Friday, November 27, 2015         

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Graceland exhibit highlights Elvis-isle links

By Gary C.W. Chun


As local and visiting fans prepare for Monday's 40th anniversary screening of the momentous "Elvis: Aloha from Hawaii" concert at Blaisdell Arena, a new exhibit at Presley's stately manor in Memphis, Tenn., is also celebrating the groundbreaking show and the singer's well-known love of the islands.

"Elvis' Hawaii: Concerts, Movies and More!" opened Tuesday at Graceland Mansion, allowing fans to gaze at such mementos as the gold lamé jacket Presley wore in his first shows at Honolulu Stadium in 1957 and the ornately decorated jumpsuits worn during the Honolulu International Center Arena concerts in 1972 and '73.

Saturday: Local Elvis merchandise appeals to fans of all ages

"We wanted to touch on all the major highlights in his career that were Hawaii-related," said director of archives Angie Marchese by phone from Graceland. "The theme of the exhibit is as if Elvis kept a scrapbook on Hawaii in 3-D. There are also interactive kiosks with over 800 images in Hawaii," not only those related to the three movies that were shot here, but never-before-seen color home movies of the 1957 concerts.

Part of the exhibit's appeal will be the iconic costumes that are already well-known by worldwide fans of "The King." "These are things from a personal collection that Elvis kept in his closet upstairs in his wardrobe room," Marchese said.

A few pieces in the exhibit have never been displayed. "There's a black corduroy outfit that he wore at the 1973 press conference at the Hilton Hawaiian Village to promote the show. … That was an unexpected find. When I saw photos of the press conference, I looked at the jacket, saw the inside lining, and said, ‘Hey, we have that coat!'

"We also have on display one of Elvis' black karate gi (uniform) from the '70s. That has a Hawaii connection because his instructor, Ed Parker, was born there. When Elvis studied with Parker, Elvis was later awarded an eighth-degree black belt in kenpo-style karate."

To provide convincing evidence of Presley's mutual love affair with the islands, Marchese conducted extensive research and mined the estate's trove of documents and memorabilia.

"I tried to find out as much history about Elvis' visits to Hawaii to make the story that much better and to make him more human and personable," she said. "I found in his office upstairs the ship's dinner menus that he saved from his voyage back to Los Angeles from Hawaii in 1957. There are also a lot of documents and telegrams related to his USS Arizona benefit concert in 1961. And there's an unused ticket from the November 1972 show at the HIC. It was for an upper level seat that was only for $5."

Marchese and some of the Graceland staff, as well as close to 700 guests on a special tour package, arrived in Honolulu this week to take part in special anniversary events and Elvis-related tours, leading up to Monday's screening of "Elvis: Aloha from Hawaii" at Blaisdell Arena.


"Elvis' Hawaii: Concerts, Movies and More!" runs through January 2015 at Graceland Mansion in Memphis, Tenn. For details, call 800-238-2000 or visit


>> “Conversations on Elvis — Hawaiian Style”: 9 a.m. Saturday, Royal Hawaiian Center theater, Waikiki. Featuring concert promoter and longtime isle deejay Tom Moffatt; Jerry Hopkins, author of “Elvis in Hawaii”; Hawaii Pacific University history professor John Hart; Ed Hill, Bill Baise and Larry Strickland, former members of the group J. D. Sumner and The Stamps who sang with Presley at the 1973 “Aloha from Hawaii” concert; orchestra conductor Joe Guercio; Presley hairstylist and confidant Larry Gellar; and sisters Ginny Tiu and Vicky Tiu Cayetano, who appeared in Presley movies. Tickets are $59 at door.

>> Ultimate Elvis Tribute Artist Contest: 8 p.m. Saturday, Royal Hawaiian Center theater. Legends in Concert Waikiki is hosting the preliminary round of this national contest sanctioned by Elvis Presley Enterprises. Prices range from $59 for show only to $145 for VIP dinner and show package; 629-7469 or

>> Gospel performance: 10 a.m. Sunday, Royal Hawaiian Center theater. Presley’s gospel favorites with a tropical spin, featuring former members of J.D. Sumner and The Stamps and Terry Mike Jeffrey, Andy Childs, Jamie Aaron Kelley and others. Tickets are $59 at door.

>> Elvis exhibit: Saturday and Sunday, Pearl Harbor Visitor Center. Elvis Presley Enterprises and Pacific Historic Parks present a two-day exhibit straight from Graceland Mansion in Memphis, Tenn. Free.

>> “Elvis: Aloha From Hawaii”40th Anniversary Screening: 7:30 p.m. Monday, Blaisdell Arena. Featuring a high-definition remastered video on multiple screens and enhanced audio. Tickets are $35 at Blaisdell Arena and through Ticketmaster outlets, 800-745-3000 or

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