By Wayne Harada
Elvis Presley fans from Hawaii and afar will gather at the Blaisdell Arena Monday (Jan. 14) to relive and re-view the unparalleled “Aloha From Hawaii” concert film, originally beamed from the Blaisdell Arena, which used to be the Honolulu International Center Arena, in a 40th anniversary celebration of that historic event.
The show, televised by NBC via satellite to a global viewership, was the first of its kind — enabling Presley to truly live up to his King of Rock reign.
In his memory, we reprint that review and perhaps juggle a fading memory or two of those who were ringside “live” then.
Remember, the show was a post-midnight event keyed to a worldwide audience.
The piece ran in the Honolulu Advertiser Jan. 14, 1973.
Gold Crown Awarded to "King" Elvis
By Wayne Harada
Elvis Presley received a golden crown - and a standing ovation - at the conclusion of his unprecedented satellite live TV concert beamed to a global audience of over 1.5 billion in the wee hours of the morning yesterday. A perspiring Presley simply held the crown, as he accepted the accolades - and thus, The King vanished backstage, another night's work completed.
The HIC Arena, jammed with 6,000 Hawaii fans, became a supersized TV studio for the hour-long spectacle, "Aloha from Hawaii," which was televised to nearly 40 nations. It was a thrilling, compact hour - long on music, loud on screams – as Presley performed a total of 25 songs, including a rare and poignant rendition of Kui Lee's "I'll Remember You." Like Friday night's dress rehearsal, yesterday's performance was a benefit for the Kui Lee Cancer Fund.
But unlike any other charitable production here, this one had that aura of The Big Time: a superstar doing a super performance, right before the eyes of the world. Camera crews were everywhere: on stage, in the aisles, in the audience, zooming in on Presley and his breakthrough performance, coordinated by RCA Record Tours. "Aloha from Hawaii" is the first entertainment special telecast live to a global audience; it will be expanded into a 90-minute NBC-TV special, for viewing here and on the Mainland later this year.
Perhaps only a phenomenon like Presley could pull off such a coup, at such a wicked show-going time - 12.30 AM curtain, Hawaii time - yet draw a full house. The concert was similar in format to his pair of November shows at the HIC: it began in darkness, with the "2001: A Space Odyssey" fanfare preceding Presley's entrance; it ended with Presley singing “Can't Help Fallin' in Love with You.” Of course, there were differences.
For starters, Presley hurled his flowing, white, studded cape - a trademark for his final number. That was a souvenir collector's dream come true. Too, the usual assortment of scarves went sailing into the audience at certain points of the show.
The specially erected set, on an unusually large stage with a protruding platform, consisted of basic black scrim that was as long as it was high, reaching to the ceiling of the arena. A series of mirrors framed both sides of the stage, and special lights - silhouetting the Presley form, spelled out his name not only in English but in foreign toungues - flashed on and off occasionally. Once Presley emerged, he never was off stage. Once the show was under way, it didn't stop for commercial breaks.
For the Hawaii audience his "I'll Remember You" vocal easily was the most sentimental. The Presley version retained the Hawaiian flavor, but also capitalized on the International scope of the tune; it easily could emerge as Presley's next No. 1 hit. His American Trilogy medley - fusing “Dixie,” “Battle Hymn of the Republic” and “All My Trials” - was another emotional instance, sending several hundred fans to their feet. But apparently the necessity to move on the show - when such TV airing time is so precious - forced Presley to cut short the audience response.
The concert was smartly paced and packaged to suit all camps in the Presley following. There were the old hits - "Love Me," "Blue Suede Shoes," "Hound Dog," "Johnny B. Goode," "Long Tall Sally." There were the recent clicks: "Suspicious Minds," "Burning Love," "What Now My Love." There were the soulful slices: "C.C. Rider," "Something," "Fever," the latter with the classic Presley shuffles, from the hips on downwards. And there were the special Presley renderings of "Welcome to My World," "It's Over," "I'm So Lonesome I Could Cry."
Only once did he pluck his guitar. After all, he had all the musical backing he needed: a six piece combo that travels with him, J.D. Sumner and The Stamps plus The Sweet Inspirations doing the background vocals, and a gigantic orchestra of about 40 pieces, including a splendidly nimble string section consisting of some of our symphony musicians. Presley kept his talk to a minimum. He quipped about "Hound Dog:" "I was just a baby when I did that song. With sideburns." He introduced Jack Lord as one of his actor favorites. And he reported that his original goal of $25,000 for the Kui Lee Cancer Fund had been exceeded, with more than $75,000 raised prior to show time.
Presley's "Aloha for Hawaii" has been demonstrated before, when he helped raise funds for the building of the USS Arizona Memorial a decade ago. Yesterday's show reaffirms Presley's and manager Col. Tom Parker's philanthropic fondness for Hawaii. Like the enduring nature of Kui Lee's music, the incandescence of Presley is incomparable. Perhaps Presley had a hidden meaning regarding the late Kui Lee, when he sang the composer's closing lines in "I'll Remember You," as follows: "...love me always, promise always, you'll remember, too."
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Update: Presley’s cape
is back home at Graceland
So what happened to Elvis Presley’s bejeweled-with-rhinestones cape, which he tossed into the audience at the conclusion of his “Aloha From Hawaii” concert?
The lucky spectator who grabbed it was Bruce Spinks, onetime sportswriter at The Advertiser, who kept in a safety deposit box for years.
He ultimately sold the keepsake cape with an eagle depiction to Andrew Kern, a collector of Presley memorabilia from Miami, who once was offered $50,000 for the cape.
Kern died last May; one of his last requests was to return the waist-length costume to Graceland, the home-museum of the Presley family.
The cape now is on display there, alongside Presley’s American eagle jumpsuit.