Although Wednesday, Jan. 8, would have been Elvis’s 79th birthday, my dear husband Steve took me out to celebrate the occasion last Saturday night. We got a bit dressed up (me carrying my fabulous Elvis purse, of course) and headed to Stevens Steakhouse in Commerce for a dinner show featuring Elvis and Frank Sinatra sound-alikes. What a tribute. The King of Rock-n-Roll would have loved the enthusiasm Rob Ely as Elvis elicited from the audience. His rendition was spot-on– and I ought to know. I saw the real Elvis in concert 40 times. Doing a great job as well, Doug Roegiers favored the crowd with his version of Sinatra’s crooning style.
To top things off, as a finale, the two entertainers joined together on stage for a duet– a carbon copy of a televised event that took place in 1960– with Elvis performing his adaptation of Frank’s signature song “Witchcraft” while Frank gave his rendition of Elvis’s “Love Me Tender.”
Here’s the rest of that story…
When Elvis returned home in 1960 from his two-year stint in the military, Frank Sinatra hosted a Welcome Home, Elvis television special sponsored by Timex. This show was Elvis’s first televised appearance since his honorable discharge from the Army. The special on ABC starred Frank Sinatra and featured: Elvis Presley; Sammy Davis, Jr.; Joey Bishop; Peter Lawford; and Frank’s daughter, Nancy Sinatra. (Note: in 1966, Nancy became quite well known for hit song “These Boots Are Made For Walking,” and in 1968 she performed as Elvis’s leading lady in the movie Speedway.)
In addition to Frank’s daughter, through his movie career Elvis co-starred with some pretty well-known actors/actresses: Charles Bronson (Kid Galahad); Barbara Stanwyck (Roustabout); Lizabeth Scott and Wendell Corey (Loving You); Walter Matthau, Dean Jagger & Carolyn Jones (King Creole); Barbara Eden (Flaming Star); Mary Tyler Moore (Change of Habit); Shelley Fabares (Girl Happy and Spinout); Donna Douglas, who portrayed Elly May Clampetton TV’s The Beverly Hillbillies (Frankie & Johnny), Hope Lange (Wild in the Country), Juliet Prowse, who was once engaged to Frank Sinatra (G.I. Blues), Ursula Andress (Fun in Acapulco) and, of course, Ann-Margret (Viva Las Vegas).
I get a kick out of seeing those movies and watching Elvis act with performers who either already were, or later became, such well known movie stars. I often wonder how his career might have changed had he stayed with us here on Earth for a while longer. Would he have concentrated more on movies or his music? Would he have moved forward to be more distinguished and reinvented himself as his peers have done? Believe it or not, Cher will be 68 this year, Tom Jones will be 74, Jack Jones will be 76 next week on Jan. 14, Johnny Mathis is pushing 79, and Tony Bennett will be 88 this year. Many of those entertainers are still touring and performing to sold-out venues with solid fan bases of mature, as well as new, admirers.
With the popularity of Elvis tribute artists and impersonators, I’d like to believe that his level of fame would have endured. Alas, we’ll never know. To that I say “thank you” to artists like Rob Ely and Doug Roegiers for the tributes they share with us, and for keeping the music alive. And a big Hunk-a Hunk-a Burning Love goes out to Eddie Stephens and his Treat Me Nice Band for putting together a heck of a great show last Saturday night. Maybe we can get them to do something for us in Long Beach!