Designing for the King – Elvis Presley’s Style

Elvis Presley was totally unique. No one sounded like him. No one dressed like him. If you’ve been to Graceland, you know its design is totally one-of-a-kind. Elvis didn’t follow trends; he was a trendsetter. People watched him slick back his black hair into the perfect pompadour, were dazzled by his eye-catching stage wear and took notice of his custom Pink Cadillac – and then tried their best to mimic his style. He turned a Southern Colonial mansion into a home like only the king could, complete with countless mirrors, a stylish TV room that bears his own personal motto and a mind-blowing billiards room. Who else would dare bring the jungle into his own den? During Elvis Week 2016, we’ll delve into Elvis’ personal style with a panel called Designing for the King, where three designers – Bill Eubanks, Lowell Hays and Hal Lansky – will talk about what it was like to decorate for, dress and accessorize the King of Rock ‘n’ Roll.     While still in interior design school, Bill Eubanks’ met none other than Elvis Presley, who invited him to Graceland to take a look at the home’s interior design. The guys hit it off, and Bill designed several rooms at Graceland, including the Pool Room and the TV Room. The TV Room and Pool Room are two of the most visually stunning rooms at Graceland. The TV Room features a mirrored ceiling (be sure to look up and snap a selfie while you’re here!) and a lightning bolt painted on the wall in brilliant yellow, navy and white. The Pool Room is drenched in fabric – more than 350 yards, covering the walls and ceiling – as well as colorful and exotic furniture and decorations. Bill’s successes continued after his time at Graceland. He’s been named one of the top 50 designers by Elements of Living and receive the inaugural “Star of Design” award from the Design Center of the Americas.     Before Elvis changed the game with his eye-catching jumpsuits, he got many of the fashionable suits he wore on stage – and on TV – at Lansky Bros., right here in Memphis. Elvis started shopping at Lansky Bros. when he was in high school and befriended the store’s owner, Bernard. In fact, Elvis sported some Lansky threads on his first “Ed Sullivan Show” appearance. Lansky Bros. became a hot spot for musicians, like Johnny Cash, Jerry Lee...
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50th Anniversary: Elvis Presley’s “Paradise, Hawaiian Style”

Elvis Presley’s colorful, musical comedy, “Paradise, Hawaiian Style,” turns 50 this summer. This movie, in which Elvis plays a pilot named Rick, was Elvis’ 21st movie, and the third (and final) one made in Hawaii. If you need a dose of Hawaii this summer, this is the movie for you. In “Paradise, Hawaiian Style,” Elvis plays Rick, a charming helicopter pilot who starts a charter service with his buddy Danny (James Shigeta). A misunderstanding leads to Rick temporarily losing his pilot license, but when Danny and his daughter become stranded on a desert island, Rick must decide if he should risk his career to save his friend. There’s romance, too, of course, as Rick romances the glamorous “Friday” Judy Hudson (Suzanna Leigh). Rick also befriends a local girl, Jan (Donna Butterworth). “Paradise, Hawaiian Style,” was filmed in Hawaii in the summer of 1965. A party was given at the Polynesian Cultural Center to celebrate the movie, and it was there that Herman’s Hermits singer Peter Noone interviewed Elvis, and the interview aired the following day on the radio. While in Hawaii, Elvis, Elvis’ father Vernon and manager Col. Tom Parker visited the USS Arizona Memorial, which Elvis had helped raise money to build. They left a bell-shaped wreath of 1,177 carnations – one for each of the servicemen who died during the Pearl Harbor attack. About the time that production was wrapping on “Paradise, Hawaiian Style,” Elvis met a few other musicians you may have heard of: Tom Jones, who visited the set, and The Beatles, who visited Elvis’ Bel Air home a few weeks after production was completed. James Shigeta went on to star in many TV shows and films, including  “Magnum, P.I.,” “Murder, She Wrote,” and Die Hard,” and he voiced General Li in Disney’s “Mulan.” Suzanna Leigh, a native of England, also had starring roles in films like “Boeing, Boeing,” and a few classic Hammer films such as “Son of Dracula.” Jan Shepard starred in “Paradise, Hawaiian Style” as Betty, and this was her second Elvis film. She played Mimi in “King Creole.” Donna Butterworth, who stars as Jan, had a brief but fruitful film career, only starring in a handful of projects. She was nominated in 1966 for a Golden Globe Award for her role in “The Family Jewels.” Michael D. Moore directed “Paradise, Hawaiian Style,” and he was an assistant director of six previous Elvis movies. Love Elvis movies?...
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Elvis Presley’s “Wild in the Country” Turns 55

Drama, romance and – of course – a little music, Elvis Presley’s “Wild in the Country” had it all. “Wild in the Country” was released June 15, 1961, so in honor of the film’s 55th anniversary, let’s fill you in on some movie trivia. “Wild in the Country” stars Elvis as Glenn, a young Southern man with a dysfunctional family. After getting into a fight with his brother, he’s forced to go on probation. He meets Irene (Hope Lange), a counselor who works with him to get his life in order – like many young Southern men, Glenn has dreams of becoming a writer. The pair run into problems when nosy neighbors claim Glenn is involved with Irene, even though he’s romanced ladies his own age, like Betty Lee (Millie Perkins). Elvis flew to California for pre-production on November 6, 1960, and principal photography ended on January 1961. The original plan for the movie was that it would not be a musical, but eventually the songs were written into the storyline. Elvis recorded six songs, but only four were used. The “Wild in the Country” screen play was based on the novel “The Lost Country” by J.R. Salamanca. In the book, Elvis’ character, Glenn, is not an aspiring writer, but an artist, and Irene was a teacher, not a counselor. Hope Lange stars in the film as Irene the counselor, but she was really only 13 months older than Elvis. Millie Perkins, who stars as Betty Lee, later played the role of Elvis’ mother Gladys in the 1990 TV series, “Elvis.” Olympic decathlon champion Rafer Johnson stars in the film as Davis. “Wild in the Country” is the film debut of Christina Crawford, adopted daughter of Joan Crawford. It was during the filming of this movie that Elvis and his manager Col. Tom Parker decided to help raise money for the USS Arizona memorial. Elvis celebrated his 26th birthday while making this movie. The cast and crew threw him a birthday party, and he was given a plaque that read, “Happy Birthday, King Karate,” since he’d just received his first degree black belt in July 1960. If you love Elvis movies, you’ll love the new VIP exhibit at Graceland. It’s “Elvis in Hollywood: From Teen Idol to Leading Man,” and it features everything from scripts to costumes. Check it out when you visit Graceland! And check out our Gates of...
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Elvis Presley in Canada

Elvis Presley performed in only one other country besides the United States, and that one country is Canada. Elvis made his first and last Canadian appearances in 1957. Young Elvis – having already released his first album and film in 1956, and had just purchased Graceland – arrived in Canada for the first two of these appearances in April 1957. Elvis’ first Canadian performances were at the Maple Leaf Gardens in Toronto at 6 p.m. and 8 p.m. April 2, 1957. Elvis wore his stunning, sparkling gold suit for this show – and this was the last time he wore the full suit. For future performances, Elvis would only wear pieces from this suit, such as just the jacket, belt and shoes, and in some shows, just the jacket.     At this performance, Elvis accompanied himself on piano for “Blueberry Hill,” Fats Domino’s chart-topping hit. Elvis loved Fats and owned several of his albums. Elvis performed again in Canada the next day, April 3, at 4:30 p.m. and 8 p.m. at the Ottawa Auditorium in Ottawa. Elvis wore the gold jacket and shoes, but not the gold tie and pants. Elvis’ career was in full swing, but he was still a bit of controversial figure. Parents and religious officials were concerned about their kids listening to rock ‘n’ roll and the potentially dangerous influence Elvis had on his fans (a funny notion nearly 60 years later, huh?). A local girls’ school, the Notre Dame Convent, forbade its students to attend the concert and suspended eight of its students who ignored the rule. Elvis was booked to perform in Montreal, too, but that show was canceled due to civic concern and pressure from local Catholic officials. Elvis’ next Canadian concert was at the Empire Stadium in Vancouver on August 31, 1957. The 26,500 fans in attendance went wild for the King of Rock ‘n’ Roll. The stage was set up on the empty football field, but fans wanted to be closer. Thousands bypassed security to find a place in front of the stage on the field. The show had to be stopped twice for safety concerns. Elvis’ manager, Col. Tom Parker, suggested to Elvis that he tone down his show, but being a rock ‘n’ roll rebel, Elvis didn’t listen to him. He did shorten the set, though, and – for safety reasons – he fooled the audience. He gave his gold jacket to a crew member to...
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Rock ‘n’ Roll Rebel: Elvis Presley on the Milton Berle Show

“Beware of Elvis Presley” Can you imagine such a headline? For a while in 1956, those sorts of headlines dominated the media, following Elvis Presley’s June 5, 1956 performance on the “Milton Berle Show.” Looking at his performance today, it’s downright tame, but in 1956, it was downright scandalous. They say there’s no such thing as bad publicity, and this performance proved that to be true. No matter what anyone thought about Elvis’ performance, everyone was talking about it, and suddenly, Elvis was in the spotlight. He was a star, a true rock ‘n’ roll rebel.   Elvis kicked off 1956 with his national television debut on the Dorsey Brothers’ “Stage Show,” and he’d make six total appearances on the program. On April 3, 1956, he made his first appearance on the “Milton Berle Show,” performing on the deck of an aircraft carrier. He returned to perform on the show again on June 5, and his fellow guests included “Sheena, Queen of the Jungle” star Irish McCalla, actor Arnold Stang and actress Debra Paget, who, in a few months, would co-star with Elvis in his first film, “Love Me Tender.”   In a fun skit, Berle played a record store manager trying to calm down a group of girls excited to meet Elvis at the store. When Elvis arrived, Berle mistook him for another excited teen, until Elvis proved he was the real deal. Elvis then sang his hit, “I Want You, I Need You, I Love You.” Elvis’ performance of “Hound Dog” was what had people talking the next day. Elvis had performed on television before, but he’d often had his guitar with him or had sang ballads. The world simply hadn’t seen him bust out his soon-to-be-famous moves. Toward the end of “Hound Dog,” he and the band tore into a half-time ending to the song, and he gave it his all, in full Elvis swagger, his hips shaking and and black hair shining. The girls in the audience swooned and squealed. Berle interviewed Elvis after his performance and asked him how he liked being the center of attention. Elvis, playing along with the skit, said he didn’t like all of the attention from his female fans and he wanted to date a quiet girl like Debra Paget. Berle introduced him to Debra, who, also playing along, squealed at the sight of Elvis and gave him a huge hug and kiss. The next day,...
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