Zero Plus 331
The King Of Vigilance Lives
Editor, New York City Combat Correspondent News
GROUND ZERO, New York
City, August 9--
"I watched the audience as he
walked out on the stage, and so
many had their faces in their
hands, they'd sit there and
cry. It was almost biblical, as
if the clouds had parted and
down a shaft of light came
Bill Jost, Assistant Maitre d', Showroom
of International Hilton Hotel, Las Vegas
July 31, 1969
In a world of turmoil, stars
shine. Some are brighter than others. Some make you cry.
Some make you smile
One week from now, next Friday, August 16,
hallmarks the Twenty Fifth anniversary of the death of The King!
It will be a day of jubilation for millions who won't let the memory of
Elvis Presley die. He is kept alive as the Sentinel of Rock &
Roll--an icon that is making more money today than when the King was
I live with an Elvis fan. My
wife wears earrings with Elvis playing his guitar on both his birthday and
on his death's anniversary. She believes he's still alive,
and, in her heart, he is, as he lives in the hearts of millions throughout
Her favorite song is Elvis' rendition of the
Battle Hymn Of The Republic. Tears stream down her eyes
when she listens to it.
And she's passed the legacy on to her
Last night we took our grandchildren and older
daughter up to Harlem to hear a free Doo-Wop concert, put on by the City
Parks Foundation. We were the only white people in the
audience, but music erases color, and as the sounds filled the night air,
we were all one, no diversity, just lovers of great moving rhythm of
oldies but goodies by the Doo-Wop All Stars.
Attending were our three grandchildren, Matt, 6,
Sarah, 4 and six-week old Vigil, a September 11th baby. Matt's
friend, Brook, his pre-school buddy, came along. Sarah and my wife
are soul buddies. Special, special friends. Sarah
wore her favorite pink and black velour shirt with a picture of Elvis on
the front and on the back, the words: #1 King.
When the kids came by our East Village apartment
to catch the subway to 128th Street, Sarah was sporting the shirt Lori
bought her months ago. Our daughter said she wouldn't leave
the house without it, that it was her idea to wear it because she was
going to hear music with "G-Ma, and G-Ma loves Elvis."
It was precious.
Elvis wasn't at the concert, but his music
He was born to poor parents in
Depression-era Mississippi. He had the uncanny ability to mix the black
soul music from his roots, to a world eager to hear his Voice blend
diversity into universality. Early critics thought he
was black, and predicted his "black sound" wouldn't cross over to a "white
world." How terribly wrong they were.
At the concert, our granddaughter danced.
The music was infectious. It burrowed its way into the marrow
of all of us, three generations sitting in the warm, eclectic night of
Harlem in Marcus Garvey Park, wrapped in memories as songs from the past
became lullabies of the present. The words brought tears to my
wife's eyes yet a smile to her face.
Elvis had a lot to do with the cultural
desegregation of music. He awakened a world where the two
sounds were barred from crossing over to a world where there is a
dominance of it today, represented in our hip-hop, in our rock and roll,
in our youthful singers who all aspire to be "like Elvis" in so many ways.
John Lennon said of Elvis' death: "The King
is dead. But rock 'n' roll will never die. Long live the
Carl Wilson of the Beach Boys commented, "His
music was the only thing exclusively ours. His wasn't my and
mom and dad's music. His Voice was a total miracle in the music
The legend of Elvis thrives today.
Rapper Eminem name-checks him in a comparison of their controversial
careers on his latest album, "The Eminem Show."
Walt Disney employs his soundtracks in the
animated hit film, "Lilo & Stitch," and has helped his music reach No. 1
on the charts, even a quarter century after his death.
In 2000, Elvis' songs earned over $35 million.
The Guinness World Record Book touts him as the "richest deceased
celebrity." There's even a 25-year Monopoly set being sold to
commemorate his memory.
Born in 1935, Elvis launched his singing
career in 1955 when he cut a record for his mother. His
breakthrough record was You Ain't Nothing But A Hound Dog, released the
following year. And his controversial music life came to
the nation via his September 9, 1956 appearance on Ed Sullivan when the
lower half of the screen was blocked so the "puritanical" network wouldn't
let the youth of America see his hallmark gyrating hips.
The King's life was a roller coaster. He
made 33 films and countless records and then fell from grace.
He was sure his life was over. Critics wrote him off as the
Beatles and other "new waves of sounds" swept over rock 'n' roll,
seemingly burying it and Elvis.
He entered the Army in 1958, the year he reached his peak in fame. His
fame floundered, peaked again for a period of time and ebbed. But
then on July 31, 1969, at the Hilton Hotel in Las Vegas, Elvis mounted the
stage for a comeback. No one knew whether it would be the
closing of the zipper on his music body bag or the explosion of his fame
as rock 'n' roll's legend. The later was the case.
My wife and I have a special connection to Elvis.
During his comeback period, I was cresting the wave of
my own fame and fortunes, heading up the marketing of one of the world's
largest companies in real estate. We held annual conventions in Las
Vegas, and used the Hilton Hotel as our main headquarters.
We brought thousands of our people there to rally our sales efforts and
introduce new plans and programs.
The Hilton gave us the Penthouse Suite, where
Elvis stayed when he played there. In the ceiling of the
master bedroom was a hole--a bullet hole--where Elvis fired a gun the
night before his comeback performance. Some say he was so
scared of not being well received that he was trying to take his life
before risking a negative audience. Others say he was just cleaning
his gun and it went off by accident.
Regardless, we looked at the hole in the ceiling
with awe. Not many people have ever seen it. We did. We
slept in his bed.
A number of years later, we went to one
of Elvis' last performances. It was a sad event. Elvis
was overweight, drugged and sweating and struggling on stage.
The back up singers blared, trying to mask his worn-out Voice.
He apologized to the audience, telling us he wasn't supposed to talk to
us, just sing. He was like the tired monkey on the organ
grinder's leash, holding out his cup to get the last gold coins before his
performing at one of his last concerts
I'm not as big an Elvis fan as my wife, so I saw
the crippled entertainer in a realistic spotlight. My wife saw a
legend. She didn't care what the man looked like, she only
heard his Voice, felt his passion struggling through the battle Elvis was
undergoing to stay alive, to perform.
We knew the crew at the Hilton well--the security
guards, the housekeepers, the room bookers. They had pool
going on the date Elvis would die. Despite the official
reports that he died of a heart attack, everyone knew he was being pumped
full of drugs to keep him able to perform, and it was only a matter of
time before the race horse fell over dead.
But few knew that Elvis would live far beyond his
death, and the conflicted soul of a young, innocent boy caught in a vice
of glory, attacked by critics, managed by a money-hungry Colonel, would
become a legend far beyond anyone's expectations.
Our granddaughter was living proof of that last
night. She bore the King's name.
In seven days, his death will be celebrated.
Many will not accept he has died. They will continue to say:
And, in just a month, we will approach another
anniversary--that of the death of 3,000 victims of 9.11.
How will we handle their deaths? Will
we cry? Will we be filled with joy?
I'd like to think we should take a page out of
Bill Jost's book, and remember those who died on September 11, 2001, our
Sentinels of Vigilance, in the same light he did Elvis' comeback--
"I watched the audience as he walked out on the
stage, and so many had their faces in their hands, they'd sit there and
cry. It was almost biblical, as if the clouds had parted and down a shaft
of light came the angels."
LONG LIVE THE KING
Go Aug. 8--Fat Terrorists
Are Stalking Your Kids
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