King of the Hilton
Memories of Elvis Presley's Las Vegas
by Anne E. Nixon with Richard Harvey
A&R Publication, UK, 2014, Softcover, 298 pages, Illustrated
People wonder why I don’t want to miss a show, I love it out here. I know people come from everywhere, we know people come from all over, they fly and they drive here, and there’s not anyone on this stage, I mean anybody – that would rather be here than anywhere else in the world right now”. Elvis Presley, Midnight show, 30th August 1974
This new book on Elvis' later Vegas years is based on substantial notes and transcripts by inveterate Elvis writer and researcher, Anne E. Nixon.
Anne is well credentialed to write about Elvis’ triumphant shows in Las Vegas. For those of us who never saw Elvis live in concert to read that Anne (who many fans know from her close involvement with the Albert Hand/Todd Slaughter run British fan club) attended 40 live performances in Vegas between 1972 and 1976 is salivating and green eyed-monster inducing stuff!
What has made Anne E. Nixon such a wonderful author over many decades is her ability to bring vividly to life the feeling and experience of being at an Elvis concert. She does this through a mix of strong writing skills, extensive knowledge of Elvis’ career and a narrative which impresses due to the inclusion of minutiae (Anne’s diaries must be chock-full of information) which on the surface you might think are inconsequential, but which actually are the power source that drives the story.
And it is this wonderful mix of personal perspective, anecdotes and tangential detail in King of the Hilton that elicits the atmosphere of the occasion, engaging and enthralling the reader and chronicling the power of Elvis as the world's greatest performer.
The famous 1972 concert attended by the British Fan Club and issued by FTD
The minute ‘details’ enrich the broader narrative filling in the dynamism and vivid tapestry of each show so that the complete and colourful picture shines:
At 10:00pm the lights dimmed and to our ears, 2001 sounded even more exciting upfront. Elvis appeared wearing his ‘Blue Rainbow’ suit and we could tell right away that he was feeling and looking better – full of enthusiasm and less bloated around his stomach. This was going to be a good show! He ran through his opening number joking about how hard it was to get into a one-piece suit, and telling a girl who called ‘get it off!’ during Amen that “they’d have me arrested!” Yes, he was in good form!
Each season and individual shows are discussed in chronological order. The authors provide very detailed and interesting accounts for each show. From the politics of planning and jockeying to obtain good seats to how Elvis looked and sounded and his joking with those backing him and the audience, it is evocative, fly-on-the-wall stuff, full of fun and humour.
In the movies and in TV series like Las Vegas, the ‘bright lights city’ is an expensive place and some readers will be shocked to read just how much you tipped (back in the 1970s) to get prime seats to see Elvis (hint: have the phone number for your bank manager handy)!
We want your help.......ask Anne E. Nixon a question:
EIN will be publishing an interview with Anne E. Nixon shortly and we want our readers to contribute questions for Anne. So here is your chance to ask someone who saw Elvis in concert 40 times and has written hundreds of articles and several books about Elvis.
All you need to do is to send your question or questions by email to EIN
.......Questions close on Thursday 14 January 2015.......
Anne's account of seeing Elvis live resonates both with the feeling of her personal emotional experience and as necessary tempered with a contextually considered view, as this passage attests:
Seeing Elvis live was vastly different to watching his films; in fact, it was almost impossible to relate the dynamic stage performer to the person on the silver screen in the Hollywood movies. Elvis brought reality to the totally surreal place that was Las Vegas, and new, exciting music to a town renowned for the smooth stylings of Sinatra, Dean Martin and Sammy Davis Junior.
Elvis, as many cynical accounts of the Vegas years would have you believe, didn’t just play to the ‘blue-rinse’ set. There were plenty of fans from all over the world at his shows, there to cheer on their rock & roll King. Elvis was the coolest guy around.
King of the Hilton oozes stories that engage, fascinate and make you not only smile but just a little – alright, a lot - envious.
A wealth of informative, amusing and intriguing anecdotes literally inhabit the text, for example:
A highlight for Anne happened at Elvis' midnight show on 31 August 1973:
Elvis stood centre stage and was looking chufffed wearing my scarf for the audience to see. "He's wearing my scarf," I said to myself. "And I'm wearing his!"
Part of the fun in King of the Hilton is what happens after the curtain falls as Anne and friends journey into the night.
With a cast of colourful characters including Colonel Tom Parker, Charlton Heston, (Sir) Tom Jones, Sue Wiegert (remember Sue and Cricket?), private detective John O’Grady, "wild woman" Judy Spreckels and British fan club supremo, Todd Slaughter
, there is never a dull moment and many an interesting experience.
The concert chapter titles are evocative, in one sense a symbolic reflection of what each season meant in the context of Elvis' personal evolution:
- the need to have someone keep your place in the queue or (even better) obtain a spot on (Maître D) Emilio’s Invited Guests line
- being let down by Hilton staff in December 1973 (resulting in John Wilkinson writing an apology to the British fans)
- comedian Jackie Kahane wearing a t-shirt saying: I’m not Elvis
- illicit taping of shows - shock, horror......surely fans didn't do that, and if that's not bad enough:
- Elvis’ nefarious involvement in the after-dark painting of two statues in the Las Vegas Hilton Showroom
- Elvis quietening down noisy crowds
- why Elvis should never drive a Rolls Royce unless he was wearing a tie
- touring the USA and encountering the strangely named Zzyzz Road
- the Colonel’s generosity to the British fans in 1972
- Elvis’ on-stage interplay with Charlie Hodge with the (OK in 1974 but politically incorrect in 2014) joke, ‘what is a low flat?’
- how several friends of Anne’s went to see the Vicki Carr show at the Tropicana and were seated next to?……..you guessed it, Elvis and his party.
1972 – The First Time Ever I Saw Your Face
1973 – Too Much Monkey Business
1974 – Storm In The Desert
1975 – The Wild, Beautiful Bird Has Flown
1976 – Las Vegas – The End Of The Rainbow
First and foremost, Anne E. Nixon is an Elvis fan and this necessarily influences her record of being there. In the past some people have been critical of her ‘rose coloured glasses’ in reporting on Elvis (but isn’t this often true of most fans who write about Elvis?). Regardless of your view on the issue I did not discern any significant intrusion of 'rose coloured glasses' while reading King of the Hilton and even had there been, the core strength of Anne’s record is the rich and rewarding accounts she offers that make you feel you are part of the audience at each show!
Anne’s account of the infamous “strung out” shows in 1974 is striking in its level of concern and honesty about its subject while some readers will smile (or possibly curse) when they read of certain well known Elvis collectors/book publishers who could be observed accumulating left-behind Elvis souvenirs from the tables after each performance.
Anne does not resile from recording Elvis’ decline and her accounts reflect concerns about his deteriorating health which add gravitas to what is otherwise a deliciously fun adventure (where the ‘devil is in the detail’).
Among the humorous anecdotes that dot Anne's engaging narrative, is her account of the night Elvis preceded to sing a number of his hits, announcing them as “a medley of Spanish folk lore.”
Souvenir Menu 1975!
At other times the prose is appropriately poignant:
Here’s one of my favourite songs, announced Elvis, and as he sand I’ll Remember You, his voice was indeed ‘soft as a warm summer breeze’.
3 Dec 1976
While Elvis was not intentionally teasing with his fans, at his 10 December 1976 show Anne records:
As he sang Love Me, Elvis was amused at the fans trying to get close to him. “Part of the show", Ginger,” he said. (This remark was for the benefit of Ginger Alden, his new girlfriend, although at the time we hadn’t heard of her, and we wondered what he meant.)
The narrative is supplemented by an Archives chapter detailing song lists for each of the shows, musician and backing vocalist information, jumpsuit details and brief but interesting anecdotes from particular shows (e.g. Shirley Bassey was introduced at the Midnight show on 3 September 1972).
In the final chapter, Whole Lotta Taping Goin’ On, Anne reveals the source of many unofficial live show CD recordings - for those readers with a library of Elvis’ live shows many of the performances Anne details are available on record or CD, making a wonderful accompaniment to her book - and the chapter includes transcripts of interviews with Elvis and one with John Wilkinson, all conducted by noted British disc jockey, Tony Prince, who accompanied the British fan club on its sojourn to see the King. (I hope Tony didn't covertly bring an audio taping device with him).
The book also features more than 100 black and white photos, an historically pleasing mix of archival media reports, Elvis Hilton memorabilia, souvenir menus, fan gatherings, album covers and even Elvis' infamous 'after dark' art attack at the Hilton! (two examples below)
Anne E. Nixon's collaborator on King of the Hilton was Richard Harvey (who, thankfully, suggested the idea of the book to her).
Verdict: King of the Hilton is a book written by a fan for the fans. It is a heartfelt, honest and humorous record which will deservedly resonate positively with many readers wanting to experience what it was like to be there when the King ruled in Vegas. Enjoy!
King of the Hilton is available direct from the publishers:
Click here to order
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