One Sunday afternoon back in 1956, Fred Williams, Bob Tyus, Richard Perkins, and I pulled into Hubert Newberry's Sinclair service station across the street from the Mexia Theater. Mr. Newberry closed the station on Sunday, so people used it for the theater parking lot. We were in Fred's 1955 green Chevy Bel-Air, a very cool car. Wraparound windshield! V-8 engine! And we were going to see a new movie called Love Me Tender with Elvis Presley. The last song we listened to on the radio before we got out of the car was "Only You" by the Platters, probably on our favorite daytime radio station, KLIF in Dallas.
We might have been hick teenagers, but even we could tell that Love Me Tender wasn't a very good movie. We didn't care. We went to see Elvis. I can't speak for Bob or Richard, but I'm still in regular contact with Fred, and we're both still Elvis fans, 49 years later.
So naturally I watched the CBS two-parter about Elvis. Having read Peter Guralnick's thorough two-volume biography of The King (Last Train to Memphis and Careless Love; highly recommended), I didn't really expect any new revelations, and there weren't any. Jonathan Rhys-Meyers and the rest of the cast were OK. Rhys-Meyers had the Elvis sneer down pat, but in his hands the guitar might as well have been an oak plank. It was pitifully obvious that he didn't have a clue as to what it was there for. His lip-synching didn't impress me, either. He should have studied Milli Vanilli. Randy Quaid played the Colonel, and he was the villain of the piece. Too bad Elvis couldn't have stood up to him earlier. By the time he tried, it was too late, or at least Elvis thought so. He thought the Colonel had made him what he was, though hardly anyone ever got worse career guidance than Elvis. What might have been? Who knows, but it was sad to watch it all play out again.
The movie ended, more or less, with Elvis's 1968 "comeback special." Just as well. After that the story just gets sadder and more depressing. The only time I ever saw Elvis in person was about a year before he died. I was shocked by his appearance.
When we heard the news of Elvis's death, Judy and I were eating supper with the kids. The TV set was on, of course, and I think it was tuned to Howard K. Smith. Anyway, the kids still remember that Judy sat at the table and cried when she heard the news. She's still an Elvis fan, too.