1973: Elvis Presley puts on a concert. The summer before, President Richard Nixon had visited China and there was immediate satellite images of his time there. Colonel Thomas Parker, Elvis’s manager, decided that Elvis could be seen worldwide as well and set up a way to make that happen. He wanted to share The King with the entire world and it was “impossible for us to play in every major city” so something else had to be done. It was hoped to have things in place by October or November at the latest, but it might have interfered with MGM’s release of a documentary, Elvis on Tour. On September 4, 1972 Parker made an announcement from Las Vegas telling of the future concert on this date. It was to be the first satellite broadcast of a concert and Parker hoped for 1 billion viewers. This was a bold statement because of the timing of the event and the time differences around the globe. Other performances had been broadcast live, including The Beatles and Maria Callas, but these were not concerts put on by a single artist.
Another thing mentioned at the announcement in Las Vegas, there was to be no admittance or cover charge at the door. Instead, people were asked to make a donation to charity to enter. Eddie Sherman, a columnist from the Honolulu Advertiser, asked Parker if the donations could go to the Kui Lee Cancer Fund since Lee was the writer of “I’ll Remember You” – a song Elvis was still singing. This was another chance for Parker to broadcast Elvis’s charitable efforts and agreed.
Marty Pasetta was chosen as the producer and director of the concert. He attended a concert in November and found Elvis “boring” and the event lacking in physical excitement. He brought ideas to Parker who refused. Pasetta, even though Parker said it was useless, approached Elvis and was pleasantly surprised to find the artist amenable to any suggestions which would make the concert better. A runway was added which let Elvis get closer to his audience. He did three shows in November in Hawaii, the original dates for the satellite date, and then gave another press conference and reiterated the charity sponsorship.
A taped version of the concert was made on January 12 just in case anything went wrong. Elvis appeared in both shows in his iconic American Eagle white jumpsuit designed by Bill Belew. Pasetta directed the concerts (he was also in charge of directing the Oscars during this time). There was no charge for either the January 12th or 14th concerts but still, $75,000 was raised for the Kui Lee Cancer Fund. The concert took place at the Honolulu International Center (now the Neal S. Blaisdell Center) and was aired in over 40 countries across Asia and Europe (where it was broadcast the next day and during prime time). In the US, it was not aired until April 4 because the concert date was the same as Super Bow VII which took precedence. According to Elvis Presley Enterprises, between 1 and 1.5 billion people watched the one-hour broadcast live, a world record.
Rhythm is something you either have or don’t have, but when you have it, you have it all over.
The image is one thing and the human being is another. It’s very hard to live up to an image, put it that way.
Every time I think that I’m getting old, and gradually going to the grave, something else happens.
From the time I was a kid, I always knew something was going to happen to me. Didn’t know exactly what. – all from Elvis Presley