Photo by Bruce Hasking
Elvis, at right, arrives Sunday at motel room in Lakeland. For more about Elvis, pictures and review Page 3, About Polk Column Page 2.
By JIM DeGENNARO
Ledger Staff Writer
Elvis Presley, the swivel-hipped King of Rock ´n Roll is sleeping comfortably this morning in Central Florida.
Meanwhile, the mood remains one of excited impatience in the homes of thousands of Polk Countians who will swarm to the Lakeland Civic Center today and Monday to witness the frenzy and excitement which accompany any Presley concert.
Elvis arrived in Central Florida late last night after singing and swinging his way through a matinee and an evening show in Tampa Saturday.
The superstar´s long-time manager, Col. Tom Parker, and RCA recording executive Pat Killeher checked in Satur-day at the motel where Presley and his traveling troupe will be staying until Tuesday morning.
Waiting outside their rooms were local law enforcement officers, who, along with Presley´s personal security force, will try to preserve for the popular singer and actor a maximum of privacy.
The King Is Here;
The Crowds Await
The motel´s manager said Presley has asked that his whereabouts be kept a closely-guarded secret.
Keeping the lid down on the location of Elvis´ home away from home in Cen-tral Florida is extremely difficult, the manager said, because the Presley group has reserved about 50 rooms and are asking for more motel space.
Members of the 40-year-old enter-tainer´s backup group and his stage hands arrived at the motel Friday night without much fanfare.
Elvis was not with them, but remained hidden in Tampa.
Most of the 22 backup singers and musicians who will be on stage with the Immortal Pelvis today and Monday were out of bed and in the motel´s restaurant by noon Saturday.
Motel guests in the restaurant at the time had difficulty keeping their eyes on their scrambled eggs any time a show biz type walked by.
Some of the entertainers were decked out in black sequined outfits, stacked shoes, and white patent leather boots. Ac-cessories and jewelry included men´s leather purses, jade rings, sequins and spangles, diamonds, and gold belts and wrist bands.
Some of the entertainers were wearing "Elvis" name tags for security purposes.
One of the backup crew, a singer who was born and raised in Lakeland, said the three Presley shows would be like a "homecoming" to him.
"It feels good to be back in these parts again," he said. "I was listening to a country-western station in Winter Haven this morning (Saturday) and I couldn´t believe how much they were promoting Elvis. People must love him here."
When the singer was told Presley´s Lakeland shows were sold out in quick order and 25.000 fans were expected to watch the world famous recording artist
perform, he said, "We won´t disappoint these good people. We´re gonna knock them out of their seats.
The atmosphere around the motel was relatively calm after the backup crew boarded a charter bus for Tampa early Saturday afternoon.
Around the motel´s pool, tourists sat and sun-bathed and chatted about things like the weather and their travel plans.
Few of the guests knew they were sit-ting in the middle of a musical maelstrom that comes alive at the Civic Center today at 2:30 and 8:30 p.m. and again at 8:30 p.m. Monday.
And from a poolside radio Saturday Elvis´ unmistakeable voice was blaring out what could well be a sure promise to an awaiting Lakeland - "I´m a steam roller, baby, and I´m gonna roll all over you."
Photo by Bill Tinsley
ELVIS SINGS IN LAKELAND
. . middle-aged teenagers enjoyed show.
´ The King´
By JEFF KLINE
Ledger Entertainment Writer
They started arriving around 12 noon. A heterogeneous conglomerate of people; young; old; middle-aged; male; female; dressed elegantly and simply; some covering everything, other covering not so much.
They had a common goal, however, this plethora of humanity. For today, a 40-year-old, slightly overweight man was going to spend an hour singing to them all.
The man was Elvis Presley, "The King" as some call him. A super-superstar singer and entertainer; a man who has become a legend in his own time and an institution in American music history.
The crowd was very orderly, very calm. The doors opened on schedule at 1 p.m. and the crowd, which eventually numbered more than 8,100, filed their way into the Lakeland Civic Center Arena.
Though Elvis is best known for his pop style music, the crowd was composed of relatively few teenagers. It appeared the majority of people were middle-aged who came to see the man they screamed and fainted over back in the late 1950s and early 60s
Some came a good distance to see their idol. One woman from Vero Beach said folks back home were envious and offered to buy her tickets, an offer she refused.
Some, like Charlotte Gavin of Lakeland, had waited a long time to see Elvis.
"This is the first time I´ve ever seen him," Mrs. Gavin, who is 84 said, proving that it´s never too late.
Scalpers were few and far between and for the most part seemed to be having a bad business day. Vendors selling Presley pic-ture programs for $2 and $3, or Presley but-tons for $1 or posters for $2, along with the souvenir hawkers inside who offered Elvis scarves and eight track tapes for $5, seemed to be doing a better business
"I´ve noticed that about the South," one dark-haired man who claimed to be with Presley´s fan club said. "Up North, it´s easy to get tickets, ´cause scalpers are right out-side in the open. But down here it´s different. They run them off."
At exactly 2:30 p.m. the lights dimmed and the 12 piece orchestra started playing. Leading off the evening was the vocal group "Voices" who sang a couple of songs. Next came comedian Jackie Kahane, who for the most part received only polite laughter for his efforts.
Things picked up when "The Sweet In-spirations" performed. But still, the audience wanted Elvis.
An intermission that seemed to last a lifetime finally passed. Then the lights dim-med, the orchestra played the theme song from the movie "2001: A Space Odyssey." The drummer started pounding an insistant rhythm, a spotlight focused on the rear of the stage, and Elvis slowly climbed the steps and walked out, greeted by a chorus of screams and cheers from the crowd. Grab-bing his guitar, he started wailing out a song, punctuating the words with pelvic thrusts, each of which brought screams from his female admirers.
Shedding the guitar, he began taking scarves from an assistant, wearing them for a few seconds, maybe wiping his brow, before giving them to some lucky woman, even an occasion bending to kiss the lucky lady; an act that brought more females to the edge of the stage, hoping for some of the same.
Presley looked overweight, as well as a little tired, as he worked his way through a program of old and new songs. The concert settled down, became almost passive. Ap-parently aware of this, Presley performed a combination of "Dixie" and "Battle Hymn of the Republic" a combination that brought many to their feet at its conclusion.
Another song or two and then it was over. "Good bless you and take it easy," Presley said as he prepared to leave the stage.
Fans left their seats and went to the stage happy to catch a scarf or get a kiss, or maybe just thankful for the opportunity to be near their idol.
But "The King" finally had to leave the stage. The audience filed out only to be greeted by hawkers again, this time selling "Elvis Jewelry," and trying to entice customers by mentioning they could "take Elvis home with you, by buying some jewelry.
"I´ll take Elvis," one woman replied to a vendor´s plea to purchase a necklace.
8 photos taken at the afternoon show. Copyright: Keith Alverson
Hefty and Hot
Elvis still carries weight with fans
By VICTOR LIVINGSTON
St. Petersburg Times Staff Writer
The King of Rock ´n´ Roll has grown puffy-faced, pale and paunchy in this, his 40th year. He holds his pelvic gyrations and karate-chop contortions in check, as if under doctor´s orders. His legs twitch perceptively to the pounding rhythm in protest against the singer´s newly re-quired restraint. He reaches over the edge of the stage to kiss a front-row female and apologizes, "That´s as far as I can bend, honey."
And most telling, his conservatively cut blue suit coat studded with red se-quins remains securely buttoned through-out the full, hot hour on stage, not quite hiding that much gossiped-about girth.
But the energy that a younger, slim-mer Elvis Presley would have put into his on-stage gymnastics is not lost; instead, that force manifests itself in the man´s music, and in his inexhaustible personal magnetism. The Elvis Presley that brought down the house Saturday at Tampa´s Curtis Hixon hall retains that fa-mous smile, charm and that voice -- what a voice! It was as if Elvis knows he had to compensate for his physical lackings by putting his all into his sound. And that he did.
The 8,000 mostly white, middle-aged fans didn´t mind a bit that their idol just stood there clutching the microphone and crooning most of the time,or that his belly bulged out at times making him look something like a chubby penguin. They too, have grown older, and they under-stand. The raw physical power and elec-tricity of the vintage Elvis is a thing of
Elvis´ past -- and theirs -- and both ac-cept that fact of life. Where once Elvis´ fans felt pure awe in his presence, now there is emphaty, and it actually enhances his appeal.
As Elvis belts out "C.C. Rider" and "I Got A Woman", two early rock ´n´ roll classics, he executes a slow bump and grind, joking, "Let´s see if it all works," then stops, clutching his leg in mock pain. He smiles, and the communication with the audience is total. Without spelling it out, Elvis is saying, "Look, I´m not every-thing I used to be, but I still have a lot to give." The audience acknowledges each slight body movement with the expected screams and tumultuous applause.
He still sings his early classics like "Love Me Tender," "Teddy Bear," and "Don´t Be Cruel," but he does so in self-parody, laughing at his own legend by al-tering the lyrics and the tempo. He still works up a sweat and hands out perspi-ration-stained scarves to adoring stage-side fans, and provokes jealous screams by planting kisses on their cheeks.The ani- mal Elvis has mellowed with age, but that beast in him remains.
The most impressive thing about this rotund Elvis is his musicianship, no long-er eclipsed by his choreography. When he slides into his recent ballad, "My Boy,"you know it comes from deep down. His voice is full, robust and resounding, in perfect pitch. And so it is with the other ballads on the program, "I Remember You," "It´s Midnight," and the stirring "American Trilogy."
For middle-of-the-roaders, Elvis turns in respectable but unimpressive pop ver-sions of "Funny How Time Slips Away,"
"If You Love Me Let Me Know" and "Let Me Be There," the latter two tunes recent Olivia Newton-John hits.
But Elvis´ forte is still the rockin´ stuff, and he shows he hasn´t lost what it takes. His "Burning Love" puts shame even to his own record version. When he launches into a slow, torchy "Heartbreak Hotel," the inflections are Vintage 1956. Some-how it´s not the same without those pelvic thrusts and deep knee-bends, but the au-dience forgives. Once or twice Elvis tenta-tively executes a half-split, as if testing his bloated body. But mostly he just clutches the microphone and wails in the best way he knows how. He wears his famous guitar for his first rocking number, then discards it. He never actually plays it.
The high point of the performance comes when Elvis goes back to his roots and announces, "I´d like to do the first record I ever recorded." He launches into a feverish "That´s All Right, Mama," bop-ping and slurring the lyric in classic rocka-billy fashion, far better than the original on record. His lead guitar man reinforces the sound with lead licks from another early Elvis opus, "My Baby Left Me," and fills in the bridge with the same "That´s All Right" lead first laid down in 1955 by Elvis´ original guitarist, Scotty Moore.
At the last moment Elvis lapses into mediocrity with a syrupy, schmaltzy and too-fast version of "Can´t Help Falling in Love With You" as his final number. One last time he bends over to kiss some cheeks and shake some hands. He smiles and strides off the stage in triumph, a lackluster finish notwithstanding.
There is no encore. But the applause thundered on. And this crowd of loyal fans was not just applauding the legend, or the vestigal traces of a one-time teen-age idol. Even without the gyrations, contortions and Mr. America build, this hefty but hot Elvis Presley truly earned it.
CONCERT NOTES: Elvis fans had to wait a full hour before their man came on-stage. The audience endured a schlocky Las Vegas comic who yuked about get-ting seven days out of a 5-day deodorant pad. Two warm-up acts, Voice and the Sweet Inspirations, both of them Elvis back-up groups, tried their best to enter-tain a crowd who wanted only Elvis. And then, of all things, an intermission, during which a thoroughly obnoxious master of ceremonies hawked Elvis souvenirs from the stage.
Some concertgoers complained that they had paid $10 for mail-order tickets, but had been given $5.50 or $7.50 seats - with no adjustment. Some fans took their case up with Curtis Hixon management, who denied responsibility and refused to make any refunds.
Elvis Is Still the King
TEXT AND PHOTOS
By THOM SMITH
Post Staff Writer
Fat, forty and fantastic! Certainly not Forgotten.
There he was, friends and neighbors, in all his radiant beauty, feasting on rav-ings and grasps and applause – Elvis, the King of Rock, Sultan of the Starstruck, Earl of Forever, performing in Lakeland.
Three times he paraded about on the stage, three times to sellout audiences of which screaming women in their thirties seemed most abundant.
”I´m glad he only comes once in a while,” exclaimed an exhausted Neil Gunn, civic center manager, on Tuesday. ”Everything was rough. The tension. He´s got so much power. The way he controls people is utterly amazing. It´s scary. He´s one hell of an entertainer.
In the two decades of Elvis, his popu-larity seems undiminished. The performer is still there. The audience is still there. The only changes are those fostered by time.
No longer do the bobby soxers in rolled up jeans, saddle shoes and white shirts with the tails out crowd around the stage grabbing for a collar or a shirt sleeve, screaming and passing out from sheer ecstacy.
Instead they wear double knit slack suits and panty hose and Huck-A-Poo blouses, and they crowd around the stage grabbing for the scarves with which he wipes his brow, dreaming of a occasional kiss, even a touch. The same people 20 years later.
When Elvis comes to town, there is more that just a concert. It is an event of mountainous proportions. There is magic in the air.
"Programs. Elvis programs. Only three dollars. Right here." screams a barker in the dusty parking lot an hour before show time. The sun burn violently against the arid soil and the wind is some-where else.
"Elvis picture albums. Full color. Get ´em quick. Two bucks."
The crowd is anticipatory, but or-derly. Most have never seen him in person before.
"What´s he look like?"
"I wonder how fat he is?"
"Has he really got cancer?"
"Maybe it´s just heartbreak."
"I hope he´s raunchy."
"Anybody got an extra ticket for sale?" asks a tired-looking man in jeans and T-shirt, but he gets no response.
And so they move through the turnst-iles into the hall that looks more like an airplane hanger. "Does the metal roof rattle in the rain?" Once the seats fill and the narrow aisles appear, the hall seems to be the Sardine Center.
"Good evening, and welcome to the Lakeland Civic Center," booms a recor-ding,"We request that there be no smoking
in the seating area. Thank you . . . . kyou . . . kyou. . . kyou . . . kyou . . ."
The fat front man, Al DeVaughn, wad-dles up to the microphone, first to sell some souvenirs - photo buttons $1; pro-grams (small, medium and large) $1, $2, $3; picture albums $2; scarves (blue or white with "Elvis" signed in black paint) $5; eight-track tapes $5, special records $5; posters (suitable for framing) $2; op-era glasses (the better to see him with) $5; pennants $2; picture necklaces $2; T-shirts $5.
Souvenirs thus accommodated for at least 15 minutes, big Al proclaims no taping of the show and no motion pictures. "Take all the still pictures you want from your seats."
Remember in the old days when every picture was a mov-ing picture.
Big Al waxes poetic: "These mementos will be long cher-ished, long after the show has gone quiet."
Others wanted more than printed mementos, the three women for example, probably wanted Elvis to do for them what Leon Russell did for the Butter Queen. The one in the green blouse was pregnant and will probably name her baby Elvis.
The lady in red, knit halter and tight slacks, stocked by Frederick´s of Hollywood, was cooked and ready for action. She turned more that a few heads, but not Elvis´, who never noticed.
The one with the bleached, teased hair was the master-mind, confronting security officers with excuses to get back-stage - "I lost my purse and they told me I´d have to get it back there."
"I´m sorry, but I´m not allowed to allow anyone back there."
"But . . .
"But they, they . . ."
Later, during intermission, a woman in her early twenties with bleached hair, not teased, tobacco-stained teeth and thick wing-framed glasses came forward with a picture to be auto-graphed. She got results because of her white outfit. The back of the waist jacket was emblazoned with a eagle in red, white and blue sequins, under which was her national motto, "Elvis," in black sequins.
The heavy woman, who stood at the backstage door fon-dling her sunglasses, waited in vain for hours. Elvis had al-ready been sped away in a limousine before she even left her seat in the hall.
And Elvis did sing, and bump and grind and gyrate and wink and curl that sneer. He wore a black suit that he never unbottoned to release from captivity the rollls of fat. His pants didn´t cling to the skin. But he did sing and he sang as well as he ever did, the highs reaching purely into the girders of the ceilling, the lows pouring forth sultry and full of sex.
He could look like Fatty Arbuckle or even Haystack Cal-houn and they would still cram the aisles. If anything, Elvis has grown and become dearer to the masses by becoming a little paunchy. We may never know if he keeps his hair jet black with dye, but even that wouldn´t matter.
He is Elvis. Nothing more need be said.
Maybe Health Slowed Presley´s Performance Here
According to well informed sources Elvis Presley is not in the best physical condition. They claim he has a physician traveling with him who treats him for whatever is wrong.
Hopefully this is the case for in this writer´s humble opinion, Presley´s show was something of a disappointment.
To state it bluntly, he didn´t move his celebrated pelvis enough. He didn´t dance about the stage in his one piece white jumpsuit, screaming into the microphone, lifting the people out of their seats and sending them on a far out trip.
By now, this writer is the most unpopular guy in Polk County probably, but like it or not, that´s the impression one had following yesterday´s afternoon show.
To be fair however, it must be emphasized that the Presley show was one of the smoothest running, most professional shows to play the new Lakeland Civic Center. To begin with the show started promptly on time. It moved rapidly, going through several opening acts before reaching intermission, after which Presley appeared.
Vocally, Presley sounded great. He´s singing as well as he ever has, perhaps even better that before and his backup vo-calists are superb as well. And despite some occasional sound problems due to the amplification system and the Lakeland Civic Center Arena acoustics, the orchestra sounds good too.
The problem lies in that Presley just doesn´t come off as the person one expects after spending $2 on a picture pro-gram and looking at the 20 photographs of a perspiring Elvis, smiling and singing his heart out.
He moved some, he got the infamous pelvis into action every now and then, but it wasn´t enough. Decked out in a black two-piece suit with silver sequins, he looked a little too big to move and jump about the stage, even though he is a black belt karate expert.
Most publicity photos of him now show him in the one piece, white jumpsuit or perhaps in the red jumpsuit perform-
ing a fast paced show. But the one he´s doing now just isn´t right somehow. There´s not enough of that old fire and grace that used to knock ´em dead years ago.
He´s 40 years old, staunch fans will say while coming to his rescue. And so he is, but these staunch fans remem-ber him from the 50s and 60s. His basis style of music hasn´t changed over the years and the fans won´t let him change. Too bad perhaps, but true. The 35-year-old and above women weren´t screaming for a 40-year-old Elvis when he sang a rendition of "Houndog," they were screaming for a 20-year-old Elvis whose waist move-ments were considered immoral at the time.
But somehow no one, not even this reviewer who can´t first hand remember any Elvis songs older than 1966, doesn´t want to believe it. Perhaps it´s because he is "The King" and it´s a great thrill for a person to be able to say he has seen Presley perform.
Thank goodness for the news that a physician is traveling with him. He´s not feeling well and that´s why he appeared tired and subdued Saturday afternoon. When he´s feeling bettter, his show will be a lot different.