WHEN WE MET, PART 2
The largest showroom in Vegas at the time (seatedt 1800 people, but over 2000 needed to be squeezed in to accommodate those who came to see and hear the man who changed the world in every way. Felton told me that 2300 could actually be packed in). And there were still thousands of people lined up in the lobby and outside the hotel waiting for the midnight show, hoping they'd get in and praying they'd get good seats if and when they did.
The room appeared to be moving as the cold air conditioning swirled the clouds of cigarette smoke in circles of grayish white. I can smell that mix now; Frigid-Cold air and cigarette smoke that permeated the entire hotel, each hallway, each room. Tables were lined up perpendicular to the stage down front in extremely tight rows for dinner. Those down front there, had to view the stage with their heads turned. The 8:00 show was the "dinner show". As I sat waiting for the show to begin, I watched a multitude of waiters, struggling to squeeze through the almost non-existent aisles in the most awkward positions as they served dinner plates, and made sure every bottle of champagne on every table was full, filling every glass with drink, water, or coffee, refreshing each ash tray. These waiters appeared to me to be body contortionists... who as they fulfilled their duties, also carried in one hand stacks of empty platters. "Wow", I thought. "This display alone is worth the price of the ticket". As if the noisy clatter of dishes wasn't enough, the crowd was so nervously awaiting the show, they were screaming at each other and laughing abnormally, really. It was Noisy. Very Noisy. My sensitive ears were bothered already, and this turned out to be nothing... nothing... compared to when the show began, and then Really NOTHING compared to Elvis entrance at 9:00.
I opened my folder with the "lineup", lyric sheets and had my pen ready to make notes where I should, to underline lyrics I would need to learn or at least be familiar with, and make a notation of the spots where Millie sang an obligato or added a descant. "Aha!" I thought. "I WILL know what I'm doing by tomorrow night when I go on". With other shows I had been in, all this preparation would have taken place in rehearsals.I wriggled in my seat a bit as we all could hear the orchestra taking their seats, see the curtains rustling with movement.The curtains began to part, then were drawn up and into the rafters to reveal a wonderful sound and sight. The Greatest female gospel group in the history of music, the reason then and today acts have at least three or four singers beside them, the girls who created the "Ah Oo" and other brilliant ingenius rhythmic and vocal inserts... The SWEET INSPIRATIONS. They moved in gorgeous costumes, and I may have said this out loud, "My God, they are dancing as they belt out, not screaming, but full belting.. and at the same time blending as one voice! Incredible. These are the most powerful, rich- toned voices forming a group I have ever heard". I was in awe of their genius before? Well...this was way beyond that, as most 'live' performances are. After the Sweets it was time for the comedian of the evening. It was the great Sammy Shore (Pauley Shore's father, for those who don't know). He was hilarious. When he finished is act, the curtains dropped again and at last, "Ah... the orchestra is moving, a new band is coming in to take their places." It was, of course, Elvis' band.
While waiting, the audience began to get even more restless and noisy. I've always been amazed at what chaos goes on behind that curtain that an audience isn't really aware of. "If only the audience could see what commotion is really occurring right now," I thought.And then it happened. A most exciting drum solo that was the introduction for Elvis at that time by the greatest show drummer in the world, Ronnie Tutt. At this time, just at the perfect moment, Elvis entered the stage from stage right (the audience's left) and the entire room lit up with his light, his energy, his force. He wore a white jumpsuit (he was not yet wearing capes as he would decide to do soon). He was thin,lean, tall, and the suit was gorgeous with very few 'gems', and the cosmic colors of a peacock tastefully (not overdone), and I think perhaps a turquoise macrame belt that draped and hung to one side. (We children of the 60s had closets full of them, even made some ourselves.) He had Eyes!WHAT A TRANSFORMATION from the biker behind the glasses! I shall never forget the image.
"He has eyes! They are turqoise/blue lasers! They are spectacular!" I thought. "I'm glad I didn't see them through those sunglasses, they may have burned a hole in me." Of course the stage lights reflected them so I would be in no danger when I saw him face to face again after the shows. Here he was in all of his well deserved glory. He was the ultimate entertainer, moving gracefully and owning the stage and the entire showroom. He emanated more light from within himself than the lights onstage could ever shine on him. "If the room were completely dark, he would create light", I thought. "He is obviously one who has realized himself. He has taken time to know himself, Self-Realization is obvious here. He has achieve the rank of "MASTER". He is emanating the most 'star-light' from within that I have ever witnessed. (Any and all "stars" have a degree of "it", but this man had at least a hundred times that aura of light surrounding his entire being, emanting from him, and generating a "feeling" that would touch/go through the souls of every single cell in every person who was in its presence. (When I was called at the hotel later by my peers in the industry who told me that certain "news" persons wanted to know what I thought, I told them; "He has more charisma than any star I've ever witnessed. One can "Feel" him enter a room before you see him." This fortunately has become a part of his history when people describe him.)
At that moment I just described, something else extraordinary occured coincidingly. The crowd's response. They stood up as if in unison, screaming louder than I think they ever had in their lives, reaching for him, knocking each other and everything near them over in an attempt to get close to him... to touch him. Some fainted. Yes, passed out cold. "What if one of them had a heart attack? Oh my Lord! Who would know? The person they are with is not paying attention! They're too busy screaming and grasping too! Ohmygod." Felton just calmly continued to move dials on the sound board and the band and singers just did whatever Elvis decided to do at the moment as if it had been rehearsed, never skipping a beat, never missing a cue, always together in One Mind. "These are the very Best, the Most experienced musicians/singers. He has the Best of Everything and EveryOne" I realized... and quickly remembered what my job was for this night. My notebook and pen in hand, I began to take notes. His voice was extraordinarily more adept than I could have imagined, and had a more mature, rich quality to it. "His range! He has extended his range too! My god, he just hit a high B wide open!??? So! He's studying, mastering his voice too!??" It was obvious to me that I had not only missed hearing him with real ears on record, but totally misjudged his nature. This man was obviously dealing with the same issues many entertainers face: "His commercial success has overshadowed his true genius"... I sighed to myself. His image is NOT who he really is. He surely knows my favorite scripture, "Be still... and Know... I Am... God". He has "seen the light", become One with IT, The Light Within each and every one of us, that unfortunately most never seek. (Note: When Elvis and I discussed this later, he said, "You were Not Meant to have eyes to see, ears to hear me, or to be a fan, Kathy! Get it? You would not have concentrated on being your 'self', becoming who you were meant to be, a classical singer. You would have been a follower of what was 'popular', and not have spear-headedly become your self! You ARE Your Self, Unique! If you had succumbed to group-think... You are obviously "aware", but weren't meant to follow... but to become your SELF. You Realized your Self! If you hadn't... Then, you would not be here with me.")
And then I became a bit irritated that the crowd was so raucous, noisy. "I can't hear him or the group! Why don't they LISTEN TO HIM? They are missing the Music! He is a MUSE! He is a VOICE!" But no one heard me either. I took my place with Felton and my notepad/pen for the midnight show also, ready to take care of business and, "What? Oh, No! This is not the same show, nor the same songs, and ohmygod, the notations I made are all useless, and what the heck will... WHEW! Remember, Kathy... The job description in the very beginning is... that's IT!... AD-LIB... LISTEN, GO WITH IT, MAKE IT UP AS YOU GO ALONG, blend with the group at times, do NOT blend at others when it's time to 'do the thing' I was called to do at special times, and make up descants and obligatos wherever I "felt" they might fit." I had experience in descant/obligato work and in blending in group singing, listening. "But I'm not really a High-Voice Singer as he calls it! Yes, I'm a soprano, but my vocal range is much lower than Millie's and not as high! She's singing high Es and Fs and Gs and... yes I can do that, but night after night and my classical style will be too loud, and how will I make sure the mike can handle certain sounds, and if I sing too lightly will I be heard at all?" This mumble jumble ran circles and jumped hurdles in my brain. The shows were over and Felton led me back to the hallway and dressing room area. Elvis bounded out surprisingly. What? A star actually cares and wants to be "The One" to introduce one of his new members to everybody? This had never happened to me before. He was so excited, and asked, "Did you like the show? Did you enjoy it?" (Most stars could care less what a sideman or one of their singers thought. Hardly ever acknowledge them at all.) "Yes! It was incredible!" I feebly responded, still worried about going on without knowing what was going to occur. He was so perceptive, so intuitive, and noticing that I looked a bit worried, said as if reading my mind, "Don't worry! Are you nervous?" He looked at me with those laser blue eyes, and said, "Don't be! You'll do just fine tomorrow night! I want you just to relax and enjoy yourself! Don't worry at all about making any mistakes!"
He chuckled as that winning smile swept across his face and his eyes sparkled. "NOW COME ON! I WANT TO INTRODUCE YOU TO EVERYBODY!" He excitedly said as he grabbed my hand and drug me just a tad too hard at first, chuckling again as he led me...off to personally introduce me to the members of my new "Family". Those with whom I unknowingly at the time, would share my life, my art, my soul and innermost thoughts... my Self... for the next seven years.