Thursday, March 18, 2010

While Lucas & Kurtz Were Busy With American Graffiti...

...I was a sophomore at Kailua High School in Hawaii. As part of an English assignment, I was serving an apprenticeship to anchorman Bob Basso at KHON-TV. I would leave school early every day and help the news staff with whatever I could. There were all very nice to me and seemed to appreciate having someone around to do their step & fetchit work for them. I was learning a lot and having the time of my life. One day a reporter asked me to go with him to a press conference happening at the Hilton Hawaiian Village. NBC was announcing the upcoming television special Aloha From Hawaii Via Satellite and Elvis Presley was going to be there. I hadn't told anyone what a huge Elvis fan I was, so I couldn't believe my luck.

The conference took place in a closed restaurant. They had a table with a podium up front and a bunch of chairs set up theater style. On each seat was an Elvis concert program that they sold at his shows. As we milled around, the Colonel comes from around the corner and says to "Hurry up and take a seat before I charge you for the programs". Some NBC and RCA guys at the table then explained the details of the upcoming show. Shortly thereafter Elvis came out and sat in the center chair at the table. Right behind the podium. Half the room couldn't see him!

He seemed humble and was self-effacing almost to a fault. The stories of his politeness are true. He addressed each reporter as Sir or Maam, and answered each question that was asked. I gave the reporter I was with a question to ask about Priscilla. She refers to that question in her autobiography, 'Elvis And Me'.

After the news conference, Elvis stayed and met each of the reporters. We walked up to the table and waited while he talked to newspaper man Dave Donnelly. Elvis then turned to us and suddenly the reporter says "Elvis, this young man's been a fan of yours his whole life". Elvis smiled, put his hand out and replied " I'm Elvis Presley, what's your name?" As I shook his hand, I just stared at him. The reporter told him my name as Elvis took my program, turned to a picture of himself in a white suit and wrote "To Hal Thanks, Elvis Presley". I think (I hope) I then said my thanks and walked away.

While looking for something else today, I stumbled upon this short YouTube video of that press conference so long ago. I was sitting about ten feet to the left of this camera. Watching this clip, for me, is like being able to watch a personal memory on television. The computer age is an amazing thing.