GOOD MORNING: And welcome back Elvis. Saturday night, at the Mid-South Coliseum in Memphis, Presley, dead these 20 years, returns via today’s new technology at a sold-out concert, performing with all his old buddies. They are live on stage and he’s computerized on three giant screens, talking to them, introducing their numbers as he had originally. Presley then sings (on screens), backed by the live Memphis Symphony Orchestra. Elvis was digitally removed from past concerts and other appearances and woven into this three-hour concert. It is an especially fitting setting since Elvis once had performed there — live, that is. The event marks the greatest reunion of Presley-related acts, and required a year and a half to assemble. They include the Jordanaires, the Blue Moon Boys, the Imperials, Elvis’ TCB Band, J.D. Summer & the Stamps, plus Charlie Hodge, Donnie Sumner, the Sweet Inspirations, vocalists Ronnie McDowell and Terry Mike Jeffrey. Tickets sell from $50-$80, with all profits going to the Elvis Presley Scholarship Fund at the U. of Memphis. Stig Edgren produces. While offers of TVersions of the concert have (so far) been turned down by Elvis Presley Enterprises, there are thoughts for the technically inspired concert to tour Europe and Asia in a smaller version. The throngs crushing through Memphis this week are described as being made up more of overseas than U.S. fans. Jack Soden, CEO of Elvis Presley Enterprises told me, “It’s amazing to see the diversity and the vitality of the reaction” to the 20th anni celebration. The lines outside Graceland start before the 7 ayem opening and last until the 9 p.m. closing, seven days a week. There are plans, down the road, said Soden, to expand the tour onto the campus, to further illustrate how Elvis’ shaped music globally for generations. He and Priscilla are now heard on the tour inside Graceland. But Soden emphasizes “Our intention has not been to turn Graceland into something it is not.”
“THE LAST TRAIN TO MEMPHIS” continues on track at 20th, reports co-producer Jerry Schilling, Presley’s pal since 1954 who is in Memphis for the week’s activities. A new writer, Jim Uhlas, is now working on the script about the early Presley days to 1957. Steve Tisch is exec producer of the long-in-work project. Schilling, who had a 23-year relationship working with/for Presley, describes this week’s hegira to Memphis as “the Rock ‘n’ Roll Jerusalem.” Schilling was also Lisa Marie’s manager during her singing-acting career. He’d been with her and her mother Priscilla (president of Elvis Presley Enterprises) at the July 24 opening of the Elvis Presley Night Club & Restaurant in Memphis. Opening act Jewel was followed by Los Lobos, the Little River Band and Johnny Russell. The club, on Beale Street, is on the site of the Lansky building, which once housed Lansky’s clothing store where Elvis bought the clothes he wore when he guested on the Ed Sullivan show. Another event there this week was a dinner at the Peabody Hotel benefiting the Make-A-Wish Foundation in Memphis, which is headed by Marion Cox who was Elvis Presley’s nurse when he was hospitalized Among the many here reminiscing about Elvis on this anniversary are composers Mike Stoller & Jerry Leiber. Elvis recorded 25 of their songs. They live on in million$of records, three movies (“Loving You,” “Jailhouse Rock,” and “King Creole”) and on stage in “Smokey Joe’s Cafe” companies around the world. Their first Presley hit was “Hound Dog,” in 1956. Leiber & Stoller got to know Presley intimately in recording sessions and they say he was always “cool as a cucumber.” I have many remembrances of Elvis, of course as an inimitable performer. But, most of all, I remember him as a Southern gentleman.
PRESIDENT CLINTON CELEBRATES his 51st birthday on Tuesday and fellow Arkansan Mary Steenburgen and husband Ted Danson are planning a party for him and Hillary at the Danson summer home in Martha’s Vineyard. … Celebrity Cellars is a new venture by Martin Erlichman. As the name hints, celebs’ likenesses will be etched or labeled on bottles of choice wines. Over 40 top names have already become partners in the venture; Frank Sinatra is one of ’em. In the past, there have been individual celeb names (of a sort) attached to wine labels. Like Marilyn Merlot. … Valentino’s silver anni celebration Sunday, a benefit for anti-hunger org Share Our Strength, is chaired by Universal’s Arnold Peter and Motown’s Michael Mitchell. Among those toasting Pierre Selvaggio will be chefs from his Posto and Primi — and Wolfgang Puck Gene Autry celebrates his 90th birthday Sept. 29 with a week of events for fans from around the world. On the day itself, a gala will be held at his museum with entertainment by Eddy Arnold, Glen Campbell, Roy Clark, Rosemary Clooney and Willie Nelson. Dick Clark m.c.’s. During the week, there will also be a screening of Autry’s newly restored 1941 film “Back in the Saddle Again”. … We were saddened to learn of the death of Marie Pryor, the loving wife of former editor of Daily Variety, Tom Pryor.