"Aloha from Hawaii" events have Elvis fans reliving old memories
POSTED: 1:30 a.m. HST, Jan 7, 2013
LAST UPDATED: 3:28 a.m. HST, Jan 7, 2013
As the celebration of the 40th anniversary of Elvis Presley's "Aloha from Hawaii" concert descends on Honolulu, local fans are getting into the spirit with memories sweetened through the ages, just like wine.
"I started to go crazy when I was 23 years old," says Lovelyline "Lovely" Penaroza Kwock.
She then clarifies that statement: "Actually, I was 17 years old when I started to go crazy over Elvis Presley."
Kwock is, in the estimation of none other than longtime island entertainment promoter Tom Moffatt, the No. 1 Presley fan in Hawaii, but she's got plenty of company.
There's Miriam Miyai, who admits to behavior that in this day and age would be considered celebrity stalking, and her friend Carmen Vierra, who just got back from a celebration of the filming of "Blue Hawaii" on Kauai, and others who are all looking forward to the Elvis festivities with a big hunk o' love.
"I really love the guy and decided to buy all the magazines and clip out all the clippings and make scrapbooks. My house is like half full of Elvis Presley memorabilia," said Kwock, a 74-year-old who assists with the reading program at Kuhio Elementary School. "My husband says I'm crazy, I'm nuts. But I don't care."
ELVIS IN HAWAIIA special series marking the 40th anniversary of the "Elvis: Aloha from Hawaii" concert, Jan. 14. 1973. For more coverage, visit staradvertiser.com.
Tuesday: It takes more than a white jumpsuit to become Elvis.
'ELVIS: ALOHA FROM HAWAII 40TH ANNIVERSARY SCREENING'» Where: Blaisdell Arena
» When: 7:30 p.m., Jan. 14
» Cost: $35
» Tickets: 800-745-3000 or www.ticketmaster.com
"I was about 12 and LOVED Elvis. I watched all his movies and dreamed about seeing him some day. ... We were in the center in the first row of seats for the public. ... The atmosphere was amazing. Everyone knew they were part of history. ... The concert was AMAZING ... His singing, well, completely perfect! And his dancing, need I say more, HE'S ELVIS! ... I was in heaven for months after that."
--Martha Levine, San Jose, Calif.
Kwock's obsession began when she was growing up on the Big Island listening to Moffatt's radio show, "Uncle Tom's Cabin," while staying up late to do her homework.
"I heard this name, Elvis Presley. And every three minutes, five minutes, there would be an Elvis Presley song singing," she said.
She eventually came to Honolulu and looked up Moffatt, forming a relationship that kept her in Presley heaven for decades. She can recall without hesitation the times she saw Presley, such as Aug. 17, 1965, at the Hilton Hawaiian Village, when her excuse to her boss for leaving work was "I'm gonna go see Elvis, they just called me now!" and wound up getting a kiss from The King; his three concerts from Nov. 17-19, 1972, when she had front-row seats and got a scarf with his sweat on it; and his 1973 "Aloha from Hawaii" appearance at the Honolulu International Center ("I saw him sweating and sweating so much, so I just went to him with a Kleenex, and he wiped his face with it and gave it back. I kept it.")
Miyai, a retired bookeeper, was a fan of Presley since winning a ticket to his first concert here in 1957.
"I wasn't one of ‘those' fans" who would scream hysterically during his performances, she said. "I got so upset at those other girls because I couldn't hear Elvis."
For not being one of "those" fans, she would become the envy of many. She left the islands for California as a 20-something, "the main reason being to find Elvis." She eventually tracked down his home in Hollywood and knocked on the door.
"My darn friends wouldn't go with me," she said. "They wouldn't go up to his door. In fact, they wouldn't even drive up his driveway."
Miyai did, and asked to see the singer. Though she was told he was resting, she was invited to a party that night — and every night the rest of the week. She remembers them as informal, "like going to a friend's house and sitting around talking. He'd play the jukebox a lot."
Miyai would later travel to Las Vegas to watch him shoot the 1964 film "Viva, Las Vegas," getting by security guards, she believes, because the musical "Flower Drum Song" was being shot nearby and Presley had invited cast members on set.
"Everything was happening to make it possible for me to be … I guess now I would be considered a stalker," she said with a laugh.
"There was just something about him that I really liked. It wasn't like in a ‘marry me' type of way, but just like a fan. I just enjoyed his form of entertainment. So even though I got to speak with him a lot, it wasn't like I was gushing over him or anything like that."
CHIROPRACTOR Dennis Momyer got caught up in Elvis mania by a friend back in 1973. Though he paid just $10 for two tickets for the "Aloha from Hawaii" concert (tickets were sold in exchange for donations of any amount to the Kui Lee Cancer Fund), he wound up among the VIPs in the crowd, with Jack Lord and then-Mayor Frank Fasi seated nearby. Momyer was not a big Presley fan at the time, so to him it was "even more fun" that years later, on a visit to Graceland, he saw himself in a photo of the concert.
What seemed remarkable to Momyer was that the concert was reportedly being viewed by a billion people — at least that was the hype at the time. "It was the first time that technology was available to fans around the world," he said.
Dennis Wong, who works at his wife's flower and gift shop, Petals & Beans, remembers being fascinated by the logistics of the event.
"They turned what we're used to seeing as a basketball court for UH and high school games into a concert hall," Wong said. "It was so exciting, to see everything, watch all the cameras in action, and the buzz in the crowd before and afterward."
Wong, a five-time visitor to Presley's Graceland mansion in Memphis, became a fan by watching the singer's movies.
"My aunt wanted to go but my uncle refused to go, so I would keep her company," he said. "He thought it was boring, especially since my aunt was from Macau, so she didn't know English that well and wouldn't like an American singer so much."
Wong, like Momyer, is unsure whether he will attend Monday's 40th-anniversary screening of the concert at the Blaisdell Center Arena. "Now that I have the DVD, it's not as important," he said.
Charlie Ross, president of the local Elvis Fan Club, said she hopes the Elvis celebration will revive interest in the organization. The chapter, formed in 1978, has about 70 members who used to meet regularly but now meet just on occasion.
"We will get together as a club a few days before the event at Blaisdell," she said, and will likely show videos and swap stories about the singer.
While most Presley fans remember and cherish his voice, Vierra, Miyai's friend, was taken by his looks. "He was so handsome," she said. "And of course the way he sings."
So enamored is she still of the larger-than-life singer that she sews Presley's likeness on towels to give away as gifts.
"With my sewing machine, I have software that I can (use to) embroider Elvis on towels, personalized towels with Elvis' name on it," she said. "It's kind of cute."
Vierra is especially happy to be attending the Blaisdell screening of "Aloha from Hawaii" since she missed it 40 years ago to celebrate her daughter's first birthday. She went to Graceland for the first time just two years ago.
"So now I can die," she said with a laugh. "I'm crazy over Elvis."