The King of Rock'n'Roll was in town Saturday night at Kemper Arena to bestow his majestic presence upon 18000 loyal subjects. The arena was filled with thousands of aging teenagers - mostly women in their 30s whose voices rose to a maddened shriek when their beloved idol climbed on stage about 10PM.
There is still only one Elvis, the man who mixed black rhythm and blues with white country music in the 50s to come up with rock'n'roll, and the people waited patiently through an hour and a half show that preceded him. They carried their sacred memorabilia of buttons, posters, binoculars, Elvis necklaces, and gold belt buckles they had bought for $5, and souvenir programs with poorly reproduced Elvis photos for $3. Some of them had $50 a ticket from scalpers who waited outside the door. The crowd represented almost one-quarter of a million dollars in profits for Presley who is currently raking it in on tour across the country.
Amid great fanfare Elvis arrived. He was poured into a white rhinestone studded suit that was too tight but from a distance he was still the same good-looking star. Those who looked through their Elvis-binoculars, however, saw that the 40 year old performer had grown so roly-poly that, by his own admission, it took him "a while to get into my suit".
But his fans yelled back "Oh Elvis, we don't care!". To them it didn't really matter what he sang or what he did. He could do no wrong. Every glance, every gesture drew squeals and screams. On half-crazed woman dashed on stage past the security guards and flung herself at him to prove she still cared.
Elvis shrugged it off, barely reacting to anything during his performance. Looking in desperate need of a rest he drank frequently on stage from a paper cup. Sometimes he stood to one side, eyes closed, and let his show troupe take over for him. At other times, in mocking self-parody, he ran through all his old songs - Jailhouse Rock, It's Now Or Never, Hound Dog, Don't Be Cruel and so on. In several instances he forgot his lyrics, and at one point sang My Way reading the lyrics from a paper explaining to the audience "I can't remember the words."
It isn't a pretty sight to behold a crumbling phenomenon. Urged on and on around the country by fans who rely on his past glories to fuel their image of him, Elvis is like a bull in the ring. He belongs to the crowd - and they refuse to let him go.