Elvis Presley’ Going-Away Gift To You
To: Private Elvis Presley U. S. Army
FROM: David Myers Editor
You’ve been tricked.
You didn’t know it at the time—but that lunch you and I had together in Hollywood just before you left for the Army was part of a big fat plot.
I felt pretty sneaky about it at the time, sitting there asking all those questions, as though it were the most casual of conversations, two old friends getting together, reminiscing about the past and speculating a little on the future.
You ordered, remember?—two grilled cheese-and-tomato sandwiches, a side of french fries, a side of bacon, a double heap of apple pudding and a chocolate malt . . . and then a Bromo-Seltzer for one of us, me! And after you ordered—and unknown to you—I began taking pages of mental notes so we here at MODERN SCREEN would know how to fill the box.
Well, just stop scratching where your sideburns used to be for a second and let me explain.
You see, El, soon as we heard you’d gotten your Greetings from that Uncle you’ve been helping support in high-style these last couple of years, we decided it would be a nice idea to send you some kind of going-away present—just so you’d know that we were all still thinking about you.
We racked our brains for a couple of days. And then we came up with the one thing all us guys who’ve been in the service getting the biggest charge over—a gift-box from the family. Or, as in this case, from your friends—filled with lots of little things that help a guy forget for a little while that he’s away from home and away from the people he loves . . . that help a guy remember things and places and people when he wants to remember them most.
Now I figure you should get this letter on a Monday.
It’s on the way
Cookie, my secretary, and a dozen adoring fans of yours from our bookkeeping and circulation departments, are still putting the finishing touches on the box—so it probably won’t get to you till Wednesday or Thursday.
But whichever day, when the mail sergeant calls you boys together and growls “Presley—Elvis, Aaron!” and holds up a big package tied with a giant silver ribbon—the girls’ idea, not mine—well, that’ll be it, El, a boxful of our affection and best wishes, the affection and best wishes of our millions of readers, too, who’ve been following your career ever since that first article we printed about a good-looking boy with a guitar and a wiggle who people in-the-know predicted would become the most sensational show business personality ever.
If you want to be surprised by what’s in the box, stop reading this letter right here and now!
But if you’re curious about things—as I happen to know you are—and would like to know not only what you’re getting but how I tricked you into giving us hints about what to send you, then just loosen your khaki tie, Buddy, settle back on your bunk and read on.
First of all, there’s a strip of snapshots we’ve put together for you to keep in your wallet.
There are seven snapshots in all, and behind each of them is a story and a memory—ail your own.
Why this one?
The one of you and your folks, for instance. There have been hundreds. and hundreds of pictures taken of the three of you together, and people might wonder why we picked the one we did to send you.
But we know—from what you told me at lunch that day—that this particular picture was taken at a homecoming rally given for you in Tupelo, Mississippi, the town where you were born; that not far from the spot where it was taken is another spot, one that brings back the very first clear memory in your life and your first realization of the great love you had for your mother and father.
“It reminds me,” you explained it, “of that day when I was four years old. My daddy had whipped me for something I’d done. I cried an awful lot, and after I cried I made up my mind I was going to leave home. I packed a couple of sandwiches into my pocket, I remember, and I took off. I didn’t get far, though. In fact, I had just stepped out onto the road when a truck came zooming down at me. Young as I was, I thought sure as any thing it was going to strike me down. But by some miracle it stopped, just a couple of inches from me. I remember, too, right after that, running back into the house and my daddy whipping me again because I’d tried to run away. But instead of crying this time I hugged him while he was trying to whip me and then I ran to hug my ma, who’d come in from the kitchen to see what was going on, and I kept telling them over and over again how I’d try to be good and stay with them always and never get mad at them or leave them again. . . .”
Then, El, there’s a picture of you singing at one of your first public appearances. Recognize the two fellows with you, by the way? They’re members of the Jordanaires, the outfit that was with you when you started—and still is.
Anyway, this particular picture was taken at the City Auditorium in New Orleans. And we thought you’d get a chuckle from it because it was taken on the night you’ll never forget.
Your first show
“That night,” you told me, shuddering at the recollection, “there were more people on stage, in the band and chorus, than in the audience. I think they counted seventy-five paying customers in all. And I know there couldn’t have been many more because came time for me and the fellows to collect our money so we could at least buy our train tickets back to Memphis, and there just wasn’t any!”
Speaking of Memphis, El, we figured we’d send along a snapshot of the most famous structure in that city—the mansion marked down as Graceland in the official register but as Elvisville in the hearts of your local fans there. It’s the beautiful home you plunked down $100,000 for just about a year after you got started in the big-time—for yourself and your ma and dad.
And speaking of Memphis, too, we’ve included a picture of Anita Wood, your favorite gal in that city. Actually, we have a hunch Anita may be your favorite gal in any city. At least, that was a pretty big grin you handed me when I mentioned her name to you. And that was a pretty sly grin a trusted buddy of yours gave out with when I mentioned Anita to him after our lunch.
“Won’t surprise me a bit,” he said, “if this is the girl Elvis ends up marrying. And if you were a betting man, I’d wager you that wedding might take place before he gets out of the service.”
Get rid of one!
Of course, if you do get hitched there’s one of the other three pictures we’re sending along that you’d better get rid of.
No, not the one of you with two of your best friends—your cousin Gene, and Nick Adams, the young man you helped once by signing to accompany you on some of your tours because you knew at the time that this now up-and-coming actor seemed to be more down-and-going than anything else and needed some dough and encouragement.
And no, not the one of you and Colonel Parker, the manager who helped discover you and helped make you what you are today.
But yes, the picture of you and those two lovely Hollywood dolls—Dolores Hart and Valerie Allen—taken on the King Creole set at Paramount Studios during a farewell party the cast and crew gave you the last day of the picture.
I know and you know that, despite the fact Dolores had her cuddly arms around you, despite the fact Valerie had just held a tender match to your cigar, there was nothing between you and either of them.
But your wife-to-be—if there is one—she won’t know. Believe me!
Now, El, that about takes care of the pictures. And if, after you’ve looked at them, you notice something strange and vapory—like smoke—beginning to curl up at you from the box, don’t go yelling for the Fire Brigade.
’Cause that won’t be any fire at all, but dry ice—just part of another gift we’re sending you.
Let me explain from the beginning:
Remember how I asked you what favorite food you’d miss most when you went into the Army?
Your answer was, “Any one of lots of things, I guess. But if I had to pick one it would be banana cream pie. Man, it’s fattening, I know—but give me one anytime and I’ll eat the whole thing in fifteen minutes flat.”
Kay bakes a pie
Well, sir, when word of this got to Kay Wheeler—president of your very first fan club—she asked if she couldn’t bake one for you to be sent along in our package.
Kay, furthermore, had an idea; a good one, too—dry ice to keep the pie as fresh as if it were right out of the oven.
And then our girl went us one better.
As Kay herself will tell you in a letter she’s written to accompany the pie:
We fans know it won’t be much, Elvis. But we know you like it and that’s all that matters. And so, for every month you are in the service, you are going to receive a great big fresh banana cream pie from us. And all we ask is that while you eat it, you remember how much we love you. For it was you who gave us emancipation —and recognition—’way back in ’56, when we were nothing but a bunch of anonymous little monsters to most of the world. We fought for you—but you fought for us, too! When they called us juvenile delinquents, you said we were just healthy normal kids who would grow up and have normal families. And that we needed to get rid of too much energy—and what’s wrong with screaming? They never condemned us for screaming at ball games, you told them. Oh, yow TOLD them, all right, you TOLD them!
In a less-excited P.S., Kay adds:
P.S. And don’t go eating whole pies in fifteen minutes anymore—or else you’ll get indigestion something awful! —Kay
And now for the contents of the rest of the box, letters, a horoscope and a book.
The letters—and there must be two hundred of ’em—are from fans who didn’t know how else to contact you so they sent them to us, marked Please Forward. We’re doing just that, hoping you’ll be able to glance through them and enjoy them the first Sunday you have some free time.
What the future holds
The horoscope was prepared especially for you by Rita Delmar of Horoscope Magazine, as well-known in her field as you are in yours. It’s good reading and full of significant predictions.
For instance, it says in one place: OPPORTUNITIES FOR ROMANCE WILL BE MANY—AND YOU WILL EXPERIENCE SOME SUDDEN AND INTENSE ATTRACTIONS WHICH ARE NOT LIKELY TO BE LASTING. THEREFORE, MARRIAGE SHOULD BE APPROACHED CAUTIOUSLY, AND ANY IMPULSE TOWARD A HASTY PLUNGE SHOULD BE HELD IN CHECK.
And: IT WOULD APPEAR STRONGLY ADVISABLE THAT YOU KEEP IN AS CLOSE TOUCH AS POSSIBLE WITH THE ENTERTAINMENT WORLD DURING THIS TIME. TAKE EVERY OPPORTUNITY TO MAKE RECORDS OR ENTERTAIN.
And: You ARE TREMENDOUSLY AMBITIOUS AND WILLING TO WORK HARD TO SUCCEED. SELF-DISCIPLINE IS NECESSARY, BOTH FOR CONTINUAL CAREER SUCCESS AND FOR MAKING WORTHWHILE FRIENDS. YOU SHOULD KEEP IN MIND THAT YOUR STRONGLY MAGNETIC PERSONALITY IS VERY LIKELY TO ATTRACT TO YOU A CROWD OF HANGERS-ON WHO CAN SAP YOUR TIME AND ATTENTION LIKE LEECHES. LEARN TO BE DISCRIMINATING IN THE CHOICE OF FRIENDS, CHOOSING ONLY THOSE WHO ARE WORTHWHILE—THOUGH NEVER FROM ANY SENSE OF SUPERIORITY OR EXCLUSIVENESS.
There are lots more predictions and suggestions—but why don’t you read the rest, in private, when the package arrives.
Because now I’d like to tell you a little about the Book we’re sending you.
The book you love
It’s a copy of The Holy Bible.
You know, El, people have said all kinds of things about you ever since you made the big-time—lots of it pretty bad, too.
But nobody has ever dared say that you didn’t believe in God or love Him.
And there’s a reason for that. It’s a hard reason to define. But let me put it this way.
When I talked to you the other day you could have gotten pretty brash and sassy when we began discussing your future in the Army. You could have been thinking the way lots of guys do about how you were going to get out of certain details, how you were going to maneuver for extra leaves, how you were going to make an in for yourself with the right people.
But—and I know a sincere guy when I hear him!—instead you talked very simply about why you were glad you’re going into the Army, actually glad!
“For one thing,” you said, “this country has been very good to me and it’s a way for me to pay back what I owe, just for having been born here, for living here, for being able to follow whatever career I wanted to follow.
“Naturally,” you added, “there are going to be some fellows who are going to resent me, and I guess if I wanted any special treatment they’d have a right to resent me. But believe me, I don’t want it.
And after the army?
“By the way,” you went on to say, “a story was printed in a magazine recently—MODERN SCREEN, in fact—saying that some people said that when I got out of the Army I was going to go into active church work, singing Gospel songs and maybe even preaching. Well, truth to tell, I haven’t got any plans along that line, even though I’ve always tried to be active as possible in church work. But then again, who knows about anything in the future, really?
“They say a wise man changes his mind, a fool never does.
“Not that I’m saying I’m a wise man—but who knows what’s in the mind of the Lord who created us and directs our every move?”
Those were wise words, El.
And they were the words of a young man who believes, in all true wisdom and humility, in the faith he’s always lived by.
And so, with that in mind, we are sending you The Bible you love so much and know so well—to keep by your side through the many good times and some of the bad times you will undoubtedly know during the next two years. . . .
Well, I guess that’s it for now, El.
Keep in step.
Enjoy your pies.
Don’t talk back to the Sarge, ever.
And remember—there’s not one of us who won’t miss you, not one of us who will forget, not one of us who won’t be waiting for you to come rockin’ and rollin’ home!
All the best from
Elvis’ last picture was KING CREOLE for Paramount.
It is a quote. MODERN SCREEN MAGAZINE JUNE 1957