Elvis Week Day 8: Elvis Takes the Big Screen

By Jon Waterhouse

Walk a mile in my shoes? Yesterday I ran three miles in my shoes for the Elvis Presley 5K.

After defying my snooze button, I barely made it to the race on time. I arrived to find Elvis Presley Boulevard packed to the gills with runners ready to slap sneakers on the pavement.

Before long we were all off and running down Elvis Presley Boulevard. Soon we cut down a residential street. As I fought to keep a steady pace, I looked up to see a guy running in a full Elvis jumpsuit and flowing cape. His feet were making loud, scraping sounds with each step. That’s when I noticed the dude was running in blue suede shoes.

Runner Jeff Sass ran in a full Elvis jumpsuit during the annual Elvis Presley 5K.

Runner Jeff Sass ran in a full Elvis jumpsuit during the annual Elvis Presley 5K.

Each time he’d pass a volunteer or a police officer, he’d throw out a “Thank you, thank you very much.” Huffing and puffing along the way, he’d periodically whinny like a horse. Sweat poured from his brow and it was painful just watching him shuffle in those shoes. I said a silent prayer that he didn’t whinny himself into exhaustion.

With the temperature beginning to rise, a resident graciously sprayed a garden hose into the air at the mile two marker. The welcomed mist helped me take care of business and amp it up for the final mile.

Crossing the finish line, I found a volunteer draping a TCB medal around my neck. Basking in the medal’s coolness, I realized I would’ve run an entire marathon to score something so high on the awesome scale.

Elvis Week Blogger Jon Waterhouse ran in the annual Elvis Presley 5K.

Elvis Week Blogger Jon Waterhouse ran in the annual Elvis Presley 5K.

But no medal could replicate the joy I saw as Becca and Tyke Harrison of Austin, Texas crossed the finish line. I had met the couple at Elvis Week 2013 when Becca was still recovering from a brain tumor and the resulting surgery. Last year she couldn’t walk.

Becca and Tyke Harrison show off their TCB medals from the annual Elvis Presley 5K.

Becca and Tyke Harrison show off their TCB medals from the annual Elvis Presley 5K.

This year, however, she was determined to run the 5K. It all resulted in a tear-filled finish with her sign-waving cheering section waiting as she arrived. It’s moments like these that help make Elvis Week more beautiful than words can describe.

Becca's friends and family cheer on he brain tumor survivor as she crosses the finish line at the Elvis Presley 5K.

Becca’s friends and family cheer her on as she crosses the finish line at the Elvis Presley 5K.

While chatting with Ultimate Elvis Tribute Artist finalist David Allen, who finished the race in a flat 25 minutes, I noticed that Mr. Blue Suede Shoes survived the race. The McKenzie, Tenn. resident, who’s real name is Jeff Sass, tipped back a libation and shrugged off my concerns.

Elvis tribute artist David Allen participated in the annual Elvis Presley 5K.

Elvis tribute artist David Allen participated in the annual Elvis Presley 5K.

“It wasn’t too bad,” he said. “I just took a nice easy jog.”

Impossible dreams? An everyday occurrence at Elvis Week.


ELVIS WEEK FAN SPOTLIGHT

Tyke and Becca Harrison

Becca and Tyke Harrison share their incredible story with Elvis Week Blogger Jon Waterhouse.

Becca and Tyke Harrison share their incredible story with Elvis Week Blogger Jon Waterhouse.

The Harrisons from Austin, Texas may be the quintessential Elvis Week couple. Having met here in 2004, they tied the knot at Graceland’s Chapel in the Woods on January 8, 2011. Not only are the Harrisons celebrating the 10th anniversary of their Elvis Week love connection, Elvis Week 2014 marks a monumental personal triumph.

Q.: What does Elvis Week mean to you?

Tyke Harrison: Elvis Week is an opportunity for my wife and I to just kind of forget about everything we do the other weeks of the year. We’re able to come and let go of everything that’s happening and just absorb the week, the atmosphere and time with our friends. We’re able to totally relax and enjoy the moment everyday we’re here.

Q.: What’s the most significant part of Elvis Week 2014 for you?

Becca Harrison: Last year I was on a walker. A brain tumor left me unable to walk. So I became involved with other brain tumor and brain cancer survivors. There’s actually a Brain Power 5K in September in Austin, Texas. And I knew I had to run the Elvis Week 5K before I could run that one. Last year I was on a walker, and this year I’m running the 5K. So that’s the most significant thing for me this year, and all of my Elvis family will be around me.

Tyke Harrison: The girl was on a walker last year and in a wheelchair before that. We didn’t know if she was going to walk or see again. Now she’s running.

Q.: What events have you enjoyed the most this year?

Tyke Harrison: Something we did for the first time after all these years was go to the Ultimate ETA Finals. We decided to try it and really got into it like everything else. You don’t really know what you may or may not like here until you go and try it. So that was something we really became fans of. It was great going to the Orpheum and watching these really talented guys perform.


ELVIS: THAT’S THE WAY IT IS

Elvis Presley returns to the big screen during the "Elvis: That's The Way It Is" World-Premiere Screening on August 16, 2014.

Elvis Presley returns to the big screen during the “Elvis: That’s The Way It Is” World-Premiere Screening on August 16, 2014.

A definite highlight of Elvis Week 2014 flickered to life onscreen at The Orpheum Theatre last night for a special presentation of the king’s landmark 1970 concert film, “Elvis: That’s The Way It Is.”

The festivities began at Graceland’s Main Stage where a VIP reception included a bountiful food spread and a live Elvis-themed acoustic performance from sister duo

Gladys and Maybelle perform inside the Elvis Week Main Stage on August 16, 2014.

Gladys and Maybelle perform inside the Elvis Week Main Stage on August 16, 2014.

When guests arrived at The Orpheum Theatre on Beale, they entered to find several Elvis Vegas-era jumpsuits on display in the lobby, including the Red Ladder, which we see in the film. The energy level buzzed through the lobby as fans and Elvis Week celebs mixed and mingled. Greg Page, Dean Z, Joe Guercio and former Elvis bodyguard Sam Thompson were among the familiar faces in the house.

Elvis' original jumpsuits worn in "That's The Way It Is" were on display during the screening on August 16, 2014.

Elvis’ original jumpsuits worn in “That’s The Way It Is” were on display during the screening on August 16, 2014.

The film looked and sounded incredible, and nothing beats a big-screen viewing. The crowd cheered and clapped as if we were right there in the audience of the International Hotel circa 1970. At the end of the evening, we were even treated to bonus footage, including the band ripping through “Walk a Mile in My Shoes.”

Host Tom Brown introduces Elvis' Imperials for a special performance during the screening on August 16, 2014.

Host Tom Brown introduces Elvis’ Imperials for a special performance during the screening on August 16, 2014.

Yet the most anticipated bonus came at intermission when Elvis’s Imperials took the stage. Two of the four performers, Terry Blackwood and Joe Moscheo, were also seen in the film. The quartet’s three-song gospel set included “This Train is Bound For Glory,” “Bosom of Abraham” and a soul-stirring take on “He Touched Me.” The audience returned the favor with a standing ovation.

Blackwood and Moscheo sat down with the Elvis Week Blog to reminisce about “Elvis: That’s The Way It Is.”


Q&A WITH JOE MOSCHEO AND TERRY BLACKWOOD

Elvis' Imperials give a special performance on August 16, 2014.

Elvis’ Imperials give a special performance on August 16, 2014.

Q.: Elvis’s energy level is off the chart in this film. What was it like performing behind him?

Terry Blackwood: There’s never been another entertainer that we have met or seen that had the energy that Elvis exuded from the platform. Certain entertainers have charisma and some don’t. In fact, most don’t. But Elvis had the charisma. When he walked on a stage, every eye on the place was on him and they couldn’t take their eyes off of him. He was a charismatic singer who absolutely lit up an audience when he came out. And he didn’t have to say one word. He would just walk out and look at the people.

Joe Moscheo: We actually rehearsed alone before rehearsing with Elvis. When he walked in the room, we were beside ourselves. We couldn’t believe it. If he could do that to us, imagine what he could do to an audience. It was unbelievable.

Q.: When you go back and watch “Elvis: That’s The Way it Is,” what moment still stands out to you?

Terry Blackwood: I guess it’s just his entrance. When he came out after 12 or 15 years of not performing publicly and only doing movies, he was doing what he really loved to do. All of these fans who had watched his movies and heard his songs on the radio, for the first time in their lives they got to see him live. And that moment when he walked out and the flashbulbs by the thousand were going off. It was an unforgettable moment.

Q.: Elvis was definitely on fire. Were their any interesting moments that weren’t captured on film during that era?

Terry Blackwood: We were in Vegas two months out of the year and did two shows a night. The girls loved him, but some of the guys didn’t like him so much, especially the husbands. Some guys thought their wives liked Elvis more than them. So there was one guy who was particularly irate, and he sent an anonymous letter backstage. He told Elvis he was going to shoot him while he was onstage that night. We didn’t know who sent it or when it might happen, but there was a moment in the show during “You’ve Lost That Lovin’ Feelin’” when elvis turned his back to the audience and the spotlight hit him right on his back. There were police everywhere and all of his bodyguards were ready.

Joe Moscheo: We thought, “This is it. This is the perfect moment for a guy with a gun to shoot him.” But it didn’t happen.

Terry Blackwood: But I think that’s a real testament to Elvis. He wasn’t going to let a threat stop him from doing what he was supposed to do. He just stood right up there and sang the song and nothing happened. [Laughs]


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