Showing posts with label Elvis. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Elvis. Show all posts

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Elvis Returns

Fifty years ago tonight, on 12 May 1960 (a Thursday), ABC aired the Frank Sinatra television special, “Welcome Home Elvis,” Elvis’s first television appearance since returning from Germany in early March, where he been serving in the Army since late 1958. Actually the show was the fourth installment of The Frank Sinatra Timex Show, a series of mediocre television specials that Sinatra had made for Timex. Taped a few weeks earlier, on March 26, the show prominently featured other members of the so-called “rat pack,” including Sammy Davis Jr., Joey Bishop, and Peter Lawford, but missing Dean Martin. For trivia buffs the show is significant because it features Elvis singing a verse of the opening production number, “It’s Nice to Go Traveling,” the recording of which is available on the DVD releases of the show, but no official recording exists on record. Given that the show was an hour long, if the 1959–60 network television schedule available here is correct, it may have replaced The Untouchables at the 9:30 p.m. Eastern slot. Of interest now only as a museum piece, Elvis reportedly was paid $125,000 for his appearance on the program, an amount, according to the inflation calculator, equivalent to $895, 432 in current dollars. If you by chance have a copy of the DVD, please join me in watching it tonight, although be forewarned that Elvis appears on the show for only roughly six minutes. Elvis's first movie after leaving the Army, G. I. Blues, would be released slightly over six months later.

Friday, January 8, 2010

The Ghost Has Left The Building

Were he alive today, this would have been the human Elvis Presley’s 75th birthday. The story is quite familiar: he was born in 1935 to parents Vernon and Gladys at their home in Tupelo, Mississippi, arriving 35 minutes after his stillborn twin, Jesse Garon, buried in a shoebox in an unmarked grave. The human Elvis died in 1977 at age 42, thirty-three years ago next August, leaving a sole heir, Lisa Marie, born 1968. The Elvis brand still makes tons of money—for years Forbes has ranked Elvis among the top-earning dead celebrities. In 2009, dead Elvis earned roughly $55 million. With a new “Viva Elvis!” Cirque du Soleil show opening in Las Vegas, he is projected to top that figure this year. The place Elvis once owned and called home, Graceland, is the second most visited house in America after the White House, averaging about 700,000 visitors per year. Sales of Elvis CDs and records purportedly have topped one billion. There are more than 350 “official” Elvis Presley Fan Clubs around the world.

But there is another Elvis, an Elvis whose image has come free of his body and moves around the world seemingly enjoying itself, an Elvis who, figuratively speaking, lives on, and not just in the form of impersonators. Greil Marcus calls this free-floating Elvis image “dead Elvis,” and even wrote a book about it, titled Dead Elvis (1991). Marcus called this Elvis “an emptied, triumphantly vague symbol of displaced identity” (p. 33), but it also happens to be the condition of the android, the experience of the ghost having left the building. You can find this Elvis on coffee mugs, ashtrays, crushed black velvet, ties, T-shirts, scarfs, wine labels, billboards, Pez dispensers, limited edition dinner plates, clock faces, and appropriated for album covers. You can find it all over. It’s ubiquitous. Elvis’s meteoric rise to prominence roughly coincided with the new technology of television, so in a sense Elvis has always been an image, in a way like, for instance, Princess Diana, but unlike Elvis, she didn’t actually do anything. Elvis, at least, sang and made some feature films.

The Elvis image is, in fact, the brand of a corporation known as Elvis Presley Enterprises (EPE). What EPE did was to go around the world gathering up all the free-floating images of Elvis, collecting these images for its own purposes. So what is being celebrated today isn’t the birthday of Elvis, but Elvis the android, the ghost who’s left the building, a brand manufactured by EPE. Whose birthday are we, in fact, celebrating? Or rather, what?

Friday, December 18, 2009

ELVIS In March

According to, John Carpenter’s 1979 Emmy-nominated biopic, Elvis, with Kurt Russell playing Elvis Presley, is scheduled for release on DVD on March 2, 2010. The long-awaited release of the film on DVD coincides with the 75th anniversary of Elvis’s birth on January 8th. The film represents the first collaboration of Kurt Russell and John Carpenter, and earned Russell a Golden Globe nomination for Outstanding Lead Actor. Serendipitously, as a child actor, Kurt Russell had a small role in Elvis’s It Happened at the World’s Fair (1963), filmed late in 1962. My own memory of John Carpenter's Elvis is imperfect, although I remember liking it. The film appeared on American television in the years before I owned a VCR, and I’ve never had the opportunity to see it in the years since.

From the press release:

Timed closely to coincide with the 75th anniversary of Elvis Presley’s birth, Shout! Factory, in association with Dick Clark Productions, present Elvis on DVD for the first time March 2, 2010. This collectible DVD features the main presentation of the movie restored from the original film elements as it was meant to be seen, as well as an array of bonus features including: “Bringing A Legend To Life,” a featurette with archival interviews of Kurt Russell and John Carpenter (1979); commentary by “The Voice Of Elvis,” Ronnie McDowell, and author Edie Hand; rare clips and captivating photo gallery. Even 33 years after his passing, Presley continues to burn a powerful image of rock stardom and still conquers new legions of fans through his indelible mark in worldwide pop culture. Available for the first time in the home entertainment marketplace, this long-awaited DVD debut of the film Elvis is priced to own at $19.97. Directed by John Carpenter, the biopic of Elvis stars Kurt Russell and features the [70s] country music hitmaker Ronnie McDowell re-creating Presley’s signature vocals. Tracing Presley's life from his impoverished childhood to his meteoric rise to stardom to his triumphant return to Las Vegas, this film boasts an all-star ensemble including Academy Award® winner Shelley Winters (A Place In The Sun) as Elvis' mother Gladys; Season Hubley (All My Children) as his wife Priscilla; Kurt Russell’s real-life father Bing Russell (The Magnificent Seven) as Elvis’s father Vernon Presley; Pat Hingle (Batman) as Colonel Tom Parker; Robert Gray (Murder She Wrote) as Red West; Golden Globe nominee Joe Mantegna (Searching for Bobby Fischer) as Memphis mafia member Joe Esposito; and Golden Globe nominee Ed Begley Jr. (St. Elsewhere) as D.J. Fontana.

  • “Bringing A Legend To Life” Featurette With Archival Interviews Of Kurt Russell And John Carpenter (1979)
  • Commentary By “The Voice Of Elvis” Ronnie McDowell And Author Edie Hand
  • Rare Clips From American Bandstand
  • Photo Gallery