First of all, a big question has been brought up about Elvis on Tour. ElvisSessions reported on a conversation he had with Tom Brown about this. He (Tom) hinted at EOT might coming out at some anniversary in the near future. Sillerman was on tape so was not asked about it. People shouted out to Tom several times during the day asking about it and each time he would say "I can't talk about it". That's it. So no official word came out at the conference. We must continue to speculate.
Opening the conference today was the video-taped interview with Robert Sillerman. Scott Williams flew to NY to meet with him.
What are your plans for Las Vegas? -
It will be a big, interactive (you will be able to “talk” to Elvis), maybe they can get the street names “Elvis Presley Blvd West”. Elvis deserves a bigger presence in Vegas for what he did there.
What are your plans for Graceland –
The impact of economy may affect how fast what we do. Won’t be spending all of the money up front. But major pieces will be completed soon (“soon” being a relative term). Our current economic situation is pretty dire.
Sneak peak of plans?
Tied up with what happens with Memphis and TN We need approval. Once we know what we can do, plans will come out. Perhaps in 6 months.
Sillerman: I’m an Elvis fan – put your earplugs in and I’ll do my rendition of an Elvis song. I’m a big Elvis fans. Elvis and I have a long history.
Why did you want to buy EPE? Society has changed so much over the last 10 years, principally driven by the devices we have – ipods, dvds, internet, etc. we can now deal with iconistic people. Since it’s impossible for anyone else to ever attain the heights that Elvis did, it was our desire to be associated with this kind of talent, a talent that needs no definition, explanation. I can’t say when the idea precisely came to me, but after we sold our last entertainment company, we were looking for something.
What’s your earliest memory of Elvis -
I was studying classical piano (quite good, if I must say so myself), I had no awareness of rock and roll or of Elvis. I had my little portable radio and there was no Yankee game on. So I heard an Elvis Presley song and was taken aback. I got out of bed to have my brother listen to it. He didn’t like it but I told him he was crazy. I was captivated then – by “Hound Dog”. I know it sounds funny, but it was almost a life-changing moment.
What did you think of the Celine Dion/American Idol duet with Elvis?
Every time I see that I get goosebumps. It’s the technology I was talking about. The idea emanated from CKX. Everyone I show it to says Elvis more than holds his own with Celine’s powerful voice.
Did you see Elvis in person?
Do you own the DVDs? I saw Elvis live 5 times – in college and after college. Once in Boston, 4 times in Vegas. When I watch the concert footage I am evoking the live experiences.
Elvis Radio – what’s your favorite era and song?
No one single favorite song. It changes all the time. I listen to 13 all the time. 50s era is my favorite. In the Ghetto, Lieber and Stoller songs.
Is there going to be an EP Theme Park?
No roller coasters and ferris wheels and things like that. There will be Elvis-themed features where you can come in with themes of Elvis’ life. Interactive. We can move things out of Graceland to display them elsewhere and restore the house to its original look.
Are you a member of EI.
Yes. (He pulled out his card)
Tom gives away a prize – ipod-like/radio/ preloaded to play Elvis video clips. The one you buy has 20 video clips. This prize has 80.
Chris Noelle picks the winner. Drats. Didn’t win this one either.
(note: nothing in the next interview session was new to me. Same old stories, sorry to say. I guess there is just so much they can add after all this time).
Tom introduces the new DVD Elvis in Las Vegas – we see a clip. It’s always great to see Elvis close up on the big screen.
Now we see a trailer for EinLV.
Next up – Jerry Schilling and Joe Guercio
Tom – take me back to 1969.
Joe – ’69- I wasn’t there. But when I saw he was coming, it blew me away.
Jerry – We had been there before. Elvis loved to visit Vegas and go see the shows.
Joe - First time I met Elvis was in Sammy Davis’ dressing room – right after he got out of the Army. To get to meet him was a thrill.
Tom – reminded us of what Sammy Shore said about how nervous Elvis was before he went on.
Joe – I can understand his nervousness. He’d been there before and was not successful.
Jerry– his show was very different from what was out there in Vegas. Elvis would watch the first row in the audience. One guy would never look up. Finally, when Elvis did Trilogy, the guy stood up and saluted. Elvis could do what he wanted. Gospel in Vegas? If Elvis did it, yes, he could do what others just couldn't get away with.
Joe – Hilton flew me to LA to meet Parker and Diskin. I got the whole limo treatment, and we’re going to lunch. We got to this little hut – and we had bologna sandwiches!! Parker knows everything I’ve ever done. He asked me if I could do what they want. Mind you, I was not an Elvis fan at the time.
First days of rehearsal and Lamar brings a ton of music over and says ‘this is what we’re going to do’. I said “I’m not a librarian”.
Second rehearsal Elvis walks in. He hangs around for the first hour. Joe E says would you like to meet Elvis. “I think it would be nice”. From the moment we shook hands – it was such charisma! We hit it off and were friends ever since.
Jerry – I was in LA when Elvis was picking the band. We had all these great musicians and we knew this one drummer’s name who was sure to be picked – but Elvis didn’t pick him. This heavyset guy keeps playing the drums – his family is in the van. Elvis comes over to me and says “watch this” and tells Ronnie Tutt what he wants. Elvis picked him because he had the same mindset as Elvis.
Tom – and the gospel quartets? Joe – I never saw anyone do church music before that.
Jerry – I worked on the DVD for about a year (behind the scenes) for about a year. ABC Entertainment flew me to Vegas where we did the interviews. We went down to the dressing rooms where I told some stories about the time Elvis was there. It’s great to hear the next and current generations talk about how Elvis influenced them
Tom – his ear for picking a song –
Joe – it was the lyrics, the story, that sold a song for Elvis.
Jerry – Elvis is the most underrated producer in music history.
Joe – he loved all music – he had a rock and roll band, an orchestra and church groups – all on the same stage.
Tom – when he wanted something, he wasn’t confrontational . He knew a better way to get things done the way he wanted.
Tom - talk to me about Elvis, who had no musical training.
Joe – for the first night’s performance – he was in tune with everything that was going on around him. He sang to the back row all the time. He made the person in the back row feel as close as the ones up front. It was a good time. It was more of a happening than a “show”. He’d change a song as he went along so we always had to be paying close attention. The first time he did this we were in the middle of “He Gave Me a Mountion” – he switched things around but I’d told the orchestra that when I dropped my hands go to bar 32. Elvis changed something but we were ready. Made for interesting shows every night.
Jerry – he always had a degree of nervousness, although not to the extent of the first show. He always worried about whether the fans would accept him.
Tom – how difficult to transfer the Vegas show to the road?
Joe – it wasn’t difficult – he took his charisma with him. (laughter)
Jerry- there was probably more to it for everyone else (laughter)
Joe – we all had to take karate lessons in Vegas and he brought in Ed Parker to train us. Everyone has to participate. I said I’m not going. I’m home for 2 weeks and I’m not coming in for this. I detected a vibe from Elvis. Last night everyone got their karate level belts – during the show! Closing night party – “Ronnie Tutt – black belt”… …. … “Joe Guercio” – Parker gives me a black belt- a black belt - in baton. :-)
Joe – tells the marble story – (let me know if you haven’t heard it – I’ll type it out).
Jerry talks about the practical jokes Elvis did in the down times of movie making. Says this behavior carried over to Vegas. If you’ve seen the tv show “Entourage”, that’s how it was back then.
Joe – Elvis was one of only 4 stars I’ve worked with all these years that truly respected the rest of the people- on stage. He made everyone feel important.
Tom – Vegas then and now?
Jerry – we spent almost 3 months a year in Vegas – shows - and fun. Back then I thought it was huge but you could still interact. Elvis took it to the next level. Then hotels got bigger and bigger. Now we’re in the third phase now. It’s just huge. So big. But the good news is that Elvis will be even bigger than ever next year when the Sillerman project is done.
Joe – when Elvis came to town hotels were filled to 88%. That had never happened before.
Tom introduces Charles Stone.
He took a picture of Elvis back stage in Michigan playing the piano. He’d forgotten about it and found the undeveloped film this year! I’ll have to go down to the expo to see this picture of Elvis sitting at the piano all by himself. (note: I bought a copy of this very different picture of Elvis.)
Charles says Elvis never played to an empty seat (although others have said this isn’t entirely true). There is nothing else in the history of entertainment that could compare to the electricity and excitement of Elvis walking onto a stage.
Prize is an autographed copy of this picture.
Another prize – a copy of the deluxe 68 special autographed by Steve Binder.
Marian Burns (? Didn’t get name straight) talks about Elvis from Broadway to Memphis. I’m going to take a break right now. Since I’m going to this concert on Sat. I’ll blog about it then.
EI Conference Thursday afternoon
Video of 68 special- bordello scene and outtakes –
Susan Henning- yowsa!
First face of milk commercials.
Played Hayley Mill’s twin in “Parent Trap”
Was in Live a Little, Love a Little. Played a mermaid. (showing a clip of her here). I don’t remember it, but it’s cute! She’s sitting on a diving board (as mermaid), holding out her lunch. A whale comes up and takes her food.
SH - They fitted me for the mermaid tail sitting in a wheel chair – when Elvis walked in. That’s how we met. Instant sparks. He’d take me out on his motorcycle.
Tom – how did you get into the 68 special?
SH – During LaL he took my number and called me back a few days with the offer. I was engaged at the time but I couldn’t help the feelings I had for Elvis. Broke off engagement. My character was called the “virgin hooker” in 68 special. When I came on to the set for the first time he had his back to me. I went up to him from behind and touched him and he said “my boy, my boy”
Tom – in the outtakes you seem to be having a special private moment with Elvis.
SH – when I saw the outtakes just now it really brought me back to a very, very special time in my life.
Tom – in talking about your time with Elvis, how do you draw the line with how much you want to tell vs how much people want to know more.
SH – good question. People who really love Elvis respect his privacy and I think some things should be left up to one’s imagination.
Tom – well, there go my next 3 questions… Over the years did anything change in what you thought about what could have been?
SH – a decision was made in our relationship – remember, I was a young 21 year old woman, I had lots of dreams I had not yet fulfilled. And he was there already living his dream. I wanted to live my life, not so much live Elvis’ life. So there was a path I had to choose. I chose to develop and see who “Susan” was. I honor everything he’s done. He is the king and there will never be another Elvis.
Tom – what is it about him that makes us be together 31 years after his death?
SH – He transcends gender, so he appeals to men and women. His sex appeal. His charisma. You can have that and be egocentric. But he was genuinely humble, so touchable. Add that to talent. It’s magnetic.
Tom – tell us about your life after Elvis.
SH – we have how much time? I did a few more films, and some television. I was a successful commercial model. But I wanted white fences and meadows and horses. I have 3 wonderful children and a wonderful supportive husband that has allowed and been supportive of “Susan Henning”. Dating actors was a way of life. People ask if I saved a lock of Elvis’ hair. But it was just life and we didn’t think of things like that. But I’m grateful that you all want to hear about my time with Elvis.
Susan has put together a book about her time with Elvis. She found some pictures of us that have never been seen before. Don't know when it will be released.
Hambri (SP?) from Sony/BMG to talk about the Elvis Christmas duets CD1957 and 1971 Elvis recorded 2 Xmas albums. Using new technology we’ve recreated the original tracks and then added the new artists to sing the duets with him.Some artists were asked to participate but were too intimidated. He wouldn’t name names.
Track Listing - (although I missed something)
Anne Murray- "Silver Bells"
Martina McBride- "Blue Christmas"
Gretchen Wilson- "Merry Christmas Baby"
Wynonna- "Santa Claus Is Back In Town"
Sara Evans- "Silent Night"
Leann Rimes- "Here Comes Santa Claus"
Amy Grant- "White Christmas"
Carrie Underwood- "I'll Be Home For Christmas"
We’re hearing a little piece of “Blue Christmas” Elvis with Martina McBride and “Here Comes Santa Claus” with LeAnn Rimes.
My thoughts – this is going to work for a Christmas album to introduce Elvis to new fans. But if it were anything but Christmas songs I’m not sure I’d want to hear Elvis duet with anyone (except Lisa).
New door prize – Viva Las Vegas DVD – Tanya Lamani George (belly dancer, ’68 special) picks the number. She says Elvis a very special human being. Kind, warm and generous. She does a little belly dance move.
Another video – of David Garibaldi doing his incredible “rhythm and hue” art work to Elvis music. Awesome stuff.
Thomas Kincaid has a new Christmas painting. Video of him talking. Commercial for the new painting to be out this fall “Christmas Cottage” (not Graceland). Also has done “Winter at Graceland” for sale. It’s very pretty. The pink Cadillac is in front of Graceland, with Elvis and a woman (can be anyone you want :-))
Darlene Thompkins on now. (Sorry, I don't seem to have a picture of her.
Tom: How did you get the role with Elvis?
DT - my agent sent me on an audition for a musical. I can’t sing and I can’t dance but that didn’t stop me from going to an audition for an Elvis movie. Elvis wasn’t there but I got the part. When I first saw him he took my breath away. He was the most beautiful person I’ve ever met. But when started to talk and he made me feel like we had already met. A few days later I admitted to him that I couldn’t sing. Elvis said no matter, we can dub the voice. Then I admitted I can’t dance, either. He said “Just have fun!”. In one scene Norman Taurog puts me right up with Elvis. And I know that Elvis is a “one-take” guy. In slice-and-sand scene I move of the scene. When you hear about how nice Elvis was and how kind, it doesn’t come close to describing how he was.
Another prize – Elvis #1 hits Vol 2
Video – Elvis’ screen test at Paramount. It’s still fun to watch this.
More video movie clips – from movies of the next panel.
Panel: Celeste Yarnell (CY)form LaL and Edward Faulkner( EF) and Francine York (FY) from Tickle Me
Tom – what was the set like
CF – there was a bit of a cloud over the set because MLK was assassinated. Elvis and I comforted each other over that sadness. When that wasn’t happening, he kept the energy up and made us have lots of fun.
EF – I had a very small part in GI Blues. Being 2 southern boys we had a very nice relationship. He and John Wayne had a lot in common. Both were very easy to work with and I never saw either of them on set with a script. The last time I saw him he was rehearing a later movie. When he saw me he came right off the set, the set closed down and he talked with me for 20 minutes.
FY – I first saw Elvis on screen in a movie theatre. I was modeling in San Francisco. But when I saw him in person, he was very, very special. Elvis had a very sweet smell (not cologne). It was wonderful. One day we were having trouble with something on the set, so while we were waiting Elvis was blowing into my ear. Wow! We chatted about movies I’d made with Jerry Lewis and told me I’d have a great career. Elvis was down home – but gorgeous! He was so much more handsome in person.
Tom – a lot of people put the movies down, but it seems a lot of young people are discovering Elvis through his movies. What kind of reaction are you seeing from Elvis fans about how important these movies are?
CF – The remixes – the first was of the song Elvis sang to me – and now it’s a number 1 song. But I’m not happy that there were hip-hop dancers in the video!
Tom – What did it take to get the fight scenes?
EF – they were professionally choreographed. Elvis and I staged one fight. We rehearse it a couple of times, we basically did the whole thing in one day. He made you feel extremely comfortable. Every event I do – people from around the world – it warms my heart to see people going back to these honest films as opposed to what is being shown these days. It’s amazing how many young people have found Elvis.
Tom – you worked with Jerry Lewis. Tell me how important it is for an actor to get along with the crew and the director How did Elvis stack up?
FY – Our set was very happy. The crew liked Elvis. At the time of this movie Elvis had bought a green convertible for his girlfriend. She drove it right on the set and Elvis was livid. You didn’t flash his gifts.
CY – lots of rehearsal for kissing scenes. His makeup would end up on my face and we’d have to redo it. Elvis told me to pick out a car but I told him I didn’t need it. He said what do you want? I said just your friendship. His eyes welled up and he gave me a big hug.
Tom- how does it feel to come to these events?
CY – I’ve been amazed. I am filled with gratitude. You think you’re coming out for us, I’m saying we’re coming out for YOU.
EF – It’s a delight. I’m retired after 19 years in the business.. It is very heartwarming to meet the fans and it’s my privilege to give back to you. I enjoy talking to you all.
FY – I’m still working. I told my agent I’m going to this Elvis event, clear my calendar. It’s amazing that you appreciate something we did so many years ago. And as I’ve said, there will never be anyone or anything like Elvis ever again. I travel around the world and no matter where I go, everyone knows who Elvis is.
More prizes – the new Graceland DVD, Steve Binder autographed CD box, the new Barbie doll!
That's it for today.