Two days before Christmas and 15 days before Elvis Presley's 78th birthday, the wonderful Wendy Block and I were married by an Elvis impersonator who also moonlights as Santa Claus. (Photos by the estimable Sashi, Wendy's daughter.)
Nope, we didn't elope to the Elvis Wedding Chapel in Vegas. You might say we inloped. On very short notice, a "wedding officiant" appeared at our house, marriage certificate in hand, and performed the ceremony with an Elvisy drawl and a ho-ho-ho.
I never met Elvis, but sometimes it seems that the sentiment in Mojo Nixon's anthem -- "Elvis is everywhere / Elvis is everything / Elvis is everybody / Elvis is still the King" -- remains as true as ever.
Without Elvis, my stunningly fleeting screen career would have been unthinkable. The TV coverage of Elvis's famous "gold belt buckle" June 1972 press conference -- prior to his first-ever live concerts in New York -- includes a few nanoseconds of me at age 22 covering the event for the music magazine Record World. My colleague Gregg Geller, two seats to my left, recalls that Colonel Parker, ever the entrepreneur, sold pencils at the confab.
I haven't seen the much-praised new Doc Pomus documentary "AKA Doc Pomus" yet, but multiple sources tell me that near the end, there's a photo of Doc and me -- along with lots of others, but who's counting? -- at an ancient record biz dinner. It's a still photo, but still...
Among the many songs Doc wrote for Elvis is "Viva Las Vegas," which begat countless Elvis-themed nuptials at various Viva Las Vegas wedding chapels. David McGee, an Elvis fanatic and another erstwhile Record World comrade, got hitched at one a while back in true Elvis fashion. His wedding vows featured such sentiments as "Do you, Mary, promise not to treat David like a houn' dog?" and "David, you don't be cruel, okay?" (Doc's daughter Sharyn Felder, one of the producers of the Doc doc, says her dad had never been to Vegas when he wrote that city's signature song.)
David captured the heartbreak so many felt when Elvis died in 1977 when he wrote in Record World, "In Elvis, I found someone to believe in; in rock and roll, as I learned it from him, I found a way of life that I wouldn't swap for any amount of money, because it was, and is, endlessly rewarding and fulfilling. It's only natural that I feel a certain hollowness inside of me now. A certain hollowness? I feel as if my guts had been ripped out."
Then there's Elvis Costello, whom Gregg Geller first encountered in 1977 singing on the street outside the London Hilton.
"Elvis Presley was still alive then (though not for long)," Gregg says. "He had sparked and crystallized my interest in music some 21 years earlier, thus setting me down the path that led to me, a Columbia Records A&R man, sharing that sidewalk with Elvis Costello. I fell in love with Elvis C.'s music and decided to sign him, but by then Elvis P. had died, causing me a momentary hesitation: was Elvis C.'s name disrespectful in any way to my now-late idol? I overcame my qualms and the rest, as they say, is history. Eight years later I was at RCA Records shepherding the Elvis Presley catalog into the CD age. So I worked with both Elvises (in a manner of speaking)."
Elvis Costello, of course has become a towering musical figure in his own right, which has led to occasional Elvis confusion. During a surreal two-hour job interview with Rolling Stone founder Jann Wenner in the early '80s, I thought I'd scored major points by waxing enthusiastic about Mr. Costello. Alas, it seemed Jann thought I meant Elvis Presley. No job offer ensued.
My friend Will's dad got his Elvises mixed up when he commanded Will to turn down the volume on Elvis Costello's "Armed Forces." Will told his dad it was Elvis (as if that were an explanation); his dad considered that possibility for a moment and asked, "Is this what killed him?"
Speaking of dads and Elvises, my dad didn't like Elvis Presley one bit. Dad, a crafter of pop songs in the Tin Pan Alley tradition, saw Elvis as an existential threat to his career. He did like it when the Sigman/Becaud tune "What Now My Love" became a staple of the Elvis's live show and was recorded for posterity on the "Aloha from Hawaii" album. When a golf partner asked Dad to name some of his tunes and he mentioned "What Now My Love," the clueless guy said, "You didn't write that -- Elvis did."
Proof that Elvis is still everywhere arrived in my mailbox just after Christmas in the form "Elvis -- Prince From Another Planet," a new boxed set commemorating the 40th Anniversary of the Madison Square Garden performances. This gift from David Stein, an old friend who worked at the firm that promoted those shows, includes a DVD with rare footage of the pre-concert press conference. Right after the King unleashes the buckle seen round the world, my (and Gregg's) split second of TV time -- and, it seems, the four decades since -- arrives and vanishes in an instant.
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