Home > Newspaper Articles > 1977 > February 15, 1977. Orlando, FL.



CONCERT DATE: February 15, 1977. Orlando, FL.

Elvis! Got Orlando All Shook Up
Larry Bucking, Bill Dunn, Mark Hanebutt and Barbara Webb
Sentinel Star
February 17, 1977

It was intermission
Twelve deputies and four orange-shirted musclemen, one with a sheepish Beaver Cleaver grin, marched to the front of the stage.

IT WAS the first sign that Elvis Presley was about to arrive.

That's when the screaming got serious.

The opening act, a brass band, had commenced the show at 8:40 p.m. just 20 minutes after Sports Stadium officials had announced the concert would be delayed to accommodate ticket holders stuck in several mile long Highway 50 traffic jam.

And the gospel accompaniment, a flashy male quintet had generated enthusiasm from the sellout crowd of 7,200.

BUT DESPITE the "warmup" acts before intermission, tension build up as Elvis fans waited for their Elvis ... and waited.

In the first row, Diane, 33, who had left her husband home with the two kids ("He don't like Elvis") threw three pills into her mouth and swallowed hard. "One's for nerves, two for migraine. I tried to see Elvis twice before. Got measles once, and the second time I had a terrible headache. You know it was bad if it kept me from seeing HIM."

Behind her, Susan, who is 32 and the mother of four, and who as a kid owned Elvis 45s before she owned a record player, plucked at eyebrows with tweezers. "My hair appointment wasn't until Saturday and I couldn't get it moved up," she explained.

BESIDE HER, Sandy 29, responded to her husband's ribbing, "I always put this much makeup on when we go out, really."

A couple who look like they'd just come from chaperoning a sock hop were considering trading someone farther back.

"This could be dangerous," he said. "Will there really be a stampede? she said. They decided to stay.

A ROADIE carrying a jar of Gatorade to the stage, was greeted by shrieks and screams, "Elvis drinks Gatorade" a woman gasped "And he drinks from Pepsi cups!" added a friend.

Another stagehand began tunning a gee-tar. The twangs were suddenly lost in more screams.

Over the public address system, a booming deep throated male voice hawked souvenirs.

"EVERY LADY wants an Elvis button," said Deep-Throat, "Every lady wants an Elvis button to proudly wear."

At the souvenir stands, there were Elvis pennants, Elvis T-shirts, Elvis programs (28 pictures in "every living color") and opera glasses - collapsible binoculars which some vendors called Elvis Eyes.

"There were the best seats we could get." said Mary Schaeffer, from New Smyra Beach, about the worst seats in the house - two rows below the pipes and ceiling fixtures in the upper left rear of the stadium "But with these binoculars, I'll be able to see just fine."

LOLLY, WHO is 36, priced an Elvis poster which Deep-Throat had earlier described as "looking almost like an oil."

"FIVE DOLLARS! Oh but I don't have five dollars," she lamented. "But, can I just hold it awhile before the show starts ... and ... and ... look into HIS eyes" The concessionaire agreed.

"I hope his pants split, that's what I want," said Anne. a high school teacher.

"I CAME FOR a kiss, ohh if I could only get a kiss..." said Karen, a housewife. "If I can't get a kiss, a scarf will do."

Many came bearing gifts.

"I made a doll for him," said Betty Orlikowski, pulling a foot-tall likeness of the rock star from a brown paper bag. I copied the costume from what he was wearing when he performed in Lakeland last September.

SHE RUBBED her thumb over the doll's green and white silk costume and stared at the glittering sequins. A note - "You are beautiful" dangled from a string attached to one of the doll's hands.

"I'm only 25 and he was a little before my time, but I think he just drrrriiips sex appeal. I'm going to decoupage my bedroom door at home with his pictures. Tonight though, I'm going to throw my doll up to him"

Ollie Sullivan, owner of the Trailway Lounge brought a recording by Paul Terry of the Trailwinders hoping for a critique by Elvis.

JOYCE GARRETT, an associate of Lionnel's Hair styling at Florida Center, brought an enlargement of her business card, to remind Elvis of an advertisement she had take out in the Memphis newspapers offering "The Pelvis" a free haircut.

She handed her appeal to comedian Jackie Kahane, an Elvis warmup act, who was standing by Ms. Garrett's front seat row, to warmup. It's cold back there." he said, pointing to the torn tarpulin separating the damp outdoors from the dank stadium interior.

"The question about Elvis I get most? What is he really like,. Well, he reads a lot ... he's a damned bright guy ... it is an insular life for him ... no, he hasn't remarried, but that is his private life. And it's very private.

EVEN BEING in Elvis' back-up orchestra doesn't guarantee becoming close friends with the star, said Mike Slusher, a former Merritt Island resident.

"He (Elvis) is very secluded. None of the musicians are actually close to him," said Slusher, a trombonist who has been travelling with Elvis' concert tours since July.

Since he hasn't gotten to know Elvis, he finds it hard to answer fans questions about Elvis, in fact, all the questioning about the star is the only thing he finds aggravating about his job.

He enjoys meeting fans, the one he doesn't like are those who "really go overboard, people who just bug you sll the time wanting to know about Elvis."

Bill morris, a detective with the Orange County Sheriff Department, said 19 lawmen had been assigned to the stage.

Deputies huddled over strategy, sounding like football coaches faced with a critical decision.

"WE'LL GIVE them a few feet hare if they want a quick snapshot, but don't give them a free shot at the stage," said the officer in charge of the main aisle.

It was about that time that the foot-stomping began.

"CAN WE HAVE THE HOUSE LIGHTS DOWN." said Deep-Throat, greeted by a roar that pierced the ears like a blast from a Whisperjet.

The strains of the theme from "2001: A Space Odyssey" whined and built to a crescendo ... and The King walked out, late as always.

It was 10:10 pm.

He was not the same Elvis the '50s faces had known but a heavier, hairier version, Elvis Presley, the dry look.

His jet black hair rested on his high collar. A few unruly locks had fallen across to the other side, then back again.

THE FANS were wild, on their feet, clapping. shouting, whistling. Hand in the air screaming.

Diamond rings dripped sparkles from Elvis' hands, sparkles bright enough to outshine the sequins on his costume. His angel white pants and jacket with wild Navajo designs. in the end, he looked as if he had been plugged into an electrical wall socket.

Still the crowd was screaming.

HE TURNED his back to the audience, walked toward his orchestra. Someone helped him on with his guitar and draped a scarf around his neck. A dozen chorus member sitting to his left were wide-eyed with grins. He turned, walked to the silver microphone,center stage, threw a devil may care glance from the corner of his eye and:

"MY HANDS ARE SHAKING AND MY KNEES ARE WEAK..."

His left leg was pumping the stage, a right hand was stabbing the air. Suddenly he grabbed the microphone, titled back. He was grimacing. The six spotlights continued to drill into his face. That classic look of torment. He drew his lips up, baring his teeth. He was going to scream. But first he was going to throw his hips six inches to the right.

"MY GOD," someone yelled, and the fans were up screaming louder. Like two jets.

He gyrated to the left. and again the hands were in the air, more screaming. Like three jets.

HE STRAINED, lifting a leg, jerking his neck, and finally, the song was over. But the screams continued.

"I'm a shaggy dog," mumbled the 42-year-old rock star "Does anybody have a hairbrush?"

Because of the noise, the plea didn't make beyond the first few rows.

BUT BY NOW, other gifts were flying toward the stage. Gifts from middle-aged wives of middle-aged truck drivers. Gifts from women in heavy rouge and beehive hairdos. All of them throwing hats, flowers, letters, and "ELLLLVIIISSS, TAKE ME ELLLVIIIS."

The king made his way across the stage, enjoying his fame, playing with it. He swiveled his hips then watched at the fans exploded into frenzy. He swiveled again again, and watched again. Then he smiled, then he grinned.

"Now watch as i do it all at once"

The body English was forced where it once was sensuous. He tried to make up with his eyes what he no longer had in the pelvis. But the fans loved it all; the stadium started to shake.

Halfway across the stage, he leaned and picked up the doll from Betty Orlikowski's outstretched arms, stared at it as though in disbelief, showed it to the audience, then hugged it close to his heart while looking at Betty Orlikowski, the girl in the blue jeans and the leather jacket.

BETTY ORLIKOWSKI dropped back in to her seat, smiling.

The King turned and casually took a few gulps of Gatorade, then:

"You ain't nothin' but a hound dog ... cryin' all the time..."

HE WAS off again, swaying, jerking, gyrating. At the end of the song, he shoved out his guitar, stabbing an invisible foe standing at his left, then he pulled the guitar back and flung it backward to the waiting hands of another member of the group.

The stadium erupted into a firefight of flashbulbs.

"Thank you, ladies and gentlemen. Thank you. Thank you very much..."

Sweat was tricking down his face. His hair was wet. He wiped his face with the long white silk scarf slowly around his neck. Then he dropped it into a hundred hands at the edge of the stage.

THERE WERE screams, and pulling, until one woman had the precious prize all to herself. She stuffed it into her purse to protect it. Her eyes were suspicious of the other women around her. Her competitors were watching, waiting for her to make a wrong move, waiting for her to drop it.

The "Pelvis" made his way back across the stage dropping more scarves, a dozen, two dozen.

Two couples sitting next to each other in the second row grabbed at one and then refused to give up the tug of war. A sheriff's deputy finally cut the scarf in two with his pocket knife to prevent a fight.

But Elvis had already turned still smiling, unconcerned that people were pushing sheriff's deputies down the aisles to get to the scarves. He was singing again. Several more songs.

At least twice, his timing was off and he had to stop the orchestra and start over. "My mistake, my mistake," said Elvis.

THEN THE clincher

"...and IIII can't helllllp falling in luvvvv with yoooouuuuu."

He poured words into the microphone, worlds like cool water to a parched audience. His eyes were closed. He looked as if he were going to go to sleep. He was so hurt. And then there was that baby face, that fat face with the sugar plum cheeks. women were crying. One knee out; one arm coming up as the song crescendoed, head back, mike up, the finale, the end, it was over, over.

The fans were screaming, crying. Hundreds were pushing toward the stage. Folding chairs were collapsing.

"DEAR GOD," cried one woman, "HE'S THE KING, AND I DIDN'T EVEN GET TO TOUCH HIS SCARF, IF ONLY I COULD HAVE TOUCHED IT..."

Courtesy of Kurt Hinkle