My experiences in the wonderful world of the legendary performances of Elvis Aaron Presley began in Las Vegas and had their humble beginnings in February of 1970. I was sharing an apartment with a friend and co-worker while living in Los Gatos, California when we decided to make the journey to The International Hotel to see for ourselves what was rumored to be a magnificent spectacle. We piled into a MG Midget convertible and set out on what would become for me a life changing adventure! We stayed at a cheap motel and existed on hamburgers that were 5 for a $1.00 in those days, just so we could save money. The financial sacrifices turned out to be well worth the effort. That night at the show, we were seated three tiers back for the stage and across from a family who had made their Elvis journey all the way from France!
Elvis Presley took the stage resplendent in a black two piece outfit, like a mythical figure from a waking dream. Our eyes were transfixed on his every move and gesture, while our ears were filled with a magical sound the likes of which we has never experienced before in out lives. The velvety echoes of his indescribable voice are etched in my memory forever! Unable to let go of this mystical evening, we immediately proceeded after the show upon a souvenir-buying spree to attempt to capture, in tangible form, some physical remembrance of this glorious night. The following morning found us with an elegant Elvis hangover, so we proceeded back to The International Hotel where we took photographs of the marquee. My parting words to that beautiful, beckoning image before me was " Elvis, I'll Be Back!" And back I came seventy-one more times. Not only to Las Vegas, but to see Elvis perform at The Sahara Tahoe, Oakland Coliseum and wherever I could see this unique and gifted performer! This was the beginning of a six and a half-year affair of the heart with the "King of Rock' n ' Roll".
With each new concert attendance, I became a little more educated in methods of obtaining closer proximity to the object of my desire. Over time, I even became familiar to him.
In the early seventies I worked for European Health Spa, one of our promotions at the time included a slogan, which read, "I Want Your Body". Over the next few years, I had numerous opportunities to offer buttons, T-shirts and bumper stickers to Elvis with this suggestive phrase written prominently upon them. In turn, I was rewarded with his scarves and priceless kisses! On one evening in February of 1974 while sitting in the front of yet another unforgettable concert, Elvis sauntered over to my direction during the "Love Me tender" song and saw the bumper sticker which I presumptuously displayed. His expression said, "Who, me?" as I motioned him to come over my way. He reached down and took the sticker and chuckled, showed it to the audience, than turned back to me and said, "You got it, Baby!"
My thoughts were, "I'd love to have it, but what am I gonna do with it in front of all these people?" I took the white sweat drenched scarf he offered me and ran my hand through his hair as we exchanged what I refer to now as The Kiss!
Three or four songs passed when suddenly Elvis turned to me and with a pointed finger aimed squarely in my direction and said "Rockin' Robin". The band did a double take because the slated song was Polk Salad Annie, which was already under way.
Around the same time I was became close friends with some associates of Colonel Tom Parker and The Elvis Presley Show. An opportunity arose where we were invited by a member of The Stamps Quartet to visit Elvis in his suite after the show. Imagine my excitement as I put my camera in my purse, envisioning myself in "idol" conversation with the King of Rock 'n' Roll. As luck would have it, another famous blue eyed singer happened to be in attendance that night and was scheduled to see Elvis after his performance. This last minute development caused an unexpected predicament for the already overtaxed security personnel. They deemed it unwise to allow an excessive number of people backstage under the circumstances. To my eternal regret my short-lived dream of meeting Elvis face to face was dashed, however unintentionally, by Frank Sinatra.
One of my fondest memories of these years is the now infamous "squirt gun" incident. I attended three more shows when Elvis was performing at The Sahara Tahoe hotel in May of 1976. Being that I did not want to attend the dinner show, I instead went to the Midnight performances. While in a mischievous mood, I decided to pull a fast one on the king this one night. I secretly supplied some fellow concertgoers with five squirt guns and kept the sixth one for myself. These I had purchased that afternoon at a local supermarket. I presented Elvis with a larger gun without his knowing that the "Elvis Posse" had him surrounded. During the show, Elvis gleefully opened fire (or in this case, water) on JD Sumner and members of The Stamps Quartet. He then stepped, unsuspectingly, back to the center of the stage and as he took hold of his microphone he was barraged with a steady hail of liquid crossfire. The trigger-happy assailants did not stop until Elvis was suitably drenched from head to toe. He loved every minute of it! The following night, Elvis mentioned the "shootout" saying "Ladies and Gentlemen, you should have been here last night, it was like a Gunfight at the OK Corral, I was almost electrocuted!" (Only kidding there folks). This incident is included in more detail within Ed Parker's book, Inside Elvis on pages 64 & 65.
December of 1976 I attended three more concerts at the Las Vegas Hilton hotel where I received a couple more scarves and tender kisses. I never dreamed then that this would be the last time I would see Elvis perform.
If only there were time machines. If only we could travel back to some of those wonderful nights. Such as the nights Elvis would say, To Hell with the hotel, were gonna party!" and then he would proceed to play non stop for two and a half hours, taken requests from his audience and just entertaining everyone to his best. If only we could witness a time when famous stars would be sprinkled through the crowd like their counterparts in the heavens and the feeling in the air was somehow more intense and vibrant than today in Las Vegas You might see Mama Cass sitting on the stage with binoculars just starring at Elvis or Ann-Margret in all her red-haired glory enjoying the show with the rest of the adoring throng. Yes, if only there were time machines than people who never got a chance to see Elvis "live" could hear gospel music the likes of which they'd never heard delivered with a passion unmatched before or since. They might then hear a patriotic number that would swell their hearts with pride and possibly fill their eyes with tears this I saw when he sang America or Bridge Over Troubled Water. Elvis had the potential to be a great religious leader had be chosen to do so with his passion for understanding the greater powers that be. He had that kind of a compelling effect on people. Had he summoned the masses for a gathering, he might have suddenly found himself in the midst of a march 10 million strong!
Thanks to Elvis it has been my pleasure to meet many wonderful people through the years and go places that I never would have dreamed of without Elvis playing a major part in my journeys. People who can relate to my experiences of seeing Elvis live and enjoying his music my entire life along with others who either never had the chance or became fans after August 16th, 1977. An example of the latter is someone who called me one evening to discuss my book, "All The King's Things". She was hesitant at first and very concerned about being an imposition. Although she hadn't been an Elvis fan during his lifetime, she was definitely one now and extremely determined to make up for lost time.
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