I Flipped When Elvis Presley Held Me In His Arms—
All of a sudden, Elvis Presley had his arm around me and he was kissing me. Kissing me! Well, what would you expect me to do? I flipped! I absolutely flipped.
But I never showed it. I was cool as a cucumber the whole time, all that afternoon and evening. Everyone thought I was amazing. But I wasn’t amazing. I was just in a daze. The truth of it is, I didn’t believe a bit of it, that it was happening to me.
But it was. And all because about a year ago, when I was seventeen, I was eating a hamburger in a small cafe and absent-mindedly put a nickel in the juke box, pushing the selector button without looking. Suddenly, I heard a voice proclaiming (in no uncertain terms) that there was “Good Rockin’ Tonight!” “Wow! Who’s hungry?” I thought to myself, as I investigated this voice that set my nerves to tingling, and took my appetite away. Crazy! It didn’t help much. It was some unknown by the strange name of “Elvis Presley.”
It wasn’t easy, but I remembered the name, and started looking for his records to buy. This wasn’t easy either, for they were practically impossible to find. But I had been bitten by whatever bites you when you start digging Elvis Presley. So, having no idea who he was, or what he looked like—I became a Presley fan, and decided to do something about him. Up until this time, I think I was a completely average girl. My hobbies had been collecting things—but not autographs! First, it was dolls, then shells, rocks and stamps, in that order. I guess about the most enthusiasm I had ever shown in that direction was a letter I wrote to Charlton Heston complimenting him on his performance in The Naked Jungle. Elvis Presley was so completely unknown that I couldn’t even find a picture of him anywhere. One day I met a girl from Gladewater, Texas, who had seen him there, singing in some Western Jamboree show. She said he was “a living doll.” And then one Saturday night several months ago, I was using the phone (as usual), when suddenly, from the television set in the den, I heard a voice that I hadn’t been able to forget. “It’s Elvis,” I screamed, and threw the phone down. (I don’t remember to this day who I was talking to, but they’ve probably hung up by now!) It was him, all right, on the Dorseys’ Stageshow. I remember that I wanted to scream, but my father doesn’t like that too well; then I thought I would surely faint. I didn’t, but my two sisters were holding me up, which probably accounts for it! Their reaction to Elvis was the same as mine, incidentally. There are very few girls of my acquaintance who do not like Elvis.
I started the fan club
Well, the next day, I started a fan club for Elvis and it was the first one in America. And what a time I had getting it started. I walked my feet off for days, but I went to see every single disc jockey in Dallas, asking them to play “Heartbreak Hotel” on their programs, and announce that I was starting the fan club. They said they’d give my name and address on the radio, but they all laughed at the song. “Kay,” they said, “this boy is nobody. Nobody wants to hear the song.” But I didn’t give up. I went out and bought a dozen different kinds of stationery and started writing letters to them, asking them to play Elvis Presley records. I used a different handwriting on every letter, and I mailed them all from different places, with names I made-up for signatures. I figured any disc jockey who started getting ten different letters a day asking for the same song was bound to play their requests. I was right, too.
Still and all, I didn’t expect a very big response to the fan club announcement, and I didn’t quite know what I’d do if I got a lot of members, never having belonged to a fan club before, much less run one. But two days after the announcement was made, I got two hundred letters in the mail, and I found out fast what a president had to do. Part of it was work, and part was fun. I answered every single letter I got, too.
He made TV history
I should really have guessed I’d get a lot of members. The impact of Elvis Presley’s first TV appearance will probably make some kind of TV history, for the next day, all the kids were Presley-conscious. At school, he was the topic of everyone’s conversation.
The general reaction was that he was terrific; but a few disliked him to the point of fighting about him. Those were among the boys, of course. I think Elvis is just too much competition for the average boy to cope with. One boy started an “I Hate Presley” club and it had quite a few members.
I don’t know what they did at their meetings. At ours we had a great time. We played Elvis’ records and danced at my home—we had more fun. And we had just about as many boys as girls, too. Since then, the fan club has grown to more than 3000 members. Not all from Dallas, either, or even Texas. We have members all over. The only trouble is that now we can’t have meetings any more—there’s no place we can get big enough to hold us and our Presley records.
I would like to say here, (for the benefit of any parents who might think otherwise) that ninety-five per cent of my 3000 club members are from nice, stable families, and attend church regularly. The juvenile delinquent and/or neurotic teenager hates Elvis Presley with a vengeance, for Elvis is a symbol of success, the epitome of all that they are not!! The boys who do like him (and there are plenty of them) are usually good-looking, and have no girl-problems to bother them. The very few girls who don’t dig Elvis are such a minority as to be unworthy of discussion. I personally think that by and large most of them are from very strict homes, where any type of hero-worship would he frowned upon.
Most adults haven’t forgotten their own days of swooning and screaming over Rudy Vallee, Bing Crosby, Frank Sinatra, etc. I think they might-go a point further and recall the Shimmy, Blackbottom, Charleston, Big Apple and Jitter-bug dances of their day, and decide that what we call the “Bop” isn’t too far out of line! For everybody is doing what we call the “Presley Bop”—here in Dallas.
Why we scream for Elvis
I think the music of Elvis Presley hit the kids when rebellion was ripe. This is the atomic age—everything has taken on a streamlined look—everything but music. As we drive along in our streamlined cars, live in our ultra-modern homes, paint our fingernails green and dye our hair pink, we sit back in all this modernism, and listen to 1924 jazz as if it were the latest innovation in music! To us younger generation this is for the birds! Maybe jazz has-some nostalgic meaning for our parents, but right now it means a double zero to us. Just as we wouldn’t like to drive a 1924 automobile, or wear flapper-type clothes.
I really believe that the complete hypnotic spell that Elvis seems to weave over the teen-agers, with his dynamic singing and dancing, is of our own making. Elvis said recently, “I don’t understand why they scream like that, but I hope they never stop.” I think Elvis is our cry for self-expression—our denial that we are to be seen and not heard! Even with Elvis, this may be the reason he sings with such force and feeling. But most of the kids scream when he sings and dances, for they are joining in his cry for self-expression. We can’t get up and sing like Elvis, but we can shout “Amen!!” Elvis says he can’t sing as well without an audience like that. When anyone gives it what Elvis gives it, he needs someone to say “We understand how you feel, for we feel the same way.”
How I got to meet Elvis
Well, it was three months ago that I met Elvis. I had to travel over 350 miles (Texas is a big place, in case you didn’t know) from Dallas to San Antonio. I flew—scared to death all the way because it was my first time, but feeling like the luckiest girl in the world. I had written to Elvis’ personal manager, Col. Parker, and in my purse I had a crumpled telegram that would permit me backstage. I can think of no more awe-inspiring moment than driving up in front of the Municipal Auditorium there, and seeing those thousands of kids trooping in. Knowing that I would be one among very few who would get to meet and talk to him, gave me the weakest knees I’ve ever had!! Thank goodness I had a girl friend with me! As usual, I needed to be held up!
Inside, someone told me that Elvis was in his dressing room, and pointed to a door, telling me I could go on in. I know that I stared at that door knob for ten minutes! People pushed and shoved; brushed past me, and gave me dirty looks; but I was olivious to every thing except that Elvis Presley was behind that door! It is hard to express my feelings . . . it was sort of a numbness . . . an inexplicable dread, as if he couldn’t be all that I expected. Somehow, I opened the door, and entered the room. There were quite a few people in there, but I never saw anyone but Elvis. This will sound silly, I know, but he seemed to glitter, like something unearthly; the people around became a mass of nothingness. I may have looked calm, but I was petrified. I practically sneaked into a corner and stood there, hoping I wouldn’t be seen. But Elvis’ eyes caught mine, looked away, came back—only the thousands of other Presley fans can imagine what it did to me. Then he grinned at me, and walked over, and leaned toward me and whispered, “What do you want me to do?” And my girl friend appeared out of nowhere with her flash-bulb camera and started taking pictures right and left.
Well, as I say, if I had been in full possession of my senses I suppose I would have screamed and fainted, but since I was too numb to really know where I was, I just started laughing and talking to Elvis. It was very easy, too. He’s a little shy, I would say, but at the same time self-confident and not the least bit self-conscious. In fact, he seemed completely unaware that all the hub-bub and the confusion, the crowd, the cameras, were over him and because of him!
At one point he said to me, “Kay, they’re all telling me to cut my hair.”
“Don’t you do that,” I told him. I told him all the girls in Dallas were wearing the Elvis bob now, with the sideburns and everything. (It looks real cute.) And his hair is so distinctive this way—it would be a real concession to being ordinary to cut it. “If you want to do something to it,” I suggested, “why don’t you dye it blonde?”
“Now, that would give them something to talk about, wouldn’t it?” he chuckled. He looked at me a minute and then gave me the most exciting compliment I ever got. “You are a very intelligent girl,” he said.
The face of Apollo
Anyway, he gives them enough to talk about. His personal appearance is rather startling. His clothes are of unusual color combinations, such as green, purple and blue; or pink, green and black. But the most unusual thing about him is—his face. I once saw a whole crowd of girls clustered around a display window of the Statler-Hilton Hotel in Dallas. I went over and saw that they were staring at a bronze bust of Apollo, the ancient symbol of youth and beauty, a copy of one by a Greek sculptor. And the reason for the excitement was simple—the bust of Apollo looks exactly like Elvis Presley! If you don’t believe it, look up a picture. Or just see Elvis. Close up, he is fantastically good-looking. If I saw him walking down the street and didn’t know who he was, I’d say, “Who is that’ movie star?” If he’d never sung a note, and I just met him somewhere, I’d have flipped anyway. He’s too good looking not to.
We stayed around talking a while more—and as I told you—all of a sudden, he kissed me (!) and then Elvis went on stage to sing.
To be backstage at a Presley performance is really an experience. Elvis is the only person who is completely relaxed and unworried. He goes about laughing, drinking cokes, shaking hands, and giving autographs while out front, there are 6000 kids waiting breathlessly. As the time draws on for the show to start. there is a quiet; like the hush before a storm. Then Elvis walks out and the dam breaks!! All the pent-up emotions and disappointments evaporate, for Elvis is one of them! He sings “Heartbreak Hotel” or “Blue Suede Shoes” (but he is really saying “I understand; I was where you are six months ago.”). All the unleashed emotion in his song and dance is so primitive, so honest, that to criticize him seems unfair. We do not say, that an abstract painting is bad, simply because we cannot understand it.
I would like to quote from some of the fan letters I have received: “I think he is the most wonderful person in all the world.” Oh, please try to get him to come to Dallas: I’ve got to see him.” “I’m going to study to be a good stenographer, so I can work for Elvis.” “I would be his self-appointed slave, and even shin shoes.” “I have a picture of him that monopolizes all my time!” “I saw him in Ft. Worth and I almost died.” “When I see him, I know I’ll faint!” And on and on they go.
In love with Elvis
We teenagers , understand him, and we comprise his audiences. I believe that many of his female fans imagine themselves madly in love with him. They may be; and I’m afraid he doesn’t quite know how much he means to them. He has become a part of their existence; their hopes and dreams; their ideals. If he should marry any time in the near future, it might be disastrous for his career. (I may be wrong; others have survived it!)
Even the die-hards are admitting that Elvis has a good baritone voice. It might interest the people who are trying to get Rock and Roll music banned to know that we do not consider Elvis a Rock and Roll singer. He has sung many more Western and ballad type songs than R and R. I have all of his records, and out of them all, he has only five or six of the latter type. Ban Rock and Roll and you won’t hurt Elvis! He would be a bigger hit (if that is possible) singing pop music anyway!
Elvis’ fame is so sudden, and so great that anyone connected with him seems to get a kind of glamour. Since I started the fan club, I have had a newspaper writeup; was on a television show, and have been asked to sign a contract to appear in a movie. I am recognized frequently, and sign autographs, just like a real celebrity. I lead a pretty hectic life, for someone who just innocently started a fan club for an “unknown singer!”
All this is very exciting, and it’s a part of my life I’ll never, never forget. But there isn’t much question about the most exciting part of it. You remember how calm I was all through that day with Elvis? Well, I got home the next night and started telling people about it—the phone never stopped ringing. And at 2 o’clock the next morning, they rushed me to the hospital because I had collapsed! The first thing I heard when I opened my eyes again, was the doctor talking. “Inability to relax,” he was saying, “due to nervous exhaustion!”
Well! Wouldn’t you?
—by Kay Wheeler, 18 years old, of Dallas, Texas
It is a quote. MODERN SCREEN MAGAZINE OCTOBER 1956