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The King's legacy

Several sites statewide offer reminders that Elvis was there — or nearby

By Mike Gordon

LAST UPDATED: 3:14 a.m. HST, Jan 13, 2013

Elvis may be long gone, but you can find him around Hawaii if you know where to look.

The singer visited the isles often over the course of 20 years, performing, vacationing and donating time and money to local causes. Elvis Presley loved it here, and fans here loved him as well.

Some locations he made famous marked his presence with a physical tribute, such as a plaque, while others simply remember the singer with a photograph, which is what you'd see at Hanauma Bay, the local landmark that gave so much beauty to his 1961 film "Blue Hawaii."

And while you can visit the USS Arizona Memorial, which Presley helped raise money for with a benefit concert, you can't see the venue where he performed — Bloch Arena — unless you have military connections, because it sits on Navy property.

To see the Hawaii that Presley enjoyed is to view it through the soft focus of nostalgia.

Memories of Elvis have been flooding out of fans for more than a week as thousands of the Presley faithful from near and far prepare to mark Monday's 40th-anniversary screening of his "Aloha from Hawaii" concert, which was beamed live via satellite to 40 countries in 1973.


A special series marking the 40th anniversary of the "Elvis: Aloha from Hawaii" concert, Jan. 14, 1973. For more coverage, visit

Monday: Isles share the big screen with music icon



» Gospel performance: 10 a.m. today, 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: Sunday, Pearl Harbor Visitor Center. Elvis Presley Enterprises and Pacific Historic Parks present a weekend 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

» "Kaua'i Loves Elvis!": 5:30 p.m. Friday, Kauai Marriott Resort on Kalapaki Beach. A benefit for Kauai United Way with Presley tribute artist Tim Welch, prime rib buffet dinner and silent auction of Elvis memorabilia and other items and activities. Sponsored by Kaua'i Visitors Bureau, County of Kauai and Kaua'i Chamber of Commerce. Tuesday is the deadline to purchase tickets: $65 ($85 for VIP seating). Call 245-3971 or email; tickets also available at The Westin Princeville Ocean Resort Villas, Scotty's Music in Kalaheo and Kauai Marriott Resort.


When they arrive at the Blaisdell Arena, which was called the Hono­lulu International Center when Presley performed there, they'll find a life-size statue of "The King of Rock 'n' Roll" outside the arena.

The statue is a relatively recent addition to the venue where Presley performed several times. It was put there in 2007 by the cable channel TV Land, which commissioned Brooklyn-based StudioEIS to create the nearly 1,200-pound bronze statue.

The foundry's Presley was 6-foot-2 — a little taller than the singer — and because it's set on a 3-foot-tall platform, Elvis is a towering presence.

The first person to place a lei on the statue — a maile lei — was Mufi Hannemann, then mayor of Hono­lulu and a longtime Presley fan who saw him perform in Las Vegas. He's even been to Graceland Mansion, the singer's home in Memphis, Tenn.

"I think it looks like Elvis," Hannemann said. "Sometimes you see statues that don't resemble the people. This looks like him and certainly calls attention to the fact that one of his most successful concerts ever was at the Blaisdell."

There isn't much marking the concert venue where Presley donated his talent and time to raise money to build the USS Arizona Memorial.

When he performed at the 4,000-seat Bloch Arena at Pearl Harbor on March 25, 1961, he raised $62,000.

A clear plastic case mounted in a hallway of the arena contains three photos from the concert and a news clipping, but that's all you'll find, assuming you can get on base to see it, said Jim Neuman, historian for Navy Region Hawaii.

"There used to be a plaque until 1995, but it was so worn out you could barely read it anymore," he said. "I don't know what happened to it. This exhibit went up in 1996. This was something of a replacement for it, but it isn't a plaque."

The site that hosted Presley's first Hawaii performance has long since been erased from the urban landscape. But on Nov. 10, 1957, when the old Hono­lulu Stadium still rose above South King Street, Presley packed the stands with screaming fans for two shows.

That legacy was enough to inspire Hawaii artist Carol Bennett to include Presley in a large artwork that hangs above customers at the University Branch of First Hawaiian Bank at the corner of Isenberg and King streets.

Bank officials wanted to pay tribute to the stadium, and no tribute would be complete without Presley, said Ray Ono, who was branch manager when the building opened in 1998 but now serves as vice chairman and chief operating officer for First Hawaiian.

"There are so many memories from the stadium, so we wanted to highlight what we thought the local community could automatically recognize," said Ono, who played football in the old stadium when he attended ‘Iolani School.

"We thought many folks may not have realized that Elvis did a concert at Hono­lulu Stadium. Many remember his HIC concert, but I don't think many younger folks knew he did a concert before that."

Presley often stayed in the presidential suite of the Ocean Tower at the Hilton Hawaiian Village in Waikiki when he visited Hawaii in the 1950s, '60s and '70s.

He stayed at the hotel when he filmed "Blue Hawaii" in 1961.

Since then the building was renamed the Alii Tower and another floor was added, but it's essentially the same place, said Cynthia Rankin, Hilton's regional director for corporate communications in Hawaii.

The hotel has a small collection of photos and displays them in the Tapa Tower concourse.

"We have a photo of him looking over the balcony," Rankin said. "We know where it is. It's him looking down at the screaming girls on the beach."

If you travel to Kauai, you can visit the closed Coco Palms hotel, which was featured in the final 20 minutes of Presley's "Blue Hawaii" but has been shuttered since 1992, when Hurricane Iniki battered the property.

And chances are good you'll see Elvis, too.

Bob Jasper, a retired entrepreneur, leads two-hour tours of the hotel each weekday afternoon. The Coco Palms was a favorite destination for Presley, he said.

"He was there five or six times," Jasper said. "He always stayed in the same bungalow, No. 56."

There are a lot of Presley points of interest on the tour, but the cameras always come out in the bungalow.

"I have a big cardboard cutout of Elvis, and I put it in there," Jasper said. "It's Elvis in his jumpsuit."

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