Happy Birthday , Elvis



He was the King in my family.  Even as a small child, I knew my parents loved Elvis.  My mother not given to swooning, would swoon at the sight of him.

My dad bundled us into the old Ford station wagon and took us to the Stardust Drive-In to see Viva Las VegasHe worked downtown at the Golden Gate as a Keno writer and when the cast and crew were shooting the race scenes on Fremont Street, he stepped outside and watched Elvis drive by in his sport car.

Just a few years later, my dad picked my mom up after her shift as a waitress in the showroom at Caesars Palace.  It was still early in the night and they didn't want to go straight home.  Fats Domino was playing in the lounge at the Flamingo.  Right across the street.  Perfect, said mom, let's go.

They hung a U-turn on Flamingo Road (you could in those days) and drove over to the Flamingo hotel.  In no time they were seated at the bar listening to Fats Domino.  The place was pretty lively filled with Fats fans.

Because he was with my mom (quite a striking woman in her hey-day) my dad scoped out the bar.  Near my parents was a guy who had probably been drinking since the early evening.

Everyone in the lounge was enjoying Fats' set except that guy.  He was from the south and didn't appreciate Fats' music, Fats' talent and most of all the color of Fats' skin.

As the set played on, the guy started to get loud and belligerent about the fact that he didn't like Fats Domino.  Most of all he concentrated on the fact that Fats was black.

My dad told him a few times to shut up.   They were big Fats Domino fans from way back and wanted to enjoy the show.   Another guy at the end of the bar also told him to shut up.  The loud mouth continued his bigoted remarks.  My mom and dad had had enough.  So had the man at the end of the bar.  My dad told my mom to order another drink and he'd be back.

He approached the bigot and noticed that the man at the end of the bar did was doing the same.  They grabbed the man and words were exchanged.  I should note that my dad was in great shape.  He was a well-known West Coast Judo champ at the time and took that training seriously.  The other man grabbing the bigot was in good shape too.

Before my mother knew what had happened, the bigot was silenced, security was called and my dad and his new friend re-joined my mother.  My mother almost fainted when she realized who the other man was.  When he said "Hello ma'am" she just about lost it.  Elvis bought the next round.  When Fats Domino finished his set he came over to them and joined them.  They drank together until the early hours of the morning sharing stories.

I have two cocktail napkins from that night with their autographs that I cherish.

In 1969, it was announced that Elvis was coming to the International Hotel in August.  My mother's birthday was in August and he wanted to surprise her.  He worked two jobs and saved all the extra cash he could.

He did good.  We went to see Elvis Presley at  the International Hotel in August that year.  It was the dinner show and my dad tipped the maitre'd so that we could sit in one of those old fashioned plushy booths center stage.

My mother was in heaven.  Somewhere we still the menu from that night.

In 1977, my folks were in vacation in Utah.  They stopped in at a small general store and my mom heard something about Elvis on the radio in the store but not enough to understand.  She went to the pay phone and called me to find out why they were talking about Elvis on the radio.

I had to tell her that Elvis had died.