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Excerpt: 'The Lei for Elvis' by Marie Hara

By Marie Hara / Courtesy to the Star-Advertiser

LAST UPDATED: 3:15 a.m. HST, Jan 13, 2013

An excerpt from "The Lei for Elvis" by Marie Hara, about her 1961 encounter with Elvis Presley as a student journalist, published in "We Go Jam: Celebrating Our Music, Our Soundscape, Our Hawai'i," edited by Sue Yim and published by the Hawai'i Council for the Humanities in 2012. Email or visit


... THERE was even a big fan club that had the best "in" with Elvis. They always sang his songs for him from the sandy beach at the Hilton Hawaiian Village Hotel and wouldn't stop until he'd come out on his lanai to wave to them. No one was cynical or insulting about him then. Movie star magazines told about his growing fame, his military service in Germany, his sweetheart Priscilla. Like everyone else, I learned that his favorite colors were pink and black. That's what some of the girls in the local Elvis Fan Club always wore.

Selected to be a SCOOP, Student Council of Oahu Publications, high school news writer, I was thrilled to represent my high school at a news conference starring Elvis Presley. What would Elvis be like in person? My next thought as I pulled myself out of the pond of deep sleep that Saturday morning was What kind of lei would Elvis like to wear? So I had to get pink plumeria from my aunt house. His favorite colors. Pink to match his slick black hair.

Eddie Sherman, the columnist with The Honolulu Advertiser, would be picking me up so I had no time to go hunting for more flowers. I hoped my SCOOP partner Regina would also be on the job sewing up a lei, unless her mom did it for her. We couldn't go empty-handed. We has long been trained, it felt like all our lives, on Hawaiian hospitality. I had also confessed to her I wanted a kiss from Elvis just so that I could say it. How else could you be kissed by Elvis? ...

(Excerpt from "Marie Interviews Elvis" by Marie Hara, the article published in Ka Punahou on April 7, 1961; also published in "We Go Jam: Celebrating out Music, Our Soundscape, Our Hawai'i.")

... SITTING in a car you could see young girls dressed in pink and black (Elvis' favorite colors, naturally) streaming out of the area. They said they were called the "Loyal Presleys," and they must have been, because that afternoon they were at the Hawaiian Village waiting, again.

At the Village press conference there was more excitement, more swooning, more eager teenage girls, more waiting. You could hear the name Elvis on every tongue the magic word. The little room got warmer and stickier as more "security" guards came in to see God for themselves. Stray invaders were constantly being escorted out. The press photographers were poised to move up to the waiting table. And finally, there was a curious murmur from the crowd, a few squeals, then a shout, Elvis, the King, had arrived.

He looked tired. The questions poured out. The leis piled on. A delirious girl (she must have been) hung on to the poor guy for what seemed to be ten minutes as Elvis blushed and security guards tried to pull her down. Flashbulbs popped. And Elvis talked. ...

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