Hawaii, right?"

(By Burl Burlingame, Honolulu Star-Bulletin - November 10, 2002)