Thursday, October 6, 2011

"Elvis Presley Will Have to Clean Up His Show -Or Go To Jail." Excerpt from "Last Train to Memphis" By Peter Guralnick.

Here. Read This!" said a reporter, shoving a magazine article into Elvis' hands. "Rock 'n' Roll smells phony and false", declared Frank Sinatra in the story's text. "Its sung, played and written for the most part by cretinous goons and by means of its almost imbecilic reiteration, and sly, lewd, in plain fact dirty lytics... it manages to be the martial music of every sideburned delinquent on the face of the earth... it is the most brutal, ugly, desperate, vicious form of expresion it has been my misfortune to hear".

And what was Elvis Presley's response to that? he was asked, standing in front of a roomful of reporters. It was an hour before his October 28 [1957] performance at the Pan Pacific Auditorioum, which would mark his Hollywood debut. "I admire the man", said Elvis. "He has a right to say what he wants to say. He is a great success and a fine actor, but I think he shouldn't have said it. He's mistaken about this. This is a trend, just the same as he faced when he started years ago. I consider it the greatest in music," Elvis added mischievously, throwing the reporters a little off balance. "It is very noteworthy -and namely because it is the only thing I can do..."

"Is that all you have to say?"
"You can't knock success," declared Elvisand went on to answer questions about his income, his sideburns, his draft status, and any plans he might have for marriage, before taking the stage in gold jacket and dress pants at 8:15. 

He was determined to impress his celebrity-studded audience, and he did. In front of a sold-out, paid attendance of more than nine thousand, he flung himself about, "wiggled, bumped, twisted" and at the conclusion of the fifty-minute performance rolled around on the floor with Nipper in a manner longtime Jack O' Brian of the New York Journal-American declared "Far too indecent to mention in every detail". The Los Angeles Mirror-News did wrote the next day "Elvis writhed in complete abandon, hair hanging over his face. He got down on the floor with a huge replica of the RCA singing dog and made love to it as if it were a girl."

The audience went wild, but the newspapers took a somewhat dimer view. "Elvis Presley Will Have to Clean Up His Show -Or Go To Jail," declared one headline, while O´Brian characterized the music as "a terrible popular twist  on darkest Africa's fertility tom-tom displays" and Los Angeles Mirror-News entertainment editor Dick Williams noted: "If any further proof were needed that what Elvis offers is not basically music but a sex show, it was proved last night".  His performance, wrote Williams, resembled "one of those screeching, uninhibited party rallies which the Nazis used to hold for Hitler," and many parents who had attended with their children, including actors Alan Ladd and Walter Slezak, expressed equal outrage to authorities and the newpapers. The result was that the Los Angeles Vice Squad contacted the Colonel [Elvis Manager], who told Elvis that he would have to cut out some of the dancing and in general tone down his act. What was Elvis reaction? the Colonel was asked, "This isn't the first time," said the Colonel, "You know, they done it a couple of times before." Did Elvis complain about not being able to dance? "Naw, he didn't complain... He just said, "Well, if I don't dance tonight, maybe I don't have to take a shower tonight." "Coloner Parker said that?" declared Elvis incredulously. "He couldn't have! You see," Elvis explained, genuinely upset, "I take a shower every night, whether I dance or just sing."

When the police showed up with movie cameras on the second night, the show was considerably tone down, and the only person to object was Yul Brynner, "whose bleeding heart", wrote Jack O'Brian, "led him to protest [the censorship] as if it were an invasion of someone's privacy." Brynner, declared O'Brian olympianly, was "ridiculous." Elvis, for his part, kept his own counsel. At one point during the second night show, he formed a halo over his head and offered his wrist for handcuffs to the cameras. "You should have been here last night," he added with mockery.

"When I originally saw the act, I was horrified... Elvis was rolling around the floor of the
Pan Pacific Auditorium in Hollywood with his arms and legs wrapped
around the microphone as though they where bride and groom." Hedda Hopper.

No comments: