ELVIS THE GUNSLINGER
Having become Elvis fans rather late in his career, we missed out on any television appearances he did earlier; also any personal appearances.So we had to content ourselves with his movies and, of course, records. We, like thousands of other fans would have given our eye teethe to have been able to see him perform in person.
Well, talk about the luck of the Irish, in less than a year Elvis has made 2 movies in Arizona; “Stay Away, Joe” and “Charro.” Since we live in Phoenix, we were able to make several trips to both locations. We not only got to see our King, but were able to speak to him. We took some great pictures including some “knocked out” movies. Then, as the crowning touch, Elvis made his TV Special. We wrote for tickets the minute we heard he was going to do the show. Much to our surprise, we received the tickets. We flew to California for the show and saw one of the segments being taped. It’s really fabulous… I can hardly wait for “E” day, December 23.
“Charro” was filmed in Apache Junction which is only 30 miles from our home. Guess there is no need to tell you where we spent all our time the two weeks Elvis was here. Since my mother works on a graveyard shift, we had the days free to spend on the set.
We went to the hotel (Superstition Inn) where he had the whole second floor reserved. We waited and waited but the first day Elvis didn’t come down at all. Rodd Redwing, he’s in the picture, went up to Elvis’ room. Rodd is a real expert with the six-gun and coached Elvis for the roll. Elvis really learned fast.
We learned that there was a 2 o’clock call for shooting the next day. So back we went and at 1:10 Elvis came down the back stairs to go out to the location in the mountains. We thought that he looked very handsome with his beard. But then he’d look good with his head in a bag. He signed a few autographs for people and signed some pictures we had taken in Sedona. He looked puzzled for a second when I handed the pictures to him. I said, “Sedona” and he smiled and said, “Oh, yeah. Oh, you’re letting your hair grow. What’s your name again?” I said, “Sandy.” He laughed and said, “I’ll be all right… I started to write Dandy.” (What a doll). He then got into the big black Cadillac and took off like a shot (Mr. Kelly was driving). Mr. Kelly was the National General Corp. driver and drove Elvis everywhere that he went. Mom and I thought that Mr. Kelly was one of the nicest people we have ever met. We followed some of the crew to the location, but didn’t get to stay that day.
The next day, they started filming at Apacheland Movie Ranch. This is really a cute old western town and is open to the public. Of course, they raised their prices while Elvis was here and I dare say they did quite well. We watched for several hours and saw them film three exciting scenes. This is a very tense, serious drama with a lot of fast action. It should be “out of sight.”
One day at Apacheland, Elvis came over to the roped off area to talk and sign autographs. He is so marvellous with his fans. Elvis has a way of making each one feel important. When he talks to you, he gives you his undivided attention, in spite of everything that is going on around him. He looks directly at you, which is just a bit disconcerting. I usually manage to forget at least half of what I wanted to say. When he got to me, I was just standing there watching all the fun. He asked, “You don’t like my beard do you?” I answered, “Yes, I like it, don’t you?” He said he didn’t like it at all. I told him I thought his TV special was going to be great. He again looked puzzled and I explained that my mother and I had flown in to see it at the NBC studios in Burbank. He asked which day we were there and I told him on Thursday, June 27. he asked what we thought of it and I told him I thought it was going to be really the greatest. He grinned and said, “Thank you.” There is no way to describe the impact that Elvis has on a live audience. What a fantastic showman he is.
The last day Elvis filmed here, they were doing some scenes on location in a really wild canyon. The scene showed Elvis (whose name is Jesse Wade) roping a big, black wild stallion which he rides in the picture. He is holding the rope and the horse is bucking and rearing and dragging him around. It’s very exciting. After the first take, he kept looking at his hands and rubbing them on the sides of his pants. By the time they had done the scene two more times, his hands were badly rope burned.
That evening, after dinner, as he was leaving the hotel for another location, we spoke to him again and he had band aids on his fingers and the palms of his hands. When he tried to sign some autographs, you could tell that it was an effort even to hold the pen. You know that he must have been in pain. It didn’t seem to affect his sense of humor, though. I asked where he was going now, to Memphis or Hollywood. He got that slow twinkle in his eyes and said, “Why no honey, I’m going out to location now.” He paused and then said, “I’m going to Los Angeles when we finish up here.” Whenever you talk to Elvis, be prepared to play straight man. His great sense of humor is always there, just under the surface waiting for a good straight line. With this, he jumped into his Cadillac and was off again. This was the last time we saw him. The next day, we hoped to be able to see him leave but the time for departure kept changing and finally my mother had to leave for work.
Story by Sandy and June Evans, Strictly Elvis, November 1968