DENNIS ODA /
About 200 Elvis Presley fans crowded the Blaisdell Center
yesterday for the unveiling of a life-sized bronze statue of
A statue of the
King becomes a permanent part of the Blaisdell
By Burl Burlingame /
Elvis has left the
building. No, Elvis is just outside the building. No, try wait, Elvis
has actually become the building. Whatever. Al Dvorin's famous catch
phrase was repeated by nearly every celebrity present yesterday at the
unveiling of a new statue of Elvis Presley.
It is outside the
giant clam of the Blaisdell Arena, site of Presley's groundbreaking 1973
"Aloha from Hawaii" telecast, which explains the presence of Larry W.
Jone, president of cable channel TV Land. The all-rerun channel, devoted
to establishing flickering memories of old shows, has been erecting
statues of beloved TV characters around the nation, much as Greek
philosophers put up graven images of Olympian gods -- Bob Newhart in
Chicago as psychiatrist Bob Hartley, Andy Griffith in South Carolina as
Sheriff Andy Taylor, Elizabeth Montgomery in Salem, Mass., as sitcom
witch Samantha Stevens.
characterizations. By the time he played the Blaisdell, Elvis was pretty
much an Elvis impersonator himself, albeit a good one. How to capture
that in bronze?
On hand for the
unveiling was sculptor BJ Ervick from StudioEIS, the extraordinary
Brooklyn firm that creates lifelike, original statues. "It has to strike
a chord in people's memories of the subject, plus the event," said
Ervick. "This is my baby. It has to be true not only to TV Land's
vision, but to the fans. If we don't get his 1973 anatomy right, we'll
hear from the fans. Not to mention every detail of the jumpsuit!"
It took about eight
months to create, molded from clay over a foam and wire armature, cast
in bronze, welded together and given a suitable patina.
DENNIS ODA /
Fumie Nakao brought along a photo showing her with Elvis
(she's on the far right), taken in 1957, when she was 23, at
the Hilton Hawaiian Village.
"We're real proud of the hair," said Ervick. "Hard to do Elvis' hair and
not have it look like a helmet. And the patina is light-colored, like
the jumpsuit. A dark patina would get shiny where it's touched, and this
statue is gonna get rubbed every day."
Also in the crowd
was promoter Tom Moffatt, who brought Presley to Hawaii and became a
friend of Col. Tom Parker. Moffatt told a story about fellow disc jockey
Ron Jacobs driving around in a 1957 convertible with an Elvis
look-alike, creating radio-fueled pandemonium.
"You know, when Don
Ho would get on the phone onstage during his shows, he was talking to
his sound guy, but he always told the audience he was talking to Elvis,"
But the day belonged
to the average folks, the working stiffs who watch TV, for whom Elvis
shone like a beacon, wreathed in lightning and the crackling ozone of
celebrity star power, a gas giant among red dwarfs.
Cino Torricer, of Hilo's Elvis Rock-A-Hula Baby Fan Club, visits the
Holy Land -- er, Graceland -- in August every year for Elvis Presley
Week. "That's when the people associated with him come out of the
woodwork," said Torricer. "Elvis and I were born about the same time,
and I studied him to find out what he did to drive the girls crazy."
Dana Anne Yee is the
landscape architect who designed the space around the statue. "It has to
remind people of Hawaii, so there's plumeria, coconut palms -- the
lights are mounted on the trees -- lava rock, that sort of thing," Yee
said. "We knew it had to be photogenic and that the statue needed to be
designed so that you could hang leis on it."
Jeannie, a retired teacher, had a more personal reason for being there.
"I guess I'm one of the older fans. I liked his voice, his songs," she
said, softly. "But my own mother -- who died at 91 -- was a widow for 49
years, and her favorite song was 'Are You Lonesome Tonight?'" Pause.
By this point a
couple hundred people were pressing forward, buzzing in eager
anticipation. A rumble like thunder from the stage. A 4/4 tsunami of
Elvis' daunting, soaring voice. The crowd pressed forward, afraid to
turn away, even to blink. TV Land's Jones commanded that the curtains
part. They did.
Inside, in all his
rhinestone-studded, pomade-crested, hip-shaking, guitar-slinging,
lip-curling, doe-eyed glory, was the King.
"Oooooh," went the crowd.