Elvis update

Oct. 29, 1957

Los Angeles

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

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

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

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.

About lmharnisch

I am retired from the Los Angeles Times
This entry was posted in Blues, LAPD, Music and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink.

4 Responses to Elvis update

  1. Diane says:

    So Elvis was (at least briefly) the Iggy Pop of his day? Who knew!


  2. Richard H says:

    Does the LAPD still have the film the Vice Unit took of Elvis’s second performance at the Pan Pacific?
    That film is worth a mint!
    A much more interesting review than those of Wally George and Hedda Hopper. Makes me wonder if Dick Williams was at the same show as Wally and Hedda. Maybe Wally and Hedda just mailed their reviews in.
    In so far that Elvis was just a “sexhibitionist” that “offers is not basically music but a sex show”, I got to disagree.
    Radio stations playing Elvis’s singles were what brought the “sexhibitionist” to public notice, not sex shows. The man sang songs and played music that sold records, not films of him…..you know…
    Perhaps a more objective review by the entertainment editor of the Mirror-News of Elvis as a musician could be made by listening to his singles on a record player in the quiet of his living room rather than trying to hear him in an auditorium full of screaming teenage girls. And maybe not Rock and Roll. Maybe of Elvis singing Gospel Music, as he did quite a bit of.
    The comment about how the scene “looked like one screeching, uninhibited party rallies which the Nazis used to hold for Hitler” is a cheap shot. Elvis was not a politician with a radical right wing agenda, he was an entertainer and performer. Elvis was performing and playing up to his audience. What more was there to it?
    Everything Dick Williams wrote about Elvis could have been written about the Beatles during their heyday (except maybe Nipper the RCA Dog). I know because what he wrote was what the nuns at the parochial school I was attending during the sixties said about the Beatles. Just what a terrible influence they were on the youth and how they feared for the future of the country!


  3. nina says:

    there’s many who claim that Elvis simulated sex with the RCA Nipper statue
    and yet, despite all the girls with all the cameras, there’s not a single picture to prove it
    nor did the police actually arrest him.
    time to put that myth to bed


  4. Gina says:



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