On August 1, 1969, Jerry Schilling was in Las Vegas to see his best friend Elvis Presley perform on the second night of his new engagement at the Strip's latest playground, the International Hotel. I've often thought that if there was a single evening of entertainment that I could board a time machine and travel back to witness, one of those rocking live performances would be #1 on my list. Should, however, time travel not become a reality in our lifetime, there's a documentary, "Elvis: That's the Way It Is" that captured the mania of that historic run of shows. Here's "Polk Salad Annie" from one of those shows in 1970 to give you a glimpse of the King in his absolute prime. Watching now, it's hard to fathom that a mere seven years later, he'd leave this world at age 42.
Jerry's recounting of that night in the Nevada desert 46 years ago was just one of many Elvis stories that make his memoir an authentic piece of Americana. Another one that I found fascinating given our jet-set age: early in his movie career Elvis and the Memphis Mafia drove in a caravan back and forth from Memphis to L.A. before and after production. Navigating one of those road trips was Jerry's first assignment after Elvis asked him to join his crew in 1964. Can anyone imagine a modern-day celebrity even contemplating such a scenario in 2015?
Shrewdly, Jerry debuted Me and a Guy Named Elvis in August, during the annual Elvis Week celebration in Memphis which culminates on the 16th - the anniversary of his death - with the Candlelight Vigil at Graceland. In the afterword, Jerry wrote about launch events and parties that took place that week and weeks following in 2006, including soirees in New York, Las Vegas and Hollywood that my old friends at the Memphis Convention & Visitors Bureau played an integral role in planning and executing. I recalled again my own time at the MCVB, knowing that had I still worked there I likely would have helped coordinate those events and probably would have had the amazing opportunity to attend too.
Should you find yourself in Memphis in two weeks or any other year in mid-August, I highly recommend spending time on Elvis Presley Blvd. While the vigil is an all day/all night test of one's stamina, there are plenty of other activities - formal and informal - to give you a taste of the indelible mark Elvis left. In my next post, I'll share the experience of the vigil I attended in 2000, a few weeks before I moved to Texas.