Dressed in a chic black tunic and bell bottoms that matched his long but neatly combed black-tinted hair. Elvis Presley stepped onstage last week at the International Hotel in Las Vegas and launched into the driving beat of 'Blue Suede Shoes'.
The audience of 2,000, most of them over 30, roared and squealed in nostalgic appreciation. In spite of his updated look, Elvis hadn't changed at all in the nearly nine years since his last personal appearance.
Shaking, gyrating and quivering, he again proved himself worthy of his nickname, The Pelvis. Oozing the sullen sexuality that threw the America into a state of shock in the 50's, he groaned and swivelled through a medley of 'Jailhouse Rock,' 'Don't Be Cruel,' 'Heartbreak Hotel,' 'All Shook Up' and 'Hound Dog'.
It was hard to believe he was 34 and no longer 19 years old.
- As reported by Newsweek August 1969.
Super-fan Joan Gansky was also there to witness the rebirth of ELVIS LIVE.
Below is her personal account from 40 years ago!
A prelude - Joan Gansky's story
I was born in a small town in the English Midlands countryside. Elvis played a major part in my life since 1956. I can hardly recall there being no Elvis! I followed his career through the never-to-be-forgotten Picturegoer magazine days, and the beginnings of Elvis Monthly. In 1966 I sadly had to relinquish my Northamptonshire Branch Leadership of OEPFC (Official Elvis Presley Fan Club) - only because I had
decided to travel... to the USA!
- August 23, 1966 was my first day in America.
- August 18, 1967 was my first meeting with Elvis.
- June 1968 I attended the NBC television "Elvis Special" recording.
- August 22 1969 I saw Elvis on stage at the International Hotel in Las Vegas.
YES! My fiance and I were to attend a live Elvis performance - Elvis on stage for almost 1 1/2 hours - in the elegant night-club surroundings of the grand International Hotel - surely a place truly fit for a KING!
An eye-witness review by Joan Williams (now Gansky) written in late August 1969 - 40 years ago!!
August 22nd 1969 - An enormous stage, a magnificent 2,000 capacity audience, elegant ladies (all seemed fresh from the Beauty Parlor!) glamorously dressed in their finest gowns - pure excitement apparent in their sparkling eyes, many accompanied by their smartly suited escorts!
Certainly a few teenagers were present among the sophisticated crowd, but somehow the 25-40 year age group seemed to predominate.
The atmosphere throughout the entire hotel was nail-bitingly electric! It is difficult for me to describe and paint a true portrait of attending in person this unique occasion - but I'll try my best. I want, and hope, you will understand the excitement of what has to be the pinnacle of Elvis' career to date!
For our very first show, we were a party of six (three couples) having reservations for the midnight cocktail show. My fiancé, Paul, was almost "first in line" at 7:40 p.m. - the first show was still in progress! While waiting in line, maybe to ease their own tension,
people happily chatted to the strangers around them like they were old friends. What a variety of people had journeyed hundreds, even thousands of miles to see Elvis in person at last! As these precious minutes ticked slowly by, the line of people grew, snaking alongside gambling tables and slot machines, around the Hotel's restaurants, longer and longer it stretched, eventually reaching way back to the foyer entrance! An amazing sight to behold!
At last the doors opened - it was a little after 10 p.m. How fascinating to observe the expressions on the bright faces of the first-house (dinner show) audience exiting the showroom. As one by one they slowly walked passed us, the incredible joy and excitement of what they had just experienced flowed among everyone! If there was a pensive, sad look on someone's face, then it could only mean that that person was simply reluctant to leave the showroom magic behind! They would gaze enviously at us - we became those lucky ones, who had yet to experience ELVIS - LIVE - in action!!
To our great joy and total surprise, after a small tip to the Maitre D, we were seated at a table at the foot of the stage! Then there was an arduous hour and a half wait for the show to commence! Each minute seemed an eternity.
My heart was thumping wildly in anticipation... I perched myself on the edge of my chair, nervously sipping my drink, yet unaware of the taste of it! I tried to absorb each and every split second, every moment in this room . . . my long held dreams had come to reality! Being an Elvis fan, living in England through the late 1950's and early '60's, it seemed unbelievably far fetched to even consider the possibility of ever seeing Elvis perform live on stage in the USA or anywhere!
I vaguely recall the Sweet Inspirations perform - followed by a seemingly lengthy act by comedian Sammy Shore. The audience grew impatient. At last! The curtains closed. A pause.
A white shoe, a hand "peeked" round the curtain - now open - the thrill of a lifetime as Elvis simply stood there.
He smiled happily, looking far more dynamic than any photo I had ever seen of him! - attired in white, with a long sash (belt) and a splash of color in the red kerchief (scarf).
His long, black hair was neatly combed in inimitable "Elvis Style" . . . but not for long! - a wild rendition of Hound Dog and Jailhouse Rock soon took care of that!
He seemed to explode with life and energy with each and every song! What a truly magnificent performer! His humor seemed to bubble over as he chatted and joked back and forth, with his ever attentive audience clinging to his every word and move!
(Right:Elvis in his White Shoes & White Herringbone suit)
The Las Vegas crowd is a mighty critical audience to win over, but any tension that may have existed in the cool and somewhat impatient atmosphere during the comedian's set quickly melted away. Elvis held his audience enthralled - he had a complete connection with them, even from the stage.
At one point he sat on a stool and told us about "his side of the story" - mentioning that much had been said, but he wanted to clarify it all for us personally. He confirmed that his first record was for his personal use. He joked that people in his own town were even talking about him, saying "Who is he? . . . WHAT is he?!"!! He laughingly told us how he found himself in Hollywood "before I was ready for IT, or IT for ME!"
He talked of his few early TV appearances with the restriction on his movements, the necessary Tuxedo outfit on Steve Allen, and the hound dog he was forced to sing to! He briefly told of being drafted and laughingly said he was always finding himself in trouble, as he couldn't stop treating his rifle like a guitar and would "shoot up" the barracks at night"! and (possibly tongue in cheek) "they called me a squirrel, just out of the woods"!!!
He became so engrossed in talking about his past experiences that he had to be reminded by old friend Charlie Hodge (guitar player) to finish what he had begun to say! Elvis briefly listed a few movies he had made, and explained how these had become like a habit, but now he was back. He assured us he had missed performing for a LIVE audience so much, and couldn't wait to get out of his movie contracts, and get back on stage.
Elvis advised us that this actual show was being recorded that evening, to be released on an album shortly! Among some of the songs he performed were a selection of his early hits including Heartbreak Hotel, Love Me Tender, Mystery Train, and Are You Lonesome
Tonight (complete with spoken dialog). He paused to tell us how a particular favorite song of his was "one Del Shannon recorded back around 1927"!!!! - and performed "Runaway" - a completely new rendition, with Elvis' own special magical touch.
He also sang "a song
from my TV Special, that didn't do too well" (?) - the beautiful Memories. A surprise song was the poignant Yesterday - followed by Hey Jude where he had some lucky females in ecstasy as he bent over the stage to their tables and kissed them!
One little boy received special attention, and Elvis gave him his kerchief (scarf). A young teenage girl from the back of the room cried that she wanted Elvis' water glass. He gave her one and also a kiss! - she scurried back to her seat - crying tears of joy!
Elvis then introduced some celebrities in the audience, Diane Ross, Pat Wayne and Michael Ansara. Elvis mentioned that he had made a movie with Michael's lovely wife (Barbara Eden in Flaming Star) and of course, Michael himself appeared in the (maybe best forgotten)
Harem Holiday/Harem Scarum movie.
Just one of the many highlights for me, was Funny How Time Slips Away. There was a hushed silence and then the following avalanche of applause at the end of this beautiful number.
It was only to be surpassed by a masterful rendition of In the Ghetto - and the new spellbinding Suspicious Minds. The emotion Elvis poured into this is incomparable to anything I have ever experienced. He became completely involved . . . he not only threw himself body and soul into the song, but actually across the stage using his dynamic Karate movements in intense emotion. The beat grew stronger and that unmistakable powerful voice built up and totally enveloped the huge room. Then it was quiet, slowly he crouched, softly he whispered.
(EIN Note: 'Suspicious Minds' was not released until 4 days after this concert)
This time his velvet notes echoed around the huge showroom, caressing each of us, his awed
audience. He received tumultuous applause and a deserving standing ovation.
Elvis closed his show with Can't Help Falling in Love with You - opening his arms and heart to the semi-dazed audience, knowing the show was over - yet they responded in such a way that you could feel their tremendous love for this unique entertainer.
I know I am one of a small percentage of Elvis fans who found it possible to made the pilgrimage to Las Vegas for this epic Elvis event - his return to live performances after almost a decade. I hope that I have managed to paint a picture and convey - even to a small degree - how truly exciting it was for all who were lucky enough to be there and share this incredible experience of a lifetime.
This was only a very brief but memorable visit to the fascinating ever alive Las Vegas, just 48 hours. We were lucky to see both Midnight Shows of August 22nd and August 23rd the following night. Elvis completed his 4-week engagement there on Thursday last week. I had heard that Elvis was to stay longer and attend Nancy Sinatra's show opening there.
After we returned to Santa Monica, my fiancé and I thought it would be nice to drive up to Elvis' home in the Trousdale area of Los Angeles, to catch the breath-taking view, and maybe take a "night-time" photo of Elvis' home. It was a beautifully clear night, mild with a soft breeze.
When we arrived at the top of the hill and pulled close to the curb next to Elvis' home, I was taken by surprise to find a guard on duty at the gate. He chatted to us and was pleased to hear we had so enjoyed the Las Vegas show. He told us that we echoed the opinion of other
lucky fans who had been to Vegas and then talked to him about it during the preceding 4 weeks!
||We were happily chatting when, seemingly out of nowhere, a "long black limousine!" purred softly into the driveway right next to us. We looked down as it rolled slowly by and the gates automatically opened. I saw a blur of faces. I hardly dared to stare, but there was no mistaking those twinkling blue eyes and the face that turned around and gazed at us out of the back window! - Elvis! - he was accompanied by his lovely wife, and beaming father, and two close friends! He had arrived home from Las Vegas!
Our eyes peered anxiously after the car, into the blackness of this enchanted night - our gaze following down the curving driveway - searching, straining to catch another glimpse of Elvis!
A tall dark figure climbed out of the car, Elvis was wearing black (probably a Western type outfit) and a wide striped belt. He stretched, tossed his head and waved to us a couple of times. He then flung his light colored jacket across his right shoulder (an inimitable Elvis mannerism!). Another quick wave, and was it my imagination? - or did I see a large yawn!??? Another wave, and he disappeared through the open door, safely inside his peaceful home.
We waited a few minutes, everything was so quiet and still, even the waterfall-fountain ceased to flow. Elvis was home with his wife, child and father. He is certainly due for a well-deserved vacation and complete rest.
Now I excitedly must ponder - what are his future plans? - what is in store?! My dreams are for another No. 1 with "Suspicious Minds", a personal appearance tour across the USA and a definite plan to perform in England. Can we now even dare hope for negotiations for Elvis to star in a good (worthy of his considerable talents) movie?!!!
Joan - August 1969
Review by Joan Gansky AUGUST 1969.
-Article Copyright EIN, July 2009.
Click to comment on this review
EIN sends special thanks to our great friend Joan Gansky for letting us publish her unique review.
(Right: Their original International Hotel booking confirmation)
NOTE that Joan attended two Midnight Shows in 1969.
August 22 Midnight Show – Parts of this show have been officially released on ‘Today Tomorrow And Forever’ BMG box-set & Collectors Gold. This was one of the rare times Elvis performed 'Funny How Time Slips Away' in 1969.
August 23 Midnight Show - This complete concert has been released on the sensational FTD 'Elvis At The International'.
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