Oct. 29, 1957
You may remember my post on Elvis Presley's concerts at the Pan-Pacific Auditorium, based on contemporary reviews by those two keen observers of popular culture: Wally George and Hedda Hopper.
I'm sorry to say I did a very poor job of capturing what actually happened and I've been too pressed for time until now to set the record straight.
In fact, Presley put on a graphic, controversial show. The performance was so raunchy that the LAPD vice squad filmed Presley's second concert for possible legal action. I'll never be able to look at the RCA dog in the same way after reading what Presley did with a statue of the company's emblem. Poor Nipper!
Here's Dick Williams' review from the Mirror, which touched off an incredible controversy and caused Presley to curb his performance. "That's the worst he's ever been," socialite Judy Spreckles sobbed after his more conservative show.
Sexhibitionist Elvis Presley has come at last in person to a visibly palpitating, adolescent female Los Angeles to give all the little girls' libidos the jolt of their lives.
Six thousand kids, predominantly feminine by a ratio of 10 to 1, jammed Pan-Pacific Auditorium to the rafters last night. They screamed their lungs out without letup as Elvis shook, bumped and did the grinds from one end of the stage to the other until he was a quivering heap on the floor 35 minutes later.
With anyone else, the police would have closed the show 10 minutes after it started. But not Elvis, our new national teenage hero.
If any further proof were needed that what Elvis offers is not basically music but a sex show, it was provided last night. Pandemonium took over from the time he swaggered triumphantly on stage like some ancient Caesar, resplendent in gold lame tux jacket with rhinestone lapels, until he weaved off at the end of his stint.
It was almost impossible to hear the music despite a turned-up public address system. A cloud of thumping drums, whining guitars and Elvis' hoarse shouts rose like some lascivious steaming brew from the bare stage (except for a banner plugging his next picture, "Jailhouse Rock") and filled the auditorium.
The only way I knew what Elvis was singing was by asking the youths sitting next to me. They somehow recognized every number. It started with "Heartbreak Hotel" and wound its way through all his popular record hits from "Hound Dog" to "Don't Be Cruel." There is but scant difference in any of them. Only the wild abandon varies.
Hundreds of little girls brought their flash cameras although what they expected to get sitting far back in this vast barn of a place I don't know. Constantly, amidst the high, sustained screaming, the thumping, clapping and wild shouts, innumerable flashes kept going off so that the darkness was intermittently lit as if by lightning.
The whole panorama, from the frenzy on stage to the far reaches of the jammed bleachers which seemed a mile back at the rear, looked like one of those screeching, uninhibited party rallies which the Nazis used to hold for Hitler.
Scores of police circled the auditorium and at the slightest hint of trouble plunged in ominous pairs up the aisles toward the offenders. There have been too many Elvis "concerts" which ended in riots in the past to risk any trouble.
Elvis worked with two guitarists, a drummer and a pianist plus the Jordinaires, a quartet of young harmonists who were lost in the hubbub.
He attempted almost no talking after his initial muttered, "Friends, I want to introduce yuh to the members of muh gang." Most of the time he was weaving over the stage like a horse with the blind staggers.
He wiggled, bounced, shook and ground in the style which stripteasers of the opposite sex have been using at stag shows since grandpa was a boy.
He used frequent contrived sensual gestures such as constantly hitching up his pants, fooling with his belt buckle and yanking down his coat to elicit further wild screams from his audience.
He played up to the mike stand like it was a girl in a gesture which is expressly forbidden by the police department in every burlesque show in Los Angeles County.
The wilder Elvis got in his pelvic gyrations, the more frenzied his audience became. Inevitably, he announced midway, sweat pouring down his face, that he was "all shook up."
The madness reached its peak at the finish with "Hound Dog." Elvis writhed in complete abandon, hair hanging down over his face. He got down on the floor with a huge replica of the RCA singing dog and made love to it as if it were a girl. Slowly, he rolled over and over on the floor.
The little brunette of maybe 15 sitting in front of me bent her head and covered her eyes, whether with embarrassment, fright, sickness or excitement, I know not.
I do know this is corruption of the innocent on a scale such as I have never witnessed before. For these are children to whom Elvis appeals, preconditioned, curious adolescents, who are artificially and unhealthfully stimulated. Their reactions would shock many a parent if he or she could see this display. They are not adults who can take his crudities and laugh or shrug them off.
The boy next to me, bent forward on his seat taking it all in, turned briefly to me between numbers. "He's great," he enthused. "He's simply great, isn't he?"
The same lesson in pornography will be repeated tonight, barring an interruption by the Police Department, which is unlikely, in view of the fact that they might have a riot on their hands.