FORTY-TWO IS TODAY’S NUMBER. Forty-two years ago, Elvis Presley died at the age of 42. There will be fitting tributes to his musical and cultural legacy all over the internet, all around the planet, all through the weekend. Lawdy Miss Clawdy, but there should be lots of his music being played everywhere you go. So I thought I would offer something non-musical, something quiet, something more private about Elvis Presley the man — not Elvis Presley the recording and movie star.
In 1985, I lived in an apartment complex in Scottsdale, Arizona. My next-door neighbors were Fred and Scotty, a quietly-open gay couple. Scotty’s career had included stints in the radio business from which he had assembled an impressive collection of Broadway-related original cast LP albums. He had also been in the hotel business, moving around the country to work on different properties.
Fred and Scotty and Jennifer and I (names have been changed for the usual reasons, even my ex’s) became friends and we spent many nights at their place enjoying the varied ways one can enjoy spaghetti and a gallon of cheap red wine while watching movies on VHS tape. When Scotty found out that I was a big Elvis fan, he told me that he had his own Elvis story:
This is the full-size (27 x 41 inches) one-sheet poster for Blue Hawaii from 1961.
Sandy didn’t care for Elvis
In 1961, Scotty was working at a swanky hotel in Hawaii when Presley was there filming Blue Hawaii. Scotty did not like rock & roll, so meeting Elvis wasn’t on the top of his to-do list. Nonetheless, Scotty met Elvis twice.
The first time, Elvis had been out all day working; he was disheveled, stinky with sweat, curt, and in a hurry to get to his room. Needless to say, Scotty was not impressed with the young singer and it more or less confirmed his distaste for rock & roll in general and Elvis Presley in particular. He made this known to his circle of gay friends.
A few days later, Scotty bumped into Elvis in completely different circumstances and had a completely different experience: Presley was done with the day’s shooting and he had freshened up for the evening. When he met Scotty with several of his friends, Elvis looked like a model on vacation.
Elvis was his usual polite self and talked with the men. He was warm, friendly, and easily engaged. Scotty had met many movie and recording stars over the years, but he said that Elvis was perhaps the most genuine and charismatic person that he had ever met.
Scotty also said that he was rather surprised at how at ease and playful Elvis was with gays, which was a rather rare trait in straight people in those days. Since Presley’s death, countless statements have been attributed to him that make him sound homophobic, racist, misogynist, anti-Semitic, and more.
Fortunately, there are still people alive who are more than willing to share their Elvis story and it’s almost always a story about a nice, polite, self-effacing guy who did well in the entertainment business.
FEATURED IMAGE: This photo of Elvis and a bevy of beauties was shot for a variety of promotional purposes for the movie Blue Hawaii. It ended up being used as the part of the main posters designed for the movie’s 1961-1962 release. Properly dropped, it would have made a much livelier front cover photo for the soundtrack album.
For those curious about where Elvis, a man raised in the ultra-conservative South of the 1940s and ’50s, developed such an easy way with gay men, I recommend “Elvis Presley: Was He Bisexual?” on the Film Star Facts website.
Finally, when I moved from the desert of the Phoenix-Scottsdale area to the damper surrounding of the Pacific Northwest in 1986, I kept in touch with Fred and Scotty for many years. But we drifted apart (my fault) and I haven’t heard from them in ages. Should either of you guys read this—and you know who you are—contact me because I’m a grandpa!